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Top Premier League Storylines for Week 4

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The Premier League has one last shout before the first international break of the season. There are four teams remaining who have yet to drop a point…Liverpool, Chelsea, Tottenham, and…Watford? Arsenal is in ninth, Manchester United in 13th. The early-season table is fun!

[ MORE: Premier League club power rankings ]

So, with a short break on the horizon, who will take control at the top of the table and who will slip? Who will rise from early-season doldrums, and who will head into the hiatus needing a lift? There’s plenty to break down, so here’s a good place to start.

Two teams with perfect starts clash
Watford vs. Tottenham — 11:00 a.m. ET Sunday on NBC Sports Gold [ STREAM ]

The ol’ Something Has To Give match. Tottenham has put to bed talks of its fruitless transfer window with a perfect 3-0-0 start, while Watford has surprised everyone without a slip to this point. Both sides can’t get three points from this match, so someone has to slip.

[ STREAM: Watch every PL match live ]

Last season, Watford did something similar, with just one loss to the eventual champions through its first eight league matches. Eventually they fell and fell and fell, finishing 14th, just eight points above the drop. Still, that big start helped them stay up, and this year could be the same.

It will be interesting to see how Mauricio Pochettino plays this one. Spurs won big last week against Manchester United, but they were shaky defensively in the first half. It’s possible he switches to a back-three with Davinson Sanchez, Toby Alderweireld, and Jan Vertonghen plus a pair of wing-backs in Kieran Trippier and either Danny Rose (who struggled last week) or Ben Davies.

Will Liverpool continue to take no prisoners?
Leicester City vs. Liverpool — 7:30 a.m. ET Saturday on NBCSN [ STREAM ]

The Reds are blitzing the Premier League early on, and have taken a two-point lead over other Premier League title favorite Manchester City. Jurgen Klopp has the team firing on all cylinders and playing exactly as he instructs them to. Evidence to that fact is the team’s leading scorers in Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah, who have combined for five of the team’s seven league goals thus far. In addition, they have remained the only Premier League side to have not conceded a single goal in league play.

Leicester City, meanwhile, has had a roller coaster start to the 2018/19 campaign. They have two wins in three Premier League matches, but have also seen two players sent off. If the Foxes suffer another red card on Saturday, they will surely be ripped to shreds by the visiting Reds.

Manchester City looks to bounce back against spunky Newcastle
Manchester City vs. Newcastle — 12:30 p.m. ET Saturday on NBC [ STREAM ]

Last week, Pep Guardiola and Manchester City dropped its first Premier League points since February with a disappointing draw against newly-promoted Wolves. Kevin De Bruyne isn’t walking back into that locker room for months, and the attack sputtered against a well-organized team that peppered off 11 shots despite having just 29% possession.

Now, they return home to host a Newcastle side that has come up just short against a pair of title contenders in Tottenham and Chelsea. First, they fell to Spurs 2-1 on opening day despite matching the visitors shot-for-shot. Then, they slipped to the Blues at home on an unlucky DeAndre Yedlin own-goal. Under Rafa Benitez, this is a team that can provide any top team a challenge on the right day. City will need to come up with answers to questions posed last weekend, especially if captain Jamaal Lascelles is set to return for the Magpies from injury.

How will Manchester United respond?
Burnley vs. Manchester United — 11:00 a.m. ET Sunday on NBCSN [ STREAM ]

Last weekend, after the final whistle doomed Manchester United to an embarrassing 3-0 defeat at home, Jose Mourinho looked like a man whose time is up. Yet here he is, set to take charge for another weekend with Manchester United sitting in 13th in the Premier League table. Does Mourinho deserve to still be at the helm, or has he earned the pink slip?

None of that matters for now, because he remains as the Red Devils’ boss, and he put in the work midweek as Burnley looked to progress in the Europa League.

Burnley had its fair share of upsets last season, including earning a point at Old Trafford last season thanks to a 2-2 draw on Boxing Day. This season, the Europa League has clearly sapped the team of some energy, as evident by the 4-2 result last weekend at Craven Cottage in a game that Fulham could well have scored three more, and Burnley missed chances of its own. So does Mourinho earn more time in charge, or do things truly come crashing down at Turf Moor?

Leagues Cup: Lampson leads LA; Fire out

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There’s no shame in Liga MX being a superior league to Major League Soccer, but it would be nice to get more showings of strength from the rapidly improving top flight for Canada and the United States.

The Leagues Cup provided that chance for four teams of MLS, who could make a statement with three quick victories over the next two months. In at least one of Tuesday’s cases, a side’s backups and reserves gave its club the chance to take it more seriously in the semifinals.

[ MORE: Rodgers talks down Maguire sale ]

The Mexican sides, by and large, spend more money deeper into their squad, and most of the clubs were established well before still relatively young MLS.

Throw in both MLS sides clearly ignoring the tournament in favor of weekend league outings, and what could’ve been a really cool tournament could’ve also wasted a lot of peoples’ time on Wednesday despite MLS having the distinct advantage of being hosts for all four quarterfinals.

Godspeed, LA Galaxy.

Chicago Fire 0-2 Cruz Azul

Chicago opted to keep many of its first-choice players on the bench or out of the 18, and it showed in an easy win for away side.

Cruz Azul out-attempted the Fire by a 14-5 margin, and held 69 percent of possession. Fire backstop Richard Sanchez was forced to make six saves, but Roberto Alvarado and Elias Hernandez scored late in each half to plug a couple of away goals onto the board.

Alvarado’s goal was simply magical.

LA Galaxy 2-2 (3-1 pens) Club Tijuana

The resilient hosts took the favored visitors to penalties, where

Servando Carrasco gave LA a lead, and Matt Lampson stopped Erick “Cubo” Torres only to see Efrain Alvarez clanked the next effort off the post. Ariel Nahuelpán then leveled the score before Gibran Lajud made a save for Tijuana

But Lampson answered the bell, and it was 1-1 after three rounds each. He made another save on Angel Sepulveda’s poor penalty, and Giancarlo Gonzalez sent the Galaxy into the semifinals.

Tijuana had most of the ball, nearly doubled LA’s passes, and out-attempted the Galaxy 20-7.

Emmanuel Boateng turned a Kai Koreniuk shot past Gibran Lajud for a 27th minute lead, but TJ tied the score within six minutes and took the lead just before halftime.

Dave Romney had an answer after halftime with a thundering header off an Efrain Alvarez corner kick, and LA was back in business with 37 minutes to play.

Tijuana’s Miller Bolanos hit the post in the 70th, but the danger was largely non-existent the rest of the way aside from wasted free kicks.

LA’s Julian Araujo was sent off in stoppage time for a second yellow card.

10-man Real Madrid comes back to draw 10-man Arsenal

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Maybe Zinedine Zidane ought to rethink his stance on Gareth Bale?

Of course it’s just preseason, but the on-the-market Real Match forward subbed into Tuesday’s match in Maryland on Tuesday and spearheaded a comeback 2-2 draw against Arsenal.

Real won in penalties, as all International Champions Cup matches must have a winner.

[ MORE: Rich new deal for Hudson-Odoi ]

Real was down a man after 10 minutes when Nacho Fernandez handled a ball on the goal line, and Arsenal also went down a man when Sokratis Papastathopoulos saw his second yellow of the contest in the 40th minute.

Alexandre Lacazette converted a penalty, then set-up Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang for a goal 14 minutes later as the Gunners handled their business early.

The chemistry between two remains very real.

Real started new boys Eden Hazard, Ferland Mendy, and Luka Jovic in addition to Toni Kroos, Luka Modric, Karim Benzema, and Sergio Ramos.

Bale came in for Hazard at halftime and poked a 57th minute rebound home and Marcelo set up Marco Asensio two minutes later to complete the comeback.

Asensio, sadly, would only last a few more minutes, needing to be stretchered off with injury.

Champions League wrap: PSV strikes late to win thriller (video)

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Five first legs of the UEFA Champions League’s second qualifying round are in the books, including a thrilling back-and-forth with a show-stopping stoppage time winner.

[ MORE: Rodgers talks down Maguire sale ]


PSV Eindhoven 3-2 FC Basel

Bruma scored a debut opener for the Dutch hosts, who fell behind 2-1 in the 79th minute before Sam Lammers and Donyell Malen struck in the 89th minute and second minute of stoppage, respectively, to put PSV ahead.

Basel will be okay taken two away goals home via Albian Aljeti and Omar Alderete.

Lammers came in for Mexican star Hirving Lozano in the 79th minute to score the leveler within 10 minutes before Malen, who went the full 90, kept his focus to deliver this clever winner.

The New Saints 0-2 Copenhagen

Pieros Sotiriou and Robert Skov scored on either side of halftime to give the Danish powers a healthy advantage heading into the second leg.

Elsewhere
FK Sutjeska 0-1 APOEL Nicosia
Saburtalo 0-2 Dinamo Zagreb
Viktoria Plzen 0-0 Olympiacos

Wednesday
BATE Borisov v. Rosenborg — 1 p.m. ET
Ferencvaros v. Valletta — 2 p.m. ET
CFR Cluj v. Maccabi Tel-Aviv — 2 p.m. ET
Maribor v. AIK — 2:15 p.m. ET
Red Star Belgrade v. HJK Helsinki — 2:45 p.m. ET
Dundalk v. Qarabag — 2:45 p.m. ET
Celtic v. Nomme Kalju — 2:45 p.m. ET

Rodgers says no close bids for Maguire

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Those tired of seeing Harry Maguire‘s name in the headlines, hoping his transfer saga had concluded with weekend reports that Manchester United agreed to a fee with Leicester City, well, they are going to be sorely disappointed.

[ MORE: Who is Newcastle’s new $50M forward? ]

Leicester City boss Brendan Rodgers credited Maguire for his professionalism — the center back scored in a friendly win on Tuesday — and said that the club’s vice chairman Aiyawatt “Top” Srivaddhanaprabha has not received a fitting bid for the 26 year old’s services.

From The Leicester Mercury:

“There’s no big pressure to sell any player. If a player does leave Leicester City, then the player would need to be met because we have a top-level player, coveted by top-level clubs and I respect that,” Rodgers said. “Harry is on a long contract here and there’s been no valuation or near to that which would make Top have a look.”

Nooooooooooo.

Look, we’ve still got a few weeks until the close of the window, and every supporter has a target they want their club to acquire and some have some assets they hope stay in the same shirt at the deadline.

The Maguire story is getting a bit tedious now. He wants to go to Manchester United, but Rodgers is happy to keep him at Leicester. Maguire’s not the player who will quit on the club if he’s not sold, and Leicester’s hope of landing a replacement will dip as the deadline draws nearer and clubs like Burnley (James Tarkowski) realize their replacements options have been lessened by the wait.