Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images

Top Premier League storylines for Week 5

Leave a comment

The Premier League left us for a week, but like any good parental figure it is returning with presents for all.

[ STREAM: Watch every PL match live ]

All that and four more things to watch closely this weekend in England.

Liverpool kicks off grueling run as Spurs try to bounce back
Tottenham Hotspur vs. Liverpool — 7:30 a.m. ET Saturday on NBCSN STREAM ]

Mauricio Pochettino, Harry Kane, and Spurs have had two weeks to stew on their first loss of the year, a setback at the hands of still-perfect Watford.

Now Spurs are staring down another team with a zero in the loss and draw columns, as high-flying Liverpool visits Wembley Stadium. Dele Alli and Hugo Lloris are set to miss the match for Tottenham.

The Reds come to London knowing that this is their first big test of the season, and that it will kick off a monster run of fixtures which includes visits from Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League, Chelsea in the League Cup, and Man City in the Premier League. There’s a visit to Chelsea in league play and a trip to Napoli in the UCL to boot.

Perfect Hornets welcome red-hot Lukaku, Manchester United
Watford vs. Manchester United — 12:30 p.m. ET Saturday on NBC STREAM ]

If you would’ve offered Javi Gracia a 2W-2L start to the season before facing 4-0 Manchester United in Week Five, he probably would’ve taken it.

Yet his Watford side is the perfect side as it welcomes Jose Mourinho’s Red Devils to Vicarage Road on Saturday.

New boys challenged at homes of unbeaten giants
Chelsea vs. Cardiff City — 10 a.m. ET Saturday on CNBC STREAM ]
Man City vs. Fulham — 10 a.m. ET Saturday on NBCSN STREAM ]

Neil Warnock leads Cardiff City into Chelsea while Slavisa Jokanovic and Fulham visit the Etihad Stadium, the two newly-promoted sides experiencing very different starts to life in the Premier League.

Fulham spent much more than the Bluebirds, and the Cottagers are playing stylish football with Jean-Michael Seri and prizefighter striker Aleksandar Mitrovic. “Mitro” has the ability to challenge any center back in the league, but can he be a difference maker against a City side determined to get back atop the table.

Chelsea is good money to end the weekend atop the table, even if Liverpool manages a win at Spurs. That’s because the Blues have plenty of experience breaking down parked sides, and Warnock is unlikely to expect anything despite counterpunching Arsenal twice in a 3-2 loss last time out.

New managers Emery, Sarri helm big London rivalry
Everton vs. West Ham United — 11 a.m. ET Sunday on NBCSN STREAM ]

Neither Marco Silva nor West Ham counterpart Manuel Pellegrini expected to be in their respective spots on the table after four weeks of the season.

Silva’s Everton remains unbeaten, but has drawn three of its four matches in head-scratching fashion. Now he’ll entertain an Irons side which could be staring down 0-7 if they cannot find a point at Goodison Park (Chelsea home and Manchester United away are next on the league docket).

Serie A roundup: Lazio hand 10-man Juventus first loss (video)

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Lazio’s triumphant victory over league favorites Juventus highlights Saturday’s Serie A action.

 [ MORE: Serie A scores, schedule ]

Lazio 3-1 Juventus

Juventus are no longer unbeaten in Serie A play under Maurizio Sarri, losing 3-1 to Simone Inzaghi’s inspired Lazio.

Luiz Felipe, Sergej Milinkovic-Savic and Felipe Caicedo scored for the home side, who are now three points behind second-place Juventus and five behind top-of-the-table Inter Milan.

Scoreless from open play since October, Cristiano Ronaldo found the back of the net in the 25th minute to put the Old Lady in front after tapping in Federico Bernardeschi’s well-placed pass inside the box.

It was Juventus’ game to lose, which they went on to do after a series of defensive and cognitive mishaps.

Tied after Felipe’s goal right before the break, Milinkovic-Savic scored in the 74th minute. The Serbian’s goal came after Juan Cuadrado was sent off for his reckless tackle on last-man Manuel Lazzari in the 69th. Milinkovic-Savic was set up by Luis Alberto‘s assist over the Juventus defense and scored with a low shot past goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny.

Ciro Immobile had a clear-cut chance to widen his red-hot goalscoring form, but the striker was denied by Szczesny from the spot. Juventus’ goalkeeper saved Immobile’s initial blistering strike, and his following second chance.

In stoppage time, however, Felipe Caicedo’s second-chance strike was too much for the Polish ‘keeper.

Juventus will have to quickly turn the page as they face Bayer Leverkusen midweek in their final match of the Champions League group stage, while Lazio travel to France to take on Rennes in their Europa League group stage finale.

Elsewhere in Serie A

Atalanta 3-2 Hellas Verona

Udinese 1-1 Napoli

La Liga roundup: Barcelona, Real Madrid remain level on points after wins (video)

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Routine wins from league favorites Barcelona and Real Madrid, highlight La Liga’s Saturday action.

[ FOLLOW: PST’s La Liga coverage ]

Barcelona 5-2 RCD Mallorca

It was a special night at Barcelona’s Camp Nou.

Fresh from winning the Ballon d’Or for a record sixth time, Lionel Messi was greeted by his three children on the field, who handed him a shinny, golden ball – given yearly to the best player in the world – prior to the first whistle.

From that point on, it was evident that it would be all smiles for everyone tied to the defending champions at the stadium (and for those watching remotely) on Saturday.

 

That was the case.

Antoine Griezmann – a topic of conversation due to lack of productivity at Barcelona this season – kicked off the game with a solo run and subsequent goal in the seventh minute, opening the floodgates.

As a celebration of his latest, individual accomplishment, Messi showcased the power and precision of his left foot at the tune of a hat-trick. The Argentine ace scored twice in the first half and another in consolation time, putting his season total mark at a league-best 12 goals.

The moment and goal of the night (possibly of the season) didn’t directly involve Messi, however. With a daring, emphatic and genius back-heel strike, not only did Luis Suarez put the home side up 4-1, but cemented himself in the ballot for best goal of the season.

With 34 and a better goal differential than Real Madrid, Barcelona remain atop of La Liga ahead of their clash with Inter Milan on Tuesday, while Mallorca hope Ante Budimir can score another brace; this time against a struggling Celta Vigo next weekend.

Real Madrid 2-0 Espanyol

With goals from Karim Benzema and Raphael Varane, Real Madrid comfortably cruised past a struggling Espanyol.

With the majority of Real Madrid in Espanyol’s final third following a recovered free-kick attempt, Benzema charged his way into the box before laying off a ball to Varane, who not a proven goalscorer whatsoever, placed the ball into the back of the net with ease.

It was the 37th minute, and the home side were up 1-0 against a poor Espanyol.

With a notable superior style at hand, Los Blancos continued to surge forward. Opportunities at goal were generated but the ball wouldn’t go past ex-Real Madrid ‘keeper Diego Lopez.

Then, in the 79th minute, Benzema registered his 11th goal of the season, finishing an off-balance pass from Federico Valverde inside the box.

Winners in their last La Liga bouts, Real Madrid now prepare for their Champions League Group Stage finale against Club Brugge midweek. Espanyol, despite being in the drop zone, host CSKA Moscow in their Europa League Group Stage finale. The Catalonian club lead Group H with 11 points after five matches.

Elsewhere in La Liga

Granada 3-0 Alaves

Levante 2-4 Valencia

Ancelotti’s future uncertain after Napoli draws at Udinese

Getty Images
Leave a comment

ROME (AP) Carlo Ancelotti’s future as Napoli coach is uncertain after his team failed to beat Udinese on Saturday in Serie A.

The 1-1 draw extended Napoli’s winless run to nine matches in all competitions. Piotr Zelinski saved Napoli with a late goal that salvaged a point for the visitors.

Amid reports that Ancelotti could soon be fired, Napoli, which had won its last six league matches against Udinese, went a goal down after a counterattack which was finished by Kevin Lasagna in the 32nd minute.

Napoli improved after Fernando Llorente replaced an uninspired Lorenzo Insigne in the second half. It equalized after a good combination between Dries Mertens and Zielinski, who wrongfooted the Udinese ‘keeper with a shot into the bottom corner.

Also, Atalanta twice came from behind after Samuel Di Carmine’s two goals to beat Hellas Verona 3-2 with a late winner from Berat Djimsiti, who volleyed home from close range.

More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/apf-Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

Kyle Walker: City catching up to Liverpool ‘difficult’ after derby loss to United

Getty Images
Leave a comment

After a crushing 2-1 loss to archrival Manchester United at home, 14 is the new magic number for Pep Guardiola and company.

14 is the number of points that Manchester City trail league leaders Liverpool by, an uphill battle that is influencing many people on the outside looking in to think that City’s chances of lifting the league’s silverware for a third straight season are officially done and dusted.

That’s not the narrative that is occupying Kyle Walker‘s train of thought, however. Speaking on behalf of his City teammates and himself, the defender is keen on fighting until they’re mathematically out of contention for the title, regardless if the standings show that Liverpool have yet to suffer a defeat this season after 16 matches.

“Can’t fault the manager,” Walker told Sky Sports following City’s second Premier League loss in five games. “He has won numerous trophies. I can’t put my finger on it. It is going to be difficult, Liverpool are on fire. They [Liverpool] are getting wins and we are not. It is a big gap but we will fight until the end.”

A consolation goal from Nicolas Otamendi in the 85th minutes wasn’t enough for the Cityzens, who endured a fourth league loss this season, matching last season’s number of losses throughout 38 games.

After the dispiriting derby day performance from City, the defending champions stand at 32 points after 16 bouts, the lowest point haul for Guardiola in his 11-year top-flight management career.

No team in league history has overcome a 14-point deficit. Since late October, City are yet to record a clean sheet, an apparent issue that Walker believes he and the rest of the team’s defenders need to address in order to return to old ways.

“Us as defenders need to hold our hands up,” he said. “We need to keep clean sheets and strikers maybe need to put more away. They had a game plan and it worked. They have quick players in quick areas and they are going to hurt you on the counter. Credit where credit is due, they stepped up today. Fair play.”