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What did we learn from PL Saturday?

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What did we learn from the eight Premier League games on Saturday?

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Below is a look at the key takeaways.

Chelsea is back, Liverpool’s real, the title race is a thing

In theory, it takes at least a dozen serious matches for a club to find its identity under a manager, which makes what Chelsea is doing after 10 with Maurizio Sarri something pretty special.

Even if his club’s ex-striker amazing late hit (VIDEO) stopped the Blues from going atop the Premier League in Saturday’s 1-1 draw, both Sarri’s Chelsea and his opponents underscored the fact that several teams can lay claim to contender status this early season.

[ RECAP: Chelsea 1-1 Liverpool ]

Prior to Saturday, the Blues had lost points just twice under Sarri, once in the Community Shield against Manchester City and the other occasion last weekend’s scoreless draw with West Ham.

How would they react to that disappointment? Chelsea responded with a comeback win against the Reds at Anfield in the League Cup before taking a smaller bite out of Liverpool’s ambitions on Saturday at Stamford Bridge.

Chelsea needed a pair of goal line clearances to get there, and it wouldn’t be wrong to judge the result the same way many viewed the 3-2 home win over Arsenal early in the season. Though that one was said to have shown the holes in both sides’ defense, perhaps like this match it just shows that there are a number of teams who can rightly make a claim to contender status (especially given Arsenal’s rise up the table).

The fact that between Liverpool, Spurs, Chelsea, Man City, and Arsenal, we’ve seen just a handful of their fixtures against each other opens up plenty of excitement and open-minded thinking as to who can survive the season and come out on top. It also, however, may point to Man City retaining its crown considering Pep Guardiola’s men are properly weathering the absence of Kevin De Bruyne (and won’t have to rush him back).

The point is better for Liverpool than Chelsea, but both will feel every bit the threat to Man City’s throne after Saturday in London.

Team GP W D L GF GA GD Home Away PTS
 Manchester City 7 6 1 0 21 3 18 4-0-0 2-1-0 19
 Liverpool 7 6 1 0 15 3 12 3-0-0 3-1-0 19
 Chelsea 7 5 2 0 15 5 10 3-1-0 2-1-0 17
 Tottenham Hotspur 7 5 0 2 14 7 7 1-0-1 4-0-1 15
 Arsenal 7 5 0 2 14 9 5 3-0-1 2-0-1 15

Manchester United has a top-to-bottom problem

There is not a single figure actively involved in Manchester United who can dodge responsibility for the club’s current mess following a 3-1 defeat at West Ham United.

Chairman Ed Woodward failed to supply manager Jose Mourinho with his top targets this summer, while the boss has seemingly been more interested in excuses and intrasquad squabbles than tactically moving the Red Devils forward.

For the most part, star player Paul Pogba has performed despite such obstacles. The Frenchman, however, was quite poor on Saturday and Mourinho removed him before the match was complete.

When it’s going wrong for Mourinho, even seemingly innocuous lines seem to call for concern. Was he really praising West Ham’s recruitment policies when he complimented their scouting, or taking a jab at United’s? When starting Anthony Martial over struggling Alexis Sanchez is a topic, even if the former has earned the opportunity.

It’s a top-to-bottom mess at Manchester United right now, and the club badly needs a rudder. Can Mourinho or Pogba be that piece, or are both too far gone? A loss to Valencia next week could eliminate the former’s chances.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

(Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images)

Leicester has set itself up well for trio of litmus tests

It isn’t exactly a feather in your cap to keep Newcastle United off the scoreboard, but Leicester City’s win comfortable 2-0 win showed exactly why the Foxes will compete for a Top Seven spot (perhaps better should Manchester United not right its ship).

Claude Puel‘s men are four points off the Top Four, having lost to Liverpool, Manchester United, and Bournemouth. You could argue they deserved points in the first two (There’s no argument they should’ve lifted a point from a clunker at the Vitality Stadium, however). More importantly, the Foxes are taking three points almost every time it’s expected of them.

The club has successfully transitioned from the old group that won the title to a mix of experience and youthful energy. They’ve sold Danny Drinkwater and Riyad Mahrez while replacing them with a number of pieces able to do their jobs.

Thriving in, or at least surviving, the next three fixtures versus Everton, Arsenal, and West Ham United will shows us whether the Foxes will be more of a factor in the Top Six or just the top half.

The January transfer window will again decide the relegation race

Is your struggling club willing to spend?

This isn’t the only solution for point-starved clubs, but both Newcastle United and Huddersfield Town can only lean on their managers’ tactical acumen for so long.

Fulham is finding goals no problem but has already conceded 16 times and remarkably has allowed two or more goals in all but one league match this season.

The Magpies are punchless up top, missing something between the long-field vision of Jonjo Shelvey and the crafty but unpredictable work of Ayoze Perez.

The Terriers, too, need an answer in attack. At a time where it looks like wins, not draws, will decide which few teams are involved in a relegation scrap, goals will very much be at a premium for Newcastle, Huddersfield, Cardiff City, and the teams which may also be fighting for their lives (Southampton? Burnley? Brighton and Hove Albion?).

Transfer Rumor Roundup: Spurs snag Clarke, Arsenal eyeing French youngster

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According to a number of reports across England, Tottenham may have secured its first new player signing in 511 days, rumored to have completed a deal for Leeds United winger Jack Clarke.

The BBC reports that Clarke has flown south to London for a medical and that the $12.7 million deal is finalized. The report states there are further, unspecified add-ons to that base payment should they trigger.

The 18-year-old made 25 appearances for the Leeds first-team last season, scoring two goals assisting two more as they reached the playoff semifinal. Clarke’s arrival will mark the first Tottenham signing since Lucas Moura joined in January of 2018, famously failing to sign a player last summer to much criticism, before making a run to the Champions League final during the season.


Arsenal is reportedly after a pair of transfer targets, one on either end of the pitch.

First, more concretely, reports indicate that the Gunners are set to bat the signature of young French defender William Saliba. The 18-year-old currently plays for St. Etienne and saw significant playing time last season, bagging 16 league appearances good for over 1,200 minutes as he helped the club secure a Champions League place with a fourth-place finish, aided by the third-best defensive record in the league.

According to an ESPNFC report by Julien Laurens, the two clubs have reached an agreement for Saliba in the range of $28 million, with the Gunners beating Tottenham and PSG to the punch. Saliba will stay at St. Etienne on loan next season as he looks to continue developing at his boyhood club.

The Gunners are reportedly also following Monaco winger Keita Balde, with the Senegal international currently on international duty at the Africa Cup of Nations. The 24-year-old spent last season on loan at Inter, where he racked up 24 Serie A appearances – mostly off the bench – scoring five goals and assisting three more.

Reports in Italy indicate that while Inter had the option to buy at the end of the loan spell, they declined as they believed the $38 million price to be too expensive. With Monaco struggling mightily this past season and in serious flux, it’s likely that Balde could move on and help the French club gain funds to reinvest.

Balde found the back of the net in Senegal’s opening AFCON match, a 2-0 win over Tanzania, marking his fourth international goal in 24 caps.


Another African on international duty is Kalidou Koulibaly, whose future is still under serious speculation.

Napoli manager Carlo Ancelotti said Wednesday – completely joking, mind you – that he won’t even return from his vacation in Canada if the club sells Koulibaly. That won’t stop the two Manchester clubs from having a go, and to this point Napoli president Aurelio de Laurentiis has held firm that only a bid that reaches his $154 million release clause will pry him from the Italian side.

Koulibaly wouldn’t be drawn into speculation about his future when approached at the tournament in Africa, saying, “I don’t know [if I’ll still be at Napoli next year], I think so, but I have to play the AFCON and then after that I’ll go back to Napoli.”

Manchester United has been much closely linked with Koulibaly than Manchester City, but it may be difficult to convince him to switch with the Red Devils not participating in the Champions League next season.


Everton is reportedly in the hunt for Juventus striker Moise Kean according to the Liverpool Echo, with the 19-year-old breaking out last season with The Old Lady. He scored six goals in 13 appearances down the stretch of the season, coming into the squad after the club had all but secured the league title.

While he is a big strike prospect for Juventus, the club is somewhat crowded at the position with Cristiano Ronaldo, Paulo Dybala, and Mario Mandzukic at the position. The club surely could take its time bringing him along, but apparently a disciplinary issue while with the Italy U-21 team at the Euros this summer has added to the club’s concern, along with his hesitation at signing a new contract. Kean’s current deal expires next summer, so this would be the time to cash in on his high-rising stock.

The report states it would cost around $34 million to land the youngster and Ajax is also in the mix.

Women’s World Cup mascot costume stolen from Parc des Prince

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According to reports in France, first by news outlet LCI, the World Cup mascot Ettie had its mascot stolen from Parc des Princes in the early morning hours of last Friday, June 21.

L’Equipe reports the mascot costume has subsequently been recovered and police are investigating.

The reports state that a group of five somehow entered the Paris stadium between 4 and 5 a.m. local time, proceeding to walk around and even play a game on the Parc des Princes pitch before leaving the stadium carrying two large bags that contained the mascot costume. After missing for the weekend, the costume was reportedly returned to a lawyer’s office in Paris on Tuesday in anonymous fashion.

Thankfully, since the costume has been returned, Ettie will be able to make an appearance while the United States takes on host nation France at Parc des Princes in a highly anticipated quarterfinal match on Friday.

The L’Equipe report says that very little was been discernible on the Parc des Princes security camera footage, and police have appealed to the public for assistance. FIFA describes Ettie as “a young chicken with a passion for life and football.” Ettie is the daughter of Footix, the rooster mascot of the 1998 World Cup also held in France.

Toni Kroos wants to retire at Real Madrid

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After signing a contract extension in May that runs through 2023, which he said at the time is “probably my last big contract,” Toni Kroos doubled down on that statement, saying he’d like to retire at Real Madrid and will not move to another club as his career winds down.

Speaking to German publication Bild about a new film that documents his life, Kroos said that the end of his current contract is hopefully going to be the end of his career, on his own terms.

“When I am aged 33, that would be a good age to retire,” Kroos told Bild’s subscription service Bild+, as quoted by Marca. “My contract duration was chosen consciously. At 33, that would be a good age to hang up the boots. I will have the opportunity at that moment to choose if I want to do something after that.”

Obviously, it’s possible that something out of his control will take place forcing him to finish his career elsewhere, but he expresses his admiration for Los Blancos and says that he hopes his career will last long enough to ride out his contract and hang up his boots at the club he loves. “Signing for Real Madrid is the best thing I could have done, I will never play in the United States, China or Qatar.”

Kroos also emitted a typical athlete mentality, saying he hoped to make Bayern regret selling him in 2014, something he believes he’s been successful doing. “For me, it was already clear at the time of the transfer that Bayern made a mistake with my sale,” he said. “It’s true that [Bayern president] Uli Hoeness has made it public of late – and it’s a testament to his greatness that he addresses it that way.”

Kroos has won three Champions League titles with Real Madrid as well as a La Liga title since moving to the Bernabeu.

Follow Live: Africa Cup of Nations – Group play reaches round 2

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The first round of group stage matches is complete and now the slate reracks for teams to truly take control of their Africa Cup of Nations destiny.

[ LIVE: Africa Cup of Nations scores ]

Host nation Egypt takes the field for a second time as they meet Democratic Republic of Congo in the late match in Cairo, while Nigeria has the chance to secure advancement as they play Guinea, and Uganda can push Zimbabwe to the brink of elimination.

Egypt and Uganda can each secure passage to the knockout stage through Group A if both should win, while a loss for either side would complicate matters.The host nation will be looking for a better attacking display after Mohamed Salah was isolated in the narrow opening round win over Zimbabwe. Meanwhile, Congo DR likely did not expect to be facing elimination this early, with a team that sports West Ham’s Arthur Masuaku, former Premier League midfielder Youssouf Mulumbu, and Porto’s Chancel Mbemba.

In Group B, Nigeria can secure passage to the knockout phase with a win. The clear dominant side in a collection of countries that includes Guinea, Madagascar, and Burundi, Nigeria looked sluggish in its opener and will require a more complete attacking display to convince supporters they can challenge for the Cup.

2019 Africa Cup of Nations schedule – Wednesday, June 26

Group A
Uganda v. Zimbabwe – 1 p.m. ET
Egypt v. Congo DR – 4 p.m. ET

Group B
Nigeria v. Guinea – 10:30 a.m. ET