PL Sunday preview: Manchester derby; Chelsea, Liverpool go for 12

Leave a comment

You could say that Sunday is a big day of Premier League fixtures, but you’d be massively under-selling a six-and-a-half-hour period that see four games played, featuring five of the PL’s “big six” sides.

[ MORE: Spurs grind out another win despite mounting injuries ]

Liverpool vs. Fulham — 7 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

In the day’s first game, Jurgen Klopp‘s Liverpool will seek to become the first side in the PL to reach a dozen games without a defeat. Doing so with a victory at Anfield would (temporarily) vault them ahead of Chelsea and Manchester City for top spot in the title race. A swift response will be required after a shocking defeat away to Red Star Belgrade in the Champions League on Tuesday. It’s not the first time the Reds have lost away on the continent this season: after losing to Napoli last month, Liverpool returned to domestic play and secured a scoreless home draw with Man City.

While Tuesday’s hiccup might seem a disaster in Liverpool’s world, last-place Fulham would beg to differ. The Cottagers haven’t won since Aug. 26, game no. 3 of the season, and have managed just two points from the eight games they’ve played since. On the bright, they sit just three points adrift of 17th place and can drag themselves clear of the relegation zone with a few decent results. Slavisa Jokanovic‘s side has had plenty of problems on both ends of the field — they’ve scored just four goals in their last seven games, simultaneously conceding 20 of the 29 they’ve given up on the season.

INJURIES: Liverpool — OUT: Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (knee) | Fulham — OUT: None


Chelsea vs. Everton — 9:15 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

Very few foresaw a title challenge from Chelsea in Maurizio Sarri‘s first season in England, but the Blues sit second in the table (ahead of Liverpool on goal differential) nearly one-third of the way through the season, also yet to lose (in any competition) in 2018-19. Eden Hazard appears fully recovered from his back injury, which severely limited his minutes late last month, after playing 62 minutes in Thursday’s Europa League win away to BATE Borisov. The Belgian superstar is joint-top of the Golden Boot race with seven goals (plus four assists — tied-fourth most) and has been the best player in the PL, by a substantial margin. In comparison to City and Liverpool’s stingy number of goals conceded — four and five, respectively — Chelsea’s eight seems uninspiring, yet remains next-best by a good distance.

It’s been nearly five years (Dec. 4, 2013, against Manchester United) since Everton last won away to one of the PL’s “big six” sides. Sunday’s trip to Stamford Bridge is merely the Toffees’ next opportunity to break their 30-game skid (0W-9D-21L), but it’s hardly a golden one. It’s been nearly as many tries, 23, since Everton last won away to the Blues (Nov. 26, 1994). Everton’s newly crowned talisman, Richarlison, has been made available for selection after being an injury doubt all week. Marco Silva won’s be so lucky in defense, though, as first-choice center back Kurt Zouma, on loan from Chelsea, is ineligible to play against his parent club.

INJURIES: Chelsea — OUT: None | Everton — OUT: None


Man City vs. Man United — 11:30 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

The third and final — though first in the table — unbeaten side, Man City, will host a Man United side which has (somewhat predictably) fallen on hard times in Jose Mourinho’s third season at the club. Despite winning three of their last four league games, the Red Devils enter Sunday’s Manchester derby seven points (and four places) behind fourth-place Tottenham Hotspur. However, Tuesday’s Champions League triumph away to Juventus will have United feeling full of confidence when they visit the Etihad Stadium. Mourinho has been strangely quiet this week — with regards to City, not Juve — offering few, if any, words about City’s financial fair play predicament or his side’s chances. Perhaps the red half of Manchester has begun to accept the city for its newfound blueness.

As for City, what’s to dislike about a side that has dropped just two points in its last 11 games (all competitions) and has shown no signs whatsoever of dropping off from last season’s record-setting performance? Sure, Kevin De Bruyne is set to miss a couple months due to a knee injury, for the second time this season, but he’s appeared in just three league games thus far (started none — 82 total minutes), yet City have won 29 of a possible 33 points. There’s also a small matter of avenging the home loss of last season, which prevented Pep Guardiola‘s side clinching the title against its most bitter rivals.

INJURIES: Man City — OUT: Kevin De Bruyne (knee), Claudio Bravo (achilles), Eliaquim Mangala (knee) | Man United — OUT: Antonio Valencia (undisclosed)


Arsenal vs. Wolverhampton Wanderers — 11:30 a.m. ET, on NBC Sports Gold

Since suffering defeat in each of their first two games this season, Arsenal have fancied themselves as one of the unbeatens, winning 13 and drawing three of their 16 games since. The somewhat troubling part of those impressive numbers, though, is the fact that the three draws have all come in the Gunners’ last four games (two in the PL, one in the Europa League). On the plus side, one of those league draws came against Liverpool last weekend, signaling the Gunners might just be credible peers to title contenders once again.

Their opponents on Sunday, Wolves, have struggled in recent weeks after a strong start to the season. Three straight losses have dropped Nuno Espirito Santo‘s side to 11th in the table, and an inability to score from open play has been a key culprit. Wolves scored twice in last weekend’s 3-2 loss to Tottenham, but each tally came from the penalty spot, after being held scoreless by Watford and Brighton & Hove Albion — not exactly defensive world-beaters. Still, to be seven points and seven spots clear of the relegation zone right now, in the club’s first season back in the PL since 2012, has been a dream start everyone involved with the club would have taken back in August.

INJURIES: Arsenal — OUT: Stephan Lichtsteiner (hamstring), Laurent Koscielny (achilles), Danny Welbeck (ankle) | Wolves — OUT: None

FIFA sees no obstacles for women to attend games in Iran

Getty Images
1 Comment

ZURICH (AP) Soccer’s governing body FIFA says an inspection visit to Iran has shown “no noteworthy operational obstacles” to lifting the country’s 40-year ban and letting women attend a World Cup qualifying game next month.

After meeting government and soccer officials in Tehran this week, FIFA says it will work with Iran’s soccer body to also open domestic league games to female fans.

FIFA wants Iran to end its ban on women entering stadiums which breaches international soccer statutes prohibiting discrimination.

Global attention on the ban followed the death this month of a 29-year-old activist, Sahar Khodayari, who set herself on fire outside a courthouse. She had been detained for dressing as a man to enter a soccer stadium in Tehran and faced six months in prison.

Ahead of Iran hosting Cambodia at the 78,000-capacity Azadi Stadium on Oct. 10, FIFA says the visit on Thursday focused on “international relations, security and ticketing matters.”

Iranian officials were told of FIFA’s “firm and clear position that women need to be allowed to enter football matches freely” with tickets sold to as many who wanted to attend.

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

FOLLOW LIVE: Atlanta v. Quakes, Galaxy v. Impact on a busy MLS Saturday

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Eight games in seven hours, now that’s a jam-packed MLS Saturday.

[ FOLLOW: MLS scoreboard, for the next 7 hours ]

Things kickoff with Matias Almeyda’s San Jose Earthquakes visiting red-hot Josef Martinez’s Atlanta United, and comes to a close in Los Angeles, where league leaders LAFC host Toronto FC and LA Galaxy, who look to continue moving up in the Western Conference standings, host Montreal Impact.

In between, the New England Revolution look to remain in the Eastern Conference playoff picture as they welcome Kyle Beckerman and Real Salt Lake, while the Chicago Fire hope to jump level with the Revs in the standings as they take on FC Cincinnati at Nippert Stadium.

Saturday’s full MLS schedule

Atlanta United v. San Jose Earthquakes — 3:30 p.m. ET

Vancouver Whitecaps v. Columbus Crew — 5 p.m. ET

New England Revolution v. Real Salt Lake — 7:30 p.m. ET

FC Cincinnati v. Chicago Fire — 7:30 p.m. ET

Sporting Kansas City v. Colorado Rapids — 8:30 p.m. ET

Houston Dynamo v. Orlando City — 8:30 p.m. ET

LAFC v. Toronto FC — 10:30 p.m. ET

LA Galaxy v. Montreal Impact — 10:30 p.m. ET

Bundesliga wrap: Lewandowski’s Bayern keeps rolling, Leipzig stays top

CHRISTOF STACHE/AFP/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Week 5 of the Bundesliga season looked a lot like so many others since Robert Lewandowski arrived in the country from Lech Poznan in 2010.

He scored, and his team won.

[ MORE: Man City hangs 8 on Watford ]

It wasn’t enough to put Bayern Munich atop the league, as the Bavarian side also saw RB Leipzig get a win and could sit third once Lewandowski’s first German team, Borussia Dortmund, plays on Sunday.

Bayern Munich 4-0 Koln

Robert Lewandowski is humming along, scoring two more goals to give him nine in Bayern’s first five matches of the Bundesliga season. The 31-year-old Polish superstar scored at midweek in the Champions League, and has scored in all seven matches he’s played since being skunked in the DFL SuperCup loss to Borussia Dortmund.

Philippe Coutinho and Ivan Perisic also scored for Bayern, who will finish the weekend no lower than third on the table. A 59th minute red card to Koln’s Kingsley Ehizibue came with Bayern already leading 2-0, so it was a bit snoozy in terms of drama at the Allianz Arena.

Werder Bremen 0-3 RB Leipzig

A 64th minute red card to Konrad Laimer couldn’t slow down the table leaders, as Leipzig added a goal after going down to 10-men in the win.

Willi Orban and Marcelo Saracchi scored for the visitors, and Marcel Sabitzer scored a terrific free kick in the win.

American teenager Josh Sargent started and played 80 minutes for the hosts, covering 9.63 kilometers and getting a lone shot on goal.

Elsewhere
Schalke 2-1 Mainz — Friday
Freiburg 1-1 Augsburg
Hertha Berlin 2-1 Paderborn
Bayer Leverkusen 2-0 Union Berlin
Borussia Monchengladbach v. Fortuna Dusseldorf — 9:30 a.m. ET Sunday
Eintracht Frankfurt v. Borussia Dortmund — Noon ET Sunday

STANDINGS

Team GP W D L GF GA GD Home Away PTS
 RB Leipzig 5 4 1 0 13 3 10 1-1-0 3-0-0 13
 Bayern Munich 5 3 2 0 16 4 12 2-1-0 1-1-0 11
 SC Freiburg 5 3 1 1 11 4 7 1-1-1 2-0-0 10
 FC Schalke 04 5 3 1 1 10 5 5 2-0-1 1-1-0 10
 Bayer Leverkusen 5 3 1 1 8 7 1 2-1-0 1-0-1 10
 Borussia Dortmund 4 3 0 1 13 5 8 2-0-0 1-0-1 9
 VfL Wolfsburg 4 2 2 0 7 3 4 1-1-0 1-1-0 8
 Mönchengladbach 4 2 1 1 5 4 1 0-1-1 2-0-0 7
 Eintracht Frankfurt 4 2 0 2 5 5 0 2-0-0 0-0-2 6
 Werder Bremen 5 2 0 3 8 12 -4 1-0-2 1-0-1 6
 FC Augsburg 5 1 2 2 7 11 -4 1-1-0 0-1-2 5
 Fortuna Düsseldorf 4 1 1 2 6 7 -1 0-1-1 1-0-1 4
 1899 Hoffenheim 4 1 1 2 3 6 -3 1-0-1 0-1-1 4
 1. FC Union Berlin 5 1 1 3 5 10 -5 1-0-2 0-1-1 4
 Hertha BSC Berlin 5 1 1 3 5 11 -6 1-0-1 0-1-2 4
 1. FC Köln 5 1 0 4 4 11 -7 0-0-2 1-0-2 3
 FSV Mainz 05 5 1 0 4 5 15 -10 1-0-1 0-0-3 3
 SC Paderborn 5 0 1 4 6 14 -8 0-0-2 0-1-2 1

Nothing to separate Newcastle, Brighton at St. James’ Park

Photo by Owen Humphreys/PA Images via Getty Images
Leave a comment

A bright performance from the visitors produced nothing, as Newcastle United and Brighton played to a scoreless draw at St. James’ Park on Saturday.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Brighton had more than 70 percent of the ball and an advantage in shots, but couldn’t get a goal over the line. Newcastle only arrived late after the introduction of Allan Saint-Maximin and Andy Carroll, and would not truly challenge Mathew Ryan.

The Seagulls rise 15th with six points, two spots and one point ahead of the hosts.


Three things we learned

1. Relegation candidates for sure: Both Graham Potter and Steve Bruce are new managers of their sides, but neither looks much better than their predecessor. Maybe Brighton is on a slightly better trajectory than the Gulls side that survived by two points last season, but the Magpies looked very poor over two formations in the first half. Maybe that’s a symptom of the sick, but a winner of this game might’ve ended up pointing to the points as what kept it up come May.

2. Brighton cannot capitalize vs. awful Newcastle midfield: The match was screaming out for Glenn Murray as Brighton was the brighter side but oh-so-wasteful in the 18. The Seagulls press befuddled Newcastle’s midfield and kept the back line on edge, but every chance was wasted.

There was a gulf between the Magpies’ back line and center forward Joelinton, who himself struggled to assert himself on the game. It’s telling that Steve Bruce’s 73rd minute subs were Allan Saint-Maximin and Ki Sung-yeung for Miguel Almiron and Jonjo Shelvey, as the Magpies had little possession and less threat.

3. Carroll back in black (and white): Hometown hero Andy Carroll last played for the Magpies in a Premier League game on Dec. 29, 2010, against Spurs before being sold to Liverpool for a massive fee. The oft-injured but powerful striker came on for the final 10 minutes to a rousing “One of our own” chant from St. James’ Park, and cued Allan Saint-Maximin up for a chance during his cameo.

Man of the Match: Schar — It just has to be. Martin Dubravka was beaten by Neal Maupay, but his dink could not cross the goal line before Schar leapt to clobber the ball to safety with an overhead clearance. What a play, and indicative of how often the Swiss centerpiece has saved Newcastle at either end of the pitch over the last two years.


 [ MORE: Premier League stats ]

Martin Dubravka was tasked with making the match’s first save after Pascal Gross blazed down the right and toward the six-yard box.

Almiron came close to getting his first goal with a well-timed run and shot which was saved by Mat Ryan in the 22nd minute.

The Magpies’ season record of wobbly starts continued, and Dubravka and Jamaal Lascelles needed to make borderline heroic plays to keep it 0-0 by the half-hour mark.

Joelinton came very close to nodding a corner kick home as Lewis Dunk forgot to mark the Brazilian. His free header just missed the far post.

Steven Alzate had the ball in the back of the goal, as Newcastle was at sixes and sevens at the back, but was offside in the 34th.

The Magpies were booed off the pitch at halftime, and started brightly with a 46th minute shot punched wide by Christian Atsu.

Almiron made a delightful turn on the right side before dribbling into the 18 for a low shot saved by Ryan. Closer, but still not enough. The ex-Atlanta United man two more extremely bad giveaways on the day, and isn’t offering too much hope.