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Top Premier League storylines for Week 13

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The final international break of 2018 is in the rearview mirror, thus the Premier League takes center stage for the next three and a half months.

[ MORE: Barca’s next signing of a Liverpool player will cost extra $114M ]

Here are the five storylines we’ll be watching most closely this weekend…


Tottenham look to spoil Chelsea’s unbeaten start
Tottenham Hotspur vs. Chelsea, 12:30 p.m. ET, Saturday, on NBC [ STREAM ]

Chelsea, alongside Manchester City and Liverpool, remain undefeated to begin the 2018-19 season, but the Blues are set for a tough test on Saturday when they take on Tottenham, the only side in the PL without a draw this season, at Wembley Stadium. Maurizio Sarri‘s side might be unbeaten, but they’ve endured a largely indifferent run of results in recent weeks, as they’ve drawn more games (four) than they’ve won (three) over the last two months. Each side won away from home in their two meetings last season.

Who will can play for Spurs?
Tottenham Hotspur vs. Chelsea, 12:30 p.m. ET, Saturday, on NBC [ STREAM ]

Mauricio Pochettino has enough defenders and midfielder to pick a standard starting lineup on Saturday… probably. It’s been a tough season for Spurs on the injury front, but here’s a list of who’s currently unavailable: Davinson Sanchez, Mousa Dembele, Kieran Trippier, Danny Rose. Jan Vertonghen has been out for two months but is one of three players, alongside Eric Dier and Victor Wanyama, who could return just in time for this London derby. And yet, Spurs have managed nine wins from their first 12 games and sit fourth in the table. They are, however, yet to beat a side currently in the top-seven (losses to Man City, Liverpool and Watford).

Man City, Liverpool take title race on the road
West Ham vs. Man City, 10 a.m. ET, Saturday, on NBCSN [ STREAM ]
Watford vs. Liverpool, 10 a.m. ET, Saturday, on NBC Sports Gold [ STREAM ]

They look set to run neck and neck with one another all season — currently separated by just two points — and they’ll both hit the road on Saturday. Liverpool have the tougher of the two tests, as they’ll take on Javi Gracia’s seventh-place (just ahead of Manchester United) Watford at Vicarage Road. City will also be in London, taking on 12th-place West Ham at the London Stadium.

Bournemouth-Arsenal is a top-six clash
Bournemouth vs. Arsenal, 8:30 a.m. ET, Sunday, on NBCSN [ STREAM ]

Ever since Arsenal’s seven-game winning streak was snapped nearly a month ago, the points have been trickling in one at a time for Unai Emery‘s Gunners. Three straight draws — against Crystal Palace, Liverpool and Wolverhampton Wanderers — have dropped Arsenal to fifth place, three points behind Spurs, and made Sunday’s trip to the south coast of England a massively important one. No one has outperformed expectations more than Bournemouth thus far, as Eddie Howe‘s Cherries sit just four points back of Arsenal in sixth place.

Ranieri takes charge at Craven Cottage
Fulham vs. Southampton, 10 a.m. ET, Saturday, on NBC Sports Gold [ STREAM ]

The bad news for Fulham: they sit bottom of the league with just five points from 12 games. Now, the good news: they’re only three points from safety and there are 26 games still to play. Claudio Ranieri is set to make his Fulham debut when Southampton come to west London on Saturday, and nothing would do more to rally the club around the new boss than snapping the Cottagers’ six-game losing streak and securing their first victory since August..

USWNT’s 28-game run snapped in hammering by France

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Kadidiatou Diani scored twice and France ended the U.S. national team’s 28-game unbeaten streak with a 3-1 victory Saturday in Le Havre, France.

The top-ranked United States had not lost since falling 1-0 to Australia in 2017, The Americans were 25-0-3 over the span.

Marie-Antoinette Katoto also scored for third-ranked France. It has won eight straight matches.

It was the first of 10 matches the United States will play before the World Cup. The Americans are the defending champions and could meet France again in the tournament’s quarterfinals.

France went up in the ninth minute on Diani’s goal off a cross from Delphine Cascarino. Diani scored again in the 57th minute to make it 2-0. The 23-year old plays for Paris Saint-Germain.

Katoto, Diani’s PSG teammate, added a goal in the 78th minute.

Mallory Pugh scored for the United States in the final moments.

U.S. coach Jill Ellis had to tinker with her starting lineup and rested stars Megan Rapinoe, Tobin Heath and Julie Ertz as a precaution because of minor injuries. Also held out was Kelley O’Hara, still recovering from ankle surgery.

Defender Tierna Davidson came in for Emily Fox in the 53rd minute, marking her first appearance since she fractured her left ankle in a match for Stanford in September.

Davidson decided to leave the Cardinal with a year of eligibility remaining to focus on making the World Cup team. She was the first overall pick in last week’s National Women’s Soccer League draft by the Chicago Red Stars.

The match at La Stade Oceane was sold out with over 25,000 in attendance. The stadium is one of the nine venues that will host World Cup games. The Americans’ next visit to the stadium will be for the final match of the World Cup group stage against Sweden.

“I’m not worried,” Ellis said following the loss. “We know who we are and what we can do.”

Next up for the United States is a match against Spain on Tuesday at Estadio Joss Rico Perez in Alicante. The U.S. women trained in Portugal ahead of the two-match European trip.

Serie A: Roma climb into 4th; anti-racism showing at Inter

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A roundup of all of Saturday’s action in Italy’s top flight…

[ MORE: What we learned in the Premier League, Week 23 ]

Roma 3-2 Torino

Nicolo Zaniolo announced himself as one of Europe’s most promising young talents, with the opening goal in Roma’s 3-2 victory over Torino, a game in which the 19-year-old was the best, most dangerous attacker for the whole of 90 minutes.

Zaniolo was initially denied by Salvatore Sirigu, but the young Italian managed to collect the rebound and put it home on the rebound, all while on the ground. Aleksandar Kolarov made it 2-0 not long after the half-hour mark, and Roma appeared to be on their merry way to a third straight victory.

The score was 2-2 by the 67th minute, thanks to Tomas Rincon and Cristian Asnaldo. Stephan El Shaarawy had other ideas, though, as he slammed home the winner, courtesy of a perfect through ball from Lorenzo Pellegrini, in the 73rd.

Now fully recovered from a disastrous start to the season (just five wins from their first 15 games), Roma sit fourth in the table, a point ahead of capital rivals Lazio.

Inter Milan 0-0 Sassuolo

Elsewhere in the top-four, third-place Inter Milan were held to a scoreless draw by 12th-place Sassuolo, but the game’s real story took place in the stands.

With Inter serving the second of its two-game ban on fans being allowed inside the San Siro due to racist chants, more than 10,000 local children were invited to attend as part of an initiative against discrimination. Brothers Universally United hung anti-discrimination signs around the stadium and the players word “BUU No to discrimination” on their shirt sleeves.

Elsewhere in Serie A

Udinese 1-2 Parma

Sunday’s Serie A schedule

Frosinone v. Atalanta — 6:30 a.m. ET
Fiorentina v. Sampdoria — 9 a.m. ET
SPAL v. Bologna — 9 a.m. ET
Cagliari v. Empoli — 12 p.m. ET
Napoli v. Lazio — 2:30 p.m. ET

La Liga: Atleti cut into Barcelona’s lead; Real Madrid move into 3rd

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A roundup of all of Saturday’s action in Spain’s top flight…

[ MORE: What we learned in the Premier League, Week 23 ]

Huesca 0-3 Atletico Madrid

Atletico Madrid cut Barcelona’s lead in the title race to two points with a resounding victory away to 20th-place Huesca. Barcelona will host 15th-place Leganes on Sunday.

Lucas Hernandez opened the scoring in the 31st minute, and while his finish inside a heavy fog would ultimately be enough for Diego Simeone’s side, Santiago Arias (52nd) and Koke (71st) tacked on insurance goals in the second half.

Real Madrid 2-0 Sevilla

In a battle of two sides level on points in a battle for third place, Real Madrid turned in one of their better performances on the season en route to a 2-0 victory over Sevilla.

Sure, Los Blancos didn’t break the scoreless deadlock until Casemiro unleashed his long-range blast in the 78th minute — thus the result was in doubt for much of the game — but Madrid were in complete control despite the goal coming late on. Sevilla managed just four shots over 90 minutes and held just 31 percent of possession.

Even still, the score remained tight at 1-0 until stoppage time, when Luka Modric 2018 Ballon d’Or winner Luka Modric put the game to bed.

Now in sole possession of third place — three points clear of Sevilla, but still seven back of Barcelona — Santiago Solari’s side appears to have righted the ship enough that they’ll cruise to a top-four finish.

Elsewhere in La Liga

Celta Vigo 1-2 Valencia

Sunday’s La Liga schedule

Real Betis v. Girona — 6 a.m. ET
Villarreal v. Athletic Bilbao — 10:15 a.m. ET
Rayo Vallecano v. Real Sociedad — 12:30 p.m. ET
Levante v. Real Valladolid — 12:30 p.m. ET
Barcelona v. Leganes — 2:45 p.m. ET

USMNT youngster joins NYCFC on loan from Benfica

Photo credit: @NYCFC
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NEW YORK (AP) U.S. national player Keaton Parks has been acquired by New York City FC on loan from the Portuguese club Benfica for the 2019 season.

The 21-year-old Texan is a versatile central midfielder. He joined Varzim of Portugal in 2015 when he turned 18 and then signed with Benfica in 2017.

He made his national team debut in May, entering in the 62nd minute of a 3-0 victory over Bolivia in Philadelphia.

New York sporting director Claudio Reyna said Saturday that Parks “comes to us highly motivated” and can “make a strong impact” in midfield.