Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

Top Premier League storylines for Week 16

Leave a comment

The Premier League begins its third round of games in eight days when Liverpool visits Bournemouth early Saturday.

[ LISTEN: Rebecca Lowe’s new podcast ]

Here’s what we’ll be watching the closest in England and Wales this weekend.


Sorry form could sound death knell for Chelsea’s title hopes
Chelsea vs. Manchester City, 12:30 p.m. ET Saturday on NBC STREAM ]

The visitors are undefeated, reigning champions, and will be considered favorites when they enter Stamford Bridge to meet a Chelsea side which has won just four of the last 12 points available to it.

Maurizio Sarri‘s men will have to do better against Man City than they did in 2017-18 under Antonio Conte, when the Blues lost a pair of 1-0 contests. A loss Saturday would sink Chelsea 13 points back of City.

Gunners go for 21 against game Terriers
Arsenal vs. Huddersfield Town, 10 a.m. ET Saturday on CNBC STREAM ]

Arsenal toppled Spurs before drawing Manchester United, but would do well to consider Huddersfield Town as ornery as the big boys. The desperate Terriers have found some goals in recent weeks, but need results more than hope now. It seems unlikely to come at the Emirates, but that’s why they play the games.

Hasenhuttl takes charge of Saints for big six-pointer
Cardiff City vs. Southampton, 10 a.m. ET Saturday on NBC Sports Gold STREAM ]

Saints have been in the frying pan for some time, but will feel in the center of the fire should they manage to lose to improving Cardiff City on Saturday in Wales. It’s the first match on the bench for new Southampton boss Ralph Hasenhuttl, who has an impressive record in Germany.

Tottenham heads to Leicester to face tough-to-topple Foxes
Leicester City vs. Tottenham Hotspur, 2:45 p.m. ET Saturday on NBCSN STREAM ]

Unbeaten in six league matches despite the tragic story of their owners’ death and a trip to Thailand to mourn him, Leicester now gets a visit from a Tottenham Hotspur side who’s rebounded from a North London Derby loss to paste Southampton at midweek. Will the Foxes be able to continue their run up the table against a very good Spurs side?

Klopp, Howe match attack-happy wits at the Vitality Stadium
Bournemouth vs. Liverpool, 7:30 a.m. ET Saturday on NBCSN STREAM ]

The Cherries have proved tough-to-beat at home with a 4W-2D-2L record so far but also unable to take down the big boys. Bournemouth is now 0-4 against Top Four contenders despite its seventh-place start to the season. Enter a Liverpool side just as willing to entertain and the chance to hop into first place for at least a few hours, and this has all the ingredients for a fine start to the season.

UCL wrap: PSG runs over Real; Atalanta clobbered on debut

GEOFFROY VAN DER HASSELT/AFP/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Real Madrid, UEFA Champions League goals, and Angel Di Maria go together pretty well.

[ MORE: Man Utd extends Lindelof ]

The man who scored a decisive goal for Real in a UCL Final scored two as Paris Saint-Germain throttled the 10-time champions in France without Kylian Mbappe, Edinson Cavani, and Neymar.

PSG 3-0 Real Madrid

If it’s possible for Zinedine Zidane to feel heat under his seat, it’s probably happening right about now.

Real Madrid was absolutely cooked by a clinical PSG missing its trident, with Di Maria scoring two goals in the win.

Juan Bernat was exceptional in the win, and set up two goals including Thomas Meunier’s late insurance tally.

Dinamo Zagreb 4-0 Atalanta

The Serie A visitors made their UEFA Champions League debut, and boy did it fall flat.

Down 1-0 early on a Marin Leovac opener, Atalanta surrendered a hat trick to Mislav Orsic in the loss. The 26-year-old midfielder is fresh off his first cap for Croatia. More seem on the horizon, yeah?

Considering their group includes Man City and Shakhtar Donetsk, La Dea won’t appreciate losing four goals in the differential column against a perceived bottom dweller for the group.

Elsewhere

Olympiacos 2-2 Tottenham — RECAP, Pochettino reaction
Shakhtar Donetsk 0-3 Man City — RECAP
Atletico Madrid 2-2 Juventus — RECAP
Club Brugge 0-0 Galatasaray
Bayer Leverkusen 1-2 Lokomotiv Moscow
Bayern Munich 3-0 Red Star Belgrade

Atletico Madrid erases 2-goal deficit in Juventus draw

Photo by Angel Martinez/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Cristiano Ronaldo’s going to like Diego Simeone a little bit less today — if possible — as the Argentine manager engineered a come-from-behind draw to get a measure of revenge for last season’s knockout round ouster.

[ RELATED: Shakhtar 0-3 Man City ]

And Ronaldo won’t be too happy with himself, either, as the Juve star missed a chance to win it in stoppage time, moments after Atletico Madrid had scored the final goal of 2-2 draw at the Wanda Metropolitano.

That left Mexican star Hector Herrera the unabashed hero, as he headed home in stoppage time.

Juve scored a beauty to open it, with Juan Cuadrado spinning a left-footed wonder strike that painted the side netting.

Blaise Matuidi had Juve up 2-0, but Atleti pulled one back via a Stefan Savic header off a set piece in the 70th minute.

That’s when Herrera nodded his goal home.

But Ronaldo… how often has he scored this kind of goal in this competition?

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

Man City midfield controls Shakhtar in Ukraine

SERGEI SUPINSKY/AFP/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Manchester City got its UEFA Champions League run off to a convincing start, easing some nerves from the weekend with a 3-0 defeat of Shakhtar Donetsk in Ukraine on Wednesday.

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

Riyad Mahrez and Ilkay Gundogan set each other up for goals, Gabriel Jesus also scored, and Fernandinho partnered with Nicolas Otamendi at center back to earn the clean sheet.


Three things we learned

1. Midfield runs the match: Center backs aren’t all that vital if the ball never gets to them, and Ilkay Gundogan and Rodri were exceptional (even with the latter taking an early yellow card). Rodri completed every single one of his 82 passes in helping City control the park, departing with less than a quarter-hour to play.

2. De Bruyne dangerous on an off day: Kevin De Bruyne just couldn’t find that final ball, constantly in dangerous areas but unable to execute that moment. Credited with three key passes including th, his shooting was the glaring difference between 3-0 and 5-0.

3. Shakhtar shows creative flair: Taison and Marlos both showed a knack for taking on defenders, each credited with four dribbles on the day. It was Shakhtar’s best chance to break down a disciplined City, and the closest the hosts came to succeeding on the day.

Man of the Match: Rodri


A Kevin De Bruyne free kick provided an early threat, but Rodri’s header was a bit off and unable to open the scoring in Ukraine.

Shakhtar then had a nice spell of possession, but City was up to the task. Rodri led a chance in the other direction and sent a ball back De Bruyne for a header, which was wide like the first.

Mahrez put City ahead on a rebound after Ilkay Gundogan took a Gabriel Jesus feed and pushed the ball off the post.

The Algerian didn’t need a post to return the favor, sending a delightful pass into the path of Gundogan for a smooth finish an 2-0.

De Bruyne finally got his assist when he took care of a bounding ball to Jesus for a chop into the goal.

Pochettino: ‘We didn’t respect the plan’ v. Olympiacos

AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis
Leave a comment

A “very disappointed” Tottenham Hotspur boss Mauricio Pochettino was left seething after his team threw away a 2-0 lead in Greece, drawing Olympiacos in its first UEFA Champions League match of the season.

Even with that lead at halftime in Piraeus, Pochettino warned his players that it wasn’t going well.

[ RECAP: Olympiacos 2-2 Spurs ]

“From the beginning we had a plan,” Pochettino said, via Football.London. “We didn’t respect the plan. I told the players at half-time. We scored two goals but if you only analyze the performance it wasn’t great. We conceded a lot of chances to them and the first goal was so painful. We didn’t translate that type of aggression these type of games demand.”

Olympiacos entered the match with a reputation for fine defense, allowing only one goal in their last 10 outings, so Pochettino would’ve been happy with the finishing.

But Spurs were again sloppy at the back, and blew the same lead it tossed aside in last month’s North London Derby.

Olympiacos away is a step up from Palace at home, but this did not often look like the team that bossed Roy Hodgson‘s Eagles to the tune of 4-0 at the weekend.

“How many times we didn’t anticipate today and how we weren’t proactive like we were against Crystal Palace? At this level you need to match your opponent. That is the first demand.”

Tottenham has three matches before its next UCL encounter, Oct. 1, versus Bayern.