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Vela gets goal, assist to lead LAFC past Timbers 3-2

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PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) Latif Blessing gave a simple “yes” when asked if he considers Los Angeles FC and Portland a rivalry.

Saturday’s matchup had all the makings.

Carlos Vela had a goal and an assist in the first half to lead LAFC past the Timbers 3-2.

[ MORE: Berhalter narrows Gold Cup roster ]

Vela, Major League Soccer’s goals and assists leader, helped LAFC (11-1-4) fend off Portland’s late rally to end the Timbers’ 15-game win streak in home openers.

LAFC withstood a run that included an 85th minute goal by Portland’s Brian Fernandez to pull within one, and shoving in the final minutes that resulted in yellows to Fernandez and LAFC’s Adama Diomande.

“We’re not naive, we understand teams are going to have a hard way to play against us, try to make it hard,” LAFC coach Bob Bradley said. “When’s the last time you saw Messi get mauled the way Carlos (Vela) got mauled tonight?”

Vela scored in the 6th minute after intercepting a pass from Portland goalkeeper Jeff Attinella. He found Diego Rossi on a cross for a goal that made it 2-0 in the 34th minute.

Portland didn’t go away. Christhian Paredes scored less than two minutes into the second half on a goalkeeper deflection as the Timbers pulled within a goal. LAFC’s Blessing countered in the 54th minute with a wide-open volley off of a cross.

“Great cross, great finish, so I’m happy,” Blessing said.

Fernandez scored on a bicycle kick inside the six-yard box to pull Portland within 3-2 in the 85th minute. It was Fernandez’s fourth goal in three appearances with the Timbers since he was acquired as a designated player on May 6.

“We knew that if we had a good start to the second half, the game was there,” Timbers midfielder Diego Valeri said. “And obviously, the crowd lifted us.

“It was a good game, and a good performance, but not the result we wanted, so we have to keep going.”

It was the first home game of the season for the Timbers (4-7-2) and the debut of the remodeled Providence Park. According to the club, the expansion added 4,137 seats in a grandstand on the stadium’s east side to push capacity over 25,000. MLS commissioner Don Garber was in attendance among the sellout crowd of 25,218.

“The place is rocking as it always does, it’s just a little bit louder,” Garber said at halftime. “More people sort of showing their passion for the team. … The Timbers are such an important part of the history of soccer in America have been reflected in the addition.”

Vela has 16 goals and 10 assists this season, six goals ahead of the next-highest scorer.

LAFC has scored a league-high 39 goals.

LAFC is in first place in the Western Conference and boasts one of the best records in the league. The Timbers, who made the MLS Cup final last season, went 4-6-2 in its first 12 games on the road.

Watch Live: Everton v. Chelsea

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Everton host Chelsea at Goodison Park on Saturday (Watch live, 7:30 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com) as Duncan Ferguson takes interim charge of the struggling Toffees.

WATCH LIVE ONLINE HERE

Everton sit in the relegation zone and after they fired Marco Silva, they badly need a morale-boosting win against a young, talented Chelsea. Frank Lampard‘s side remain in the top four but this will be a tough test as they head to Goodison with Everton scrapping for their lives.

In team news Everton make two changes as Ferguson brings in Walcott and Schneiderlin to the starting lineup in a very attacking side.

Chelsea are unchanged from their midweek win against Aston Villa.

LINEUPS

Top Premier League storylines: Matchweek 16

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Matchweek 16 is upon us.

[ MORE: Chelsea transfer ban reduced; can sign players in January ]

Here’s what we’ll be keeping an eye on when this weekend’s fixtures kick off Saturday morning…


Manchester derby, perhaps you’ve heard of it 

Manchester City might not take home their third straight PL title, given Liverpool’s 11-point lead after 15 games, but they can still maintain their superiority in Manchester. They’re well on their way to doing so in the table, now they can get (another0 one over the Red Devils on Saturday. At what point do they take over the title of “bigger club?” Asking for a friend…


The start of something big for Chelsea?

Marco Silva is gone with Everton siting 18th in the table. Chelsea’s transfer ban has been cut in half with the Blues sitting fourth. Could this week get any worse? for Everton? Could it get any better for Chelsea?


Desperation time for Arsenal

Unai Emery was fired, which was supposedly to magically fix all of the problems at Arsenal. That’s how it’s supposed to work, right? Well, we’re two games into the Freddie Ljungberg (interim) era, and the Gunners have just one point to show for their efforts, and they had to come back from a goal down (twice) against 19th-place Norwich City to get it. Every trip to West Ham is a tricky one for Arsenal, and that’s doubly true given their current form (winless in their last nine games – all competitions).


Does Liverpool’s lead grow? Shrink? Hold steady?

From now until the end of the season, it’s Liverpool’s title to lose. No matter how you look at it, it’s theirs to either win or lose. Therefore, every time out presents a chance to grow their lead, or the risk of seeing it shrink should the drop points and one of the chasing sides to take all three. The math behind it is a bit boring, but if they don’t drop more than 10 points the rest of the season, they’ll win the title. Of course, their margin for error is likely to grow with Leicester and City eventually failing to win. Simply put, Liverpool are sitting comfortably.


Good times roll for Newcastle?

Don’t look now, but Newcastle have won three of their last five games and reached mid-table. Steve Bruce‘s side currently sits 11th after wins over West Ham, Bournemouth and Sheffield United in recent weeks. Welcomeing relegation-threatened Southampton to St. James’ Park could very well spell another three points for the Magpies.

Serie A: Leaders Inter Milan open door for Juve by drawing Roma

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MILAN (AP) Italian league leader Inter Milan was held by Roma to 0-0 on Friday, giving second-placed Juventus a chance to return to the top.

[ MORE: Chelsea transfer ban reduced; can sign players in January ]

The home draw left Inter only two points ahead of Juventus, which can regain the lead when it visits third-placed Lazio on Saturday.The result also wasn’t good for Roma, which moved from fifth to fourth place in the standings but remained nine points off the lead after 15 matches.

Inter forward Lautaro Martinez had one of the game’s best chances when he got past a defender and entered the area in the 68th minute, but his shot was blocked at the last minute. He called for a handball by the defender but the referee let play continue.

[ MORE: Brendan Rodgers signs new contract at Leicester ]

Inter was coming off five straight wins in the league, with its last setback in all competitions last month against Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League. Its last league loss was against Juventus in October, nine matches ago.

Roma was seeking its third straight league win. It had won five of its last six matches since last month.

Inter visits Barcelona in the Champions League on Tuesday.

Premier League Preview: Man City v. Man United

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  • Man City (3rd) trail Liverpool by 11 points
  • Man United (6th) eight points out of 4th
  • Last meeting: Man United 0-2 Man City

For the first time in recent memory, Manchester City and Manchester United each find themselves failing to meet expectations — by their own respective standards, at least — as they prepare to meet at the Etihad Stadium in the 179th Manchester derby on Saturday (Watch live, 12:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN and NBCSports.com).

Man City, the two-time defending Premier League champions, are looking increasingly unlikely to retain their crown for a third straight season but look a surefire bet to finish in the top-four, which is a place for which Man United would bite your hand off as they currently trail leaders Liverpool by more points (22) than they have points of their own (21).

[ STREAM: Every PL match live

The struggles for United have been all about consistency as Ole Gunnar Solskjaer‘s side hasn’t won back-to-back games all season. The Red Devils haven’t won two in a row in the PL since March. On the bright side, United turned in one of their complete performances of the season on Wednesday, spoiling Jose Mourinho’s return to Old Trafford and beating Tottenham Hotspur 2-1. Marcus Rashford scored both goals and Solskjaer couldn’t rave enough about his 22-year-old forward after the game. From start to finish, United were the better team and looked in majority control, which isn’t something they’ve been able to say often in 2019.

As for City, they’ve simply been “not good enough” without ever actually being “bad” this season, given Liverpool’s scintillating form (14W-1D-0L thus far). Realistically, City likely need to pick up all 69 remaining points this season, and even then they might still come up short.

Injuries/suspensions

Man City: OUT – Sergio Aguero (thigh), Aymeric Laporte (knee), Leroy Sane (knee), Oleksandr Zinchenko (knee)

Man United: OUT – Anthony Martial (hamstring), Eric Bailly (knee), Marcos Rojo (undisclosed); QUESTIONABLE: Paul Pogba (ankle), Nemanja Matic (groin), Diogo Dalot (groin)


Projected lineups

Man City: Ederson — Walker, Otamendi, Fernandinho, Angeliño — Rodri, De Bruyne, Silva — Bernardo, Jesus, Sterling

Man United: De Gea — Wan-Bissaka, Lindelof, Maguire, Young — Fred, McTominay, James, Mata, Lingard — Rashford


What they’re saying

Pep Guardiola, on the derby: “It’s Man United. I respect what they’ve done for English football, European, and world football. United have huge history and their quality is always there but we must try to beat them. We play against a good team, try to follow the performances we’ve put in and try to win the game. You know my opinion on the title race.”

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, on his derby memories: “It took many years before I played a Manchester derby myself. Of course, Man City are a better team now than when I was playing. … Confidence is a strange thing in football; you can get performances and results like Wednesday night and it boosts it so much. And I know our boys will be up for it. 24 hours less recovery time [than City] shouldn’t matter, you go on adrenaline.”


Prediction

The win over Tottenham was impressive, no doubt about it, but City remain a challenge of an entirely different class, no matter what their points total says. If the title is well and truly gone for Guardiola’s side, then retaining superiority in Manchester will have to suffice. City 3-1 United.