Premier League friendly roundup: Chelsea, Arsenal, Liverpool all in action

Leave a comment

Three of the big six sides in the Premier League were in action on Sunday as preseason preparation progresses ahead of the start of the season.

Here’s a closer look at how the Premier League clubs fared.

[READ: Transfer Rumor Roundup]


Chelsea top Reading in seven-goal thriller

A trio of Americans hit the field as Chelsea held off a pair of Reading comebacks to win at the Madejski Stadium, 4-3, in Frank Lampard‘s first (unofficial) match on English soil.

Christian Pulisic got the start for the Blues as it took a 2-1 lead into the halftime break. Joshua Barrett gave the hosts an early lead in the 13th minute with a sweet finish off the half-volley, looping the ball over Wily Caballero’s head in goal for Chelsea. Ross Barkley equalized just eight minutes later with a sweet free kick into the top left corner, before Kenedy put Chelsea ahead with a strike from outside the box that was re-directed and left Reading’s goalkeeper Joao Virginia flat footed.

While Pulisic departed the match at halftime, Reading brought on centerback Matt Miazga and striker Andrija Novakovich among other subs to play the second half. The pair were involved as Reading tied the score through Michael Morrison in just the 49th minute.

Yet it was the former Derby County midfielder and Chelsea youngster Mason Mount that made the difference in the match. Mount’s two second half goals gave Chelsea the distance it needed to close out the win. The first goal was a cracking shot in the box but the second was an absolute gift from Virginia, who turned the ball over to Tammy Abraham in the box, who centered to Mount who couldn’t miss from five yards out.

Sam Baldock slipped one home in the 71th minute for Reading but it couldn’t find another equalizer as Chelsea held on for the win.

Arsenal fall to Lyon at Emirates Cup

It was a new-look Emirates Cup with a double-header including the men’s and women’s teams for Arsenal. However, on the men’s side, it was a disappointing result for Unai Emery‘s squad.

Arsenal was defeated, 2-1 by Lyon with two second-half goals coming from former Fulham and Celtic striker Moussa Dembele. Arsenal completely dominated the first half of the match in terms of chances created, and arguably should have been up by more than the 1-0 scoreline it earned at the break. A cross from Henrikh Mkhitaryan was re-directed with lightning-speed into the net by none-other-than Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang to put Arsenal in front in the first half.

Later, even though Dembele had tied the score at 1-1 with a header, it appeared new Arsenal signing, 18-year-old Gabriel Martinelli had given the Gunners the lead, poking home off a rebound in the box. However, the goal was ruled off for offside on Martinelli.

Seconds later, Dembele beat the offside trap and then scored on Bernd Leno who was way off his line. To make matters worse for Arsenal, striker Alexandre Lacazette was forced off in the 12th minute due to an apparent sprained ankle, per Arsenal. The club stated postgame, via Unai Emery, that it didn’t think the injury was serious, but he was taken off as a precaution. Still, it’s never good to see a star player go down with an injury, especially during preseason.

Liverpool trounced by Napoli in Scotland

In terms of just wins and losses results on the field, it hasn’t been a very successful preseason so far for Liverpool. The Reds continued their traveling preseason tour with a match in Edinburgh, Scotland against Napoli, and the Italian side came away with a 3-0 victory.

Lorenzo Insigne and Arkadiusz Milik scored for Carlo Ancelotti’s side in the first half before Amin Younes put Liverpool away with a goal in the second half.

It’s been a tough preseason for the Reds, but of course, they’re missing a large chunk of their squad due to international tournaments this summer. Jurgen Klopp started a pretty-strong backline in Andrew Robertson, Virgil Van Dijk, Joel Matip and Trent Alexander-Arnold. However, Divock Origi started on his own up top and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, who is still recovering from a serious knee injury, also got a start as he builds back his fitness after missing almost all of last season. Starters Mo Salah, Sadio Mane, Alisson and Roberto Firmino are all either on international break rest or working their way back to fitness.

Liverpool did get some time to play some of it’s potential stars of the future. Sepp van den Berg played the final 11 minutes of the match, as did new Liverpool signing Harvey Elliot, the 16-year-old recently acquired from Fulham.

How will USMNT line up versus Costa Rica?

USMNT
Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Saturday brings a first look at the United States men’s national team in 2020, though Gregg Berhalter’s bunch won’t look anything like its best self.

The Yanks have an almost exclusively MLS roster for the match, with Hobro’s Christian Cappas, Wolfsburg II’s Uly Llanez and unattached 17-year-old Bryang Kayo in the fold.

Many of Berhalter’s best MLS stars won’t be in Carson either for the 3:55 p.m. ET Saturday kickoff. Jordan Morris, Jozy Altidore, and Michael Bradley are the biggest names.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]  

Ronald Gonzalez’s Ticos will be similarly hampered, although more of Costa Rica’s A-side play in MLS and domestically.

We’ll leave the breakdown of the visitors for a later date, but who will rep the U.S. in Saturday’s Starting XI?

The travel roster includes keepers Sean Johnson, Bill Hamid, and Matt Turner, as well as defenders Aaron Long, Walker Zimmerman, Reggie Cannon, Julian Araujo, Chase Gasper, Justen Glad, Mark McKenzie, and Sam Vines. Listed midfielders Sebastian Lletget, Jackson Yueill, Brenden Aaronson, Cappis, Kayo, and Brandon Servania are joined by forwards Gyasi Zardes, Paul Arriola, Jonathan Lewis, Jesus Ferreira, and Ulysses Llanez.

Goalkeeper is anyone’s guess, but Johnson’s got the most run of the three during the Berhalter era. The younger Turner or more accomplished Hamid may step in there.

It would be surprising to see any other center backs besides Walker Zimmerman and Aaron Long given what we know of Berhalter and his respect for regulars. Reggie Cannon should start at right back and it’s between Chase Gasper and Sam Vines for the left. We’ll choose Vines out of intrigue.

Jackson Yueill, Paul Arriola, Sebastian Lletget, and Gyasi Zardes are safe bets to start, and this would seem a spot to give Jonathan Lewis more than subs’ run. That leaves one spot, and we’re pegging Brandon Servania to be the one chosen of four midfielders aged 17-20.

There’s also the matter of whether FC Dallas striker Jesus Ferreira will be internationally cleared to play Saturday. We sure hope he will be!

How do you think Berhalter will line them up?


How Berhalter may go

Johnson

Cannon — Zimmerman — Long — Vines

Yueill — Servania

Arriola — Lletget — Lewis

Zardes


What we’d like to see

Turner

Cannon — Zimmerman — McKenzie — Vines

Yueill — Cappis — Servania

Arriola — Ferreira — Lewis

Watch our transfer deadline day show from 6-8 p.m. ET on Jan. 31, live on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com.

Report: Sheffield United in ‘advanced talks’ for $22M Norway star

Photo by Martin Rickett/EMPICS/PA Images via Getty Images
Leave a comment

Sheffield United is ready to add one of the game’s brightest young talents to its blossoming Premier League side.

Norway midfielder Sander Berge is the name, and he’s been linked with Liverpool amongst others over the past few months.

Berge turns 22 next month and already has 20 caps for Norway in addition to 113 senior appearances for Genk in Belgium and 43 more for Valerenga in his home country.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

The defensive midfielder has chipped in six goals and four assists. He won the Belgian Super League with Genk last year and has a career-best four goals so this season.

It shows what success brings to a club, as Sky Sports reports that Berge turned down a move to Bramall Lane in the summer.

The fee is said to be $22 million, which isn’t small but completely reasonable given his stature for club and country.

This may move may join the Lys Mousset purchase as one of the Blades’ smartest bits of business, especially as Chris Wilder‘s men look for success on multiple fronts. Their success as a newly-promoted side is one of the great stories of the European season, and a place in Europe would be a fantastic achievement.

From The Yorkshire Post:

“It is going well, no doubt about it,” Wilder said. “On the Premier League front and in the Cup. You probably would not think it, but the win at Millwall has given me an enormous amount of pleasure in confirming, not even seeing, what my team is about. Players have come in with the likes of the skipper (Billy Sharp) and other players who are really driving it forward and want to produce individual performances and the atmosphere is good.”

Watch our transfer deadline day show from 6-8 p.m. ET on Jan. 31, live on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com.

Espanyol identify 12 fans who racially insulted player

Racism in football
Photo by Quality Sport Images/Getty Images
Leave a comment

BARCELONA, Spain — Spanish club Espanyol says it has identified 12 fans who racially insulted an Athletic Bilbao player in the Spanish league last weekend.

Espanyol said on Monday in a statement that nine of the fans were club members and would face punishment that could include suspension or a full-time ban.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule

It said a report of its analysis of the video images of Saturday’s game at RCDE Stadium were sent to authorities.

The club reiterated its “categorical condemnation of any displays of violence and racism.”

The fans made monkey noises directed at Athletic forward Inaki Williams, who is black. Television images showed Williams confronting the section of Espanyol fans who taunted him after he was substituted late in the game in Barcelona.

The Spanish league said it will seek a partial stadium closure for Espanyol and will raise the incident with the Spanish soccer federation’s competition committee, which handles disciplinary issues.

Transfer rumors: West Ham want $44M midfielder, Barca eyes Rodrigo

Transfer rumors
Photo by Marco Luzzani - Inter/Inter via Getty Images
Leave a comment

West Ham United is being linked with a big transfer splash, and it’s not even a striker.

Uruguayan midfielder Nahitan Nandez is the man in question, and West Ham is reportedly tempting Cagliari with a $44 million offer this January.

Nandez, 23, arrived from Boca Juniors for less than half that fee this summer, and has chipped in a goal with three assists for Tommaso Giulini’s sixth-place Serie A side.

He’s got 31 caps for his national team, and is averaging 1.5 tackles per match with Cagliari. Nandez is also averaging a key pass and 1.1 successful dribbles per league outing.

Football-Italia says that Cagliari will try to tie Nandez to a new deal with a $44 million release clause if the move to West Ham is unsuccessful.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule

Meanwhile Barcelona’s pursuit of a Luis Suarez replacement isn’t limited to Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, according to Marca.

Club president Josep Maria Bartomeu admits that Valencia striker Rodrigo Moreno is interesting his coaches.

“We don’t talk about players from other teams. But [Rodrigo’s] name is on the table of the coaches, and a replacement will arrive. I do not know whether it will be from Barcelona B or from outside. I like many players.”

The Spaniard has eight goals in 21 caps, and turns 29 in March. Rodrigo has four goals and 10 assists in 23 matches across all competitions this season.

Valencia beat Barcelona this weekend to send the Blaugranas three points back of La Liga leaders Real Madrid.