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Three things learned: Liverpool v Man City

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LONDON — Manchester City beat Liverpool 5-4 on penalty kicks to win the 2019 FA Community Shield at Wembley on Sunday.  

After a 1-1 draw thanks to goals from Raheem Sterling and Joel Matip in either half, the game went to spot kicks and Claudio Bravo saved Georginio Wijnadlum’s penalty as City scored all five of theirs.

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Man City and Liverpool finished just one point apart in the Premier League table last season and it went all the way to decide the winner of the Community Shield. Despite shaking off rust amid key absentees due to stars returning late from summer tournaments, City and Liverpool put on a show at Wembley.

It was an intense, high-tempo encounter which can’t often be said of this showpiece event.

Pep Guardiola and Jurgen Klopp played up the importance of this game beforehand and their players obviously took those words to heart.

What did we learn from the traditional “curtain raiser” at Wembley?


Teams evenly matched, wasteful

On another day the score could have been 4-3 or 3-2. Both teams were guilty of being wasteful in the final third and some of their attacking stars were perhaps blowing away a few cobwebs.

Mohamed Salah missed two glorious opportunities in the first half alone. Virgil Van Dijk and Salah hit the woodwork in the second half. Kyle Walker incredibly hooked Salah’s shot off the line, while Sterling probably should’ve scored another two given the quality of his chances. Kevin De Bruyne‘s final ball and passes were a little off, while there was a general sense of frustration among both Guardiola and Klopp on the sidelines.

They know the way their teams played and the result of the Community Shield is not going to determine how this season goes for them. But the game was of high intensity and was also pretty adept at underlining the weaknesses both teams have. In the second half the end-to-end nature of the game was farcical, as you could be forgiven for thinking the latest NBA game had rolled into London.

This performance suggested two things:

1) There is still so little to choose between Liverpool and Man City.

2) Liverpool are a different team without one of their front three of Mane, Firmino and Salah up top, and so too are Man City without Sergio Aguero in their starting lineup.


Rusty Liverpool shaking off poor preseason

Not having six first team stars with Liverpool for the majority of preseason was far from ideal. And they do not appear to have dealt that well with it. At all. Salah, Firmino and Alisson returned this week after playing in the Africa Cup of Nations and Copa America, while Sadio Mane will return next week. With Naby Keita and Xherdan Shaqiri only just returning from injury too, Liverpool’s squad looks a little thin on the ground.

In the first half Man City overran them in central midfield but much to their credit Liverpool came roaring back in the second half and deserved to draw 1-1 in regulation. Salah led wave after wave of attack and even though it is clear Liverpool aren’t fully fit, it appears the rust from a disjointed preseason is falling off a little quicker than most expected.

Klopp will be hoping that the late returning stars give the rest of the squad a much-needed kick up the backside in the next few days before they face Norwich City in the PL season opener on Friday (Watch live, 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

The lack of a central midfielder who can dictate the tempo of the game and create openings is perhaps what they miss most if they’re going to truly push Man City all the way for the title once again this season. Jordan Henderson, Fabinho, James Milner and Georginio Wijnaldum are all workhorses and should be admired for how they press high and win the ball back for Salah, Firmino and Mane to cause havoc. It works. But having a player like David or Bernando Silva, someone who can slow things down and float around behind the strikers is something Liverpool have been calling out for.


Left side of City’s defense needs a revamp

True, Mohamed Salah and Trent Alexander-Arnold were the men marauding down the right flank for Liverpool but Oleksandr Zinchenko and Nicolas Otamendi didn’t half make them look good.

Granted, Aymeric Laporte will likely line up alongside John Stones in central defense this season, but it may be worth playing Laporte at left back based on this. Especially with influential leader Vincent Kompany departing. Do not underestimate his absence this season. As this game wore on Otamendi found his stride and Zinchenko kept plugging away too, but if there is any area City’s squad needs strengthening in it is at left back and center back. That is so obvious.

Zinchenko is doing the best he can as a makeshift left back but with Benjamin Mendy still out injured and Fabian Delph sold over the summer, City’s options at left back aren’t plentiful. With Joao Cancelo coming in at right back to battle with Kyle Walker, it is a little bemusing why City aren’t making a big play to sign a left back or center back this summer.

Teams will look to exploit that wing based on this showing. Yes, this was Liverpool shredding their left flank apart, but plenty of the PL’s other top six teams are capable of exploiting this weakness.

Man City get date for UEFA ban verdict

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Manchester City will get the verdict on Monday in its appeal against a two-year ban from UEFA competitions.

The Court of Arbitration for Sport on Friday set the date to publish the ruling from its panel of three judges.

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The urgent verdict from a hearing held on June 8-10 by video link will likely have few details of the judges’ reasons and evidence heard. A full written verdict typically takes months to prepare.

UEFA punished Man City in February for “serious breaches” of rules monitoring club finances and failing to cooperate with investigators.

The allegations included that City, owned by Abu Dhabi’s royal family, misled UEFA over several years to meet financial integrity rules required to enter the Champions League.

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UEFA-appointed experts opened their investigation after leaked club emails and documents were published by German magazine Der Spiegel in November 2018. They were obtained by a hacker from Portugal.

UEFA had previously signed off on City’s submitted accounts since 2014. That year, UEFA fined City 20 million euros ($22.6 million) of its Champions League prize money in a first wave of assessments of European clubs’ finances.

More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

Premier League odds, Prince-Wright’s picks: Matchweek 35

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EPL betting odds for the Premier League have been released but we know the bookies don’t always get it right.

Here are the latest Prince-Wright’s Premier League score predictions as the Premier League return has the EPL betting odds all over the place.

[ MORE: New PL TV schedule

The Premier League score predictions below encompass the 10 games of Matchweek 35. Here we go.

If you, like me, love to dissect all the games and predict what the score will be and which team will win, I encourage you to get involved in the comments section below. Let’s have a bit of fun with these Premier League games.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

Okay, so I’ve consulted my crystal ball and here’s how we see things panning out. Listen carefully, because this is very specific.

While you can download the NBC Sports Predictor app (below) and play the Premier League Pick ‘Em game yourself to predict the scores and win the prizes.

DOWNLOAD NBC SPORTS PREDICTOR

With the first section labelled “basically, free money” for the picks I think are dead certs. The section labelled “don’t touch this” means if you’re betting I advise you to stay clear, while the “so you’re telling me there’s a chance” section are the long shots. If it is better odds you are after, those are the picks to go for.

Check out our Premier League score predictions below.


PREMIER LEAGUE PREDICTIONS

BASICALLY, FREE MONEY

Brighton 1-3 Man City – (Saturday, 3 p.m. ET, NBCSN) – [STREAM

Man United 4-2 Southampton – (Monday, 3 p.m. ET, NBCSN) – [STREAM]

Liverpool 3-1 Burnley – (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, NBCSN) – [STREAM


DON’T TOUCH THIS…

Wolves 1-1 Everton – (Sunday, 7 a.m. ET, NBCSN) – [STREAM

Sheffield United 1-2 Chelsea – (Saturday, 12:30 p.m. ET, NBC) – [STREAM

Tottenham 1-2 Arsenal – (Sunday, 11:30 a.m. ET, NBCSN) – [STREAM

Norwich 1-2 West Ham – (Saturday, 7:30 a.m. ET, NBCSN) – [STREAM]


“SO YOU’RE TELLING ME THERE’S A CHANCE…”

Bournemouth 2-2 Leicester – (Sunday, 2 p.m. ET, NBCSN) – [STREAM

Watford 2-1 Newcastle – (Saturday, 7:30 a.m. ET, Gold/Peacock) – [STREAM]

Aston Villa 2-1 Crystal Palace – (Sunday, 9:15 a.m. ET, NBCSN) – [STREAM]


EPL ODDS – Via DraftKings

Saturday, July 11: (-124) Watford v. Newcastle (+360), Tie: +255
Saturday, July 11: (+275) Norwich v. West Ham (-104), Tie: +265
Saturday, July 11: (-400) Liverpool v. Burnley (+1050), Tie: +525
Saturday, July 11: (+500) Sheffield United v. Chelsea (-167), Tie: +290
Saturday, July 11: (+900) Brighton v. Man City (-345), Tie: +475
Sunday, July 12: (+102) Wolves v. Everton (+310), Tie: +225
Sunday, July 12: (+130) Aston Villa v. Crystal Palace (+220), Tie: +230
Sunday, July 12: (+160) Tottenham v. Arsenal (+170), Tie: +240
Sunday, July 12: (+410) Bournemouth v. Leicester (-148), Tie: +285
Monday, July 13: (-375) Man United v. Southampton (+1050), Tie: +480

Top four, relegation battle: What’s the situation?

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The top four and relegation battle is absolutely bonkers as we head into the final four matchweeks of the 2019-20 Premier League season.

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So many teams are involved in the Champions League battle, the Europa League push and the relegation scrap.

With four games to go for each team in the Premier League, there are some massive games set up for the final weeks of the season.

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings ]

Let’s take a look at the situation up and down the table.


Top four, Europa League race

Man City pretty much have second place wrapped up but with a decision on their appeal on a two-year ban from UEFA expected imminently, we will soon find out if they will be in the Champions League next season, or if fifth place in the Premier League will become a Champions League spot.

Focusing on third and fourth, Chelsea are in the driving seat but Man United are just two points behind in fifth and Leicester are sandwiched in-between them in fourth. The Foxes have looked disjoined since the restart, and for many months, while Man United are surging and have all the momentum in the top four. If fifth place does become a Champions League spot, Wolves, Sheffield United, Arsenal and Tottenham seem like outside bets to finish above one of Man United, Leicester and Chelsea to finish fifth. At this point, I think Man United will finish third, Chelsea fourth and Leicester fifth. It will all come down to Leicester v. Man United on the final day of the season.

When it comes to the Europa League, if Man City are banned from Europe then eighth place could be a Europa League spot along with sixth and seventh. That is because Man City have already won the League Cup and the four FA Cup semifinalists (Arsenal, Man City, Man United and Chelsea) are likely to qualify for Europe through their league position. Everton and Southampton are unlikely to reach eighth place, but could, and wouldn’t it be something if Burnley could keep their run going? They face Liverpool, Wolves, Norwich and Brighton.

Team GP W D L GF GA GD Home Away PTS
 Liverpool 34 30 2 2 75 26 49 17-0-0 13-2-2 92
 Manchester City 34 22 3 9 86 34 52 13-2-2 9-1-7 69
 Chelsea 34 18 6 10 63 46 17 9-3-5 9-3-5 60
 Leicester City 34 17 8 9 64 32 32 10-4-3 7-4-6 59
 Manchester United 34 16 10 8 59 33 26 10-5-2 6-5-6 58
 Wolves 34 13 13 8 45 37 8 6-7-4 7-6-4 52
 Sheffield United 34 13 12 9 35 33 2 9-3-5 4-9-4 51
 Arsenal 34 12 14 8 50 42 8 8-6-3 4-8-5 50
 Tottenham Hotspur 34 13 10 11 52 44 8 10-3-4 3-7-7 49
 Burnley 34 14 7 13 38 46 -8 8-3-6 6-4-7 49
 Everton 34 12 9 13 41 49 -8 8-6-3 4-3-10 45
 Southampton 34 13 5 16 43 56 -13 5-2-10 8-3-6 44

Relegation battle

So, things are becoming a little clearer at the bottom as the bottom three have yet to win since the restart and both West Ham and Watford have picked up big wins in recent weeks. Brighton are almost safe from relegation after an impressive start to the restart, while Norwich are all but down after five defeats on the trot since the action resumed.

Now it’s all about Bournemouth or Aston Villa and if they can somehow string together two or three wins in their final four games of the season. Both teams have tough remaining schedules with Bournemouth facing Leicester, Man City, Southampton and Everton. Aston Villa face Crystal Palace, Everton, Arsenal and West Ham and Villa will hope they still have a chance of staying up ahead of that last game at West Ham.

 Brighton & Hove Albion 34 8 12 14 36 47 -11 5-6-6 3-6-8 36
 West Ham United 34 8 7 19 40 59 -19 5-3-9 3-4-10 31
 Watford 34 7 10 17 31 53 -22 5-6-6 2-4-11 31

 Bournemouth 34 7 7 20 32 59 -27 4-6-7 3-1-13 28
 Aston Villa 34 7 6 21 36 65 -29 5-3-9 2-3-12 27
 Norwich City 34 5 6 23 26 63 -37 4-3-10 1-3-13 21

Pulisic explains his superb form during ‘Project Restart’

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In an interview with Sky Sports, Christian Pulisic has explained the reason behind his superb form during ‘Project Restart’ as the USMNT winger has been one of the best players in the Premier League since action returned in June.

[ MORE: Pulisic Watch – Analysis ]

Pulisic, 21, has scored three goals, won two penalty kicks and has consistently been Man of the Match for Chelsea as Frank Lampard’s side push for a top four finish and the FA Cup.

Speaking to our partners in the UK Sky Sports, Pulisic was asked what he did during the Premier League’s suspension to bring out his best form. Turns out his trip back home to Hershey, Pennsylvania was very, very helpful.

“I had that first game on my mind. I was really hungry the whole time to get back and get back on the field. I was training hard and I’m really happy now to be able to make an impact,” Pulisic said. “I was able to get some work in back in the States, as well, and be able to continue to work on my game but also rehabbing and making sure I was 100 per cent fit and ready to go. So during a really tough time for a lot of people, that was the one positive thing that I could do for myself.”

The full interview is definitely worth your time as it is chocked full of stats, graphics and more from Pulisic about his stunning form since the Premier League returned.

Asked once again about the comparisons between himself and Chelsea legend Eden Hazard, Pulisic brushed them aside and stated he will not change the way he plays.

“I’m really happy I can do that as of recent and my style is always going to continue to be that very attacking-minded and creative kind of player. I’m happy I can help the team any way I can,” Pulisic added. “I want to be a part of this team. Every day in training I work hard because I want to start and I want to be on the field and I want to create goals and I want to score goals. That’s where I want to be. I want to continue to make a big impact every week and every game.”

Alongside Bruno Fernandes from Manchester United, Pulisic has been the main man in the Premier League throughout June and July.

USMNT fans everywhere are salivating as they watch the Pennsylvanian Messi rip it up for Chelsea on a weekly basis. Long may that continue.