Goalkeepers star in Watford, Bournemouth stalemate

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Watford and Bournemouth played out a 0-0 draw at Vicarage Road on Saturday as Watford still haven’t won a Premier League game this season.

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The Hornets and Cherries had their goalkeepers to thank for a point as Ben Foster and Aaron Ramsdale both made superb stops at each end to keep clean sheets.

With the draw Bournemouth have 13 points, while Watford remain bottom and have five points on the board.


3 things we learned

1. Ben Foster could keep Watford up: Foster made several superb stops in the first half and if he plays well for the rest of the season, the Hornets have a chance to stay up. Foster’s experience is key to holding this Watford defense together and it hasn’t been pretty since Quique Sanchez Flores returned, but they are grinding out draws. The mauling at Man City (which can happen to any team) aside, they have drawn 0-0 at home against Sheffield United and Bournemouth and 1-1 away at Tottenham. They are proving to be tougher to break down and they are building a solid defensive foundation ahead of a big relegation battle.

2. Bournemouth improve defensively, but lacking again in attack: The Cherries have now failed to score in four of their last five games in all competitions and they looked severely lackluster in attack once again. Defensively they have always struggled to keep goals out, and that has improved this season. But it has improved at the expense of their usually fluid attack unit and Eddie Howe looked totally frustrated on the sidelines. Bournemouth are always a team neutrals love to watch because they scored and conceded goals but the boatload. They had to get better defensively and they have, and that is largely down to Billing and Lerma shoring things up in midfield. Going forward they miss the injured Brooks and out of form Fraser, and Howe needs to get a better balance back to this team. That said, Bournemouth are maturing and look way less likely to throw away points. Over the course of the season that is very important.

3. Draw sums up Cherries, Hornets rivalry: Seven of their nine clashes since they were promoted to the Premier League have ended in draws and this is a rivalry with an edge to it. Watford and Bournemouth were promoted to the PL together in 2015 and their trajectory since has been very similar. Both clubs are capable of causing upsets. Both usually (apart from this season, Watford) start the season well and then fade. Both usually finish midtable. It is early in the season but it looks like Bournemouth will finish a lot higher than Watford in 2019-20.

Man of the Match: Ben Foster – In the first half he made a string of fine saves to keep Bournemouth at bay, as Watford held on for a point. Foster has been their star man this season and if the Hornets are going to drag themselves out of trouble, they need him to stay in top form.


Watford had a glorious chance to take the lead early on but Abdoulaye Doucoure somehow smashed over after Aaron Ramsdale spilled the ball.

The Hornets went close again as Gerard Deulofeu‘s corner just missed everyone and hit the post.

Bournemouth then hit the bar as Steve Cook got free of his runner from a corner and the Cherries skipper should have scored with his header.

The Cherries looked dangerous as Philip Billing‘s shot was saved by Ben Foster and then Wilson’s curler went just over. Sergio Rico was then denied by Foster as Watford’s goalkeeper kept them in it.

Josh King then crossed for Danjuma but his low shot was saved superbly by Foster, once again.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights

At the start of the second half it was Ramsdale’s turn to shine as the youngster spread himself to deny Deulofeu.

The second half turned into a feisty encounter as Roberto Pereyra caught Wilson and things boiled over between both sets of players.

Ramsdale then denied substitute Will Hughes, and Harry Wilson then went agonizingly close to a late winner but his free kick clipped the post and then Ryan Fraser was denied by Foster, of course.

The game ended in a stalemate as neither team looked confident in the final third throughout and both goalkeepers stood tall.

Wolfsburg’s Mbabu out of Europa League after virus positive

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WOLFSBURG, Germany (AP) Wolfsburg defender Kevin Mbabu will miss his team’s Europa League last-16 game against Shakhtar Donetsk after he tested positive for the coronavirus last month, the club said Monday.

[ MORE: Predictions, Odds for Europa ]

Wolfsburg coach Oliver Glasner said the Switzerland defender would “definitely” not travel with the team to the Ukrainian capital Kyiv to play Shakhtar on Wednesday. He has not been training with the team, Glasner added.

Wolfsburg said July 25 that Mbabu had tested positive and was in isolation at home. He was not displaying symptoms, the club said at the time.

The right back played 20 games for Wolfsburg in the Bundesliga this season, including 90 minutes in all nine games after the league resumed in May amid the pandemic.

The Europa League restarts Wednesday after a break of nearly five months. The second legs of last-16 matchups will be played at the original venues.

[ LIVE: Europa League scores  ]

Two fixtures where the first leg wasn’t played before the season was suspended – Inter Milan against Getafe and Roma against Sevilla – will be played as single-leg contests in Germany.

From the quarterfinals onward all games will be played in a tournament format in Germany.

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

Transfer news: Thiago to Liverpool; Gabriel to Man United

Thiago Alcantara to Liverpool
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In transfer news there’s an update on Thiago Alcantara to Liverpool, while Gabriel to Manchester United seems to be moving to the next stage.

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Starting in Liverpool, talk of Thiago Alcantara to Liverpool has been gathering steam over the last few weeks and a new report states that Jurgen Klopp’s men are now the favorites to sign him.

Bayern Munich expect the 29-year-old Spanish international to leave this summer and according to Mundo Deportivo Liverpool have jumped ahead of Paris Saint-Germain and are ‘very likely’ to sign the former Barcelona star.

Bayern want $35 million for Thiago who has one year left on his current contract.

The deep-lying playmaker is a totally different central midfielder to what Liverpool currently have as Jordan Henderson, Fabinho, James Milner and Georginio Wijnaldum are all hard-working more defensive minded players. And then there’s Naby Keita and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain who provide a bit more attacking intent with forward runs from central midfield.

Thiago Alcantara would help Liverpool control games better when opponents sit back and don’t allow them space to operate in-behind. He is a silky pass-master who is wanted by PSG, Liverpool, Manchester United and others, but it appears he will be heading to Anfield to give Liverpool a totally new dimension to their play. If this happens, it will make an already strong Liverpool side stronger.

Gabriel to Manchester United
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Switching to Manchester, a report in France states that Gabriel Magalhaes could be heading to Manchester United.

The Brazilian defender, 22, has been a star for Lille over the past few seasons but has been linked with Arsenal, Chelsea, Napoli, Everton and Man United consistently in recent months.

A report from French outlet RMC states that Man United’s executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward has met with Gabriel’s agents about his availability.

Lille want $35 million for Gabriel and although the report says that Man United haven’t made an offer directly to the Ligue 1 club, it is believed talks are ongoing.

Man United are said to be in the market for a winger, center back and central midfielder this summer and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is likely to be given cash to spend after securing Champions League qualification for next season.

It is believed Solskjaer wants a left-footed center back, which Gabriel is, as Victor Lindelof and Harry Maguire are often too similar at center back. Those two have developed a decent enough partnership but it appears that Solskjaer wants to replace Lindelof and adding Gabriel will also give him an option to switch to a 3-4-3 system which he likes to do to match up against  more attack-minded opponents.

Chris Smalling, Eric Bailly and Phil Jones are very much on the outside looking in at Man United in terms of their other center back options.

With Jadon Sancho reportedly on his way to Old Trafford, Solskjaer needs to bolster his center back and holding midfield options and then he is good to go for next season.

Gabriel is a young, talented center back and seems ready to make the next step and this is a good price for a player who can develop over the next few seasons.

How long of a break will Premier League clubs get?

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How long of a break will Premier League clubs get? That is the big question during the significantly shortened offseason between the 2019-20 and 2020-21 season.

In short: not long.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights

When Premier League clubs all agreed that the 2020-21 season would kick off on September 12, there was an understanding that clubs in European action will be handed extra time off and could start the season late.

Manchester City and Chelsea are in Champions League action and if they reach the quarterfinal stage (Man City are looking a lot more likely to do that than Chelsea) it is expected they will start next season one week late and if they reach the semifinals and final they will start two weeks late.

The same rule is in place for Manchester United and Wolves who are in Europa League and are both in Round of 16 action this week.

If Chelsea lose to Bayern Munich on Saturday, their season will be over and they will have a 35-day break before the 2020-21 season. That is longer than the 30-day limit but Frank Lampard wants longer.

As for the other 16 Premier League teams for the 2020-21 season, the clubs who finished on the final day of the  2019-20 Premier League season on July 26 will have had 47 days off until the new season begins.

So, there you have it.

A staggered start to the 2020-21 season seems likely as the domestic campaign begins in a few weeks with the Community Shield final at Wembley between Liverpool and Arsenal on Aug. 29.

Premier League teams will have shorter, more intense preseason campaigns and are unlikely to travel for friendly games, so it will be interesting to see how much rest players actually get over the summer and if teams who get a 2-3 week longer break benefit compared to those clubs in European action.

Christian Pulisic issues injury update

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‘Pulisic injury news’ is probably trending worldwide at this point, and Chelsea and USMNT star Christian Pulisic has an injury update after he damaged his right hamstring in the FA Cup final against Arsenal on Saturday.

[ MORE: 3 things we learned ]

Pulisic, 21, scored a superb goal early on and was arguably the man of the match even though he pulled up abruptly in the 46th minute when sprinting free (once again) of the Arsenal attack and then hitting a shot wide.

After being helped off the pitch while clearly in pain, Pulisic was seen hanging around the tunnel area after the FA Cup final and was at least walking on his own.

Posting a message on Instagram following the final, here’s what Pulisic had to say:

“Gave it everything we had. Wasn’t our day. Thank you guys for your support I’ll be back in no time,” Pulisic said.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights

The fact Pulisic went off injured early in the second half of the FA Cup final severely hampered Chelsea and gave Arsenal the impetus to go on and win the final at Wembley. He has become that important to Chelsea.

Chelsea boss Frank Lampard previously confirmed that Pulisic would not be fit enough to play at Bayern Munich on Saturday in their UEFA Champions League Round of 16 second leg (Chelsea trail 3-0 from the first leg) and would have a scan to assess the damage.

Pulisic’s 2019-20 season is now done and both Chelsea and USMNT fans will be waiting with bated breath for the next injury update as hamstring injuries can be a nasty thing and reoccur easily.

The USMNT star had a few of them at Borussia Dortmund and given his incredible pace it is clear he will be more susceptible to hamstring and upper leg injuries.

Previously Lampard revealed that Pulisic had been working hard with Chelsea’s strength and conditioning coaches in recent months to build up his strength in order to adapt to the Premier League. We’ve certainly seen the results of that work in recent week as he took the Premier League by storm during the restart.

This latest update from Pulisic seems to be very good news as many had feared a lengthy injury layoff for the USMNT star but it seems like he may be ready for the start of the 2020-21 season for Chelsea.