Top Premier League storylines: Week 11

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Matchweek 11 of the 2019-20 Premier League season is here, as the table starts to take shape as we head into November.

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Below we take a look at the key storylines to keep an eye on across the PL this weekend.


Liverpool’s stars fresh for trip to Villa

  • Aston Villa v. Liverpool, Saturday, 11 a.m. ET, on NBC Sports Gold

Jurgen Klopp‘s squad rotation worked perfectly in midweek, as his star players were rested and Liverpool’s youngsters got some great experience, and a penalty kick win, against Arsenal. The A squad now travel to Aston Villa as they remain top of the table and unbeaten after another gritty win against Tottenham. Fabinho is emerging as a leading man for Liverpool as the balance he provides in midfield is key to Klopp’s counter-press being launched, while Sadio Mane, Roberto Firmino and Mohamed Salah continue to chip in and go about their business.

Joel Matip being out injured is a little bit of a concern, with neither Joe Gomez or Dejan Lovren taking their chance to prove they should be the permanent stand-in for Matip. Aston Villa are sweating on he fitness of captain Jack Grealish, while Wesley‘s battle with Virgil Van Dijk is one to watch in this game. Newly-promoted Villa will cause Liverpool problems but Klopp’s side will expect to leave Villa Park with all three points as their grit and focus has been spot on in the opening months of the season.


Man City aim to batter sorry Saints

  • Man City v. Southampton, Saturday, 11 a.m. ET, on NBCSN

Manchester City beat Southampton 3-1 at the Etihad Stadium on Tuesday in the League Cup and that didn’t tell the whole story. Pep Guardiola‘s side, which was littered with teenagers, dominated possession and chances and only when they took their foot off the accelerator in the final 30 minutes did Saints pull a goal back and look somewhat dangerous in attack. Man City will bring the likes of Kevin De Bruyne, David Silva and Fernandinho back into the starting lineup and that’s a scary prospect for a Southampton side still reeling from that historic 9-0 defeat at home against Leicester City last week. Guardiola’s City are ruthless and if there’s any sign of Ralph Hasenhuttl‘s Saints feeling sorry for themselves, another 9-0 drubbing could be coming up…


Pulisic aims to regain momentum as Chelsea face stingy Watford

  • Watford v. Chelsea, Saturday, 1:30 p.m. ET, on NBC

Christian Pulisic‘s perfect hat trick against Burnley stole the headlines last Saturday, but the USMNT star came back down to earth with a bit of a bump on Wednesday. He started and played 70 minutes in Chelsea’s 2-1 home defeat to Man United in the League Cup, and he underwhelmed on the left flank. Pulisic, 21, is still learning and his game is adapting to England and he will have these ups and downs. It is also possible that in games against teams like Burnley and Watford will be the ones where he has more space and can show off his supreme pace and dribbling skills.

Watford will not give Pulisic (if he starts ahead of Willian and Hudson-Odoi) and Chelsea’s other attackers much space, as Quique Sanchez Flores has shored things up since the 8-0 drubbing by Man City. Watford have drawn each of their last three games in the PL and Ben Foster has been in inspired form in goal. He will need to keep that going against in-form Chelsea this weekend, and all eyes will be on Pulisic to see if he can regain the momentum from last week.


Man United aim to continue away day run

  • Bournemouth v. Man United, Saturday, 8:30 a.m. ET, on NBCSN

Three away wins on the trot has Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and United in a buoyant mood heading down to the South Coast this weekend. Marcus Rashford is scoring goals, Anthony Martial is back fit and the Red Devils are finally showing an end product, even if scoring penalty kicks is still a struggle for them…

Bournemouth have shored things up defensively but surprisingly they are struggling to score goals. That has never been a problem for Eddie Howe‘s side and the balance of the Cherries just seems a little off early in the season. United need a win to push closer to the top four and something seems to have clicked for Solskjaer’s side with Scott McTominay and Fred putting up a shield in midfield and the pace of Daniel James, Martial and Rashford reunited in attack. This will be a tight encounter but United should have the extra quality in attack to edge it.


Who needs the win more: Everton or Tottenham?

  • Everton v. Tottenham, Sunday, 11:30 a.m. ET, on NBCSN

Two teams languishing in the bottom half of the Premier League table and desperate for a win meet at Goodison Park. Everton and Spurs can both say they’ve been unlucky so far this season, and it’s hard to disagree with that. Maybe that is why both Marco Silva and Mauricio Pochettino seem fairly relaxed even though their teams have struggled. For Everton, late VAR drama cost them at Brighton last time out as Silva’s side didn’t take their chances and were punished.

That said, their home form has been impressive this season with all three wins coming at Goodison. For Spurs, they’ve been wretched on their travels and even though they took the lead at Liverpool last weekend, the disjointed nature of their display in midfield and the shaky defensive performance showcased why Pochettino is pulling his hair out. Trying to shoehorn Kane, Son, Eriksen and Alli into the same team remains an issue for Poch, and the same could be said for Everton as they tweak their frontline with Richarlison, Walcott, Bernard and Calvert-Lewin in attack. Both team are desperate for a big three points, and this game will not be pretty.

Serie A roundup: Lazio hand 10-man Juventus first loss (video)

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Lazio’s triumphant victory over league favorites Juventus highlights Saturday’s Serie A action.

 [ MORE: Serie A scores, schedule ]

Lazio 3-1 Juventus

Juventus are no longer unbeaten in Serie A play under Maurizio Sarri, losing 3-1 to Simone Inzaghi’s inspired Lazio.

Luiz Felipe, Sergej Milinkovic-Savic and Felipe Caicedo scored for the home side, who are now three points behind second-place Juventus and five behind top-of-the-table Inter Milan.

Scoreless from open play since October, Cristiano Ronaldo found the back of the net in the 25th minute to put the Old Lady in front after tapping in Federico Bernardeschi’s well-placed pass inside the box.

It was Juventus’ game to lose, which they went on to do after a series of defensive and cognitive mishaps.

Tied after Felipe’s goal right before the break, Milinkovic-Savic scored in the 74th minute. The Serbian’s goal came after Juan Cuadrado was sent off for his reckless tackle on last-man Manuel Lazzari in the 69th. Milinkovic-Savic was set up by Luis Alberto‘s assist over the Juventus defense and scored with a low shot past goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny.

Ciro Immobile had a clear-cut chance to widen his red-hot goalscoring form, but the striker was denied by Szczesny from the spot. Juventus’ goalkeeper saved Immobile’s initial blistering strike, and his following second chance.

In stoppage time, however, Felipe Caicedo’s second-chance strike was too much for the Polish ‘keeper.

Juventus will have to quickly turn the page as they face Bayer Leverkusen midweek in their final match of the Champions League group stage, while Lazio travel to France to take on Rennes in their Europa League group stage finale.

Elsewhere in Serie A

Atalanta 3-2 Hellas Verona

Udinese 1-1 Napoli

La Liga roundup: Barcelona, Real Madrid remain level on points after wins (video)

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Routine wins from league favorites Barcelona and Real Madrid, highlight La Liga’s Saturday action.

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Barcelona 5-2 RCD Mallorca

It was a special night at Barcelona’s Camp Nou.

Fresh from winning the Ballon d’Or for a record sixth time, Lionel Messi was greeted by his three children on the field, who handed him a shinny, golden ball – given yearly to the best player in the world – prior to the first whistle.

From that point on, it was evident that it would be all smiles for everyone tied to the defending champions at the stadium (and for those watching remotely) on Saturday.

 

That was the case.

Antoine Griezmann – a topic of conversation due to lack of productivity at Barcelona this season – kicked off the game with a solo run and subsequent goal in the seventh minute, opening the floodgates.

As a celebration of his latest, individual accomplishment, Messi showcased the power and precision of his left foot at the tune of a hat-trick. The Argentine ace scored twice in the first half and another in consolation time, putting his season total mark at a league-best 12 goals.

The moment and goal of the night (possibly of the season) didn’t directly involve Messi, however. With a daring, emphatic and genius back-heel strike, not only did Luis Suarez put the home side up 4-1, but cemented himself in the ballot for best goal of the season.

With 34 and a better goal differential than Real Madrid, Barcelona remain atop of La Liga ahead of their clash with Inter Milan on Tuesday, while Mallorca hope Ante Budimir can score another brace; this time against a struggling Celta Vigo next weekend.

Real Madrid 2-0 Espanyol

With goals from Karim Benzema and Raphael Varane, Real Madrid comfortably cruised past a struggling Espanyol.

With the majority of Real Madrid in Espanyol’s final third following a recovered free-kick attempt, Benzema charged his way into the box before laying off a ball to Varane, who not a proven goalscorer whatsoever, placed the ball into the back of the net with ease.

It was the 37th minute, and the home side were up 1-0 against a poor Espanyol.

With a notable superior style at hand, Los Blancos continued to surge forward. Opportunities at goal were generated but the ball wouldn’t go past ex-Real Madrid ‘keeper Diego Lopez.

Then, in the 79th minute, Benzema registered his 11th goal of the season, finishing an off-balance pass from Federico Valverde inside the box.

Winners in their last La Liga bouts, Real Madrid now prepare for their Champions League Group Stage finale against Club Brugge midweek. Espanyol, despite being in the drop zone, host CSKA Moscow in their Europa League Group Stage finale. The Catalonian club lead Group H with 11 points after five matches.

Elsewhere in La Liga

Granada 3-0 Alaves

Levante 2-4 Valencia

Ancelotti’s future uncertain after Napoli draws at Udinese

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ROME (AP) Carlo Ancelotti’s future as Napoli coach is uncertain after his team failed to beat Udinese on Saturday in Serie A.

The 1-1 draw extended Napoli’s winless run to nine matches in all competitions. Piotr Zelinski saved Napoli with a late goal that salvaged a point for the visitors.

Amid reports that Ancelotti could soon be fired, Napoli, which had won its last six league matches against Udinese, went a goal down after a counterattack which was finished by Kevin Lasagna in the 32nd minute.

Napoli improved after Fernando Llorente replaced an uninspired Lorenzo Insigne in the second half. It equalized after a good combination between Dries Mertens and Zielinski, who wrongfooted the Udinese ‘keeper with a shot into the bottom corner.

Also, Atalanta twice came from behind after Samuel Di Carmine’s two goals to beat Hellas Verona 3-2 with a late winner from Berat Djimsiti, who volleyed home from close range.

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

Kyle Walker: City catching up to Liverpool ‘difficult’ after derby loss to United

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After a crushing 2-1 loss to archrival Manchester United at home, 14 is the new magic number for Pep Guardiola and company.

14 is the number of points that Manchester City trail league leaders Liverpool by, an uphill battle that is influencing many people on the outside looking in to think that City’s chances of lifting the league’s silverware for a third straight season are officially done and dusted.

That’s not the narrative that is occupying Kyle Walker‘s train of thought, however. Speaking on behalf of his City teammates and himself, the defender is keen on fighting until they’re mathematically out of contention for the title, regardless if the standings show that Liverpool have yet to suffer a defeat this season after 16 matches.

“Can’t fault the manager,” Walker told Sky Sports following City’s second Premier League loss in five games. “He has won numerous trophies. I can’t put my finger on it. It is going to be difficult, Liverpool are on fire. They [Liverpool] are getting wins and we are not. It is a big gap but we will fight until the end.”

A consolation goal from Nicolas Otamendi in the 85th minutes wasn’t enough for the Cityzens, who endured a fourth league loss this season, matching last season’s number of losses throughout 38 games.

After the dispiriting derby day performance from City, the defending champions stand at 32 points after 16 bouts, the lowest point haul for Guardiola in his 11-year top-flight management career.

No team in league history has overcome a 14-point deficit. Since late October, City are yet to record a clean sheet, an apparent issue that Walker believes he and the rest of the team’s defenders need to address in order to return to old ways.

“Us as defenders need to hold our hands up,” he said. “We need to keep clean sheets and strikers maybe need to put more away. They had a game plan and it worked. They have quick players in quick areas and they are going to hurt you on the counter. Credit where credit is due, they stepped up today. Fair play.”