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Pulisic watch: A quieter day versus the 2-time champs

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Saturday’s day at Manchester City wasn’t anything to write home about given Christian Pulisic‘s lofty recent standards, but the Chelsea man still had his moments in a 90-minute run at the Etihad Stadium.

Pulisic failed to register a shot attempt, but was tidy in possession with 84 percent passing and 50 touches. He was 2 of 3 in dribble attempts, and was credited with a key pass (likely either the 71st or 80th minute below).

[ RECAP: Man City 2-1 Chelsea ]

Overall, his day was about doing the little things rather than the flashy stuff, though he could’ve easily had an assist on the day.

Here are the standout moments for the USMNT star during his stay at the Etihad Stadium, which went the distance as Frank Lampard continues to grow in trust of his American winger.

10th minute: Dribbles to the end line to cut a cross to the back post that City left back Benjamin Mendy flicks away.

 (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)

11th minute: Slips in N’Golo Kante with an incisive pass, but the Frenchman’s pass to Tammy Abraham is sliced just wide of the goal.

45+3: Again drives the right to offer a hard left-footed pass into the mix, but it’s cut out by City.

52nd minute: Zips from the left wing into space and starts a move that ends with a Willian blocked shot.

62nd minute: Helps shuttle a move from the center to the left, then involved in interplay before a cross to Willian was sprayed too far by Jorginho.

71st minute: Pulisic dribbles in a phone booth before slipping Abraham between Mendy and Fernandinho, but the striker betrays his chance.

80th minute: Takes a feed from Mount and takes a long dribble toward the 18 before firing a pass that Willian rips on goal for a flying Ederson tip over the bar (somehow given for a goal kick).

89th minute: Traded passes in a sea of City defenders before his run to a through ball was defied by a sliding Ederson.

Watch Live: Leicester City v. Man City

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Manchester City can put Leicester City deep in its rearview mirror when the two sides meet at the King Power Stadium on Saturday (Watch live at 12:30 p.m. ET on NBC and online via NBCSports.com).

Leicester opens the day four points back of the second-place visitors. The Foxes also saw Chelsea move four points back with a win over Spurs.

[ STREAM: Leicester City v. Man City ]

Aymeric Laporte again pairs with Fernandinho in Man City’s back line, keeping John Stones and Nicolas Otamendi on the bench.

Harvey Barnes and Ayoze Perez start on the bench for Brendan Rodgers‘ Foxes.

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VIDEO: Messi scores first half hat trick for Barcelona

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Lionel Messi scored a first half hat trick for Barcelona against Eibar on Saturday.

Messi, 33, is warming up quite well for the UEFA Champions League Round of 16 first leg as he tore Eibar’s defense to shreds to put them 3-0 up at the break.

In a week where Messi and Barcelona have been in the news amid an emergency signing of Martin Braithwaite, a social media spying scandal and plenty of criticism of sporting director Eric Abidal, the Argentine ace got back to doing what he does best.

Barcelona sat in second place in the La Liga table heading into this weekend, one point behind Real Madrid.

Giroud vows “start of a good run” for Chelsea ahead of UCL

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OIivier Giroud knows he’s given Frank Lampard food for thought as Chelsea improved its top four stock with a 2-1 defeat of Tottenham Hotspur at Stamford Bridge on Saturday.

Giroud scored the first goal in making just his third Premier League start and eighth league appearance under Lampard, and now has two goals in 375 minutes this season. The other came against Liverpool in the UEFA Super Cup.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

The Frenchman now has 79 Premier League goals, and the ex-Arsenal man will be doubly thrilled to that four of them have now come against Spurs.

“I was lucky the ball came back after hitting the post and I tried to finish,” Giroud said, via the BBC. “It was a good feeling for me, a good moment and I’m so happy for the team to win today. It’s been three months I didn’t start, it’s been a special day for me and all of us.”

[ MORE: Mourinho reacts ]

Giroud said that this was bigger for Chelsea than it was for him, though.

“It was a very important game for us today. I want to talk about the team spirit. We’ve shown great character today. We knew it was maybe a kind of turning point. We lost a bit of confidence. It was nice to bounce back and get this win, a hard win against a rival, so I feel relieved today.

“Tottenham is obviously a rival for the Champions League race, so we are pleased to put them four points behind us. This is the start of a good run, I hope, now we need to focus on the Champions League. This game would be nice for the confidence and for the changing room.”

Chelsea meets Bayern Munich on Tuesday at Stamford Bridge before a trip to Bournemouth on Feb. 29. The breathing room on fifth place is welcome.

Jose Mourinho defends players “trying to do miracles,” explains Dele move

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Tottenham Hotspur boss Jose Mourinho says he can have no complaints with his shorthanded men following a 2-1 loss to Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.

Mourinho pointed to the absence of strikers Heung-Min Son and Harry Kane as well as a Champions League match in midweek.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

“Look at Chelsea they played a World Cup-winning striker up front, England’s second striker on the bench, and Belgium’s second striker in the stands,” he said, via Football.London. “We had no strikers on the pitch, no strikers on the bench and two in the hospital.”

Chelsea were the much better side on the day, with Olivier Giroud making a statement to Frank Lampard about his ability as a center forward.

And Mourinho felt sufficiently shorthanded on the day, especially given the exhausting 1-0 loss to RB Leipzig at midweek.

“Lucas, Lo Celso, Bergwijn,” he said. “These boys that are playing every minute and trying to do miracles in positions that are not their positions. I cannot complain.”

Mourinho also defended keeping Dele Alli on the bench for the first time in his tenure as Spurs boss.

“We had strange game plans but we needed to have them. Like Lamela who played well, people think I’m stupid that I don’t play him, but he’s constantly communicating with me in the warm-up, can I play or not. He was telling me his feelings.”

Spurs will finish the weekend four points back of the top four and as many as two back of fifth. They have eight days until another big match, March 1 versus Wolves.