5 thoughts on wild PL weekend

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What. A. Weekend.

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The Premier League was back with a bang after the international break as Jose Mourinho was in at Tottenham, Leicester City stay in second and Man City won the big game of the weekend as the edged past Chelsea.

Add VAR drama, late goals galore and a glut of no wins for the home teams and that adds up to one thing: Madness.

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Below are five key takeaways from Saturday and Sunday on Matchweek 13.


Rejuvenated Mourinho keeps it simple at Spurs
It was like he’d never left. 11 months after being fired by Man United, Mourinho replaced his good friend Mauricio Pochettino at Tottenham last week. In his first game in charge Spurs were 3-0 up and should have won by a larger margin than 3-2 (two late goals gave the scoreline an unnecessary gloss for poor West Ham), as Dele Alli played a starring role alongside Lucas Moura, Heung-Min Son and Harry Kane up top.

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That quartet kept things simple and Mourinho had Harry Winks and Eric Dier as two holding midfielders as Spurs looked solid. Yes, they were playing a West Ham side which is slumping, but they took care of business and Spurs haven’t won away from home in the PL since January. There are signs that Tottenham will have a more ruthless edge going forward and Mourinho’s pragmatism will deliver a better chance of ending their 11-year wait for a trophy.


Pochettino lurking as Solskjaer’s United lucky to draw
As for the man Mourinho replaced at Spurs, Mauricio Pochettino is being linked with the biggest jobs in the world. They don’t come much bigger than Man United and Sir Alex Ferguson and others at the Red Devils are big fans of Poch. United fought back from 2-0 down to go 3-2 up at Sheffield United on Sunday as they failed to turn up for the first 70 minutes then sprung to life. United’s three goalscorers were all academy products as Brandon Williams (19 years old), Mason Greenwood (18) and Marcus Rashford (22) came to the rescue. United should have won the game but Solskjaer brought on a defender for a winger late on to try and shut up shop and that handed the initiative to the blades as Ollie McBurnie grabbed a late equalizer, which is the least Sheffield United deserve. Nobody knew how Man United were leading in stoppage time as they looked disjointed, lacked creativity and Solskjaer had a somber expression throughout. With a talented crop of youngsters coming through it seems like only one man should be trusted with developing their talent and giving United a clear playing identity. It’s not Solskjaer.


VAR drama involves Liverpool once again
So, are the LiVARpool jokes still going around? Ah yes, they are. After tight VAR decisions going their way in their wins against Man City, Leicester City and Chelsea, opposing fans are adamant Jurgen Klopp‘s side are getting all of the luck and the power that be are desperate for them to win the Premier League title. In truth, if they play like that did at Crystal Palace on Saturday, they won’t win anything this season. Liverpool were sloppy in possession, error strewn in defense and had it not been for Dejan Lovren‘s theatrical dive seeing a Palace goal chalked off and Wilf Zaha blazing over late on, Liverpool would have left Selhurst Park with a point, at best. But this game summed up their season so far.

Even the most ardent of Liverpool fans won’t deny they have been far from their best but they’ve found a way to win. Sadio Mane’s shot was tipped onto the post, squirmed across the line and hit the other post as Patrick Van Aanholt failed to clear, then Liverpool’s winner arrived as the ball pin-balled around and fell perfectly for Roberto Firmino to slot home. You make your own luck in this game, and Liverpool are doing just that through gritty, determined displays. Opposing fans can point to VAR, but Liverpool are eight points clear for a reason.


Man City lose Aguero, beat Chelsea as Pulisic struggles
This wasn’t a decent outing for Christian Pulisic as Chelsea’s youngster were held at arms length by a banged-up Man City squad. The USMNT winger showed a few glimpses of attacking intent in the first half but Man City just had that extra bit of class and composure in the final third which won them the game. Chelsea’s run of six-straight PL wins came to an end but Frank Lampard was impressed and believes his team are cutting the gap to the title contenders, even thought they’ve now lost to Liverpool, Man United and Man City. As for the reigning champs, they’ve lost Sergio Aguero for a few weeks at a key stage in the season and the pressure to score goals is now all on Gabriel Jesus. Pep Guardiola‘s men are hanging in there but untimely injuries are seeing them look longingly up to Liverpool who are at the summit and nine points ahead of them. Aguero often comes up big with goals late on in games and City have been involved in plenty of those tight situations in recent months. How much will they miss their all-time leading goalscorer?


Pressure mounts on Silva, Emery
Not many people would have predicted Arsenal to grab a last-gasp point at home against lowly Southampton on Saturday. Fewer would have predicted Everton losing to Norwich. But both happened and that is bad news for Unai Emery and Marco Silva. Both teams, and managers specifically, were booed at the final whistle and Emery admitted he knows he “needs to do better” as the pressure was cranked up a few notches. Had Southampton finished one of their numerous chances, they would have easily beaten Arsenal. The Gunners defense was all over the place and they didn’t deserve the point Alexandre Lacazette‘s late equalizer secured. As for Everton, there is no clear playing style, no grit and no leadership and Silva looks to be on his last legs, as he has done for a while now. Their win away at Saints before the international break papered over the cracks and this defeat against Norwich exposed them.

Crystal Palace – Chelsea, Watford – Norwich: Stream, How to watch

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Crystal Palace – Chelsea promises to be an intriguing clash at Selhurst Park on Tuesday (start time, 1pm ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com) in a London derby, while Watford – Norwich is a massive game in the relegation battle (start time, 1pm ET online via NBCSports.com).

Christian Pulisic continues to be the main man for Chelsea as the USMNT star put in another superb display in their 3-0 win against Watford and the Blues remain on track to finish in the top four and qualify for the Champions League. As for Palace, they have lost their last three games on the trot without scoring and Roy Hodgson’s side look destined for a midtable finish.

CRYSTAL PALACE – CHELSEA STREAM LIVE

WATFORD – NORWICH STREAM LIVE

As for Watford, they need a win to boost their survival hopes and if they get it, they will send bottom club. Norwich even closer to their relegation zone.

Below is everything you need to know ahead of Crystal Palace – Chelsea and Watford – Norwich.


Team news

Palace will be without James Tomkins, Jeffrey Schlupp and Martin Kelly, while Hodgson may bring back Cheikhou Kouyate and Scott Dann who were rested.

Chelsea will be without N’Golo Kante and Mateo Kovacic through injury, as Billy Gilmour starts in central midfield.

Watford bring in Masina and Welbeck after the loss at Chelsea.

Norwich bring Pukki back into the starting lineup.

Odds and ends (full matchweek odds)

Crystal Palace are huge underdogs (+650) as Chelsea (-220) are the red-hot favorites given their three wins from their first four games of the restart. The tie at +335 is where the value is at because as we saw with Chelsea’s shock defeat at West Ham last week, they can be dominated from set pieces and hit on the counter. Those two aspects are huge strengths of Palace’s game.

Watford are the favorites (-152) while Norwich (+440) are hoping for their first win, and points, since the restart. The tie at +285 seems intriguing to me.

Predictions

We are all expecting a Chelsea win here but don’t be surprised if Wilfried Zaha has a day at makes it a very tough outing for this leaky Chelsea defense. Palace have been fired up and shocked Chelsea before but I think the Blues, led by Pulisic, have too much for Palace. 3-1 to Chelsea. As for Watford against Norwich, I’m going for a 1-1 draw. Watford have been bad since the restart and Norwich have nothing to play for, really. That is dangerous.

Transfer news: Ake to Man United; Rice to Chelsea

Nathan Ake Manchester United
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In the latest transfer news Nathan Ake has been linked with a move to Manchester United, while Declan Rice could be heading back to Chelsea.

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Starting in Manchester, a post-game chat between Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Nathan Ake has turned heads following Man United’s 5-2 win against Bournemouth at the weekend.

Apparently Solskjaer told Ake: “We need a left-footed centre-back, so keep going.”

Ake, 25, has been linked with a return to Chelsea (who have a $48 million buy-back clause) and Manchester City, but it appears Nathan Ake to Manchester United has some legs. Solskjaer has been looking for a new center back with Kalidou Koulibaly, Dayot Upamecano and others linked to line up alongside Harry Maguire.

Victor Lindelof has struggled at times and is ahead of Eric Bailly in the pecking order and Man United do need to strengthen their defense slightly as they have plenty of options in midfield and attack, although a new true holding midfield could be a must in the next few windows.

If Bournemouth are relegated from the Premier League, Ake will surely leave and Man United could pick him up for a lot less than $48 million.

Declan Rice to Chelsea
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Switching to west London, Declan Rice could be heading back to Chelsea this summer.

A report from The Times states that Chelsea want Rice, 21, to return and become a ball-playing center back to shore up their defensive unit.

The report goes on to state that the boyhood Chelsea fan is seen as the perfect successor to John Terry at the heart of the Chelsea defense.

Rice has shone in recent weeks and is the one player in West Ham’s team who has been consistent despite their struggles at the wrong end of the Premier League table this season.

Chelsea have been searching high and low for defensive reinforcements and want more power and strength at center back. Rice can play at center back and in a three he would be prefect. His main position is in holding midfield and his flexibility to strengthen Chelsea’s shaky defense would be key. Rice is close friends with Mason Mount and after leaving Chelsea’s academy as a 14-year-old he has forged out a very good career for himself as a regular for West Ham and England.

Rice would cost a huge sum and this move to Chelsea may hinge on whether or not West Ham are relegated in the final weeks of the 2019-20 Premier League season.

Mexico boss: Jimenez should move to Man United, if he leaves Wolves

Raul Jimenez Manchester United
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Mexico boss Gerardo ‘Tata’ Martino has said Raul Jimenez should move to Manchester United, if he leaves Wolves.

Jimenez, 29, has been consistently linked with a move to Manchester United, Juventus, Barcelona, Real Madrid and other European giants and the in-form striker has scored 24 goals in all competitions for the Premier League side this season.

Now his El Tri boss has weighed in on the speculation and speaking to ESPN show Futbol Picante, Martino said he would prefer Raul Jimenez to join Manchester United over Juventus if he left Wolves.

“Looking at it from the outside today I cannot see a specialist No. 9 like Raul at United,” Martino said. “There are many forwards like [Marcus] Rashford, [Anthony] Martial and the boy who now plays as right winger: [Mason] Greenwood but since Romelu Lukaku left I can’t see a pure No. 9 like Raul. At Juventus he will have more of a fight because [Cristiano] Ronaldo shares the inside of the pitch with whoever plays alongside him, with [Paulo] Dybala or with [Gonzalo] Higuain and maybe he has a tougher fight there.”

Martino went on to state that he wants Jimenez to do whatever he feels happiest doing and moving to a ‘super club’ doesn’t always work out, as he knows from his one season in charge of Barcelona. Martino also brought up the fact that Jimenez has been at Atletico Madrid and Benfica before and that didn’t really work out, so perhaps staying at Wolves is best for Mexico’s star striker.

“Maybe he wants a bigger challenge because he feels that he is in good shape and has to take advantage of it, maybe he wants to stay in this place, maybe the options you read about are not real and do not exist,” Martino said. “I think the best thing is for Raul to make the decision based on the analysis he makes and with the consensus of his family because, when it comes to enjoying, not only the player suffers and enjoy, but also the family do it.”

Jimenez will be linked with plenty of top clubs this summer and he hasn’t exactly slammed the door on links to some of Europe’s big boys in the past. His manager at Wolves, Nuno Espirito Santo, responded to Martino’s comments by saying: “It’s not the moment to think about anything else. I’m sure Raul is totally, 100% focused on what he has to do at Wolves.”

Since he arrived at Wolves in the summer of 2018 he’s scored 41 goals in 92 games in all competitions and has become one of the top central strikers in the Premier League. His hold-up and link-up play is envied across the league and Martino is right, he would fit in well at Man United as Anthony Martial could move out wide.

Manchester United probably don’t need to sign another striker, though, so Jimenez heading to Juve or one of the Spanish giants makes more sense. Watch this space.

PHOTOS: New Chelsea away kit for 2020-21 unveiled

New Chelsea away kit
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The new Chelsea away kit for 2020-21 has been unveiled and the Blues will wear it for the first time against Crystal Palace on Tuesday (start time, 1pm ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

Chelsea have gone back to a sky blue away jersey and the design has a herringbone knit throughout, which is the same as their new home jersey for the 2020-21 season which debuted last week.

The west London club state that this away kit “adds an injection of millennial swagger – perfect for the confident, emerging talents lighting up Stamford Bridge under head coach Frank Lampard.”

When it comes to a a new Chelsea kit, or any new kit for that matter, there are always plenty of amateur fashion designers out there. But the response to this new away jersey has been largely positive.

They also have a new shirt sponsor in telecommunications company “Three UK” and you can’t really miss their sponsorship logo on the front of the shirt.

Check out the photos below to see what Christian Pulisic and Co. will be wearing in the Premier League next season, and Frank Lampard hopes it will be worn in the Champions League too as the Blues continue to push to seal a top four finish in his debut season in charge at Stamford Bridge.

This new Chelsea kit, like most kits, will divide opinion.