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UEFA Nations League: France, Germany scoreless; Bale blitzes Ireland

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A roundup of all of Thursday’s action in UEFA’s new international competition, the UEFA Nations League…

[ MORE: What is the UEFA Nations League, and how does it work? ]

Germany 0-0 France

It’s a true wonder that France were able to score enough any goals en route to winning the 2018 World Cup, given how defensively Didier Deschamps set up his team in Russia, and given how defensively Les Bleus continue to be deployed after conquering the world this summer.

Three defensive midfielders is a setup that few defense in the world require to protect them, let alone a unit which features the likes of Raphael Varane and Samuel Umtiti. But, there we were, and here we are. Deschamps went with the familiar formula in Thursday’s Nations League-opening game against Germany, and the result was a scoreless stalemate that saw the reigning world champions hold just 40 percent of possession and fail to produce a chance that truly threatened Manuel Neuer with anything more than speculative efforts from long range.

[ MORE: Predicting the UEFA Nations League ]

Wales 4-1 Ireland

Real Madrid fans were understandably a bit fearful of life after Cristiano Ronaldo, but perhaps they shouldn’t be as the Portuguese superstar’s departure has apparently given way to the year of Gareth Bale. The Welsh dynamo already has three goals in as many games for Madrid, and on Thursday the 29-year-old ran the entire show during Wales’ 4-1 victory over Ireland.

He had a goal and an assist, but it could have been so much more with a bit more fortune in his favor. Still, Ryan Giggs‘ side was comprehensive in its dominance and should find their way to a first-place finish in League B – Group 4 (Denmark is the other nation in the three-team group). Tom Lawrence, Aaron Ramsey and Connor Roberts were the other goalscorers for the Dragons.

Czech Republic 1-2 Ukraine

Manchester City’s Oleksandr Zinchenko scored the 92nd-minute winner in Ukraine’s 2-1 victory away to the Czech Republic, completing a comeback from 1-0 down after just four minutes. Patrick Schick put the home side ahead early, but Yevhen Konoplyanka drew the visitors level immediately after the halftime intermission.

Friday’s UEFA Nations League schedule

League A – Group 3

Italy vs. Poland — 2:45 p.m. ET

League B – Group 2

Turkey vs. Russia — 2:45 p.m. ET

Lacazette speaks after star turn; Watch his, Auba’s beauties

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Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette scored gorgeous goals, living up the stardust potential of their partnership atop Arsenal’s strike force.

Aubameyang smashed Arsenal into a second half lead with a fantastic goal at Cardiff City Stadium, and Lacazette set it up.

[ RECAP: Cardiff 2-3 Arsenal ]

The Gunners had been frustrated by Cardiff’s shot blocking and tight zone for much of the early second half, and were locked at 1 with the Bluebirds.

But Lacazette’s gorgeous back heel flick of Mesut Ozil’s pass was smashed home by Aubameyang.

Following a Cardiff equalizer, it was Lacazette’s time to shine.

Played in by substitute Lucas Torreira, the Frenchman turned nicely before smashing a high shot beyond the hopes of Cardiff goalkeeper Neil Etheridge.

Aaron Ramsey returned to Wales in the win, the former Cardiff City youth excited to be home but focused on keeping Arsenal on the up.

“We wanted to take full advantage against the opposition today. We had a difficult start losing to Manchester City and Chelsea but we have bounced back. We know going to be difficult here, the crowd is superb, so if you give them any chance you can really feel the atmosphere, so we did well to overcome this.”

Cardiff scoring twice — they had yet to find the net this season — a real question for Emery’s defense, but the attack was electric. The two elite strikers up top may be his answer.

Watch Live: Cardiff City vs. Arsenal

AP Photo/Alastair Grant
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Aaron Ramsey returns home when the Arsenal star heads into Cardiff City Stadium on Sunday (Watch live at 8:30 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

STREAM LIVE, ONLINE, HERE

Cardiff has two 0-0 draws on its PL resume, while Unai Emery‘s Gunners are coming off their first win of the season.

LINEUPS

Cardiff City: Etheridge, Bennett, Morrison, Manga, Arter, Ralls, Ward, De Cordova-Reid, Camarasa, Bamba, Hoilett. Subs: Murphy, Peltier, Zohore, Paterson, Cunningham, Mathurin-Harris, Madine

Arsenal: Cech, Bellerin, Mustafi, Sokratis, Monreal, Xhaka, Guendouzi, Ramsey, Ozil, Aubameyang, Lacazette. Subs: Leno, Lichtsteiner, Holding, Elneny, Torreira, Mkhitaryan, Welbeck.

Premier League Preview: Chelsea vs. Arsenal

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  • Chelsea has won 5 of last 6 home league matches vs. Arsenal
  • Arsenal has lost 5 of last 6 PL away matches
  • Alvaro Morata has 1 goal in last 15 PL matches

Both teams have new managers, but that’s about where the similarities stop with these two London giants that will clash on Saturday at 12:30 p.m. ET at Stamford Bridge on NBC.

Chelsea’s new manager is looking to instill an additional attacking flair after taking over for a countrymate whose first focus was defensive structure. The Blues dazzled in their opening match, but still have plenty of room for more sharpness up front as they return Eden Hazard to an already dangerous lineup.

[ WATCH LIVE: Chelsea vs. Arsenal live on NBC ]

Arsenal’s new boss, meanwhile, takes over for a club legend who seemed to lose his way, hoping to shore things up at the back after the Gunners seemingly deteriorated as the years under Arsene Wenger waned on. Their defensive frailties were on display in the season opener as they were shredded by last year’s runaway champions, losing handily to what seemed like the clearly better team. They have lost a young up-and-coming star in Ainsley Maitland-Niles to a long-term leg injury, and the starting goalkeeper was shredded for poor play last weekend.

Despite all that, the points don’t care which team is facing what circumstances, they simply find the team with the better scoreline after 90 minutes. So who will come out victorious at Stamford Bridge?

[ MORE: How will Chelsea and Arsenal line up? ]

As stated earlier, Hazard should return to the Blues’ starting lineup after playing 14 minutes in the opener and assisting a goal, while Cesc Fabregas remains out with his knee problem that Sarri called “very unusual.” Ross Barkley could make way for the Belgian star in midfield, or Willian may sit instead. Mateo Kovacic could also see time in midfield if Sarri truly wanted to shuffle the deck so soon.

For the Gunners, Maitland-Niles is out but Nacho Monreal likely returns in time to take his place, although Sead Kolasinac remains out as does Carl Jenkinson. Unai Emery could hand Lucas Torreira his first Premier League start after the 22-year-old was impressive as a substitute for starter Granit Xhaka against Manchester City. Would it be the Swiss to make way for his younger Uruguayan counterpart, or would Aaron Ramsey sit instead? Petr Cech will reportedly retain his place in goal despite a poor performance in the opener.

What they’re saying

Arsenal manager Unai Emery on maintaining spirit: “We need to keep our personality, our mentality. Against [Manchester] City, the team kept their ideas, kept their spirit in the game for the full 90 minutes even when we were losing. That was a good thing. I want us to continue with this work and to be competitive for 90 minutes, but with a better performance both individually and collectively.”

Chelsea manager Maurizio Sarri on Arsenal under Emery: “For everybody it’s difficult against Manchester City. I think Emery is a very good coach. He won three times the Europa League, he won in France with PSG. I think Arsenal this season will be competitive. I think they will be able to fight for a place in Champions League.”

Prediction

Chelsea’s season-opening test wasn’t exactly of top-drawer difficulty, but they clearly have less distance to go under Sarri than Arsenal does under Emery. For that reason, the Blues should be able to defend home court with ease, winning 3-1 with the Gunners making things interesting at 2-1 before a late goal sends the home crowd comfortably happy.

Man City eases to win at Arsenal

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  • Sterling, B. Silva score
  • Maitland-Niles limps off
  • Mendy sets up two
  • De Bruyne, Sane start on bench

Raheem Sterling and Bernardo Silva scored in each half as Manchester City eased to a 2-0 win over Arsenal at the Emirates on Sunday.

Plenty of big names were on the bench to start the game, with Leroy Sane, Kevin De Bruyne, and Alexandre Lacazette all waiting to enter the fray.

Benjamin Mendy set up both of Man City’s goals.

[ STREAM: Watch every PL match live ]

Arsenal boss Unai Emery handed a surprise start to 19-year-old Matteo Guendouzi, while Man City manager Pep Guardiola left Leroy Sane and Kevin De Bruyne on the bench.

The game itself began with a surprising early chance for Aaron Ramsey which perhaps caught the Welshman himself offguard, his outside of the boot shot arriving safely to Ederson.

Raheem Sterling saw an early yellow card for a reckless tackle on Guendouzi’s ankle.

Petr Cech punched a Kyle Walker cross out for a corner in the eighth minute, and would have to stop Sterling at the other post within a minute.

Sterling got the opener in the 14th minute, ripping a shot through the packed-in Arsenal defense. It took the smallest turn off a defender, but appeared destined for the goal regardless of deflection.

Cech almost scored an amazing own goal when he turned a back pass from Guendouzi just past his far post.

Sokratis then saw yellow for a takedown of Sergio Aguero on the edge of the box following a poor giveaway from Granit Xhaka.

The ensuing Riyad Mahrez free kick nearly found the corner far and low, but Cech palmed it. Aymeric Laporte‘s effort at the rebound was stymied, and the defender took a cleat from Cech before colliding with the goal post.

Alex Maitland-Niles needed to leave the match in he 32nd minute, walking off gingerly, but had to stay at left back while a replacement was readied by Emery. Stephane Lichtsteiner relieved Maitland-Niles in the 35th.

Ramsey led a rare Arsenal charge in the 33rd minute, moved by Mesut Ozil to Henrikh Mkhitaryan, who couldn’t get room to shoot past John Stones.

Mahrez couldn’t get enough of a bend on a left-footed effort in the 42nd minute, well-watched by Lichtsteiner and Sokratis.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang tried to steal an equalizer with a rare touch, but his rip was well wide of the goal.

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings ]

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

A Guendouzi error sent Aguero on a 50-yard run toward Cech, and the Argentine took a shot rather than pass left to De Bruyne.

The complaints were quickly forgotten in a haze of Bernardo-inspired celebration, as the Portuguese attacked beat Cech with an 16-yard bid.