Bjorn Engels

Vardy, Iheanacho power 4-star Foxes past Villa

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Kelechi Iheanacho again collected a goal and an assist and Jamie Vardy scored twice as Leicester City punished Aston Villa in an entertaining 4-1 at Villa Park on Sunday.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Jonny Evans also scored for the Foxes, who maintain their place eight points behind leaders Liverpool.

Jack Grealish scored for Aston Villa, which stays ahead of 18th place on Southampton on goal differential.

Leicester City hosts Liverpool on Boxing Day, a date to circle on the calendar.


Three things we learned

1. Iheanacho emergence a new wrinkle: Nigerian striker Kelechi Iheanacho was always lurking as a possible star during his time at Man City, but couldn’t break through and transferred to the King Power Stadium. Life hadn’t been easy at his new home, but a goal and an assist in consecutive Premier League fixtures can make a difference as Leicester hopes to challenge Liverpool. Resting Jamie Vardy on occasion without a big drop-off would be a potentially monumental development.

2. Vardy’s party a record bash: The 15th and 16th goals of Vardy’s PL run put him on pace for 38. That would be six better than Mohamed Salah‘s 38-game record and four better than the 42-game mark shared by Alan Shearer and Andy Cole. Even when he makes mistakes, he finishes.

3. Hobbled Mings a big worry: Villa star center back Tyrone Mings pulled up with an injury but attempted to fight through it. Full credit to him, as he’s been the easy star of the newly-promoted side’s start to life in the Premier League, but an absence or step back from the block and clearance machine will be a major blow to Dean Smith‘s side.

Man of the Match: It’s between Vardy and Iheanacho — James Maddison was also good — and we’ll choose Vardy because we gave it to Iheanacho at midweek.


Kelechi Iheanacho slipped Vardy through on goal, and the Foxes striker nearly blew his chance despite dribbling the keeper.

Ezri Konsa would’ve liked to challenge Vardy following the unusual mis-touch, but the defender was felled by his own sliding keeper.

[ MORE: Premier League stats ] 

After Anwar El Ghazi just missed a promising bid to equalize, Villa’s Bjorn Engels slid to break up a Vardy pass to a wide open Iheanacho.

The Nigerian got his goal in the 41st, a James Maddison cross deflected goal ward and off his leg for 2-0.

Grealish bounced a shot through traffic and inside the far post after Vardy couldn’t clear a corner kick.

Leicester needed less than four second half minutes to restore its two-goal advantage, the unmarked Evans perfectly placing a back post header across goal off a corner kick.

PL Sunday preview: Arsenal’s post-Emery era; Man Utd host Villa

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Sunday’s slate of Premier League fixtures features four games, including (but not limited to) the first game of the post-Unai Emery era at Arsenal, Manchester United with a chance to climb into fifth place, and what could be the final game of Marco Silva‘s tenure at Everton.

[ MORE: Mourinho praises “phenomenal” Dele Alli, Spurs supporters ]

Arsenal v. Norwich City — 9 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

Unai Emery was fired by Arsenal on Friday, making way for the Freddie Ljungberg (interim) era to begin on Sunday. With no obvious candidate standing out from all the others, Ljungberg, a long-time favorite as a Gunners player, could be given the chance to impress and have the “interim” tag removed, a la Ole Gunnar Solskjaer a year ago. After taking just three points from their last five PL games, Arsenal have fallen to ninth place, eight points behind fourth-place Chelsea, and could finish the weekend as low as 10th place. On the other hand, a win over 19th-place Norwich would see them climb up to fifth, a point ahead of north London rivals Tottenham Hotspur. Norwich’s Teemu Pukki, who took the PL by storm with five goals in his first three games, hasn’t found the back of the net since Sept. 14, a run of eight straight goal-less games for the Fininish forward.

INJURIES: Arsenal —  OUT: Dani Ceballos (hamstring); QUESTIONABLE: Hector Bellerin (hamstring), David Luiz (ribs), Shkodran Mustafi (foot) | Norwich  — OUT: Alexander Tettey (personal), Grant Hanley (groin), Timm Klose (knee); QUESTIONABLE: Jamal Lewis (knee), Josip Drmic (hamstring)


Wolves v. Sheffield United — 9 a.m. ET, on NBC Sports Gold

Through 13 games of their debut season in the PL, Sheffield United are threatening to “do a Wolves,” in so much that the newly promoted side currently sits seventh — where Wolves finished last season — following a red-hot start. Following a poor start of their own (zero wins from their first six games), Wolves have rebounded nicely (unbeaten in their last eight, including four wins) and climbed all the way up to sixth (each side sat a place higher coming into the weekend).

INJURIES: Wolves —  OUT: Willy Boly (ankle), Ryan Bennett (groin), Romain Saiss (suspension), Morgan Gibbs-White (back) | Sheffield United  — OUT: None


Man United v. Aston Villa — 11:30 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

Nearly four months into the season, Man United are still without back-to-back PL victories. In fact, they’ve not repeated the same result — win, loss or draw — in consecutive league games all season. The Red Devils ave been, if anything, consistently inconsistent. After drawing Sheffield United 3-3 last time out, the best Solskjaer’s side can do on Sunday is get halfway there ahead of Tottenham’s blockbuster visit, and Jose Mourinho’s return, on Wednesday. United’s injury list remains extensive — and expensive — as Paul Pogba and Eric Bailly remain out, with Nemanja Matic perhaps set to return on Sunday. As for Villa, Dean Smith‘s side snapped a three-game losing skid last time out by thoroughly besting Newcastle United at Villa Park to put four points between themselves and the relegation zone. Following Southampton’s victory on Saturday, that gap is already down to two points.

INJURIES: Man United —  OUT: Paul Pogba (ankle), Eric Bailly (knee), Marcos Rojo (undisclosed), Diogo Dalot (groin); QUESTIONABLE: Nemanja Matic (groin), Scott McTominay (ankle) | Aston Villa  — OUT: Jed Steer (calf), Jota (hernia); QUESTIONABLE: Bjorn Engels (hip)


Leicester City v. Everton — 11:30 a.m. ET, on NBC Sports Gold

Every defeat in the coming days could prove to be the final day of Silva’s employment as Everton manager, with the Toffees entering Sunday’s trip to the King Power Stadium in 17th place. It’s not just the number of losses for Everton (seven) on the season thus far, but the sides to which they’ve lost (Villa, Bournemouth, Sheffield United, Burnley, Brighton & Hove Albion and Norwich, to name most of them) that stands out as most embarrassing for a club that thought it would be competing for the top-six this season. Leicester, meanwhile, have happily and swiftly taken their place as the side most likely to break up the monotony of the same clubs finishing atop the table every season. The Foxes entered the weekend in second place (they have since fallen to second), eight points back of Liverpool (now 11), on the back of five straight league victories. Jamie Vardy‘s 12 goals have garnered most of the headlines, but the play-making duo of James Maddison and Youri Tielemans have been arguably more enjoyable to watch

INJURIES: Leicester —  OUT: Matty James (achilles) | Everton  — OUT: Andre Gomes (ankle), Theo Walcott (knock), Jean-Philippe Gbamin (thigh), Morgan Schneiderlin (knock), Fabian Delph (hamstring), Cuco Martina (knee); QUESTIONABLE: Bernard (knee)

Liverpool snatch dramatic late win at Aston Villa

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Liverpool just won’t give up.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays

Jurgen Klopp‘s side remain unbeaten in the Premier League, as they struck twice late on to win 2-1 at Aston Villa on Saturday.

Andrew Robertson headed home in the 88th minute to equalize after Trezeguet had given Villa the lead in the first half, then Sadio Mane scored in stoppage time to seal the dramatic comeback win.

Liverpool’s lead atop the table remains at six points ahead of their next Premier League game, which is against Man City next Sunday.


3 things we learned

1. Gritty Liverpool grind it out again: What a comeback. This Liverpool side have fought back in each of their last three games, with a draw at Man United, a win against Tottenham and now a late, late, late victory at Aston Villa thanks to another comeback. The way Klopp and his players celebrated when Mane scored told the entire story. This is a side which never gives up. They were relentless and bullied their way back into the game after another slow start. With their 27-game unbeaten run on the line, Liverpool stood tall. Like they keep doing each and every week, no matter what situation they find themselves in.

2. Villa fail to make most of another shock lead: Just like they did against Tottenham on the opening day of the season, Villa coughed up another shock lead. Dean Smith‘s side are a fine team to watch but they just don’t have that nasty edge to their game to grind out victories. That will come and hanging on against Liverpool isn’t easy, but they sat back and just couldn’t couldn’t control the game in midfield as the Reds won the ball back time and time again.

3. Title race set up perfectly: Both Liverpool and Man City rallied to secure late comeback wins on Saturday, and it set things up for their monster clash at Anfield next Sunday. There will be so many twists and turns in this title race, and next weekend’s encounter will be epic. Liverpool are doing everything they can to stay ahead of Man City because they know Pep Guardiola‘s side will improve. After 11 games of the season, the title race is set up perfectly.

Man of the Match: Sadio Mane – A constant pest for Villa’s defense, Mane set up Robertson to make it 1-1, then scored the winner himself in stoppage time. A superb display in a superb season for Mane, even if he was booked for simulation in the first half. Aside from that he was brilliant.


Wesley and Bjorn Engels almost got on the end of a loose ball in the box as Villa were pinned back early but

Villa did take the lead through Trezeguet, as a free kick to the back post found the Egyptian winger unmarked and he finished to make it 1-0.

Liverpool then thought they had equalized as Firmino put the ball in the back of the net after a cross from Mane, but the Brazilian was offside and VAR was used to rule it out. By the tightest of margins, Liverpool were denied a first half equalizer.

Mane was then caught by Frederic Guilbert as VAR was used and the Liverpool forward was booked for simulation.

Liverpool huffed and puffed as they tried to get back in the game, as Villa did their best to lock down the lively Mane.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

In the second half Georginio Wijnaldum tested Tom Heaton and then the English goalkeeper denied Mane’s header, while at the other end Wesley was almost set free on the break.

Mohamed Salah was found by Andrew Robertson at the back post but his header was off target as Liverpool pushed hard for an equalizer.

Substitute Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain made a big impact off the bench as Engels and Mings blocked his shots, then Mane slipped as he got an effort off on the edge of the box and Adam Lallana then missed a glorious chance.

At the other end Trezeguet set up Connor Hourihane and with Alisson racing off his line, Virgil Van Dijk arrived to clear the danger.

Trent Alexander-Arnold flashed a shot inches wide, and then Liverpool secured the win.

First, Robertson headed home at the back post to make it 1-1 after Mane’s great cross.

And then Alexander-Arnold’s free kick was tipped over in stoppage time, and from the resulting corner Mane brilliantly flicked home a header to make it 2-1.

Cue wild scenes in the away end at Villa Park.

Premier League Preview: Aston Villa v. Liverpool

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  • Liverpool lead title race by 6 points
  • Villa sit 15th in PL table, on 11 points
  • LFC won 6-0 last trip to Villa Park, in 2016

Liverpool’s 100-percent Premier League record may have ended two weeks ago with a 1-1 draw away to rivals Manchester United, but the Reds continue to pace the PL title race ahead of Saturday’s trip to Villa Park to take on Aston Villa (Watch live, 11 a.m. ET on NBC Sports Gold).

In theory, facing a recently promoted side like Villa should be the most straightforward challenge in a week that saw Liverpool take on, and beat, both north London sides — first, Tottenham Hotspur in PL action on Sunday, followed by Arsenal in a 5-5 thriller in the EFL Cup on Wednesday. It’s been a taxing period for Jurgen Klopp‘s men, though, as they came back from 1-0 down to Tottenham inside the game’s first minute and erased a pair of two-goal deficits to the Gunners before triumphing in a penalty shootout. Coincidentally, Liverpool and Villa were then drawn against one another in the quarterfinals of the EFL Cup, tentatively scheduled to be played in mid-December. Before that was a trip to Belgium in the Champions League and another fight-back from a goal down against Man United.

[ STREAM: Every PL match live

The likes of Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane, Roberto Firmino and Virgil Van Dijk were all spared from further action midweek, their first period of inaction in over a month, including the recent international break. Klopp is plenty wary about the demands of the modern game. The EFL Cup presents the ideal opportunity to rest first-team stars, but he needs them to return at the peak of their abilities once it’s back to PL action if Liverpool are to hold of Manchester City and win their first English league title since 1990.

Villa won’t be a pushover, however, as Dean Smith‘s side has won three of its last four games in all competitions, including back-to-back games against fellow relegation battlers in PL action and an EFL Cup round of 16 triumph over Wolverhampton Wanderers. The lone blemish came in last weekend’s 3-0 defeat away to Man City, a game they kept scoreless for the entire first half before Raheem Sterling opened the floodgates in the first minute of the second half.

Injuries/suspensions

Aston Villa: OUT – Jota (hernia); QUESTIONABLE: Jack Grealish (calf)

Liverpool: OUT – Joel Matip (knee), Xherdan Shaqiri (calf), Naby Keita (groin), Nathaniel Clyne (knee)


Projected lineups

Aston Villa: Heaton – Guilbert, Engels, Mings, Targett – Nakamba – Trezeguet, McGinn, Luiz, Grealish – Wesley

Liverpool: Alisson – Alexander-Arnold, Gomez, Van Dijk, Robertson – Fabinho, Henderson, Wijnaldum – Salah, Firmino, Mane


What they’re saying

Bjorn Engels, on bragging rights: “My girlfriend is from Liverpool. Her whole family is. And they are all Reds, too. We have been joking about things in the build-up. I think Aston Villa is the only team who can beat Liverpool and they won’t be too upset. If we win, I think there will be no problem. They love Liverpool. Of course, when you are born with a team, that is who you support. But I think they will be happy for me if we get a good result.”

Klopp, on Georginio Wijnaldum’s importance: “Gini speaks on the pitch for the way he plays. It’s just so obvious his importance. And it is in both directions — in attack and defence, small spaces, big spaces, it is hard challenges, fine football, pretty much all of that. Is he the perfect midfielder? Yes, from the skill set, 100 percent. He has all that you need.”


Prediction

Liverpool haven’t been at their very best in recent weeks, but they’ve managed to pick up positive results against some tough sides. Having the luxury of resting the big names this week should do them a world of good and bring about a swift response, at Villa’s expense. Aston Villa 0-3 Liverpool.

Man City ease by Aston Villa, close gap at the top

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Manchester City beat Aston Villa 3-0 at the Etihad Stadium on Saturday as Pep Guardiola‘s side cut the gap to league leaders Liverpool to three points.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

The reigning Premier League champs scored three times in the second half as Villa were stubborn but barely threatened in attack. Raheem Sterling, Kevin De Bruyne (it looked like David Silva got the final touch) and Ilkay Gundogan grabbed the goals for City as they won with minimum fuss. Fernandinho was sent off for a second yellow card, which means he will miss the League Cup game against Southampton in midweek.

Man City now have 22 points from their opening 10 games of the season, while Villa remain on 11 points.


3 things we learned

1. Sterling’s incredible season continues: Sterling has scored 13 times in 14 appearances in all competitions so far this season. That is an amazing start for the winger. Sterling’s ability to finish chances has improved dramatically and he’s even angry at himself for not scoring or creating more. He is now so efficient in the final third and was so dangerous as Villa didn’t know what to do with him.

2. Man City put the pressure on Liverpool: A few weeks ago City were out of the title race and everyone was handing the trophy to Liverpool. If Jurgen Klopp‘s men slip up against Spurs on Sunday, their lead atop the table could be cut to three or four points. Man City look comfortable at being the hunters, just as they proved last season. It almost helps Guardiola’s men as they crank through the gears and there is extra intensity to their game. City would love to be leading the PL but after their shock defeat against Wolves they have responded well.

3. Villa will be top 10 contenders: They kept City out for 45 minutes but one lapse in concentration cost Aston Villa. Dean Smith will be disappointed with that but he knows that getting points against Man City this week and Liverpool next week would a be a bonus. The newly-promoted side look capable of taking care of business against teams in the bottom half of the table and Villa look set to challenge for a top 10 finish.

Man of the Match: Raheem Sterling – His incredible goalscoring exploits are backed up by his dangerous runs, passes and movement in the final third. He is in the form of his life and driving City on. Superb display.


Man City should have taken the lead as Sterling and David Silva set up the chance and Jesus fired a shot inches wide.

Sterling’s shot then deflected off Bjorn Engels arm and wide and although the home players appealed for a penalty kick, VAR checked and waved the calls away.

On the break Aston Villa almost took the lead as John McGinn curled a powerful shot towards the bottom corner which Ederson saved and on the rebound VAR was used as Douglas Luiz claimed he was taken down by a combination of Fernandinho and Joao Cancelo.

Villa then appealed for another penalty kick as Trezeguet’s was blocked by John Stones but nothing was given, and at the other end Sterling flicked a header just wide after good play from Benjamin Mendy and Silva.

David Silva went close just before the break as he somehow put his shot wide after Sterling’s trickery, as Villa left City frustrated.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights

It took 30 seconds of the second half for City to take the lead as Ederson’s clearance was flicked on by Jesus and Sterling finished to make it 1-0. Easy.

Mendy then had a shot across goal deflected wide as City piled on the pressure, the Engels gave the ball away and Jesus’ shot was saved by Heaton then somehow cleared off the line by Mings.

Villa remained dangerous on the break but City wrapped up the win as De Bruyne’s cross seemed to flick off David Silva’s foot and after a lengthy VAR check with Sterling close to touching the ball from an offside position, the goal stood. 2-0.

Gundogan made it 3-0 soon after as KDB’s corner was kept alive by Fernandinho who whipped the ball across goal and the German midfielder finished in style. Game. Set. Match.

Late on Fernandinho was sent off for picking up a second yellow card, while substitute Phil Foden twice went close, Jesus hit the bar and McGinn hit the post in a wild finale.