Emile Smith-Rowe

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Ljungberg hails ‘amazing’ teen Saka after game-changing performance

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Arsenal phenom Bukayo Saka‘s big day spurred the Gunners to a top seed in the Europa League knockout rounds.

Arsenal went behind on two deflected goals in the second half’s first 25 minutes, but Saka answered with a goal and an assist in three minutes to take a point from Belgium in a 2-2 draw at Standard Liege.

[ RECAP, VIDEO: Standard Liege 2-2 Arsenal ]

Saka was at the heart of it of all good things Arsenal, the 18-year-old handed plenty of responsibility. despite his tender age.

“He was amazing,” said interim manager Freddie Ljungberg. “He was a bit upset with me before the game that he had to play wing-back and full-back. He’s a tremendous talent.”

Saka had four key passes to go with his goal and assist, winning six of eight duels while producing two tackles and an interception.

Ljungberg said Arsenal hasn’t sent its young players on loan enough, though that hardly applies to Saka given he was 17 until September.

The injured Gunners used Konstantinos Mavropanos, Emile Smith-Rowe, Joe Willock, and Reiss Nelson in the Starting XI, and brought Gabriel Martinelli off the bench.

“I feel sorry for our young players,” he said. “A lot of them haven’t been on loan, they’ve not had that exposure to men’s football. Some of them made mistakes but they’ll learn from those mistakes and won’t do them again.”

Smith-Rowe was loaned to RB Leipzig last season and Nelson starred on loan at Hoffenheim. Mavropanos played first team football for Greek Super League side PAS Giannina in his late teens.

Arsenal joins Premier League sides Wolves and Manchester United in the knockout rounds, having lost the Europa League final to rivals Chelsea at the end of last season.

The Gunners beat West Ham on Monday and host Manchester City at 11:30 a.m. ET Sunday.

Arsenal issue injury update

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Arsenal have issued an injury update on several players after their win at West Ham on Monday.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule

Interim head coach Freddie Ljungberg will have an injury headache to sort out, especially at full back, as Hector Bellerin and Kieran Tierney were both injured before and during the 3-1 win at the London Stadium.

Bellerin felt his hamstring go in the warm up and the Spaniard was replaced by Ainsley Maitland-Niles, who performed well.

“Hector had a feeling in his hamstring during the warm-up and we took the decision. Not going to force anyone to play if they don’t feel 100%,” Ljungberg said. “It was a straight swap on that with Ainsley. Ainsley has been out in the cold a little bit but came in and did really well. I’m really proud of him.”

As for Tierney, who suffered a shoulder injury during the game, the prognosis on the Scottish left back doesn’t appear as positive as Bellerin.

“It’s something with his shoulder but I don’t know exactly what that is. We obviously had to take him off. He’s going to hospital to get it checked,” Ljungberg added.

The Gunners have enough defensive issues as it is without throwing a few injuries to arguably their best right and left backs.

Arsenal have plenty of walking wounded right now, as Rob Holding wasn’t in the squad to face West Ham due to a knee injury flaring up, while Dani Ceballos and Emile Smith-Rowe are still working their way back to full fitness.

Remarkably, Arsenal are just seven points off the top four given the firing of Unai Emery, their woeful defensive displays and their worst-ever start to a season.

Ljungberg’s boys host Man City on Sunday (Watch live, 11:30 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com) which looks like being a straight shootout between two teams who can score at will but can’t keep them out at the other end.

The Gunners are great to watch for the neutrals, but these defensive injuries continue to hamper any recovery post-Emery.

Manchester United, Arsenal both desperate at Old Trafford

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Two teams with Top Four expectations meet sitting mid-table in an Old Trafford clash on Monday at 3 p.m. ET live on NBCSN and live online at NBCSports.com.

There is a different feeling surrounding this meeting of bitter Premier League enemies. They are both immeasurably desperate.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Unai Emery are in very precarious positions as they guide two fallen giants hoping to avoid further depths of despair. A loss here could doom one of these squads to a long, hard season of little gain, while a draw would confirm the equal plights of both rival clubs that long for a return to glory that seems so far out of reach.

[ STREAM: Every PL match live ] 

The future is now for Manchester United, as Mason Greenwood could see his first Premier League start with Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial both sidelined with injuries. Paul Pogba‘s status is questionable thanks to an ankle injury he re-aggrivated midweek in cup action, the same ailment bothering Arsenal striker Alexandre Lacazette who will likely miss out. The Gunners will, however, have Kieran Tierney available for selection having yet to make his Premier League debut.

Injuries/suspensions

Man United: OUT – Marcus Rashford (hip), Anthony Martial (hamstring), Eric Bailly (knee), Timothy Fosu-Mensah (knee). QUESTIONABLE – Paul Pogba (ankle).
Arsenal: OUT – Alexandre Lacazette (ankle), Emile Smith-Rowe (concussion).


Projected Lineups:

Man United: De Gea; Shaw, Lindelof, Maguire, Wan-Bissaka; McTominay, Matic, Mata; James, Greenwood, Pereira.

Arsenal: Leno; Tierney, Luiz, Sokratis, Maitland-Niles; Xhaka, Guendouzi; Saka, Ceballos, Pepe; Aubameyang.


What they’re saying

Man United manager Solskjaer on struggles thus far: “You evaluate every single game and look through the games, but I’m not doubting myself, no. If I doubt myself, then the rest of the world would as well. We have loads of discussions, so we believe in what we’re doing.”

Arsenal manager Emery on rivalry:  “Each match when I watched in Spain, Arsenal v Manchester United, Manchester United v Arsenal, was a special moment. I think Monday at eight o’clock, all around the world, if someone wants to watch a football match, it’s this one. We really want to play matches where we can do something important. We are preparing well. The players are wishing to play the next match – we know it’s a very big opportunity for us to get three points.”


Three key battles

  1. Daniel James v. Ainsley Maitland-Niles – The young Arsenal right-back was sent off last time out against Aston Villa with two yellow cards, and should he get a chance to start and redeem himself, he will need to bounce right back against one of the more in-form wingers in the league. Daniel James has been one of the few bright spots in attack for Manchester United this season, and Maitland-Niles will have his hands full. Should Emery decide against going with the 22-year-old at right-back, he could give Hector Bellerin a chance to return to favor, leading even more intrigue to this matchup on the Manchester United left flank.
  2. Dani Cabellos v. Nemanja Matic – Manchester United fans won’t be worried about Scott McTominay holding his own in front of the Red Devils back line, as the 22-year-old has been fantastic for the club since earning a starting place in the middle of last year. Instead, if Cabellos is to trouble the Man United midfield it will likely be at the expense of Nemanja Matic who has looked off the pace at times this season, both on the ball and off it. If Cabellos gets a hold of the midfield and has room to make magic, the Manchester United back line could be forced to pick up the slack, which means good news for Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang who would clean up the scraps.
  3. Mason Greenwood v. David Luiz/Sokratis – The 17-year-old Manchester United striker has earned praise from all corners of Red Devil land for his performances in other competitions, and it is time for his first Premier League start. The Arsenal defense, meanwhile, hasn’t done much to cover itself in glory this season, and that could mean a feast for the teenager at the Theater of Dreams. Will Greenwood reward the faith Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has shown in his young talent?

Prediction

These two teams are hungry for a result, and when desperate sides meet, the neutrals benefit from what could likely become an electric affair. Goals and big moments are to be expected, and that makes for an exciting matchup. Ultimately the fear of losing could outweigh the glory of victory, which could lead to a lack of attacking mentality late, but I like Arsenal to shock the hosts in their fortress thanks to the host of injuries Manchester United is dealing with at the moment; the loss of Paul Pogba is more troubling than most Red Devil fans care to admit. Look for Dani Cabellos to shine as Arsenal takes it in an exciting 2-1 affair that goes down to the wire with Mason Greenwood finding the back of the net in a losing effort.

League Cup: Spurs shocked by Colchester United; Saints win derby

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A fierce derby returned after years away, and a League Two side outlasted a Champions League finalist while another fourth-tier entrant clinched a spot in the Round of 16 as well.

[ MORE: JPW at Fratton Park ]

The League Cup delivered the goods on Tuesday.

Colchester United 0-0 (4-3, penalties) Tottenham Hotspur

Lucas Moura smashed the cross bar with Spurs’ fifth penalty kick, and Paulo Gazzaniga couldn’t get to Tom Lapslie’s effort as the U’s advanced to the fourth round and supporters stormed the pitch.

Dean Gerkin stopped Christian Eriksen‘s opening penalty kick to start the extra set, but Jevani Brown’s miss leveled things in the third round.

Spurs were the better side by far despite a lineup with two regular starters in Davinson Sanchez and Dele Alli, as Spurs lined up: Gazzaniga, Walker-Peters, Sanchez, Tanganga, Davies, Dier, Wanyama, Skipp, Dele, Lucas, and Parrott.

The U’s had not attempted a shot by the hour mark, with Spurs taking a dozen. It was a departure from their defeat of Crystal Palace in the last round, when they went hit for hit with the Premier League mainstays and emerged with a win in penalties.

Courtney Senior was a bright spot for the U’s, lashing a shot wide in the 89th.

Portsmouth 0-4 Southampton

This is certainly one of Danny Ings‘ favorite memories since returning home to the South Coast, as the Winchester-born striker scored twice in the first half to give Saints a halftime lead in the first South Coast Derby match in close to a decade.

The game, like most between the heated rivals, was a busy one, as Kenny Jackett’s League One side Pompey punched above their weight and even out-attempted the visitors for some time. But Cedric Soares and Nathan Redmond scored late as Saints outlasted Pompey’s adrenaline to assert their class.

Preston North End 0-3 Manchester City

There was no doubt about this one, though the Championship side put up a better fight than Watford at the weekend.

And to be fair to Watford, City started a much weakened lineup. Seventeen-year-old Taylor Harwood-Bellis started, and mostly impressed, alongside fellow teen Eric Garcia.

Garcia assisted Raheem Sterling on the opener, with Sterling in turn setting up Gabriel Jesus for 2-0. An own goal made it 3-0 before halftime.

Elsewhere

Arsenal 5-0 Nottingham Forest – Gabriel Martinelli scored his first two Arsenal goals, while Emile Smith-Rowe was stretchered off after apparent head injury. Rob Holding, Joe Willock, and Reiss Nelson also scored as Kieran Tierney made his Gunners debut in the shutout.

Crawley Town 1-1 (5-3, penalties) Stoke City – Goals traded in first half as Potters go down to 10 men in 61st minute. Stoke goal scorer Sam Vokes cracked the side’s first penalty off the bar,

Luton Town 0-4 Leicester City – Pretty easy for the Foxes, who rested most of its main men for a Premier League date with Newcastle United. James Justin scores in return to hometown club. Demarai Gray was at the double while Youri Tielemans also scored.

Watford 2-1 Swansea City – Danny Welbeck gets first Hornets goal, but Watford needed a late goal from Roberto Pereyra to push past Swans.435

Sheffield Wednesday 0-2 Everton – Two early goals from Dominic Calvert-Lewin quickly put upset hopes to bed as Marco Silva gets some relief.

UEL, LIVE — Man Utd, Wolves face Kazakh, Portuguese opposition

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The Europa League group stage begins play on Thursday, with Arsenal in Germany and taking care of 10-man Eintracht Frankfurt.

A younger Arsenal took the lead on a deflected shot from Man of the Match candidate Joe Willock, before Bukayo Saka took the MOTM mantle with a late goal and assist.

[ LIVE: Europa League scores  ]

Manchester United and Wolves are set to kick-off their respective matches against Astana and Braga at 3 p.m. ET.

Lineups are out for both sides. United will be very young against Kazakh side Astana ahead of a Sunday visit to West Ham United, while Wolves start Raul Jimenez and Patrick Cutrone up top versus Braga.

Full slate

12:55 p.m. ET
CFR Cluj v. Lazio
LASK v. Rosenborg
Getafe v. Trabzonspor
PSV Eindhoven v. Sporting Lisbon
Basel v. Krasnodar
APOEL Nicosia v. Dudelange
Copenhagen v. Lugano
Standard Liege v. Vitoria SC
Qarabag v. Sevilla
Eintracht Frankfurt v. Arsenal
Rennes v. Celtic
Dynamo Kiev v. Malmo

3 p.m. ET
Wolfsburg v. Oleksandriya
Espanyol v. Ferencvaros
Rangers v. Feyenoord
Porto v. Young Boys
Slovan Bratislava v. Besiktas
Borussia Monchengladbach v. Wolfsberg
Partizan v. AZ Alkmaar
AS Roma v. Istanbul Basaksehir
Gent v. Saint-Etienne
Manchester United v. Astana
Wolves v. Braga
Ludogorets Razgrad v. CSKA Moscow