James Milner

Top PL storylines: Matchweek 3

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Liverpool and Arsenal have begun the Premier League season with a pair of wins, so it’s fitting that it’s a top of the table clash headlining this weekend’s action.

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As teams build chemistry and gain points through the first couple weeks of the season, here are the top storylines heading into week three of the Premier League campaign


Top of the Table Clash

  • Liverpool v. Arsenal, Saturday, 12:30 p.m. ET on NBC

Liverpool didn’t need a busy transfer window this summer to hit the ground running in the Premier League. Ironically, while Arsenal was plenty busy, it’s also recorded two wins in two, mainly with players who were with the side last season or longer, as the new recruits gain match fitness.

The exception for Arsenal is Dani Ceballos, who dazzled in a terrific performance last week against Burnley. He’ll face a truly difficult test though on Saturday going up against Jordan Henderson, James Milner and Fabinho. More important, in a fixture that has a history of goals, goals, and more goals, we should expect that on display as well. We all know what we’re getting from Mo Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino, but Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has started the season on fire. Add Alexandre Lacazette and transfer record signing Nicolas Pepe, and Arsenal’s attack should score a few goals in front of the Kop.


Pukki v. Pulisic

  • Norwich v. Chelsea, Saturday, 7:30 a.m. ET on NBCSN

As Norwich City fights to stay in the Premier League moving forward, its star striker Teemu Pukki is becoming a cult hero for fans. The Finnish international leads the Premier League with four goals, boosted by a hat-trick, and it will be interesting to see if he can find the back of the net again against a new-look Chelsea side.

Christian Pulisic meanwhile is coming off a solid performance for the Blues, but his coach Frank Lampard is under serious pressure to finally record a win in a game that matters. Facing a promoted squad, this could be a chance for Pulisic to display his lightning speed and quickness on the ball, and possibly score his first goal in Chelsea blue.


Newcastle in trouble? 

  • Tottenham v. Newcastle United, Sunday, 11:30 a.m. ET on NBCSN

Newcastle has had a rough start to the season after a poor summer, and things could go from bad to worse on Sunday with a visit to Tottenham.

Mauricio Pochettino‘s side is coming off a 2-2 draw with Manchester City, in which Tottenham took advantage of a late VAR decision on Man City to secure a point on the road. With Erik Lamela looking great to start the season and a mostly lock-down defense, this Spurs side could run rampant on Steve Bruce‘s side.

Premier League Preview: Southampton v. Liverpool

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Whoever is in goal for Liverpool, Southampton has a mighty task ahead of itself at St. Mary’s on Saturday (Watch live at 10 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

Liverpool was already without Alisson Becker when Adrian was injured in a freak accident after the UEFA Super Cup Final, though the Spaniard may be set to play. If he cannot go, it’ll be a Premier League debut for 35-year-old Danny Lonergan.

Let’s face it: It’s more rational for Southampton to hope the Reds are just a little weary after a busy week.

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Kevin “Futty” Danso looks set to debut at center back against Liverpool, the youngster arriving from Augsburg at the end of the transfer window.

That’s quite a challenge against a front three while may well be Sadio Mane, Roberto Firmino, and Mohamed Salah.

Thing is, the score line may not be as bad as Saints’ first outing. Southampton was dominated by Burnley in a 3-0 nightmare at Turf Moor.


Projected lineups

Southampton: Gunn; Valery, Vestergaard, Bednarek, Danso, Bertrand, Romeu, Ward-Prowse, Redmond, Ings, Adams.

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


What they’re saying

Saints boss Ralph Hasenhuttl after canceling a day off: “To invest time in my job is normal because we are in the Premier League where we play against the best teams in the world and the only chance to be successful against these teams is to do more than they do. If you do more than they do then you have the chance to be successful.”

Liverpool’s James Milner on playing under exuberant Klopp“He’s on the side and he’s bouncing around; he wants to be out there. That energy’s big for us when we’re down. He seems to judge it right in terms of when to put an arm round the shoulder after a game, if we haven’t played well or something. He knows what to say at half-time, of if you need a rocket he’ll give you that as well.”


Prediction

Danso is a bit of a wild card here. The 20-year-old Austrian is a remarkable talent, but it’s baptism-by-fire against Liverpool. Something tells us the Saints surprise, especially with Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg returning to action. That surprise is just a tight game, though, with Liverpool emerging with a 2-1 win.

Three things learned: Liverpool v Man City

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LONDON — Manchester City beat Liverpool 5-4 on penalty kicks to win the 2019 FA Community Shield at Wembley on Sunday.  

After a 1-1 draw thanks to goals from Raheem Sterling and Joel Matip in either half, the game went to spot kicks and Claudio Bravo saved Georginio Wijnadlum’s penalty as City scored all five of theirs.

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Man City and Liverpool finished just one point apart in the Premier League table last season and it went all the way to decide the winner of the Community Shield. Despite shaking off rust amid key absentees due to stars returning late from summer tournaments, City and Liverpool put on a show at Wembley.

It was an intense, high-tempo encounter which can’t often be said of this showpiece event.

Pep Guardiola and Jurgen Klopp played up the importance of this game beforehand and their players obviously took those words to heart.

What did we learn from the traditional “curtain raiser” at Wembley?


Teams evenly matched, wasteful

On another day the score could have been 4-3 or 3-2. Both teams were guilty of being wasteful in the final third and some of their attacking stars were perhaps blowing away a few cobwebs.

Mohamed Salah missed two glorious opportunities in the first half alone. Virgil Van Dijk and Salah hit the woodwork in the second half. Kyle Walker incredibly hooked Salah’s shot off the line, while Sterling probably should’ve scored another two given the quality of his chances. Kevin De Bruyne‘s final ball and passes were a little off, while there was a general sense of frustration among both Guardiola and Klopp on the sidelines.

They know the way their teams played and the result of the Community Shield is not going to determine how this season goes for them. But the game was of high intensity and was also pretty adept at underlining the weaknesses both teams have. In the second half the end-to-end nature of the game was farcical, as you could be forgiven for thinking the latest NBA game had rolled into London.

This performance suggested two things:

1) There is still so little to choose between Liverpool and Man City.

2) Liverpool are a different team without one of their front three of Mane, Firmino and Salah up top, and so too are Man City without Sergio Aguero in their starting lineup.


Rusty Liverpool shaking off poor preseason

Not having six first team stars with Liverpool for the majority of preseason was far from ideal. And they do not appear to have dealt that well with it. At all. Salah, Firmino and Alisson returned this week after playing in the Africa Cup of Nations and Copa America, while Sadio Mane will return next week. With Naby Keita and Xherdan Shaqiri only just returning from injury too, Liverpool’s squad looks a little thin on the ground.

In the first half Man City overran them in central midfield but much to their credit Liverpool came roaring back in the second half and deserved to draw 1-1 in regulation. Salah led wave after wave of attack and even though it is clear Liverpool aren’t fully fit, it appears the rust from a disjointed preseason is falling off a little quicker than most expected.

Klopp will be hoping that the late returning stars give the rest of the squad a much-needed kick up the backside in the next few days before they face Norwich City in the PL season opener on Friday (Watch live, 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

The lack of a central midfielder who can dictate the tempo of the game and create openings is perhaps what they miss most if they’re going to truly push Man City all the way for the title once again this season. Jordan Henderson, Fabinho, James Milner and Georginio Wijnaldum are all workhorses and should be admired for how they press high and win the ball back for Salah, Firmino and Mane to cause havoc. It works. But having a player like David or Bernando Silva, someone who can slow things down and float around behind the strikers is something Liverpool have been calling out for.


Left side of City’s defense needs a revamp

True, Mohamed Salah and Trent Alexander-Arnold were the men marauding down the right flank for Liverpool but Oleksandr Zinchenko and Nicolas Otamendi didn’t half make them look good.

Granted, Aymeric Laporte will likely line up alongside John Stones in central defense this season, but it may be worth playing Laporte at left back based on this. Especially with influential leader Vincent Kompany departing. Do not underestimate his absence this season. As this game wore on Otamendi found his stride and Zinchenko kept plugging away too, but if there is any area City’s squad needs strengthening in it is at left back and center back. That is so obvious.

Zinchenko is doing the best he can as a makeshift left back but with Benjamin Mendy still out injured and Fabian Delph sold over the summer, City’s options at left back aren’t plentiful. With Joao Cancelo coming in at right back to battle with Kyle Walker, it is a little bemusing why City aren’t making a big play to sign a left back or center back this summer.

Teams will look to exploit that wing based on this showing. Yes, this was Liverpool shredding their left flank apart, but plenty of the PL’s other top six teams are capable of exploiting this weakness.

Borussia Dortmund tops Liverpool 3-2 at Notre Dame

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A half-hour of the big guns wasn’t enough to get Jurgen Klopp a result against his former team.

Harry Wilson and Rhian Brewster scored for Liverpool in a 3-2 loss to Borussia Dortmund at the University of Notre Dame on Friday.

Paco Alcacer, Thomas Delaney, and Jacob Bruun Larsen scored for the Black Yellow, who led 3-1 when mass changes began with Virgil Van Dijk, Georginio Wijnaldum, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Jordan Henderson, and Andrew Robertson entering the match.

Liverpool faces Sevilla on Sunday at Fenway Park in Boston.

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Alcacer with the ball in the box is a bad idea, and the Spaniard took advantage of Nathaniel Clyne and Joel Matip to smash home from a yard outside the six.

Wilson leveled the score before halftime, but Delaney made it 2-1 in the 53rd minute when a long diagonal ball beat the Reds line and a low pass across the box went undetected.

It was 3-1 via a clever Bruun Larsen touch to wrong foot James Milner, but Brewster brought the Reds back to within one when he converted a 75th minute penalty won by Ben Woodburn.

Liverpool was without Sadio Mane, Roberto Firmino, and Mohamed Salah, who are on break after deep summer tournament runs.

PL friendly roundup: Liverpool win; Everton, Saints, Norwich draw

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A roundup of all of Sunday’s preseason action involving Premier League teams, wherever in the world they might be preparing for the 2019-20 season…

[ MORE: Sunday’s transfer rumor roundup | Saturday | Friday ]

Bradford City 1-3 Liverpool

James Milner scored twice — once from open play and once from the penalty spot — as Liverpool continued the long, slow build toward their PL opener against Norwich City on Aug. 9. 19-year-old Rhian Brewster continued to make noise this preseason, as he followed up his brace against League One side Tranmere Rovers during the week with another goal against another League One side on Sunday.

Alex Oxlade Chamberlain started and played 45 minutes, as did all 10 outfield players before Jurgen Klopp made wholesale changes at halftime. Adam Lallana and Nathaniel Clyne, both of whom have been linked with moves away from Anfield this summer, also started.

Arminia Bielefeld 2-2 Norwich City

Dennis Srbeny and Josip Drmic scored a goal each for Norwich City, but the newly promoted PL side conceded an 88th-minute equalizer away to German second-division side Arminia Bielefeld.

The Canaries suffered injuries to a pair of key players on Sunday, with both Louis Thompson and Ben Godfrey being forced off. Head coach Daniel Farke indicated after the game that Thompson suffered a hamstring strain, while Godfrey left the stadium on crutches.

Other PL preseason results

Sion 0-0 Everton
Altach 1-1 Southampton