Philippe Coutinho

Key battles for Manchester United v. Liverpool

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The fact that that question is unquestionably valid, the visiting Reds a heavy favorite at the home of their longtime rival, says a lot, doesn’t it?

[ PL PREVIEW: Man Utd v. Liverpool ]

Let’s start with two 1v1 jobs and end with a battle that only involves two men and their bodies.

Can Ole Gunnar Solskjaer spring a midfield surprise to level tilted pitch

Make no mistake about it: Whatever midfield Jurgen Klopp trots onto the field at Old Trafford will be far superior to the one on the other side.

Manchester United boss Solskjaer was pretty optimistic when he pointed to this match as the “perfect” one to follow the Red Devils setback against Newcastle United, which seems bonkers but could serve as a proper showcase of why the club continues to back its former star striker.

So how will Solskjaer attempt to outfox the Reds without Paul Pogba as a midfield different maker? It seems likely we’ll see hard men at their hardest and most ornery in the forms of Scott McTominay and Nemanja Matic, although Fred has seen plenty of playing time as of late.

Solskjaer might be best served by sitting back and trying to counter, but that doesn’t really vibe with Solskjaer’s overall “We’re Manchester United” mentality. So presuming we won’t see five at the back, it’s paramount that the boss finds a way to outduel (probably) three of Fabinho, Jordan Henderson, James Milner, and Georginio Wijnaldum.

It kinda recalls “The Dark Knight” when the Wayne Enterprises lawyer tries to blackmail the company via its bankrolling of Batman. Picture Morgan Freeman offering a smirking, “Good luck.”

Maguire hopes to defy his history versus Liverpool

Harry Maguire has a quality record against many teams, but Liverpool is not one of them.

The now-Red Devils’ center back managed a goal in Leicester City’s 1-1 draw with Liverpool last season, but that point was the first he’s won against Liverpool dating back to his time with Hull City. Maguire is 1W-1D-4L all-time against the Reds.

Maguire has seen Liverpool score eight goals in its last four matches against him, all while a member of Leicester, and the scorers are familiar: Salah (3), Mane (2),  Firmino (1), Jordan Henderson (1), Philippe Coutinho (1).

With the midfield mismatched in heavy favor of Liverpool, Maguire and Victor Lindelof will need to produce one of their finest displays.

Anthony Martial and Aaron Wan-Bissaka versus their fitness

With Paul Pogba and David De Gea out of the lineup, there’s no question that extra emphasis will be placed on United’s standout players when the ball is kicked on Sunday.

Make no mistake about: Along with Harry Maguire, Martial and Wan-Bissaka have been United’s best players when healthy this season.

Martial scored in United’s first two matches and picked up an assist in the third, where he also picked up a hamstring injury. His ability to make something out of nothing, particularly from distance, is a massive asset against a team as strong defensively as Liverpool. Wan-Bissaka missed his side’s loss at Newcastle United with tonsillitis.

Both would drastically affect which battles we also find key to this match, with their pace and prowess out wide the Red Devils’ most likely avenue to keeping Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andrew Robertson on their toes.

Martial’s return would be especially big. With Marcus Rashford on a terrible run of inconsistency, you don’t know what you’re going to get from the youngster. Martial can only help alleviate the burden.

Neymar injured again as Brazil draws Nigeria

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Neymar is hurt again, limping off the pitch after a dozen minutes of Brazil’s 1-1 friendly with Nigeria on Sunday at Singapore National Stadium.

The Paris Saint-Germain star was holding his hamstring as he exited the pitch and was replaced by Philippe Coutinho.

[ REPORT: Man Utd agrees with Mandzukic ]

Neymar has four goals in five matches for PSG this season after a tumultuous summer saw the star unsuccessful in his bid to force a move to Barcelona or Real Madrid.

Foot and hip injuries as well as a suspension cost him over 20 matches last season, and a broken foot kept him out of just as much action in 2017/18.

PSG faces Nice on Friday before a Champions League trip to Club Brugge.

Nigeria’s Joe Aribo gave the Super Eagles a lead, but Casemiro settled the score before half time.

Report: Bayern Munich contacts Eriksen eyeing January move

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According to reports in Denmark, Bayern Munich has made contact with Christian Eriksen‘s representatives about a potential move to the Bavarian giants.

Eriksen’s contract at Tottenham expires at the end of this season, leaving him to sign a pre-contract agreement as soon as the calendar turns to 2020. And yet, a report by SPORT1 claims that Bayern could even potentially make a move for the 27-year-old in January, looking to convince Spurs to part ways early in order not to lose the Danish star for nothing.

Tottenham has been extremely poor this season, falling three times already in Premier League play plus a loss to lowly Colchester United in the EFL Cup and an embarrassing 7-2 defeat to Bayern in Champions League play. Eriksen himself has not performed up to standards, recording just a goal and an assist so far in league competition.

Still, he has been nothing short of a critical player for Spurs during his seven-year career with the club, arriving from Ajax for $15 million in 2013. He has collected 67 goals in 288 total appearances for the club, including 50 league goals in 214 appearances.

The SPORT1 report says that Eriksen is open to the move, and could slide right into contention for a starting role with the club. He would be in competition with Thomas Muller and Philippe Coutinho for the main creative role. Bayern suffered its first league defeat of the season before the international break, falling to Hoffenheim in a game that saw Coutinho garner renewed criticism for a poor performance reminiscent of his disastrous Barcelona tenure. With Muller also rumored to be considering a departure this coming summer, Eriksen could be a critical player for the 29-time German champions.

Should Bayern fail to convince Spurs to sell Eriksen this winter, they could still work with the player to sign a pre-contract agreement for the summer.

Bayern annihilates putrid Tottenham in 7-star showing

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Let’s be straight-forward: Serge Gnabry and Robert Lewandowski humiliated Tottenham Hotspur’s abject back line in a 6-2 demolition of the hosts at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in North London on Tuesday.

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

Ex-Arsenal academy man Gnabry scored four times and Lewandowski twice while Joshua Kimmich also scored an extraordinary curler for Bayern in the blowout.

Olympiacos lost to Red Star Belgrade, which puts Spurs in the group’s third place. Bayern’s six points account for a four-point lead on the rest of the group.


Three things we learned

1. Lewandowski too powerful: It’s stunning to consider that Robert Lewandowski has never been named to a FIFPro World XI. The Polish striker started a move at the right end line, torching Jan Vertonghen, then worked himself back to the top of the 18 to pick up a loose ball and touch to his right before lashing inside the near post. Lewandowski added another to give Bayern six on the day. He now has 14 goals through 10 matches this season across all competitions.

2. Kane’s fine run (kinda) ends: Making penalties is pretty important, but Kane’s 61st minute success was his only real moment of impact in the match. He skied a free kick over the goal and saw a yellow card in the match. He had a goal or an assist in each of his last five matches, and continued that run. That’s really the lone positive from his day.

3. Serge Gnabry has a field day with Spurs back line, especially one fullback: Danny Rose and Serge Aurier did not deliver the goods at left and right back on Tuesday, with Rose cooked in the run-up to Kimmich’s opener. Aurier was roasted by Gnabry on his first goal, and then didn’t even bother to sprint behind the blazing Gnabry as he completed his hat trick by reaching a long ball from Thiago Alcantara. It’s the sort of move which would doom a player to the bench for weeks, but Spurs are very, very thin at fullback.

The ex-Arsenal man Gnabry added a fourth goal to complete the score line and would’ve loved his return to North London, having spent 2011-16 with Spurs’ heated rivals. He was magnificent.


Spurs struck first through Son in the 12th minute, as Corentin Tolisso passed to no man’s land. Moussa Sissoko took advantage of the giveaway, which carried a hint of a Dele Alli foul, and slid Son into the box.

Manuel Neuer could only get a hand on the South Korean’s shot as it headed for the side panel.

The lead lasted three minutes, and the equalizer was a beauty. Kimmich absolutely cooked Tanguy Ndombele with a cutback and whipped a vicious shot across goal and into the upper reaches of it.

Neuer and Lloris were each tested in the next five minutes, the latter by a Philippe Coutinho arrow in the 21st. The Bayern goalkeeper made an arm save on a hard Ndombele drive in the 25th.

Son ripped a shot wide at the half hour mark, an attempt to beat Neuer to the near post.

Former Arsenal man Gnabry would’ve loved scoring at the home of his former rivals, as he outlasted a dreadful challenge from Aurier and then blazed past a wooden Toby Alderweireld to blast past Lloris.

Gnabry scored again off a Harry Winks error, slipped into the 18 to dig out a shot that beat a diving Lloris.

Rose won a penalty kick off a high challenge with Kingsley Coman, sending Kane to the spot for his lone moment of the match.

Instead of inspiring a comeback, the goal spurred Bayern back into business. Gnabry added two more sandwiched around another classy Lewandowski finish.

Bundesliga wrap: Bayern on top; Schalke dismantle RB Leipzig

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With David Wagner‘s red-hot Schalke rolling past RB Leipzig, Bayern Munich are atop of the Bundesliga table.

Paderborn 2-3 Bayern Munich

For a second, it seemed Bayern Munich’s visit to Paderborn was going to end with a fairytale ending for the recently promoted home side. In the end, Bayern’s overwhelming talent showed through with goals from Serge Gnabry, Philippe Coutinho, and Robert Lewandowski, who sealed the game in the 79th minute with a delicate chip.

With Schalke’s dominating performance over RB Leipzig, Niko Kovač and company are back at the top of the Bundesliga with 14 points from six matches.

[ MORE: Bundesliga schedule  ]

RB Leipzig 1-3 Schalke 04

From early on, Wagner’s side took control of the game, specifically in the 29th minute when Salif Sane gave the traveling team the lead. Before halftime, Amine Harit converted from the spot. By the time Leipzig attempted to rally back with a goal from Swede Wmil Forsberg in the 83rd minute, Schalke was two goals up. Like Leipzig, Schalke remains one point back of the leaders.

USMNT midfielder Weston McKennie started and played all 90 minutes for Bundesliga’s third place team.

Borussia Dortmund 2-2 Werder Bremen

The years were rolled back on Saturday as Mario Götze and Marco Rues put Dortmund up 2-1 over Bremen in the first half.

But just a handful of minutes into the second, Marco Friedl and USMNT teen Josh Sargent let Westfalenstadion know what the future is all about. Off of a corner-kick set piece, Sargent assisted Friedl, who attentively found the ball near the back post and tapped the ball with his head as he was going down. Dortmund are two matches removed from their last league win.

Elsewhere

Union Berlin 1-2 Eintracht Frankfurt — Friday
Mainz 0-1 Wolfsburg — Saturday
Augsburg 0-3 Bayer Leverkusen — Saturday
Hoffenheim 0-3 Borussia Mönchengladbach — Saturday
Fortuna – SC Freiburg — Sunday
Köln – Hertha Berlin — Sunday

STANDINGS

Team GP W D L GF GA GD Home Away PTS
 Bayern Munich 6 4 2 0 19 6 13 2-1-0 2-1-0 14
 RB Leipzig 6 4 1 1 14 6 8 1-1-1 3-0-0 13
 FC Schalke 04 6 4 1 1 13 6 7 2-0-1 2-1-0 13
 Mönchengladbach 6 4 1 1 10 5 5 1-1-1 3-0-0 13
 Bayer Leverkusen 6 4 1 1 11 7 4 2-1-0 2-0-1 13
 VfL Wolfsburg 6 3 3 0 9 4 5 1-2-0 2-1-0 12
 Borussia Dortmund 6 3 2 1 17 9 8 2-1-0 1-1-1 11
 SC Freiburg 5 3 1 1 11 4 7 1-1-1 2-0-0 10
 Eintracht Frankfurt 6 3 1 2 9 8 1 2-1-0 1-0-2 10
 Werder Bremen 6 2 1 3 10 14 -4 1-0-2 1-1-1 7
 1899 Hoffenheim 6 1 2 3 4 10 -6 1-0-2 0-2-1 5
 FC Augsburg 6 1 2 3 7 14 -7 1-1-1 0-1-2 5
 Fortuna Düsseldorf 5 1 1 3 7 9 -2 0-1-1 1-0-2 4
 1. FC Union Berlin 6 1 1 4 6 12 -6 1-0-3 0-1-1 4
 Hertha BSC Berlin 5 1 1 3 5 11 -6 1-0-1 0-1-2 4
 1. FC Köln 5 1 0 4 4 11 -7 0-0-2 1-0-2 3
 FSV Mainz 05 6 1 0 5 5 16 -11 1-0-2 0-0-3 3
 SC Paderborn 6 0 1 5 8 17 -9 0-0-3 0-1-2