What have we learned about each PL club?

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As we are now a third of the way into the 2018-19 Premier League season, now seems like a good time to take stock of each team ahead of the busy festive period.

And that is exactly what we shall do ahead of a busy festive period which will help to define their campaigns.

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Below are 20 searingly hot takes on each PL club and what we’ve learned from their opening 13 games of the season.


Arsenal: They have more grit than the last decade, Lucas Torreira is the central midfield player they’ve been missing for the last decade and Unai Emery isn’t scared to drop big names: we’re looking at you, Mesut. Top four seems genuinely achievable and that would be a remarkable first season for Emery who has already changed the philosophy of this team.


Bournemouth: Callum Wilson, David Brooks, Josh King and Ryan Fraser are the best attacking foursome outside of the top six and Eddie Howe‘s side are set for a top 10 finish. The Cherries are also one of the most wasteful teams in the PL despite


Brighton & Hove Albion: Glenn Murray is a machine and the 35-year-old seems to be actually getting younger, as his seven goals so far show. We’ve learned that Brighton remain great at home and terrible on the road.


Burnley: That they’re relegation candidates and are leaking goals like a shoddy sieve. Sean Dyche can point to the Europa League hangover, but their incredible 2017-18 campaign seems like it was a flash in the pan. The Clarets are now returning to their mean of being the plucky underdogs.


Cardiff City: Harry Arter personifies this Cardiff team and they are horrible to play against, especially at home. Neil Warnock‘s men aren’t pushovers and won’t go down without a huge fight. Plus, they’re better going forward than we previously thought. Also, Warnock remains must-see in his pre and post-match interviews.


Chelsea: Jorginho is the man their team is built around and also their kryptonite. If you can shut him down like Spurs did, you can shut down Sarri-ball. Perhaps not genuine title contenders after all, unless Eden Hazard goes on another tear. Also, figuring out the best place to play N'Golo Kante is vital as he just isn’t dominating games in a more advanced role like he was as a true defensive midfielder in the past.


Crystal Palace: Without Wilfried Zaha they may never score a goal, but even with him they don’t seem as fluid as last season. Zaha seems to be battling small injuries constantly and that is not good news for Palace. Roy Hodgson may not last the season despite his incredible turnaround in 2017-18.


Everton: Marco Silva‘s revolution is coming along quicker than we thought after a slow start and the Toffees have finally found a way to get Richarlison, Sigurdsson, Walcott and Bernard all into the team at the same time. We’ve also learned that the $55 million spent on Richarlison was a bargain. Sixth place is achievable and their defense is now stronger with the additions of Lucas Digne and Yerry Mina, plus Jordan Pickford and the resurgence of Michael Keane.


Fulham: Claudio Ranieri has the ability to save their season after Jokanovic’s gung-ho approach left them bottom of the table. We’ve already seen it from their nail-biting 3-2 win against Southampton: Fulham haven’t got the players to implement Ranieri’s defensive strategy. Expect plenty of moves in the January window to add defensive reinforcements. Going forward they’re more than fine as Aleksandar Mitrovic and Andre Schurrle are delivering the goods.


Huddersfield Town: We’ve all written them off incorrectly. A striker still hasn’t scored for David Wagner‘s side but they are more than capable of picking up points at home. A relegation scrap is on its way and the Terriers are looking forward to it.


Leicester City: Their kids are more than alright as Chilwell, Maddison and Gray are all now regulars in the starting lineup. Jamie Vardy is still plugging away but other veterans from their title-winning season are finding it tough to get minutes. They are now a solid, steady midtable team and Claude Puel should be applauded for steering the players through a tough time off the pitch.


Liverpool: That they are the real deal and the only genuine contenders to Man City for the title. That is due to their newfound defensive solidity as Joe Gomez and Virgil Van Dijk must start together each week at center back. We’ve also learned that Jurgen Klopp has tweaked his “full throttle” style slightly and they are capable of picking and choosing their moments better.


Manchester City: They may be better than last season. It will be tough for them to surpass their record 100 point tally, but across the board they’ve improved drastically. In defense the partnership between Laporte and Stones looks formidable and City’s attackers have all upped their game after Riyad Mahrez‘s arrival.


Manchester United: Top four is as good as it will get and they still don’t have a long-term plan in terms of player recruitment or a playing style. In Jose Mourinho’s third season, it’s crazy they are this far off the title contenders and some of their defeats and performances this season have been way below what should be expected. That said, the old United spirit of launching late comebacks has returned.


Newcastle United: Whatever happens, Rafael Benitez deserves the freedom of Newcastle for working for Mike Ashley given the restraints placed upon him. With little money to spend, the Magpies have hit form in recent weeks after a poor start. Rafa never stopped believing and they should pull clear of the bottom three in the next few months.


Southampton: They’re in a mess. Off the pitch former chairman Les Reed has been fired, leaving them without a figurehead and on the pitch they’ve won just once. Although they’re playing well in stages, Mark Hughes‘ defense are making basic errors and his attack are missing big chances. Not a great combination as Saints’ player recruitment has once again failed to live up to is previous high standards. Another relegation battle awaits.


Tottenham Hotspur: That Mauricio Pochettino can work miracles and improve players quickly. We all know they didn’t sign anyone over the summer, but Poch has improved Moura, Foyth and Sissoko so they could come in and help Spurs deal with injuries. They are third, have had their best-ever start to a PL season and have a chance of reaching the UCL last 16. It hasn’t been pretty at times, but Spurs have a nice habit of grinding out wins. Not quite title contenders, but closer than anybody else to Man City and Liverpool.


Watford: Their model isn’t for everyone but it works and Javi Gracia has brought a calmness to the club. Constantly chopping and changing bosses and players, Watford often start the season superbly and then falter. Gracia has them inside the top 10 and they’re genuine contenders for a Europa League spot if they can have a solid second half of the season. A robust midfield and defense has allowed Pereyra and Deulofeu to express themselves in attack.


West Ham United: We haven’t learned a lot, in all honestly. We know they have quality players but this squad is unbalanced and it is down to Marko Arnautovic and Felipe Anderson to create the goals which will get them out of trouble. Under Manuel Pellegrini they haven’t improved defensively, which will be a concern given the big bucks they’ve spent.


Wolverhampton Wanderers: We’ve learned that we can expect inconsistency from a team back in the top-flight with plenty of expectation on their shoulders. After their heavy-spending in the summer, they have lots of players still getting used to the PL. An incredible start has given way to a wobble in recent weeks. A midtable finish should be easily achievable. We’ve also learned that Matt Doherty may be one of the best right wing backs in the PL.


Watch Live: Burnley v. Newcastle United

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Burnley host Newcastle United on Monday at Turf Moor (Watch live, 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com) as the two teams meet in very different form.

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The hosts have failed to win any of their last five Premier League games, while Newcastle have won two on the trot as Rafael Benitez has turned things around in recent weeks.

Expect this to be a tough, physical battle as the two most northerly PL clubs clash on a chilly November evening.

In team news Burnley have Steven Defour and Robbie Brady in their starting lineup, while Newcastle make one change as Ciaran Clark comes in for Paul Dummett.


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Boca Juniors and River Plate draw 2-2 in first leg of Copa Libertadores final

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In a highly-anticipated all-Argentina Copa Libertadores final pushed back a day by heavy rain, River Plate twice erased a deficit to earn a 2-2 draw at Boca Juniors.

Ramon Abila got things started just past the half-hour mark as he got two opportunities to put his shot past River goalkeeper Franco Armani, and does so on the second try, somehow sneaking the rebound opportunity through inside the near post from a tight angle.

It would take absolutely no time for the visitors to equalize, scoring immediately off the restart in stunning fashion. They went right down Boca Juniors’ throats, as Gonzalo Martinez delivered a wonderful through-ball for striker Lucas Pratto who scored on the run.

Dario Benedetto, who had come on in the 27th minute for an injured Cristian Pavon, was on hand to put Boca Juniors back up with a skillful header off a free-kick deep in the middle of the pitch. As the delivery came in, Benedetto lept higher than Rafael Borre, and with his back to goal he clipped the ball into the top corner.

It would take 15 minutes after the break, but River Plate would again draw level. In an almost identical play to the Benedetto goal, Pratto went up to challenge for a header on the doorstep with Carlos Izquierdoz, and the ball clipped off the Boca Juniors defender for an own-goal.

Even with the four goals split evenly, the goalkeepers distinguished themselves at multiple points throughout the match. Armani will want the opening goal back, but he had a fine save on Benedetto with time winding down to preserve the draw. Meanwhile, Boca Juniors netminder Agustin Rossi played well early before any goals were scored.

The teams will head across Buenos Aires to El Monumental for the second leg, to be played on Saturday.

Copa Lib: River Plate, Boca Juniors set for Superclasico finals

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SAO PAULO (AP) River Plate of Argentina reached the final of the South American cup on Tuesday after shocking defending champion Gremio of Brazil, setting up a possible championship match between two Argentinian teams in the Copa Libertadores for the first time in history.

[ MORE: Roberto Martinez the new front runner for Real Madrid job ]

River beat the Brazilians 2-1 in Porto Alegre and advanced on the away goals rule to its first South American final since 2015. Last week, River lost 1-0 to Gremio in Buenos Aires.

Midfielder Pity Martinez scored the decisive goal in stoppage time after the referee awarded River a penalty following a video review that confirmed a handball by defender Matheus Bressan.

Leonardo scored for Gremio in the 36th minute and had a clear chance with Everton squandering an opportunity face to face against goalkeeper Franco Armani to make it 2-0 for the hosts at 66 minutes.

But River tied it in the 81st minute with a header by Colombian striker Rafael Borre, after a cross by Martinez, putting more pressure on the defending champions. After the match Gremio players said that goal should have been disallowed because of a Borre handball.

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“We were the only team on the pitch in the first half. They only had long balls. We had power and strategy. That’s why other teams respect us,” Martinez said.

River’s adversary in its quest for a fourth Copa Libertadores title will be known on Wednesday, when Boca Juniors defends its 2-0 first-leg victory against Brazil’s Palmeiras, coached by World Cup winner Luiz Felipe Scolari.

If Boca survives, it will play its arch-rival in the final for the first time. Never before have two Argentinian clubs played for the Copa Libertadores.

River’s victory came amid some controversy. Footage at Arena do Gremio showed coach Marcelo Gallardo entering his team’s locker room at halftime despite his suspension for the game.

“Come, come, take a good picture,” Gallardo told journalists as he left the locker room. The coach was suspended for one game by South America’s soccer body because of constant delays by his team to return to the pitch after the first 45 minutes of several matches.

[ MORE: MLS Playoff Preview: Which home side is safest? ]

Coaching assistant Matias Biscay, who replaced Gallardo, said the coach convinced River players they could turn the tables during the halftime talk when the score was 1-0 for the Brazilians.

“The players saw they could come back, even before they entered the locker room. Marcelo convinced they this win could not escape,” Biscay said in a press conference.

Gremio coach Renato Portaluppi said his team was “robbed” by the VAR referee, but not because of the penalty awarded to the Argentinians. He believes River’s Borre intentionally touched the ball with the hand as he scored River’s first goal.

“I would rather lose 5-0 than lose it like this. I can’t blame the referee on the pitch, but I can blame the VAR referee,” Portaluppi said. “Who was taking care of VAR? Was it Stevie Wonder? Everyone else saw it.”

Gremio goalkeeper Marcelo Grohe said the VAR decision wasn’t to blame for the loss.

“We didn’t take enough care. VAR is fair. If the referee said it is a penalty, it is a penalty,” Grohe said.

The Copa Libertadores finals will be played on Nov. 7 and 28.

What we learned from Saturday’s Premier League games

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Eight games took place in the Premier League on Saturday as Manchester City, Tottenham and Liverpool secured wins, while a dramatic draw between Chelsea and Manchester United took center stage.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays

All of that means that Man City, Liverpool and Chelsea remain unbeaten and this is just the third time in history that three teams are without a defeat throughout the opening nine weeks of a season.

Below is a look at the key takeaways from another frantic day across the PL.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights


Mourinho should loosen Man United’s shackles

Manchester United have been at their best this season when they’re in desperation mode. That was the case at Chelsea on Saturday, as Jose Mourinho’s men fought their way back into the game in the second half and Anthony Martial finished superbly twice to put them 2-1 up. Of course, United conceded twice from set piece situations as Paul Pogba lost his man Antonio Rudiger for the first and a lofted second ball into the box in the 96th minute eventually saw Ross Barkley equalize. That will annoy Mourinho but what will please him is that he was rewarded for starting with an attacking lineup with Pogba, Martial, Romelu Lukaku, Juan Mata and Marcus Rashford all in the starting XI. United pinned Chelsea back in the second half and the hard-working displays of Rashford and Martial out wide stopped Chelsea’s full backs from joining the attack.

[ MORE: 4 things we learned | Mourinho reacts to draw ]

The main takeaway from this draw at Chelsea is that perhaps things aren’t as bad as they seem at United. Mourinho was set to be sacked two weeks ago and we will never know if that dramatic 3-2 comeback win against Newcastle saved his job. What we do know is that the fact United were disappointed to not grab all three points at Chelsea shows they’re moving in the right direction. Will Mourinho now set up his team in a more attacking system from here on out? Let’s not push it now, but the signs are promising that they can get back on track.


Tottenham win ugly once again

Spurs have been far from scintillating this season but after their 1-0 win at West Ham, Mauricio Pochettino‘s men have ground out four wins on the spin and have now won seven of their opening nine games of the campaign. For a team missing Christian Eriksen, Dele Alli, Jan Vertonghen and Danny Rose from their starting lineup at West Ham, that’s not bad. Hugo Lloris denied Marko Arnautovic on three occasions in the second half in a feisty London derby as two squad players delivered on the key moment. Moussa Sissoko did well on the right and crossed for Erik Lamela to nod home what turned out to be the game-winner. Harry Kane wasn’t at his best but he didn’t need to be as Spurs dug deep to grab another ugly win. It hasn’t been pretty from Tottenham so far but they’re two points behind leaders Man City and given the issues surrounding their stadium delay and not strengthening the squad this summer, this is probably the best start to the season Spurs could have put together. With Eriksen back fit and Dele Alli close behind him, Tottenham need two big wins in the UEFA Champions League against PSV Eindhoven to keep their season on track.


Man City’s embarrassment of riches runs riot

Riyad Mahrez, Leroy Sane, Sergio Aguero, Bernardo Silva and Fernandinho were all on target on Saturday as Pep Guardiola‘s Man City smashed Burnley 5-0. Yes, Burnley were poor. But this was like watching vintage City from last season, as shellackings of minnows happened time and time again. Mahrez and Fernandinho scored sublime goals, while Sane and Silva finished off flowing City moves. With Kevin De Bruyne making his long-awaited return from injury as a second half sub, plus Raheem Sterling was left on the bench and Guardiola had the luxury of giving David Silva and Aguero rests in the second half.

Atop the Premier League table with 23 points from their opening nine games of the season there’s a sense that the best is still to come from City. That is a scary thought for not only the rest of the Premier League but also for Europe.


Delight for Cardiff; misery for Fulham, Newcastle

Cardiff City are off and running back in the Premier League as Neil Warnock‘s men beat Fulham 4-2 in the Welsh Capital. A six-goal thriller explains the defensive issues both teams have but Cardiff scored as many goals on Saturday as they had in their previous eight games back in the top-flight. As for Fulham, they have the leakiest defense in the PL with 25 conceded and Slavia Jokanovic’s seat just got a little hotter with the Cottagers having just one win on the board so far this season.

Newcastle would love to have a win on the board so far but that’s not the case for Rafael Benitez’s team who have become just the fourth team in English top-flight history to lose their first five home league games of the season. Newcastle sit bottom of the PL and were booed off by their fans after losing 1-0 against Brighton at St James’ Park. With owner Mike Ashley watching on, tensions are high on Tyneside with the home fans enraged that more money wasn’t spent in the summer after Benitez guided the Magpies to a tenth place finish last season. Right now, Newcastle and Fulham look likely to battle it out with Cardiff and Huddersfield to stay out of the three relegation places. That is a desperate situation for a massive club in Newcastle and a newly-promoted club in Fulham who spent a record amount on new players over the summer.


Trouble is never too far away from Mourinho

To be fair to Mourinho he wasn’t the instigator here at all. Seriously.

Marco Ianni, Chelsea’s second assistant coach, will be lucky to not escape a touchline ban as he celebrated in front of Mourinho and Man United’s bench, punched the air in delight and let Barkley’s last-gasp equalizer get the better of him.

Speaking after the game, Mourinho revealed that Maurizio Sarri and Ianni had apologized and he accepted it.

“Bad education,” Mourinho said of Ianni’s actions. “But I also made mistakes in football matches and I will make more. So when after the game he came to me to apologize, I accepted his apology and nothing more to say.”

For once, Mourinho was in the right as Sarri admitted his assistant had made “a big mistake” and the matter would be dealt with internally. Of course, the emotion of a late equalizer has got to us all but the melee around the tunnel at Stamford Bridge could have been even uglier than it already was.