The preseason is in full swing for Premier League teams, with the start of the 2018/19 campaign less than two weeks away.
Almost all top PL clubs were in action on Saturday somewhere around the world, with the International Champions Cup continuing to pit top teams against each other all across the globe.
Earlier in the day, Arsenal stomped new manager Unai Emery’s old club PSG 5-1 in Singapore in a game that actually started out in the French club’s favor. American Tim Weah started the match and was instrumental as PSG began on the front foot, but it all went wrong when Mesut Ozil scored in the 13th minute on a 2-on-1 counter-attack. It was 1-0 until after halftime when Arsenal ran riot, as Alexandre Lacazette bagged a pair plus efforts from Rob Holding and Eddie Nketiah. Holding’s goal especially was a thing of beauty, an absolutely stunning header from a good distance out that looped perfectly into the top-left corner. Mesut Ozil, fresh off his controversial international retirement, had an inspired performance for Arsenal while wearing the captain’s armband.
Chelsea drew with Inter 1-1 with their only goal scored by Pedro inside the opening 10 minutes. Alvaro Morata picked a defender’s pocket on the end line and shot from a tight angle, and Samir Handanovic’s save fell to Pedro who poked into the open net. The Italian side drew level just after halftime as the Blues were punished for a bad giveaway in their own half and Roberto Gagliardini slid it past Willy Caballero for the equalizer.
Liverpool and Manchester United met at the Big House in Michigan, and unlike many of this summer’s ICC matches, it was an exciting affair with Jurgen Klopp‘s men winning 4-1. Right from the start, both teams were flying, and it produced plenty in front of net. Liverpool forced Manchester United goalkeeper Lee Grant into some early saves, while a fabulous Alexis Sanchez long-ball saw the ball in the net but ruled out for the offside flag. Just before the half-hour mark, Liverpool drew first blood as Mohamed Salah was fouled by 21-year-old Demetri Mitchell and Sadio Mane bagged the effort from the spot. Manchester United responded almost immediately as 22-year-old Andreas Pereira unleashed a spectacular free-kick from 30 yards out.
After halftime, the pace dropped a bit and Sanchez struggled to influence things as he did in the first half. Liverpool capitalized and took off. New Reds signing Xherdan Shaqiri came on and made a difference, teeing up Daniel Sturridge for their second. A third came from the spot as Sheyi Ojo slotted it home, and then Shaqiri marked his Liverpool debut with a stunning bicycle kick to cap things off.
Manchester City picked up an impressive comeback against German giants Bayern Munich in Miami, Florida in a 3-2 victory, their final ICC match of the preseason. Both teams fielded relatively weak teams, and it resulted in an exciting match. Bayern took a 2-0 lead before halftime behind goals from 19-year-old Meritan Shebani and veteran Arjen Robben. Despite the scoreline, City was impressive in patches before the break, and they snagged one back before the break on a low drive by Bernardo Silva, who is seeing plenty of playing time this preseason. After halftime, Phil Foden put one on frame that Sven Ulreich parried directly into the path of 19-year-old Lukas Nmecha who brought City back level. They would win it on a second from Bernardo Silva, who somehow got a shot off through a double-team and past Ulreich to put City on top with 20 minutes to go.
Outside the ICC, Leicester City fell to Italian club Udinese 2-1 in Austria, held without a goal until Kelechi Iheanacho grabbed a consolation with a minute remaining in the match. Claude Puel named a strong side, with Kasper Schmeichel the only international left out of the squad, but they struggled to keep up. Wes Morgan was done for the first Udinese goal just four minutes in, while the Italians added a second before the break, with it clear that the Foxes need Maguire – who did not see time – to return along the back line. Leicester takes on Valencia on Wednesday to round off its preseason fixtures.
Still to come:
Barcelona vs. Tottenham Hotspur (Pasadena, CA) — 11:05 p.m. ET
Jurgen Klopp‘s decision to field Liverpool’s youngest ever team backfired as the Premier League title contender was held 0-0 at home by fourth-tier (League Two) Plymouth in the third round of the FA Cup on Sunday.
With games coming thick and fast during the festive season and a midweek trip to Southampton looming in the first leg of the League Cup semifinals, Klopp made 10 changes from the team that drew 2-2 with Sunderland on Monday.
But instead of keeping players rested for other competitions, Klopp now faces an unwanted replay far away from home.
Liverpool is in second place in the Premier League and well positioned to challenge for the title. Plymouth is second, too, but in the far less glamorous League Two. Despite this it still seemed a risky move by Klopp to select a team with an average age of 21 years, 296 days.
Klopp brought on Sturridge shortly after the hour mark, and he went close almost immediately with a low shot past the right post.
Sturridge then clipped another shot narrowly wide as Liverpool continued to push forward. But even with the introduction of Lallana and Firmino late on – and six minutes of injury time – the winner never came.
PL Sunday preview: Man United-Spurs; Chelsea, Liverpool in action
Four of the Premier League’s top six sides are in action on Sunday. Chelsea would go top of the PL with a win, while Tottenham Hotspur could climb as high as third, if Liverpool fail to go within a point of Arsenal for second. Manchester United, on the other hand, are falling away from the top-five pack with each passing week.
Chelsea vs. West Bromwich Albion — 7 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com
Chelsea’s eight-game winning streak is on the line when West Brom visit Stamford Bridge. Having won those eight games by a combined score of 22-2, Antonio Conte‘s side has hit its stride since the Italian manager switch to a three-man defense after losing to Arsenal on Sept. 24. Diego Costa is tied for the league lead in goals scored (11, alongisde Alexis Sanchez), and Eden Hazard (8 goals) looks much more like his 2014-15 self than the 2015-16 version on display last season. The last time West Brom won away to Chelsea in league action, the date was Sept. 30, 1978.
Manchester United vs. Tottenham — 9:15 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com
After winning two in a row at Old Trafford, in 2012 and 2014, Tottenham are without a point (or a goal) in their last two trips to the Theater of Dreams — something Mauricio Pochettino‘s side will be looking to rectify and strengthen their case for a top-four finish this season. Spurs bounced back from their first defeat of the season, to Chelsea two weeks ago, with a 5-0 thumping of Swansea City, a game in which Harry Kane and Christian Eriksen each scored twice. As for United, who are three PL games without a win (all 1-1 draws), a return to the UEFA Champions League is quickly slipping away for Jose Mourinho’s side, now six points back of fifth-place Spurs, and nine back of third-and fourth-place Liverpool and Manchester City.
With their Europa League campaign put to rest prematurely this week, it’s time for a strong reaction by Southampton with 16th-place Middlesbrough visiting St. Mary’s Stadium. Currently 12th in the PL, Saints have just one win three goals to show for their efforts in their last six games (never scoring multiple goals in a game during that time). On the other side, Boro are four games unbeaten away from home (all draws), against the likes of West Ham United, Arsenal, Man City and Leicester City, though much of Aitor Karanka‘s top attacking talent could be unavailable on Sunday.
Liverpool vs. West Ham — 11:30 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com
After throwing away a pair of two-goal leads away to Bournemouth last weekend, Liverpool could use a bounce-back of their own, otherwise they could be seven points off the PL’s top spot by weekend’s end. With wins over the likes of Chelsea and Arsenal already in the bag this season, the Reds’ two losses have come at the hands of Bournemouth and Burnley, two sides presently residing in the bottom half of the table. West Ham will visit Anfield as the 18th-place side in the PL with just two points from their last five league games, having dropped into the relegation zone following Swansea City’s victory over Sunderland on Saturday.
Liverpool scored a pair of second-half goals as they punished the second poor showing by a Milan side in yesterday’s International Champions Cup action, winning 2-0 in Santa Clara over A.C. Milan.
Divock Origi broke the scoreless deadlock in the 58th minute as he collected the ball on the left edge of the box, beat Jherson Vergara Amu one-on-one, and fired a low shot inside the far post.
The Reds’ lead doubled in the 73rd minute when Sheyi Ojo‘s blocked shot somehow skipped through the box unscathed, setting up a charging Roberto Firmino at the far post who poked home with a sliding finish.
While Inter Milan slumped to a comprehensive 4-1 defeat at the hands of Bayern Munich earlier in the day on the east coast, their counterparts in Santa Clara at least held up defensively a little longer, but were constantly under pressure from the Liverpool attack which included Daniel Sturridge, Philippe Coutinho, and new signing Georgino Wijnaldum from the opening whistle. It’s an ominous showing from a pair of storied sides who have struggled in recent years to produce results on par with usual expectations for clubs of their stature.
Meanwhile, Premier League champions Leicester City got a taste of what could potentially lie waiting for them in the Champions League as they fell to a heavy 4-0 defeat at the hands of Paris Saint-Germain.
On a late midnight E.T. kickoff from the StubHub Center in Carson, CA, Edinson Cavani, Nanitamo Jonathan Ikone, Lucas Moura and Odsonne Edouard all found the back of the net for PSG against a strong Leicester City lineup that sorely missed the services of last year’s standout N'Golo Kante.
Despite the absence of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who is off to Manchester United, the PSG attack didn’t miss a beat as Cavani was a constant threat up front, and Hatem Ben Arfa came on for the final half-hour and picked up where the Uruguayan left off. The win is the third for PSG in the ICC, leaving them atop the U.S. table with nine points. While the victory is secondary in most preseason matches, the results have been more than promising for new PSG manager Unai Emery as the French club looks to back up its unprecedented Ligue 1 title and alongside a push further into the Champions League.