PL AT HALF: Stars shining across six 10 a.m. ET kickoffs

Leave a comment

We’ve seen goals, goals, goals across five of six Premier League matches which kicked off at 10 a.m. ET on Saturday.

[ MORE: Fulham draw Watford ]

There’s a lone nil-nil in the bunch, and that one’s offered promise of finish as well.

Manchester United 1-0 Wolverhampton Wanderers

A sensational first touch pass from Paul Pogba (see above) and a low drive from Fred have the Red Devils leading at Old Trafford.

Leicester City 1-1 Huddersfield Town

The struggling Terriers took a surprising early lead, but Kelechi Iheanacho had the score line before the break.

Liverpool 3-0 Southampton

The Saints were unable to use Liverpool loanee Danny Ings, and the attack is struggling to do anything while the Reds have goals from a Xherdan Shaqiri-prodded own goal for Wesley Hoedt and a follow-up marker from center back Joel Matip.

Mohamed Salah scored in stoppage time after a Liverpool free kick rang off the cross bar and bounced on the goal line for the Egyptian to deposit in the goal.

Cardiff City 0-3 Manchester City

Moments after Cardiff nearly found a shocking way into the champions’ goal, it was Sergio Aguero who restored order for Manchester City. Bernardo Silva and Ilkay Gundogan added goals before halftime.

Crystal Palace 0-0 Newcastle United

Chances for both sides at Selhurst Park, though the Eagles are holding control of it.

Burnley 2-0 Bournemouth

Matej Vydra and Aaron Lennon score two minutes apart to give Turf Moor a delightful halftime break.

Liverpool issue Roberto Firmino injury update

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Liverpool and Jurgen Klopp aren’t sure if Roberto Firmino will be able to play against Paris Saint-Germain on Tuesday.

[ MORE: 3 things learned, Spurs v Liverpool ]

The Brazilian forward suffered a nasty injury on Saturday during the second half of Liverpool’s 2-1 win at Tottenham shortly after he scored the Reds’ second goal of the game.

Jan Vertonghen‘s finger was wedged into Firmino’s left eye as the Spurs defender tried to shrug him off the ball, with the Liverpool star substituted.

Speaking ahead of their UEFA Champions League group stage opener at Anfield, Klopp revealed that Firmino may be unavailable for the crunch game between the two Group B favorites.

“No idea, to be honest. He is much better. We all saw the picture and we were massively worried. But all these worries are away so he will be fine. If he will be fine for tomorrow, I don’t know in the moment,” Klopp said.

What are the options for Liverpool if Firmino isn’t fit enough to start? Well, there’s no doubt they will miss Firmino who has looked sharp at the start of the season and has a goal in each of his last three games for club and country. His movement and link-up play has improved drastically and his relationship with Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane makes Liverpool tick.

Putting Daniel Sturridge up front and having Salah and Mane behind him isn’t bad, right?

But away from home, against a top team like PSG, perhaps Klopp will go with Xherdan Shaqiri out wide and slot either Salah or Mane into a more central position?

Liverpool have strengthened their squad considerably over the summer just for instances like this.

UEFA Nations wrap: England falls to Spain after contentious ending

Catherine Ivill/Getty Images
Leave a comment

The opening week of UEFA Nations League action continued on Saturday with a number of 2018 World Cup sides featuring.

[ MORE: USMNT loss to Brazil still shows hope for future ]

Spain’s encounter with fourth-place World Cup finishers England highlighted the day’s action, as La Furia Roja came away with a victory at Wembley Stadium.

The Three Lions will feel they were robbed of at least a point, after England had a late Danny Welbeck stoppage-time equalizer taken away for a foul committed against David De Gea.

Marcus Rashford had given the Three Lions the early advantage after a tremendous through ball from Manchester United teammate Luke Shaw, but it was quickly cancelled out by Saul Niguez’s equalizer in the 13th minute.

Then, Rodrigo brilliantly converted from close range just beyond the hour mark to give Spain the lead, and Luis Enrique’s side held on from that point.

England suffered a massive blow in the second half as well, with Shaw being stretchered off following a clash of heads with Dani Carvajal.

Elsewhere, Switzerland and Belarus were both big winners on the day, with 6-0 and 5-0 victories, respectively.

The Swiss benefitted from six different goalscorers in their outing against fellow World Cup side Iceland, including Xherdan Shaqiri‘s 53rd minute free kick from the right wing.

Saturday’s UEFA Nations League results

Northern Ireland 1-2 Bosnia & Herzegovina
Switzerland 6-0 Iceland
Finland 1-0 Hungary
Belarus 5-0 San Marino
England 1-2 Spain
Estonia 0-1 Greece
Luxembourg 4-0 Moldova

Grades, key takeaways on each PL club so far

Leave a comment

With four games done and dusted as we head into the first international break of the 2018-19 Premier League season, now seems like a good time to focus on how each team team has looked so far.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights

It’s never too early for this. Trust me.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays

Below we give each PL club a grade based on their early season performances (I can hear you screaming ‘it’s a marathon not a sprint’) and what the key takeaway has been for each so far.


Arsenal

Getty Images

Grade: C+
Key takeaway: Plenty of work to do defensively and the possession style from the back is going to cost Petr Cech his role as a starter. Slick going forward but where does Mesut Ozil slot into Unai Emery‘s plans? Still a lot of questions unanswered with the Gunners looking likely to finish outside the top four after some early season struggles. That said, if Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette get going, they could easily finish in the top four.


Bournemouth

Getty Images

Grade: B+
Key takeaway: Eddie Howe continues to work wonders on the South Coast as the Cherries’ only defeat came at Chelsea, and they pressed the Blues pretty hard and missed some big chances. Bournemouth look like they can push for the top 10 and Callum Wilson is fired up this season. A better start than they’ve had in recent years since gaining promotion to the Premier League in 2015.


Brighton & Hove Albion

Getty Images

Grade: B
Key takeaway: Glenn Murray continues to defy father time with three goals already. Two defeats have come against Watford and Liverpool, while the win over Man United showed their improved attacking prowess. Any injuries to key defenders and they could struggle but much more adventurous this season, especially at home where their form remains fantastic. Solid and steady start for the Seagulls under Chris Hughton.


Burnley

Getty Images

Grade: F
Key takeaway: We see it season after season. Qualifying for the Europa League will impact the fortunes of the so-called smaller PL teams and Burnley not only failed to make the Europa group stages, but they’re also without a win in the PL. Sean Dyche has had injuries to key players to contend with but their lack of defensive solidity, and goals, show how remarkable their seventh-place finish was last season. Relegation battle coming up for the Clarets.


Cardiff City

Getty Images

Grade: C
Key takeaway: Just two points on the board for the Bluebirds but this is pretty much exactly what we expected from Neil Warnock‘s side. Hard to break down and they gave Arsenal a heck of a scare in the Welsh capital on Sunday. They will rue not beating Newcastle and Huddersfield when having a man advantage for large spells of the game, especially with a tough run of games coming up. Scoring goals will be the main issue for Cardiff with Bobby Reid and Kenneth Zohore off target through the first four weeks.


Chelsea

Getty Images

Grade: A-
Key takeaway: They should really get an A given the way the players have already adapted to Maurizio Sarri‘s tactics, but the only real test was against Arsenal and they showed plenty of weaknesses in that game. Chelsea’s players look rejuvenated going forward, with Jorginho pulling the strings, N'Golo Kante leading the high-press in a new advanced position and Eden Hazard their main man. Defensively the duo of Antonio Rudiger and David Luiz in a 4-3-3 formation have been caught out at times and that will be a concern for Sarri against  tougher opposition. Four wins from four is a great start for the new Italian coach. But he knows his pressing game will take months for his Chelsea side to perfect. Off the pitch, Roman Abramovich’s situation is slightly worrying but it doesn’t seem like the club will be sold anytime soon.


Crystal Palace

Getty Images

Grade: C
Key takeaway: The Eagles had a great win at Fulham on the opening day and although they lost to Liverpool and Watford, they impressed in both games. Without Wilfried Zaha they had no answer in their third-straight defeat, which came at the hands of Southampton. We’ve learned that Palace are more reliant on Zaha this season than they were last season. Any long-term injury to Wilf and it’s tough to see where the goals will come from for Roy Hodgson‘s men.


Everton

Getty Images

Grade: B
Key takeaway: Still unbeaten under Marco Silva, Everton have flattered to deceive a little but they’ve been superb on the counter attack which is the style the Portuguese coach loves. Richarlison was flying before his silly red card at Bournemouth and Silva’s inability to arrange his teams effectively at defensive set piece situations continues. Sloppy draws against Bournemouth and Huddersfield show their defense needs work, but in fairness they’ve had injuries galore at that position. Top seven still a real possibility for the Toffees.


Fulham

Getty Images

Grade: B
Key takeaway: Silly defensive mistakes have riddled Fulham’s first four games. They’ve got four points on the board as they smashed Burnley and drew at Brighton, but they led the latter 2-0 before coughing up two needless goals. Slavisa Jokanovic‘s side are lovely on the eye and Mitrovic, Seri and Schurrle have impressed. More composure in both boxes needed.


Huddersfield Town

Getty Images

Grade: D-
Key takeaway: Two points on the board shows that the Terriers are still very capable of battling for points in the Premier League, but there’s a sense of a Sophomore slump. Where will the goals come from? David Wagner isn’t getting too worried after heavy defeats to Man City and Chelsea, but it’s clear for all to see Huddersfield will be in a relegation scrap this season.


Leicester City

Getty Images

Grade: B+
Key takeaway: Their results may not show it but Leicester have been very good early in the season. They lost 2-1 to Man United and Liverpool but could have easily won both games and deserved a point from both at the very least. Claude Puel has injected youth into the Foxes with James Maddison, Ben Chilwell and Demarai Gray all impressing. A really nice balance about this team now compared to their previous incarnation as a counter-attacking monster.


Liverpool

Getty Images

Grade: A
Key takeaway: Jurgen Klopp‘s men have found a handy knack of not playing well but still winning games. Four wins from four suggests it’s a great start. They edged by Brighton and Leicester despite not being at their best and that came after blowing past West Ham and Crystal Palace. Virgil Van Dijk and Joe Gomez are developing a strong partnership at center back, while Alisson had a solid start but his huge blunder against Leicester should help him out, in the long run, as he figures out the Premier League. The usual suspects continue to fire in attack and with Naby Keita and Xherdan Shaqiri arriving, plus Daniel Sturridge fit, Klopp’s squad is a lot deeper this season.


Manchester City

Getty Images

Grade: B+
Key takeaway: The only blot on the copybook was the 1-1 draw at Wolves and without the injured Kevin De Bruyne City have struggled to break down teams as easily as they did last season. That said, big wins against Arsenal and Huddersfield proved their strength in-depth and they look set for a big title charge again this season. Pep Guardiola‘s men will have to deal with teams sitting even deeper against them this season. How is that possible? Still, Sergio Aguero and David Silva are delivering again for the reigning champs but both Leroy Sane and Riyad Mahrez have struggled early in the season.


Manchester United

AP

Grade: D
Key takeaway: Jose Mourinho’s men have had a tumultuous start to the season and the main issue has been defensive deficiencies. After a summer of searching for new center backs and not buying any, Mourinho’s current defenders are all over the place. Add in rumors about Paul Pogba not being happy, Mourinho’s post-Tottenham meltdown and two-straight defeats and there was an air of panic around Old Trafford. The win at Burnley settled things down before the international break but Mourinho is still in fighting mode as many believe another third-season syndrome is in full-flow. Six points on the board from four games isn’t great, but United will still be challenging for the top four at the very least.


Newcastle United

Getty Images

Grade: D
Key takeaway: No wins yet for Rafael Benitez’s men but they were handed a pretty awful start in terms of the fixture list. Narrow defeats to Tottenham, Chelsea and Man City have seen him set up his team differently for each and key injuries haven’t helped. The main takeaway is that Benitez is working miracles with the squad at his disposal and Newcastle’s fans shouldn’t forgot that after many criticized his ultra-defensive tactics against Chelsea, where they almost grabbed a point. A season above the relegation zone would be a huge success.


Southampton

Getty Images

Grade: C+
Key takeaway: Mark Hughes‘ men have every right to feel a little hard done by with their points tally after four games. But at least they have their first win on the board after beating Crystal Palace. Danny Ings will be their savior this season as he looks sharp and Hughes has finally settled on his best starting lineup in a 4-4-2 formation. Narrow defeats against Everton and Leicester prove they probably aren’t good enough to challenge for Europe this season but they shouldn’t be dragged into another relegation scrap.


Tottenham Hotspur

Getty Images

Grade: B-
Key takeaway: Heading towards four wins on the spin to open the season, a late implosion at Watford ahead of the international break showcased the reason for Mauricio Pochettino‘s recent pessimism. Even after Spurs’ 3-0 shellacking of Manchester United at Old Trafford, Poch warned his side they weren’t performing well. Given the fact plenty of his starting lineup reached the final two days of the World Cup, there is a healthy hangover among this squad. Throw in their stadium delay and no new signings this summer and three wins from four is very decent. Lucas Moura‘s form has been a huge boost and he’s been like a new signing, plus Harry Kane has actually scored (twice) in August. Spurs will be in the top four mix again.


Watford

AP

Grade: A+
Key takeaway: The surprise package of the season so far, Watford have four wins from four after their comeback win against Tottenham. Javi Gracia‘s men were one of the relegation favorites before a ball was kicked but they’ve once again started a season on fire. Can they keep it up? They seem to have many contributors this season rather than relying on Richarlison like they did before he left for Everton. Abdoulaye Doucoure has taken his game to another level, plus Andre Gray, Troy Deeney and Roberto Pereyra have all chipped in. It seems like the Hornets could challenge the top six this season. What a huge surprise.


West Ham United

AP

Grade: F
Key takeaway: If we could give them a lower grade, we would. A simply shocking start for the Hammers under new manager Manuel Pellegrini. They spent over $130 million on new players in the summer but there’s no balance to their team, huge holes in central midfield and they’re leaking goals galore. Not a great combo, right? West Ham’s owners will soon see protests and more from the fans if this run continues. That means Pellegrini, quite unbelievably, is the bookmakers favorite to be the next PL manager to get the sack. Defeats to Liverpool and Arsenal were expected but home losses to Bournemouth and Wolves were not. Felipe Anderson has shown bright sparks along with Marko Arnautovic up top, but that’s about it.


Wolverhampton Wanderers

Getty Images

Grade: B+
Key takeaway: Wolves look the part in the Premier League. Ruben Neves is a wizard alongside Joao Moutinho in midfield, Raul Jimenez is a handful up top and Rui Patricio is a star in goal. New arrivals throughout their spine have helped Nuno Espirito Santo keep the core of his team which won promotion last season but also take to life in the top-flight effortlessly. Wolves could easily have won all four games (they’ve had to settle for five points instead) and they are a team which has a clear identity to press high in a 3-5-2 formation. As the season wears on we should expect to see them in the top 10.


Klopp loves win, says Liverpool needs to be ready for bigger opponents

David Davies/PA via AP
Leave a comment

Jurgen Klopp did not start Fabinho, Xherdan Shaqiri, and Jordan Henderson in Liverpool’s 4-0 demolition of West Ham United on Sunday, but he will soon, don’t worry.

That’s the message from the Reds’ boss to his newly-deep squad of players: I might’ve not used you today, but someone else will be in your shoes next time around.

[ RECAP: Liverpool 4-0 West Ham ]

“It’s only the middle of August and then in September the games will come,” Klopp said. “The future of football will be rotation. We need to be ready and have that quality. … I told the boys one or two could be disappointed but that will change, if they make the best of their time.”

As for the match itself, Liverpool looked the part of genuine title challengers. Naby Keita was as advertised, and — thanks to a lack of shots from West Ham — it’s hard to tell whether Alisson is the answer in goal.

“It was good, not surprisingly good, but it was better than I could have expected because I saw a lot of pre-season hope on the pitch,” Klopp said.

He’s keeping it all in perspective: