Daniel Karell

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.

Arsenal: Mustafi, Elneny can leave

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Arsenal could see more first team veterans leave the club, after Unai Emery has allowed Shkodran Mustafi and Mohamed Elneny the chance to leave before the European transfer deadline closes.

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Mustafi started 38 times in all competitions for the Gunners last season, but he’s remembered for many miscues and blunders that cost the Gunners points, even if he did help take Arsenal to the Europa League final. Elneny meanwhile played in just 17 games last season. Both players are not in Emery’s plans.

“They are very big players but for one circumstance or another they are going to have fewer chances to show their capacity or to be happy with us and the minutes they play in matches,” Emery told reporters in London, via the Guardian. “But they know the situation and really I am wishing the best for them. I think now the best for them is to be protagonists in another team and to get another challenge for themselves.”

It’s a huge fall from grace for Mustafi, who just a few years ago was a major signing for the Gunners and was coming off playing three times on Germany’s way to winning the 2014 World Cup. However, that was then, and Mustafi’s form has dropped off enough that he hasn’t been called up by Joachim Low since 2017. It’s hard to realize that Mustafi is only 27, but it appears that he either peaked much earlier, or injuries have kept him from realizing his past form.

Elneny meanwhile came in 2016 as a mid-season, January signing for Arsene Wenger. However, he was always used as a depth piece, and never truly blossomed to become a main player.

For some coaches knowing they’ll be playing a taxing schedule in four competitions, they might have done whatever it took to keep players like Mustafi and Elneny, both comfortable at Arsenal, for at least depth and help in the cup competitions. But to Emery’s credit, his honesty to the players will surely be appreciated, and allow them to look elsewhere for more playing time.

Ultimately, Elneny and Mustafi will play at Arsenal if they don’t leave, but it just won’t be in as many games as they hope, unless there’s some sort of crazy injury crisis.

Premier League Preview: Aston Villa v. Everton

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Everton has a chance to break out of an early-season slump offensively with a trip to newly-promoted Aston Villa on Friday at Villa Park. (Watch live at 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

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The Toffees have scored just one goal through the first two games of the season, thanks to the tricky winger Bernard, but Richarlison, Gylfi Sigurdsson, Dominic Calvert-Lewin and new signing Moise Kean off the bench haven’t delivered just yet. That could change though against a the defensive pair of Bjorn Engels and Tyrone Mings, which are still gaining chemistry.

Morgan Schneiderlin could make his return after missing last week with suspension and could partner with Andre Gomes in midfield. However, new signing Jean-Philippe Gbamin performed admirably for Marco Silva, and he could have some selection headaches already this early in the season.

For Dean Smith and Aston Villa, it’s another night game at home in Villa Park, and a chance to get the side’s first win. After a strong finish against Bournemouth, maybe it can take that momentum into Friday’s match against Everton.


Projected lineups

Aston Villa: Heaton; El Mohamady, Engels, Mings, Taylor; McGinn, Luiz, Grealish; Trezeguet, Wesley, Jota

Everton: Pickford; Coleman, Keane, Mina, Digne; Schneiderlin, Gomes; Richarlison, Sigurdsson, Iwobi; Calvert-Lewin.


What they’re saying

Aston Villa manager Dean Smith on his side’s attack so far: “Our most likely scorer at the moment looks like John McGinn, who has made some really deep runs into the opposition half. Saying that, Jack Grealish had a really good chance last weekend. Wesley has teed up Trezeguet for a good chance. Even Neil Taylor has had two chances. So we’re creating chances and we just have to start taking them now. I am sure they will come.”

Everton manager Marco Silva on his team’s defensive resiliency: “The feeling is really good when we finish a match and haven’t conceded a goal. It means we have worked together and are understanding the plans and our way of defending. It starts up front and all of them have to be proud because of the work they are doing. I am really proud of what we are achieving with our defensive organisation.”


Both teams have spent heavily in the offseason to upgrade their squad, but Aston Villa is still finding life difficult back in the Premier League. Everton, at least, still have a strong defensive core, and should be able to hold off the likes of Wesley and McGinn with his late runs into the box.

With another week of fitness in Richarlison and a chance for Alex Iwobi to play, either starting or off the bench, Everton has a chance to really brush past Aston Villa and make a statement. However, they’re clearly still a work in progress, so it will probably be another tight game. Everton 2-1 Aston Villa

Sarri to miss 2 Juventus matches including against Napoli

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TURIN, Italy (AP) New Juventus coach Maurizio Sarri will not be on the bench for the club’s first two Serie A matches, including against former team Napoli.

Sarri is recovering from pneumonia and underwent further tests on Thursday.

Juventus says they “showed a good clinical improvement” but the 60-year-old Sarri needs to be absent “to completely recover.”

Sarri has still been going to Juve’s training ground and watching the sessions on video link and coordinating with his staff.

Juventus kicks off its bid for a record-extending ninth straight Serie A title at Parma on Saturday, before hosting Napoli the following week.

Sarri spent three seasons at Napoli before moving to Chelsea in 2018.

UEL Recap: Wolves earn huge road victory, and more

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Wolverhampton Wanderers has one proverbial foot back in a European competition, potentially breaking a 40-year drought for the club.

Wolves defeated Torino on the road, 3-2, in the first leg match between the two sides on Thursday at the Stadio Olimpico Grande Torino. Mexican international Raul Jimenez continued his red-hot form with another goal, while Diogo Jota scored as well for Wolves.

The Premier League side took the lead late in the first half thanks to an own goal, as Gleison Bremer headed in a Wolves free kick expertly into the side netting. Jota then added the second for Wolves in the 59th minute after an individual moment of brilliance from Adama Traore down the right side of the box, completely bamboozling his defender.

Torino’s Lorenzo di Silvestre answered just two minutes later off a late run into the box and a powerful header, but Jimenez then gave Wolves another two-goal advantage, as well as another crucial away goal. Jimenez ran with the ball from midfield and with Nicolas N’Koulou retreating, Jimenez took the space and scored.

Torino striker Andrea Belotti gave the Italians some late hope with a penalty kick goal in the 89th minute, but it wasn’t enough to complete the comeback. Anything but a defeat by more than two goals for Wolves will be enough for the club to make it to the Europa League group stage.

Here’s more results from around the Europa League on Thursday afternoon:


Celtic top AIK at home

The Scottish champions appear to have brushed off the disappointment of exiting the UEFA Champions League with a solid 2-0 win at Celtic Park against AIK Solna on Thursday evening.

James Forrest scored the opener for Celtic, taking advantage of a ricochet on the edge of the box to unleash a strike that AIK goalkeeper Oscar Linner couldn’t parry away. Odsonne Edouard then put the icing on the cake with a tremendous free kick from 30-yards out to give Celtic it’s 2-0 lead.

Neil Lennon’s side then held off AIK late to secure the shutout.

Thursday’s Europa League Playoff Round first leg qualifying matches:


Astana 3-0 BATE
Ararat Armenia 2-1 F91 Dudelange
Malmo FF 3-0 Bnei Yehudah Tel Aviv
Suduva 0-0 Ferencvaros
Feyenoord 3-0 Hapoel Be’er Sheva
Ludogorets 0-0 Maribor
FC Copenhagen 2-1 Riga
AEK Athens 1-3 Trabzonspor
Legia Warsaw 0-0 Rangers