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EFL Cup preview: Liverpool-Chelsea highlights 3rd round

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The EFL Cup returns with 15 games — featuring 14 Premier League sides — spread across Tuesday and Wednesday.

[ MORE: Sarri believes Chelsea still far from competing with Liverpool ]

Liverpool face Chelsea on Wednesday, as the premier tie of the third round will be played at Anfield. The Reds and Blues are yet to play in the PL this season, though they were the last two remaining sides with 100-percent records to start the campaign until Chelsea slipped up away to West Ham United on Sunday. Following Wednesday’s clash in the northwest of England, they’ll meet again on Saturday at Stamford Bridge for that first meeting in league play (Watch live, 12:30 p.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com).

Following his side’s draw at the London Stadium, first-year Chelsea manager Maurizio Sarri threw a bit of cold water on Blues fans’ growing hopes that a title challenge might be possible this season, claiming that this week’s opponent remains “a step forward of us at this moment.”

“We have to play against a very, very good team who have worked with the same coach for three years,” he said. “We have started to work together 40 days ago, less 10 days for the international break, so for us it is a bit early. We have to work and then, maybe, in one year we will be at the same level as Liverpool.”

[ MORE: Mourinho’s mixed messages over Man United progression ]

Elsewhere this week, Manchester City and Manchester United will each take on lower-level opposition on Tuesday, as the Red Devils will get a visit from Championship side Derby County — which will see Rams manager Frank Lampard match wits with his former manager, Jose Mourinho, for the first time — and the defending holders take a trip to League One side Oxford United.

A pair of all-London battles featuring Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal take second billing to Liverpool versus Chelsea on Wednesday. Tottenham will get their chance at revenge against Watford, the side that ended Mauricio Pochettino’s side’s perfect start to the season, at Wembley Stadium. Back in north London, the Gunners will host west London’s Brentford, one of nearly a dozen sides with dreams of winning promotion from the Championship this season.

Tuesday’s EFL Cup schedule (all games 2:45 p.m. ET, unless noted)

Manchester United vs. Derby County — 3 p.m. ET
Oxford United vs. Manchester City
Wolverhampton Wanderers vs. Leicester City
West Bromwich Albion vs. Crystal Palace — 3 p.m. ET
Bournemouth vs. Blackburn Rovers
Burton vs. Burnley
Millwall vs. Fulham
Blackpool vs. Queens Park Rangers
Wycombe vs. Norwich City
Preston North End vs. Middlesbrough

Wednesday’s EFL Cup schedule (all games 2:45 p.m. ET, unless noted)

Liverpool vs. Chelsea — 3 p.m. ET
Tottenham Hotspur vs. Watford
Arsenal vs. Brentford
West Ham United vs. Macclesfield Town
Nottingham Forest vs. Stoke City

Oct. 2 EFL Cup schedule

Everton vs. Southampton

Man City buries Bluebirds in Wales

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  • Aguero scores opener
  • Gundogan shines
  • Sub Mahrez scores two

Manchester City rebounded from midweek Champions League disappointment to clobber Cardiff City 5-0 in Wales on Saturday.

Ilkay Gundogan had a goal and an assist, and Riyad Mahrez scored two goals off the bench for the Premier League champions. Sergio Aguero and Bernardo Silva also scored.

Cardiff’s two points have them in the Bottom Three, while Man City moves two points behind leaders Liverpool.

[ STREAM: Watch every PL match live ]

Man City was almost ahead in the 12th minute when Sean Morrison blocked a cross that came close to own goal status.

Yet Cardiff might’ve come closest to scoring when Nicolas Otamendi’s desperation block just missed joining the own goal ranks in the 31st.

City went ahead within a minute, as Aguero raced in front of a pack of players to make it 1-0. That opened the proverbial floodgates, with Bernardo heading backwards into the far corner off a Leroy Sane cross and Gundogan potting from 18-plus yards.

Riyad Mahrez came on for Aguero, and quickly found the back of the net from Gundogan after some fine work from Raheem Sterling.

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings ]

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

Could Joe Hart return to the England squad?

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Gareth Southgate is planning a trip to Turf Moor this Saturday, and that could mean big things for 31-year-old goalkeeper Joe Hart.

The former Manchester City starter and longtime England #1 has fallen out of the setup after a dip in form that led to not only his fall down the England depth chart, but also his exit from the Etihad. After losing his starting spot at City in 2016, a loan move to Italian club Torino was the beginning of the end for Hart’s international job.

Or was it?

Jordan Pickford, who was one of the best goalkeepers at the World Cup this summer, is firmly entrenched in the starting spot. However, there are murky waters surrounding the backup job, and that’s where Hart could find himself back in the mix.

England boss Gareth Southgate has insisted publicly that the position is open for the taking. Southampton goalkeeper Alex McCarthy is expected to be the man Southgate calls upon during the October international break, but that’s nowhere near set in stone. Burnely’s Nick Pope, who served as backup at the World Cup without seeing game action, is out injured for a significant amount of time with a dislocated shoulder. Jack Butland‘s stock has dropped after Stoke City was relegated, and now the Potters toil in the bottom third of the Championship standings. Fulham shot-stopper Marcus Bettinelli was called up in early September, but he did not feature, and the 26-year-old hardly even has the confidence of his own club manager.

So, could Hart earn himself a spot in the rotation? With Pope injured, the 31-year-old has stepped in at Burnley and performed at a decent level despite just a single point for the club through the first five Premier League matches. With few concrete options, it’s possible a familiar face could be back in the England squad.

Mendy could face another extended spell on sidelines

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After missing nearly all of last season with a torn ACL, Benjamin Mendy could be facing another long spell on the sidelines.

The French international is suffering from an injury to the fifth metatarsal in his left foot, the bone that connects to the little toe on your foot. Mendy has missed Man City’s previous two matches against Fulham in the Premier League and Lyon in the UEFA Champions League with reported bruising on that part of his foot.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

“I don’t know it – he has a problem in his bone,” manager Pep Guardiola said during his pre-match press conference ahead of Man City’s match at Cardiff City. Guardiola added he didn’t know how long Mendy would be out.

When healthy, Mendy has been Man City’s first choice left back or left wing back, starting four games so far this season. But since his move from Monaco in July 2017, Mendy’s appeared in just 11 Premier League matches due to injury. It’s another blow to a Man City squad that’s already living with the long-term injury to Kevin De Bruyne in midfield.

Man City extends Aguero through 2021

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It appears Sergio Aguero still has a key role to play for Manchester City as it looks to the future.

The club announced that it had extended Sergio Aguero’s contract through 2021, a one-year extension over his old contract. If Aguero stays the length of his new contract, it will mark ten years with the club, a rare exception in today’s world of transfers and constant player movement.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

“He has been so important to this Club since his arrival in 2011 and he remains at the forefront of what we are want to achieve in the coming years,” Man City director of football Txiki Begiristain said in a statement. “We are fortunate to have had one of the best strikers in the world at our Club for so many years and I’m sure our supporters will be thrilled with this news.”

Despite dealing with some fitness issues and at times playing second fiddle to Gabriel Jesus over the last two seasons, Aguero has started this season in fine form, with five goals in six matches in all competitions. Aguero bagged a hat-trick in Man City’s 6-1 home opener against Huddersfield Town in August.

 

This is a big move for Man City, which is still overall a young squad but is aging in certain positions across the field. However, there are still few strikers in the world as reliable as Aguero and it seems that even at age 30, Aguero still has plenty left in the tank for his club. Aguero can also play a mentor role to his fellow South American, Jesus, as well as any other strikers brought in over the next three seasons.