Chase Plus the Premier League: Matchweek 3

Manchester United have begun their season in perfect fashion, yielding nine points after scoring ten goals and allowing none. Only four teams trail with undefeated records, but three teams sit at the very bottom with no points through three matches.

 

Matchweek 3 Review:

 

Aug. 26, 6:30 AM CST / Vitality Stadium

Bournemouth 1 2

Manchester City

Daniels (13′)

(21′) Jesus

(90′ +7) Sterling

Ake (23′)

Cook (74′)

Mings (85′)

Smith (90′ +5)

Arter (90′ +7)

(56′) Kompany

(56′) Silva

(67′) Otamendi

(79′) Mendy

(90′ +3, 90′ +10) Sterling

 

After an early goal and equalizer within the first 25 minutes of the match, it seemed the two clubs would play to a draw. However, in the final gasps of the contest, with Mike Dean allowing ten minutes of stoppage time, Raheem Sterling was able to book himself, score the late winner and be sent off. With eleven yellow cards in the game, discipline was the key factor in letting Manchester City come away with three points at the Vitality.

 

Aug. 26, 9:00 AM CST / Selhurst Park

Crystal Palace 0 2

Swansea City

(44′) Abraham

(48′) Ayew

Benteke (10′)

Ward (77′)

Cabaye (79′)

Puncheon (90′ +4)

(80′) Fer

 

Crystal Palace is looking more and more like a perfect relegation candidate. The side has amassed zero goals through three matches, two of which were against relatively weak opposition. Swansea looks brand new after losing Gylfi Sigurdsson to Everton and the club will soon welcome Portuguese wonderkid, Renato Sanches, in on loan. Never thought I’d say this, but things are looking up for Swansea City.

 

Aug. 26, 9:00 AM CST / John Smith’s Stadium

Huddersfield Town 0 0

Southampton

(45′ +1) Romeu

 

A relatively boring contest finished goalless and Huddersfield Town are no longer perfect. This is a splendid start for the club, though, gaining seven points through three matches, beginning a campaign in far better fashion than most predicted. Southampton have not yet lost, either, but an opening day draw versus Swansea see the Saints at five points.

 

Aug. 26, 9:00 AM CST / St. James’ Park

Newcastle United 3 0

West Ham

Joselu (36′)

Clark (72′)

Mitrovic (86′)

Merino (83′)

(17′) Chicharito

(65′) Fernandes

(78′) Sakho

 

Poor Slaven Bilic. After the Dimitri Payet debacle, he assembles a formidable front at West Ham that looks capable of finishing in a respectable position, but, after this drubbing, the Irons have hit rock bottom. In 20th place with 10 goals allowed, the front office in East London has given Bilic four matches [Huddersfield Town (H), West Brom (A), Tottenham (H) and Swansea City (H)] to save his job. Newcastle, after losing a close contest to Huddersfield last week, is now in the win column after this decisive victory.

 

Aug. 26, 9:00 AM CST / Vicarage Road

Watford 0 0

Brighton & Hove

Britos (24′)

(17′) Saltor

 

This is a disappointing result for Watford, albeit understandable after an early ejection. Brighton gets its first point of the year after playing nearly 70 minutes with a one-man advantage. Losing Britos early on forced a formation change for the Hornets and they played a more defensive match the rest of the way. Brighton won the possession battle and narrowly topped Watford in shot count, but it wasn’t enough to steal points away from home.

 

Aug. 26, 11:30 AM CST / Old Trafford

Manchester United 2 0

Leicester City

Rashford (70′)

Fellaini (82′)

Mkhitaryan (54′)

(89′) Ryan

(90′ +5) Schmeichel

 

United keep on rolling. While many hail Paul Pogba has the main cog in Jose Mourinho’s system, I think Henrik Mkhitaryan’s presence up front has sparked this fiery start. He is responsible for assisting half of the side’s goals this season and he is consistently creating chances in the box. After a lackluster season last year, the Armenian captain is domineering opponents en route to a United title run. Leicester did play well and it seemed it might grab a point at Old Trafford, but the way United outmatched the Foxes in both possession in passing proved that they didn’t deserve a result in this match.

 

Aug. 27, 7:30 AM CST / Stamford Bridge

Chelsea 2 0

Everton

Fabregas (27′)

Morata (40′)

Moses (76′)

Azpilicueta (88′)

(9′) Gueye

(71′) Rooney

 

Despite only finishing 2-0, this was a domination. Everton managed a whopping zero shots on target and Chelsea played a clinical outing to return to Conte’s winning ways. Playing three games this week due to Europa League qualification left Everton dragging and the addition of Sigurdsson was neutralized by Chelsea’s prolific play.

 

Aug. 27, 7:30 AM CST / The Hawthorns

West Brom 1 1

Stoke City

Rodriguez (61′)

(77′) Crouch

Rodriguez (52′)

Rondon (84′)

(33′) Pieters

(88′) Allen

 

36-year-old Peter Crouch has his first goal of the League season after netting this equalizer at the Hawthorns. He was subbed on immediately after Jay Rodriguez’s diving header and pounced on Ahmed Hegazi’s mistake to level the match. This comes as West Brom’s first goal allowed on the season and the two teams split points from the Sunday fixture.

 

Aug. 27, 10:00 AM / Wembley

Tottenham 1 1

Burnley

Dele (49′)

(90′ +2) Wood

 

A match that produced no bookings still held drama until the very end, with Burnley snatching a point from Spurs at Wembley in the dying minutes. The club’s record signing, New Zealander Chris Wood, found the net in stoppage time to offset Dele’s strike early in the second half. Spurs once again more than doubled their opposition in possession and shot count, but the club is stifled at home once more.

 

Aug. 27, 10:00 AM / Anfield

Liverpool 4 0

Arsenal

Firmino (17′)

Mane (40′)

Salah (57′)

Sturridge (77′)

Lovren (20′)

Gomez (23′)

(22′) Welbeck

(40′) Xhaka

(49′) Ozil

(73′) Holding

 

There were plenty of storylines from the past weekend’s ten matches, but none emerged quite like this. Absolute domination from the Reds leaves Arsenal reeling, not only in the table, but in the transfer market. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, a 24-year-old that has been coming on in recent months, is now wanting out along with talisman Alexis Sanchez. Oxlade-Chamberlain appears to be on his way to Anfield to join Liverpool while Sanchez is rumored to be heading to Manchester City. Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino are playing at high levels for the Reds and, through three contests, I see Liverpool as the main contenders for the title after Manchester United.

 

Team of the Week:

 

Striker: CHE

Alvaro Morata

Striker: LIV

Roberto Firmino

Winger: MCI

David Silva

Midfielder: MNU

Henrik Mkhitaryan

Winger: LIV

Mohamed Salah

Midfielder: CHE

Cesc Fabregas

Midfielder: NEW

Matt Ritchie

Left Back: LIV

Alberto Moreno

Center Back: MCI

Nicolas Otamendi

Right Back: STK

Kurt Zouma

Goalkeeper: SOU

Fraser Forster

 

Golden Boot Watch:

  1. Romelu Lukaku – Manchester United (3)
  2. Sadio Mane – Liverpool (3)
  3. Own Goals – All Teams (3)
  4. Dele Alli – Tottenham (2)
  5. Marcos Alonso – Chelsea (2)
  6. Roberto Firmino – Liverpool (2/1)
  7. Javier Hernandez – West Ham (2)
  8. Anthony Martial – Manchester United (2)
  9. Alvaro Morata – Chelsea (2)
  10. Steve Mounie – Huddersfield Town (2)
  11. Shinji Okazaki – Leicester City (2)
  12. Paul Pogba – Manchester United (2)
  13. Wayne Rooney – Everton (2)
  14. Mohamed Salah – Liverpool (2)
  15. Raheem Sterling – Manchester City (2)
  16. Jamie Vardy – Leicester City (2)
  17. Sam Vokes – Burnley (2)

 

Most Assists Watch:

  1. Henrik Mkhitaryan – Manchester United (5)
  2. Dominic Calvert-Lewin – Everton (2)
  3. Christian Eriksen – Tottenham (2)
  4. Roberto Firmino – Liverpool (2)
  5. Riyad Mahrez – Leicester City (2)
  6. Alvaro Morata – Chelsea (2)
  7. David Silva – Manchester City (2)
  8. Granit Xhaka – Arsenal (2)

 

Champions League Feature:

 

Club W D L GF GA PTS Tue. Sep. 12: CSM 1-2 BEN BAS 0-3 MNU

Wed. Sep. 27: BEN 1-0 BAS MNU 3-2 CSM

Wed. Oct. 18: MNU 2-2 BEN BAS 2-0 CSM

Tue. Oct. 31: CSM 1-1 BAS BEN 1-2 MNU

Wed. Nov. 22: BEN 3-2 CSM MNU 1-1 BAS

Tue. Dec. 5: CSM 2-2 MNU BAS 1-2 BEN

Benfica 4 1 1 11 8 13
Manchester United 3 3 0 13 8 12
Basel 1 2 3 5 8 5
CSKA Moscow 0 2 4 8 13 2

 

Group A is an interesting one, as three of the four clubs are returners. The fourth is Manchester United, a club rich with CL history. Neither Basel or Moscow made it out of their groups last season, but Benfica managed to sneak out of Group B before losing to Dortmund, 4-1, in the round of 16.

 

I see Benfica taking this group by a slim margin, despite only getting one point from two matches versus Manchester United. United will struggle to put teams away and surrender points and, ultimately, the group.

 

Club W D L GF GA PTS Tue. Sep. 12: AND 0-4 BAY PSG 4-1 CEL

Wed. Sep. 27: BAY 1-2 PSG CEL 2-2 AND

Wed. Oct. 18: CEL 1-4 BAY PSG 2-1 AND

Tue. Oct. 31: BAY 1-0 CEL AND 2-5 PSG

Wed. Nov. 22: CEL 2-6 PSG BAY 6-1 AND

Tue. Dec. 5: AND 1-2 CEL PSG 0-2 BAY

Bayern Munich 5 0 1 18 4 15
Paris Saint-Germain 5 0 1 19 9 15
Celtic 1 1 4 8 18 4
Anderlecht 0 1 5 7 21 1

 

Group B also holds three returners, but Anderlecht is nowhere near as strong as Manchester United. Bayern Munich lost to eventual champions, Real Madrid, in extra time of the quarterfinals and PSG had the legendary collapse against Barcelona in the opening round.

 

It’s fairly clear that both Bayern and PSG will advance, but as for which team wins the group is anyone’s guess. I give the edge to PSG due to a stronger defense, but with Neymar and Mbappe in Paris, there’s no telling how many goals will be scored.

 

Club W D L GF GA PTS Tue. Sep. 12: QAR 0-2 CHE ATL 2-0 ROM

Wed. Sep. 27: ROM 1-0 QAR CHE 1-1 ATL

Wed. Oct. 18: ATL 3-3 QAR ROM 2-2 CHE

Tue. Oct. 31: CHE 3-2 ROM QAR 1-3 ATL

Wed. Nov. 22: CHE 1-1 QAR ROM 3-2 ATL

Tue. Dec. 5: QAR 2-3 ROM ATL 2-1 CHE

Atletico 3 2 1 13 9 11
AS Roma 3 1 2 11 11 10
Chelsea 2 3 1 10 8 9
Qarabag 0 2 4 7 13 2

 

Chelsea missed the Champions League last time around due to poor placement in the Premier League the season before. Roma missed out on the CL, as well, but only after losing in the playoff round to Porto. Atletico bested Leverkusen and Leicester and lost to league-rivals Real Madrid in the semifinals. Qarabag lost early in the playoff and missed the CL last season, as well.

 

This is a undoubtedly a group with three contenders, but it was hard for me to pull the trigger and have Chelsea missing the cut. Of course, it’s early in the season, but Roma and Atletico are both teams that can push into the final third and give Chelsea fits. Any of those top three clubs could top the group, but I have Atletico and Roma advancing.

 

Club W D L GF GA PTS Tue. Sep. 12: SCP 2-0 OLY JUV 1-2 BAR

Wed. Sep. 27: OLY 1-4 JUV BAR 4-0 SCP

Wed. Oct. 18: OLY 2-6 BAR SCP 1-3 JUV

Tue. Oct. 31: BAR 4-1 OLY JUV 2-2 SCP

Wed. Nov. 22: OLY 2-1 SCP BAR 1-1 JUV

Tue. Dec. 5: JUV 2-0 OLY SCP 1-3 BAR

Barcelona 5 1 0 20 6 16
Juventus 3 2 1 13 7 11
Sporting CP 1 1 4 7 14 4
Olympiacos 1 0 5 6 19 3

 

Barcelona and Juventus meet in the group stage this year after meeting in the quarterfinals last season. Sporting was also made the cut last year, but finished last with three points in their tough group. Olympiacos fell out of the playoff early on, but returns this year with a better team.

 

Juve topped Barca 3-0 in the quarters last year, but won’t prevail in either contest this time around. Juventus will be undefeated in the other four matches, but Sporting’s draw will push it to third place and a Europa League transfer spot.

 

Club W D L GF GA PTS Wed. Sep. 13: SEV 2-2 LIV SPA 1-0 MAR

Tue. Sep. 26: LIV 1-1 SPA MAR 0-3 SEV

Tue. Oct. 17: LIV 4-1 MAR SEV 2-3 SPA

Wed. Nov. 1: MAR 1-1 LIV SPA 1-2 SEV

Tue. Nov. 21: MAR 1-0 SPA LIV 2-1 SEV

Wed. Dec. 6: SPA 1-1 LIV SEV 5-1 MAR

Sevilla 3 1 2 15 9 10
Liverpool 2 4 0 11 7 10
Spartak Moscow 2 2 2 7 7 8
Maribor 1 1 4 4 14 4

 

After a year off, Spartak Moscow enters the Champions League by winning the Russian Premier League. Sevilla, after placing fourth in La Liga is back in the CL. The club advanced from Group H, but lost to Leicester City in the round of 16. Liverpool makes it into the CL after a brief hiatus by placing fourth in the PL and topping Hoffenheim in the playoff. Maribor arrives from the Slovenian League and advanced through the playoff.

 

Liverpool, coming in from the third pot, arguably got the easiest draw of any Premier League club despite finishing in fourth place. The Reds won’t lose a game and will advance along with Sevilla. Moscow, despite winning the RPL, won’t quite tally enough to advance.

 

Club W D L GF GA PTS Wed. Sep. 13: MCI 2-0 FEY NAP 1-1 SHK

Tue. Sep. 26: FEY 1-0 NAP SHK 1-3 MCI

Tue. Oct. 17: NAP 3-3 MCI SHK 1-2 FEY

Wed. Nov. 1: MCI 2-4 NAP FEY 1-2 SHK

Tue. Nov. 21: FEY 0-2 MCI SHK 1-2 NAP

Wed. Dec. 6: MCI 1-2 SHK NAP 1-1 FEY

Manchester City 3 1 2 13 10 10
Napoli 2 3 1 11 9 9
Shakhtar Donetsk 2 1 3 8 10 7
Feyenoord 2 1 3 5 9 7

 

In another interesting group, Manchester City advances from the Premier League. Napoli enters via third place in Serie A, while Donetsk enters by winning the Ukrainian Premier League. Feyenoord topped the Eredivisie to enter the group.

 

In a very closely-contested group, each club will at least get two wins. I value Manchester City the highest of these four clubs with the most firepower. However, Napoli has a formidable squad with Hamsik, Mertens and Insigne and this squad pushes clubs to the brink. Feyenoord, Eredivisie champions by one point, won’t score the goals to keep up with these two clubs and Donetsk will fall behind early find itself unable to climb back into it by the fourth matchweek.

 

Club W D L GF GA PTS Wed. Sep. 13: MON 2-1 LEI BES 1-3 POR

Tue. Sep. 26: POR 2-2 MON LEI 1-1 BES

Tue. Oct. 17: BES 1-3 MON POR 3-2 LEI

Wed. Nov. 1: MON 0-1 BES LEI 2-1 POR

Tue. Nov. 21: POR 1-2 BES LEI 1-4 MON

Wed. Dec. 6: MON 3-1 POR BES 0-0 LEI

AS Monaco 4 1 1 14 7 13
Besiktas 2 2 2 6 8 8
Porto 2 1 3 11 12 7
RB Leipzig 1 2 3 7 11 5

 

Monaco, off of the young talent influx, won Ligue One in France last season and arrives as top dog in this group. Porto arrives via second place in the Portuguese top tier, allowing only 19 goals in 34 matches. Besiktas won the Turkish Super Lig and brings goalscoring threat Cenk Tosun. RB Leipzig advanced through the CL playoff after an impressive Bundesliga showing.

 

Even after losing key assets across the squad, Monaco is still the team to beat in this group. Radamel Falcao continues to score goals and the squad has a perfect 12 points off of four matches in this season of Ligue One. Porto is a club that could advance, but will concede too many goals for their average offense to keep up. Leipzig did well to make it this far, but the club will struggle to keep pace with this group’s successes.

 

Club W D L GF GA PTS Wed. Sep. 13: DOR 1-2 TOT APO 0-5 RMA

Tue. Sep. 26: TOT 3-1 APO RMA 2-1 DOR

Tue. Oct. 17: TOT 1-3 RMA DOR 3-1 APO

Wed. Nov. 21: RMA 2-1 TOT APO 1-4 DOR

Tue. Nov. 21: TOT 1-2 DOR RMA 3-2 APO

Wed. Dec. 6: APO 0-4 TOT DOR 0-0 RMA

Real Madrid 5 1 0 15 5 16
Dortmund 3 1 2 12 7 10
Tottenham 3 0 3 12 9 9
APOEL 0 0 6 5 22 0

 

There are certainly other groups with three (or even four) contenders in them, but this is the undisputed ‘Group of Death’. Defending champions, Real Madrid, is coming off of one of its most successful seasons. A loss in the quarterfinals to Celta Vigo cost Los Blancos the treble, but it did win La Liga and the CL convincingly. Dortmund finished third in the Bundesliga, but is one of the more complete European teams despite some poor losses last season. Tottenham, despite attaining a club-best second place in the PL, was drawn from Pot 3 and will host their opponents at Wembley. APOEL arrives from winning the top tier in Cyprus, but certainly has its hands full.

 

Madrid, Dortmund and Spurs all field clubs that could advance in any other group. The first two were drawn together last year, as well, with Dortmund topping the group before falling to Monaco in the quarterfinals. I see Madrid running away undefeated with the group, leaving Dortmund and Spurs to jostle for second place. As long as both clubs gather six points from APOEL, it’s all about how much damage they can deal to Madrid. I have Dortmund advancing due to a final matchday draw at Bernabeu with Spurs heading back to the Europa League after finishing third once more.

 

Free Kicks:

 

  1. Another round of World Cup qualifiers is here and there are some intriguing storylines. Portugal continues to trail Switzerland by three points despite being perfect after that opening loss. Bulgaria stole a late winner to pull a point closer to Sweden in UEFA Group A. France still leads the group with 16 points, but Sweden and Bulgaria, with 13 and 12 points, respectively, are putting the pressure on. Tomorrow, Slovakia and Slovenia play for rights to second place in UEFA Group F. The CONMEBOL is heating up, with Colombia, Uruguay, Chile and Argentina all separated by two points between second and fifth places.
  2. Arsenal have had a hectic end to the transfer window. In a matter of hours, it was assumed that Thomas Lemar was headed to the Emirates from Monaco and Alexis Sanchez was finally out and on his way to Manchester City. However, both Lemar and Sanchez are staying put and Arsenal will field the same squad despite losing Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain to Liverpool.
  3. After going months without a signing, Tottenham have completed a triple-swoop on deadline day. The signings of right-back, Serge Aurier, from PSG; center-back, Juan Foyth, from Estudiantes and striker, Fernando Llorente from Swansea City push the club to five. While a move for Ross Barkley has been speculated all window, it is doubtful with this little time remaining.
  4. After passing up loan offers from AC Milan, Chelsea and Manchester United, Bayern Munich have sent Renato Sanches on loan to Swansea City. It is said that he will thrive due to assured play time and is rejoining former Bayern assistant Paul Clement.

 

Stoppage Time:

 

After thrashing Arsenal 4-0, Liverpool has never looked so good. After returning to the Champions League, signing Mohamed Salah and figuring out the defense, this squad is looking more and more like table-toppers. Right now, Roberto Firmino is playing better than he did all last year, which is saying a lot. After winning at home against Arsenal, the Reds face Man City away, Sevilla at home in the CL and then Burnley in mid-September. If they can manage to top City next weekend, no critic can say Liverpool isn’t Manchester United’s top competition for the league.

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