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Liverpool’s win over Man United wasn’t a surprise, but their dominance was

What stands out about Liverpool’s win over Manchester United isn’t that it happened — they were at home, and there’s a reason the sides were separated by 16 points at kickoff — it’s the way it occurred.

To put on a display of this intensity just a few days after a massive Champions League clash isn’t to be taken lightly. It’s not just a physical thing — it’s mental as well. Great teams can win multiple games in a row against big opponents; doing it while also turning in top-notch performances is rather rarer.cheap nfl jerseys china nike

That Jurgen Klopp managed to do it with Nathaniel Clyne, who had played just 90 minutes this season, and Naby Keita, drafted in as a late replacement for the injured James Milner, is significant, too. Xherdan Shaqiri’s two goals may have benefited from deflections, but make no mistake about it, this was a road-grading: 36 shots on goal, with every outfield player having a crack and a 20-minute spell at the beginning in which Manchester United were put through the heavy spin cycle.6

Did Manchester United contribute to their own downfall? Sure. Jose Mourinho’s continuous chopping and changing of personnel and formations only makes United more awkward and insecure. On the other hand, there’s Albert Einstein’s definition of insanity: doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.

Because United have, with a few exceptions, been consistently subpar since October, you can’t entirely blame the manager for trying to shake things up week to week. That said, against a side that you know will press high and intensely, lining up a midfield without a passer to break the pressure (yes, the obvious name is Paul Pogba, but Juan Mata can hit a pass, too) seems counterintuitive at best.

One curious thing about Liverpool is that although they are ahead of Manchester City at the top of the table, most still have Pep Guardiola’s crew as overwhelming favorites. So, too, do the betting markets, who predict that Liverpool will finish five points behind City at the end of the season. These are just predictions and projections, of course, and they could well be wrong, but it’s interesting how people who make a living off of predicting the (footballing) future are still firmly on the City bandwagon to the point that they think Guardiola will make up six points on Klopp in 21 games.nfl nike jerseys cheap china

PSG and Adrien Rabiot contract saga turns ugly but what does the future hold?

PSG’s sporting director, Antero Henrique announced in an interview with Yahoo on Monday that Rabiot has been banned from the first-team squad until further notice. Or until he signs a new contract, that is.

Rabiot’s current deal runs out in June 2019 and he told the club last week that he was not going to sign the lucrative new terms offered to him. Instead he wants to leave on a free in the summer.

As far as Paris’ hierarchy are concerned, Rabiot is not a PSG player anymore. He will continue to collect his salary but will never play for the first team again. Henrique is now hoping that he can sell the midfielder in January — in a similar way to how Arsenal sold Alexis Sanchez to Manchester United with fewer than six months left on his contract.china nike nfl jerseys cheap

Indeed, Rabiot is a much sought-after player. Barcelona believe they are the front-runners, but Liverpool, Tottenham and the two Milan clubs are also very keen. Ideally, PSG would want at least €20 million for him in January — which would be used straight away to buy another midfielder — but the dynamic is totally different for Rabiot, of course. If he waits for his contract to end, he will get a huge signing-on fee from his new club. But he also can’t afford not to play until next season, so it is probably better for him to leave as soon as possible.5

Whatever happens, it’s a blow for PSG. They had invested a lot of time and effort in trying to convince Rabiot to pledge his long-term future to the club. They were ready to give him a huge pay rise, a big bonus and to make him a key part of the squad.

Even PSG manager Thomas Tuchel showed he rated Rabiot by giving him the captain’s armband earlier in the season. He could see his potential and, while he was not personally involved in the talks over a new contract, the German privately told Rabiot how much he liked him as a player.cheap nfl jerseys china nike

But cracks started to appear in the Tuchel-Rabiot relationship in October. Rabiot’s lack of discipline, as he arrived late for training and team meetings, was a sore point and the straw that broke the camel’s back came ahead of the game against Marseille at the end of the month. Rabiot and Kylian Mbappe arrived eight minutes late for the prematch team meeting and it was too much for the manager — both were due to start but were benched instead.

Joel Embiid’s big night goes to waste as 76ers’ roster issues are exposed

Through 24 minutes of Friday night’s game between the Philadelphia 76ers and Indiana Pacers, Joel Embiid was unstoppable. He tossed around every defender Indiana threw at him like a rag doll, drawing one foul after another. He was a beast on the boards, bullying his way to the rim, and even hitting some shots from the perimeter.

By halftime, Embiid had 28 points and 14 rebounds, and Philadelphia had a 57-49 lead. But then things went south for him and, by extension, the Sixers.buy nike nfl jerseys cheap

It’s not that Embiid was bad after the break; instead, it was that he was merely human. His second-half totals — 12 points and seven boards — saw him finish the game with a ridiculous 40 points and 21 rebounds. But Embiid being merely human for any portion of the proceedings wasn’t good enough for a Sixers team still dealing with the aftershocks of trading for Jimmy Butler, who has missed the past two games with a groin injury.6

The result? Philadelphia fell 113-101 to Indiana Friday night. In doing so, the Sixers fell to fifth place in the Eastern Conference, showing both the heavy burden Embiid has to carry and the deficiencies of Philadelphia’s roster after its franchise-changing move.

“I did,” Sixers coach Brett Brown said, when asked afterward if Embiid looked tired in the second half. “I feel like it’s a product of he’s really got a lot on his shoulders, you know, as far as the weight of our expectations on him, and he certainly expended a lot of energy in the first half.cheap nike nfl jerseys china

Rookie Landry Shamet, who scored seven points on 2-for-3 shooting Friday night, has been a revelation this season. The No. 26 pick in the 2018 draft out of Wichita State has shined early in his rookie season. But while he’s shooting over 38 percent from 3-point range, Shamet isn’t a defensive presence. In fact, he’s ranked 89th among 94 qualified players at point guard in ESPN’s defensive real plus-minus. Furkan Korkmaz, meanwhile, is a shooting guard being forced to play backup small forward minutes — or, on nights like Friday when Butler is out, starting at the 3.

Both of them struggled to handle Indiana’s physicality, the latest reminder that Brown has been forced to rely on a pair of 21-year-olds to shoulder significant burdens for him this season.

Zach LaVine to undergo further evaluation on ankle injury

Chicago Bulls guard Zach LaVine will miss at least two games and is set to undergo further evaluation on his injured left ankle, coach Jim Boylen said Saturday.

Boylen said LaVine has a sprained deltoid ligament. The coach said he did not have any definitive timetable yet.

“Zach LaVine had a MRI last night and flew home this morning to consult with other specialists,” Boylen said. “We will create a plan of action [when we know more]. Hopeful for a good evaluation. He will not play tonight or Monday.”cheap nfl nike jerseys china

Boylen said Saturday night that he had texted with LaVine.5

“He’s home resting. He wished us well.” Boylen said before the Bulls’ game against the San Antonio Spurs. “I don’t know if they’ve been able to get a hold of the specialists or not yet to just get all the information. So we’re still waiting on that.”

The Bulls face the Oklahoma City Thunder on Monday to finish a two-game road trip.

LaVine suffered the injury during the Bulls’ Thursday night loss to the Orlando Magic in Mexico City. Boylen said LaVine is in a walking boot.buy nike nfl jerseys cheap

LaVine, who is averaging 23.8 points, 4.9 rebounds and 4.8 assists per game, is the team’s leading scorer.

He also spoke with Boylen one-on-one last weekend after some Bulls players mulled over the idea of skipping practice because of their frustration with the coach’s substitution usage and comments about the team. LaVine said the meeting gave him a chance to “elaborate on thoughts.”

This is just the latest injury to plague the Bulls’ starting lineup. Lauri Markkanen (elbow) and Kris Dunn (knee) missed the first two months of the season, although both players have returned to the team this month.

Colts are a team nobody wants to face in playoffs after blanking Cowboys

Need further proof the Indianapolis Colts are a team nobody would want to face if they make the playoffs?

Beat a Houston team on a nine-game winning streak? Check.

Beat a Dallas team on a five-game winning streak the following week? Did that, too.cheap nfl jerseys china nike

And what made ending the winning streaks of the Texans and Cowboys even more impressive? The Colts used different blueprints for success.

The Colts used Andrew Luck’s arm in one game and then switched it up with an impressive running game and their best defensive performance of the season against the Cowboys.5

That’s a recipe for a team that’s capable of winning in any facet — and why the Colts have won seven of their past eight games and posted their first shutout in more than four years by blanking the surging Cowboys 23-0 on Sunday.nike nfl jerseys wholesale cheap

The Colts (8-6) have also continually talked about not worrying about what other teams in the playoff hunt are doing because it does them no good if they take care of their own business.

Winning the AFC South is major obstacle for them because they trail the Texans by two games with two games left in the season. But making the playoffs as a wild-card team is right there in Indianapolis’ sight, depending on what teams like Pittsburgh and Baltimore do the rest of the season. The Colts haven’t been to the playoffs since 2014.

“We’re playing great football,” receiver T.Y. Hilton said. “Right now you’re either the train or you’re on the tracks. Right now we’re rolling, so you better get on the train.”

The NFL’s odd offensive holding blip: What happened

On the other hand, the spikes we have seen this season are unusual and not necessarily the result of judgment errors or poor technique by players.cheap nike nfl jerseys wholesale They are intentional, purposeful changes in enforcement. The league has acknowledged some and been silent on others.

It began in the preseason with a two-stage slowdown in calling the new use of helmet rule. The league issued a clarification after officials threw 51 such flags in the first 33 preseason games. There were only 20 calls over the final 32 preseason games, and then just eight in the first 12 weeks of the regular season.6

In Week 4, the league announced a clarification to stem a wave of roughing the passer flags. After calling an average of 11.3 per week in the first three weeks, officials slowed its pace by about 45 percent to an average of six per week.

The holding extravaganza was less public, though. Former NFL vice president of officiating Mike Pereira said on Fox Sports during Week 14’s Thursday Night Football game between the Tennessee Titans and Jacksonville Jaguars that the league had issued a “point of emphasis” and was “trying to get more holding calls.” The league would not confirm this when I inquired.

The motivation behind the holding spike is less clear. Why would the league want to make it harder for linemen to protect quarterbacks in a year of unprecedented passing numbers and improved television ratings?cheap nfl jerseys china nike

Entering Week 13, the league was about 10 percent below last season’s pace on offensive holding calls. But after 14 weeks, the numbers are almost identical. There have been 691 holding calls this season, compared with 690 calls at this point in 2017.

Is it possible that NFL players are holding at the exact same rate as they did in 2017? Perhaps. But what’s clear is that the foul is now being officiated at precisely the same rate.

Considering that offensive holding is the most common NFL penalty at this moment, it’s worth pointing out a larger trend. In 2014, NFL officials threw a total of 4,093 flags for all types of penalties.

Resting Cam Newton isn’t an option Panthers should consider

There might be debate about whether the Carolina Panthers should play Cam Newton over the final three games given the ongoing soreness in the quarterback’s right shoulder with the team’s playoff chances fading.china nike nfl jerseys cheap

Newton isn’t having any part of that.

Asked after Sunday’s 26-20 loss to Cleveland, Carolina’s fifth straight setback since a 6-2 start, about concerns regarding his shoulder, Newton deadpanned: “Who is it coming from?”

Told from people outside the organization, Newton said, “Exactly.”5

The big picture as far as the playoffs becomes more clear after Minnesota (6-6-1) lost at Seattle on Monday night. Carolina is now a half game back of the sixth and final seed in the NFC.

The Panthers still likely would need to win their final three games — home against New Orleans on Monday night, home against Atlanta and at New Orleans — to have a shot. That seems like a long shot since New Orleans (11-2) is battling the Los Angeles Rams (11-2) for the top seed in the NFC.cheap nike nfl jerseys wholesale

But say the Panthers get past New Orleans and Atlanta, and the Saints are locked into the first or second seed heading into the final week. Saints coach Sean Payton could rest his starters, which would increase Carolina’s chances of winning in New Orleans.

Even if Carolina wins out, it would need Minnesota and Washington (6-7) to lose once more. The Vikings close against Miami, Detroit and Chicago. The Redskins, down to their third quarterback and losers of four straight, close with Jacksonville, Tennessee and Philadelphia.

Chelsea’s win over Man City says a lot about Sarri. PLUS: Sterling stands up, River claim Copa Lib

Manchester City’s first league defeat of the campaign probably says more about their opponents, Chelsea, than it does Guardiola’s crew. Without Kevin De Bruyne, Sergio Aguero and Benjamin Mendy, they marched into Stamford Bridge and dominated the first half, only to be punished by Eden Hazard’s quick thinking, N’Golo Kante’s finish and Leroy Sane’s brief daydream. The goal allowed Chelsea to tighten up further and play on the counter even more; they added a second through a David Luiz header later on.china nike nfl jerseys cheap

Other than Sane’s distraction and the absentees — though with City’s depth, that’s hardly an alibi — Guardiola probably won’t find too much fault with his side’s performance. They controlled the game and created chances. Raheem Sterling up front in place of Aguero (and the currently star-crossed Gabriel Jesus) may not have yielded goals but wasn’t a particular problem on the day.

What messed City up was that, far from being the dogmatic fundamentalist that some accused him of being, Maurizio Sarri showed he can be a pragmatist too. Other than his choice to play the three little guys up front, forsaking Olivier Giroud and Alvaro Morata for Hazard as a “false nine,” it was the usual personnel. The difference is that their lines were much tighter, they didn’t insist on possession, they limited their pressing to the final third and they dropped deep once City broke into midfield.6

It was a humble, blue-collar performance, and it’s exactly what Sarri, with his obsession with patterned movements and pushing men forward, was supposedly unable to do. So much for those who hammered him for not having a Plan B or not playing N’Golo Kante in front of the back four. (Those who insist with this trope are, frankly, without help: that role in a Sarri team is an attacking role and requires a playmaker, and putting Kante there is the equivalent of a long-ball team deploying Sergio Aguero as a center-forward and lumping long balls towards him.)nfl nike jerseys cheap china

Oh, and while I feel like I’m discussing Kante every week, let me also add this. He won a title at Leicester playing alongside a purely defensive midfielder like Danny Drinkwater and then won another title the following year next to Nemanja Matic, also a purely holding guy. What’s more, he had three central defenders behind him. This isn’t to diminish him in any way — he’s one of the best in the world — but rather to point out that context matters. And it’s simply silly to compare Kante’s positions without comparing the personnel and formations around him, as well as what the manager is trying to do.

 

Everton snatch last-gasp equaliser through Lucas Digne to draw with Watford

With Gylfi Sigurdsson spurning the chance to equalise for the hosts when his penalty was saved just minutes later, Watford looked to be heading for a win but Digne then popped up with his first Everton goal to salvage a point.

The night had started well for the Merseysiders, looking for the win that would have lifted them above Manchester United into sixth place, when Brazilian striker Richarlison scored against his old club after a quarter of an hour.

The goal was controversial, however, with Everton’s Theo Walcott appearing to be offside in the build-up.

“I prefer not to say anything about the referees,” said Watford manager Javi Gracia. “If VAR was ready today the result would have been different.”cheap nike nfl jerseys wholesale

Everton’s Coleman then put through his own goal in the 63rd minute when Roberto Pererya’s effort hit the post and rebounded off the defender into the net, before Doucoure put the visitors in front when he rose above Coleman to head firmly home.

Three minutes later Christian Kabasele clumsily fouled Everton defender Yerry Mina in the penalty area but Sigurdsson’s spot kick down the middle was saved by the legs of Ben Foster.5

It was the Icelander’s second penalty miss from his last three.

As the clock ticked down, mid-table Watford thought they had done enough for the win but France international Digne stepped up to curl his free-kick into the net and deny the visitors.

“It showed personality and character to take that free-kick when people might have expected Gylfi. It’s a very good goal,” said Everton manager Marco Silva after facing his old club.

However, the Portuguese coach was not happy about his side’s defending for Watford’s two goals.

“We lost our focus completely. Those two moments were not too special. We are not happy with the result,” he said.

“When you start like we start and achieve just one point, of course we are unhappy. Our goal for the match is completely different from the result.”china nike nfl jerseys cheap

Everton are seventh on 24 points, two behind Manchester United, while Watford are 12th with 21 points from 16 games.

Fantasy NBA Daily Notes: The return of Lauri Markkanen

A somewhat sleepy Tuesday night in the NBA didn’t see any prolific individual performances occur, but we did witness Luka Doncic and the Dallas Mavericks earn their 10th home win of the season to shift into the seventh seed in a contentious Western Conference.

Damian Lillard was his brilliant self against Dallas, nearly turning in a high-scoring triple-double,nfl nike jerseys cheap china but he finished with the second-worst net rating on the team (minus-12) thanks to another stellar showing from Doncic, who joined Joel Embiid as the only other rookie in past five seasons with at least 20 points in half of his first 22 games.6

A hot start to the season saw Portland get to 12-5 as one of the top seeds in the West a few weeks back, including four straight wins on the road, but they’ve now lost six of their past seven. However, the dip in the standings is not hurting Lillard’s statistical stock, as he is third overall on the Player Rater during the past seven days, behind only Anthony Davis and James Harden. Given age and usage patterns, this is likely one of, if not the, best statistical seasons for the veteran, so his managers should enjoy the ride.

Doncic, meanwhile, is found ahead of Donovan Mitchell and Jayson Tatum on the Player Rater this season, thanks to averaging 18.6 PPG, 6.6 RPG, 4.2 APG, and 2.3 3PG. The list of rookies to ever average these numbers is, well, zero, as Doncic would become the first professional freshman in league history to tally such a deft balance of offensive output.cheap nike nfl jerseys paypal

For some greater context league-wide compared to veterans, only LeBron James, Paul George, Blake Griffin and Victor Oladipo also claim Doncic’s current blend of production. Even Doncic’s biggest supporters likely didn’t envision this level of initial success, as the smooth Slovenian wing is downright dominant off the bat.