Inspired by Kevin De Bruyne brilliance Manchester City claim a deserved win at Chelsea

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Man City applied their trademark style, despite the atmosphere at Stamford Bridge, with De Bruyne’s magical strike sealing a win.
Man City applied their trademark style, despite the atmosphere at Stamford Bridge, with De Bruyne’s magical strike sealing a win.
Craig Burley takes to the touchscreen to analyse Kevin De Bruyne’s dominant performance in Man City’s 1-0 win at Chelsea.
Craig Burley recaps Saturday’s Premier League fixtures, headlined by both Manchester clubs winning.
Craig Burley recaps Saturday’s Premier League fixtures, headlined by both Manchester clubs winning.
Pep Guardiola heaps praise on Kevin De Bruyne for his all-around effort in Manchester City’s win at Chelsea.

Just one goal but a gulf of class separated the two sides at Stamford Bridge. The champions tried to stem the City flow, but the movement and interchanging of positions from the away side was too much.

Positives

City kicked off without their captain, their flying left-back and their talismanic centre-forward but, despite the absence of Vincent Kompany, Benjamin Mendy and Sergio Aguero, took the game to Chelsea and thoroughly deserved victory. The confidence, spirit and ability of the side Pep Guardiola has constructed is quite intoxicating.

Negatives

It is difficult to find anything remotely wrong with such a performance but, once again, the weight of possession and chances created suggests a one-goal win could have been bettered with cooler finishing.

Manager rating out of 10

9 — Finally winning a game against Chelsea after eight attempts, Guardiola was as bold and confident in his team selection as the players were in carrying out instructions. He never doubted their ability to keep up his optimistic tactics.

Player ratings (1-10, 10 = best, players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)

GK Ederson Morais, 8 — The confidence emanating from goalkeeper to defence — and beyond — was eye-catching. One shot from Cesar Azpilicueta came at him unsighted, yet he was rapidly down to his left to palm it away. He also produced a brilliant high catch and quick throw to release a scintillating counter attack led by Raheem Sterling.

DF Kyle Walker, 8 — An energetic display from the right-back, whose first touch took him marauding through central midfield and was an early sign for the home side of how City players would interchange roles. He played two magnificent through balls as City pressed late to add a second and had energy to spare at the end.

DF John Stones, 8 — Imperious at the back. He had one dodgy moment when Alvaro Morata beat him down the right but, otherwise, was solid facing one, two or three attackers.

DF Nicolas Otamendi, 7 — Booked late on for an unnecessarily hectic lunge on Willian when City could have been playing down the clock.

DF Fabian Delph, 8 — Another calm and assured display, this time on the big stage under a proper spotlight. Having been beaten down the line early, thereafter he was confident and in charge. Cannot be expected to fly to the byline like Mendy, but does his work tidily and crisply.

Manchester City dominated proceedings at Stamford Bridge.
After seven games, Manchester City top the Premier League on goal difference from Manchester United.

MF Fernandinho, 8 — Saw plenty of early possession as City settled in and had a great opportunity to score from a Kevin De Bruyne corner but his bullet header was saved. Booked for a tactical trip on Willian, but was a lynchpin amid City’s near-total midfield control.

MF David Silva, 8 — Always available, turning out of trouble and finding crucial spaces. Pushed well forward, he had two chances to open the scoring, but just failed with both. In the whirling vortex of such a fast-paced game, every pass had the right weight applied.

MF Kevin De Bruyne, 9 — Perhaps with a point to prove to the club that sold him, De Bruyne was the difference between a great City performance ending unrewarded and the eventual win. He started wide on the right, but popped up all over the pitch, guiding, prompting, prodding and, when it came to the crunch, scoring a superb winner. A complete performance.

MF Leroy Sane 8 — Quick to block early Chelsea attempts to advance down his flank, he also posed plenty of problems going forward. Displayed brilliant use of tiny spaces close to the touchline in swapping passes with Silva.

MF Raheem Sterling 8 — Happy to run at the heart of the Chelsea defence, he drew a string of first-half free kicks in dangerous positions. His form meant that his shadow, Marcus Alonso, was afforded little chance to leave his tracking duties to create damage of his own.

FW Gabriel Jesus, 8 — Selfless and capable, the Brazilian put in a shift. This was encapsulated in his constant closing down of Chelsea’s defenders and goalkeeper, which led to various losses of possession from the home side.

Substitutes

MF Bernardo Silva, NR — Arrived as a 75th-minute replacement for his namesake David and took only a few minutes to get into his stride. That the City passing through the middle did not skip a beat showed how well he adapted to a more central role.

MF Ilkay Gundogan, NR — Arrived on 83 minutes for Sane and immediately threaded a wonderful ball through the middle of the Chelsea defence. Sprightly and alert.

MF Danilo, NR — A 93rd-minute time waster to replace the exhausted De Bruyne.

Simon is one of ESPN FC’s Manchester City bloggers. Follow him on Twitter @bifana_bifana.

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Neymar scores twice as Paris Saint Germain attack crushes Bordeaux

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Kylian Mbappe, Edinson Cavani and Neymar were all on target again to inspire PSG’s 6-2 rout of Bordeaux.

Paris Saint-Germain went three points clear at the Ligue 1 summit after Neymar (two), Edinson Cavani, Thomas Meunier, Julian Draxler and Kylian Mbappe all scored in a 6-2 win over Bordeaux at Parc des Princes on Saturday.

Positives

Strength. After failing to impose themselves away at Montpellier last week, PSG needed to show that they can be as strong domestically as they were in the Champions League in midweek and they succeeded by inflicting a first — and heavy — defeat in Le Championnat upon Bordeaux.

Formation. Not for the first time this season, Unai Emery changed from the possession-based 4-3-3 system to a more attacking 4-2-3-1 shape and the result was another lethal display in front of goal, even though the team still managed to ship two goals.

Togetherness. Neymar scored one free kick and one penalty against Bordeaux and even though it is easier to get over a controversial moment when you are winning in the way that PSG were against Jocelyn Gourvennec’s men, the players — notably the Brazilian superstar and Cavani — looked happy enough together.

Negatives

Goals conceded. Although it was a very impressive performance in attack, Les Parisiens still contrived to allow Bordeaux to score twice through former youth academy graduate Younousse Sankhare and rising star Malcom.

Manager rating out of 10

8 — Emery’s decision to start the big three of Neymar, Mbappe and Cavani, as well as Draxler, was rewarded with a devastating attacking showing in the first half, enabling the Spaniard to make some rare early substitutions.

Player ratings (1-10; 10 = best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)

GK Alphonse Areola, 7 — The Frenchman and his defence were given little chance on Bordeaux’s first goal after Marco Verratti was turned in a dangerous position, but the youth academy graduate was still alert enough to make a flying second-half save with the score at 6-1.

DF Thomas Meunier, 6 — The Belgium international got forward and grabbed himself a goal, but received a booking late in the first half and conceded a late penalty in a mixed performance.

DF Marquinhos, 7 — The Brazilian did a very good job in central defence alongside Presnel Kimpembe and as captain for the day, but his backline still shipped two goals.

DF Presnel Kimpembe, 7 — The homegrown youngster paired well with Marquinhos but neither of them could save Verratti from embarrassment on Bordeaux’s first goal nor Meunier when he conceded the penalty for Les Girondins‘ second.

DF Yuri Berchiche, 6 — The Spaniard was solid enough at left-back and notched his maiden PSG assist by teeing up Meunier’s first-half strike — via Mbappe’s miscued swing.

There was a lot to smile about for Edinson Cavani, Thomas Meunier and Kylian Mbappe as PSG dominated Bordeaux.

MF Marco Verratti, 5 –– The Italy international got turned in the build-up to Bordeaux’s first goal and is still well below the high standards expected of him. It was a little surprising that Emery opted to replace Adrien Rabiot before the Azzurri star made way for Christopher Nkunku 11 minutes from time.

MF Adrien Rabiot, 6 — The France international was put in the shade by Draxler in the playmaker role, but he still put in a solid, if unspectacular, 69 minutes before he was replaced by Giovani Lo Celso.

MF Kylian Mbappe, 8 — The ex-Monaco man was exceptional in the midweek home win over Bayern Munich and he was very good against Bordeaux as well. Les Bleus’ latest star played a role in the buildup to Cavani’s goal (2-0) with a sublime flick before assisting Draxler’s volleyed finish and then getting in on the act himself in the second half.

MF Julian Draxler, 8 — The German put in his best display of the season so far in the No. 10 role and volleyed in his first goal this term before turning provider for Mbappe.

MF Neymar, 8 — The Brazilian was better against Bordeaux than he was against Bayern and opened the scoring with a phenomenal free kick before adding a second from the penalty spot before the break. After that, he broke out some tricks and flicks to keep the Parc des Princes crowd entertained.

ST Edinson Cavani, 6 — The Uruguay international scored PSG’s second goal and looked comfortable enough with Neymar, but it must have hurt El Matador to see the Brazilian score from the penalty spot, even if he did not show it.

Substitutes

RW Angel Di Maria, 5 — The Argentine replaced Cavani just after the hour mark but it was already 6-1 by then, so there was little left to do.

MF Giovani Lo Celso, 5 — Came on for Rabiot with 21 minutes to go but like his compatriot Di Maria, found that the damage had already been done.

MF Christopher Nkunku, NR –– The youth academy graduate was afforded the final 11 minutes of the match in place of Verratti.

Jonathan Johnson covers PSG and the French national team for ESPN FC. Twitter: @Jon_LeGossip.

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Paris Saint-Germain’s Thomas Meunier hails Neymar after big Bordeaux win

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Kylian Mbappe, Edinson Cavani and Neymar were all on target again to inspire PSG’s 6-2 rout of Bordeaux.

Paris Saint-Germain right-back Thomas Meunier hailed Neymar’s impact in attack after the 6-2 victory over Bordeaux at Parc des Princes in Ligue 1 on Saturday.

Neymar opened the scoring and added a first-half penalty, while Edinson Cavani also struck before Meunier himself notched a goal, followed by Julian Draxler and Kylian Mbappe.

Speaking with Canal+ after the match, Meunier felt that the result was good but not quite perfect yet still praised Neymar’s influence.

“Obviously we still have exceptional players when we rotate,” the 26-year-old said. “Things are taking shape, I think. Up against a previously undefeated team, you cannot ask for more than scoring six goals.

“When Neymar gets the ball, we are confident in attack but we can still raise the bar. At 2-0, there was a little drop and if we had been a bit more disciplined, we could have been able to finish the match off sooner than we did and in a more beautiful fashion.

“We are not unplayable, we saw that in Montpellier — they stood up to us well. There will be teams who block us. If we can steer clear of injuries and the team continues to rotate well like this, things look promising in the Champions League and Ligue 1.”

PSG coach Unai Emery started Draxler as the No. 10 in a 4-2-3-1 formation instead of the usual 4-3-3 and the Germany international felt that it was his best showing of the season so far after a wonderful first-half volley.

“It was my best match of the season so far, that is for sure,” Draxler told Canal+. “True, it has been difficult since the start of the season because I have not played well nor often. However, I have made progress and I am glad about this game.

“It is a pleasure to play with this team. This position suits me well — I feel good on the pitch. I scored a beautiful goal with my left foot, which is not usual for me.

“It is always hard being a substitute. I want to play in every match, like all the other players. I am happy in Paris. I like to play regularly and when it is like it was in this game, it was very good.”

Thomas Meunier celebrates with Neymar and Edinson Cavani during PSG’s victory over Bordeaux.

While Emery was pleased to take all three points to go as many clear of second-placed Monaco in Ligue 1 heading into the international break, he was still irritated that his players allowed Bordeaux to score twice.

“It is difficult to be absolutely perfect,” he told Canal+. “Bordeaux are a team with a good attack but they tried to control the match with a low defensive line.

“The opening goal was important. After that, we opened up spaces and at certain moments of the game, this was a good thing. It enabled us to show off our individual qualities and we were able to shine, especially in the first half.

“I am happy with the result and I am pleased by our performance but I do not want to be conceding two goals at home. We have different types of players. We worked with Julian today and he put in a good performance, it did him and the team some good. After him, Angel [Di Maria] came on because he needed to play to get back to full fitness.”

PSG will return to domestic action away at Dijon after the international break and have Anderlecht (twice), Marseille and Nice to come across Ligue 1 and the Champions League in October.

Jonathan Johnson covers PSG and the French national team for ESPN FC. Twitter: @Jon_LeGossip.

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Peter Bosz rues performance despite Borussia Dortmund win

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Peter Bosz has led Dortmund to top spot in the Bundesliga.

Borussia Dortmund coach Peter Bosz said his side’s 2-1 victory over Augsburg on Saturday was the worst performance of his tenure so far.

Dortmund took the lead after three minutes as Andrey Yarmolenko poked home a loose ball in the box with a swift back-heel, but the lead lasted for only seven minutes before Caiuby headed an equaliser.

Shinji Kagawa scored the winner in the 23rd minute with an audacious chip from just inside the box but, despite the quality of their goals, BVB were far from their best, allowing the match to become an open contest against a physical Augsburg side.

Bosz, who replaced Thomas Tuchel in the summer, told his postmatch news conference: “This was the worst match since I’ve been the coach at Dortmund. It was never easy today.

“In the first half we found a lot of space but couldn’t capitalise because we weren’t playing well enough. In the second half, we stopped playing football altogether. Each team has two of those games per season, which is why I’m very happy that we won today.”

Shinji Kagawa’s wonder goal was the game-winner for Borussia Dortmund as they downed Augsburg 2-1.

Dortmund were awarded a penalty in the 79th minute but Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s attempt at a Panenka was saved by Augsburg goalkeeper Marwin Hitz, capping a disappointing overall display for the striker

“Auba is an important player for us,” Bosz said. “He has already scored eight goals. He has always helped us. Today, he didn’t play well. One-on-one, header, penalty — usually he converts them into goals.

“He also has two games per season where things aren’t working out for him. Today was his first one.”

Asked why he left Mario Gotze out of the squad against Augsburg, Bosz said: “He is not injured. Mario wanted to play but I told him that I didn’t want that today.

“He was out for five months and we are nursing him back to form carefully. First he got to play 45 minutes, then 60. Today it would have been his third match within a week. That would have been too much. It was an important game today but there are more vital games ahead for which we need him.”

Dortmund enter the upcoming international break on top of the Bundesliga after seven matchdays, keeping the pressure up on their rivals.

BVB keeper Roman Burki told the club’s video channel: “It’s an extremely important win for us. Those are the games you have to come out on top if you want to win something at the end of the season.”

Dortmund went into the game on the back of seven games in 21 days, and Burki said playing in the schedule more familiar to English clubs had been difficult.

“The englische Wochen [English weeks] took a toll on us,” Burki told Sky after the match. “You could see that today — especially in the second half.

“The coach told us ahead of the game that we must show the mentality to win this match at all cost. We battled hard and we won. We weren’t always focused, though, giving the ball away cheaply or just lumping it forward. Because of that the match got really tough for us. Augsburg pressed enormously well.

“The table reads nicely but it’s still too early for it to indicate anything. Games like today’s, in which you have to fight and overcome the tiredness, are the important games.”

Stefan Buczko covers Borussia Dortmund for ESPN FC. Twitter: @StefanBuczko.

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Barcelona vs. Las Palmas – Football Match Preview – October 1, 2017

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Barcelona have not lost to Las Palmas since 1982, while the Canary Islanders have to go back to 1971 for their last victory at the Nou Camp.
Barca boss Ernesto Valverde is taking nothing for granted, though.
He said on his club’s website: “The characteristics of the Las Palmas players haven’t changed and Pako Ayestaran hasn’t had much time to work with them. But there is a certain element of surprise involved, although not much can change in two days.
“But we do have the reference of when he coached Valencia to a win here (in April 2016).
“I’m sure he’ll structure the team around his tastes. Las Palmas have plenty of skill and like to play the ball and cause damage through football, and I can see Ayestaran continuing with that.”
Due to the international break, Barca are next in action in a fortnight’s time when they face a daunting trip to Atletico Madrid.
Valverde, who has omitted Paco Alcacer, Jordi Alba and Lucas Digne from his squad to face Las Palmas and is also without injured duo Ousmane Dembele and Rafinha, is hoping they will head to Atletico’s new Wanda Metropolitano home with their 100 per cent start intact.
He added: “It’s very important to win going into the international break. The first (break) came very quickly and this one comes after the ninth competitive match. We’ll try to go into it with a full house of wins, which would be a great end to this first stage.”
ends

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Bundesliga leaders Borussia Dortmund edge past Augsburg

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Shinji Kagawa’s wonder goal was the game-winner for Borussia Dortmund as they downed Augsburg 2-1.
Real Madrid and Tottenham are back in, while Bayern Munich fall out of Shaka Hislop’s latest power rankings.

Borussia Dortmund cemented top spot in the Bundesliga with their fourth successive win, seeing off Augsburg 2-1.

Peter Bosz’s men shook off their 3-1 Champions League home loss to Real Madrid by their stretching their unbeaten start to the league campaign to seven matches.

Shinji Kagawa became the Bundesliga’s all-time leading Japanese goalscorer, with his 38th strike, moving past Shinji Okazaki.

Andriy Yarmolenko hit his first Bundesliga goal on his fourth appearance following his €25 million summer switch from Dynamo Kiev.

Brazil forward Caiuby found the net for the hosts, but Augsburg were unable to stop Dortmund extending their fine start to the new term.

Simon Haller’s impressive stoppage-time strike edged Eintracht Frankfurt past Stuttgart 2-1.

Ante Rebic’s second goal in as many games had seen Frankfurt take the lead just before half-time, before substitute Simon Terodde equalised with his first touch for Stuttgart.

Eintracht then had Simon Falette sent off, and had appeared ready to ride out that setback for a point — until Frenchman Haller popped up with the winner.

Thorgan Hazard sunk high-flying Hannover with a penalty in the fourth minute of added time as Borussia Monchengladbach edged to a last-gasp 2-1 win.

Defender Mattias Ginter put Monchengladbach into the lead, before Martin Harnik levelled with his fifth league goal of the season.

But just when Hannover expected to head home with a draw, Hazard settled the contest with almost the game’s final kick.

Liverpool loanee Divock Origi missed a fine chance as Wolfsburg drew 1-1 with Mainz. France midfielder Josuha Guilavogui put Wolfsburg ahead with a powerful header, but Yoshinori Muto later levelled for Mainz with a smart header of his own.

Hosts Wolfsburg held on for the draw despite a late red card for Paul-Georges Ntep.

The local derby between Hamburg and Werder Bremen ended goalless, leaving both sides struggling at the wrong end of the table.

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Valverde hails ‘amazing’ Messi ahead of next milestone

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Allegri: Juve need Higuain’s goals now

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Arsenal vs. Brighton & Hove Albion – Football Match Preview – October 1, 2017

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Arsene Wenger plans to reward Theo Walcott for his goals against BATE Borisov with more Premier League minutes, but will persevere with plans to rotate his team for Sunday’s visit of Brighton.

Walcott has been a peripheral figure this season but scored twice during Arsenal’s Europa League victory on Thursday, having struggled for selection amid competition from Danny Welbeck, Alexis Sanchez and Alexandre Lacazette.

The England forward impressed in his role behind Olivier Giroud and alongside Jack Wilshere, but will not be retained against Brighton because of Wenger’s plans to protect his players from a demanding schedule.

The 28-year-old was critical of Arsenal’s poor performance when they lost 3-0 at Crystal Palace in April, but Wenger insists that has had no influence on selection and, when asked if Walcott will be used in the league, responded: ”Yes. (But) the competition up front is hard.

”I have Sanchez, I have Walcott. I have shown Theo I have confidence in him for a big game (at BATE). I have a different schedule for the players who have played the full 90 (on Thursday); I will rotate again on Sunday.

”I don’t relate the selection to (Walcott’s post-Palace comments) at all. I have experienced many times statements after the games, so it is nothing to do with that. It is just I have many strikers of top quality.

”Lucas Perez I have given out on loan so that is why I have all these decisions to make on that front. It is important to give them enough games.

”He could have scored more (at BATE), but his strength is scoring goals. He can score goals: he is a good finisher and had two or three more chances. But as long as the team played very well, there were plenty of chances.

”He has good quality in the timing of his runs and the quality of his runs. He goes into areas where he is dangerous.”

Brighton boss Chris Hughton is out to mastermind another surprise home defeat for Arsenal.

The Seagulls head to Emirates Stadium on Sunday as huge underdogs against Sanchez, Lacazette and company.

Yet Hughton is the last manager of a newly-promoted side to beat Arsenal on their own turf, when his Newcastle team won 1-0 in 2010.

That Arsenal side were no slouches, either, with Samir Nasri and Cesc Fabregas in midfield and Robin van Persie summoned from the bench.

But Hughton has fond memories of getting the better of Wenger that day and hopes for a similar against-the-odds performance in Sunday’s Premier League clash.

“Yes, I remember it well, an Andy Carroll header,” smiled Hughton.

“That’s what the challenge is for us. There can’t be anywhere in this division that you can afford the feeling that you can’t get anything.

“What we know is, on a day like Sunday, we will have to have things go our way, we will have to play to a really good level and probably face an Arsenal team who don’t play at their best.

“Probably there is more pressure on Arsenal to to win the game than on ourselves – most people wouldn’t expect us to get anything but that’s the great opportunity we have.”

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Celtic vs. Hibernian – Football Match Report – September 30, 2017

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Neil Lennon returned to Celtic Park as Hibernian boss and left with a Scottish Premiership point after John McGinn and Callum McGregor both scored a double.

The former Hoops player and manager was given a warm reception from the home fans before McGregor, left out of Gordon Strachan’s recent Scotland squad to some surprise, drove in the opener in the 15th minute.

Two stunning strikes by McGinn after the break put the Easter Road ahead before McGregor levelled with 10 minutes remaining to extend Celtic’s unbeaten domestic run to 58 games.

The Hoops’ convincing 3-0 Champions League win over Anderlecht on Wednesday night ensured a packed stadium for their return and they were treated to another 90 minutes of excitement.

Celtic boss Brendan Rodgers, without injured captain Scott Brown and fellow midfielder Stuart Armstrong, made five changes.

French attacker Odsonne Edouard started alongside fellow countryman Moussa Dembele with McGregor, James Forrest and Jonny Hayes back in the side.

Anthony Stokes, Efe Ambrose and Dylan McGeouch were ex-Celts in the Hibs side, adding another sub-plot to the encounter

Hoops keeper Craig Gordon tipped a 25-yard free kick from Stokes over the bar in the third minute as Hibs started confidently.

However, gradually the champions played themselves into the game.

When Dembele played in McGregor he fired low past Hibs keeper Ross Laidlaw from 16 yards for his fifth goal of the season.

That appeared to be Celtic into their stride and moments later Laidlaw pulled out a decent save from midfielder Tom Rogic’s drive.

Hibs, though, were not out of it and in the 34th minute Celtic defender Dedryck Boyata had to speed back to deny Martin Boyle who had raced on to a Lewis Stevenson pass.

At the other end, Laidlaw blocked an Edouard effort after he was set up by Hayes in a swift counter-attack.

Scott Sinclair replaced Edouard for the start of the second half and within three minutes had drawn a good save from Laidlaw, his drive from 12 yards parried and then cleared by Stevenson.

McGinn’s equaliser in the 53rd minute stunned Celtic Park.

As the home side set themselves up to defend their penalty area midfielder Marvin Bartley drifted along the edge of the box and when the ball fell neatly for the former St Mirren player who fired low past Gordon.

The match turned in Hibs favour and after Leigh Griffiths replaced Dembele and only a remarkable Gordon save in the 65th minute kept the home side on level terms.

When a McGinn corner fell to Steven Whittaker a yard out it looked a certain goal but somehow the Scotland keeper beat away his shot for another corner.

McGregor cleared the bar moment later as an exciting finale ensued and when McGinn fired high past Gordon from 22 yards after Mikael Lustig had headed clear an Ambrose there was an air of disbelief around the stadium.

Celtic rallied and after Griffiths’ cross was knocked back into the path of McGregor after several players challenged for it, he steered the ball in from 12 yards.

There was a Celtic penalty claim in the 87th minute when Ambrose appeared to impede Sinclair before the Hoops substitute had his shot parried away by Laidlaw.

Referee Willie Collum ignored the appeals to the anger of the home supporters, who, when the dust settled, will recognise that they had witnessed their side given a rare domestic test.

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Dundee vs. Heart of Midlothian – Football Match Report – September 30, 2017

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Dundee youngster Kerr Waddell grabbed his first ever senior goals as his double sealed a 2-1 win over Hearts at Dens Park.
The 19-year-old Dark Blues academy graduate opened his career account when he headed home just before the break – but then saw his opener cancelled out by Kyle Lafferty.
It has been a tough week for the Hearts striker after he opened up on his his struggles with gambling addiction.
But there was to be no satisfaction from the result as Waddell then grabbed the stoppage-time winner to hand Hearts boss Craig Levein his first defeat since returning to the Jambos dug-out.
The win now moves Dundee up to eighth, just a point behind the Tynecastle men.
Dark Blues boss Neil McCann has committed his team to playing out from the back but the Dens crowd remain to be convinced by the ploy.
Keeper Scott Bain and defender Jack Hendry sparked a chorus of groans when their first couple of exchanges went astray.
And they were lucky their attempt to build play out of defence nine minutes in did not go disastrously wrong when Bain slammed the ball straight at Jambos forward Jamie Walker, with the ricochet bouncing wide of target.
Set-pieces looked a more straight-forward tactic for the Dark Blues to focus on and they should have taken the lead after the quarter-hour mark but Darren O’Dea headed over from Kevin Holt’s corner.
At the other end, Connor Randall was a fraction away from the opener as he flashed across the face of goal.
But it was another Holt corner delivery that produced the first goal as his out-swinger was glanced home by the unmarked Waddell a minute before the break.
Hearts were desperately unlucky not to level on the hour. Michael Smith ranked a superb 60-yard ball over the head of O’Dea to Esmael Goncalves, with the Portuguese frontman cushioning it down before lashing the ball off both post and crossbar before seeing it bounce to safety.
Dundee missed a glorious chance of their own moments later when Sofien Moussa got his feet in a mess just five yards out with only Jambos keeper Jon McLaughlin to beat.
And it went from bad to worse for the Tunisian on 71 minutes as he gifted Hearts’ equaliser to Lafferty with an awful back-pass. The Northern Irishman still had a lot to do but calmly took the ball round Bain before cutting it home from a tight angle.
Walker could have snatched the win late on but it was Dundee who claimed the points when Waddell was left unchecked again as he bulleted home from Paul McGowan’s last-gasp corner.
ends

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Motherwell vs. Partick Thistle – Football Match Report – September 30, 2017

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Peter Hartley scored his second goal in three games as Motherwell swept Partick Thistle aside in a 3-0 victory at Fir Park.
The on-loan Blackpool defender netted on the rebound in the seventh minute and helped set up Motherwell’s third for Ryan Bowman with a Cruyff turn on the opposition byline.
The centre-back was not alone in displaying confidence among the hosts and Craig Tanner netted his first Ladbrokes Premiership goal in a one-sided contest with Trevor Carson not having a save to make.
Motherwell buzzed forward in the opening stages and referee Greg Aitken soon had a big decision to make when Tomas Cerny took out Bowman just outside the box as the striker reached Louis Moult’s lob forward and headed the ball on.
Bowman looked set to reach the ball but Aitken ruled there was no obvious goalscoring opportunity and the Thistle goalkeeper escaped with a yellow card.
Moult punished Thistle in a different way with a free-kick that Cerny did well to push on to the post, and the rebound fell kindly for Hartley to bundle over the line.
Bowman was involved again moments later as Motherwell looked certain to go two up following his run and low cross, but Cerny saved Moult’s effort and Chris Cadden’s follow-up was cleared off the line before Carl McHugh shot wide.
Both teams were playing 3-4-1-2 formations but Cadden and Richard Tait were offering so much more attacking verve out wide than Milan Nitriansky and Paul McGinn for the visitors, who had lost wing-back Christie Elliott to a broken ankle the previous weekend.
Motherwell kept the Jags camped in their half for the vast majority of the opening quarter as they pressed forward relentlessly and remained comfortable after the pace settled down.
There was another potential red card call when Adam Barton delivered a studs-up, waist-high challenge on McHugh but again Aitken brandished a yellow card.
The visitors offered their fans brief hope after the break but Blair Spittal hit a 20-yard free-kick into the wall and any optimism evaporated in the 56th minute. Tait took on Nitriansky and delivered a square ball which Tanner drilled underneath Cerny, who could not stop it going over the line.
Visiting boss Alan Archibald immediately made a tactical switch as attacking midfielder Chris Erskine replaced centre-back Danny Devine. Conor Sammon and Steven Lawless were also brought on before the midway point of the half but the momentum remained with the hosts.
The lack of belief in the visiting ranks was encapsulated when Barton stopped in his tracks after being nutmegged by Moult, who came close several times before making way for Elliott Frear.
Frear came close with an ambitious effort before Bowman finished high into the net in the 82nd minute after Hartley had kept the ball live following a corner with his penalty-box trickery.
ends

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Kilmarnock vs. Ross County – Football Match Report – September 30, 2017

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Owen Coyle got off to a winning start in the Ladbrokes Premiership as his Ross County side coasted to a 2-0 victory at Kilmarnock.
The former Burnley, Blackburn and Bolton manager was appointed on Wednesday following the surprise departure of Jim McIntyre and slotted straight into his new role with a comfortable win.
Goals from Craig Curran and Kenny van der Weg – his first for the club – were enough to secure a win against a struggling Kilmarnock side, who remain without a win and are under increasing pressure.
It was a scrappy start to the game, with both sides bereft of seemingly confidence in possession.
The hosts looked particularly vulnerable to crosses from the right, and Andrew Davies wasted a fine opportunity in the 12th minute when he found himself unmarked in the area following a free kick, but was unable to direct his header goalwards.
Jordan Jones – who has been called up to the Northern Ireland squad to face Germany and Norway – showed his promise with a fine break upfield before the ball found Adam Frizzell, but the midfielder was unable to find Lee Erwin inside the area to the frustration of the home support.
Frizzell then saw a rasping shot go narrowly over the bar with the keeper flapping, before Ross County began to gain a hold of the game with Michael Gardyne testing Jamie MacDonald before Curran opened the scoring.
The forward drifted into the box and was found by a superb Davis Keillor-Dunn cross, and planted a fine header back across goal and into the bottom corner to ramp up the pressure on Killie boss Lee McCulloch.
The hosts threatened intermittently, but went into the break two goals down as Van der Weg raced onto a loose ball and dinked the ball over the onrushing MacDonald on the slide to open up a deserved two-goal cushion for Coyle’s men.
Kris Boyd came off the bench at the break and the switch to two up front seemed to help the hosts.
The veteran could have pulled one back on the hour only to completely miss-kick from six yards as the ball bounced back off his standing leg, before header over from a corner.
The Staggies were on the back foot for much of the second half, but were rarely troubled at the back and could have furthered their lead through Jamie Lindsay and Davies.
The game drifted towards the end despite Killie’s best efforts, leaving McCulloch under growing pressure at Rugby Park.

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Real Madrid vs. Espanyol – Football Match Preview – October 1, 2017

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Zinedine Zidane will decide on the day whether Gareth Bale is fit enough to try to help Real Madrid improve their stuttering home form against Espanyol on Sunday evening.
Bale capped a fine performance with a brilliant goal in Tuesday’s 3-1 Champions League win over Borussia Dortmund but did not finish the game and has not taken a full part in training since due to a muscle problem.
Zidane says Bale’s injury is not a major one and has not ruled the forward out of the Espanyol match, but insists he will not take any risks with a player who has been plagued by fitness issues during his time in Spain.
The Frenchman told a press conference: “We’ll see tomorrow if he’s involved. It’s a muscle fatigue, it’s nothing serious. But, as always, we don’t like to take any risks when a player has even a small problem. We’ll see how he is tomorrow. He could be available.”
Bale was this week named in the Wales squad for their upcoming World Cup qualifiers against Georgia and the Republic of Ireland.
Zidane said of that: “Regarding the national team, I don’t think there will be a problem between Madrid and Wales. It depends on him, on his state of fitness. We’ll take it day by day.”
Madrid started the weekend lying sixth in LaLiga and already seven points adrift of leaders Barcelona.
That is exclusively down to Madrid’s poor home form this season. In their three games at the Bernabeu, the reigning European and Spanish champions were held to draws by Valencia and Levante – having trailed in both matches – before going down 1-0 to Real Betis in their last home outing after conceding a stoppage-time winner.
Zidane is hoping for better against Espanyol, although he is not expecting it to be straightforward against a side that have taken seven points from their last three games.
He said: “We’re not living in the past. What has happened, has happened, but we can change it tomorrow and that’s what we’re going to try to do.
“They (Espanyol) have players to play well, but in the Bernabeu it’s different. They could sit back or they could come out and play, what we have to do is our work and try to make sure things go well for us from the start.”
As well as doubts about Bale, Madrid could also be without Karim Benzema, Marcelo, Theo Hernandez and Mateo Kovacic.
Espanyol picked up just one point from their opening three matches but look to have hit form now, with their last outing resulting in a 4-1 mauling of Deportivo La Coruna.
Coach Quique Sanchez Flores, a former player and youth-team coach at Madrid, knows his side cannot afford to let their standards slip at the Bernabeu, though.
He said on his club’s website: “I try to convey to my players that it’s a game where you cannot be overconfident, where you need to be very focused, not fall asleep or close your eyes for an instant, because in a very short space of time the game can change.
“We need to be strong, dignified and take advantage of our opportunities.”
Victor Sanchez, Pablo Piatti and Hernan Perez have dropped out of the squad that beat Depor, with Alvaro Vazquez, Naldo and Javi Fuego coming in.

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Vazquez penalty puts Toronto back in the lead

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Newcastle boss Rafa Benitez open to future return as Liverpool manager

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Jurgen Klopp believes Rafa Benitez’s connection with Liverpool won’t have an impact on the match.

Newcastle manager Rafa Benitez has failed to rule out a return to Liverpool as he prepares to face his former club on Sunday, saying “in the future you never know.”

Benitez spent six years in charge of Liverpool between 2004 and 2010, during which he won the Champions League, FA Cup, UEFA Super Cup and Community Shield.

“I didn’t get too many chances to go back. But that is football, you never know,” Benitez is quoted as saying by the Daily Mirror. “Have I come close? The job is quite difficult. I have been in Italy or Madrid or moving around. It has to be the right time. When you have problems and are available, they might be doing well.

“I am getting older, but for a manager, still a young manager… I don’t want to say [I will go back]. I am really pleased here. I am happy here. And I wish Jurgen Klopp a lot of success. But in the future… I want to be successful here. And what happens in the future you never know.

“We won four trophies, semifinals too in that short period. If you see the money we spent, and the money they’ve spent in the past years, the fans appreciate that.”

Benitez remains relaxed over his future at Newcastle amid speculation that the club wants to tie him down with a new contract.

The 57-year-old did not attempt to hide his frustration at Newcastle’s summer transfer dealings, which left his squad short of the depth for which he was hoping.

That prompted repeated claims that he was ready to walk out amid links with West Ham as Slaven Bilic came under intense pressure.

Benitez was coy over suggestions Newcastle owner Mike Ashley had invited him to dinner to discuss the future, but said he remains happy where he is.

Rafa Benitez faces former club Liverpool on Sunday.

“We have had some conversations internally. We’ll see what we do with them,” he said. “But it’s not a big issue. I don’t have a problem with Mike. The question is where we are, where we want to be and what we have to do to be there.

“It [the contract] is not an issue. It’s not something that will change my approach, or that I will be more comfortable if I sign a 20-year-old contract. It doesn’t change my approach for the next game.

“Are we working for the January transfer window? Yes, we are already working on that. Like the majority of the teams, we are monitoring players and that is the main thing. There will be a time, maybe next month, maybe next week, maybe in two months, when we will have another conversation and we will talk about that.”

Benitez has spent the last week preparing his players for Sunday’s Premier League clash with Liverpool, in which they will attempt to bounce back from last weekend’s 1-0 defeat at Brighton which ended their three-game unbeaten run.

Having been forced to miss several days of training and the 1-0 win at Swansea on Sept. 10 following hernia surgery, Benitez is happy simply to be back on the training pitch doing what he does best.

Asked if he was still content at Newcastle and excited about the future, he replied: “Yes. I love my job. That is to coach, to improve players and to create a team that is competitive and can win games. Then I have to enjoy it, for sure. Two weeks ago when I was lying down on the sofa, I was not very happy. Now I can be on the pitch, I am quite happy.”

Information from the Press Association was used in this report.

Follow @ESPNFC on Twitter to keep up with the latest football updates.

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Antoine Griezmann Atletico Madrid deliver flat performance in bore draw with Leganes

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Shaka Hislop tells Alexis Nunes what Diego Costa will bring to Atletico Madrid’s game come January.

Atletico Madrid suffered a European hangover, looking impotent and lethargic as they played out a goalless bore draw with local rivals Leganes on Saturday night.

A much-changed Atleti lineup, with several players out of position, raised a few eyebrows pre-kickoff, and the in-game management did little to help that. Truth be told, Los Rojiblancos never looked like scoring, and Jan Oblak saved their blushes in a tepid display.

Not to worry, just undefeated Barcelona to come after the international break. Gulp.

Positives

Oblak is probably the best goalkeeper in world football right now. This was another night on which he can hold his head high.

Negatives

The fact your goalkeeper is your best player against a side you should easily beat is never a good sign. No cutting edge, no real sense of urgency and no threat whatsoever despite enjoying most of the possession for Los Colchoneros. Admittedly, the players appeared perplexed by their tactical setup. A night to forget.

Manager rating out of 10

3 — Diego Simeone got everything wrong from start to finish. He set up cautiously, and his in-game substitutions were absolutely bizarre, to put it mildly. A chastening week for the Argentine.

Player ratings (1-10; 10=best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)

GK Jan Oblak, 8 — Three wonderful second-half saves stopped this from being an embarrassing defeat.

DF Jose Maria Gimenez, 6 — A decent enough right-back in games when you are up against it and need the extra aerial presence. However, in matches where you enjoy the lion’s share of the ball and need to break down a low block, he is very much not the man to play at full-back, given he is a centre-back not known for his ability on the ball.

DF Stefan Savic, 6 — Appeared to be determined to clear the stands with every clearance he made. No nonsense, if at times uncomposed, display from the Montenegrin.

DF Diego Godin, 6 — Went close with a header late on and the side only looked moderately threatening once he went and played up front for the final 10 — but that is not his job.

DF Saul Niguez, 5 — Again. When you need to break down a low block, why play your best goal-scoring midfielder out of position in defence? Bizarre from the boss.

MF Koke, 5 — Patchy. His early season form appears long gone. Could not seem to get a corner to beat the first man and looked shattered by the end of the game as he made wrong decision after wrong decision. 

MF Thomas Partey, 5 — Got stuck in as things got feisty in midfield, but does he have enough on-ball quality to play in this side, especially against a resilient opposition? 

Atletico Madrid had a letdown against rival Leganes and were fortunate to even escape with a point.

MF Gabi, 6 — Shielded the back four, but given the circumstances of the game that was not what was needed. Another strange decision from the boss as he left both holding midfielders on for the full 90 minutes.

MF Angel Correa, 5 — Taken out from the striking role he has looked so dangerous in recent weeks and did not look comfortable. Lost possession a couple of times and is much more comfortable farther forward. Subbed.

FW Antoine Griezmann, 5 — Once again was largely on the periphery and has not been great as of late. One menacing run — on which he was crudely hauled down — aside, he did not look like threatening at all. Withdrawn to the surprise of many, but frankly his performance deserved it.  

FW Luciano Vietto, 2 — Must be doing something right in training because in matches he certainly is not. Needs to be binned.

Substitutes

MF Yannick Carrasco, 5 — Was direct enough, but there was little to no end product. Not helped by a lack of movement around him up top.

FW Fernando Torres, 5 — Headed over from a decent position late on. Did little else.

DF Sime Vrsaljko, 4 — Brought on for Griezmann, which was an odd change. To boot, he was out of position at left-back and did not look comfortable. Booked for a cynical foul.

Joseph Walker covers Atletico Madrid for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter: @Joe_in_espana.

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Diego Simeone – Atletico Madrid’s busy week led to ‘disappointing’ draw

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Atletico Madrid could not find a winning goal against Leganes on Saturday.

Atletico Madrid coach Diego Simeone said midweek effort in the Champions League defeat to Chelsea contributed to his side’s lethargic display in Saturday evening’s uneventful goalless La Liga draw at Leganes.

In a scrappy game of few clear chances, Atletico edged the first half and came closest with a Saul Niguez 20-yarder pushed away by home goalkeeper Ivan Cuellar. After the break, Leganes were on top and visiting goalkeeper Jan Oblak saved twice from substitute Nabil El-Zhar.

The Rojiblanco coach told the postgame news conference at Butarque that his team might have taken control early on, but as the game wore on tiredness from their recent exertions took a toll.

“After the effort we made Wednesday the game was going to be conditioned by the first 20-25 minutes,” Simeone said. “We had chances early on, but they defended very well with many players.

“We made a big effort against Chelsea, and it is not easy to keep putting in such efforts. We got a point, which is disappointing, but we must keep working.”

Atletico’s usual attacking star Antoine Griezmann was substituted midway through the second half, with full-back Sime Vrsaljko sent on in a tactical switch which moved Saul up front alongside another sub Fernando Torres.

“I read the game the way I read it,” Simeone said. “We needed more fresh legs up front. We have got used to Griezmann always solving problems for us up front. When he does not score it is obviously more difficult. But we need to be closer to goal, to make chances, and this is not just down to Griezmann.”

Simeone said that considering all the challenges his side had faced recently he was relatively happy with how they were positioned heading into the international break.

“We have had a lot of games recently, and tried to rotate and give people chances,” he said. “They are humans who must keep running, and it is not easy to be at 100 percent in all games.

“I am happy with the team, they keep fighting, despite all the difficulties — many games away from home, and our new stadium which we still need to get used to. So we are going very well.”

Dermot Corrigan is a Madrid-based football writer who covers La Liga and the Spain national team for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @dermotmcorrigan

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Leganes vs. Atletico Madrid – Football Match Report – September 30, 2017

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Atletico Madrid missed the chance to close the gap on La Liga leaders Barcelona after they were held to a goalless draw at Leganes on Saturday.

Diego Simeone’s men were looking to produce a positive response following the disappointment of the dramatic stoppage-time home defeat by Chelsea in the Champions League on Wednesday night.

However, Los Colchoneros were left frustrated in their search for a third successive La Liga victory as Leganes produced a determined display to earn a share of the spoils.

Leganes went close in the first half when Claudio Beauvue’s shot was just wide, while at the other end goalkeeper Ivan Cuellar had to be alert to save from Madrid defender Stefan Savic.

Atletico, though, had goalkeeper Jan Oblak to thank for a brilliant save to deny Nabil El Zhar at point-blank range before Cuellar produced another fine stop from Diego Godin’s header during the closing stages.

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Victory over Roma would silence Vincenzo Montella doubters at AC Milan

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Shaka Hislop delves into the latest rumours surrounding Ozil, Ancelotti, Werner and many more in Rumour Rater.
Rijeka fought back late at the San Siro, but Patrick Cutrone’s stoppage-time goal led Milan to victory in the Europa League.

It seems strange to suggest that a game in October is so crucial for AC Milan, but that’s what faces them this weekend when they host Roma at the San Siro. Vincenzo Montella is coming under pressure very early this season, and both the Milan boss and his players must step up and silence the doubters.

Ten wins in 12 games in all competitions so far this season, including Europa League qualifiers, would suggest that Montella is doing a stellar job. However, it doesn’t tell the whole story as the level of opposition must be taken into account.

The Rossoneri have cantered to comfortable wins over the likes of Shkendija and Austria Wien, and at times they’ve looked very impressive. Having had to integrate 11 new players over the summer in a rebuilt squad with high expectations, it was never going to be easy.

However, when the opposition has stepped up, notably in trips to Lazio and Sampdoria, Milan haven’t been able to match them, and in turn it has raised serious questions about Montella’s ability to coach this side to success, and about the players who have disappointed and must share the blame.

Looking deeper into the results, Milan only just scraped through with a win over Rijeka on Thursday night, needed two penalties to see off SPAL and had Suso to thank for a moment of magic in the win over Cagliari.

Many supporters still believe that Montella is the man to take the club forward, and these problems were to be expected with such a dramatically changed side early in the campaign. However, others argue that they’ve already seen enough struggles to determine that Milan won’t get to where they want to be with him at the helm.

His situation wasn’t helped with Carlo Ancelotti’s sacking this week by Bayern Munich, as the Milan hero is still highly revered by supporters after such successful stints with the club both as a player and a coach. In turn, it ramps up the pressure on the current boss to get things right, as it seems as though a possible replacement is suddenly back on the market.

However, it’s surely too early to be discussing Montella’s future. The defeat at Lazio was a capitulation either side of half-time and while it was wholly unacceptable, it can be forgiven to an extent in that it was an almost unexplainable collapse that Milan can learn from.

In contrast, though, the Sampdoria loss was a real cause for concern as it raised doubts over Montella’s tactics and ability to change a game, and the players certainly didn’t cover themselves in glory, either.

Leonardo Bonucci is one of the big-name players who need to be much better if Milan are to challenge for a UCL place.

Speaking of those players, their coach needs more from them, too. Leonardo Bonucci is not performing at the level that we’ve grown used to seeing from him in past years, and various other individuals need to step up, take on leadership roles and drag Milan to better performances if need be.

Nevertheless, it’s still a vicious cycle in that Montella can be blamed for various issues: from refusing to rest Franck Kessie to rotating the likes of Andre Silva, Hakan Calhanoglu and Giacomo Bonaventura in and out of the team, offering them no real chance of continuity and consistency.

While he has options and needs to keep everyone happy and fresh, this is the time for Montella to put out his best team and build a formidable group capable of competing on all fronts. The international break follows the Roma game, so there are no excuses when it comes to putting out a strong lineup with those who have impressed thus far.

It’s never nice to lose and is unacceptable for Milan, but if the result doesn’t arrive on Sunday evening, then so be it. But we can’t see a repeat of the display that we saw against Sampdoria, which showed a Milan side devoid of commitment, desire, invention and charisma, looking inferior and failing to even threaten to score.

Roma are a direct rival for a Champions League qualification spot this season and have a settled squad with many top-class players. It won’t be easy, but Milan must now prove that they can go toe-to-toe with a top side.

Seeing off SPAL, Shkendija and Crotone is all well and good, but falling short against Lazio and possibly Roma, with the Milan derby to come, is simply not good enough.

Sumeet Paul covers AC Milan for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter: @SP_Calcio.

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