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Three Talking Points From The Premier League’s Opening Weekend

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Manchester City showed why they remain the team to beat on the Premier League’s return this weekend as the English champions cruised to a 3-0 win at Burnley.

Arsenal got their title challenge off to a winning start, but had to survive a nervy finish in beating Nottingham Forest 2-1.

The game of the weekend ended in a 1-1 draw between Chelsea and Liverpool, while Tottenham were also held 2-2 at Brentford in their first taste of life without Harry Kane.

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AFP Sport looks at three talking points from the opening weekend of the season:

Caicedo chase explained

Moises Caicedo of Brighton & Hove Albion looks on during the Premier League Summer Series match between Brighton & Hove Albion and Newcastle United at Red Bull Arena on July 28, 2023 in Harrison, New Jersey. (Photo by Tim Nwachukwu / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / Getty Images via AFP)

READ ALSO: Transfer: Lukaku Set To Return To Chelsea As Talks With Inter Collapse

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Chelsea and Liverpool took their battle in the transfer market for the signature of Brighton midfielder Moises Caicedo onto the pitch at Stamford Bridge.

But both sides showed why they are willing to break the Premier League transfer record by spending at least £110 million ($140 million) for the Ecuadorian.

Liverpool started without a recognised defensive midfielder and an attack-minded front six looked slick early on as Luis Diaz gave the visitors the lead.

Chelsea, though, were soon able to pick the Reds’ defence apart with ease and could easily have given Mauricio Pochettino a dream start as Blues boss.

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Pochettino’s midfield options have been decimated by a clearout to trim down a bloated squad.

And they appear the front-runners to land Caicedo with Stamford Bridge the 21-year-old’s preferred destination.

READ ALSO: Man City To Receive Highest Bonus As FIFA Pays Clubs For World Cup Participation

Mind over matter for City

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Manchester City’s Spanish manager Pep Guardiola (R) speaks to his players during the English Premier League football match between Burnley and Manchester City at Turf Moor in Burnley, north-west England on August 11, 2023. (Photo by Darren Staples / AFP) /

City ended last season over a month after Burnley had concluded their Championship campaign, but a lack of preparation time for the new season did not show on opening night.

Pep Guardiola insisted the champions are far from their physical best.

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“We are still away from our best form but we have to try to not drop points in this period with this amount of games,” said Guardiola.

“How you solve this lack of preparation is a question of mentality.”

But Erling Haaland’s finishing was as sharp as ever to ensure there was no slip-up from City.

The Norwegian took just over three minutes of the new season to find the net before smashing home a sumptuous second off the underside of the bar.

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READ ALSO: EPL: Arteta Picks Arsenal Player To Replace Gabriel Jesus

Newcastle flex strength in depth

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Newcastle United’s Swedish striker #14 Alexander Isak (C) celebrates with teammates after scoring their third goal during the English Premier League football match between Newcastle United and Aston Villa at St James’ Park in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, north east England on August 12, 2023. (Photo by Ian Hodgson / AFP)

As many of the game’s biggest names chased the riches on offer in the Gulf in recent months, Saudi-backed Newcastle have again resisted the temptation to splash out on stars.

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However, Sandro Tonali and Harvey Barnes enjoyed dream debuts in a 5-1 demolition of Aston Villa that exemplified the new-found strength in depth on offer to Eddie Howe.

Tonali smashed home just six minutes into his St James’ Park bow after a cross from Anthony Gordon, who had started ahead of Barnes.

Howe’s decision to select Alexander Isak over Callum Wilson was also rewarded with two goals by the Swede.

But Barnes made a stunning impact off the bench as he teed up Wilson for Newcastle’s fourth before rounding off the scoring in stoppage time.

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The Magpies will need a stronger squad as the demands of a first Champions League campaign for 20 years kick in.

On this evidence, though, their rise since the Saudi Public Investment Fund took charge under two years ago shows no sign of stopping.

AFP

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BREAKING: Spain Beat England 2-1 To Win Euro 2024

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The Spanish national team on Sunday night defeated the Three Lions of England 2-1 to lift the Euro 2024 trophy.

Spain’s Mikel Oyarzabal 86th minute goal secured the trophy for a record fourth time.

Nico Williams had earlier in the second half put Spain ahead in Berlin, Germany, before Cole Palmer levelled for England.

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READ ALSO: [BREAKING] PHOTOS: Germany, Denmark Euro 2024 Game Halted Due To Violent Storm

Meanwhile, Marc Guehi’s effort to equalise for the Three Lions at the last minute was frustrated by Dani Olmo to finally sealed the trophy for the Spanish team.

Details later…

 

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VIDEO: Former Liverpool Striker Roberto Firmino Becomes Pastor In Hometown

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Former Liverpool striker Roberto Firmino has embraced a new calling, announcing his ordination as an evangelical pastor at the age of 32.

The Brazilian footballer shared the news on his social media accounts, revealing a significant transition in his life.

Firmino, alongside his wife, was ordained as a pastor at the church they founded three years ago. The dedication ceremony took place last Sunday in his hometown of Maceio.

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In a heartfelt message, Firmino expressed that becoming a pastor was not an initial goal, but a mission that emerged from his encounter with Christ.

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“Since our encounter with Christ, a longing burns in our hearts… that people may know this love that has reached us. Now we have another responsibility… To be pastors according to the heart of God and to cooperate with the Kingdom,” Firmino stated.

He also extended his gratitude to pastors Jairo and Keila for their belief and encouragement in his spiritual journey.

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Firmino enjoyed a prolific career at Liverpool from 2015 to 2023, during which he secured seven major titles, including the 2019/20 Premier League and the 2018/19 UEFA Champions League.

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One of his standout moments was scoring the decisive goal in the 2019 Club World Cup final, securing the title for the Reds.

Last season, Firmino played 34 games for Al-Ahli, scoring nine goals. He also represented the Brazilian national team, participating in the 2018 World Cup.

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Currently, Roberto Firmino continues his football career with the Saudi Arabian club Al-Ahli, where he played 34 matches in all competitions last season, scoring nine goals and providing seven assists.

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Finidi George Gets New Job

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Former Super Eagles coach Finidi George has taken up another managerial job at Nigeria Premier Football League side, Rivers United, barely three weeks after resigning as the head coach of Nigeria’s men’s senior national team, The PUNCh reports.

Finidi was announced as the head coach of the 2022 NPFL champions on Wednesday with an unveiling set to follow on Thursday.

Rivers United Football Club is pleased to announce the appointment of Finidi George as our new Technical Manager,” the club said in a statement on Wednesday.

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Finidi brings a wealth of experience and expertise to our team, having had a distinguished playing career spanning over fifteen years.

READ ALSO: Knocks For Osimhen After Finidi George Outburst

The statement reads, “His impressive credentials include winning the Africa Cup of Nations with the Super Eagles in 1994, the UEFA Champions League with Ajax in 1995, and the Nigeria Premier Football League with Enyimba International FC in 2023.

“As a coach, Finidi has demonstrated his ability to lead teams to success, and we are confident that he will bring his expertise and passion to our club. We are excited to have him on board and look forward to a successful tenure under his leadership.”

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Finidi left his role as the Super Eagles head coach in June after two games in charge. It was in the wake of the team’s poor performance in two 2026 World Cup qualifiers against South Africa and the Benin Republic which forced the Nigeria Football Federation to resort to hiring a foreign technical adviser for the team.

READ ALSO: BREAKING: Finidi George Resigns As Super Eagles Head Coach

Before taking the Super Eagles job, Finidi spent two full seasons and almost completed the third with Enyimba, leading them to their record-ninth NPFL title in 2023.

At Rivers United, he takes over the leadership from head coach Evans Ogenyi, who guided the club until the end of last season after the dismissal of the long-serving Stanley Eguma.

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A native of Port Harcourt, the 53-year-old began his career with Calabar Rovers, Iwanyanwu Nationale and represented local club Sharks FC – which was merged in 2016 with Dolphins to form Rivers United – for two seasons before embarking on a stellar European career.

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