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Atletico Madrid
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2:00 AM UTC Jul 30, 2016
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Trending: Pogba to seal Man United return


MLS Forecaster: 2016 Playoff projections

Major League Soccer

Team of the Week

So far this season, not too many teams can say they have had to withstand a siege by Queens Park Rangers. But Everton, reduced to ten men when Steven Pienaar was sent off at Loftus Road, did in the second half. Step forward Tim Howard, who seized his chance to shine as Mark Hughes' strugglers piled on the pressure. Some solid takes from crosses, augmented by a brave sliding block from Djibril Cisse and a top-notch one-handed save from a Junior Hoilett curler, went a long way towards ensuring that the Merseysiders left West London with a point.

Also in that part of the world, Fulham right-back Chris Baird, whose goals would best be described as rare, popped up to break the deadlock as his side beat Aston Villa at Craven Cottage. The Northern Ireland international crowned a solid performance with a neat finish from John Arne Riise's corner to mark his 150th appearance for the club in style.

Derby day in the North-East, or anywhere for that matter, is so often characterised by blood and thunder, with the defending on show more often about the basics of getting rid of the ball than anything else. But nobody told Newcastle's Fabricio Coloccini that, and he produced a masterclass in calmness against Sunderland at the Stadium of Light. The Argentina international bossed things as the Magpies, for so long down to ten men, looked set to hang on for a win, distributing the ball coolly and appearing to be in the right place at the right time all the time. "Like watching Bobby Moore," said his manager Alan Pardew afterwards.

Back to Loftus Road, and back to Everton to find Coloccini's defensive partner. It's the Merseysiders' Mr Reliable, Phil Jagielka, who gave yet another demonstration of why he is so highly-regarded with a brilliant performance as his ten-man side repelled the Rangers surges. Jagielka won a succession of crucial balls and produced a number of vital last-ditch challenges and headers as the crosses and passes came pouring into the Everton penalty area. A central defensive 'how to do it' show, in which he also found time to worry Rangers at the other end of the pitch, coming close to a goal on a couple of occasions.

On the left of defence, teenage left-back Ben Davies has more than justified Swansea manager Michael Laudrup's faith in him this season, adapting to first-team life with assured ease. He showed the poise of a far more experienced player during a difficult finale to the home game against Wigan as the Swans, clinging to a 2-1 lead, dropped deeper and deeper before eventually taking the three points to end a recent barren run.

And talking of younger players, Brendan Rodgers is another manager to adopt the "if you're good enough, you're old enough" mantra. Liverpool winger Raheem Sterling became the club's second-youngest goalscorer at the age of only 17 when he netted the winner against Reading at Anfield, but there was so much more to his contribution than that. His pace, intelligence and confidence - allied with his fine understandings with the likes of Glen Johnson and Luis Suarez - were at the heart of most of the good things Liverpool did.

Big Sam Allardyce is a very good manager. It shouldn't need saying, but the way West Ham's superb return to the top flight seems to have crept under the radar is harsh not only on Big Sam Allardyce but also on players such as Mark Noble, who was the star of the show as Southampton, promoted with the Londoners, were brushed aside at Upton Park. Noble, a Hammer through and through, makes his team tick and although there was more than a touch of fortune about his first goal (a free-kick that went all the way across the box and drifted in), a confident penalty for his second made it 3-1 and nipped any thoughts of a Saints comeback in the bud.

Juan Mata is just utterly brilliant, and proved it again on Saturday. There may well have been a lot of (justified) excitement about the arrivals of Eden Hazard and Oscar at the Bridge over the summer, but Mata is in a class of his own when he plays as he did at White Hart Lane. A wonderful passer, almost impossible to track and possessing a first touch that borders on the ludicrous, he can score goals, make them and turn bad passes in to good ones. He scored two at White Hart Lane, and is at the heart of Chelsea's ongoing metamorphosis from pragmatists to stylists.

He's in a will-o-the-wisp creative double act this week with the sparkling Wes Hoolahan, who was mercurial as Norwich City recorded their first Premier League win of the season against Arsenal at Carrow Road. When Hoolahan plays well, the Canaries tend to - and he was everywhere against the Gunners, prompting, probing, passing, scurrying and harrying his Arsenal counterparts whenever they were in possession. Quite how he continues to be overlooked by Republic of Ireland manager Giovanni Trapattoni is an absolute mystery to those who watch him on a regular basis. An underrated gem of a player.

Edin Dzeko is rapidly becoming the David Fairclough of our days, the super-sub who changes games on a regular basis. He did it again as Manchester City continued their imitation of neighbours United's late winner trick, and results like the turnaround he engineered at West Brom could be absolutely crucial when the points are added up at the end of the season. Dzeko entered the fray with a little over ten minutes to go and his team 1-0 down. By the time the final whistle had gone, a header from a free-kick and a poacher's finish had given victory to the ten-man champions, for whom James Milner was sent off.

Wayne Rooney may not strictly be a striker some of the time nowadays, and has spoken of how much he enjoys playing a deeper midfield role, but he was in goalscoring form as Manchester United won an entertainingly open game against Stoke. Although Rooney popped up at the wrong end to nod Stoke in front as he tried to deal with a free-kick by Charlie Adam, he made amends in style, heading home a Robin Van Persie cross and then poaching from a rebound to wrap up the points.

This week's man in the dugout is Chris Hughton, whose start at Norwich hasn't been easy, but whose bravery in playing a high-octane, pressing and attacking team against Arsenal, despite having not won a game before then, was amply rewarded. As Hughton said, his side's victory was no fluke - and the contributions made to it by Hughton signings Alexander Tettey, Sebastien Bassong and Michael Turner were all very considerable.


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