WEEKLY RECAP

Weekly soccer recap: Man City, Barca, PSG remains undefeated, MLS Cup playoffs resume

The Houston Dynamo resume their playoff run when they host Seattle Sounders FC in the first leg of the MLS Western Conference final on Tuesday night. Victor Araiza

League play is back in full swing as the international calendar came to an end. The field of 32 teams going to the FIFA World Cup next year is set, with Australia and Peru solidifying the last spots. Clubs returned to business as usual, with deciding matches in the Champions League looming ahead to start the week.

Premier League

Manchester City seems to be the consensus favorite to win the Premier League despite the fact that it’s still only November. That’s because they’re running like a well oiled locomotive with no signs of stopping - and their form extends into the Champions League as well. Guardiola’s side won 2-0 against Leicester City displaying their menacing tactical style, though were lucky not to have their captain Vincent Kompany sent off.

While it seems that the rest might be a race for second, the field looks pretty good. Manchester United welcomed back the likes of Paul Pogba and Zlatan Ibrahimovic in a 4-1 win over Newcastle. Chelsea demolished West Brom 4-0 on the road, led by an Eden Hazard double while Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah had a double of his own in the Reds 3-0 win vs. Southampton.

The spotlight this weekend, however, was on the North London Derby where Tottenham was looked on as the heavy favorite. Arsenal had the last laugh in the 2-0 win at the Emirates, further frustrating their supporters about the inconsistency of their form.

Top 5: Manchester City (34), Manchester United (26), Chelsea (25), Tottenham (23), Liverpool (22)

La Liga

The Madrid Derby was the focus of the weekend in Spain as Atlético Madrid welcomed their crosstown rivals to their new stadium. Neither team really did much to separate themselves from the other and the real winner of this nil-nil draw was FC Barcelona, who’s lead in the standings only grows with the Catalan’s 3-0 win at Leganes. Valencia did pick up a 2-0 win over Espanyol and are quietly hanging around second place. Sevilla stays in fifth with a 2-1 win over Celta Vigo.

The 5: Barcelona (34), Valencia (30), Real Madrid (24), Atlético Madrid (24) and Sevilla (22)

Bundesliga

Remember when Bayern Munich fired their manager after that embarrassing 3-0 loss to Paris in the Champions League and trailed rivals Dortmund in the league? That was at the end of September and is now history as the Bavarians have gone undefeated in all competitions since then and are on a five game winning streak in the league. More importantly, they look to be on a steady path to their 27th Bundesliga title with a five point cushion over second place.

Schalke moved up to second with a 2-0 win over Hamburg and a 2-2 draw from RB Leipzig at Bayer Leverkusen. Dortmund fall to fifth after a 2-1 loss at Stuttgart, their third straight loss in the league.

Top 5: Bayern Munich (29), Schalke 04 (23), RB Leipzig (23), Mönchengladbach (21), Dortmund (20)

Ligue 1

All is well in the City of Lights as Cavanni, Di Maria and Pastore lit up the scoreboard in Paris Saint-Germain’s 4-1 win over Nantes. The result extends the Parisians lead in the league, currently at six points, and keep them undefeated along the likes of other European powers like Manchester City and Barcelona. The three closest teams in the table - Monaco, Lyon and Marseille - did not do themselves any favors as all three drew this weekend.

Top 5: Paris Saint-Germain (35), Monaco (29), Lyon (26), Marseille (25), Nantes (23)

Serie A

All eyes were on Rome to start the weekend as rivals Roma and Lazio faced off in the nation’s capital. Roma were 2-1 winners in the Derby della Capitale with a deciding goal from Radja Nainggolan. Napoli kept the lead at the top with a 2-1 win over A.C. Milan while Inter Milan keeps pace in second with a 2-0 win vs. Atalanta. The attention ended on Genoa as Sampdoria stunned Juventus with a 3-2 win.

The top 5: Napoli (35), Inter Milan (33), Juventus (31), Roma (30), Lazio (28)

Major League Soccer

The MLS Cup Playoffs resume after a two week break with the conference finals opening on Tuesday. Columbus Crew SC hosts Toronto FC followed by Houston Dynamo hosting Seattle Sounders FC. The second legs will be played next week but teams can set themselves up nicely, especially Toronto and Seattle who will be looking to leave with away goals. Sellout crowds are expected in both Columbus and Houston.

Liga MX

Mexico had a derby of their own as the Clásico Regio saw Monterrey finish at the top of the table with a 2-0 win over Tigres. Defending champions Guadalajara - who were eliminated from the playoffs a while back - ended their season with a 2-0 win over León. Necaxa and Tijuana were denied entrance into the playoffs and a deflected goal has pit crosstown rivals América and Cruz Azul into a first round playoff series. The playoffs kick off Wednesday.

Playoff matchups: (1) Monterrey vs. (8) Atlas, (2) Tigres vs. (7) León, (3) América vs. (6) Cruz Azul, (4) Morelia vs. (5) Toluca.

MVP of the Week - Mohamed Salah

A big reason why Liverpool have failed to regain the mystique that once made them one of “the big four” was the factor of having players who other teams had to account for. Players who would show up and win games for the club. Mohamed Salah has done that for LFC this year with nine goals in the league - now the top scorer - and four in the Champions League. He is proving to be a one-two punch for the Reds with the likes of Philippe Coutinho and could give Liverpool fans hope of long-standing success at the top if they can retain the two. So far Salah is the signing of the season.

Upcoming Matches (All Times CT):

Tuesday, Nov. 21:

11:00 a.m.- Besiktas vs. Porto (FS2)

1:30 p.m.- APOEL vs. Real Madrid (FS1)

1:30 p.m.- Dortmund vs. Tottenham (FS2)

1:30 p.m.- Manchester City vs. Feyenoord (FOX Sports Southwest)

1:30 p.m.- Sevilla vs. Liverpool (Facebook)

7:00 p.m.- Columbus Crew SC vs. Toronto FC (ESPN)

8:30 p.m.- Houston Dynamo vs. Seattle Sounders FC (FS1)

Wednesday, Nov. 22:

11:00 a.m.- Qarabag vs. Chelsea (FS2)

1:30 p.m.- Juventus vs. Barcelona (FS1)

1:30 p.m.- Basel vs. Manchester United (FS2)

1:30 p.m.- PSG vs. Celtic (FOX Sports Southwest)

1:30 p.m.- Atlético Madrid vs. Roma (Facebook)

7:30 p.m.- Toluca vs. Monarcas (Univision Deportes)

9:30 p.m.- León vs. Tigres (Univision Deportes)

Thursday, Nov. 23:

12:00 p.m.- FC Köln vs. Arsenal (FS1)

12:00 p.m.- Konyaspor vs. Marseille (FS2)

2:00 p.m.- Everton vs. Atalanta (FS1)

2:00 p.m.- A.C. Milan vs. Austria Vienna (FS2)

7:30 p.m.- Cruz Azul vs. América (Univision Deportes)

9:30 p.m.- Atlas vs. Monterrey (Univision Deportes)

Friday, Nov. 24:

1:20 p.m.- Hannover 96 vs. Stuttgart (FS2)

2:00 p.m.- West Ham vs. Leicester City (NBC Sports)

Saturday, Nov. 25:

9:00 a.m. - Manchester United vs. Brighton (NBC Sports)

9:15 a.m. - Real Madrid vs. Málaga (beIN Sports)

11:20 a.m. - Mönchengladbach vs. Bayern Munich (FS2)

11:30 a.m. - Liverpool vs. Chelsea (NBC)

7:00 p.m.- Tigres vs. León (Univision Deportes)

9:00 p.m.- Morelia vs. Toluca (Univision Deportes)

Sunday, Nov. 26:

8:00 a.m. - Burnley vs. Arsenal (NBC Sports)

10:00 a.m. - Huddersfield vs. Manchester City (NBC Sports)

1:45 p.m. - Valencia vs. Barcelona (beIN Sports)

6:00 p.m.- Monterrey vs. Atlas (Univision Deportes)

8:00 p.m.- América vs. Cruz Azul (Univision Deportes)

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It more of the same from the Houston Texans. Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images.

Sunday afternoon provided a high-res snapshot of the state of Houston sports. The Astros, already assured of the best record in the American League, played a game they didn’t need to win. The Astros won, ho-hum, their 104th win of the season.

Meanwhile, eight miles away, the Texans, mired in last place with fan support dwindling, played a game they really needed to win. The Texans lost 34-24 to the Los Angeles Chargers in front of (giggle) 69,071 fans at NRG Stadium. The Texans really ought to stop saying the stands are packed. Every time a team punts, and cameras follow the ball skyward, there are thousands of empty seats on display. I know the NFL methodology for determining attendance, (total tickets sold, no-shows don’t count) but it just looks silly when the Texans announce 69,000 fans.

The Texans came close as usual before sputtering to another defeat. The Texans now stand at 0-3-1, the only winless team in the NFL. It’s the second time in three years they’ve started a season without a victory after four games. It’s telling to note that not one of the Texans opponents has a winning record for 2022.

In other words, the Texans have played four games they shoulda/coulda won. Shouda against the Colts, Broncos and Bears, and coulda against the Chargers.

Should/coulda four wins. Instead, none.

That’s the Texans. They’re in every game but can’t close the deal. Yeah, yeah, on Monday we hear, “the Texans are playing hard for coach Lovie Smith” and “they’re competitive” and “they’re a young team.” These are NFL equivalents of a participation trophy.

Sunday’s loss to the Chargers at NRG Stadium was straight out of the Texans playbook. Fall behind, make it interesting, lose. The Texans stuck to their script, timid play calling, momentum-crushing penalties (nine for 67 yards), self-inflicted drops, lackluster quarterbacking and Rex Burkhead on the field for crunch time. After one play where a Texan player was called for holding, the announcer said, “and he did a poor job of holding.”

Statuesque quarterback David Mills keeps saying “we’re in a good spot” and “we’re improving.” Statuesque as in he doesn’t move – or barely moves to avoid sacks. Sunday saw his first touchdown pass to a wide receiver. He’s now thrown four interceptions in the past two games. Let’s go to the tote board: 5 touchdowns, 4 interceptions, 4 fumbles, 11 sacks, qbr rating 28.5 – good for 28th in the league.

A bright spot, sort of. This was the first week the Texans didn’t cover the spread. They’re now 1-2-1 against Vegas oddsmakers, meaning you’ve won money if you took the Texans all four weeks. They head to Jacksonville next as early 6.5-point underdogs.

Meanwhile, Alabama’s brilliant quarterback Bryce Young, who will be available for the Texans when they draft first in 2023 (as Paul Heyman says, that’s not a prediction, that’s a spoiler), suffered a shoulder injury last Saturday. The Texans need to take out a Lloyds of London insurance policy on Young.

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