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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A WEEKLY REVIEW OF CRENNEL'S COACHING

Now my job: Texans feast on Lions

Photo by Getty Images.

Thanksgiving is full of tradition. There's the typical family gathering, large meal, and of course, football. Sometimes, new traditions are added and old ones are retired. I think the Texans did both in their impressive 41-25 win over the Lions in Detroit. Old traditions were carried on (Lions losing on Thanksgiving), some were put to rest (Texans not being able to get turnovers), and new ones were started (multiple passing touchdowns by Deshaun Watson in six straight games).

The fact that this defense got three turnovers in the game was unbelievable! They got all three in the first quarter within the span of eight plays. JJ Watt's pick-six was insane. He went for a batted ball, ended up catching it, and ran it in. They forced Jonathan Williams to fumble on the Lions' very next play from scrimmage and recovered it. On the Lions' next possession, the Texans recovered yet another fumble after the challenge was reversed. Great call by the coaching staff to challenge and win. The defense looked good. Tyrell Adams stood out because he was in on those two fumbles, made 17 total tackles with 14 of them being solo tackles. They also brought pressure that seemed to make Matthew Stafford very inaccurate and resulted in four sacks. I give defensive coordinator Anthony Weaver credit for knowing he needs to blitz to get pressure, but the run defense has to improve.

The offense kept the tempo up in this game as well. The spread and hurry-up were used to keep the Lions already staggered defense off balance. Knowing the Lions were without a couple defensive backs, I thought it would be the perfect marriage of their defense and the Texans' offense. A buddy asked before the game about the line (Texans -3.5) and the over/under (52.5). I told him bet the Texans and the over because neither team can play defense and both have good quarterbacks. Offensive coordinator Tim Kelly put together another good game plan and Watson executed it flawlessly. One route combo I saw later on in the game I particularly enjoyed. Two receivers were tight to the left side. Cooks ran a hook/curl and settled in the middle of the zone while Fuller ran a vertical route. Duke Johnson ran a swing route to that same side. It left Cooks wide open as the attention went to Johnson in the flat, Fuller deep, and the action to the other play side. Route combos are important because it gives the quarterback different reads as he goes through his progressions and lets him pick apart the defense based on what he sees. Combine that with Watson's play and the way Kelly has changed his play calling now that he's liberated from he who shall not be named, we're seeing a beautiful thing.

As good as things were, there's still room for improvement. The defense gives up way too many easy yards, both run and pass. They can't get pressure bringing only four and will often give up big plays if the blitz is picked up. Plus the run defense is still an issue as evidenced by the Lions' first possession of the second half. The Lions ran the ball 10 plays straight for a total of 58 yards on that drive. Utterly ridiculous! Watson was good (17/25 318 yards and four touchdowns), but he missed two more touchdowns with passes slightly off, and continues to hold onto the ball too long at times. The difference between these two issues I've presented here is the fact that Watson has so played well, his "issues" are minor and very correctable, while the defense is terrible and there's no easy fix in sight. But let Romeo Crennel and Anthony Weaver tell it, they're getting the most out of these guys and they're playing disciplined.

The thought that this team may actually creep into the playoff picture may take shape better after next week if they can beat the Colts. I doubt it, but it is getting interesting. Let's see what else happens around them because they need help getting there.

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