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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Boston's two grand slams in the first two innings were too much for Houston to overcome in ALCS Game 2. Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

After a win in ALCS Game 1 that had the prototypical fingerprints of this Astros team all over it, Houston returned to Minute Maid Park on Saturday, hoping to take a dominant 2-0 series lead if they could grab another victory. The Red Sox dashed those hopes very early, though, scoring eight runs across the first two innings to build the lead they would hold on to even the series.

Final Score: Boston 9, Astros 5

ALCS Series (Best of Seven): tied 1-1

Winning Pitcher: Nathan Eovaldi

Losing Pitcher: Luis Garcia

Houston met with disaster to start Game 2

You couldn't have drawn up a much better start for the Red Sox or a worse one for the Astros in Saturday's ALCS Game 2. Luis Garcia met early disaster in the top of the first inning, allowing a leadoff double, then got two outs while issuing two walks to load the bases. That brought up Boston's designated hitter, J.D. Martinez, to the plate, and he delivered a crushing blow to Houston, launching a grand slam to put the Red Sox up 4-0 before Houston could even get to the plate.

After a scoreless bottom of the inning by his offense, things got worse for Garcia in the top of the second, as after issuing a four-pitch walk to start the frame, he would become the center of a meeting at the mound with trainers, ultimately leaving the game with an injury. Houston opted to bring in Jake Odorizzi for the emergency call to the bullpen, but things did not start well for him either. He would put two of his own batters on base with two singles, then gave up the second grand slam in as many innings, this one to Rafael Devers to double Boston's lead to 8-0, doubling down on Houston's disastrous start to the game.

Odorizzi rebounded with a 1-2-3 third, but with one out in the top of the fourth allowed a solo homer to Kiké Hernández, his third homer of the series so far. He would still get the job done of eating up a few innings, finishing the fourth, and retiring Boston in order in the fifth, giving Houston just four more innings to cover with the rest of their relievers.

Astros get a few runs back

Over that span, Houston did trim the lead by three runs, getting an RBI double by Kyle Tucker and a two-RBI single by Yuli Gurriel in the bottom of the fourth, making it a six-run game at 9-3. Their next reliever was Blake Taylor in the top of the sixth, and he would keep the score where it stood by sitting down the three batters he faced that frame.

The Astros threatened again in the bottom of the sixth, getting two singles to put two aboard, but would come out empty, sending the game on to the seventh, where Taylor would remain on the mound. He faced three more batters, getting two out while allowing a single before Yimi Garcia would come in to get the third out.

Red Sox even the series as it shifts to Boston

Garcia returned in the top of the eighth, getting through that inning despite a walk and hit by pitch, stranding both runners. Boston's bullpen kept Houston from getting any closer in the bottom of the eighth, then Ryne Stanek came in for the Astros in the top of the ninth. Stanek allowed a leadoff double, but with a groundout and double play, held the score at 9-3. Yuli Gurriel and Jason Castro did their part to keep the Astros alive in the bottom of the ninth, each hitting solo homers to make it 9-5, but that's as close as they'd come, dropping Game 2 to tie the series at one game apiece.

Up Next: The ALCS now moves to Boston for the next three games after a day off on Sunday, with Game 3 on Monday at 7:08 PM Central. While the Astros have named Jose Urquidy as their starter, the Red Sox have not yet determined theirs.

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