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WEEKEND ROUNDUP: International Soccer Headliners
by Paul Kennedy, September 4th, 2007 7AM

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RACE/ENGLISH PREMIER LEAGUE

Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho is predicting a tight English Premier League race after the Blues fell into a four-way tie losing for the first time this season, 2-0, at Aston Villa.

"It will become more normal for the big teams to lose matches and points," the Portuguese manager said. "The other teams outside the top four have spent lots of money and brought players in to bolster their teams. Villa are one example but you can find a lot of other examples."

Four teams -- Liverpool, Arsenal, Everton and Chelsea -- are tied for first place with 10 points and only three points separate the top 12 teams.

Of the leaders, Liverpool and Arsenal both have a game in hand, while Newcastle and Blackburn, two of four teams tied for sixth place two points back, have also played only four games.

At the bottom, Derby County is last with one point after its 6-0 loss to Liverpool, but only two points separate the next seven teams.

PLAYER/WESLEY SNEIJDER

[VIDEO] Wesley Sneijder is off to a spectacular start at Real Madrid with three goals in his first two La Liga games since joining the Merengues from Ajax.

The Dutch midfielder, who joined Real on a $32 million transfer last month, scored twice and set up a third in Real Madrid's 5-0 win at Villarreal on Sunday.

His first goal came on a curling free kick that went in on off the post just after the break.

"It reminded me of another blond that used to hit the ball like that a few years ago," Real Madrid coach Bernd Schuster said after the game, referring to himself. "It was a spectacular goal. He's going to score a few more like that this season."

Sneijder leads La Liga with three goals for Real Madrid, the only team with two wins in two games.

"I never would have believed I would score three times in two games," he said. "It is too early to say if we can win the league, but we are certainly on the right track."

The Madrid press immediately jumped on the Sneijder bandwagon, comparing the 23-year-old Dutchman to other Real midfield greats such as Zinedine Zidane, Fernando Redondo or even Alfredo Di Stefano.

Grudging respect came from the daily Sport in Barcelona, where there has been a long tradition of Dutch players, dating back to Johan Cruyff and Johan Neeskens in the 1970s. Sport noted that Sneijder "has already made an important impact."

Sneijder is one of three Dutchmen signed by Real Madrid in the offseason. Arjen Robben was signed from Chelsea for a $48 million transfer fee and 20-year-old Royston Drenthe arrived from Feyenoord in a $17 million deal.

COACH/MARTIN JOL

Tottenham's 3-3 tie with Fulham did nothing to relieve the pressure on beleaguered manager Martin Jol.

Spurs has only four points in four games after it blew a 3-1 lead late against Fulham.

Diomansy Kamara's spectacular scissor kick beat Spurs goalie Paul Robinson in the final minute to earn Fulham a point after Spurs defenders failed to clear Chris Baird's throw-in.

"We have to cut out these mistakes," Jol said. "They make it difficult to win games. I can't say we are unfortunate all the time but we have to defend better. If it is a wonderful attack with lots of one-twos ... but a corner kick?"

There have been rumors that Jol might be replaced by Sevilla manager Juande Ramos.

MATCH/CAGLIARI-JUVENTUS

[VIDEO] Juventus remained perfect following its return to Italy's Serie A after a dramatic 3-2 win at Cagliari in the second game of the new season.

Twice Juventus went ahead only for its Sardinian hosts equalized on dubious penalty kicks. Jonathan Zebina and Cagliari's Cristiano Del Grosso were sent off in a match decided when Chiellini scored with a header off Italy international Mauro Camoranesi's free kick.

A pair of Cagliari penalty kicks by Pasquale Foggia followed Juve goals by Frenchman David Trezeguet and Italian star Alessandro Del Piero.

Cagliari would have had a third penalty kick but Juve's protests that results in the referee annulling a penalty after his consultation with his assistant.


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