After their season of manager roulette ended with ignominious relegation from the Premier League, here was a hint of stability – even positivity – for Watford

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Doughty, just to be clear, is not an archetypal footballer. He is the eldest son of former Nottingham Forest owner, multi-millionaire venture capitalist Nigel Doughty and, when not creating chances and scoring goals from midfield at Swindon, he runs a business producing ‘the world’s most sustainable trainers’, made from natural materials and fully recyclable.

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It’s early days of course and the remaining weeks of the transfer window will bring further upheaval, but Watford proved just about superior to a Middlesbrough team who you sense would be more than content with mid-table anonymity.

Club record signing Coutinho got the third goal in the 51st, also from the penalty spot, making his first outing for the team since returning on loan from Bayern Munich, with whom he scored two goals in last month’s 8-2 thrashing of Barca in the Champions League quarter-finals.

Watford were the more vibrant side before half-time before retreating after the break.

Middlesbrough saw chances come and go, with Britt Assombalonga their most dangerous player, but Watford showed a resoluteness often missing last season.

It is worth assessing how it has got to this point where the Belgium striker, who continues to flourish for his country as seen on Tuesday night when he scored twice in the 5-1 win over Iceland, has fallen so out of favour at Stamford Bridge.

Lionel Messi wore the captain’s armband in his first match since he opted to abandon his plans to leave Barca, although Luis Suarez and Arturo Vidal were left out of the squad as the club is still trying to offload both players.

Last season Palace’s biggest weakness was the number of goals they scored. Only Norwich, who finished bottom, scored fewer (26) than Palace’s 31.

A 14th-placed finish was largely down to Palace’s strong defensive record.

A season at Palace is a chance for Batshuayi not only to show he can regularly perform in the Premier League but also to cement a spot in Belgium’s squad for next summer’s delayed European Championship.

Antoine Griezmann added to Barca’s advantage by converting a penalty in the 16th minute although defender Javi Bonilla scored a superb goal from the edge of the area to pull one back for Gimnastic on the half-hour mark.

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Players celebrated with boozy Zoom party before getting together when the lockdown eased for a formal if socially distanced trophy presentation. Back in League One, Richie Wellens’ side start at home against Rochdale and hope to use the momentum to help drive through and back to the Championship in the style of Luton and Coventry.

Michy Batshuayi’s return Going to amanecenublado.blogspot.com Crystal Palace suits every party.

For Chelsea, who have renewed Batshuayi’s contract for one more year until 2022, they protect an asset which could be worth much more with a full season of Premier League football under his belt.

BARCELONA, Sept 12 (Reuters) – Barcelona beat second division Gimnastic de Tarragona 3-1 in a pre-season friendly on Saturday, with Philippe Coutinho and Ousmane Dembele each making encouraging returns by scoring in Ronald Koeman’s first game in charge.

Yes, it was ‘pretty seismic’, he admits, coping with the sudden death of his father in his teenage years and yet he realises others from less privileged backgrounds have lived through similar tragedies.

Koeman, who changed his entire team at halftime by making 11 substitutions, gave debuts to 17-year-old forward Pedri, new signing Francisco Trincao and American forward Konrad de La Fuente, 19, who stepped up from the club’s reserve side.

Since that 2016-17 season he’s made cameo appearance after cameo appearance without ever establishing himself in the firm plans of a manager he’s played under.

Loan spells at Borussia Dortmund and Valencia – as well as the one at Palace – have come and gone.

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