Preview: Manchester United vs. Chelsea

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  • Chelsea have the slight edge in the series of 42 PL games (14-13-15)
  • Frank Lampard has missed two of his last three penalties
  • Danny Wellbeck’s goals last week were his first in 19 PL games

In just the second week of the Premier League season, two of England’s biggest clubs square off in a huge clash at Old Trafford on Monday.

Manchester United host Chelsea (3pm ET, watch live on NBCSN and online via NBC Sports Live Extra) in David Moyes’ first home game in charge of the Red Devils… and José Mourinho is coming to town.

In the build up to this gigantic clash plenty of the talk has been about Moyes vs. Mourinho, as the two managers square up early this season in their new roles. Both managers were said to be the favorites to take over from Sir Alex Ferguson when the Scot retired last season, before Moyes got the nod.

Mourinho’s return will cast him as the villain in the awesome amphitheater that Old Trafford has become. Expect a cold reception for the “Special One” as his Chelsea side aim to make it three wins from three to open the season. If they do so, they’ll open up a six point gap between themselves and United early on.

But another subplot is brewing behind the focus on the managers. Enter the fray, Mr. Wayne Rooney.

The subject of two failed bids from Chelsea already this summer, Rooney’s demeanor and silence suggests he wants to leave the Red Devils and join Mourinho’s revolution at Chelsea. But will he start against the team he wants to join?

source: AP
Will Rooney and Torres be teammates next season?

Putting Rooney’s future to one side, United got off to a great start to the season last time out with a 4-1 win against Swansea as Robin van Persie scored two terrific goals and Danny Welbeck added a double. Rooney made a brief cameo against the Swans and all eyes will be on the England international forward on Monday.

As for Chelsea, two routine wins against Hull City and Aston Villa to begin the season made it seem like Mourinho had never left. The Chelsea boss won two Premier League titles in two and a half years in West London from 2004-07 before managing Inter Milan and Real Madrid.

But now he’s back at Stamford Bridge, Mourinho will be keen to make his mark early and this game against Untied offers Chelsea a marque opportunity to get ahead of their title rivals.

As for injuries, Manchester United have several worries ahead of the clash. Right back Rafael is out while Nani, Ashley Young and Javier Hernandez will all be missing for Moyes.

Chelsea’s Brazilian defender David Luiz could miss out, with the eccentric 26-year-old struggling with a hamstring injury. Of course this fixture last year saw Luiz get hacked down by Rafael near the corner flag, during Chelsea’s 2-1 win, and smirk to the crowd while his fellow Brazilian was given a red card.

Expect a frantic start in Manchester, as both teams aim to put their marker down for the season. Hold on tight, this could be a classic.

What they’re saying

Jose Mourinho on facing United at Old Trafford in the past:I knocked them out in the Champions League, I was knocked out by them in the Champions League. I have every result against them. Maybe I have won more than lost, but what playing Man United gives me is pleasure, I like it. Last year when Real Madrid were playing the Champions League knockout phase and everybody was in Madrid with some tension because at that early stage we have to play Man United, I was happy. I like the stadium, I like the opponent and I like the difficulty of the game.”

David Moyes on his first game at Old Trafford: “There has been a lot of things I have been looking forward to – like taking the team on tour and leading them out at Wembley. But to do it at Old Trafford for the first game against Chelsea is a thrill for me, it really is.”

Oscar on facing United: “If we win we can open up a gap of six points to Manchester United already, in addition to the fact they’re the champions and the importance a victory against them has. We know it will be difficult but nevertheless we know we can win at Old Trafford. We did it last year and we’ll hope to accomplish the same this year.”

Prediction

Such a tough game to call. United are at home and it’s David Moyes’ first league game at Old Trafford. The crowd will be buzzing and both sets of players will be desperate to steal a march on their close rivals. Chelsea will want to open up a six point gap over United, and as long as they lock down Van Persie I can see Mourinho’s men leaving with a win. Promises to be an end-to-end affair, and the Blues will just shade it. Advantage Mourinho.

Wenger: Sanchez, Giroud will both be with Arsenal next year

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Arsene Wenger thinks Alexis Sanchez will sign a new deal at Arsenal this summer, whether the manager changes or not.

Speaking ahead of Wednesday’s visit from Leicester City, Wenger did not offer any clues as to his future with the club. He also said it does not hinge on how the Gunners finish the current campaign, and that he is working on transfers for the benefit of Arsenal regardless of his future.

[ MORE: Will Real open door for Barca? ]

That’s no surprise, given his reputation and fidelity to the club. What may surprise some is Wenger’s confidence that Sanchez will stay at the Emirates Stadium.

From Sky Sports:

“I personally think he will stay and sign. First of all he is happy here, his desire is to stay, that is what I deeply believe.

“I don’t think you would sell him to any Premier League club, that is for sure. The question is why would you sell him to another club? You want to be as strong as you can be and not strengthen the other teams.”

Wenger said both sides want to work out a deal and that the hold-up resides in agent-related matters. He also said Arsenal does not have interest in selling Olivier Giroud, who backed Wenger just over a month ago.

Title fight in Spain: Will Real slip up again?

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Barcelona’s dramatic 3-2 win over Real Madrid has set La Liga’s title race on its ear, with both clubs level on points with 75.

Real still controls its own destiny in a bid for its first league title since 2011-12, but a single loss puts Barcelona in pole position for its fourth title in five seasons.

[ RECAP: Chelsea 4-2 Saints ]

The tiebreaker is head-to-head, which Lionel Messi lifted from Real with his thrilling stoppage time thriller on Sunday at the Bernabeu.

Here are the run-ins for both sides, with Real facing a more congested schedule thanks to its status as a UEFA Champions League semifinalist.

Real Madrid

Only two of Real’s remaining five La Liga matches are at home, a boon for Barcelona considering Real boasts a strong home mark. The loss to Barca was Real’s first at the Bernabeu this season, and the Merengues only drew three matches at home (Villarreal, Eibar, Atletico Madrid).

Those home matches, however, are against teams that beat Real in the sides’ other league meetings this year, Sevilla and Valencia.

Wednesday – at Deportivo de la Coruna (16th)
Saturday – vs. Valencia (12th)
May 2 – vs. Atletico Madrid (UCL)
May 6 – at Granada (19th)
May 10 – at Atletico Madrid (UCL)
May 14 – vs. Sevilla (4th)
May 21 – at Malaga (14th)

Barcelona

Barca is home for three of its remaining five matches. The Blaugranas drew Villarreal and blew out Osasuna and Eibar ahead of the return visits.

As for the road matches, Barca has the Derbi barceloni with Espanyol, having taken the Camp Nou meeting 4-1, as well as a trip to Las Palmas (5-0 at home).

Wednesday – vs. Osasuna (20th)
Saturday – at Espanyol (9th)
May 6 – vs. Villarreal (5th)
May 14 – at Las Palmas (13th)
May 21 – vs. Eibar (8th)
May 27 – vs. Alaves (Copa del Rey Final)

The verdict

Any whiplash Real faces from schedule congestion should be offset by Barcelona’s much tougher schedule. Real could lose again, perhaps versus Sevilla, but Barca will likely finish second thanks to dropped points against Espanyol, Eibar, or Villarreal.

Premier League Weds. preview: Desperation on display

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Two London powers face a race to stay alive for their lofty season goals, while two Northeast sides see their last chances to claim hope for another year in the Premier League.

[ STREAM: All PL games here ]

That’s what’s on the docket for Wednesday’s PL matches, one day after Chelsea buried Southampton 4-2 t0 move seven points clear of Spurs in the race for the league’s 2016-17 crown.

Crystal Palace vs. Tottenham Hotspur — 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN

No team has looked better than Spurs lately, though Palace won’t be bowed by a big name or good form. Sam Allardyce‘s Eagles boast wins at Liverpool and Chelsea, as well as a home defeat of Arsenal. Those have all come in 2017, as Palace has leapt to within striking distance of the top half.

Spurs need to win at Selhurst Park to keep pace with Chelsea and sit four points back of the No. 1 spot with five matches to play. Lose, concede, and feel like last April all over again. It was a year from Tuesday that Spurs coughed up a home lead to Leicester and saw any hopes of catching Leicester fade into the sunset.

Middlesbrough vs. Sunderland — 2:45 p.m. ET

This Tees-Wear Derby oozes desperation, with Sunderland knowing it needs to win its matches-in-hand on Hull City and Swansea to have any hope of staying up, and Middlesbrough nearly as desperate.

Boro’s 24 points is three more than Sunderland, who has played one less game. Hull sits 17th with 33 points while Swansea holds 31.

Middlesbrough hasn’t won in the Premier League since Dec. 17, a run of 16 matches. Their only wins of the year are over lower league opposition, a trio of victories against Sheffield Wednesday, Accrington Stanley, and Oxford United.

Sunderland has just one league win since that same date in December, and that came at Crystal Palace. The Black Cats have lost six of eight, and look destined to join Boro in the second tier as Northeast neighbors Newcastle comes up.

(Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images )

Arsenal vs. Leicester City — 2:45 p.m. ET

Did Sunday’s FA Cup semifinal win over Manchester City snap Arsenal out of its funk, or was it just a matter of Alexis Sanchez’s class squeezing a bit of excellence out of the tube?

Arsene Wenger will hope for the latter, because Arsenal’s Top Four hopes hinge on winning its matches-in-hand on Liverpool and getting significant help from Man City and Manchester United. Their opposition will also be rested, having rested since bowing out of the UEFA Champions League on April 18.

Leicester’s five match winning streak, part of Craig Shakespeare’s new manager bounce, has died down a bit. The Foxes lost at Everton and drew at Palace, and get a third tricky road test in a row at the Emirates Stadium.

Pochettino calls out Xavi for Dele Alli-Man City “lie to lie to lie”

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“He tried to destroy our focus to win because he hates me because he’s Barcelona.”

Even half-kidding, the Derby Barceloni is alive and well for longtime Espanyol man Mauricio Pochettino and Barcelona legend Xavi.

At least that’s why the latter is trying to sabotage the former’s Premier League title fight, Pochettino says.

[ RECAP: Chelsea 4-2 Saints ]

Speaking from his club team in Qatar, Xavi claimed that Manchester City is going to bid high for Spurs’ young star Dele Alli.

Tottenham boss Pochettino says that’s just not true. Pochettino was joking a bit when he answered questions on the topic, but then told a story about Xavi diving for a penalty in the derby. Here are a few of his thoughts, from The Telegraph:

“It wasn’t a penalty but Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored for Barcelona and they won the game. After in the replay it was very funny because it was clear no one touched him. Come on! It goes from lie to lie to lie.”

“He is working for Manchester City, maybe? He wants to help Guardiola and [Vincent] Kompany.”