Premier League Preview: Manchester United vs. Southampton

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  • Manchester United have not lost successive Barclays Premier League home games since May 8, 2002
  • Southampton have conceded just two goals in their seven Barclays Premier League games in 2013-14; fewer than any other side
  • 24 different players have started a Premier League match for Manchester United this season; more than any other side

High-flying Southampton head to Old Trafford to take on Manchester United this Saturday (9:45 am ET on NBCSN, watch live via NBC Sports Live Extra) as David Moyes’ side looks to avoid consecutive home losses for the first time since 2002.

Moyes’ men return from international break looking to set things right for the home fans after the 2-1 loss they suffered at the hands of West Bromwich Albion on September 28th. That loss was their second straight following the 4-1 drubbing they were dealt by rivals Manchester City during this fall’s derby.

United managed to bounce back from the Albion loss with a hard-fought 2-1 victory over Sunderland at the Stadium of Light on October 5th. That match marked the coming out party for 18-year-old prodigy Adnan Januzaj, who scored two stunning strikes to give the Red Devils a much needed three points.

Since then Januzaj has become the hot topic among fans in England who hope the Belgian-born player spurns a handful of other options to play for the Three Lions. How much he’ll play for United, however, is the pertinent question this weekend. Fans will hope to see him on the pitch but given Moyes’ history of being cautious with young players, supporters may do well to temper their expectations.

In Januzaj, United have a player who can both create and score goals. Physically underdeveloped, Januzaj overcomes defenders with a silky touch, quick bursts of speed and an ability to find space where little seems to exist. While the winger will be available for selection, Tom Cleverley remains a fitness worry after he withdrew from England duty with a calf problem. If he can’t go, expect Marouane Fellaini to partner Michael Carrick in the center of the park. Rio Ferdinand is also available to play after a bout on the sidelines with a groin injury.

Southampton enter the match red hot, riding a four match unbeaten streak (including three straight victories) that has seen the Saints climb to 4th in the table. Since a 1-0 loss to Norwich on August 31st, the Saints have not conceded a single goal.

The streak began against West Ham United in a 0-0 draw. From there, the offense picked itself up beating Liverpool 1-0 at Anfield before scalping Crystal Palace and Swansea City by identical scores of 2-0. History, however, is against Southampton at Old Trafford where they’ve only taken one point from 14 Premier League matches.

Mauricio Pochettino’s defense has been boosted by Croatian hard man Dejan Lovren, his partnership with Jose Fonte, and strong, young full-backs in Luke Shaw, Nathaniel Clyne and Callum Chambers. They’ll be faced with quite the task in containing the likes of Robin van Persie and Wayne Rooney, who will be eager to prove their strike partnership is just as good as everyone’s favorite duo, Daniel Sturridge and Luis Suarez.

Polish netminder Artur Boruc missed his country’s 2-0 defeat against England at Wembley on Tuesday night with a hamstring injury but should be fit to play, while Luke Shaw, who missed the Swansea game through illness, is also available for selection.

A victory for the Saints could send them to the top of the standings while a United win could see them climb as high as 6th in the table.

Check out whether Southampton can keep their streak alive or whether United can regain its home form this Saturday, at 9:45 am ET live on NBC and online via NBC Sports Live Extra.

What They’re Saying 

Manchester United midfielder Ryan Giggs: “I am enjoying working with the new manager. I would prefer better results but we are only seven or eight games into the season.”

Southampton manager Mauricio Pochettino: “I think all games in the Premier League are exciting, and this is a very good chance for us to show what we can do as a team. . . It’s going to be very difficult but we are going there with a positive mentality. . . I think both teams have changed since we last played them and I am very happy with how the squad is performing these days.”

Prediction

United are heavy favorites but they’ve done little to prove why that should be the case. Southampton are healthy and seem to have a real level-headedness to their football. I think the Saints go into Old Trafford and earn themselves a point.

Reports: Liverpool reject latest Barcelona offer for Coutinho

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Barcelona has reportedly upped its offer for the services of Philippe Coutinho. But the response from Liverpool has remained the same.

According to multiple reports, Liverpool has rejected a third Barcelona offer for Coutinho, believed to be worth up to $151.5 million. Coutinho put in a transfer request a week ago but Liverpool has remained firm on its desire to keep Coutinho for this season. Liverpool has not yet publicly commented on Barcelona’s latest transfer bid.

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Coutinho meanwhile is still off the field for Liverpool due to a back injury, the club states.

“Phil is not available; he is not training so far, so there is nothing new,” manager Jurgen Klopp told reporters. “It is always how it is with injured players, there is no real time on when he is back.”

The Brazilian midfielder signed a new five-year contract with Liverpool just last January and the deal doesn’t have a buy-out clause. But should Liverpool accept a new bid for Coutinho, he’d become the second-most expensive transfer behind fellow Brazilian Neymar.

It’s unclear whether Barcelona will shift focus to other targets such as Borussia Dortmund’s Ousmane Dembele or Atletico Madrid’s Antoine Griezmann as a replacement for Neymar.

Conte can’t stop laughing when asked about Costa

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Chelsea manager Antonio Conte was asked for his thoughts on Diego Costa‘s latest comments on the club-player impasse. When he heard a reporter say Costa felt he was being treated like a criminal, Conte lost his composure and began laughing.

Conte spent a good 20 seconds giggling during the question before responding, saying “I can tell you that everyone who was in Chelsea knows what happened last season with Diego.

“I’m not interested to continue this issue.”

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Diego Costa has held out from Chelsea training to stay in his native Brazil after being told to train with the reserves ahead of the 2017-2018 Premier League season. Costa has made clear his desire to leave Chelsea for a return to Atletico Madrid, but Costa claims that Chelsea are asking for an absurd transfer fee, which prices Atleti out of the market.

[ Costa: Chelsea “won’t decide my fate”]

It’s unclear as to what’s next in the transfer saga, but it’s looking more and more likely that it will come down to the final hours of the transfer window. Complicating matters is that Costa’s preferred destination, Atletico Madrid, is banned from signing players during this transfer window and can’t add new pieces until January.

Transfer Rumor Wrap: Tottenham set to make Ajax’s Sanchez its record signing

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Tottenham look set to break the bank on one of the world’s most exciting defensive prospects.

According to a report in the Guardian, Tottenham and Ajax have agreed on a $54.1 million transfer fee for centerback Davinson Sanchez. The Colombian international only joined Ajax a year ago but led the backline to the Europa League final, where Ajax fell to Manchester United.

Spurs officials reportedly traveled to Amsterdam earlier this week to sort out a deal to bring Sanchez back to London. It’s believed to be a $36 million transfer with add-on clauses worth around $18 million.

Sanchez will add more speed and strength to one of the Premier League’s best backlines, giving Toby Alderweireld and Jan Vertonghen a partner to play with in a back three.

Here’s some more news from around the Premier League:

(more…)

Costa: Chelsea “won’t decide my fate”

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As each day passes, the impasse between Chelsea manager Antonio Conte and Diego Costa grows.

Costa is continuing to holdout from Chelsea after being asked to train with the reserves and has made clear his preference to transfer back to his former club, Atletico Madrid. But in his latest comments to ESPN Brazil, Costa said that Chelsea are asking for a transfer fee that’s well above what Atletico can afford.

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“Chelsea offered me to several clubs,” Costa said. “But I was very clear with them. They said that since I’m not part of the coach’s plans, I want to choose my destiny. For them they have made more money, I will not let them decide my destiny. Even because when I came to Chelsea they paid well below the proposal that is coming now. I think they have to be aware and see everything I’ve done.”

It’s easy to feel sympathetic for Costa and his situation. He said in the interview that he’s struggled with English and as such, has had to rely on people at the club to take care of a lot of tasks. In Madrid, a country he’s received citizenship from and a city and language he’s comfortable with, he doesn’t have these worries.

But for all the good will he earned, Costa also painted himself in a bad light later in that response to a question about what the deadlock was about with Chelsea.

“It’s not my fault I’m not there,” Costa said. “If it was up to me, I’d be playing. There’s already (been) a month. Holiday is good, but it gets boring. I did not cause this situation. Since this is where the club has to think in two ways. Of course they have to have a payback, as I have given sportily and financially as well. After three years you will receive an amount above what you paid.”

Costa though did provide some insight. It had been believed over the past week or so that Costa would only move to Atletico Madrid, but the Brazilian-born Spanish international forward clarified that statement, saying he’d prefer to go to Atletico but if Atletico can’t afford him or can’t figure out a deal to sign him and get around the club’s transfer ban, he’d be open to going to another European club.

“I have already shown my affection and my interest in playing for Atletico,” Costa said. “But if they, Athletic and Chelsea did not reach an agreement and they [Athletic] do not force a move, I can not be wanting to play in a club that does not want to make a greater effort. I know that this will happen. If it is to pay as much as Chelsea want [the transfer], it is not possible. You must see this. What I know is that the proposal to come will exceed that Chelsea paid when he brought me. And I gave back in every way.”