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Premier League Wednesday Preview: Moyes vs. Martinez and a Cross-London Clash

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The mid-week fixtures — isn’t this week like an extra holiday? — find full-form this afternoon after Marouane Chamakh headed Crystal Palace out of the basement Tuesday with a 1-0 home win over West Ham.

While David Moyes’ first match against his old Everton club is receiving the bulk of the attention ahead of the nine fixtures (watch them all live and online HERE), there’s plenty of intrigue surrounding the day’s matches. Let’s dig in, shall we?

Fulham vs. Tottenham Hotspur, 3pm ET
Spurs displayed decent road form right up until their brutal 6-0 defeat at the hands of Manchester City, but may find a decent tonic at Craven Cottage for an all-London affair. Fulham are losers of five-straight since a road win over Crystal Palace. Yet Fulham should be anything but a lame bunch after Sunday’s performance against West Ham costs Martin Jol his job. Longtime Manchester United assistant Rene Meulensteen will watch over his first match as manager.

Arsenal vs. Hull, 2:45pm ET
Winners of five-straight at home, the Gunners certainly are heavy favorites to take all three points against a Hull City Tigers team that — name debates aside — has one win and five losses in their away form (though Hull did dispatch of Liverpool 3-1 on the weekend). The first goal scored is always crucial but perhaps more so with these two teams, as Arsenal is 11-1-1 after scoring first in 13 of its last 20 matches, while Hull have conceded 11 times in 20 to the tune of a 1-0-10 mark in those matches.

Swansea City vs. Newcastle United, 245pm ET
Is red-hot Newcastle, holders of the Premier League’s longest-active win streak, going to assert itself as a top team in the league? Four-straight wins that include the likes of Chelsea and Spurs on the victim list would indicate ‘Yes’, but the Magpies have been prone to lesser follies than a road loss at Liberty Stadium. Manager Alan Pardew was all-but-sacked by supporters after a road loss to Sunderland, but can make it five-in-a-row with three points over the Swans, who have earned points in their last three matches at home (albeit versus Stoke, West Ham and the aforementioned Black Cats). Adding injuries to insult is the name of the game for Swansea, who will be without Wilfried Bony, Angel Rangel, Garry Monk and likely Michu.

Liverpool vs. Norwich City, 2:45pm ET
Norwich boss Chris Hughton has claimed no worries regarding an angry Liverpool squad that dropped all the points from an ugly fixture at Hull last weekend, and perhaps that’s because the Canaries road form is worrisome enough. Norwich is 1-5 in its last six away from Carrow Road but coming off a Gary Hooper-led home win over Crystal Palace. Liverpool has been strong at home, 5-1 over the last six and three on the bounce, and should be steaming. The Reds have Philippe Coutinho back while Norwich has fresh injury problems with Robert Snodgrass, Anthony Pilkington and Ricky van Wolfswinkel joining the walking wounded.

Manchester United vs. Everton, 2:45pm ET
Oh, this should be a beauty. Can you imagine the noise at Old Trafford should Roberto Martinez come into David Moyes new digs and take care of business with the Scottish manager’s old charges? This has all the makings of a cracker, as United haven’t lost in seven matches since their home setback to West Brom and Everton are unscathed through six (outscoring opponents 11-4 in those contests).

Our own Mike Prindiville let fly with a lengthy piece on this NBC-featured match on Tuesday morning. If you missed it, you need to dig in.

Southampton vs. Aston Villa, 2:45pm ET
True: the Saints lost two top tests against Chelsea and Arsenal, but that should not be held against them for a home tilt versus Aston Villa. Southampton remains unbeaten at home, where they’ve conceded just twice, and Rickie Lambert will have Aston Villa on red alert, as the Villan killer struck thrice against them last season. For their part, the Claret and Blue have not lost in four overall. AV will be hoping Andreas Weimann’s weekend hamstring tightness is gone ahead of the clash.

Stoke City vs. Cardiff City, 2:45pm ET
Here are two teams in Bottom Five form, although Stoke has points from its last three home fixtures. Cardiff, however, is struggling overall and on the road. The Bluebirds are 1-5 in their last six. Stoke are unbeaten in six against Cardiff (4-2-0) and Jonathan Walters has been big for the Potters in those contests, scoring thrice in four appearances.

Sunderland vs. Chelsea, 245pm ET
Mourinho’s boys are humming, with 13 points in their last six fixture, while Sunderland — yes, Sunderland — are winners of two-straight at home. Guy Poyet’s charges received a boost when John O’Shea had a good training session, plus the Blues will be missing David Luiz and Oscar. History is on Chelsea’s side as they’ve won 16 of 17 Premier League games against Sunderland. Those are wins, not points.

West Bromwich Albion vs Manchester City, 3pm ET
Man City’s road demons are well-documented and the Hawthorns isn’t exactly the prescription for resurgence despite the Baggies poor form. West Brom has just two points in its last three matches and six from six. City’s 1-1-4 in its last six away from the Etihad Stadium. Vincent Kompany could be back after a 10-game layoff and he’ll likely be in front of Costel Pantilimon, who continues to impress between the sticks in Joe Hart’s stead. The Telegraph brings the ugly stat that West Brom have scored just once in their last six matches against City.

Be sure to get your fix across all of our NBC platforms, live and online.

Kroenke: “Very high” on Wenger who is “very hard” to replace

Jeff Fisher
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LONDON — Arsenal remains “very high” on Arsene Wenger and it will be “very hard” replacing the manager who is in the final year of his contract, owner Stan Kroenke told The Associated Press on Monday.

Wenger this month celebrated 20 years in charge of Arsenal and has offered no indication whether he wants to sign a new deal into next season.

The 67-year-old Frenchman became the Premier League’s longest serving manager when Alex Ferguson retired from Manchester United in 2013. United is now on its third manager in three years and has not competed for the Premier League title since Ferguson’s departure.

In a rare interview about Arsenal, Kroenke noted the tricky post-Ferguson succession at United while discussing the challenge of eventually replacing Wenger.

“You see it (at United), you bring up a comment like that,” Kroenke told the AP after Arsenal’s annual general meeting. “It’s very hard. He’s a great manager.”

Wenger signed his last three-year contract extension in 2014.

“We will sit down and discuss the future at the appropriate time,” Arsenal chairman Chips Keswick told shareholders at a meeting where Wenger didn’t address his contract situation in his speech.

Although Wenger has won the Premier League three times, the last success came in 2004 – a drought which frustrates fans.

“He’s been a wonderful influence on the club,” Kroenke said. “We are all very high on Arsene. We are (joint) top of the table right now.”

Manchester City, Arsenal and Liverpool are only separated on goal difference at the summit. Despite Wenger only winning the FA Cup twice since 2004, the team is in the lucrative Champions League for the 19th successive year thanks to its runner-up finish last season. Wenger is yet to win European football’s top prize.

“I know a number of (sports team) owners that are very successful that say the same thing – the hardest thing to do is be consistently competitive at the top of the league,” said Kroenke, who also owns the NFL’s Los Angeles Rams. “Arsene has always done that and Arsenal has always been in that position. We have always been competitive.

“We may not always win the things we want to win. We are very focused on winning for sure the league. Arsene’s been consistently at the top and I will tell you – it’s very, very hard to do if you look around sports.”


2016 MLS Cup playoffs bracket in full

TORONTO, ON - MAY 07:  Michael Bradley #4 and Jozy Altidore #17 of Toronto FC celebrate a goal by teammate Tsubasa Endoh #9 during the first half of an MLS soccer game against FC Dallas at BMO Field on May 7, 2016 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.  (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)
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With Major League Soccer’s Decision Day 2016 in the books, we now know who will battle it out for MLS Cup.

[ MORE: Who will win MLS Cup? ]

Up first on Wednesday and Thursday are the four knockout round games, then the Conference semifinal first legs kick off this weekend.

We get into it thick and fast.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverage

The PST crew already selected their picks for the postseason and filled out their bracket. You can see that by clicking on the link above. FWIW, I have Toronto FC beating the Seattle Sounders in MLS Cup…

[ MORE: Ranking MLS playoff teams ]

Below is the MLS playoff bracket in full so you can make your picks and let us know who you went for in the comments section below.


MLS Playoff bracket, 2016

MLS Playoff bracket, 2016

Arsenal AGM: Wenger’s future; points target to win title set

BURNLEY, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 02: Arsene Wenger, Manager of Arsenal looks on during the Premier League match between Burnley and Arsenal at Turf Moor on October 2, 2016 in Burnley, England.  (Photo by Matthew Lewis/Getty Images)
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Mystery continues to shroud Arsene Wenger‘s future as Arsenal manager.

[ MORE: Ballon d’Or shortlist ]

The Frenchman, who celebrated his 67th birthday on Saturday and 20 years in charge of Arsenal earlier this month, has yet to decide if he will remain in charge at the Emirates Stadium beyond this season.

Wenger’s current contract runs out next summer and at the club AGM on Monday it was revealed no talks have been held between the manager and directors about a new deal.

Key figures such as majority shareholder Stan Kroenke, chairman Sir Chips Keswick and Chief Executive Ivan Gazidis spoke, as well as Wenger himself who didn’t address his future and instead talked about the points target Arsenal must reach to win the Premier League this season.

Via Jeremy Wilson of the Telegraph, who was at Wenger’s AGM, below are some of the key quotes which surfaced.

Overall, the mood of this AGM was much more relaxed compared to previous years where many shareholders called for Wenger to leave and/or Arsenal to send more money amid a lack of success on the pitch.

Wenger on how he sees Arsenal’s title chances

“We have gone through periods where we had more selling of players. The amount of selling was a big part of our income. I think we have survived quite well that period. Now, in the last three or four years, we have reinforced by strengthening. We are much more competitive today than five or six years ago to fight for the championship. After nine games, the first trend is set. It is about 20 points which means the championship will be certainly decided at 82 to 86 points. Our challenge is to compete for absolutely everything. I think we have the squad of the first time that is more mature and better equipped for to compete for all the challenges. I am absolutely committed to give my best.”

Chairman Sir Chips Keswick on Wenger’s future

“We will sit down and discuss Arsene’s future at the appropriate time. We all recognize the fantastic contribution Arsene Wenger has made. He continues to have huge energy passion and desire. We are confident in his ability to take us forward. Our current focus is continuing our strong run and competing for trophies.”

Majority shareholder Stan Kroenke on Wenger’s legacy at Arsenal

“One of the main reasons we got involved is the values and traditions of the club and no one has represented them better than Arsene. You have always shown dedication, commitment and energy. You brought a new style to English football and our club. Amid a world subject to great scrutiny and pressure, you have always handled yourself with great class. We are excited about the club and season. We know we will compete for trophies and we would like nothing better than to see you win the Championship.”

Chief Executive Ivan Gazidis on Ozil and Sanchez’s future

“We have a good track record in recent seasons of retaining players as a result of a lot of hard work. I can’t get into discussion on individual players but can say we will apply the same diligence and focus to our existing squad. I think you can see our direction of travel.”

Jurgen Klopp on Liverpool title talk: “I don’t care”

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 22:  Jurgen Klopp, Manager of Liverpool applauds the fans following their team's 2-1 victory during the Premier League match between Liverpool and West Bromwich Albion at Anfield on October 22, 2016 in Liverpool, England.  (Photo by Jan Kruger/Getty Images)
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Jurgen Klopp isn’t having any of your title talk.

[ MORE: Ballon d’Or shortlist ]

After Liverpool beat West Bromwich Albion 2-1 on Saturday at Anfield and Arsenal, Tottenham, Manchester City and Manchester United all dropped points this weekend, plenty of people are talking up Liverpool’s chances of winning the Premier League title this season.

With nine games of the season gone, Liverpool sit joint-top with Arsenal and Man City on 20 points with Chelsea and Tottenham just behind them on 19 points.

It is tight at the top but whatever people are saying, Klop isn’t bothered.

“I don’t care. It is normal in football that when you are in a good position people start talking a little more positive. I don’t recognize so much what everyone is saying about us but of course I recognize the mood, I said it already, around LFC it is good. But we are still in October… unfortunately. There is a long way to go,” Klopp said. “Nothing to say about this. Hopefully you can ask these questions through the whole season and everything is good but at the moment I have no answer for it. It is good up until now. Not more but good. Let’s carry on.”

Liverpool’s attack has been mightily impressive this season with the fluid movement of Sadio Mane, Adam Lallana, Philippe Coutinho and Roberto Firmino ripping teams apart. Klopp’s side are the highest scorers with 20 goals thus far but the one issues many have about them being genuine title contender is their defensive play. Klopp’s side have kept just one clean sheet in their nine PL games so far this season and they’ve conceded the most goals in the top six.

Klopp’s right, there’s a long way to go. But plenty are also correct to be positive about this Liverpool team.

Challenging for the PL title this season may just be beyond them but securing a top four finish certainly isn’t. Klopp is pushing Liverpool in the right direction. Any of us can see that, even if he doesn’t want to admit it.