Premier League Sunday Preview: Chelsea host Liverpool, Newcastle and Arsenal clash

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If 26 Premier League games over the past seven days hasn’t been enough for you, don’t worry…. there’s four more coming your way on Sunday.

After Saturday’s jam-packed slate of games delivered plenty of goals, controversy and drama on and off the field, let’s take a peek at what Sunday has in store for us.

And remember, you can watch NBC Sports Network for our feature games and watch every single second of every single game live this season online via NBC Sports Live Extra and the NBC Sports Live Extra App. Via your TV you can watch the games live on Premier League Extra Time.

Let’s get to the action on Sunday, as four massive games are lined up.

Newcastle United vs. Arsenal, 8:30am ET, live on NBCSN

The Magpies are flying this season, as the French-heavy squad is finally fit and firing on all cylinders. Alan Pardew’s side have already beaten Tottenham, Chelsea and Manchester United this season and fancy another scalp when Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal roll into town. However the Gunners are a bit of ‘bogey team’ for Newcastle, who have won just once in their last 11 attempts versus the North London side. Arsenal will welcome Jack Wilshere back into the squad after his suspension but Aaron Ramsey is still missing through injury, while Newcastle have no new injury worries. Arsenal were knocked off the top spot by Manchester City on Saturday, only a win at St. James’ Park will send them back to the summit. They’ll have to be at their very best to get that, against a in-form Newcastle side who have won seven of their last nine.

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The Gunners are looking for more success against the Magpies to move back to the PL summit.

Everton vs. Southampton, 8:30am ET, live on Premier League Extra Time

The Toffees came unstuck against Sunderland last-time out, as USMNT ‘keeper Tim Howard took down Sunderland’s Ki, Howard was then red carded and the South Korean midfielder dispatched the game-winner from the penalty spot. But it wasn’t all doom and gloom for Roberto Martinez’ men who with 10-men for most of the game dominated proceedings and were unlucky to lose at home for the first time in 2013. As for Southampton, they grabbed their first win in seven games last time out as the Saints battered Cardiff 3-0 with Jay Rodriguez, Adam Lallana and Rickie Lambert running riot. Ninth placed Southampton have only won once in 14 attempts in the PL at Goodison Park, can fifth placed Everton give them another hiding? This should be a great game between two sides who love to stroke the ball around and with the Toffees missing Howard and Gareth Barry though suspension and the Saints seeing players recalled to fitness… who knows what will happen.

Chelsea vs. Liverpool, 11am ET, live on NBCSN

source: AP
Can Mourinho’s Chelsea send a message out to the rest of the league?

This game will be massive, as Liverpool won’t want to lose two on the spin and Chelsea want to send out a message to the rest of the league that this title is theirs for the taking. In the build-up Jose Mourinho said in jest that he hoped Luis Suarez “got an injury, not a serious one, just something minor” as he asked about how good Liverpool’s top striker is. On top of his game, he’s unstoppable and Chelsea must quell the danger of Suarez if they want to win on Sunday. Last season Suarez bit Chelsea’s Branislav Ivanovic, so expect special treatment from the Chelsea fans towards the Uruguayan. Like Suarez, the Blues have been in good form themselves and a win could see them go second and extend their lead over Liverpool to four points. But the Reds showed against Man City on Boxing Day that they can compete and trouble the best teams in the land, so Brendan Rodgers will fancy his chances against the club where he learned his coaching trade. Plus Chelsea have only won twice in their last 13 PL games against the Anfield club. Liverpool’s injury worries could harm them, as Mourinho’s men look to put down a marker heading into the new year. Do yourself a favor… don’t miss this match.

Tottenham vs. Stoke City, 11am ET, live on Extra Time

Tim Sherwood’s unveiling as Spurs’ new manager on a permanent basis didn’t exactly go according to plan on Boxing Day, as West Bromwich Albion came to White Hart Lane and grabbed a point. Spurs and Sherwood will be looking to dispatch Stoke City on Sunday, as the Potters head to London fresh off the back of that 5-1 thumped by Newcastle last time out. Albeit Stoke were reduced to nine-men in the first half after a crazy few minutes, but Mark Hughes’ men won’t be relishing a trip to North London so soon after being battered, bruised and bewildered. That said, this will be a rough and tumble affair as Spurs’ new physical and more direct approach is sure to clash with Stoke’s robust defensive unit. It might not be one for the purists but Spurs need a win to stay in touch with the top four, as a defeat could see them slip five or six points off top spot. It could be a rough afternoon for Stoke, as Tottenham aim to improve their already incredible record against the Potters (won 28, drawn 8, lost 2 of last 38 encounters) when this bruising encounter takes place to round of 2013.

Championship Focus: Bluebirds flying, Villa second-last

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The wild 46-game slate that is the Football League Championship is already howling, with all 24 teams three matches deep into their campaigns toward Premier League promotion (or avoiding relegation to League One).

The three clubs relegated from the Premier League last season all sit within the Top 8 after three match days. Sunderland is unbeaten with a win and two draws, while Hull City is 1-1-1.

[ MORE: Barcelona falls to Real… again ]

Middlesbrough has two wins from three matches, three points behind three sides who’ve started a perfect 3-0.

Wolves and Ipswich Town are two of the three, and Cardiff City leads the way. Owner Vincent Tan has seen his club score six goals without conceding once in defeats of Burton Albion, Aston Villa, and Sheffield United.

Burton is 0-3, while Steve Bruce‘s Villa is just one point better and sits 23rd.

As for individual superlatives, Bristol City’s Bobby Reid has four goals to lead the league while familiar names Lewis Grabban (Sunderland) and Abel Hernandez (Hull City) are among a quartet of players to score thrice.

Meanwhile, PL transfer target Jota of Brentford continues to impress with three assists through three matches. Will he remain in the second tier by the close of the transfer window?

MLS Snapshot: Montreal Impact 3-0 Chicago Fire

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The game in 100 words (or less)Ignacio Piatti is very good at soccer, and Chicago backstop Matt Lampson is going to see him deep into his dreams. Piatti beat Lampson up close on a turnover and then, with Montreal ahead 2-0 off a PK, the Argentine curled a surprise shot from distance around the keeper. Game, set, match, and it wasn’t even halftime. The loss keeps Chicago from using its match-in-hand to catch second place New York City FC, while the three points move Montreal to within two points of the East’s final playoff position.

Three moments that mattered

6′ — Piatti starts the party — Gifted a chance with the keeper by a sloppy missed clearing attempt, the Argentine deftly pops the ball over Fire keeper Matt Lampson.

36′ — Lampson hurts his cause — Chicago’s backstop wasn’t at fault on the opening goal, but he was for the second. After chopping down Matteo Mancosu in the box, Lampson guessed wrong on the striker’s penalty kick and the Fire went down 2-0.

38′ — It’s not your night, Lamps — Pretty sure you can anyone named Lampson, Lamps. Anyway, this time it was one of MLS’ top newcomers who set up Piatti for a goal. “Nacho” has his 12th of the season thanks to Blerim Dzemaili, and my goodness did Piatti do well here.

Man of the Match: Piatti.

Forbes ranks the top supporters in Major League Soccer

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Forbes claims the shared honor will give two Cascadia Cup rivals one less thing to argue about, but we completely disagree.

The celebrated magazine says their metrics show the Portland Timbers and Seattle Sounders tied for the honor of who has the best fans in Major League Soccer.

The post says the determination was made through four factors: attendance, local TV ratings, merchandise sales, and social media followers on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

Attendance was weighted heaviest, which certainly gives Atlanta United hope to go charging up the rankings in the future. For now, the “Five Stripes” are not included in the list.

The Galaxy finish third in the rankings, while the sixth-place New York Red Bulls edge New York City FC by one spot.

For the report and full explanation, head here.

Europa League preview: Everton, Milan, Marseille take next steps

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The UEFA Europa League playoff round takes full flight Thursday, a day after Utrecht struck a blow for the Eredivisie with a 1-0 win over Zenit Saint-Petersburg in a Wednesday first leg.

Premier League participants Everton will be seeking a result at home against Hajduk Split, the third-place team from Croatia’s top flight.

Gylfi Sigurdsson passed his medical at Goodison Park but will not be available for Everton on Thursday.

[ MORE: Barcelona falls to Real… again ]

As for the match, manager Ronald Koeman knows the Thursday matchdays for the UEL will try his club’s endurance and depth. From EvertonFC.com:

“We know English teams have some problems. I think it is more mental than physical because if you play in the Champions League – so Wednesday and Saturday – you have the same amount of days to recover. I try to put out the strongest team to start the game. That will take into account the tactical aspects of each game. That will mean different players start and different options in terms of substitutions.”

Captained by Zoran Nizic and managed by Joan Carrillo, Hajduk has a young star in the making in the form of 19-year-old attacking midfielder Nikola Vlasic, but Everton is heavily favored at home with Hajduk given 12:1 odds by bookmakers.

[ MORE: Barca GM says Coutinho, Dembele “close” ]

Those numbers are a relative sure thing compared to AC Milan’s visitors. Macedonia club Shkendija are a 33:1 underdog for its trip to Italy.

Elsewhere, Slovenian side Domzale is a longshot at home to visiting Marseille.

Speaking of bookmakers, Arsenal won’t enter the competition until the group stage but is considered the favorite to win the UEL by a hair over Milan. Everton, Villarreal, and Athletic Bilbao are level with third-best odds.

UEFA Europa League playoff first legs
Utrecht 1-0 Zenit — Weds.
BATE Borisov vs. Oleksandriya — 1 p.m. ET Thursday
Apollon Limassol vs. Midtjylland — 1 p.m.
Krasnodar vs. Red Star Belgrade — 1 p.m.
Dinamo Zagreb vs. Skenderbeu — 1 p.m.
FH vs. Braga — 1:45 p.m. ET Thursday
PAOK vs. Ostersund — 2 p.m. ET Thursday
Vardar vs. Fenerbahce — 2 p.m.
Plzen vs. AEK Lamaca — 2:15 p.m. ET Thursday
Altach vs. Maccabi Tel-Aviv — 2:30 p.m. ET Thursday
Ludogorets Razgrad vs. Suduva — 2:30 p.m.
Panathinaikos vs. Athletic Bilbao — 2:30 p.m.
Domzale vs. Marseille — 2:45 p.m. ET Thursday
Osijek vs. Austria Wien — 2:45 p.m.
Viitorul vs. Red Bull Salzburg — 2:45 p.m.
Ajax vs. Rosenborg — 2:45 p.m.
Legia Warsaw vs. Sheriff — 2:45 p.m.
AC Milan vs. Shkendija — 2:45 p.m.
Club Brugge vs. AEK — 2:45 p.m.
Partizan vs. Videoton — 3 p.m. ET Thursday
Everton vs. Hajduk Split — 3:05 p.m. ET Thursday
Maritimo vs. Dynamo Kyiv — 3:30 p.m. ET Thursday