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Premier League Sunday Preview: Liverpool hosts Swansea City in the biggie of a trio

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Anyone buying this public stance from Liverpool, where they keep downplaying their Premier League title chances?

C’mon. We all know that Steven Gerrard and Co.  privately believe they can get this thing done. But for any chance of passing the heavies still in their way, this is the very sort of match they absolutely must win – a home contest against a mid- or lower-table team.

And depending on what happens at Norwich, Brendon Rodgers’ men could put some serious distance between themselves and Tottenham for fourth spot and the coveted Champions League berth that goes with it.

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Here is a quick look at all three Premier League matches set for Sunday as Round 27 closes (no Monday matches, as Champions League matches take over.)

Liverpool vs. Swansea City, 8:30 a.m. ET, NBCSN

  • Talented right back Glen Johnson is back from Liverpool
  • Liverpool has 66 goals this year; Swansea has 33
  • Liverpool is unbeaten in their last seven Premier League games

Right back Glen Johnson is back from Liverpool after missing more than a month with ankle and groin injuries, although defender Mamadou Sakho remains sidelined with a hamstring problem.

But it’s the Swansea defense that needs to worry; high-scoring Liverpool, led by Luiz Suarez, has 66 goals, second best in the Premier League.

The Welsh meanwhile, is just barely clear of the relegation zone. These team drew, 2-2, in their earlier meeting this year.

Norwich City vs. Tottenham, 11 a.m. ET, NBCSN

  • Tottenham  won the teams’ first meeting, 2-o last September at White Hart Lane
  • Norwich has just one win in its last 10 Premier League matches

Tim Sherwood’s Spurs must recover quickly from a long trip east for a Thursday Europa match, and Carrow Road will hardly be an easy place for the London side.

On the other hand, Hugo Lloris, Emmanuel Adebayor, Kyle Walker, Younes Kaboul and Aaron Lennon were all held back Thursday, and will presumably be back into Sherwood’s first 11.

While Norwich worries about relegation, Spurs need all three points to keep pace with Liverpool for fourth in the table and the Champions League berth.

If Spurs can get just one, they stand a good chance of leaving Carrow Road with a  point, at least; Chris Hughton’s club has just four goals in its last 10 contests.

Newcastle United vs. Aston Villa, 8:30 a.m. ET, Premier League Extratime

  • Talented Newcastle striker Loic Rémy returns to the lineup for Alan Pardew
  • Alan Pardew’s club has been shut out in four consecutive matches
  • Brad Guzan and Aston Villa could use another win or two to put some breathing room between themselves and the relegation -threatened

Ordinarily, the return of a mid-level striker would not rate as “big news.” But Newcastle’s rate of goal scoring as fallen to such anemic depths, anything could help – and the Frenchman is available once again after serving a three-match suspension.

Alan Pardew’s team has been shut out in four consecutive matches and in five of its last six Premier League encounters.

Lambert’s squad came through a recent warm-weather training camp in Portugal well and he expects to have a largely fit squad at his disposal for the Barclays Premier League clash.

Newcastle manager Alan Pardew “went there,” verbally lashing his team’s latest meek performance, a 4-0 loss to Tottenham.

Premier League AT HALF: Arsenal fights back, Hull City on top

LONDON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 10:  Alexis Sanchez of Arsenal (L) and Francis Coquelin of Arsenal (R) celebrate after Theo Walcott of Arsenal (not pictured) scored Arsenals first goal during the Premier League match between Arsenal and Stoke City at the Emirates Stadium on December 10, 2016 in London, England.  (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)
Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images
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Goals and controversial penalty decisions are a big part of Saturday morning’s quartet of Premier League matches, all of which are at the break.

[ STREAM: Every PL game on NBC Sports ]

Arsenal 1-1 Stoke City

Joe Allen took an elbow from Granit Xhaka inside the 18, and Lee Mason awarded a PK that Charlie Adam converted to give the visitors an early lead. But Theo Walcott scored his 100th goal as a Gunner off a classy Hector Bellerin cross to make it 1-1 before the break.

Burnley 2-1 Bournemouth

The Cherries will have to dig out of another hole this week, and it all began with Jeff Hendrick‘s phenomenal opener. Fellow Irishman Steven Ward scored an economical to goal to double the lead.

But Ryan Fraser continued his fine December with an assist on Benik Afobe‘s goal before halftime.

Hull City 1-0 Crystal Palace

Robert Snodgrass drew a penalty with a pretty easy grass grab, and the Tigers have a

Swansea City 0-0 Sunderland

Not much cooking at the Liberty Stadium.

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Koeman: “Nervous” Everton has a problem after another loss

WATFORD, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 10:  Ronald Koeman manager of Everton arrives prior to the Premier League match between Watford and Everton at Vicarage Road on December 10, 2016 in Watford, England.  (Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)
Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images
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One win in 10 for Ronald Koeman‘s Everton has the Dutchman on the hot seat.

Koeman seems to be clawing for air after the Toffees’ latest setback, a 3-2 loss at Watford.

The loss puts the Hornets ahead of Everton on the PL table, and — while unlikely — it’s a mathematical possibility that the Toffees could be a bottom half team by the end of the weekend.

[ STREAM: Every PL game on NBC Sports ]

That’s a brutal development for a club expected to challenge for a European place this season.

Here’s Koeman:

“I see a lot of similar problems in the team. The team is too much reactive. Of course it’s maybe a lack of confidence, but if you start the game well, 1-0 up, you need a bigger belief in the team and not going back and defending, and nervous, and not enough ball possession. In my opinion that’s a problem.”

A big problem with that? It can be put down to the manager. Is Koeman in trouble already?

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VIDEO: Hendrick scores incredible volley from distance

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Jeff Hendrick, take a bow.

Burnley’s Republic of Ireland international midfielder pulled off a stunning piece of skill on Saturday to put the Clarets ahead against Bournemouth.

[ STREAM: Every PL game online ] 

A long ball forward was flicked on to Hendrick and he took a stunning first touch to tee himself and then settled himself before spanking a volley into the top corner.

Sensational goal from Burnley’s club-record signing.

Click play on the video above to watch it.

Messi’s latest goal dares you to count the touches (video)

PAMPLONA, SPAIN - DECEMBER 10:  Lionel Messi of FC Barcelona celebrates after scoring his team's second goal during the La Liga match between CA Osasuna and FC Barcelona at Sadar stadium on December 10, 2016 in Pamplona, Spain.  (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)
Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images
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There’s a danger in observing Lionel Messi on a week-by-week basis, and it has a lot to do with how he makes greatness look routine.

So while it’s easy to dismiss yet another mazy dribble through a defense, one of those “Frogger” style with calm-but-vicious cutbacks, try to consider everything that goes into Messi’s second goal against Osasuna early Saturday.

[ MORE: Watford 3-2 Everton ]

On first look, you might count 9 touches for Messi starting with his right-footed collection of the ball. But move to the slow motion replays, and recognize the truth: Often Messi is letting the ball do the work for him, essentially moving the duo closer to goal while he used his preferred left foot as a must-respect threat.

That he does it in such traffic and at full speed is incredible. It’s literally one of those goals in which a linguistic luminary like Ray Hudson would have trouble over-emphasizing the greatness.

Messi now has 11 La Liga goals in 12 matches, and 22 in 19 overall.

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