Will United surge towards the top four with 14 games to go?

UEFA Champions League Preview: Talent not the issue for Manchester United against Olympiacos

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Between league, cups, and Europe, Manchester United has already lost 10 times since David Moyes took over, and while many of those defeats have come against teams more talented than the Red Devils’ Tuesday opponents, Olympiacos’s mere two loses force us to reconsider our assumptions. There’s supposed to be a huge divide between the quality needed to compete in the Premier League and a squad that can claim Greece’s Super League, but given United’s stumbling outside of England’s Champions League spots while Olympiacos has a 20-point lead in Greece, the contrast is not so clear. With the Greek champions’ only defeats during the 2013-14 campaign coming against French powerhouse Paris Saint-Germain, the assumed gap between United and their Tuesday hosts may not exist.

“United are a top-class team and I will not comment on their form,” Olympiacos head coach Michel said about the Red Devils’ stumbles under Moyes. The Spain-born boss eventually relented, conceded United’s league form is not completely irrelevant. “They cannot afford to make any errors given their position in the Premier League. We also can’t afford to give anything less than 100 percent.”

But what does 100 percent get Olympiacos, particularly given the club’s willingness let their most dangerous player, Kostas Mitroglou, leave for Fulham in the January window (albeit for $20 million)?  Young Costa Rican international Joel Campbell represents a point of danger up top, as does the recently acquired Nelson Valdez, who will be able to compensate for the absence of the injured Javier Saviola. But throughout the rest of the team, their lack the talent is still evident when compare to the considerable names at Moyes’ disposal.

[MORE: Premier League Playback: Rooney’s revolution at Manchester United, Everton slides, top teams accelerate]

Among those names is Wayne Rooney, who celebrated a new contract that pays him in excess of $25 million per year with a wonderfully volleyed goal at Crystal Palace. The England international is complemented by Dutch forward Robin Van Persie, with the likes of midfielder Michael Carrick and goalkeeper David de Gea adding to the list of enviable talents likely to feature in Moyes’ Wednesday XI. Position-for-position, whether we’re talking about Ashley Young (who will likely start in place of the cup-tied Juan Mata) or Darren Fletcher (a potential choice along side Carrick in the middle), Moyes will start 11 players who would start of Olympiacos, making the Red Devils decisive favorites if we were to judge this match up on talent alone.

But talent hasn’t been United’s problem. Results have. Though critics continue to (perhaps correctly) harp on a midfield that can’t match up against Europe’s elites, United still enter a vast majority of its games as the most talented team on the field. It’s Moyes’s inability to translate that talent into results has defined the campaign, one that’s likely to leave United outside Champions League for the first Premier League era.

[MORE: UEFA Champions League Preview: Zenit sees opportunity against Borussia Dortmund]

That’s where the teams’ 2013-14 records becomes particularly informative. Olympiacos may have an easy time of it in Greece, but in a Champions League group that also included Anderlecht, Benfica, and Paris Saint-Germain, they only lost to the high-powered Parisians, sending the favored Portuguese to Europa League. In that sense, Michel’s team’s transcending their talent, having reached the final 16 when few thought they’d get out of their group. Even before being drawn against United, Olympiacos showed they can transcend the names on the teamsheet.

In contrast, though they have been impressive against Bayer Leverkusen and Shakhtar Donetsk in Champions League, Manchester United has spent the better part of the season playing down to their opponents’ level, as evidenced by their 10 losses. Though they are rightly considered favorites ahead of Tuesday’s kickoff, these new Red Devils have shown a new tendency to play beneath that role. Combine that pattern with a trip to face an Olympiacos team that’s not accustomed to losing, and it’s enough to wonder if a Mata-less United can carry over the form they exhibited this weekend against Crystal Palace.

Prince-Wright’s Premier League picks – Week 15

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Week 15 of the Premier League is here.

[ STREAM: Every PL game live ] 

If you, like me, love to dissect all the games and predict what the score will be and which team will win, I encourage you to get involved in the comments section below. Let’s have a bit of fun.

Okay, so I’ve consulted my crystal ball and here’s how we see things panning out. Click play on the videos below to hear my score prediction and preview of each game.

[ VIDEO: Previews of every PL game – Week 15 ]

With the first section labelled “basically, free money” for the picks I think are dead certs. The section labelled “don’t touch this” means if you’re betting I advise you to stay clear, while the “so you’re telling me there’s a chance” section are the longshots. If it is better odds you are after, those are the picks to go for.


BASICALLY, FREE MONEY

Chelsea 3-0 West Brom – (Sunday, 7 a.m. ET, NBCSN) – [STREAM]

Liverpool 4-1 West Ham – (Sunday, 11:30 a.m. ET, NBCSN) – [STREAM]

Leicester City 1-3 Man City – (Saturday, 12:30 p.m. ET, NBC) – [STREAM]

Arsenal 2-0 Stoke City – (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, NBCSN) – [STREAM]

DON’T TOUCH THIS… 

Swansea City 2-3 Sunderland – (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, CNBC) – [STREAM]

Watford 0-1 Everton – (Saturday, 7:30 a.m. ET, NBCSN) – [STREAM]

Burnley 1-2 Bournemouth – (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, Premier League Extratime) – [STREAM]

Southampton 1-1 Middlesbrough – (Sunday, 9:15 a.m. ET, Premier League Extratime) – [STREAM]

“SO YOU’RE TELLING ME THERE’S A CHANCE…”

Man United 1-2 Tottenham – (Sunday, 9:15 a.m. ET, NBCSN) – [STREAM]

Hull City 2-1 Crystal Palace – (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, Premier League Extratime) – [STREAM]

Chapecoense adds to crest to honor championship, victims of plane crash

SAO PAULO, BRAZIL - NOVEMBER 27:  The team of Palmeiras celebrates with the trophy after winning the match between Palmeiras and Chapecoense for the Brazilian Series A 2016 at Allianz Parque on November 27, 2016 in Sao Paulo, Brazil.  (Photo by Friedemann Vogel/Getty Images)
Photo by Friedemann Vogel/Getty Images
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Chapecoense will acknowledge its Copa Sudamericana championship as well as the many who were injured or died en route to the final on its club badge.

[ MORE: The latest on Chapecoense’s recovery ]

Chape added two stars to the logo. The first goes atop the circle to represent the championship, which was awarded to the club by CONMEBOL at the request of opponents Atletico Nacional.

The second goes inside the stylized ‘F’, and is dedicated to the 71 who died — including 19 players — in the Colombian plane crash.

Follow @NicholasMendola

Liverpool: Klopp joins Reina in backing Karius; “Shut your ears”

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 17:  Jurgen Klopp, Manager of Liverpool talks with Loris Karius of Liverpool after the Premier League match between Liverpool and Manchester United at Anfield on October 17, 2016 in Liverpool, England.  (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)
Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images
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Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp has his goalkeeper’s back.

Loris Karius has faced a good deal of criticism for his performance in the Reds’ come-from-ahead loss to Bournemouth last weekend, even some calls for a Simon Mignolet renaissance between the Anfield sticks.

[ MORE: Stoke’s Hughes likes Arsenal’s PL odds ]

And Reds supporters won’t mind Klopp calling out a rival’s woes to support the claim.

From the BBC:

“He made a mistake, too, which David De Gea made a few days before. Even the best goalkeepers in the world still make mistakes.

“There is no perfect recipe for development but shut your ears or close your ears helps a lot. I’m quite good at that. Hopefully, he can adapt to my skills to this.”

Klopp isn’t alone in defending Karius, as ex-Liverpool star Pepe Reina thinks the keeper’s been outstanding for the Reds.

The 23-year-old German backstop gets a look at West Ham United this weekend.

Follow @NicholasMendola

WATCH, STREAM: Premier League TV schedule – Week 15

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Week 15 of the 2016-17 Premier League season is here.

[ STREAM: Every PL game live here ]

Watford host Everton on Saturday (7:30 a.m. ET live NBCSN and online via NBC Sports.com) at Vicarage Road to kick things off with both teams out of form and desperate for a win.

Then Arsenal welcome Stoke City to the Emirates Stadium (10 a.m. ET live NBCSN andonline via NBC Sports.com) as Arsene Wenger‘s side look to stretch their unbeaten run to 14 games in the Premier League against a resurgent Potters outfit.

As the same time struggling Swansea City and Sunderland clash (10 a.m. ET live CNBC and online via NBC Sports.com) in a massive relegation battle at the Liberty Stadium. Can Bob Bradley get a big win?

[ MORE: Top PL storylines ]

Rounding things off on Saturday we have a big game for two teams in contrasting situations as Leicester City host Manchester City (12:30 p.m. ET live NBC and online via NBC Sports.com) at the King Power Stadium with Claudio Ranieri‘s side in a relegation battle. As for Pep Guardiola and City, they haven’t had it all their own way recently but are just four points off top spot.

On Sunday league-leader Chelsea host West Brom (7 a.m. ET live NBCSN and online via NBC Sports.com) with Antonio Conte‘s boys aiming to make it eight-straight wins in the Premier League but the in-form Baggies stand in the way. Then Manchester United and Tottenham collide at Old Trafford (9:15 a.m. ET live on NBCSN and online via NBC Sports.com) in one of the games of the weekend as both teams still harbor title aspirations but look more likely to simply challenge for the top four this season. 

To round Week 15 off Liverpool welcome struggling West Ham to Anfield (11:30 a.m. ET live NBCSN and online via NBC Sports.com) with Jurgen Klopp‘s men aiming to get over their shocking defeat at Bournemouth, while Slaven Bilic‘s Hammers will take anything they can get from this trip.

You can watch every single second of every single game live online via NBC Sports.com and the NBC Sports App, plus you can also watch Premier League “Goal Rush” at 10 a.m. ET for all the goals as they go in. Goal Rush is available via NBC Sports.com and the NBC Sports App,

If you’re looking for full-event replays of Premier League games, you can find them here. They are available soon after the final whistle, but rights limit us to a certain number each week. Looking for game highlights? Try this. Here’s your full TV schedule for the coming days. Enjoy.


FULL TV SCHEDULE

Saturday
7:30 a.m. ET: Watford  vs. Everton – NBCSN [STREAM]
10 a.m. ET: Arsenal vs. Stoke City – NBCSN [STREAM]
10 a.m. ET: Swansea City vs. Sunderland – CNBC [STREAM]
10 a.m. ET: Burnley vs. Bournemouth – Premier League Extratime [STREAM]
10 a.m. ET: Hull City vs. Crystal Palace – Premier League Extratime [STREAM]
12:30 p.m. ET: Leicester City vs. Manchester City – NBC [STREAM]

Sunday
7 a.m. ET: Chelsea vs. West Brom – NBCSN [STREAM]
9:15 a.m. ET: Man United vs. West Ham – NBCSN [STREAM]
9:15 a.m. ET: Southampton vs. Middlesbrough – Premier League Extratime [STREAM]
11:30 a.m. ET: Liverpool vs. West Ham – NBCSN [STREAM]