Premier League Preview: Chelsea vs. Arsenal

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  • Jose Mourinho has never lost against Arsenal as Chelsea boss (W5, D5)
  • Saturday’s game will be Arsene Wenger’s 1,000th in charge of Arsenal
  • Chelsea are unbeaten in four PL games vs. Arsenal

On Saturday at Stamford Bridge Chelsea host Arsenal in a massive London derby (Watch live on NBCSN, 8:45 a.m. ET and online via Live Extra) that’s made even bigger given both teams’ serious title credentials.

Chelsea, the current Premier League leaders, are eager to put last Saturday’s 1-0 defeat to Aston Villa behind them against the Gunners, while Arsenal know a win will put them just one point behind Chelsea with a game in hand.

Arsene Wenger will be celebrating his 1000th game in charge of the Gunners on Saturday, as the French manager continues to keep Arsenal moving forward as their unlikely title charge isn’t over by any stretch of the imagination. Last time out they beat North London rivals Tottenham 1-0 away from home and Wenger would love to get one over Mourinho.

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These two sides drew 0-0 on a wet and windy night at the Emirates just before Christmas, but since then Wenger has accused Mourinho of being ‘afraid of failure’ while Mourinho quipped that Wenger ‘is an expert at failure.’ Thing’s could get quite tasty on the sidelines in West London this Saturday.

As for team news, Chelsea will be without Willian and Ramires who were both sent off last weekend, while Arsenal only have Tomas Rosicky as a doubt with long-term injuries still keeping Aaron Ramsey, Jack Wilshere, Theo Walcott and Abou Diaby sidelined.

What they’re saying

Arsenal defender Nacho Monreal on ending Mourinho’s unbeaten PL home record: “It has been a few years that [Mourinho] has not lost playing at home with Chelsea, and there is no better moment to break that record than this weekend. We are aware that it will not be easy, but we’ll go there to get the three points. We’re on a good run, but we have a very tough schedule coming up. We’ve just played against Tottenham, now we have Chelsea, Manchester City, Everton away, and also a game in hand.”

Jose Mourinho playing down the importance of the derby: “It’s no more significant than the game last Saturday in Birmingham. It’s exactly the same significance; maybe a bit less now because of what happened last weekend. Last Saturday put us in a position where probably we wouldn’t be now, probably we would be with more points than we have now. We want to get the maximum points possible during the season and this is our objective game after game so if we can add three points to the ones we have now that would be good.”

Prediction

With Arsenal flying high and knowing a win away at Chelsea will help them leap over the Blues in the title race, I’d expect the Gunners to come flying out of the traps. Wenger’s side are mean at the back, but so are Chelsea, so it will be a tight and tense affair in a London derby with plenty to play for. If I had to stick my neck on the line, I am going for a home win. But neither side will want to lose this, so maybe we’ll see a draw.

Barcelona GM: “We’re close to signing Coutinho, Dembele”

Philippe Coutinho
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Barcelona did not post a magical comeback versus Real Madrid in the Spanish Super Cup second leg, instead losing 5-1 on aggregate after Wednesday’s 2-0 loss at the Bernabeu.

[ MORE: Barcelona falls to Real… again ]

But perhaps the celebrated La Liga club has worked some wizardry in the transfer market, with not one but two big targets “close” to the Camp Nou.

Barca general manager Josep “Pep” Segura was on television after the match, and noted Spanish football expert Sid Lowe relays his words: Liverpool’s Philippe Coutinho and Borussia Dortmund’s Ousmane Dembele are coming to Barca, “but until it’s closed I can’t say anything.”

Well, you just said something about it, so what gives.

Now before anyone freaks out at Anfield or Westfalenstadion, this is a man speaking after a relatively embarrassing performance for one of the biggest clubs in the world. Segura could simply be treading water for new manager Ernesto Valverde after his club was simply worked over in 120 minutes versus its El Clasico rivals.

VIDEO: Asensio, Real Madrid outclass out-of-sorts Barca; PSG trolls?

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This one wasn’t even close, and is going to instantly have many Barcelona fans wondering if the loss of Neymar is going to be too much for Ernesto Valverde to handle.

Real Madrid rode a stunning Marco Asensio strike to a 2-0 first half lead at the Bernabeu on Wednesday en route to a 5-1 aggregate win over Barcelona in the Spanish Super Cup.

It’s Real’s 10th Spanish Super Cup, and first since 2012.

[ MORE: Bacca to Villarreal ]

Karim Benzema also scored in the opening frame, which saw Barca looking out of sorts and rudderless.

As in the first leg in Barcelona, the Blaugranas had their moments but failed to show sharpness and class against the reigning La Liga and UEFA Champions League winners.

Lionel Messi hit the crossbar, Luis Suarez headed off the post. The second half wasn’t producing a magic comeback.

Both teams kick off their La Liga seasons on Sunday, with Barca hosting Real Betis and Real off to Deportivo de la Coruna.

Meanwhile, it seems like PSG spent the afternoon trolling Barca, first posting a shot of ex-Blaugranas stars Dani Alves and Neymar training, and then an incredulous Neymar accompanied by a laughing emoji.

Carlos Bacca joins Villarreal, Boateng leaves Las Palmas

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MADRID (AP) Colombia striker Carlos Bacca joined Spanish club Villarreal on loan from AC Milan on Wednesday.

Villarreal said the one-season loan agreement includes the option to buy the player at the end of the season.

Bacca returns to a Spanish league where the 30-year-old forward flourished in two seasons at Sevilla before joining Milan in 2015.

[ MORE: UCL Wednesday wrap ]

Bacca has made 39 appearances for Colombia, scoring 13 goals. According to Villarreal, he has scored 165 career goals in 336 matches. He scored 14 goals for Milan last season.

Elsewhere in Spain, Las Palmas announced that Kevin-Prince Boateng was leaving the club after both sides agreed to end his contract two days before its season opener.

Las Palmas said that Boateng was leaving due to “personal reasons of an irreversible nature.” The club thanked the former AC Milan standout for his “professionalism” that he displayed during his single season on the Canary Islands.

Las Palmas opens the Spanish league season on Friday at Valencia.

Man City has $23 million Evans bid shot down by WBA

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Could Jonny Evans be the latest player to cross Manchester’s red and blue divide, albeit with a stop in between?

Reports Wednesday say West Bromwich Albion has rejected a $23 million Manchester City bid for the Northern Irish center back.

[ MORE: UCL Wednesday wrap ]

$23 million? That’s like 40 percent of a Kyle Walker!

Evans, 29, is the Baggies captain and a key piece of the club’s aims to continue its long stay in the Premier League.

He joined Manchester United’s academy at age 16 and stayed at Old Trafford through 2015, taking loan opportunities at Royal Antwerp and Sunderland on the way.

At United, Evans won three Premier League titles and two League Cups, and also has a Championship win from one of his two stints at Sunderland.

The 61-times capped Belfast native would give City a key component for Premier League play along with a center back corps of Nicolas Otamendi, Vincent Kompany, and John Stones. Eliaquim Mangala completes their veteran depth, and is certainly City’s weakest position.

Would West Brom sell at any reasonable price? The Baggies are not deep at center back, either — not too many clubs are — and will be in a boatload of trouble without Evans. And given the transfer market, finding a proper replacement at under $30 million is going to be difficult (Reread that sentence. What a summer).

It’s another argument for the transfer window closing before the start of the season.