Premier League Sunday Preview: Heat’s on Arsenal; Liverpool at Upton Park

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Sunday’s the day Arsenal affirms it hold on fourth or squanders it, an outcome that was unfathomable of a month ago. It’s also the day the dreamer meats the cynic in East London, with Brendan Rodgers’ looking to reclaim first in the Premier League.

It’s all part of a Sunday doubleheader that begins at 8:00 a.m. Eastern, with fifth place Everton hosting Arsenal before West Ham United welcomes Liverpool. Both games will be broadcast on NBCSN and streamed via NBC Sport Live Extra.

After Saturday’s action, Liverpool finds itself in second place, with Chelsea’s win over Stoke temporarily allowing the Blues to reclaim first. Only one point back and holding the goal difference advantage, Liverpool will go top with a draw at Upton Park, maintaining a key points edge it has on third place Manchester City ahead of the Citizens visit to Anfield next weekend.

Before that, Arsenal looks to reestablish some distance between itself and Everton. With a game-in-hand, the Toffees are within four points of fourth. Should they win at at Goodison Park, Roberto Martínez’s team will be within one, have the goal difference advantage, and maintain a match in hand.

Here’s a closer look at Sunday’s action:

Everton vs. Arsenal, 8:00 a.m. Eastern, NBCSN and NBC Sports Live Extra

  • Toffees tied for the fewest losses in the league: Five.
  • Arsenal with one win in its last five league games.
  • Gunners won teams’ last meeting, 4-1 on Mar. 8 (FA Cup).

The last time Everton beat Arsenal, Thierry Henry was still leading the Gunners, James Beattie scored the match’s only goal, and teams were only allowed to name five players to their benches. It was Jan. 21, 2006, the only time in the last 11 years the Toffees have taken pull points from the Gunners.

It puts Sunday’s game in perspective. Everton may have an opportunity to take control of the race for fourth, but to do so it would have to do something that’s so rare that only Leon Osman and Tony Hibbert were around the last time it happened. Throughout David Moyes’ entire tenure at Goodison, the Toffees only beat Arsenal once, yet in Roberto Martinez’s first year in charge, form suggests Everton could match that mark. As Martínez’s side has surged toward the top four, Arsenal has dropped away from the title race.

History, however, can be a daunting thing, particularly in light of the teams’ last meeting. If things were really so different around Goodison — if the problems the club has had with Arsenal left with its former boss — March’s game would have been more competitive. Instead, the result serves as a reminder: Everton may need more than an early spring surge to close the gap with Arsenal.

West Ham United vs. Liverpool, 11:00 a.m. Eastern, NBCSN and NBC Sports Live Extra

  • Liverpool one point back of Chelsea for first place.
  • Two wins in a row have West Ham in 11th place.
  • Reds won season’s first meeting, 4-1 at Anfield.

There’s a surprising amount of skepticism as to whether Liverpool can handle West Ham, with some seeing the combination of a trip to Upton Park plus Sam Allardyce’s tactics as a threat for the Reds’ eight-match winning streak. Yet the last time the teams met, Liverpool routed the Hammers at Anfield, with Luis Suárez scoring twice in the Reds’ three-goal win.

At that time. however, West Ham was in a mild free fall, with Allardyce’s job in danger as the Irons descended toward the bottom three. Since then, however, the Hammers have recovered. While fan discontent continues to grow toward the team’s uninspiring play, the club’s spot in next year’s Premier League is almost assured. After wins against Sunderland and Hull, West Ham’s 10 points clear of the drop.

It’s a status that speaks to West Ham’s improvement, though Liverpool has also improved dramatically since December. Back then, qualifying for Champions League was Liverpool’s only, and then still precarious, goal. Now, Rodgers’ team is in title contention, and while many continue to look for signs the team will slip recent, lopsided wins over Tottenham, Cardiff City, Manchester United, and Southampton (all by at least three goals; all since March 1) suggest the Reds may be beyond being bothered by the likes of West Ham.

Dempsey’s last-second PK lifts Sounders past Minnesota

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SEATTLE (AP) Clint Dempsey converted a penalty kick in the final seconds of stoppage time on Sunday night, lifting the Seattle Sounders to a 2-1 victory over Minnesota United.

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A corner kick by Seattle’s Joevin Jones floated into the penalty area, and Minnesota’s Jermaine Taylor was called for a hand ball in a scrum of players battling for possession. Dempsey stepped up and drilled his kick to the right side past Loons goalkeeper Bobby Shuttleworth in the fourth minute of stoppage.

Dempsey’s goal was his 11th of the year.

Referee Ismail Elfath blew the final whistle as soon as Minnesota kicked off.

Chad Marshall also scored for the Sounders (11-7-7), who tied a club record by extending their unbeaten streak to nine games (6-0-3). The team had an identical 6-0-3 mark from May 28-July 16, 2011.

Seattle was forced to rally after its club-record shutout streak ended at 421 minutes on a goal by Minnesota’s Ethan Finlay in the 21st minute.

The Loons (6-14-4, 22 points) are still looking for their first road win of the season. They are 0-8-2 away from Minneapolis.

MLS Snapshot: New York City FC 2-1 New England Revolution (video)

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The game in 100 words (or less): For nearly 75 minutes, NYCFC couldn’t muster up any chances in the attacking third, but thankfully their captain did what he does best. David Villa scored his 19th goal of the season on Sunday night to pull out a 2-1 win against the New England Revolution, but it was rookie Jonathan Lewis that notched the winner. The visitors took the lead 20 minutes prior after Sean Johnson spilled a shot in front of his own goal, allowing Teal Bunbury to pounce on the rebound. NYCFC now moves to within four points of Eastern Conference leaders Toronto FC with nine matches remaining in the regular season.

Three four moments that mattered

16′ — Harrison breaks ankles, but Villa can’t finish — This might be the only time all see you’ll see David Villa miss a chance like this…

38′ — Johnson gets a finger tip to Rowe’s blast — Sean Johnson had no work to do in the first half, at least until Kelyn Rowe decided to rip a shot from distance just before halftime.

57′ — Johnson’s error grants Bunbury, Revs the lead — Look away, NYCFC fans.

77′ — Villa find the back of the net — When you need a goal, who you gonna call? That’s right. David Villa. The NYCFC captain is now up to 19 this season.

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Man of the match: David Villa

Goalscorers: Teal Bunbury (57′), David Villa (77′), Jonathan Lewis (90+4′)

Honoring victims of attacks, Barcelona wins league opener

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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) Wearing shirts honoring victims of the recent attacks in Spain, Barcelona opened its Spanish league season with a comfortable 2-0 win over Real Betis on Sunday.

[ MORE: Neymar double helps PSG cruise past Toulouse ]

Players had the word “Barcelona” instead of their names on the back of their shirts, and the Catalan hashtag “TOTSSOMBARCELONA” (We are all Barcelona) was on display around the Camp Nou stadium. The message was also shown on the stadium’s large screens, as well as on many banners carried by fans.

An emotional minute’s silence was held before the game as the music of Catalan cellist Pau Casals played in the background.

Before the minute was up, the more than 55,000 fans at the stadium broke into a round of applause and began chanting “No tinc por” (I’m not afraid), a chant which has become a symbol of people’s reactions to the attacks that killed 14 people and injured more than 120 in Barcelona and the nearby seaside resort of Cambrils.

Extra security was implemented in and around Camp Nou.

There was a minute’s silence before every Spanish league match this weekend.

Without Neymar and the injured Luis Suarez, Barcelona got off to a winning start in the league after consecutive losses to rival Real Madrid in the Spanish Super Cup final.

It scored two goals three minutes apart near the end of the first half – an own-goal by Betis defender Alin Tosca and a close-range shot by Sergi Roberto. Both goals came after plays started by Gerard Deulofeu, one of the players expected to try to replace Neymar after his world record transfer to Paris Saint-Germain.

“We lost depth with Neymar’s departure and we have to find a way to overcome that,” Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde said.

Lionel Messi looked lively but wasn’t able to score his 350th goal in La Liga. He came close, though, being denied by the woodwork three different times.

AP Sports Writer Tales Azzoni contributed to this report.

More AP Spanish soccer coverage: https://apnews.com/tag/LaLiga

Brighton breaks club record with signing of winger Jose Izquierdo

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Brighton hasn’t gotten off to the ideal start in its debut season in the Premier League, but a key reinforcement is on the way.

[ MORE: Chelsea tops Spurs at Wembley behind Alonso’s brace ]

After starting the 2017/18 campaign with back-to-back defeats, the Seagulls announced on Sunday the signing of Colombian winger Jose Izquierdo from Club Brugge in Belgium for a record fee.

The 25-year-old spent three seasons in Belgium’s top flight and totaled 38 goals across all competitions for Brugge, prior to making the move to England.

Additionally, Izquierdo has worked his way into the Colombia squad as of late, and scored his first international goal for his country in June 2017 in a friendly against Cameroon.