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Aston Villa welcomes back previously marginalized players

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Aston Villa want to avoid yet another season in which they struggle against the drop. However, that might be difficult: Owner Randy Lerner put the club up for sale at the start of the summer, and has yet to find a willing buyer. As such, Villa have been restrained in the transfer market, with Lerner making it clear that money can be spent only if current players are sold.

Villa have already brought in three players on the cheap, and all are Premier League veterans: Philippe Senderos, Joe Cole and Kieran Richardson. But they’ve also decided to turn to players that were marginalized after Paul Lambert arrived at the club two years ago.

The infamous “Bomb Squad,” high-paid players that have been frozen out over much of the past 24 months, are to make a return next season, ensuring Lerner gets at least a bit of a return on his investment. While Shay Given is never likely to feature heavily, as Villa have Brad Guzan as their first choice goalkeeper, there are other big names looking to finally make their mark.

Darren Bent was Villa’s record signing in January 2011. While he helped the club avoid relegation that season, he’s made little of an impression since. He lost his starting place to Christian Benteke in August 2012, and went on loan to Fulham for the 2013-2014 season.

But despite Bent’s paltry three goals last season, Villa are determined to get some use out of him, particularly with Benteke and Libor Kozák still recovering from injury. The forward came good in his first appearance of the preseason, grabbing a brace against League Two side Mansfield on Thursday evening.

Another man looking to impress is Charles N’Zogbia. The winger tore his Achilles while on vacation last June, and had not played since. However, Lambert seemed pleased with his performance on Thursday, and with Marc Albrighton now gone, N’Zogbia could see plenty of time this season.

Finally, there’s Alan Hutton. The defender has not played for Villa since the 2011-2012 season, when he was brought in by fellow Scot Alex McLeish. Instead, he’s seen loan spells at Nottingham Forest, Mallorca and Bolton Wanderers. But with Matthew Lowton disappointing last season, it’s likely Hutton will find himself back in the first team — especially since Villa rejected an offer from West Bromwich Albion last week.

Aston Villa are set to leave for Texas, where they will play FC Dallas on July 23 and Houston Dynamo on July 26. Those two games could give Lambert even more of an idea as to whether the previously marginalized players should be welcomed back with open arms.

VIDEO: Previewing all 10 Premier League games

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 28:  Jose Fonte of Southampton and Sergio Aguero of Manchester City compete for the ball during the Barclays Premier League match between Manchester City and Southampton at the Etihad Stadium on November 28, 2015 in Manchester, England.  (Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images)
Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images
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A busy midweek for Premier League teams in Europe sees some high-profile match-ups when league play resumes this weekend.

Chelsea is hosting former manager Jose Mourinho, Arsenal looks to keep up its red-hot play, and Manchester City is hoping an extra day’s rest on Southampton makes a difference to its recent dry spell.

[ STREAM: Every PL game on  NBC Sports 

Below you will find video previews of all 10 games coming up this weekend in the PL.

Manchester City vs. Southampton — Sunday, 8:30 a.m. ET, watch online via NBC Sports

Burnley vs. Everton — Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, watch online via NBC Sports

Leicester City vs. Crystal Palace — Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, watch online via NBC Sports

Liverpool vs. West Bromwich Albion — Saturday, 12:30 p.m. ET, watch online via NBC Sports

Swansea City vs. Watford — Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, watch online via NBC Sports

Bournemouth vs. Tottenham Hotspur — Saturday, 7:30 a.m. ET, watch online via NBC Sports

Hull City vs. Stoke City — Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, watch online via NBC Sports

Chelsea vs. Manchester United — Sunday, 11 a.m. ET, watch online via NBC Sports

West Ham United vs. Sunderland — Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, watch online via NBC Sports

Arsenal vs. Middlesbrough — Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, watch online via NBC Sports

PST EXTRA: Will Mourinho go ultra defensive vs Chelsea? (video)

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After Thursday’s thumping of Fenerbahce, Manchester United’s focus turns to Chelsea.

You can bet Jose Mourinho has been daydreaming of this day from the moment he started jockeying for a new Premier League job; leading a team onto the Stamford Bridge pitch to face his former club.

[ MORE: Mourinho says Pogba needs time ]

Two years ago, Mourinho was leading Chelsea to the Premier League title. He didn’t last the next season, as a run of shocking results motivated Chelsea to cut ties with its “Special One”.

Joe Prince-Wright is here with another PST Extra, breaking down Sunday’s big match between Mourinho’s Red Devils and Antonio Conte‘s Blues at 11 a.m. ET.

Manchester United: Pogba explains why he took PK over Rooney

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 20:  Paul Pogba of Manchester United runs with the ball during the UEFA Europa League Group A match between Manchester United FC and Fenerbahce SK at Old Trafford on October 20, 2016 in Manchester, England.  (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)
Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images
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Manchester United midfielder Paul Pogba scored a pair of goals in Thursday’s big Europa League win over Fenerbahce, but the first was up for discussion.

Wayne Rooney started the game and has handled plenty of penalty kicks in his day, but the captain bowed to Pogba’s request to break the deadlock.

[ WATCH: Pogba’s fantastic goal ]

Pogba would later score a much better looking goal, but many debated the PK duties for much of the game (ad nauseam). Anthony Martial converted United’s second penalty of the night in a 4-1 win, but it was Pogba’s that was at the center of discussion.

From the BBC:

“I told Wayne (Rooney) I wanted to take the penalty and he let me. I am very happy to score that penalty and from a player like him to let me it is big respect so I am very glad.

“I feel comfortable with all of the team. It is just at the start of the season and there is still a long way to go and we want to go up and do our best and be top of the league.”

Pogba certainly knows the right way to turn a phrase, proffering plenty of praise for Rooney. Pogba had a very good game aside from a few early misplaced passes, and this performance could put his form in a fine place for Sunday’s match against Chelsea.

Mourinho says Pogba needs time to adjust to Premier League intensity

Manchester United's Paul Pogba, centre, celebrates scoring his sides third goal during the Europa League Group A soccer match between Manchester United and Fenerbahce at Old Trafford stadium in Manchester, England, Thursday, Oct. 20, 2016. (AP Photo/Dave Thompson)
AP Photo/Dave Thompson
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Paul Pogba had a very good match for Manchester United in the Europa League on Thursday, but manager Jose Mourinho still wants supporters to pump the brakes as the French midfielder continues adjusting to life in the Premier League.

Pogba, 23, has been under the microscope since returning to Old Trafford after a tremendous stint with Juventus. That scrutiny tends to come with a world record transfer fee.

[ MORE: UEFA Europa League roundup ]

On Thursday, he scored a pair of goals in United’s 4-1 defeat of Fenerbahce, a win that boosted the Red Devils back atop their Europa League group.

Mourinho was obviously asked about his midfielder’s starring performance.

“Paul Pogba needs time. I was in Italy, I know Italian football. To be in Italy for four or five years and come back I was not expecting it to be a click of the fingers for intensity. He needs time.”