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PL Sunday preview: Man City, Arsenal clash; South Coast derby

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With Chelsea seemingly running away with the Premier League title in December, the likes of Manchester City and Arsenal see their season’s hopes and dreams fading fast, as the top-four sides prepare to clash at the Etihad Stadium on Sunday. Also on tap: a South Coast derby.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

Bournemouth vs. Southampton — 8:30 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

2016-17’s first installment of the South Coast derby (PST’s Joe Prince-Wright explored the question, “Is this really a derby?” in this fantastic piece) pits a pair of sides level on points (21), Southampton and Bournemouth, in ninth and 10th place, respectively. For Saints, mid-table is something of a disappointing start to the season. For the Cherries, they’re more than halfway to the magical 40-point mark to secure their place in the PL next season, with three games to spare. Neither side has won two straight games since Claude Puel‘s Saints went back-to-back on Sept. 25, the only time either side has won two in a row in the PL this season. With Southampton drawing Stoke on Wednesday, and Bournemouth topping Leicester City, statistical oddities would seem to favor the Sunday’s visitors. Said Bournemouth manager Eddie Howe, of the rivalry: “I think the more games we play, the rivalry will develop. It’s a new thing and you need time to form those connections.”

INJURIES: Bournemouth — OUT: Junior Stanislas (ankle), Andrew Surman (hamstring) | Southampton — OUT: Matthew Targett (hamstring)

[ MORE: Saturday’s PL roundup — Chelsea go 9 points clear; Man Utd streaking ]

Manchester City vs. Arsenal — 11 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

It’s been just over three years (Dec. 14, 2013) since Man City last beat Arsenal in the PL. If Pep Guardiola‘s side is to pull itself back into this season’s title race (they currently sit 10 points back of leaders Chelsea just shy of the halfway point of 2016-17; one point back of third-place Arsenal), they have no choice but to snap that five-game winless skid on Sunday. The injury bug arrived right on time for Arsenal, leaving the Gunners without six key figures for Sunday’s top-four clash (lengthy list of injuries below), leaving Arsene Wenger with a nearly bare-bones squad from which to pick his team, particularly in defense. Meanwhile, City will be without leading scorer Sergio Aguero (suspended) and midfield metronome Ilkay Gundogan (torn ACL – out for season).

INJURIES: Man City — OUT: Sergio Aguero (suspension), Ilkay Gundogan (knee surgery), Vincent Kompany (knee) | Arsenal — OUT: Aaron Ramsey (hamstring), Shkodran Mustafi (hamstring), Mathieu Debuchy (hamstring), Santi Cazorla (achilles), Per Mertesacker (knee surgery), Danny Welbeck (knee), Yaya Sanogo (calf)

[ MORE: Alexis Sanchez on new contract: “It depends on Arsenal” ]

Tottenham Hotspur vs. Burnley — 11 a.m. ET, on CNBC and NBCSports.com

13 points back of Chelsea, a repeat title challenge doesn’t seem on the cards for Tottenham. Furthermore, Manchester United’s steep uptick in form has Mauricio Pochettino‘s side fighting for their place inside the PL’s top-five. Having alternated wins and losses in their last four games, Spurs are now level on points (30) with the Red Devils. On the bright side, Christian Eriksen (five goals, two assists in his last four league games) is in perhaps the best patch of form of his Spurs career, while Harry Kane has scored six goals in seven league games. Burnley, meanwhile, sit 16th in the league table, just three points clear of the relegation zone, having suffered defeat in four of their last five league games.

INJURIES: Tottenham — OUT: Erik Lamela (hip); QUESTIONABLE: Mousa Dembele (foot), Vincent Janssen (ankle) | Burnley — OUT: Johann Gudmundsson (hamstring)

Liga MX wrap: Pachuca earns first win, Leon stays unbeaten

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All of Saturday’s action from around Mexico’s top flight…

Pachuca 3-1 Lobos BUAP

A strong first-half push from the hosts was all Pachuca needed on Saturday night to earn their first victory of the 2018 Clausura season. Angel Sagal brought the home side in front after just 10 minutes off of a near-post header, before Pachuca’s lead soon doubled 14 minutes later from the penalty spot when strike Franco Jara converted on the dead-ball attempt.

Just prior to halftime, Pachuca was out to a 3-0 advantage when 20-year-old outside back Erick Aguirre tallied his first goal for the club.

Last-place side Lobos got on the board three minutes into the second stanza via a finish from Heriberto Olvera, however, it wasn’t enough to provide anything more than a consolation for the visiting side.

Necaxa 1-3 Chivas Guadalajara

Mexican international Alan Pulido made it a dream start for the visitors from Guadalajara at the Estadio Victoria, however, that lead was cancelled out in first-half stoppage time after Carlos Gonzalez leveled the match up at 1-1.

The difference proved to be with 25 minutes left to play, when a goalkeeping error by Marcelo Barovero allowed Chivas to regain possession inside the Necaxa penalty area, before Ronaldo Cisneros tapped home the winner.

Then, a third goal came just prior to the end of regulation when Edwin Hernandez killed the game off for Matias Almeyda’s men, who also earned their first victory of the Clausura season.

Rest of Saturday’s Liga MX action

Cruz Azul 0-0 Club Leon
Queretaro 0-0 Tigres UANL
Monterrey 0-0 Club Tijuana

Sunday’s matches

UNAM vs. Club America — 1 p.m. ET
Santos Laguna vs. Morelia — 7 p.m. ET

The 2 Robbies: Alexis/Mkhitaryan transfer saga and more

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Robbie Mustoe and Robbie Earle recap all the key stories from the latest Premier League Saturday fixtures including Manchester City’s 3-1 win over Newcastle (0:20), Chelsea’s 4-0 victory at Brighton (10:15) and the latest on the Alexis Sanchez/Henrikh Mkhitaryan saga after wins for Arsenal and Manchester United (19:00). Plus, a closer look at the bottom of the table and thoughts go out to James McCarthy after his serious injury against West Brom (29:00).

Join Earle & Mustoe on The 2 Robbies Football Show, Saturdays at 5pm ET. Listen on the NBCSports Radio App and call 855-323-4622 in the U.S. for lively passionate debate.

All of the The 2 Robbies content can be accessed by clicking on this link:

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Follow them on Twitter @The2Robbies

Video: Stoke’s Imbula scores stunner on loan at Toulouse

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Stoke City supporters know the name Giannelli Imbula, and perhaps they’ll be clamoring for the Frenchman to return to the bet365 Stadium if he can score more goals like this.

[ MORE: PL Roundup — Top three all victorious; Gunners thrash Palace ]

The holding midfielder is currently on loan with Ligue 1 outfit Toulouse, and for the first time this season, Imbula opened his goalscoring account in some fashion.

Right on half-hour mark, Imbula unleashed a left-footed strike from nearly 40 yards out to give Toulouse the lead over Montpellier (below).

Imbula joined Stoke during the 2015/16 PL season, and has made 26 appearances for the Potters in his time with the club, prior to his loan to France.

Willian proves he’s Chelsea’s x-factor against Brighton

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There’s a considerable difference when watching a Chelsea team that plays with and without one of its Brazilian influences in the attacking part of the field.

Willian — who first debuted for the Blues back in 2013 — hasn’t always managed to be a regular starter for Chelsea, whether it was Jose Mourinho, Guus Hiddink or current manager Antonio Conte at the helm, though.

[ SOURCES: Jack Harrison expected to join Stoke City this winter ]

The 29-year-old plays with considerable flair, something that certainly isn’t uncommon amongst many players that have grown up in Brazil.

At times Willian’s overconfidence is a significant blessing, and at others it can be considered a curse, however, the former Corinthians player’s presence is something that Chelsea needs now more than ever.

That was on display on Saturday during the side’s 4-0 win at Brighton, a match in which Chelsea dominated from start to finish with Willian on the pitch. While the performance cannot solely be attributed to the attacking midfielder’s showing, it’s easy to argue that the Blues midfielder is becoming the club’s biggest x factor — one that can determine the outcome of a match.

Just look six minutes into the match, when the Blues put together one of the best team goals you’ll see in a match this year (or any year for that matter), which of course, was started and finished by none other than Willian.

What stands out about the play isn’t the brilliant slicing shot into the near post corner by the veteran playmaker, but instead the confidence that Willian exudes and brings to a Chelsea lineup that has plenty of talent to be considered one of the best teams in England and all of Europe.

After all, Conte’s group is just a season removed from winning the Premier League and still sits inside the top three in the world’s top league.

Then, there’s the Blues’ third goal against Brighton, which was set up by a smart, and instinctive, through ball played into the path of Eden Hazard by Willian (below).

Even though Hazard ends up with a ton of time on the ball to make his next decision, which was ultimately to cut inside on his preferred right foot, the run by Willian towards the end line dragged a defender away from the Belgian international — allowing the sequence to progress.

Arguing Willian’s importance isn’t a knock on Hazard — a world-class player in his own right — or Alvaro Morata, who has had the intolerable task of replacing a key player like Diego Costa.

Instead, it simply shows that Chelsea has a plethora of talent, and that some of the club’s attacking struggles throughout the 2017/18 season can be chalked up to Willian being left out of the starting XI on a regular basis.

[ MORE: Sergio Aguero continues to display brilliance for Man City ]

The Brazilian international has scored eight goals and added seven assists this season in all competitions for the Blues, despite only starting 19 matches.

The mind of manager Conte is an ever-changing one, so maybe Willian still doesn’t get the starting nod on an every week basis, but just by watching the team’s performance at the Amex Stadium it’s quite hard to argue against the player being on the field as much as possible.