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.
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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.”
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)
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.