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Premier League Preview: Chelsea vs. Arsenal

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  • Arsenal won 3-0 in September
  • Wenger 19W-14D-18L vs. Chelsea
  • Arsenal leads all-time 73W-54D-61L

Arsene Wenger has matched wits with Antonio Conte just once, an Arsenal win earlier this season, but he knows Saturday morning’s opponent at Stamford Bridge is a very different Chelsea (Watch live at 7:30 a.m. EDT on NBCSN and online at NBCSports.com).

The Blues went on their record-equaling 13-match win streak following that loss, joining them with Arsenal in the Premier League record books.

[ MORE: USA vs. Jamaica preview ]

That run helped Chelsea to where it is now, atop the PL with a nine-point cushion over Liverpool and Arsenal. Completing a season sweep would open the door just a crack to title chasers.

Wenger will be in the stands serving a touchline ban for pushing an official, and Conte thinks that could affect the proceedings.

Conte also hasn’t forgotten the first meeting, obviously, and vows to use that memory to help flip the script.

“September’s defeat away against Arsenal is always on his mind, and he hopes it is on the mind of his players too.”

What they’re saying

Wenger, onn trying to sign Chelsea’s N’Golo Kante: “Yes! When he was in France, when he was at Leicester. We cannot explain everything, but it is quite obvious when you look at where he has gone. I do not want to talk more about that. Transfers are transfers.”

Chelsea’s Cesc Fabregas on playing with Diego Costa: “It’s not the same thing to play with a striker like let’s say Diego Costa or Thierry Henry than David Villa, or Eduardo when I was at Arsenal, they are a bit sharper on the short move, on the shorter run and maybe you have to play closer to them. With Diego, maybe even with Van Persie, Adebayor and Thierry, it was that you could have more distance but you know the feeling that we had set it up.”

Prediction

I’d rather not predict any match involving Arsenal this season, a club capable of looking like Barcelona or a high-priced Sunday League team on any game match day. At the Bridge, it seems foolhardy to completely bet against Chelsea. But we’ll hedge. 1-1.

UEFA: Wales in trouble; Spain dominates; Buffon hits 1000

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Friday’s matches mark the midway point of the main round of qualifying in UEFA, and the tables remain tight near the top of Groups D and G.

[ MORE: Smalling hurt, Gibson called up ]

Group I, however, is seeing some distance between first and second thanks to Croatia’s result versus Ukraine.

Republic of Ireland 0-0 Wales

Neil Taylor was sent off in the 69th minute for Wales, whose World Cup hopes are in trouble.

Seamus Coleman was stretchered off after the tackle, with a scary-looking injury that will leave Everton fans sick in more ways than one. Coleman’s leg was broken, and left dangling by the challenge.

Ireland couldn’t take advantage of the sending off, and failed in a bid to overtake Serbia for first in Group D. The Irish trail on goal differential, and will host Serbia on Sept. 5.

But Wales will rue the result more, remaining four points back of second-place Ireland. Chris Coleman’s side drops a point behind Austria as well, and will not have Taylor or Gareth Bale (card accumulation) in its next match. That comes against leaders Serbia.

Italy 2-0 Albania

Daniele De Rossi scored a 12th minute penalty kick won by Andrea Belotti, and Ciro Immobile scored late to provided the goals in Gianluigi Buffon’s 1000th appearance for club and country. Fittingly, it ended in a clean sheet. The match was briefly delayed after flares were thrown onto the field.

Spain 4-1 Israel

David Silva, Vitolo, and Diego Costa stakes the Spaniards to a three-goal lead, with Lior Refaelov ruining David De Gea‘s clean sheet with 11 minutes to play. Isco scored the match’s final goal.

Spain remains atop Group G on goal differential, eight better than second place Italy. Israel is four points behind both.

Croatia 1-0 Ukraine

Fiorentina’s Nikola Kalinic’s 38th minute goal was enough for the hosts, and Croatia is now five points clear at the top midway through qualifying.

Elsewhere
Austria 2-0 Moldova — RB Leipzig’s Sabitzer nabs winner
Liechtenstein 0-3 Macedonia — Ilija Nestorovski bags brace
Kosovo 1-2 Iceland — Sigurdsson PK the match winner
Georgia 1-3 Serbia — Mitrovic, Tadic lead the way
Turkey 2-0 Finland — Brace for Cenk Tosun

Boro’s Gibson called to England after injury to Man Utd’s Smalling

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Scoring goals has been the biggest problem for Middlesbrough in its return to the Premier League, and that overshadows how well the Northeast club has defended its own goal.

Ben Gibson has been a huge part of that, and now he’ll earn the chance to represent his nation thanks to an injury to Chris Smalling. Gibson will join England ahead of Sunday’s home World Cup qualifier against Lithuania.

[ MORE: Podolski leads Germany past England ]

Gibson has far and away been Boro’s best player, leading the side in blocked shots and clearances. The blocked shots total is tied for ninth in the Premier League, 11 behind current leader and new England teammate Michael Keane.

Smalling’s undisclosed injury is a bigger problem for Manchester United, which had already lost center back depth on England duty when Phil Jones was hurt.

Dele Alli to miss next three European matches, UCL or UEL

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Tottenham Hotspur is primed to qualify for a second-straight UEFA Champions League campaign this year, and will have to start that sophomore run without Dele Alli.

The 20-year-old playmaker has banned for his next three matches. If Spurs finish fourth, that would mean both qualifying matches and an additional match.

[ MORE: Five questions for USMNT ]

If they finish higher, Dele will miss the first three group stage matches.

Dele was shown red for a tackle on Brecht Dejaegere in Spurs’ 2-2 draw with Gent in the UEFA Europa League Round of 32, as Tottenham left the tournament.

Men in Blazers podcast: Man City-Liverpool review, USMNT preview

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Rog and Davo recap the Top Four battle between Manchester City and Liverpool, ask (again) whether it’s time for Arsene to go, and break down two of the most important USMNT games in modern history.

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