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Top Premier League storylines – Week 28

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A light weekend for Premier League play doesn’t mean there isn’t plenty of intrigue surrounding Matchday 28.

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Litmus test for Top Six daydreamers

Everton vs. West Brom — 10 a.m. EDT Saturday on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com

There aren’t too many sides in the Premier League that aren’t either:

A) Competing for a European place

-or-

B) Battling the drop

Everton and West Brom are two of these teams, and the former sure would like to join category A by toppling the Baggies on Saturday.

The Toffees sit seventh, six points back of fifth-place Arsenal and four points ahead of West Brom. Tony Pulis‘ Baggies dropped the ball big time in losing to Crystal Palace last week, a loss that would’ve irked him on several levels. Will they make amends at Goodison Park?

Can Liverpool expel demons in double?

Liverpool vs. Burnley — Noon EDT Sunday on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com

Burnley stunned the Reds with a 2-0 win at Turf Moor on Aug. 20, the first of many Liverpool stumbled against lower half sides. So here lies a chance for Jurgen Klopp to assert power over a team that beat him while also exorcising Liverpool’s knack for playing down to its opponents. There’s really a third question here, too: Is this Reds side capable of standing up to a more physical, traditional PL style?

Six-pointer at the KCOM Stadium

Hull City vs. Swansea City — 10 a.m. EDT Saturday on CNBC and online via NBCSports.com

The hosts and visitors have looked a lot better since making managerial changes, but only Paul Clement‘s Swans have climbed out of the drop zone. The gap between Hull and Swansea sits at six points, and Swans can put the Tigers in the rearview for good, more or less, with a win on Saturday.

Cherries rotting on the tree

Bournemouth vs. West Ham United — 10 a.m. EDT Saturday on Premier League Extratime and online via NBCSports.com

Bournemouth had 24 points on New Year’s Day, and has managed just three in eight matches since the calendar hit 2017. That happens to coincide with Nathan Ake heading back to Chelsea — and Antonio Conte isn’t using the influential youngster — and the Cherries have not found an answer for Ake’s departure.

Meanwhile it’s been fits and starts for West Ham, which is playing much better since a horrible start to the season. The Irons need to keep winning matches like this, though, if they are going to make the leap to contender.

Leicester City record massive earnings from UEFA Champions League

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Leicester City’s UEFA Champions League campaign may have ended without a trophy, but the Premier League side pipped the European champions in the bank account.

UEFA announced on Friday that Leicester City earned $96,167,125 during the Champions League run that ended in the quarterfinals, the farthest of any Premier League club. Real Madrid, the back-to-back champions, earned a slightly less $95,385,679. Much of the difference comes from TV rights deals in England, which pays out more to teams compared to the TV rights deal in Spain.

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Juventus, the Italian giant, earned the most of any club in last year’s Champions League, making a whopping $129,965,357, mostly thanks to the TV rights again.

Mourinho: Ibrahimovic could return in December

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Dare to Zlatan? It could be only a couple of months away.

That’s according to Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho, who said the veteran striker could return from his torn ACL before the end of the calendar year.

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“Zlatan is here, he’s working here and under our control,” Mourinho told reporters. “He’s working as you would expect so, so, so hard. But he’s not to be back in the next week or next couple of weeks. Do I believe he’ll be back in 2017? Yes, I do. But it’s just a feeling.”

The big Swede scored 28 goals for Man United last year in all competitions, proving that he’s still got it at the age of 36, but it’s going to be tough for him to find his old form coming off an ACL injury at such an old age. After suffering the injury last April, it’s been a long road to recovery for Ibrahimovic.

However, with the play of Romelu Lukaku up top, Ibrahimovic would only play from time to time, which could help in his recovery both from the knee injury and just the general recovery between games.

Manchester City quartet called up by Brazil for friendlies

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Brazilian National Team coach Tite has decided on calling up a full-strength squad for November’s upcoming friendly matches in Europe, including four Manchester City players in his 25-man squad.

Gabriel Jesus, Fernandinho, Danilo and Ederson all made the squad as Tite looks to develop more chemistry among his side ahead of the 2018 World Cup, which Brazil breezed into after Tite took over in 2016.

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Luckily for Manchester City and the other European-based players in the squad, Brazil’s friendly matches will be played in Western Europe. The Selecao first faces Japan in Lille, France on November 10 before taking on England at Wembley Stadium on November 14.

The call-ups may be a tough pill for Guardiola to swallow though. As of Friday, Manchester City has 17 games remaining in the calendar year, and surely he would prefer for some of his starters to get a two-week break in November to preserve some energy instead of play in friendly matches.

Everton announce lifetime ban for fan involved in altercation with Lyon player

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On a night when UEFA unveiled a new campaign for respect, there wasn’t enough of it shown both on and off the field.

Everton has followed up on UEFA opening up disciplinary proceedings against them by banning a fan from Everton matches after the fan was seen to punch at an Olympique Lyon player in the second half of Lyon’s 2-1 win at Goodison Park.

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“Club Officials have reviewed the footage of an incident that occurred in the 64th minute of the game against Olympique Lyonnais where supporters towards the front of the lower Gwladys Street End became involved in a confrontation between players,” Everton said in a statement. “We have identified one individual whom action will now be taken against. This will include a ban from attending future Everton fixtures and the Club registering a formal complaint with Merseyside Police.”

The video below shows a fan – amazingly, holding onto a small boy in one arm – throwing some punches at Lyon players after a fracas on the field.

The punch and ban is yet another dark moment for Everton, which has just one point from its first three Europa League matches and sits in 16th place in the Premier League with eight points from eight games.