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Top PL Storylines: Chelsea looks to hold off Spurs in title race

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The Premier League is heading down to the home stretch with just over a month and a half remaining, and both ends of the table continue to feature intriguing matchups.

[ MORE: Prince-Wright’s PL picks — Week 32 ]

Will Chelsea hold off Spurs for the title? Do any of the three current relegation sides have a shot at climbing out the league’s cellar? Check out the weekend’s most intriguing matches below:


Spurs hope to keep title hopes alive

Tottenham vs. Watford — 7:30 a.m. EDT Saturday online via NBCSports.com

With the season winding down, Spurs are going to need some help from Chelsea if they are to capture the PL title. Mauricio Pochettino‘s side will receive a massive lift over the weekend as Harry Kane is expected to return after missing the last three matches, however, starting goalkeeper Hugo Lloris remains sidelined and backup Michel Vorm could also be in doubt.

Meanwhile, Watford is sitting comfortably in 10th place heading into Saturday’s clash, but history isn’t on their side as they travel to White Hart Lane. The Hornets haven’t beaten Spurs in a league match since 1985, although they’ve only met seven times in the PL.

The Hornets have won two straight league matches while Spurs enter Saturday winners of five consecutive fixtures as they attempt to challenge at the top of the table.

Foxes push for top half finish, while Koeman aims for top five

Everton vs. Leicester City — 11:00 a.m. EDT Sunday online via NBCSports.com

Although the Foxes won’t be repeating as PL winners in 2016/17, Craig Shakespeare’s story continues to grow since replacing Claudio Ranieri back in February. Leicester is still unbeaten since Shakespeare took over, and a top 10 finish is very much in sight for the Foxes in addition to their UEFA Champions League aspirations.

Everton has enjoyed plenty of success this season, but with the continued rumors surrounding striker Romelu Lukaku, it’s a wonder as to how long the Toffees will be able to keep their prized possession. The Toffees enter the weekend in seventh place, and although a top five position is just three points away, both Arsenal and Manchester United currently hold two matches in hand just above Ronald Koeman and co.

Relegation battle heats up

West Ham vs. Swansea City — 10 a.m. EDT Saturday online via NBCSports.com

The Swans aren’t dead in the water just yet with their eight wins on the season, but they surely need at least a point on Saturday to boost their fortunes with seven matches remaining. Fernando Llorente and Kyle Naughton may not be able to go for the visitors, while goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski is also a question mark for the Swans.

West Ham hovers just five points above the bottom three, and a loss on Saturday would drastically change the club’s standing with about a month and a half remaining. The Hammers have lost five straight PL matches, so it could be a very opportune time for Swansea to come to town.

Eight matches remain for Blues

Bournemouth vs. Chelsea — 12:30 p.m. EDT Saturday online via NBCSports.com

The Blues are eight matches away from hoisting the PL title once again, and the return of Victor Moses could lift an already dangerous Chelsea attack on Saturday. Otherwise, Chelsea remains quite healthy heading into the home stretch, and after the club’s midweek victory over Manchester City, the PL crown seems more and more within reach.

Seven points separate the Cherries from 18th spot meaning Bournemouth will likely be in the clear the rest of the way. Bournemouth’s only home win over Chelsea came all the way back in 1988, making Saturday’s test a difficult one. This is especially the case as the Blues have lost just once all season to a team outside of the top six.

Messi scores four (4) as Barcelona hammers Eibar (video)

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Lionel Messi scored four times as Barcelona belted Eibar 6-1 at the Camp Nou on Tuesday.

The 30-year-old now has 522 goals for Barca, including nine in five league matches this season. That includes two hat tricks.

[ MORE: Klopp rages at defending ]

Paulinho and Denis Suarez also scored for Barca, which is yet to lose a point in La Liga play.

Messi scored a penalty to start the scoring, then started a combination play before scooting into the 18 to score low and left.

Watch the movement from the Argentine magician.

Messi added his second when he drew the defenders and keeper to play him straight-on, then used the outside of his boot to flick a deft finish home.

He’d later dash to the doorstep to complete the 6-1 scoreline.

And how often do we see this? Messi starting and finishing a combination. When you’re an elite player who also thirsts for goals every minute on the pitch, you’ll score a few.

League Cup: Foxes oust LFC; Stoke, Burnley upset (video)

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Leicester City turned to its favorite tactics to send Liverpool out of the League Cup, while Bristol City stunned struggling Stoke City as 11 matches dotted the English tournament landscape on Tuesday.

[ MORE: Pulisic up for major award ]


Leicester City 2-0 Liverpool

Both sides were decidedly second-string, and the Reds had plenty of control over the proceedings despite a lack of goals.

But substitute Shinji Okazaki scored in traffic after Vicente Iborra headed a corner kick his way, and the Foxes took a late lead.

And Okazaki cued up Islam Slimani for a wonderful 78th minute marker (see above) to ensure the result.

Bristol City 2-0 Stoke City

The Robins were flying at Ashton Gate, getting an opener in the 50th minute through Famara Diedhiou and a 60th minute insurance tally from Matt Taylor.

Stoke left some starters on the bench in Erik Pieters, Joe Allen, Jack Butland, and Jese, but had plenty of their best in the XI (Kurt Zouma, Eric Choupo-Moting, Darren Fletcher).

Tottenham Hotspur 1-0 Barnsley

Spurs had a hefty edge in shots and possession, but the visitors held firm against a decent side including Dele Alli, Son Heung-min, Jan Vertonghen and Mousa Dembele.

Fernando Llorente made his first Spurs start, but it was Dele who broke the Londoners through on the side’s 17th shot of the night.

Burnley 2-2 (4-5 PKs) Leeds United

Sean Dyche‘s Premier Leaguers were nearly dismissed from the tournament by Thomas Christiansen’s high-flying Championship side.

It took penalty kicks, where Leeds GK Andy Lonergan stopped James Tarkowski to send the Clarets out of the Cup.

Hadi Sacko had an eye for the winner, assisted by Pablo Hernandez, but Chris Wood converted an 89th minute penalty to, seemingly, send the match to extra time.

Hernandez then scored a penalty of his own in stoppage time, only for Robbie Brady‘s free kick to equalize and again put the match on pace for extra time.

Elsewhere
Crystal Palace 1-0 Huddersfield Town
Aston Villa 0-2 Middlesbrough
Brentford 1-3 Norwich City
Bournemouth 1-0 (ET) Brighton
West Ham 3-0 Bolton
Wolverhampton Wanderers 1-0 (ET) Bristol Rovers
Reading 0-2 Swansea City
Arsenal vs. Doncaster Rovers — Wednesday
Chelsea vs. Nottingham Forest — Wednesday
Everton vs. Sunderland — Wednesday
Manchester United vs. Burton Albion — Wednesday
West Bromwich Albion vs. Manchester City — Wednesday

Klopp “sick” of conceding bad goals after League Cup ouster

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Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp isn’t holding back when it comes to his defense’s lapses in judgment.

The Reds boss, who it must be said did not address his center backs during the transfer window and can only blame himself, was fuming after exiting the League Cup with a 2-0 loss at Leicester City.

[ MORE: U.S. teen makes 1st Bundesliga start ]

Klopp’s men controlled the match, but allowed a pair of second half goals and then could not find a single finish let alone the two required to prolong the contest.

“We had big chances, strange situations,” Klopp said after the game. “But it’s a 90-minute game. A second ball after a corner I think, and a throw-in again. I’m sick of goals like this to be honest. You cannot play football and in this case let this Leicester team somehow survive in the game because we are not playing good enough.”

The Reds have conceded in six of eight matches this season, and haven’t kept a clean sheet since an Aug. 27 thumping of Arsenal.

Leicester boss Craig Shakespeare, meanwhile, was pleased to see Klopp substitute a certain Brazilian wizard at the break.

Groin injury costs Arsenal’s Welbeck at least three weeks

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When Danny Welbeck landed awkwardly against Chelsea, many Arsenal fans feared another long absence from the English striker.

Fortunately, it doesn’t seem to be too bad.

[ MORE: Pulisic up for major award ]

The 26-year-old forward is set for at least three weeks out with a groin injury. Arsene Wenger says his status will be reassessed after the international break ends in mid-October, which doesn’t bode well for his England availability either.

Welbeck had started all five Premier League matches for the Gunners, scoring on Opening Day against Leicester City and posting a two-goal, one-assist day versus Bournemouth.

The Gunners sit 12th with seven points after five match days.