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PL Sunday preview: Chelsea go to Old Trafford; West Brom-Liverpool

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Manchester United and Liverpool are chasing a return to the Premier League’s top-four, while the former — led by former Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho — have can kill two birds with one stone on Sunday: better position themselves in relation to the top-four places, and complicated the Blues’ sprint to the title.

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West Bromwich Albion vs. Liverpool — 8:30 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

The 2016-17 season’s run-in is rather straightforward for Liverpool: with leads of six and nine points on Man United and Arsenal (having played two more games than each), respectively, Jurgen Klopp‘s side just about controls its own destiny. A return to the UEFA Champions League next fall is well within reach, doubly so given their current six-game unbeaten run (four wins, two draws). Arsenal, meanwhile, have lost five of their last eight; United are unbeaten in 20 league games, but have drawn just as many games (10) as they’ve won during that stretch.

For Liverpool, the word of the week is “injuries,” with Sadio Mane, Adam Lallana and Jordan Henderson all key absences this weekend (and beyond).

“With Jordan, it was clear from the beginning that it’s not a fixed time until he is back. We have to wait until he feels absolutely nothing, that’s how it is,” Klopp said. “That’s what we are still waiting for. … With Adam, it is a little bit easier to say. I am pretty sure after the Crystal Palace game he will probably be in normal training and that means then (for Watford) he is in the squad or we can think about him then.”

INJURIES: West Brom — OUT: None | Liverpool — OUT: Sadio Mane (knee surgery), Adam Lallana (thigh), Jordan Henderson (foot), Danny Ings (knee surgery), Adam Bogdan (knee surgery)

[ MORE: Saturday’s PL roundup — Spurs apply pressure to Chelsea (again) ]

Manchester United vs. Chelsea — 11 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

As he would have it, Mourinho is the focal point ahead of Chelsea’s first visit to Old Trafford since the former Chelsea manager took charge last summer. The Blues routed the Red Devils in their first meeting of the season, 4-0 back in October.

“You say it’s emotional, but for me, it’s a game,” Mourinho insisted this week. “It’s one more game. No different for me. Not at all. They are top for some reasons – it’s not just because they are fresh. It is also because they have individual quality. It’s because they have collective quality. They have a certain style of play. They stick to it. They do it very well. So they are a strong team.”

Chelsea, meanwhile, saw their lead in the PL title race cut to just four points by Tottenham Hotspur’s scintillating destruction of Bournemouth on Saturday. The two sides, Chelsea and Tottenham, will meet in the FA Cup semifinal at Wembley Stadium next Saturday.

INJURIES: Man United — OUT: Juan Mata (groin), Chris Smalling (knee), Phil Jones (toe); QUESTIONABLE: Wayne Rooney (ankle), Ashley Young (groin) | Chelsea — OUT: None

Mourinho: Van Gaal left good team, but I brought belief

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Jose Mourinho and Manchester United are bringing happiness to the Liberty Stadium on Sunday, or at least more of it.

The United boss says the club’s turnaround is emotionally-based, and that the cupboard certainly wasn’t bare when he took over the Red Devils last summer.

[ MORE: Fellaini red  had “a bit of acting” ]

United finished fifth in the Premier League last season, tied for fourth with Man City and 15 points back of Arsenal. Mourinho’s men sit in the same spot this year, but are in the semifinals of the Europa League, have won the League Cup, and have the door open to the Top Four.

So what’s different? Here’s the boss, from the BBC:

“I think Mr. Van Gaal left a good group of boys with very good relations between them.

“[But] I think they missed happiness, they missed trust, belief, this extra bit that brings resilience, brings fight and they have it [now].”

It’s been a bit of a roller coaster with the Bastian Schweinsteiger and Luke Shaw drama, but — like any new manager — Mourinho did have to sort the club. Now we wonder whether he’ll keep it happy or hit a traditional rut by Year Three (assuming he gets there, and United should be very good next season).

Spurs confirm Wembley as 2017-18 home

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May 14 will indeed be the last time Tottenham Hotspur takes the field at White Hart Lane.

Club chairman Daniel Levy has announced that Spurs will play all of its 2017-18 home matches at Wembley Stadium, and that WHL will be demolished in the offseason.

Spurs have a new venue under construction next door to WHL, calling the venue “the heart” of regeneration plans in the region. From TottenhamHotspur.com:

“This marks a momentous day in our Club’s history as it is the day we formally agreed the demolition of our beloved White Hart Lane.

“The Lane means a huge amount to each and every one of us and we needed to gain greater certainty on the delivery of the new stadium before we made the final decision to commence with the decommissioning of our iconic, historic home for some 118 years.

‘We shall ensure that we give the Lane a fitting farewell when we play our last match here on May 14.”

West Ham’s final match at Upton Park was a memorable one last season, thanks not just to the off-field but the on-field as well. The Irons came back to beat Manchester United 3-2 on a Winston Reid goal.

With Manchester United coincidentally (?) serving as the visitor on May 14, with Top Four if not title implications likely still in play, sign us up for a comfortable seat in front of TV.

Pochettino: Derby matters, but this is about title not “Totteringham”

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Mauricio Pochettino is a focused boss, one many of us wouldn’t mind as our manager.

The longtime Espyanol man knows a thing or two about being relegated to second fiddle in town, with Catalan rivals Barcelona enveloping the spotlight 99 times out of 100.

That’s why he’s not even bothering with treating Arsenal and “St. Totteringham’s Day” — the Gunners’ annual celebration of clinching a spot above Spurs in the standings — like anything than a derby date.

“I really don’t think about which position Arsenal are in. My view and focus is to try to win every game and try to win the Premier League.

“For me (finishing above Arsenal) is not a motivation. The motivation for me is to win because it’s a derby and I know what it means to win a derby. My motivation is to try to win some titles with Tottenham, and my players improve every day and show we are better than the opposition.”

Spurs as a club is growing in big ways, and aiming to sit atop the Premier League standings every year. Yes Premier League derbies are important, but aiming to finish above a rival versus above all rivals is short-sighted. Pochettino’s got it right.

Prince-Wright’s Premier League picks – Week 35

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The Premier League games continue to come thick and fast with 10 matches on the slate this weekend.

[ STREAM: Every PL game live ] 

If you, like me, love to dissect all the games and predict what the score will be and which team will win, I encourage you to get involved in the comments section below. Let’s have a bit of fun.

Okay, so I’ve consulted my crystal ball and here’s how we see things panning out.

[ STREAM: Premier League “Goal Rush”

With the first section labelled “basically, free money” for the picks I think are dead certs. The section labelled “don’t touch this” means if you’re betting I advise you to stay clear, while the “so you’re telling me there’s a chance” section are the longshots. If it is better odds you are after, those are the picks to go for.


BASICALLY, FREE MONEY

West Brom 2-0 Leicester City – (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, Premier League Extratime) – [STREAM]

Man United 2-0 Swansea City – (Sunday, 7 a.m. ET, NBCSN) – [STREAM]

Middlesbrough 1-3 Man City – (Sunday, 9:05 a.m. ET, Premier League Extratime) – [STREAM

Crystal Palace 3-1 Burnley – (Saturday, 12:30 p.m. ET, NBC) – [STREAM

DON’T TOUCH THIS… 

Stoke City 2-2 West Ham – (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, Premier League Extratime) – [STREAM]

Tottenham 2-1 Arsenal – (Sunday, 11:30 am. ET, NBCSN) – [STREAM

Sunderland 1-2 Bournemouth – (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, CNBC) – [STREAM

Southampton 2-1 Hull City – (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, NBCSN) – [STREAM

“SO YOU’RE TELLING ME THERE’S A CHANCE…”

Watford 2-1 Liverpool – (Monday, 3 p.m. ET, NBCSN) – [STREAM

Everton 2-1 Chelsea – (Sunday, 9:05 a.m. ET, NBCSN) – [STREAM