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PL Sunday preview: Liverpool host Arsenal; Chelsea vs. Everton

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Four games featuring four of last season’s top-five sides, as well as the no. 1 hopeful to join those very Premier League elites this season, will bring the third week of the 2017-18 season to a close on Sunday…

[ MORE: Saturday’s PL roundup — United keep 100% record; City win late ]

Chelsea vs. Everton — 8:30 a.m. ET, on CNBC and NBCSports.com

Chelsea are the defending PL champions, but also one of a handful of sides which appear to be far from finished with their transfer dealings as the deadline for the summer window looms large (Thursday), while Everton spent big (and early, and often) well before August arrived. Despite Chelsea’s 2-1 victory over Tottenham last weekend, Antonio Conte‘s Blues look far from settled ahead of Sunday’s visit by Ronald Koeman‘s Toffees.

Conte feels another central midfield is required to bolster his squad, as is fullback/wingback depth beyond starters Marcos Alonso and Victor Moses — only time will tell is Roman Abramovich grants his manager’s wishes during the final five days of the transfer window. Everton’s first two results — victory over Stoke City, and a 1-1 draw with Manchester City on Monday — were each achieved courtesy of goals scored by Wayne Rooney, who’s made the intended, immediate impact at the start of his second spell at the club. Chelsea won both PL meetings between the two sides last season, by a combined score of 8-0.

INJURIES: Chelsea — OUT: Eden Hazard (ankle), Gary Cahill (suspension) | Everton — OUT: Davy Klaassen (foot), Ross Barkley (hamstring), Morgan Schneiderlin (suspension), Ramiro Funes Mori (knee), Seamus Coleman (leg), James McCarthy (knee), Yannick Bolasie (knee); QUESTIONABLE: Sandro Ramirez (heel)

[ MORE: Mourinho’s moves pay off as United stay perfect ]

West Bromwich Albion vs. Stoke City — 8:30 a.m. ET, on NBC Sports Gold

Three sides entered this third weekend of the PL season with six points from their first two games. You might have guessed one of them — Manchester United — but probably not the other, at least not prior to the start of the season: Huddersfield (dropped points against Southampton on Saturday) and West Brom. The Baggies welcome Stoke to The Hawthorns on Sunday, as Tony Pulis looks to extended his unbeaten record against the Potters after winning four of his first five meetings with his former club. The arrival of 20-year-old Oliver Burke from RB Leipzig this week has Pulis believing his side, and his new signing, have only begun to scratch the surface.

“We’re really pleased to get him in – the lad has got a tremendous talent,” Pulis said. “He’s got a fantastic, raw ability but he has now also got the experience of going away from the comfort of his own area to a foreign country and experiencing life. He’s gained the experience of playing for a top club in the Bundesliga with top coaches. That will have broadened his horizons and been good for his development.”

INJURIES: West Brom — OUT: Hal Robson-Kanu (suspension); QUESTIONABLE: Jommy Evans (hamstring), Claudio Yacob (hamstring), Gareth McAuley (thigh) | Stoke — OUT: Ibrahim Afellay (knee); QUESTIONABLE: Xherdan Shaqiri (hamstring)

[ MORE: Bilic in trouble as West Ham fall to 3rd straight defeat ]

Liverpool vs. Arsenal — 11 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

The weekend’s marquee matchup pits a pair of teams, Liverpool and Arsenal, expected to finish the season fighting one another for a top-four finish and UEFA Champions League qualification. The theories go as follows: Liverpool could struggle to replicate last season’s fourth-place finish once the current campaign’s Champions League begins, while Arsenal will struggle to rebound from finishing fifth last season because their summer signings were massively impacted by the lack of CL football, not to mention they have the Europa League to slog into this time around.

Whether he stays or leaves for Barcelona, the next five days will signal the end of the Philippe Coutinho transfer saga (the star Brazilian will not be available for selection on Sunday). The ay Jurgen Klopp sees it, continuously competing in the CL is the only way for Liverpool to return to the very top of the game.

“It’s a big influence on the transfer market, especially if we do it more often,” he said. “If you talk to a player, they really often (mention it) … especially players we talk to because we don’t have to talk to players which are not better than our players because it’s difficult to find. Or even if you try to extend a contract with a player in the squad, ‘Yeah, I want to play Champions League’ and I always think, ‘It’s your job to do it with us together, so don’t ask that we do a job and you cannot play Champions League — do it with us together.'”

INJURIES: Liverpool — OUT: Philippe Coutinho (back), Adam Lallana (thigh), Nathaniel Clyne (hamstring), Mamadou Sakho (knee) | Arsenal — OUT: Santi Cazorla (achilles), Calum Chambers (groin), Jack Wilshere (fitness)

[ MORE: Spurs have a new right back on the way, for $30 million ]

Tottenham Hotspur vs. Burnley — 11 a.m. ET, on NBC Sports Gold

The only narrative you need to know — and the only one Tottenham hope to squash on Sunday — is Spurs’ dreadful record at Wembley, which is to serve as their home this season, since it was rebuilt and opened in 2007. In 11 games at England’s national stadium, Spurs have won just twice, and lost eight times. Last weekend’s loss to Chelsea ended Mauricio Pochettino‘s 19-game home unbeaten run (14 straight wins) which covered the entirety of the 2016-17 season, the club’s final campaign at White Hart Lane.

Of course, Spurs have rarely, if ever, faced an opponent the size of Burnley at Wembley. The step down in quality (all due respect to the Clarets) could be exactly what Spurs need to hush talk of the Wembley hex and send them into the international break with renewed confidence. Putting the month of August into the rearview mirror should also help Harry Kane, who’s yet to score a first-team goal for Spurs during the opening month of the season at any point in his career, after being held goal-less by Newcastle United and Chelsea.

INJURIES: Tottenham — OUT: Danny Rose (knee), Erik Lamela (hip) | Burnley — OUT: Jonathan Walters (ankle)

The 2 Robbies podcast: Liverpool, Chelsea through to UCL knockouts

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Robbie Mustoe and Robbie Earle on Liverpool’s nervy 2-0 win against Red Bull Salzburg to take first place in Group E of the Champions League (1:55), Chelsea’s 2-1 win over Lille to secure a place in the Round of 16 (13:15) and who is the current favorite to win it all (20:45).

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

Plus, what Arsenal’s come-from-behind 3-1 win at West Ham means for both London clubs (29:10) and the Robbies discuss what they’re looking forward to most at the next Live Premier League Mornings Fan Fest in Miami Beach (46:05).

To listen to more lively conversations and passionate debate from Robbie Earle and Robbie Mustoe, subscribe to The 2 Robbies Podcast on Apple Podcasts or anywhere you listen to podcasts.

And you can follow them on Twitter @The2RobbiesNBC here.

Click here for The 2 Robbies archive ]

PL Club Power Rankings: Week 16

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The Premier League didn’t issue too many surprises at the bottom of the table this week, but two top-tier sides didn’t behave as such and shook up our rankings.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

Chelsea and Man City have dipped low, and Bournemouth’s skid doesn’t have it sinking lower (yet) because of the teams beneath it.

Green: New season-high ranking
Red: New season-low

[ MORE: PL Club Power Rankings archive ]


20. Watford — Liverpool and Manchester United are next, and it’s looking a long way back to safety.
Last week: 20
Season high: 17
Season low: 20
Last match: Drew 0-0 v. Crystal Palace
Up next: 7:30 a.m. ET Saturday at Liverpool

19. Norwich City — Outshot, out-passed, our possessed Sheffield United at home and still lost. Bad vibes, man.
Last week: 18
Season high: 10
Season low: 20
Last match: Lost 2-1 v. Sheffield United
Up next: 10 a.m. ET Saturday at Leicester City

18. West Ham United — Just feels like there’s something lurking below the surface here. Doesn’t smell right given the Irons talent.
Last week: 17
Season high: 5
Season low: 20
Last match: Lost 3-1 v. Arsenal
Up next: 12:30 p.m. ET Saturday at Southampton

17. Bournemouth — Losing to Liverpool is no shame, but it’s almost officially time to worry.
Last week: 16
Season high: 6
Season low: 17
Last match: Lost 3-0 v. Liverpool
Up next: 10 a.m. ET Saturday at Chelsea

16. Aston Villa — Tom Heaton is a heck of a goalkeeper but he can’t be expected to save four A-plus danger chances per game.
Last week: 14
Season high: 8
Season low: 16
Last match: Lost 4-1 v. Leicester City
Up next: 10 a.m. ET Saturday at Sheffield United

15. Southampton — West Ham and Villa back-to-back have to provide four points if Saints revival is to be believed.
Last week: 15
Season high: 13
Season low: 20
Last match: Lost 2-1 at Newcastle United
Up next: 12:30 p.m. ET Saturday v. West Ham United

14. Everton — Duncan Ferguson gives the Toffees board reason enough to be patient with their managerial hire, and then Napoli goes and fires Carlo Ancelotti.
Last week: 19
Season high: 5
Season low: 19
Last match: Won 3-1 v. Chelsea
Up next: 9 a.m. ET Sunday at Manchester United

13. Burnley — The defending against Spurs — we know, Spurs are good — was enough to drop them far lower than four spots. Abject stuff from a Sean Dyche side.
Last week: 9
Season high: 5
Season low: 15
Last match: Lost 5-0 at Spurs
Up next: 10 a.m. ET Saturday v. Newcastle

12. Arsenal — Freddie Ljungberg started Nicolas Pepe, and Nicholas Pepe was his best player. Stunning stuff, really. Look at the assist below.
Last week: 13
Season high: 4
Season low: 12
Last match: Won 3-1 at West Ham
Up next: 11:30 a.m. ET Sunday v. Man City

11. Crystal Palace — I want to believe, but am holding out for something more. A derby win versus Brighton would suffice.
Last week: 7
Season high: 5
Season low: 18
Last match: Drew 0-0 at Watford
Up next: 2:45 p.m. ET Monday v. Brighton

10. Newcastle United — Again, Steve Bruce‘s men are getting tremendous Fortune and he’s pushing almost all the right buttons (It takes guts to start Andy Carroll over the struggling record signing Joelinton). This could be a sign of the Geordie Apocalypse.
Last week: 11
Season high: 11
Season low: 20
Last match: Won 2-1 v. Southampton
Up next: 10 a.m. ET Saturday at Burnley

9. Sheffield United — A little wobbly lately, but still a good comeback at Carrow Road.
Last week: 10
Season high: 5
Season low: 17
Last match: Won 2-1 at Norwich City
Up next: 10 a.m ET Saturday v. Aston Villa

8. Brighton and Hove Albion — Doesn’t it say something that a country who starves for young, strong English coaches had one sitting in Sweden for eight years? Graham Potter is legit.
Last week: 12
Season high: 6
Season low: 18
Last match: Won 2-1 at Arsenal
Up next: 11:30 a.m. ET Sunday v. Wolves

7. Chelsea — Some of those young guys who’ve played so well, so early, are looking a little ragged. It’s a shame Frank Lampard is still waiting on Ruben Loftus-Cheek, who will really help things take another step.
Last week: 5
Season high: 2
Season low: 12
Last match: Lost 3-1 at Everton
Up next: 10 a.m. ET Saturday v. Bournemouth

6. Manchester City — It probably has nothing to do with the system, and a lot to do with not having Aymeric Laporte, Sergio Aguero, Leroy Sane… Still, it needs to be better than a home derby loss to a Paul Pogba-less United.
Last week: 2
Season high: 1
Season low: 6
Last match: Lost 2-1 v. Manchester United
Up next: 11:30 a.m. ET Sunday at Arsenal

5. Tottenham Hotspur — We’re gonna need multiple screens on Sunday morning, as Wolves-Spurs and Man Utd-Everton are both must-monitor.
Last week: 8
Season high: 2
Season low: 16
Last match: Won 5-0 v. Burnley
Up next: 9 a.m. ET Sunday at Wolves

4. Manchester United — Ole’s at the wheel, and still doesn’t feel like Lewis Hamilton or anything but we’re not worried about heading off a cliff.
Last week: 6
Season high: 2
Season low: 16
Last match: Won 2-1 at Man City
Up next: 9 a.m. ET Sunday v. Everton

3. Wolves — Beat Spurs on Sunday and I’ll go ahead and bet on them as a Top Four finisher, even after the Brighton draw failed to deliver the goods.
Last week: 3
Season high: 3
Season low: 17
Last match: Drew 2-2 at Brighton
Up next: 9 a.m. ET Sunday v. Spurs

2. Leicester City — Wow.
Last week: 2
Season high: 2
Season low: 10
Last match: Won 4-1 at Aston Villa
Up next: 10 a.m. ET Saturday v. Norwich City

1. Liverpool — Wow, only atop the table.
Last week: 1
Season high: 1
Season low: 3
Last match: Won 3-0 at Bournemouth
Up next: 7:30 a.m. ET Saturday v. Watford

Champions League Weds. preview: Two spots remain

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Only two spots remain in the UEFA Champions League knockout rounds, and those will be settled Wednesday afternoon.

In Group C, hosts Shakhtar Donetsk need to beat Atalanta to go through, while the visitors can also go through with a win if Dinamo Zagreb fails to defeat Man City.

[ MORE: Ancelotti reportedly speaking w/ Everton ]

In Group D, Atletico Madrid is through with a win over Lokomotiv Moscow, though Bayer Leverkusen can complete a remarkable comeback from an 0-3 start to the group stage if they beat already-qualified Juve and Atleti loses to their Russian visitors.

You certainly wouldn’t be against Diego Simeone there, though.

“Tomorrow is a great opportunity, every day that you wear the Atletico shirt is,” Simeone said, via Marca. “I believe in my team, in the humility that they have at the moment. The results will come based on what they are demonstrating on the field.”

Premier League sides Man City and Tottenham Hotspur both have their fortunes settled, with City having won Group C and Spurs settled into Group B’s second spot, but they still have plenty to figure out on Tuesday.

Jose Mourinho’s Spurs are going up against a Bayern team that walloped them at home, while City is living an unusual 2W-3D-2L lull in form.

Wednesday’s UEFA Champions League action

12:55 p.m. ET
Shakhtar Donetsk v. Atalanta
Dinamo Zagreb v. Man City

3 p.m. ET
Club Brugge v. Real Madrid
Atletico Madrid v. Lokomotiv Moscow
Bayer Leverkusen v. Juventus
Paris Saint-Germain v. Galatasaray
Olympiacos v. Red Star Belgrade
Bayern Munich v. Tottenham Hotspur

Ancelotti fired by Napoli as Everton, Arsenal lurk

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Carlo Ancelotti won a place in the UEFA Champions League knockout rounds, then lost his job.

The Napoli’s boss strained relationship with club president Aurelio De Laurentiis came to a head, with the Neapolitan side advancing in Europe to end a nine-match winless run.

[ MORE: Sporting KC adds Liga MX top scorer ]

That run may’ve included seven draws, but it also saw Napoli dip into seventh on the Serie A table. They are seven points back of sixth and 17 points behind leaders Juventus.

A strained relationship got worse when Ancelotti refused to take the team on a De Laurentiis-ordered “team retreat” following a draw against Salzburg in early November.

Gennaro Gattuso is rumored as Ancelotti’s replacement, and the fired coach himself is being mentioned as an immediate target for Arsenal and Everton.

In fact, the Toffees are in discussions with the Italian legend already, according to Sky Sports. Football Italia claims Arsenal is in on the action, too.

Ancelotti has won the Champions League with AC Milan twice and a third time with Real Madrid. He’s claimed domestic titles in five of Europe’s top leagues, with silverware at Chelsea, AC Milan, Paris Saint-Germain, Bayern Munich, and Real Madrid.