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Rest of the way: Five top Premier League matches of 2018

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The first day of 2018 is in the Premier League books, though admittedly it lacked a true big name battle with apologies to Everton and Manchester United.

[ MORE: Everton-Man Utd recap | Mourinho reacts ]

With Manchester City still unbeaten and a pair of battlesat the top and bottom of the table, here’s a look at the six matches on five match days we’re most anticipating in the stretch run of the 2017-18 season.

6. *BONUS* Southampton vs. Manchester City — May 13

Enjoy both the asterisks, because there isn’t a big reason to circle Southampton’s home finale with the exception of it being the final match day of the season and — more importantly — the valid chance it may be Man City putting an unblemished season on the line about two weeks before the UEFA Champions League final. Will both dates bear heavily on Pep Guardiola‘s men?

T-4. Manchester United vs. Chelsea and Arsenal vs. Man City — Feb. 25

Quite a doubleheader here! The latter kicks off first, but is secondary to the Jose Mourinho and Nemanja Matic (and maybe Willian?) welcoming old pals Chelsea to town. As it stands, the two are duking it out for second place behind Man City, and Chelsea’s 1-0 win at Stamford Bridge saw the Blues very much in control. Can Mourinho flip that script?

The early morning match will see two teams capable of the stylish and sublime mixing it up at the Emirates Stadium, and could be even more exciting/controversial should Alexis Sanchez swap his London digs for the Etihad Stadium.

3. Tottenham Hotspur vs. Arsenal — Feb. 10

Oh, the North London Derby has been tight for some time, and there are Top Four fortunes again on the line between the rivals. Arsenal won 2-0 at the Emirates Stadium earlier this season, its only league win over Spurs since the start of the 2014-15 season. That’s not to say Spurs have been dominant, either. Including a League Cup win for the Gunners, both sides hold a 2W-4D-2L record in the derby over the past eight meetings. A win, and Arsenal will be the first NLD member to sweep a season series since they won three matches vs. Spurs in 2013-14.

2. Chelsea vs. Liverpool — May 5

Antonio Conte has yet to get the better of Jurgen Klopp in three meetings — two draws — between the pair in their current positions. These two tempestuous personalities should still be without shouting distance of one another with mere weeks left in the season, and the potential for Top Four or higher implications seems very real.

1. Manchester City vs. Manchester United — April 7

Look, we’re just not going to do better than this provided Paul Pogba doesn’t take another needless and probably accidental red card the week leading up to the Manchester Derby. Pep Guardiola and Jose Mourinho weren’t able to truly match wits in the first derby of the season. Pogba and Kevin De Bruyne are probably the most awe-capable and technical midfielders in the Premier League, and both managers have the wherewithal to harass the opposing star. Is it April yet?

Video: Fekir’s brilliant free kick has Lyon leading PSG

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Paris-Saint Germain has established itself as one of Europe’s best sides, but their opponent on Sunday isn’t playing scared against Neymar and Co.

[ MORE: Spurs, Saints play to 1-1 draw at St. Mary’s ]

Lyon has taken a 1-0 lead inside the opening two minutes against the Parisians after a stunning free kick by Nabil Fekir caught PSG keeper Alphonse Aréola off his line.

The hosts could move all the way up to second place today with a victory over PSG, who holds the league lead in Ligue 1 with a nine-point advantage.

The 24-year-old Fekir has been a revelation for Lyon in his fifth season with the club, scoring his 19th goal in all competitions on Sunday.

That total has already surpassed his career-high from the 2014/15 season, when he eclipsed 15 goals.

USMNT midfielder Weston McKennie injured in Schalke draw

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Look away, U.S. Men’s National Team fans.

American and Schalke midfielder Weston McKennie was forced out of Sunday’s 1-1 Bundesliga draw against Hanover 96 after the 19-year-old collided with Felix Kraus.

McKennie, who entered the match in the 62nd minute for Leon Goretzka, managed to stay on the field for nearly 20 minutes before being substituted out.

To this point there has been no indication that the young USMNT player’s injury is serious.

More to follow…

Watford announces Gracia as Silva replacement

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Watford’s replacement for fired manager Marco Silva is indeed veteran Spanish boss Javi Gracia.

[ MORE: Watford fires Silva, blames Everton ]

The Hornets announced the 47-year-old’s hiring on Sunday, hours after firing Silva and blaming Everton’s pursuit of the manager for the club’s fall from European contender to the fringe of a relegation battle.

Watford is still four points clear of the drop following Southampton’s draw with Spurs on Sunday.

Gracia led Malaga to eighth and ninth place finishes in La Liga between 2014-16 before spending last season at Rubin Kazan.

Gracia, 47, has led promotion campaigns in Spain and has plenty of experience with perceived smaller clubs battling the drop zone.

Watford will hope the Hornets don’t reach that point after flirting with the Top Seven for the first quarter of the Premier League season.

Pochettino on sloppy Spurs draw, dismisses Malcom “rumor”

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Mauricio Pochettino knows St. Mary’s well, and the ex-Southampton boss has managed a rainy, sloppy match or three there in the past.

[ RECAP: Saints 1-1 Spurs ]

So he knows it’s possible to play well in those circumstances, leaving him feeling like Tottenham Hotspur’s 1-1 draw at Southampton on Sunday was a wasted opportunity against a struggling Saints side.

“It is temporary that Southampton are in the relegation zone, for sure they will push up the table,” Pochettino said. “It is two points we are going to miss at the end of the season because it is so tough between six or seven teams.”

[ MORE: Bertrand reacts to draw ]

So why couldn’t Spurs find their foothold? Well, aside from sickness keeping Christian Eriksen and Hugo Lloris out of the lineup, a bug that may’ve affected more on the team, Spurs just weren’t up to snuff.

“We struggled to play,” Pochettino said. “It was in possession, we made mistakes which allowed them to play. To win the game we should do better and play better. It wasn’t great.

Pochettino was also asked about Spurs’ reported pursuit of 20-year-old Bordeaux star Malcom, who has seven goals and five assists in Ligue 1 this season.

“That is a rumor and I don’t want to speak about it. I am happy with our squad. We are open to quality players but you know very well it is difficult in this transfer window.”