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Top Premier League Storylines — Week 26

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The first weekend after the transfer window has closed means teams will look to integrate their new signings as quickly as possible. What will be the fallout from the deals done?

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

Which new attacking player will have the most immediate impact?
Manchester City vs. Newcastle United — 12:30 p.m. ET Saturday on NBC STREAM ]

Olivier Giroud could start if Alvaro Morata is still sidelined. Alexis Sanchez has yet to hit the back of the net for Manchester United. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Henrikh Mkhitaryan headline the Arsenal attack as the Gunners host Everton. The Toffees still need Cenk Tosun to get off the mark.

Which attacker will have the biggest impact this weekend? With Morata likely to return, Giroud will most certainly have to wait for his first chance at Chelsea, but that could come quickly if Morata continues to fire blanks, with just one goal since December 3rd. Sanchez was stifled by Tottenham as Manchester United fell 2-0 last time out. Arsenal seems to have the best chance, with Aubameyang likely to be thrust into action soon as the Gunners have few options up front. As they host Everton at the Emirates, the Gabonese international could be at the forefront of the headlines in London as they take on a defense without a clean sheet since Boxing Day.

Who will take charge of second place?
Liverpool vs. Tottenham — 11:30 a.m. ET Sunday on NBCSN STREAM ]

A Manchester United loss last time out means the top four race is even more wide open than before. The Red Devils have just a three-point lead in second place, and Liverpool, Chelsea, and Tottenham are all within three or five points. Two of those teams meet in a critical matchup as the Reds host Spurs at Anfield.

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings ]

With Liverpool three points behind Manchester United and Spurs five back, either team could potentially take control of third position with a win and some help. The Reds were incredibly quiet on Deadline Day, and now the leaky Liverpool defense will have to contend with Alexis Sanchez for a third time this season. The past two times Sanchez met the Reds while with Arsenal, a total of 10 goals were scored between the two matches (a 4-0 Liverpool win and a 3-3 draw that saw Sanchez score a goal).

Can Virgil Van Dijk lock down Harry Kane in a battle of Premier League stars? All eyes will be on that matchup as these two teams battle it out for top four supremacy.

Can Swansea continue surge against tumultuous Leicester?
Leicester City vs. Swansea City — 10:00 a.m. ET Saturday on NBC Sports Gold STREAM ]

Riyad Mahrez has reportedly gone on strike at Leicester City with his future at the club in jeopardy. (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)

Swansea City has kicked down the door to safety with a pair of impressive wins against Liverpool and Arsenal to help them lift off the bottom of the table. They visit King Power Stadium on Saturday to take on a Leicester City side in serious turmoil. After the club once again refused to sell Riyad Mahrez to Manchester City, the star winger has reportedly refused to show up for training, and his status for this weekend – and beyond – could be in serious jeopardy.

The Foxes saw their three-match unbeaten run snapped last time out against Everton, could they be in for more disappointment at home with Mahrez on the outside looking in? With a win and the right results, Swansea could not only lift themselves out of the relegation zone, but they could leap as high as 14th if things go right. What a result that could be for new manager Carlos Carvahal.

Will Manchester City put its depth problems in the rear view mirror?
Burnley vs. Manchester City — 7:30 a.m. ET Saturday on NBCSN STREAM ]

The Premier League runaways dominated West Brom last time out, but breaking down Burnley at Turf Moor is a whole other task. With Manchester City unable to secure a deal for Mahrez at the deadline, they are left with Bernardo Silva to step into the injured Leroy Sane’s role. The Portuguese winger has seen his role diminish with Sane’s explosion and his own struggles, with just one goal and no assists in his last six appearances. However, with Sane out for six weeks at minimum, Bernardo Silva will combine with David Silva and Raheem Sterling to fill Sane’s shoes.

Burnley’s inability to score of late will leave them serious underdogs in this matchup, but should they knick a score, the stout Clarets defense could take center stage. Burnley has not conceded more than one goal in any game since they last faced Manchester City just about a month ago in a 4-1 FA Cup loss. Will the Citizens punish Burnley again?

Aguero involved in clash with Wigan fan after FA Cupset

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MANCHESTER, England (AP) Sergio Aguero was involved in a confrontation with a Wigan fan as ugly scenes marred the end of the third-division side’s shock FA Cup win over Manchester City on Monday.

[ MORE: Wigan shock Man City, the world and themselves ]

Fans spilled on to the pitch at DW Stadium as the host celebrated its 1-0 fifth-round win against the runaway English Premier League leader.

Supporters from both clubs were involved in disturbances, while television pictures appeared to show a home supporter and striker Aguero involved in a physical exchange.

Aguero appeared to hit the supporter after the fan said something to the player, and Aguero had to be held back by his City teammates.

[ MORE: Money from Wembley replay “will support Rochdale for 2 or 3 years” ]

Advertising hoardings were also ripped out and thrown as a pitch invasion by Wigan fans got out of hand while the defeated City players were being escorted off the pitch.

Footage also appeared to show objects, including an advertising board, being thrown at police officers by fans in the City end.

Wigan shock themselves: “Not sure how it feels, hasn’t sunk in yet”

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Wigan Athletic didn’t just shock Manchester City with their FA Cup fifth-round slaying of the runaway Premier League leaders; nor did they merely shock the rest of the footballing world; they also shocked themselves into disbelief, according to defender Dan Burn.

[ MORE: Goodbye, quadruple! Wigan bounce 10-man City from FA Cup ]

Speaking following Monday’s triumph over Pep Guardiola‘s quadruple-chasing side at the DW Stadium, Burn admitted he himself didn’t know what to make of the night that would undoubtedly highlight and change his own professional career — quotes from the BBC:

“Not sure how it feels, hasn’t sunk in yet. It was a really tough game. The belief was always there. We’ve got Will Grigg, who does what he keeps doing.

“We pride ourselves on our clean sheets. We had a couple bad results before, so we wanted to prove ourselves, so a clean sheet against the best team in England is great.

“Once we scored, the fans really got behind us, just knew we needed to hang on. It was the longest 10 minutes of my life.”

[ MORE: Money from Wembley replay “will support Rochdale for 2 or 3 years” ]

Manager Paul Cook was able to articulate his happiness and pride only slightly better — “It feels great” — but offered the highest of praises to his players, whom “had to ride [their] luck at times” during the game, and gave everything they had to the cause, because that’s the only way you beat a team like Man City:

“It feels great. It’s such a severe test. They’re such a strong side and move the ball so well. We had to ride our luck at times and the sending off is always a big incident.

“Our lads deserve credit for their work and some of the blocks they made were outstanding, and to beat Man City you have to do that.”

Goodbye, quadruple! Wigan bounce 10-man City from FA Cup

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Manchester City’s quest for the historic quadruple is over after Pep Guardiola‘s 10-man side was shocked by League One side Wigan Athletic in the fifth round of the FA Cup at the DW Stadium on Monday.

[ MORE: Money from Wembley replay “will support Rochdale for 2 or 3 years” ]

Will Grigg scored the game’s only goal, a late winner after the home side had been thoroughly outplayed and out-possessed for 78 minutes. With 45 places currently standing between them in the English football pyramid — and Man City garnering “best of all time” consideration — “upset” doesn’t even begin to describe Monday’s result.

On the other hand, City represent the third Premier League side knocked out of this season’s FA Cup at the hands of Wigan: Bournemouth, in the third round; followed by West Ham United, in the fourth.

City were reduced to 10 men during first-half stoppage time, when Fabian Delph went flying in on Max Power as the two contested a 50-50 ball inside Wigan’s defensive third. Referee Anthony Taylor initially withdrew his yellow card from his pocket, but protests from the aggrieved party appeared to change Taylor’s mind, and Delph was off.

Prior to Deplh’s dismissal, Wigan had done well  enoughto hold their own against the runaway PL leaders. The Latics had a pair of half-chances, most notably through Grigg in the 12th minute, that could have easily gone their way. Much of the play, though, as is to be expected, was controlled by City (first-half possession: 82 percent), though Guardiola’s men were unable to break through before going a man down.

Still, the share of possession remain unchanged throughout the entirety of the second half, as City patiently probed and used possession as their best means of defense… until the 79th minute arrived.

[ MORE: Man Utd draw Brighton in FA Cup QF; Chelsea get Leicester ]

The ball was played back to Kyle Walker, into space; rather than receiving the ball at first opportunity, Walker let it run on as he prepared to play it back to Claudio Bravo; Grigg saw his opening and pounced quickly; his first touch used his body to shield Walker from the ball, and his second set up the shot; Grigg went for the far post, curling the ball around Bravo and nestling it just inside the post.

Wigan will now host another PL side, Southampton, in the quarterfinals.

Barry Bennell jailed 30 years for abusing young players

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LIVERPOOL, England (AP) A former English youth soccer coach was jailed Monday for 30 years for abusing 12 young footballers after the judge called him the “devil incarnate.”

Barry Bennell, a former coach at Crewe and scout for Manchester City, was convicted at Liverpool Crown Court of 50 child sexual offenses committed between 1979 and 1991.

“Your behavior towards these boys in grooming and seducing them before subjecting them to, in some cases, the most most serious, degrading and humiliating abuse was sheer evil,” Judge Clement Goldstone told the 64-year-old Bennell.

Bennell looked at the floor and nodded as the judge sentenced him. Some members of the public began to applaud as he was sent down, but were stopped by the judge.

Goldstone said Bennell had appeared to his victims as a God.

“In reality, you were the devil incarnate,” the judge added. “You stole their childhoods and their innocence to satisfy your own perversion.”

Goldstone said Bennell’s abuse had destroyed the enthusiasm his victims had for playing football and had led to them suffering problems including suicidal thoughts, alcoholism and depression.

Bennell has already served three jail terms, totaling 15 years, for similar offenses involving 16 other victims in England and the United States.