Laurent Koscielny

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PL Sunday preview: Spurs take on bogey Reds; Everton vs. Arsenal

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Every club in the world has a bogey team (or teams) that no matter what they try, no matter the circumstances, it always seems to go sideways when they meet — a side that everyone associated with the club dreads when they see their name on the upcoming schedule.

[ PL ROUNDUP: Man United shocked by Huddersfield; City, Chelsea win ]

For Tottenham Hotspur, the thorn currently in their side is Liverpool, who they’ll host at Wembley Stadium on Sunday, following Arsenal’s seasonal trip to Goodison Park to take on Everton.

Everton vs. Arsenal — 8:30 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

After starting the 2017-18 Premier League season with just two wins from eight games, every game could very well be Ronald Koeman‘s last game in charge of Everton, thus a visit from top-four-chasing Arsenal is anything but well-timed for the distressed Dutchman. What’s worse, the Toffees are also without a win in their last four games (all competitions) and on the verge of crashing out of the Europa League group stage.

“The performance was under level in the first half,” Koeman said following Thursday’s home defeat to Lyon. “We made a lot of mistakes, and the team played with a lot of doubts and little confidence. It’s very difficult (to reach the next stage). Most of the time you get your points at home but we have only got one out of the two we have had at Goodison. Nothing is impossible, but to gain more points — and I think we need six or seven — we need to improve the level and that is more important.”

Sounds similar to their league performances, strangely enough — Everton currently sit 16th in the PL table, mere months after spending in excess of $200 million during the summer transfer window.

European competition has treated Arsenal far better this season, as Arsene Wenger‘s side is three-for-three in the Europa League following Thursday’s win away to Red Star Belgrade. A number of key figures — Alexis Sanchez, Mesut Ozil, Alexandre Lacazette, Aaron Ramsey and Laurent Koscielny, to name a few — were left in London, as a reserve- and youth-heavy side got the job done courtesy of an Olivier Giroud goal five minutes before full-time.

Still, the Gunners are in desperate need of a quick rebound following last weekend’s late defeat to Watford, after which Watford captain Troy Deeney publicly characterized the Arsenal players as mentally weak and said they lack the necessary “cojones” to compete at this level. On the bright side, Deeney’s 71st-minute equalizer (from the penalty spot) was the first goal Arsenal had conceded in 444 minutes in the PL, a streak they’ll look to start anew and build off Thursday’s win in Serbia.

INJURIES: Everton — OUT: Ross Barkley (back), Morgan Schneiderlin (knock), Ramiro Funes Mori (knee), Seamus Coleman (leg), James McCarthy (fitness), Yannick Bolasie (knee) | Arsenal — OUT: Danny Welbeck (hamstring), Shkodran Mustafi (thigh), Calum Chambers (hip), Santi Cazorla (achilles)

[ MORE: Mourinho — “We deserved the punishment of defeat” to Huddersfield ]

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

Mauricio Pochettino has never beaten Liverpool in six tries as Tottenham manager (two triumphs in his 18 months at Southampton); in fact, Spurs themselves haven’t beaten Liverpool in the PL since Nov. 28, 2012 (three draws and six defeats in nine tries) — the north London side’s truest bogey club this decade. Having already fallen eight points behind leaders Manchester City, Pochettino’s side will have to clear that mental hurdle on Saturday if they’re to go on and challenge for the PL title for a third straight season. On the other hand, they’re unbeaten in 10 games (seven wins) across all competitions.

Fortunately for Spurs, the Wembley monkey is off their back after narrowly edging past Bournemouth their last time out at home. Harry Kane is without goal in his last 241 minutes for club (two for England during the last international break), which is practically an eternity after scoring seven goals in the previous 188 minutes.

As for Liverpool, Jurgen Klopp‘s side enters Sunday’s clash mired in a month-long slump, having won just one of their last four league games, and just two of their last nine in all competitions. A major part of the problem is more of the poor defending that dogged the Reds last season, but perhaps they’ve been a bit unfortunate as well.

“We had bad luck in the last three or four games,” summer signing Mohamed Salah said this week. “Everyone was confident a good result was coming.”

The tough stretch has seen Klopp somewhat recalibrate his expectations in the direction of reality, dubbing his side the “challenger” when they take on Tottenham.

“(Spurs) are in a really good moment as a club and we are the challenger when we go there, that’s how it is,” he said this week. “But they know it will not be an easy game, so good, let’s play and let’s see what happens.”

INJURIES: Tottenham — OUT: Mousa Dembele (foot), Victor Wanyama (knee), Danny Rose (fitness), Erik Lamela (hip) | Liverpool — OUT: Sadio Mane (hamstring), Adam Lallana (thigh), Nathaniel Clyne (hamstring)

PL Sunday preview: Liverpool, Arsenal face newly promoted sides

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A pair of Premier League big boys take on a pair of sides only just promoted from the Championship over the summer, while Everton host Burnley in the other of Sunday’s three PL fixtures…

[ MORE: PL roundup — Man City win at Chelsea; Kane gets 2 more ]

Arsenal vs. Brighton & Hove Albion — 7 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

Away in Belarus for Europa League action on Thursday, back home in the PL on Sunday — that’s the not-so-simple reality for Arsenal this season, and it rears its ugly head again this week. The Gunners victory over BATE Borisov will have come less than 72 hours prior to taking on Chris Hughton‘s Brighton on Sunday. Further complicating matters, last week’s 2-0 win over West Bromwich Albion came on Monday, less than 72 hours prior to their 1,400-mile European excursion. As such, the majority of Arsene Wenger‘s first-choice starters were left in London, but the likes of Shkodran Mustafi and Per Mertesacker could be asked to pull double-duty given injury concerns along the three-man backline.

Brighton, meanwhile, will be without star striker Tomer Hemed, who on Wednesday was handed a three-match ban for his stamp on DeAndre Yedlin last weekend. Hemed maintains he did not intend the contact with Yedlin.

“I accept the decision against me but do not agree with it and I am devastated to miss three matches,” Hemed wrote on his Instagram account. “I would never go out and injure a fellow professional on purpose, and those of my friends and teammates who know me, know that this is not in my nature.”

INJURIES: Arsenal — OUT: Mesut Ozil (knee), Danny Welbeck (groin), Santi Cazorla (achilles), Francis Coquelin (hamstring); QUESTIONABLE: Laurent Koscielny (achilles), Alex Iwobi (thigh) | Brighton — OUT: Tomer Hemed (suspension), Steve Sidwell (back), Sam Baldock (calf), Beram Kayal (leg); QUESTIONABLE: Glenn Murray (ankle)


Everton vs. Burnley — 9:15 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

Things are beginning to look up for Everton — maybe just a tad — as Ronald Koeman‘s side is unbeaten in its last three games (all competitions), with a winnable home date with Burnley on Sunday. While the likes of Wayne Rooney, Davy Klaassen and Gylfi Sigurdsson have largely faltered of late (just two PL goals between them — both Rooney’s — and zero assists), Oumar Niasse has stepped into the void and lent the Toffees three goals en route to a pair of wins last week, over Sunderland (League Cup) and Bournemouth (PL).

As for the Clarets, Sean Dyche‘s side is four games unbeaten in PL play (three draws) and up to ninth in the league table. Sunday’s clash at Goodison Park will be the first meeting between Burnley’s current players and former teammate Michael Keane, now at Everton, provided he’s passed fit to play.

“We all got on with Keano. He’s a great lad,” midfielder Jeff Hendrick said. “He’s been brilliant for the club here. It was his time to step on and challenge himself in a different way. He’s still young and he’s still improving. We all speak highly of him here and I’m sure they do at Everton as well. It will be good to play against him. He’s a good player but we want to get one over on him.”

INJURIES: Everton — OUT: Ross Barkley (back), Ramiro Funes Mori (knee), Seamus Coleman (leg), James McCarthy (knee), Yannick Bolasie (knee); QUESTIONABLE: Michael Keane (foot) | Burnley — OUT: Tom Heaton (shoulder), Nakhi Wells (ankle), Jonathan Walters (knee), Dean Marney (knee)


Newcastle United vs. Liverpool — 11:30 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

Rafa Benitez guided Liverpool to UEFA Champions League glory in 2005, a short dozen years ago now, an on Sunday welcomes his former club, and the many by whom he’s still so beloved, to St. James’ Park.

“He’s a very, very interesting person,” Jurgen Klopp said on Friday. “I know he’s still connected, not only because he lives around here still, he’s really connected to the club still, wishes the club all the best and all that stuff — it’s how it should be after this fantastic time he had here.”

The visitors enter Sunday’s game in frustratingly indifferent form, having won just one of their last five games (all competitions). During that stretch, the Reds have conceded 13 goals. Klopp is yet to figure out the perfect formula for consistent defending in the PL, as that very shakiness at the back ultimately ended Liverpool’s title bid last season. Klopp writes a bit of that off as bad luck.

“We in this moment are not the luckiest team in world football, so it’s not that things go easy for us,” he said this week. “We did enough and we had four or five 100-percent chances and that’s then disappointing but it is like it is.”

INJURIES: Newcastle — OUT: Paul Dummett (hamstring) | Liverpool — OUT: Adam Lallana (thigh), Nathaniel Clyne (hamstring)

Arsenal take positives from winning “total battle” at Chelsea

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LONDON — Arsenal took the moral victory at Chelsea on Sunday in a bruising draw against their London rivals at Stamford Bridge.

[ MORE: Three things learned ]

They have yet to win a game away at a top six rival since a 2-0 victory at Manchester City back in January 2015 but the display on Sunday proved they have a blueprint for success away from home against the top teams.

Call it a moral victory, if you will.

Arsene Wenger‘s 3-4-3 formation has made the Gunners, overall, look more solid against a counter-attacking unit as they recovered from their ghastly defensive display away at Liverpool before the international break and thwarted Chelsea for the third time in as many games since the end of last season.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

Speaking after the game, Wenger was delighted with the mental toughness of his players in what he called a “total battle” in the sun in west London.

“I felt it was a game of total intensity where two teams went for it and it was a battle all over the pitch,” Wenger said. “We responded well in domains where we were questioned. I like when a team shows that kind of response. Overall, I feel that it is a deserved point. With a bit more freedom and inhibition we could have really won it. Overall it was important for us not to lose today and you could feel that in the team in the last 20 minutes with a little bit of that in our mind.”

Following their 4-0 mauling at Liverpool and defeat at Stoke City, it was understandable that any positive result away from home would have been welcomed.

Stopping a five-game losing streak at Chelsea in the PL was welcomed as Arsenal carried on where they left off from their FA Cup and Community Shield victories at Wembley against their London rivals.

“People forget that two months ago we beat Chelsea in a cup final and they don’t give you a cup, you know?” Wenger smiled. “It is true that you have to accept that when you deliver the kind of performance we had at Liverpool that you are criticized. You have only one way to respond. That’s on the pitch and that’s what we did today. Of course it was a question today of what will happen at least with the attitude, response and determination, it was vital for us, even above the result, to come out with a solid performance on that front.”

Wenger saw Shkodran Mustafi put in a solid, dominant display in central defense as he and Laurent Koscielny shackled Alvaro Morata and the Gunners had the better chances to win the game with Aaron Ramsey hitting the post, Alexandre Lacazette knocking the follow up over and Mustafi having a header correctly disallowed for offside.

Chelsea were frustrated in their first 0-0 draw since February 2016 as they were outbattled by Arsenal with David Luiz sent off late on as he lunged into a challenge on Saed Kolasinac and you could feel the Blues’ temper rising as the Gunners continued their shut down of Chelsea’s usually effective counter-attacks.

Antonio Conte brushed aside questions about Arsenal’s physicality knocking Chelsea out of their stride and reminded the assembled media of the Gunners’ quality.

“We suffered a bit in the middle of the first half but don’t forget, sometimes you forgot that Arsenal is one of the top six in England. For this reason we all know the type of game we have to face today against them,” Conte said. “Arsenal is a really good team, a strong team and they have a lot of top players. It is normal to find this situation when you play against them.”

Yet, this wasn’t a normal Arsenal performance as Wenger and his players substituted their usual panache for grit and their admirable free spirit for concentration.

The atmosphere among Arsenal’s players, fans and manager at the end of the game was far from euphoric but this felt like a step forward for Wenger’s men.

Chelsea 0-0 Arsenal: Chippy affair ends scoreless

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  • Ozil out
  • Sanchez, Hazard don’t start
  • Luiz sent off, 88′

Arsenal supporters will be heartened by its club’s even performance at Stamford Bridge as the Gunners drew reigning champions Chelsea 0-0 on Sunday.

Chelsea’s 10 points are three back of leaders Manchester City, while Arsenal’s seven place it 12th.

David Luiz was given a straight red card in the 87th minute, and will miss the next three matches.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Petr Cech was tested twice in the first three minutes, the second a low lash from Pedro, as Chelsea came out of the gates with vigor.

Alvaro Morata then turned a header toward goal off a cross from the right in what’s becoming a trademark for the Spaniard, but the flag was up.

Arsenal hit Chelsea on the counter, and Danny Welbeck came very close to heading Hector Bellerin‘s cross into the upper 90. And Thibaut Courtois had to get low to block an Alexandre Lacazette shot moments later.

The Gunners had grown into the game, and Sead Kolasinac troubled Courtois with a shot through traffic in the 20th minute.

That said, Pedro soon looked to be 1v1 with Cech, though his trouble in controlling the ball helped Laurent Koscielny hamper the breakaway and keep things scoreless.

Aaron Ramsey‘s incredible, physical dribble found him hitting the post in the 41st minute, with Lacazette missing horribly with a wide-open doorstep rebound.

David Luiz plowed into the advertising boards before halftime and needed help to stand while tenderly holding his wrist.

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings ]

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

He returned, and saw yellow when his overhead kick attempt made contact with Koscielny’s head.

Willian dribbled into a dangerous place off a quickly played free kick by Cesc Fabregas, but hit an arrow over the bar.

Shkrodan Mustafi claimed to have Arsenal ahead with a header and wild celebration in the 75th minute, but the flag was up.

Substitute Eden Hazard forced Cech into a save in the 79th.

Forget a second yellow, Luiz was shown a straight red card for a challenge on Kolasinac in the 87th minute. The Brazilian chopped at the Arsenal defender, catching his ankle studs-up.

Transfer rumor wrap: Bale to Man United; Mbappe to PSG

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Spanish outlet Don Balon claim Manchester United have bid $118 million for Real Madrid’s Gareth Bale.

Despite Bale, 28, insisting he wants to stay at Real and club president Florentino Perez saying he is going nowhere, Bale was jeered by Real’s fans once again on Sunday as he missed multiple chances in their 2-2 draw against Valencia at the Santiago Bernabeu.

Bale has five years left on his current contract at Real Madrid (he only signed a big new extension last October) but Jose Mourinho previously said he would “be waiting at the airport” for Bale if his situation changed with Real.

The Welsh wizard has scored 68 goals in 154 appearances for Real over the past five seasons but with Marco Asensio and Lucas Vasquez challenging to become first team regulars, Bale has a little more competition this season with Cristiano Ronaldo and Karem Benzema guaranteed starters for the reigning European and Spanish champions.

Mourinho has made no secret that United are said to be looking for a wide player for much of the summer with a move for Inter Milan’s Ivan Perisic seemingly falling by the wayside. Yet with Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial, Henrikh Mhitaryan and Jesse Lingard, how many wide players does Mourinho need?

Is it time Bale returned to the Premier League after winning everything he can at Real? That still seems like a year or two away, if it happens at all, but Bale being booed by his own supporters will be music to the ears of the PL’s big boys who hope to pry him away from the Spanish capital.


Arsenal could lose German center back Shkodran Mustafi to Inter Milan.

Sky Italy say that Mustafi, 25, has agreed personal terms with Inter and believe that an agreement over an initial loan deal is close between the two clubs.

Mustafi joined Arsenal from Valencia for $45 million last summer and the German international impressed for the Gunners despite their fifth-place finish in the Premier League table.

Composed on the ball and able to play in a flat back four or as one of three central defenders, quite why Arsenal would let Mustafi leave is a bit mind-boggling.

With the rise of Rob Holding, plus Nacho Monreal playing as a center back, perhaps Wenger thinks he has sufficient cover at center back with Laurent Koscielny and Per Mertesacker also around.

The deal for Mustafi is believed to be a loan deal with an option to buy.


Kylian Mbappe’s move to Paris Saint-Germain is edging closer with the French national team teenager arriving for national team duty.

Mbappe, 18, is said to have had a medical with PSG while the finer points of the massive $214 million deal are sorted out.

Per multiple reports Monaco will loan Mbappe to PSG for the 2017-18 season and then the deal will be made permanent next summer.

That is due to PSG’s world-record $262 million deal for Neymar earlier this month, as Les Parisiens are concerned another $200 million-plus will, obviously, see them struggle to met UEFA’s Financial Fair Play rules.

Mbappe is set for a 2,000 percent pay rise which will see him paid $387,000 per week.

The teenage talent burst onto the scenes last season with Monaco, scoring 27 times in his first full season in the pro game as he led the Ligue 1 club to the French title, the UEFA Champions League semifinals and also made his debut for France.


Leicester City are said to have had a bid of $27.1 million turned down by West Bromwich Albion for their captain Jonny Evans and it is believed the Baggies want $38 million for Evans.

The Northern Ireland national team defender has missed West Brom’s last two games with an injured hamstring and despite stating in the matchday programme before West Brom’s 1-1 draw vs. Stoke on Sunday that he wants to stay, another bid has arrived from the Foxes.

Evans has been a target for both Manchester City and Leicester over the past few weeks as the former Manchester United defender has quietly become one of the star defenders in the league over the past 12 months.

Despite Tony Pulis stating Evans will remain at the Hawthorns, if a huge bid arrives from Man City or Leicester in the final days of the window, can the Baggies really turn it down?

Leicester have already improved their defense drastically this summer by adding Harry Maguire from Hull City with the center back handed his first England national team call-up last week. Man City are said to be chasing Evans with one eye on his status as a “homegrown player” under PL rules.