Nathaniel Clyne

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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)

Premier League Preview: Liverpool vs. Crystal Palace

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  • Liverpool will still be without Philippe Coutinho due to a back injury.
  • Adam Lallana, Nathaniel Clyne also miss out, but Daniel Sturridge is fit.
  • Crystal Palace has won three-straight games against Liverpool in the Premier League.
  • Both teams have scored in each of the last 10 meetings in all competitions between Liverpool and Crystal Palace, averaging 3.9 goals per match.

For the second-consecutive week, Liverpool will have to play without Philippe Coutinho, who is still missing with a back injury.

However, that didn’t seem to be an issue last week against Watford as Liverpool scored three goals, but it was the leaky defense that allowed Watford to score three goals themselves. (Watch live at 10:00 a.m. ET Saturday on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

Crystal Palace meanwhile also allowed three goals last week but couldn’t score any of its own as it was humbled, 3-0 to Huddersfield. Crystal Palace’s squad is still struggling to adjust to manager Frank De Boer‘s free-flowing style of play and Wilfried Zaha will miss Saturday’s encounter.

But working in Crystal Palace’s favor is Christian Benteke and the club’s three straight wins over Liverpool. It will surely be an open and exciting match at Anfield.

What they’re saying

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp on Crystal Palace: “We played Crystal Palace a few weeks ago. I’m not 100 per cent sure about the line-ups in that game, but Phil and Zaha were on the pitch and they will not be [this weekend]. I’m not sure if Adam played in this game, but that’s how it is…The only thing we know is it’s a tough game, probably both teams were not overly happy – we were not really disappointed about our first game, but it was how a first game can be, there are things to improve and it’s always like this, but even then we could’ve won which I think everybody knows.”

Crystal Palace manager Frank De Boer on his system of play: “I am not a manager who suddenly after a defeat decides to change things around and as I say I did see some very positive points so I am not going to change the system. We don’t need to use adapting to a change in style of our play as an excuse, it’s not so difficult and quite easy to play. The Premier League is so competitive that you have to work hard as a team to get a result because if you don’t you get punished. The players don’t want to use the new system as an excuse and I think everybody understands what we want but we have to execute it better.”

Prediction

Liverpool’s centerback pair of Joel Matip and Dejan Lovren looked better midweek in the UEFA Champions League against Hoffenheim, but it’s another challenge to face Benteke and a motivated Crystal Palace team. Still, the speed of thought and pace on the field of Mo Salah and Sadio Mane should prove to be the difference. Liverpool 3-2 Crystal Palace

Alexander-Arnold’s free kick UCL goal “a thing of dreams”

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Liverpool returned to the UEFA Champions League on Tuesday, and an 18-year-old led the way.

Trent Alexander-Arnold nearly gave the Reds a Man of the Match display in a 2-1 win over Hoffenheim that gives Liverpool a leg in the UCL group stage.

Alexander-Arnold scored this good-looking free kick and was all over the pitch in the win. Had he not been caught calling for offside on Hoffenheim’s late goal, he would’ve usurped Sadio Mane and Simon Mignolet for the game’s top honors.

[MORE: Recap | Klopp reacts to win ]

He’s not worried about that. After all, he just scored for Liverpool in the Champions League. From The Liverpool Echo:

“Obviously it’s a thing of dreams to make your European debut for your boyhood club, and to mark it with a goal as well is very special.”

“I kind of got egged on to do it, to be honest. I never put my hand up at first, but I had the confidence to finally take it and it paid off.”

Alexander-Arnold won’t turn 19 until October, and this was his 14th senior appearance for the Reds. Nathaniel Clyne is no doubt Liverpool’s No. 1 right back, but Klopp has plenty of reason to feel comfortable with choosing either as fixture congestion continues for the Reds.

Premier League Preview: Watford vs. Liverpool

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  • Coutinho, Sturridge, Clyne and Lallana to miss match with injuries
  • Rumors still swirling around Liverpool and Coutinho
  • Three of Liverpool’s four defeats in the opening weekend of the season have come away from Anfield
  • Watford have yet to record a win on matchday one.

Liverpool look to continue its stellar play from preseason as the club opens the 2017-2018 Premier League season on the road at Watford (Watch live at 7:30 a.m. ET Saturday on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

However, an air of uncertainty swirls over Liverpool, with Philippe Coutinho reportedly handing in a transfer request with Barcelona after him. He won’t take part at Watford and neither will fellow starters Daniel Sturridge, Nathaniel Clyne and Adam Lallana.

On the other side, Craig Cathcard, Mauro Zarate, Christian Kabasele and Brice Dja Djedje are all out injured and captain Troy Deeney remains a gametime decision. But Marco Silva‘s side are ready to debut forward Andre Gray, who joined for a club record fee, reportedly worth $24 million.

What they’re saying

Jurgen Klopp on getting ready for the PL season: “What we expect from ourselves, and what we expect from our opponent, is this plus 20 or 30 per cent because now it is real, now it is the Premier League.”

Jurgen Klopp on the Philippe Coutinho transfer saga: “He has back problems and was not in training since last Friday. So no, he is not available and is also a doubt – if he is not available for Saturday – for Tuesday, unfortunately.”

Marco Silva on new signing Gray: “He’s a good player,” said Silva. “He’s a player who wanted to come here and improve his career. He will improve our roster. We did our homework on him and he’s a different type of player to Okaka and our captain [Deeney]. What we need to do is prepare our attacks well to give more chances for him to score. The board knew my opinion about the player and then did the job of signing the player. I am happy with this signing.”

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Prediction

Predicting the first game of the season is always difficult, especially with so many first-team players out of action. Liverpool has won each of its last four season openers after losing four straight, but this may be the season its winning streak breaks. We think it will be a tightly contested affair, finishing in a draw. Watford 1-1 Liverpool

Ranking the top 10 Premier League players in each position

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It’s always nice to open up a can of worms before the start of the season, right?

[ MORE: 2017-18 PL season preview hub ] 

With new players arriving in the Premier League and superstars staying put, we thought it would be a good idea to rank the best players in each position ahead of the 2017-18 season.

Think of this as a preseason PL player Power Rankings, if you will, and if you want to use this us a “cheat-sheet” for your PL fantasy teams, go for it.

Here’s a list at the top 10 in each position. Let the debate begin in 3, 2, 1…


Goalkeepers

1. David De Gea
2. Hugo Lloris
3. Petr Cech
4. Thibaut Courtois
5. Jack Butland
6. Jordan Pickford
7. Kasper Schmeichel
8. Joe Hart
9. Lukasz Fabianski
10. Ben Foster

Right back

1. Antonio Valencia
2. Seamus Coleman
3. Kyle Walker
4. Danilo
5. Cedric
6. Nathaniel Clyne
7. Kieran Trippier
8. Victor Moses
9. Hector Bellerin
10. Pablo Zabaleta

Center back

1. Toby Alderweireld
2. Cesar Azpilicueta
3. Virgil Van Dijk
4. Jan Vertonghen
5. Laurent Koscielny
6. Vincent Kompany
7. David Luiz
8. Eric Bailly
9. Michael Keane
10. Gary Cahill

Left back

1. Danny Rose
2. Ryan Bertrand
3. Marcos Alonso
4. Nacho Monreal
5. Leighton Baines
6. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain
7. Benjamin Mendy
8. Luke Shaw
9. Aaron Cresswell
10. Andrew Robertson

Central midfielders

1. N'Golo Kante
2. David Silva
3. Mousa Dembele
4. Paul Pogba
5. Juan Mata
6. Nemanja Matic
7. Victor Wanyama
8. Ander Herrera
9. Oriol Romeu
10. Georginio Wijnaldum

Attacking midfielders/wingers

1. Kevin De Bruyne
2. Dele Alli
3. Eden Hazard
4. Sadio Mane
5. Philippe Coutinho
6. Christian Eriksen
7. Mesut Ozil
8. Leroy Sane
9. Gylfi Sigurdsson
10. Bernardo Silva

Strikers

1. Harry Kane
2. Alexis Sanchez
3. Sergio Aguero
4. Romelu Lukaku
5. Diego Costa
6. Alvaro Morata
7. Javier Hernandez
8. Gabriel Jesus
9. Roberto Firmino
10. Jamie Vardy