Sean Dyche

Top PL Storylines: Merseyside Derby, relegation special

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The international break is over and the Premier League is back.

[ MORE: What’s left for each PL club? ]

This stretch run begins now, as teams have around eight more matches left in league play with which to move up or down. Who will climb the table, and who will lose spots? The best picks are below:


Merseyside clubs clinging to European places

Liverpool vs. Everton — 7:30 a.m. EDT Saturday online via NBCSports.com

Everton and Liverpool doesn’t need any sideshows to hype up the heated rivalry, but a little added spice won’t hurt anything. Spice is what we have as the two teams clash at Anfield Saturday as both teams are battling for European places.

Liverpool comes into the game in fourth, four points ahead of Manchester United for the final Champions League spot. A return to Europe’s top competition is overdue for Jurgen Klopp and the Reds, having made the tournament just once since 2010. It’s been a dogfight all year at the top of the table (aside from Chelsea, of course), and Liverpool is right in the mix. A misstep here would give Manchester United the chance to climb just one point back, really putting on the pressure. For Everton, they sit in seventh, level with Arsenal on points and just two behind Manchester United. They still have a good shot at Europa League play, and any spot in a European competition is a welcome moment for an Everton team that has appeared just once since 2010.

Both teams have to contend with injuries suffered over the international break. Everton’s Seamus Coleman is out at least for the rest of the season after his nasty leg break, while Liverpool will miss Adam Lallana who aggravated a muscle injury while on duty with England and will likely be out a month.

Will Arsenal or City turn their season around?

Arsenal vs. Manchester City — 11:00 a.m. EDT Sunday online via NBCSports.com

Arsene Wenger continues to find himself under more and more pressure. It seems Pep Guardiola takes one step back for every one step forward. As the two managers meet at the Emirates on Sunday, will either man manage to get a high-profile win to boost its season’s fortunes?

The Gunners are in serious peril. Wenger has never missed the Champions League in his 20 seasons in charge, but that could all change this year as Arsenal sits in 6th on 50 points, six back of fourth position. There is little to no room for error the rest of the way, and even against a strong opponent, the Gunners cannot afford to drop more points. For Pep Guardiola, City still sits in an envious position in third place and five points clear of dropping off the top four, but it’s not been without bumps and bruises. City is without a win in its last three matches, having dumped out of the Champions League and drawn a pair in league play over that time. Both managers are struggling. Will either turn things around?

A relegation special

Swansea City vs. Middlesbrough — 8:30 a.m. EDT Sunday online via NBCSports.com

Middlesbrough is in the relegation zone. Swansea City isn’t out of the weeds yet. Premier League status could be on the line.

As the two teams meet at the Liberty Stadium, Middlesbrough can go a long way towards climbing out of the bottom 3, while Swansea City can build space from it. Boro sits in 19th place, on 22 points, five back of safety. In that final safe spot is Swansea, on 27 points, and depending on the results of this match, things could get hairy for the loser. A draw helps nobody, so expect both sides to go all out.

Spurs with a tough road test

Burnley vs. Tottenham — 10:00 a.m. EDT Saturday online via NBCSports.com

Spurs sit in second, 10 points off the top but in control of the tight Champions League battle. Yet, they face a difficult challenge on Sunday. Burnley has lost just twice all season long at home, the latest coming January 2nd. Their away form has been miserable, but at home, they’re a completely different team.

Enter Tottenham, who has won three Premier League games in a row, but it’s not all rosy for the title contenders. They’re still without Harry Kane, who has returned to light training but still remains sidelined with his ankle injury. Sean Dyche can coach with the best of them in the English top flight, and it remains to be seen if Mauricio Pochettino can break down a strong Clarets defense. Spurs managed a 2-1 home win over Burnley, but a similar performance won’t get it done at the fortress of Turf Moor.

Two months to go: What’s ahead for each Premier League club?

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The sun is shinning in England this week as we head into April and there are just nine gameweek’s remaining in the Premier League. Can you believe it?

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After a long winter, the business end of the season is here and there’s still so much on the line when it comes to the top four race, relegation battle and maybe, just maybe, Chelsea will start to wobble as the edge closer to the title…

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings |  Schedule

Let’s have some fun by summing up what lies ahead in the final two months of the season for each club in a single sentence. With no more international breaks to negotiate, we are entering the home-stretch of the 2016-17 campaign.

Ready? Here it goes.


Arsenal – Uncertainty in the air, Arsene Wenger‘s side have to regroup to secure a top four finish and try to win the FA Cup with Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil putting their contract issues aside and leading the way.

Bournemouth – Should be a stroll in the South Coast sun for the Cherries in the final few months of the season as Eddie Howe‘s side have picked up back-to-back wins and should be clear of relegation and able to express themselves.

Burnley – Well on course to retain their status as a Premier League club for the first time in history, Sean Dyche‘s side will hunt their first away win of the season and look to cause a few more shocks at home with relegation no longer a lingering fear.

Chelsea – All about the title for Chelsea as Antonio Conte‘s men can wrap things up before the end of April if other results go their way, plus the double is still up for grabs as Conte looks to cap off his first season in England in style.

Crystal PalaceSam Allardyce the survival expert is at it again with three-straight shutout wins as he’s sorted out Palace’s defense but knows a huge challenge is ahead with all of the top six teams still to play.

Everton – The Toffees have top four aspirations and are the in-form team in the Premier League in 2017 as Ronald Koeman hopes Romelu Lukaku‘s goals can fire Everton to an unlikely top six finish.

Hull City – Survival is the key for the Tigers as Marco Silva’s men battle against all the odds to remain in the Premier League and they have a real fighting chance with some big games against relegation rivals still remaining.

Leicester City – After three-straight wins new manager Craig Shakespeare will look to secure Leicester’s PL status as soon as possible and then all the focus is on Atletico Madrid in the Champions League quarterfinals… surely they can’t make the UCL’s last four?

LiverpoolJurgen Klopp‘s preseason target of finishing in the top four is well within reach but you get the lingering sense that Liverpool’s fans are getting nervous as clashes with bottom half teams proving tricky all season long.

Manchester City – Top four finish (by no means a guarantee) and an FA Cup victory would be a decent first season for Pep Guardiola at City but after spending so much money there’s a feeling that better things are to come next season.

Manchester United – All the focus is on somehow qualifying for the Champions League next season, be that with a top four finish or winning the Europa League as Jose Mourinho’s injury-hit squad will be under intense pressure as the games come thick and fast.

Middlesbrough – The next three weeks will define Boro’s season as they face direct relegation rivals and caretaker boss Steve Agnew simply needs his team to start throwing caution to the wind and score some goals.

Southampton – Saints’ season is in danger of petering out after their Europa League exploits and EFL Cup final defeat as they aren’t close to the relegation zone and can’t finish any higher than eighth place in Claude Puel‘s debut campaign in charge.

Stoke CityMark Hughes‘ Stoke are set for a fourth-straight top 10 finish but making that extra leap to try and challenge the top six is proving so difficult for not only the Potters but a host of well-run teams.

Sunderland – Survival is on the mind of David Moyes‘ side who have spent 91 percent of the campaign in the bottom three and they need Jermain Defoe to keep scoring and for their fans to pray for a miracle…

Swansea City – After picking up big wins when Paul Clement first arrived, the Swans have regressed in recent weeks and they need to win key games against relegation rivals in the run-in before some tough games to finish with.

Tottenham HotspurMauricio Pochettino‘s youngsters believe they can still catch Chelsea and win the Premier League title with a favorable run of games to finish with, but another top four finish would be a great season and adding an FA Cup trophy would be the cherry on top despite their struggles in Europe.

WatfordWalter Mazzarri‘s men have had a really strange season and after losing three of their last four games the Hornets are starting to glance over their shoulders a little at the relegation zone with a tough finish to the season coming up.

West Brom – A phenomenal season so far for the Baggies as they aim to reach 50 points in a single season for the first time in club history and Tony Pulis‘ men will look to upset Manchester United, Liverpool and Chelsea in the process.

West HamSlaven Bilic and the Hammers probably can’t wait for this season to end but there’s still a very good chance they can finish in the top 10 with a favorable run-in giving them a chance to salvage a season riddled by injuries, the move to a new stadium and losing Dimitri Payet.

PL Sunday preview: Liverpool chasing top-four, hosting Burnley

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With fewer than a dozen games left to play in Jurgen Klopp‘s first full season in the Premier League, a top-four finish is there for the taking.

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Ahead of Sunday’s clash with Burnley at Anfield (Watch live, 12 p.m. ET, on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com), Liverpool sit two points clear of fifth-place Arsenal (the Reds having played a game more already) with 11 games to go in the 2016-17 season. After a truly horrendous start to the 2017 calendar year (winless in their first five PL games) threatened to derail Liverpool’s chase for a second top-four finish in eight seasons, Klopp’s men bailed out the sinking ship with a pair of wins, over second-place Tottenham Hotspur, and Arsenal, in their last three league games.

Through the final day of 2016, no side in the PL had scored more goals (46 — four more than any other side) than the Reds, but it was their leaky defense (21 goals conceded — most of any side in the top-six at that time; they sat second ahead of New Years Day, six points back of runaway leaders Chelsea) which had already precluded them from a genuine title challenge.

“I don’t want to make it too philosophical — it is obviously the case we are inconsistent,” Klopp said this week. “I know we don’t have to doubt the attitude, and the kind of attitude we usually are looking for was here against Arsenal; they were really motivated and you cannot play like this if you have any issues.”

[ MORE: Arsenal beat Lincoln to reach FA Cup semis | Man City also through ]

Burnley (31 points) are already more than three-quarters of the way to the magical 40-point mark which will all but guarantee their safety from relegation (as few as 36 points could result in a 17th-place finish this season), though Sean Dyche‘s Clarets are winless in their last four PL games (two draws).

INJURIES: Liverpool — OUT: Jordan Henderson (foot), Daniel Sturridge (hip), Danny Ings (knee surgery), Adam Bogdan (knee surgery); PROBABLE: Roberto Firmino (knock) | Burnley — OUT: Johann Gudmundsson (knock), Steven Defour (hamstring), Jon Flanagan (loan from Liverpool); QUESTIONABLE: Joey Barton (hamstring)

Premier League Power Rankings: Stoke, Spurs, Reds rise

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Chelsea’s unfettered advantage over most opponents through N'Golo Kante and Antonio Conte has made for some boredom when it comes to No. 1, but the race to stay in the Top Ten has been a fun part of our weekly power rankings.

[ MORE: Top PL story lines — Week 28 ]

Mark Hughes‘ Potters are the latest to make a move, while Liverpool and Tottenham also dance a bit higher this week. It’s the opposite direction for Hull City, Bournemouth, and Burnley.

TEAM RANKING
source:
20 (20) Sunderland: This is the kind of season the Black Cats have had: After Southampton, Everton, and Man City, they had a shot at struggling Middlesbrough in a Northeast Derby this week only to see the match postponed. Fortunately, Burnley is next.
200px-Middlesbrough_crest 19 (19) Middlesbrough: Aitor Karanka‘s side needed the week off badly, but a visit from Manchester United is next.
Hull City logo
18 (17) Hull City: Looking improved only means so much, and the Leicester loss could be followed by another 6-point loss to Swansea City. Time to pony up, Tigers.
source: 17 (16) Bournemouth: Winless in 2017
source: 16 (18) Crystal Palace: Big Sam may have led the Eagles into the drop zone, but he’s also guided them to two big wins and an escape… for now.
source: 15 (15) Swansea City: Fate (or officiating) nearly conspired to rob Swans of a win versus Burnley, but the Welsh side overcame the bad fortune. Now they can really pad their status by beating Hull.
Leicester City logo
14 (14) Leicester City: Two in a row, but it just feels so hollow given the players clearly weren’t playing for a manager who led them to the heights. No, this isn’t about 2015-16 Chelsea.
burnley fc crest 13 (10) Burnley: No wins in five across all competitions, including losses to Watford, Swansea, and Lincoln City. I’d hate to be on Sean Dyche‘s bad side during this stretch. Also, how is Tyrone Mings not banned for the season?
source: 12 (13) Watford: A thrilling loss to Saints is still a loss, and a third in a row.
source: 11 (12) Southampton: Finally putting it together. Nathan Redmond and Manolo Gabbiadini are tactical issue for opponents.

source:
10 (7) West Brom: After losing a court case against Crystal Palace, you know Tony Pulis wanted to heap misery on the lowly Eagles. Instead, he managed a 2-0 home loss. Woof.
source: 9 (9) West Ham United: No shame in losing to Chelsea. We might put that sentence in each team’s column at some point this season.
source: 8 (11) Stoke City: Handled Sunderland before holding Man City to a draw at the Etihad Stadium. Geoff Cameron’s return has helped Mark Hughes’ side, for sure.
source: 7 (6) Arsenal: It’s bad, relatively speaking.
source: 6 (8) Liverpool: Ah, the side that loses to bad teams and “gets healthy” against bigger sides. So odd, but that’s how it was for Jurgen Klopp at Borussia Dortmund, too. Gotta be a coincidence, right? Right?
5 (5) Everton: 3-2 loss to Spurs shows that Ronald Koeman‘s side needs a few more pieces to contend for Europe.
source: 4 (4) Manchester United: A frustrating draw does have a silver lining in the fact that Zlatan Ibrahimovic‘s head wasn’t caved in by Tyrone Mings’ stamp.
Logo_Manchester_City 3 (2) Manchester City: Surely Pep Guardiola didn’t see a 0-0 against Stoke at home as a likely result.
source: 2 (3) Tottenham Hotspur: Really showing mettle this year, and would have to fall apart to finish below Arsenal. Spurs supporters, I swear I’m not jinxing you.
source: 1 (1) Chelsea: Another day, another three points for Conte and Kante, who really should get some Ballon d’Or love.

 

Sean Dyche says Joey Barton should have a TV show

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Burnley manager Sean Dyche says Joey Barton‘s life is chock full of fascinating moments, so much so that he should have his own TV show.

Except when he’s behind closed doors at Burnley, of course. Then he’s a stand up individual. Right, sure.

“It could be a TV series,” Dyche said in his pre-match press conference ahead of an away tilt with Hull City. “Being Joey. It’d be interesting. Never a dull moment.”

But of course, immediately after that, Dyche switched gears. “Unless he’s in here, training with me,” he backtracked. “I think it’s pantomime stuff. I’ve seen a lot more controversy around Joey than that. If that’s as far as it goes, I’ll be a happy man.”

“That” referred to Barton’s embarrassing dive in the FA Cup loss to non-league opponents Lincoln City where the midfielder play-acted after nothing more than a brush of the elbow from Matt Rhead, falling to the ground and clutching his head. Barton was involved in a number of heated moments during that match, adding to his already massive list of controversial moments in a mercurial career.

“Joey’s been terrific,” Dyche said. “I thought by a mile, by an absolute mile, he was the best player on the pitch last weekend. So he’s been absolutely fine. He’s in good nick – as you can see – and he’s definitely up for the challenges that come in front of us.”

But word of Joey Barton apparently hasn’t reached London. A few weeks ago, ahead of Chelsea’s 1-1 draw at Burnley on February 12th, Blues manager Antonio Conte was asked if he was familiar with Burnley’s squad and Barton in particular – an admittedly leading question – and Conte was unable to give an immediate answer. He instead asked his press officer muttering, “Joey Barton?” under his breath. The press officer embarrassingly tried to save face before Conte stepped back in giving a generic answer that they had already played once and he was familiar with the squad.