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Howe named Premier League Manager of the Month

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AFC Bournemouth is picking up some accolades for its impressive run in January.

The club was unbeaten in Premier League action, with two wins and two draws, leading to manager Eddie Howe being named Premier League Manager of the Month. The last of the club’s wins in January was a night many in Bournemouth will never forget, as the Cherries slammed the door shut on the defending Premier League champions with a 3-0 win against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.

[READ: Arsenal’s Wenger played to his advantages in Swedish blowout]

Bournemouth’s 4-1 clobbering at Huddersfield Town broke a streak of seven games unbeaten in the league, which has seen the Cherries rise to tenth in the table. Incredibly, because of the top-down nature in the Premier League this season, Bournemouth are only five points clear of the relegation zone.

PL Sunday preview: Van Dijk, Liverpool visit St. Mary’s, Man United in action

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Liverpool and Southampton sit in considerably different positions, but a former player’s return to St. Mary’s will garner much of the attention on Sunday when the two clubs collide.

Meanwhile, three sides firmly in the relegation race aim to pull away from the bottom three with strong performances.

[ MORE: Saturday PL roundup — Citizens crack 70 points, Spurs win NLD ]

Here’s a look at Sunday’s three PL matches.

Huddersfield Town vs. Bournemouth — 7 a.m. ET on CNBC

When these sides last met in November, the Cherries came away with a convincing 4-0 defeat. That leaves Huddersfield boss David Wagner with some tough decisions at home.

Jonathan Hogg is expected to be reintroduced to the Huddersfield lineup on Sunday, while Christopher Schindler and Laurent Depoitre could feature after the pair came off of foot injuries recently.

The Terriers have had a terrible time scoring as of late, scoring just once in their last 620 league minutes, while Bournemouth has gone unbeaten in its last seven fixtures.

Bournemouth has seen a solid improvement since the Christmas period, with the club boasting 15 points in that span — which is second to only Liverpool’s 16 points.

Newcastle vs. Manchester United — 9:15 a.m. ET on NBCSN

In 28 career PL meetings, Newcastle has won just twice against the English giants — which doesn’t bode well for Rafa Benitez and Co. The club’s last victory against the Red Devils came back in 2012.

With loan signing Islam Slimani still yet to play a match for the Magpies, Benitez will be desperately hoping for the Algerian to be fit in time for Sunday’s clash. The side will benefit from Ciaran Clark‘s return though, who is coming back from a knee injury.

Meanwhile, United has clamped down recently on the defensive side, boasting five shutouts in its last six matches.

Southampton vs. Liverpool — 11:30 a.m. ET on NBCSN

The biggest story on the day will be Van Dijk’s return to his former club, however, four other current Liverpool players have previously played a role for Southampton.

The Saints have had success recently against Liverpool, with the hosts unbeaten in their last three home fixtures against Jurgen Klopp‘s group.

Klopp and Co. have been through a tumultuous period since their confidence-boosting win over table-toppers Manchester City, with the Reds winning just one of their last four fixtures.

Sunday PL preview: Man City hosts West Ham; Saints travel to Bournemouth

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A stunning display of form over the first third of the season has Manchester City well ahead of its challengers, so it’ll take something special from its opponent on Sunday to hand Pep Guardiola‘s side its first defeat of the 2017/18 season.

[ MORE: Bayern opens up six-point gap in Bundesliga ]

The Premier League leaders will play host to relegation side West Ham United in the day’s second match, which is preceded by two clubs hoping to crack the top 10.

Bournemouth will take on Southampton from the Vitality Stadium, as the Cherries and Saints currently sit within two points of one another.

Below is a more in-depth look at Sunday’s two top-flight matches.

Bournemouth vs. Southampton — 8:30 a.m. ET on NBCSN

The Cherries enter the weekend four points clear of the bottom three in England, but a victory over Southampton could potentially propel the side above their opponent.

Eddie Howe‘s squad is coming off of a 2-1 home defeat to Burnley on Wednesday, so the quick turnaround will test Bournemouth’s fortitude. Overall, the Cherries are unbeaten in three of their last five matches, with their only two losses coming to top 6 sides (Chelsea & Burnley).

Meanwhile, Mauricio Pellegrino’s team has had a rough go of things as of late with matches against Liverpool, Burnley and Man City all going in favor of the PL top dogs. The only win in Southampton’s last four came last weekend with a convincing 4-1 win over struggling Everton.

In this fixture, the Saints have had Bournemouth’s number as of late, picking up points in seven of their last eight meetings (5W, 2D, 1L).

Manchester City vs. West Ham United — 11 a.m. ET on NBCSN

Can anyone stop the Citizens? It seems to be a legitimate question as Guardiola’s men continue to trudge along at the top of the PL.

[ MORE: Chelsea cruises past Newcastle after Hazard brace ]

City’s form to start the season has many wondering if the Manchester side will amass Chelsea’s points record set back in 2004/05 when the Blues recorded 95 points. At the moment, the Citizens have secured 40 points out of a possible 42, and the side would acquire nearly 112 points if it kept up its current pace of 2.85 points per game.

Of course, that’s slightly unrealistic.

The numbers certainly aren’t on the side of West Ham, who lost all three fixtures to City last season by a combined scoreline of 12-1.

Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez and Andy Carroll remains out for the Hammers, while Winston Reid looks like he’ll also be on the shelf for David Moyes‘ group.

Bournemouth 2-1 Brighton: Cherries come back for first points

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  • Sonny March put Brighton up after halftime
  • Andrew Surman and Jermain Defoe brought the Cherries back
  • Jordon Ibe produced two assists for Bournemouth

Jermain Defoe had done little through the first 70 minutes, and it seems that’s when he’s most dangerous. The former England international struck with 15 minutes to go, giving the Cherries their first win and first points of the 2017/18 Premier League season.

There was an opening 45 minutes. It was so awful that these two sentences will be all we have to describe it.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ] 

Don’t believe us? Fine, here’s one more sentence: the first half featured one shot on target, one corner, zero serious chances on goal, zero offside calls, seven fouls, and zero Brighton touches in the Bournemouth penalty area.

May we continue?

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings ]

Moving on to the second half, things were just as cagey, but Brighton began to attack with more venom. Shane Duffy had a header cleared off the line 51 minutes in. That would prove prophetic, as the visitors scored minutes later. A wonderful through-ball down the left sprung Pascal Gross, and he delivered a pinpoint cross to the head of Solly March who headed in from point-blank range.

The game opened up ,and Bournemouth responded, leveling things up 10 minutes later. Jordon Ibe produced a wonderful back-heel assist to put Andrew Surman on the ball, and the 31-year-old South African skipped past a defender and delivered the ball into the far corner of the net.

The Cherries nearly got another as Ibe collected a poor Brighton clearance at the top of the box and rifled on net, with the shot destined for the far corner but blocked by a sliding Lewis Dunk. During that chance, Gross was injured under a challenge from Nathan Ake and required a physio visit. That forced him off momentarily, and soon after the restart before Gross could come back on, the Cherries struck with the temporary advantage.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

Ibe again played creator as he stayed on the ball under heavy contact, feeding Defoe with an outside-foot pass. The 34-year-old took his chance, burying the shot past Maty Ryan for a 2-1 lead in the 73rd minute. The goal is his first of the season.

That was it the rest of the way, as Brighton had little ability to push the attack to look for a late point.

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ] 

The points for Bournemouth were massive, moving them out of 19th and even with Leicester City and West Ham. That leaves Crystal Palace as the only team without a point this season. Brighton remains in 14th with four points.

Premier League Preview: Bournemouth vs. Manchester City

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  • Raheem Sterling has scored five Premier League goals against Bournemouth; more than versus any club in the competition. This includes his only Premier League hat-trick in October 2015.
  • Sergio Aguero has scored in seven successive Premier League away appearances. Only Robin Van Persie (nine matches) has a better run.
  • Benjamin Mendy could make his Manchester City debut.
  • Bournemouth will be without Simon Francis (hamstring), Junior Stanislas (groin) and Callum Wilson (knee), but Jermain Defoe is close to full fitness after recovering from a groin strain.

Manchester City is looking to continue its unbeaten run as it travels to face the Cherries of AFC Bournemouth (Watch live at 7:30 a.m. ET Saturday on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

Pep Guardiola‘s side is coming off a hard-fought 1-1 draw with Everton but Guardiola is still phasing in some of the team’s new signings, including Bernardo Silva and Benjamin Mendy, who could make his debut this weekend, especially with the suspension of Kyle Walker.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

The Cherries meanwhile are off to a tough start, dropping to 16th in the Premier League with losses to West Bromwich Albion and Watford in the first two weeks. Having Jermain Defoe finally fit and a midweek win over Birmingham City in the EFL Cup could be enough to lift the club’s spirits ahead of a tough challenge with Manchester City.

What they’re saying

Pep Guardiola on Bournemouth: “The Premier League is so complicated, so special. Sometimes in Champions League the teams they play and they let you play. Bournemouth are a team who want to play. The manager is so good in those terms. They did a fantastic season last season. Okay, They start with two defeats but sometimes that can happen, it’s just the beginning.”

Bournemouth manager Eddie Howe on his team’s start: “It gets tougher every year, the competition gets more intense and the players get better. This will be the hardest Premier League ever because it’s the most recent one. With the money in the Premier League now the standard of the players coming in is always improving and that makes it ever-harder for each team to compete. It’s a challenge we always look forward to taking on.”

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Prediction

History says this is Manchester City’s game to lose and based on the way both teams have started this season, there’s no reason to believe it won’t be a similar outcome, even with Man City on the road. Manchester City 3-1 Bournemouth