Mark Hughes

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Top PL Storylines; Top Four fortunes, final impressions, Mou’s kids

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There’s neither title nor relegation drama as the Premier League hits Championship Sunday, but the table is far from set.

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There’s the Top Four to consider, but you know that, and the midtable is also in play. With approximately $2.6 million per place, some teams could gain or lose $10-plus million on Sunday.


Who will go to the UEFA Champions League?

Arsenal vs. Everton — 10 a.m. ET on NBC and online via NBCSports.com
Liverpool vs. Middlesbrough — 10 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com
Watford vs. Man City — 10 a.m. ET on USA and online via NBCSports.com

It’s as simple as this: Whether they start fast or slow, Liverpool and Manchester City control their destinies in the race for the Top Four. A point will do it for Man City, while Liverpool needs a win to ensure its spot. Arsenal needs a win and either a Man City loss or a Liverpool draw. There are tiebreaking scenarios…

According to The Sun, If Arsenal draw 1-1 Everton and Liverpool lose 0-2 against Middlesbrough the teams would be forced into a tie-breaker after finishing level on points, goal difference and goals scored.

Champs and their captain vs. the Championship

Chelsea vs. Sunderland — 10 a.m. ET online via NBCSports.com

Chelsea’s players have one final chance to impress Antonio Conte before the FA Cup Final, and the boss may hand John Terry one final start at Stamford Bridge. Meanwhile, Sunderland would relish one last big result before a season in the second tier.

Will the kids be alright?

Manchester United vs. Crystal Palace — 10 a.m. ET online via NBCSports.com

Jose Mourinho is going to play a host of youngsters on Sunday, and Paul Pogba will return. This is a club that loves promoting its youth, and would love to see some new Old Trafford heroes take care of business against Big Sam Allardyce and mercurial Palace.

What impression will Puel, Hughes leave?

Southampton vs. Stoke City — 10 a.m. ET online via NBCSports.com

Mark Hughes feels safer than Claude Puel, but both Stoke City and Southampton underachieved this season (at least in terms of total points produced). Puel led his club to a EFL Cup final and didn’t look bad in UEFA Europa League play, but has still be under fire at St. Mary’s. Hughes had a head-scratching year at the bet365 Stadium. A positive impression would help either heading into the summer.

Premier League Preview: Stoke City vs. Arsenal

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  • Arsenal won 3-1 on Dec. 10
  • Stoke unbeaten in six home matches vs. Gunners
  • Arsenal leads all-time 55W-24D-25L

Stoke City hopes to extend Arsenal’s bet365 Stadium woes when the Potters host the Top Four hopeful Gunners on Saturday (Watch live at 12:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

The Gunners have three draws and three losses in their last six trips to Stoke City, which is enduring a disappointing season. The Potters can still finish top half, but were hoping for much more from Mark Hughes‘ bunch this season.

That disappointment is nothing compared to the failings of Arsenal, which needs either Liverpool or Manchester City to trip up in the final fortnight of the season in order to have a chance at a Top Four slot

 

What they’re saying

Stoke City’s Mark Hughes on faring well vs. Arsenal: “I have always liked going up against Arsenal teams, as a player and a manager, because they are one of the best teams in Europe and you always want to test yourself. They will always test you with pace, power and technical ability. You’ve got to get your own game right and negate their threat – and have a threat going the other way.”

Arsene Wenger on visiting Stoke“Overall, I must say as well that they have had good teams. Stoke are now regular participants in the Premier League for years, and that means that anybody who goes there is in trouble. We have to show character again. We know we have to play to win the games, so let’s keep the focus on the way we want to play and on our team spirit.”

Prediction

Stoke’s remarkable streak continues, just, with a 1-1 draw against the Gunners.

Premier League Preview: Swansea City vs. Stoke City

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  • Potters won 3-1 on Halloween
  • Stoke leads all-time 25W-21D-21L
  • 5W-3D-3L in Premier League

Swansea City’s safety fight gets a Saturday visit from a Stoke City side seeking club history (Watch live at 10 a.m. ET on CNBC and online via NBCSports.com).

Swans are two points back of Hull City for 17th and have been ice cold in recent weeks, failing to build on a remarkable run at the turn of the calendar. Since winning five of eight to start 2017, Swans are winless in six with just a single point gained in a visit from Middlesbrough.

Stoke hasn’t been great shakes, either, though perhaps the Potters woke up in snapping a four-match losing skid with a 3-1 win at Hull City last week. They also have the goal of finishing in the Premier League’s top half for an unprecedented fourth-straight season.

What they’re saying

Swans captain Leon Britton on the import of win“Stoke is the biggest game we have had in a long time. And whenever we have had big games in the past, our fans have always played a vital role for us. They have helped us achieve all the things we have achieved during my time at the club and we need them to do it again for us now.”

Stoke boss Mark Hughes on facing a struggling foe“We need to go to Swansea and understand their situation and capitalize on it. The key is to suck confidence from them.I’m sure Paul Clement is enjoying the experience of managing in the Premier League even if it’s a difficult situation for him.”

Prediction

Stoke has a bunch of battlers, and that character will serve it well against a desperate Swans. Expect both teams to strike in a 1-1 draw.

Mourinho: English managers need different standards

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Jose Mourinho may sound like he’s patronizing, but we’re pretty sure this is legit praise.

Asked about British managers, namely his Saturday opponent Tony Pulis of West Bromwich Albion, Mourinho said they need to be viewed for non-traditional trophies.

You know, like not being relegated.

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Certainly Mourinho enjoys stirring the pot, but we think his comments — and inclusion of ex-United and current Sunderland boss David Moyes — is genuine (Stoke’s Mark Hughes, ex-Man City, also is mentioned):

“If you manage big teams – Real Madrid, Inter, Barca, Bayern, Juve, Borussia Dortmund – you have targets. Obviously those targets are impossible for people like Tony Pulis, Alan Pardew, Mark Hughes, David Moyes.

“Tony got trophies everywhere. By trophies I mean not relegated with Stoke, West Brom, Crystal Palace. He has lots of trophies. He has reached his targets. Like Sam Allardyce – never relegated. You don’t expect him to be the champion.

“English managers are not looked at like they should.”

Mourinho is disliked and vilified by many, and his strong criticisms have landed him a bit of a pathos; It’s difficult to think he’s being a jerk with these comments, but if you want to read them this way you can, and many will happily do so.

Ultimately, he’s commenting from a pragmatic position.

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Stoke’s Hughes senses Arsenal could win Premier League

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A longtime Manchester United player who managed two sides in London, this probably stings a bit for Mark Hughes.

The Stoke City boss has admitted he’s feeling positive about Arsenal’s chances at a run to the Premier League title this season.

[ MORE: Swans committed to Bradley ]

Hughes, 53, leads his Potters into the Emirates Stadium for a 10 a.m. EDT Saturday date with the Gunners, and knows the challenge is high.

The manager has the Potters up to ninth after a poor start to the season, and Stoke is closer to sixth than the relegation stew.

From the BBC:

“Arsenal, as a team, look in good shape and whilst we have a lot of confidence, given their form too, it isn’t a good time to play them.

“At times, Arsenal have struggled with consistency, and it has cost them, but you sense this could be their year. It’s important for us to give ourselves an opportunity to get something out of the game, we need to stay in the match and frustrate them.”

This week’s match with Arsenal kicks off a four-week run that goes Arsenal, Saints, Leicester, Liverpool, Chelsea.

Follow @NicholasMendola