Premier League previews 2016-17

PL Sunday preview: WHL’s final game; West Ham-Liverpool

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A selection of bounties on the line on Sunday: Hull City could be officially relegated from the Premier League; Liverpool’s hopes of a top-four finish; Tottenham Hotspur’s first second-place finish since 1963, and one final fond memory at White Hart Lane.

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Crystal Palace vs. Hull City — 7 a.m. ET, on CNBC and NBCSports.com

Swansea City’s win over Sunderland on Saturday was extremely bad news for Hull: the Tigers now sit four points adrift of the Swans in the first place outside the relegation zone, meaning a loss to Palace on Sunday would see Marco Silva‘s side head back to the Championship after one season in the PL (Palace currently sit one place ahead of Swansea, level on 38 points). If there exists an ideal side for Hull to face in this moment, it’s Palace, who have lost three straight league games and slipped right back into the relegation battle. A win or draw on Sunday would secure their PL status for another season. A loss, on the other hand, would make things very interesting ahead of next Sunday’s finale.

INJURIES: Crystal Palace — OUT: Mamadou Sakho (knee); QUESTIONABLE: Yohan Cabaye (knock), James Tomkins (ankle), Scott Dann (knee) | Hull — OUT: Lazar Markovic (ankle), Ryan Mason (head), David Meyler (knee)

[ MORE: Saturday’s PL roundup — Arsenal alive and fighting for 4th ]

West Ham United vs. Liverpool — 9:15 a.m. ET, on CNBC and NBCSports.com

At the other end of the table, Liverpool’s scoreless draw with Southampton left the door wide open for Arsenal, who now sit just a single point back of Jurgen Klopp‘s Reds in the race for fourth. A trip to the London Stadium, where West Ham shocked Tottenham last weekend, is hardly the ideal fixture given the precarious position in which they currently find themselves.

“We all know about the situation and the players want to qualify, want to play in this fantastic tournament, as I want,” Klopp said at his Friday news conference. “The players we are talking to, because they are all good players, I know they have offers from other clubs (and) maybe they play Champions League or not, or whatever.

“It’s important — how it is always important — for the club. Everybody knows it’s a lot of money in the Champions League, it’s not only the sports challenge, even though it’s really exciting, it’s also the money you can earn and as a football club we have to do this too.”

INJURIES: West Ham — OUT: Mark Noble (abdomen), Cheikhou Kouyate (wrist), Diafra Sakho (back), Andy Carroll (groin), Pedro Obiang (ankle), Michail Antonio (hamstring) | Liverpool — OUT: Sadio Mane (knee), Jordan Henderson (foot); QUESTIONABLE: Roberto Firmino (lower body)

[ MORE: Fulham, Reading level after leg 1 of promotion playoffs ]

Tottenham Hotspur vs. Man United — 11:30 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

After standing tall in North London for 118 years, Sunday’s clash between Tottenham and Manchester United will be the final time a ball is kicked at White Hart Lane. Beginning next week, demolishing will begin to make room for the completion of the club’s brand new, 61,000-seat stadium. We already know Spurs will be in the UEFA Champions League next season, but a win on Sunday would clinch a second-place finish for the first time in 54 years (a draw would all but do the same, with Manchester City needing to overturn 14 goals in the goal differential column).

“(Sunday’s game) will be special for the people who love Tottenham, and at the same time it will be exciting to go to the new stadium,” Mauricio Pochettino said. “But the soil and the smell of White Hart Lane will still be there.”

INJURIES: Tottenham — OUT: Erik Lamela (hip), Harry Winks (ankle); QUESTIONABLE: Danny Rose (knee) | Man United — OUT: Zlatan Ibrahimovic (knee), Marcos Rojo (knee), Luke Shaw (foot), Marouane Fellaini (suspension), Timothy Fosu-Mensah (shoulder), Ashley Young (hamstring)

PL Sunday preview: Last chance saloon for Man United, Arsenal

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24 hours from right now, the Premier League’s top-four race could be clear as crystal… just as likely, though, Sunday’s pair of games, featuring three-fourths of the four-team battle for two UEFA Champions League places, could leave the league table far less clear than its already muddled state.

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Liverpool vs. Southampton — 8:30 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

The math surrounding Liverpool’s Champions League chase is extremely simple: if they win their final three games of the season, they can finish no worse than fourth; so much as two points dropped over their final three games, and the door is opened for Manchester United (who trail by four points, but have a game in hand) to leapfrog Jurgen Klopp‘s Reds. The run-in begins Sunday, when Claude Puel‘s 12th-place Southampton visit Anfield.

With just one defeat from their last nine PL games, only Tottenham Hotspur have won more points than Liverpool during that period. Had it not been the disastrous start to the 2017 calendar year (zero wins from five games, and just three total points), the Reds would be right alongside Tottenham right now, battling for a second-place finish behind runaway leaders Chelsea. The past is the past, though, and Klopp is keen to finish his first full season as Liverpool manager inside the top-four.

“The plan is for Sunday that we can use Anfield,” Klopp said when appraising his team’s top-four chances. “I know how it is, for some people it’s maybe a nervy situation and they bite on their (nails) and think, ‘hopefully, hopefully, hopefully it can happen.’

“But we need to be brave, we need to enjoy the game, we need to play football, we need to defend very serious and if possible, to use the crowd, creating a special atmosphere.”

INJURIES: Liverpool — OUT: Sadio Mane (knee), Jordan Henderson (foot); QUESTIONABLE: Philippe Coutinho (leg) | Southampton — OUT: Virgil Van Dijk (ankle), Charlie Austin (fitness)

[ MORE: Saturday’s PL roundup — The day Swansea staved off relegation? ]

Arsenal vs. Manchester United — 11 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

As stated above, Man United, having to make up a four-point gap, need a bit of help if they’re to finish in the top-four. Arsenal, on the other hand, must overcome a nine-point deficit (with two games in hand) to Liverpool in order to extend Arsene Wenger‘s streak of 20 straight seasons finishing fourth or better.

In a strange twist of priorities, Jose Mourinho has decided to focus his side’s full energy and efforts on winning the Europa League, rather than chasing a top-four finish which he says the Red Devils “lost [the] chance to fight for” in drawing 1-1 with Swansea City last weekend. Thus, the lineup the Portuguese puts out to face Arsenal might just be full of reserve and academy players.

“The players who have accumulated lots of minutes are not going to play next weekend,” Mourinho told BBC without naming names. “We are not going to Arsenal to say, ‘beat us 5-0 or 6-0.’ We are going there to fight for a result but it’s impossible. I cannot do it another way.

“If Celta were playing with their best team and, if Celta were fighting for important things in La Liga, we would go (into the second leg) in the same circumstances but I cannot play the same team that played here (at Estadio Baladios) and then we play again next Thursday. I think in the last match against Swansea, we lost our last chance to fight for the top four so I’m going to rest players.”

INJURIES: Arsenal — OUT: Granit Xhaka (ankle), Lucas Perez (fitness), Santi Cazorla (achilles); RETURNING: Shkodran Mustafi (thigh) | Man United — OUT: Zlatan Ibrahimovic (knee), Marcos Rojo (knee), Luke Shaw (foot), Marouane Fellaini (suspension), Timothy Fosu-Mensah (shoulder); QUESTIONABLE: Marcus Rashford (knee)

PL Sunday preview: North London derby; clarity for the top-four?

Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images & Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images
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There’s Super Sunday, and then there’s this Sunday, when six of the top seven sides in the Premier League will be in action…

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Manchester United vs. Swansea City — 7 a.m. ET, on CNBC and NBCSports.com

Injury crisis — noun: see, also: United, Manchester

With five games to go in the PL season, and a top-four place very much within reach — as well as the Europa League trophy — Jose Mourinho is without a half-dozen players whom would have been considered automatic first-choice starters at the season’s start (see below). Fortunately for him, he’s got players like Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial and Henrikh Mkhitaryan beyond anxious for additional playing time.

Following a 0-0 draw with Manchester City on Thursday, Man United have climbed to within two points of third-place Liverpool (with a game in hand), and control their own destiny as far as finishing in the top-four goes. Following three straight defeats to Swansea in 2014 and 2015, order has somewhat been restored with the Red Devils winning the last two meetings between the sides. As badly as United need three points to qualify for the UEFA Champions League, the Swans need them more in their bid to stave off relegation from the PL (they currently sit three points back of 17th-place Hull City, with a better goal differential).

INJURIES: Man United — OUT: Zlatan Ibrahimovic (knee), Paul Pogba (leg), Marcos Rojo (knee), Juan Mata (groin), Marouane Fellaini (suspension), Chris Smalling (knee), Phil Jones (toe) | Swansea — OUT: Angel Rangel (foot), Nathan Dyer (achilles), Wayne Routledge (hernia)

Everton vs. Chelsea — 9:05 a.m. ET, on CNBC and NBCSports.com

Sunday’s trip to Goodison Park, where they are winless in their last two visits (PL and FA Cup), looks to be Chelsea’s toughest remaining fixture as Antonio Conte‘s side seeks to lift the club’s fifth PL trophy (sixth in all eras). After a pair of losses in four games’ time saw their lead cut from 10 points to four, the Blues reasserted themselves as the team to beat with an FA Cup semifinal victory over Tottenham Hotspur, their last remaining challenger, and a convincing 4-2 victory over Southampton in league play on Tuesday.

INJURIES: Everton — OUT: Seamus Coleman (leg), Ramiro Funes Mori (knee), James McCarthy (hamstring), Yannick Bolasie (knee), Muhamed Besic (fitness) | Chelsea — OUT: None

[ MORE: Sunderland officially relegated to Championship ]

Middlesbrough vs. Manchester City — 9:05 a.m. ET, on NBCSports.com

Following that 0-0 draw in the Manchester derby, Man City remain fourth in the league table, a single point back of Liverpool (with a game in hand). Given the mathematics involved, their margin for error is greater than any of the three sides fighting for the final top Champions League places. With that said, a loss away to 19th-place Boro would be horrendous, season-defining result — one that would take their destiny out of their own hands and see them rely on results elsewhere to finish top-four in Pep Guardiola‘s first season.

INJURIES: Boro — OUT: Victor Valdes (ribs); QUESTIONABLE: Grant Leadbitter (hamstring) | Man City — OUT: John Stones (knock), Ilkay Gundogan (knee); QUESTIONABLE: Sergio Aguero (back), David Silva (ankle), Gabriel Jesus (fitness)

Tottenham Hotspur vs. Arsenal — 11:30 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

It was confirmed on Friday that Sunday’s North London derby would be the very last meeting between Tottenham and Arsenal ever played at White Hart Lane, as the 118-year-old stadium will be demolished this summer as construction on Spurs’ brand new, 61,000-seat stadium continues. As fate would have it, not only can Spurs round out the White Hart Lane era with another famous derby when at the Lane, but Sunday also offers Mauricio Pochettino‘s side the chance to do something the club has failed to do in each of the last 22 seasons: clinch a finish above Arsenal in the league table.

Everything is in Spurs’ favor, too, as they’ve won eight straight league games for just the third time in club history (the first time in the PL era), by a combined score of 23-4. Following back-to-back 4-0 wins, over Watford and Bournemouth, their title hopes were kept alive by a brilliant, late strike from Christian Eriksen on Wednesday at Selhurst Park. At the same time, Arsenal were fortunate to top Leicester City courtesy of a comical own goal scored by Robert Huth. If any of those things — stadium nostalgia, form, or current standing in the league (Spurs sit second, 14 points clear of the Gunners — mattered, we’d hand Spurs the three points now. But, this is still Spurs we’re talking about, and why would we ever skip out on the North London derby?

INJURIES: Tottenham — OUT: Erik Lamela (hip), Harry Winks (ankle), Michel Vorm (knee); QUESTIONABLE: Danny Rose (knee)| Arsenal — OUT: Santi Cazorla (achilles), Shkodran Mustafi (thigh); QUESTIONABLE: Laurent Koscielny (knee)

PL Sunday preview: Liverpool, Man Utd chasing top-four finishes

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Are Manchester United really in the top-four race? Will Liverpool sprint or stumble to the finish line? Are Burnley and Crystal Palace safe from relegation?

Questions to ponder ahead of Sunday’s slate of Premier League fixtures…

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

After eight sterling months (17 PL goals, 28 in all competitions), now begins the post-Zlatan Ibrahimovic era at Man United after the Swedish superstar suffered a “significant” knee injury (as did defender Marcos Rojo) during United’s Europa League triumph over Anderlecht on Thursday. 22 games unbeaten (12 wins, 10 draws) in league play, and United have not only kept pace with Liverpool and Manchester City in the race for a top-four finish, but closed the gap to six and four points, with two and one games in hand, respectively.

With Ibrahimovic out for the remainder of the season — and perhaps the rest of the calendar year — Marcus Rashford has already stepped up and assumed the role of line-leading, goal-scoring striker in his absence. Last weekend, Rashford started in place of a healthy Ibrahimovic and scored what turned out to be the winning goal against PL leaders Chelsea. The 19-year-old followed that up with the 107th-minute winner against Anderlecht to reach double-digit goals, including three in his last four games, for the first time in his career.

With the Manchester derby not far on the horizon (Thursday), a United win would move the Red Devils to within a single point of fourth-place Man City, with the two sides finally level on games played.

INJURIES: Burnley — QUESTIONABLE: Sam Vokes (hamstring), Johann Gudmundsson (knee) | Man United — OUT: Zlatan Ibrahimovic (knee), Marcos Rojo (knee), Juan Mata (groin), Chris Smalling (knee), Phil Jones (toe)

[ MORE: Chelsea beat Tottenham to reach FA Cup final ]

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

Unbeaten in their last seven PL games (five wins, two draws), Liverpool’s disastrous start to 2017 (zero wins in their first five games after New Years Day) has long faded from the rearview mirror. With signature victories over Arsenal and Everton, plus a convincing win over Tottenham Hotspur separating the above streaks, Jurgen Klopp‘s first full season at Anfield sits 450 minutes from achieving a goal thought improbable or impossible by many back in August: Champions League qualification.

Klopp, for one, is wary of coming up against Christian Benteke, not long a former Liverpool striker, in red-hot form (three goals and an assist in his last four games — two wins and a draw for Crystal Palace).

“He is obviously another player with confidence, in a good run and all that stuff,” Klopp said. “Like it is always when you play against Zlatan, other strikers, these kinds of strikers — tall, good with their back to the goal — you have to avoid the crosses and you have to avoid the passes. That’s how it works.

“If we let them cross 50 balls it’s pretty likely he will have a few dangerous headers. That’s not his only strength, of course, but that’s a real strength.”

INJURIES: Liverpool — OUT: Sadio Mane (knee), Adam Lallana (thigh), Jordan Henderson (foot), Danny Ings (knee); QUESTIONABLE: Joel Matip (knock), Daniel Sturridge (hip), Ragnar Klavan (knee) | Crystal Palace — OUT: Scott Dann (knee); QUESTIONABLE: Loic Remy (calf), James Tomkins (calf)

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.