Premier League previews 2017-18

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PL preview: Man City vs. Leicester City

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  • Man City 13 points clear of everyone in title race
  • Leicester up to 8th after slow start, managerial change
  • Man City unbeaten at home; Leicester just 3 away wins

For the first time since August (not including international breaks), Manchester City are fresh off an entire week between games, and it couldn’t have happened at a worse time, as far as Leicester City, who visit the Etihad Stadium on Saturday (Watch live, 12:30 p.m. ET, on NBC and NBCSports.com), are concerned.

After making serious headway in the Premier League (runaway leaders and champions-elect), Champions League (group winners, into the round of 16), FA Cup (into the fifth round) and League Cup (into the final), Pep Guardiola‘s side found itself in dire need of an extended (if you considered seven days a long time) break, as fatigued bodies and injuries to key players have piled up in recent weeks. Mercifully, defender John Stones and midfield maestro David Silva are expected to be available for selection come Saturday.

[ LIVE: Stream every Premier League game

Leicester’s recent struggles (loss to Everton, draw with Swansea City), following a particularly purple patch (just one defeat in 11 games from Sept. 30 to Dec. 13) during the middle third of the already-completed portion of the season, was in many ways spurred by Man City, who, whether intentionally or not, unsettle the Foxes’ star attacker, Riyad Mahrez, with a transfer deadline day approach which proved to be unsuccessful. Mahrez then refused to report for training or make himself available for selection the following week, before returning on Friday. He will not feature for the Foxes on Saturday.

Kelechi Iheanacho, who made a $33-million move from Man City to Leicester in the summer, is still seeking his first PL goal (he has five between the FA and League Cups) for his new club. The 21-year-old has featured more prominently in recent weeks (starts in three of Leicester’s last five games – all competitions), and might just continue to do so in the absence of Shinji Okazaki (knee), who’s frequently deployed as a forward/midfielder tweener just behind Jamie Vardy.

INJURIES: Man City — OUT: Leroy Sane (ankle), Fabian Delph (knee), Gabriel Jesus (knee), Benjamin Mendy (knee); QUESTIONABLE: David Silva (oblique); RETURNING: John Stones (knee) | Leicester — OUT: Riyad Mahrez (personal), Shinji Okazaki (knee), Wes Morgan (hamstring)

What they’re saying…

Pep Guardiola, on City’s busy season: “We have had a lot of games since August, with just one midweek off, so we needed it. We made three good training sessions and then we come back. We love to play football but when you play every three days in three or four competitions, sometimes a break is good for everybody because you come back stronger. Everybody (had a rest). The physios, chef…everybody.”

Claude Puel, on Mahrez: “I think Riyad is not available for Saturday’s game. I hope Riyad can get his head right and come back with us and work hard. The best way is for him to come back and enjoy his football. He is a magnificent player and he enjoys his football. He loves his teammates, and that’s important. He loves to touch the football but he needs to come back right.”

Prediction

Man City have won 12 straight PL games at home (18 across all competitions), outscoring opponents 44-8 during that time (55-11 including other competitions), a run which should leave Leicester with very little hope of earning anything at the Etihad. Man City 3-0 Leicester.

PL preview: Tottenham Hotspur vs. Arsenal

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  • Tottenham 5th in PL, 1 point back of Chelsea
  • Arsenal 6th, 4 points back of Spurs
  • Arsenal won first meeting this season, 2-0

In the Premier League, the paths that clubs take matter very little, for over the course of a 38-game season, they typically end up right where they belong. Long winless skids are evened out by runs of good fortune and fortuitous results, and vice versa.

Take, for example, Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal, the north London powers who have finished five of the last eight seasons occupying consecutive places(*) in the final Premier League table; they were separated by just one spot in two of the other three(**); last season was the lone exception, when Tottenham finished second and Arsenal finished fifth.

TOT ARS
2009-10* 4th 3rd
2010-11* 5th 4th
2011-12* 4th 3rd
2012-13* 5th 4th
2013-14** 6th 4th
2014-15** 5th 3rd
2015-16* 3rd 2nd
2016-17 2nd 5th

The current season, like so many to precede it, has seen Spurs and Arsenal set out in drastically different directions — Spurs were the side who thrashed their Champions League group, which included Real Madrid and Borussia Dortmund, while the Gunners suffered the indignity of the Europa League — but after six and a half months of the PL season, they enter Saturday’s north London derby (Watch live, 7:30 a.m. ET, on CNBC and NBCSports.com) with not another soul standing between them.

[ LIVE: Stream every Premier League game

There will almost certainly only be room for one of the two — if any — inside the top-four this season. Thus, Saturday’s clash at Wembley Stadium will carry a great deal of added incentive, particularly for Arsenal, who not only hope to overthrow Spurs, and Chelsea and/or Liverpool, for a top-four finish, but also to re-establish their superiority in north London after finishing behind Spurs last season for the first time in 22 years.

Spurs are the side in far better form over the last six games (12 points to 8), though they’ve also endured a more taxing period of fixtures thanks to their ongoing participation in the FA Cup, including a replay against League Two side Newport County on Wednesday, as well as clashes with fellow top-five sides Manchester United and Liverpool. Harry Kane joined the PL’s 100-goal club last weekend against Liverpool, and the two-time defending (soon-to-be three?) Golden Boot winner has 13 goals to his name in his last 10 appearances (all competitions).

INJURIES: Spurs — PROBABLE: Lucas Moura (fitness) | Arsenal — OUT: Santi Cazorla (achilles); QUESTIONABLE: Danny Welbeck (hamstring); DOUBTFUL: Petr Cech (calf)

What they’re saying…

Mauricio Pochettino, on the strength of two sides: “Arsenal will be tough to play, they have good quality, talented players and are one of the best teams in the league. I cannot say if they look stronger or not than they were since their new signings. We are focused on us. I don’t care. They play with 11, we play with 11.”

Arsene Wenger, on the rivalry: “There is always huge passion before the game and the emotion at stake means it becomes a bit more agitated; but this season, if you look at the table, this is a very important game. For us, it is an opportunity to come back closer to the Champions League places, which is a priority.”

Prediction

A frantic pace. Disjointed play. Hard, desperate tackles flying in from all directions. Everything you expect from a frenzied, consequential derby of this caliber. Plus, a Harry Kane goal or two. Spurs 3-2 Arsenal.

Premier League Preview: Manchester United v Huddersfield Town

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  • Town won 2-1 at home on Oct. 21
  • Second meeting since 1972
  • Man Utd leads all-time 20W-15D-11L

Manchester United looks to make amends for an early season upset when it hosts Huddersfield Town on Saturday at Old Trafford (Watch live at 10 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

United boss Jose Mourinho admitted Friday that the Premier League title race is essentially over, as the race for the Top Four thickens with Liverpool, Chelsea, and Spurs all within five points of the Red Devils.

WATCH LIVE, ONLINE, HERE

Those three points against United feel massive right now considering Town is just a point ahead of the drop zone, dead even with Stoke City for the worst goal differential in the PL.

Town is winless in seven PL matches, with the last four being losses.

There will be a minute’s silence before the game to remember the Manchester United members who died in the Munich Air Disaster, which took place 60 years ago on Feb. 6, 1958.

What they’re saying

United’s Romelu Lukaku on his season: “It’s started really well. I think I started really well but then I had a setback for about two months where I didn’t play well. But, like the rest of the team, I’ve started 2018 really well so we have to keep going, keep working hard, improve and get results. It’s a situation where obviously I’m a striker first so I think about scoring goals, but sometimes there were moments where I was doing much more for the team, things which would benefit the team, so that’s the most important thing.”

Huddersfield boss David Wagner on Saturday’s match“Nobody expects anything from us, so we can take this game with total freedom. This makes the behaviour of the players a little more positive, but it usually will be in these moments we have now. In the end, it’s a usual working routine because the most important thing is being totally focused on yourself and your work. Be focused on your daily work, make sure everything you can influence as good as you can and prepare yourself for every challenge. Don’t overthink and don’t get driven away in a positive or negative way, be focused, calm and make your day by day work. This is the most important thing you have to do in situations that we have, or we had.”

Prediction

The deck feels stacked against Huddersfield Town, and who are we to bet against United at home against a reeling club. Manchester United 3-0.

PL preview: Liverpool, Arsenal hit the road in race for 4th

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After taking the weekend off for the fourth round of the FA Cup, the Premier League returns with a full slate of midweek fixtures, beginning on Tuesday…

[ MORE: PL TV schedule — Tuesday & Wednesday ]

Swansea City vs. Arsenal — 2:45 p.m. ET, on NBC Sports Gold

With Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur each dropping points in their last league game, Arsenal took advantage with a resounding 4-1 victory over Crystal Palace and closed the gap between themselves and the Reds to five points (three back of Tottenham) in the top-four race. For one 90-minute period, at least, “addition by subtraction” appealed to Gunners fans who had accepted Alexis Sanchez would leave the club this month, as he did last week in exchange for Henrikh Mkhitaryan. Tuesday’s visit to the Liberty Stadium, where Arsene Wenger‘s side will take on last-place (and three points away from safety) Swansea, should see the Armenian playmaker make his debut for the club. Wenger has insisted that Mkhitaryan and Mesut Ozil, a world-class playmaker himself, will play together.

“Yes, our intention is (to play them together),” Wenger said this week. “As I have said before, we signed Mkhitaryan on a long-term contract and our intention is to keep Ozil at the club and hopefully we will manage to do that very soon.”

It was Swansea, meanwhile, who did Arsenal the massive favor of knocking off Liverpool last Monday, and in the process breathed life into their own fight against relegation. Carlos Carvalhal’s side has collected seven points from their last four PL games and has begun to believe that a 17th-place finish is possible.

“When you’re in this position, you want the team to show character and that we’re fighting to get ourselves out of danger,” goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski said. “You also have to make it hard for the opposition and, when you do that, you always have a chance to get something out of it and we were rewarded for the performance [against Liverpool].”

West Ham United vs. Crystal Palace — 2:45 p.m. ET, on NBC Sports Gold

It’s been something of a roller-coaster season for West Ham, who find themselves right where they were expected to be — 11th in the PL table, two points out of 9th — after 24 of 38 rounds. After winning just two of their first 15 league games, David Moyes has guided a once-wayward ship to positive results in eight of his side’s last nine league games. Last time out, though, the Hammers suffered a somewhat embarrassing defeat to League One leaders Wigan Athletic in the fourth round of the FA Cup.

“We didn’t play well at Wigan but I would hope there was a bit of an understanding that, with the team we took up there, it was always going to be a struggle,” Moyes said in the aftermath. I said after the game that I don’t think, unless we had our best team out, we had a realistic chance of winning because I don’t think you can go to these clubs with less than your best team; maybe one or two players out, but not what we had out for the game.”

Palace, meanwhile, have quickly overcome their horrendous start to the season (zero points won and zero goals scored in their first seven games), and find themselves comfortably in 13th place just shy of the two-thirds mark of the season — even if they’re still only five points clear of the relegation zone. Roy Hodgson‘s men have lost just two of 13 league games.

Huddersfield Town vs. Liverpool — 3 p.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

Liverpool also went out of the FA Cup on the weekend, as Jurgen Klopp‘s side fell to relegation battlers West Bromwich Albion at Anfield. Couple that with last week’s defeat away to Swansea, which snapped a 14-game unbeaten run in the PL, and the Reds enter Tuesday’s visit to Huddersfield having lost back-to-back games for the first time all season. While Spurs and Arsenal loom not far behind, Liverpool also sit just three points back of Chelsea for third. In order to chase and catch the Blues, though, captain Jordan Henderson knows his side will need to maintain a strong mental approach following setbacks.

“Teams that go on to be successful always respond in a positive way. If you look at us last season there were moments where we stumbled, but we got straight back on our feet, likewise this season. I think it can become a characteristic of this team and this dressing room that we don’t sink after a loss – we make sure they are infrequent and the impact isolated.”

Huddersfield, on the other hand, have endured nothing but setbacks of late — the Terriers are winless in their last six league games and have slipped to within two points of the relegation zone after a strong start to the season. After Liverpool leave Kirklees Stadium on Tuesday, up next is a visit to Old Trafford, where they’ll face second-place Manchester Untied. No rest for the weary.

Wednesday’s PL schedule

Chelsea vs. Bournemouth — 2:45 p.m. ET, on NBC Sports Gold
Everton vs. Leicester City — 2:45 p.m. ET, on NBC Sports Gold
Newcastle United vs. Burnley — 2:45 p.m. ET, on NBC Sports Gold
Southampton vs. Brighton & Hove Albion — 2:45 p.m. ET, on NBC Sports Gold
Tottenham Hotspur vs. Manchester United — 3 p.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com
Man City vs. West Bromwich Albion, 3 p.m. ET, on NBC Sports Gold
Stoke City vs. Watford — 3 p.m. ET, on NBC Sports Gold

PL Sunday preview: Man City go for 19; WBA-Arsenal

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How much longer can Manchester City keep up to their winning ways in the Premier League? Their latest test comes on Sunday…

[ PL ROUNDUP: Chelsea leapfrog Man United for 2nd ]

Crystal Palace vs. Manchester City — 7 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

At some point, one would presume, Man City will lose a PL game again. Whether or not it happens this season is the storyline on everyone’s mind: they’re 20 games through the 38-game campaign, and yet to taste domestic defeat. Sunday’s trip to Selhurst Park will afford Pep Guardiola‘s side the opportunity to make it 19 straight wins, thus extending their own English top-flight record. After winning three straight by a combined score of 12-1, Wednesday’s 1-0 victory over Newcastle United felt uncharacteristically laborious for the Citizens, but they held on to turn Raheem Sterling‘s 31st-minute goal (his team-leading 13th of the PL season) into the winner.

“I don’t think anyone is really thinking about records,” Sterling said this week. “They’re nice to have on your CV but we have to keep winning and getting three points. Records only stand for a certain amount of time. Three points add to the table.

After a dreadful start to the season (they didn’t win a point — or score a goal — until game no. 8), Crystal Palace put together a seven-game unbeaten run starting in mid-November, only to see all their hard work go up in flames in Thursday’s 3-2 home defeat to Arsenal. Sunday’s clash with a record-setting City side is, to put it lightly, hardly an ideal opportunity for Roy Hodgson‘s to get back to winning ways.

INJURIES: Crystal Palace — OUT: Mamadou Sakho (calf), Connor Wickham (knee), Chung-Young Lee (hamstring) | Man City — OUT: Vincent Kompany (calf), John Stones (hamstring), Benjamin Mendy (knee)

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

It’s no 18-game winning streak, but Arsenal do enter Sunday’s trip to The Hawthorns with a five-game unbeaten run in tow — that’s the positive spin. Here’s the negative from the other side: the Gunners have won just two of those five games and have fallen behind Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur while slipping to sixth place (from fourth) in the PL table. The victory over Palace did see Arsene Wenger‘s side overcome a bit of adversity, as they were pegged back to 1-1 after taking an early lead. Alexis Sanchez responded with a second-half brace just four minutes apart. Palace finished the game with a second goal a furious fight for an equalizer, and Wenger was largely pleased with the result.

“Overall, I think it was a very good, positive performance. We were fluid going forward and controlled the game well,” he said. “At half-time it was 1-0, but it should have been more and then of course at some stage the home team who fights against relegation will come at you. I thought we had two good chances and after it was just down to 1-1, then we showed resources and character, were leading 3-1 and controlled the game quite well, but at 3-2 we became quite nervy again and we finished in a bit of a less controlled way, but overall it was a good team performance.”

West Bromwich Albion are currently the anti-Man City: having won their first two games of the season, the Baggies are without a win in their last 18 PL games and have fallen into 20th place, currently three points behind Palace who sit just outside the relegation zone. Similar to the Eagles, West Brom have a genuine mountain to climb if they’re to reverse fortunes on Sunday.

INJURIES: West Brom — OUT: Salomon Rondon (hamstring), Nacer Chadli (thigh), James Morrison (calf) | Arsenal — OUT: Olivier Giroud (hamstring), Aaron Ramsey (hamstring), Nacho Monreal (ankle), Santi Cazorla (achilles)