PL Sunday preview: Man City’s title trot; Wenger’s farewell tour

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Manchester City will play as the confirmed champions of the Premier League, though they won’t celebrate as such for a couple more weeks, on Sunday. Meanwhile, the only manager Arsenal have known for more than two decades begins saying goodbye

[ MORE: Man United come back to beat Spurs, reach FA Cup final ]

Arsenal vs. West Ham United — 8:30 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

So begins the Arsene Wenger farewell tour, and with a London derby at that. Wenger announced on Friday that he’ll leave Arsenal at the end of the current season, which has little to no chance of seeing the Gunners finish in the PL’s top-five, let alone the top-four. Sunday’s clash with West Ham will be the first of Wenger’s three remaining games at the Emirates Stadium, including the Europa League semifinal against Atletico Madrid on Thursday. Unfortunately for Wenger, three of his final five PL games (four of seven in all competitions) will be played away from home, where his side has lost five straight in league play.

Speaking of lost and wayward seasons, 14th-place West Ham are almost mathematically clear of relegation (there’s currently three places and six points between themselves and 18th-place Southampton). It’s hardly the future they imagined upon moving to the London Stadium at the start of last season. Andy Carroll scored the late equalizer in the Hammers’ 1-1 draw with Stoke City on Monday, which rescued perhaps a perfectly timed point with all five remaining games to be played against sides currently in the top-nine (Arsenal, Man City, Leicester, Man United and Everton).

INJURIES: Arsenal — OUT: Henrikh Mkhitaryan (knee), Santi Cazorla (achilles); QUESTIONABLE: Jack Wilshere (ankle) | West Ham — OUT: James Collins (hamstring), Sam Byram (ankle), Winston Reid (knee), Michail Antonio (hamstring), Pedro Obiang (knee)


Stoke City vs. Burnley — 8:30 a.m. ET, on NBC Sports Gold

Here’s what’s at stake at the bet365 Stadium on Sunday:

Stoke sit two places and five points adrift of safety from relegation, with four games left to play (17th-place Swansea City have a game in hand, to boot). After 10 seasons in the PL, it’s looking more and more likely that Paul Lambert (with a tip of the cap to Mark Hughes earlier in the season) will take the Potters back to the Championship for the first time since they won promotion in 2008.

Burnley trail Arsenal by just two points (though the Clarets have played one more game than the Gunners) in the race for sixth place. A sixth-place finish would be the club’s highest top-flight finish since 1966 (3rd).

INJURIES: Stoke — QUESTIONABLE: Eric-Maxim Choupo-Moting (groin) | Burnley — OUT: Steven Defour (knee), Scott Arfield (calf), Robbie Brady (knee), Jonathan Walters (fitness); QUESTIONABLE: Ben Mee (knock), Georges-Kevin Nkoudou (hamstring)


Manchester City vs. Swansea City — 11:30 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

While Man City won’t lift the PL trophy until their May 6 clash with Huddersfield Town, Sunday’s visit from Swansea will be Pep Guardiola‘s side’s first outing since clinching the title courtesy of Man United’s defeat to West Bromwich Albion last weekend. Guardiola’s focus has turned to breaking the all-time PL points record (95 — they currently have 87 with five games still to play).

“In the past, I won the league at Bayern and at Barca with five, six or seven games (left) but the next games were not good,” he said this week. “We have to think about how many points we can get, it can be a good argument. What we need to do is already done, the points record is not the most important thing, but maybe it can help us to be focused. It would be uncomfortable to finish in a bad way, there always has to be a target and maybe scoring the most goals and winning the most points will be a good focus.”

INJURIES: Man City — OUT: Sergio Aguero (knee), Benjamin Mendy (knee); QUESTIONABLE: John Stones (thigh) | Swansea — OUT: Wilfried Bony (knee), Leroy Fer (achilles), Renato Sanches (hamstring)

England confirm friendly against USA

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England will host the U.S. men’s national team at Wembley Stadium in November.

The Three Lions confirmed the friendly on Wednesday, with the game to take place on Thursday, November 15 at the home of world soccer.

England and the USMNT haven’t played since the 2010 World Cup in South Africa when they drew 1-1 in the group stage, while the last time they met on English soil was in 2008 when John Terry and Steven Gerrard scored in a 2-0 friendly win at Wembley.

The Italian national team announced a friendly with the USMNT at a neutral venue for Nov. 20, but U.S. Soccer have yet to confirm they will play in either game.

Under interim head coach Dave Sarachan they are unbeaten in three friendlies with draws against Portugal and Bosnia and a narrow win against Paraguay in March.

The USMNT face Bolivia in Chester, Penn. on May 28, before heading to Europe to play the Republic of Ireland on June 2 and France on June 9 in friendlies before the 2018 World Cup starts.

That tournament in Russia is, of course, the first World Cup since 1986 that the USMNT won’t be at.

Sarachan is expected to stay in charge for the USMNT games through June and then U.S. Soccer will appoint a new head coach after the 2018 World Cup when plenty of candidates could become available.

Premier League Preview: West Ham United vs. Stoke City

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  • West Ham won 3-0 at Stoke on Dec. 16
  • Stoke have drawn last three at WHUFC
  • West Ham leads all-time 35W-25D-33L

West Ham United can go a long way toward clinching another season in the Premier League by piling woe on a Stoke City which really needs a win at the London Stadium on Monday (Watch live at 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

Stoke City is six points back of safety, and seven behind West Ham United. The Potters next face Burnley and Liverpool, before finishing with Crystal Palace and Swansea City.

WATCH LIVE, ONLINE, HERE

West Ham has rebounded from three-straight league losses to wallop Southampton and draw Chelsea, while Stoke is winless in nine with just four draws (The Potters have faced a murderer’s row of opponents lately, including Man City, Arsenal, and Spurs amongst their last four).

What they’re saying

West Ham manager David Moyes looks to Marko Arnautovic“The players look to him. He’s got a leadership role which he needs to develop as well for the team and for the club, because he is getting to an age where he has to influence the players around him, so he needs to lead by both his character and his performances, and his performances have done that in many ways. He is vocal in his own way. He has good humour, he’s a character and I’d like him to put that talking about what he can do in training. To get to the very top, he needs to keep his level of training very high.”

Stoke boss Paul Lambert on in-form Mame Biram Diouf“If you look at Mame’s games it’s clear that he gives you everything that he’s got. His work ethic and the way he goes about things is excellent. It’s not just on a match day it’s at the training ground as well. The way he conducts himself is first class and he does everything for the right reasons; the level of his performances has been very, very good. He needs a little bit of help up there as well at certain times but I think his performances have been first class.

Prediction

Premier League roundup: Pogba stars in derby; Merseyside snoozer

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Double Derby Day started with a snooze and ended with Manchester snapping the day awake with Manchester United’s comeback win over Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium.

[ MORE: Bayern wins Bundesliga (again) ]

All that and more inside the Saturday roundup.

Manchester City 2-3 Manchester UnitedRECAP

The hosts looked comfortable and dominant in building a 2-0 halftime lead on goals from Vincent Kompany and Ilkay Gundogan, but perhaps the pressure of knowing a derby win would clinch the league title was too much to handle for the blue side of Manchester.

Paul Pogba scored two goals in 97 seconds, Chris Smalling snatched a match-winner, and Alexis Sanchez played a role in all three goals as Jose Mourinho’s men stymied City’s title hopes for the time being with a thrilling 3-2 win at the Etihad Stadium.

Everton 0-0 Liverpool — RECAP

Sam Allardyce‘s Toffees couldn’t finish their chances against a “B Team” Liverpool which still controlled the ball and outshot Everton 10-6 in a dull Merseyside Derby draw.

 

Watford 1-2 Burnley RECAP

The Clarets won their fourth-straight in ensuring their status as a Europa League participant if seventh place qualifies for the tournament. Sam Vokes and Jack Cork scored twice in three minutes to lead a comeback after Roberto Pereyra put the Hornets in front. Burnley is six points clear of Leicester with six matches each to play.

Stoke City 1-2 Tottenham HotspurRECAP

Christian Eriksen had a goal and an assist, and Harry Kane also started and scored as Spurs insured their Top Four hopes with a win at relegation-threatened Stoke City. Paul Lambert‘s men got a goal from Mame Biram Diouf, but are four points back of safety.

Leicester City 1-2 Newcastle United RECAP

Rafa Benitez never got his star striker in the transfer market, but has turned Newcastle United into a likely Premier League participant next season with terrific defense and creative play. Chelsea loanee Kenedy again starred, Jonjo Shelvey and Ayoze Perez both scored wondeful goals, and the Magpies moved into 10th, 10 points clear of the drop zone with a win. Jamie Vardy scored late to ruin Martin Dubravka‘s shutout.

 

Bournemouth 2-2 Crystal Palace — RECAP

Lys Mousset and Joshua King each scored equalizers, the latter quite late in the match, as Bournemouth managed a point against Roy Hodgson‘s resilient Eagles. Wilfried Zaha and Luka Milivojevic each scored stunners for Palace.

West Bromwich Albion 1-1 Swansea CityRECAP

Jay Rodriguez scored for caretaker manager Darren Moore, but Chelsea loanee Tammy Abraham nabbed a point for 15th place Swans. The Welsh side finishes the day four points clear of the drop zone.

Brighton and Hove Albion 1-1 Huddersfield TownRECAP

A quarter hour with a man advantage wasn’t enough for Huddersfield Town to complete its comeback bid at the Amex Stadium. Solly March scored early for hosts Brighton, who saw Davy Propper sent off for a tackle on Jonathan Hogg after the Gulls gifted an equalizer to Steve Mounie.

Race for Premier League promotion beginning to heat up

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The race for promotion to the Premier League has taken a wild and unexpected turn.

Wolverhampton Wanderers have all but secured the title with a nine point lead and five matches remaining. However, directly below them is where things have suddenly become hairy.

Cardiff City seemed to have second place done and dusted, with a return to the Premier League for the first time since 2013 almost ensured as they sat on a seven-match winning streak and without a loss since New Year’s Day, holding a seven-point lead plus a game in hand as March wound down. Now, just a week later, things could potentially be falling apart as the race heats up.

Following a draw to 9th placed Sheffield United, Cardiff hosted leaders Wolves on Friday in a top-of-the-table meeting, and chaos ensued. Wolves held nearly 2/3 of the possession and went ahead 1-0 past the hour mark as Ruben Neves bagged a beautiful free-kick goal, looping his close-range effort over the wall and tucking it inside the left post.

As the game wound down, Cardiff began to push forward as they looked for a late equalizer. They earned a penalty as stoppage time began, and Gary Madine stepped up to take it hoping for his 11th goal of the year. Instead, former Norwich City goalkeeper John Ruddy dove to his left and acrobatically kept the effort out, preserving the lead as a big celebration ensued. But the fireworks weren’t over.

Six minutes later, as Cardiff continued to press forward in desperation, Wolves’ Ivan Cavaleiro chopped down Aron Gunnarsson on the edge of the box, and the linesman flagged for a foul. That brought a second stoppage-time penalty opportunity for Cardiff still trailing by a goal. This time, former QPR winger Junior Hoilett stepped up to the spot, but his effort clanged the underside of the bar and came back out, and Cardiff could not capitalize on the ensuing scrum.

The loss means Cardiff has wasted its game in hand, suddenly dropping five points in the last two matches, sitting now five points above Fulham in third. The Whites are in spectacular form, unbeaten in a club-record 18 straight matches and leading the Championship form table. Fulham still has memories of playoff failure from last season, and would love to secure automatic promotion with a late-season charge, playing stunningly beautiful possession-based soccer under Slavisa Jokanovic.

Meanwhile, Cardiff next faces fourth-placed Aston Villa, who also remains in contention for promotion just two points back of Fulham. The pressure seems to be getting to Cardiff manager Neil Warnock, who refused to shake the hand of Wolves manager Nuno after the loss on Friday, instead firing some flowery language in his direction for his post-match celebration while applauding the home fans. He chastised Nuno after the game, telling Sky Sports in his post-match interview “in the British game you need to have manners and a bit of class.”

The remaining playoff places are currently occupied by Derby County and Middlesbrough who sit 15 and 17 points back of Cardiff City in 2nd, but that battle is raging as well. Just off the pace sits Bristol City, Millwall, and Sheffield United all at 62 points, just one behind Middlesbrough’s final playoff spot. Preston is another two back of that on 60 points, while Brentford is two behind them at 58.