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PL Preview: Tuesday fixtures include Chelsea

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As the holiday season nears, the Premier League begins to ramp up. While that can be hard on Premier League managers, it’s great for you, the fan, who now has plenty of options to choose from as you make your way through the work week.

[ PL SCHEDULE: Where to watch all midweek Premier League games ]


Burnley vs. Stoke City – 2:45 p.m. ET, on NBC Sports Gold

If Burnley defeats Stoke City on Tuesday, the Clarets would jump Tottenham, Arsenal, and Liverpool en route to a place in the Premier League table’s Top 4. Just pause for a moment and soak that in.

Better?

That’s right, Sean Dyche has his Burnley side on a roll, having won five of its last seven matches. In games where they were earning draws last year, they’re picking up all three points this year. Meanwhile, they face a Potters group that sits just three points above the relegation zone, meaning the heat has turned up on Mark Hughes. What is in store for us at Turf Moor?

INJURIES: Burnley – Tom Heaton (shoulder), Robbie Brady (knee), Jonathan Walters (knee) | Stoke City – Jese (personal leave), Glen Johnson (knee), Bruno Martins Indi (shoulder), Stephen Ireland (leg).


Huddersfield vs. Chelsea – 3:00 p.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

Antonio Conte, in charge of the defending champions, is suddenly on the hot seat. Already 14 points back of leaders and expected winners Manchester City, the Blues are sitting a distant third in the table.

A trip to Huddersfield could be exactly what the doctor ordered. The Terriers started the season well, but had lost four Premier League matches in a row before a 2-0 victory over Brighton turned things around.

Conte has already ruled Chelsea out of the title, with the Blues now fighting for a Champions League place. Can the boss take advantage of the poor opposition form? He will be without star striker Alvaro Morata who is dealing with both back problems and general fatigue, with Conte calling his schedule “impossible.”

INJURIES: HuddersfieldMichael Hefele (Achillies), Philip Billing (ankle), Jon Stankovic (knee), Kasey Palmer (ineligible – parent club) | Chelsea – Alvaro Morata (back), David Luiz (knee).


Crystal Palace vs. Watford – 3:00 p.m. ET, on NBC Sports Gold

The Eagles hav a chance to pull themselves not only off the bottom of the Premier League table, but out of the relegation zone completely when they host Watford at Selhurst Park. Crystal Palace sits a point back of Swansea City on the bottom, but with somewhat improved performances under Roy Hodgson, three points would climb them completely out of the drop.

Nevertheless, it remains to be seen how Hodgson balances a desperate need to collect points with discipline of his struggling striker Christian Benteke, who remains goalless on the year after missing a critical penalty he wasn’t supposed to take in the 2-2 draw with Bournemouth over the weekend.

Watford, meanwhile, is without a win in its last three and desperately needs a result. The Hornets sit ninth in the Premier League table but could see their advantage over the bottom half evaporate with another loss.

INJURIES: Crystal Palace – Mamadou Sakho (calf), Joel Ward, Damien Delaney, Connor Wickham (knee) | Watford – Will Hughes (hamstring), Isaac Success (knee), Nathan Chalobah (knee), Younes Kaboul (hamstring), Craig Cathcart (knee)

Premier League notes: Wanyama, Bolasie return after long layoffs, Sakho injured

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Two Premier League clubs saw a pair of players return to the field after long spells on the sidelines.

Tottenham revealed that Victor Wanyama took part in training on Monday for the first time since suffering a knee injury in late August, which has kept him off the field since then. Wanyama started in both of Tottenham’s first two fixtures of the season before the injury.

[ MORE: Premier League stats ]

At the same time in the northwest of England, Yannick Bolasie returned to the field for Everton’s reserves for the first time since suffering a torn ACL last December against Manchester United. Everton manager Sam Allardyce hinted recently that Bolasie could even make the first team subs bench before the end of the calendar year as he continues his rehab.

(more…)

PL Sunday preview: Derby day in Manchester, Merseyside

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Sunday is derby day for two of the fiercest, longest-standing local rivalries in the Premier League. Need we say more?

[ PL ROUNDUP: Spurs bounce back in a big way; Leicester on fire ]

Southampton vs. Arsenal — 7 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

Arsenal turned in arguably their best performance of the season last weekend, and were hammered on the scoreboard, 3-1 by Manchester United. On the one hand, they’ll feel good about the performance; on the other hand, questions remain about their abilities to compete with other top-six sides. It was a fourth straight impressive performance by the Gunners, who over the last six weeks have stabilized (wins in five of their last seven) after a rocky first few games (one win from their opening three).

Much Sunday’s opponent, who are comfortably slotted into the top-four battle, Southampton find themselves in a familiar place as a mid-table side with very little hope of catching the elites of the PL, and in very little danger of sliding into a relegation battle. Saints have hit-or-miss at home this season, as Mauricio Pellegrino‘s side has won 11 of its 16 point at St. Mary’s Stadium, site of Sunday’s clash, but have also lost three of eight games at the ground, by a combined score of 7-1.

INJURIES: Southampton — OUT: Cedric (hamstring) | Arsenal — OUT: Shkodran Mustafi (thigh), Santi Cazorla (achilles)

Liverpool vs. Everton — 9:15 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

Red-hot Liverpool (nine games unbeaten in all competitions, with seven wins; six games unbeaten in the PL, with five wins) welcome a suddenly resurgent and re-energized Everton side (riding back-to-back PL wins for the first time all season) to Anfield for the 229th Merseyside derby.

Only first-and second-place sides Manchester City (46) and Man United (35) have scored more goals this season than the rabid attack of Liverpool (33), but it’s those pesky defensive struggles (once again) which have held Jurgen Klopp‘s side back from putting forth a genuine title challenge. There have been massive improvements in recent weeks, though, as the Reds have conceded just three goals during their current six-game run in the league. As if they need anymore confidence ahead of Sunday’s clash, history also happens to be on their side: Liverpool haven’t lost a derby at Anfield in 17 outings.

As for the Toffees, Sam Allardyce is in charge now, and they’ve won all three games since his appointment — though he’s only actually managed one of the three. Allardyce’s debut saw Everton grind out a 2-0 victory over Huddersfield Town last weekend, though they were far from dominant in doing so. Alas, goals from Gylfi Sigurdsson and Dominic Calvert-Lewin are wonderful signs for a side which managed only 13 goals in as many games to start the season.

INJURIES: Liverpool — OUT: Joel Matip (leg), Nathaniel Clyne (back); QUESTIONABLE: Adam Lallana (fitness), Alberto Moreno (ankle) | Everton — OUT: Leighton Baines (calf), James McCarthy (hamstring), Ross Barkley (hamstring), Seamus Coleman (leg), Ramiro Funes Mori (knee), Yannick Bolasie (knee)

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

No PL side has ever won 14 straight games in the league, a feat Man City can achieve on Sunday, and can do so against their most hated local rivals to boot. Undoubtedly, Jose Mourinho has thought of nothing other than Pep Guardiola‘s quest for history this week, and will set out to ruin the party by any means necessary.

Without the services of star midfielder Paul Pogba (suspension), expect a heavy dose of bludgeoning courtesy of Marouane Fellaini, who is set to return after two weeks out with a knee injury. The absences are truly a shame, as United have appeared — when healthy — to be genuinely capable of matching City stride for stride at the very top of their game. While City have scored nine more goals than the Red Devils — two two sides were on a nearly identical scoring pace prior to Pogba’s injury back in mid-September — United’s defense is predictably best in the league once again.

What’s more, a City win at Old Trafford feels as though it would — even 16 games into the season — all but end the title race, as Guardiola’s men would go 11 points clear of United, their closest title rivals.

For the first time all season, City fell to defeat in the Champions League on Wednesday. Prior to that loss to Shakhtar Donetsk, they had won 20 straight games across all competitions and were unbeaten in 22. Having already secured the top spot in the group, Guardiola elected to rest a handful of regular starters with Sunday’s showdown presumably in mind. As for what this particular derby means for the Citizens and their fans, defender Vincent Kompany believes the tables have turned 180 degrees in recent years.

“I think to every player it means more than any other game,” he said this week. “It started as something that was way more important for the City fans than the United fans. At this moment in time, we are the team they want to beat more than any other team.”

INJURIES: Man United — OUT: Paul Pogba (suspension), Eric Bailly (groin) | Man City — OUT: John Stones (hamstring), Benjamin Mendy (knee)

Premier League roundup: Foxes flying again

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Leicester City’s entertaining win over Newcastle United at St. James’ Park wasn’t just a fun way to end the Premier League day, it was a clarion call that the 2015-16 Premier League champions have their act very much together.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

That win, along with a Tottenham blowout and West Ham’s upset of Chelsea, conspired to make Saturday’s appetizers for a double derby Sunday quite tasty.

Newcastle United 2-3 Leicester CityRECAP

A thriller at St. James’ Park ended with Leicester City now a very real part of the race for the Top Seven. Joselu put Newcastle ahead 1-0 and Dwight Gayle answered a pair of Leicester goals — including another wonderful marker from Riyad Mahrez. But a point was not to be had for Rafa Benitez, as Ayoze Perez scored an own goal to give the Foxes all three points and eighth place in the Premier League.

Claude Puel is now 4W-2D-1L as Leicester City manager, and have won three straight. Next up? A reunion with Southampton at St. Mary’s.

West Ham United 1-0 ChelseaRECAP

David Moyes‘ Hammers have built on their near upset of Manchester City, using a Marko Arnautovic goal to harm Chelsea’s Top Four hopes. The Austrian’s goal was his first for West Ham, and moves the club nearer to safety. Chelsea could finish the weekend as low as fourth if Liverpool wins the Merseyside Derby.

Swansea City 1-0 West Bromwich AlbionRECAP

Wilfried Bony‘s second half goal gave Paul Clement‘s Swans a much-needed win and kept West Bromwich Albion winless since August.

Burnley 1-0 WatfordRECAP

The 10-man Hornets didn’t play like they were down a man, but failed to find the answer for Scott Arfield‘s opener. Burnley’s now six points clear of Watford and still in the Top Four mix.

Crystal Palace 2-2 BournemouthRECAP

Christian Benteke seized a stoppage time penalty against managerial direction, and promptly saw it saved by Asmir Begovic. That left Palace in 20th instead of 18th. Bournemouth dodges a bullet thanks to a pair of solid goals from Jermain Defoe, while Palace’s goals came from a Luka Milivojevic penalty and a Scott Dann in-tight finish.

Huddersfield Town 2-0 Brighton and Hove AlbionRECAP

Steve Mounie refound his early season form to lead the Terriers to all three points in a battle of newly-promoted sides at the John Smith’s Stadium.

Tottenham Hotspur 5-1 Stoke CityRECAP

If Spurs’ slump wasn’t officially ended by a 3-0 win over APOEL Nicosia, it’s dead and buried by a four-goal blowout of Stoke City. Harry Kane scored twice while Heung-Min Son and Christian Eriksen added to a Stoke own goal in the win.

Hodgson furious with Benteke’s commandeered, missed PK (video)

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Crystal Palace’s impressive run from zero points to an actual relegation scrap would be within goal differential of safety were it not for Christian Benteke.

The ice-cold Belgian striker took a stoppage time penalty out of the hands of Luka Milivojevic, who had converted one earlier in the match, and promptly saw his attempt saved by Asmir Begovic.

[ RECAP: Palace 2-2 Bournemouth ]

That left the match at a 2-2 standstill, and Palace manager Roy Hodgson was less than impressed with the way it was handled by his players.

“It was a unilateral decision and no one on our team was able to wrestle the ball away from him,” Hodgson said. “We the management decide who the penalty takers are. We don’t really expect players during the course of the game to change those decisions

“Had it been a training session we could’ve done something about it. … We tried to shout out instructions, they obviously didn’t get as far as the penalty spot.”

Benteke has yet to score in 10 matches this season, something that will not aid the reaction to his decision. But striker starved Palace may not have an alternative, at least for a few more weeks.