Chelsea begins defense, Shakhtar’s must win – UEFA Champions League Group E preview

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It probably won’t be able to top yesterday’s headliner at the Bernabeu, but the names alone make it a must see. One of Europe’s truly iconic clubs playing the defending champions under the lights in London. Matchups like Chelsea-Juventus define UEFA Champions League.

Chelsea vs. Juventus

Stamford Bridge, London, 2:45 p.m. Eastern

Nothing speaks to the primacy of Champions League like a qualifier who finished sixth in their domestic league. In the past there were debates as to whether even second place teams should be in this tournament, but not anymore. Nobody’s saying Chelsea shouldn’t be in this competition. Nobody’s questioning their credentials or even claiming England’s fourth place team (Tottenham) deserves the spot instead. The league criteria is almost meaningless. We have become so used to this Champions League-centric world that misgivings about Chelsea’s place have been muted.

More: Group E Group F Group G Group H

On Wednesday, the holders begin their first European title defense against Italian champion Juventus, a team they met in the knockout round three years ago. Then Chelsea won 1-0 at Stamford Bridge, a game from which the Blues return only five starters. Juventus bring back only two (Gianluigi Buffon, Giorgio Chiellini). What little history these clubs have against each other becomes meaningless in the face of those kinds of changes.

Juventus’s turnover continued this offseason, bringing in Kwadwo Asamoah, Mauricio Isla, Sebastian Giovinco, and Lúcio. The results have been perfect so far, Juve on nine points through three Serie A rounds, continuing an unbeaten league run that extends back to Mar. 5, 2011. Having failed to qualify for last season’s European competition, Juventus has only lost once in all competitions since Milan won in Turin 17 months ago, falling to Napoli in May’s Coppa final.

Like Juventus, Chelsea sits at the top of their domestic league after a series of summer buys, bringing in Eden Hazard, Oscar, Marko Marin, and Victor Moses. In the process, the Blues have started to shift away from José Mouinrho’s core, seeing Didier Drogba leave while the team has become less dependent on Frank Lampard and John Terry. Hazard has quickly become the team’s best player (and perhaps their last hope to salvage Fernando Torres).

More: Tuesday’s winners and losers

Shakhtar Donetsk vs. Nordsjaelland

Donbass Arena, Donetsk, 2:45 Eastern

Don’t envy Danish champions Nordsjaelland, first time participants in UEFA Champions League. Thanks to Juventus’s diminished UEFA coefficient, the Danes are drawn into a group with three Round of 16-caliber clubs. They get the pleasure of being the team each opponent sees as a needed three points, chance to pad goal difference, and major slip should they fail to win (home or road). You won’t get that type of patronization in quotes espousing the quality of every Champions League team, but even when teams venture to Farum, they’ll be thinking “We can’t lose to these guys, right?”

That’s why this is a must win for Shakhtar. They have to assume Chelsea and Juventus will get full points against the Danes. They can’t give up any points to Nordsjaelland, let alone during the home leg. The points Ukraine’s champions drop will cancel out any progress they make against the group’s other contenders.

If Shakhtar can manage those expectations, they shouldn’t have any trouble with Nordsjaelland, particularly if Henrikh Mkhitaryan continues his goalscoring exploits. The Armenian midfielder came into the season with 13 goals in 43 league appearances for Shakhtar. In nine games this season, the 23-year-old has already scored 12 times. The next highest scorer in Ukraine has eight.

Nordsjaelland has one of the best defenses in Denmark (20-year-old center half Jores Okore may not be in the Superliga for long), but this is small fish-big pond territory for them. Copenhagen is the big team in Denmark, but their huge collapse at the end of last season allowed the Wild Tigers to barge through the door. They may be out of their depth – less Champions Leguae quality than the team that was there when FCK fell. Okore and U.S. international Michael Parkhurst may be able to hold up for a result in Denmark, but in Donetsk, it’s too much to ask.

Dream debut for Dyche as Everton stuns Arsenal

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The Sean Dyche era at Everton got off to the perfect start as they stunned Premier League leaders Arsenal at Goodison Park.

Everton were joint-bottom of the table at the start of play and beat the leaders to secure their first Premier League win since October. The new manager bounce was monumental.

FULL MATCH REPLAY

After taking charge earlier this week, Dyche’s side were excellent as James Tarkowski headed home Dwight McNeil’s cross as the former Burnley duo combined to get the former Burnley manager off to a winning start as Everton boss.

Arsenal were sluggish throughout and Mikel Arteta’s side just couldn’t make the energy and tempo of Everton’s play.

The win moves Everton on to 18 points for the season, while this defeat is just Arsenal’s second of the campaign as they remain five points clear atop the table.

[ MORE: How to watch Premier League in USA ]


Stars of the show

Dwight McNeil: Superb display as he whipped in crosses, worked so hard defensively and did his best to support Calvert-Lewin.

James Tarkowski: Got the goal, defended resolutely and delivered a big moment for his former Burnley boss.

Everton vs Arsenal
Graphic via FotMob.com

Everton vs Arsenal live! Score, updates, how to watch stream

Kick off: 7:30am ET, Saturday
TV Channel: USA Network
Online: Stream via NBCSports.com

Zinchenko blasts a shot from the edge of the box over the bar. Lovely corner from Saka to pick him out but the shot was a tough one to keep down.

Saka has a shot deflected over. Arsenal running out of time.

Pickford with a good stop. Arsenal pushing hard for the equalizer.

GOALLL! James Tarkowski puts Everton ahead. Wow. 1-0 to the Toffees. Can Arsenal respond?

Second half is underway! Arsenal pushing hard for the opener.

OFF THE LINE! A high cross to the back post finds Bukayo Saka and he brilliantly volleys the ball towards the bottom corner but Conor Coady gets back on the line to clear. Superb play by all involved.

CLOSE! Another massive chance goes begging as Dwight McNeil whips in a cross and Doucoure heads wide when he should do better. Sean Dyche applauds from the sidelines. Goodison roars.

CHANCE! Incredible play by Amadou Onana to surge down the left and he crosses for Dominic Calvert-Lewin who is sliding in and two yards out. He can’t get enough on the ball and a huge chance goes begging for Everton.

Eddie Nketiah lashes wide after being played in and that sort of sums up Arsenal so far. They haven’t been able to get in-behind Everton and everything seems a bit rushed from the Gunners.

Excellent so far from Everton. They are defensively sound but have a purpose when they go forward. The home fans are loving the start of the Sean Dyche era.

CLOSE! After a lengthy delay as Bukayo Saka went down after getting a knock in the face, Everton have plenty of corners and Arsenal are digging deep to head crosses away at the back post.

CLOSE! Positive move from Everton as Dwight McNeiil surges towards goal and his low effort is smothered by Aaron Ramsdale with Calvert-Lewin lurking. DLC was just offside but that was good from the hosts.

Bright start from the hosts who look very organized in their 4-5-1 formation and are looking to get it up to Dominic Calvert-Lewin as much as possible.

KICK OFF: The action is underway at Goodison Park! The home fans are right behind their team, and new manager, Sean Dyche. Is he the right man for the job? Can he keep Everton up? Our analysts discuss and are very positive about Dyche’s appointment at Goodison.


Key storylines & star players

Is this what Dwight McNeil has been waiting for after stop-start usage from Frank Lampard? He’s one of the key pieces to monitor when team news arrives Saturday.  Everton hasn’t played since Jan. 21, when it rolled out a 5-4-1 in a 2-0 loss to West Ham. Dyche hasn’t used five at the back since 2019, but this Arsenal team, man…

Arsenal enters having navigated the absence of Gabriel Jesus pretty darn nicely, thank you very much. Will Eddie Nketiah keep feasting off the playmaking of Martin Odegaard and Bukayo Saka?

Let’s just say Everton’s new manager bounce is going to have to include Flubber.


Everton team news, injuries, lineup

OUT: Michael Keane (knee), Nathan Patterson (knee), Andros Townsend (knee), James Garner (back)

Arsenal team news, injuries, lineup

OUT: Gabriel Jesus (knee), Reiss Nelson (thigh), Mohamed Elneny (knock), Emile Smith Rowe (thigh)

Manchester United vs Crystal Palace, live! Score, updates, how to watch, stream, videos

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Manchester United looks to keep climbing up the Premier League table when its hosts improving Crystal Palace at Old Trafford on Saturday (watch live, 10am ET online via Premier League on Peacock).

United has won all three of its cup matches since a Jan. 22 setback at Premier League leaders Arsenal, and now face Palace before two matches with Leeds

STREAM LIVE MANCHESTER UNITED vs CRYSTAL PALACE

Palace hasn’t won in 2023, though the Eagles managed back-to-back draws with Manchester United and Newcastle in their past two matches. Both of those were at Selhurst Park.

Here’s everything you need to know ahead of Manchester United vs Crystal Palace.

[ MORE: How to watch Premier League in USA ]


How to watch Manchester United vs Crystal Palace live, stream link and start time

Kick off: 10am ET, Saturday
Online: Premier League on Peacock


Key storylines & star players

Man United’s lost Christian Eriksen through April but acted quick and in impressive fashion with the loan addition of Marcel Sabitzer from Bayern Munich. Desperate for playing time and a more attacking role than what was asked of him by Bayern, the Austrian star may be just what the doctor ordered even before Eriksen went down. This is a hard-edged player with plenty of attcking firepower to boot.

Palace, of course, is still all about their creative players, as Wilfried Zaha, Michael Olise, Eberechi Eze, and Odsonne Edouard can deliver the goods with just a half-chance, but look out for Deadline Day adds Albert Sambi Lokonga, on loan from Patrick Vieira’s former team Arsenal, and Naouirou Ahamada, who they hope will add a needed ball progressor in the heart of the pitch.


Manchester United team news, injuries, lineup options

OUT: Christian Eriksen (ankle), Donny van de Beek (knee), Mason Greenwood (suspension – MORE) | QUESTIONABLE: Jadon Sancho (undisclosed), Anthony Martial (undisclosed), Diogo Dalot (thigh), Luke Shaw (illness), Scott McTominay (undisclosed)

Crystal Palace team news, injuries, lineup options

OUT: Wilfried Zaha (hamstring), Joachim Andersen (calf), Nathan Ferguson (undisclosed), James McArthur (groin)

Aston Villa vs Leicester, live! Score, updates, how to watch, stream, videos

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Aston Villa can stick its nose into the top seven discussion with a win over Leicester City, who is flying well below its normal radar this season as it heads to Villa Park (watch live, 3pm ET on USA Network and online via NBCSports.com).

Villa’s season has surged forward since it parted ways with Steven Gerrard. Villa won its next match, a 4-0 defeat of Brentford, then hired Unai Emery and since boasts a 5W-1D-2L record.

STREAM LIVE ASTON VILLA vs LEICESTER

Thar has the Villans in 11th but just three points off sixth, eight behind fifth-place Tottenham who’s played a further game.

Leicester’s 35 goals allowed are fewer than only one team, Bournemouth, and level with two others as the Foxes have struggled to find ways to keep opponents off the board. Leicester sits 14th with 18 points, but that’s just a point off the bottom three.

Here’s everything you need to know ahead of Aston Villa vs Leicester.

[ MORE: How to watch Premier League in USA ]


How to watch Aston Villa vs Leicester live, stream link and start time

Kick off: 10am ET, Saturday
TV Channel: USA Network
Online: Stream via NBCSports.com


Key storylines & star players

Ollie Watkins has scored or assisted in five of his last eight appearances for Villa in the Premier League and Emiliano Buendia has a pair of goals in his four PL starts since the calendar turned 2023.

Is James Maddison fit to start? The England midfielder missed four-straight games for Leicester, all losses, before returning for the final 21 minutes against Brighton on Jan. 21? He’s so important to the way Brendan Rodgers want to run an attack, and he’s clearly not leaving the club this season.


Aston Villa team news, injuries, lineup options

OUT: John McGinn (hamstring), Diego Carlos (achilles), Ludwig Augustinsson (illness), Jed Steer (calf) | QUESTIONABLE: Lucas Digne (shoulder)

Leicester team news, injuries, lineup options

OUT: Ricardo Pereira (achilles), Boubakary Soumare (thigh), Ryan Bertrand (knee), James Justin (achilles), Jonny Evans (calf) | QUESTIONABLE: Jamie Vardy (buttock), Wilfred Ndidi (undisclosed)

Wolves vs Liverpool: How to watch, stream link, team news

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Liverpool hopes it can boost its top-four hopes by hurting Wolves’ plans for Premier League safety when the duo meet Saturday at the Molineux (watch live, 10am ET Saturday online via Peacock Premium).

It’s the third meeting since early January between the sides following a 2-2 draw in the FA Cup and a 1-0 Liverpool win in the replay.

STREAM LIVE WOLVES vs LIVERPOOL

Wolves sit 17th with 17 points, only outside of the bottom three due to Bournemouth’s poor goal differential. Last place is just two points away, as there are seven teams within three points between 14th and 20th.

Liverpool, meanwhile, is 10 points off the top four but has played at least one fewer match than all but two of the eight teams ahead of them (Sixth-place Brighton and leaders Arsenal).

Here’s everything you need to know ahead of Wolves vs Liverpool.

[ MORE: How to watch Premier League in USA ]


How to watch Wolves vs Liverpool live, stream link and start time

Kick off: 10am ET, Saturday
Online: Premier League on Peacock


Key storylines & star players

Winning games is about scoring goals and only two Wolves players have more than one. Daniel Podence has collected five, while Ruben Neves has four. Even more surprising, Wolves are still waiting on a goal from Raul Jimenez, Diego Costa, or injured Pedro Neto. Perhaps Matheus Cunha or Pablo Sarabia will chip in soon.

Liverpool has one win from its last three Premier League outings, but there’s a heaping helping of bad luck to their struggles. The Reds have 24 goals from open play and 20 allowed in that same situation. Their expected goals in those spots is 34.6 – 24. Mohamed Salah and Darwin Nunez have been especially unlucky despite combining for 12 goals and six assists on the season.


Wolves team news, injuries, lineup options

OUT: Pedro Neto (ankle), Sasa Kalajdzic (torn ACL), Boubacar Traore (undisclosed), Chiquinho (knee)

Liverpool team news, injuries, lineup options

OUT: Virgil van Dijk (thigh), Roberto Firmino (calf), Ibrahima Konate (hamstring), Luis Diaz (knee), Diogo Jota (thigh), Arthur Melo (thigh) | QUESTIONABLE: Fabio Carvalho (undisclosed), Nathaniel Phillips (illness)