10 things to look forward to as Premier League returns this weekend

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The last time we enjoyed a Premier League match, it was August.

Almost two weeks later, here we are. The PL is back and some intriguing storylines are developing ahead of Week 4.

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Here are 10 things to look out for this weekend across the league as you can watch every single game live online via NBC Sport Live Extra. Remember folks, set those alarm clocks for Saturday and Sunday morning!

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Can Falcao star for United?

1. Seeing Manchester United’s superstars in action, at the same time

This one is a head-scratcher. How do you fit Radamel Falcao, Angel Di Maria, Wayne Rooney, Robin van Persie and Juan Mata all into the same team? Good luck with that, Louis van Gaal. Manchester United added plenty of world-class attackers over the summer and they are available to play together against Queens Park Rangers on Sunday at Old Trafford. Will LVG get the balance right with new boy Marcos Rojo and Daley Blind at the back? We are about to find out.

2. Danny Welbeck’s Arsenal debut

Much has been made about this signing on Deadline Day as the Gunners could have got a bit of a bargain. Welbeck scored twice for England in midweek and with Olivier Giroud’s injury, he will likely be played as the lone frontman. Excitement is building about how Welbeck could link up with fellow newbie Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil. Arsene Wenger has sent out mixed messages about Welbeck though.

3.  Can the Citizens rebound at the Emirates?

After that shock 1-0 defeat to Stoke City at home last time out, Man City’s players have had two weeks to let it fester. Will they come flying out of the traps at the Emirates Stadium? Last season they did that, but then let Arsenal off the hook in a 1-1 draw. The PST gang break down the weekend’s most intriguing matchup.

4. Mario Balotelli being the main man for Liverpool

Daniel Sturridge is out injured and could miss the next six games for Liverpool. ‘Have no fear, Super Mario is here!’ Or something like that… Anyway, Balotelli will be making his Anfield debut against Aston Villa on Saturday and will hold the goalscoring burden as the main man while Sturridge is out injured. Balotelli will come up against Ron Vlaar and Philippe Senderos, two powerhouses at the heart of Villa’s defense. That will be an intriguing battle as the Italian must keep his head.

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Will Balotelli be on target for Liverpool on his Anfield debut?

5. Scrap at the Stadium of Light

Tottenham Hotspur head to the Stadium of Light after a week of headlines off the field and coming off the back of a 3-0 drubbing to Balotelli’s Liverpool. They play Sunderland and it will be a real battle on Wearside as two South American managers clash in Mauricio Pochettino and Gus Poyet. Both insist on high-pressure and Pochettino’s former side Southampton went to Sunderland three times last season in the league and cup, lost twice and blew a 2-0 lead. Poch will hope it’s a much happier hunting ground for him with his new team who must rebound, but they will have to work hard vs. the Black Cats.

6. Can the Toffees get through their sticky patch?

West Brom away. Before the season, you’d mark that down as a routine win for Everton, but after a tricky start where they have two points from three games and have let in 10 goals, Roberto Martinez’s men aren’t flowing. The Toffees look a little disjointed, especially at the back, and you get the feeling that their late collapse against Arsenal at home in Week 2 really knocked the stuffing out of them. Romelu Lukaku has yet to score and needs to put in a big display against his former team.

7. Eagles and Clarets battle for first win

Much like the match at Sunderland, this will be a real ding-dong battle, a blood and thunder affair, a …. okay, you get the picture. Both teams are still without a win this season and it is Neil Warnock’s first home game back in charge of Palace. Both teams will be earmarking this as ‘must-win’ already and it will be a game of few chances as Burnley have done well at stifling the opposition thus far in the PL. Passion, power and crunching tackles will be in abundance at Selhurst Park.

8. Top of the table clash between Chelsea and… Swansea

Okay, so it may not always be billed as a top of the table clash but on Saturday it will be. Both Chelsea and Swansea are the only two teams to win three from three so far. Garry Monk’s men have impressed, especially as they walloped West Brom 3-0 before the break. Can they upset Jose Mourinho and Chelsea? The Blues have looked imperious, smashing six past Everton and the signings of Diego Costa and Cesc Fabregas continued to make the ‘Special One’ look, erm, special. A cracker for you to enjoy.

source: Getty Images
Let’s talk about Cesc…

9. Saints’ silky skills to get past under-pressure Magpies?

Ronald Koeman’s brand of “sexy football” hasn’t taken long to unearth itself on the South Coast. Saints cruised past West Ham 3-1 away from home last time out and will now look to hammer one of the final nails in the coffin of former manager Alan Pardew. His Newcastle side are without a win, and coupled with their poor form to finish last season, Pardew is on borrowed time already. Saints’ silky stars such as Dusan Tadic and Morgan Schneiderlin could spell trouble for the Magpies. Also, spare a thought for Newcastle’s fans who make the longest journey in the PL this weekend, a 750 mile round trip for the Toon Army.

10. Vanishing spray. Legendary.

Okay, let’s finish this on a lighter note. How much do we love the vanishing spray? I know, right. Also, how much do fans inside Premier League stadiums love vanishing spray? Even more, it seems. Listen in to the audio on all the games this weekend whenever a referee is using the spray. The crowd will build up tension and ring out the ‘ole’s’ when the spray is being applied. Like a wielding matador, referee’s have so far used swaggering panache to perform a pretty mundane task. You try telling PL crowds it’s mundane. They love it, as do I.

Crystal Palace – Chelsea, Watford – Norwich: Stream, How to watch

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Crystal Palace – Chelsea promises to be an intriguing clash at Selhurst Park on Tuesday (start time, 1pm ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com) in a London derby, while Watford – Norwich is a massive game in the relegation battle (start time, 1pm ET online via NBCSports.com).

Christian Pulisic continues to be the main man for Chelsea as the USMNT star put in another superb display in their 3-0 win against Watford and the Blues remain on track to finish in the top four and qualify for the Champions League. As for Palace, they have lost their last three games on the trot without scoring and Roy Hodgson’s side look destined for a midtable finish.

CRYSTAL PALACE – CHELSEA STREAM LIVE

WATFORD – NORWICH STREAM LIVE

As for Watford, they need a win to boost their survival hopes and if they get it, they will send bottom club. Norwich even closer to their relegation zone.

Below is everything you need to know ahead of Crystal Palace – Chelsea and Watford – Norwich.


Team news

Palace will be without James Tomkins, Jeffrey Schlupp and Martin Kelly, while Hodgson may bring back Cheikhou Kouyate and Scott Dann who were rested.

Chelsea will be without N’Golo Kante and Mateo Kovacic through injury, as Billy Gilmour starts in central midfield.

Watford bring in Masina and Welbeck after the loss at Chelsea.

Norwich bring Pukki back into the starting lineup.

Odds and ends (full matchweek odds)

Crystal Palace are huge underdogs (+650) as Chelsea (-220) are the red-hot favorites given their three wins from their first four games of the restart. The tie at +335 is where the value is at because as we saw with Chelsea’s shock defeat at West Ham last week, they can be dominated from set pieces and hit on the counter. Those two aspects are huge strengths of Palace’s game.

Watford are the favorites (-152) while Norwich (+440) are hoping for their first win, and points, since the restart. The tie at +285 seems intriguing to me.

Predictions

We are all expecting a Chelsea win here but don’t be surprised if Wilfried Zaha has a day at makes it a very tough outing for this leaky Chelsea defense. Palace have been fired up and shocked Chelsea before but I think the Blues, led by Pulisic, have too much for Palace. 3-1 to Chelsea. As for Watford against Norwich, I’m going for a 1-1 draw. Watford have been bad since the restart and Norwich have nothing to play for, really. That is dangerous.

Transfer news: Ake to Man United; Rice to Chelsea

Nathan Ake Manchester United
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In the latest transfer news Nathan Ake has been linked with a move to Manchester United, while Declan Rice could be heading back to Chelsea.

[ MORE: New PL TV schedule ]

Starting in Manchester, a post-game chat between Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Nathan Ake has turned heads following Man United’s 5-2 win against Bournemouth at the weekend.

Apparently Solskjaer told Ake: “We need a left-footed centre-back, so keep going.”

Ake, 25, has been linked with a return to Chelsea (who have a $48 million buy-back clause) and Manchester City, but it appears Nathan Ake to Manchester United has some legs. Solskjaer has been looking for a new center back with Kalidou Koulibaly, Dayot Upamecano and others linked to line up alongside Harry Maguire.

Victor Lindelof has struggled at times and is ahead of Eric Bailly in the pecking order and Man United do need to strengthen their defense slightly as they have plenty of options in midfield and attack, although a new true holding midfield could be a must in the next few windows.

If Bournemouth are relegated from the Premier League, Ake will surely leave and Man United could pick him up for a lot less than $48 million.

Declan Rice to Chelsea
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Switching to west London, Declan Rice could be heading back to Chelsea this summer.

A report from The Times states that Chelsea want Rice, 21, to return and become a ball-playing center back to shore up their defensive unit.

The report goes on to state that the boyhood Chelsea fan is seen as the perfect successor to John Terry at the heart of the Chelsea defense.

Rice has shone in recent weeks and is the one player in West Ham’s team who has been consistent despite their struggles at the wrong end of the Premier League table this season.

Chelsea have been searching high and low for defensive reinforcements and want more power and strength at center back. Rice can play at center back and in a three he would be prefect. His main position is in holding midfield and his flexibility to strengthen Chelsea’s shaky defense would be key. Rice is close friends with Mason Mount and after leaving Chelsea’s academy as a 14-year-old he has forged out a very good career for himself as a regular for West Ham and England.

Rice would cost a huge sum and this move to Chelsea may hinge on whether or not West Ham are relegated in the final weeks of the 2019-20 Premier League season.

Mexico boss: Jimenez should move to Man United, if he leaves Wolves

Raul Jimenez Manchester United
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Mexico boss Gerardo ‘Tata’ Martino has said Raul Jimenez should move to Manchester United, if he leaves Wolves.

Jimenez, 29, has been consistently linked with a move to Manchester United, Juventus, Barcelona, Real Madrid and other European giants and the in-form striker has scored 24 goals in all competitions for the Premier League side this season.

Now his El Tri boss has weighed in on the speculation and speaking to ESPN show Futbol Picante, Martino said he would prefer Raul Jimenez to join Manchester United over Juventus if he left Wolves.

“Looking at it from the outside today I cannot see a specialist No. 9 like Raul at United,” Martino said. “There are many forwards like [Marcus] Rashford, [Anthony] Martial and the boy who now plays as right winger: [Mason] Greenwood but since Romelu Lukaku left I can’t see a pure No. 9 like Raul. At Juventus he will have more of a fight because [Cristiano] Ronaldo shares the inside of the pitch with whoever plays alongside him, with [Paulo] Dybala or with [Gonzalo] Higuain and maybe he has a tougher fight there.”

Martino went on to state that he wants Jimenez to do whatever he feels happiest doing and moving to a ‘super club’ doesn’t always work out, as he knows from his one season in charge of Barcelona. Martino also brought up the fact that Jimenez has been at Atletico Madrid and Benfica before and that didn’t really work out, so perhaps staying at Wolves is best for Mexico’s star striker.

“Maybe he wants a bigger challenge because he feels that he is in good shape and has to take advantage of it, maybe he wants to stay in this place, maybe the options you read about are not real and do not exist,” Martino said. “I think the best thing is for Raul to make the decision based on the analysis he makes and with the consensus of his family because, when it comes to enjoying, not only the player suffers and enjoy, but also the family do it.”

Jimenez will be linked with plenty of top clubs this summer and he hasn’t exactly slammed the door on links to some of Europe’s big boys in the past. His manager at Wolves, Nuno Espirito Santo, responded to Martino’s comments by saying: “It’s not the moment to think about anything else. I’m sure Raul is totally, 100% focused on what he has to do at Wolves.”

Since he arrived at Wolves in the summer of 2018 he’s scored 41 goals in 92 games in all competitions and has become one of the top central strikers in the Premier League. His hold-up and link-up play is envied across the league and Martino is right, he would fit in well at Man United as Anthony Martial could move out wide.

Manchester United probably don’t need to sign another striker, though, so Jimenez heading to Juve or one of the Spanish giants makes more sense. Watch this space.

PHOTOS: New Chelsea away kit for 2020-21 unveiled

New Chelsea away kit
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The new Chelsea away kit for 2020-21 has been unveiled and the Blues will wear it for the first time against Crystal Palace on Tuesday (start time, 1pm ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

Chelsea have gone back to a sky blue away jersey and the design has a herringbone knit throughout, which is the same as their new home jersey for the 2020-21 season which debuted last week.

The west London club state that this away kit “adds an injection of millennial swagger – perfect for the confident, emerging talents lighting up Stamford Bridge under head coach Frank Lampard.”

When it comes to a a new Chelsea kit, or any new kit for that matter, there are always plenty of amateur fashion designers out there. But the response to this new away jersey has been largely positive.

They also have a new shirt sponsor in telecommunications company “Three UK” and you can’t really miss their sponsorship logo on the front of the shirt.

Check out the photos below to see what Christian Pulisic and Co. will be wearing in the Premier League next season, and Frank Lampard hopes it will be worn in the Champions League too as the Blues continue to push to seal a top four finish in his debut season in charge at Stamford Bridge.

This new Chelsea kit, like most kits, will divide opinion.