Premier League Preview: Stoke City vs. Manchester United

Leave a comment

•Manchester United have won six of their last seven games against Stoke City in all competitions.

•Victory would give Stoke three successive top-flight wins for the first time since last March.

•United have scored seven goals from outside the penalty area this season – the joint-highest figure in the top flight (along with Everton and West Ham). [BBC Sport]

Stoke City will welcome Manchester United to Britannia Stadium in the first Premier League competition of 2015 on Thursday at 7:45 p.m. ET, available to watch live on NBCSN or online at NBC Sports Live Extra.

The Red Devils’ first full month of the Premier League season was tumultuous, notable from their 5-3 loss to Leicester City, which marked the 14th time in league history that United was defeated by four or more goals.

At this point in time, Louis van Gaal saw his team deep in the middle of the table at 12th place.

Although the squad faced an uphill battle with a slew of injuries, Manchester is currently riding a nine-game unbeaten run starting in early November, and after drawing Tottenham Hotspur at White Hart Lane, United sits in third place, ten points back from leader Chelsea.

[RELATED: Pellegrini, Van Gaal on quick-turnaround schedule]

Stoke City hasn’t received as much spotlight as their upcoming opponent, but manager Mark Hughes observed his side capture six points against Everton and West Brom—both matches scheduled only two days apart.

In the past month, Stoke has been graced with fairly good fortune, unbeaten in four of their six December competitions, and is positioned at 11th place in the PL standings.

[RELATED: Latest Premier League standings]

One of these contests came against Manchester United, in which Marouane Fellaini and Juan Mata converted in a 2-1 result to hand Van Gaal his fourth-straight win.

What they’re saying

Manchester United boss Louis van Gaal praises fans’ impact (Manchester Evening News): “The thing that has pleased me the most is the fans. I think they are amazing. The fans have been fantastic because we were in a moment with 11 matches and 13 points – that is not good, I think more weak than good. In spite of that, the fans have supported us always and in the right way. I want to thank the fans for that.”

Stoke manager Mark Hughes on Van Gaal’s recent success (Daily Express):  “Suddenly he seems to be the right figurehead for the club. He’s the guy you sense they need given that last year was a time of transition for them. And they’re still going through that process to a certain extent. He’s working hard and changed personnel. They need a strong person at the head of the club and he certainly gives that impression to everybody.”

Match Injuries/Absences

Former Barcelona (now Stoke) forward Bojan is a doubt to perform after a hamstring issue forced his departure during Sunday’s tilt vs. West Brom.

Defender Phil Bardsley’s nursing an ankle injury and could miss out again, while Manchester United’s Antonio Valencia could gain limited minutes due to his groin problem suffered in the Tottenham draw.

On the brightside, the muscle injury of Red Devils’ midfielder Ander Herrera has healed well, and he appears set to take the pitch.

Prediction

United has muscled past the early season woes, and if healthy, a top-four finish is definitely in the cards. However, Stoke has Jonathan Walters back on the pitch, and on home turf, I think the Potters make it difficult to snag the three points. Stoke City 2-3 Manchester United

Newcastle – West Ham stream: How to watch, team news, prediction, odds

Newcastle - West Ham stream
Photo by Serena Taylor/Newcastle United via Getty Images
Leave a comment

Newcastle United aims for the top half of the table when it welcomes safety-chasing West Ham United at St. James’ Park on Sunday (Watch live at 9:15 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

The Magpies’ 42 points are six back of eighth place as of post time (Burnley has a 1-0 lead on ninth-place Sheffield United).

STREAM NEWCASTLE – WEST HAM LIVE

West Ham stunned Chelsea at midweek to climb out of the bottom three and losses for two of its nearest strugglers give the Irons a chance to really bolster their safety hopes.

The fourth team in the congested mess, Aston Villa, visits champions Liverpool later Sunday.

Team news

Steve Bruce puts Miguel Almiron and Isaac Hayden back in the lineup after a midweek romp at Bournemouth, with American back DeAndre Yedlin available off the bench.

West Ham will be led by Slavia Prague loanee Tomas Soucek, with captain Mark Noble on the bench with midweek hero Andriy Yarmolenko.

[ MORE: Premier League summer schedule ]

 

Odds and ends

The bookies see this one as a toss-up, either side as +170 to win and a draw boasting +230 according to DraftKings.

The Magpies won 3-2 at the London Stadium on Nov. 2 but led 3-0 before the Irons scored twice very late.

Prediction

DraftKings’ least likely result has a funny feel to it given both sides’ in-form midfield. Maybe Allan Saint-Maximin finds something to separate the two, but we’ll go for a 1-1 draw.

[ MORE: Premier League stats ]

Burnley – Sheffield United stream: How to watch, team news, prediction

Burnley - Sheffield United stream
Photo by Rich Linley - CameraSport via Getty Images
Leave a comment

Burnley and Sheffield United jockey for potential Europa League footing at Turf Moor on Sunday (Watch live at 7 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

The eighth-place visitors and their ninth-place hosts open the day a win back of seventh-place Arsenal.

Seventh is currently set to be a Europa League place thanks to the European ban handed to second-place Manchester City, who is protesting the ban.

Eighth would also be a UEL spot with all four FA Cup semifinalists currently in the top seven. Arsenal could still finish outside the top eight and win the FA Cup, which would leave seventh as the last qualifying place.

STREAM BURNLEY – SHEFFIELD UNITED LIVE

Team news

Burnley – Sheffield United Prediction

Burnley can scrap with anyone but Blades have a bit more depth and comfort with their XI. Sheffield United 1-0.

Chelsea’s Pulisic reacts to Eden Hazard comparisons

Leave a comment

Last week, Frank Lampard compared Christian Pulisic’s potential to that of the finished products shown by Sadio Mane, Mohamed Salah, and Raheem Sterling.

After another terrific performance for Chelsea in a 3-0 defeat of Watford, he was asked about being compared to Chelsea royalty: Eden Hazard.

“Obviously he was an incredible player for Chelsea,” Pulisic said. “He’s a world-class player. I’m not trying to compare myself to him just yet. I’m just trying to be my own player and hopefully the fans like that guy.”

[ MORE: Pulisic Watch — His day v. Watford ]

Pulisic drew a penalty and had the pass before the assist on Ross Barkley’s late goal to salt away the win and fourth place in the Premier League for another few days.

The Blues had lost late to West Ham United at midweek, and Pulisic admits the boys were fired up to avenge the setback.

“We needed that one today,” he said. “There was a little extra bit of energy because of that loss. We wanted to come out and prove a point today.”

Finally, Pulisic was asked what he’d be doing if he was home in the States on the Fourth of July.

“If I was home in the U.S. I’d be having a barbecue with my family and enjoying Independence Day.”

Stock answer. Only way he could lose points with us today.

Chelsea cruises past relegation-worried Watford

Leave a comment

Chelsea got goals from Willian, Ross Barkley, and Olivier Giroud in a comfortable 3-0 defeat of Watford at Stamford Bridge on Saturday.

USMNT star Christian Pulisic drew a penalty for Willian’s goal and helped set up Barkley’s third goal in his fourth-straight start in 10 days.

[ MORE: Pulisic Watch – USMNT star shines again ]

Chelsea moves back atop Manchester United for fourth place, one point behind Leicester City.

Watford’s 28 points are one point better than two of the bottom three, with Aston Villa holding a match-in-hand and set to visit Liverpool on Sunday.

[ MORE: Pulisic reacts to Hazard comparisons ]


Three things we learned

1. Chelsea holds serve in top four fight: Wins for Manchester United and Leicester City meant the Blues could finish the day in either fourth or fifth. The decisive performance was a welcome one for Chelsea boss Frank Lampard following a late loss at West Ham earlier in the week. The Blues meet Crystal Palace, Sheffield United, and Norwich City before Liverpool and Wolves make for a dangerous final two league fixtures.

2. Pearson plans for midweek: Norwich City looks as down-and-out as any club right now, so it’s not likely a coincidence that Etienne Capoue and Troy Deeney came off the pitch with the score line 2-0 and 26 minutes to play. Watford will aim to find points in its home ground against a poor Canaries side on Tuesday.

3. Kante limps off: While Christian Pulisic and Ruben Loftus-Cheek have remained fit and available to Lampard, the manager won’t be happy that N’Golo Kante’s injury-hit season saw a possible concern with a 78th-minute sub for Billy Gilmour.

Man of the Match

It was either Pulisic or Willian, and we’re going to go with the Brazilian if only because CP gets a lot of run in these parts.


Chelsea – Watford recap

Christian Pulisic came out of the gates in lively form and within minutes Olivier Giroud had an odd-angled chance to head toward goal.

The Blues were all over Watford for the first 20 minutes, Pulisic, Willian, and Giroud very involved in the display.

Giroud put the Blues on the board with an experienced, spinning strike in the 29th minute. Getting the ball off a Ross Barkley feed, the Frenchman hit a cushioned low shot across his body and just inside the far post.

Pulisic played a role in the second goal, dribbling to the end line and getting manhandled by an out-of-his-mind Christian Kabasele on his cut back toward play. Penalty, Willian. 2-0.

[ MORE: Premier League stats ]

The second half was mostly Chelsea, too, and Willian forced Foster into a terrific 68th-minute save and corner kick to the Blues.

Watford had their moments late, including a Danny Welbeck effort that Kepa Arrizabalaga did very well to save.

Pulisic had a shot blocked in the 90th minute, and Will Hughes couldn’t convert a Welbeck-inspired play at the other end.

Instead, the American would settle for a “hockey assist,” slipping the ball to Azpilicueta inside the 18 before the Chelsea veteran set up Barkley’s exclamation point.