Premier League Sunday preview: Man City vs. Chelsea in the main event of Week 2

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It’s time, ladies and gentleman, for the main event.

No, you’ve not stumbled upon a boxing website, but instead a preview of Sunday, Aug. 16th’s monumental slate of games in the Premier League.

[ MORE: Saturday’s Premier League roundup ]

Sure, there’s only two games on tomorrow’s docket, but boy oh boy, are they a couple of big ones. When the 2014-15 season came to an end, all four teams found themselves inside the top 10. The PL title won’t be decided on Sunday, but when one of Manchester City and Chelsea lift the trophy come May, Sunday’s meeting will have played a big part in the triumph and failure of either side.

Crystal Palace vs. Arsenal — 7:30 am ET, on NBCSN and Live Extra

Following a strong finish to the 2014-15 season, an even stronger summer transfer window and a dominant performance last week, Crystal Palace are very easily one of the trendiest picks to move into and finish inside the top third of the league this season. On Sunday, they’ll face a far more formidable foe than Norwich City, their opponents in Week 1 — Arsenal.

Following their opening week defeat to West Ham United, Arsene Wenger’s are set to open their 2015-16 home campaign as they visit Alan Pardew’s Eagles at Selhurst Park. The Gunners will once again be without midfielders Jack Wilshere and Tomas Rosicky (injuries), both of whom would be quite useful against Palace’s stout central midfield unit led by Mile Jedinak, James McArthur and Yohan Cabaye. The last of that bunch, a club record ($15 million) signing from Paris Saint-Germain this summer, scored on his Palace debut last week.

For Arsenal, much criticism this week has fallen on the Gunners’ toothless attack (22 shots in a 2-0 loss to West Ham) and suspect defense (two miserable, mistake-ridden goals conceded). Arsenal won both games between the two teams last season, each by a score of 2-1.

ARSENAL SEASON PREVIEW | CRYSTAL PALACE

Manchester City vs. Chelsea — 10:30 am ET, on NBCSN and Live Extra

This is, for all intents and purposes, the main event of the second week of Premier League action. With both Man City and Chelsea expected to be very much in the title race, you could even call it the main event of the season. While the defending champion Blues struggled to a 2-2 draw with Swansea City on opening day, City put in the opening weekend’s most emphatic performance when they ran roughshod over West Bromwich Albion.

Jose Mourinho will be without goalkeeper Thiabut Courtois (suspension) and midfielder Oscar (injury) for their trip to the Etihad Stadium. On the other side, Manuel Pellegrini could be without either one or both of Yaya Toure and Fabian Delph for the season’s first matchup between major title chasers. City’s previously shoddy defensive unit was much improved in Week 1, though we’ll have a much better sense of where Aleksandar Kolarov, Eliaquim Mangala, Vincent Kompany and Bacary Sagna (left to right) stand as quartet after they face the likes of Eden Hazard, Diego Costa and Cesc Fabregas for 90 minutes.

For Chelsea, talk all week long has surrounded Mourinho and his decision to remove a pair of team doctors from the bench ahead of this weekend’s game; not on his side’s underwhelming performance in Week 1 — something which will surely please the Portuguese greatly. City and Chelsea drew each of their 2014-15 league meetings, both by a final score of 1-1.

MAN CITY SEASON PREVIEW | CHELSEA

De Gea limps off for Spain ahead of Man Utd-Liverpool tilt

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Here’s the good news for Manchester United supporters: David De Gea played incredibly well for Spain in its EURO qualifier on Tuesday as La Furia Roja clinched a place in EURO 2020.

The bad news? The performance was truncated, with De Gea limping off the pitch and replaced by Chelsea’s Kepa Arrizabalaga in the 60th minute.

[ MORE: EURO qualifying wrap ]

De Gea appeared to injure himself while attempting a goal kick of all things, as Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will be wondering what fresh hell awaits him next.

Perhaps that’s simply the fact that Liverpool visits Old Trafford on Sunday in a match that Solskjaer previously said was perhaps ideal for his reeling Red Devils.

Solskjaer would turn to Sergio Romero should De Gea been unable to play at the weekend. Lee Grant is United’s third goalkeeper with Dean Henderson on loan to Sheffield United.

United was already going to need a lot of help to beat back the unbeaten Reds.

EURO qualifying wrap: Spain earns place in stoppage time

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Spain clinched a spot in EURO 2020 via a last-minute equalizer, but the rest of the picture only got murkier thanks to dramatics in Romania and Switzerland.)

[ MORE: How should USMNT line up? ]


Sweden 1-1 Spain

A Marcus Berg header had Sweden on the verge of a significant home win against nearly unbeatable David De Gea and Spain, but Valencia forward Rodrigo delivered a stoppage time goal to give Robert Moreno’s men a place in EURO 2020. But Sweden can breathe a little easier thanks to a stoppage time goal across the continent.

Bad news for Manchester United, though, as De Gea’s strong day ended early due to injury.

Romania 1-1 Norway

New York City FC’s Alexandru Mitrita added another beauty to his collection in scoring for the second successive qualifier, but it wouldn’t stand up thanks to former Crystal Palace striker Alexander Sorloth‘s stoppage time equalizer.

Switzerland 2-0 Republic of Ireland

Terrible from the Irish, who trailed after 16 minutes and then went down to 10 men when Seamus Coleman was shown a red card in the 76th minute. Former West Ham man Edimilson Fernandes put it to bed in stoppage time as the Swiss out-attempted Ireland 20-9.

The Irish are tied for the lead in the group with 12 points but that’s about where the good news ends. They do not have an automatic spot in the playoffs while Denmark does and has 12 points. Switzerland has 11 and has also played one fewer match.

Ireland will need to beat Denmark next month and hope for help on the out-of-town scoreboard when Switzerland meets Gibraltar and Georgia.

Finland 3-0 Armenia

Norwich City striker Teemu Pukki continued his fine year with a pair of goals after Fredrik Jensen staked the Finnish side to a lead in Turku. Group J second place side Finland has a five-point lead on chasing Armenia and BNH.

Elsewhere

Faroe Islands 1-0 Malta
Gibraltar 2-3 Georgia
Greece 2-1 Bosnia and Herzegovina
Liechtenstein 0-5 Italy
Israel 3-1 Latvia

Lloyd: Coming off bench at World Cup “rock bottom of my entire career”

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The upper echelon of the USWNT player pool, especially the veteran generation, just swims in a different competitive gene pool.

Comments from a recent podcast featuring Carli Lloyd are the latest evidence of this, as the USWNT legend calls not starting regularly at this summer’s World Cup “the worst time of my life.”

[ MORE: How should USMNT line up? ]

She says she was happy to be a part of it and happy for her teammates but doesn’t back down from the “worst” diagnosis. Yeah, you read that right.

“I’m not going to lie and sugarcoat it,” Lloyd said on Julie Foudy’s Laughter Permitted podcast. “It was absolutely the worst time of my life. It affected my relationship with my husband, with friends. It really was rock bottom of my entire career. But somehow, you see light at the end of the tunnel, and I can honestly say I’m having more fun now playing than I ever have in my career. I think I just learned a lot throughout it.”

To be fair, Lloyd hasn’t backed up anyone in almost a decade and has since won a Ballon d’Or. Not many elite athletes get used to being second (or fourth) fiddle, especially on a major stage like that.

The personalities on this team are as big as any produced by Ronaldo’s Brazil or Zidane’s France. Some may laugh at this, but it shows what a tremendous job Jill Ellis did in marshaling the team to two-straight World Cups, the first with Abby Wambach in a sub’s role and the second with Lloyd.

It also shows the marvelous competitive nature of Lloyd and the resilience of players who know they’d start for any number of teams in the world. Lloyd says in the podcast that she believed she was playing at near her best level despite being moved from midfielder to forward.

Obviously no player prefers a sub’s role to starting, but — wow — if it isn’t bewildering to hear Lloyd talk about her supporting role at age 37 being the worst time of her life. Different types.

Liverpool’s Alisson, Matip return to training

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Premier League leaders Liverpool have been handed a huge boost ahead of their massive clash at bitter rivals Manchester United on Sunday (Watch live, 11:30 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

Remember: Liverpool are eight points clear atop the table and United sit in 12th, so Jurgen Klopp‘s men are keen to rub salt further into the wounds of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer‘s Red Devils.

Alisson and Joel Matip both returned to training at Melwood, with Alisson recovering from a calf injury which he suffered on the opening day of the season.

The Brazilian goalkeeper has been missing after limping out of the 4-1 win against Norwich City on Aug. 9, and his return to full fitness will bolster this already stingy Liverpool defense. Adrian has performed admirably, albeit with a few errors, in Alisson’s absence but it is now time for the superstar goalkeeper to return to action.

As for Matip, the towering center back suffered an injury against Sheffield United and missed Liverpool’s UEFA Champions League win against Red Bull Salzburg and their narrow Premier League victory against Leicester City.

Joe Gomez and Dejan Lovren have both come in for Matip but neither have been solid enough and the former Schalke star will slot straight back in alongside Virgil Van Dijk and bring a steadying influence to the entire defensive line. Matip has been sensational this season, just as everyone expected Gomez to take his starting spot.

Another situation to keep an eye on is the fitness of Mohamed Salah, as he trained on his own at Melwood. Salah was caught with a rash challenge by Hamza Choudhury at the end of Liverpool’s win over Leicester and suffered an ankle injury.

Klopp was incandescent with rage about the foul on Salah and it appears the Egyptian winger is in a race against time to be fit for the clash against Man United, although he is reportedly looking good to play at Old Trafford on Sunday.

With the fitness of Paul Pogba, Luke Shaw Anthony Martial, Aaron Wan-Bissaka and others a constant struggle for United in recent weeks, Solskjaer hasn’t had much help in that department.

Having Alisson and Matip back is great news for Liverpool and Klopp.