PL Sunday preview: Arsenal, Spurs, Liverpool all in action

Leave a comment

Sunday’s slate of Premier League fixtures are chock full of title and top-four implications, with three sides — Arsenal, Tottenham Hotspur and Liverpool — harboring dreams of the top-four, or higher, in action. Their respective opponents, meanwhile, are thinking to themselves, “Let’s just not get relegated, please.”

[ MORE: Saturday’s PL roundup ]

Aston Villa vs. Arsenal — 7:30 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and Live Extra

Can Arsenal really challenge for and/or win the title? How much longer can Villa go without winning a game? “Yes” and “a really long time” appear to be the answers to the above questions. The Gunners enter Sunday’s showdown at Villa Park third in the league table, just two points back of leaders Manchester City and Leicester City, while Villa haven’t won a league game since the opening day of the season (that’s 14 games winless) and sit rock bottom of the league, eight points clear of the relegation zone.

Despite Wednesday’s UEFA Champions League triumph to complete the “greatest escape” from the group stage, Arsenal are far from their very best at the moment: Alexis Sanchez (hamstring), Santi Cazorla (knee), Francis Coquelin (knee), Jack Wilshere (leg), Mikel Arteta (calf), Danny Welbeck (knee) and Tomas Rosicky (knee) will all miss out through injury. For Villa, the injury news is somewhat encouraging — Micah Richards (knee) should be the only player of real consequence to be missing on Sunday — but the form remains dreadful, with just a single point to show for Remi Garde’s first three games in charge. Arsenal are unbeaten against Villa in their last four meetings (all competitions) with a staggering 14-1 advantage in goals scored.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays | Standings | Stats ]

Liverpool vs. West Bromwich Albion — 11 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and Live Extra

Liverpool have won just 11 of 21 possible points since Jurgen Klopp made his PL debut on Oct. 17 (they won 12 points from the first eight games, under Brendan Rodgers), which leaves the Reds only just inside the top half of the table, 10th, six points off the pace of Manchester United, who currently occupy the fourth and final Champions League place. As for West Brom, they’re there. Currently sitting 13th in the league, they’re six points clear of the relegation zone, capable of finishing anywhere between ninth and 16th at the end of the season.

On the injury front, the Reds are once again without striker Daniel Sturridge, who suffered a hamstring injury last week. Elsewhere, Jordan Ibe (illness) and Mamadou Sakho (knee) will both be game-time decisions on Sunday. For West Brom, Stephane Sessegnon (hamstring) will be unavailable, as will Ben Foster, who’s still recovering from last season’s knee surgery. Liverpool have won two of their last five league meetings with West Brom, which also includes two draws and one win for the Baggies.

[ MORE: Man United lose to Bournemouth | Man City win in stoppage time ]

Tottenham Hotspur vs. Newcastle United — 11 a.m. ET, on Live Extra

All Tottenham have to do to leapfrog Man United for the fourth spot is beat 18th-place Newcastle United. Easy, right? Perhaps not, given a recent uptick in form by the Magpies (two wins in their last four games, including a 2-0 victory over Liverpool last week). For Spurs, avoiding defeat on Sunday would mean their unbeaten run goes on and is extended to 15 games. No team in the PL has drawn as many games as Spurs (8). In fact, only two sides have drawn six times this season.

Clinton Njie and Mousa Dembele (foot) have both been ruled out for Spurs, as has Ryan Mason (ankle), who missed last week’s draw away to West Brom. For Newcastle, the injury list is long: Tim Krul (knee) is out for the season, while Steven Taylor (hamstring), Emmanuel Riviere (knee), Gabriel Obertan (hamstring), Massadio Haidara (knee) and Rolando Aarons (foot) are all out. Mike Williamson and Jamaal Lascelles could each return after missing last week’s victory with hamstring injuries. Newcastle won away to Spurs last season before being hammered, 4-0, at White Hart Lane in the League Cup two months later.

Burton Albion making League Cup semi “absolutely staggering”

Owen Humphreys/PA via AP
Leave a comment

Burton Albion has never finished higher than 20th in the Championship, so getting to the League Cup semifinals followed a 1-0 defeat of Middlesbrough is pretty darn sweet to manager Nigel Clough and his men.

The Brewers were relegated to League One last season, finishing 23rd in the 24-team Championship.

[ MORE: Leicester 1-1 (1-3 pens) Man City]

Now, manager Nigel Clough has the club within a win of the League Cup Final. It’s their best major cup performance in a 68-year history.


“The scale of the achievement is absolutely staggering – for Burton Albion to get to the semi-final of a major cup competition. It’s very difficult to describe the feeling at this point.”

Sure the luck of the draw is involved — Burton has only drawn one Premier League team, and it was Burnley — but winning five cup matches is winning five cup matches.

Clough, the son of legendary manager Brian Clough, also sung the praises of Southampton loanee Jake Hesketh. The 22-year-old won the match with the game’s loan goal.

“We got the goal through Jake Hesketh. The most impressive thing was to win the tackle on the edge of the box and he was one of the few players tonight not to hit his shot over the bar, We bang on in training about hitting the bottom corners and he did.”

Whether or not Burton can hang with Premier League opposition in the final, this is a pretty monumental moment for the Brewers. Sitting 15th in league play, it will likely be the most memorable moment of the season.

River Plate loses on penalties to Al Ain at Club World Cup

AP Photo/Kamran Jebreili)
Leave a comment

AL AIN CITY, United Arab Emirates (AP) South American champion River Plate was upset by Al Ain FC in the Club World Cup on Tuesday, losing in a penalty shootout after the semifinal finished 2-2 following extra time.

Al Ain’s players converted all five penalty kicks, before goalkeeper Khalid Eisa saved Enzo Perez’s fifth shot for River to seal a 5-4 victory in the shootout.

[ MORE: Leicester 1-1 (1-3 pens) Man City ]

River endured the humbling loss to the team from United Arab Emirates less than two weeks after thrilling its fans with a memorable win over fierce Argentine rival Boca Juniors in the final of the Copa Libertadores.

Real Madrid plays Kashima Antlers on Wednesday in the other semifinal.

Marcus Berg put Al Ain ahead in the third minute before Santos Borre scored twice to give River the lead in the 16th.

Brazilian forward Caio pulled Al Ain level at 2-2 in the 51st.

Gonzalo Martinez had an opportunity to put River back in front from the penalty spot after Mohamed Ahmad fouled Milton Casco in the area. But Martinez hit the 68th-minute spot kick against the crossbar.

The final is on Saturday.

More AP soccer: and

Pep on Man City win, Sterling’s poor panenka, Mourinho sacking

AP Photo/Rui Vieira
Leave a comment

Pep Guardiola‘s Manchester City needed penalties to outlast hosts Leicester City in the quarterfinals of the League Cup, but got the job done thanks in no small part to some laughable efforts from the Foxes.

[ RECAP: Leicester 1-1 (1-3 pens) Man City ]

Kevin De Bruyne and Marc Albrighton scored good-looking goals in regulation, and Oleksandr Zinchenko converted City’s third penalty after Leicester missed three-consecutive offerings at the King Power Stadium.

Man City’s only miss was an awful missed panenka from Raheem Sterling, but Guardiola was mostly okay with the outcome given their lineup.

Eric Garcia started and made his first team debut at age 17. Phil Foden and Brahim Diaz also started the match. Young goalkeeper Arijanet Muric starred for Man City, stopping two penalties in the win. From the BBC:

“A tough game, it is always difficult at Leicester. We played with a guy who is 17 years old and some injured players, it was a good game. … Raheem took that decision [to chip his penalty], unfortunately he missed it but that is OK.”

Guardiola was also asked about fired Manchester United boss Jose Mourinho. He feels compassion for his longtime rival.

“I am always sad for the manager when that happens. We are alone in that situation. I am close to all of the managers. You are sacked when results are not good. He doesn’t need me, he is so strong. I wish him all the best and he will be back soon.”

Man City is one win from a third League Cup final in four years, and will face either Burton Albion, Arsenal, Spurs, Bournemouth, or Chelsea. Next up is a visit from Crystal Palace on Saturday and another trip to Leicester on Boxing Day.

League Cup: Man City wins in PKs; Burton upsets Boro

AP Photo/Rui Vieira
Leave a comment

It took penalty kicks to separate Leicester City and Man City, while Middlesbrough was booed off the pitch after 90 minutes of an upset loss as the first two quarterfinals of the League Cup were played Tuesday in England.

[ MORE: Steffen wins USMNT award ]

Leicester City 1-1 (1-3, PKs) Man City

A bungling batch of penalties ended an entertaining quarterfinal at King Power Stadium, and the reigning champions are alive for their third League Cup in four years.

Christian Fuchs airmailed Leicester City’s second attempt of penalty kicks, but Raheem Sterling chipped his ensuing panenka over the bar for Man City.

It was three-straight misses when Man City’s Arijanet Muric saved James Maddison‘s tame low effort and then nabbed Caglar Soyuncu’s shot to cue up Oleksandar Zinchenko for the winner.

Before that, we learned that Kevin De Bruyne can ball.

Okay, that’s not news, though we haven’t been able to see it in sometime thanks to a pair of knee injuries.

De Bruyne had played just 251 minutes heading into Tuesday’s League Cup quarterfinal at Leicester City, though he’s looking plenty sharp.

Watch the Manchester City midfielder cut his mark with a clever back leg move, then sweep a shot through a defender’s legs and past the reach of Leicester backstop Danny Ward.

It’s delightful stuff. Watch it here.

No sooner had De Bruyne left the contest after 70 minutes, Leicester City restored the stalemate via Marc Albrighton. The veteran midfielder collected a Wilfred Ndidi over-the-top pass with style before lashing past Arijanet Muric.

Middlesbrough 0-1 Burton Albion

There goes Tony Pulis‘ Boro outfit thanks to a strike from Southampton loanee Jake Hesketh, as Burton Albion trumped the ol’ West Bromwich Albion coach at his own game.

The League One side is the only non-Premier League team left in the tournament, and will now face either Man City, Arsenal, Tottenham, Chelsea, or Bournemouth in the semifinals.