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

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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.

Sessegnon beats Neuer to score first Spurs, Champions League goal

Photo by Peter Kneffel/picture alliance via Getty Images)Photo by Peter Kneffel/picture alliance via Getty Images)
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Ryan Sessegnon has his first Spurs goal, which also happens to be his first UEFA Champions League goal, and he’ll love telling the tale of it.

The 19-year-old Englishman ripped a rocket past Manuel Neuer of all people, collecting a deflection to equalize early in Tottenham’s match against Bayern Munich at the Allianz Arena.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

Sessegnon entered the day with an assist in 30 minutes spread across three appearances for Spurs, and needed just 20 more minutes to find a goal.

He made a big money move from Fulham this summer, having made a remarkable 120 senior appearances. Almost all of those came before he turned 19, and he’s scored 25 times with 18 assists.

Kingsley Coman has Bayern’s goal as the teams remain locked at 1 after Bayern hung 7 on Spurs in England earlier in the group stage.


Jesus hat-trick downs Dinamo Zagreb, Atalanta qualifies for knockouts

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Manchester City looked sluggish again, but Gabriel Jesus made sure it didn’t matter.

The Brazilian cropped up at a critical juncture for Pep Guardiola, sending Manchester City through into the knockout stage on a winning note as his hat-trick sealed a 4-1 come-from-behind victory that knocked Dinamo Zagreb from European competition altogether.

[ LIVE: Champions League scores ]

The first half was especially lackluster for the English visitors to Stadion Maksimir in Zagreb, with lots of possession but little to show for it. The hosts went in front early on, punishing Man City on the counter on a fabulous volleyed finish from former Barcelona youth product Dani Olmo.

That was the best goal of the day, but Man City picked itself up and pulled back level before the break, with Jesus grabbing his first via a header as Dinamo Zagreb shut off, screaming for Man City to put the ball out with a Zagreb player down. The visitors rightly did not, and Dinamo was punished by the equalizer.

After halftime, Man City was much better, hammering the left flank to take a commanding lead. The second came on excellent work by Jesus in the box to shake a defender and finish with his right, while the third flew in minutes later on a pinpoint Benjamin Mendy cross that Jesus met with a flying karate kick. Pep Guardiola had one eye on the festive fixtures, withdrawing Jesus soon after the hour mark, replaced by Oleksandr Zinchenko who curiously took Jesus’s place at the striker position.

Phil Foden was the best Manchester City player throughout, and finished off the scoreline with seven minutes to go. An excellent buildup down the right saw Bernardo Silva sprung through, and he cut back to Foden at the top of the six-yard box who slid to meet the ball with pace and poke home the cherry on top.

Elsewhere, Atalanta topped Shakhtar Donetsk 3-0 in the Ukraine on goals by Timothy Castagne, Mario Pasalic, and Robin Gosens, meaning the Italians secured the second spot in Group A, qualifying for the knockout stage. The Ukranians were left dead in the water after right-back Dodo was sent off 13 minutes from time, leading to the second goal to seal things up. Atalanta’s advancement marks a stunning comeback given the Italian side failed to secure points in any of their first three group stage matches.

That left Shakhtar in third, dropping to the Europa League, while Dinamo Zagreb was left at the bottom of the group, on the outside looking in.

Charlotte MLS club files trademarks for eight potential names

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It is being heavily reported that Charlotte is the next city to earn a club in the rapidly expanding Major League Soccer landscape, and Carolina Panthers owner David Tepper has taken the next step towards that possibility.

The new club needs a name, and they appear to be nearing a selection. Tepper filed for eight different name trademarks, according to multiple reports, including The Athletic’s Jourdan Rodrigue who confirmed the filings were made under Tepper’s Panthers address.

Here is the list of names he filed copyright requests for:

“Charlotte FC” would be a bare-bones and generic name that follows in the footsteps of recent MLS expansion clubs such as Orlando City SC, NYCFC or LAFC. Others are a little more colorful, including “Carolina Gliders FC” or “Charlotte Monarchs FC,” while a few others like “Charlotte Town FC” or “Charlotte Athletic FC” clearly call forth thoughts of smaller English clubs.

Rodrigue speculated that the relative lack of “Carolina” encompassing names is potentially due to the possibility of an expansion bid from Raleigh down the road, and a Carolina team would potentially provide an unnecessary roadblock to that future prospect. There is a clear lack of region-encompassing names in Major League Soccer, with “New England Revolution” the only example, and there’s no real reason to break that mold with another potential bid city down the road.

Which name is your favorite? What would you have gone with if you could name the club?

LIVE, UCL: Two knockout spots remain; Man City, Tottenham in play

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Two more spots in the knockout round remain unclaimed as the final day of group stage play begins on Wednesday.

Groups C and D both require a second team to progress through to the Round of 16, with five teams still in the mix.

[ LIVE: Champions League scores ]

Manchester City has already won Group D, but the remaining three teams Shakhtar Donetsk, Dinamo Zagreb, and Atalanta all remain in contention for the second spot. Shakhtar currently sits second and has a home match with Atalanta, while Dinamo Zagreb host Man City in Croatia. Both those games feature in the early 12:55 p.m. ET kickoffs.

Group D, meanwhile, has a pair of sides vying for the last spot. Atletico Madrid has a point advantage, currently sitting in second with a home match against already eliminated Russian side Lokomotiv Moscow. Bayer Leverkusen, meanwhile, hosts group winners Juventus in Germany.

Elsewhere, Tottenham Hotspur has already locked up a spot in the knockout stage, locked into the second spot in Group A, and they finish out the group stage with a visit to confirmed group winners Bayern Munich. Jose Mourinho told the press he forbid his players from watching any footage of the 7-2 defeat to Bayern to begin group stage play, and is resting “a few players” ahead of the festive Premier League fixtures.

Finally, Group A has already been decided with Real Madrid confirmed to finish second behind winners Paris Saint-Germain, but the two still have to complete the fixture list. Madrid heads to Belgium to take on Club Brugge, while PSG hosts Galatasaray. The Spanish side is most likely to rest players, with a weekend visit to Valencia coming up on Sunday followed by a midweek El Clasico that was rescheduled from earlier in the season.

Below is the full schedule for the last UCL games on Wednesday, with all games kicking off at 3 p.m. ET unless otherwise noted, and you can follow the action live by clicking on the link above.

Wednesday Champions League action

Group A

Club Brugge v. Real Madrid
Paris Saint-Germain v. Galatasaray

Group B

Bayern Munich v. Tottenham Hotspur
Olympiakos v. Red Star Belgrade

Group C

Dinamo Zagreb v. Manchester City (12:55 p.m. ET)
Shakhtar Donetsk v. Atalanta (12:55 p.m. ET)

Group D

Atletico Madrid v. Lokomotiv Moscow
Bayer Leverkusen v. Juventus