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PL Sunday preview: Arsenal vs. Chelsea, Everton vs. Swansea City

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Title implications, relegation consequences, middle-of-the-table mediocrity — Sunday’s slate of Premier League fixtures offers a little bit of everything, storyline-wise.

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After a heart-stopping Saturday which included 26 goals in eight games, Sunday’s two-game schedule sounds a much-needed respite for the faint-hearted.

Everton vs. Swansea City — 8:30 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and Live Extra

In their last three PL games, Everton and Swansea have each won just three points; the Toffees on three consecutive draws against stiff competition (Tottenham Hotspur, Manchester City and Chelsea), while the Swans lost to Manchester United and got hammered by 19th-place Sunderland before knocking off Watford last week.

When these sides met for the first time this season, back in September, it ended a 0-0 draw at the Liberty Stadium. Everton finished the game with 10 men after Kevin Mirallas was shown straight red in the 93rd minute, two minutes after being subbed on. This time around, Everton will once again be without Seamus Coleman (hamstring), as well as long-term absentees Tyias Browning (knee) and James McCarthy (groin). Swansea boast a mostly clean bill of health, with no one currently listed on the latest injury report.

[ MORE: Saturday’s PL roundup, including Norwich 4-5 Liverpool ]

Arsenal vs. Chelsea — 11 a.m. ET, on NBSCN and Live Extra

In years past, we might have dubbed this Arsenal versus Chelsea, “the big one,” if only the Gunners were a little closer to the actual title race and posed a serious threat to the Blues’ potential reign of the land. 2015-16 is, of course, a bizarro time to be alive, thus Sunday’s meeting of the PL giants features a 3rd-place Arsenal, with a chance to go top of the league once again, hosting a 14th-place Chelsea at the Emirates Stadium.

When these two sides faced off back in September, Chelsea had yet to fully implode, and notched a 2-0 victory at Stamford Bridge, thanks to goals scored by Kurt Zouma and Calum Chambers (own goal). Arsenal finished that game with nine men after Diego Costa goaded Gabriel Paulista into a 46th-minute red card, and two yellow cards for Santi Cazorla.

Arsenal are due a huge boost on Sunday, though, as Alexis Sanchez is expected to return to action after nearly two months on the sideline with a hamstring injury. Mesut Ozil, the PL’s leading assister (16) of goals, is also expected to be fit after missing last week’s 0-0 draw with Stoke City. Cazorla (knee) and Francis Coquelin (knee) remain unavailable, alongside long-term absentees Jack Wilshere (leg), Tomas Rosicky (knee) and Danny Welbeck (knee). For Chelsea, Costa (leg) and Eden Hazard (groin) have been declared fit. Radamel Falcao (calf) remains the Blues’ lone long-term injury.

Red-hot Rebić scores again as AC Milan tops Torino

AC Milan
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MILAN (AP) Ante Rebić kept up his scoring form to lead AC Milan to a 1-0 win over struggling Torino in Serie A on Monday.

The Croatia international beat his marker to redirect a cross from the center of the area midway through the first half at the San Siro.

The score raised Rebić’s tally to six goals and an assist in eight matches since he earned his starting spot – a move that coincided with Zlatan Ibrahimović’s return to the Rossoneri.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ] 

Bouncing back from a derby loss, Milan moved up to eighth and just beyond the Europa League places. The seven-time European champion is hoping to return to continental competition after voluntary withdrawing from this season’s Europa League to pay for UEFA financial fair play breaches.

Torino, meanwhile, lost its fifth straight, with new coach Moreno Longo still unable to turn things around in his second match in charge.

Ibrahimović narrowly missed a curling shot shortly after the break.

More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

Simeone: Liverpool intensity “makes me admire it as a rival”

UEFA Champions League
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The UEFA Champions League returns at long last on Tuesday, and two of the greatest managers in the game will match wits for the first time.

No we’re not talking about Lucien Favre and Thomas Tuchel, the meeting of the minds in Tuesday’s other kickoff between Borussia Dortmund and Paris Saint-Germain in Germany.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ] 

Liverpool’s Jurgen Klopp will go head-to-head with Atletico Madrid’s Diego Simeone in Spain, and the fiery German thinks it will be “absolutely interesting.”

From The Liverpool Echo:

“People say I emotional on the sideline,” Klopp said. “I am only on level 4, Diego is level 12. Really I am the kindergarten cop against him. He is so impressive after all these years, after so many years at the club – eight years. That is really long and having still this emotional level, still, wow. So impressive. I say, his teams are always organized world class.”

The admiration is mutual.

Simeone expects a huge challenge from a Liverpool team he regards on a historic plane.

“We are facing a magnificent team, really well-trained by a coach who is different and has different alternatives in his team,” he said, via The Independent. “We have always spoken about great teams throughout time and I have no doubt this Liverpool is going to go down in history as a great team because it is different to teams that we have admired. This team is much more intense, more adaptable, and it makes me admire it as a rival.”

The bettors say Liverpool is the heavy favorite in the first leg despite the match’s location at the Wanda Metropolitano. With football geniuses like Klopp and Simeone, however, either could have a plan to throw the other for a loop.

CONCACAF Champions League preview: Five MLS sides eye history

CONCACAF Champions League preview
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Once the Premier League and La Liga had taken their final bows of the day on Saturday, there felt was a particular absence, one soon-to-be filled by domestic soccer.

Yes, MLS is coming soon, and the CONCACAF Champions League is even closer.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ] 

Five MLS sides begin their Round of 16 ties over the next three evenings, some with easier paths than others to elusive CCL glory.

The competition may not have burned itself onto the mainstream, lagging behind continental competitions in Europe and South America, but those who’ve embraced it (hint: this guy) love the thing.

For all the progress Major League Soccer has made in its quarter-century, it’s yet to find much success in dealing with Liga MX powers in the fight to qualify for the Club World Cup.

MLS sides have not won the competition since it was rebranded the CCL. Only three MLS sides have made the CCL final this decade, with Real Salt Lake (2011), Montreal Impact (2015), and Toronto FC (2017) all coming up short at the last step.

The CCL provides everything you love and hate about World Cup qualifying, and those dicey pitches with sometimes worse lighting mean the favorites aren’t guaranteed much.

The top half of the bracket sees three MLS teams — Montreal, Seattle, and NYCFC — and just one Liga MX side, while the bottom half gives us a Liga MX v. MLS match-up straight away.

That’s Leon v. LAFC, and it begins Tuesday night in Mexico. That tie carries the added intrigue of MLS superstar Carlos Vela bringing his act back to his home country for the first time… ever.

Bracket

Saprissa (Costa Rica) v. Montreal — 8 p.m. ET Weds.
Olimpia (Honduras) v. Seattle — 10 p.m. ET Thurs.

San Carlos (Costa Rica) v. NYCFC — 8 p.m. ET Thurs.
Alianza (El Salvador) v. UANL Tigres — 8 p.m. ET Weds.

Leon v. LAFC — 10 p.m. ET Tues.
Portmore United (Jamaica) v. Cruz Azul — 8 p.m. ET Tues.

Comunicaciones (Guatemala) v. Club America — 10 p.m. ET Weds.
Montagua (Honduras) v. Atlanta United — 10 p.m. ET Tues.

The 2 Robbies podcast: VAR carnage at Stamford Bridge

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Robbie Mustoe and Robbie Earle dissect a crazy game at Stamford Bridge that saw Chelsea on the wrong side of several VAR decisions (00:45).

The gents also recap the big moments from the weekend; Liverpool beat Norwich (18:30), Son’s late winner against Aston Villa (24:45) and Arteta‘s attackers thrash Newcastle United (30:15).

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ] 

To listen to more lively conversations and passionate debate from Robbie Earle and Robbie Mustoe, subscribe to The 2 Robbies Podcast on Apple Podcasts or anywhere you listen to podcasts.

And you can follow them on Twitter @The2RobbiesNBC here.

Click here for The 2 Robbies archive ]