AP Photo/Jon Super

PL Sunday preview: Cystal Palace-Liverpool, West Brom-Man United

Leave a comment

Saturday’s slate of Premier League fixtures sure was fun, wasn’t it? Fun, in a pants-on-head crazy sort of way, that is.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

After watching Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal play to a thrilling 2-2 draw in the latest installment of the North London Derby; after watching Leicester City go five points clear of the rest of the league; after watching West Ham United score three goals in the final 12 minutes to beat Everton, 3-2 … exhale. Now, we’ve got a 16-hour break until we do it all over again on Sunday.

Crystal Palace vs. Liverpool — 8:30 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and Live Extra

Liverpool are currently a top-five form team in the PL (10 points from their last six league games), while only Norwich City have won fewer than Crystal Palace’s two points during the same period. The Reds’ vengeful hammering of Manchester City on Wendesday goes down as easily their best result of the season and could serve as a rallying point for a strong finish to Jurgen Klopp‘s maiden voyage in the PL. Palace, meanwhile, are without a win in 11 league games (four draws).

When these sides met back in November, it was Palace who made it back-to-back wins at Anfield. On the injury front, Palace will be without midfielders James McArthur (ankle – rest of season) and Jason Puncheon (hamstring), while Liverpool are once again without Lucas Leiva (thigh); Mamadou Sakho (head) is expected to be available for selection once again.

[ MORE: Saturday’s PL roundup — Spurs, Arsenal draw in epic derby ]

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

Speaking of top-five in-form sides, Manchester United have taken a respectable 10 points from their last six league games as well, buoyed by back-to-back victories over Arsenal (3-2) and Watford (1-0) four days apart last week. Marcus Rashford is the name on everyone’s lips these days, as the 18-year-old academy scored a brace in each of his Europa League and PL debuts last month. West Brom, on the other hand, have taken nine from their last six and gone totally clear of the relegation zone (12 points ahead of 18th- and 19th-place Norwich City and Newcastle United).

When these sides met back in November, United came out on top at Old Trafford, 2-0 on the day. On the injury front, the Baggies recently lost Chris Brunt (knee) for the season, while Jonny Evans (hamstring) will miss out on facing his former club, and Callum McManaman (ankle) and James Morrison (hamstring) are still out of action. For United, the latest injury report is extensive; Wayne Rooney (knee), Bastian Schweinsteiger (knee) and Ashley Young, among others, are out, though Chris Smalling (shoulder), Phil Jones (ankle) and Antonio Valencia (foot) are expected to be available for selection.

Who can Premier League clubs draw in Europa League?

Photo by John Peters/Manchester United via Getty Images
Leave a comment

Group winners Arsenal and Manchester United will avoid a loaded batch of seeded teams, while runners-up Wolves can draw a bevy of powerful teams in the Europa League Round of 32.

Wolves manager Nuno Espirito Santo can find himself drawn against former club Porto, but also could have to match wits with Ajax’s Erik ten Hag, Inter Milan’s Antonio Conte, or Red Bull Salzburg’s Jesse Marsch.

[ MORE: Man Utd pounds AZ ]

Speaking of Marsch, the Salzburg boss could go from meeting Liverpool to squaring off with Steven Gerrard and Rangers.

Gerrard could also, of course, go up against hated playing days’ rival Manchester United.

Seeded teams
Ajax
Arsenal
Basel
Benfica
Braga
Celtic
Espanyol
Gent
Inter Milan
Istanbul Basaksehir
LASK
Malmo
Manchester United
Porto
Red Bull Salzburg
Sevilla

Unseeded teams
APOEL Nicosia
AZ Alkmaar
Bayer Leverkusen
Club Brugge
Copenhagen
CFR Cluj
Eintracht Frankfurt
Ludogorets Razgrad
Olympiacos
Rangers
Roma
Wolfsburg
Wolves
Shakhtar Donetsk
Sporting Lisbon

Who can Premier League teams draw in the Round of 32?

Arsenal: APOEL Nicosia, AZ Alkmaar, Bayer Leverkusen, Club Brugge, Copenhagen, CFR Cluj, Ludogorets Razgrad, Olympiacos, Rangers, Roma, Wolfsburg, Shakhtar Donetsk, Sporting Lisbon

Manchester United: APOEL Nicosia, Bayer Leverkusen, Club Brugge, Copenhagen, CFR Cluj, Eintracht Frankfurt, Ludogorets Razgrad, Olympiacos, Rangers, Roma, Wolfsburg, Shakhtar Donetsk, Sporting Lisbon

Wolves: Ajax, Basel, Benfica, Celtic, Espanyol, Gent, Inter Milan, Istanbul Basaksehir, LASK, Malmo, Porto, Red Bull Salzburg, Sevilla

Four-star Manchester United wins Europa League group

Manchester United Mata Greenwood
Photo by Martin Rickett/PA Images via Getty Images
Leave a comment

Manchester United is in fine feather and showing it, smashing AZ Alkmaar in a stylish 4-0 win at Old Trafford in Europa League play on Thursday.

Juan Mata had a goal and set up two others, while Mason Greenwood scored twice after Ashley Young opened the scoring in a group-claiming victory.

[ MORE: Saka leads Arsenal comeback ]

United wins the group with 13 points, conceding just twice in six matches.

The Red Devils have won three-straight matches, as AZ joins Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur in the loss column. Up next is a Sunday visit from Everton in the Premier League before Wednesday’s League Cup quarterfinal visit from Colchester United.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer handed starts to James Garner, Brandon Williams, and Axel Tuanzebe, bringing youngsters Ethan Laird and Tahith Chong off the bench.

Greenwood, 18, now has six goals in 22 senior appearances, while Mata, 31, gets on the score sheet for the first time this season.

For his career, the award-winning Spaniard is doing okay, though: 125 goals and 149 assists in 542 senior appearances.

Ljungberg hails ‘amazing’ teen Saka after game-changing performance

Photo by JOHN THYS/AFP via Getty Images
Leave a comment

Arsenal phenom Bukayo Saka‘s big day spurred the Gunners to a top seed in the Europa League knockout rounds.

Arsenal went behind on two deflected goals in the second half’s first 25 minutes, but Saka answered with a goal and an assist in three minutes to take a point from Belgium in a 2-2 draw at Standard Liege.

[ RECAP, VIDEO: Standard Liege 2-2 Arsenal ]

Saka was at the heart of it of all good things Arsenal, the 18-year-old handed plenty of responsibility. despite his tender age.

“He was amazing,” said interim manager Freddie Ljungberg. “He was a bit upset with me before the game that he had to play wing-back and full-back. He’s a tremendous talent.”

Saka had four key passes to go with his goal and assist, winning six of eight duels while producing two tackles and an interception.

Ljungberg said Arsenal hasn’t sent its young players on loan enough, though that hardly applies to Saka given he was 17 until September.

The injured Gunners used Konstantinos Mavropanos, Emile Smith-Rowe, Joe Willock, and Reiss Nelson in the Starting XI, and brought Gabriel Martinelli off the bench.

“I feel sorry for our young players,” he said. “A lot of them haven’t been on loan, they’ve not had that exposure to men’s football. Some of them made mistakes but they’ll learn from those mistakes and won’t do them again.”

Smith-Rowe was loaned to RB Leipzig last season and Nelson starred on loan at Hoffenheim. Mavropanos played first team football for Greek Super League side PAS Giannina in his late teens.

Arsenal joins Premier League sides Wolves and Manchester United in the knockout rounds, having lost the Europa League final to rivals Chelsea at the end of last season.

The Gunners beat West Ham on Monday and host Manchester City at 11:30 a.m. ET Sunday.

Arsenal uses thrilling comeback to win Europa League group

Leave a comment

Nothing Arsenal-related is allowed to be easy, it seems.

The Gunners used a goal and an assist from Bukayo Saka to come back from a two-goal deficit and draw Standard Liege 2-2 in Belgium on Thursday, winning its Europa League group when Vitoria came back to beat Eintracht Frankfurt on a wild afternoon of soccer.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

Arsenal trailed on second half goals from Samuel Bastien and Selim Amallah, but rallied behind Bukayo Saka and Alexandre Lacazette to score a second-straight win for interim boss Freddie Ljungberg.

Saka sent in a laser cross in the 78th minute and Lacazette did quite well to power it under the bar.

He’s loving this competition, having made a serious entrance earlier in the tournament versus Eintracht Frankfurt. The 18-year-old now has two goals and five assists across all competitions this season.

The Gunners needed just three more minutes to tie the score on a day they outshot the hosts 15-11.

Saka showed his nose for goal to tie the score five minutes later with a dribble to the top of the 18 and a sly finish to the keeper’s left.

This was all happening around the same time Vitoria scored twice in three minutes to take a 3-2 lead on Eintracht Frankfurt.

Standard Liege goes from the knockout rounds to nothing in a blink, while Eintracht goes from winning the group to second.

The field for the Europa League is looking fierce, with Inter Milan, Benfica, Ajax, Club Brugge, Olympiacos, Shakhtar Donetsk, Bayer Leverkusen, and Red Bull Salzburg joining the competition via transfer from the UEFA Champions League.

Arsenal joins Premier League sides Wolves and Manchester United in the knockout rounds, having lost the Europa League final to rivals Chelsea at the end of last season.

The Gunners beat West Ham on Monday and host Manchester City at 11:30 a.m. ET Sunday.