Week 31: Top 5 Premier League Storylines — Derbies in Manchester, London, Northeast and much more

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This season’s wild nature has made the task of choosing the top Premier League storylines in a given week anything but pedestrian.

In past seasons, we’ve had maybe 2-3 teams jostling for movement inside the Top Six, and a couple relegation candidates tangling for their top-flight lives.

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Throw in the fact that this week includes a trio of derbies that will play a late-season part in both the UEFA Champions League qualification picture and in what’s left on the relegation scrap heap, and you’ve got a weekend with spell-binding potential.

The Manchester Derby that could seal Louis Van Gaal‘s fate

Manchester City vs. Manchester United — Sunday, Noon ET (NBC)

Do you really think Manchester United’s brass and fan base could stomach losing to City and Liverpool in the same week, with the former loss booting them out of Europe? Me neither, at least not come May. City is struggling with injuries on its back line, but United played Thursday against Liverpool and didn’t exactly rest any stars (Apologies to Memphis Depay and Morgan Schneiderlin). Van Gaal will surely be hoping Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford‘s youthful legs help them run through a depleted defense. Will they?

The Tyne-Wear Derby that could edge a loser into the Championship

Newcastle United vs. Sunderland — Sunday, 9:30 a.m. ET (NBCSN)

during the Barclays Premier League match between Sunderland and Newcastle United at Stadium of Light on October 25, 2015 in Sunderland, England.
Getty Images

 

The Black Cats carry all the bragging rights in this derby, unbeaten in nine against their hated rivals, with wins in an almost absurd six-straight matches. All it would take to set that vibe on its head, though, would be a Newcastle win that would send Sunderland into the drop zone. Sam Allardyce is considered by some to be a great relegation-fighting manager, while Rafa Benitez doesn’t have much experience against the drop. That said, Newcastle deserved at least a point at Leicester and now gets the bumbling Black Cats at St. James Park, where the Magpies have fared alright this year. How will this one play out?

Is West Ham capable of securing a Top Four slot?

Chelsea vs. West Ham United — Saturday, 11 am. ET (USA)

This London Derby sees the Blues and Hammers in flipped positions of power. West Ham could legitimately find itself in a tie for third on points with a win here, while Chelsea needs a bevy of things to break its way just to sniff sixth or seventh come the end of the year. West Ham seeks its first season sweep of Chelsea since 2002-03.

Can Arsene halt his Gunners’ slide?

Everton vs. Arsenal — Saturday, 8:45 a.m. ET (NBCSN)

LONDON, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 24: Olivier Giroud (C) of Arsenal competes for the ball against Phil Jagielka (L) and John Stones (R) of Everton during the Barclays Premier League match between Arsenal and Everton at Emirates Stadium on October 24, 2015 in London, England. Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images) (Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images)
(Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images)

 

The Gunners haven’t won in three trips to Goodison Park (1L-2D), but that win is Everton’s only three-point pull in the series since a March 18, 2007 win. Arsenal has also struggled in general, picking up one point in its last three PL matches while sliding 11 points back of Leicester City. Arsenal’s Top Four fortunes are in jeopardy, but Everton has underperformed in the league all year long. How does it shake out Saturday?

The title fight goes on, but is a Leicester slip-up overdue?

Crystal Palace vs. Leicester City — Saturday, 11 a.m. ET (Premier League ExtraTime)

The Foxes remain on top of the Premier League, and we’re not trying to take anything away from them when we ask, “How?!?” That’s not to the same sort of “How?!?” from earlier in the year, when Leicester was piling up goals and taking big name pelts. This is a sort of disbelief that Leicester has caught a bunch of breaks and still managed to barely get past Norwich, Newcastle and Watford (not to mention that bonkers and inexplicable 2-2 draw with West Brom). Meanwhile, Crystal Palace is still without a league win in 2016. That seems overdue as well. Could this be the week?

Wolves vs Liverpool: How to watch, stream link, team news

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Liverpool hopes it can boost its top-four hopes by hurting Wolves’ plans for Premier League safety when the duo meet Saturday at the Molineux (watch live, 10am ET Saturday online via Peacock Premium).

It’s the third meeting since early January between the sides following a 2-2 draw in the FA Cup and a 1-0 Liverpool win in the replay.

STREAM LIVE WOLVES vs LIVERPOOL

Wolves sit 17th with 17 points, only outside of the bottom three due to Bournemouth’s poor goal differential. Last place is just two points away, as there are seven teams within three points between 14th and 20th.

Liverpool, meanwhile, is 10 points off the top four but has played at least one fewer match than all but two of the eight teams ahead of them (Sixth-place Brighton and leaders Arsenal).

Here’s everything you need to know ahead of Wolves vs Liverpool.

[ MORE: How to watch Premier League in USA ]


How to watch Wolves vs Liverpool live, stream link and start time

Kick off: 10am ET, Saturday
Online: Premier League on Peacock


Key storylines & star players

Winning games is about scoring goals and only two Wolves players have more than one. Daniel Podence has collected five, while Ruben Neves has four. Even more surprising, Wolves are still waiting on a goal from Raul Jimenez, Diego Costa, or injured Pedro Neto. Perhaps Matheus Cunha or Pablo Sarabia will chip in soon.

Liverpool has one win from its last three Premier League outings, but there’s a heaping helping of bad luck to their struggles. The Reds have 24 goals from open play and 20 allowed in that same situation. Their expected goals in those spots is 34.6 – 24. Mohamed Salah and Darwin Nunez have been especially unlucky despite combining for 12 goals and six assists on the season.


Wolves team news, injuries, lineup options

OUT: Pedro Neto (ankle), Sasa Kalajdzic (torn ACL), Boubacar Traore (undisclosed), Chiquinho (knee)

Liverpool team news, injuries, lineup options

OUT: Virgil van Dijk (thigh), Roberto Firmino (calf), Ibrahima Konate (hamstring), Luis Diaz (knee), Diogo Jota (thigh), Arthur Melo (thigh) | QUESTIONABLE: Fabio Carvalho (undisclosed), Nathaniel Phillips (illness)

Newcastle vs West Ham: How to watch, stream link, team news

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Newcastle United can become the third Premier League team this season to cross the 40-point marker when it meets West Ham on Saturday at St. James’ Park (watch live, 12:30pm ET on NBC and online via NBCSports.com).

The Magpies have been terrific at home in all competitions, including at midweek where they finished off Southampton to claim a spot in the League Cup Final.

STREAM LIVE NEWCASTLE vs WEST HAM

And while the 40-point marker used to just mean safety, Newcastle would stay within sight of second-place Man City and first-place Arsenal.

Meanwhile, West Ham’s mix of bad luck and substandard performances have them just a point above the drop zone, in 16th. A win here would be huge,

Here’s everything you need to know ahead of Newcastle vs West Ham.

[ MORE: How to watch Premier League in USA ]


How to watch Newcastle vs West Ham live, stream link and start time

Kick off: 12:30pm ET, Saturday
TV Channel: NBC
Online: Stream via NBCSports.com


Key storylines & star players

The Magpies won’t have their best all-around player in influential Brazilian midfielder Bruno Guimaraes, and center forward Alexander Isak will miss out following a head injury suffered against Saints. Sean Longstaff will need to shine again after scoring twice against Saints.

As for West Ham, they have three attackers out but can look to Michail Antonio and Jarrod Bowen to continue upturns in form.


Newcastle team news, injuries, lineup options

OUT: Bruno Guimaraes (suspension), Alexander Isak (concussion), Javier Manquillo (undisclosed), Matt Targett (foot), Emil Krafth (knee)

West Ham team news, injuries, lineup options

OUT: Gianluca Scamacca (knee), Maxwel Cornet (calf), Kurt Zouma (thigh), Danny Ings (knee)

Manchester United vs Crystal Palace: How to watch, stream link, team news

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Manchester United looks to keep climbing up the Premier League table when its hosts improving Crystal Palace at Old Trafford on Saturday (watch live, 10am ET online via Premier League on Peacock).

United has won all three of its cup matches since a Jan. 22 setback at Premier League leaders Arsenal, and now face Palace before two matches with Leeds

STREAM LIVE MANCHESTER UNITED vs CRYSTAL PALACE

Palace hasn’t won in 2023, though the Eagles managed back-to-back draws with Manchester United and Newcastle in their past two matches. Both of those were at Selhurst Park.

Here’s everything you need to know ahead of Manchester United vs Crystal Palace.

[ MORE: How to watch Premier League in USA ]


How to watch Manchester United vs Crystal Palace live, stream link and start time

Kick off: 10am ET, Saturday
Online: Premier League on Peacock


Key storylines & star players

Man United’s lost Christian Eriksen through April but acted quick and in impressive fashion with the loan addition of Marcel Sabitzer from Bayern Munich. Desperate for playing time and a more attacking role than what was asked of him by Bayern, the Austrian star may be just what the doctor ordered even before Eriksen went down. This is a hard-edged player with plenty of attcking firepower to boot.

Palace, of course, is still all about their creative players, as Wilfried Zaha, Michael Olise, Eberechi Eze, and Odsonne Edouard can deliver the goods with just a half-chance, but look out for Deadline Day adds Albert Sambi Lokonga, on loan from Patrick Vieira’s former team Arsenal, and Naouirou Ahamada, who they hope will add a needed ball progressor in the heart of the pitch.


Manchester United team news, injuries, lineup options

OUT: Christian Eriksen (ankle), Donny van de Beek (knee), Mason Greenwood (suspension – MORE) | QUESTIONABLE: Jadon Sancho (undisclosed), Anthony Martial (undisclosed), Diogo Dalot (thigh), Luke Shaw (illness), Scott McTominay (undisclosed)

Crystal Palace team news, injuries, lineup options

OUT: Wilfried Zaha (hamstring), Joachim Andersen (calf), Nathan Ferguson (undisclosed), James McArthur (groin)

Everton vs Arsenal, live! How to watch, stream link, team news

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The first match of the Sean Dyche era at Everton is a visit from the leaders, as Arsenal visits Goodison Park on Saturday (watch live, 7:30am ET on USA Network and online via NBCSports.com).

Dyche has been out of work since his time ended at Burnley last April, but he’ll have instant familiarity with Dwight McNeil, James Tarkowski, and Michael Keane.

So how’s it been around the club as he prepares to take hold of a team that isn’t Burnley for the first time since, thumbs through calendars… still thumbing…2011!

STREAM LIVE EVERTON vs ARSENAL

“A new voice, training ways, going about your business, building a bit of rapport,” Dyche said. “I had a good chat with a few players, not in an office kind of chat but speaking to them generally. Their careers, life, how they’re feeling, I always thought if you affect their lives you’ll affect their performance. It’s hard to do visa-versa, I’ve been honest with them. I’ve been down that, we did a Q+A session, I just wanted their feedback. What was the feedback? After that I shared it back with them, this is what we fed back ,what do you think? Gives us a chance to open it up a bit. We need to get to the truth of them, what we can offer, best thing to do is ask them – simple as that. Giving our feel, a different feel to understanding, that’s all. Hopefully they’ll respond and flourish. We’ve got to work, it can’t all be fluff, plenty of hard work this week.”

Former Everton star Mikel Arteta leads Arsenal into the affair with a five-point lead on Man City and a match-in-hand, but it’s also the first match since Arsenal fell 1-0 to City in an FA Cup match considered by many to be a first test for the leaders’ title hopes.

Everton sit 19th in the Premier League table, ahead of last-place Southampton by five goals in the goal difference column.

Here’s everything you need to know ahead of Everton vs Arsenal.

[ MORE: How to watch Premier League in USA ]


How to watch Everton vs Arsenal live, stream link and start time

Kick off: 7:30am ET, Saturday
TV Channel: USA Network
Online: Stream via NBCSports.com


Key storylines & star players

Is this what Dwight McNeil has been waiting for after stop-start usage from Frank Lampard? He’s one of the key pieces to monitor when team news arrives Saturday.  Everton hasn’t played since Jan. 21, when it rolled out a 5-4-1 in a 2-0 loss to West Ham. Dyche hasn’t used five at the back since 2019, but this Arsenal team, man…

Arsenal enters having navigated the absence of Gabriel Jesus pretty darn nicely, thank you very much. Will Eddie Nketiah keep feasting off the playmaking of Martin Odegaard and Bukayo Saka?

Let’s just say Everton’s new manager bounce is going to have to include Flubber.


Everton team news, injuries, lineup options

OUT: Michael Keane (knee), Nathan Patterson (knee), Andros Townsend (knee) | QUESTIONABLE: Ben Godfrey (knee), James Garner (back)

Arsenal team news, injuries, lineup options

OUT: Gabriel Jesus (knee), Reiss Nelson (thigh), Mohamed Elneny (knock) | QUESTIONABLE: Thomas Partey (chest), Emile Smith Rowe (thigh)