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PL Sunday Preview: Leicester with tough West Ham test while Arsenal, Liverpool look to build momentum

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Leicester City is getting into a Sunday groove, with its third straight Sunday league match, but this one proves to be much tougher than the last two.

Meanwhile, both Arsenal and Liverpool are in a groove, but both have work to do after Manchester City, Manchester United, and Southampton all picked up points on Saturday.

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

With a seven-point advantage at the top of the table and a magic number of eight, the Foxes can put one hand on the title with a win on Sunday. A win over West Ham would give them six straight top flight victories for the second time in club history, and first since 1963. It would also mark 22 league wins for them this campaign, a club record for top-flight competition.

However, the Hammers have motivation themselves. With Manchester City’s demolition of Chelsea on Saturday, Slaven Bilic and company must earn three points to keep pace and hold onto any hope of sneaking into a Champions League place. Lose, and they would be four back of Manchester United in fifth and a whopping eight points adrift of the top four, which would leave them all but eliminated.

Squad health has been vital to Leicester’s title run, having named the same starting lineup in 11 of its last 13 matches, and they are primed to do so again with an entirely fit group of players. 11 Foxes have logged 1,900 or more minutes league minutes this season, with a clear pecking order undisturbed by injuries. Their opponents today have also found themselves in solid position in that regard.

INJURIES: Leicester — None | West Ham— OUT: Diafra Sakho (knee) QUESTIONABLE: Winston Reid (hamstring)

[ MORE: Saturday PL Roundup – Manchester clubs win ]

Bournemouth vs. Liverpool — 8:30 a.m. ET, on Live Extra

The Reds are fresh off their all-timer in the Europa League, and here is where it will be determined whether Jurgen Klopp can translate that boost of energy to the Premier League, or if a run in European competition will come at a cost. Liverpool still sits just three points back of Southampton with a whopping three games in hand, and the Hammers are just a point above that. Liverpool will want to put league play on the back burner, considering they could end up next season out of European competition altogether should they fail to qualify through either venue. The loss of Emre Can to a serious ankle injury is a big one going forward, but they were without him in this match anyways due to yellow card suspension.

Bournemouth, meanwhile, has just about reached safety, having reached the 40-point threshhold, but with a pair of embarrassing losses to top teams only buoyed by a 1-goal win over Aston Villa last weekend, things teeter on edge, with season-ending form often a foreshadow of what will come next August. Their end-of-season schedule is packed with good teams, so it will be a tough road here on out.

INJURIES: Bournemouth— OUT: Adam Smith (hernia), Harry Arter (achillies), Benik Afobe (hamstring) QUESTIONABLE: Junior Stanislas (hamstring)| Liverpool— OUT: Emre Can (suspended, ankle), Jordan Henderson (knee) QUESTIONABLE: Christian Benteke (knee)

Arsenal vs. Crystal Palace — 11:00 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and Live Extra

With Manchester City’s win Saturday, the Gunners have dropped into fourth and must win on Sunday to regain their spot in third, lest they be pulled into the vortex that is the battle for next year’s Champions League. With both Santi Cazorla and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain close to returns to fitness, the club can finish the season strong, and will need to for Arsene Wenger‘s Champions League streak to stay intact.

Unbeaten in their last four Premier League matches, the Gunners have good history with Crystal Palace. The Eagles have beaten Arsenal just once in league play, back in 1994, and Arsenal has a six-game winning streak in this fixture. But they face an Eagles side also in good form, having kept two straight clean sheets after 12 games in a row without a single one. Arsenal’s end-of-season schedule appears soft, but that seems to be when they stumble most.

INJURIES: Arsenal OUT: Jack Wilshere (leg), Santi Cazorla (achillies), Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (knee) | Crystal Palace OUT: Dwight Gayle (hamstring) QUESTIONABLE: Wilfried Zaha (shoulder)

Kane, Sterling star as England rout Bulgaria

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On a night where racist abuse from the stands in Bulgaria marred the overall spectacle, England’s players produced an incredible result and spectacle for the visiting fans, with all things considered.

Harry Kane scored once and assisted on three others as England rolled over Bulgaria, winning 6-0 on Monday evening in the Vasil Levski Stadium in Sofia, Bulgaria. Raheem Sterling and Ross Barkley both scored a brace for the Three Lions and Marcus Rashford’s thunderbolt from a tight angle gave England the opening goal it needed.

The blowout result was the perfect response after England had suffered its first loss in qualifying for a decade, losing on Friday, 2-1 at the Czech Republic. The six goals England put past Bulgaria was also the fourth time out of six games that England had scored at least five goals in a match. The only other time, aside from the defeat, was a 4-0 win last month at Wembley Stadium over Bulgaria.

This story will be updated.

 

Racist abuse delays England v. Bulgaria qualifier

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England raced out to an impressive 4-0 lead at Bulgaria by halftime, but the wonderful attacking display was marred by horrendous incidents from the crowd.

The match in the Vasil Levski Stadium in Sofia, Bulgaria was stopped on two occasions with announcements being made to ask sections of the crowd to stop their abusive language. This comes with the stadium already serving a partial stadium closure due to racist chanting from the crowd in previous qualifiers.

Below is UEFA’s protocol on how to intervene in these situations, and what transpired from lead writer Joe Prince-Wright.

Tottenham re-signs goalkeeper Vorm

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With Hugo Lloris set to miss at least another two months of action with a broken elbow, Tottenham has turned to a familiar face to provide some cover between the pipes.

Tottenham announced Monday it had re-signed goalkeeper Michel Vorm to a contract through the end of the 2019-2020 Premier League season. Vorm spent five seasons with Tottenham after signing from Swansea City in 2014. However, after playing second-fiddle to Lloris and later serving as the third backup behind current Tottenham No. 2, Paulo Gazzaniga for the past couple of seasons, Vorm was released at the end of last season.

Its certainly a boost for Tottenham that a player with a long history at the club and plenty of experience was available to help in this situation. Similar to Liverpool picking up Adrian after Alisson Becker’s injury, Tottenham know what it’s getting in Vorm and may play him a few times if Gazzaniga needs a night off in the next few months.

According to Vorm, he had been home in his native Netherlands and was watching the game when he saw Lloris get injured.

“Obviously I saw straight away that he had a bad injury and at the time I thought about how bad it was, Vorm told Tottenham’s website. “After the game I spoke with Jan (Vertonghen), he told me what was going on and I spoke also with Toni (Jimenez, our goalkeeping coach) and, yes, during the week I got the phone call to ask if I was open to come back and help out. I’ve kept in contact with a lot of the players and also with Toni. We were speaking quite regularly and on Thursday he called me, we had the conversation and from there on, it went very quickly.”

In his five seasons with Tottenham, Vorm made a total of 47 appearances in all competitions. He saw plenty of time in the League Cup, FA Cup, UEFA Europa League and Champions League during his stay at White Hart Lane.

In-form striker Duvan Zapata injured on international duty

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This international break has been particularly brutal to clubs who have seen a host of key players go down with injuries, and there’s still a few days of matches remaining.

The latest player to succumb to injury is Atalanta striker Duvan Zapata who returned from Colombia duty with an adductor strain and will miss at least three weeks, according to Sky Sports Italia (via FootballItalia). Zapata went down 23 minutes into Colombia’s 0-0 friendly draw with Chile on Friday and was sent back to Italy for tests at his club.

Those tests have reportedly confirmed the initial fears. The loss of Zapata is a massive one for Atalanta, as the 28-year-old has been steadily building for years and is having a breakout start to this campaign, scoring six Serie A goals in seven matches plus one more in Champions League play, currently on a run of four consecutive games with a goal across all competitions. With Zapata’s help, Atalanta sits third in the Serie A table, having bagged the most goals of any team with 18 through seven games.

Zapata becomes the latest high-profile injury from this international break, joining Colombia teammate Alexis Sanchez who went down late in the same match and is reportedly out until 2020 with a serious ankle injury. Chelsea has been hit the hardest, with Andreas Christensen, Mateo Kovacic, and Reese James all pulling up while N’Golo Kante was injured in France warmups but he is expected to be fit for the weekend. Luka Modric may miss time after going down in a Euro qualifier against Wales, while Gareth Bale also picked up a knock in that match. Neymar went down in Brazil’s match against against Nigeria, which forced manager Tite to explain his reasoning for the selection in a friendly. Sergio Aguero is apparently struggling to train with Argentina thanks to a mystery injury confirmed by Lionel Scaloni. Arsenal’s Dani Ceballos withdrew from Spain training earlier in the week with “hamstring overload.” Atlanta United defender Miles Robinson left USMNT camp with a hamstring problem with the MLS playoffs on the horizon.