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Premier League preview: Europa League on the line on final day of the season

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With the final day nearly upon us, the only battle left to contest is the contest for fourth. Manchester United and Manchester City duke it out on separate grounds against Bournemouth and Swansea City, with a win or draw sending Manchester City through, while Manchester United is ready to pounce should the Citizens botch things up.

[ RELATED: Preview for Manchester City vs. Swansea, Manchester United vs. Bournemouth ]

Aside from those two matches, there is still a pair of Europa League spots to sort out, plus final positioning matters to many clubs for both payouts and pride, most notably the two North London clubs fighting for second.

Finally, there’s the chance a playoff will be needed to determine the final Europa league spot. Before we preview the matches, here are the Europa League scenarios:

West Ham secures Europa League play WITH: a win or draw vs. Stoke City OR Southampton loss AND Liverpool loss
Southampton secures Europa League play WITH: a win vs. Crystal Palace AND a West Ham loss OR a draw vs. Crystal Palace AND a Liverpool loss or draw AND Manchester United win in the FA Cup final OR a Liverpool loss AND Manchester United win in the FA Cup final
Liverpool secures Europa League play WITH: a win vs. West Brom AND a Southampton draw or loss AND a West Ham loss OR a win vs. West Brom AND a Southampton draw or loss AND Manchester United win in the FA Cup final

A playoff would be needed IF: Southampton loss or draw vs. Crystal Palace AND West Ham lose to Stoke City AND Liverpool beats West Brom AND Liverpool outscores West Ham by a goal AND the West Ham and Liverpool scorelines are both one-goal margins AND Liverpool lose the Europa League final AND Manchester United win in the FA Cup final. This would leave Liverpool and West Ham both virtually tied in 7th and level on both goal differential and goals scored.

On to the matches:

West Bromwich Albion vs. Liverpool

Currently in eighth, Liverpool can finish this campaign with Champions League on the horizon, or it can finish with nothing. All of that has yet to be determined, but the Reds can still assure themselves of some European play next season should they win on the road at the Hawthornes on Sunday plus have help. Danny Ings may potentially get a return from his ACL injury just before the close of the season, while Jordan Henderson could also return. West Brom has no new injury problems, and could get James Morrison back.

Stoke City vs. West Ham

West Ham holds the upper hand for the final guaranteed Europa League spot, in sixth and two points above Southampton. Should the Hammers lose at Stoke, things would get very, very messy, as seen above. West Ham will be missing its goalkeeper Adrian yet again, while Stoke City’s Stephen Ireland has a long offseason on its way after breaking his leg in training.

Southampton vs. Crystal Palace

Saido Mane is likely back for Southampton, who have won three straight and are unbeaten in five. That form has them serious contenders for those last Europa League places. Alan Pardew could rest players with the FA Cup final coming up.

Arsenal vs. Aston Villa

The Gunners’ last target is finishing second above bitter rivals Tottenham. Danny Welbeck is out, but Mesut Ozil and Jack Wilshere could be back for the Gunners, who need a win plus a Spurs loss to jump into second.

Newcastle vs. Tottenham

Spurs need just a draw to fend off Arsenal, and they’ll also get a relegated club. Dele Alli and Moussa Dembele are both suspended, while Newcastle could rotate players as Rafa Benitez prepares for the possibility of guiding the club through the Championship.

Chelsea vs. Leicester City

The champions finish the season on the road, and nobody thought this match would have so little riding on it at this point. The Blues can only drop positions at this stage, 10 points back of Liverpool in 8th. Leicester, meanwhile, will certainly be looking for their maximum point total of 83.

Everton vs. Norwich City

With the Toffees searching for a new manager, Joe Royle and David Unsworth will team up to navigate Everton through the final match of the season. Norwich City, meanwhile, looks for some positives as they head to the lower division.

Watford vs. Sunderland

With the Black Cats safe, they cannot finish anywhere but 17th, while Watford will gun for a spot as high as 11th.

Serie A: Leaders Inter Milan open door for Juve by drawing Roma

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MILAN (AP) Italian league leader Inter Milan was held by Roma to 0-0 on Friday, giving second-placed Juventus a chance to return to the top.

[ MORE: Chelsea transfer ban reduced; can sign players in January ]

The home draw left Inter only two points ahead of Juventus, which can regain the lead when it visits third-placed Lazio on Saturday.The result also wasn’t good for Roma, which moved from fifth to fourth place in the standings but remained nine points off the lead after 15 matches.

Inter forward Lautaro Martinez had one of the game’s best chances when he got past a defender and entered the area in the 68th minute, but his shot was blocked at the last minute. He called for a handball by the defender but the referee let play continue.

[ MORE: Brendan Rodgers signs new contract at Leicester ]

Inter was coming off five straight wins in the league, with its last setback in all competitions last month against Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League. Its last league loss was against Juventus in October, nine matches ago.

Roma was seeking its third straight league win. It had won five of its last six matches since last month.

Inter visits Barcelona in the Champions League on Tuesday.

Premier League Preview: Man City v. Man United

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  • Man City (3rd) trail Liverpool by 11 points
  • Man United (6th) eight points out of 4th
  • Last meeting: Man United 0-2 Man City

For the first time in recent memory, Manchester City and Manchester United each find themselves failing to meet expectations — by their own respective standards, at least — as they prepare to meet at the Etihad Stadium in the 179th Manchester derby on Saturday (Watch live, 12:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN and NBCSports.com).

Man City, the two-time defending Premier League champions, are looking increasingly unlikely to retain their crown for a third straight season but look a surefire bet to finish in the top-four, which is a place for which Man United would bite your hand off as they currently trail leaders Liverpool by more points (22) than they have points of their own (21).

[ STREAM: Every PL match live

The struggles for United have been all about consistency as Ole Gunnar Solskjaer‘s side hasn’t won back-to-back games all season. The Red Devils haven’t won two in a row in the PL since March. On the bright side, United turned in one of their complete performances of the season on Wednesday, spoiling Jose Mourinho’s return to Old Trafford and beating Tottenham Hotspur 2-1. Marcus Rashford scored both goals and Solskjaer couldn’t rave enough about his 22-year-old forward after the game. From start to finish, United were the better team and looked in majority control, which isn’t something they’ve been able to say often in 2019.

As for City, they’ve simply been “not good enough” without ever actually being “bad” this season, given Liverpool’s scintillating form (14W-1D-0L thus far). Realistically, City likely need to pick up all 69 remaining points this season, and even then they might still come up short.

Injuries/suspensions

Man City: OUT – Sergio Aguero (thigh), Aymeric Laporte (knee), Leroy Sane (knee), Oleksandr Zinchenko (knee)

Man United: OUT – Anthony Martial (hamstring), Eric Bailly (knee), Marcos Rojo (undisclosed); QUESTIONABLE: Paul Pogba (ankle), Nemanja Matic (groin), Diogo Dalot (groin)


Projected lineups

Man City: Ederson — Walker, Otamendi, Fernandinho, Angeliño — Rodri, De Bruyne, Silva — Bernardo, Jesus, Sterling

Man United: De Gea — Wan-Bissaka, Lindelof, Maguire, Young — Fred, McTominay, James, Mata, Lingard — Rashford


What they’re saying

Pep Guardiola, on the derby: “It’s Man United. I respect what they’ve done for English football, European, and world football. United have huge history and their quality is always there but we must try to beat them. We play against a good team, try to follow the performances we’ve put in and try to win the game. You know my opinion on the title race.”

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, on his derby memories: “It took many years before I played a Manchester derby myself. Of course, Man City are a better team now than when I was playing. … Confidence is a strange thing in football; you can get performances and results like Wednesday night and it boosts it so much. And I know our boys will be up for it. 24 hours less recovery time [than City] shouldn’t matter, you go on adrenaline.”


Prediction

The win over Tottenham was impressive, no doubt about it, but City remain a challenge of an entirely different class, no matter what their points total says. If the title is well and truly gone for Guardiola’s side, then retaining superiority in Manchester will have to suffice. City 3-1 United.

Klinsmann gets first point as Hertha Berlin manager

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FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) Jurgen Klinsmann claimed his first point since returning to coaching as his Hertha Berlin team let slip a two-goal lead to draw with Frankfurt 2-2 in the Bundesliga on Friday.

[ MORE: Chelsea transfer ban reduced; can sign players in January ]

Hertha was clinging to a 2-1 lead in the 86th minute when Sebastian Rode hammered the ball in from a corner for Frankfurt to deny the Berlin team the win.

Hertha is in the relegation playoff spot in 16th and winless in its last six league games, while Frankfurt is 10th.

Dodi Lukebakio gave Hertha the lead with a shot through Frederik Ronnow’s legs. That goal was assisted by Marko Grujic, who later made it 2-0 with a header from a free kick.

However, Frankfurt almost immediately replied with a header of its own from Martin Hinteregger, the Austrian defender with five Bundesliga goals.

[ MORE: Brendan Rodgers signs new contract at Leicester ]

Frankfurt’s fans expressed their disapproval of the video assistant referee after it ruled out two goals for the hosts. There was a rare disallowed own goal when Hertha goalkeeper Thomas Kraft palmed a cross into his own net but was found to have been pushed while jumping.

Klinsmann took over Hertha last week on a temporary deal until the end of the season, after Ante Covic was fired with the team under threat of relegation. Klinsmann hadn’t coached since being fired in 2016 by the United States, and last worked at a club in 2009 at Bayern Munich.

Nigel Pearson appointed new Watford manager

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Nigel Pearson has been appointed new manager of Watford and been handed a very straightforward — but tall — task for the remainder of the season: avoid relegation from the Premier League.

[ MORE: Chelsea transfer ban reduced; can sign players in January ]

Pearson takes over from Quique Sanchez Flores — who only took over from Javi Gracia in September — who left his post at Vicarage Road with the Hornets sitting 20th out of 20 teams in the PL table, already seven points adrift from safety. Pearson’s contract runs through the end of the season.

The 56-year-old Pearson, who last managed in the PL with Leicester City in 2015, was most recently in charge of Belgian side OH Leuven before he was fired in February.

[ MORE: Brendan Rodgers signs new contract at Leicester ]

Pearson won’t take charge of Saturday’s game against Crystal Palace (Watch live, 10 a.m. ET, on NBC Sports Gold). Interim manager Hayden Mullins will see out the week’s preparations and manage the team before handing the reins to Pearson on Sunday.