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PL Sunday preview: Arsenal-Liverpool highlights opening weekend; Mourinho’s debut

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Jose Mourinho will make his Manchester United debut, followed by the season’s first clash of Premier League title hopefuls, on Sunday — is that something you might be interested in?

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Bournemouth vs. Manchester United — 8:30 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

The PL is chock-full of intriguing storylines this season, and Mourinho replacing Louis Van Gaal at Old Trafford is undoubtedly one of the biggest. After plummeting from league champion to unemployed in seven months’ time last season, Mourinho has never had more to prove than he does right now. The Mourinho Redemption Tour kicks off Sunday, at the Vitality Stadium, against a Bournemouth side hoping to establish itself as a fixture in England’s top division. The no. 1 hurdle Mourinho will have to clear, and it’ll ever-present this season, is “the Wayne Rooney question” — where will the Man united and England captain play? With Zlatan Ibrahimovic on board (and off to a roaring start), as well as Henrikh Mkhitaryan at the no. 10 spot, the two positions in which Rooney has most commonly featured seem very much occupied. Paul Pogba’s United re-debut will have to wait week, as the world-record signing will serve a one-game suspension for yellow-card accumulation in last season’s Coppa Italia.

After avoiding relegation with relative ease last season, Eddie Howe‘s Cherries haven’t changed their approach ahead of season no. 2 in the PL: they’re still all about young players who are ready to contribute in the present and the future. They spent $43 million on four youngsters (Jordon Ibe, Lys Mousset, Lewis Cook and Brad Smith) with an average age of 20.25 years, while recouping more than $15 million via the sale of Matt Ritchie. The defense is a big question ahead of the season, but that was the case last season and they managed to avoid relegation by two places and five points. Having Callum Wilson, who tore his ACL last September following a scintillating start to the season (5 goals in 7 games), back in the fold should result in an increase to the 45 goals scored last season, considering the additional attacking talent and service to come from all around him.

INJURIES: Bournemouth — OUT: Tyrone Mings (knee), Emerson Hyndman (ankle), Junior Stanislas (groin) | Manchester United — OUT: Paul Pogba (suspension), Chris Smalling (suspension)

Arsenal vs. Liverpool — 11 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

Depending on who you ask, either one of Arsenal or Liverpool could be the ones lifting the PL trophy in May, which makes Sunday’s main event the first 2016-17 title race six-pointer (with as many as seven sides chasing a wide open title this season, 35 percent of the season’s games will feature title hopefuls squaring off). For Arsenal, the story, as it so often tends to be, is all about injuries. Alexis Sanchez and Aaron Ramsey are expected to be available for selection after lengthy periods of international duty this summer, while Olivier Giroud and Laurent Koscielny will be held out of action as they rebuild their fitness after a run to the EURO 2016 final. Along with Koscielny, Per Mertesacker and Gabriel Paulista are out with long-term injuries, leaving Arsene Wenger very little to choose from at center back. Granit Xhaka is expected to make his PL debut and will add a great deal of quality and depth to what is annually a paper-thin unit (Jack Wilshere is recovering from yet another knee injury).

Sunday will represent the start of Jurgen Klopp‘s first full season in charge at Anfield after spending nearly $90 million in the summer (while recouping $60 million) to assemble a squad worthy of his genius capable of enacting the high-pressing, quick-countering style of football with which he thrived during his time at Borussia Dortmund. Sadio Mane ($45 million) seems to be the perfect fit for Klopp’s system, and he’ll be expected to contribute right away having spent the last two seasons in the PL, at Southampton. Speaking of perpetually injured players, Daniel Sturridge‘s status is unknown less than 24 before kickoff, and this figures to be a hugely important season in the 26-year-old striker’s career. If he can find a period of good health, he seems destined to flourish under Klopp as well.

INJURIES: Arsenal — OUT: Olivier Giroud (fitness), Laurent Koscielny (fitness), Per Mertesacker (knee), Gabriel Paulista (ankle), Jack Wilshere (knee), Danny Welbeck (knee), Carl Jenkinson (knee) | Liverpool — OUT: Loris Karius (hand), Lucas Leiva (hamstring), Joe Gomez (achilles); QUESTIONABLE: Daniel Sturridge (hip), James Milner (heel), Mamadou Sakho (fitness), Marko Grujic (ankle)

VIDEO: Breaking down some celebrated Premier League derbies

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The kickoffs aren’t coming back soon, so we’re finding solace in anticipating the biggest matches on the Premier League calendar.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights

Certain rivalries are circled on the fixture list when it arrives each summer, the sort of games that seem to level the playing field regardless of the gulf in class.

Is Arsenal struggling? No better way to bounce back than Spurs.

Liverpool sliding a bit? It’ll snap back to form when Everton hits Anfield.

PST lead writer and editor Joe Prince-Wright has prepped up for several of these derbies over the years, and here’s a cheat sheet for those new and a tasty summation for those missing their hated foes.

Liverpool-Manchester City

Arsenal-Tottenham Hotspur

Liverpool-Everton

Manchester City-Manchester United

Chelsea-Tottenham Hotspur

Bournemouth’s Howe takes voluntary pay cut, first PL manager to do so

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Bournemouth manager Eddie Howe is the first Premier League manager to take a pay cut due to the coronavirus suspension.

Howe joins Bournemouth chief executive Neill Blake, first team technical director Richard Hughes, and assistant manager Jason Tindall in taking “significant, voluntary” pay cuts.

Howe is the longest-serving manager in the PL. He started with Bournemouth’s academy in 1994 and spent just a few short seasons away from home (Portsmouth and Swindon Town) during his playing career.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights

The club has also furloughed employees throughout the organization. From a Bournemouth statement:

There is no script for moments like this. No tactics and no set plays to find a winning formula. But as a board we are continually looking at ways to ensure the future of the club and our employees is protected when the season returns.

We have also advised a number of staff across all areas of the club that they will be temporarily furloughed, as a result of the ongoing pandemic.

These measures have been taken to safeguard the financial stability of the club during what is such an uncertain period, not only in football but for businesses in all industries across the world.

Surely Howe won’t be the last during this uncertain time for clubs and businesses all over the world.

Ex-Marseille president first coronavirus-related death in Senegal

Pape Diouf
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DAKAR, Senegal (AP) Pape Diouf, a former president of French soccer club Marseille, died Tuesday in Senegal after contracting the coronavirus. It was the West African country’s first COVID-19-related death, according to the health ministry. He was 68.

Diouf, who was president of Marseille from 2005-09, had been treated since Saturday in intensive care in Dakar, health minister Abdoulaye Diouf Sarr said.

Senegal President Macky Sall wrote on his official Twitter account that he had followed Diouf’s health closely after he was admitted for treatment.

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“I pay tribute to this great figure in sport,” Sall wrote. “I pay tribute to the medical staff at Fann Hospital who spared no effort to save him.”

Relatives said Diouf was meant to be moved to France. He had recently traveled to several countries in the West Africa region.

In its most recent count, Senegal has reported 190 cases of the coronavirus, with 45 of those having recovered.

Diouf was a charismatic and popular leader who was close to the fans and players at Marseille, the only French team to win the European club title.

“Pape will forever remain in the hearts of Marseille people and (is) one of the great architects of the club,” Marseille wrote under a photo of Diouf.

Shortly before his time at the club ended, Diouf signed Didier Deschamps as the new coach and Deschamps won the French league title and League Cup in his first season in charge. It was Marseille’s first league title in 18 years.

Deschamps, who coached France to World Cup success two years ago, described Diouf as “a man of convictions, a spirited man, passionate about football” adding that his “sudden and brutal death deeply saddens me.”

“I could measure his popularity, which was immense with the Marseille people whose hearts he had won,” Deschamps said on L’Equipe’s website.

The French soccer league called Diouf’s death “a moment of immense sadness for French soccer.”

Diouf was born in Chad to Senegalese parents. After arriving in Marseille at the age of 18, he became a sports journalist and then a players’ agent.

Diouf was not afraid to take risks in signing unheralded players, such as the diminutive Mathieu Valbuena from third-tier side Libourne in 2006 when he was 21.

The 1.67-meter (5 feet, 5 inches) Valbuena went on to prove Diouf right, and all the doubters wrong, playing 52 times for France.

“A great man with a great heart,” Valbuena said. “We were hypnotized by his speeches, he had a lot of charisma.”

Diouf was awarded the French Legion of Honor medal in 2012, one of the country’s highest honors.

Pugmire reported from Paris. AP reporter Babacar Dione in Dakar, Senegal contributed.

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

Report: Griezmann plus cash could finally get Neymar back to Barcelona

Neymar
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Neymar’s long-rumored return to Barcelona hasn’t quite reached the point of exhaustion, but it’s close.

A new report has said Barcelona and Paris Saint-Germain may be coming to terms with what’s been a fairly obvious swap deal for some time.

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According to Sky Sports, PSG would send Neymar to Barcelona in return for French hero Antoine Griezmann and money.

The $167 million price tag attached to Neymar is significantly more than the $110 million on Griezmann, and there’s no doubt the former is more of a gamechanger at this point on their careers.

While Neymar gets both the #whenhealthy and #whenavailable tags to his rep, he’s scored 18 times with 10 assists in 22 matches across all competitions this year.

Before the full phrase ‘Ligue 1’ exits your lips, he’s scored against Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund, Celtic, Galatasaray, Liverpool, Anderlecht, and Red Star Belgrade in his three seasons with PSG.

Griezmann is a full year older than Neymar and, while one of the world’s elite attackers, he’s a step below the Brazilian’s tier. He’s also said to want to keep finding his way at Barca, with Gerard Pique and others ready to lend support.