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PL preview: Man United, Spurs, Saints in action on a busy, 4-game Sunday

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With just five games played on Saturday — and one on Friday — Sunday’s slate of Premier League fixtures is a big one: four games, including returns to domestic competition for Manchester United, Tottenham Hotspur and Southampton, across the morning and afternoon.

[ MORE: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

Watford vs. Manchester United — 7 a.m. ET, on CNBC and

Following a 3-for-3 start to the 2016-17 Premier League season, Jose Mourinho suffered his first — and second — defeat as Man United boss this week. Sunday offers a chance to bounce back with a trip to Vicarage Road, a ground the Red Devils haven’t failed to win at, let alone lost, since Sept. 16, 1986. Phil Jones (knee) and Henrikh Mkhitaryan (thigh) will both miss out through injury, but Luke Shaw (hamstring) is expected to be available once again after sitting out United’s Europa League fixture on Thursday.

[ MORE: PL roundup — Blowouts galore as Man City, Arsenal, Everton roll ]

Southampton vs. Swansea City — 9:15 a.m. ET, on

Southampton are third from bottom of the PL table after four games (two points), so a visit from 14th-place Swansea (four points) could be just what the doctor ordered as new Saints boss Claude Puel seeks his first PL victory. Sofiane Boufal (knee), Saints’ record signing from the summer transfer window, is still weeks away from making his PL debut. Meanwhile, Nathan Dyer (ankle) is expected to miss two months, while Borja Baston, Swansea’s club-record signing, hopes to make the bench after edging closer toward full fitness.

[ MORE: RECAP — Liverpool’s big win at Stamford Bridge on Friday ]

Crystal Palace vs. Stoke City — 9:15 a.m. ET, on CNBC and

One point from four games is hardly an ideal way to start the season but that’s exactly where Mark Hughes and Stoke find themselves ahead of Sunday’s trip to Selhurst Park. Alan Pardew‘s Eagles picked up their first victory of the season last weekend, courtesy of club-record signing Christian Benteke‘s first goal for the club. Palace will be without Loic Remy (thigh) and Papa Souare (car crash), while Yohan Cabaye (groin) and Bakary Sako (groin) are expected to return. Xherdan Shaqiri (calf), Jack Butland (ankle surgery) and Ibrahim Afellay (knee surgery) will be unavailable for Stoke, but Glen Johnson (knee) is expected to make his 2016-17 debut.

[ MORE: USA’s Pulisic bags goal, 2 assists for Dortmund; turns 18 tomorrow ]

Tottenham Hotspur vs. Sunderland — 11 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and

Like United, European competition was far from kind to Tottenham this week, thus Mauricio Pochettino will expect a bounce-back performance to extend his side’s unbeaten run to five game to start the season. Sunderland haven’t won at White Hart Lane since Aug. 23, 2008 (seven games without a win), with Sunday their final chance to do so before the stadium’s demolition next summer. Danny Rose (hamstring) has officially been ruled out for Spurs, as have Fabio Borini (groin), Sebastian Larsson (knee) and Vito Mannone (elbow) for Sunderland, all of whom are out for until December at the earliest.

Zidane quizzed on Pogba: ‘We know what we want to do’

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Zinedine Zidane’s open flirtation with Paul Pogba continues, as the Real Madrid manager was asked about Manchester United’s star midfielder again on Saturday.

“We need to respect everybody, but the only thing I can say from the club is we know what we want to do,” Zidane said. “Something could happen before the end of August. We could have some changes.”

[ MORE: Wolves beat Man City in pens ]

On paper the purchase of Pogba makes sense to reloading Real, but the problem here is the sheer amount of paper the Madrid side has spent on players this season.

While sales of James Rodriguez, Dani Ceballos, and Gareth Bale could put Real in okay position regarding Financial Fair Play, buying Pogba would move the needle hard in the other direction considering the club has bought Ferland Mendy, Eden Hazard, Eder Militao, Luka Jovic, and Rodrygo.

Plus, Florentino Perez likes to buy only one Galactico per transfer session, and Hazard is undoubtedly this summer’s model.

That said, Real has assets that United could use in Ole Gunnar Solskjaer‘s overhaul of the Old Trafford set.

UEFA gives partial stadium bans to Bulgaria, Romania for fan racism

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NYON, Switzerland (AP) Bulgaria will have to close part of its national stadium for European Championship qualifiers against England and the Czech Republic because of fan racism.

UEFA issued the order, saying Bulgarian fans were racially abusive during a 2-1 loss to the Czech Republic and a 3-2 loss to Kosovo last month.

Bulgaria hosts England on Oct. 14 and the Czech Republic on Nov. 17.

Romania has also been ordered to close part of its home stadium for a future under-21 game after UEFA ruled its fans behaved in a racist manner during the European under-21 championship last month.

Another racism case against Latvia was dropped.

UEFA also handed out various fines to Romania, Ukraine, and Greece for rowdy behavior by fans.

Transfer rumor roundup: Everton join Zaha chase; Matuidi to Man Utd?

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A roundup of Saturday’s biggest transfer rumors from around the world, including those involving a few Premier League clubs…

[ MORE: PL refs told to defer to VAR more, go to the monitor “sparingly” ]

Wilfried Zaha is one of the most wanted men in England, with Arsenal reportedly hot on his trail all summer. An deal between the Gunners and Crystal Palace is yet  to transpire, though, which has perhaps left the door open for Everton to sneak through and sign the 26-year-old Ivory Coast international.

Arsenal would obviously pay more in wages, but are yet to meet Palace’s valuation of their talisman. If Everton is the club that calls with the requisite figures on offer, it wouldn’t be the worst landing place for Zaha. With Arsenal yet to make a meaningful signing this summer, and the likes of Aaron Ramsey and Laurent Koscielny already gone or on their way out, the 2019-20 season could see the Gunners take a step back, opening the door for — you guessed it — Everton to break into the top-five… or -four.

Speaking of Ramsey, his arrival at Juventus has perhaps made Blaise Matuidi surplus to requirements, which means he could be available for cut-rate price.

Manchester United seem to be perennially in need of influential central midfielders, especially this summer after the departure of Ander Herrera and the failure of a signing that was Fred last summer. Man United have reportedly been in contact with Juve about the 32-year-old, as have Paris Saint-Germain and Everton.

Sergej Milinkovic-Savic is another midfielder who’s been linked with United, but he’ll likely just as much as, if not more than, the $59-million fee paid for Fred. Milinkovic-Savic seemed a surefire target for the world’s top clubs after a star’s showing at last summer’s World Cup in Russia, but the 24-year-old remained at Lazio and is still yet to move 12 months later.

Patrick Cutrone was one of Europe’s breakout stars of the 2018-19 season, now the 21-year-old AC Milan forward is reportedly high atop Wolverhampton Wanderers’ shopping list this summer. He won’t come cheap — Milan are expected to demand nearly $30 million — but he could offer some serious insurance in the event of an injury to Raul Jimenez.

PL refs told to defer to VAR more, go to monitor ‘sparingly’

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Premier League interim chief executive Richard Masters says that referees have ben instructed “to use the referee review area a bit more sparingly” and rely on the numerous video-assistant referees (VAR) at their disposal to make simple calls upon review when video review is instituted in the PL next month.

[ MORE: Lukaku latest: Man United reject $67-million bid from Inter Milan ]

Following the 2019 Women’s World Cup, where far too many trip to the monitor were made by the center referees, the PL is keen on ensuring that “the Premier League or English football [is not] interrupted, or the pace of the game [is not] changed.” It sounds very much like a “less is more” approach  — quotes from the BBC:

“I think fans want to see those clear and obvious mistakes changed and put right. But they don’t want to see the Premier League or English football interrupted, or the pace of the game changed.

“I think the only difference you might see is the referees using the referee review area a bit more sparingly and relying more on the VAR for the more subjective decisions.

“But we are putting something new into the Premier League and if it needs to be refined or improved or tweaked we will look at it when the moment arises.”

In theory, this should work quite well for the PL. Many of the decisions that referees go to the monitor to review themselves could easily be made by the “fifth official.” If it’s obvious to the VAR and he/she can make the call with 100 percent certainty, the center ref should always take their decision in the name of keeping the game flowing. If the VAR isn’t so sure, or it’s a more subjective call that should be made by the person making 99 percent of the game’s calls, go to the monitor. But do so quickly.