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Top 5 Premier League storylines: Leicester takes aim at Old Trafford, Arsenal-Chelsea

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Every Premier League club has played a handful of league games heading into this weekend.

That means that slow and fast starts can turn from form to fortune soon; Being in the Top or Bottom Five after a couple weeks can come down to schedule. For a couple months? Far less likely we’re looking at quirks.

[ MORE: PL Power Rankings ]

That’s not to say West Ham will be relegation fodder if it doesn’t beat Southampton this week, or that West Brom is competing for a European place with a win over Stoke City.

But in a Premier League with such class in the top end sides, being mid table after six, seven or eight games can keep you out of the discussion for a lot longer than you’d like.

What storylines are we following this week? Read on…


Red Devils, Foxes look to stay in the Top Four mix

Manchester United vs. Leicester City — 7:30 a.m. ET Saturday (NBCSN)

There was a lot to like in Manchester United’s 3-1 defeat of Northampton Town in the EFL Cup’s third round, but league form is a different story. Jose Mourinho’s charges haven’t been strong over 90 minutes in a trio of matches, starting with the last-minute win at Hull City and rolling into losses versus Manchester City and Watford.

Leicester, on the other hand, may be putting itself back together after promising performances in both Europe and the Premier League. A win at Old Trafford in this Community Shield rematch would move the Foxes right back into the fight for European qualification, while also upping the pressure on The Special One. But, hey, we’re not footballing Einsteins here.


Old London rivals look to stake claim

Arsenal vs. Chelsea — 12:30 p.m. ET Saturday (NBCSN)

A single goal of differential separates Arsene Wenger‘s Gunners from Antonio Conte‘s Blues, and the Gunners have, perhaps quietly, really put things together. After a tumultuous 4-3 loss against Liverpool on Aug. 14, the Gunners managed a draw at Leicester and wins over Watford, Saints, and Hull City. Toss in a come-from-behind draw at PSG and a feel-good win at Nottingham Forest, and Arsenal just may be rounding into the sort of form needed to beat Chelsea.

[ MORE: Previews of all 20 PL games ]

The Blues have stumbled a bit since starting on fire under Conte, and may have arrested their struggles by flipping a 2-0 EFL Cup deficit into a 4-2 win at Leicester on Tuesday.

Whichever way it goes, we’re ready for a thriller on NBCSN.


The ol’ ball cap manages for 1000

Stoke City vs. West Bromwich Albion — 10 a.m. ET Saturday (Premier League ExtraTime)

American football has Bill Belichick and his hoodie, and the Premier League has Tony Pulis and his baseball cap. Granted the former’s been a bit more successful, but Tony Pulis will manage his 1000th Premier League on Saturday.

The fact that it comes against the club where he coached almost exactly 1/3 of those games (333) is kinda awesome. Cheers, Tony.


When West Ham stop hitting the snooze button?

West Ham United vs. Southampton — 11 a.m. ET Sunday (NBCSN)

The Irons have assembled their deepest team in years, but that doesn’t mean they can waltz into match day and win on merit. Slaven Bilic‘s crew has underwhelmed massively outside of Dimitri Payet, and now he faces resurgent Southampton.

Charlie Austin has been scoring goals for fun, and Saints have crawled out of their early season funk with a series of home wins across a trio of competitions. Now back to the road, where Saints have lost at Arsenal and Manchester United. Will this be easier?


Will perfect Pep cost Guidolin his job?

Swansea City vs. Manchester City — 10 a.m. ET (Premier League ExtraTime)

Manchester City has been simply fantastic through nine meaningful games under Pep Guardiola, the most recent being a 2-1 win over Swansea City in the EFL Cup. Now the same two sides meet in the Premier League, with the Welsh side in serious turmoil. Francesco Guidolin led Swansea City to PL safety last season, but his permanent tenure could be over in 7 matches or less. No. 6 is Saturday at the Liberty Stadium.

Nuno ‘proud of the boys’ after Wolves’ magical UEL run ends

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Nuno proud, but frustrated: Wolves’ 2019-20 campaign kicked off 383 days ago, on July 25, and finally ended on Tuesday in a late, heartbreaking defeat to Sevilla in the quarterfinals of the Europa League.

[ MORE: Lille sign $35-million Canadian star Jonathan David ]

From those early-round UEL qualifiers, to another fine season in the Premier League (finishing 7th), to reaching the quarterfinals, it’s been an incredible, dramatic, exhausting road for Nuno Espirito Santo and his players.

Speaking after the game, Espirito Santo revealed he was experiencing equal part pride and frustration at the way their season had just ended. Pride for meeting the challenges they faced along the way, and frustration for the missed opportunity — quotes from the BBC:

“We have frustration, in the last minutes it is something that has happened to us many times. We required focus on a set piece. I am proud of the boys, we played a tough team and we had moments, small details, small margins.

“That happens in football. We came this far and now it’s over. Let’s rest and look to the future. We need more players to help us, it’s a small squad.

“Sevilla made us run, we made a big effort to control it but of course there were players who gave everything and the legs and brain doesn’t work so good. We must be proud of ourselves, admit we made mistakes during the season that we need to rectify to compete at a high level. We must work harder and become stronger.

“We are here because we did things good the previous season. European football is something that we chase because we want to improve and compete agianst the best. The Premier League is challenging enough, it’s like playing the Champions League every week.”

The Wolves players will now have the next week or two off before reporting for the first day of 2020-21 preseason later this month. The 2020-21 Premier League season is currently scheduled for Sept. 12.

Europa League: Wolves knocked out by late Sevilla winner

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Europa League: Wolves’ magical run through the Europa League came to an end on Tuesday, as Nuno Espirito Santo’s side was knocked out in the quarterfinals by UEL specialists Sevilla.

[ MORE: Lille sign $35-million Canadian star Jonathan David ]

Wolverhampton Wanderers 0-1 Sevilla

Sevilla were quite comfortably the better side on the night, the side with the vast majority of the scoring chances, and thoroughly deserving semifinalists. Julen Lopetegui’s side will face Manchester United in the semis on Sunday.

It didn’t come easily for Sevilla, though. The game remained level at 0-0 for 87 minutes, until Lucas Ocampos rose above the crowd to head home his 16th goal of the season in the 88th minute.

Wolves had the game’s first — and virtually their only — chance to go ahead inside the first quarter-hour, but Raul Jimenez was denied from the penalty spot in the 12th minute. The real story here, however, is the ease with which Adama Traore left the pack behind and dribbled the ball 81 yards before Diego Carlos cut him down from behind.

Jimenez’s blunder from the spot was one of just two shots on target — both by Jimenez — that Wolves could muster in the game.

[ MORE: Transfer news: Havertz to Chelsea; Ramsey available ]

Sevilla began to ramp up the pressure after halftime and went dangerously close to breaking the deadlock just after the hour mark, as Youssef En-Nesyri weaved his way through traffic inside the penalty area before firing a low strike on goal. Fortunately for Wolves, Rui Patricio was all over and denied En-Nesyri his wondergoal.

Ever Banega forced Patricio to make a vital save of his curling free kick in the 77th minute, but again the Portuguese was up to the challenge. He scrambled across goal and rose high to get a hand on the ball and push it over the crossbar.

Shakhtar Donetsk thrashed Basel 4-1 in Tuesday’s other quarterfinal. They will face Inter Milan in the second semifinal next Monday.

Other Europa League scores

Shakhtar Donetsk 4-1 Basel
Man United 1-0 Copenhagen (Monday)
Inter Milan 2-1 Bayer Leverkusen (Monday)

Lille sign $35-million Canadian star Jonathan David

Lille sign Jonathan David
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Lille sign Jonathan David: Lille announced on Tuesday their signing of Canadian star Jonathan David from Belgian side Gent for a reported transfer fee of $35 million.

[ MORE: Transfer news: Havertz to Chelsea; Ramsey available ]

The fee paid is a record not only for a Canadian player, but also makes David Lille’s club-record signing and the most expensive player ever sold by a Belgian club.

David had been linked with a move to dozens of clubs across Europe, including a handful of Premier League sides, in recent weeks but it would appear that Lille’s recent success with young players starring in the first team, before selling them to those bigger European sides for massive profits, was an important factor in David’s decision to move to Ligue 1.

[ MORE: Spurs sign Hojbjerg from Southampton; Walker-Peters to Saints ]

The 20-year-old operates predominantly as a center forward but has, on rare occasions, played as a second striker underneath the main man. David racked up 48 goals and 20 assists in his two seasons at Gent, including a number of standout performances in the Europa League.

Wolves – Sevilla: How to watch, start time, prediction

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Wolves – Sevilla should be an epic UEFA Europa League quarterfinal on Tuesday (start time, 3pm ET) in Duisburg, Germany as both teams will fancy their chances of winning the trophy if they advance.

Remember: these ties are one-legged encounters so the winner on the night will advance to the semifinal.

[ LIVE: Europa League scores ]

Nuno Espirito Santo and Wolves have come through the qualifying rounds to get this far as the Premier League side have been in the 2019-20 Europa League for over a year, while Sevilla are the unofficial top dogs in the competition having won it more times than any team in history.

The La Liga side finished fourth this season in Spain under Julen Lopetegui, while Wolves finished seventh in the Premier League and know the only way they will be playing in Europe next season is if they win this competition and there qualify for the Champions League.

Ahead of a huge night for Wolves, below is a look at how to watch Wolves – Sevilla in the USA, the betting odds, prediction and much more.


Team news

What they’re saying

Nuno Espirito Santo praised Sevilla and knows his team have a big challenge ahead, while he backed his team to take the next step on their three-year journey together:

“It’s been a long journey, not only this season. A long journey that started three seasons ago in the Championship. It’s basically the same group of players. It was about trying to build a team, creating an identity, and we look forward to tomorrow to compete well and play a good game. We’ve been able to create an identity. It’s one of the most precious things in football – having an identity, based on a style of play and how we deal and socialize with our rules and tasks, how we deal with problems that happen. Trying to create a team, recruiting players, some take time, some not, but this is what it’s all about. We have to manage the result and I’m very proud of how we’ve done things and now I can say we have our own identity. It’s based on strong foundations of respect and hard work, and this is what we want to show tomorrow – a good team, with an identity, committed to the challenge.”

Sevilla star Lucas Ocamps on the threat Wolves possess: “Anyone who watches a little football has already seen them play. I feel like they are very competitive and physical. They have great players and they come here hungry for glory to beat us. I think it will be evenly matched because we’ll have the same desire and it’s going to be tough.”


Odds for Wolves – Sevilla – Full Europa League, Champions League odds

Wolves are the underdogs (pardon the pun) as they are +235 to beat Sevilla who are +120, but the tie at +230 is interesting. We can see this going to extra time and maybe even penalty kicks.


Prediction for Wolves – Sevilla

Wolves love upsetting the odds and Raul Jimenez and Adama Traore will be looking to exploit Sevilla on the counter, but Sevilla are a savvy team and are third favorites to win the Europa League yet again. Wolves are dangerous but I’m going for a Sevilla win after extra time. 2-1.


How to watch, stream Champions League and Europa League

Dates: August 5-23
Location: Quarterfinals onwards in Lisbon/Germany
How to watch: CBS Sports
Live updates: UCL here at NBCSports.com & Europa League here at NBCSports.com