Top Premier League storylines ahead of Week 13 

Leave a comment

Ahead of Week 13 of the 2016-17 Premier League season, we’re most looking forward to keeping an eye on the following storylines…

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

Payback at the Bridge

The last time Chelsea hosted Tottenham Hotspur at Stamford Bridge, there were 12 yellow cards, an eye-gouge, an on-field melee, and Tottenham’s PL title bid went up in a spectacular, bright ball of flames. With largely the same squad intact six months later, revenge will undoubtedly be on the minds of Mauricio Pochettino‘s men on Saturday (Watch live, 12:30 p.m. ET on NBC and online via NBCSports.com). Flipping the script, this time around it’s Antonio Conte‘s side which looks the truest of title contenders after the Blues went top of the league with their victory over Middlesbrough on Sunday. What goes around comes around?

Early separation of the top five

Three months into the season, the league table reads as follows:

Team GP W D L GF GA GD Home Away PTS
 Chelsea 12 9 1 2 27 9 18 5-0-1 4-1-1 28
 Liverpool 12 8 3 1 30 14 16 4-1-0 4-2-1 27
 Manchester City 12 8 3 1 27 11 16 3-3-0 5-0-1 27
 Arsenal 12 7 4 1 25 12 13 3-2-1 4-2-0 25
 Tottenham Hotspur 12 6 6 0 18 8 10 4-2-0 2-4-0 24
 Manchester United 12 5 4 3 17 14 3 2-3-1 3-1-2 19
 Everton 12 5 4 3 16 14 2 3-3-0 2-1-3 19

Five sides have threatened to run away from the rest of the pack, and Man United, with just one win in their last six games, are in danger of being left behind. The Red Devils welcome West Ham United to Old Trafford on Sunday (Watch live, 11:30 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com), and desperately need three points with three of the five sides ahead of them facing foes from the bottom half of the league. Another loss would likely see them fall nine points out of fourth before the start of December.

Fully focused on the league

Leicester City are through to the knockout stage of the UEFA Champions League — as one of eight seeded side, no less — which means Claudio Ranieri‘s side can must now return its full focus to a badly floundering domestic campaign. The Foxes sit 14th in the PL with just 12 points from 12 games. From their first 12 games in their title-winning season, they had won 25 points. They won their 12th point of the 2015-16 season in their sixth game, on Sept. 19. With their attention and resources previously split between the PL and the CL, it’s been a disastrous start for Ranieri’s men, something they must rectify against 15th-place Boro at the King Power Stadium on Saturday (Watch live, 10 a.m. ET on CNBC and online via NBCSports.com).

End of the road for Pards?

Alan Pardew‘s tenure as Crystal Palace manager is hanging ever so delicately, by a thread, after five straight losses have plunged the Eagles to within a point of the relegation zone. A sixth consecutive defeat, courtesy of Bob Bradley‘s bottom-of-the-league Swansea City, on Saturday (Watch live, 10 a.m. ET on NBCSports.com) would almost certainly spell the end of the line for Pardew.

BURNLEY, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 05: Alan Pardew manager of Crystal Palace looks on prior to the Premier League match between Burnley and Crystal Palace at Turf Moor on November 5, 2016 in Burnley, England. (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)
(Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

West Brom — European contenders?

Of all the surprise sides to start the season, perhaps no one has overachieved more than West Brom. After narrowly escaping relegation last season, Tony Pulis‘s side is off to a flying start, currently sitting ninth with 16 points from a dozen games. With a trip to 18th-place Hull City on the books for Saturday (Watch live, 10 a.m. ET on NBCSports.com), the Baggies could finish the weekend as high as sixth, assuming results elsewhere go their way.

Cruzeiro relegated from Brazilian top flight for first time

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Brazilian side Cruzeiro was relegated from the top flight for the first time in the club’s 98-year history following a 2-0 defeat to Palmeiras on the final day of the season.

Cruzeiro required victory and a loss by Ceara at Botafogo to stay safely in the Brazilian Serie A, but neither came to pass.

Palmeiras midfielder Ze Rafael scored in the 58th minute to send the visitors on their way, with fellow midfielder Dudu finished things off in the 84th minute. Referees ushered the players off the field immediately after the conclusion of the match as Cruzeiro fans rioted in the Mineirao stadium, ripping out seats, setting off smoke bombs, and clashing with police.

Cruzeiro finished 17th in the 20-team table, three points back of Ceara in 16th. In the Brazilian top flight, the bottom four teams are relegated. CSA, Chapecoense, and Avai were also relegated. Cruzeiro had won the Brazilian Serie A as recently as 2013 and 2014, winning four titles in its history. They also have six Copa do Brasil titles, most recently winning the league cup in 2017 and 2018.

Flamengo ran away with the championship, finishing on 90 points, 16 points clear of second-placed Santos and third-placed Palmeiras who both finished level on 74 points. Palmeiras had challenged for the title, but fell off at the end of the season with a five-match winless run through November.

Premier League Preview: West Ham United v. Arsenal

Photo by Rob Newell - CameraSport via Getty Images
Leave a comment

Two struggling London sides meet Monday when West Ham United hosts Arsenal (Watch live at 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

The sides might’ve expected they’d be within close proximity at this point on the fixture list, but two wildly disappointing seasons means the three points between the Gunners and Irons comes with the former in 11th and the latter 16th.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

It’s been nine matches since Arsenal beat someone, 11 since it happened in the Premier League. West Ham hasn’t been much better, winning once in its last 10.

Freddie Ljungberg has yet to win as Arsenal interim boss, while West Ham manager Manuel Pellegrini could see his current stint in London end without more results like the Nov. 30 win at Chelsea.

Monday versus Arsenal would qualify.


Injuries/suspensions

West Ham United: OUT —  Jack Wilshere, Lukasz Fabianski, Manuel Lanzini, Winston Reid. QUESTIONABLE — Michail Antonio.

Arsenal: OUT — Dani Ceballos. QUESTIONABLE — Rob Holding.


Probable lineups

West Ham United: Martin; Cresswell, Ogbonna, Balbuena, Fredericks; Rice, Noble, Yarmolenko, Anderson, Snodgrass, Haller.

Arsenal: Leno; Kolasinac, Sokratis, Luiz, Bellerin, Xhaka, Torreira, Ozil, Pepe, Aubameyang, Lacazette.


What they’re saying

West Ham’s Antonio sees an opportunity: “The only three teams that are really performing are Liverpool, Leicester and Man City. Everyone else is getting beaten, and it means we’ve had a missed opportunity so far this season. We started the season off brightly, the best start we’ve had for four years, but then we’ve had a slump. Everyone’s having a slump and this is our slump. Now it’s time for us to start turning up. We’ve been in this situation before and we know how to dig in and pull ourselves up again.”

Arsenal’s Ljungberg on setting targets: “I don’t think we should stop talking about the top four, but for us it’s about concentrating on what we’re doing here now and not look up, down, sideways. We just need to work on our own game and our own confidence.”


Prediction

Really, you wouldn’t want to predict anything from these sides right now besides goals. We’ll give an edge in desperation to the hosts and a 2-2 draw.

La Liga: Sevilla held at Osasuna, Getafe maintains UCL fight

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Sevilla was held to a 1-1 draw at 10-man Osasuna on Sunday, giving both Real Madrid and Barcelona space at the top of the La Liga table.

Munir El Haddadi put the visitors 1-0 up just 11 minutes in, but Ezequiel Avila struck just before halftime to share the points. Sevilla was held to just two total shots through the opening 45 minutes, and despite Osasuna defender Oier Olazabal being shown a second yellow card with 29 minutes to go, Sevilla still managed just 11 total efforts through the 90 minutes, with four on target.

Getafe continued its battle for a top four spot as they won 1-0 on the road at Eibar. Angel Rodriguez bagged his eighth goal of the season to secure the win, cropping up in the 67th minute to finally put Getafe through. They had been turning the screw for some time, forcing Marko Dmitrovic into a pair of big saves just before the opener which came from an absurdly tight angle after Angel had rounded the goalkeeper. The win leaves them fourth, level with Real Sociedad on 27 points.

They were allowed to close the gap after Real Sociedad was held scoreless in a 0-0 draw at 14th placed Real Valladolid. The visitors put just two of their 14 shots on net, and dropped to fifth thanks to Getafe holding the head-to-head tiebreaker.

Athletic Club also fell back in the race for a top four spot, dropping a 3-2 decision on the road at Real Betis. Joaquin scored a first-half hat-trick, with all three goals coming in the opening 20 minutes to give him five in his last three games. Inaki Williams brought Athletic Bilbao one back before halftime from the spot, and Yuri Berchiche made things interesting with a minute to go, but that was all they could muster as the visitors fell to sixth on 26 points, above Atletico Madrid on goal differential with the two yet to play head-to-head.

Celta Vigo made it interesting as Iago Aspas scored a man-down goal, but Leganes held on for a 3-2 win over the 10-man visitors. Oscar Rodriguez had a first-half brace to help the hosts to a 3-0 lead, but Nestor Araujo and Aspas helped Celta Vigo make things interesting. Still, a 71st minute second yellow card for halftime substitute Gabriel Fernandez hampered the visitors in their efforts for a comeback, leaving Celta Vigo in the relegation zone, a point back of safety, with Leganes is four points behind them in 19th.

Gerrard reacts to Rangers’ Old Firm heartbreak in final

Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Steven Gerrard lined his Rangers side up for success, but fate was cruel to the Liverpool legend.

Rangers lost the League Cup Final to their Old Firm rivals on Sunday despite out-shooting the Bhoys by a 16-5 margin, winning a penalty, and playing almost a half-hour up a man.

[ RECAP: Rangers 0-1 Celtic ]

“To a man we were very good … by much the better side,” Gerrard said. “But unfortunately that’s not what gets you a trophy.”

But Celtic goalkeeper Fraser Forster stopped Alfredo Morelos’ penalty, three minutes after goal scorer Christopher Jullien was offside on the lone goal of the game.

Scotland doesn’t yet use VAR, and Gerrard doesn’t love VAR but he likes it more than he likes Scottish officials.

“There were three Celtic players standing in offside positions but unfortunately we play in a country where there is no VAR,” he said, via the BBC. “I’d be a liar if I said I was 100% in favour of it, but the one thing I do know is that officials up here need support.”

Now he has the task of getting his men to rebound ahead of its biggest non-derby in ages, as Rangers need at least a draw against Young Boys at home on Thursday to advance to the Europa League knockout rounds

“It’s a bit raw right now… It’s up to me to pick the players up. One thing I will say is I’ll stay with these players on the evidence of today because they gave me absolutely everything. We might have to suffer a bit short-term. I need to pick them up a bit physically and mentally for Thursday which is huge but our day will come on the evidence of today.”

Gerrard has done a very good job with Rangers, who are two points back of Celtic in a two-horse race for the Scottish top flight title. Celtic has won eight-straight titles to improve their total to 50, four less than the Rangers.