Top Premier League storylines — Week 25

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There’s only one big battle for the Top Four sides this week, but don’t let the match-ups fool you into thinking there won’t be table tumult.

[ VIDEO: Previewing every Week 25 match ]

Struggling Arsenal and Liverpool are amongst the clubs hoping to stop the bleeding in a brutal couple of weeks (for the Reds, even longer).

Spurs next step and Reds last stand?

Liverpool vs. Tottenham Hotspur — 12:30 p.m. EDT Saturday on NBC and NBCSports.com

Thirteen points is a big gap, and that’s what former title darling Liverpool are staring down with 14 matches left in the season. The distance to second-place Spurs is a lot closer, as the Reds are four points behind Mauricio Pochettino‘s bunch.

Liverpool — and we can’t stop finding this stat hard to believe — has only won one match since the calendar hit 2017. Sure a couple of those matches were Cup games with weakened lineups, but it’s still a bad run.

Spurs are still harboring title hopes, but will be taking it one match at a time en route to a hopeful end to their 21-year run of finishing below rivals Arsenal.

Can Arsenal handle the giant killers?

Arsenal vs. Hull City — 7:30 a.m. EDT on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

The visitors have beaten Liverpool in league play and Manchester United in an EFL Cup semifinal leg in the last two weeks, and now take aim at another big boy in struggling Arsenal.

The Gunners have now lost back-to-back PL matches, home to Watford and away to Chelsea. Arsenal hasn’t lost three-consecutive league matches since January 2012, when the Gunners were beaten by Fulham, Swansea City, and Manchester United.

Can Hull knock off another giant?

Relegation six-pointer No. 1

Swansea City vs. Leicester City — 11 a.m. EDT Sunday on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

Paul Clement‘s resurgent Swans would love to put another team in their rear view mirror, especially given that the team in question is the reigning Premier League champions. Both teams have 21 points, though the Foxes enter the day with eight goals’ better differential.

LEICESTER, ENGLAND - AUGUST 27: Jamie Vardy of Leicester City holds off Jordi Amat of Swansea City during the Premier League match between Leicester City and Swansea City at The King Power Stadium on August 27, 2016 in Leicester, England. (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)
(Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)

Relegation six-pointer No. 2

Sunderland vs. Southampton — 10 a.m. EDT Saturday on NBCSports.com

It reads kinda odd: Saints as relegation candidates. But Claude Puel‘s Southampton is 7 points clear of the drop zone and a tough handful of matches ahead. Sunderland will be buoyed by its battering of Crystal Palace, and primed to leap out of the drop zone.

West of Reality

West Ham United vs. West Bromwich Albion — 10 a.m. EDT Saturday on NBCSports.com

Both the Irons and Baggies aren’t yet out of the race for European action, especially if Manchester United wins the EFL Cup and another big boy takes the FA Cup. Slaven Bilic and Tony Pulis square off in a match of wits that may be decided by giant strikers Andy Carroll and Salomon Rondon.

Mohamed Salah starts for Egypt despite int’l retirement talks

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Mohamed Salah is coming off of his best season as a professional, but reports suggest that his time with the Egyptian national team could soon be coming to an end for reasons that extend beyond soccer.

Salah will however be included in Egypt’s Group A finale against Saudi Arabia on Monday, though, after the team sheet was revealed by the Pharaohs ahead of the match.

CNN reported over the weekend that Salah believes he is being used by Egypt as a political symbol to represent Chechnya, which has sparked talks of the talented Liverpool winger ending his international career.

Egypt has already been eliminated from reaching the Round of 16 after losing its first two matches at the World Cup.

The tides have turned significantly for Toronto FC

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2017 gave Toronto FC its first MLS Cup, as well as significant notoriety for the club’s historic season, but Greg Vanney and his side are in a world of trouble in 2018 for reasons that are still unfathomable.

[ MORE: NYCFC tops TFC in come-from-behind victory ]

A deep run in the CONCACAF Champions League (which ended in heartbeat at the hands of Chivas) and a number of injuries have plagued Toronto this season, and for that, the defending champions find themselves in unchartered MLS waters.

Over the course of Major League Soccer’s 22 previous seasons, only three defending champions have gone on to miss the playoffs the next year (D.C. United in 2000, LA Galaxy in 2006 & Portland Timbers in 2016).

So, how poor has TFC been through nearly half the season?

The Canadian side has acquired 15 points in as many matches, which puts the club on pace to finish with 34 points in 2018.

That total would leave TFC well below the average points needed for a club to get into the playoffs. It varies on a year-to-year basis, but teams typically need somewhere in the range of 45 to 50 points to finish above the red line in their respective conferences.

Last season, three teams in MLS finished with less than 34 points (D.C. United, LA Galaxy & Colorado Rapids), and none of the clubs finished within striking distance of the postseason.

While Toronto wouldn’t be the first team to show signs of struggles in the first half of the season and then proceed to turn things around over the second portion, there are definite concerns for Vanney and Co.

In 2018, the Reds haven’t earned back-to-back victories in MLS play, leaving the club in 10th place in the Eastern Conference.

The talent within the squad remains there, and if TFC gets the rest of its squad healthy there could be a run made by the team, but as things stand, the club’s historic run a season ago looks to be crumbling in 2018.

Gressel ties it in Atlanta United’s 1-1 draw with Timbers

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ATLANTA (AP) Julian Gressel tied it in the 56th minute and Atlanta United held on for a 1-1 draw with the Portland Timbers on Sunday.

A loose ball deflection off defender Larrys Mabiala bounced into Gressel’s path and he pounced on it with a right-footed volley. Atlanta (10-3-4) stayed atop the MLS standings and extended its unbeaten streak to five games.

Mabiala opened the scoring in the 32nd minute. Samuel Armenteros was the first to get a touch with a left-footed stab on Diego Valeri’s free kick. Goalkeeper Brad Guzan blocked it out, but Mabiala headed home the rebound and Portland took the early lead.

The Timbers (6-3-5) extended their unbeaten run to nine.

MLS: NYCFC beat TFC in new coach Torrent’s debut

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NEW YORK (AP) — Jo Inge Berget scored twice and coach Domenec Torrent celebrated his New York City FC debut with a 2-1 victory over Toronto FC on Sunday.

Berget made it 2-1 in the 68th minute, following Maximiliano Moralez’s direct pass up the right channel and slotting it home.

NYCFC (9-3-4) tied it at 1 in the 51st minute on Berget’s back heel from the top of the 6-yard box.

Víctor Vazquez opened the scoring for Toronto (4-8-3) in the 37th minute. Vasquez outran his defender on Auro’s long ball up the right side and sent a chip shot over the onrushing goalkeeper.

NYCFC’s David Villa left the game in the 28th minute with a non-contact injury.

Torrent replaced Patrick Vieira in New York shortly after Vieira’s departure for OGC Nice was officially confirmed. Torrent had been the right-hand man to Pep Guardiola for the last 11 years, most recently at Manchester City.