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.

First Leagues Cup will be an all-Liga MX affair

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Given Major League Soccer’s record against Liga MX sides when both teams are bringing their best players to the party, it’s no surprise that the former has been left out of the Leagues Cup Final.

Instead, Cruz Azul and Tigres UANL will meet on Sept. 18 for the first ever crown in the history of the competition pitting teams from Mexico, Canada, and the United States top flights.

[ MORE: Predicting the USMNT September call-ups ]

Choosing not to play Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Jonathan Dos Santos, and Carlos Pavon amongst others, the LA Galaxy fell 2-1 to Cruz Azul in Carson, California, getting an Emil Cuello goal but allowing the below delightful winner from Orbelin Pineda just after halftime.

The Galaxy were in the midst of a nasty four-match fortnight, and opted for this match — a tournament semifinal against a league which has bossed its league — to rest their men. Not a choice we love, but a fair choice given the Galaxy’s mere 4-point advantage on 7th place in the West.

Tigres needed penalties to get past Club America in an absolutely bonkers semifinal.

The match was level at 2 after regulation, with two own goals, a penalty, and a 90th minute red card doled out to Tigres’ Roger Martinez.

The second Tigres own goal, which came before the club outlasted America 5-3 in penalties, came deep in stoppage.

USWNT lawsuit goes to trial May 5

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LOS ANGELES (AP) A judge has set a May 5 trial date for the gender discrimination lawsuit filed by the women’s national team against U.S. Soccer.

District Judge R. Gary Klausner assigned the date at a hearing Monday in Los Angeles, which came less than a week after mediation between the two sides broke down.

[ MORE: Predicting the USMNT September call-ups ]

The players sued U.S. Soccer in March, alleging institutionalized gender discrimination that includes inequitable compensation when compared with their counterparts on the men’s national team.

The federation claims that compensation for each team is the result of separate collective bargaining agreements, and that the pay structures are different as a result.

The sides had agreed to mediate the dispute after this summer’s World Cup in France. The U.S. beat the Netherlands in July for its second straight title, and fourth overall.

The players and U.S. Soccer had requested a trial date after the Tokyo Olympics, which start July 25.

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

Report: Zappacosta off to Roma as Chelsea trusts youth

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Tuesday was a great day to be Reece James.

Not that it hasn’t been a good summer altogether with Frank Lampard in charge of Chelsea.

[ MORE: Predicting the USMNT September call-ups ]

Lampard sanctioned the loan of Zappacosta to AS Roma, which puts James firmly in line for first team reps at Stamford Bridge.

The 19-year-old James has earned his place after two seasons on loan at Wigan Athletic, and Cesar Azpilicueta will either need rest or time at center back at some point.

As for Zappacosta, he was a curiosity buy who was serviceable during his time at Stamford Bridge. At Roma, though, he’ll… also be second choice to club captain Alessandro Florenzi.

Lampard is definitely giving the Blues’ youth a chance to shine during this transfer ban, and this may well be the best opportunity of James’ career.

Predicting the USMNT September call-ups

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The United States men’s national team has just a pair of friendlies remaining before its next CONCACAF competition, the Nations’ League.

Gregg Berhalter’s USMNT will meet Uruguay and Mexico in September, and the looming CNL — you know Berhalter wants some sort of crown given the Gold Cup Final loss to El Tri — certainly hints at a strong XI even with players like Christian Pulisic (Chelsea), Tyler Boyd (Besitkas) and Zack Steffen (Fortuna Dusseldorf, on loan from Man City) settling into new digs.

[ MORE: Klopp “couldn’t afford” Coutinho ]

Before we dare to name a 23-man outfit for these matches, we should note that there’s no guarantee every big team will want to release their players in September. But this projection will act under the assumption that his best healthy men will accept invitations or that, at least, Berhalter will invite his best healthy men.

The MLS playoff push may actually force his hand in that Berhalter may respect teams in said playoff race due (though MLS does not have every team playing over the break).

We’ll assume for this exercise that DeAndre Yedlin (Newcastle) and Tyler Adams (RB Leipzig) don’t miraculously come fit.

Now for the Big Berhalter Questions (BBQs):

  1. Since Gyasi Zardes has scored three goals and an assist in his last six MLS games and there’s no chance Berhalter ignores him, who will not get a look: Tim Weah (Lille), Tyler Boyd (Besiktas) or … wait, it’s gonna be Boyd.
  2. Wil Trapp has been poor in a USMNT jersey, but has three assists in his last six MLS matches so will he…. book his place, too.

Finally, I’m not going to say that this 23-man roster will be correct, but it will be fun.

Goalkeepers (3)

Zack Steffen (Fortuna Dusseldorf)
Sean Johnson (New York City FC)
Kasey Keller (Millwall)
Pick the guy who you think I should pick here and pretend you like it better than:
David Bingham (LA Galaxy)

Defenders (8)

John Brooks (Wolfsburg)
Matt Miazga (Reading)
Aaron Long (West Ham New York Red Bulls)
Walker Zimmerman (LAFC)
Tim Ream (Fulham)
Sergino Dest (Ajax)
Reggie Cannon (FC Dallas)

Midfielders (6)

Christian Pulisic (Chelsea)
Weston McKennie (Schalke)
Michael Bradley (Toronto FC)
Julian Green (Greuther Fuerth)
Paxtom Pomykal (FC Dallas)
Sebastian Lletget (LA Galaxy)

Forwards (6)

Josh Sargent (Werder Bremen)
Jozy Altidore (Toronto FC)
Timothy Weah (Lille)
Jordan Morris (Seattle Sounders)
Paul Arriola (DC United)
Gyasi Zardes (Columbus Crew)