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PL Sunday preview: Last chance saloon for Man United, Arsenal

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24 hours from right now, the Premier League’s top-four race could be clear as crystal… just as likely, though, Sunday’s pair of games, featuring three-fourths of the four-team battle for two UEFA Champions League places, could leave the league table far less clear than its already muddled state.

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Liverpool vs. Southampton — 8:30 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

The math surrounding Liverpool’s Champions League chase is extremely simple: if they win their final three games of the season, they can finish no worse than fourth; so much as two points dropped over their final three games, and the door is opened for Manchester United (who trail by four points, but have a game in hand) to leapfrog Jurgen Klopp‘s Reds. The run-in begins Sunday, when Claude Puel‘s 12th-place Southampton visit Anfield.

With just one defeat from their last nine PL games, only Tottenham Hotspur have won more points than Liverpool during that period. Had it not been the disastrous start to the 2017 calendar year (zero wins from five games, and just three total points), the Reds would be right alongside Tottenham right now, battling for a second-place finish behind runaway leaders Chelsea. The past is the past, though, and Klopp is keen to finish his first full season as Liverpool manager inside the top-four.

“The plan is for Sunday that we can use Anfield,” Klopp said when appraising his team’s top-four chances. “I know how it is, for some people it’s maybe a nervy situation and they bite on their (nails) and think, ‘hopefully, hopefully, hopefully it can happen.’

“But we need to be brave, we need to enjoy the game, we need to play football, we need to defend very serious and if possible, to use the crowd, creating a special atmosphere.”

INJURIES: Liverpool — OUT: Sadio Mane (knee), Jordan Henderson (foot); QUESTIONABLE: Philippe Coutinho (leg) | Southampton — OUT: Virgil Van Dijk (ankle), Charlie Austin (fitness)

[ MORE: Saturday’s PL roundup — The day Swansea staved off relegation? ]

Arsenal vs. Manchester United — 11 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

As stated above, Man United, having to make up a four-point gap, need a bit of help if they’re to finish in the top-four. Arsenal, on the other hand, must overcome a nine-point deficit (with two games in hand) to Liverpool in order to extend Arsene Wenger‘s streak of 20 straight seasons finishing fourth or better.

In a strange twist of priorities, Jose Mourinho has decided to focus his side’s full energy and efforts on winning the Europa League, rather than chasing a top-four finish which he says the Red Devils “lost [the] chance to fight for” in drawing 1-1 with Swansea City last weekend. Thus, the lineup the Portuguese puts out to face Arsenal might just be full of reserve and academy players.

“The players who have accumulated lots of minutes are not going to play next weekend,” Mourinho told BBC without naming names. “We are not going to Arsenal to say, ‘beat us 5-0 or 6-0.’ We are going there to fight for a result but it’s impossible. I cannot do it another way.

“If Celta were playing with their best team and, if Celta were fighting for important things in La Liga, we would go (into the second leg) in the same circumstances but I cannot play the same team that played here (at Estadio Baladios) and then we play again next Thursday. I think in the last match against Swansea, we lost our last chance to fight for the top four so I’m going to rest players.”

INJURIES: Arsenal — OUT: Granit Xhaka (ankle), Lucas Perez (fitness), Santi Cazorla (achilles); RETURNING: Shkodran Mustafi (thigh) | Man United — OUT: Zlatan Ibrahimovic (knee), Marcos Rojo (knee), Luke Shaw (foot), Marouane Fellaini (suspension), Timothy Fosu-Mensah (shoulder); QUESTIONABLE: Marcus Rashford (knee)

Premier League social media wrap: Brighton, teqball, remembering Tiote

Premier League social media
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Premier League sides are fully back in the flow of training with scheduled matches coming within a fortnight.

[ STREAM: Every PL match live ]

So it’s no surprise that banter’s back, too.

That’s where we’ll start Friday, with Irish center back Shane Duffy making sure he’s keeping things light as Brighton and Hove Albion prepares to defend its Premier League place.

Duffy turned a sprinkler on his teammates at training, showing that, yes, your high school career has some things in common with Premier League footballers.

How about some skills as Manchester United gets ready for its return to the PL pitch?

Bruno Fernandes and Andreas Pereira tangled with Fred and Diogo Dalot in a match of Teqball.

You’ll have to watch to see who won.

There’s also a sad anniversary on this day.

It’s been three years since former Newcastle United wrecking ball Cheick Tiote passed away at age 30 after collapsing during a training session with Chinese side Beijing Enterprises, causing shock and grief around the Premier League.

His former teammates were remembering him on Friday, the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations winner was definitely beloved and will always be remembered for his incredible goal to cap off Newcastle’s 4-4 comeback draw with Arsenal.

We’ll start with Norwich City backstop Tim Krul, who spent time with Tiote at Newcastle.

Former Magpies wizard Yohan Cabaye pinned an old memorial to his Twitter wall.

 

Preview: Borussia Dortmund v. Hertha Berlin

Borussia Dortmund v. Hertha preview, how to watch
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Four Bundesliga teams are unbeaten in their last five matches and Hertha Berlin is the unlikeliest of the bunch.

They’ll tangle with Borussia Dortmund at the Westfalenstadion on Saturday in the latest challenge of the Bruno Labaddia era in Berlin.

[ BUNDESLIGA: Week 30 preview and predictions ]

Labbadia is Hertha’s third manager of the season and Hertha has played a scrappy brand of football that has punched and counter-punched under his tutelage. That doesn’t mean they’ve failed to find finish, as Liverpool loanee Marko Grujic and Brazilian youngster Matheus Cunha have been potent.

Borussia Dortmund is a bigger ask, though Hertha made RB Leipzig make mistakes in a 2-2 tie.

[ LIVE: Bundesliga scores, stats ]

Will it be able to get a result at the Westfalenstadion? Perhaps this is a bridge too far, because Dortmund’s shown an explosive offense and its defense has been strong far more often than not this season.

That said, Erling Haaland is just returning to fitness and has just one goal since the league’s restart from the coronavirus pause. Mats Hummels will miss with a yellow card suspension and Marco Reus still isn’t back.

Maybe American teen Giovanni Reyna will get prolonged run along with Jadon Sancho. We’ll see!

Borussia Dortmund v. Hertha Berlin, how to watch

  • TV Channels: FS2
  • Stream LiveVia Fox Soccer
  • Americans Abroad: Giovanni Reyna (Dortmund)
  • When: Saturday, June 6 – 12:30 p.m. ET: Dortmund v. Hertha

Sheffield United season restart preview

Sheffield United season restart preview
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With the 2019-20 Premier League season soon to restart, let’s focus on all 20 clubs and see where they stand ahead of the final nine matches of the season.

Sheffield United is next.

[ MORE: Remaining PL schedule in full ]

Let’s take a closer look at all things Blades when it comes to the season restart.


Outlook: Sheffield United has welcomed itself to the Premier League and put its feet up on the big boys’ tables while asking what’s for dinner. Blades sit seventh and will hope to continue a fairytale which has them on the precipice of the Europa League. Their fixture list in monstrous, especially at Bramall Lane, but Wilder’s proven capable of outwitting even the smartest of bosses for long periods of time. A name to remember is Simon Moore. The backup keeper and starter from Blades’ League One days could become vital should Manchester United defy expectation and pull Dean Henderson home from his loan upon its June 30 expiry.

[ MORE: Ranking every Southampton player in 2019-20 ]


Tactical analysis: Chris Wilder has flummoxed many a Premier League manager with his creative use of defenders in attack. United typically uses Jack O’Connell, John Egan and Chris Basham as a back-3 with Enda Stevens and George Baldock as the two wingbacks. Those players have accounted for six of United’s 18 PL assists this season. For more on the tactics, Wilder laid things out in entertaining fashion for Arlo White late last month.


Possible XI (3-5-2) 

—– Henderson* —–

— Basham — O’Connell — Egan —

— Baldock — Fleck —  Berge —– Norwood — Stevens—

—– McBurnie —– Mousset —–

The challenge here is fitting January signing Berge into the mix, as fellow central midfielders John Fleck, Oliver Norwood, and John Lundstram have been instrumental in this amazing season. Lundstram seems the most likely to cede his spot if someone will, which really says something about Berge’s immense talent. David McGoldrick and Billy Sharp have provided a lot up top, so McBurnie and Mousset will see plenty of time on the bench. And the biggest question of all is Henderson, who’s on loan from top seven rival Manchester United.

[ MORE: The 2 Robbies assess Sheffield United’s chances ]


[ STREAM: Every PL match live ]

Remaining schedule
Home: Spurs, Wolves, Chelsea, Everton
Away: Newcastle, Manchester United, Burnley, Leicester City, Southampton

Predicted finish: The Blades will get the chance to defend their home turf from not one, not two, not three, but four would-be European rivals (It’s a little generous to include Everton, but the talent is there). Throw in Leicester and Manchesteer United away, and there is a huge bridge to cross for Wilder’s men to keep their incredible season on the path toward unprecedented heights. It’s not just about keeping Spurs and Arsenal in the rear view mirror, as Blades meet the next four teams above their seventh-place footing.

Petersen’s header leads Freiburg past 10-man Gladbach

Freiburg v. Borussia Monchengladbach recap
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Nils Petersen’s second half goal led Freiburg to a huge 1-0 win over 10-man Borussia Monchengladbach at the Schwarzwald-Stadion on Friday.

Freiburg keeps its Europa League hopes alive by moving onto 41 points, one behind sixth and seventh.

Gladbach fails in a bid to go third and remains fourth with 56 points, ahead of Bayer Leverkusen on goal differential.

A second yellow card to Plea was a double curse to Gladbach, who went down a man and now will miss a star forward against Bayern Munich.

[ LIVE: Bundesliga scores, stats ]

Bayer’s Ramy Bensebaini utilized a slick backheel turn to nutmeg an opponent and send in a cross that was put out for a corner kick.

Freiburg keeper Alexander Schwolow made a tight-angle save on Alassane Plea just after the quarter-hour mark.

Gladbach saw a chance chalked off after two dangerous bids resulted in an offside deflection into the goal.

Florian Neuhaus came close to scoring again when Lars Stindl headed the penultimate move of a fine team play into the six, but he popped it over the frame.

[ BUNDESLIGA: Week 30 preview and predictions ]

Gladbach’s second half again settled into the Freiburg final third, but it was a home sub that paid dividends at the other end.

Petersen improved his club record for goals when he nodded Vincenzo Grifo’s free kick home in the 59th.

Stindl wasn’t too far from equalizing with a 17-yard shot at the hour mark, but Plea’s second yellow card damaged Gladbach’s hopes of a comeback.