PL Sunday preview: Derby day in Manchester, Merseyside

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Sunday is derby day for two of the fiercest, longest-standing local rivalries in the Premier League. Need we say more?

[ PL ROUNDUP: Spurs bounce back in a big way; Leicester on fire ]

Southampton vs. Arsenal — 7 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

Arsenal turned in arguably their best performance of the season last weekend, and were hammered on the scoreboard, 3-1 by Manchester United. On the one hand, they’ll feel good about the performance; on the other hand, questions remain about their abilities to compete with other top-six sides. It was a fourth straight impressive performance by the Gunners, who over the last six weeks have stabilized (wins in five of their last seven) after a rocky first few games (one win from their opening three).

Much Sunday’s opponent, who are comfortably slotted into the top-four battle, Southampton find themselves in a familiar place as a mid-table side with very little hope of catching the elites of the PL, and in very little danger of sliding into a relegation battle. Saints have hit-or-miss at home this season, as Mauricio Pellegrino‘s side has won 11 of its 16 point at St. Mary’s Stadium, site of Sunday’s clash, but have also lost three of eight games at the ground, by a combined score of 7-1.

INJURIES: Southampton — OUT: Cedric (hamstring) | Arsenal — OUT: Shkodran Mustafi (thigh), Santi Cazorla (achilles)

Liverpool vs. Everton — 9:15 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

Red-hot Liverpool (nine games unbeaten in all competitions, with seven wins; six games unbeaten in the PL, with five wins) welcome a suddenly resurgent and re-energized Everton side (riding back-to-back PL wins for the first time all season) to Anfield for the 229th Merseyside derby.

Only first-and second-place sides Manchester City (46) and Man United (35) have scored more goals this season than the rabid attack of Liverpool (33), but it’s those pesky defensive struggles (once again) which have held Jurgen Klopp‘s side back from putting forth a genuine title challenge. There have been massive improvements in recent weeks, though, as the Reds have conceded just three goals during their current six-game run in the league. As if they need anymore confidence ahead of Sunday’s clash, history also happens to be on their side: Liverpool haven’t lost a derby at Anfield in 17 outings.

As for the Toffees, Sam Allardyce is in charge now, and they’ve won all three games since his appointment — though he’s only actually managed one of the three. Allardyce’s debut saw Everton grind out a 2-0 victory over Huddersfield Town last weekend, though they were far from dominant in doing so. Alas, goals from Gylfi Sigurdsson and Dominic Calvert-Lewin are wonderful signs for a side which managed only 13 goals in as many games to start the season.

INJURIES: Liverpool — OUT: Joel Matip (leg), Nathaniel Clyne (back); QUESTIONABLE: Adam Lallana (fitness), Alberto Moreno (ankle) | Everton — OUT: Leighton Baines (calf), James McCarthy (hamstring), Ross Barkley (hamstring), Seamus Coleman (leg), Ramiro Funes Mori (knee), Yannick Bolasie (knee)

Manchester United vs. Manchester City — 11:30 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

No PL side has ever won 14 straight games in the league, a feat Man City can achieve on Sunday, and can do so against their most hated local rivals to boot. Undoubtedly, Jose Mourinho has thought of nothing other than Pep Guardiola‘s quest for history this week, and will set out to ruin the party by any means necessary.

Without the services of star midfielder Paul Pogba (suspension), expect a heavy dose of bludgeoning courtesy of Marouane Fellaini, who is set to return after two weeks out with a knee injury. The absences are truly a shame, as United have appeared — when healthy — to be genuinely capable of matching City stride for stride at the very top of their game. While City have scored nine more goals than the Red Devils — two two sides were on a nearly identical scoring pace prior to Pogba’s injury back in mid-September — United’s defense is predictably best in the league once again.

What’s more, a City win at Old Trafford feels as though it would — even 16 games into the season — all but end the title race, as Guardiola’s men would go 11 points clear of United, their closest title rivals.

For the first time all season, City fell to defeat in the Champions League on Wednesday. Prior to that loss to Shakhtar Donetsk, they had won 20 straight games across all competitions and were unbeaten in 22. Having already secured the top spot in the group, Guardiola elected to rest a handful of regular starters with Sunday’s showdown presumably in mind. As for what this particular derby means for the Citizens and their fans, defender Vincent Kompany believes the tables have turned 180 degrees in recent years.

“I think to every player it means more than any other game,” he said this week. “It started as something that was way more important for the City fans than the United fans. At this moment in time, we are the team they want to beat more than any other team.”

INJURIES: Man United — OUT: Paul Pogba (suspension), Eric Bailly (groin) | Man City — OUT: John Stones (hamstring), Benjamin Mendy (knee)

Manchester United – Crystal Palace: How to watch, start time, team news

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Manchester United – Crystal Palace: Manchester United finally begins its Premier League season with a visit from Crystal Palace at Old Trafford on Saturday (Watch live at 12:30 pm ET on Peacock).

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The two sides met at Selhurst Park in July. Marcus Rashford had a goal and an assist in a 2-0 win over the Eagles, a bit of vengeance after Patrick van Aanholt keyed a Palace upset of the Red Devils at Old Trafford in August 2019.

STREAM MANCHESTER UNITED-CRYSTAL PALACE LIVE

Here is everything you need to know ahead of Manchester United – Crystal Palace this Saturday with team news, odds, stream link and more.


Team news: Manchester United – Crystal Palace (INJURY REPORT)

Paul Pogba starts for Man United as he continues to get back in shape after COVID-19 quarantine, as Solskjaer noted the Frenchman gets himself ready quickly. Mason Greenwood is on the bench, while Timothy Fosu-Mensah starts at right with Aaron Wan-Bissaka only fit enough for the bench. Donny van de Beek is also on the bench.

Mamadou Sakho returns for Palace, while Wilfried Zaha is handed the captains armband for the first time and he captains Palace against his former club.


What they’re saying

Donny van de Beek on joining Man Utd“Everyone has helped me a lot and wanted to make me feel at home and this is really good for me and it has given me the confidence to play. … It’s a family club, I feel this already from the first seconds I have been here. Old Trafford is an amazing stadium. The nicest thing will be when the fans are there too and I cannot wait to play for the first time in front of them. I hope to see them soon in the stadium because for our team they will give us a lot of power when we can have them with us.”

Palace’s Roy Hodgson on perceived wantaway Wilfried Zaha: “Nothing’s changed at all since the last 230 times I’ve spoken on the subject, I don’t think. He’s fit, he’s well, he’s playing extremely well, he’s looking forward to Saturday and we’re looking forward to using him. I’m pretty sure when something major happens on the Wilf Zaha front, the mass media will be the first to know.”


Odds and ends (full odds provided by our partner, PointsBet)

Palace is the biggest underdog of the weekend at +850, with hosts United at -325. Even a draw at +440 would be a big surprise.

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Prediction

Palace will be playing its third match in a week and that could have them a bit sharper than their opening day hosts or lagging a bit. Given United’s superiority in attack and the impossibility that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men will sleep on a team that upset them in the same building a year ago, we’re going 3-1 to the Red Devils. Wilf Zaha scores against his former team, but Aaron Wan-Bissaka gets an assist versus his.


How to watch Manchester United – Crystal Palace stream and start time

Kickoff: 12:30 pm ET Saturday
Online: Stream via Peacock

Wolves all but confirm Jota to Liverpool transfer

Jota to Liverpool
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Jota to Liverpool is edging closer, as Wolves have all but confirmed the transfer for the Portuguese international.

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Diogo Jota, 23, is said to be finalizing details on a five-year contract at Liverpool after the clubs agreed a fee which could rise to $58 million.

Speaking to reporters ahead of Wolves’ clash with Manchester City on Monday (start time, 3:15pm ET, stream live on Peacock), head coach Nuno Espirito Santo praised Jota’s contribution to the club and said he is joining the right club in Liverpool.

“Diogo is amazing and everybody knows the relationship we built. What Diogo did for us is absolutely fantastic,” Nuno said. “I think Diogo is going to the right place and we wish him all the best, knowing that it never be forgotten, especially by our fans, all the memorable moments that Diogo provided.”

This has all happened very quickly but it works out well for everyone. Would Wolves have loved to have kept Jota? Of course.

But they’ve bought Portuguese starlet Fabio Silva this summer and have Pedro Neto, Daniel Podence and Adama Traore who can support Raul Jimenez in attack. They will be just fine without Jota. He joined them on loan from Atletico Madrid when they were a Championship club and helped them gain promotion to the Premier League and has been incredibly consistent in terms of goals and assists over the last two seasons.

At Liverpool he will have to wait for chances behind Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane but his style of play suits them perfectly and it is a great move for him. Working under Jurgen Klopp will take his game to the next level and Liverpool’s secondary attacking options have just got a lot better, plus they’ve added Thiago Alcantara to upgrade their midfield.

Diogo Jota to Liverpool is edging closer and he leaves Wolves with the best wishes of everyone and for a transfer fee which justifies letting him go as he cost Wolves just $16.5 million less than three seasons ago.

James dazzles as Everton hammer 10-man West Brom

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Everton – West Brom had it all. Seriously.

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The Toffees beat the Baggies 5-2 as Dominic Calvert-Lewin scored a hat trick, plus James Rodriguez and Michael Keane each bagged a goal.

Superb goals from Grady Diangana and Matheus Pereira gave West Brom hope but they were reduced to 10 men before half time and had manager Slaven Bilic sent off in the aftermath for remonstrating with referee Mike Dean.


3 things we learned: Everton – West Brom

1. Everton’s attack on fire: James Rodriguez pulled the strings and scored his first Everton goal with a fine strike. His link-up play with Calvert-Lewin, Richarlison and Andre Gomes was sublime and Everton’s entire attacking unit was fluid and in-tune. With Moise Keane, Gylfi Sigurdsson and Alex Iwobi able to come off the bench, they have so many options. In James, Richarlison and DCL, their front free are all on the same wavelength and even Lucas Digne on the left flank enhanced their attacks.

2. Shaky Pickford a concern: The one negative for Everton will have been Pickford’s form. He should have done better with Diangana’s goal and although Pereira hit a stunning free kick, was Pickford’ position correct? He gave the ball away early with his feet a few times too and the England international has to stay focused and prove he can be trusted. Right now, it’s tough to say if Pickford should remain as the Three Lions’ number one.

3. Diangana backs up West Ham outrage: When Diangana was sold by West Ham to West Brom, the club he was on loan at last season, Hammers skipper Mark Noble hit out at the West Ham owners. That tells you how highly Diangana is rated. His goal summed up his class and he had some lovely flicks. Alongside Pereira, he will score and create plenty of goals for the Baggies this season.

Man of the Match, Everton – West Brom: James Rodriguez – Now, DCL scored a hat trick of tap ins and he was in the right place at the right time, but James oozed class. Everton’s entire attack is now clicking into place because of the Colombia star.


Everton should have taken the lead early on as James Rodriguez whipped in a superb corner but Calvert-Lewin could only head wide.

West Brom took the lead after Diangana was given the freedom of Goodison to run towards goal and he then drilled home a low shot into the bottom corner, past a slow-moving Jordan Pickford and in.

Everton responded well to going behind with Calvert-Lewin and Allan having chances, but then Jake Livermore did superbly to control and get a shot off but he hit the post.

Before the break Everton were level as Richarlison caused havoc after a cross and Calvert-Lewin flicked home. The equalizer was initially ruled out for offside but VAR checked the decision and it was overturned. 1-1.

James Rodriguez then made it 2-1 with a lovely strike from outside the box for his first Everton goal, then a few moments later Kieran Gibbs raised his hands to the face of James and was shown a straight red card. At half time West Brom boss Slaven Bilic was also sent off for remonstrating with referee Mike Dean as the Baggies imploded.

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The second half saw the chaos continue.

Within a few minutes of the restart 10-man West Brom were level as Matheus Pereira curled home a stunning free kick into the top corner from distance.

But it wasn’t 2-2 for long as Richarlison’s header was saved but Michael Keane was on hand to tap home the rebound to put the Toffees 3-2 up.

Soon it was 4-2 as James brilliantly found Richarlison who teed up Calvert-Lewin to tap home. And Calvert-Lewin completed his hat trick as the ball bounced off the back of his head and in to make it 5-2.

Lucas Digne hit the bar with a free kick and Richarlison had a goal disallowed for offside as Everton eased to a second-straight victory to start the season in style.

Leeds – Fulham: How to watch, start time, team news, prediction, odds

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Leeds – Fulham: A battle between two Premier League new boys on Saturday (Watch live at 10am ET, online via Peacock) is the first top-flight game at Elland Road for over 16 years.

LEEDS – FULHAM STREAM LIVE

Marcelo Bielsa and Scott Parker both delivered promotion from the Championship last season and both were expected to, even though Bielsa is the revered master of coaching and Parker is only in his second full season as a head coach. These new boys have very different styles of play but ultimately they are both much better going forward than they are at the back.

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Here is everything you need to know ahead of Leeds – Fulham this Saturday with team news, odds, stream link and more.


Team news: Fulham – Leeds (INJURY REPORT)

Leeds welcome back captain and center back Liam Cooper and that is their only change from the team which lost at Liverpool last weekend.

Fulham star new goalkeeper Alphonse Areola and right back Kenny Tete, with Mario Lemina on the bench. Aleksandar Mitrovic starts after being on the bench for the first game of the seasn due to injury.


What they’re saying

Marcelo Bielsa on Leeds’ start to life back in the Premier League: “Every game is a new story. We will try to correct all the things we did badly against Liverpool and we will try to maintain all the good things. A positive performance always gives a certain amount of optimism and a defeat generates sadness. This week the two of those things combined. The season is very new and the adaptation of the new players is going to take a while, which is the same for everybody.”

Scott Parker on facing Leeds and if it will give him a better idea of where they’re at compared to playing v. Arsenal: “Yeah, definitely, [but] saying that, we want to be competitive in those games [too]. Every game we go into we want to be competitive and get something out of the game. Of course, this weekend we go to another promoted team, a team that won the division last year, very handsomely, who have spent a lot of money to improve the team even more. The challenge for us is we want to go in and try and get a result in this game, like we will do every game this year, so we’ll try and do that and plan accordingly to get a result.”


Odds and ends (full odds provided by our partner, PointsBet)

Leeds (-160) are the heavy favorites but Fulham (+450) are worth a pop at these huge odds. The draw (+290) is intriguing as the bookies were obviously impressed by Leeds’ opening day display at Liverpool, but were they too impressed?

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Prediction

I’m going to go for a draw here. I know people are well on board the Leeds bandwagon, and rightly so, but I still think there’s a lot for them to improve on before they start pushing for a top 10 finish in the Premier League. Fulham were a bit unlucky with the first two goals in their opening day loss to Arsenal and if Aleksandar Mitrovic is fit to play, he will have plenty of joy up top. 2-2.


How to watch Leeds – Fulham stream and start time

Kickoff: 10 am ET Saturday
Online: Stream via Peacock