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)

Report: Matches in Italy could be played behind closed doors this week

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For at least the next week, we could see matches in Italy played behind closed doors due to the Coronavirus scare.

According to a report in Gazzetta Dello Sport, the Italian sports minister, Vincenzo Spadafora, has determined that clubs based in regions where there have been positive Coronavirus (officially known as Covid-19) cases will need to play matches without fans for at least the next week.

An NBC News report from Sunday cited Italian government officials stating more than 133 people had tested positive for COVID-19, and that ten cities in Northern Italy were on lockdown.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule

The Italian sporting authorities are trying to keep people from congregating together in large numbers, where the virus could potentially spread.

In a sporting context, this reported decision from the Italian government will also create headaches within Juventus FC. The club has a massive match next Saturday against Inter Milan, and would likely prefer to either have it cancelled or moved to a safe location so it could be played with fans in attendance.

La Liga: Sevilla leapfrogs Getafe into 3rd place

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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) Sevilla leapfrogged Getafe to take third place in the Spanish league after routing the season’s surprise team 3-0 in Madrid on Sunday.

Sevilla beat Getafe at its own game, out-muscling the hosts with a suffocating defense and demonstrating clinical finishing to convert its scant scoring chances.

The Andalusian side got an opener from Lucas Ocampos in the 43rd minute. Midfielder Fernando doubled the lead in the 67th before he set up Jules Kounde to seal the victory in the 75th.

[ MORE: La Liga scores, schedule ]

Sevilla lost goalkeeper Tomas Vaclik to an apparent leg injury before the second half started. He was replaced by Yassine Bounou, who was never tested.

The victory ended Sevilla’s five-game winless streak across all competitions that put coach Julen Lopetegui under growing pressure to restore the team’s good form from the first half of the season.

Getafe has had an outstanding campaign, fighting for a Champions League spot for next season despite its modest budget.

Getafe’s loss was just its fourth at home in any competition this season. It lost last round away at Barcelona, but had bounced back with a 2-0 win over Ajax in the Europa League on Thursday.

Sevilla moved one point ahead of Getafe, which dropped into fourth place. Leader Barcelona is 12 points ahead of Sevilla.

Real Madrid trails Barcelona by two points before the two teams meet next weekend.

Elsewhere in La Liga action, Atletico Madrid took home a 3-1 result over Villarreal, adding to the club’s already great week. Villarreal went up first through Paco Alcacer, but Atleti hit back with goals from Angel Correa, Koke, and Joao Felix. It was Felix’s first game back after a hamstring strain, and England National Team right back Kieran Trippier made his return to the field for the first time since early January.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule

Here are other scores from Sunday’s La Liga action:

Osasuna 0-3 Granada

Alaves 2-1 Athletic Bilbao

Real Valladolid 2-1 Espanyol

American’s Abroad: Strong defensive performances and an eye for the future

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It wasn’t exactly a banner week for American attackers abroad, but there were some fine defensive performances and some youngsters making a name for themselves.

Both John Brooks of Wolfsburg and Tim Ream of Fulham played the full 90 in their team’s matches this weekend. Brooks led Wolfsburg to a 4-0 rout of Mainz, while Fulham played Derby County to a 1-1 stalemate. Derby County’s only goal however came off a Wayne Rooney penalty kick, as otherwise Ream and co. kept Derby out through the run of play.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule

There were some bright notes for the future, however. Both Ajax youngster Alex Mendez and Wolfsburg U-19 star Uly Llanez scored in action for their teams, as did Wisconsin native Andrija Novakovich, who assisted on one goal and scored the second in Frosinone’s 2-0 win over Crotone, lifting Alessandro Nesta’s side to second in Serie B. If the season ended today, Novakovich would be playing in Serie A next year. Former Sporting Kansas City Homegrown talent Erik Palmer-Brown also scored in Austria Wien’s 2-2 draw with Jesse Marsch and RB Salzburg

Here is a list of several other USMNT affiliates making a name for themselves (or not) abroad this weekend.

Premier League

Christian Pulisic, Chelsea — Pulisic is still recovering from his injury and missed Chelsea’s 2-1 win over Tottenham on Saturday.

DeAndre Yedlin, Newcastle — Yedlin made the bench but didn’t see action in Newcastle’s 1-0 defeat to Crystal Palace on Saturday.

Indiana Vassilev, Aston Villa — Vassilev didn’t dress in Aston Villa’s 2-0 defeat to Southampton on Saturday.

EFL Championship

Antonee Robinson, Wigan Athletic —  For a third weekend in a row Robinson did not dress for Wigan. Robinson continues to deal with a groin injury that ended the potential loan move to AC Milan.

Duane Holmes, Derby County — Holmes did not dress in Derby’s 1-1 draw with Fulham after suffering an ankle injury on February 15 against Huddersfield Town.

Matt Miazga, Reading (loan from Chelsea) — The 24-year-old is out with a hamstring injury. There is no timeline on his return.

Eric Lichaj, Hull City — The defender is out for the season after sustaining an injury.

Geoff Cameron, QPR — The 34-year-old defender started and played 90 minutes in QPR’s 0-0 draw with Nottingham Forest.

Tim Ream, Fulham — Ream started and played 90 minutes in Fulham’s 1-1 draw with Derby County on Friday.

Cameron Carter-Vickers, Luton Town (loan Tottenham Hotspur) — Carter-Vickers started and played 90 minutes in Luton’s 3-1 defeat to Charlton Athletic.

League One

Lynden Gooch, Sunderland — The 24-year-old American scored the game-winning-goal in Sunderland’s 3-0 win over Bristol Rovers, which moved Sunderland into fourth place in the table, just three points behind first place Rotherham United. A strong spring could put Gooch on USMNT coach Gregg Berhalter’s radar.

Bundesliga

Timmy Chandler, Eintracht Frankfurt Chandler and Eintracht Frankfurt play on Monday at home against Union Berlin

John Brooks, Wolfsburg – The 26-year-old defender started, played 90 minutes, and helped keep a clean sheet in Wolfsburg’s 4-0 win over Mainz.

Weston McKennie, Schalke —  McKennie started but only played 55 minutes as Schalke was routed, 5-0 by RB Leipzig.

Tyler Adams, RB Leipzig — Adams is out with an injury. There is no timeline on his return.

Zack Steffen and Alfredo Morales, Fortuna Dusseldorf — Steffen is out with an injury, while Morales came off the bench and played 23 minutes in Dusseldorf’s 2-0 win at Freiburg on Saturday.

Josh Sargent, Werder Bremen  Sargent came off the bench and played seven minutes plus stoppage time in Werder Bremen’s 2-0 loss to Borussia Dortmund.

Gio Reyna, Borussia Dortmund Reyna made his sixth Bundesliga appearance this season, coming in for Jadon Sancho and played 13 minutes in a 2-0 win over Werder Bremen

Fabian Johnson, Borussia Mönchengladbach Johnson did not dress for Monchengladbach’s 1-1 draw with Johnson’s former club, Hoffenheim.

Eredivisie

Sergino Dest, Ajax — Dest started and played 90 minutes in Ajax’s surprise 1-0 defeat at Heracles.

Haji Wright, VVV-Venlo — The 21-year-old striker started and played all 90 minutes in a 1-0 win over FC Groningen.

Ligue 1

Timothy Weah, Lille — After a six-month absence, Weah featured for Lille on February 16, playing the final 10 minutes in Lille’s 2-1 loss to Marseille. Unfortunately, in that game, Weah suffered another muscle injury, this time a torn right hamstring that will leave him out indefinitely.

Theoson Jordan-Siebatcheu, Rennes — Jordon-Siebatcheu did not dress for Rennes in its 2-1 win over Nimes.

Honorable Mentions

Kenny Saief, Lechia Gdansk, on loan from Anderlecht — The American-Israeli made his first appearance on the field in around 10 months, playing 13 minutes off the bench in Gdansk’s 2-0 defeat to Lech Poznan. Saief’s injury problems and a falling out in Cincinnati during his loan there led to it being terminated early. However, he wasn’t in Anderlecht’s plans this fall, meaning he had to wait until the January transfer window to find a new club after he failed to move during the summer.

Ian Harkes, Dillon Powers, Dundee United — I don’t know the last time this has happened, but in the 57th minute Harkes (son of John Harkes) came on for Powers in a rare American for American substitution abroad. It’s safe to say that while rare, we could see this happening again, as both Harkes and Powers play similar positions in midfield.

Serie A: Lazio, Roma pick up important wins

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On a day when most Serie A cities were on edge as games were canceled over Coronavirus fears, two games were able to be played to their conclusion, with important results.

Ciro Immobile added another goal to his league-leading scoring mark as Lazio outlasted Genoa, 3-2, on the road. Immobile’s 51st minute goal was his 27th of the Serie A season, putting him six goals ahead of Cristiano Ronaldo.

[ MORE: Serie A scores, schedule ]

Lazio only needed two minutes to get on the board as Felipe Caicedo played a pass forward, which right back Adam Marusic latched onto. He then had defenders bouncing off him as he slalomed his way forward into the box and fired into the roof of the net. In transition six minutes into the second half, Immobile rifled a strike home to put Lazio up 2-0. Francesco Cassata’s golazo from the top of the box, a curling effort into the top corner, gave Genoa some life, though Lazio restored the two-goal advantage in the 71st minute through Danilo Cataldi.

Domenico Criscito scored a late penalty kick in second half stoppage time to bring Genoa within one goal again, but it was too little, too late from the hosts. With the win, Lazio keep the pressure on Juventus, sitting just one point behind the leaders on the same number of games played, 25.

Roma 4-0 Lecce

Roma returned to winning ways on Sunday with a crucial 4-0 rout of Lecce at the Stadio Olimpico.

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Coming off three straight defeats and a draw in Serie A action, it was one of the young guns, who’s had an up and down season this year, get Roma first on the board. Outside of Turkish winger Cenkiz Under, it was veterans Edin Dzeko and Henrik Mkhitaryan who stole the show.

In the 13th minute, Mkhitaryan sliced through the Lecce defense before feeding a short pass to the oncoming Under, who powered a strike past Mauro Vigorito for the game’s opening goal. In the 37th minute, Dzeko combined yet again with Mkhitaryan, finding the Armenian international running into the box before Mkhitaryan slotted home.

Dzeko then in the second half scored from close range to make it 3-0, and his former Manchester City teammate, Aleksandr Kolarov put the finishing touches on the rout with a blast from the left side of the box.

Thanks to the prior defeats, Roma currently sits outside of the UEFA Champions League slots, but the win on Sunday brought them within three points of Atalanta and the fourth and final Champions League place. However, Atalanta has a game-in-hand on Roma.