Top Premier League storylines — Week 27

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The Premier League’s 20 teams start their final dozen matches on Saturday, and there are plenty of interesting stories amongst the 10 weekend tilts.

[ WATCH: Coutinho’s first Barca goal ]

Can Spurs ruin their rivals’ Aubameyang honeymoon, Top Four hopes?
Tottenham Hotspur vs. Arsenal — 7:30 a.m. ET Saturday on CNBC

New look Arsenal will hope to channel some of its earlier season success in the North London Derby for a first season sweep of Spurs since 2013-14. Mauricio Pochettino‘s fifth-placed hosts enter the day with a four point advantage on the Gunners, and a loss for Arsenal would leave it a minimum of seven points back of the fourth.

Will Chelsea get form-healthy against basement-dwelling Baggies?
Chelsea vs. West Bromwich Albion — 3 p.m. ET Monday on NBCSN

What’s gone wrong at Stamford Bridge? Is Antonio Conte too intense, or perhaps some of the same players who sold out Jose Mourinho are doing the same to this title-winning boss. Chelsea needs a win to make amends for its 10-man blowout loss at Watford, and desperate West Brom won’t be sleepwalking into London.

Will Pep’s men keep their eyes off Switzerland?
Manchester City vs. Leicester City — 12:30 p.m. ET Saturday on NBC

Coming off a disappointing draw at Burnley, Man City will want to put a tricky Leicester team in its rear view mirror quickly. That won’t be easy. Leicester has beaten Man City in the Premier League during each of the previous two seasons, but can see that run end at the Etihad Stadium on Thursday

And what about Klopp’s lineup choice with Porto looming?
Southampton vs. Liverpool — 11:30 a.m. ET Sunday on NBCSN

Stung by last week’s draw with Spurs, Liverpool now has to refocus for a trip to St. Mary’s (the old haunt for so many of those players). Will Jurgen Klopp use Virgil Van Dijk on return, with a UEFA Champions League trip to Portugal next week? Saints, meanwhile, will aim to move further clear of the drop zone. Southampton enters the day two points out of 18th.

And the relegation six-pointer of the weekend is…
Stoke City vs. Brighton and Hove Albion — 10 a.m. ET Saturday on CNBC

Chris Hughton‘s Gulls are three points clear of the 18th place spot occupied by… Stoke City. Few expected the Potters to be flirting with the drop zone this deep into the season, and Paul Lambert will hope to get more than just good bounces from Brighton’s visit.

FOLLOW LIVE: Seattle v. Portland, ATLUTD v. DCU on a busy MLS Sunday

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Strap yourself in for a very busy Sunday of soccer, as four MLS games are set to consume your attention for the rest of the day.

[ FOLLOW: MLS scoreboard, for the next 7.5 hours ]

The day begins with Atlanta United hosting D.C. United in a 3-versus-2 matchup in the Eastern Conference, and ends with the Seattle Sounders hosting the Portland Timbers in arguably the biggest and best rivalry in MLS.

In between all that, a suddenly resurgent Orlando City SC hosts the New York Red Bulls, and FC Cincinnati hosts the red-hot (unbeaten in nine games) New England Revolution, in case you feel the need to cram a little more soccer into your afternoon/evening.

Sunday’s full MLS schedule

Atlanta United v. D.C. United — 4 p.m. ET
FC Cincinnati v. New England Revolution — 6 p.m. ET
Orlando City SC v. New York Red Bulls — 7:30 p.m. ET
Seattle Sounders v. Portland Timbers — 9:30 p.m. ET

Rumored Neymar for Bale swap: Who wins?

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Who would gain more of an advantage from the rumored, sensational Gareth Bale for Neymar swap: Paris Saint-Germain or Real Madrid?

Both players are currently problems for their clubs, though neither is known as a true rabble-rouser; Real Madrid boss Zinedine Zidane wants to be done with the newly-minted 30-year-old Bale, while PSG knows Neymar wants to leave and would love to satiate Kylian Mbappe’s appetite to be the man at their club.

[ REPORT: Man Utd, Leicester agree Maguire fee ]

Presumably some money would be headed PSG’s way in addition to Bale, and both clubs would be getting a motivated megawatt star.

Neymar doesn’t turn 28 until February, but the difference in age may be offset by the Brazilian’s track record of injuries.

In fact, his injury status last season combines with an off-field accusation of sexual assault and a red card for confronting a fan to overshadow his production: Neymar’s 23 goals and 13 assists in just over 2300 minutes last season, including five and two in the Champions League (and a goal and an assist against defensively-stout Liverpool).

Bale presents very few personality challenges, and PSG won’t have a problem with his massive wages (especially with Neymar off the books). His numbers have dipped in two of three seasons since his otherworldly 2015-16, but La Liga is a more difficult scoring league than Ligue 1.

Neymar has twice been a Ballon d’Or finalist and, presuming his legal troubles don’t persist, could be a title fight changer in La Liga. Imagine the Neymar, Eden Hazard, and Luka Jovic trying to outgun Lionel Messi, Antoine Griezmann, and Luis Suarez? Insane.

We’d say Real would be winning the straight-up swap, and that it’s pretty unlikely to go down that way. So it depends what PSG does with the relative Financial Fair Play freedom that would come with the money that also arrives from Spain. Is it Idrissa Gana Gueye? Someone else who helps take PSG’s Champions League hopes to the next level?

Manchester United in ‘concrete talks’ with Lille over Pepe

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Manchester United are reportedly in “concrete talks” to agree a fee with Lille for much-tracked playmaker Nicolas Pepe.

The 24-year-old attacking midfielder has been linked with Liverpool and Arsenal amongst others, and Lille has admitted he’ll be leaving the club.

[ REPORT: Man Utd, Leicester agree Maguire fee ]

United’s reported salvo was around $87.5 million. He’d give them a star who could play across from Anthony Martial or as an attacking midfielder under Romelu Lukaku.

Only Kylian Mbappe and Teji Savanier garnered better season-long ratings than Pepe in the 2018-19 Ligue 1 campaign, and Pepe’s 22 goals and 11 assists stand out from the pack. Only Mbappe had more goals and only Savanier more assists.

Pepe has four goals in 11 caps for the Ivory Coast, and made three starts in Les Elephants’ five-match run at the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations. He’s a fit for the Premier League, and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer‘s system. And if the Red Devils can keep him from Liverpool, well, all the better we’re sure.

Report: Manchester United, Leicester agree to monster Maguire fee

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Manchester United and Leicester City have agreed a fee for Harry Maguire, clearing the way for the English center back to join the Old Trafford set.

That fee is a whopping $100 million, according to Bleacher Report’s Dean Jones. That’s about $4 million more than the world record for a defender, set when Liverpool purchased Virgil Van Dijk from Southampton.

[ MORE: USMNT CB to West Ham? ]

Maguire has been a statistical monster for Leicester City, and he passes the eye test, too.

Manchester United has needed to upgrade its stable of center backs for some time, and now the biggest question is who will work best alongside the 6-foot-4 26-year-old.

The former Sheffield United, Wigan Athletic, and Hull City defender is now 20-times capped by England.

The move could have a ripple effect on the Premier League, as the Foxes have been expected to bid for Burnley star James Tarkowski should Maguire leave the King Power Stadium.