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How will Man United, Chelsea line up?

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Manchester United and Chelsea square off at Old Trafford this Sunday (Watch live, 9:05 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com) with both teams coming off tough tests against La Liga opponents in the UEFA Champions League last 16.

[ MORE: Conte’s tactical masterclass

Chelsea held Barcelona to a draw at home, while United went to Sevilla and shut up shop to grab a 0-0 draw. Both Jose Mourinho and Antonio Conte are masters of setting their teams up to defend resolutely, but we will see something a little different this weekend with just three points separating these teams in the Premier League table?

The onus will be on United to attack and put some more space between themselves in second place and Chelsea in fourth, while also seeing Mourinho’s side cement their spot in the top four as in-form Liverpool and Tottenham continue to rack up wins.

Make no mistake about it, Sunday’s game is a huge encounter and could well set the tone for how the final months of the season go for both United and Chelsea.

Below is a look at the projected lineups for both teams, with an explanation for the starting XIs.


Manchester United (4-3-3)

—– De Gea —-

— Valencia — Lindelof — Smalling — Young —

—– Matic —- McTominay —- Pogba —-

—– Sanchez —– Lukaku —- Martial —-

Explanation: With Ander Herrera limping off injured, it appears Mourinho’s stance over Paul Pogba is over and the Frenchman will come into a three-man midfield alongside Nemanja Matic and McTominay. The other option is to drop McTominay and play Pogba in a more advanced role in a 4-1-4-1 formation, but given Mourinho’s pragmatic approach and previous penchant for man-marking Eden Hazard, it feels like he may well stick with a 4-3-3. In defense, it will be intriguing to see if Luke Shaw comes back into the team after not traveling to Sevilla in midweek, while Marcos Rojo and Phil Jones being out limits Mourinho’s central defensive options. In attack Alexis Sanchez and Romelu Lukaku are automatic starters, while the third attacking slot is a straight fight between Juan Mata, Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial. The latter has come up big for United in terms of goals scored this season, so I’d expect him to get the nod.


Chelsea

—– Courtois —–

—- Azpilicueta —- Christensen —- Rudiger —-

— Moses — Kante — Fabregas — Alonso —

—- Pedro —- Hazard —- Willian —-

Explanation: If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. That will be Conte’s motto (I’m sure it sounds much cooler in Italian) for this game after he praised Chelsea’s attacking unit and their overall display against Barcelona in midweek. They should have won by at least two goals as Willian was on fire and hit the post twice, while Eden Hazard and Pedro also caused havoc. You’d think Conte would like to have the goal-shy Alvaro Morata and Olivier Giroud (who is still returning to full fitness) available off the bench for Plan B, but the rest of this Chelsea team really picks itself. Gary Cahill may come in for Andreas Christensen in central defense after his costly error against Barcelona, but Conte was delighted with how the Danish center back despite his loose pace which led to Lionel Messi’s equalizer in midweek. The big question is around Hazard playing once again in the false nine and if Morata will start up top in place of Pedro to give Chelsea’s attack a more targetman to build from. Hazard in a false nine did not work well for Conte away at Arsenal in the League Cup semifinal second leg, but he appears to favor this formation right now with neither Morata or Giroud in the starting lineup.

Analyzing a day of VAR drama in the Premier League

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VAR had its most eventful day in the Premier League, so far, as the new technology introduced for this season is still settling in.

My word, the VAR control center at Stockley Park close to Heathrow Airport was busy on Saturday.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights

Multiple PL games had game-changing moments reviewed by VAR, and there are plenty of players, managers and fans feeling aggrieved, or lucky, as they head home.

Below we take a look at the key moments which shaped the outcome of the Premier League action.


Wolverhampton Wanderers v. Southampton – RECAP

This clash at Molineux had the most VAR decisions of the day, as Raul Jimenez had two goals chalked off in the first half. Both of those decisions were correct, as the first was a handball by Jimenez and the second saw Patrick Cutrone in an offside position. So, VAR was working well. But after Southampton had gone 1-0 up a huge moment arrived and cost them three points. Matt Doherty danced into the box and as he was off balance trying to get his shot off, he fell over with Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg and Maya Yoshida close by. A penalty kick was awarded by the referee on the pitch, Peter Bankes, but the decision then went to VAR with many expecting it to not be awarded. But it was and Jimenez scored to secure a 1-1 draw for Wolves. Southampton were not happy at all with the decision, and you can understand why.


Aston Villa v. Brighton – RECAP

In the end, Aston Villa beat 10-man Brighton 2-1 in stoppage time so this may be forgotten about quickly. But Dean Smith was livid after the game as Conor Hourihane‘s fine strike was ruled out in the first half. With Wesley challenging for the ball in front of the goal, Brighton’s goalkeeper Mat Ryan seemed to run into him when trying to catch the ball. Played went on and after Hourihane’s goal was scored and Villa Park had celebrated, VAR ruled that Wesley had fouled Ryan and the goal was chalked off. It was a baffling decision checked and checked again with a long delay. It was a huge shock that this goal wasn’t allowed to stand after being reviewed.


Tottenham Hotspur v. Watford – RECAP

Okay, this was wildddddddd. In the first half, with Watford 1-0 up, Gerard Deulofeu dribbled into the box and with Jan Vertonghen sliding in, the Spurs defender clearly made contact with Deulofeu. No penalty was awarded by referee Chris Kavanagh but VAR reviewed the supposed foul and gave nothing. How was that not a “clear and obvious error” as contact was clearly made? Spurs got away with another VAR call late on too, as Dele Alli looked to have handled in the box before scoring the equalizer. VAR reviewed the goal and although the referee signalled the goal was fine to stand, which in itself was shocking as the replays showed the ball hitting the top of Alli’s arm, on the big screens at Spurs’ stadium a “No Goal” signal flashed up. It has since been stated that it was a mistake in the system for the screen to show that message, but there was so much confusion and Watford’s players and manager Quique Sanchez Flores were upset the goal stood. Dele Alli was sheepish when asked about the goal after the game, as VAR got two out of two huge goals incorrect in Spurs’ draw with Watford.


Leicester City v. Burnley – RECAP

Now, describing Sean Dyche as being apoplectic with rage is something we do quite often during a PL season. But he and his staff were beyond that as Burnley’s late goal was ruled out at Leicester. Chris Wood thought he had made it 2-2 after bundling home his second of the game, but VAR ruled out the goal for a slight touch on Johnny Evans by Wood. It was a faint clip and coming together between the Burnley striker and Leicester defender with the ball already going in, and the Foxes knew they had got away with one. Dyche was trying to be as diplomatic as he could be after the game but this was a harsh call against Burnley who should have grabbed a point.

Lampard ‘pleased for Pulisic,’ praises subs in Chelsea win

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Frank Lampard‘s fired up on-field response to Chelsea’s resilient 1-0 win over Newcastle United on Saturday carried over to the post-match press conference.

The manager’s subs enabled the Blues to claim all three points, as Mateo Kovacic and Christian Pulisic changed the midfield and helped prod Marcos Alonso‘s second-half winner.

[ RECAP: Chelsea 1-0 Newcastle ]

“Saw a spirit and energy of the team, keep picking up the wins and take nothing for granted,” he said.

“We had a problem in the game, but solved it. Kovacic was outstanding and Christian got at people. I am pleased, we have to play like that. We got our way.”

Lampard was asked specifically about Pulisic, and said the atmosphere around the American star needs to calm down a little bit.

[ MORE: Pulisic Watch ]

“I am really pleased for him,” Lampard said. “He is a hot topic. Everyone has got a little carried away. To see him play that way (was good).”

Chelsea will finish the weekend in the Top Five and its favorable run of fixtures continue after the Champions League midweek. The Blues next see Burnley, Watford, and Crystal Palace before its next top-end tilt with Man City.

LIVE — MLS Cup Playoffs begin; Atlanta, Seattle at home

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Reigning champs Atlanta United kick off a four-match docket as the MLS Cup Playoffs begin Saturday around North America.

[ FOLLOW: MLS Cup Playoffs live, box scores, stats ]

Pity Martinez starts on the bench for the Five Stripes, who are without injured USMNT back Miles Robinson.

Two other recent cup champions, Toronto and Seattle, are home later in the day, while Utah is the scene for the final match of the night.

Schedule

Atlanta United v. New England Revolution — 1 p.m. ET
Seattle Sounders v. FC Dallas — 3:30 p.m. ET
Toronto FC v. DC United — 6 p.m. ET
Real Salt Lake v. Portland Timbers — 10 p.m. ET

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Bournemouth and Norwich in stalemate

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Bournemouth and Norwich City played out a tense 0-0 draw at the Vitality Stadium on Saturday, as the Canaries dug deep for a point on the road as they secured their first clean sheet.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

The Cherries and Canaries both had decent chances in the game but neither were clinical and both Aaron Ramsdale and Tim Krul had some decent outings in goal.

Bournemouth sit in ninth on 12 points, while Norwich are 19th on seven points.


3 things we learned

1. Teemu Pukki is struggling for support: He scored twice for Finland over the international break, but he hasn’t scored for Norwich since that big win agains Man City on Sept. 14. Pukki didn’t get much support and Norwich have scored just once in their last four PL games.

2. Norwich much happier with the point: Daniel Farke has been plagued with injuries all season long, especially defensively, so he will be delighted his side kept a clean sheet on the road against a very dangerous Bournemouth side. At times Norwich rode their luck, but they looked solid enough and Todd Cantwell kept things ticking over in midfield. Tim Krul stood tall too, as the Canaries head home happy.

3. Bournemouth improving defensively: Every could has a silver lining, and for Eddie Howe that will be another decent day defensively for the Cherries. Going forward they disappointed but at the back they’ve only conceded five times in their last five PL outings. That is very good for Bournemouth. Ake and Cook have a strong partnership and Ramsdale is finding his feet. Yes, Bournemouth will have hoped to score three or four against this Norwich defense, but at least they’ve improved at the back.

Man of the Match: Tim Krul – Tough to pick a player of the game but Krul was solid when called upon and organized this banged up Norwich defense well. Used all of his experience.


Bournemouth pressed Norwich back early on and Tim Krul then denied Dominic Solanke.

Norwich had a half chance as Teemu Pukki delayed his effort and Steve Cook cleared, with neither side taking the game by the scruff of the neck.

In a tight, tense game both cancelled one another out in an uneventful first half.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights

At the start of the second half Norwich lost yet another defensive player to injury as Ben Godfrey, just back from a hernia operation, was replaced by Tom Trybull.

Pukki’s shot was deflected by Cook as it looped up close to the goal, while at the other end Bournemouth went close as Wilson and Adam Smith combined but the ball was just off target.

Both teams tried to push for the win late on but held back a little as Norwich in particular were happy with the shutout and point on the road given all of their defensive issues.