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PL Sunday preview: Spurs look to go 3rd; Arsenal holding onto 6th

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Following Liverpool’s loss to Manchester United on Saturday, the door to third place has been left wide open for Tottenham Hotspur. Meanwhile, can Arsenal hold off Burnley for sixth?

[ MORE: Saturday’s PL roundup — Man United top Liverpool ]

Arsenal vs. Watford — 9:30 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

It’s been 23 years since Arsenal finished a season outside the Premier League’s top five places (they finished 12th in 1995), a formidable streak which set to end this season as Arsene Wenger‘s men sit sixth, 11 points back of fifth-place Chelsea, ahead of Sunday’s visit from Watford. If the Gunners aren’t careful over the season’s final nine games, they could easily find themselves in seventh, looking up at Burnley, who are only two points back.

Wenger can expect a particularly toxic atmosphere inside the Emirates Stadium on Sunday with Arsenal having lost three straight league games — by a combined score of 6-1 — though he remains unfazed and unmoved by calls for his resignation.

“It’s not the person they hate, they hate the manager who doesn’t deliver the performance,” he retorted this week. “I can make that difference. But I’m just unhappy that we lose the games. I want to win, win with style even, so it’s very ambitious. When we don’t do it of course I’m suffering like everyone else. Arsenal is 30 million people, it’s not the suffering of one person, you want to make 30 million people happy and that’s what you care about.”

Watford, on the other side, have won three of their last four (including two straight) and have risen to the top half of the table. The Hornets have won on two of their last three trips to the Emirates, including in the 2016 FA Cup quarterfinals, and would reclaim ninth place from Everton with another positive result on Sunday.

INJURIES: Arsenal — OUT: Alexandre Lacazette (knee), Hector Bellerin (knee), Nacho Monreal (back), Santi Cazorla (achilles); QUESTIONABLE: Sead Kolasinac (ankle), Calum Chambers (thigh) | Watford — OUT: Gerard Deulofeu (foot), Tom Cleverley (hamstring), Tommy Hoban (knee), Nathaniel Chalobah (knee), Younes Kaboul (foot), Jose Holebas (ankle), Christian Kabasele (hamstring)

Bournemouth vs. Tottenham Hotspur — 12 p.m. ET, on NBCSports.com

Tottenham must immediately rebound from Wednesday’s Champions League heartbreak at the hands of Juventus and finish the league season in fine form in order to secure a third straight top-four finish, and a second straight season ahead of Arsenal. Despite the defeat to Juve, Spurs enter the weekend as one of the league’s most in-form sides with not only three straight wins, but having dropped just six points during their current 11-game unbeaten run (they were unbeaten in 17 across all competitions before Wednesday).

“Last season, we complained a lot about not being able to compete in the Champions League, but this year we showed in the group stage against Dortmund, Real Madrid and then Juventus that the club is ready to compete,” Mauricio Pochettino said. “The basis is there. Now it’s to keep going and try to be clever and work hard.

“It was tough on Wednesday and the effort was massive, but we need to move on. The Champions League is in the past. Now we need to believe more and compete in the Premier League and FA Cup, two competitions in which we’re alive.”

Bournemouth, meanwhile, are winless in their last three games (two draws) and have slipped to 12th in the table, now just six points (though, still six places) clear of the relegation zone. Spurs’ congested fixture list, which includes an FA Cup quarterfinal clash away to Swansea City next weekend, could lead Pochettino to rotate his starting lineup for Sunday’s game.

“We need in our starting 11, to pick players who are capable to fight and feel fresh,” Pochettino said. “That is now a tough job for us to choose the starting XI to play at Bournemouth.”

INJURIES: Bournemouth — OUT: Tyrone Mings (back), Marc Pugh (ankle),Rhoys Wiggins (knee); QUESTIONABLE: Jordon Ibe (knock) | Tottenham — OUT: Toby Aldeweireld (hamstring)

Nothing to separate Portland and 10-man LAFC

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There was entertainment value in Los Angeles FC’s potential playoff preview with the Portland Timbers on Sunday in the City of Angels, but all that arrived was a scoreless draw.

[ MORE: Atlanta 1-1 Seattle ]

Both Giovani Savarese’s Timbers and Bob Bradley‘s nickname-free expansion club remain in the West’s Top Four. PLAFC remains unbeaten at home during their maiden voyage through Major League Soccer.

Adama Diomande came close for the hosts, who finished with 10-men when Lee Nguyen went studs-up on Sebastian Blanco‘s thigh for a pretty easy red card (though it took some time for Silviu Petrescu to produce the red).

VIDEO: France stars projected onto Arc de Triomphe

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If France’s players had any doubt about the level of import their World Cup title had back home, it was erased when their photos were projected onto one of the most celebrated monuments in the world.

The photos of Hugo Lloris, Paul Pogba, Antoine Griezmann, and company made their way onto the Arc de Triomphe on Sunday, hours after France defeated Croatia 4-2 in the World Cup Final.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

The Arc de Triomphe honors those who died in the French Revolution and early 19th century wars, and sits above France’s Tomb of the Unknown Soldier from World War I.

How humbling must it be for those players to grace such a heavy monument (both in weight and substance).

Dalic: In one day, Croatia went from lucky to unlucky

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Ante Cacic’s Croatia was on pace to miss out on the World Cup.

Zlatko Dalic’s Croatia rallied the troops to second place in their qualifying group, a playoff defeat of Greece, and a run to the World Cup Final.

Pretty decent stuff.

[ MORE: FIFA awards Golden Ball, Golden Glove ]

And surely the 51-year-old will reflect on that, probably even this evening, but he’s more focused on a letdown after Sunday’s 4-2 loss to highly-favored France.

Key to the match was a penalty awarded to France when a partially-obscured Mario Mandzukic handled a ball inside the 18, leading to Antoine Griezmann’s pivotal goal.

The PK was awarded via VAR, and France went up 2-1 en route to a three-goal lead. From the AFP:

“I never comment on referees but in a World Cup final you do not give such a penalty,” said Dalic.

“It in no way diminishes France’s win. We were a bit unlucky. Maybe in the first six games we were favored by luck and today we weren’t.

“I have to congratulate my players. Maybe today we played our best game at these championships. Against such a strong side as France you must not make mistakes. We are a bit sad but we must also be proud of what we’ve done.”

Croatia had two-thirds of the ball and doubled France’s shot attempts, and Dalic isn’t the least bit controversial in wondering whether the match is much different if that penalty goes unawarded by referee Nestor Pitana.

Atlanta comes back to draw 10-man Seattle (video)

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A scrappy if not downright venomous affair between the lowly Seattle Sounders and high-flying Atlanta United ended in a 1-1 draw in Georgia on Sunday.

The Sounders went ahead through a Nicolas Lodeiro penalty kick, awarded via VAR a la this morning’s World Cup Final, but Atlanta leveled the score with a highlight which show every bit of the game story.

[ MORE: FIFA awards Golden Ball, Golden Glove ]

Just check Josef Martinez’s barking at Stefan Frei, who made an uncharacteristic error on the play, after his 19th goal of the season (Nice cross, Julian Gressel).

Martinez needs nine more goals to break the MLS single season record, and he has 13 games to score them.

Jordan McCrary was sent off for Seattle in the 63rd minute for a second yellow, but Seattle navigated the final half hour or so to scoop up an unlikely point.

Atlanta still sits first with its earned point but opens the door for New York City FC to reach the top of the table when it plays its match-in-hand, while Seattle is now 11 points back of the West’s final playoff spot.