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Premier League Preview: Chelsea vs. Arsenal

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  • Chelsea has won 5 of last 6 home league matches vs. Arsenal
  • Arsenal has lost 5 of last 6 PL away matches
  • Alvaro Morata has 1 goal in last 15 PL matches

Both teams have new managers, but that’s about where the similarities stop with these two London giants that will clash on Saturday at 12:30 p.m. ET at Stamford Bridge on NBC.

Chelsea’s new manager is looking to instill an additional attacking flair after taking over for a countrymate whose first focus was defensive structure. The Blues dazzled in their opening match, but still have plenty of room for more sharpness up front as they return Eden Hazard to an already dangerous lineup.

[ WATCH LIVE: Chelsea vs. Arsenal live on NBC ]

Arsenal’s new boss, meanwhile, takes over for a club legend who seemed to lose his way, hoping to shore things up at the back after the Gunners seemingly deteriorated as the years under Arsene Wenger waned on. Their defensive frailties were on display in the season opener as they were shredded by last year’s runaway champions, losing handily to what seemed like the clearly better team. They have lost a young up-and-coming star in Ainsley Maitland-Niles to a long-term leg injury, and the starting goalkeeper was shredded for poor play last weekend.

Despite all that, the points don’t care which team is facing what circumstances, they simply find the team with the better scoreline after 90 minutes. So who will come out victorious at Stamford Bridge?

[ MORE: How will Chelsea and Arsenal line up? ]

As stated earlier, Hazard should return to the Blues’ starting lineup after playing 14 minutes in the opener and assisting a goal, while Cesc Fabregas remains out with his knee problem that Sarri called “very unusual.” Ross Barkley could make way for the Belgian star in midfield, or Willian may sit instead. Mateo Kovacic could also see time in midfield if Sarri truly wanted to shuffle the deck so soon.

For the Gunners, Maitland-Niles is out but Nacho Monreal likely returns in time to take his place, although Sead Kolasinac remains out as does Carl Jenkinson. Unai Emery could hand Lucas Torreira his first Premier League start after the 22-year-old was impressive as a substitute for starter Granit Xhaka against Manchester City. Would it be the Swiss to make way for his younger Uruguayan counterpart, or would Aaron Ramsey sit instead? Petr Cech will reportedly retain his place in goal despite a poor performance in the opener.

What they’re saying

Arsenal manager Unai Emery on maintaining spirit: “We need to keep our personality, our mentality. Against [Manchester] City, the team kept their ideas, kept their spirit in the game for the full 90 minutes even when we were losing. That was a good thing. I want us to continue with this work and to be competitive for 90 minutes, but with a better performance both individually and collectively.”

Chelsea manager Maurizio Sarri on Arsenal under Emery: “For everybody it’s difficult against Manchester City. I think Emery is a very good coach. He won three times the Europa League, he won in France with PSG. I think Arsenal this season will be competitive. I think they will be able to fight for a place in Champions League.”

Prediction

Chelsea’s season-opening test wasn’t exactly of top-drawer difficulty, but they clearly have less distance to go under Sarri than Arsenal does under Emery. For that reason, the Blues should be able to defend home court with ease, winning 3-1 with the Gunners making things interesting at 2-1 before a late goal sends the home crowd comfortably happy.

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.

Transfer rumor roundup: USMNT’s Long to London, Newcastle linked with pair

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Could USMNT center back Aaron Long be headed to the Premier League?

The 26-year-old could join West Ham United’s stable of center backs, which includes Issa Diop, Fabian Balbuena, and Angelo Ogbonna.

Sky Sports says that the Red Bulls defender has drawn the interest of Lyon and Fiorentina, but been offered to the Irons should they match his $5 million release clause.

Unable to find a place with Portland and Seattle, Long spent a few seasons in the USL before earning a place with RBNY.

Now 11-times capped by the USMNT with two goals, Long could be bringing his talents to London’s Olympic Stadium.

Elsewhere in the Premier League, Newcastle United has the chance to sign oft-injured Danny Welbeck on a free transfer.

The longtime Arsenal striker, weaned at Manchester United, scored five times in 12 matches last season in a return to injury woes following a 43-match season the prior year.

Newcastle is also being linked with a former defender. James Tavernier has gone on to captain Glasgow Rangers, and the 27-year-old would cost around $10 million.

Surely Steven Gerrard would want more for the defender, but prices haven’t met quality for Scottish Premiership players as we’ve seen with Kieran Tierney at Celtic.