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PL Sunday preview: Man Utd, Spurs, Arsenal hit the road

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Sunday’s slate of Premier League fixtures is chock-full of top-six sides in action, as Arsenal, Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur all look to advance their respective bids to topple this season’s favorites, Manchester City and Liverpool.

[ MORE: What did we learn from PL Saturday, Week 4? ]

Cardiff City vs. Arsenal — 8:30 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

The pressure has eased — even if only ever so slightly — on Unai Emery after picking up his first victory as Arsenal manager last weekend. What the Spaniard could now use is a healthy haul of points from the Gunners’ next seven games, all of which come against non-top-six sides. Up first is a trip to the south of Wales to take on 16th-place Cardiff, a side still seeking its first win (and goal) this season. Emery and midfielder Mesut Ozil have reportedly fallen out with one another, but the manager maintains the story is little more than tabloid fodder.

“Throughout my career I have respect for the media, for newspaper, radio, TV. But there are a lot of people in the media and at not every moment is the information real. It isn’t true, the news. … In this situation with Mesut Ozil, it is clear: he is OK, he has the commitment we want, he is a very important player for us and we want to help him to give us the best performance in each match and each moment.”

As for the Bluebirds, Neil Warnock‘s side is the last remaining team without a goal to their name this season. On the bright side, the two points they have to their name means they’ve kept a pair of clean sheets — in back-to-back games, no less — against Newcastle United and Huddersfield Town.

INJURIES: Cardiff — OUT: Junior Hoilett (groin), Aron Gunnarsson (knee) | Arsenal — OUT: Sead Kolasinac (knee), Laurent Koscielny (achilles), Carl Jenkinson (ankle), Ainsley Maitland-Niles (knee)

Burnley vs. Manchester United — 11 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

It might be early in the 2018-19 season, but it’s not too early for Jose Mourinho to find himself facing the possibility of being fired should Man United lose away to Burnley a week after losing 3-0 to Tottenham Hotspur. It’s not just Monday’s result, but the overwhelming sense of discontent around Old Trafford that has begun to make Mourinho’s position feel as if it’s untenable. He and his players are saying all of the right things, publicly, ahead of Sunday’s trip to Turf Moor, but it’s not as if anyone has any other choice at the moment.

Luke Shaw, for instance, feels the players must stick together and keep their heads down to right the ship.

“You see a lot of things in the media that go on about what our dressing room is like, but we have a really good spirit, a really good group of lads who want to work and achieve big things here. We have a group of hard workers and amazing talents, everywhere you look on the field. We have got to start taking our chances and I am sure we will start winning games. We have got to pick ourselves back up, keep working hard and we need to pick up points after two losses. We need to win and win in a good way.”

Burnley, on the other hand, are dealing with adversity of their own after failing to qualify for the group stage of the Europa League this week. Now, Sean Dyche‘s men seek their first win of the season, and their first point since opening day. Back-to-back defeats to Watford (3-1) and Fulham (4-2) have dropped the Clarets to 19th place in the league table.

INJURIES: Burnley — OUT: Johann Gudmundsson (hamstring), Steven Defour (calf), Robbie Brady (hastring) | Man United — OUT: Marcos Rojo (undisclosed), Diogo Dalot (fitness), Sergio Romero (fitness)

Watford vs. Tottenham Hotspur — 11 a.m. ET, on NBC Sports Gold

At the other end of the table, Sunday also provides an unlikely meeting of unbeaten sides when Watford host Tottenham at Vicarage Road. The Hornets have feasted on bottom-half sides in their first three games, while Spurs landed the first blow of the season amongst the “other” top-six sides vying for Champions League qualification.

While much of the talk about Mauricio Pochettino‘s side has focused on the fact that not a single player was signed this summer — the first such occurrence for a PL club since the summer transfer window began — Monday’s demolition of the Red Devils served as a coming-out party for Brazilian attacker Lucas Moura, a $___-million acquisition who had virtually no impact last season after signing in January. As a well-known former manager in north London might say, getting Moura up to speed with a full preseason behind him has been kind of like a new signing.

Pochettino’s counterpart on Sunday, Javi Gracia, has pushed all of the right buttons thus far, and he’s had to do so when it comes to picking his lineup and substitutes. With such a healthy, deep squad, Gracia might feel this is Watford’s best chance to knock off Spurs for the first time in the PL era. In 12 league meetings spanning two and a half decades, they have just three points to show for their efforts, and haven’t beaten the north London side in league play since 1987.

INJURIES: Watford — OUT: Tom Cleverley (achilles), Younes Kaboul (foot) | Tottenham — OUT: Hugo Lloris (thigh), Heung-Min Son (international duty), Moussa Sissoko (hamstring)

Transfer news: Brooks to Liverpool; Henderson loan likely

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The latest transfer news in the Premier League sees David Brooks linked to Liverpool, while Dean Henderson could be heading out on loan from Manchester United once again.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

Starting in Liverpool, a report from the Daily Star says Liverpool are the frontrunners to sign Welsh attacker David Books, 23, from recently-relegated Bournemouth.

Per the report, Everton, Tottenham and West Ham all want to sign Brooks but Bournemouth’s price tag of $45.7 million is putting clubs off.

David Brooks is certainly a Klopp-like signing. Look at Georginio Wijnaldum, Andrew Robertson and Harvey Elliott. Liverpool’s recruitment team loves to scour the recently-relegated sides for a bargain and Brooks would fall into that category but from his playing style he would also be a very good fit.

His 2019-20 season was impacted by a huge ankle injury but his return after the restart did improve Bournemouth and had the Welsh international been fit all season, they’d probably still be in the top-flight.

Where would he slot in at Liverpool? The Reds do need a tricky, more attack-minded attacking midfield player and although Brooks primarily plays out wide, he can slot inside and would be a good alternative to Naby Keita, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Wijnaldum. Brooks could also play out wide if Salah and Mane need a rest, and is probably a better option than fringe players Xherdan Shaqiri and Takumi Minamino.

It remains to be seen if Klopp and Liverpool will splash this kind of cash, as they are said to be keen on trimming their squad and adding conservatively. That said, David Brooks would probably be worth over $70 million before his injury and Bournemouth’s relegation, and he is young and hungry and has bags of pace as well as being a direct runner with the ball at his feet. Liverpool may decide that this is the right player at the right price at the right time.

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Moving from Liverpool to Manchester, and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has a dilemma with his goalkeepers.

David de Gea is no doubt his number one but with Sergio Romero as his back-up option and youngster Dean Henderson desperate to stake his claim as a regular at Man United, something has to give.

The London Evening Standard believes that means Henderson, 23, will head back out on loan for the 2020-21 season. Henderson shone on loan at Sheffield United over the last two seasons but with the Blades looking to sign Bournemouth goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale on a permanent deal, maybe Henderson could be heading elsewhere this summer.

Henderson has been linked with Chelsea, but Man United would be unwilling to strengthen a direct rival, so a move back to the Blades seems likely. However, an extra spanner in the works is that Romero could move on as he now wants to play regularly, so Henderson would be De Gea’s back-up for the 2020-21 season.

Asked about his goalkeeper situation, here’s what Solskjaer had to say.

“I think I must be the most privileged manager in the world with the goalkeeping department, with Sergio, David and we’ve got Dean Henderson coming back. Three top, top ‘keepers,” Solskjaer said. “This season has shown how important Sergio has been for us and for me David always, always performing. We will see what we do for the rest of the season and going forward. It’s difficult, but it’s a nice problem to have. We have Dean, Sergio, David in the ranks. Lee (Grant), the fantastic pro that he is, is backing them up. It will be difficult to keep three of them at the club, so we will see what the decision will be there.”

It would be tough for Henderson to go from playing regularly to sitting on the bench but is the next step in his development playing 10-15 games per season in the FA Cup and League Cup? He may get the odd start Champions League and Premier League game when De Gea needs a rest, but that’s it.

Henderson needs to play regularly and many would argue he should go head-to-head with De Gea for the starting spot at Man United and back himself. If De Gea makes a few mistakes early on in 2020-21 and Henderson is waiting around on the bench, he could get the chance he wants to usurp the Spanish star.

Champions League, Europa League: How to watch, odds, start time, predictions

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The UEFA Champions League and Europa League action has resumed and I’m going to reveal my predictions for this next round as well as the latest odds for Europe’s top two continental tournaments.

[ LIVE: Champions League scores

With Manchester City still in the Champions League and Manchester United and Wolves among the favorites to win the Europa League, there is a lot on the line for Premier League clubs in the coming weeks.

Just because the Premier League season is over, that doesn’t mean the action is over. Far from it. Both Manchester clubs are the bookmakers favorites to seal their respective European glory.

[ LIVE: Europa League scores ]

In the next few days the Europa League and Champions League quarterfinals will take place as the mini tournaments begin.

Man City beat Real Madrid 4-2 on aggregate, while Chelsea lost Bayern 7-1 on aggregate as they crashed out of the Champions League. Man United and Wolves are both in the quarterfinals and favored to go far.

Lisbon, Portugal will host the Champions League games from the quarterfinal stage onwards, while the Europa League games will be hosted around Germany.

Below is a look at my predictions, the odds for the games this week and how to watch and follow all of the fixtures in the USA.


How to watch, stream Champions League and Europa League

Dates: August 5-23
Location: Quarterfinals onwards in Lisbon/Germany
How to watch: CBS Sports
Live updates: UCL here at NBCSports.com & Europa League here at NBCSports.com


JPW’s Champions League predictions

Quarterfinals (August 12-15)
Wednesday, August 12: Atalanta 2-3 PSG
Thursday, August 13: RB Leipzig 1-2 Atletico Madrid
Friday, August 14: Barcelona 1-3 Bayern Munich
Saturday, August 15: Manchester City 3-1 Lyon


JPW’s Europa League predictions

Quarterfinals (August 10-11)
Monday, August 10: Inter Milan 2-1 Bayer Leverkusen
Monday, August 10: Manchester United 3-1 Copenhagen
Tuesday, August 11: Wolves 1-2 Sevilla
Tuesday, August 11: Shakhtar Donetsk 1-2 Basel


Champions League betting odds

Quarterfinals (August 12-15)

(+210) Atalanta v. PSG (+117). Tie: +275
(+225) RB Leipzig v. Atletico Madrid (+135). Tie: +220
(+235) Barcelona v. Bayern Munich (+115). Tie: +255
(-305) Manchester City v. Lyon (+750). Tie: +450

Outright winner
Manchester City (+220)
Bayern Munich (+325)
Paris Saint-Germain (+500)
Atletico Madrid (+800)
Barcelona (+800)
Atalanta (+1000)
RB Leipzig (+1700)
Lyon (+3500)


Europa League betting odds

Quarterfinals (August 10-11)
(+112) Inter Milan v. Bayer Leverkusen (+240). Tie: +250
(-385) Manchester United v. Copenhagen (+1000). Tie: +480
(+235) Wolves v. Sevilla (+120). Tie: +230
(-106) Shakhtar Donetsk v. Basel (+290). Tie: +255

Outright winner
Manchester United (+180)
Inter Milan (+325)
Sevilla (+500)
Bayer Leverkusen (+650)
Wolves (+700)
Shakhtar Donetsk (+1100)
Basel (+2500)
Copenhagen (+6000)

Jadon Sancho to Man United off? Dortmund say he will not leave

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Jadon Sancho to Manchester United may not happen after all, as Borussia Dortmund are holding firm over the talented winger.

[ MORE: UCL, Europa predictions ]

According to numerous reports Dortmund still want $140 million for Sancho, 20, but were said to be willing to accept a smaller initial payment and larger instalments for the England international and wanted a deal done before Aug. 10 when they ramp up preseason.

Aug. 10 is today and Sporting Director Michael Zorc has spoken as the team flew to Switzerland for preseason training and Sancho was with them.

“We plan on having Jadon Sancho in our team this season, the decision is final. I think that answers all our questions,” Zorc said. “Last summer we adjusted Jadon’s salary to match the development of his performances. So in context, we had already extended his contract until 2023 back then.” 

Reports had stated that Sancho had all but agreed personal terms on a five-year contract at Man United and was just waiting on the two clubs to agree a transfer fee. But Dortmund and Man United have both distanced themselves from that in recent days as the German giants have not received any bids for Sancho from Man United.

We have now reached an impasse.

Now what?

The England international is wanted by so many top clubs around Europe but Jadon Sancho to Manchester United seemed like the best fit.

Now it may not happen at all and Man United can play hardball here. They don’t really need Sancho. He would be a luxury signing.

Sancho will be a menace out wide with Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial and Mason Greenwood as United’s other forward options and Paul Pogba and the brilliant Bruno Fernandes creating just behind them. But he would be an extra sprinkle of stardust to an already star-studded attack rather than the cherry on top.

The summer transfer window closes on Oct. 5 and few will bet against Sancho leaving Dortmund between now and then. He hasn’t put in a transfer request, and it seems it’s unlikely he will do that, but that would swing the pendulum in United’s favor.

Manchester United are going to wait for their man and Dortmund know it. We haven’t heard the last of this, even if Dortmund say the decision is final.

Sancho is the top target for Solskjaer and in a summer where plenty of clubs won’t be spending big, Man United have the ability to do so. The Red Devils know that Sancho may become unsettled and Dortmund are then a position where they should sell, or risk his value dropping further.

This is a waiting game and even though Dortmund have called the shots early on, Man United aren’t showing their hand and are going to wait until the right moment to make their move.

Manchester United – Copenhagen: How to watch, start time, prediction

Manchester United - Copenhagen
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Manchester United – Copenhagen preview: Copenhagen boss Stale Solbakken isn’t disguising his happiness that a bid to oust tournament favorites Manchester United from the Europa League will be contested over just one leg thanks to the coronavirus pandemic.

[ MORE: JPW’s European predictions ]

“It is a great advantage for us that it is decided over one match on neutral ground and without spectators, than if we had to meet them both home and away,” he said on the club’s official site.

The entire tie will be staged at 3 pm ET Monday at Old Trafford.


Know the opponent: Copenhagen

The Danish Superliga runners-up stumbled down the stretch to finish four points ahead of third but well behind title-winning Midtjylland. Ousted from the Champions League by Red Star Belgrade in penalty kicks, defending has been an issue.

Players of a 4-4-2 for many of their recent outings, Copenhagen has won their last two in a 4-2-3-1. You may see ex-Manchester United prospect Guillermo Varela and former Sunderland and Everton player Bryan Oviedo.

Here are the highlights of the Round of 16 defeat of Istanbul Basekshir. Jonas Wind led the way in the 3-0 triumph at home, overcoming the 1-0 first leg loss in Turkey.


How they got here

Copenhagen had nearly five months to lament their 1-0 first leg deficit to Istanbul Basaksehir, then unloading on the Turkish powers via a 3-0 second leg in Denmark.

Copenhagen began their UEL run all the way back in the champions’ route of the playoff round, beating Latvia’s Riga before finishing second to Malmo in Group B. It then beat Celtic to get to the Round of 16 tie with Basaksehir.

United went 4-1-1 in the group stage, a loss to Astana on the penultimate match day no big deal thanks to a home pounding on AZ Alkmaar on the final day to win Group I.

The Red Devils pounded Club Brugge and LASK Linz over two legs to seal a space in the quarterfinals and are significant favorites to win the UEL. Their +180 odds through DraftKings are ahead of Inter Milan (+325) and Sevilla (+500).


What they’re saying

Man Utd’s Sergio Romero on the nature of his club: “As a group of players, if we have a team-mate who is struggling a bit on the day, all the lads have to give him a lift, so he can compete in the game in the best possible way. For sure, every bit of work and effort every day in training, as well as all our dreams are focused on getting United back to another Europa League final. So, we’re going to work hard for that to happen.”

Copenhagen boss Solbakken: “We have to meet the best Premier League team since the coronavirus break, and have, among other things, seen how they beat LASK 5-0 with a B-team, so no matter who they field, we naturally have great respect. … They have a lot of quick players, they play fast and they’ve been good on the counter since Bruno Fernandes came, and they also combine very fast around the field. So there is a lot you can get nervous about, but we have to stick to our own plan and see how far it can take us.”


Odds

The one-legged nature of this round changes the nature of the competition, as class will generally win out over 180 minutes. Ninety (plus) brings a bigger chance of an upset, with Manchester United at -385 and Copenhagen still the biggest underdog of the round at +1000.


Prediction

The match won’t be without scares, but even an empty Old Trafford bears its advantages. United emerges with a 3-1 win.


How to watch, stream Champions League and Europa League

Dates: August 5-23
Location: Quarterfinals onwards in Lisbon/Germany
How to watch: CBS Sports
Live updates: UCL here at NBCSports.com & Europa League here at NBCSports.com