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Top Premier League storylines for Week 6

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Six Premier League teams faced midweek European contests, with different degrees of success and effort expended by their stars.

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Spurs and Man City lost, while Manchester United and Arsenal posted easy wins. Chelsea didn’t have its best finishing boots but won while resting Eden Hazard, and Liverpool won despite a rough night for its best player in Mohamed Salah.

How will that affect the sides when they face decided underdogs this weekend in England and Wales?

Slumping Spurs head south to stop the rot
Brighton and Hove Albion vs. Tottenham Hotspur — 12:30 p.m. ET Saturday on NBC STREAM ]

Three-straight losses for Spurs under Mauricio Pochettino; Not something we’ve ready too often, or at all. But the Tottenham boss admits his slumping team could use a break that isn’t coming, especially in the case of Harry Kane. Brighton hasn’t taken it easy on anyone this season, but can be broken down and is coming off a pair of 2-2 ties. Goals at the Amex?

Chelsea returns from Greece for London Derby
West Ham United vs. Chelsea— 8:30 a.m. ET Sunday on NBCSN STREAM ]

Eden Hazard and David Luiz were able to rest while Alvaro Morata and Chelsea produced plenty of chances but only one goal at PAOK on Thursday. West Ham had some marvelous moments in attack in getting Manuel Pellegrini a much needed win against Everton last week, and won’t be thinking of anything other than a result when the Blues come back to England for Sunday morning’s kickoff.

Everton hopes to take advantage of weary Arsenal
Arsenal vs. Everton— 11 a.m. ET Saturday on NBCSN STREAM ]

Meanwhile, many of Arsenal’s stars rested or played subs roles in Thursday’s defeat of Vorskla Poltava. And the Gunners were home for that tilt, where they’ll remain for the visit of Marco Silva‘s Toffees. Everton gets Richarlison back from his red card suspension, and hopes that will help a season that went from “unbeaten in four” to “one win in five” with last week’s loss to West Ham.

Liverpool aims to stay perfect vs. rising Southampton
Liverpool vs. Southampton — 10 p.m. ET Saturday on NBCSN STREAM ]

The 5-0 Reds overcame a blown 2-0 lead against Paris Saint-Germain at midweek, and now will face a Saints side which will be missing its top striker (Danny Ings is ineligible due to Liverpool being his parent club). It’s a match that screams trap game, if only because it’s that hard to imagine Saints getting much from Anfield.

Portuguese bosses match wits at Old Trafford
Manchester United vs. Wolves — 10 a.m. ET Saturday on NBC Gold STREAM ]

Jose Mourinho’s men are playing well, with captain Paul Pogba almost certainly the best player on the pitch in a pair of recent wins over Young Boys and Watford. Enter Wolverhampton Wanderers, who are playing some attractive football under Mourinho’s countryman Nuno Espirito Santo. This one has the earmarks of a beauty, assuming Mourinho continues to play attack-minded football. Is that too much of an assumption, given the busy week for his Red Devils?

Leicester City’s Rodgers: ‘Good news’ on Vardy injury

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Brendan Rodgers says there’s good news when it comes to the injury suffered by Jamie Vardy in Leicester City’s 4-1 blowout of West Ham United on Wednesday.

Vardy hurt his glute in the win, temporarily returning to the match after treatment from the trainer but ultimately subbing off before halftime.

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“It wasn’t his hamstring, so that’s good news for us,” Rodgers said, via The Leicester Mercury.

“He just felt a twinge in his glute, so we just have to wait and see on that in the next day or so. Thankfully his hamstring is okay and he just felt some pain in his glute, so we will have to assess that over the next few days.”

Vardy has a Premier League-best 17 goals, one more than Man City’s Sergio Aguero.

He was replaced by Kelechi Iheanacho, who assisted one of Ayoze Perez’s two goals on the day. Perez’s seven goals are second on Leicester, while James Maddison‘s six are third.

Iheanacho has six goals and three assists in 485 minutes and there’s reason to believe he can feast off Leicester’s playmaking if Vardy needs a match or two to heal.

Whether he can fill Vardy’s shoes in the long-term is a big question, especially as Leicester aims to return for the Champions League.

Transfer rumor roundup: Willian Jose to Spurs, Bournemouth after Croatian CB

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London could get itself another Willian.

Willian Jose, 28, was left out of Real Sociedad’s squad at his request on Wednesday, with the club Tweeting that he’d prefer not to play until his situation is resolved.

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Jose Mourinho said he would not comment on another team’s players, but Willian Jose could help Spurs bridge the gap to Harry Kane‘s return.

Willian Jose has been a double-digit scorer for Real Sociedad in La Liga for the previous three seasons, and is well on his way to another 10-goal campaign. He’s got eight goals in 20 matches this season.

Bournemouth needs defensive help, and is reportedly rivaling Newcastle United and Blackburn Rovers for Portuguese giant Toni Borevkovic.

The 22-year-old Croatian has one goal in just over 3000 minutes with the side since arriving from domestic side NK Rudes.

He’s averaging 1.3 interceptions, .9 tackles, and 3.3 clearances per game in league play.

Rio Ave sits seventh in Portugal’s top flight and is managed by former Premier League boss Carlos Carvalhal.

Dropped points in Top Four race point to wild February

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Regardless of whether Wolves end Liverpool’s unbeaten Premier League season on Thursday, there will be five teams within seven points of fourth place heading into Matchweek 25.

Chelsea has 40, a comfortable-enough six-point lead on Manchester United, Spurs, and Wolves (who meet Liverpool at 3 p.m. ET Thursday on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com). Sheffield United has 33 points.

February, specifically the next three matchweeks, will see the teams inside that group learn a lot more about their fates, and give Chelsea and Sheffield United big opportunities to cement their places in the Top Four and Seven, respectively.

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In the case of the latter, it’s because the Blades are the only team in the bunch who don’t face a Top Four six-pointer; Chris Wilder‘s men will meet Crystal Palace, Bournemouth, and Brighton, while the others will be beating up each other.

Chelsea’s path is fraught, but a big opportunity. The Blues travel to Leicester City before hosting both Manchester United and Spurs. Nine points there would effectively Top Four-proof Frank Lampard‘s side.

By the way, how’s this for a hot take? If any of Chelsea, Man Utd, or Spurs find their center forward or playmaker help in the window, they’ll have a leg up on their Top Four rivals. And, really, is that extra few million pounds worth the spoils of the Champions League? Yup.

Bruno Fernandes is not (yet) with United, and the Red Devils face Wolves and Chelsea in their next two matches. Spurs have City and Chelsea. Tumult is probable!

A draw with Newcastle and loss at Watford dampened Wolves’ hopes of riding into fourth. Beginning with Thursday’s visit from Liverpool, however, Nuno Espirito Santo‘s men face three of the Top Seven and then a visit from Norwich City. It’s not over.

And don’t entirely rule out Leicester City from dropping into the fray; The Foxes host Chelsea and Man City, and visit Wolves.

One more nod, however improbable: Arsenal sits 10 points back of fourth but meets Burnley, Newcastle, and Everton over those three match weeks. A perfect run could have the Gunners thinking big (Man City is after that, alas).

Matchday 25
Leicester City v. Chelsea
Crystal Palace v. Sheffield United
Manchester United v. Wolves
Spurs v. Man City

Matchday 25
Sheffield United v. Bournemouth
Wolves v. Leicester City
Chelsea v. Manchester United
Aston Villa v. Tottenham Hotspur

Matchday 27
Chelsea v. Tottenham Hotspur
Leicester City v. Man City
Wolves v. Norwich City
Sheffield United v. Brighton
Manchester United v. Watford

Spurs play Wolves the next week, too!

Mourinho: Spurs don’t have attacking depth, but do have ‘family’

Mourinho on Spurs win
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In this “whole new Jose Mourinho” world, the key word is family.

Mourinho said it six times in his post-match presser after Tottenham Hotspur scrapped to a 2-1 defeat of Norwich City on Wednesday in London.

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Spurs had an early lead disappear when Ryan Sessegnon gave away a penalty to Max Aarons, and Teemu Pukki converted it for a 70th-minute deadlock.

Heung-Min Son scored nine minutes later. It was a win that is good for the whole family.

From Football.London:

“It was fantastic what happened after the 1-1, which happens in a difficult moment for us where I look to the bench and I don’t have attacking players to change the game the team is a little bit fatigued, especially Lucas, Son and of course Lamela. I took him off because he was in trouble and he is a player who is coming from very important and long injury, so very difficult.

“How can we change the game? With the family spirit, the family character and desire.”

Mourinho also praised Giovani Lo Celso‘s work on the wing for attack-short Spurs as “a good experience for the family,” and Paulo Gazzaniga‘s support for returned goalkeeper Hugo Lloris as “a good member of the family and he is such a special friend of Hugo.”

I mean, I’m getting the warm and fuzzies.

Clearly, Mourinho is stressing unity and there’s a bit of bunker mentality involved, as the manager mentioned some dicey calls not going their way against Watford, Liverpool, and now Norwich.