Top Premier League storylines for Week 7

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There’s potential for a major Top Four shakeup and maybe even a change in perception of title contention when the Premier League brings Week 7 to the forefront this weekend.

[ STREAM: Watch every PL match live ]


Can Chelsea beat Liverpool again, go top of Premier League?
Chelsea vs. Liverpool — 12:30 p.m. ET Saturday on NBC STREAM ]

The Premier League season will near its one-fifth point after this weekend, and three teams could sit atop the table following six match days.

Two of those teams meet at Stamford Bridge four days after Chelsea came back to beat Liverpool 2-1 at Anfield in the League Cup.

Jurgen Klopp is winless in four against the Blues after winning two of his first three matches against Chelsea as Liverpool boss. Following wins at Stamford Bridge in his first two league visits, Liverpool fell 1-0 last season.

Both teams kept key players out of the Starting XI on Wednesday, though as the intensity of the match ramped up both managers injected some: N'Golo Kante, Roberto Firmino, Eden Hazard, Mohamed Salah, David Luiz, Jordan Henderson.

Yeah, they cared.

So will Liverpool get right back on track at the Bridge following its first setback of the season, or will it be staring down consecutive losses to the same opponent in under a week?

The Reds passed their first two tests of the season, beating Spurs and PSG. The next was a failure versus the Blues, but revenge would keep the PL season firing forward.

Manuel Pellegrini hopes to get another one over on Man Utd
West Ham United vs. Manchester United — 7:30 a.m. ET Saturday on NBCSN STREAM ]

West Ham boss Manuel Pellegrini has had his fair share of success against Manchester United dating back to his time as the manager of Manchester City, posting a 3W-1D-2L record against the Red Devils.

A win on Saturday could rank right up there amongst his favorite conquests, and maybe even be a momentous moment in the tenure of Jose Mourinho at United.

Pellegrini’s 0-4 start to life at West Ham was well-documented, but the Irons beat Everton before drawing Chelsea last week with very different tactical deployments. An 8-0 throttling of Macclesfield Town in the League Cup now yields to this match, which could further endear Pellegrini to the West Ham support.

And if he doesn’t win? We bet they’d agree with Pellegrini that a draw is the next best thing.

United is coming off a 10-man loss to Derby County at home in the League Cup and a wealthy of rough headlines involving Mourinho and Paul Pogba. It’s a “rise up” moment for the Red Devils under Mourinho. They’ve done it plenty of times. Will they bail him out again?

Hornets hope to reclaim footing as Arsenal aims to pass them
Arsenal vs. Watford — 10 a.m. ET Saturday on Gold STREAM ] 

The Top Four race could be pretty cluttered after the weekend, and Arsenal’s ability to leapfrog Watford and sits fifth or better is one to watch closely. Javi Gracia‘s Hornets keep scoring, but have just one result from their last three matches in all competitions.

Try a free preview of the NBC Sports Gold pass this weekend.

Can Spurs avoid letdown without Eriksen?
Huddersfield Town vs. Tottenham Hotspur — 10 a.m. ET Saturday on NBCSN STREAM ]

There will be no Christian Eriksen again for Spurs, but Erik Lamela and Dele Alli have been in-form and firing. A visit to the John Smith’s Stadium isn’t a cakewalk, but the Terriers have been struggling and Spurs will be expected to walk over their Bottom Three opponents.

Clarets try to keep building momentum against desperate Bluebirds
Cardiff City vs. Burnley — 11 a.m. ET Sunday on NBCSN STREAM ]

The Bluebirds may not know what to make of Burnley, who struggled in both the Europa League and Premier League before breaking out for a 4-0 win over Bournemouth last week. Burnley rolled out a second-choice squad for the midweek League Cup loss to Burton Albion, but Cardiff will still be viewing this as a chance to pick up its first win of the PL season.

Nashville signs Mexican striker for MLS 2020 debut, loans him to USL

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Nashville has its first official Major League Soccer signing, and it’s raided a USL rival to land him for the 2020 season.

[ REPORT: New Chelsea deal for Kante? ]

Daniel Rios is the debut member of their MLS side, and the 23-year-old Mexican striker will spend the 2019 season on loan to USL side Nashville SC.

Rios is bringing an outstanding 2018 season west from North Carolina, where he scored 20 goals and 13 assists for NCFC.

A former Mexico U-20 player, Rios was on loan to NCFC from Chivas Guadalajara.

LIVE: USMNT vs. Italy – Pulisic wearing captain’s armband

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Christian Pulisic may be only 20-years old, but he’ll have to take a big step up in leadership on Tuesday evening.

Pulisic has been given the captain’s armband for the first time as the youth-laden U.S. Men’s National Team side finishes the 2018 calendar slate facing an experimental Italy side. The U.S. Starting XI has an average age of just 22-years and 71 days, making it the youngest lineup in the modern era.

[ FOLLOW: PST’s Joe Prince-Wright reporting LIVE from Genk, Belgium ]

It’s also a chance for fans to see Josh Sargent play alongside Pulisic, while two members of the New York Red Bulls, Tyler Adams and Aaron Long, both make starts on this cool Tuesday evening. Reggie Cannon and Shaq Moore earn the nods at wing back and Cameron Carter-Vickers also makes his return to the field, after Dave Sarachan went with Matt Miazga and John Anthony Brooks against England in central defense. The USMNT will play with a three-man backline against Italy.

Stay tuned to PST for wall-to-wall coverage, reaction and analysis of Thursday’s game as soon as the final whistle blows.

Report: Chelsea to double Kante’s wages

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Count Chelsea’s ownership and coaching staff among the many who value N'Golo Kante‘s talents, and are willing to pay big bucks for them.

According to a report in The Telegraph, Chelsea and Kante have agreed on a new five-year contract, worth $19.9 million per season. If true, Kante’s new contract doubles the French World Cup winner’s wages as he continues to prove his mettle as the top holding midfielder in the Premier League.

[READ: U.S. U-20s to face Mexico in CONCACAF U-20 Championship]

Kante’s so far scored one goal in 18 appearances in all competitions for Chelsea under new manager Maurizio Sarri, who has paired Kante in midfield with Jorginho. The Brazilian-born Italian serves as the deep-lying playmaker while Kante is the destroyer, winning the ball back before it gets into the final third.

The new contract is significant because in the past, mainly attackers have been given large contracts while defensive-minded players have had to settle for smaller wages. However, nearly $20 million per season is no small chunk of change, and this could raise the rest of the tide of holding midfielders across the Premier League.

For Chelsea, the club needed to re-sign Kante and keep him happy, in part because their title ambitions rest with him. The lure of playing for Paris Saint-Germain or Real Madrid can be strong, but with Chelsea paying his wages, he now has almost $20 million reasons not to leave Stamford Bridge.

UEFA to introduce VAR in Champions League knockout stage

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Following a successful run at the 2018 FIFA World Cup, UEFA is finally getting on board with adopting video assistant refereeing.

VAR will be in use during the Champions League’s knockout stage in 2019, according to a report from the Times of London, which states that UEFA’s executive committee is expected to approve VAR for this season at an upcoming meeting on Dec. 3 in Dublin. Video review was reportedly not supposed to be approved until the 2019-2020 Champions League campaign but recent refereeing errors in the face of successful trials of VAR changed UEFA’s mind.

[READ: Ibrahimovic back to AC Milan?]

Video review at the World Cup proved that VAR could be conducted in a speedy and accurate manner, ensuring the integrity of the game while adding some new drama to the game. Raheem Sterling‘s penalty kick in Man City’s match against Shakhtar Donetsk, when video replay showed he tripped over his own feet, only renewed calls from fans and the media for video assistant referees to be used in these big-time events.

Technology has improved to the point where it is imperative that referees are given all the help they can receive. Players are moving quicker than ever, and the human eye can only watch so much. The fact that referees get nearly every decision correct is in it of itself, an impressive feat. Hopefully, with VAR coming to the Champions League and the Premier League, referees can return to getting game-changing decisions correct.