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.

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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.

Reyna, Busio headline U.S. U-17 squad for CONCACAF Championships

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Two of the top teen-aged talents the U.S. has ever produced will be wearing the red, white, and blue next month at the 2019 CONCACAF Under-17 Men’s Championship.

U.S. Under-17 Men’s National Team head coach Raphael Wicky announced his 20-man squad for the upcoming tournament, set to take place at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla. It’s a small irony, as this is the first year without the residency program that was housed on the IMG Academy property.

The U.S. squad is led by Sporting KC midfielder Gianluca Busio and the son of USMNT legend, Claudio Reyna, Giovanni, who is reportedly set to join Borussia Dortmund’s academy officially in the coming months. Also included in this squad is FC Dallas youngster Ricardo Pepi, who already has four goals in USL League One this season. Another forward, Alfonso Ocampo-Chavez is coming into the camp in red-hot form, having scored a hat-trick and helped lead his Seattle Sounders to the GA Cup title.

Griffin Yow just made his full D.C. United debut, and Las, just 17, has already reportedly attracted attention from Europe.

Here’s a look at the U.S. roster.

GOALKEEPERS (2): 1-Damian Las (Chicago Fire; Norridge, Ill.; 13/0), 12-Chituru Odunze (Vancouver Whitecaps FC/CAN; Calgary, Alta.; 4/0)
DEFENDERS (7): 4-Axel Alejandre (FC United; Chicago, Ill.; 14/0), 3-Adam Armour (North Carolina FC; Cary, N.C.; 11/0), 13-Mauricio Cuevas (LA Galaxy; Los Angeles, Calif.; 2/0), 14-Tayvon Gray (New York City FC; Bronx, N.Y.; 10/0), 5-Kobe Hernandez (LA Galaxy; Los Angeles, Calif.; 14/1), 2-Joseph Scally (New York City FC; Lake Grove, N.Y.; 14/1), 15-John Tolkin (New York Red Bulls; Chatham, N.J.; 3/0)
MIDFIELDERS (5): 7-Gianluca Busio (Sporting Kansas City; Greensboro, N.C.; 7/2), 20-Gilbert Fuentes (San Jose Earthquakes; Tracy, Calif.; 13/0), 8-Bryang Kayo (D.C. United; Poolesville, Md.; 0/0), 6-Daniel Leyva (Seattle Sounders FC; Las Vegas, Nev.; 0/0), 16-Adam Saldana (LA Galaxy; Panorama City, Calif.; 17/1)
FORWARDS (6): 18-Jack de Vries (Philadelphia Union; Wayne, Pa.; 0/0), 17-Tyler Freeman (Sporting Kansas City; Shawnee, Kan.; 3/1), 19-Alfonso Ocampo-Chavez (Tacoma Defiance; Kent, Wash.; 14/5), 9-Ricardo Pepi (North Texas SC; McKinney, Texas; 6/1), 10-Giovanni Reyna (Unattached; Bedford, N.Y.; 8/1), 11-Griffin Yow (D.C. United; Clifton, Va.; 6/3)

Transfer Rumor Roundup: Man City preparing $79 million bid this summer; Bale to leave Real Madrid

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Pep Guardiola has identified the successor to Fernandinho, and he’s convinced Manchester City to break the bank to acquire him.

[READ: JPW’s Premier League picks]

Per a report in The Telegraph, Manchester City is preparing a transfer bid of nearly $79 million to sign Atletico Madrid central midfielder Rodrigo Hernandez Cascante, better known as Rodri. In his first season in Madrid, the 22-year-old has made 28 La Liga starts along with six in the UEFA Champions League, anchoring the second-place Atletico Madrid midfield.

In addition to his defensive duties, he’s also scored a pair of goals this season.

If true, Rodri’s transfer will break Man City’s previous record when it signed Riyad Mahrez from Leicester City for almost $78 million.

Fernandinho continues to be a world class holding midfielder, but coming up on 34-years old, he’s surely coming up on time when he won’t be able to cover as much ground as he used to. With Rodri in tow, Fernandinho can slowly take a reserve role in the team, or move to another club for one last big contract.

Here are some more transfer rumors from around Europe:

(more…)

USMNT’s Brooks scores equalizer for Wolfsburg

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John Brooks is enjoying a career year for Wolfsburg, and he just added another highlight to his strong season.

Brooks, running up in the attack in a rare foray forward, tapped home into an empty net to save Wolfsburg a point at home in its 1-1 draw with Eintracht Frankfurt. It was Brooks’ third goal of the season and second in the last two months.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

The U.S. Men’s National Team centerback has played and started 29 times this season for Wolfsburg, the most games he’s ever played in a single season in Germany’s top tier. Brooks started alongside Aaron Long in the USMNT’s 1-0 win over Ecuador in Orlando in late March, and could play a key role for the USMNT this summer at the Gold Cup, unless coach Gregg Berhalter decides to let him rest this summer.

Season over: Hudson-Odoi suffers suspected Achilles tear

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One incident on Monday showed why some players are so desperate to change clubs when given the chance. They may never get it again.

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Callum Hudson-Odoi said on his Instagram post Monday evening that he had suffered a ruptured Achilles tendon. If confirmed by the club, it’s usually a nine-month recovery process, with some players needing a full year to return to full fitness. Considering the timing of this, towards the end of the season, it means that Hudson-Odoi may miss an entire season of top-flight soccer, as well as possibly miss out on a chance to move to Bayern Munich this summer.

The injury is a huge blow to the 18-year-old, who had forced his way into the Chelsea side after strong performances in the UEFA Europa League, and now he’s making regular Premier League starts at the tender age of 18. Hudson-Odoi had started four-straight Premier League games including Monday, but now he faces a long layoff.

In Hudson-Odoi’s favor is his youth. While it can be a career-ending injury, hopefully Hudson-Odoi could retain his electric pace once he recovers and can return to the starting lineup for Chelsea.

But it’s a big disappointment to the young Englishman, who surely would have played for England youth national teams this summer and could have potentially made a big-money move abroad.