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PL Sunday preview: Title-race showdown at Anfield

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Sunday’s slate of Premier League fixtures consists of three games featuring four of the six sides with top-four aspirations, including the big one: the one we’ve all been waiting for since they met in the Champions League quarterfinals in April, Liverpool versus Manchester City.

[ MORE: What did we learn in the Premier League, Week 8? ]

Fulham vs. Arsenal — 7 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

Arsenal seek their sixth straight PL win on Sunday when Unai Emery and Co., make the short trip south to the River Thames and head west until they float up to Craven Cottage. Emery has settled in quickly — and quietly — since back-to-back defeats to Man City and Chelsea to begin his first season at the Emirates Stadium. While they’ve managed more than a handful of goals en route to five straight wins, it’s the defensive record (just four goals conceded, including back-to-back clean sheets against Everton and Watford) which has given the Gunners a foundation to build upon. Just two points separate Arsenal from fourth-place Chelsea.

Down at the other end of the table — 17th place, to be exact — Fulham are winless in their last four league games and have just five points to show for their first seven outings after spending more than $130 million this summer after winning promotion from the Championship. Injuries have been a key cause the Cottagers’ early-season struggles, as manager Slavisa Jokanovic has already used nine different defenders in PL play. American defender Tim Ream returned last weekend after missing the start of the season with a back injury and should do his part to stabilize a side that has conceded 16 goals in seven games.

INJURIES: Fulham — OUT: Timothy Fosu-Mensah (shoulder), Joe Bryan (hamstring) | Arsenal — OUT: Petr Cech (hamstring), Laurent Koscielny (achilles), Ainsley Maitland-Niles (knee); QUESTIONABLE: Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (illness)


Southampton vs. Chelsea — 9:15 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

The good news for Chelsea: they’re still unbeaten to start the PL season. The slightly-less-great news: it’s been three weeks since they last won a PL game and they’re in danger of falling away from the leading pack, which presently consists of Liverpool and Man City. The Blues have won six straight games against Southampton (all competitions), including the FA Cup semifinal in April.

“We have lost two points in both our last two (league) games, so obviously we want to get three points as much as we can,” defender Cesar Azpilicueta said this week. “We weren’t able to in the last two games so we need to improve because every time we go onto the pitch, we want to win.”

Southampton, on the other hand, currently sit 16th in the midst of a three-game winless skid, including back-to-back defeats to Liverpool and Wolverhampton Wanderers. It’s been 205 minutes since Saints last scored a goal in PL play, and they have a bottom-five offensive record this season (six goals in seven games). Mark Hughes will be desperately hoping that edging past Everton on penalty kicks in the EFL Cup third round on Tuesday gives his side a much needed boost with the busy winter period not so far away now.

INJURIES: Southampton — OUT: None | Chelsea — OUT: Marco Van Ginkel (knee)


Liverpool vs. Manchester City — 11:30 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

The last time Man City visited Anfield, they conceded three times in the game’s opening half-hour on their way to a 3-0 first-leg defeat, and a disheartening exit from the Champions League. The visit before that, Pep Guardiola‘s side conceded four times — including a three-goal barrage that lasted just nine minutes — as they watched their 22-game unbeaten start to the season vanish at Anfield. It’s been more than 15 years since City last beat Liverpool on Merseyside, as they’ve lost 11 times at Anfield since May 3, 2003.

Guardiola has not yet revealed whether or not Kevin De Bruyne (knee) will return after two months on the sidelines, though City have managed just fine — thus far — without their play-making genius. A run of four straight wins (by a combined score of 12-1) have vaulted City back ahead of Liverpool for the top spot in the table, thanks to the Reds’ 1-1 draw with Chelsea last weekend. Jurgen Klopp‘s side was perfect up until its trip to Stamford Bridge.

Klopp was very quick to downplay his side’s recent success against City, knowing his side is in for another colossal battle on Sunday.

“We won the last three games against City — twice in the Champions League and once in the league. After none of these games do you go into the dressing room and think, ‘Now we’ve got it, now we know how to beat Manchester City.’

“There is no real way; there isn’t one thing you have to do so you can beat them. That’s not there. You need a fantastic football team — which I have, thank God — with an outstanding character, ready for being really brave, ready for making mistakes in a very difficult game against an outstanding opponent.”

INJURIES: Liverpool — OUT: Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (knee); QUESTIONABLE: Naby Keita (back), Adam Lallana (groin) | Man City — OUT: Claudio Bravo (achilles); QUESTIONABLE: Kevin De Bruyne (knee), Ilkay Gundogan (hamstring), Benjamin Mendy (foot)

Man City skates by West Ham in Premier League Asia Trophy

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Manchester City’s youth squad did the first-half job, which meant the heavy artillery coming off the bench was that much scarier. Man City came from behind to lead at halftime, and Raheem Sterling scored twice in the second half and the defending Premier League champions were no match for West Ham in a 4-1 victory in the semifinals of the Premier League Asia Trophy in Nanjing.

Pep Guardiola started a mostly second-choice lineup from the opening whistle, with David Silva and Aymeric Laporte the only true first-teamers in the squad. Claudio Bravo manned the net to begin, with new arrival Rodri also among the starters. West Ham’s lineup, meanwhile, was a strong one with Felipe Anderson, Mark Noble, Angelo Ogbonna, Jack Wilshere, Michail Antonio, and Manuel Lanzini all among a first-choice starting lineup.

West Ham took the lead 25 minutes in through Noble who delivered from the penalty spot, but not without help from Felipe who was the star of the first half for the Hammers and won the penalty after sending Manchester City defender Angelino to the ground.

The lead didn’t last long as David Silva leveled things up in the 33rd minute, a wonderful start to his final season at Manchester City. He received a fabulous delivery from 18-year-old Spanish youth international Adrian Bernabe who rifled one to the far post where Silva was waiting, and the 33-year-old chested it down before unpacking a low finish from a tight angle.

City would go in front three minutes later as 20-year-old Man City youth product Lukas Nmecha won a soft penalty on a foul by Ogbonna, and the youngster took it himself and buried the spot-kick for the lead.

Kevin De Bruyne, Raheem Sterling, Bernardo Silva and Leroy Sane all came on at halftime for the defending Premier League champions, while West Ham brought on the likes of Robert Snodgrass, Javier Hernandez, and Andriy Yarmolenko.

The changes for Manchester City overwhelmed West Ham, with Sane picking up a loose ball near the halfway line and feeding a beautiful pass through the back line to Sterling clean on goal who put City 3-1 up on the hour mark. That saw John Stones, Kyle Walker, Ilkay Gundogan and Oleksandr Zinchenko all come in off the bench for Pep Guardiola and into the fray.

The big three did it again in the 72nd minute as de Bruyne picked Carlos Sanchez’s pocket in the attacking third and fed Sane on the left. He sent it back to de Bruyne who layed it off for Sterling’s second goal of the match.

In squad notes, a pair of England youth internationals went the distance for Man City as Ian Poveda-Ocampo and Taylor Harwood-Bellis were the only two to complete the full 90 minutes. Notable for West Ham, Winston Reid came off the bench for the final 19 minutes, his first game action in over 16 months.

Rashford, James, Pogba star as Manchester United hammers Leeds in Perth

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Manchester United topped Leeds 4-0 in a comprehensive victory in Perth that saw Marcus Rashford and new signing Daniel James run rampant down the flanks.

Rashford scored in the 27th minute with a beautiful move down the left that threw two Leeds defenders into each other, while James struck the post just before halftime on an overlap down the right in his Red Devils debut.

Also on the scoresheet was 17-year-old Mason Greenwood who received a hard, low cross from fellow debutant Aaron Wan-Bissaka and beat two Leeds defenders in a footrace to the ball on the doorstep for a sliding finish. The move was started by Paul Pogba who found the new Manchester United defender down the right with a wonderful through-ball, leading to the delivery into the box. Greenwood has had quite the last 12 months, scoring for the Manchester United U-17, U-18, U-23, and now senior side all in that span.

After the break, Phil Jones found the back of the net by powering home a corner with his head, while Anthony Martial finished off the scoreline with a penalty after Tahith Chong was fouled in the area by Liam Cooper. Chong impressed throughout the second half, linking well with fellow Manchester United youth product Angel Gomes.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer found playing time for just about every first-teamer, completely changing the side at halftime. Nemanja Matic was one of the halftime introductions, but was curiously withdrawn with 12 minutes to go, unclear if due to injury. The only Red Devil in the squad to not see the field was 21-year-old Axel Tuanzebe.

Wolves rocks Newcastle in Premier League Asia Trophy

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A rough summer continued for Newcastle as the Magpies were hammered in Nanjing by a first-choice Wolves lineup 4-0 in Premier League Asia Trophy action.

Diogo Jota scored a pair, and England youth international Morgan Gibbs-White added a third as Wolves took a commanding 3-0 lead into the break. As both sides rung changes in the second half, an Allan Thomas own-goal with five minutes remaining finished the scoreline and doomed Newcastle to yet another summer misstep.

WATCH PL ASIA TROPHY LIVE

For Wolves, it was a promising start to preseason play as the lineup featured a host of regulars, with only Mexican international Raul Jimenez, still resting after a successful Gold Cup campaign, missing from the starting eleven. Jota was particularly spectacular, with a brilliant touch in the buildup to his first goal rewarded with the finish, plus his second – Wolves third – where he snatched the ball straight off the feet of Newcastle defender Isaac Hayden in the penalty area.

Gibbs-White also scored off a Newcastle turnover in its own defensive third, with Jonny picking the pocket of Jamie Sterry on the left flank and finding the 19-year-old alone in the middle for a powerful finish from outside the top of the box.

Newcastle has had a rough summer, with the club losing manager Rafa Benitez, selling leading scorer Ayoze Perez, and failing to secure second-leading scorer Salomon Rondon on a permanent basis. The club has yet to sign a single player and was forced to overpay for Steve Bruce, who was in charge for the match against Wolves.

Watch Live: PL Asia Trophy – Newcastle v. Wolves, Man City v. West Ham

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The 2019-20 Premier League Asia Trophy kicks off in China on Wednesday, as four Premier League teams go head-to-head in one of the premier offseason competitions.

WATCH PL ASIA TROPHY

Reigning PL champions Manchester City are involved, while Wolves, West Ham and Newcastle are also out in the Far East. This is the second time the tournament has been held in mainland China, with the two semifinals on Wednesday held in Nanjing, while the final and third-place match will be held in Shanghai on Saturday.

Below is the full schedule for Wednesday’s games in Nanjing’s Olympic Sports Centre.

Newcastle United v. Wolves – 6 a.m. ET – STREAM LIVE
Man City v. West Ham – 8:30 a.m. ET – STREAM LIVE