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Top Premier League storylines for Week 9

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An especially arduous international break is over, and here’s a hard reset as you prepare for this weekend’s return of the Premier League.

[ MORE: Sargent moves to Werder Bremen first team ]

Jose Mourinho’s latest trip back to Stamford Bridge carries plenty of intrigue, but we’ll get to that in a moment.

Is beat-up Liverpool’s depth ready for desperate Huddersfield Town?
Huddersfield Town vs. Liverpool, 12:30 p.m. ET Saturday on NBC [ STREAM ]

Sadio Mane, Virgil Van Dijk, Mohamed Salah, Naby Keita. That’s not just a list of Liverpool’s best players, it’s also a few of the Reds who were banged up over the international break.

Jurgen Klopp signed a few players for situations like this, Xherdan Shaqiri in particular, and he does have the boost of a returning Adam Lallana. He insists they’ll be good to go.

“At the end, there will be a really strong side wearing a Liverpool shirt going to Huddersfield and then we will see what we can get there.”

Klopp’s also going against one of his best pals in David Wagner, who needs goals and wins in a hurry. The Terriers are deep in a relegation fight already, and may be getting the Reds at an opportune time.

Can Jose Mourinho get another big win at Stamford Bridge?
Chelsea vs. Manchester United, 7:30 a.m. ET Saturday on NBCSN [ STREAM ]

Well, duh. Do we need to write much under this one? Jose Mourinho’s had plenty of success at Chelsea, but needs to start stacking some wins for Manchester United. Five points adrift of the Top Four and seven back of table-topping Chelsea, now’s a time for a tactical masterclass and a win at the Bridge.

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Spurs hope returnees can help win unpredictable derby
West Ham vs. Tottenham Hotspur, 10 a.m. ET Saturday on NBCSN [ STREAM ]

The Irons have had two weeks to stew on a disappointing loss at Brighton, but all will be forgotten if Manuel Pellegrini leads West Ham past Spurs at the London Stadium.

Spurs defeat of West Ham last season was its first league away win at the Irons since 2014. But this derby is a real “throw out the records” affair, as the venue has been seemingly inconsequential. Spurs will have Christian Eriksen and Mousa Dembele back.

Will good Leicester City turn up to the Emirates Stadium?
Arsenal vs. Leicester City, 3 p.m. ET Monday on NBCSN [ STREAM ]

The Foxes have stumbled a bit too often to be in the Top Four race, and will need to be at their very best against an Arsenal side which hasn’t lost since opening the season 0-2.

Which underachiever will emerge happy from Merseyside?
Everton vs. Crystal Palace, 11 a.m. ET Sunday on NBCSN [ STREAM ]

Marco Silva‘s Toffees have won back-to-back matches to pull into 11th place in the league, five points clear of Palace. Neither expected to be as low as they currently stand. Judging by the way their seasons have gone, a draw where both teams claim they deserved better is coming to Goodison Park for Sunday’s only Premier League match.

Season restart preview: Brighton and Hove Albion

Brighton season restart
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With the 2019-20 Premier League season soon to restart, let’s focus on all 20 clubs and see where they stand ahead of the final nine matches of the season.

Brighton is next.

[ MORE: Remaining PL schedule in full ]

Let’s take a closer look at all things Seagulls when it comes to the season restart.


Outlook: If there’s a team whose results don’t show the way they’ve played, it’s Brighton. Graham Potter’s Seagulls have the sixth-best possession percentage in the league, are a tidy seventh in passing, and are mid-table in tackles per game, interceptions per game, and shots per game.

[ MORE: Ranking every Brighton player in 2019-20 ]

The expected goals stats show even less reward for good work, with Brighton scoring 8.35 goals less than expected in open play and 4.38 less from corner kicks.

Despite all these good things, Brighton is two points clear of the drop zone with nine matches to play and has a terribly challenging schedule especially at the Amex Stadium.


Tactical analysis: Graham Potter has put the Seagulls in myriad formations this season, though he’s been utilizing at least four at the back since the calendar turned to 2020. He’s ready to attack but pragmatic given the club’s hopes of staving off the teams below it in the fight for PL survival.

[ MORE: The 2 Robbies assess Brighton’s chances ]


Possible XI (4-2-3-1) 

—– Ryan —–

— Montoya — Webster — Dunk — Burn —

—– Propper —– Mooy —–

— Trossard — Gross — Alzate —

—– Maupay—–

Glenn Murray and Alireza Jahanbakhsh are excellent weapons to have on the bench, and Brighton’s also got a very good center back in reserve in the form of Shame Duffy and an underrated center mid in Dale Stephens who will see playing time, too. On paper, this team is too good to go down.


[ STREAM: Every PL match live ]

Remaining schedule
Home: Arsenal, Man City, Liverpool, Manchester United, Newcastle
Away: Leicester, Norwich, Southampton, Burnley

Predicted finish: They’ll do enough to get by, though that home fixture list is simply brutal. Safe before the final weekend.

Social media wrap: All 20 Premier League clubs, many players stand against racism

Premier League social media
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The protests in the United States have inspired anti-racism statements from around the world, including all gestures from all 20 Premier League clubs and many players and managers.

There have been ongoing protests and horrible violence in the U.S. since the May 25 killing of George Floyd, a handcuffed black man who died after a white police officer pressed his knee into his neck for nearly nine minutes even after he stopped moving and pleaded for air in Minnesota.

Newcastle United’s American defender DeAndre Yedlin issued an emotional thread (below) as one of a great deal of players to express hopes for change and solidarity, while Schalke’s Weston McKennie explained his wearing a black armband reading “Justice For George” in the Bundesliga this weekend.

[ MORE: Remaining PL schedule in full ]

From Ancelotti to Zaha, Antonio to Yedlin, Arsenal to Wolves, we’ve collected many of their sentiments below in what we hope serves as universal disdain for racial prejudice.

Some players like Leicester City’s Wes Morgan and even entire clubs (Arsenal) changed their online identity photos to reflect these troubled times.

All PL clubs issued messages of solidarity, many using the Black Lives Matter hashtag and making no bones about where they stand.

And we’ll start with a longtime PL club currently in the Championship, who blasted a season ticket holder’s rejection of their unifying Tweet.

Here are some other clubs and players worldwide to have noticed what’s happening in the United States.

 

Season restart preview: Bournemouth

Bournemouth season restart
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With the 2019-20 Premier League season soon to restart, let’s focus on all 20 clubs and see where they stand ahead of the final nine matches of the season.

[ MORE: Remaining PL schedule in full ]

Let’s take a closer look at all things Bournemouth when it comes to the season restart.


Outlook: Tough sledding for the Cherries, who face zero of their fellow bottom-six sides (though 13th place Newcastle and 14th place Saints both visit the Vitality Stadium).

There’s been an element of bad luck to Bournemouth’s woes, with its expected goals stats showing Ryan Fraser, Joshua King, and Callum Wilson have deserved better end product and that the Cherries’ 14 goals from open play should be closer to 22. The defense has been bad and xG says it could’ve been worse, too. Injuries had hit Bournemouth’s defense corps in a big way, too. How much better will they be after the break?

[ MORE: Ranking every Cherries player in 2019-20 ]


Tactical analysis: Eddie Howe utilized a 4-4-2 with two defensive midfielders for much of the early season, but has gone between a lone striker with a packed-in midfielder and a 4-3-3 when he thinks an opponent is exploitable.

Howe started a 4-4-2 against almost all of the Cherries’ remaining opponents, choosing a 5-4-1 against Wolves and Man City. There’s no guarantee he’ll continue that, especially when some matches may dictate a draw or limited goal differential damage over wins.


Possible XI (4-3-3) 

—– Ramsdale —–

— Smith — S. Cook — Ake — Rico —

—– Lerma —– Billing — L. Cook —

— Fraser —– C. Wilson —– King —–

Howe prefers to attack when at all possible, but the points will be at a premium against some very challenging opponents. It’s a safe bet that he’ll ask a lot from his forwards while trying to deploy his three relentless midfielders together whenever possible. The question here is whether Aaron Ramsdale returns quickly from his COVID-19 positive test, or if it’ll be Artur Boruc or someone else between the sticks.


[ STREAM: Every PL match live ]

Remaining schedule
Home: Crystal Palace, Newcastle, Spurs, Leicester City, Southampton
Away: Wolves, Manchester United, Man City, Everton

Predicted finish: The Cherries stay up, just, as King and Callum Wilson deliver the goods in front of a determined and improved midfield.

Premier League clubs will reportedly be allowed preseason friendlies

Premier League return
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Premier League clubs will be allowed to play preseason matches ahead of the 2019-20’s restart season later this month.

There will be strict protocols due to the coronavirus pandemic, however, and the matches will likely be officiated by club coaching staffs (We have so many Jose Mourinho as ref quips to make here, but let’s keep going anyway).

[ MORE: Remaining PL schedule in full ]

Sky Sports says clubs will be limited to opponents within 90 minutes of their venue, and that players will have to drive themselves to the stadiums and go directly to the field in uniform.

With the League One and League Two seasons still hanging in the balance, it’s likely PL sides will be limited to each other and Championship sides. Presumably clubs will not want to meet others still on their fixture list.

We assume some players will get dressed in their vehicles outside the ground, but allow yourself some levity in these challenging times and imagine a fully kitted-up Virgil van Dijk driving the roads from Liverpool to Wigan Athletic.