Two of the Premier League’s three remaining unbeaten sides will be in action on Sunday, when Manchester City and Chelsea attempt to match Liverpool’s 11-game unbeaten run to start the season.
Manchester City vs. Southampton — 10 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com
Pep Guardiola‘s side has already won twice this week — knocking off fourth-place Tottenham Hotspur on Monday, followed by a League Cup round of 16 triumph over Fulham on Thursday — and now they turn their attention to a drastically less tricky challenge in relegation-threatened Southampton, who entered the weekend stuck in 16th place. Yet again, Man City will be without world-class midfielder Kevin De Bruyne, who suffered another knee injury against Fulham in just his second game back from his last knee injury. Alas, City have been incomprehensibly dominant without De Bruyne, who is yet to start a PL game this season, to the tune of a +24 goal differential after 10 games. Despite such a strong start, City are yet to put any distance between themselves and the chasing pack. Liverpool went top of the table with their draw away to Arsenal on Saturday, and the two title contenders appear destined to battle one another for the next seven months.
On the other side, it’s been more than two months since Saints last won a league game (Sept. 1), their only victory in PL play this season. What’s worse, it’s been nearly as long (more than five full games) since they last scored a goal. On the bright side, a pair of 0-0 draws have seen Saints pick up a point in back-to-back games. Manager Mark Hughes is hoping that defensive solidity will be a foundation to build upon on Sunday.
“It’s back to back clean sheets, which reinforces our feeling that defensively we’re in better shape than we have been,” he said this week. “That will help us and give us confidence at the top-end of the pitch to really go for teams because we should know that we have got good defensive capabilities.”
Chelsea vs. Crystal Palace — 11 a.m. ET, on NBC Sports Gold
Maurizio Sarri is yet to taste PL defeat as Chelsea manager, and he’ll look to continue his fine start to life in England when 14th-place Palace visits Stamford Bridge. While his side performed well on one end of its League Cup victory over Derby County this week, he wasn’t all too pleased with how they defended against the Championship side.
“In the last match I have to say Derby played a very good match,” he said. “We played well in the offensive phase, but a lot of mistakes in the defensive phase. It’s clear we need to improve. I am used to having problems like this in the first months. In Burnley I saw a very good performance in the defensive phase. Three days after I saw a lot of mistakes. It means we are a not a continuously solid team at the moment. It’s dangerous.”
Palace are yet another side starving for goals ahead of the weekend, as they’ve played 395 minutes (Oct. 1 – all competitions) without finding the back of the net, and are winless (two draws) in their last five league games. Sunday will see Ruben Loftus-Cheek up against his former loan home, for whom he excelled and earned himself a place in the regular rotation at Chelsea.