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Top Premier League storylines for Week 13

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The final international break of 2018 is in the rearview mirror, thus the Premier League takes center stage for the next three and a half months.

[ MORE: Barca’s next signing of a Liverpool player will cost extra $114M ]

Here are the five storylines we’ll be watching most closely this weekend…


Tottenham look to spoil Chelsea’s unbeaten start
Tottenham Hotspur vs. Chelsea, 12:30 p.m. ET, Saturday, on NBC [ STREAM ]

Chelsea, alongside Manchester City and Liverpool, remain undefeated to begin the 2018-19 season, but the Blues are set for a tough test on Saturday when they take on Tottenham, the only side in the PL without a draw this season, at Wembley Stadium. Maurizio Sarri‘s side might be unbeaten, but they’ve endured a largely indifferent run of results in recent weeks, as they’ve drawn more games (four) than they’ve won (three) over the last two months. Each side won away from home in their two meetings last season.

Who will can play for Spurs?
Tottenham Hotspur vs. Chelsea, 12:30 p.m. ET, Saturday, on NBC [ STREAM ]

Mauricio Pochettino has enough defenders and midfielder to pick a standard starting lineup on Saturday… probably. It’s been a tough season for Spurs on the injury front, but here’s a list of who’s currently unavailable: Davinson Sanchez, Mousa Dembele, Kieran Trippier, Danny Rose. Jan Vertonghen has been out for two months but is one of three players, alongside Eric Dier and Victor Wanyama, who could return just in time for this London derby. And yet, Spurs have managed nine wins from their first 12 games and sit fourth in the table. They are, however, yet to beat a side currently in the top-seven (losses to Man City, Liverpool and Watford).

Man City, Liverpool take title race on the road
West Ham vs. Man City, 10 a.m. ET, Saturday, on NBCSN [ STREAM ]
Watford vs. Liverpool, 10 a.m. ET, Saturday, on NBC Sports Gold [ STREAM ]

They look set to run neck and neck with one another all season — currently separated by just two points — and they’ll both hit the road on Saturday. Liverpool have the tougher of the two tests, as they’ll take on Javi Gracia’s seventh-place (just ahead of Manchester United) Watford at Vicarage Road. City will also be in London, taking on 12th-place West Ham at the London Stadium.

Bournemouth-Arsenal is a top-six clash
Bournemouth vs. Arsenal, 8:30 a.m. ET, Sunday, on NBCSN [ STREAM ]

Ever since Arsenal’s seven-game winning streak was snapped nearly a month ago, the points have been trickling in one at a time for Unai Emery‘s Gunners. Three straight draws — against Crystal Palace, Liverpool and Wolverhampton Wanderers — have dropped Arsenal to fifth place, three points behind Spurs, and made Sunday’s trip to the south coast of England a massively important one. No one has outperformed expectations more than Bournemouth thus far, as Eddie Howe‘s Cherries sit just four points back of Arsenal in sixth place.

Ranieri takes charge at Craven Cottage
Fulham vs. Southampton, 10 a.m. ET, Saturday, on NBC Sports Gold [ STREAM ]

The bad news for Fulham: they sit bottom of the league with just five points from 12 games. Now, the good news: they’re only three points from safety and there are 26 games still to play. Claudio Ranieri is set to make his Fulham debut when Southampton come to west London on Saturday, and nothing would do more to rally the club around the new boss than snapping the Cottagers’ six-game losing streak and securing their first victory since August..

FOLLOW LIVE — Berhalter’s USMNT taking on Chile

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The U.S. men’s national team, without a pair of prominent youngsters and building blocks for the future, is set to take on Chile at BBCA Compass Stadium in Houston.

[ FOLLOW LIVE: USMNT v. Chile ]

Following the departures of Tyler Adams and Weston McKennie from camp, Gregg Berhalter has made changes up and down the squad from Thursday’s 1-0 victory over Ecuador.

Hit the link above to follow along live, and check back with PST for a full recap and player ratings after the game.

Prime minister May joins England players in calling for strong punishment

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LONDON (AP) — British Prime Minister Theresa May on Tuesday urged soccer authorities to take strong action against Montenegro after England players faced a torrent of racial abuse during a European Championship qualifying match.

UEFA charged the Montenegro Football Association over its fans’ racist behavior in Podgorica on Monday night after England players Callum Hudson-Odoi and Danny Rose complained about being targeted with monkey chants during the team’s 5-1 victory.

UEFA’s anti-discrimination group had sent a monitor to the game because there was judged to be a “high risk” of racism and their evidence will now feed into a disciplinary case that will be heard on May 16 by European soccer’s governing body.

The treatment of England players was debated in the House of Commons between discussions about the Brexit deadlock and there was an intervention from May’s Downing Street office.

“The abuse England players were subjected to last night was disgusting and completely unacceptable,” said James Slack, the prime minister’s spokesman. “It is right that UEFA are now investigating. We urge them to do this quickly and to take strong and swift action.”

In a sign of the extent of the racism problem in European soccer, UEFA announced a separate investigation on Tuesday into abuse aimed at Hudson-Odoi while playing for Chelsea. UEFA said it appointed an inspector to assess a complaint by Chelsea that the 18-year-old winger was targeted with racist insults by Dynamo Kiev fans during the London club’s 5-0 win in Ukraine in the Europa League.

“It is a disaster,” UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin said of racism in European football. “I cannot believe these people still exist.”

In the Montenegro incident, the Fare network which monitors discrimination at games in Europe will provide evidence which could lead to a partial or full stadium closure for the team’s next Euro 2020 qualifier in June against Kosovo.

“We had an observer present who picked up evidence of racial abuse,” Fare said in a statement. “Our monitoring team have been compiling the evidence we have before presenting it to UEFA.

We commend the reaction of the England players involved, no human being should have to face abuse and vilification for their race or identity, something that many Montenegrins will understand from the divisive and bloody recent history of the Balkans.”

In one unsavory incident, England winger Raheem Sterling cupped his ears after scoring England’s fifth goal and Montenegro fans responded with jeers before an object — reportedly a lighter — was thrown onto the field. It was picked up by Hudson-Odoi.

“All of us know what skin color we are,” Sterling said after the game. “It’s not like you are telling us anything new.”

Hudson-Odoi, in another post-match interview, mimicked the monkey chants he and Rose heard.

“We hope that UEFA will act decisively, the sanctions that could be applied for an offense of this kind range from a partial stadium closure to full stadium closure,” Fare said in a statement. “These sanctions are being applied regularly for offenses in UEFA competitions, often against resistance from supporter groups and football stakeholders.

“The challenge of tackling racism and other forms of discrimination in European football however remains an ongoing issue. The societal change and education that is the ultimate solution is slow to take place. Even in the countries of Western Europe where there has been investment and focus on these issues, discrimination remains a stain on football.”

The Football Association of Montenegro said it was only “alleged” there was “racist behavior of few spectators” but committed to identifying anyone deemed responsible and banning them from all matches in the country.

“At the matches played by our respective national teams until now, we have not had any incidents related to religious, gender or racial discrimination and we are fully convinced that there will not be any such incidents in the future,” the federation said. “In a multicultural and multiethnic society as Montenegro is, there is not any space for such conduct, which was the feeling most intensively experienced by our guests from England during the previous two official matches they played in Podgorica.”

The English Football Association said much work is required to eradicate racism across the game.

“The issues we saw last night are not isolated to any specific country, and despite progress English football still has its own incidents of discrimination,” the FA said.

“Our experience is that by combining both sanctions and education, whilst working alongside campaigners such as Kick It Out, real progress can be made.”

Inter and Milan close to announcing plans for new stadium

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MILAN (AP) Inter and AC Milan are close to announcing a joint project for a new stadium, casting aside potential renovations to the San Siro.

[ MORE: Serie A scores, schedule

Inter CEO Alessandro Antonello tells the Gazzetta dello Sport the clubs agree the best way forward is to build a new stadium next to the city-run San Siro then tear down the old stadium.

Antonello says, “Inter and Milan are working together. We still have work to do but the time is right. Soon we will inform the city of our shared choice. Milan needs a stadium worthy of the top European cities.”

The San Siro, officially named Stadio Giuseppe Meazza, opened in 1926 and has already had several renovations. Modernizing the San Siro again could take more time and money than building a new stadium – plus would require Inter and Milan to play elsewhere during construction.

More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/apf-Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

Young American undergoing cancer treatment to meet her Huddersfield hero

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A seven-year-old girl from Dallas, Texas will be meeting her hero in Huddersfield.

Bella has lost her hair during treatment for Medulloblastoma, a form of child brain cancer, and took comfort in watching shaved headed Aaron Mooy play for Huddersfield Town in the Premier League and at the World Cup for Australia.

After undergoing radiation treatment throughout the summer, Bella and her father spent plenty of time on the couch watching soccer as she rested from the intensive treatment.

The young American now has a Huddersfield kit with Mooy’s name and number on the back of the shirt, and the club came across her story on social media.

Bella and her father will now travel to the UK as guests of the club and will meet Mooy and watch him and the Terriers take on Leicester City on Saturday Apr. 6 at the John Smith’s Stadium.

Huddersfield Town’s commercial director Sean Jarvis revealed that Mooy and the club — with the help of local company PAXMAN who have a base in Texas for their caps which help with chemotherapy-induced hair loss — are delighted to welcome Bella to a PL game in April.

“Everyone at the club is looking forward to welcoming Bella over for her special trip in early April. Her story, and bravery, are extraordinary and she thoroughly deserves what should hopefully be a very special experience. The fact that she relates to Aaron’s shaved head is really beautiful and as soon as Aaron heard, he shared our desire to do something special for Bella and her family.”

As her mother Lauren explained, they hope Bella is coming towards the end of her treatment as they now wait for her immune system to recover.

In the meantime, she enjoys watching Mooy play via the FIFA World Cup video game or elsewhere, and she will now get the chance to meet him and watch him play in real life.