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PL Sunday preview: Two London derbies, plus the Merseyside

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Sunday is Derby Day in the Premier League, as a pair of sides from each of west London, north London and Merseyside will square off back-to-back-to-back, beginning at 7 a.m. ET.

[ MORE: Man City find groove in win | Man United come back for draw ]

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

Chelsea’s unbeaten start to the PL season — and with it, most realistic title hopes, perhaps — came to an end last weekend, as Tottenham Hotspur thrashed Maurizio Sarri’s side and handed the Italian his first defeat. Chelsea actually sit fourth in the table, despite their lone defeat — compared to Tottenham’s three — ahead of Sunday’s visit from west London rivals Fulham. Sarri will face his compatriot, newly appointed Fulham boss Claudio Ranieri, some 20 years after their first face-to-face meeting, in Florence.

“Friend is a big word, but I like him very much,” Sarri said this week. “I visited him in Florence 20 years ago. I think he doesn’t remember this meeting but it was very important for me. He visited us around 40 days ago to see our training. He spoke to me and Gianfranco (Zola).”

Since taking over at Craven Cottage, all Ranieri has done is inspire the Cottagers to one victory — their second of the season and first since August — in his one game in charge. While the three points were a welcome change after nine games without a win (and six straight defeats), the defense remains as leaky as ever, which will almost certainly be a major stumbling block against Player of the Year candidate Eden Hazard (7 goals, 4 assists in 12 appearances).

INJURIES: Chelsea — OUT: None | Fulham — OUT: Kevin McDonald (hamstring), André-Frank Zambo Anguissa (knock)


Arsenal vs. Tottenham Hotspur — 9:05 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

The season-long narratives surrounding Arsenal and Spurs couldn’t be any more different heading into Sunday’s north London derby, yet it’s Spurs — the disappointing nomads of the PL — who sit third in the table, while Arsenal — the reinvigorated giant under new manager Unai Emery — sit fifth, albeit just three points behind their bitter rivals.

Spurs have picked up their points in far less entertaining fashion — a great departure from the last two seasons under Mauricio Pochettino, when they played some of the most attractive attacking soccer in the world — and relied heavily upon makeshift defensive and midfield units, as the likes of Jan Vertonghen, Kieran Trippier, Danny Rose, Eric Dier and Mousa Dembele have all taken turns missing a handful of games each through injuries following a heavy workload at the 2018 World Cup. With Vertonghen only recently back in the fold, it’s Davinson Sanchez who’s set to miss the next month. Throw in the fact that Spurs signed not a single player in the summer transfer window, and it would be hard to argue against this being Pochettino’s best managerial job to date.

Arsenal, on the other hand, are scoring goals with great regularity (28 in 13 games), but it’s the narrow decline in goals conceded (16 in 13 games, 1.3 per game, compared to 1.5 per game last season) that has painted a different picture to what many had grown accustom to from the Gunners in recent years.

“Each match for me is very special,” Emery said this week. “The derby is perhaps more special because my responsibility is bigger because of every supporter. Also we need three points in the league because we want to be closer to the other teams, like Tottenham, and we have this challenge.”

INJURIES: Arsenal — OUT: Nacho Monreal (thigh), Danny Welbeck (ankle), Laurent Koscielny (achilles); QUESTIONABLE: Alexandre Lacazette (groin) | Tottenham — OUT: Davinson Sanchez (hamstring), Mousa Dembele (ankle), Kieran Trippier (groin), Danny Rose (groin)


Liverpool vs. Everton — 11:15 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

The day’s final derby will feature a second-place Liverpool side — now five points behind Manchester City after Saturday — in desperate need of not only a win, but a performance that inspires confidence they’re up to the challenge of staying with Man City for 25 more games. With a must-win game against Napoli set for the final day of the Champions League group stage, the 2018-19 season is filling up with do-or-die fixtures far earlier than Jurgen Klopp would have liked. Goals and points have been hard to come by for Anfield visitors this season, as the Red have conceded just one goal and dropped only a pair of points, against Man City, in six league games.

Everton, on the other hand, have flown somewhat under the radar as all the headline go to City and Liverpool on another title race; Spurs, Chelsea and Arsenal leapfrogging each other every week; and Manchester United hugely underperforming. Under new manager Marco Silva, the Toffees entire Sunday’s showdown in sixth place and having lost just one of their last seven league games. Alas, it’s been nearly 20 years (Sept. 27, 1999) since Everton were last victorious at Anfield.

INJURIES: Liverpool — OUT: Jordan Henderson (suspension), Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (knee) | Everton — OUT: James McCarthy (fitness)

Chelsea needs to wait “48 hours” to assess Mount

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Mason Mount‘s move from the Championship to the Premier League has been nearly seamless.

His adjustment to the Champions League was cut down too quickly to get an understanding of whether it would be too big of a jump.

[ MORE: Match recap | Barkley drama ]

Mount, 20, was chopped down by Valencia’s Francis Coquelin, the former Arsenal man, and had to leave the game after just 16 minutes.

Here’s Frank Lampard, from ChelseaFC.com:

“He’s got an ankle injury but we don’t know how bad it is. We’ll have to assess it in the next 48 hours to see the scale of the injury. It was a shame because he started the game well and it meant we had to make the change early on.”

Mount scored nine times with four assists on loan under Lampard at Derby County last season, and has already chipped in three goals for Chelsea this season.

Lampard turned to Pedro off the bench on Tuesday, but any lengthy absence for Mount will spell more time for American youngster Christian Pulisic.

UEFA Champions League Wednesday preview: Man City, Spurs debut

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Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur begin their UEFA Champions League campaigns on very different results and with very different vibes.

City is coming off a stunning 3-2 loss to injury-hit Norwich City, and is set up in Ukraine to face Shakhtar Donetsk for the third-straight season, a side which beat Pep Guardiola once in four tries between 2017/18 and 2018/19 in the UCL.

[ MORE: UCL Tues. wrap ]

But on Wednesday, Guardiola’s men are going to carry a similar feel to one of his old Barcelona teams, as Pep seemingly will have Fernandinho pull a Javier Mascherano and drop into the back line.

Yes, Fernandinho and Nicolas Otamendi are Manchester City’s hopes at center back, now that John Stones has joined Aymeric Laporte on the shelf.

“For me as a manager it’s an incredible challenge,” said Pep Guardiola. “But I believe a lot, people don’t know the spirit and resolve to solve this problem. The players going to come back with Dinho, Eric Garcia, Taylor Harwood-Bellis. … It’s happened, but what we are not going to do is complain. We have to have 11 players on the pitch and I like it, to find a solution. For the players as well to find an incredible step forward.”

Spurs, meanwhile, will simply be trying to build on any momentum gained by a 4-0 demolition of Crystal Palace at the weekend, a win which came after manager Mauricio Pochettino begged his side to “re-focus” after a relatively poor start to the season.

Now a bit more relaxed, Spurs head to Greece as the clear favorites against stingy Olympiacos. These are, after all, the finalists of last season’s tournament.

Pochettino won’t be sleeping on the challenge, from The London Evening Standard:

“They have good players and if we are not focused and don’t take our best game we are going to suffer. But last season we played in the final of Champions League, so it’s normal people think before the game, Tottenham is one step above Olympiacos but in the end you need to show it on the pitch.”

Spurs are one of two early kickoffs on Tuesday.

Full UCL Wednesday schedule

12:55 p.m. ET
Club Brugge v. Galatasaray
Olympiacos v. Tottenham Hotspur

3 p.m. ET
Bayer Leverkusen v. Lokomotiv Moscow
Paris Saint-Germain v. Real Madrid
Atletico Madrid v. Juventus
Dinamo Zagreb v. Atalanta
Bayern Munich v. Red Star Belgrade
Shakhtar Donetsk v. Manchester City

American coach Marsch speaks after landmark Champions League day

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Jesse Marsch made his UEFA Champions League debut on Tuesday, a historic first for not just the Wisconsin native but also his country.

Marsch, 45, oversaw Red Bull Salzburg’s 6-2 demolition of Genk, becoming the first American to win a UCL match as manager.

[ MORE: Champions League Tues. wrap ]

“We knew we were going into the match full of confidence,” he said, via the Salzburg site. “We knew too that we could put in a performance of this quality. I wasn’t pleased with a few situations, such as conceding for 3-1. That shows our incredible mentality though as it prompted us to give a few more percent and immediately score two goals.”

The ex-New York Red Bulls manager and RB Leipzig assistant manager got another three goals from incredible 19-year-old striker Erling Braut Haland, who nows has 17 goals in nine matches this season.

“It is an absolute joy to work with this team. We have a lot of players who just know how to battle, and that rubs off on the others. You can see that on the pitch on nights like tonight.”

There will be tougher nights ahead for Marsch, who is in a group with Liverpool and Napoli, but Tuesday was a fine start for the tactician. And it was a banner moment for American coaches abroad, who’ve been led by past and present USMNT coaches Bob Bradley and Gregg Berhalter.

Maybe one day that’ll be Marsch’s title… but it seems like he may have some loftier ground to cover on his path through world soccer.

Klopp: Liverpool made wrong decisions; Penalty also incorrect

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Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp is going to bat for his left back after Andrew Robertson gave away what became the decisive penalty in a 2-0 loss to Napoli in UEFA Champions League action on Tuesday.

“I don’t think it’s a penalty,” Klopp said. “What can I say, for me, it is clear and obvious no penalty. He jumps before any contact, we can’t change that.”

[ RECAP: Napoli 2-0 Liverpool ]

For what it’s worth: It sure seemed like both a foul on Robertson and a comical embellishment from Callejon, but we digress.

Liverpool just didn’t have it on the day, like when Sadio Mane played a terrible pass to Mohamed Salah on what could’ve been an easy 1-0 lead.

In the moments they did have it, there was Napoli goalkeeper Alex Meret making a splendid save.

“We played a lot of good football but didn’t finish it off. We controlled moments but had not enough chances in the end. We made decisions that were not right and have to accept the result. It was very often the final ball that was not right.”

Also, forgive Klopp if he has stopped enjoying the beautiful country of Italy.