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Top Premier League storylines for Week 15

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It’s a quick turnaround from the weekend as the Premier League launches into a round of midweek fixtures on Tuesday and Wednesday — round 15 of the 2018-19 season.

[ MORE: Modric ends Messi, Ronaldo’s 10-year duopoly on Ballon d’or ]

Here are the five storylines we’ll be watching most closely over the next 48 hours…


Struggling Man United host surging Arsenal
Man United vs. Arsenal, 3 p.m. ET, Wednesday, on NBCSN [ STREAM ]

While Arsenal spent the latter days of Arsene Wenger‘s reign scraping and clawing their way to fourth-place finishes, Manchester United were still living the glory days of competing for, and winning, titles. Now, fast-forward a few years since Sir Alex Ferguson‘s retirement, and the Red Devils would bite your hand off if you offered them so much as a chance at finishing fourth come May. Following the club’s worst start in the PL era, fortunes haven’t improved all that much for Jose Mourinho’s side: just two points to show for their last three PL outings, while Arsenal are unbeaten in their last 12 and enter Wednesday’s trip to Old Trafford on the back of a 4-2 thrashing of Tottenham on Sunday.

Man City, Liverpool continue title race marathon
Watford vs. Man City, 3 p.m. ET, Tuesday, on NBCSN [ STREAM ]
Burnley vs. Liverpool, 2:45 p.m. ET, Wednesday, on NBC Sports Gold [ STREAM ]

Manchester City and Liverpool have combined to drop just two points between them over the last six rounds of fixtures. Those two points, dropped by Liverpool away to Arsenal, are the difference between first and second heading into this midweek round of games. Both will be away from home against eminently beatable opposition, as City visit 10th-place Watford (winless in four games, including three losses) while Liverpool will take on 19th-place Burnley (winless in their last seven games, including five losses).

Post-Hughes era begins at Southampton
Tottenham vs. Southampton, 3 p.m. ET, Wednesday, on NBC Sports Gold [ STREAM ]

Mark Hughes became the second PL manager to be fired this season when Southampton sent the former Blackburn, Man City, Fulham, QPR and Stoke boss packing. Saints sit 18th in the table with just nine points after 14 games, and have grown more and more desperate for a turn of luck with each passing week. Saturday’s draw with Manchester United might prove a decent place to begin, but it clearly wasn’t enough to save Hughes’ job. On the other side, Spurs will be just as desperate to bounce back from their north London derby defeat to Arsenal and move back into the top-four.

Harsh reality check for Wolves
Wolves vs. Chelsea, 2:45 p.m. ET, Wednesday, on NBC Sports Gold [ STREAM ]

Wolverhampton Wanderers’ return to the PL went just swimmingly for the first two months, at which point Nuno Espirito Santo‘s side sat seventh in the table. Since then, the harsh reality of competing in arguably the world’s most competitive league has set in with five defeats during their ongoing six-game winless skid. Heading into Wednesday’s visit from third-place Chelsea, Wolves sit a modest 12th place in the table, but their points total now closer to 16th place than they are to seventh.

Charlton wins promotion to Championship in stoppage time

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Charlton Athletic struck a wildly late blow to clinch the final place in the 2019-20 Football League Championship, defeating Sunderland 2-1 in Sunday’s promotion playoff at Wembley Stadium.

A stoppage time free kick in a cagey affair led to a scrum in the box, with Patrick Bauer sliding to strike a shot off a Sunderland defender and into the goal.

[ MORE: Real, Chelsea debate Hazard fee ]

The goal came at the 3:55 mark of four minutes stoppage time, and was the 26-year-old defender’s first goal of the season.

Ben Purrington had leveled the score line for Charlton after Sunderland went ahead via an early own goal. The Addicks were relegated from the Championship after the 2015-16 season, while Sunderland went down last year.

It had to feel extra special to manager Lee Bowyer, who played with Sunderland local rivals Newcastle United from 2003-06.

Pique: Copa-losing Barca still “really hurting” from UCL exit

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Barcelona was the favorite to win La Liga, the UEFA Champions League, and the Copa del Rey for the majority of the season, but only claimed one.

Liverpool’s amazing comeback to beat Barca in the second leg of the UCL semifinals met Saturday’s loss to Valencia in the Copa del Rey Final to give Barca a league title alone.

[ MORE: Real, Chelsea debate Hazard fee ]

Even with that La Liga advantage being decisive — Barca carried the table by 11 points over Atletico Madrid and finished 19 ahead of Real Madrid — there’s a very dour mood and promised change for the Camp Nou set.

And Gerard Pique says it all traces back to the loss against Liverpool. From The Liverpool Echo:

“I believe that if we had gotten through at Liverpool, we would have won the treble. We would have come here [to the Copa del Rey final] with a different mood, and I’m convinced we would have won the Champions League final, but that is football. We are really, really hurting.”

There are hints of a massive clear-out at Barcelona, with Lionel Messi and Pique two of the only safe bets to stay. When will Barca get over it?

Brazilian team tangles in locker room futmesa (video)

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It was defense versus attack in the Brazil dressing room.

Neymar and Gabriel Jesus squared off with international teammates Filipe Luis and Ederson in a game of futmesa/table soccer this week.

[ MORE: Real, Chelsea debate Hazard fee ]

Neymar and Filipe Luis are used to be on different sides of the field from their time in La Liga, while Jesus and Ederson are teammates at Manchester City.

Brazil is hosting this summer’s Copa America and is the favorite to win its first tournament since 2007, when it claimed its fourth in five tries.

It’s really impressive stuff for us normal to subpar athletes, even if standard for those with such deft talent.

Quite a winner from Man City’s young striker.

Jovic could see himself in Premier League, Serie A

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Maybe Luka Jovic’s presumed move to Real Madrid won’t happen this summer.

Or at all.

[ MORE: Real, Chelsea debate Hazard fee ]

The Eintracht Frankfurt striker has been tipped for a move away from the Bundesliga after another strong campaign, and taking the center forward reins from Karim Benzema at Real Madrid.

Several outlets reported the deal as done, but Jovic isn’t speaking that way (or at least the Serbian is throwing us off the scent.

From Goal.com:

“In terms of the physique, the Bundesliga is very demanding, but after the games against Chelsea or Inter Milan, I personally had the feeling that I could feel even better [playing] in the Premier League or Serie A. … The way the teams play there suits me better.”

Jovic scored 27 times in 48 appearances for Frankfurt, adding seven assists at the tender age of 21. Ten of those came in the Europa League, and we’re not talking about flooding the nets of minnows; Jovic scored against Chelsea (twice), Marseille (three), Lazio (two), and Inter Milan (once).