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Top Premier League storylines for Week 18

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The Premier League weekend keeps the big boys clear of each other, but the challenges are still tricky for Liverpool and the clubs chasing the Reds.

[ MORE: Rating Mourinho’s MUFC signings ]


Solskjaer faces former club in debut as Man Utd boss 
Cardiff City vs. Manchester United, 12:30 p.m. ET Saturday on NBC 
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Ole Gunnar Solskjaer dazzled as a striker for Manchester United, but floundered at the wheel for Cardiff City as manager. He’ll take his first steps as Red Devils interim manager when he visits the Bluebirds. Who will start in his first XI? And who will seize the chance to restore their Manchester United reputation? Paul Pogba is a good bet for both.

Fire on the touchline when Nuno matches wits with Klopp
Wolves vs. Liverpool, 3 p.m. ET Friday on NBCSN 
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Nuno Espirito Santo‘s Wolves have found their footing again, and will be hoping to add to their list of impressive results when Jurgen Klopp brings his unbeaten Reds to town. Wolves lost 3-2 to Spurs, but have beaten Chelsea and drawn Man City, Arsenal, and Manchester United.

How many minutes can Crystal Palace add to its 91-minute clean sheet v. Man City?
Man City vs. Crystal Palace, 10 a.m. ET Saturday on NBCSN 
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DYK: Only two Premier League sides blanked Man City last season, and one was Crystal Palace (Bonus points if you remembered Huddersfield Town was the other, especially if you’re not a Terriers supporter)? Palace hopes whatever magic worked last year can be recalled for this visit to the Etihad Stadium, and City will know how Liverpool fared on Friday.

(Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)

Puel’s slumping Leicester City visits red-hot Hazard and Chelsea
Chelsea vs. Leicester City, 10 a.m. ET Saturday on CNBC 
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Leicester has slipped to 12th with just a point from its last three matches, and it’s not going to get any easier at Stamford Bridge. Eden Hazard has a goal and five assists in his last four matches, and scored the lone goal Wednesday in sending Chelsea to the League Cup semifinals with a win over Bournemouth.

Surging Spurs hope Everton’s defensive form stays down
Everton vs. Tottenham Hotspur, 11 a.m. ET Sunday on NBCSN 
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Marco Silva‘s run up the table has stalled thanks to two losses and two draws starting with their last-second loss in the Merseyside Derby, but Everton has a chance to feel a lot better about its festive season by performing well at Goodison Park against a very much in-form Spurs side. Everton has allowed seven goals in their last four matches.

Report: Everton could land Juventus’ Kean after all

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Everton could end up with one of the hottest prospects in world soccer.

Moise Kean may wind up leaving Juventus due to the club’s failure to offload fellow strikers Mario Mandzukic and Gonzalo Higuain.

And Kean, 19, was poised for a breakthrough to the first team, to the extent that Juve reportedly turned down a $33 million bid from Everton.

[ MORE: Algeria wins AFCON ]

The Toffees, however, may have new life due to the Higuain/Mandzukic problem, and Sky Sports Italia reports that Kean may indeed be an option for Marco Silva‘s club.

It wouldn’t be surprising if Kean elected to leave Italy given the racial abuse he’s suffered in Serie A (Though racism is everywhere, of course).

The same report says Kean turned down a Barcelona offer because he would’ve headed on loan, while Arsenal is also said to be in the mix.

Kean scored six Serie A goals with an assist in just 13 matches for Juventus last season after scoring four times for Hellas Verona on loan.

Premier League weekend friendlies: Man Utd-Inter, PL Asia Trophy

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This weekend in Premier League preseason friendlies sees Liverpool taking on a pair of top European foes, while four PL foes trade blows in Shanghai.

Man City and Wolves move on from significant defeats of Newcastle and West Ham, who in turn will face each other on Saturday.

You can watch Saturday’s Premier League Asia Trophy matches between Wolves and Man City, and Newcastle versus West Ham here on NBC Sports Live.

Meanwhile, Manchester United will tangle with Romelu Lukaku-chasing Inter Milan on Saturday (and, no, the Belgian striker won’t be in uniform).

There’s also a sneaky good match-up of Watford and Bayer Leverkusen in Austria on Saturday, while Sunday’s light docket has Spurs facing Matthijs de Ligt and Juventus in Singapore.

Friday
Borussia Dortmund v. Liverpool (Notre Dame, Indiana)

Saturday
Girona v. Bournemouth
Arsenal
v. Fiorentina (Charlotte)
Fulham v. Brighton and Hove Albion
Cheltenham Town v. Leicester City
Crewe Alexandra v. Burnley
Port Vale v. Burnley
Bromley v. Crystal Palace
Man City 
v. Wolves (Shanghai)
Inter Milan v. Manchester United (Singapore)
Newcastle United v. West Ham (Shanghai)
Northampton Town v. Sheffield United
Preston North End v. Southampton
Watford 
v. Bayer Leverkusen (Austria)

Sunday
Shrewsbury Town v. Aston Villa
Liverpool 
v. Sevilla (Boston)
Juventus v. Spurs (Singapore)

PL friendly wrap: Pukki leads Norwich past Schalke

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London sides went 0-2, while three other Premier League sides won ahead of Friday night’s friendly between Liverpool and Borussia Dortmund in Indiana.

[ MORE: Algeria wins AFCON ]

The wins included defeats of Schalke and Monaco, while Brighton and Hove Albion topped lower league Crawley Town.

Schalke 1-2 Norwich City

Teemu Pukki had a goal and an assist, giving hope that the Championship goal collector can bring his game to the Premier League.

Pukki’s 13th minute goal was assisted by Man City loanee Patrick Roberts, and the Finn later assisted Moritz Leitner‘s winner.

Rabbi Matondo scored Schalke’s only goal, and American midfielder Weston McKennie was neither with the starters nor the bench.

Everton 1-0 Monaco

Seamus Coleman scored and Maarten Stekelenburg stopped a penalty as the Toffees handled their Ligue 1 opposition in Switzerland.

Kawasaki Frontale 1-0 ChelseaRECAP

Leandro Damaio scored the lone goal as Chelsea had plenty of chances to win in Christian Pulisic‘s debut. The American came off the bench for the final 25 minutes in Japan.

Nottingham Forest 1-0 Crystal Palace

Albert Adomah scored the lone goal in a win for the Championship side.

Brighton and Hove Albion 1-0 Crawley Town

New signing Taylor Richards‘ late penalty kick was enough for the Seagulls to get a result at home. The Man City midfielder arrived on Thursday.

Liverpool v. Borussia Dortmund (Notre Dame, Indiana) — 8 p.m. ET

Algeria wins Africa Cup of Nations

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In the words of a Missouri-born rapper, you only get one shot. In Algeria’s case in the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations, that was true and it was all the Desert Foxes needed to claim their first AFCON title since 1990 with a 1-0 defeat of Senegal on Friday at Cairo International Stadium in Cairo.

Baghdad Bounedjah’s wildly-deflected second minute shot was enough to give Algeria its second AFCON crown.

Senegal out shot Algeria 11-1 on the day, but Sadio Mane and Co. couldn’t find their way over the goal line.

One-time Man City and Southampton player Djamel Belmadi has now managed an AFCON winner and a Gulf Cup of Nations champion (Qatar, 2014).

[ MORE: Ballon d’Or w/o Messi, Ronaldo? ]

Bounedjah’s wild rip after a cut-in from the left bounded into the air and looped into the far corner. Senegal goalkeeper Amigo Gomis made it look more odd with his befuddlement (Scramble, my guy!).

Referee Neant Alioum’s ruling of a penalty to Senegal after Ismaila Sarr’s rip hit the arm of Adlene Guedioura was overturned when review showed the Algeria midfielder’s arm was at his side.

We mean, was this going to be the goal that won Africa’s most important tournament? Yep.