Top Premier League storylines for Week 23

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From the title race, to a four-way battle for top-four, to the relegation dogfight currently unfolding, this weekend’s slate of Premier League fixtures is full with a little bit of everything…

[ Transfer rumor roundup: Klopp wants USMNT starlet; Higuain dominoes ]

Top-four battle at the Emirates
Arsenal v. Chelsea, 12:30 p.m. ET, Saturday, on NBC [ STREAM ]

Chelsea occupy fourth place heading into the 23rd round of games this weekend, but Arsenal and Manchester United aren’t a million miles back of the Blues — only six points each, to be exact. Saturday’s showdown at the Emirates Stadium could see a six-point swing either way, or an opening of the door for the resurgent Red Devils to leapfrog Arsenal for fifth and trim the deficit between themselves and the UEFA Champions League places.


Will Liverpool slip up/Can Man City keep up?
Liverpool v. Crystal Palace, 10 a.m. ET, Saturday, on NBCSN STREAM ]
Huddersfield v. Man City, 8:30 a.m. ET, Sunday, on NBCSN [ STREAM ]

Newsflash: the title race is a pretty important storyline and (likely) will continue to be so for the remainder of the season, barring a collapse by one of Liverpool or Manchester City. The defending champions have the easier matchup, on paper, this weekend as they’ll visit last-place and relegation-bound Huddersfield Town on Sunday. It should be a straightforward challenge for the Reds as well, though, with 14th-place Crystal Palace visiting Anfield on Saturday.


Life without Kane (and Son) begins… again
Fulham v. Tottenham Hotspur, 11 a.m. ET, Sunday, on NBCSN [ STREAM ]

No player in the PL has scored a higher percentage of his team’s goal this season than Tottenham’s Harry Kane (30 percent, tied with Arsenal’s Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang). The trouble with that is that Kane is set to miss the next two months due to his annual mid-to-late-winter ankle injury. Thus, Mauricio Pochettino will be forced to pick between deploying Fernando Llorente as his starting center forward, or playing without a natural forward, thanks to Son Heung-min’s simultaneous call-up to the South Korea squad for the Asian Cup. Statistically speaking, Dele Alli has had a quiet season thus far (four goals, one assist), but Spurs desperately need Alli to show up and show out in a big way the next month or two.


Solskjaer goes for no. 6
Man United v. Brighton, 10 a.m. ET, Saturday, on CNBC STREAM ]

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer doesn’t know what it’s like to lose as manager of Man United. Heck, he couldn’t tell you the first thing about dropping points while in charge at Old Trafford. Five PL games in charge (six in all competitions), and whether or not the “interim” tag should be removed from his title is already an earnest topic of discussion. It wasn’t pretty, but United held on for dear life against Spurs last weekend and secured three points in Solskjaer’s biggest challenge to date. Up next is a visit from 13th-place Brighton & Hove Albion, who toppled United in their first meeting earlier this season.


Relegation six-pointer for Newcastle, Cardiff
Newcastle United v. Cardiff City, 10 a.m. ET, Saturday, on NBC Sports Gold [ STREAM ]

Much like the top of the table, the race at the bottom of the league is heating up. Heading into the weekend, Huddersfield are bringing up the rear, eight points adrift of safety, while Fulham occupy 19th place, five points back of 17th. Newcastle United, who sit 18th and are one point from exiting the relegation zone, will host Cardiff City, the side currently sitting 17th in the table, on Saturday. When you’ve struggled the way these sides have for 22 games, genuine chances at three points don’t come along often. When they do, you absolutely have to take them to have any hopes of surviving the drop.

Pair of Deeney penalties lead Watford comeback win

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Troy Deeney converted two penalties as Watford surged closer to Premier League safety with a 2-1 comeback win over Newcastle United at Vicarage Road.

Down 1-0 on a Dwight Gayle goal, the Hornets scored twice in the second half to move six points clear of 18th-place Bournemouth.

STREAM WATFORD – NEWCASTLE LIVE

Newcastle remains 13th with 44 points.


Three things we learned

1. (Of course) Deeney delivers: Watford captain Deeney has had a remarkable run at Vicarage Road and this season had plenty of storylines. But it was Deeney who had to go to the penalty spot twice to (possibly) seal his beloved club’s status in the Premier League. The two goals will feel good but not as good as another season in the top flight.

2. Magpies architect of own demise: The Magpies looked very good in the first half but their defending in the second half was abject, right down to two silly penalties. Matt Ritchie put himself in a bad spot to allow Kiko Femenia to win an early second half penalty and Javi Manquillo’s takedown of Ismaila Sarr 30 minutes later was laughable. The Magpies didn’t deserve the points based on the second half chances conceded anyway.

3. Newcastle worn out: Steve Bruce rested Miguel Almiron last match and Allan Saint-Maximin is probably looking upon that with greedy eyes. Newcastle’s best players have had to go and go again, and they just look a bit off it. A visit from Spurs on Wednesday is next.

Man of the Match

There were a few candidates for the Hornets, but we’ll go with the “Deeney of the defense” in Craig Dawson. He broke up a number of Newcastle opportunities.


Watford – Newcastle recap

Miguel Almiron came close to getting a leg on Allan Saint-Maximin’s fourth-minute cross.

A corner led to another Almiron shot, this one stopped well by Ben Foster.

Watford nearly had it 1-0 in the 17th. when Danny Welbeck’s shot was pushed off the near post by Martin Dubravka and saved off the line by Jamaal Lascelles.

Newcastle kept knocking, though, and took the lead through in-form Gayle, who showed up at the back post to poke in Federico Fernandez’s redirected corner kick.

Foster denied a breaking Saint-Maximin in the 35th minute as the Magpies looked good money for another goal.

That’s not to say Watford didn’t manufacture some chances, including a few quality set piece chances in the final few minutes of the first half.

The Magpies cleared an unholy goal mouth scramble off a 42nd-minute set piece and Almiron broke up the pressure with a long dribble into the Watford half.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

Kiko Femenia hit the deck under Matt Ritchie’s challenge to win a 52nd-minute penalty, Deeney dispatching it past Dubravka to make it 1-1. His seventh goal is also his 130th in a Watford shirt.

Fernandez nearly gave the game to Watford with a miserable pass, but Dubravka stopped Deeney’s wasted direct shot.

Saint-Maximin forced an own goal out of Watford but the linesman’s flag was raised in the 67th.

The Magpies conceded the inevitable second goal when Manquillo wrapped up Sarr with a dozen minutes to play.

Norwich City relegated

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Norwich City’s fifth Premier League journey is a one-and-done.

The Canaries were well-beaten 4-0 by a Michail Antonio haul for West Ham United at Carrow Road on Saturday and will head to the Championship after one season.

WATCH. NORWICH CITY – WEST HAM FULL MATCH REPLAY

Norwich’s 21 points are 10 back of 17th-place Watford with only three matches and nine points left for the Canaries.

The win conversely puts West Ham United on pretty safe footing, six points clear of the bottom three. The 16th place-Irons have a three-point edge on Watford.


Three things we learned

1. Norwich’s tortured season unredeemable: So many injuries at the back end and too many unlucky moments to count combined to make the Canaries the first and least surprising of three relegated teams. Grant Hanley and Christoph Zimmerman missed 20-plus games over two stretches including the final weeks of the season, and Timm Klose has had to play nearly every minute since returning from a long-term injury.

Founding members of the Premier League in 1992, Norwich was first relegated in 1995 before rejoining the top flight a decade later. The club went back to the Championship after one year and sunk as low as League One in 2009-10.

This season was the Canaries’ third promotion of the decade and there were wonderful moments, many authored by Teemu Pukki and the electric Emiliano Buendia. Those two will join Todd Cantwell, Max Aarons, and Ben Godfrey as hotly-tracked transfer targets this summer.

2. The defense, fittingly, is the problem: Norwich City has been so bad at the back this year, some of it not their fault due to the injuries detailed above. The Canaries allowed six “big chances” according to SofaScore and it was just in the cards this season. The win over Man City feels ages ago.

3. Noble very good in return: West Ham’s captain returned to the starting lineup and was the proverbial straw that stirs the drink. He was economical in his challenges but won almost all of them and showed an array of passes while producing a terrific “hockey assist” to Fredericks on Antonio’s fourth.

Man of the Match:

Antonio — The hat trick hero has been out-working back line almost from the moment the Premier League returned to the pitch, and his goals were well-deserved. Mark Noble might be the club’s emotional guts, but Antonio’s been its heart and motor. Four goals? Come on. Antonio now has 36 career PL goals and is one away from his single-season best.


Norwich City – West Ham United recap

Tomas Soucek was lively early and drove a pass from Michail Antonio wide in the first eight minutes.

It was Antonio who put the Irons ahead with a firm back post finish of Issa Diop’s flicked corner.

Onel Hernandez clipped a Norwich chance wide but West Ham had most of the danger and Jarrod Bowen asked a big save of Tim Krul.

The Irons put Norwich effectively in the Championship when Antonio turned Mark Noble’s free kick home.

Krul stopped Antonio’s 54th-minute charge past Godfrey but Antonio leapt to head the rebound into the open net for 3-0.

The final goal came off a nice Noble ball to spring Ryan Fredericks into the right of the box, and the defender spotted Antonio for a slick backheeled finish.

Liverpool – Burnley stream: How to watch, start time, prediction, odds

Liverpool - Burnley stream
Photo by Alex Livesey - Danehouse/Getty Images
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Premier League champions Liverpool continue their pursuit of history with a visit from Europa League-chasing Burnley at Anfield on Saturday (Watch live at 10am ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

STREAM LIVERPOOL – BURNLEY LIVE

Liverpool looks for win No. 31 in 35 tries this league season, the hosts opening the day with 92 points and a 23-point lead on second-place Man City.

Burnley is in 10th with 49 points and can go eighth with a draw or seventh with a win.

Team news

Jurgen Klopp hands starts to youngsters Neco Williams and Curtis Jones.

Chris Wood is back in the lineup for Burnley, who moves Jay Brownhill inside to face the champions.

 

How to Watch Liverpool – Burnley

Start time: 10am ET
TV Channel: NBCSN
Stream Online: NBCSports.com

Leeds United legend, World Cup winner Jack Charlton dies

Jack Charlton dies
Photo by Mark Leech/Offside/Offside via Getty Images
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One of English football’s brightest stars passed away on Friday.

Longtime England and Leeds United center back Jack Charlton, 85, suffered from a “long illness,” reports Sky Sports.

[ MORE: New PL TV schedule ]

Charlton played every game of the 1966 World Cup for champions England and was a one club man with Leeds. He’s the older brother of Manchester United legend Bobby Charlton, a teammate on the World Cup-winning side.

Coming up with their academy, Charlton played 762 times for Leeds with 95 goals. He was the 1967 Football Writers Association’s Player of the Year and won both the Second and First Division with Leeds.

Charlton went on to manage Middlesbrough, Newcastle, Sheffield Wednesday, and the Republic of Ireland.

This is from a Charlton family statement, via Sky Sports:

“We cannot express how proud we are of the extraordinary life he led and the pleasure he brought to so many people in different countries and from all walks of life. He was a thoroughly honest, kind, funny and genuine man who always had time for people.”