Top Premier League storylines for midweek games

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We all love midweek Premier League action, and the games over the next 48 hours will be pivotal in deciding which direction the title race, top four battle and relegation scrap move in.

Buckle up, folks.

[ STREAM: Every PL match live

Below we take a look at the top storylines ahead of the games on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Wounded Leicester a familiar threat for Liverpool (Wednesday, 3 p.m. ET: Liverpool v. Leicester City ET – NBC Sports Gold [STREAM]) 

Beware of the wounded animal. Especially a fox with a pedigree of upsetting the odds. Leicester City have lost four games on the spin and Claude Puel is under pressure. But Leicester stunned Chelsea and Man City last month and defying the odds defines the vast majority of players in their squad. Heading to Premier League leaders Liverpool, this is a free hit for Leicester. They will sit back, soak up pressure and use the pace of Jamie Vardy and James Maddison on the counter which suits them best. Liverpool’s defensive injuries have stretched them to the limits in recent weeks, and their 4-3 win against Crystal Palace (another counter-attacking team) proved they can be undone a la last season. Leicester play better when they’re on the counter and playing against the top six. Jurgen Klopp will be wary of their threat, but he is unlikely to name a cautious midfield lineup like he did at Man City in their defeat at the start of this month.

Top four battle reaching climax

The race for a top four finish is heating up and it is magnificent. Arsenal and Manchester United sit three points behind fourth-place Chelsea and the latter look like they’re running through treacle right now. Gonzalo Higuain’s arrival should boost their potency in front of goal (he is in line to make his PL debut at Bournemouth) but United and Arsenal have momentum in the race for UEFA Champions League qualification. On paper, United and Arsenal should seal easy home wins against Burnley and Cardiff respectively. As for Chelsea, their trip to Bournemouth looks dangerous as the Cherries have matched up very well with them this season. Get ready for plenty of highs and lows for all three teams in the top four battle in the coming months, while Tottenham look like being dragged back in to the battle too given their bad luck with injuries and poor form.

  • Tuesday, 2:45 p.m. ET: Arsenal v. Cardiff City – NBC Sports Gold [STREAM]
  • Tuesday, 3 p.m. ET: Man United v. Burnley – NBCSN [STREAM]
  • Wednesday, 2:45 p.m. ET: Bournemouth v. Chelsea – NBCSN [STREAM]

Son to cure Tottenham’s blues? (Wednesday, 3 p.m. ET: Tottenham v. Watford – NBC Sports Gold [STREAM]) 

The past few weeks have been pretty terrible for Tottenham Hotspur. After being knocked out of the FA Cup and League Cup, seeing Harry Kane and Dele Alli injured, losing to Man United and seeing everyone around them win, Mauricio Pochettino needs a boost. Enter: Heung-Min Son. South Korea’s shock defeat to Qatar in the quarterfinals of the Asian Cup mean that Son is back a few weeks earlier than expected, and he will almost certainly line up as a center forward against Watford to add much-needed dynamism to Tottenham’s attack. Fernando Llorente has failed to impress in place of Kane, while the likes of Lucas Moura and Erik Lamela just haven’t added the quality needed in the final third with Spurs’ stars out. Watford beat Tottenham 2-1 earlier this season and Javi Gracia‘s side will fancy their chances of solidifying seventh place with a win. This game could really determine how Spurs’ season goes from here on out.

Man Utd set to add $20m Swans winger James

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Manchester United’s first signing of the summer will be a Welsh international forward, but not that one, presuming the clubs sort out the transfer fee.

Swansea City winger Daniel James has agreed to terms with United, according to Sky Sports.

The 21-year-old is expected to cost Ole Gunnar Solskjaer‘s men about $20 million.

[ MORE: Players to watch at U-20 World Cup ]

James scored five times with 10 assists for Graham Potter in all competitions this season, totaling 2800 minutes for Swans.

Only Aston Villa’s Jack Grealish was fouled more per game than James, who was taken to the turf 2.7 times per match. He mostly played on the left wing this season.

Twice-capped by Wales, James turns 22 in November. How long will it take him to make the jump from Championship star to Premier League contributor?

Martinez names Kompany in Belgium squad

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Roberto Martinez is going to suit up a manager as Belgium fights to qualify for EURO 2020.

Okay, okay, that manager is Anderlecht player-manager Vincent Kompany, mere days removed from sealing a domestic treble for Manchester City.

[ MORE: Players to watch at U-20 World Cup ]

Kompany, 33, has been called up by Belgium for the first time since November. He has 87 caps with four goals for the Red Devils, and perhaps the nickname will be a little less awkward now that he’s not a member of the Premier League’s “noisy neighbors.”

Here’s what Martinez had to say about Kompany’s inclusion.

“In modern football it is not easy to combine the job of player and coach,” Martinez added. “In England they have a tradition of that but less and less because the job of coach has become enormously demanding. We must give him time. We will support him in everything he does.”

Belgium is in a qualifying group with Russia, Cyprus, Scotland, Kazakhstan, and San Marino, and should waltz into the tournament.

USMNT dates to host Cuba, Canada revealed

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MIAMI (AP) The United States will host Cuba on Oct. 11 and Canada on Nov. 15 in the first CONCACAF Nations League.

CONCACAF said Tuesday that the Americans, seeded in Group A, will play at Canada on Oct. 15 and at Cuba on Nov. 19.

Sites have not been determined.

Other Nations League groups are:

B – Bermuda, Mexico, Panama

C – Martinique, Honduras, Trinidad and Tobago

D – Costa Rica, Curacao, Haiti

The top team in each League A group advances to the semifinals in March, and the last-place team is relegated to League B.

The U.S. intends to play exhibitions on the September FIFA dates for national teams.

More AP soccer: and

Five players Man United should sign

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Manchester United need a massive rebuild this summer.

Everybody knows it.

Their manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward have both spoken publicly about their desire to strengthen the squad, with Solskjaer aiming to bring in young, hungry players to the club. Something drastic has to change.

But which five players should United make their top targets this summer as they aim to push their way back into the top four of the Premier League?

Even though United have been through struggles in recent seasons, the allure of playing for one of the most popular clubs on the planet and dragging them back to the top of the game will attract plenty of players. So too will the fact that United’s finances allows them to pay top dollar.

Here’s a look at five players they have to sign this summer to complete the dramatic rebuild they need.

Joao Felix (Benfica, release clause of $133 million)
The 19-year-old attacking midfielder will provide goals and assists and he has shone in Portugal. The last time United were off the pace a little in the PL, they plucked a bright young talent from Portugal called Cristiano Ronaldo. That worked out pretty well. Felix may never reach Ronaldo’s heights, but the fact Man City and Real Madrid want to sign him says it all.

Toby Alderweireld (Tottenham, release clause of $32 million)
Doesn’t really fit into the “young and hungry” category, but the Belgian defender would add a steadying influence to United’s defense. At 30 years old Alderweireld is set for one big final pay day in his career and that is why he has such a small release clause in his contract after Spurs had to trigger a one-year extension. His displays for Spurs over the past few years have been consistency excellent.

Harry Maguire (Leicester, valued at $100 million)
At 26 years old Maguire is still to enter his prime. That is wild considering how well he has played for Leicester and England over the past two seasons. He almost joined United last summer but decided to stay at Leicester, and another great season has soon his value rise by $25 million. Maguire and Alderweireld at center back would be a great partnership, but it is likely only one of them will arrive. Maguire is more expensive but would be a long-term purchase.

Declan Rice (West Ham, valued at $60 million)
His meteoric rise has seen him become a star for West Ham and make his England debut. Shows so much poise in the holding midfield role and if Rice, still just 20 years old, arrived then it could help Paul Pogba out as he will win the ball back and feed the Frenchman in good areas. West Ham will reluctantly sell, and Rice should be a top priority to shield United’s shaky defense.

Aaron Wan-Bissaka (Crystal Palace, valued at $60 million)
Ashley Young has been handed a one-year extension and Antonio Valencia is leaving, so United are looking a little weak at right back. Wan-Bissaka, 21, has been sublime for Crystal Palace and is a solid defender as well as adding an attacking presence. Palace will be reluctant to sell both AWB and Wilfried Zaha in the same summer, which could be an issue. Right back is an area where United need to strengthen. Now.