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PL Sunday preview: Merseyside, west London derbies on tap

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A big weekend of Premier League derbies wraps up on Sunday, when Merseyside and west London showdowns take center stage with plenty of title and top-four implications.

[ MORE: Man City win, lose KDB | Man United come back, beat Southampton ]

Watford v. Leicester City — 7 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

Brendan Rodgers is set to make his return to the PL when he debuts as Leicester manager on Sunday. Rodgers, who was appointed the Foxes’ new boss earlier this week, was in attendance for his new side’s 2-1 victory over Brighton & Hove Albion on Tuesday — a result that snapped the six-game winless skid (five losses) that ultimately cost Claude Puel his job. It was Leicester’s first victory since New Year’s Day. Rodgers was hugely successful at Celtic — two league titles, two Scottish Cups and three League Cups in two-plus seasons — his first stop after being fired by Liverpool in October 2015.

Up first is a trip to eighth-place Watford, a side that went to Anfield and suffered a 5-0 hammering at the hands of Liverpool on Wednesday, just five days after hanging five goals of their own on Cardiff City. The Hornets, under first-year boss Javi Gracia, haven’t lost back-to-back games since the first week of December, a streak which included a 2-1 defeat to Leicester in these sides’ first meeting of 2018-19.

INJURIES: Watford —  OUT: None | Leicester — OUT: Marc Albrighton (hamstring), Daniel Amartey (ankle)


Fulham v. Chelsea — 9:05 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

Fulham’s first season back in the PL will almost certainly end with the west London club making an immediate return to the Championship, but that fact hardly suffices to explain the Cottagers’ struggles this season: following Claudio Ranieri‘s dismissal and the appointment of Scott Parker as interim manager, Fulham have now employed the same number of managers as they have won games (4). The deficit they must overcome to pull off the greatest escape the PL has ever seen? 10 points with 10 games left to play, beginning with a visit from nearby Chelsea on Sunday.

Speaking of managers coming under fire of late, Maurizio Sarri‘s situation at Chelsea is hardly any better these days. Not only have the fans turned on him, but the Blues have lost three of their last five league games while also falling flat in the League Cup final. That league form has seen them tumble to sixth in the PL table, now five points back of fourth-place Manchester United, though Chelsea now have a pair of games in hand. Sarri says Kepa Arrizabalaga will reclaim his place as first-choice goalkeeper in one of the next two games after refusing to be subbed off in that final defeat, giving way to Willy Caballero to keep the clean sheet in a 2-0 victory over Tottenham Hotspur on Wednesday.

INJURIES: Fulham —  OUT: Alfie Mawson (knee); QUESTIONABLE: Andre Schurrle (illness) | Chelsea — OUT: Danny Drinkwater (undisclosed)


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

Sure, Liverpool would be delighted to complete their second double over Everton in three seasons’ time, but the Reds will have their sights set much higher than Merseyside dominance on Sunday. Now two points back of Manchester City in the PL title race, Jurgen Klopp‘s side needs all three points from one of its toughest games each season to keep pace with the defending champions and remain on pace to lift England’s top-flight trophy at Anfield for the first time since 1990 (pre-PL era). Having only beaten the Toffees in the season’s first meeting via one of the stranger goals you’ll ever see, the trip to Goodison should prove more difficult than Everton’s ninth-place standing might indicate.

Everton have a bit more confidence now than they would have had this, the 233rd edition of the derby, been played earlier this week. After losing three straight, by a combined score of 6-1, Marco Silva‘s side bounced back with a 3-0 thrashing of Cardiff on Tuesday — a result that might have just bought the first-year Portuguese manager a bit of time. Of particular worry for Everton: star forward Richarlison, who paced the side with 10 goals until Gylfi Sigurdsson‘s brace against Cardiff pulled him one ahead, went without a goal for the entire month of February and has scored just one PL goal since Boxing Day.

INJURIES: Everton —  QUESTIONABLE: Leighton Baines (ribs) | Liverpool — OUT: Dejan Lovren (hamstring), Joe Gomez (ankle), Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (knee); QUESTIONABLE: Roberto Firmino (ankle)

Serie A: Leaders Inter Milan open door for Juve by drawing Roma

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MILAN (AP) Italian league leader Inter Milan was held by Roma to 0-0 on Friday, giving second-placed Juventus a chance to return to the top.

[ MORE: Chelsea transfer ban reduced; can sign players in January ]

The home draw left Inter only two points ahead of Juventus, which can regain the lead when it visits third-placed Lazio on Saturday.The result also wasn’t good for Roma, which moved from fifth to fourth place in the standings but remained nine points off the lead after 15 matches.

Inter forward Lautaro Martinez had one of the game’s best chances when he got past a defender and entered the area in the 68th minute, but his shot was blocked at the last minute. He called for a handball by the defender but the referee let play continue.

[ MORE: Brendan Rodgers signs new contract at Leicester ]

Inter was coming off five straight wins in the league, with its last setback in all competitions last month against Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League. Its last league loss was against Juventus in October, nine matches ago.

Roma was seeking its third straight league win. It had won five of its last six matches since last month.

Inter visits Barcelona in the Champions League on Tuesday.

Premier League Preview: Man City v. Man United

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  • Man City (3rd) trail Liverpool by 11 points
  • Man United (6th) eight points out of 4th
  • Last meeting: Man United 0-2 Man City

For the first time in recent memory, Manchester City and Manchester United each find themselves failing to meet expectations — by their own respective standards, at least — as they prepare to meet at the Etihad Stadium in the 179th Manchester derby on Saturday (Watch live, 12:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN and NBCSports.com).

Man City, the two-time defending Premier League champions, are looking increasingly unlikely to retain their crown for a third straight season but look a surefire bet to finish in the top-four, which is a place for which Man United would bite your hand off as they currently trail leaders Liverpool by more points (22) than they have points of their own (21).

[ STREAM: Every PL match live

The struggles for United have been all about consistency as Ole Gunnar Solskjaer‘s side hasn’t won back-to-back games all season. The Red Devils haven’t won two in a row in the PL since March. On the bright side, United turned in one of their complete performances of the season on Wednesday, spoiling Jose Mourinho’s return to Old Trafford and beating Tottenham Hotspur 2-1. Marcus Rashford scored both goals and Solskjaer couldn’t rave enough about his 22-year-old forward after the game. From start to finish, United were the better team and looked in majority control, which isn’t something they’ve been able to say often in 2019.

As for City, they’ve simply been “not good enough” without ever actually being “bad” this season, given Liverpool’s scintillating form (14W-1D-0L thus far). Realistically, City likely need to pick up all 69 remaining points this season, and even then they might still come up short.

Injuries/suspensions

Man City: OUT – Sergio Aguero (thigh), Aymeric Laporte (knee), Leroy Sane (knee), Oleksandr Zinchenko (knee)

Man United: OUT – Anthony Martial (hamstring), Eric Bailly (knee), Marcos Rojo (undisclosed); QUESTIONABLE: Paul Pogba (ankle), Nemanja Matic (groin), Diogo Dalot (groin)


Projected lineups

Man City: Ederson — Walker, Otamendi, Fernandinho, Angeliño — Rodri, De Bruyne, Silva — Bernardo, Jesus, Sterling

Man United: De Gea — Wan-Bissaka, Lindelof, Maguire, Young — Fred, McTominay, James, Mata, Lingard — Rashford


What they’re saying

Pep Guardiola, on the derby: “It’s Man United. I respect what they’ve done for English football, European, and world football. United have huge history and their quality is always there but we must try to beat them. We play against a good team, try to follow the performances we’ve put in and try to win the game. You know my opinion on the title race.”

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, on his derby memories: “It took many years before I played a Manchester derby myself. Of course, Man City are a better team now than when I was playing. … Confidence is a strange thing in football; you can get performances and results like Wednesday night and it boosts it so much. And I know our boys will be up for it. 24 hours less recovery time [than City] shouldn’t matter, you go on adrenaline.”


Prediction

The win over Tottenham was impressive, no doubt about it, but City remain a challenge of an entirely different class, no matter what their points total says. If the title is well and truly gone for Guardiola’s side, then retaining superiority in Manchester will have to suffice. City 3-1 United.

Klinsmann gets first point as Hertha Berlin manager

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FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) Jurgen Klinsmann claimed his first point since returning to coaching as his Hertha Berlin team let slip a two-goal lead to draw with Frankfurt 2-2 in the Bundesliga on Friday.

[ MORE: Chelsea transfer ban reduced; can sign players in January ]

Hertha was clinging to a 2-1 lead in the 86th minute when Sebastian Rode hammered the ball in from a corner for Frankfurt to deny the Berlin team the win.

Hertha is in the relegation playoff spot in 16th and winless in its last six league games, while Frankfurt is 10th.

Dodi Lukebakio gave Hertha the lead with a shot through Frederik Ronnow’s legs. That goal was assisted by Marko Grujic, who later made it 2-0 with a header from a free kick.

However, Frankfurt almost immediately replied with a header of its own from Martin Hinteregger, the Austrian defender with five Bundesliga goals.

[ MORE: Brendan Rodgers signs new contract at Leicester ]

Frankfurt’s fans expressed their disapproval of the video assistant referee after it ruled out two goals for the hosts. There was a rare disallowed own goal when Hertha goalkeeper Thomas Kraft palmed a cross into his own net but was found to have been pushed while jumping.

Klinsmann took over Hertha last week on a temporary deal until the end of the season, after Ante Covic was fired with the team under threat of relegation. Klinsmann hadn’t coached since being fired in 2016 by the United States, and last worked at a club in 2009 at Bayern Munich.

Nigel Pearson appointed new Watford manager

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Nigel Pearson has been appointed new manager of Watford and been handed a very straightforward — but tall — task for the remainder of the season: avoid relegation from the Premier League.

[ MORE: Chelsea transfer ban reduced; can sign players in January ]

Pearson takes over from Quique Sanchez Flores — who only took over from Javi Gracia in September — who left his post at Vicarage Road with the Hornets sitting 20th out of 20 teams in the PL table, already seven points adrift from safety. Pearson’s contract runs through the end of the season.

The 56-year-old Pearson, who last managed in the PL with Leicester City in 2015, was most recently in charge of Belgian side OH Leuven before he was fired in February.

[ MORE: Brendan Rodgers signs new contract at Leicester ]

Pearson won’t take charge of Saturday’s game against Crystal Palace (Watch live, 10 a.m. ET, on NBC Sports Gold). Interim manager Hayden Mullins will see out the week’s preparations and manage the team before handing the reins to Pearson on Sunday.