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PL Sunday preview: Chelsea v. Man United, Burnley v. Man City, Leicester v. Arsenal

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A critical day of Premier League fixtures hits center stage on Sunday as four of the top six are in action, including Manchester City who controls its own destiny in the title race with three matches to go.

With Liverpool having moved in front with a big win over Huddersfield Town on Friday, it is Man City’s turn to respond. In addition, Manchester United meets Chelsea in a critical battle in the race for the top four, with both teams right in the mix for a spot. Also in that conversation is Arsenal who visits Leicester City needing a win to keep pace with whoever comes out of Old Trafford with points.

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Finish to the Premier League season is riveting at the top of the table, with both the title race and Champions League battle coming down to the wire. Liverpool sits two points ahead of Manchester City at the moment, with the Citizens still to play on Sunday. Meanwhile, Tottenham sits on 70 points in third, with Chelsea three back in fourth on 67, Arsenal in fifth with 66, and Manchester United in sixth on 64.


Leicester City v. Arsenal — 7:00 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

Arsenal travels to Leicester City to take on the in-form Foxes with an early morning kick. Leicester has won four of its last six Premier League matches and scored a late equalizer to draw West Ham last time out. The match is critical for Arsenal with either Chelsea or Manchester United figuring to get points at Old Trafford later in the day.

The Gunners, however, are not coming into this match in good form, having lost two straight and three of their last four. The Arsenal defense has coughed up six goals over the last two, and boss Unai Emery is struggling to figure out his squad with a number of injury problems to consider. The most important issue to sort out before kick on Sunday is Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, who missed the last match after minor sinus surgery.

INJURIES: Leicester City —  OUT: Daniel Amartey (ankle). | ArsenalQUESTIONABLE: Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (sinus). OUT: Aaron Ramsey (groin), Denis Suarez (hamstring), Hector Bellerin (knee), Rob Holding (knee) and Danny Welbeck (ankle).


Burnley v. Manchester City — 9:05 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

Manchester City hasn’t dropped points since late January when they suffered a 2-1 loss to Newcastle, and Pep Guardiola‘s squad seems stronger than ever. Last time out was a perfect encapsulation of the squad strength Man City possesses, as Leroy Sane was forced onto the pitch after an injury to vital midfielder Fernandinho, only to see Sane score a goal 15 minutes later.

Burnley was clobbered by Man City last time these two teams matched up back in October, a 5-0 drubbing that sent Man City on a tear through November before bogging down around the holidays. That match also saw Burnley come in with a three-match unbeaten run, but the pasting kickstarted a miserable stretch of seven without a win for Burnley. This time around, the hosts are again coming in having performed well of late, on a run of three wins in four without a loss in that span.

INJURIES: Burnley —  QUESTIONABLE: Phil Bardsley (leg). OUT: Peter Crouch (appendix), Steven Defour (calf), Aaron Lennon (knee). | Man City — QUESTIONABLE: Fernandinho (knee), Ilkay Gundoguan (knock). OUT: Kevin De Bruyne (hamstring), Claudio Bravo (knee).


Manchester United v. Chelsea — 11:30 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer faces another brutal test as he looks to bring Manchester United out of the ignominious slump the Red Devils are currently mired in. Manchester United has lost three of its four Premier League matches in April, and that coupled with the Champions League humbling at the hands of Barcelona has left the honeymoon phase of Solskjaer’s managerial tenure in the distant past. Goalkeeper David De Gea will reportedly keep his place in goal for the foreseeable future despite the Spaniard’s struggles over the past few months, which were evident in the derby loss to Man City last time out.

Chelsea, meanwhile, is in a slide of its own with just two wins in the last six matches and Maurizio Sarri desperately hoping to confirm a Champions League place to give Roman Abramovich something to cling to when assessing the Italian’s first season in charge. They also have lost two straight visiting Manchester United, and have not lost three in a row since 1957 – conversely, of the six times Chelsea has won at Old Trafford, five of them came in a manager’s first attempt with the club.

INJURIES: Man United —  QUESTIONABLE: Ander Herrera (hamstring). OUT: Phil Jones, Scott McTominay. | Chelsea — QUESTIONABLE: N'Golo Kante (rib). OUT: Callum Hudson-Odoi (Achilles).

Carlos Vela scored a celestial goal. We are blessed to have seen it

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Carlos Vela is making all other spectacular individual MLS seasons look run of the mill.

I mean, look at the gumption on this guy.

[ VIDEO: Rooney sent off, Kamara scores golazo ]

The Cancun-born playmaker left the San Jose Earthquakes back line on the beach with a soft shoe routine to give LAFC its third goal in a 4-0 win on Thursday

Vela, 30, now has 25 goals and 11 assists in 25 league matches for LAFC this season. He added two goals and an assist in Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup play.

But this one, yeah, this one takes the cake.

First, there’s Vela’s non-chalant dummy before picking up the pass.

Then, there’s Florian Jungwirth’s body language during and after his being cooked with a nutmeg. That’s an entire mood.

Next, Vela dribbles around the keeper and allows a slide tackler so glide past him before finishing with aplomb, the magic touch his going near post as if to say, “Can I beat this guy a second time, or do I have to use the easier route?”

Diego Rossi also had a goal and an assist, while Mark-Anthony Kaye continued his strong season with an assist to ex-Fiorentina prospect Joshua Perez. It’s a first MLS goal for the California-born Perez, now 21.

WATCH: Rooney sees red for forearm shiver, Kamara scores golazo

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Midweek MLS provided plenty to talk about on Wednesday, with two red cards and a golazo in one match alone.

The two main talking points from the New York Red Bulls’ 2-1 win over DC United weren’t really part of what led the victors to three points.

[ MORE: Europa League preview ]

How? Well, one of the world’s marquee names earned a red card via VAR and a returning star scores an absolute stunner, that’s how.

Here’s Ola Kamara’s debut marker for the Black-and-Red, adding to a record which included 49 goals in 97 matches between Columbus and the LA Galaxy before moving to the Chinese Super League for a wildly disappointing time with Shenzhen FC.

All of that is forgotten.

As for the Rooney incident, the Red Bulls already led 1-0 when DC’s star striker went forearm shiver on Cristian Casseres Jr.

It’s the second red of the season for Rooney, who is set for Derby County in January.

Amro Tarek was later sent off for the Red Bulls, who moved ahead of DC in the standings. Kaku and Daniel Royer had RBNY’s goals.

Newcastle takeover could be back on if in holiday relegation battle

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How much do Newcastle United supporters dislike their owner Mike Ashley right now?

Enough that this report is likely to condemn many to hoping their favorite club in the world is in the Bottom 3 come Christmas.

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The Chronicle’s Mark Douglas speculates that Ashley will lower his asking price for the club if it is in a relegation fight come December — something that looks certain after the Steve Bruce-led Magpies got bossed around by promoted Norwich City.

Nothing But Newcastle transcribed Douglas’ chatter from his podcast, in which he says,

“It wouldn’t surprise me if we hear more in December because there are still people sniffing around that football club and if the team are in the bottom three, there’ll be people thinking they can get a bargain out of Mike Ashley again. … He will probably more open to listening to lower offers in January and December which is what happened last December. He was basically saying ‘take it off my hands, you now have to take the risk’'”

This is notable for two reasons. First: the social experiment of wondering how many fans could see themselves rooting for their team to take a major and perilous back step just to see the back of a man they perceive is at the root of their failures (and that perception is widespread in this case).

But second, we can see if this rumor comes true because it’s difficult to imagine Newcastle as comfortably mid table by Christmas.

Fan protests and anger are nothing new, but here’s an effort to show how wobbly Ashley’s reputation is on Tyneside: Fans have taken to selling a black and white striped shirt with player name and number but no sponsor just so they can have a Newcastle jersey that doesn’t put money into Ashley’s pockets. And this is after he broke the club’s transfer record twice in one year.

If we’ve learned anything from the past few seasons, though, it’s that boycotts and anger will spur Ashley into insisting that he’s willing to sell and just conveniently enough it will be before the January transfer window. He “won’t be able to buy any players” with the takeover in play, and talks will hit a wall come late January, when they’ll loan a couple young players from Top Six sides.

Yes he spent significant money on Joelinton, Allen Saint-Maximin, and others this summer, but one decent window doesn’t make a culture. Count us amongst the skeptical, for now.

Messi back in training, could be fit for Betis

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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) Lionel Messi was back in full training again on Wednesday and may be fit to face Real Betis in the Spanish league on Sunday.

Messi had been training separately from the squad since injuring his right calf in the preseason.

He missed the team’s 1-0 loss to Athletic Bilbao in the league opener on Friday.

Barcelona has not said how long it expects Messi to be sidelined.

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Coach Ernesto Valverde is also dealing with injuries to forwards Luiz Suarez and Ousmane Dembele.

Dembele is certain to miss Sunday’s match at the Camp Nou because of a left thigh injury that should keep him out for about five weeks.

Suarez also isn’t likely to play this weekend because of a muscle injury sustained before halftime of Friday’s game in Bilbao.

Two-time defending champion Barcelona hadn’t loss a league opener in 10 seasons.

More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/apf-Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports