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Why European glory is key for Premier League

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The Premier League has been lauded as the greatest on the planet for many years.

European glory over the past three days has confirmed it is indeed the best.

Lingering doubts about the PL’s elite not being able to get near the likes of Real Madrid and Barcelona have been blown out of the water.

‘Your teams are good, England, but can they conquer Europe? Hmmm…’ None of that chat from continental Europe anymore. For the brand and/or the image of the league, being the best of the best is important. EuroLeague basketball is good, but we know the NBA is the best.

[ MORE: Liverpool stun Barca | Spurs shock Ajax ]

The Premier League is now the undisputed top dog in the soccer world, with La Liga, Serie A and the Bundesliga knowing it has a heck of a job to try and catch up.

For the first time in history all four finalists in the UEFA Champions League and Europa League finals are from the same country, England, with Tottenham v. Liverpool and Chelsea v. Arsenal the lineup for the respective finals over the next few weeks.

Managers from across the league have applauded Jurgen Klopp, Mauricio Pochettino, Unai Emery and Maurizio Sarri in their press conferences on Friday, as there is a shared happiness and pride at seeing their colleagues, and rivals, dominate Europe. Because it wasn’t just the semifinal success. PL clubs were rampant in the group stages and battered some of Europe’s elite teams on their way to the finals with swashbuckling, gritty and tactically flexible displays.

This is a monumental moment for the Premier League.

Giants have finally delivered with huge player wages, massive investment in youth development and the ability to hire the best coaches all now bearing fruit.

(Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images )
(Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images )

The success of this season underlines the greatness of the PL, and puts recent European struggles firmly in the rearview mirror. The importance of usurping the rest of European soccer cannot be underestimated when it comes to the growing positive image of the Premier League in the global game, as a timely ego-boost has arrived for this juggernaut of a league. Alongside a historic title race between Man City and Liverpool, this European success story adds further fuel to the fire that the PL is head and shoulders above the rest.

For so long the best paid players and coaches have flocked to the PL, but cycles of European success have swung from Italy to Spain to Germany and then back to Spain. The gruelling PL season and no winter break was given as one reason why English teams struggled in Europe, but we all know that was a weak excuse.

Now it is the turn of England, and the Premier League, to shine.

Dramatic comebacks from Liverpool and Tottenham against Barcelona and Ajax kicked things off in dramatic fashion this week, then Arsenal and Chelsea finished things off nicely against Valencia and Frankfurt to complete the clean sweep.

In Madrid on June 1 and Baku on May 29, two finals will showcase the brilliance of the PL as fierce rivals will lock horns and the drama and power of England’s top-flight will be rammed down the throats of everyone on the global stage.

But we shouldn’t overlook the fact that certain circumstances have played into the hands of Premier League clubs this season.

(Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)
(Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)

Real Madrid have been a mess. Lionel Messi aside, this is not a vintage Barcelona side. Bayern Munich is in transition. Juventus relied on Cristiano Ronaldo too heavily. Atletico Madrid have been off. And PSG are, well, just PSG, as they crumbled in the knockout stages once again. In the Europa League, only Napoli and Valencia were real dangers to Arsenal and Chelsea. If there was going to be any year for the PL to dominate, this was it.

The Premier League has made the most of its chance to surge to the top of the tree in Europe and now comes the hard bit.

Only once in history has there been an all-English Champions League final: 2008 as Man United beat Chelsea in Moscow. In the 10 finals since then, only three Premier League teams have been among the 20 UCL finalists. An era of Spanish and German domination followed, as English clubs took their eye off the ball and the Premier League has had a mark next to its name over the last decade, with Chelsea the only winner since 2008.

(Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)
(Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)

European success during the 2018-19 campaign is a ringing endorsement of everything the Premier League now stands for, and it should now provide a platform for continued success.

Just as the rest of Europe is looking towards the UK from a political standpoint as Brexit continues to dominate the headlines, the rest of Europe is now looking at the Premier League with envy as clubs have found the perfect formula to succeed in Europe.

That is: Big spending, the best coaches and putting sustainable structures in place for future success with youth academies as the English national team has proved in various international tournaments over the past few years.

Continuing that success is key for the PL’s global status as the best league on the planet. Spending money to attract the best coaches to nurture star players in order to create a wonderful domestic league is one thing.

Beating all of your European competitors to prove you are the best is the cherry on top the Premier League needed, and now has.

Arsenal – Liverpool preview: How to watch, team news, start time, stream

Arsenal - Liverpool preview
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Arsenal – Liverpool preview: Arsenal’s European desperation is high as it prepares to welcome history-chasing Liverpool to the Emirates Stadium on Wednesday (Watch live at 3:15pm ET for FREE on Peacock).

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

The Gunners now know that eighth place will not be good enough for the Europa League, making it imperative that Arsenal wins its last three Premier League outings or wins the FA Cup to avoid missing out on European football for the first time since 1996.

Liverpool would love to take its next steps toward the best single-season in Premier League history by denying their rivals a shot at Europe.

ACCESS ARSENAL – LIVERPOOL ON PEACOCK FOR FREE


Team news

Jordan Henderson and Joel Gomez remain out for Liverpool, and James Milner seems likely to miss out as well.

Arsenal will not have suspended Eddie Nketiah or injured Calum Chambers, Bernd Leno, and Gabriel Martinelli.


What they’re saying

Arsenal keeper Emiliano Martinez on post-derby reaction: “Every season we try to finish above them,” said Martinez. “We need to make sure we finish above them. Our target is Europe, that is the reality. We are going to try and give our best against Liverpool and reach the FA Cup Final. We didn’t start like the manager wanted, we were giving the ball away for no reason. As time was going on we started playing well, we controlled the midfield and we outplayed them. I feel sorry for the supporters because we know what it means for them.”

Jurgen Klopp on Liverpool’s draw with Burnley“If you find a way in the game which causes the opponents massive problems, come on, stick to it, do it, and we did it to a specific extent. But then we were not clear enough anymore, so that’s how it is. How I said, we left the door open for them and they used the situation, which is a special skill of that team.”


Odds and ends (Full matchweek odds)

Arsenal’s a home dog against Liverpool to the tune of +285, according to DraftKings, the Premier League champions a minus-114 favorite.

Liverpool’s depth outlasted Arsenal in a League Cup classic earlier this season, and Mohamed Salah led a 3-1 defeat of Arsenal in Premier League play back in August.


Prediction

Goals? Neither side has been as sharp as it would like but the firepower in both squads is immense. Our lead writer Joe Prince-Wright predicts 2-2 and we’ll ride with that because it would make for a delightful Wednesday.


How to watch Arsenal – Liverpool stream, start time

Kickoff: 3:15 pm ET Wednesday
Online: ACCESS PEACOCK FOR FREE

Manchester United – Southampton stream: How to watch, team news, odds

Manchester United - Southampton preview
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The door to third place is wide open for Manchester United when Southampton visits Old Trafford on Saturday (Watch live at pm ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

Chelsea’s weekend loss and Leicester City’s place on United’s docket means Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s in-form men control their own destiny when it comes to finishing as high as third on the table.

STREAM MANCHESTER UNITED – SOUTHAMPTON LIVE

Southampton, for its part, can harbor outside hopes of a Europa League place, currently six points back of eighth place before Arsenal and Spurs play Sunday.


Team news

Phil Jones and Axel Tuanzebe remain the only absences for Manchester United.

Moussa Djenepo, Sofiane Boufal and Yan Valery are out for Saints and may not return this season, while Jannik Vestergaard is hoping to come off the bench to score a second goal against the Red Devils.

 


What they’re saying

Paul Pogba about what’s changed at Old Trafford: “We play more as a team than we did before, we enjoy it even more, we defend together, we attack together, and this team is stronger as well. The players who are on the bench or who don’t play every time, when they come on they help the team so the mentality is good and is right. All this together has put us where we are today.”

Ralph Hasenhuttl on improving Saints: “We want to be braver, but that can sometimes cause you problems, like against Arsenal when we make some mistakes. We need this decision making, because then we learn. If you don’t demand this, you cannot improve in this way. …In every regard you must get better. In this moment it looks like we can make this step, and the players are open-minded to go this way. This is important, otherwise you will always stay on the same level.”


Odds and ends (Full matchweek odds)

Saints are tied with Burnley as the biggest underdog of the weekend at +1050, but you see how that turned out for Nick Pope and the Clarets. United is a minus-375 favorite.

Jannik Vestergaard and Daniel James traded goals at St. Mary’s on Aug. 31 when 10-man Saints drew United.


Prediction

Can anyone slow United? Saints have already claimed a big win against a Mancunian power… and this would be a big moment for Hasenhuttl’s project. The teams are on the same amount of rest and all things equal you’d like the hosts to boot. United 2-1.


How to watch Manchester United – Southampton stream, start time

Kickoff: 3:15 pm ET Monday
TV Channel: NBCSN
Online: Stream via NBCSports.com

Transfer news: Chilwell to Man United; Kante to Inter Milan

Ben Chilwell to Manchester United
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In the latest transfer news Ben Chilwell has been linked with a move to Manchester United, while N’Golo Kante could be heading to Inter Milan.

[ MORE: New PL TV schedule ]

Starting in Manchester, it appears that Ben Chilwell is wanted by both Manchester City and now Manchester United, with Chelsea still in the hunt too.

The Leicester City and England left back, 23, is reportedly a target for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer as The Sun says that he is valued at $75 million and that Man United are now in pole position to sign him.

Do Man United really need a new left back? Luke Shaw is finally fit and has been very good this season, while Brandon Williams is an emerging talent at left back. Chilwell is a very, very good left back but Man City and Chelsea have a greater need to upgrade in that area. If Leicester do not make the Champions League, they will probably cash in on Chilwell.

Man United need a new center back and holding midfielder before they sign a left back but Solskjaer must think differently.

Kante to Inter Milan
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Moving down to west London, it appears that N’Golo Kante could be linking up with Antonio Conte once again at Inter Milan.

Kante, 29, has been riddled with injuries this season but when he has played it’s clear to see the stability he brings to the entire Chelsea side.

According to Gazzetto dello Sport in Italy, Chelsea are willing to listen to offers for the French World Cup winner as Frank Lampard continues his expensive overhaul of the Blues.

Kante has a contract with Chelsea until the summer of 2023 but now is probably to cash in on him, if they want to. If they can move on Kante, then bringing in Kai Havertz and several defensive players would be more possible this summer.

This is a tough one. On paper, Kante is one of the few players at Chelsea who should be guaranteed starters. However, there’s no doubting his level has dropped a little this season due to injuries and the style of play under Lampard.

Inter Milan are building something under Conte and Kante would be a huge part of their project.

Premier League odds, Prince-Wright’s picks: Matchweek 36

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EPL betting odds for the Premier League have been released but we know the bookies don’t always get it right.

Here are the latest Prince-Wright’s Premier League score predictions as the Premier League return has the EPL betting odds all over the place.

[ MORE: New PL TV schedule

The Premier League score predictions below encompass the 10 games during midweek for Matchweek 36. Here we go.

If you, like me, love to dissect all the games and predict what the score will be and which team will win, I encourage you to get involved in the comments section below. Let’s have a bit of fun with these Premier League games.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

Okay, so I’ve consulted my crystal ball and here’s how we see things panning out. Listen carefully, because this is very specific.

While you can download the NBC Sports Predictor app (below) and play the Premier League Pick ‘Em game yourself to predict the scores and win the prizes.

DOWNLOAD NBC SPORTS PREDICTOR

With the first section labelled “basically, free money” for the picks I think are dead certs. The section labelled “don’t touch this” means if you’re betting I advise you to stay clear, while the “so you’re telling me there’s a chance” section are the long shots. If it is better odds you are after, those are the picks to go for.

Check out our Premier League score predictions below.


PREMIER LEAGUE PREDICTIONS

BASICALLY, FREE MONEY

Man City 4-1 Bournemouth – (Wednesday, 1 p.m. ET, Peacock) – [STREAM

Chelsea 4-2 Norwich – (Tuesday, 3:15 p.m. ET, NBCSN) – [STREAM]

Burnley 1-3 Wolves – (Wednesday, 1 p.m. ET, Peacock) – [STREAM

Crystal Palace 0-2 Man United – (Thursday, 3:15 p.m. ET, NBCSN) – [STREAM]


DON’T TOUCH THIS…

Arsenal 2-2 Liverpool – (Wednesday, 3:15 p.m. ET, Peacock) – [STREAM

Southampton 1-1 Brighton – (Thursday, 3:15 p.m. ET, Gold/Peacock) – [STREAM

Newcastle 1-2 Tottenham – (Wednesday, 1 p.m. ET, Peacock) – [STREAM


“SO YOU’RE TELLING ME THERE’S A CHANCE…”

Leicester 1-1 Sheffield United – (Thursday, 1 p.m. ET, NBCSN) – [STREAM

Everton 1-2 Aston Villa – (Thursday, 1 p.m. ET, Gold/Peacock) – [STREAM]

West Ham 1-2 Watford – (Friday, 3 p.m. ET, NBCSN) – [STREAM]


EPL ODDS – Via DraftKings

Tuesday, July 14: (-770) Chelsea v. Norwich (+1900), Tie: +800
Wednesday, July 15: (-715) Man City v. Bournemouth (+1800), Tie: +750
Wednesday, July 15: (+380) Burnley v. Wolves (-115), Tie: +225
Wednesday, July 15: (+380) Newcastle v. Tottenham (-130), Tie: +265
Wednesday, July 15: (+285) Arsenal v. Liverpool (-114), Tie: +290
Thursday, July 16: (+102) Everton v. Aston Villa (+270), Tie: +255
Thursday, July 16: (+100) Leicester v. Sheffield United (+310), Tie: +225
Thursday, July 16: (+900) Crystal Palace v. Man United (-295), Tie: +390
Thursday, July 16: (+117) Southampton v. Brighton (+255), Tie: +230
Friday, July 17: (+143) West Ham v. Watford (+235), Tie: +200