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Premier League Preview: Liverpool v. Arsenal

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  • Top of the table: 1st-place Reds host 2nd-place Gunners
  • Liverpool won 5-1 at Anfield last season
  • Both sides nearing full fitness but a few injuries linger

Thanks to one half of north London, Liverpool enter Matchweek 3 atop the Premier League table. To maintain their two-point lead on two-time defending champions Manchester City, they must knock off the other half of north London, Arsenal, who also double as the PL’s second-place side 180 minutes into the campaign, at Anfield on Saturday (Watch live, 12:30 p.m. ET on NBC and online via NBCSports.com).

When the margins between champions and runners-up are as fine as one point, every clash with a fellow top-six side could ultimately prove to be the difference maker in the title race. Yes, even in the third week of the season.

[ STREAM: Every PL match live

Neither side was overwhelmingly dominant in picking up a 2-1 victory last weekend — Liverpool away to Southampton; Arsenal at home to Burnley — though the Reds were coming off a midweek trip to Istanbul for the UEFA Super Cup and the Gunners are still in the process of working club-record signing Nicolas Pepe into the team as well as bringing Mesut Ozil and Sead Kolasinac back into the fold.

Dani Ceballos, on the other hand, has hit the ground running and appears set to become a hugely influential figure for Arsenal, even if he only spends one season at the club before returning to Real Madrid. The Spanish midfielder made his first start in the win over Burnley and provided assists on both goals, scored by Alexander Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.

Injuries/suspensions

Liverpool: OUT – Alisson (calf), Nathaniel Clyne (knee); QUESTIONABLE – Naby Keita (hip)

Arsenal: OUT – Kieran Tierney (groin), Hector Bellerin (knee), Rob Holdin (fitness); QUESTIONABLE – Mesut Ozil (fitness), Grant Xhaka (back)


Projected lineups

Liverpool: Adrian – Alexander-Arnold, Matip, Van Dijk, Robertson – Henderson, Fabinho, Wijnaldum – Salah, Firmino, Mane

Arsenal: Leno – Maitland-Niles, Sokratis, Luiz, Kolasinac – Torreira, Guendouzi, Ceballos – Aubameyang, Lacazette, Pepe


What they’re saying

Jurgen Klopp, on the early-season challenge of facing Arsenal: “We have to be brave, have to play your own football, you have to try to keep possession, you have to be direct. There are a lot of things to do and consider, against a very strong opponent. That’s why I’m really looking forward to it. It’s the early part of the season but these games will come up anyway. Now it’s pretty early and we have to show we are ready again.”

Unai Emery, on testing his side against Liverpool: “We really are in a very good position, but we only played two matches in the Premier League. We know it’s only the beginning but we can be positive and optimistic for that match and wishing to show our moment against them, but knowing that it is going to be difficult but it is a very big challenge and a very big opportunity for us to do something.”


Prediction

While Arsenal spent big in the summer, they didn’t actually address their team’s biggest area of need: the defense. Thus far, it hasn’t mattered, against Newcastle United and Burnley. Liverpool are, shall we say, slightly more prolific going forward and will cause the Gunners considerably greater problems — particularly Salah anytime he gets isolated one-on-one with Ainsley Maitland-Niles. A 2-0 victory for Liverpool which is far more comfortable than the final score would suggest.

Looking Ahead: Mourinho’s first 10 games

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Tottenham’s stunning week continued on Wednesday with the appointment of Jose Mourinho as manager.

Taking in his first day of training, Mourinho can now get to grips with not only his squad, but what’s ahead for Spurs. Here’s a look at what Mourinho will be up against in the next two months.

[READ: 5 things Mourinho must do at Tottenham]


Game 1: Tottenham at West Ham, Saturday, Premier League

Mourinho’s first game in charge is a London derby, which is a pretty tough way to start life at the club. Coming on the road, you can expect a packed house, tons of media attention, and possibly a re-energized squad. That’s what Mourinho will be hoping for, anyways.

Sebastian Haller has struggled recently, and with just four goals in 11 Premier League games, he could be looking at this matchup as a way to get back on the scoresheet. It will be up to Mourinho to re-organize a want-away defense.

Game 2: Tottenham v. Olympiakos, Nov. 26, UEFA Champions League

Game 3: Tottenham v. Bournemouth, Nov. 30, Premier League

Game 4: Tottenham at Manchester United, Dec. 4, Premier League

Mourinho only has to wait three weeks before his first trip back to Old Trafford. Even though it’s coming soon, it’s not a guarantee that it will be Mourinho v. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, who is under a lot of pressure himself. Things haven’t improved at Man United much since Mourinho was sacked, and a win for him on the road would be the kind of grudge match he lives for.

Game 5: Tottenham v. Burnley, Dec. 7, Premier League

Game 6: Tottenham at Bayern Munich, Dec. 11, Champions League

If the Champions League stopped today, passed Go and went directly to the knockout rounds, Tottenham would be in. Despite all the Premier League troubles, Spurs have done well enough to stay ahead of Red Star Belgrade and Olympiakos in the standings. Should Tottenham beat Olympiakos in November, and Red Star loses to Bayern Munich, it will be set. However, if Tottenham hasn’t secured a place in the knockout round by then, it may need a result against Bayern at home. That will be one of Mourinho’s biggest tasks moving forward.

Game 7: Tottenham at Wolves, Dec. 15, Premier League

Game 8: Tottenham v. Chelsea, Dec. 22, Premier League

Tottenham opens the busy holiday period against Mourinho’s other Premier League former club, and the place where he made his name in England. At this point, Mourinho will have been with Tottenham for an entire month and if things are going well, Tottenham could challenge Chelsea in this match. If Tottenham remain at its current level, Chelsea could certainly win a match like this on the road at the new White Hart Lane. Another side plot will be Mourinho facing his former star midfielder, Frank Lampard.

Game 9: Tottenham v. Brighton and Hove Albion, Dec. 26, Premier League

Game 10: Tottenham at Norwich City, Dec. 28, Premier League

Mourinho will have to navigate some tough matches, including big six derbies against Chelsea and Man United, plus a trip to Wolverhampton Wanderers. However, it certainly could have been worse for Tottenham. Spurs has five home games, along with matches against Burnley, Bournemouth, Norwich City and Brighton and Hove Albion. Despite 10 games in the rest of 2019, and a busy holiday period, Mourinho has a shot to turn Spurs’ season around and put them in contention for fourth place by May.

UEFA investigates player’s claim of racial abuse in Romania

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NYON, Switzerland (AP) UEFA has called for further investigations into allegations by a Sweden player he was racially abused by Romania fans at a European Championship qualifying game.

After Alexander Isak reported his claim to the match referee last Friday, play in Sweden’s 2-0 win was briefly stopped to broadcast a warning to fans in Bucharest. The stadium will host four Euro 2020 games in June.

[READ: How the USMNT found and kept Sergino Dest]

UEFA says it opened a disciplinary investigation, and also charged Romania’s soccer federation for separate incidents of an alleged “illicit banner” and “illicit chants.” Those charges will be judged on Dec. 12.

Romania faces more severe UEFA action because it was already under one year’s probation for previous incidents of offensive fan behavior.

Only accompanied children were allowed to attend Romania’s home qualifier against Norway last month.

The next UEFA punishment could affect Romania’s next game in the Euro 2020 playoffs round in March.

Report: Austin FC hire Reyna as sporting director

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Months after locking in Josh Wolff as head coach, Austin FC is reportedly on the verge of naming one of MLS’ best sporting directors to the same role.

The Athletic reported on Wednesday that Anthony Precourt’s Austin FC has hired Claudio Reyna from New York City FC to be the expansion club’s new sporting director. It’s the second expansion club that Reyna is working for since he joined NYCFC in 2013 as its first director of soccer operations.

[READ: MLS takes big step with All-Star game update]

If true, it’s a shrewd move by Precourt to bring in a man who knows MLS like the back of his thumb, and to pair him with a former teammate from the U.S. Men’s National Team. Wolff’s spent almost his entire career in professional soccer in MLS too, so the club now has two influential individuals who are knowledgable about the league and it’s various roster mechanisms.

Austin FC doesn’t enter MLS until 2021, so locking in Reyna now gives him more than a year of runway towards building an MLS-ready roster. Precourt has surely seen the best-case scenario – Seattle, Los Angeles FC, Atlanta United – where a team loaded with top-heavy talent and good role players can make a deep playoff run in its expansion season. But he’s likely also seen the worst-case scenarios – look at Minnesota United in the past and FC Cincinnati this year.

Bringing in Reyna certainly makes it more likely that Austin FC’s future will lie in the former category.

Chelsea verdict due mid-December in FIFA transfer ban case

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LAUSANNE, Switzerland — Chelsea can expect a verdict within three weeks in its appeal to overturn a FIFA transfer ban for breaking youth transfer rules.

The Court of Arbitration for Sport said after a hearing Wednesday its ruling is expected in the first half of December.

The month-long trading window for English clubs opens Jan. 1. Chelsea already served half its one-year ban on registering new players during the offseason.

Chelsea is challenging verdicts by FIFA’s disciplinary and appeal committees that the club had 150 violations of rules protecting minors from trafficking. Those cases involved about 70 players.

Chelsea also broke rules prohibiting third-party influence on players. FIFA imposed a fine of 600,000 Swiss francs ($608,000).

The club has denied wrongdoing.

The timeline of this transfer of minors’ case is similar to Barcelona’s appeal in 2014 when CAS upheld a transfer ban on Dec. 30, almost four weeks after a hearing.