Photo by Harriet Lander/Copa/Getty Images

PL Sunday preview: Arsenal v. Chelsea; Liverpool, Man City in action

Leave a comment

The calendar year of 2019 has just three Premier League fixtures remaining, featuring four of the league’s “big six” sides in action on Sunday…

[ MORE: Arteta urges Arsenal to rebuild connection with fans ]

Arsenal v. Chelsea — 9 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

Sunday’s big game kicks off proceedings, as Arsenal host Chelsea at the Emirates Stadium. Mikel Arteta‘s debut as manager didn’t go according to plan, but the Gunners managed to fight back from 1-0 down and draw away to Bournemouth on Thursday. That’s the positive spin. Here’s the harsh reality: they have won just one of their last 11 games in the PL. With fellow top-four challengers Chelsea, Tottenham and Manchester United each spinning their wheels in recent weeks, Arsenal have had every opportunity to make up ground in the race for Champions League qualification, but have done nothing but widen the gap. A win over Chelsea would see them cut the deficit to five points; a loss would see it balloon to 11.

As for Chelsea, Frank Lampard is presently navigating his first turbulent period as the Blues boss. With five defeats in their last seven games, what once looked a surefire top-four finish is suddenly very much in question. Tammy Abraham continues to lead Chelsea in goals scored this season with 11, but the 22-year-old hasn’t scored in a season-high four straight games, since a 2-1 victory over Aston Villa on Dec. 4.

Liverpool v. Wolves — 11:30 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

Wolverhampton Wanderers did Liverpool a solid, if unnecessary, favor when they came back from 2-0 down to beat Manchester City and drop them 14 points back of the league-leading Reds, who also have a game in hand. On Sunday, Liverpool will be looking to thank them with yet another ruthless dismantling as they set the world alight en route to their first PL title since 1990. With 52 points from their first 54 games, Jurgen Klopp‘s men have been effectively perfect this season and look set to break a handful of all-time PL records set by Man City just two years ago.

Even before knocking off the two-time defending champions, Wolves were riding a hot streak with just one defeat in their last 14 games (7W-6D-1L). Nuno Espirito Santo‘s side finished seventh last season and looks more than capable of going a place (or two) higher this time around. A win would see them go as high as fourth (Chelsea’s result pending) to finish 2019. Raul Jimenez is once again leading the way with eight goals and six assists through his side’s first 19 games, with two goals and three assists coming in his last four appearances.

Man City v. Sheffield United — 1 p.m. ET, on NBC Sports Gold

While Man City have been perhaps the most disappointing side, based on their own otherworldly standards and expectation, Sheffield United have unquestionably been the biggest and most pleasantly surprising side in the PL this season. The newly promoted Blades entered the weekend in seventh place, just three points out of the top-four. They haven’t scored a ton of goals (their 23 goals scored ranks in the bottom-third of the PL), but they’ve been nearly faultless defensively with just 17 conceded (second-fewest in the league, behind only Liverpool) though 19 games.

In a strange twist, Chris Wilder‘s side has been marginally better away from home (15 points) than they have back at Bramall Lane (14 points). Of the 17 goals they have conceded, just seven were allowed in away games. A win at the Etihad Stadium on Sunday would make it three straight away victories for Sheffield United and give the outside world plenty of reason to take notice and take them very seriously.

VIDEO: Lo Celso escapes red card via VAR after horror challenge

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Giovani Lo Celso can count himself a lucky man after his horror challenge on Cesar Azpilicueta wasn’t deemed worthy of a red card by VAR.

What on earth is going on.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule

Lo Celso stamped on Azpilicueta’s leg as the Chelsea skipper slid in to get the ball and even though the Spanish defender was on the floor, Spurs’ Argentine playmaker had enough time to pull out of the challenge.

After a lengthy VAR check no red card was given as Chelsea’s fans, players and coaches looked on in bemusement after Olivier Giroud’s early goal gave them the lead.

Check out the video of the incident below and let us know what you think in the comments section below.


VIDEO: Giroud delivers for Chelsea v. Spurs

Leave a comment

Olivier Giroud delivered a stunning finish to put Chelsea ahead against Tottenham Hotspur at Stamford Bridge.

Giroud, starting for the first time since November, used all of his experience to run the Spurs defense ragged and provide a threatening focal point for the Chelsea attack.

The Frenchman, 33, jumped off the bench and had a goal disallowed by VAR in the 2-0 defeat against Man United on Monday but even after a VAR check for offside against Spurs, this time his goal stood.

Click play on the video above to watch the clinical finish.

It was a good job Giroud didn’t leave Chelsea in the January transfer window (as a move to Spurs seemed highly likely) after all.

Watch Live: Chelsea v. Tottenham

Leave a comment

Chelsea host Tottenham Hotspur in a massive London derby on Saturday (Watch live, 7:30 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com) at Stamford Bridge.

With Frank Lampard‘s slumping Chelsea in fourth and just one point ahead of Jose Mourinho’s fifth-place Tottenham, this is a massive game in the battle for Champions League qualification.

WATCH LIVE ONLINE

Injuries are piling up for both sides but Chelsea’s lack of clinical finishing has hurt them for several months as they’ve won just four of their last 14 Premier League games. Mourinho knows this is a good time for him to take his team to Stamford Bridge, even with his own injury crisis to deal with.

Not only does the Mourinho storyline carry significant weight ahead of Saturday’s showdown at the Bridge, so too does the two sides’ increasingly tight battle for a top-four finish. As recently as Jan. 17, Chelsea enjoyed a nine-point lead on Tottenham, but the Blues’ current run of just one win from their last six PL games has seen that advantage shrink to a single point with the very real possibility of flipping two points in the opposite direction once the full-time whistle blows.

On the other hand, Spurs would already be miles clear if not for dropping a combined seven points from three games against the current 12th-, 19th- and 20th-place sides in recent weeks.

In team news Chelsea are without N’Golo Kante, Christian Pulisic and Callum Hudson-Odoi who are all out injured. Olivier Giroud starts up front with Tammy Abraham only fit enough for the bench, while Chelsea have three center backs and Ross Barkley and Mason Mount come into the starting lineup.

Tottenham must do without Heung-Min Son for potentially the rest of the season after he suffered a broken arm. Mourinho must turn to other attacking options with Harry Kane also out until April. Dele Alli has been left on the bench as Spurs go with what also looks like a back five.


LINEUPS

Hodgson vows to sign new Crystal Palace contract

Photo by Marc Atkins/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Roy Hodgson has revealed that he has been offered a contract extension to remain at Crystal Palace beyond the 2020-21 Premier League season, and also hinted that he is highly likely to accept it.

[ MORE: Mourinho: Top-four without Kane, Son would be “something incredible” ]

Following a period of turmoil and instability which saw them drop dangerously close to the relegation zone prior to his arrival in 2017, Hodgson has steadied the ship and guided the Eagles to 11th- and 12th-place finishes in his first two seasons and has them sitting just a point out of 12th with a dozen games to go this season. At no point in his tenure has Palace flirted with relegation, and that’s apparently enough to earn a new deal to remain in charge — quotes from Sky Sports:

“The club have presented me with a contract and although the chairman has been away this week I’ve had a cursory glance through it. It all looks fine to me so I am pretty certain that at some point soon we’ll sit down and get it signed.

“If I am going to stay, it will be because I believe funds will be made available because we’ve had the intention to improve the squad and the team for a while now.

“We all realize you can’t make improvements to the actual team without spending some money. But I would never make those type of demands, because you can’t make any guarantees in the transfer market.

“All you can do is have good intention and if I signed for another year, I would sign because I believed the intentions are true and that something will happen going into the next season.”

As for the transfer situation, that’s something that’ll need to be sorted out in very short order if Palace plan to maintain their current place in the PL’s hierarchy, otherwise they’ll learn a harsh — and quick — lesson about standing still while everyone else is moving forward.