Sunday’s slate of Premier League fixtures promise to have a wide-range of action, as a pair of top-six sides host a pair of bottom dwellers.
[ STREAM: Every PL match live ]
Sheffield United vs. Bournemouth — 9:00 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com
90 minutes against Bournemouth stands in the way from Sheffield United packing their bags and heading off to Dubai for a week-long winter break. 13 matches and a handful of wins also stands in the way from Sheffield United from qualifying for European competition next season.
The Blades, who are easily the healthiest side in the league, head into Sunday’s match with two thirds of a season for the ages: 36 points in 25 matches, one point behind fifth-place Tottenham – all on their first year back in the league.
Despite the European conversation around the Blades, the mythical 40-point mark remains the objective for Chris Wilder. Once there, they’ll take it one match at a time.
“Forty has always been a big number for a newly-promoted side,” he said leading up to Sunday’s bout. “After we get that it’ll always be about the next three points.”
Eddie Howe‘s Bournemouth, with two consecutive wins under their belts, could be in worse shape. The two-point cushion between (and the back-to-back wins) has been a morale boost for the side, which may be an x-factor on Sunday.
“I don’t think anything has necessarily changed,” Howe said. “We won the game against Brighton, it was a key game. It was a battling performance, a performance full of heart. Villa was a much-improved overall performance. The challenge now is to back it up.”
INJURIES: Sheffield United — OUT: None | Bournemouth — OUT: Danjuma (ankle), Brooks (ankle), Daniels (knee), Kelly (hamstring), Mepham (knee); SUSPENDED: Lerma (one match)
Manchester City vs. West Ham — 11:30 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com
You can’t talk Manchester City without brining up their 22-point deficit to leaders Liverpool. You just can’t. Not even Pep Guardiola was able to circumvent the conversation leading up to Sunday’s game against a depleted West Ham.
“We cannot deny the gap is big,” he said. “We didn’t expect to be 22 points behind but it’s the reality. We have to accept it and learn from it.”
The question then becomes: Can Manchester City, without Raheem Sterling and all of its flaws, finish the season second best? Leicester City are currently only two points behind, while Chelsea have much ground to make up 10 points back.
It’s far too early to know the answer, but matches like Sunday’s at the Etihad, against inferior opponents, can’t be taken for granted. Guardiola and company have fallen for that too many times this season. They can’t afford to do so again, surely.
As expected, West Ham, who are desperately trying to get out of the relegation threat, are ready to leave it all out on the field, even if the odds stack against them. They have no choice.
“The ones coming up at the moment look much harder, but it’s where we are at the end of the season that will really count,” Irons manager David Moyes said ahead of Sunday’s clash.
INJURIES: Manchester City — OUT: Sané (knee), Sterling (hamstring); SUSPENDED: Zinchenko (one match) | West Ham — OUT: Felipe Anderson (back), Yarmolenko (thigh), Wilshere (hernia)