Highly unlikely to overcome 14- and 21-point deficits in the title race, respectively, Manchester United and Liverpool — along with the rest of the Premier League’s top-six — are merely in a race for second. West Bromwich Albion and Bournemouth — their opponents on Sunday, respectively — fear relegation.
West Brom vs. Manchester United — 9:15 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com
Try telling Jose Mourinho, the only man in the PL still refusing to concede the title to Manchester City, that the title race is over. The performances have often been ugly and ground out until the final whistle — especially in the absence of Paul Pogba, who’ll once again be unavailable through suspension — but Mourinho’s men have won five of their last six (the only defeat coming last weekend, to Man City) as they head into Sunday’s annual trip to the Hawthorns, where they’ll face 19th-place West Brom. The Baggies haven’t won in their last 15 PL outings (eight draws), a woeful run which dates back to the second week of the 2017-18 season.
While United have been nearly impenetrable defensively (11 goals conceded in 17 games), a pair of costly errors — each committed by star striker Romelu Lukaku — cost the Red Devils dearly against City, as did their recurring inability (against the PL’s top teams) to control the game through possession and create scoring chances with consistency. The same struggles reared their ugly heads in a 1-0 victory over Bournemouth on Wednesday.
As poor as the results have been over the course of four months, West Brom can hang their hat on a decent defensive record — just 22 goals conceded in 17 games, which puts them squarely in the middle of the table. If Alan Pardew‘s side sets out to defend for 90 minutes, the Baggies might just get something out of Sunday’s clash. Pardew was quite pleased by the improvements he saw during Wednesday’s 0-0 draw with Liverpool, and he’s hoping for a repeat performance against United.
“We kept them very quiet and created on transition better moments, in the limited number that we had, than we did at Swansea,” he said. “That’s an improvement, but still an area to work on. We had some really strong performances — and if you get four or five ‘eights’ in your team that normally constitutes points.”
Bournemouth vs. Liverpool — 11:30 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com
Every time Liverpool take a step or two forward, they take a step or two right back to where they began. Case in point: back-to-back wins over Stoke City and Brighton & Hove Albion, by a combined score of 8-1, which briefly vaulted them ahead of Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur in the race for the top-four; followed by back-to-back draws against bottom-half sides Everton and West Brom.
With that side, Jurgen Klopp‘s side is unbeaten in its last eight league games and boasts one of the league’s most potent attacking records (34 goals scored in 17 games — third-most behind the two Manchester clubs).
Cherries boss Eddie Howe was encouraged by his side’s performances in that narrow loss to United, and the 40-year-old can sense that better days are on the near horizon.
“We’re disappointed because we’ve been beaten, but I’m really pleased with the performance,” he said. “I thought we were very good today and were very disciplined out of possession. We were also very good with the ball and created numerous chances. We really did establish ourselves in the game very early and there were some really good individual performances today. The team functioned very well.”
Italian outlet CalicoMercato states that both Spurs and Chelsea want to sign the 18-year-old who has scored 14 goals in Italy’s third-tier this season.
Pinamonti’s chances of breaking through at Inter appear slim with Mauro Icardi and Gabriel Barbosa in his way and per the report Tottenham met with his agent Marco De Marchi to discuss his future plus if Spurs could bid for another one of his clients, Inter defender Andrea Ranocchia.
For Spurs boss Mauricio Pochettino, he needs some new talent up top with Vincen Janssen struggling to fit in at White Hart Lane and if Harry Kane goes down the only other option is Heung-Min Son who can slot in up top. Plus, Pochettino seems to know young players at Inter rather well as he took Philippe Coutinho on loan during his time in charge of Espanyol and came very close to signing him when he was manager of Southampton.
As for Chelsea, they have a model of snapping up the best young talent around the world and then loaning them out around Europe. Is Pinamonti the latest to go down this route?
Bosnian international Begovic, 29, is the subject of a $12.4 million bid from Bournemouth and he’d be the first-choice goalkeeper for the Cherries ahead of Artur Boruc and Adam Federici. However, it is believed Chelsea want to bring in a capable back up for first-choice Thibaut Courtois before allowing Begovic, who joined from Stoke City in the summer of 2015, to leave to play regularly.
Newcastle’s Krul is currently on a season-long loan at Ajax but hasn’t play for the Dutch club so maybe a move to the PL champions elect would suit everyone. Let’s wait and see as Chelsea gets everything in order to allow Begovic to leave in January.
The Dutch defender, 26, played for Sam Allardyce last season and has scored four goals from left back as the Black Cats currently sit bottom of the table and three points off safety. Things aren’t much better at Palace though with the Eagles in the bottom three and two points off safety. If PVA does arrive, he’d be returning to London after his time at Chelsea. With Pape Souare out long-term following his car crash in September, this signing means Allardyce would vastly improve his defense which is now the fourth-worst in terms of conceding goals in the PL.
That kind of defensive record won’t fly with Big Sam but why would Sunderland sell van Aanholt? After Jermain Defoe he’s probably their biggest goal threat and most solid performer but David Moyes adding veteran Joleon Lescott (who can play at center back and left back) is probably a big indicator that an outgoing is coming up at the Stadium of Light. With owner Ellis Short putting Sunderland up for sale, it looks like Moyes will continue this relegation battle with one arm tied behind his back in terms of finances and also without PVA.
Sticking with Sunderland to finish things up, the Daily Express suggests Robbie Keane could be heading to the Stadium of Light.
Keane, 35, left LA Galaxy at the end of the 2016 MLS season after a wonderfully successful five years in California. Speaking to Sky Sports in the UK, Keane intimated that he will make a short-term move to a team in England before assessing his options. Cash-strapped Sunderland are looking to cut costs wherever they can and adding Keane’s experience for a relegation scrap could help them out massively.
This seems like a long shot, but stranger things have happened…
Liverpool needs to win to keep pace with the top of the league as they travel to Bournemouth live on NBCSN at 8:30 a.m. ET or live online at NBCSports.com.
Chelsea, Arsenal, and Tottenham all won on Saturday, so the Reds need to keep pace, or they risk falling off the pace, currently four points behind the Blues on top. They’ll have to do so today, however, with a number of changes to the squad, mostly at the back where Liverpool has been vulnerable at times this year.
On the other side, Bouremouth brings Jack Wilshere back into the team after being forced out against his parent club Arsenal last time out. Former Liverpool winger Jordon Ibe starts things on the bench, while goalkeeper Artur Boruc returns from injury to start in net, sending Adam Federici back among the substitutes.
Two who won’t be available for the Cherries are Andrew Surman and Charlie Daniels. The former has been sidelined for a month with a hamstring injury and suffered a setback in his recovery, while Daniels has a hip problem and was expected to return for today, but does not appear in the squad.
Bournemouth has not beaten Liverpool in nine all-time league meetings, losing seven and drawing twice. These two teams are trending in opposite directions, with the Reds unbeaten in eleven, but Bournemouth has lost three of four.
United’s win allows them direct passage into the group stage of the UEFA Europa League, while Bournemouth finishes 16th in its first season in the top flight. United will face Crystal Palace in the FA Cup Final on Saturday.
There wasn’t much to like about a first half hour that saw United possess the heck out of the ball but rarely move into dangerous positions until Michael Carrick slid onto the end of an over the top pass, redirecting his shot at keeper Adam Federici.
The Red Devils went ahead before halftime, as Anthony Martial worked a 1-2 with Juan Mata before passing through the 18. Marcus Rashford dummied the ball for Rooney, who passed the ball into the center of the goal.
The Cherries had an inspired spell of work inside the United box early in the second half, but Dan Gosling‘s shot was rushed over the net by an onrushing tackler.
Penalty shouts soon followed at the other end, as Mata’s dribble came together with Steve Cook in what should’ve been a penalty for the United midfielder. No call.
United was set to find its insurance goal when Marcus Rashford made a skillful move to the left of Federici before Jesse Lingard‘s shot was deflected wide. Then Antonio Valencia eyed up a shot from 25-30 yards that Federici flew to remove from its path to the upper 90.
Rashford made it 2-0 as the clock hit 74, putting his hard shot through multiple pairs of legs and into the Bournemouth goal for his fifth PL tally of the season.
And then Rooney’s terrific over-the-top pass found Young, who chested the ball down and had plenty of time to cut the ball just past Federici. 3-0.