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Champions League preview: Man City visit Schalke; Atleti v. Juve

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Manchester City’s quest for European glory resumes on Wednesday, when the reigning Premier League champions travel to Gelsenkirchen, Germany, to take on a struggling Schalke side in the UEFA Champions League round of 16.

[ MORE: Liverpool blunted by Bayern, and vice versa, in first-leg draw ]

Schalke sit 14th in the Bundesliga with barely a point per game (23 from 22 games) nearly two-thirds of the way through a disastrous league season. Manager Domenico Tedesco’s position will surely come under consideration this summer, though he could do himself a massive favor by knocking off a heavy favorite to reach the Champions League quarterfinals.

Man City come into the first leg in fine form, having won 12 of their last 13 games (all competitions) after their season nearly went up in smoke back in December. Sergio Aguero’s red-hot finishing touch has been at the center of recent successes, with the Argentine scoring in five of his last six appearances (nine games during that time, including a pair of hat tricks). City will, however, be without the services of three key figures: left back Benjamin Mendy (knee), forward Gabriel Jesus (hamstring) and center back John Stones (groin); meanwhile, Vincent Kompany (muscular strain) has been passed fit and made the trip to Germany.

[ MORE: Lyon strong at home, hold Barcelona to 0-0 draw (video) ]

All Atletico Madrid have to do to compete in this season’s final at their brand new Wanda Metropolitano Stadium in the Spanish capital is run through three home-and-away ties over the next three months, beginning with seven-time reigning Serie A champions Juventus. To further complicate matters, the Bianconeri are now led by Atleti’s old nemesis, Cristiano Ronaldo, from his days at Real Madrid. On the plus side, Atleti haven’t lost a home knockout game in 22 years, so they’ll almost certainly head to Turin with a puncher’s chance of sneaking through.

Massimiliano Allegri and Juve, on the other hand, intend to leave little to chance in the second leg on March 12.

Our team is growing physically, mentally and technically and we have to keep going as we enter the most important stage of the season,” the Juve boss said this week. “We have to be focused, knowing that we face a compact team that make the most of set pieces, and who in recent years have achieved a lot of good results in Europe. I wouldn’t take a draw now — I said to the lads that it’s important to score goals.”

PL Sunday Preview: Man City hosts Chelsea in high-profile matchup

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There’s plenty on the line in Sunday’s high-profile matchup between Manchester City and Chelsea. Meanwhile, in the first match of the morning, surging Tottenham takes on Leicester City side that is winless in its last five.

[READ: Liverpool back on track with win over Bournemouth]

Man City v. Chelsea — 11:00 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

After a week in which Manchester City defeated Arsenal and Everton in somewhat comfortable fashion, Pep Guardiola‘s side faces a new, even tougher test.

It was only Huddersfield Town last week, but Chelsea looked back to its best once again in its 5-0 victory, with Gonzalo Higuain already looking like a terrific fit at the top of Chelsea’s attack. Higuain’s addition will take up a lot of Manchester City’s mental energy as they plan to face Chelsea, which could leave more space for Juninho to quarterback the Blues attack or for Eden Hazard and Willian to break down the wings on the counter attack.

Then again, this is Manchester City. Guardiola has his team firing on all cylinders. Kevin De Bruyne and Raheem Sterling are set to return to the starting lineup. Manchester City can set a new Premier League record if they score two goals; it will be their 15th consecutive home match with at least two goals scored.

Though this is the Premier League, this game could be played with some caution. Both teams face each other again later this month at Wembley Stadium in the Carabao Cup final.

INJURIES: Man City —  OUT: Benjamin Mendy (knee), Vincent Kompany (muscular) | Chelsea — OUT: None; PROBABLE: Callum Hudson-Odoi (Illness), Gary Cahill (back)


Tottenham v. Leicester City — 8:30 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

They won’t be on the field, but Harry Kane and Dele Alli gave Tottenham a huge boost this week by returning to training. That could be just what the team needs as it makes a mid-season push to stay in the top four, and potentially – who knows?! – try and win the Premier League title. Tottenham can win its fourth successive Premier League match and could come within two points of Man City before it plays Chelsea. Despite cup defeats in late January, Mauricio Pochettino‘s side has found a way to win in each of its last three league matches, all one-goal victories.

On the other side, Leicester City has dropped to 12th in the table as discontent for manager Claude Puel grows. Leicester hasn’t won a match since New Year’s Day, but they suffered a narrow loss to Manchester United and drew with Liverpool, perhaps showing some improvement, even without the result. Youri Tielemens appears to have improved the midfield, and Jamie Vardy has a great history facing Tottenham. He’s scored four goals with three assists in his last seven matches against Spurs.

INJURIES: Tottenham —  OUT: Dele Alli (hamstring), Harry Kane (ankle), Ben Davies (groin), Vincent Janssen (knee), Eric Dier (illness) | Leicester City — OUT: Mark Albrighton (hamstring), Daniel Amartey (ankle)

PL Sunday preview: Man City v. Arsenal, plus Man United in action

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Manchester City’s title hopes are on the line while Arsenal and Manchester United fight for a place in the top four in what should be an incredibly important day of matches.

[READ: USMNT takes down Costa Rica]

Manchester City v. Arsenal — 11:30 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

With a loss to Newcastle last weekend, Manchester City’s margin for error continues to shrink as it fights to win the Premier League again. However, it will be a tough task against an Arsenal side with three wins in its last four, including a confidence-building victory over Chelsea.

Working in Manchester City’s favor is the history and form of Sergio Aguero, who has scored seven goals in his last 11 matches against Arsenal. Man City has won its last three matches against Arsenal and if they make it four, it will be the first of that occurrence since 1937, according to the Premier League.

In the past, Manchester City’s midfield passing and vision would be talented enough to break down Arsenal’s porous backline. However, Arsenal seems to have shored up its defense, which could make for an interesting matchup against the likes of Kevin De Bruyne.

On the other side, Arsenal has a chance to debut its new signing, Dennis Suarez. Suarez was the only first team signing to come in this winter, when Arsenal requested reinforcements along the wings and fans wanted in in defense. But Suarez could play anywhere across the front three and in attacking midfield. An interesting storyline related to this is what Arsenal manager Unai Emery does with Mesut Ozil. The German playmaker made his first start since Boxing Day in last Tuesday’s 2-1 win over Cardiff at home, but with Suarez in the fold, is Ozil now out for good?

INJURIES: Manchester City —  OUT: Vincent Kompany (undisclosed); QUESTIONABLE: Benjamin Mendy, Ederson (both knee injuries) | Arsenal — OUT: Sokratis, Danny Welbeck (both ankle), Rob Holding (knee); QUESTIONABLE: Laurent Koscielny (jaw), Ainsley Maitland-Niles (knee), and Henrikh Mkhitaryan (foot)


Leicester City v. Manchester United — 9:05 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer‘s 100 percent record as Man United manager came to an end last Tuesday in a surprise 2-2 draw at home against Burnley, where the Red Devils came back down to earth a bit. Late goals from Paul Pogba and Victor Lindelof saved Man United’s blushes but it was only a matter of time before they delivered a sub-standard performance. However, Solskjaer’s formula, allowing his players the creative license to attack, especially down the wings, has paid dividends handsomely since the Norwegian took over as manager in December.

A bonus for Man United fans on transfer deadline day was not only the departure of long-time midfielder Marouane Fellaini for China, but the announcement of a new contract for Anthony Martial. The young French winger has looked promising this season, and could make a big impact for Man United down the stretch as they work to secure a top-four finish.

As for Leicester City, Claude Puel‘s side has been in a terrible rut recently. Yet, the Foxes have somehow managed to draw or beat Liverpool (draw), Chelsea and Manchester City (both wins) since late December. It seems that against some of the bigger clubs, they rise to the occasion, especially when those clubs leave space in behind for Jamie Vardy and co. to attack on the counter. In fact, Vardy is tied with Aguero and Gylfi Sigurdsson for the most goals against Man United since the start of the 2014-2015 season, scoring four in that span. Youri Tielemans, Leicester City’s new signing and a talented Belgian midfielder, could make his debut against Man United at home. Tielemans, who – fun fact – once displaced Sacha Kljestan at Anderlecht as a 16-year-old, never really settled in at AS Monaco over the last 18 months. Perhaps a change of scenery for him will help. Puel’s side will surely avoid relegation, but another big result against a top-6 side could help the Frenchman’s case to remain as manager for the long term.

INJURIES: Leicester City —  OUT: Daniel Amartey (ankle) | Manchester United — OUT: Marcos Rojo (undisclosed); QUESTIONABLE: Anthony Martial (knock); PROBABLE: Paul Pogba (knock), Chris Smalling (toe)

Transfer rumor roundup: Rakitic to Chelsea; Fellaini set for China

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Make sure to tune-in for our special Transfer Deadline Day show on NBCSN on Thursday, Jan. 31 from 5 p.m. ET as we focus on all of the moves across the Premier League in the January window. You can stream the show live online right here.

[ MORE: Monday’s transfer rumor roundup | Sunday | Saturday ]

With one former Barcelona midfielder, Cesc Fabregas, having left the club this month, Chelsea are reportedly plotting a move to acquire another playmaker from the defending La Liga champions: Ivan Rakitic. According to Spanish outlet Sport, the Blues will wait until the summer to bid for the 30-year-old Croatian, but he is said to rank very high on manager Maurizio Sarri‘s wish list. Rakitic’s place in the team could be in doubt next season with the arrival of Ajax wonderkid Frenkie de Jong in the summer.


Manchester City have a left back problem-ish, with Benjamin Mendy having suffered two knee injuries in his two seasons at the club and central midfielder-by-trade Fabian Delph proving less effective in season no. 2 as the deputy left back. Thus, the defending Premier League champions are said to be in the hunt for Leicester City’s Ben Chilwell. The 22-year-old has been a consistent figure in the Leicester team since graduating from the club’s academy in 2017. He would also satisfy the requirements for English-trained players in the squad, with Man City presently a bit short on domestic products.


Marouane Fellaini could very well have played his final game for Manchester United as an unnamed Chinese club is said to be deep into negotiations with the player and club over a January move for the 31-year-old Belgian midfielder. Fellaini’s signed a two-year contract extension last summer, meaning he has 18 months left on his current deal. The Chinese transfer window will remain open until the end of February, leaving ample time to complete a deal.


Arsenal boss Unai Emery confirmed on Tuesday that the club is “looking at two different players and the possibility they can come,” but the Spaniard refused to confirm whether or not midfielders Ivan Perisic (Inter Milan) and Denis Suarez (Barcelona) were the players under consideration following reports of the Gunners’ interest on Monday.

  • Yet another young prospect is set to leave Man City without ever having played for the club. Rabbi Matondo joined from Cardiff City, for $650,000, in 2016, and the 18-year-old Welshman is now expected to move to Bundesliga side Schalke for nearly $14 million.
  • Jonathan Castro Otto, currently on loan to Wolverhampton Wanderers, will see his loan from Atletico Madrid become a permanent transfer in the coming days as Wolves are expected to pay the previously agreed fee of nearly $24 million for the 24-year-old Spanish full back.
  • While Mauricio Pochettino is likely desperate to bring in a player or two to strengthen his injury-ravaged Tottenham Hotspur squad, those dreams are greatly outweighed by chairman Daniel Levy’s desire to shed forward Vincent Janssen‘s contract with the Dutch forward failing to make an appearance at the club in nearly 18 months. Burnley are reportedly considering a move for the 24-year-old.

Premier League transfer needs: Final week of the window

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One week ladies and gents, that is all we have left.

Until the January transfer window slams shut in the Premier League, of course. Sorry for sparking any apocalyptic thoughts among you…

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights

Anyway, with the transfer window closing at 6 p.m. ET next Thursday, Jan. 31, there are still plenty of PL clubs who have yet to make a single signing and are coy on the possibility of adding to their squads. There are also plenty of players praying for a big move, or just a switch to somewhere they can lock down some guaranteed playing time.

You just know everyone loves a last-minute bargain.

With that in mind, here’s a look at the business each of the Premier League’s clubs should do if they dip into the market in the final seven days.

Tick-tock…


Arsenal
Key transfer needs: Center back, CM – Unai Emery has had so many injuries in defense that he needs to add cover, but he’s already said he can only bring players in on loan. With Aaron Ramsey agreeing his move to Juventus for the summer, Denis Suarez seems to be coming in on loan from Barcelona, but do Arsenal really need another central midfielder? Getting a new center back in should be the priority and although they’ve been linked with Eric Bailly, that seems like a long shot.


Bournemouth
Key transfer needs: None – They’ve done their business nice and early with Nathaniel Clyne and Dominic Solanke arriving from Liverpool, then promising young Welsh center back Chris Mepham arriving from Brentford for $15 million. With Jermain Defoe moving to Rangers, buying Solanke was a big risk at $24.1 million but he has bags of potential and Eddie Howe will think he can develop that talent a la David Brooks, Ryan Fraser and Callum Wilson. Clyne is only on loan, but you can see a permanent deal happening this summer. Mepham could be a long-term replacement for Nathan Ake, who reportedly has a buy-back clause in his contract and his former club Chelsea are keen to exercise it.


Brighton & Hove Albion
Key transfer need: Central midfield – Some extra depth in central midfield is all that is needed, as Chris Hughton has a strong squad and the quality of his starting XI doesn’t drop significantly when a regular is replaced. Having some extra nous in central midfield would be a good move, but not essential. The Seagulls probably won’t sign anyone.


Burnley
Key transfer needs: Winger, attacking midfielder – Injuries to key players in attack have hampered Burnley for most of this season, and with their defense sorted out in recent weeks and Tom Heaton back in goal, they are shored up at the back. They could do with adding more creativity in the final third but Sean Dyche will be hesitant to spend big.


Cardiff City
Key transfer needs: Striker, defenders – There is real work to do for Cardiff to seal some signings, and with the tragic situation regarding their club-record signing Emiliano Sala they are likely without a new forward to push them away from the relegation zone. Cardiff do not have a big budget and will have to wait for the last minute. They will have to get creative and look at loan deals, as Neil Warnock was angry to lose out to Bournemouth for Nathaniel Clyne.


Chelsea
Key transfer needs: Central midfield – With Alvaro Morata and Olivier Giroud misfiring, Maurizio Sarri needed a new striker and he finally got one: Gonzalo Higuain arrived initially on loan from Juventus and will be tasked with putting away the copious chances Chelsea create. Cesc Fabregas left for Monaco and Sarri wants a new central midfielder, but a $55 million move for Cagliari midfielder Nicolo Barella seems unlikely, while Leandro Paredes seems to be heading to PSG instead. Maybe just play Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Callum Hudson-Odoi or Ross Barkley more, Maurizio?


Crystal Palace
Key transfer needs: Striker, striker, striker… – Roy Hodgson needs one thing to turn this team into a midtable side: a striker. Michy Batshuayi has been mentioned on several occasions but Hodgson has had to rely on less than prolific Andros Townsend, Wilfried Zaha and Jordan Ayew for goals. Palace are set elsewhere, but need a new targetman. If they don’t sign anyone, at least Christian Benteke is  now back from injury. Reports that Borussia Dortmund want to sign Wilfried Zaha in the summer are worrying for Palace, but the Ivory Coast winger would demand a huge transfer fee if he did leave Selhurst Park. All of the focus should be adding help for Wilf as the Eagles aim to push away from a relegation battle in the final months of the season.


Everton
Key transfer needs: Striker, center back – The Toffees need a new center forward too, as Cenk Tosun‘s move just hasn’t worked out and Dominic Calvert-Lewin may not cut the mustard at the top level. Richarlison has had to play through the middle a lot this season and he is clearly better coming off the left. Jean-Kevin Augustin has been linked with a move to the Toffees, as well as other PL clubs, but he may be too expensive after a big outlay on new players over the past 12 months. Perhaps getting Michy Batshuayi in on loan makes more sense? As for defense, Kurt Zouma, Michael Keane and Yerry Mina have had rollercoaster campaigns and getting them extra cover, especially in a 3-4-3 formation, is vital.


Fulham
Key transfer needs: Center back, full backs – Claudio Ranieri has improved this Fulham defense significantly but this may be all he can do with his group of players. Gary Cahill has been linked with a loan move from Chelsea and Ranieri could do with strengthening both full back positions and adding two new center backs. Going forward they look more than adequate, and added Ryan Babel on loan to help with that, but there’s no real balance in this team. Gary Cahill was linked with a move to Fulham on loan, and his experienced would be helpful for plenty of teams at the bottom of the table.


Huddersfield Town
Key transfer needs: Everywhere – It is quite simple, Huddersfield need to spend big in the transfer window or they are going to get relegated. It seems they’re already resigned to their fate. Jason Puncheon has arrived from Crystal Palace on loan and has made a difference, but top quality in midfield and attack is needed. Losing Aaron Mooy and Danny Williams for a key part of the season was a blow. The Terriers know they will have to add a few new players in the next week to give themselves a chance of staying up, but that likely depends on how they get on in their next game.


Leicester City
Key transfer needs: Striker, central midfield – With Vicente Iborra sold to Villarreal, there is a hole in central midfield for Claude Puel to plug. Up top the likes of Shinji Okazaki and Kelechi Iheanacho continue to deliver lackluster displays and Jamie Vardy really needs some support. Bringing in a strong center forward who can link up with Vardy would be ideal. But Leicester probably won’t spend anything.


Liverpool
Key transfer needs: Defenders – Injuries have hit Jurgen Klopp‘s side hard in this area of the pitch, but Joe Gomez, Dejan Lovren and Trent Alexander-Arnold will be back fit soon. Maybe a young defender or right back who can be developed is the way to go. Either way, Liverpool don’t need to do anything in the final days of the window.


Manchester City
Key transfer needs: Left back, defensive midfielder – Benjamin Mendy‘s injury problems mean that left back is the main area needed to strengthen in. Pep Guardiola‘s plan to play Fabian Delph there worked last season, but not so much this season, while Oleksandr Zinchenko hasn’t settled in that role. Aymeric Laporte has plugged the gap for now, but a long-term left back to challenge Mendy is badly needed. A long-term replacement for Fernandinho is needed too, as the Brazilian is badly missed when he’s been out injured. A few names thrown around to come into central midfield include Declan Rice (despite his new contract at West Ham) and Everton Soares, while City were priced out of a deal for Frankie de Jong as he signed for Barcelona.


Manchester United
Key transfer needs: Center back, left back – Defensively United need some serious help, as their stable of center backs are getting by in games but David De Gea is usually bailing them out. Luke Shaw is their only real option at left back, with Matteo Darmian, Marcos Rojo and Ashley Young able to play there out of position in a pinch. But Ole Gunnar Solskjaer probably won’t be allowed to spend money as he isn’t the permanent boss.


Newcastle United
Key transfer needs: Striker, central midfielder, winger – Now, it is very unlikely Rafael Benitez will be given money to spend in January, but he does need to strengthen in a few areas. Defensively they are solid enough and they are all set. But going forward he is woefully short of quality options. Extra quality off the wing, a No. 10 and a striker to partner Salomon Rondon is needed. Miguel Almiron from Atlanta United has been linked with a move to St James’ Park but the Magpies are baulking at the $35 million transfer fee and Atlanta will let this run until the final hours of the window as they are in no rush. Benitez will be pulling his hair out right about now, as Newcastle just need a few reinforcements to push well clear of the relegation zone.  Another club which could use Batshuayi to strengthen their attack.


Southampton
Key transfer needs: Winger, striker, center back – Saints have yet to bring in a new signing, while Wesley Hoedt, Manolo Gabbiadini and Steven Davis have all been moved on and Cedric is on his way out. It seems like Ralph Hasenhuttl is keen to head to his former club RB Leipzig add the likes of Dayot Upamecano or Willi Orban to shore up his defensive unit, while adding Jean-Kevin Augustin, also from Leipzig, would be a major coup. Time is ticking for Saints, and their biggest need is for a new speedy striker to challenge Danny Ings, Michael Obefemi, Shane Long.


Tottenham Hotspur
Key transfer needs: Central midfield, striker – The latter has become essential given injuries to Harry Kane and Dele Alli, while Heung-Min Son‘s absence throughout January has also hurt Spurs. It is unlikely they will do any business in the final week of the window, even after selling Mousa Dembele to the Chinese Super League. Harry Winks and Oliver Skipp will be asked to step into prominent roles in midfield in the final months of the season and that’s the great thing about Mauricio Pochettino: he loves giving young players a chance to shine.


Watford
Key transfer need: Center back – It is unlikely Watford will do much business but if they do, a new center back should be a priority. The Hornets are going along nicely under Javi Gracia and their squad looks extremely strong. If Abdoulaye Doucoure forces a move then it will be tough, but it is likely he will leave in the summer.


West Ham United
Key transfer needs: Striker – The Hammers are pretty set and spent a lot of money in the summer but Marko Arnautovic‘s stance that he wants to leave for the Chinese Super League has complicated what should have been a quiet window. Javier Hernandez reportedly wants out, while Andy Carroll is struggling after his latest return from injury. If Arnie is allowed to leave, Celta Vigo’s Maxi Gomez is said to top their list of replacement strikers. Batshuayi could be a short-term fix until the summer.


Wolverhampton Wanderers
Key transfer need: Striker – Recent wins have shown the strength Nuno Espirito Santo already has in his squad. Having another option for Raul Jimenez up top would be handy if they are going to finish seventh and qualify for Europe. A move for Tammy Abraham fell through, and although they’ve been linked with Jean-Kevin Augustin too, they may not spend at all.