Cedric

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Premier League Preview: Chelsea, Man City, Arsenal, Man United in action

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Sunday’s slate of Premier League fixtures is set to be filled with jam-packed actions, as Chelsea, Manchester City, Arsenal, andManchester United all look to climb up the table.

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Southampton vs. Chelsea — 9:00 a.m. ET, on NBC Sports Gold

Desperate for points, it is likely both Southampton and Chelsea will go for the jugular on Sunday at St Mary’s Stadium.

Coming off of a 2-1 win against Lille in Champions League play, Frank Lampard‘s men are in better spirits, but then again, their season has been riddled with inconsistency. The quintessential embodiment of that is N’Golo Kante, who has been riddled with injuries all season, but is expected to go on Sunday, according to Lampard.

“It’s something we’ll have to watch over the next 24, 48 hours to make sure he’s okay,” Lampard said on Friday. “All the players are on a semi-recovery program after the Lille game but it’s also the fact he hasn’t played much.”

“In terms of the injury, he’s fine and there was no fallout with that from the Lille game so it’s just about making sure he’s fit and ready, which is a call for me to make,” he added.

The home side, on the other hand, have lost two consecutive league games, and are only a point clear of the red line. The Saints, whose last league win at home dates back to last season, won’t count on Cedric Soares or Moussa Djenepo. No pressure, Ralph Hasenhüttl.

INJURIES: Southampton — OUT: Cedric Soares (calf), Moussa Djenepo (thigh)| Chelsea — OUT: Emerson (thigh), Ruben Loftus-Cheek (achilles), Antonio Rüdiger (groin), Marco Van Ginkel (knee)

 Arsenal vs. Bournemouth — 9 a.m. ET, on NBC Sports Gold

Mezut Ozil is nowhere to be found, and Arsenal are on a seven-game unbeaten run. Welcome to the Unai Emery era, which writes a new chapter on Sunday as it hosts Bournemouth.

Fueled by newcomer Gabriel Martinelli‘s brace, the Gunners routed Standard Leige, 4-0, at Emirates Stadium on Thursday. It is the ideal result the North London side needed ahead of Sundays match, but it is misleading in a sense. Despite the positive results, one thing remains true of Arsenal: an unreliable backline. In seven games, the Gunners have allowed 11 goals, a total count that is only one off their goals scored through the seven-game stretch.

Bournemouth, too, have been in worse shape in the past. In September, Eddie Howe‘s side were unbeaten in league play. The Cherries, injured riddles and all, will look to use their current positive run and their previous experiences at the Emirates to their advantage on Sunday.

“What we have to do from our previous visits to the Emirates is start better,” Howe said. “We’ve conceded early goals, which have made the games even harder for us. So if we can start stronger, show a better resolve early in the game, we’ll give ourselves a chance.”

INJURIES: Arsenal — OUT: Alexandre Lacazette (ankle) | Bournemouth — OUT: David Brooks (ankle), Dan Gosling (hip), Chris Daniels (knee), Adam Smith (hamstring), Junior Stanislas (hamstring)

Manchester City vs. Wolverhampton Wanderers — 9:00 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

If Manchester City’s loss at Norwich City in September wasn’t a wake-up call, then who knows what a wake-up call is.

Since their historical woeful night then, Pep Guardiola and company haven’t looked back, winning five consecutive games. City will be without Kevin De Bruyne once again, but as their recent run has showed, there is no lack of firepower from the defending champions. That said, the Spanish manager is aware that against Wolves, any team should be cautious.

“Yesterday they took an incredible result,” Guardiola said about Wolves’ Europa League performance midweek. “I saw the game and they were so solid as expected. At the end, they have a team to make you suffer in the Premier League.”

“They know exactly what they have to do, three or four seasons together and there is a really impressive defensive structure,” he added. “We have to be smart to take a result. ”

Wolves, the outright underdog on Sunday, are far from meeting the expectations set on them, taking up the 15th spot on the league’s table. Recently, with the helpful of more efficient attack and sturdier backline, the Wolves find themselves on a four-game unbeaten streak. Will that be enough to hold off City? Probably not.

INJURIES: Manchester City — OUT: Leroy Sane (knee), Aymeric Laporte (knee), John Stones (thigh), Kevin De Bruyne (hamstring)| Wolves — OUT: None

Newcastle United vs. Manchester United — 11:30 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

Sunday’s visit to St. James’ Park poses as the ideal scenario for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Manchester United to send a message of intent and crawl out of the 11th spot, which has made club officials the lighting rod for criticism.

Without Paul Pogba, Jesse Lingard, and Anthony Martial to name a few, the Red Devils will have their work cutout in front of them in one of the league’s most intimidating atmospheres. Still, win on Sunday can serve as the turning point Solskjaer has been looking for all along.

“Of course you don’t enjoy not winning games,” he told Sky Sports. “You put your heart, life and soul into this job. If you win games you are happier, your mood changes but it doesn’t mean your performances have been better – results change mood.”

“For us to get a result [at Newcastle] is vital now,” the manager added. “I think it will change the mood.The boys can go away on their international break and freshen up their heads.”

The Norwegian’s counterpart on Sunday, Steve Bruce, too, is in charge of guiding his club out of internal turmoil. For Bruce, however, who has led Newcastle to only one win this season, the seat is much warmer, and he acknowledges that the pressure  for him to turn the results around continues to worsen.

“Mud has been thrown my way since I walked through the door, that’s not going to change,” Bruce said heading into Sunday’s match. “The only thing that can change it for me is results. I’m determined, if I possibly can, to turn it around and take the club forward. That has been my remit since I arrived.”

“I’m a resilient so and so,” he added. “You wouldn’t be human if it didn’t affect you in some sort of way but you try and get on with your job as best you can. These days you don’t get the time that you would like to get, you have to get results instantly. The flack always stops with me at the top of the tree but that’s the way the job is.”

INJURIES: Newcastle United  OUT: Matt Ritchie (ankle), Florian Lejeuene (knee) | Manchester United  OUT: Paul Pogba (ankle), Anthony Martial (thigh), Jesse Lingard (hamstring), Eric Bailly (knee), Phil Jones (unknown), Aaron Wan-Bissaka (illness)

The most intense derby never played

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PORTSMOUTH — I want to start by saying I’m from Hampshire. The south coast derby between Portsmouth and Southampton is something I’ve always been aware of, as the pride of both port cities on England’s south coast is on the line for the League Cup third round tie.

Locally, it dominates discussions. These two teams go years without playing one another. This time, it has been seven years since their last meeting, before that there has been waits of seven, eight and even 10 years between games.

This rivalry has been born from a lack of action and in those lengthy gaps, many myths about dockers from each city going on strike added further fuel to the fire.

It is the most intense derby hardly ever played. The world hardly ever gets to see it. In the last 31 years the two teams have played each other 10 times. Just 10 times.

The lack of games and opportunity for bragging rights is what makes this derby one of the most intense, and special, in England. Both clubs have fallen on tough times financially in recent years and when one was in the PL, the other was languishing in the lower leagues, and vice versa.

Hampshire police are undertaking their biggest-ever operation to make sure both sets of fans are safe, with drones, helicopters and police horses all out in force. The last time these teams met in the Premier League at Portsmouth it resulted in the highest number of arrests for a PL game in history.

The fact this cup game was drawn out of hat to happen just last month, plus it is being played at night and around rush hour provides huge issues for the local police.

There is an extra crackle in the air around these games. There are extra looks over your shoulder. Many see Hampshire as an idyllic coastal area of England. It may well be most of the time, but not for this game. To use the south coast lexicon this is the Skates versus the Scummers. Yep. You read that correctly.

Here is my first-person account of being in Hampshire ahead of the game, traveling to Fratton Park and being behind-the-scenes at one of the fiercest, and less heard about, derbies in world soccer.


THE BUILD UP

After the draw was announced in late August, there has been a month of build up. A month of fans snapping back at each other. A month of both teams showcasing famous derby wins on social media.

But what is a month when tensions have been bubbling up under the surface for seven years?

The thing about this rivalry is that the cities are 18 miles apart and are pretty much independent from one another. Portsmouth is a naval port, Southampton a container and cruise ship port. It takes 20 minutes to drive from one to the other along the M27, but when you get halfway, towns like Fareham and Whiteley become somewhat of a no man’s land.

If you walk into a pub in these areas, you have no idea who supports who. There’s a scan across the bar, just like walking into a saloon in the Wild West. The tension is very, very real on a daily basis.

Unlike Man City v. Man United, Everton v. Liverpool and Arsenal v. Tottenham, there are rarely people from the same family who support either team. You are either Saints or Pompey. That’s it.

Portsmouth and Southampton should probably be chucked together as one city, just like Raleigh-Durham or Minneapolis-St. Paul in the United States. But there is absolutely no desire from locals for this to happen. None whatsoever. South Hampshire is the eighth largest urban area in the UK, and Southampton and Portsmouth are its two biggest cities.

Local councils and the UK government have tried to link the cities together to get planning and funding for the area as a whole, calling it ‘Solent City’ but there is something holding it all back. Football. And that’s just how it is. The local media outlets cover both teams, towns around both cities selling the Southern Daily Echo (Southampton) and the Portsmouth News. For the days leading up to this game, legends of both clubs have been fanning the flames and talking about past glory.

National radio and TV stations have been debating just how big this game is, and where it ranks in terms of UK and European rivalries. But unless you’re from Hampshire or the South Coast, nobody has a real sense of just how big this is. That is the beauty of it.

For this game, the referees have been told that players subbed off do not have to adhere to the new FIFA laws that they should exit the pitch at the nearest possible spot. Due to fears over their safety, players will have to walk off at the halfway line.

“I think people who have never been to one of those games and never sampled the atmosphere would probably look at it and kind of say ‘Oh, it’s just a little south coast derby, it’s nothing important’, but to the two sets of fans it’s an incredibly important fixture,” Southampton legend Matt Le Tissier said before the game.

Pompey boss Kenny Jackett knows his team are the underdogs (they currently sit fourth from bottom in the third tier and Pompey fans are singing week in, week out for him to be fired) but he also knows playing at home will provide a huge advantage. He smelt an upset.

“Of course we can [cause an upset],” Jackett said. “You can get things right on the day. Particularly with it being a home game, I think that really helps us.”

Saints’ Austrian boss Ralph Hasenhuttl, in his first full season as a manager in England, has been told for the last month just how big this game is. After a less than impressive start to the PL season, Hasenhuttl’s reign as Saints boss will likely be deemed a success if he can do two things: 1) Keep them in the Premier League. 2) Beat Portsmouth.

“Sure you can be a legend. It doesn’t matter if you are a League One team or a Premier League team. In that moment it’s not interesting. It’s about this one game and you can be a big hero if you decide it,” Hasenhuttl said.

Players from both teams talked about the importance of the game, but talk really wouldn’t do it justice.


THE GAME

Heading to Portsmouth on a train from London on the day of the game, Waterloo station, London’s busiest, has numerous trains to Southampton and Portsmouth every hour. But again, both cities are close but kept separate.

Lads in Pompey shirts hung off the train at each stop down to the coast, a beer in hand. Any Saints fans were well disguised.

A train to Portsmouth does not pass through Southampton, and vice versa, for a very good reason. That reason was about to be hammered home.

Pompey fans on the train were watching videos on social media of the police and home fans gathering near the entrance to the stadium.

“Saints haven’t won at Fratton Park for 35 years. That is a long, long time,” said one. “Yeah, but that will end tonight,” said a pessimistic fan. Some Pompey fans were even placing bets on Saints to win.

“I think it is good to play a local rival,” said a child dressed in a Pompey kit to his father. While two Pompey fans sat to one side were getting frustrated by train delays due to signaling problems, they were skeptical. “This is because they’re bringing in the scum. That’s it. This is going to make everyone agitated.”

The walk to the stadium from the station was terrifying. You can only describe it as entrenched, unconscious hatred. This had an edge to it. It is instinctive for these fans to hate one another.

Riot police trucks lined the route to the stadium, police helicopters were overhead, drones in the sky, it was all going on. Portsmouth fans were shown running up and down the streets trying to attack police horses (one of them punching a horse and then getting the expected treatment from officers) and it was all getting a bit out of hand before the game.

It was rumored a small group of Saints fans were caught up in the train chaos and were late to arrive, and the police were doing their best to separate the fans.

Here was the Song of choice belted out by Pompey’s fans:

“He’s only a poor little scummer. His face is all tattered and torn, He made me feel sick, So I hit him with a brick, And now he don’t sing any more.”

Portsmouth fans couldn’t believe a ‘bubble system’ wasn’t being implemented to keep the Saints fans safe.

“There will still be a war. The police are playing a game, ‘which copper can catch the most hooligans.’ It is crazy.”

Another discussion broke out: “You should kick a scummer, or punch one.” Then a nice addition arrived: “I’ll hit one with a brick. That will sort them out.”

Rain pouring down. The wind howling off the English Channel. Floodlights on. An apt scene was set at Fratton Park seconds before kick off.

Fratton Park is one of the oldest, and tightest, grounds in England. It is an intimidating place for any team, let alone their bitter rivals, to visit. It is old school to the extreme.

As Mike Oldfield’s Portsmouth song roared over the speakers, you felt as if you had been transported to the 18th century and were about to leave for the high seas on a tall ship.

The game itself started superbly for the home team. Pompey should have been at least 2-0 up early on. John Marquis hit the post. Brett Pitman had a shot well tipped over by Alex McCarthy and Saints somehow scrambled the ball off the line from the corner as McCarthy juggled with the ball on the floor. It was chaos.

Then, Saints scored with their first chance of the game. Local lad, Danny Ings, first had a shot beaten away and then turned superbly before curling home a beauty to make it 1-0. Saints should have doubled their lead when Ings was denied by MacGillivray, then Hojbjerg had a shot cleared on the line.

Lifelong Saints fans Ings scored a second just before half time and celebrated in front of the home supporters and coins and other objects flew the way of Southampton’s players.

In the away end red flares were plentiful.

Saints were in charge but Pompey, and their crowd, would not go away. Literally.

Home fans chucked the ball at Saints players who were trying to take throw ins. Chants of “Blue Army!” rang out and “Scummers, Scummers!” at regular intervals.

Southampton’s 2,000 fans behind the goal heaped praise on Ings, “he’s one of our own” and the chants got louder and louder.

In the second half the home fans continued to sing and their players continued to come close to pulling a goal back.

Multiple crosses flashed across the goal and both sets of fans were going through their full repertoire of anti-Pompey and Saints songs. Each set of fans sung “there’s only one team in Hampshire” proudly.

“Your support is f***** s***!” sang the Pompey fans as the rain poured down. That was followed by “You’re going home in a Pompey ambulance” and “You dirty scummers, we will see you outside!”

The battle lines had been drawn for the tight streets outside of Fratton Park.

Second half goals from Cedric Soares and Nathan Redmond put the game beyond doubt for Southampton, as their fans celebrated wildly at the final whistle.

It was Saints’ first win at Pompey since 1984. My word, 35 years is a long time to wait for a win at your bitter rivals. And this was their biggest ever win at Portsmouth.

”Four nil in your own back yard!” was the taunting chant from Saints’ fans who had to wait in the stadium for close to an hour after full time as the police cleared the nearby streets of Pompey fans.

Portsmouth’s fans were in great voice too, and no matter how the game turned out on the pitch, the atmosphere off the pitch was right up there with the best. The whole occasion lived up the hype and the weather, the game and the fans all combined to deliver a special night.

This game may not be played for another seven years, and it if isn’t, that’s a shame. It needs to happen more often, but maybe you can get too much of a good thing.

Hasenhuttl was jubilant at the final whistle.

His first tase of the south coast derby has him hooked.

“We will not forget this evening, and the fans too. It was a fantastic atmosphere until the end and to score four goals here is fantastic. It is more than only reaching the next round. It is about reaching the hearts of the fans,” Hasenhuttl said. ‘You could feel the tradition that is in this derby. I think I have never had such an atmosphere in a stadium so far and I have seen a lot in my entire footballing career. It was a very special game for me also.”

Danny Ings added: “It’s a crazy feeling. I’m very fortunate to have played in some big derbies but for me personally, this one tops it. When the draw was made I couldn’t wait for the fixture. When I got the nod to play I just couldn’t wait to step over the white lines and do my best for the club.”

More of this please, Pompey and Saints.

The south coast derby is a gem which teases us every now and then. We want more.

Of course, the intensity bubbles over and there were reports of scuffles after the game, police having to move in and opposition fans clashing in the streets as the rain pelted down on England’s south coast.

If you ever get the chance, one of these derbies at St Mary’s or Fratton Park is a must.

League Cup: Spurs shocked by Colchester United; Saints win derby

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A fierce derby returned after years away, and a League Two side outlasted a Champions League finalist while another fourth-tier entrant clinched a spot in the Round of 16 as well.

[ MORE: JPW at Fratton Park ]

The League Cup delivered the goods on Tuesday.

Colchester United 0-0 (4-3, penalties) Tottenham Hotspur

Lucas Moura smashed the cross bar with Spurs’ fifth penalty kick, and Paulo Gazzaniga couldn’t get to Tom Lapslie’s effort as the U’s advanced to the fourth round and supporters stormed the pitch.

Dean Gerkin stopped Christian Eriksen‘s opening penalty kick to start the extra set, but Jevani Brown’s miss leveled things in the third round.

Spurs were the better side by far despite a lineup with two regular starters in Davinson Sanchez and Dele Alli, as Spurs lined up: Gazzaniga, Walker-Peters, Sanchez, Tanganga, Davies, Dier, Wanyama, Skipp, Dele, Lucas, and Parrott.

The U’s had not attempted a shot by the hour mark, with Spurs taking a dozen. It was a departure from their defeat of Crystal Palace in the last round, when they went hit for hit with the Premier League mainstays and emerged with a win in penalties.

Courtney Senior was a bright spot for the U’s, lashing a shot wide in the 89th.

Portsmouth 0-4 Southampton

This is certainly one of Danny Ings‘ favorite memories since returning home to the South Coast, as the Winchester-born striker scored twice in the first half to give Saints a halftime lead in the first South Coast Derby match in close to a decade.

The game, like most between the heated rivals, was a busy one, as Kenny Jackett’s League One side Pompey punched above their weight and even out-attempted the visitors for some time. But Cedric Soares and Nathan Redmond scored late as Saints outlasted Pompey’s adrenaline to assert their class.

Preston North End 0-3 Manchester City

There was no doubt about this one, though the Championship side put up a better fight than Watford at the weekend.

And to be fair to Watford, City started a much weakened lineup. Seventeen-year-old Taylor Harwood-Bellis started, and mostly impressed, alongside fellow teen Eric Garcia.

Garcia assisted Raheem Sterling on the opener, with Sterling in turn setting up Gabriel Jesus for 2-0. An own goal made it 3-0 before halftime.

Elsewhere

Arsenal 5-0 Nottingham Forest – Gabriel Martinelli scored his first two Arsenal goals, while Emile Smith-Rowe was stretchered off after apparent head injury. Rob Holding, Joe Willock, and Reiss Nelson also scored as Kieran Tierney made his Gunners debut in the shutout.

Crawley Town 1-1 (5-3, penalties) Stoke City – Goals traded in first half as Potters go down to 10 men in 61st minute. Stoke goal scorer Sam Vokes cracked the side’s first penalty off the bar,

Luton Town 0-4 Leicester City – Pretty easy for the Foxes, who rested most of its main men for a Premier League date with Newcastle United. James Justin scores in return to hometown club. Demarai Gray was at the double while Youri Tielemans also scored.

Watford 2-1 Swansea City – Danny Welbeck gets first Hornets goal, but Watford needed a late goal from Roberto Pereyra to push past Swans.435

Sheffield Wednesday 0-2 Everton – Two early goals from Dominic Calvert-Lewin quickly put upset hopes to bed as Marco Silva gets some relief.

Djenepo magic leads Saints past Sheffield United

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Southampton beat Sheffield United 1-0 at Bramall Lane on Saturday, as a thrilling end-to-end game was decided by a moment of magic from Moussa Djenepo.

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In his first Premier League start the Mali winger, a summer arrival from Standard Liege, danced past several Blades defenders before slotting home the winner in the second half, as Ralph Hasenhuttl‘s Saints completed back-to-back away wins for the first time since March 2017.

Sheffield United had former Saints striker Billy Sharp, who came on as a sub, sent off late on as they huffed and puffed but couldn’t find a way past Angus Gunns and a resolute Saints defense.

With the win Saints now have seven points on the board and they are unbeaten in four games in all competitions, while Sheffield United are without a win since the second week of the season.

3 things we learned

1. Djenepo the difference: It is too early to say that Djenepo is finally Saints’ replacement for Sadio Mane, but it is not too early to say he will be a very important play for Southampton this season. He danced past several tackles after showing his strength to score a brilliant solo goal and that is his second stunning strike in as many games. Djenepo was the difference and for a Saints side looking to shore things up defensively, they have to make the most of their chances at the other end.

2. Saints still haven’t found correct formation: This wasn’t a great display from Southampton though. they looked disjointed as Hasenhuttl tinkered with the formation once again, with Djenepo, Cedric and Hojbjerg all looking like they played at left wing-back at times. Defensively Bednarek and Vestergaard have improved and one goal conceded in the last four games in all competitions points to that. But Saints don’t quite know their best formation yet, even though they are proving tough to beat.

3. Blades not sharp enough: David McGoldrick had some great chances and Ollie McBurnie had a goal disallowed as the Blades were blunted for the first time this season. Chris Wilder‘s side fly forward at every opportunity and gave it their all, but they just looked a little sluggish as Saints snapped into tackles in midfield and cleared crosses into the box. Sheffield United are a dangerous side to play against, but they didn’t have their shooting boots with them on Saturday.

Man of the Match: Moussa Djenepo – The winger has pace, power and trickery and looks like being a bargain buy at $18 million. Djenepo is 21 years old and has the potential to be Saints’ main goalscoring threat this season. Of course, he will be linked with plenty of big clubs if he keeps this form up, but right now it seems like Southampton have unearthed another gem.


Saints started well and Vestergaard got a header on goal which was saved comfortably by Dean Henderson.

A wild few seconds then saw former Sheffield United striker Adams smash a beautiful effort against the post and moments later David McGoldrick was put clean through but Angus Gunn stood his ground to make a superb stop.

The Blades finally got going before half time as John Fleck nodded over and they were causing plenty of problems down their right flank. However, Saints almost caught them on the break as Cedric somehow slotted wide from a great position.

In a lively first half Adams went close again as his header was saved by Henderson, then the Blades caused Saints all kinds of issues with their crosses into the box. Southampton continued to look dangerous on the break as Sofiane Boufal was set up perflectly by Moussa Djenepo but his tame effort was a huge let-off for the home side.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights

The Blades thought they had taken the lead at the start of the second half but McBurnie was offside as he tapped home Oliver Norwood‘s free kick to the back post.

Saints improved as the second half played out with Boufal and Djenepo getting on the ball in dangerous areas in the final third time and time again.

Djenepo did the business as Boufal once again won the ball back, then Djenepo fought off a defender, dribbled past a couple more and slotted home superbly to make it 1-0.

Late on Sheffield United chucked everything at Saints with plenty of balls into the box, as McGoldrick smashed a great chance over the bar.

Substitute Billy Sharp was then sent off for a lunging tackle on Stuart Armstrong as the Blades finished the game with 10 men and couldn’t find an equalizer.

Watch Live: Southampton v. Man United

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Southampton host Manchester United on Saturday (Watch live, 7:30 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com) in an intriguing clash at St Mary’s Stadium.

WATCH LIVE ONLINE HERE

Ralph Hasenhuttl’s Saints have three points on the board, while Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s United have four but that doesn’t tell the whole story so far as both teams will be a little disappointed with their points tallies to date.

Both teams have plenty of injuries to deal with as they square off on the South Coast and they’ve shuffled their lineups accordingly.

In team news Saints bring in Sofiane Boufal for the injured Nathan Redmond, while Cedric replaces Yan Valery.

United make three changes as Ashley Young, Juan Mata and Andreas Pereira come into the lineup.

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