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PL Sunday preview: Merseyside, west London derbies on tap

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A big weekend of Premier League derbies wraps up on Sunday, when Merseyside and west London showdowns take center stage with plenty of title and top-four implications.

[ MORE: Man City win, lose KDB | Man United come back, beat Southampton ]

Watford v. Leicester City — 7 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

Brendan Rodgers is set to make his return to the PL when he debuts as Leicester manager on Sunday. Rodgers, who was appointed the Foxes’ new boss earlier this week, was in attendance for his new side’s 2-1 victory over Brighton & Hove Albion on Tuesday — a result that snapped the six-game winless skid (five losses) that ultimately cost Claude Puel his job. It was Leicester’s first victory since New Year’s Day. Rodgers was hugely successful at Celtic — two league titles, two Scottish Cups and three League Cups in two-plus seasons — his first stop after being fired by Liverpool in October 2015.

Up first is a trip to eighth-place Watford, a side that went to Anfield and suffered a 5-0 hammering at the hands of Liverpool on Wednesday, just five days after hanging five goals of their own on Cardiff City. The Hornets, under first-year boss Javi Gracia, haven’t lost back-to-back games since the first week of December, a streak which included a 2-1 defeat to Leicester in these sides’ first meeting of 2018-19.

INJURIES: Watford —  OUT: None | Leicester — OUT: Marc Albrighton (hamstring), Daniel Amartey (ankle)


Fulham v. Chelsea — 9:05 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

Fulham’s first season back in the PL will almost certainly end with the west London club making an immediate return to the Championship, but that fact hardly suffices to explain the Cottagers’ struggles this season: following Claudio Ranieri‘s dismissal and the appointment of Scott Parker as interim manager, Fulham have now employed the same number of managers as they have won games (4). The deficit they must overcome to pull off the greatest escape the PL has ever seen? 10 points with 10 games left to play, beginning with a visit from nearby Chelsea on Sunday.

Speaking of managers coming under fire of late, Maurizio Sarri‘s situation at Chelsea is hardly any better these days. Not only have the fans turned on him, but the Blues have lost three of their last five league games while also falling flat in the League Cup final. That league form has seen them tumble to sixth in the PL table, now five points back of fourth-place Manchester United, though Chelsea now have a pair of games in hand. Sarri says Kepa Arrizabalaga will reclaim his place as first-choice goalkeeper in one of the next two games after refusing to be subbed off in that final defeat, giving way to Willy Caballero to keep the clean sheet in a 2-0 victory over Tottenham Hotspur on Wednesday.

INJURIES: Fulham —  OUT: Alfie Mawson (knee); QUESTIONABLE: Andre Schurrle (illness) | Chelsea — OUT: Danny Drinkwater (undisclosed)


Everton v. Liverpool — 11:15 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

Sure, Liverpool would be delighted to complete their second double over Everton in three seasons’ time, but the Reds will have their sights set much higher than Merseyside dominance on Sunday. Now two points back of Manchester City in the PL title race, Jurgen Klopp‘s side needs all three points from one of its toughest games each season to keep pace with the defending champions and remain on pace to lift England’s top-flight trophy at Anfield for the first time since 1990 (pre-PL era). Having only beaten the Toffees in the season’s first meeting via one of the stranger goals you’ll ever see, the trip to Goodison should prove more difficult than Everton’s ninth-place standing might indicate.

Everton have a bit more confidence now than they would have had this, the 233rd edition of the derby, been played earlier this week. After losing three straight, by a combined score of 6-1, Marco Silva‘s side bounced back with a 3-0 thrashing of Cardiff on Tuesday — a result that might have just bought the first-year Portuguese manager a bit of time. Of particular worry for Everton: star forward Richarlison, who paced the side with 10 goals until Gylfi Sigurdsson‘s brace against Cardiff pulled him one ahead, went without a goal for the entire month of February and has scored just one PL goal since Boxing Day.

INJURIES: Everton —  QUESTIONABLE: Leighton Baines (ribs) | Liverpool — OUT: Dejan Lovren (hamstring), Joe Gomez (ankle), Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (knee); QUESTIONABLE: Roberto Firmino (ankle)

Premier League Club Power Rankings: Week 28

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There’s a new team at the top, a new one at the bottom, and a club reaching its highest point of the season… in terms of power rankings and maybe soon in terms of the table.

[ MORE: Ranieri fired ]

20. Fulham — The last time Fulham fired a pair of managers in the same season, well, they got relegated. The hiring of Scott Parker may just be a, “Let’s see if you’ve got the stuff to lead us back next season.”
Last week: 19
Season high: 11
Season low: 20

19. Huddersfield Town — A feel-good win for Jan Siewart at the John Smith’s Stadium against a very good Wolves team. Maybe they have a shot at survival? Almost certainly not, but maybe.
Last week: 20
Season high: 16
Season low: 20

18. Cardiff City — As the Bluebirds slip into the Bottom Three, their remaining fixtures pick up in caliber of opponent. Uh oh?
Last week: 15
Season high: 13
Season low: 20

(Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)

17. Brighton and Hove Albion — In danger/eligible for the unlikely “Win a cup, qualify for Europe, get relegated” combination.
Last week: 18
Season high: 9
Season low: 19

16. Burnley — Looking down after an 8-match unbeaten run to clearly see the drop zone is alarming.
Last week: 14
Season high: 13
Season low: 20

15. Southampton — Ralphampton lives.
Last week: 17
Season high: 13
Season low: 20

14. Newcastle United — There’s a world in which Rafa Benitez wins Manager of the Year, Miguel Almiron makes Mike Ashley realize the potential of a spending Newcastle, and next season does not involve a relegation fight. It’s somewhere, like the old TV show “Fringe,” and we bet there’s a lot of Geordies who would like to drag it through the breach.
Last week: 16
Season high: 13
Season low: 19

13. Bournemouth — Since starting 6-2-2, the Cherries have collected 14 points. Not good, Ed. Not good.
Last week: 9
Season high: 6
Season low: 14

12. Crystal Palace — Maybe this is Roy Hodgson‘s last Palace hurrah, but he’s getting a job done.
Last week: 10
Season high: 6
Season low: 17

11. Everton — How huge would a Merseyside Derby result be for both the Toffees and the title race? Monumental.
Last week: 13
Season high: 5
Season low: 15

10. Leicester City — I’m not sure that Brendan Rodgers fixes anything, but the Foxes are better than what they showed under Claude Puel.
Last week: 12
Season high: 7
Season low: 13

(Nigel French/PA via AP)

9. West Ham United — Manuel Pellegrini‘s done a fine job, but needs to pile up points over the next four matches to give the Irons a legit shot at seventh.
Last week: 11
Season high: 6
Season low: 20

8. Watford — What is this team?
Last week: 8
Season high: 4
Season low: 14

7. Wolves — A dry patch has seen Nuno Espirito Santo‘s men claim just two of nine available points while losing to Huddersfield Town and drawing Newcastle and Bournemouth. We hate to say it, but that could be it for their European aspirations given Chelsea, Arsenal, Liverpool, and Manchester United on the back end.
Last week: 6
Season high: 5
Season low: 13

6. Chelsea — That was a quality win against Spurs. You might even call it a Kepa (We’ll be here all night).
Last week: 7
Season high: 1
Season low: 7

5. Spurs — There’s a school of thought that Spurs have overachieved in their continued finishes inside the Top Three, but this season feels like a couple of colossal missed opportunities. One was the summer transfer window, and the other is the last five days.
Last week: 3
Season high: 2
Season low: 8

4. Arsenal — They are fun again, yeah, but the Gunners also very much carry the vibe that Arsene Wenger left behind (both the good and bad parts). We kinda want to see Unai Emery, Season 2 without seeing any more of the first edition.
Last week: 5
Season high: 2
Season low: 9

 (Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)

3. Manchester United — *New season high*Fun again. And we’ve also learned through the Ole Gunnar Solskjaer era that the Ed Woodward redemption tour is a thing; This roster, even with its lack of spending on defenders, gave the Red Devils enough to compete in England.
Last week: 4
Season high: 3
Season low: 14

2. Manchester City — Tick, tock. Tick, tock. Will Liverpool open the door?
Last week: 1
Season high: 1
Season low: 3

1. Liverpool — The fact is that Liverpool’s point against Manchester United gives it an advantage only exceeded by one other facet; Liverpool may only have Premier League matches on its docket within a couple of weeks, while Man City remains alive in three competitions.
Last week: 2
Season high: 1
Season low: 4

Rodgers visits players after win, promises ‘special things on horizon’

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Leicester City is looking ahead to better times after the firing of Claude Puel, the hiring of Brendan Rodgers, and a 2-1 defeat of Brighton and Hove Albion on Tuesday.

[ RECAP: Leicester 2-1 Brighton ]

“We want to look up rather than down now,” said Harry Maguire. “The performances haven’t been too bad but the results haven’t been good enough.”

The performance was good enough for three points on Tuesday, though Davy Propper pulled a goal back for the Seagulls after Leicester went ahead 2-0.

Leicester interim manager Mike Stowall said the club is expecting Rodgers to instill consistency and as growth mindset in the team.

“He’s got great experience working with young players and we’ve got plenty,” Stowall said. “He’s got a presentation for them to show them what he expects on and off the pitch so I look forward to seeing that as well.”

“He’s pleased. He just spoke to the lads in the dressing room. He was proud of them and liked the spirit and he promised them there are special things on the horizon.”

Rodgers had a big personality and will quickly move to quell unrest at a club rumored to be plagued by “player power” spearheaded by striker Jamie Vardy.

And Maguire thinks the statement of Rodgers leaving Celtic for the KP is a loud one.

“I’m excited to get started, we all know his profile and what he’s done,” Maguire said. “We’re all looking forward to working with him. … Celtic are a massive club so it shows how big Leicester are getting and our ambitions. It’s exciting times. We know he’s coached a lot of young players and we hope he can bring them on. We’re all excited.”

Leicester City wins as new manager Rodgers looks on (video)

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  • Vardy scores 9th of season
  • Gray instrumental for Foxes
  • Leicester fired Puel earlier this week

Demarai Gray and Jamie Vardy scored as Leicester City topped Brighton and Hove Albion 2-1 on Tuesday at the King Power Stadium.

New manager Brendan Rodgers was in the stands for the win, which saw the Foxes pull to within five points of seventh place Wolves and Watford.

Brighton is just three points clear of the drop zone.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Gray’s goal came after 10 minutes, with Wilfried Ndidi winning possession for Leicester and sending Youri Tielemans on his way to setting up the opener.

It could’ve been 2-0 in short order had Mat Ryan not made a nice save on Gray.

That seemingly snapped Brighton to life, and Pascal Gross‘ deflected offering made Kasper Schmeichel react quickly to keep Leicester in front.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

[ MORE: Premier League box scores, stats ]

Leicester doubled its lead through Vardy, who likely will have reveled in returning to the score sheet following his tumultuous relationship with the fired Claude Puel.

This was very much a team goal, with Tielemans, Ricardo Pereira, and James Maddison all part of the build-up.

That’s when Brighton pulled a goal back through Davy Propper, his first Premier League marker coming when he took a touch off a deflected cross and beat Schmeichel.

Lewis Dunk wasn’t too far from equalizing with a header, but Leicester held onto its lead as the match reached its final quarter hour.

[ MORE: Premier League stats ]

Leicester appoints Brendan Rodgers as manager

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Leicester City has named Brendan Rodgers as its new manager, the club announced on Tuesday, just two days after firing Claude Puel.

[ MORE: Top PL storylines for Week 28 (Tuesday & Wednesday) ]

Rodgers returned to management following his October 2015 departure from Liverpool by taking over at Scottish giants Celtic in the summer of 2016. He went on to win back-to-back league titles — to go with a pair of Scottish Cups and three Scottish League Cups — in his first two-plus seasons at the club, with a third straight triumph looking likely as they hold an eight-point lead with 11 games left to play.

Leicester had previously requested permission to speak with Rodgers — dubbed the Foxes’ no. 1 candidate — and permission was, “very reluctantly,” granted.

[ MORE: Premier League midweek streaming, TV schedule ]

According to reports out of the UK, Leicester could be forced to pay Celtic a fee of $10 million as compensation for Rodgers’ services.