Daniel Amartey

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Premier League Preview: Man United v. Leicester City

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  • Harry Maguire left Leicester for Man United, for $97 million
  • Leicester 3rd in PL heading into Matchweek 5
  • Man United, riding three-game winless skid, sit 8th

Harry Maguire’s new club, Manchester United, is set to host Maguire’s old club, Leicester City, when the Foxes visit the Red Devils at Old Trafford on Saturday (Watch live, 10 a.m. ET on NBC Sports Gold). Maguire moved from Leicester to Man United for a world-record fee (for a defender), after a protracted transfer saga that played out for much of the summer, but it’s Leicester currently enjoying a hot start to their Premier League campaign and occupying a top-three spot.

Meanwhile, United have struggled out of the gates and and sit eighth in the PL table. After thrashing Chelsea on the opening day of the season, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer‘s side took just two points from its next three games, including a loss to Crystal Palace. It’s that recent run of results which adds a significant amount of pressure to Saturday’s clash. The top story of United’s still-young season is missed penalty kicks: Paul Pogba and Marcus Rashford have each failed to convert from the spot this season, leaving everyone, Solskjaer included, unsure of who’ll step up to take United’s next one.

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On the other side, Jamie Vardy is off to a flying start with three goals in four games, including a brace in Leicester’s 3-1 win over Bournemouth just before the international break. Leicester’s greatest strength lies just behind Vardy, though, as Brendan Rodgers has gotten star performances out of each of James Maddison (two assists) and Youri Tielemans (one goal, one assist). The Englishman and Belgian, respectively, have produced free-flowing passages of play with shocking regularity. The duo represents the Foxes’ best chance at breaking back into the top-six — or, dare anyone say it this early in the season, the top-four.

Injuries/suspensions

Man United: OUT – Paul Pogba (ankle), Anthony Martial (thigh), Luke Shaw (hamstring), Eric Bailly (knee); QUESTIONABLE – Aaron Wan-Bissaka (back); PROBABLE – Diogo Dalot (hip)

Leicester: OUT – Matty James (achilles); QUESTIONABLE – Daniel Amartey (ankle)


Projected lineups

Man United: De Gea – Wan-Bissaka, Lindelof, Maguire, Young – Matic, McTominay, Mata – James, Rashford, Lingard

Leicester: Schmeichel – Pereira, Evans, Soyuncu, Chilwell – Ndidi, Maddison, Tielemans, Albrighton, Barnes – Vardy


What they’re saying

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, on Maguire’s arrival: “I’m sure he’s looking forward to playing against his old team, but now he’s here, he’s going to be a big part of the future of this club. That’s why we spent the money we did on him. … I think he’s been brilliant [since signing]. I think he’s come into the dressing room and been a leader. He’s also obviously a leader on the pitch, you can see that. He is definitely a character and a personality that can be a captain of a big club, yeah, and he’s a leader in the dressing room – by performances, presence, stature and behavior.”

Brendan Rodgers, on Maguire’s departure: “I text him now and then and wish him the best when he plays with England. He’s a remarkable guy and a fantastic player. He’s a remarkable guy and a fantastic player. His behavior typified him as a man. It was so difficult for him and right the way through, his behavior was exemplary. He’s a good guy and you can see he’s made them better.”


Prediction

United’s home dominance — or, lack thereof — is perhaps the greatest difference between the Sir Alex Ferguson era and every iteration of United since his retirement in 2013. No one is afraid to go to Old Trafford anymore. United went 10W-6D-3L in league games at Old Trafford last season. In Ferguson’s final season, they went 16W-0D-3L en route to the PL title. Leicester are one of the few sides without a win at Old Trafford in that period. Saturday represents a golden opportunity with Paul Pogba and Anthony Martial ruled out through injuries. Leicester get their win, 1-0.

Preview: Man City v. Leicester City

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  • Man City going for 13th-straight win
  • Leicester have 1 defeat in last 7
  • Man City 2 points behind leaders Liverpool

Manchester City’s season pretty much comes to down to this game. Pep Guardiola‘s side host Leicester City at the Etihad Stadium on Monday (Watch live, 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com) and a win would see them take a one-point lead at the top of the table heading into the final day of the Premier League season.

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Leicester have been in great form under new manager Brendan Rodgers and the former Liverpool boss could do his side a huge favor ahead of the season finale on Sunday, while the Foxes are also trying to seal an unlikely seventh-place finish. With City heading to Brighton on the final day and Liverpool hosting Wolves, Leicester taking points off Man City seems like Liverpool’s best remaining hope of winning the title.

In team news Man City are without Fernandinho and Kevin De Bruyne, while Leicester are without Daniel Amartey and Matty James.


What they’re saying…

Pep Guardiola on the title battle with Liverpool: “Arriving at this stage, two games left with 92 points, after 100 points last season, that is the most satisfaction I’ve had as a manager. It’s not easy, honestly, and the players did it again. I would not say that 100 points was bad and that we are not satisfied with what we did last season but, at the same time, we were seven points behind (earlier this season). You give credit for the titles and how huge our rival is. In my career as a manager, I played against incredible sides and there are two that were ‘wow’. One is the Barcelona of Luis Enrique with Neymar, (Lionel) Messi and (Luis) Suarez in front. The other is this Liverpool. I think they’re the best two sides I’ve faced as a manager.”

Brendan Rodgers on red-hot Jamie Vardy: “Well he does (strike fear into opponents) there’s no getting away from that. When I was preparing a team to play against him you just knew you’ve got to be really careful against him, because if you don’t counter-press the game well and there’s space to play that pass, he’s going to hurt you. And he’s a goalscorer. If you watch him and see his ability to score a goal, and his threat, you’ll always be mindful of it. But that’s the Premier League − top players, top strikers − and you’re always having to find a way to nullify that. But it’s absolutely brilliant to have him on your side!”


Prediction

Leicester will make this very tough for Man City, and their threat on the counter will scare the life out of Guardiola. That said, City have been grinding out results in recent weeks and with this squad knowing two more wins seals the title, there will be an extra bit of determination. Man City to win 3-1 thanks to a late flurry of goals.

Naby Keita groin injury to sideline him for two months

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Naby Keita‘s groin problem picked up in the first leg of the Champions League semifinal loss to Barcelona is as bad as feared, and will add the 24-year-old to the growing list of big names set to miss the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations with late season injuries.

Keita was forced off in the 24th minute of Wednesday’s match at the Camp Nou, and on Friday Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp confirmed his midfielder suffered a torn adductor muscle that will keep him out of action for two months.

“It is a high grade adductor injury where the tendon is ruptured, which keeps him out for at least, I would say two months,” Klopp said at his pre-match press conference ahead of Liverpool’s Premier League clash with Newcastle on Saturday. “So bad news for us obviously but bad news for Guinea as well, because Africa Cup of Nations is coming up.”

Keita has become a key player for the Guinea national team, a regular in the squad since his introduction in qualifying for the 2015 AFCON tournament. He has missed just six matches since his debut in September of 2014, but will now be forced out of this summer’s tournament which begins on June 22. Guinea has been drawn into Group A with Nigeria, Madagascar, Burundi.

“[Keita’s injury is] not a really good moment, but it happened. Sometimes football and life aren’t too nice, but yeah, very serious,” Klopp said.

He joins a growing list of important players who have picked up late-season injuries that will keep them out of the competition, including Manchester United and Ivory Coast defender Eric Bailly and Leicester City’s Ghanan midfielder Daniel Amartey.

PL Sunday preview: Chelsea v. Man United, Burnley v. Man City, Leicester v. Arsenal

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A critical day of Premier League fixtures hits center stage on Sunday as four of the top six are in action, including Manchester City who controls its own destiny in the title race with three matches to go.

With Liverpool having moved in front with a big win over Huddersfield Town on Friday, it is Man City’s turn to respond. In addition, Manchester United meets Chelsea in a critical battle in the race for the top four, with both teams right in the mix for a spot. Also in that conversation is Arsenal who visits Leicester City needing a win to keep pace with whoever comes out of Old Trafford with points.

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Finish to the Premier League season is riveting at the top of the table, with both the title race and Champions League battle coming down to the wire. Liverpool sits two points ahead of Manchester City at the moment, with the Citizens still to play on Sunday. Meanwhile, Tottenham sits on 70 points in third, with Chelsea three back in fourth on 67, Arsenal in fifth with 66, and Manchester United in sixth on 64.


Leicester City v. Arsenal — 7:00 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

Arsenal travels to Leicester City to take on the in-form Foxes with an early morning kick. Leicester has won four of its last six Premier League matches and scored a late equalizer to draw West Ham last time out. The match is critical for Arsenal with either Chelsea or Manchester United figuring to get points at Old Trafford later in the day.

The Gunners, however, are not coming into this match in good form, having lost two straight and three of their last four. The Arsenal defense has coughed up six goals over the last two, and boss Unai Emery is struggling to figure out his squad with a number of injury problems to consider. The most important issue to sort out before kick on Sunday is Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, who missed the last match after minor sinus surgery.

INJURIES: Leicester City —  OUT: Daniel Amartey (ankle). | ArsenalQUESTIONABLE: Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (sinus). OUT: Aaron Ramsey (groin), Denis Suarez (hamstring), Hector Bellerin (knee), Rob Holding (knee) and Danny Welbeck (ankle).


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

Manchester City hasn’t dropped points since late January when they suffered a 2-1 loss to Newcastle, and Pep Guardiola‘s squad seems stronger than ever. Last time out was a perfect encapsulation of the squad strength Man City possesses, as Leroy Sane was forced onto the pitch after an injury to vital midfielder Fernandinho, only to see Sane score a goal 15 minutes later.

Burnley was clobbered by Man City last time these two teams matched up back in October, a 5-0 drubbing that sent Man City on a tear through November before bogging down around the holidays. That match also saw Burnley come in with a three-match unbeaten run, but the pasting kickstarted a miserable stretch of seven without a win for Burnley. This time around, the hosts are again coming in having performed well of late, on a run of three wins in four without a loss in that span.

INJURIES: Burnley —  QUESTIONABLE: Phil Bardsley (leg). OUT: Peter Crouch (appendix), Steven Defour (calf), Aaron Lennon (knee). | Man City — QUESTIONABLE: Fernandinho (knee), Ilkay Gundoguan (knock). OUT: Kevin De Bruyne (hamstring), Claudio Bravo (knee).


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

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer faces another brutal test as he looks to bring Manchester United out of the ignominious slump the Red Devils are currently mired in. Manchester United has lost three of its four Premier League matches in April, and that coupled with the Champions League humbling at the hands of Barcelona has left the honeymoon phase of Solskjaer’s managerial tenure in the distant past. Goalkeeper David De Gea will reportedly keep his place in goal for the foreseeable future despite the Spaniard’s struggles over the past few months, which were evident in the derby loss to Man City last time out.

Chelsea, meanwhile, is in a slide of its own with just two wins in the last six matches and Maurizio Sarri desperately hoping to confirm a Champions League place to give Roman Abramovich something to cling to when assessing the Italian’s first season in charge. They also have lost two straight visiting Manchester United, and have not lost three in a row since 1957 – conversely, of the six times Chelsea has won at Old Trafford, five of them came in a manager’s first attempt with the club.

INJURIES: Man United —  QUESTIONABLE: Ander Herrera (hamstring). OUT: Phil Jones, Scott McTominay. | Chelsea — QUESTIONABLE: N'Golo Kante (rib). OUT: Callum Hudson-Odoi (Achilles).

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)