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PL Sunday Preview: Wolves, Man United in action; Liverpool host Man City

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Sunday’s slate of Premier League fixtures features the likes of Wolves, Aston Villa, Manchester United and Brighton all in action. It is also headlined by the biggest match of the season yet: Liverpool vs Manchester City.

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Wolves vs. Aston Villa — 9:00 a.m. ET, on NBC Sports Gold

Just weeks removed from a EFL Cup bout between Wolverhampton Wanderers and Aston Villa that saw the latter come out victorious 2-1, both West Midland sides will meet again.

This time, however, the scenario will be distinct. Both sides won’t meet at Villa Park; instead,  Stadium will be the stadium of choice. Second-choice sides will not be front and center. It’s a league match, both teams will lineup with the best they have to offer and, as a result the intensity, will be vastly fiercer.

That’s if Wolves have the legs for that scenario to be a reality in the first place.

With Europa League added to an already daunting schedule, Nuno Espirito Santo and company have played eight matches since the start of October, averaging more than one per week. Villa, who’ve lost back to back league matches, are mindful of that and hope it will benefit them when all is said and done.

“They’re very tough to beat, they’ve got great organization and structure,” Villa manager Dean Smith ahead of Sunday’s derby. “They’ve got players who can score goals having gone to Manchester City and won, gone to Arsenal and equalized to come away with a point…so they’ll feel they’re in a run of form.”

“People look from the outside and think ‘is the amount of games they’re playing going to catch up with them?,'” he added. “We’re hopeful that is does on Sunday.”

INJURIES: Wolves — OUT: Gibbs-White (back), Boly (leg)| Aston Villa — OUT: Keenan Davis (hamstring)

Manchester United vs. Brighton and Hove Albion — 9:00 a.m. ET, on NBCS and NBCSports.com

Brighton and Hove Albion have never won at Old Trafford.

Graham Potter and his group of players want to make history and change that against a historically-poor Manchester United.

“It would be great to get a result this weekend at one of the best places in world football,” Potter said. “Their quality is undoubted and we respect that – but we want to go there and be ourselves and take on the challenge in a positive way.”

Brighton are in positive form, sitting eighth on the table and two points clear of United, who haven’t had a start to the season as dreadful as 2019’s – 13 points in 11 matches – since 1986 under Ron Atkinson. In their last four bouts, Brighton have earned victories in three, defeating Tottenham, Everton and Norwich City.

It’s all very different for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and the Red Devils.

Despite a convincing 3-0 win over a paltry Partizan midweek, the pressure at Old Trafford keeps looming over the injury-riddled team, who lost their previous league match against Bournemouth 1-0. Time and time again, the questions have been asked, but the answers have yet to surface.

Even then, Solskjaer feels their latest Europa League victory has left them with a blueprint.

“This is a little bit of a template on how we want to play, definitely,” the Norwegian manager stated following his team’s win on Thursday. “No disrespect to Partizan, but they gave us spaces. Of course after we scored the first goal, they went forward.”

“These boys are learning,” he added. “Tonight will give them loads of pointers of how to play. Even though the opposition is not the same as in the Premier League, it was still good principles.”

Nowhere was the word “consistency” mentioned, however. If they want to right the ship, they’ll need to learn it.

INJURIES: Manchester United — OUT: Dalot (hip), Matic (knock), Luke Shaw (thigh), Tuanzebe (hip), Eric Bailly (knee), Fosu-Mensah (knee), Pogba (ankle); SUSPENDED: Ashley Young (one match) | Brighton — OUT: Bernardo (knee), Izquierdo (knee), Webster (ankle)

Liverpool vs. Manchester City — 12:30 p.m. ET, on NBCS and NBCSports.com

It’s the match everyone had circled on their calendars: Jurgen Klopp‘s unbeaten Liverpool against Pep Guardiola‘s Manchester City in front of a sold-out Anfield.

It’s the type of spectacle that requires no added hype, even though Klopp did just that heading into the season’s biggest match yet.

“From a sport’s point of view this rivalry is getting bigger and bigger,” the German manager said in front of an eager press conference room this weekend. “Thank god there is a rivalry because it means we are a pretty good team as well.”

“If you are not brave against Man City you don’t have the chance of even a point,” he added. “Everyone has to be in top shape in the stadium on Sunday, even the guy selling the hotdogs. Everyone has to be there from the warm-up and invest all our emotions.”

With City in position to jump to second and be only three points from Liverpool with a win, the match promises to have it all. And Guardiola main message is urging his players to leave it all on the field when they take on the league’s favorites.

“I just want my team to fight to the end,” the 48-year-old said. “Liverpool are a team that lost one game last season, none this season, so you cannot believe that they will lose many, but the season is long.”

“They do everything well,” he added. “You see the team, what is the weak point? They are a real complete team and we need this kind of rival.”

That said, City is stuffed with injuries – namely, Ederson and David Silva, who were both unable to recover and get fit for Sunday’s clash. Claudio Bravo, who saw a red card midweek in Champions League play, will be between the sticks for the defending champions.

What many think will prove to be problematic for the visitors, is the opposite of loss of quality for Guardiola. The Spaniard is convinced that the Chilean goalkeeper has the ability and is of the pedigree to play in matches of such stature.

“He is an exceptional goalkeeper,” Guardiola said. “He is an international goalkeeper. I have no doubts.

“Why shouldn’t I be confident about my players? I see him every day in training. We won’t lose because of Claudio.

“The red card the other day was because we lost the ball,” he added. Respect the guy. He is a top keeper.”

Surely, Liverpool, led by Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane, will look to exploit any deficiencies City puts forward. For now, those deficiencies are unknown.

What is public knowledge, however, is that very few matches – if any – this season will be as big as Sunday’s.

INJURIES: Liverpool  OUT: Joel Matip (knee), Xherdan Shaqiri (calf), Nathaniel Clyne (knee) | Manchester City  OUT: Ederson (knock), Rodri (hamstring), David Silva (thigh), Zinchenko (knee), Leroy Sané (knee), Laporte (knee)

Ederson out for Liverpool game, while Van Dijk fit for Reds

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Pep Guardiola confirmed Manchester City’s injury fears ahead of the massive game against Liverpool at Anfield, with Ederson set to miss out after limping off at halftime of the weekday Champions League draw with Atalanta.

The Brazilian goalkeeper was withdrawn at the break for Claudio Bravo, who himself was unable to finish the match after being sent off, leaving Kyle Walker to don the gloves for the final few minutes. “He is not able to play,” Guardiola said of Ederson. “On Sunday he cannot play. We have another top keeper. We won the Carabao Cup and FA Cup thanks to Claudio. He is an exceptional goalkeeper.”

That leaves Man City even more thin at the back, already missing defenders Aymeric Laporte and Oleksandr Zinchenko to long-term knee injuries. Laporte has a torn ACL and will miss at least the majority of the season, while Zinchenko is expected back in December after knee surgery of his own. John Stones is back in action, having returned in mid-October from his injury and utilized in each of the last three Premier League games, but he was rested midweek as Fernandinho deputized at center-back alongside Nicolas Otamendi.

Guardiola did not address the status of David Silva, but reports state that the Spaniard will also miss the game against Liverpool. The boss did say last weekend that Silva would be sidelined 10-12 days with a muscular injury suffered against Southampton. With two goals and four assists this season, Silva would be a big loss to an already thin Man City squad that utilized Bernardo Silva in a more central role with the Spaniard missing midweek.

For Liverpool, Jurgen Klopp confirmed that defender Virgil Van Dijk is ready to go despite missing training on Thursday, confirming that the absence was merely for personal reasons as the defender returned home to receive an award from the Dutch royal family. The Reds boss did say that Joel Matip and Xherdan Shaqiri are both out for the game, meaning that either Dejan Lovren or Joe Gomez will partner van Dijk in the middle. Lovren has played each of the last two Premier League matches in place of Matip, while Gomez was given the start midweek against Genk in Champions League play.

Projected lineups: Liverpool v. Man City

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Unbeaten Liverpool host Manchester City on Sunday (Watch live, 11:30 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com) in a huge clash at Anfield.

[ MORE: Mane jokes he will dive

This is the biggest game of the season so far, and it may end up being the most important 90 minutes of the entire 2019-20 Premier League campaign.

Jurgen Klopp‘s Liverpool sit top of the table with a six-point lead over second place Manchester City, as Pep Guardiola‘s men know this is a game they simply cannot lose as they aim to hunt Liverpool down in search of a third-straight Premier League title.

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Below is a look at the projected lineups for both teams, with some analysis and a look at the team news.


Liverpool

—– Alisson —–

— Alexander-Arnold — Lovren — Van Dijk — Robertson —

—- Henderson — Fabinho —- Wijnaldum —-

—- Salah —- Firmino — Mane —-

Analysis: The only real issue heading into this game for Liverpool is who joins Virgil Van Dijk at the heart of their defense. With Joel Matip out injured both Joe Gomez and Dejan Lovren have been given opportunities to step up and fill the void. Lovren is likely to get the nod this weekend but it is still a problem area for Klopp to sort out. Elsewhere, the front three and full backs pick themselves and the only other dilemma is how Klopp sets up his midfield three. James Milner‘s big game experience may come in handy, but both Fabinho and Jordan Henderson are likely starters. So it’s a case of who starts between Georginio Wijnaldum, Milner, Naby Keita and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and it seems like Wijnaldum will get the nod, even though Keita and the Ox are more attacking options.


Man City

—– Ederson —–

—- Walker —- Stones —- Fernandinho —- Mendy —-

—- David Silva —- Gundogan —-

—- Sterling —- De Bruyne —- Bernardo Silva —-

—– Aguero —–

Analysis: My goodness, where do we start with this Man City team news? Ederson suffered a slight tweak of his thigh in the 1-1 draw with Atalanta on Wednesday and had to come off at half time but he’s expected to be fit for Sunday’s game. If he isn’t, Claudio Bravo will come in for his first PL start since May 2018. No pressure, Claudio… In front of the goalkeeper it seems like Kyle Walker and Benjamin Mendy will play at right back and left back respectively, while Fernandinho will start in central defense. John Stones should get the nod alongside him given Nicolas Otamendi’s erratic form, while Rodri may be an option as he’s worked his way back to fitness quicker than expected. This game may come too soon for the Spaniard with Gundogan likely to start in central midfield but David Silva is nursing a knock after coming off against Southampton. The front four is pretty set with Sergio Aguero leading the line and Kevin De Bruyne, Raheem Sterling and Bernardo Silva supporting him. Plenty of selection headaches for Pep Guardiola to sort out in defense and midfield.

How should Man City and Liverpool rotate their squads?

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With Liverpool and Manchester City set for a heavyweight clash this weekend, the teams must still navigate the midweek Champions League bouts, and decisions remain for both Pep Guardiola and Jurgen Klopp on how to both allow players to compete for places and rest those who require some time on the bench.

For Liverpool, the easiest decision Klopp will make as Liverpool gets set to take on Genk on Tuesday is to sit Mohamed Salah who has dealt with an ankle problem over the past month and with international duty coming up needs all the time to rest he possibly can muster. However, there are a few decisions the German must make that require a bit more thought.

With Joel Matip out for three weeks with a knee injury suffered against Sheffield United, Dejan Lovren has been deputizing at center-back alongside Virgil Van Dijk. Klopp must decide whether to allow Lovern to continue in that role and develop a consistent and critical partnership with his new center-back pairing or allow Joe Gomez a chance to prove himself in that slot. Consistency is often a valuable component of a center-back partnership, but offering Gomez an opportunity to snatch the position for himself could also potentially be beneficial down the road.

There are also questions about how to proceed in midfield as the Reds have some players clamoring for playing time. Fabinho was benched against Aston Villa as the Brazilian sits on a yellow card, ensuring his availability for the Man City game, but he could be afforded a run out against Genk. Still, playing Fabinho midweek has its risks, and both Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Naby Keita could both be given the spot instead. Adam Lallana started in Fabinho’s place against Villa and could be an option, although he doesn’t seem to be a first-choice player for Klopp at this point, while James Milner is also a do-it-all piece who could be utilized if need be.

The key for Liverpool is they cannot completely look past Genk, for a slip could see them fall out of a qualifying position in Group E altogether. For Manchester City, who travels to Italy for a match with Atalanta on Wednesday, they remain in a position of strength, topping Group C by a significant margin and afforded the opportunity to take chances with the squad.

City is already missing the likes of Aymeric Laporte, Leroy Sane, and Oleksandr Zinchenko for various long-term reasons, and they have a few more injury concerns this week that thins the squad further. David Silva pulled up just before halftime this weekend against Southampton and is likely out until after the international break, while Rodri also likely remains sidelined with a hamstring problem.

That leaves questions all over the squad. Fernandinho continues to deputize at center-back, preferred over Nicolas Otamendi, but the latter could enter for Champions League play to keep Fernandinho healthy for the weekend’s big game. Angelino suffered cramps against Southampton, and the Atalanta game could be another chance for Benjamin Mendy to earn favor going forward.

In midfield, Phil Foden is a likely replacement for David Silva, a chance for the 19-year-old to earn a first-team place and potentially start over the weekend as well, while Riyad Mahrez could play with Guardiola potentially spelling either Bernardo Silva or Raheem Sterling for a rest. Kevin De Bruyne is always an injury concern for Man City, having missed a host of games over the past two years with various problems, so he also presents a decision for Guardiola should the Spaniard wish to mitigate risk, but the David Silva injury will not allow him to do that without making concessions elsewhere.

Chopping and changing is part of the game, but too much can bring a halt to a squad’s togetherness and momentum. Consistency is a key factor for many top managers, and both head men will have big decisions to make with such a massive game on the horizon.

Top Premier League storylines: Week 11

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Matchweek 11 of the 2019-20 Premier League season is here, as the table starts to take shape as we head into November.

[ STREAM: Every PL match live

Below we take a look at the key storylines to keep an eye on across the PL this weekend.


Liverpool’s stars fresh for trip to Villa

  • Aston Villa v. Liverpool, Saturday, 11 a.m. ET, on NBC Sports Gold

Jurgen Klopp‘s squad rotation worked perfectly in midweek, as his star players were rested and Liverpool’s youngsters got some great experience, and a penalty kick win, against Arsenal. The A squad now travel to Aston Villa as they remain top of the table and unbeaten after another gritty win against Tottenham. Fabinho is emerging as a leading man for Liverpool as the balance he provides in midfield is key to Klopp’s counter-press being launched, while Sadio Mane, Roberto Firmino and Mohamed Salah continue to chip in and go about their business.

Joel Matip being out injured is a little bit of a concern, with neither Joe Gomez or Dejan Lovren taking their chance to prove they should be the permanent stand-in for Matip. Aston Villa are sweating on he fitness of captain Jack Grealish, while Wesley‘s battle with Virgil Van Dijk is one to watch in this game. Newly-promoted Villa will cause Liverpool problems but Klopp’s side will expect to leave Villa Park with all three points as their grit and focus has been spot on in the opening months of the season.


Man City aim to batter sorry Saints

  • Man City v. Southampton, Saturday, 11 a.m. ET, on NBCSN

Manchester City beat Southampton 3-1 at the Etihad Stadium on Tuesday in the League Cup and that didn’t tell the whole story. Pep Guardiola‘s side, which was littered with teenagers, dominated possession and chances and only when they took their foot off the accelerator in the final 30 minutes did Saints pull a goal back and look somewhat dangerous in attack. Man City will bring the likes of Kevin De Bruyne, David Silva and Fernandinho back into the starting lineup and that’s a scary prospect for a Southampton side still reeling from that historic 9-0 defeat at home against Leicester City last week. Guardiola’s City are ruthless and if there’s any sign of Ralph Hasenhuttl‘s Saints feeling sorry for themselves, another 9-0 drubbing could be coming up…


Pulisic aims to regain momentum as Chelsea face stingy Watford

  • Watford v. Chelsea, Saturday, 1:30 p.m. ET, on NBC

Christian Pulisic‘s perfect hat trick against Burnley stole the headlines last Saturday, but the USMNT star came back down to earth with a bit of a bump on Wednesday. He started and played 70 minutes in Chelsea’s 2-1 home defeat to Man United in the League Cup, and he underwhelmed on the left flank. Pulisic, 21, is still learning and his game is adapting to England and he will have these ups and downs. It is also possible that in games against teams like Burnley and Watford will be the ones where he has more space and can show off his supreme pace and dribbling skills.

Watford will not give Pulisic (if he starts ahead of Willian and Hudson-Odoi) and Chelsea’s other attackers much space, as Quique Sanchez Flores has shored things up since the 8-0 drubbing by Man City. Watford have drawn each of their last three games in the PL and Ben Foster has been in inspired form in goal. He will need to keep that going against in-form Chelsea this weekend, and all eyes will be on Pulisic to see if he can regain the momentum from last week.


Man United aim to continue away day run

  • Bournemouth v. Man United, Saturday, 8:30 a.m. ET, on NBCSN

Three away wins on the trot has Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and United in a buoyant mood heading down to the South Coast this weekend. Marcus Rashford is scoring goals, Anthony Martial is back fit and the Red Devils are finally showing an end product, even if scoring penalty kicks is still a struggle for them…

Bournemouth have shored things up defensively but surprisingly they are struggling to score goals. That has never been a problem for Eddie Howe‘s side and the balance of the Cherries just seems a little off early in the season. United need a win to push closer to the top four and something seems to have clicked for Solskjaer’s side with Scott McTominay and Fred putting up a shield in midfield and the pace of Daniel James, Martial and Rashford reunited in attack. This will be a tight encounter but United should have the extra quality in attack to edge it.


Who needs the win more: Everton or Tottenham?

  • Everton v. Tottenham, Sunday, 11:30 a.m. ET, on NBCSN

Two teams languishing in the bottom half of the Premier League table and desperate for a win meet at Goodison Park. Everton and Spurs can both say they’ve been unlucky so far this season, and it’s hard to disagree with that. Maybe that is why both Marco Silva and Mauricio Pochettino seem fairly relaxed even though their teams have struggled. For Everton, late VAR drama cost them at Brighton last time out as Silva’s side didn’t take their chances and were punished.

That said, their home form has been impressive this season with all three wins coming at Goodison. For Spurs, they’ve been wretched on their travels and even though they took the lead at Liverpool last weekend, the disjointed nature of their display in midfield and the shaky defensive performance showcased why Pochettino is pulling his hair out. Trying to shoehorn Kane, Son, Eriksen and Alli into the same team remains an issue for Poch, and the same could be said for Everton as they tweak their frontline with Richarlison, Walcott, Bernard and Calvert-Lewin in attack. Both team are desperate for a big three points, and this game will not be pretty.