Diogo Dalot

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EFL Cup Wed. preview: Liverpool host Arsenal; Chelsea v. Man Utd

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After five EFL Cup clashes were played on Tuesday, three more remain in the round of 16 on Wednesday, featuring six Premier League sides and a pair clashes between “big-six” sides.

[ EFL CUP: Man City cruise past Saints; Everton, Leicester into QF ]

First up, it’s PL leaders Liverpool hosting Arsenal at Anfield, where the two sides met back in August. Liverpool cruised to a 3-1 victory that day, extending their unbeaten run against the Gunners to nine games (all in the PL) since their last defeat in April 2015.

Jurgen Klopp‘s side could be without superstars Mohamed Salah (ankle) and Virgil Van Dijk (dead leg), should the manager opt to play it safe after the pair suffered minor injuries in the Reds’ 2-1 comeback victory over Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday. For Liverpool, winning on Wednesday is all about momentum as they attempt to keep alive their unbeaten start (11 games) to the domestic season (only loss to Napoli, in Champions League).

As for Arsenal, progression to the quarterfinals would provide a sense of normalcy and calm following the club’s latest crisis. Granit Xhaka has come under harsh scrutiny after he swore at fans and removed his shirt in response to being booed by his own fans as he was subbed off during the Gunners’ 2-2 draw with Crystal Palace on Sunday. The club’s captain is said to be “devastated and sad,” according to manager Unai Emery. Fortunately for Emery, the EFL Cup is the ideal time to rotate his squad and shield Xhaka from additional scrutiny.

[ MORE: Cryptic Zlatan Ibrahimovic hints at return to Spain ]

Meanwhile in London, a Chelsea side riding its best run of results all season (seven straight wins – all competitions) will welcome Manchester United to Stamford Bridge. Frank Lampard’s side beat Burnley 4-2 on Saturday, a game which featured the first goal (and hat trick) of Christian Pulisic’s Chelsea career. Given his standout performance on the weekend, Pulisic could find himself rotated out of the squad for Wednesday’s game with an eye toward facing Watford in PL play on Saturday.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, on the other hand, doesn’t have the same luxury of squad depth these days, with the likes of Paul Pogba (ankle), Eric Bailly (knee), Nemanja Matic, Luke Shaw (hamstring), Axel Tuanzebe (hip) and Diogo Dalot (groin) all currently out injured. Recent results, however, favor Man United as the Red Devils are unbeaten in their last four meetings with the Blues, including a 4-0 destruction of Chelsea at Old Trafford in August.

Wednesday’s EFL Cup schedule

Liverpool v. Arsenal — 3:30 p.m. ET
Aston Villa v. Wolverhampton Wanderers — 3:45 p.m. ET
Chelsea v. Man United — 4:05 p.m. ET

PL Sunday Preview: Liverpool, Tottenham, Arsenal, Man United in action

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Sunday’s slate of Premier League fixtures will have it all, as Arsenal and Crystal Palace battle for the fifth spot; Wolverhampton Wanderers look to continue their positive run against Newcastle; Manchester United look to snap a four-game winless streak as they take on a struggling Norwich City; and Liverpool look to continue their unbeaten season as they host Tottenham.

[ STREAM: Every PL match live ]

Newcastle vs. Wolves — 10:00 a.m. ET, on NBCSN

With Andy Carroll injured and weeks removed from their victory over Manchester United, the blues that has permeated thoughtout Newcastle United under Steve Bruce is back full force.

There’s a plethora of questions surrounding Bruce’s employment status, owner Mike Ashley and record signing Miguel Almiron, but, from the looks of it, the Magpies have very few answers to offer. At St, James’ Park against Wolves, who have cleaned up their act – eight points in their last four league matches – since starting the season poorly, Newcastle have the chance to answer the long list of questions.

Bruce, confident of his side true abilities, recognizes that Sunday’s match will be a tough task.

“Wolves have got good players who play in a certain system and do it very well,” the 58-year-old manager said ahead of the match. “They’re a threat – they’re a good side. We’re at home against a very decent Wolves side but we’re capable – we know that – and we’ll have to be at our best to win.”

Wolves, on the other hand, are in the best shape they’ve been all season. Second place in their Europa League group and unbeaten in their last four Premier League bouts, Nuno Espirito Santo is galvanizing his players, specifically Raul Jimenez who has scored or assisted in his last three competitive matches.

With Newcastle as their next stop, there’s a good chance Wolves’ (and Jimenez’s) fine run can continue.

INJURIES: Newcastle — OUT: Andy Carroll (groin), Fabian Schär (knee), Florian Lejeune (knee, Nov); SUSPENDED: Isaac Hayden| Wolves — OUT: None

Arsenal vs. Crystal Palace — 12:30 p.m. ET, on NBC Sports Gold

On paper, there is no tighter contest this matchweek than Arsenal versus Crystal Palace.

Only a point separates the Gunners – fifth on the table – from Palace, who are putting together a surprising season under Roy Hodgson – especially taking in consideration the unproductiveness from Wilfried Zaha.

Even though Nicolas Pepe, whose arrival at the Emirates broke the club’s record, stepped up for Arsenal midweek in Europa League play, it’s Mesut Özil’s omission from the squad that has everyone glued on the North London club. Will he return to take on a competitive Palace? Probably not, but that won’t improve the Eagles’ chances, who accept that they are facing one of the fiercest attacking teams led by Andre Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.

“Arsenal have had a very good start to the season,” Hodgson confessed. “Their attack is very, very dangerous. We realise we are going to face a team with enormous firepower and a team that run a lot and team that are very good with the ball.”

INJURIES: Arsenal — OUT: Reiss Nelson (knee) | Crystal Palace — OUT: Connor Wickham (knock), Mamadou Sakho (knee)

Norwich City vs. Manchester United — 12:30 p.m. ET, on NBC Sports Gold

Manchester United are far from being 100 percent, but with the returns of Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Anthony Martial this week, the Red Devils can make a much-needed statement of intent as they travel to Carrow Road.

Obviously, the prime objective for Ole Gunnar Solskjær and company is now to get the club out of the lamentable position they are in – 15th on the table after 9 bouts. But the reality is that they have to build their way there by overwriting ongoing deficits. In their last 19 competitive matches, United have scored more than one goal in a single match only once.

Taking on the Canaries’ leaky backline enhances United’s chances of putting an end to their poor run, but if Norwich has shown Solskjær anything it’s their identity at home.

“When I watched Norwich’s first game against Liverpool, I saw a team with a lot of courage,” the Norwegian said. “It’s given them some great results as they beat Newcastle and Manchester City with a clear philosophy on how they want to play.”

“I hope we’re going to stop them because it’s always going to be difficult down at Carrow Road but we’re ready for it now,” he added. “We’ve got some players back.”

With the likes of Paul Pogba, Luke Shaw, and Eric Bailly still absent, United are far from full power, but it’s likely they won’t need it to comfortably cruise past Norwich on Sunday, anyways.

INJURIES: Norwich City — OUT: Mario Vrancic (illness), Ralf Fährmann (match fitness), Grant Hanley (groin), Christoph Zimmermann (ankle), Timm Klose (knee) | Manchester United — OUT: Luke Shaw (groin), Paul Pogba (ankle), Eric Bailly (knee), Axel Tuanzebe (hip), Diogo Dalot (groin)

Liverpool vs. Tottenham Hotspur — 12:30 p.m. ET, on NBC and NBCSports.com

It’s the 2019 Champions League final rematch, but one of last year’s finalist is only a shadow of its former self.

Tottenham may have showed positive moments in their 5-0 win over Red Star Belgrade in Champions League group stage play, however there are serious reparations Mauricio Pochettino needs to get done before his side comes close to the team they were less than a year ago. Their last away league match resulted in a 3-0 loss to Brighton and Hove Albion.

A trip to Anfield to take on a Liverpool that is on cruise control can result as troublesome for Harry Kane and Co., regardless if Jurgen Klopp doesn’t buy that Spurs are having a Champions League final hangover.

“I can say nothing about their situation,” the German said prior to the match. “How can I compare with our situation? It’s not possible to judge from outside. Reporters always ask for your opinion on other clubs and players but you have to be in a situation to understand it.”

“What I can say is what I saw on Tuesday night and that was a very good Tottenham team playing well,” he added.

No matter what Tottenham shows up on Saturday in Liverpool, one can expect for Liverpool – mostly healthy and unbeaten this season after nine matches – to complicate the 90 minutes for the visitors.

INJURIES: Liverpool  OUT: Xherdan Shaqiri (calf), Nathaniel Clyne (knee) | Tottenham  OUT: Ryan Sessegnon (hamstring), Hugo Lloris (elbow)

Pogba, De Gea miss Man United training

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It doesn’t seem like either David De Gea or Paul Pogba will play in the UEFA Europa League for Manchester United on Thursday.

Neither stars were training with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer‘s side on Wednesday, ahead of the Red Devils playing at Partizan Belgrade.

It is likely both will be saved for their Premier League clash at Norwich City on Sunday (Watch live, 12:30 p.m. ET online via NBCSports.com), with Pogba in a race against time to be ready.

Pogba has missed United’s last three games after a reoccurrence of foot and ankle issues, as he travelled to Dubai over the international break to try and get himself fit as soon as possible.

De Gea wasn’t expected to play against Liverpool on Sunday after suffering a thigh injury playing for Spain, but the goalkeeper rushed back and will likely be rested with Sergio Romero set to start on Thursday.

Solskjaer’s injury woes are easing a little with Jesse Lingard returning, while Anthony Martial and Aaron Wan-Bissaka played against Liverpool to give the Red Devils a boost.

Luke Shaw and Nemanja Matic are closing in on a return from injury, while Diogo Dalot, Timothy Fosu-Mensah, Eric Bailly and now Axel Tuanzebe are out.

With four-straight away games coming up in all competitions, United have reached a pivotal stage of their season after their worst PL start for 30 years.

They play Partizan (Europa League), Norwich, Chelsea (League Cup) and Bournemouth in the next 10 days, and after a morale-boosting performance and draw against Liverpool, Solskjaer is hoping the treatment room continues to empty and confidence continues to build.

Premier League Preview: Man Utd v. Liverpool

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It’s been a while since a Liverpool trip to Manchester United felt like such a heavy lift for the home team, but that’s precisely the case when Old Trafford is our scene for one of the biggest rivalries in the Premier League (Watch live at 11:30 a.m. ET Sunday on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

United sits 15 points behind the unblemished visitors, and will be without Paul Pogba and David De Gea for the event.

[ STREAM: Every PL match live ]

Still, all is not lost; The Red Devils’ poor attack may see the return of Anthony Martial, who had a goal or an assist in all three of his PL matches this season before a hamstring injury cost him six weeks.

And Liverpool will be tasked with breaking down a United defense which has only allowed multiple goals twice this season (Crystal Palace, West Ham).

They’ll be confident of doing that, especially knowing that a win would match two Premier League records:

  • Most consecutive matches unbeaten in league play (18)
  • Most wins to start a PL season (9)

Those numbers also mean the Reds have won a remarkable nine-consecutive away matches in the Premier League. Not bad.


Injuries/suspensions

Manchester United: OUT — Eric Bailly, Paul Pogba, David De Gea, Diogo Dalot. QUESTIONABLE — Anthony Martial, Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Luke Shaw, Jesse Lingard

Liverpool: OUT — Nathaniel Clyne. QUESTIONABLE — Mohamed Salah, Alisson Becker, Joel Matip


Probable lineups

Manchester United: Romero; Wan-Bissaka, Lindelof, Maguire, Young; Fred, McTominay; Pereira, James, Martial; Rashford.

Liverpool: Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Van Dijk, Matip, Robertson; Fabinho, Henderson, Wijnaldum; Mane, Firmino, Salah.


What they’re saying

United’s Daniel James on his regular playing time: “When I joined that’s what I wanted to do. I wasn’t coming here just to be a squad player, but for the gaffer to believe in me and play me from the start, that’s something I want to continue to do.”

Jurgen Klopp on Liverpool’s status as heavy favorites“Sky made a combined line-up and had 11 Liverpool players. That’s like a joke, like building a banana skin. The world in the moment is a circus, and we are at the center: a couple of people want us to win, a couple want us to lose. I’m not influenced by it.”


Prediction

The ball is in Liverpool’s court here, though the possible but unlikely absence of Salah would loom large. The Pogba loss won’t be as glaring if Martial is able to return. Still, this has big Liverpool win written all over it, and asks the question of how much heart the Red Devils will show on behalf of its embattled manager? Even if it’s a lot, we expect something like 2-0 to Liverpool.

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.

[ STREAM: Every PL match live

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.