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Europa League roundup: Arsenal wins; Rangers, AC Milan bounced

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Twenty-four games in about four hours: It’s the Europa League group stage, and it’s reached its conclusion.

[ MORE: Mourinho: “Job done” in UCL ]

A very young Arsenal claimed its group, Celtic bunkered down but couldn’t advance to the knockout rounds, and rivals Rangers couldn’t quite find the offense needed to complete a promising UEL campaign.


Rapid Vienna 1-0 Rangers

Steven Gerrard‘s promising first European campaign as first team manager has ended thanks to a goal from sub Dejan Ljubicic in Austria. A very even game, Rangers could not find a way past Richard Strebinger.

Arsenal 1-0 Qarabag

Alexandre Lacazette‘s 17th minute goal gave the Gunners a leg up on the group lead in a game with a bunch of unusual faces on the pitch. Carl Jenkinson, Joe Willock, Eddie Nketiah, and Saka Bukayo were among the starters, and Lacazette left for Zech Medley in the 63rd minute as Arsenal saved its best for a trip to Southampton on Sunday (No offense to Mesut Ozil and Laurent Koscielny, who went 90 minutes each).

MOL Vidi 2-2 Chelsea

We’ve already shown you Willian’s terrific free kick, and this match in Hungary was plenty entertaining for a relatively inconsequential outing. Ethan Ampadu scored an own goal two minutes after Chelsea took the lead, and MOL Vidi led 2-1 when Olivier Giroud restored the stalemate in the 75th.

Celtic 1-2 Red Bull Salzburg

The visitors dominated and finally found a way past goalkeeper Craig Gordon through a 67th Moanes Dabbur marker. Celtic went down two with Fredrik Gulbrandsen adding to the score line.

RB Leipzig 1-1 Rosenborg

Matheus Cunha’s goal just after halftime looked to have prodded RBL above Celtic and into the Round of 32, but Tore Reginiussen leveled for the Norwegian side.

Olympiacos 3-1 AC Milan

Gennaro Gattuso’s men are out of Europe after a four-goal second half.

Elsewhere
Villarreal 2-0 Spartak Moscow
Lazio 1-2 Eintracht Frankfurt
Sevilla 3-0 Krasnodar
Marseille 1-3 Apollon Limassol
Rennes 2-0 Astana
PAOK 1-3 BATE Borisov
Genk 4-0 Sarpsborg
Dynamo Kiev 0-1 Jablonec
Besiktas 0-1 Malmo
Akhisar Belerdiyespor 0-0 Standard Liege
Slavia Prague 2-0 Zenit Saint-Petersburg
Copenhagen 0-1 Bordeaux
Dinamo Zagreb 0-0 Anderlecht
Sporting Lisbon 3-0 Vorskla Poltava
F91 Dudelange 0-0 Real Betis
Ludogorets Razgrad 1-1 FC Zurich
AEK Larnaca 1-5 Bayer Leverkusen
Spartak Trnava 1-0 Fenerbahce

Injury updates: De Bruyne returns, Keita out, Barkley struggling

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Ahead of the Premier League returning this weekend after the international break there is plenty of team news to catch up on.

[ STREAM: Watch every PL match live

Kevin De Bruyne is back fit and available to play for Manchester City after injuring his knee back in August, with Pep Guardiola confirming he is ready for selection against Burnley on Saturday (Watch live, 10 a.m. ET online via NBCSports.com).

The Belgium star was said to be out until the end of November but he is back fully-fit way ahead of schedule.

“I don’t know if he is able to play 90 minutes. He’s trained well last two weeks,” Guardiola confirmed. “He’s such an important player for us. Whenever a player is out, I like it when they come back – we will be stronger.”

So, good news for league leaders and reigning champs Man City.

Not such great news for Chelsea or Liverpool, though.

Ross Barkley, who has been in fine form for Chelsea and England so far this season, has picked up a knock during the international break. Sarri confirmed that Barkley’s issue is a small problem and he will likely be out for a few days, which could mean he misses the clash against Manchester United (Watch live, 7:30 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com) on Saturday.

“As usual after the national teams we have some problems” Sarri said. “The most serious is with Ethan Ampadu. We have a little problem with Callum Hudson-Odoi and Ross Barkley, which are less serious. Antonio Rudiger has done better in the last two days, like Mateo Kovacic. I think they will be able to play.”

Chelsea’s midfield trio of N'Golo Kante, Barkley and Jorginho have been superb this season with a great balance of defensive and attacking play. That said, having the likes of Mateo Kovacic and Cesc Fabregas to step in isn’t bad at all…

As for Liverpool, their injury situation over the international break has been well documented with Virgil Van Dijk, Sadio Mane, Mohamed Salah and Naby Keita all picking up knocks.

Keita will not be available to play against Huddersfield Town on Saturday (Watch live, 12:30 p.m. ET on NBC online via NBCSports.com) after picking up a hamstring injury.

“We had a session yesterday and a few trained. We’ll have to see how they react, but Naby Keita will not be available for Huddersfield,” Klopp said.

With James Milner battling back early from a hamstring injury he picked up against Manchester City before the break, Liverpool will have plenty of options in midfield. If Mane or Salah aren’t risked either, then Klopp does have the likes of Daniel Sturridge and Xherdan Shaqiri waiting in the wings. The next few weeks will test Liverpool’s squad depth.

Which new regime has better Top Four chance: Chelsea or Arsenal?

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Arsenal changed managers for the first time since 1996.

Chelsea’s flipped bosses for the 13th time in that time span.

Both are hoping for similar results.

WATCH LIVE: Transfer Deadline Day show, August 9 at 11 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com 

The London giants sat outside the Top Four when the dust settled on the Premier League season, Chelsea one year removed from the league throne and Arsenal staring up at four or more clubs for the second time in-a-row.

So which one has a better look at finding a way back to the Top Four?

The Chelsea argument is pretty straight-forward: Their temperamental players bailing on a manager then rebounding to win the Premier League with another has happened before, and it was just two seasons ago.

Maurizio Sarri has brought in Jorginho to help instill his system and team up with N'Golo Kante to make the midfield a no-pass zone. The defense is back, and both Alvaro Morata and Tiemoue Bakayoko now have a year’s worth of PL experience. The young studs, perhaps with Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Ethan Ampadu atop the list, are also prepared to break into the fold if given a chance.

As for Arsenal, the club needed to sort its back line in a big way, and have taken great steps to do so with Stephane Lichtsteiner and Sokratis. Granit Xhaka was maligned for his mistakes but had more good performances than bad. The Gunners have a terrific pair of forwards in Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette, and no shortage of playmakers to pull the strings (including an inspired and supported Mesut Ozil and industrious but unheralded Aaron Ramsey).

The hope for Arsenal is that life really was stale on Arsene Wenger, that the great man was genuinely holding them back over the past two seasons.

Both clubs have better hope to challenge the best clubs in the league this season, but Chelsea’s record of spinning poor seasons into good ones keeps them a head above the Gunners in our book.

PL Sunday Preview: Man City v. Chelsea, Brighton v. Arsenal

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Two Premier League games take place on Sunday, with three of the top six in action and a clash between the reigning champs and the champions elect.

[ LIVE: Stream every PLgame ]

Below we take a closer look at both games.


Brighton & Hove Albion v. Arsenal – 8:30 a.m. ET, NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com

This has an upset written all over it. After Arsenal’s awful week which saw them hammered 3-0 by Man City in both the League Cup final and then four days later in the Premier League at home, Arsene Wenger is under pressure. Again.

Finishing in the top four isn’t a realistic possibility anymore (they are 13 points away from fourth), with the Gunners now surely having to go all-in on winning the UEFA Europa League to get back to the UEFA Champions League next season.

It is time for Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang to step up. That said, they’re traveling to a Brighton side who are in fine form in recent weeks (four games unbeaten) and are edging closer to securing their Premier League status in their debut campaign in the PL.

Glenn Murray is the man of the moment for the Seagulls with four goals in his last four games, but Chris Hughton‘s side have struggled against the big boys this season with no victories in their seven games against the current top six.

Jack Wilshere is a big doubt for Arsenal and Nacho Monreal and Alexandre Lacazette will both miss the trip to the South Coast, while Brighton have no injury concerns.


Manchester City v. Chelsea – 11 a.m. ET, NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com

What a game this promises to be. Man City look like they’re going to beat every team they play by at least three goals right now, with Pep Guardiola‘s men knowing five more wins will secure the Premier League title.

Guardiola’s men are set for a record-breaking season in nearly every metric possible and they want to wrap up the PL title as soon as possible to focus on success in Europe. City lost at home to Chelsea in a fiery encounter last season, but they will dominate possession and can expect Chelsea to try and hit them on the counter with a solid defensive gameplan.

As for the team they’ll be taking the title from, Chelsea have been struggling of late. Antonio Conte has once again questioned the hierarchy and their ambition, with the Italian coach not expected to remain at Stamford Bridge beyond this season.

Finishing in the top four is what it’s all about for the Blues (they’re five points off fourth place heading into this game) but they aren’t in great form with three defeats in their last four PL games.

In team news Chelsea will be without Tiemoue Bakayoko, Ethan Ampadu and David Luiz, while Ross Barkley will be available after missing the defeat at Manchester United last Sunday. Fernandinho (injury) and Fabian Delph (suspension) are definitely out, while Raheem Sterling is a doubt and Kyle Walker could miss out.

Conte discusses Chelsea’s squad rotation, David Luiz

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Antonio Conte has been an avid rotator of his Chelsea team this season and the Italian coach has confirmed he will do it once again on Wednesday for their League Cup quarterfinal.

[ LIVE: Follow League Cup QF scores ] 

Chelsea host Bournemouth at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday and Conte has revealed his plans to give plenty of youngsters a chance against the Cherries.

With European action, a run in the League Cup and Chelsea sitting in third place in the Premier League table, Conte’s rotation has worked fairly well and he believes it is the best way for success across all four competitions his team will play in.

“It’s right to continue to give this opportunity to my players to show me that they deserve to play,” Conte said. “Every competition is serious and our task is to try and win the game, to reach the semifinals. It’s right in this competition to give the opportunity to the players that aren’t playing with regularity. This is very important. It’s very difficult to ask your players to play every game. [N’Golo] Kante has played 10 games in a row. When you do this, you take a great risk with injury.”

Conte confirmed that both Michy Batshuayi and Kenedy will start against Bournemouth, while academy products Dujon Sterling and Callum Hudson-Odoi could be in the squad and 17-year-old Ethan Ampadu may start for the second-straight League Cup game.

When it comes to injuries, Conte revealed that Alvaro Morata is “okay” after his back injury and Charly Musonda is recovering well, while David Luiz remains out with a knee injury.

Responding to questions about media reports that Luiz could be sold to London rivals Arsenal in the January transfer window for over $40 million, Conte had the following to say.

“I don’t read and I solve the problem,” Conte said. “I don’t have some information about this topic. I repeat, I am a person who is very realistic. I like to tell the truth. I think that also I don’t want to annoy you with the same reply. I don’t listen to this. I don’t have anything about this.”

Conte then added that “I like to make the best decision from what I see during the training sessions and if you deserve to play, you play” as well as making a statement about him looking at the mental approach of his players when making decisions on whether or not they should start.

Luiz, 30, was left out of Chelsea’s squad for their win against Manchester United in November and hasn’t played for over a month amid reports of a bust-up with Conte. His knee injury also seems to have been rather convenient as rumors continue to swirl about him leaving Chelsea in January.

Andreas Christensen has impressed in place of Luiz and his form could suggest that Conte is willing to cash in on his Brazilian international who is known to be a big personality in the dressing room at Chelsea following his two spells at the club which yielded the UEFA Champions League, FA Cup, Europa League and Premier League trophies.

Luiz’s sudden fall from grace at Chelsea is even more shocking when you consider his fine form last season in Chelsea’s title-winning campaign. Many eyebrows were raised when Luiz returned to Chelsea from PSG but the Brazilian stepped up to become the central figure in Chelsea’s three-man defense.

Less than 12 months on, it wouldn’t be surprising to see him leave Chelsea in January.