Grant Leadbitter

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PL Sunday preview: North London derby; clarity for the top-four?

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There’s Super Sunday, and then there’s this Sunday, when six of the top seven sides in the Premier League will be in action…

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Manchester United vs. Swansea City — 7 a.m. ET, on CNBC and NBCSports.com

Injury crisis — noun: see, also: United, Manchester

With five games to go in the PL season, and a top-four place very much within reach — as well as the Europa League trophy — Jose Mourinho is without a half-dozen players whom would have been considered automatic first-choice starters at the season’s start (see below). Fortunately for him, he’s got players like Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial and Henrikh Mkhitaryan beyond anxious for additional playing time.

Following a 0-0 draw with Manchester City on Thursday, Man United have climbed to within two points of third-place Liverpool (with a game in hand), and control their own destiny as far as finishing in the top-four goes. Following three straight defeats to Swansea in 2014 and 2015, order has somewhat been restored with the Red Devils winning the last two meetings between the sides. As badly as United need three points to qualify for the UEFA Champions League, the Swans need them more in their bid to stave off relegation from the PL (they currently sit three points back of 17th-place Hull City, with a better goal differential).

INJURIES: Man United — OUT: Zlatan Ibrahimovic (knee), Paul Pogba (leg), Marcos Rojo (knee), Juan Mata (groin), Marouane Fellaini (suspension), Chris Smalling (knee), Phil Jones (toe) | Swansea — OUT: Angel Rangel (foot), Nathan Dyer (achilles), Wayne Routledge (hernia)

Everton vs. Chelsea — 9:05 a.m. ET, on CNBC and NBCSports.com

Sunday’s trip to Goodison Park, where they are winless in their last two visits (PL and FA Cup), looks to be Chelsea’s toughest remaining fixture as Antonio Conte‘s side seeks to lift the club’s fifth PL trophy (sixth in all eras). After a pair of losses in four games’ time saw their lead cut from 10 points to four, the Blues reasserted themselves as the team to beat with an FA Cup semifinal victory over Tottenham Hotspur, their last remaining challenger, and a convincing 4-2 victory over Southampton in league play on Tuesday.

INJURIES: Everton — OUT: Seamus Coleman (leg), Ramiro Funes Mori (knee), James McCarthy (hamstring), Yannick Bolasie (knee), Muhamed Besic (fitness) | Chelsea — OUT: None

[ MORE: Sunderland officially relegated to Championship ]

Middlesbrough vs. Manchester City — 9:05 a.m. ET, on NBCSports.com

Following that 0-0 draw in the Manchester derby, Man City remain fourth in the league table, a single point back of Liverpool (with a game in hand). Given the mathematics involved, their margin for error is greater than any of the three sides fighting for the final top Champions League places. With that said, a loss away to 19th-place Boro would be horrendous, season-defining result — one that would take their destiny out of their own hands and see them rely on results elsewhere to finish top-four in Pep Guardiola‘s first season.

INJURIES: Boro — OUT: Victor Valdes (ribs); QUESTIONABLE: Grant Leadbitter (hamstring) | Man City — OUT: John Stones (knock), Ilkay Gundogan (knee); QUESTIONABLE: Sergio Aguero (back), David Silva (ankle), Gabriel Jesus (fitness)

Tottenham Hotspur vs. Arsenal — 11:30 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

It was confirmed on Friday that Sunday’s North London derby would be the very last meeting between Tottenham and Arsenal ever played at White Hart Lane, as the 118-year-old stadium will be demolished this summer as construction on Spurs’ brand new, 61,000-seat stadium continues. As fate would have it, not only can Spurs round out the White Hart Lane era with another famous derby when at the Lane, but Sunday also offers Mauricio Pochettino‘s side the chance to do something the club has failed to do in each of the last 22 seasons: clinch a finish above Arsenal in the league table.

Everything is in Spurs’ favor, too, as they’ve won eight straight league games for just the third time in club history (the first time in the PL era), by a combined score of 23-4. Following back-to-back 4-0 wins, over Watford and Bournemouth, their title hopes were kept alive by a brilliant, late strike from Christian Eriksen on Wednesday at Selhurst Park. At the same time, Arsenal were fortunate to top Leicester City courtesy of a comical own goal scored by Robert Huth. If any of those things — stadium nostalgia, form, or current standing in the league (Spurs sit second, 14 points clear of the Gunners — mattered, we’d hand Spurs the three points now. But, this is still Spurs we’re talking about, and why would we ever skip out on the North London derby?

INJURIES: Tottenham — OUT: Erik Lamela (hip), Harry Winks (ankle), Michel Vorm (knee); QUESTIONABLE: Danny Rose (knee)| Arsenal — OUT: Santi Cazorla (achilles), Shkodran Mustafi (thigh); QUESTIONABLE: Laurent Koscielny (knee)

Watch Live: Swansea vs. Middlesbrough (Lineups & Live Stream)

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It’s a good ol’ fashioned relegation battle as Swansea City hosts Middlesbrough at the Liberty Stadium live on NBCSN at 8:30 a.m. ET or live online at NBCSports.com.

After the initial pair of wins with new manager Paul Clement at the helm, Swansea has continued to struggle and is right back into the thick of the fight, level on points with Hull City but just out of the relegation zone on goal differential. The Swans have lost three of their last four, including a brutal one two weeks against Hull. They will be keen to avoid losing two in a row against relegation opposition, lest they see themselves drop into the zone. However, all their recent losses have come on the road, while at home they’ve won three straight.

[ WATCH LIVE: Swansea City vs. Middlesbrough live online at NBCSports.com ]

Swans are mostly fit with Kyle Naughton returning from a two-match absence with a hamstring problem and Martin Olsson back after a small ankle injury. However, Fernando Llorente picked up a last-minute calf injury, ruling him out of the match, with Jordan Ayew starting up front in his place. Leon Britton also misses out with a hamstring problem and Wayne Routledge is absent for “personal reasons.”

For Middlesbrough, they still have a few small problems to content with. There’s just one change from last week’s loss to Manchester United, but it will see them change formations as Grant Leadbitter comes to the bench in favor of Adama Traore. That changes things from the 4-3-3 they featured in last week’s loss to Manchester United to more of a 4-2-3-1 with just Alvaro Negredo by himself up top.

Boro is still without George Friend and Calum Chambers who are both returning to fitness, while Daniel Ayala returns from his hamstring injury to make the bench. They sit five points from safety, and a win today would go miles towards moving them out of the relegation zone, muddying the waters further. Should they lose, the teams at the bottom will have lost ground on their goal.

LINEUPS

Swansea City: Fabianski; Naughton, Fernandez, Mawton, Olsson; Fer, Cork, Carroll; Narsingh, Ayew, Sigurdsson.
Bench: Nordfeldt, Kingsley, van der Hoorn, Montero, Ki, Borja, McBurne.

Middlesbrough: Valdes; Barragan, Bernardo, Gibson, Fabio; Clayton, de Roon; Traore, Ramirez, Downing; Negredo.
Bench: Guzan, Ayala, Forshaw, Guedioura, Leadbitter, Stuani, Gestede.

FA Cup roundup: Man City toothless vs. Huddersfield; Boro win wild one

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A roundup of Saturday’s action in the fifth round of the FA Cup (thus far)…

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Middlesbrough 3-2 Oxford United

Aitor Karanka‘s side went from 2-0 up (Grant Leadbitter and Rudy Gestede), to level with League One side Oxford United at 2-2, in the space of 90 second-half seconds. The last thing Middlesbrough would have wanted was a fifth-round replay shoehorned into their upcoming fixtures list which already features a tough relegation battle (they currently sit 16th in the Premier League, just two points clear of 18th-place Hull City). Cristhian Stuani rescued them from that reality with his late winner, in the 86th minute, to send Boro through to their first FA Cup quarterfinals appearance since 2009.

MIDDLESBROUGH, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 18: Toni Martinez of Oxford United celebrates scoring his sides second goal with his Oxford United team mates during The Emirates FA Cup Fifth Round match between Middlesbrough and Oxford United at Riverside Stadium on February 18, 2017 in Middlesbrough, England. (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)
(Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)

[ MORE: Fifth-division Lincoln City shock PL side Burnley in FA Cup ]

Huddersfield 0-0 Manchester City

The lineup was first-choice, but the result far worse than second-rate for Manchester City, as Pep Guardiola‘s side proved the definition of toothless and uninspiring in their 0-0 draw away to Championship side Huddersfield Town. 63 percent of possession was converted into fewer than a handful of clear-cut scoring chances, and the absolute last thing Man City needed — a replay smack dab in the middle of a suddenly congested fixtures list (they begin their UEFA Champions League round of 16 tie against Monaco on Tuesday) — has come to pass.

HUDDERSFIELD, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 18: Sergio Aguero of Manchester City (C) and Mark Hudson of Huddersfield Town (R) both stretch to reach the balll during The Emirates FA Cup Fifth Round match between Huddersfield Town and Manchester City at John Smith's Stadium on February 18, 2017 in Huddersfield, England. (Photo by Gareth Copley/Getty Images)
(Photo by Gareth Copley/Getty Images)

[ MORE: Wenger says he’ll manage next season, at Arsenal or not ]

Millwall 1-0 Leicester City

A miserable, relegation-threatened season got (somehow) worse for Leicester City on Saturday, as they bowed out of the FA Cup following a 1-0 defeat at the hands of 10-man (for nearly 40 minutes) League One side Millwall. Shaun Cummings scored the game’s only goal, in the 90th minute, and the best possible thing that could have propped up the Foxes’ 2016-17 season has gone.

LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 18: Shaun Cummings of Millwall (C) celebrates scoring his sides first goal with his Millwall team mates during The Emirates FA Cup Fifth Round match between Millwall and Leicester City at The Den on February 18, 2017 in London, England. (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)
(Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)

Elsewhere in the FA Cup

Burnley 0-1 Lincoln City — RECAP | REACTION

Saturday’s FA Cup schedule

Wolverhampton Wanderers vs. Chelsea — 12:30 p.m. ET — FOLLOW LIVE

Sunday’s FA Cup schedule

Fulham vs. Tottenham Hotspur — 9 a.m. ET
Blackburn Rovers vs. Manchester United — 11:15 a.m. ET

Monday’s FA Cup schedule

Sutton United vs. Arsenal — 2:55 p.m. ET

FA Cup wrap: Chelsea, Spurs nab wins; Reds get replay

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Three Premier League sides secured spots in the fourth round of this year’s FA Cup competition, though Liverpool will have to wait for a replay in the hopes of joining Chelsea, Spurs, and Middlesbrough.

[ MORE: Rating the USMNT roster ]

That puts the trio with Manchester City, Manchester United, Hull City, Arsenal, Watford, and Leicester City in the fourth round. Burnley, Sunderland, Liverpool, Southampton, and Crystal Palace face replays.

Tottenham 2-0 Aston Villa

Mauricio Pochettino handed a start to promising British-American back Cameron Carter-Vickers, who played well, and Spurs needed plenty of time to break down Steve Bruce‘s Villans. Ben Davies and Son Heung-min scored in the last 20 minutes to lead Spurs onward.

Cardiff 1-2 Fulham

The Welsh hosts took a lead from an early Anthony Pilkington free kick, but Stefan Johansen and 16-year-old Ryan Sessegnon had the Cottagers ahead for good by halftime.

Liverpool 0-0 Plymouth ArgyleRECAP

Jurgen Klopp went with mostly kids, and the Reds couldn’t find the net and will have to head to Plymouth for a rematch.

Chelsea 4-1 PeterboroughRECAP

Easy sailing for Antonio Conte aside from a late John Terry red card, as Pedro scored twice to go with goals from Michy Batshuayi and Willian in a straight-forward win.

Middlesbrough 3-0 Sheffield Wednesday

Grant Leadbitter scored again before Boro went down a man in the 59th minute, but the hosts instead found two more goals to move onto the next round (Alvaro Negredo and Marten De Roon with the other markers).

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Premier League roundup: Blues, Reds nab wins

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Things are getting tight in Manchester.

We’re still two months away from Feb. 26’s derby at the Etihad Stadium, but United has won five-straight games under Jose Mourinho to pull within three points of crosstown rivals Man City.

[ MORE PL: Who’s over/under performing? ]

That’s because Pep Guardiola‘s Citizens fell 1-0 in Liverpool in a cagey, sloppy affair at Anfield.

All that and more — including a history-making win for the table leaders — in our PL roundup.

Chelsea 4-2 Stoke CityRECAP

A pair of Willian goals helped offset two uncharacteristic concessions as Chelsea matched a Premier League record by winning its 13th-straight match. Diego Costa and Gary Cahill also scored for the Blues, who lead the league by six points. Bruno Martins Indi and Peter Crouch scored for the Potters, the latter becoming the first English goal scorer for Stoke in nearly 40 tallies.

Manchester United 2-1 MiddlesbroughRECAP

United should’ve led in the first half, but Zlatan Ibrahimovic‘s karate action goal was not given by referee Lee Mason. Then Boro went ahead through Grant Leadbitter before Paul Pogba helped key a deserved three-point run. United is now within a win of City, sniffing the Top Four.

Liverpool 1-0 Manchester CityRECAP

Georginio Wijnaldum‘s early goal turned out to be the appetizer for a disappointing meal. Both teams defended well but also played very sloppy with the ball. It was a choppy game, but don’t look for Jurgen Klopp to be anything but pleased by keeping pace with Chelsea. City is now 10 points back of Chelsea.

Swansea City 0-3 BournemouthRECAP

Bob Bradley‘s gone, but Swansea is still shipping in goals at an alarming rate. Benik Afobe started the scoring early, as the Cherries moved 10 points clear of safety. Josh King and Ryan Fraser also scored for Bournemouth. Swansea appear set to tab Paul Clement as PL boss.

Southampton 1-2 West Bromwich AlbionRECAP

SOUTHAMPTON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 31: Hal Robson-Kanu (R) of West Bromwich Albion celebrates scoring his side's second goal with his team mate Claudio Yacob (L) during the Premier League match between Southampton and West Bromwich Albion at St Mary's Stadium on December 31, 2016 in Southampton, England. (Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images)
Robson-Kanu (R) with Claudio Yacob (Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images).

Shane Long‘s early goal wet his dry spell, but Tony Pulis‘ Baggies took advantage of another poor performance from the mercurial Saints. Matty Phillips and Hal Robson-Kanu scored for West Brom, the latter netting a laser of a strike.

Leicester City 1-0 West Ham UnitedRECAP

The Foxes ended 2016 on a strong note thanks to Islam Slimani‘s first half goal, and Leicester is now six points clear of the drop zone.

Burnley 4-1 SunderlandRECAP

Andre Gray scored three-straight goals, and strike partner Ashley Barnes netted a penalty as the Clarets heaped misery on relegation-battling Sunderland. Jermain Defoe scored a late consolation tally for the Black Cats.

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