Jurgen Klopp

Getty Images

PL Sunday preview: Man Utd and Arsenal chase top five; Chelsea host Liverpool

Leave a comment

Sunday’s slate of Premier League fixtures is filled up to the brim of top-six sides in action, as Manchester United and Arsenal look to climb into the top five in the table, while Chelsea looks to send a strong message as they host leaders Liverpool.

[ STREAM: Every PL match live ]

West Ham vs. Manchester United — 9:00 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

Aside from leaders Liverpool, there is no other team in the league experiencing such a positive run as West Ham. The Hammers are unbeaten in their last four bouts – wining twice and drawing twice – as they head into Sunday’s showdown against Manchester United. Equal with five other sides with eight points, Manuel Pellegrini is conscious that it’s the ideal time to make a statement and climb into the top six.

“We have a very strong team in front of us, it will be a strong test against United. It is the only way we can get into the top six, demonstrating you are able to do it,” Pellegrini said heading into Sunday.

As for the Red Devils, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer‘s side – who share the podium with West Ham – are looking to extend their current winning form to three games. Ahead of the game, however, the talk surrounding United isn’t Sunday’s game, but Paul Pogba‘s rumored move to Real Madrid this summer. What a better way to get everyone’s mind of theoretical situations and injury worries than with a win.

INJURIES: West Ham — OUT: Michail Antonio (hamstring), Arthur Masuaku (suspended) | Manchester United —OUT: Anthony Martial (thigh), Paul Pogba (back), Luke Shaw (hamstring), Eric Bailly (knee), Timothy Fosu-Mensah (knee)

Crystal Palace vs. Wolverhampton Wanderers — 9 a.m. ET, on NBC Sports Gold

Not many expected it: Wolves winless throughout the first five games of the season. That, however, is the reality for a team that finished seventh last season. By now, Wolverhampton Wanderers have had plenty of time to pick up on the alarm bells, it’s time for them to respond.

Manager Nuno Espírito Santo, for instance, knows that it’s time for his side to get back into shape before it’s too late.

“This is important,” he said. “We face the reality and the reality says we not performing well so we have to analyse it and find solutions in the team to improve. We must react immediately. We have to take decisions and find solutions for the team because we have to come out of this situation and improve our performance so we can bounce back.”

Crystal Palace, on the other hand, are dealing with adversity of their own after falling to Tottenham Hotspur, 4-0, last week. Playing at Selhurst Park this time around should be a positive, but Palace has only managed to score a goal in three matches in front of their home crowd this season.

INJURIES: Crystal Palace — OUT: None | Wolverhampton Wanderers — OUT: None

Arsenal vs. Aston Villa — 11:30 a.m. ET, on NBC Sports Gold

Arsenal have had several things going for them this season: scoring at home, positive first Europa League performance, a healthy and productive Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, among others. One thing they’ve been missing, though, is an effective Nicolas Pepe, especially after shelling record-money for the 24-year-old Ivorian.

“He needs more adaptation,” Emery said in his pre-match press conference. “He is playing good but progressively we know there is going to be more performance in him to help us and I want to do now quickly the last step in the adaptation for us, for example, against Aston Villa.”

With Alexandre Lacazette still out with an ankle injury, Pepe, again, will have the opportunity to showcase his true worth to a packed Emirates Stadium. Arsenal, too, can use his skill to get that much closer to three, vital points.

“When will Aston Villa finally break out of their shell?” is the million-dollar question for the visitors. At times, the newly promoted side has shown the flair that made it so powerful in the Championship last season, only to leave spectators on the edge of their seats, waiting for that final blow. In North London on Sunday, Dean Smith and Co. have the chance to do so with several players back in the mix, but that’s not to say the task will be a walk in the park.

INJURIES: Arsenal — OUT: Alexandre Lacazette (ankle) | Aston Villa — OUT: James Chester (thigh), Jonathan Kodjia (cheek)

Chelsea vs. Liverpool — 11:30 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

Liverpool, like Chelsea, suffered opening losses in European play midweek; however, there is a different, more positive impetus fueling Jurgen Klopp‘s side. The defending Champions League winners’ immaculate record speaks volume to their current situation, one that’s biggest setback has been the aforementioned loss to Napoli and the injury to goalkeeper Allison, while regaining influential player Nabi Keita in trainings.

It begs to ask: with Manchester City already behind and several top-six sides struggling, how will Liverpool not runaway with the league title this season? That type of talk, however, is exactly what Klopp doesn’t want to hear. The season is green – very, ver green – and this season, for one reason or another, is nothing like last year’s.

“Nothing is won already,” Klopp said. “We have seen teams make big steps. There is nobody you think will go down with no points. Watford and Wolves have been at the bottom, struggling, but will end up going back up. The league is much different (to last season). So many things can happen. Five games is nothing, not even created a basis…”

Klopp’s counterpart on Sunday, Frank Lampard, as a result of his own environment, is managing a different dialogue ahead of the clash, like the possibility of fielding Mason Mount, who came off midweek against Valencia in Champions League play.

On the bright side, Chelsea are unbeaten in their last four league bouts, and have a game against Liverpool under their belts this season already – a penalty-shootout loss in the UEFA Super Cup – that should have seasoned them ahead of this season’s part two of the rivalry.

“Times have changed slightly, but it doesn’t change that feeling,” Lampard said on the Chelsea-Liverpool rivalry. “I think the fans feel it, the players feel it, it does involve a lot of passion whenever it’s played. If your levels aren’t there it’s a game that can get away from you quickly so my first thing to say to the players is to make sure they feel this game, recognise what it is, because it always does have an edge.”

INJURIES: Chelsea OUT: Antonio Rüdiger (groin), Ruben Loftus-Cheek (achilles), Callum Hudson-Odoi, Reece James (both fitness) | Liverpool  OUT: Alisson (calf), Nathaniel Clyne (knee)

Picking a 2019 Rugby World Cup team based on your PL club

1 Comment

Okay, we know the balls are shaped slightly differently, but there is plenty of shared history between soccer and rugby and the 2019 Rugby World Cup kicks off this Friday across NBC Sports.

WATCH 2019 RUGBY WORLD CUP

Barring in mind you’ll be able to watch every single game live from the World Cup in Japan via NBC Sports Gold and across the NBC family of channels, now is a good time to brush up on your rugby knowledge.

Let’s make it as easy as we can for you.

Below we take a look at which of the 20 World Cup nations is most similar to one of the 20 PL clubs.

[ STREAM: Every PL match live

If you’re looking to watch the World Cup but don’t know which team to support, this will help you out, as all you have to find the PL club you support and, hey presto, you have a team for the 2019 Rugby World Cup.


Argentina = Everton
A team which is usually the ‘best of the rest’ in world rugby. Yep, Toffees fans can sympathize with being just good enough to be included in the big conversations but never quite getting over the line. This year could be different, though. Argentina and England are expected to advance from their pool, as France aren’t as good as they’ve been in past World Cups. Opportunity knocks for Argentina.

Australia = Chelsea
Both have had success in the past but both are just on the outside looking in when it comes to the favorites. Australia, like Chelsea, have plenty of inexperienced players heading into this World Cup. Could be a good outside bet to cause a few shocks and will always be in the conversation at the business end of the tournament.

Canada = Brighton
Canada are in the midst of a rebuild after struggling at the 2015 World Cup. Brighton are in the midst of a rebuild after just staying up in the Premier League last season.

England = Liverpool
The second favorites, for many, to win the World Cup, there is a lot of excitement around this England side. Like Liverpool, historically they are always up there, but a new approach from the eccentric Eddie Jones has brought about good results. Like Jurgen Klopp, an exciting team has a charismatic leader. This could be the year for both of these teams…

Fiji = Aston Villa
Upstarts who have a fine heritage in the game, Fiji have arrived after big recent wins against France and Wales. Villa have returned to the big time and are expected to say, and this tournament provides Fiji with a perfect chance to secure their best-ever finish at a World Cup. Semi Radradra is to Fiji what Jack Grealish is to Aston Villa.

Georgia = Burnley
Placed in a tough pool, nobody expects anything from Georgia. They are the heavy underdogs and have never made the knockout rounds of a World Cup. Burnley know all about being the underdogs, and Georgia are a physical side who make it tough for opponents. Yep, this comparison works perfectly.

France = Leicester City
Much-changed France have been overlooked by many, but they have the young talent to succeed. Leicester have a plan and identity and even though this season may not be their year to break into the top four, there is potential for them to do it. France will be lucky to get to the semifinals, but if they do, they are very unpredictable under Jacques Brunel.

Ireland = Man United
They possess so many talented players and although they are currently ranked as the top team on the planet, Ireland a real Jekyll and Hyde team. Like Man United, they are well-supported and will be there or thereabouts, but many aren’t backing them to succeed. This time.

Italy = Southampton
Always around, and capable of causing upsets, both Italy and Southampton fly under the radar. Like Saints, this Italian side has a small core of key players and they cannot afford any injuries. If they make it out of the group stage it would be a big achievement, and if Saints finish in the top 10 that would be comparable.

Japan = Wolves
A team aiming to join the big boys, Japan and Wolves have a lot in common. Japan won three of their pool games in 2015 but agonizingly failed to make the quarterfinals. Hosts Japan will have a lot of expectation on them this time around, while Wolves’ expectations levels have also increased. Can they deliver?

Namibia = Bournemouth
One of the smallest nations at the World Cup, Namibia have defied the odds to reach seven-straight World Cups. How much longer can they keep doing that? Bournemouth are now regulars in the PL, as Eddie Howe has worked similar miracles. Both minnows don’t get the respect they deserve, but how long will their fairytales last? And can they finally step up to the next tier?

New Zealand = Man City
The undisputed favorites to win, both teams seem too strong for their opponents. Dynasties have been produced as a string of superstars are well-drilled and hungry for continued success. Like Man City, New Zealand are going for the three-peat after winning the 2011 and 2015 World Cups on home soil and then in England. The All Blacks are stacked.

Russia = Norwich City
The Russians only qualified due to Romania and Spain breaking rules, and they are expected to be battered in the World Cup. Like Norwich, nobody gives them a chance. But we all know how Norwich have fared so far. If Russia can secure one win in pool play this will be deemed a huge success.

Samoa = West Ham
They have the squad to prevail, but so many changes behind-the-scenes has led to chaos for Samoa. Sound familiar, West Ham fans? Both teams have the potential to disrupt the big boys but haven’t come close to doing so in recent years. Talented, but more structure needed.

Scotland = Newcastle
Capable of beating anyone, Scotland and Newcastle are very good when it all slots together. But that only happens rarely. Sleeping giants, they are even close geographically. For all of the passion of their fans, there has been little to shout about in recent times. Neither team has a Plan B.

South Africa = Tottenham
A contender, for sure, but can they put it all together to lift the trophy? Tottenham have struggled with that in recent years, and although South Africa won the World Cup in 1995 and 2007, those are their only two finals in history. Both teams a little too inconsistent right now.

Tonga = Crystal Palace
A team always punching above their weight and modest resources, Tonga can cause upsets, just like they did when beating France at the 2011 World Cup. Crystal Palace love to play the underdogs too, and are willing to dig deep in a solid, defensive system. Tealusa Veainu is the speedy star of this Tonga side, and just like Wilfried Zaha for Palace, they need him to shine in key moments.

Uruguay = Sheffield United
This Uruguay side have totally overhauled their team since the last World Cup in England, and that mirrors what Chris Wilder has done at Sheffield United. A totally new playing style has arrived for Uruguay, as they’ve ditched the defensive style for being fluid and exciting to watch. That slots in with the Blades’ identity where overlapping center backs are kings. A work in progress. Fun to watch.

USA = Watford
Well, rugby in the U.S. is clearly on the up. This is the best-ever team from the USA but they have been placed in a very tough pool alongside England, Argentina and France. Watford have the best-ever team right now, but have they also reached the proverbial glass ceiling? Capable of upsets, the U.S. will have to rack plenty of them up to make it to the last eight for the first time in their history. AJ MacGinty runs the show for the Eagles, just as Gerard Deulofeu keeps Watford moving forward.

Wales = Arsenal
Warren Gatland is leaving after this tournament, and like Arsene Wenger for Arsenal, he brought sustained success for Wales. But all good things come to and end. Unlike Wenger, Gatland will be hoping to go out on top and this Welsh side have the potential to do just that after their Six Nations’ success. They don’t have the biggest squad depth in some key areas (Arsenal fans will sympathize with that) but when their best lineup is out there, they can beat anybody.

Premier League most underrated XI

Getty Images
2 Comments

On Twitter, we asked Premier League fans to submit their choice for most underrated player in the English top flight right now. There were a host of fascinating answers, with plenty of different teams represented.

Tottenham and Liverpool players appeared a lot, not surprising given they reached the Champions League final but have just a handful of true superstars on the roster, with Jurgen Klopp and Mauricio Pochettino preferring to put together a squad that plays as a greater whole than the sum of its parts.

So, with that in mind, we thought we should take it one step further and put together a full-blown starting XI of underrated Premier League players.

While putting these together, obviously being just five matches, prior seasons are of course taken into account, but this season’s early performances are also heavily weighed. Behold, our most underrated players all together in one squad. How well would these lineups perform in the league?

Our Premier League Underrated XI’s

Kyle Bonn: [ ]

Kasper Schmeichel

Ricardo PereiraJoel MatipWilly BolyLucas Digne

Declan Rice — Ruben Neves —

— Emiliano Buendia — James MaddisonHeung-Min Son

Roberto Firmino —

Nicholas Mendola: [ ]

Bernd Leno

Aaron Wan-Bissaka — Willy Boly — Tyrone Mings — Ricardo Pereira —

Harry WinksFabinho

— Heung-Min Son — James Maddison — Felipe Anderson

Callum Wilson

Daniel Karell: [ ]

Angus Gunn

Matt DohertyMaya YoshidaYerry MinaPatrick Van Aanholt

Todd CantwellManuel LanziniJack GrealishRyan Fraser

— Callum Wilson — Raul Jimenez —

The highlights

Heung-Min Son was probably the most often mentioned name in our Twitter question, and so he earns a spot on two of the lineups. A number of Liverpool players also cropped up, and Bonn responded with the inclusion of do-it-all striker Roberto Firmino and defender Joel Matip, who often finds himself in Virgil Van Dijk‘s shadow but has risen from injury substitute to regular starter.

Also appearing twice are Bournemouth striker Callum Wilson, Wolves center-back Willy Boly, Leicester City midfielder James Maddison, and Foxes full-back Ricardo Peirera. Otherwise, the writers all went in their own directions!

Jack Grealish is mentioned on Karrell’s list, and he has already proven a divisive topic amongst our writers. Mendola included Reds midfielder Fabinho while also singing the praises of West Ham attacker Felipe Anderson who is doing his best to make up for the departure of Marko Arnautovic. The Hammers also appear on Karrell’s lineup with Manuel Lanzini, who owns two assists on the young season. Many folks may still be learning Emiliano Buendia’s name, but the young Argentine has been the brains behind Teemu Pukki‘s breakout season at the head of the Norwich attack.

Manchester United full-back Aaron Wan-Bissaka is mentioned, although is he really underrated after moving for $60 million this summer? Wolves midfielder Ruben Neves could lay claim to the label as the best player outside the Premier League top six clubs, although Declan Rice might claim he’s not even the best midfielder. Who is a bang-on starter for your most underrated Premier League squad?

LIVE, UCL: Napoli v. Liverpool, Chelsea v. Valencia

Getty Images
Leave a comment

The UEFA Champions League group stage is back, as Premier League sides Liverpool and Chelsea are both in action on Tuesday.

[ LIVE: Champions League scores ]

Reigning European champs Liverpool head to Napoli in their opening group game, as Jurgen Klopp‘s men aim to avenge the defeat at the Stadio San Paolo in the group stage last season. As for Chelsea, Frank Lampard and several of his young Blues stars are making their UEFA Champions League debuts as a manager and players.

A beauty of a game takes place in Group F, as Borussia Dortmund host Barcelona with Lionel Messi back in the Barca squad after injury.

Below is the full schedule for Tuesday’s late games, with all games kicking off at 3 p.m. ET.

Click on the link above to follow all of the action live, while we will have you covered with a roundup of the action right here on Pro Soccer Talk.


Tuesday’s UEFA Champions League schedule

Group E
Napoli v. Liverpool
Red Bull Salzburg v. Genk

Group F
Borussia Dortmund v. Barcelona

Group G
Benfica v. Leipzig

Group H
Ajax v. Lille
Chelsea v. Valencia

Man City lose John Stones to injury

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Reigning Premier League champions Manchester City are down to the bare bones at center back.

John Stones will be out “four to five weeks” with a muscle injury, according to City boss Pep Guardiola.

Speaking ahead of City’s UEFA Champions League clash at Shakhtar Donetsk on Wednesday, City’s manager confirmed the injury happened in training.

With Aymeric Laporte out until January at the earliest, Man City have a real problem at center back with Nicolas Otamendi their only experienced central defender left.

The Argentine defender has struggled early this season and was awful in their shock defeat at Norwich on Saturday.

Midfielder Fernandinho will likely slot in at center back in the coming weeks, and that was likely going to the case anyway with Stones and Otamendi playing so poorly together. After losing Vincent Kompany this summer and then failing to sign Harry Maguire, not adding a new center back was a massive oversight by City.

That sound you can hear is Liverpool’s fans celebrating, as Jurgen Klopp’s side already have a five point lead atop the Premier League table.