PL Sunday preview: Manchester derby; Chelsea, Liverpool go for 12

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You could say that Sunday is a big day of Premier League fixtures, but you’d be massively under-selling a six-and-a-half-hour period that see four games played, featuring five of the PL’s “big six” sides.

[ MORE: Spurs grind out another win despite mounting injuries ]

Liverpool vs. Fulham — 7 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

In the day’s first game, Jurgen Klopp‘s Liverpool will seek to become the first side in the PL to reach a dozen games without a defeat. Doing so with a victory at Anfield would (temporarily) vault them ahead of Chelsea and Manchester City for top spot in the title race. A swift response will be required after a shocking defeat away to Red Star Belgrade in the Champions League on Tuesday. It’s not the first time the Reds have lost away on the continent this season: after losing to Napoli last month, Liverpool returned to domestic play and secured a scoreless home draw with Man City.

While Tuesday’s hiccup might seem a disaster in Liverpool’s world, last-place Fulham would beg to differ. The Cottagers haven’t won since Aug. 26, game no. 3 of the season, and have managed just two points from the eight games they’ve played since. On the bright, they sit just three points adrift of 17th place and can drag themselves clear of the relegation zone with a few decent results. Slavisa Jokanovic‘s side has had plenty of problems on both ends of the field — they’ve scored just four goals in their last seven games, simultaneously conceding 20 of the 29 they’ve given up on the season.

INJURIES: Liverpool — OUT: Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (knee) | Fulham — OUT: None


Chelsea vs. Everton — 9:15 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

Very few foresaw a title challenge from Chelsea in Maurizio Sarri‘s first season in England, but the Blues sit second in the table (ahead of Liverpool on goal differential) nearly one-third of the way through the season, also yet to lose (in any competition) in 2018-19. Eden Hazard appears fully recovered from his back injury, which severely limited his minutes late last month, after playing 62 minutes in Thursday’s Europa League win away to BATE Borisov. The Belgian superstar is joint-top of the Golden Boot race with seven goals (plus four assists — tied-fourth most) and has been the best player in the PL, by a substantial margin. In comparison to City and Liverpool’s stingy number of goals conceded — four and five, respectively — Chelsea’s eight seems uninspiring, yet remains next-best by a good distance.

It’s been nearly five years (Dec. 4, 2013, against Manchester United) since Everton last won away to one of the PL’s “big six” sides. Sunday’s trip to Stamford Bridge is merely the Toffees’ next opportunity to break their 30-game skid (0W-9D-21L), but it’s hardly a golden one. It’s been nearly as many tries, 23, since Everton last won away to the Blues (Nov. 26, 1994). Everton’s newly crowned talisman, Richarlison, has been made available for selection after being an injury doubt all week. Marco Silva won’s be so lucky in defense, though, as first-choice center back Kurt Zouma, on loan from Chelsea, is ineligible to play against his parent club.

INJURIES: Chelsea — OUT: None | Everton — OUT: None


Man City vs. Man United — 11:30 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

The third and final — though first in the table — unbeaten side, Man City, will host a Man United side which has (somewhat predictably) fallen on hard times in Jose Mourinho’s third season at the club. Despite winning three of their last four league games, the Red Devils enter Sunday’s Manchester derby seven points (and four places) behind fourth-place Tottenham Hotspur. However, Tuesday’s Champions League triumph away to Juventus will have United feeling full of confidence when they visit the Etihad Stadium. Mourinho has been strangely quiet this week — with regards to City, not Juve — offering few, if any, words about City’s financial fair play predicament or his side’s chances. Perhaps the red half of Manchester has begun to accept the city for its newfound blueness.

As for City, what’s to dislike about a side that has dropped just two points in its last 11 games (all competitions) and has shown no signs whatsoever of dropping off from last season’s record-setting performance? Sure, Kevin De Bruyne is set to miss a couple months due to a knee injury, for the second time this season, but he’s appeared in just three league games thus far (started none — 82 total minutes), yet City have won 29 of a possible 33 points. There’s also a small matter of avenging the home loss of last season, which prevented Pep Guardiola‘s side clinching the title against its most bitter rivals.

INJURIES: Man City — OUT: Kevin De Bruyne (knee), Claudio Bravo (achilles), Eliaquim Mangala (knee) | Man United — OUT: Antonio Valencia (undisclosed)


Arsenal vs. Wolverhampton Wanderers — 11:30 a.m. ET, on NBC Sports Gold

Since suffering defeat in each of their first two games this season, Arsenal have fancied themselves as one of the unbeatens, winning 13 and drawing three of their 16 games since. The somewhat troubling part of those impressive numbers, though, is the fact that the three draws have all come in the Gunners’ last four games (two in the PL, one in the Europa League). On the plus side, one of those league draws came against Liverpool last weekend, signaling the Gunners might just be credible peers to title contenders once again.

Their opponents on Sunday, Wolves, have struggled in recent weeks after a strong start to the season. Three straight losses have dropped Nuno Espirito Santo‘s side to 11th in the table, and an inability to score from open play has been a key culprit. Wolves scored twice in last weekend’s 3-2 loss to Tottenham, but each tally came from the penalty spot, after being held scoreless by Watford and Brighton & Hove Albion — not exactly defensive world-beaters. Still, to be seven points and seven spots clear of the relegation zone right now, in the club’s first season back in the PL since 2012, has been a dream start everyone involved with the club would have taken back in August.

INJURIES: Arsenal — OUT: Stephan Lichtsteiner (hamstring), Laurent Koscielny (achilles), Danny Welbeck (ankle) | Wolves — OUT: None

Premier League Preview: Arsenal vs. Liverpool

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  • Arsenal is without the suspended Matteo Guendouzi, while Mohamed Elneny (thigh), Laurent Koscielny (Achilles) and Dinos Mavropanos (groin) are injured. There are also doubts over Nacho Monreal (hamstring), Hector Bellerin (thigh), Sokratis (ankle) and Sead Kolasinac (hamstring), who all face late fitness tests.  
  • Lverpool midfielders Jordan Henderson and Naby Keita (both hamstring) will miss the trip to London. 
  • The last five PL meetings between these teams have produced 27 goals, an average of 5.4 per match.
  • Arsenal is looking for its first PL victory over Liverpool in seven attempts (D3 L3). This is Arsenal’s longest such run against the Reds since a sequence of 12 between 1994 and 2000

Two of the Premier League’s best attacks face off as Arsenal host Liverpool in the biggest match of the Premier League weekend (Watch live on Saturday at 1:30 p.m. ET on NBC and online via NBCSports.com).

Despite dealing with injuries all season, Liverpool’s offense is finding its best form, with eight goals in its last two games in all competitions, including a trio of goals each from Sadio Mane and Mohamad Salah. The pair, along with Roberto Firmino will provide a great test to Unai Emery‘s rickety defense, which allowed two penalty kick goals last week against Crystal Palace.

WATCH LIVE, ONLINE, HERE

It’s a game that should be high on action and goals and low on slow, defensive play. A true treat for all us Premier League fans.

What they’re saying?

Arsenal manager Unai Emery on facing the top 6 sides: “We want to write a new history. The new history is in the present and also, with our players, our quality and our capacity, I believe in my players and this project. We are starting this project with a very positive way with what we are doing. We are in our mentality that we also need to improve thing but each match they are giving us a lot of information for improvement and development and I trust in my players.”

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp on the recent goal-scoring run: “We created a lot of chances before that as well, apart from the Napoli game and maybe the City game, where there were not a lot of chances at both ends of the pitch. But we created, we only didn’t score. As long as you create, as a manager you should not be in doubt about finishing because the players don’t change overnight or over a week or month or over a season. They are the same boys; there’s always the chance to improve and develop, of course, but you have to respect that there can be a few drops as well.”

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Prediction

Both teams defenses have improved since the two teams last met, but with so much attacking power on display, we expect there to be plenty of highlight-reel moments. We predict it’s going to be a replay of last year’s matchup at the Emirates, with goals from Salah, Mane, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette. Arsenal 3-3 Liverpool

PL Sunday preview: Chelsea, Arsenal chasing title pacers

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One half of the Premier League’s “big six” will be in action, spread across three games, on Sunday.

Chelsea seek to remain in the PL title race; Arsenal seek to extend their winning streak to 12 games; Manchester United seek to reassert themselves and turn their season around.

[ MORE: What did we learn in the Premier League, Week 10? ]

Crystal Palace vs. Arsenal — 9:30 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

It’s been a while since Arsenal last dropped points — let alone lost a game. You have to go back to the second week of the PL season to find the most recent blemish on Unai Emery‘s otherwise sparkling record. No side in Europe can claim a better ongoing run of results (11 straight wins, by a combined score of 31-9 – all competitions). The Gunners will look to make it a dozen wins in a row on Sunday, when they visit Selhurst Park. The club’s longest-ever winning streak is 14 games — achieved in the fall of 1987. Wins over Palace, Blackpool (League Cup) and Liverpool would see Emery and Co., match the record.

Things couldn’t be going much worse for Palace at the moment. Roy Hodgson‘s Eagles have lost three straight league games (winless in four) and slipped to 15th in the PL table, now just two points clear of the relegation zone, during the slide.

INJURIES: Crystal Palace — OUT: Christian Benteke (knee), Scott Dann (knee) | Arsenal — OUT: Laurent Koscielny (achilles); QUESTIONABLE: Sead Kolasinac (hamstring), Ainsley Maitland-Niles (fitness)


Burnley vs. Chelsea — 9:30 a.m. ET, on NBC Sports Gold

Chelsea remain one of three unbeaten PL sides (Liverpool and Manchester City) ahead of Sunday’s trip to Turf Moor. Maurizio Sarri‘s side has, however, dropped points in three of their last four games (draws with West Ham United, Liverpool and Man United). That mini-skid has seen the Blues fall five points back of leaders Liverpool (and potentially City, who play on Monday, as well). Eden Hazard has been arguably the PL’s best player through nine games, but the Belgian superstar’s status is unknown due to a lingering back injury suffered during last week’s 2-2 draw with Man United.

Speaking of Belgian centerpieces, midfielder Steven Defour is back and available for the Clarets after nine months out following knee surgery. Likewise, winger Robbie Brady is expected to be available for selection for the first time in 10 months following a knee operation of his own. The two represent a different class of players capable of delivering Burnley back into the PL’s top-half to build upon last season’s seventh-place finish.

INJURIES: Burnley — OUT: Ben Gibson (fitness), Nick Pope (shoulder), Stephen Ward (knee) | Chelsea — QUESTIONABLE: Eden Hazard (back)


Manchester United vs. Everton — 12 p.m. ET, on NBC and NBCSports.com

Seven points — and five places in the table — currently separate Man United from the top-four, thanks to the Red Devils’ dreadful start to the season (just four wins, and three losses, in the first nine games). European competition hasn’t treated them much better, as they were completely outplayed and beaten by Juventus at Old Trafford this week. Jose Mourinho isn’t expected to have Alexis Sanchez or Jesse Lingard to pick from on Sunday, meaning Romelu Lukaku, Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford should start by default. Martial bagged a brace in the draw with Chelsea, while Rashford hasn’t scored a league goal since Sept. 29; it’s been even longer for Lukaku, whose last PL tally came on Sept. 15.

On the other side, Marco Silva has Everton playing some great soccer late: three straight wins, by a combined score of 7-1. Even better, six of the seven goals have been scored by Richarlison, Gylfi Sigurdsson, Bernad, Theo Walcott or Cenk Tosun, the Toffees’ five most important attacking players. With summer signings Andre Gomes and Yerry Mina making the startling lineup and bench for last week’s victory over Palace, Silva has everyone around Goodison Park feeling exceedingly hopeful ahead of Sunday’s trip to Old Trafford.

INJURIES: Man United — OUT: Alexis Sanchez (groin), Marouane Fellaini (groin), Scott McTominay (knee), Jesse Lingard (groin) | Everton — OUT: None

Giroud plans to continue international career

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French defender Laurent Koscielny has retired from international play, but his former Arsenal teammate is planning to keep plugging along. At least, until there’s no more room for his services.

In the wake of Koscielny’s departure from selection for Frnace, the 32-year-old Giroud has no plans of fading into the sunset after winning the 2018 World Cup.

“The guys at Chelsea, notably Antonio Rudiger, have said to me: ‘Why do you carry on? You are on a high, on top of the world and you will soon be 32’,” Giroud said ahead of France’s UEFA Nations League match against struggling Germany. “But it would have been too easy to leave like that. I feel that I am still good enough. I can bring something to the team. So if the coach [Didier Deschamps] feels the same thing, I will be available. I know too well how much I am going to miss football after my career for me to put up my own barriers.”

Giroud says that a little part of him even hopes that the game will decide when it is time to retire instead of having to make the decision himself.

“I am going to make the most of every chance because, obviously, I am closer to the end than the start,” Giroud said. “There is a risk that the youngsters will push me out of the door. It will maybe happen like that. It is maybe even better. But I am a competitor.”

While Giroud has scored just one goal in his last 12 international appearances – including none in this summer’s World Cup – he joked about an uptick in his creativity.

“There have been no goals but I have made four assists. All of a sudden, this season, I am going to aim for the title of best passer.”

PL Sunday preview: Title-race showdown at Anfield

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Sunday’s slate of Premier League fixtures consists of three games featuring four of the six sides with top-four aspirations, including the big one: the one we’ve all been waiting for since they met in the Champions League quarterfinals in April, Liverpool versus Manchester City.

[ MORE: What did we learn in the Premier League, Week 8? ]

Fulham vs. Arsenal — 7 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

Arsenal seek their sixth straight PL win on Sunday when Unai Emery and Co., make the short trip south to the River Thames and head west until they float up to Craven Cottage. Emery has settled in quickly — and quietly — since back-to-back defeats to Man City and Chelsea to begin his first season at the Emirates Stadium. While they’ve managed more than a handful of goals en route to five straight wins, it’s the defensive record (just four goals conceded, including back-to-back clean sheets against Everton and Watford) which has given the Gunners a foundation to build upon. Just two points separate Arsenal from fourth-place Chelsea.

Down at the other end of the table — 17th place, to be exact — Fulham are winless in their last four league games and have just five points to show for their first seven outings after spending more than $130 million this summer after winning promotion from the Championship. Injuries have been a key cause the Cottagers’ early-season struggles, as manager Slavisa Jokanovic has already used nine different defenders in PL play. American defender Tim Ream returned last weekend after missing the start of the season with a back injury and should do his part to stabilize a side that has conceded 16 goals in seven games.

INJURIES: Fulham — OUT: Timothy Fosu-Mensah (shoulder), Joe Bryan (hamstring) | Arsenal — OUT: Petr Cech (hamstring), Laurent Koscielny (achilles), Ainsley Maitland-Niles (knee); QUESTIONABLE: Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (illness)


Southampton vs. Chelsea — 9:15 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

The good news for Chelsea: they’re still unbeaten to start the PL season. The slightly-less-great news: it’s been three weeks since they last won a PL game and they’re in danger of falling away from the leading pack, which presently consists of Liverpool and Man City. The Blues have won six straight games against Southampton (all competitions), including the FA Cup semifinal in April.

“We have lost two points in both our last two (league) games, so obviously we want to get three points as much as we can,” defender Cesar Azpilicueta said this week. “We weren’t able to in the last two games so we need to improve because every time we go onto the pitch, we want to win.”

Southampton, on the other hand, currently sit 16th in the midst of a three-game winless skid, including back-to-back defeats to Liverpool and Wolverhampton Wanderers. It’s been 205 minutes since Saints last scored a goal in PL play, and they have a bottom-five offensive record this season (six goals in seven games). Mark Hughes will be desperately hoping that edging past Everton on penalty kicks in the EFL Cup third round on Tuesday gives his side a much needed boost with the busy winter period not so far away now.

INJURIES: Southampton — OUT: None | Chelsea — OUT: Marco Van Ginkel (knee)


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

The last time Man City visited Anfield, they conceded three times in the game’s opening half-hour on their way to a 3-0 first-leg defeat, and a disheartening exit from the Champions League. The visit before that, Pep Guardiola‘s side conceded four times — including a three-goal barrage that lasted just nine minutes — as they watched their 22-game unbeaten start to the season vanish at Anfield. It’s been more than 15 years since City last beat Liverpool on Merseyside, as they’ve lost 11 times at Anfield since May 3, 2003.

Guardiola has not yet revealed whether or not Kevin De Bruyne (knee) will return after two months on the sidelines, though City have managed just fine — thus far — without their play-making genius. A run of four straight wins (by a combined score of 12-1) have vaulted City back ahead of Liverpool for the top spot in the table, thanks to the Reds’ 1-1 draw with Chelsea last weekend. Jurgen Klopp‘s side was perfect up until its trip to Stamford Bridge.

Klopp was very quick to downplay his side’s recent success against City, knowing his side is in for another colossal battle on Sunday.

“We won the last three games against City — twice in the Champions League and once in the league. After none of these games do you go into the dressing room and think, ‘Now we’ve got it, now we know how to beat Manchester City.’

“There is no real way; there isn’t one thing you have to do so you can beat them. That’s not there. You need a fantastic football team — which I have, thank God — with an outstanding character, ready for being really brave, ready for making mistakes in a very difficult game against an outstanding opponent.”

INJURIES: Liverpool — OUT: Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (knee); QUESTIONABLE: Naby Keita (back), Adam Lallana (groin) | Man City — OUT: Claudio Bravo (achilles); QUESTIONABLE: Kevin De Bruyne (knee), Ilkay Gundogan (hamstring), Benjamin Mendy (foot)