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PL Sunday preview: Chelsea look to extend perfect start; Arsenal vs. Everton

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Life in the Europa League spells a harsh reality for Chelsea and Arsenal this season: Thursday night games followed by the quick turnaround to Premier League action on Sunday.

[ MORE: What did we learn in the Premier League, Week 6? ]

West Ham United vs. Chelsea — 8:30 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

Following wins by Liverpool and Manchester City on Saturday, Chelsea enter Sunday’s clash on the other side London, where they’ll take on a West Ham side that only last week picked up its first points of the season, third in the PL table. The Blues are, however — along with the Reds — one of two remaining unbeaten teams in the PL. Maurizio Sarri has stabilized Chelsea following a summer of tumult and turnover, thanks in large part to a series of dazzling performances by Eden Hazard — one of the figures at the center of the controversy this summer — as the Belgian has racked up five goals and a pair of assists in just over 300 minutes. His hat trick last weekend helped the Blues to a perfect 5-for-5 start to the season.

West Ham, on the other hand, finally have something to show for their efforts after appointing Manuel Pellegrini as manager and spending more than $100 million on transfers in the summer. All it took was one win to climb out of the bottom-three. Andriy Yarmolenko bagged a brace in the win over Everton, leaving Pellegrini more than pleased after showing faith in the Ukrainian during his first few weeks in the PL.

“I said at the start that Andriy needs a few weeks to get used to playing in the Premier League,” Pellegrini said this week. “He has a lot of quality, we know that, but in this league you can’t just play with quality.

“He demonstrated against Everton that it was the correct moment. He did it very well. After this performance, we must demand him to give more, because he’s able to be a top player for us.

INJURIES: West Ham — OUT: Manuel Lanzini (knee), Winston Reid (knee), Andy Carroll (ankle); QUESTIONABLE: Marko Arnautovic (knee) | Chelsea — QUESTIONABLE: Pedro (shoulder)

Arsenal vs. Everton — 11 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

Another side enjoying a purple patch of results of late is Arsenal, winners of three straight after defeats to Manchester City and Chelsea to start the season. Unai Emery has worked out a decent enough formula, though the Gunners are yet to keep a clean sheet this season (their 9 goals conceded puts them in the bottom-half of the league in the goals-allowed column). Even star striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang acknowledged his side’s defensive struggles following Thursday’s 4-2 victory over Vorskla Poltava in the Europa League.

“I think we played well in the first half and at the beginning of the second as well and we scored four goals, but we need to improve and fight to not concede goals like we did in the last few minutes.”

Everton’s season has also been marked by a drastic difference between the first two games and the three which followed thereafter, only in reverse of Arsenal’s turnaround. After impressing in their first two games, the Toffees have collected just two points from the last three games. Their struggles have been, in part, down to the absence of Richarlison, who scored three goals in the first two games of the season before earning a red card and a three-game ban for head-butting Adam Smith during the 2-2 draw with Bournemouth. Injuries throughout the team proved costly against West Ham last weekend, and not much has improved on that front. Defensive pillars Michael Keane and Phil Jagielka remain out, while Seamus Coleman and Yerry Mina will undergo late fitness tests ahead of Sunday’s kickoff.

INJURIES: Arsenal — OUT: Sead Kolasinac (knee), Laurent Koscielny (achilles), Carl Jenkinson (ankle), Ainsley Maitland-Niles (knee); QUESTIONABLE: Henrikh Mkhitaryan (ankle), Lucas Torreira (knee)| Everton — OUT: Phil Jagielka (knee), Michael Keane (head), Andre Gomes (hamstring), James McCarthy (leg); QUESTIONABLE: Yerry Mina (foot) Seamus Coleman (foot)

Nacho Monreal in talks to renew Arsenal contract

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Nacho Monreal‘s contract at Arsenal is up this summer, and while the 32-year-old has yet to officially state he’s staying on beyond that, he has confirmed that talks are ongoing.

“We are in contact in any moment so don’t worry about that,” Monreal told the Evening Standard ahead of Arsenal’s match on Saturday at Newcastle. “I am happy here. That is the most important thing.”

Monreal is one of the longest tenured Gunners on the squad, having arrived in early 2013 from Spanish club Malaga. He has made 215 appearances for Arsenal across all competitions, scoring 10 goals and assisting 13.

“My idea is to play in football until my body says ‘Nacho, so sorry but that’s the end’. But I think it is far [away]. I hope so. You never know because your body, sometimes you start with some problems, some injuries and you can’t continue giving 100 per cent. But at the moment I feel good so I am not thinking of my retirement.”

Arsenal has had a long-standing policy against signing players over 30 to a contract extension, but recently they have relaxed that guideline. For example, the Gunners signed 33-year-old captain Laurent Koscielny to a 2-1/2 year contract extension in January. The club also signed two new defenders this summer over 30 years old in Stephen Lichtsteiner and Sokratis.

Hugo Lloris banned, fined for DUI

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Tottenham and France captain Hugo Lloris appeared in court in London on Wednesday, with the star goalkeeper banned from driving and fined after accepting he drove his car despite being over two times the drink-drive limit.

Lloris, 31, was handed a 20-month driving ban and fined $65,000 for the incident which took place in the early hours of Friday Aug. 24 as he spent the night in jail.

The captain of France’s 2018 World Cup winning team had been out with Arsenal captain and French teammate Laurent Koscielny, plus Chelsea and France striker Olivier Giroud for dinner and drinks in central London. When he left the restaurant he was pulled over by an undercover police car.

More details emerged from the prosecutor in Westminster Magistrates Court on Wednesday, with Lloris said to be driving at 15 miler per hour in a 30 zone, while he also ran a red light and swerved towards parked cars before being stopped by police. It was also revealed that vomit was found in his car and Lloris had to be helped out of the vehicle by police officers.

Tottenham have said they are dealing with the matter internally, with Lloris’ manager Mauricio Pochettino previously accepting it was extremely out of character for their club captain but wasn’t something they could justify.

“I think it is a massive lesson for everyone. He [Lloris] is punishing himself. He feels so sorry and so bad,” Pochettino said. “He knows he made a big mistake. In the same way I think it is out of character. We are going to support him but knowing that we cannot justify.”

It remains to be seen whether or not Lloris will be stripped of the captaincy for Spurs and France after this incident.

Lloris didn’t play in Spurs’ 2-1 defeat at Watford before the international break after suffering a thigh injury, while he didn’t feature for France over the international break but was in the Stade de France in Paris to lead Les Bleus’ World Cup trophy celebrations with their fans on Monday.

Defending Lloris, David Sonn told the court how his client was showered with drinks from fellow diners as they had continued to celebrate France’s World Cup success.

“On July 15 he was arguably the proudest man on the planet,” Mr Sonn said. “Just 40 days later, he was arrested. He experienced the indignity of being handcuffed and put in a police station overnight. The spectacular fall from grace is not lost on Mr Lloris.”

PL Sunday preview: Man Utd, Spurs, Arsenal hit the road

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Sunday’s slate of Premier League fixtures is chock-full of top-six sides in action, as Arsenal, Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur all look to advance their respective bids to topple this season’s favorites, Manchester City and Liverpool.

[ MORE: What did we learn from PL Saturday, Week 4? ]

Cardiff City vs. Arsenal — 8:30 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

The pressure has eased — even if only ever so slightly — on Unai Emery after picking up his first victory as Arsenal manager last weekend. What the Spaniard could now use is a healthy haul of points from the Gunners’ next seven games, all of which come against non-top-six sides. Up first is a trip to the south of Wales to take on 16th-place Cardiff, a side still seeking its first win (and goal) this season. Emery and midfielder Mesut Ozil have reportedly fallen out with one another, but the manager maintains the story is little more than tabloid fodder.

“Throughout my career I have respect for the media, for newspaper, radio, TV. But there are a lot of people in the media and at not every moment is the information real. It isn’t true, the news. … In this situation with Mesut Ozil, it is clear: he is OK, he has the commitment we want, he is a very important player for us and we want to help him to give us the best performance in each match and each moment.”

As for the Bluebirds, Neil Warnock‘s side is the last remaining team without a goal to their name this season. On the bright side, the two points they have to their name means they’ve kept a pair of clean sheets — in back-to-back games, no less — against Newcastle United and Huddersfield Town.

INJURIES: Cardiff — OUT: Junior Hoilett (groin), Aron Gunnarsson (knee) | Arsenal — OUT: Sead Kolasinac (knee), Laurent Koscielny (achilles), Carl Jenkinson (ankle), Ainsley Maitland-Niles (knee)

Burnley vs. Manchester United — 11 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

It might be early in the 2018-19 season, but it’s not too early for Jose Mourinho to find himself facing the possibility of being fired should Man United lose away to Burnley a week after losing 3-0 to Tottenham Hotspur. It’s not just Monday’s result, but the overwhelming sense of discontent around Old Trafford that has begun to make Mourinho’s position feel as if it’s untenable. He and his players are saying all of the right things, publicly, ahead of Sunday’s trip to Turf Moor, but it’s not as if anyone has any other choice at the moment.

Luke Shaw, for instance, feels the players must stick together and keep their heads down to right the ship.

“You see a lot of things in the media that go on about what our dressing room is like, but we have a really good spirit, a really good group of lads who want to work and achieve big things here. We have a group of hard workers and amazing talents, everywhere you look on the field. We have got to start taking our chances and I am sure we will start winning games. We have got to pick ourselves back up, keep working hard and we need to pick up points after two losses. We need to win and win in a good way.”

Burnley, on the other hand, are dealing with adversity of their own after failing to qualify for the group stage of the Europa League this week. Now, Sean Dyche‘s men seek their first win of the season, and their first point since opening day. Back-to-back defeats to Watford (3-1) and Fulham (4-2) have dropped the Clarets to 19th place in the league table.

INJURIES: Burnley — OUT: Johann Gudmundsson (hamstring), Steven Defour (calf), Robbie Brady (hastring) | Man United — OUT: Marcos Rojo (undisclosed), Diogo Dalot (fitness), Sergio Romero (fitness)

Watford vs. Tottenham Hotspur — 11 a.m. ET, on NBC Sports Gold

At the other end of the table, Sunday also provides an unlikely meeting of unbeaten sides when Watford host Tottenham at Vicarage Road. The Hornets have feasted on bottom-half sides in their first three games, while Spurs landed the first blow of the season amongst the “other” top-six sides vying for Champions League qualification.

While much of the talk about Mauricio Pochettino‘s side has focused on the fact that not a single player was signed this summer — the first such occurrence for a PL club since the summer transfer window began — Monday’s demolition of the Red Devils served as a coming-out party for Brazilian attacker Lucas Moura, a $___-million acquisition who had virtually no impact last season after signing in January. As a well-known former manager in north London might say, getting Moura up to speed with a full preseason behind him has been kind of like a new signing.

Pochettino’s counterpart on Sunday, Javi Gracia, has pushed all of the right buttons thus far, and he’s had to do so when it comes to picking his lineup and substitutes. With such a healthy, deep squad, Gracia might feel this is Watford’s best chance to knock off Spurs for the first time in the PL era. In 12 league meetings spanning two and a half decades, they have just three points to show for their efforts, and haven’t beaten the north London side in league play since 1987.

INJURIES: Watford — OUT: Tom Cleverley (achilles), Younes Kaboul (foot) | Tottenham — OUT: Hugo Lloris (thigh), Heung-Min Son (international duty), Moussa Sissoko (hamstring)

PL Preview: Arsenal vs. West Ham

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  • Last time Arsenal lost its first 3 league games was 1954
  • West Ham has beat Arsenal once in its last 22 meetings
  • Arsenal is unbeaten in last 9 home London derbies

Arsenal has its best chance yet to gain its first points under Unai Emery as they host West Ham at the Emirates on Saturday at 10:00 a.m. ET on NBCSN or live online at NBCSports.com.

The Gunners are without a point after losses to Chelsea and Manchester City, and the team has struggled to show improvement under Emery to this point. Should they falter again, pressure could build with the built-in excuse of a difficult first two fixtures now passed.

[ LIVE STREAM: Arsenal vs. West Ham ]

Emery has no new injury problems to deal with, as other than Carl Jenkinson, Sead Kolasinac, Laurent Koscielny and Ainsley Maitland-Niles all out long-term, everyone is fit. West Ham, meanwhile, will be missing captain Mark Noble who picked up a back injury, while Andy Carroll, Manuel Lanzini and Winston Reid all remain out.

The Hammers sit 19th in the table with zero points and a -5 goal differential after losses to Liverpool and Bournemouth. They squandered a lead last time out, wasting a 1-0 lead to the Cherries to fall 2-1. They have just four wins since January 20th. Midfielder Jack Wilshere is set to play his former club and lead the midfield in Noble’s absence.

What they’re saying

Arsenal playmaker Henrikh Mhkitaryan on the team’s struggles: “We don’t feel any pressure. We are not thinking that something is going wrong because we are moving in the right way even if we lost two games. I don’t know why people are criticizing so much. I’m not paying attention because I know if I’ve played bad or well.”

West Ham attacker Marko Arnautovic on Arsenal: “They have a new coach and a new team and they are trying to achieve big things because they are a top club. But there is no reason why we can’t take points there because they are also human beings.”

Prediction

West Ham is struggling to find its way, and the Gunners need a win desperately, and Arsenal will channel that motivation to a 2-0 road victory.