PL Sunday preview: Man City’s title trot; Wenger’s farewell tour

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Manchester City will play as the confirmed champions of the Premier League, though they won’t celebrate as such for a couple more weeks, on Sunday. Meanwhile, the only manager Arsenal have known for more than two decades begins saying goodbye

[ MORE: Man United come back to beat Spurs, reach FA Cup final ]

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

So begins the Arsene Wenger farewell tour, and with a London derby at that. Wenger announced on Friday that he’ll leave Arsenal at the end of the current season, which has little to no chance of seeing the Gunners finish in the PL’s top-five, let alone the top-four. Sunday’s clash with West Ham will be the first of Wenger’s three remaining games at the Emirates Stadium, including the Europa League semifinal against Atletico Madrid on Thursday. Unfortunately for Wenger, three of his final five PL games (four of seven in all competitions) will be played away from home, where his side has lost five straight in league play.

Speaking of lost and wayward seasons, 14th-place West Ham are almost mathematically clear of relegation (there’s currently three places and six points between themselves and 18th-place Southampton). It’s hardly the future they imagined upon moving to the London Stadium at the start of last season. Andy Carroll scored the late equalizer in the Hammers’ 1-1 draw with Stoke City on Monday, which rescued perhaps a perfectly timed point with all five remaining games to be played against sides currently in the top-nine (Arsenal, Man City, Leicester, Man United and Everton).

INJURIES: Arsenal — OUT: Henrikh Mkhitaryan (knee), Santi Cazorla (achilles); QUESTIONABLE: Jack Wilshere (ankle) | West Ham — OUT: James Collins (hamstring), Sam Byram (ankle), Winston Reid (knee), Michail Antonio (hamstring), Pedro Obiang (knee)


Stoke City vs. Burnley — 8:30 a.m. ET, on NBC Sports Gold

Here’s what’s at stake at the bet365 Stadium on Sunday:

Stoke sit two places and five points adrift of safety from relegation, with four games left to play (17th-place Swansea City have a game in hand, to boot). After 10 seasons in the PL, it’s looking more and more likely that Paul Lambert (with a tip of the cap to Mark Hughes earlier in the season) will take the Potters back to the Championship for the first time since they won promotion in 2008.

Burnley trail Arsenal by just two points (though the Clarets have played one more game than the Gunners) in the race for sixth place. A sixth-place finish would be the club’s highest top-flight finish since 1966 (3rd).

INJURIES: Stoke — QUESTIONABLE: Eric-Maxim Choupo-Moting (groin) | Burnley — OUT: Steven Defour (knee), Scott Arfield (calf), Robbie Brady (knee), Jonathan Walters (fitness); QUESTIONABLE: Ben Mee (knock), Georges-Kevin Nkoudou (hamstring)


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

While Man City won’t lift the PL trophy until their May 6 clash with Huddersfield Town, Sunday’s visit from Swansea will be Pep Guardiola‘s side’s first outing since clinching the title courtesy of Man United’s defeat to West Bromwich Albion last weekend. Guardiola’s focus has turned to breaking the all-time PL points record (95 — they currently have 87 with five games still to play).

“In the past, I won the league at Bayern and at Barca with five, six or seven games (left) but the next games were not good,” he said this week. “We have to think about how many points we can get, it can be a good argument. What we need to do is already done, the points record is not the most important thing, but maybe it can help us to be focused. It would be uncomfortable to finish in a bad way, there always has to be a target and maybe scoring the most goals and winning the most points will be a good focus.”

INJURIES: Man City — OUT: Sergio Aguero (knee), Benjamin Mendy (knee); QUESTIONABLE: John Stones (thigh) | Swansea — OUT: Wilfried Bony (knee), Leroy Fer (achilles), Renato Sanches (hamstring)

FA Cup preview: Huddersfield, Swansea set for replays

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Huddersfield Town and Swansea City will try again for a spot in the FA Cup 5th round as they have another shot after draws their last time out.

First, David Wagner‘s crew takes a five match winless run into St. Andrews as they visit Birmingham City after a 1-1 draw. Their Championship opponents might be in 19th place in the table, but they are in good form, having moved further off the bottom of the table in recent weeks.

[ LIVE: Follow all the FA Cup scores here ]

Lukasz Jutkiewicz has lost his starting spot in Championship play, but he scored on the Terriers in the first meeting between these two clubs and could be given another shot. The early portion of the match could be critical, as Huddersfield has trailed eight times at the halftime break this season, and earned just a single draw from those games.

Elsewhere, Swansea City hosts League Two side Notts County as the Swans look to build on their good form, without a loss since January 2nd. The Swans have gone to a replay now in two straight FA Cup rounds, after being held their first time out against Wolverhampton before winning the second go around at home.

Notts County came into their meeting with Swansea in poor form, having lost two in a row, but they earned the 1-1 draw to force a replay, and then came back and clobbered Crewe Alexandria 4-1 in their subsequent league meeting. Swansea will be without Wilfried Bony and Leroy Fer who both suffered long-term injuries in the past week.

when one swan falls, another swan begins to fly,” said manager Carlos Carvalhal. “We are disappointed because Fer was doing very well and Bony was fighting hard every day to get to his best level. We wish we had them available, but we have players to cover the situation in the time that they are not here.”

They are also missing young loanee Renato Sanches who is out a month with hamstring injury. That makes three players who started the 1-1 draw with Notts who will be absent for the second go. In addition, new arrivals Andre Ayew and Andy King are both cup-tied and cannot be selected.

Finally, League One basement-dwellers Rochdale host Championship side Millwall in a replay after the two played to an exciting 2-2 draw that saw Millwall equalize in the 90th minute to force a replay.

Swansea City loses pair for rest of the season

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A pair of Swansea City players have suffered serious injuries and will miss the remainder of the season.

Striker Wilfried Bony and midfielder Leroy Fer will not feature the rest of the way as Swans attempt to stay clear of the drop zone.

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Bony has torn his ACL, while Fer has ruptured his achilles. Both will require surgery.

In Bony’s case, Swansea says he suffered the injury early in his 19 minute substitute appearance Saturday but played through it.

Swans did buy striker Andre Ayew from West Ham in the transfer window, though they let Oliver McBurnie take a loan to Barnsley.

Fer had played 20 league matches with a goal and an assist for Swans, while Bony has played 14 PL matches with a pair of goals.

Premier League Preview: Liverpool vs. Swansea City

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  • Swansea has only won once at Anfield in PL play – last year
  • The last 9 PL matches between Liverpool and Swansea has seen 35 goals
  • Liverpool has not lost on Boxing Day since 1982 vs. Manchester United

Liverpool is one of three teams in a dogfight for the fourth spot in the Premier League table, and things are heating up on Boxing Day. The Reds host 20th-placed Swansea City at Anfield (Watch live, 12:30 p.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com) with a chance to at the least keep pace with Tottenham and Arsenal.

The Reds are coming off a wild 3-3 draw against Arsenal which, following a pair of clean sheets against Bournemouth and West Brom, the defense reverted back to old habits despite dominating the game for long spells. Jurgen Klopp admitted Liverpool has “obvious problems” in defense, ones that Swansea will look to capitalize on. However, Liverpool has fared much better this campaign against the bottom half of the table than they did last season.

Swansea, meanwhile, plays three of its next four matches away from home (four of its next five if you count the FA Cup match at Wolves) and will need to pick up points wherever possible to close the gap towards safety – currently four points. Leon Britton, who took charge of Swansea’s draw with Crystal Palace, will remain as interim manager for the trip to Anfield.

Team news

Liverpool: Out – Jordan Henderson (hamstring), Alberto Moreno (ankle), Marko Grujic (finger), Joel Matip (muscle), Nathaniel Clyne (back), Adam Bogdan (knee).

Swansea City: Out – Kyle Naughton (groin), Wilfried Bony (hamstring), Ki Sung-Yueng (calf), Kyle Bartley (knee). QuestionableLeroy Fer (back).

What they’re saying

Jurgen Klopp on drawing matches this year: “The draw [against Arsenal] is really not good, but it’s good because again we were the better side in draw number eight, and we should have won like all the other draws we had. So that’s…in development, even though nobody wants to hear that, it’s a very important thing, that’s a very important thing. In a very difficult league, performance-wise we are very consistent so far.”

Leon Britton on the permanent managerial position: “The fans have been great with me, as player or manager, you could hear them being very vocal which I appreciate, but in terms of the job, nothing has changed and I’m not looking for the job full time. [Management] need[s] to make the right decision, make sure it’s clear what they want, whether that’s before Liverpool, after Liverpool or in January. They have to make sure they take their time and get the right man.”

Prediction

As mentioned earlier, Liverpool has been quite good against the bottom half of the table, most recently holding Bournemouth and West Brom both goalless, plus beating Brighton 5-1 and Stoke City 3-0. It’s hard to look past a free-flowing Liverpool in this game, by a 4-1 scoreline in a game that could get out of hand late.

Everton 3-1 Swansea: Dominant second half has Toffees up to ninth

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Don’t look now, but Sam Allardyce‘s side are up to ninth place in the Premier League.

Everton managed a 3-1 comeback victory on Monday night against Swansea City, behind finishes by Dominic Calvert-Lewin, Gylfi Sigurdsson and Wayne Rooney.

[ MORE: Making sense of PL table in Man City’s world ]

Since taking over managerial duties at Goodison Park at the end of November, Allardyce and his side are unbeaten in five matches (4W, 1D).

Rooney continued his long-time status as one of the PL’s top goalscorers when he notched his 10th finish of the year in all competitions. The ex-Manchester United forward scored from the penalty spot with over 15 minutes remaining in the second stanza, after previously having a spot-kick attempt saved.

The former Swansea midfielder, Sigurdsson, gave the hosts the lead in the 63rd minute, after brilliantly cutting in on his preferred right foot and curling a shot into the far corner.

The Toffees had pulled level just moments before halftime, when Calvert-Lewin scored on a rebound from Wayne Rooney’s penalty kick.

Despite getting a hand to the initial save, and pushing it off the post, Swans keeper Lukasz Fabianski couldn’t keep the follow up out by the young Englishman.

Leroy Fer tapped home for Swansea nine minutes before halftime after the Everton backline left the attacker wide open at the far post for his first goal of the season.

The Swans were forced to make a substitution after just four minutes when striker Wilfried Bony pulled up lame on the touchline. Leading goalscorer Tammy Abraham — currently on loan from Chelsea — came on to replace the veteran Ivorian.

The two sides will be back in action on Saturday when the Toffees host Chelsea, while Swansea takes on fellow bottom-half side Crystal Palace.