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Top Premier League storylines for Week 9

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An especially arduous international break is over, and here’s a hard reset as you prepare for this weekend’s return of the Premier League.

[ MORE: Sargent moves to Werder Bremen first team ]

Jose Mourinho’s latest trip back to Stamford Bridge carries plenty of intrigue, but we’ll get to that in a moment.

Is beat-up Liverpool’s depth ready for desperate Huddersfield Town?
Huddersfield Town vs. Liverpool, 12:30 p.m. ET Saturday on NBC [ STREAM ]

Sadio Mane, Virgil Van Dijk, Mohamed Salah, Naby Keita. That’s not just a list of Liverpool’s best players, it’s also a few of the Reds who were banged up over the international break.

Jurgen Klopp signed a few players for situations like this, Xherdan Shaqiri in particular, and he does have the boost of a returning Adam Lallana. He insists they’ll be good to go.

“At the end, there will be a really strong side wearing a Liverpool shirt going to Huddersfield and then we will see what we can get there.”

Klopp’s also going against one of his best pals in David Wagner, who needs goals and wins in a hurry. The Terriers are deep in a relegation fight already, and may be getting the Reds at an opportune time.

Can Jose Mourinho get another big win at Stamford Bridge?
Chelsea vs. Manchester United, 7:30 a.m. ET Saturday on NBCSN [ STREAM ]

Well, duh. Do we need to write much under this one? Jose Mourinho’s had plenty of success at Chelsea, but needs to start stacking some wins for Manchester United. Five points adrift of the Top Four and seven back of table-topping Chelsea, now’s a time for a tactical masterclass and a win at the Bridge.

(Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)

Spurs hope returnees can help win unpredictable derby
West Ham vs. Tottenham Hotspur, 10 a.m. ET Saturday on NBCSN [ STREAM ]

The Irons have had two weeks to stew on a disappointing loss at Brighton, but all will be forgotten if Manuel Pellegrini leads West Ham past Spurs at the London Stadium.

Spurs defeat of West Ham last season was its first league away win at the Irons since 2014. But this derby is a real “throw out the records” affair, as the venue has been seemingly inconsequential. Spurs will have Christian Eriksen and Mousa Dembele back.

Will good Leicester City turn up to the Emirates Stadium?
Arsenal vs. Leicester City, 3 p.m. ET Monday on NBCSN [ STREAM ]

The Foxes have stumbled a bit too often to be in the Top Four race, and will need to be at their very best against an Arsenal side which hasn’t lost since opening the season 0-2.

Which underachiever will emerge happy from Merseyside?
Everton vs. Crystal Palace, 11 a.m. ET Sunday on NBCSN [ STREAM ]

Marco Silva‘s Toffees have won back-to-back matches to pull into 11th place in the league, five points clear of Palace. Neither expected to be as low as they currently stand. Judging by the way their seasons have gone, a draw where both teams claim they deserved better is coming to Goodison Park for Sunday’s only Premier League match.

Watch Live: Brighton v. West Ham

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Brighton & Hove Albion host West Ham United on Friday (Watch live, 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com) as Chris Hughton‘s men aim to get back to winning ways against Manuel Pellegrini‘s in-form Hammers.

WATCH LIVE ONLINE

The Seagulls have just one win in their opening seven games of the season, but that was at home against Manchester United and they have turned the Amex into a fortress.

As for West Ham, they’ve beat Everton and Man United in recent weeks, with a draw against high-flying Chelsea sandwiched in-between. Not bad at all after a dodgy start to the season under their new manager.

In team news Brighton bring in Iranian forward Jahanbakhsh for his first PL start, while West Ham are unchanged.


LINEUPS

Everyone’s praising West Ham, even Jose Mourinho

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Marko Arnautovic is feeling very good right now, full fitness or not.

West Ham’s Austrian striker was a menace in the Irons’ 3-1 win over Manchester United on Saturday, and doesn’t need to hear about tactics or Jose Mourinho.

[ RECAP: West Ham 3-1 Man Utd ]

“It doesn’t matter how they set up, our game was to try to win,” Arnautovic said. “We have to do our job and we did it excellently, and that is why we deserved to win.”

Mark Noble, who set-up two goals in one of his finer performances of the past few seasons, felt a similar way, and credited Manuel Pellegrini. From the BBC:

“To be honest the way it’s going at the minute, Man United could have lined up a number of ways with all their talent. … Days like the Chelsea game where we could’ve had a couple of goals, today, the 8-0 win over Macclesfield in midweek. We’ll lose games and play bad at times, but the way manager has us playing, you see the confidence.”

Noble also had praise for Arnautovic after the 29-year-old returned from injury to post his fourth goal in six Premier League matches.

“He hasn’t trained much, only one or two days, so to run like that shows he is working hard for the team. The performance was great especially for the fans who have come here seen some bad ones.”

West Ham looks very good right now. Their 0-4 start appears to half-unlucky and half a victim of bringing many new pieces together.

As for those new pieces, Mourinho was impressed.

“Congratulations to the scout that found these 21-year-old kids,” Mourinho said. “Issa Diop is a monster.”

PL Preview: West Ham vs. Manchester United

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  • West Ham striker Marko Arnautovic is fit for Saturday’s early kick-off after recovering from a knee injury. Grady Diangana could be part of the squad after his two goals against Macclesfield in midweek.
  • West Ham has beaten Manchester United in only one of their last 19 Premier League matches, winning 3-2 in their final match at the Boleyn Ground in May 2016.
  • Romelu Lukaku can become only the fourth player to score in their side’s first four away matches in a Premier League campaign, after Thierry Henry, Daniel Sturridge, and Sergio Aguero.
  • Man Utd have to concede at the London Stadium in the Premier League, keeping a clean sheet in both their visits.

Jose Mourinho and Manchester United visit struggling West Ham (Watch live, 7:30 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com) with both manager’s seats growing hotter by the day.

West Ham currently sit just one point above the relegation zone, with four points from six games and no home Premier League wins so far, and while Man United’s place in the table is better, it’s far below expectations. Marko Arnautovic is fit and expected to return to the lineup, a huge boost for West Ham, but Mourinho will have to delicately handle the fiasco surrounding he and star midfielder Paul Pogba, who could have his head turned by other mega clubs in the days ahead.

Either way, should there be a winner on Saturday, the loser will have a lot of questions to answer, and a burning hot seat to sit down on.


What they’re saying

Luke Shaw on the team’s disappointing recent run of results: “I feel like the team has been playing some good football. I think it was disappointing against Wolves. I don’t think we were ourselves. We should be winning games like that, especially at home in front of our home fans. We were all really disappointed and we just need to pick ourselves back up again and keep going.”

Manuel Pellegrini on West Ham’s defense starting to show improvement: “I’m very happy, not only for Fabian and Diop, but also Angelo Ogbonna‘s performance on Wednesday. “I think we are defensively improving. I knew Diop well. He was the captain of Toulouse. I told him he needed to know a bit more about the Premier League, but I was absolutely sure he would be a success here. It’s the same with Balbuena.”

Prediction

Even with Arnautovic available, it will still be a tough test for West Ham at home against a strong (on paper) Man United side. However, perhaps this is the weekend they can pull off the stunner. West Ham 2-1 Manchester United

Top Premier League storylines for Week 7

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There’s potential for a major Top Four shakeup and maybe even a change in perception of title contention when the Premier League brings Week 7 to the forefront this weekend.

[ STREAM: Watch every PL match live ]


Can Chelsea beat Liverpool again, go top of Premier League?
Chelsea vs. Liverpool — 12:30 p.m. ET Saturday on NBC STREAM ]

The Premier League season will near its one-fifth point after this weekend, and three teams could sit atop the table following six match days.

Two of those teams meet at Stamford Bridge four days after Chelsea came back to beat Liverpool 2-1 at Anfield in the League Cup.

Jurgen Klopp is winless in four against the Blues after winning two of his first three matches against Chelsea as Liverpool boss. Following wins at Stamford Bridge in his first two league visits, Liverpool fell 1-0 last season.

Both teams kept key players out of the Starting XI on Wednesday, though as the intensity of the match ramped up both managers injected some: N'Golo Kante, Roberto Firmino, Eden Hazard, Mohamed Salah, David Luiz, Jordan Henderson.

Yeah, they cared.

So will Liverpool get right back on track at the Bridge following its first setback of the season, or will it be staring down consecutive losses to the same opponent in under a week?

The Reds passed their first two tests of the season, beating Spurs and PSG. The next was a failure versus the Blues, but revenge would keep the PL season firing forward.

Manuel Pellegrini hopes to get another one over on Man Utd
West Ham United vs. Manchester United — 7:30 a.m. ET Saturday on NBCSN STREAM ]

West Ham boss Manuel Pellegrini has had his fair share of success against Manchester United dating back to his time as the manager of Manchester City, posting a 3W-1D-2L record against the Red Devils.

A win on Saturday could rank right up there amongst his favorite conquests, and maybe even be a momentous moment in the tenure of Jose Mourinho at United.

Pellegrini’s 0-4 start to life at West Ham was well-documented, but the Irons beat Everton before drawing Chelsea last week with very different tactical deployments. An 8-0 throttling of Macclesfield Town in the League Cup now yields to this match, which could further endear Pellegrini to the West Ham support.

And if he doesn’t win? We bet they’d agree with Pellegrini that a draw is the next best thing.

United is coming off a 10-man loss to Derby County at home in the League Cup and a wealthy of rough headlines involving Mourinho and Paul Pogba. It’s a “rise up” moment for the Red Devils under Mourinho. They’ve done it plenty of times. Will they bail him out again?

Hornets hope to reclaim footing as Arsenal aims to pass them
Arsenal vs. Watford — 10 a.m. ET Saturday on Gold STREAM ] 

The Top Four race could be pretty cluttered after the weekend, and Arsenal’s ability to leapfrog Watford and sits fifth or better is one to watch closely. Javi Gracia‘s Hornets keep scoring, but have just one result from their last three matches in all competitions.

Try a free preview of the NBC Sports Gold pass this weekend.

Can Spurs avoid letdown without Eriksen?
Huddersfield Town vs. Tottenham Hotspur — 10 a.m. ET Saturday on NBCSN STREAM ]

There will be no Christian Eriksen again for Spurs, but Erik Lamela and Dele Alli have been in-form and firing. A visit to the John Smith’s Stadium isn’t a cakewalk, but the Terriers have been struggling and Spurs will be expected to walk over their Bottom Three opponents.

Clarets try to keep building momentum against desperate Bluebirds
Cardiff City vs. Burnley — 11 a.m. ET Sunday on NBCSN STREAM ]

The Bluebirds may not know what to make of Burnley, who struggled in both the Europa League and Premier League before breaking out for a 4-0 win over Bournemouth last week. Burnley rolled out a second-choice squad for the midweek League Cup loss to Burton Albion, but Cardiff will still be viewing this as a chance to pick up its first win of the PL season.