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

Top Premier League storylines for Week 12

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The UEFA Champions League and Europa League midweek action has only set the table for what should be a remarkable weekend of movement on the Premier League table, highlighted by one of the best chess matches in recent managerial memory.

[ MORE: PL Club Power Rankings ]


The Manchester Derby, subtitled Pep vs. Mou, Round 3
Man City vs. Manchester United, 11:30 a.m. ET Sunday on NBCSN [ STREAM ]

Manchester City is firing on all cylinders ahead of this one, with a 12-1 combined scoreline in its last two matches and just a single goal allowed in its last seven matches in all competitions, but its rivals have had that little bit of something to get the job done against the odds in recent weeks (Most recently a 2-1 smash-and-grab comeback defeat of Juventus in the Champions League).

Since Pep Guardiola and Jose Mourinho ascended to the top chairs of Manchester City and Manchester United, the home team has a record of 1W-1D-3L in the derby. The lone win is United’s 1-0 League Cup ouster of City in 2016.

The last one, of course, was the memorable 3-2 comeback win punctuated by a Paul Pogba– and Alexis Sanchez-authored “not so fast” as Man City attempted to clinch its Premier League title on April 7.

The Foxes return home from owner’s funeral for King Power tribute
Leicester City vs. Burnley, 10 a.m. ET Saturday on NBCSN
[ STREAM ]

Leicester’s defeat of Cardiff City one week after the death of owner Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha was emotional, but the heavy hearts extended into a trip to Thailand for his funeral and now a first home match without their beloved leader. It’s difficult to imagine what it will be like playing in the building for the first time since the helicopter crash outside the ground that claimed five lives including Srivaddhanaprabha following the 1-1 draw with West Ham. Our thoughts remain with the Leicester community.

Marco Silva‘s Toffees meet massive test at Stamford Bridge
Chelsea vs. Everton, 9:15 a.m. ET Sunday on NBCSN
 [ STREAM ]

Everton is really finding itself, with Richarlison and Gylfi Sigurdsson the standout performers for new boss Marco Silva. But its another first year manager who is exceeding expectations on the job. Given Man City’s task in facing United for a derby, it’s not crazy to think Maurizio Sarri will have Chelsea atop the Premier League table if it can handle the Toffees.

Reds hope to find mojo against defensively-challenged Fulham
Liverpool vs. Fulham, 7 a.m. ET Sunday on NBCSN
[ STREAM ]

The Reds just haven’t been right of late, and that’s underlined, italicized, and bolded by the 2-0 Champions League setback in Serbia. On paper, there is no way Liverpool doesn’t explode for a bunch of goals.

Palace looks to shake slump with derby date against Spurs
Crystal Palace vs. Tottenham Hotspur, 12:30 p.m. ET Saturday on NBC
[ STREAM ]

It’s been 1-0 the last five times these teams have met, with Spurs on a four-match winning run. Tottenham came back to topple PSV Eindhoven earlier this week and kept its Champions League dreams alive, and it heads into Selhurst Park to meet an Eagles team which desperately needs a good and memorable performance.

Premier League Club Power Rankings: Week 11

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Call it the calm before the storm: Liverpool and Chelsea face winnable matches at home while No. 1 Man City tries to navigate the Manchester Derby.

[ ARCHIVE: Premier League club power rankings ]

And we’ve got a new bottom team on our rankings with few signs of improvement at Craven Cottage. How long will Fulham stay 20th?


20. Fulham *New season low* — The Cottagers held the opposition to less than two goals for the first time since Sept. 22, but that’s not achievement against the anemic attack of Huddersfield Town. Losing 1-0 is comparable to its 4-2 loss to Cardiff City. Bad, bad games to lose.
Last week: 18
Season high: 11
Season low: 20

19. Huddersfield Town — Monday’s win was very nice, but we’re not going to break out the party horns and streamers because a goal was scored against Fulham. A result against visiting West Ham would have us at least Googling where to find said celebratory items.
Last week: 20
Season high: 18
Season low: 20

18. Cardiff City — Kudos to the Bluebirds for their classy handling of a difficult occasion in Leicester City’s visit following the death of Foxes owner Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha. A visit from Brighton is a different sort of test.
Last week: 16
Season high: 16
Season low: 20

17. Southampton — Had its moments in a 6-1 loss to Man City, really, but has to take advantage when inconsistent Watford comes to town.
Last week: 15
Season high: 13
Season low: 17

16. Newcastle United — And exhale (but only for a moment). Newcastle finally gets its first win of the season. The Magpies are better than their record suggests, but not by much. Getting a result from high-flying Bournemouth at St. James’ Park this weekend would be a nice respite for supporters heading into an international break.
Last week: 18
Season high: 13
Season low: 19

Rafa Benitez wants the January transfer window to open early (Owen Humphreys/PA via AP)

15. Burnley — Three-straight losses to very good attacks, and Leicester City can score, too. Can Burnley stop its four-match winless run?
Last week: 17
Season high: 13
Season low: 20

14. Crystal Palace — Losers of five of six in all competitions, with the sixth being a 2-2 draw at Arsenal. These Power Rankings’ patience with the Eagles is tooth floss thin.
Last week: 14
Season high: 6
Season low: 15

13. Wolves — Have lost to Spurs, Brighton, and Watford since beating a Palace team we’ve already described as not quite there.
Last week: 12
Season high: 5
Season low: 13

12. Watford — Javi Gracia‘s men have a maddening way of disappearing, and they really should’ve found a way to a win at Newcastle. Those are the breaks when you’re on a losing run and, either way, when you give a team its first win of the season, you’re going to drop down our table.
Last week: 8
Season high: 4
Season low: 14

11. West Ham — Manuel Pellegrini can start to aim higher on the table with a win at Huddersfield Town this weekend.
Last week: 13
Season high: 9
Season low: 20

10. Brighton and Hove Albion — Chris Hughton‘s men will hope the Everton loss was a blip on the radar of a well-run vessel. A visit to Cardiff City should help right the ship.
Last week: 10
Season high: 9
Season low: 19

9. Leicester City — Finding a winner on such a wildly-emotional day at Cardiff City is wonderful, but how will the Foxes be able to perform in their return home from Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha’s funeral in Thailand? All our best to the LCFC family.
Last week: 11
Season high: 7
Season low: 13

Leicester City’s Demarai Gray celebrates scoring his side’s first goal of the game and reveals a shirt that reads ‘For Khun Vichai’ (Simon Galloway/PA via AP)

8. Bournemouth — Losing to the cardiac kids of Manchester United is no shame, but a bounce back is necessary.
Last week: 7
Season high: 6
Season low: 12

7. Everton — That’s a fine win over Brighton, and the Toffees are finally where we expected them to be this season. Now can Marco Silva and Co. claim a result at Chelsea?
Last week: 9
Season high: 5
Season low: 13

6. Manchester United — It’s not sexy, but it’s working for Jose Mourinho. This first derby of the season is a big, big one for this Red Devils side.
Last week: 6
Season high: 4
Season low: 14

5. Arsenal — No shame in drawing Liverpool.
Last week: 4
Season high: 2
Season low: 9

4. Spurs — For as unimpressive as Mauricio Pochettino‘s men have been from time-to-time, Spurs are three points off second place Chelsea and third place Liverpool. If they can get through the Champions League group stage without dipping too far off the Top Four, anything short of the title is possible.
Last week: 5
Season high: 3
Season low: 8

3. Liverpool — For all the Reds’ struggles with mojo, Mohamed Salah finding his finishing boots is really all they need to challenge for the title. The Egyptian is finding loads of chances but just not putting them away.
Last week: 2
Season high: 1
Season low: 4

2. Chelsea — They just kinda go about their business, don’t they? Won in Belarus on Thursday despite leaving much of the club at home.
Last week: 3
Season high: 1
Season low: 5

1. Man City — Look out: For as good as City has been, a loss in the derby could easily see them third on the table.
Last week: 1
Season high: 1
Season low: 2

Best Premier League signings so far

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As we enter the fourth month of the 2018-19 Premier League season, plenty of new signings from the summer months have settled in well and are ripping it up with their new teams.

[ STREAM: Watch every PL match live

Below is a look at the best signings of the season so far, as we assess which newcomers have made the best starts.


David Brooks (Sheffield United to Bournemouth, $14.8 million)
The Welsh youngster has been a revelation in the Premier League, scoring in three of his last four games and adding pace and a direct nature to Bournemouth’s front line. In his first-ever PL season, Brooks’ form is a big reason why Bournemouth sit in sixth place. Still just 21 years old, Brooks compliments Fraser, Wilson and King very well with his clever runs inside and beyond the last defender causing all kinds of problems for opponents.


Jorginho (Napoli to Chelsea, $73.6 million)
Turned down Manchester City to sign for Chelsea and it seems like an inspired decision. The Italian international has been handed the keys to the Blues’ midfield by new manager Maurizio Sarri, the man who joined him in switching Napoli for Chelsea, and he’s transformed the entire team. Leading the PL in passes attempted and completed most weeks, Jorginho’s ability to select the correct pass and get Chelsea going is a joy to watch.


Riyad Mahrez (Leicester City to Manchester City, $77.4 million)
Struggled initially after his huge summer move but the Algerian winger has found his feet in recent weeks with goals against Burnley and Tottenham. Yes, he skied a penalty kick in the big game at Liverpool, but that happens. Aside from that he’s keeping Leroy Sane out of the team right now. That in itself is a huge achievement and Mahrez is thriving under Pep Guardiola. He adds something a little different to City’s attack and as their only signing of the summer at a club-record fee, Mahrez is coping well with the pressure on his shoulders.


James Maddison (Norwich City to Leicester City, $25.8 million)
The 21-year-old arrived as Mahrez’s replacement and his form early in the season was superb, with goals, trickery and a real understanding with Leicester’s other attackers. That resulted in an England call-up and Maddison will be keen to continue to kick on under Claude Puel in a central or wide role.


Lucas Torreira (Sampdoria to Arsenal, $34 million)
The diminutive Uruguayan has flown under the radar a little with Matteo Geundouzi getting a lot of the plaudits in midfield, but his tidy passing and ability to snap away at tackles in front of the back four has helped Unai Emery turn things around for the Gunners. Arsenal’s defense looks more solid in having Torreira and Geundouzi rampaging around, shutting down attacks in front of them. While the 22-year-old is adept at starting attacks and getting the ball up to the likes of Lacazette and Aubameyang quickly.


Richarlison (Watford to Everton, $51.6 million)
The Brazilian got off to a rapid start to the campaign after Marco Silva returned to his former club Watford to sign the 21-year-old forward. Four goals in his first six Premier League games for the Toffees got everyone excited and he’s been playing up top on his own in recent weeks, stretching opposition defenses whenever he can. A call-up to the full Brazil squad has since arrived and he scored twice in September for the Selecao.


Aleksandar Mitrovic (Newcastle United to Fulham, $22.7 million)
Not a totally new signing for Fulham seeing as the bullish Serbian striker spent the second half of last season on loan with the Cottagers as they won promotion to the PL, but his impact this season has been obvious. Mitrovic, 24, scored five goals in his first six PL games of the season but has struggled in recent weeks as Fulham’s defensive frailties have been woefully exposed. Still, it makes you wonder why Newcastle let him go given their goalscoring woes, with Mitrovic a real handful for opposition defenders.


Joao Moutinho (AS Monaco to Wolverhampton Wanderers, $6.4 million)
A contender for bargain of the season, the Portuguese midfielder arrived at Wolves thanks to his agent Jorge Mendes and his close links to the club. Moutinho, 32, scored a stunner at Manchester United to grab Wolves a deserved point and has been superb alongside Ruben Neves in midfield. His veteran leadership, alongside many of his compatriots under Nuno Espirito Santo, has seen Wolves in the discussion as the best-ever newly-promoted team in the PL era. His class on the ball is unquestionable.


Matteo Geundouzi (Lorient to Arsenal, $9 million)
Still just 19 years old, nobody expected this from Guendouzi. Perhaps his manager Emery did, having seen him at PSG’s academy and at Lorient in the second-tier in France, but the teenager has been a revelation early in the campaign. Some would say he is the combative defensive midfielder Arsenal have been missing for decades, and it would be hard to argue with that. He is still very raw but he has all of the tools to succeed in the Premier League. A very promising start.


Danny Ings (Liverpool to Southampton, loan then $23.2 million buy)
Four goals in his first nine PL games for his hometown club represents a decent start for Ings after his move from Liverpool, but the Englishman will be thinking he should have scored more. That’s a good thing. Still a little rusty after several seasons of injury struggles, Ings is showing his best form in spurts and Southampton will hope he is back to his best very shortly. He has scored 50 percent of their goals so far this season which tells us just how important he is for Mark Hughes‘ team.


Honorable mentions: Rui Patricio (Wolves), Felipe Anderson (West Ham), Fred (Manchester United), Alisson (Liverpool), Jefferson Lerma (Bournemouth), Andre Schurrle (Fulham), Xherdan Shaqiri (Liverpool).

Manchester United edge past Everton

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  • Pogba, Martial score
  • Sigurdsson PK for Everton
  • Man United unbeaten in three PL games
  • United have back-to-back PL home wins

Manchester United made hard work of it as they beat Everton 2-1 at Old Trafford on Sunday.

Paul Pogba and Anthony Martial put United 2-0 up but Gylfi Sigurdsson‘s penalty kick turned it into a nervy finish for the Red Devils and Jose Mourinho.

With the win United move up to eighth place on 17 points and are just five points off the top four, while Marco Silva‘s Everton slip to ninth on 15 points.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ] 

Early on Everton threatened on the break as Sigurdsson’s cross almost found Bernard at the back post but Ashley Young did enough to put the Brazilian off.

Andre Gomes had a free header from a corner which he sent straight at David De Gea as the Toffees continued to cause United problems. At the other end Anthony Martial’s fine cross found Juan Mata unmarked in the box but his header was straight at Jordan Pickford.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ] 

United did take the lead soon after as Martial was fouled in the box by Idrissa Gueye and although Pogba’s penalty kick was saved by Pickford, the Frenchman slotted home the rebound to make it 1-0.

That goal sparked United into life as Pogba’s shot was then saved and Marcus Rashford finished but he was offside. Before half time Sigurdsson then headed towards goal but his effort was right at De Gea as Everton had some promising moments despite trailing at the break.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ] 

At the start of the second half United went 2-0 up as Pogba found Martial and the French forward curled home a fine finish into the far corner for his fourth goal in his last three Premier League games.

Moments later Everton should’ve pulled a goal back as Bernard raced free from Ashley Young, rounded De Gea but put his effort into the side-netting.

Premier League schedule ]

Pogba was denied by Pickford after a fine pass from Mata as United threatened to run riot late on, while Seamus Coleman fired over after a rare break from Everton.

The Toffees did get the goal they deserved. Pogba gave the ball away after showboating in midfield and Chris Smalling then lunged in on Richarlison in the box to concede a penalty.

Sigurdsson slammed home the spot kick to make it 2-1 and although Everton pinned United back they didn’t have any big chances to draw level, with Pickford denying Martial late on after a breakaway.