Matthew Targett

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PL Sunday preview: Man City, Arsenal clash; South Coast derby

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With Chelsea seemingly running away with the Premier League title in December, the likes of Manchester City and Arsenal see their season’s hopes and dreams fading fast, as the top-four sides prepare to clash at the Etihad Stadium on Sunday. Also on tap: a South Coast derby.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

Bournemouth vs. Southampton — 8:30 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

2016-17’s first installment of the South Coast derby (PST’s Joe Prince-Wright explored the question, “Is this really a derby?” in this fantastic piece) pits a pair of sides level on points (21), Southampton and Bournemouth, in ninth and 10th place, respectively. For Saints, mid-table is something of a disappointing start to the season. For the Cherries, they’re more than halfway to the magical 40-point mark to secure their place in the PL next season, with three games to spare. Neither side has won two straight games since Claude Puel‘s Saints went back-to-back on Sept. 25, the only time either side has won two in a row in the PL this season. With Southampton drawing Stoke on Wednesday, and Bournemouth topping Leicester City, statistical oddities would seem to favor the Sunday’s visitors. Said Bournemouth manager Eddie Howe, of the rivalry: “I think the more games we play, the rivalry will develop. It’s a new thing and you need time to form those connections.”

INJURIES: Bournemouth — OUT: Junior Stanislas (ankle), Andrew Surman (hamstring) | Southampton — OUT: Matthew Targett (hamstring)

[ MORE: Saturday’s PL roundup — Chelsea go 9 points clear; Man Utd streaking ]

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

It’s been just over three years (Dec. 14, 2013) since Man City last beat Arsenal in the PL. If Pep Guardiola‘s side is to pull itself back into this season’s title race (they currently sit 10 points back of leaders Chelsea just shy of the halfway point of 2016-17; one point back of third-place Arsenal), they have no choice but to snap that five-game winless skid on Sunday. The injury bug arrived right on time for Arsenal, leaving the Gunners without six key figures for Sunday’s top-four clash (lengthy list of injuries below), leaving Arsene Wenger with a nearly bare-bones squad from which to pick his team, particularly in defense. Meanwhile, City will be without leading scorer Sergio Aguero (suspended) and midfield metronome Ilkay Gundogan (torn ACL – out for season).

INJURIES: Man City — OUT: Sergio Aguero (suspension), Ilkay Gundogan (knee surgery), Vincent Kompany (knee) | Arsenal — OUT: Aaron Ramsey (hamstring), Shkodran Mustafi (hamstring), Mathieu Debuchy (hamstring), Santi Cazorla (achilles), Per Mertesacker (knee surgery), Danny Welbeck (knee), Yaya Sanogo (calf)

[ MORE: Alexis Sanchez on new contract: “It depends on Arsenal” ]

Tottenham Hotspur vs. Burnley — 11 a.m. ET, on CNBC and NBCSports.com

13 points back of Chelsea, a repeat title challenge doesn’t seem on the cards for Tottenham. Furthermore, Manchester United’s steep uptick in form has Mauricio Pochettino‘s side fighting for their place inside the PL’s top-five. Having alternated wins and losses in their last four games, Spurs are now level on points (30) with the Red Devils. On the bright side, Christian Eriksen (five goals, two assists in his last four league games) is in perhaps the best patch of form of his Spurs career, while Harry Kane has scored six goals in seven league games. Burnley, meanwhile, sit 16th in the league table, just three points clear of the relegation zone, having suffered defeat in four of their last five league games.

INJURIES: Tottenham — OUT: Erik Lamela (hip); QUESTIONABLE: Mousa Dembele (foot), Vincent Janssen (ankle) | Burnley — OUT: Johann Gudmundsson (hamstring)

PL Sunday preview: Man United-Spurs; Chelsea, Liverpool in action

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Four of the Premier League’s top six sides are in action on Sunday. Chelsea would go top of the PL with a win, while Tottenham Hotspur could climb as high as third, if Liverpool fail to go within a point of Arsenal for second. Manchester United, on the other hand, are falling away from the top-five pack with each passing week.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

Chelsea vs. West Bromwich Albion — 7 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

Chelsea’s eight-game winning streak is on the line when West Brom visit Stamford Bridge. Having won those eight games by a combined score of 22-2, Antonio Conte‘s side has hit its stride since the Italian manager switch to a three-man defense after losing to Arsenal on Sept. 24. Diego Costa is tied for the league lead in goals scored (11, alongisde Alexis Sanchez), and Eden Hazard (8 goals) looks much more like his 2014-15 self than the 2015-16 version on display last season. The last time West Brom won away to Chelsea in league action, the date was Sept. 30, 1978.

INJURIES: Chelsea — OUT: Oscar (illness), John Terry (leg), Kurt Zouma (fitness); QUESTIONABLE: David Luiz (knee) | West Brom — OUT: Saido Berahino (fitness)

[ MORE: Saturday’s PL roundup — Leicester shock Man City; Arsenal go top ]

Manchester United vs. Tottenham — 9:15 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

After winning two in a row at Old Trafford, in 2012 and 2014, Tottenham are without a point (or a goal) in their last two trips to the Theater of Dreams — something Mauricio Pochettino‘s side will be looking to rectify and strengthen their case for a top-four finish this season. Spurs bounced back from their first defeat of the season, to Chelsea two weeks ago, with a 5-0 thumping of Swansea City, a game in which Harry Kane and Christian Eriksen each scored twice. As for United, who are three PL games without a win (all 1-1 draws), a return to the UEFA Champions League is quickly slipping away for Jose Mourinho’s side, now six points back of fifth-place Spurs, and nine back of third-and fourth-place Liverpool and Manchester City.

INJURIES: Man United — OUT: Chris Smalling (toe), Luke Shaw (undisclosed), James Wilson (knee surgery) | Tottenham — OUT: Vincent Janssen (ankle), Erik Lamela (hip)

[ MORE: La Liga — Real Madrid go 35 games unbeaten, set new club record ]

Southampton vs. Middlesbrough — 9:15 a.m. ET, on NBCSports.com

With their Europa League campaign put to rest prematurely this week, it’s time for a strong reaction by Southampton with 16th-place Middlesbrough visiting St. Mary’s Stadium. Currently 12th in the PL, Saints have just one win three goals to show for their efforts in their last six games (never scoring multiple goals in a game during that time). On the other side, Boro are four games unbeaten away from home (all draws), against the likes of West Ham United, Arsenal, Man City and Leicester City, though much of Aitor Karanka‘s top attacking talent could be unavailable on Sunday.

INJURIES: Southampton — OUT: Matthew Targett (hamstringe); RETURNING: Dusan Tadic (nose) | Boro — QUESTIONABLE: Alvaro Negredo (hamstring), Gaston Ramirez (foot), Jordan Rhodes (groin), George Friend (knee)

[ MORE: Bundesliga — Bayern Munich back on top; RB Leipzig finally lose ]

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

After throwing away a pair of two-goal leads away to Bournemouth last weekend, Liverpool could use a bounce-back of their own, otherwise they could be seven points off the PL’s top spot by weekend’s end. With wins over the likes of Chelsea and Arsenal already in the bag this season, the Reds’ two losses have come at the hands of Bournemouth and Burnley, two sides presently residing in the bottom half of the table. West Ham will visit Anfield as the 18th-place side in the PL with just two points from their last five league games, having dropped into the relegation zone following Swansea City’s victory over Sunderland on Saturday.

INJURIES: Liverpool — OUT: Philippe Coutinho (ankle), Daniel Sturridge (calf), Danny Ings (knee surgery), Sheyi Ojo (fitness), Joe Gomez (fitness); QUESTIONABLE: Sadio Mane (knock), Joel Matip (ankle) | West Ham — OUT:

PL Sunday preview: Mourinho back at the Bridge

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Perhaps nothing can seize control of the overall narrative quite like Jose Mourinho returns to face [insert former club here], so it’s fitting that Sunday’s slate of Premier League fixtures caps off the weekend with the Special One returning to Stamford Bridge 10 short months after being fired.

[ MORE: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

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

Of course, we have to talk about Man City versus Southampton first, because as consuming as the Mourinho narrative is, it’s the blue side of Manchester that will go top of the PL with a win on Sunday. A point is all City need to leapfrog Arsenal and Liverpool and reclaim the top spot, but Pep Guardiola will be aiming for something greater than a draw — to end the Citizens’ four-game winless skid across all competitions. Since drawing with Celtic in the UEFA Champions League on Sept. 28, Guardiola’s side has picked up just a single point from two games in the PL — last week’s come-from-behind draw with Everton. A win would push Saints as high as sixth in the league table at the end of matchday 9.

Capped off by Wednesday’s thrashing at the hands of Barcelona, that’s nearly a month without a win. Opposite themselves on Sunday, City will find a Saints side riding a four-game unbeaten run (three wins), having conceded just one goal in their last 360 minutes of PL action. Charlie Austin is the in-form goalscorer of the month, averaging a goal every 62.9 minutes (7 goals in his last 7 appearances). Saints’ last trip to the Etihad Stadium, last November, resulted in a 3-1 defeat, undone by goals from Kevin De Bruyne, Fabian Delph and Aleksandar Kolarov.

INJURIES: Man City OUT: Bacary Sagna (hamstring) | Southampton OUT: Ryan Bertrand (hamstring), Cedric (foot); QUESTIONABLE: Sofiane Boufal (fitness), Matthew Targett (hamstring)

[ MORE: Saturday’s PL roundup: Liverpool, Arsenal go joint-top ]

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

Dec. 17, 2015 — Jose Mourinho fired by Chelsea; Dec. 18, 2015 — Jose Mourinho begins plotting his next move, a PL job, to exact his revenge on anyone and everyone who played a part in his downfall.

Finally, 311 days later, the time has come. Mourinho’s Man United away to Antonio Conte‘s Chelsea, with the Red Devils and Blues separated by a measly two points and two places in the league table. If Monday’s 0-0 draw with Liverpool taught us anything about the way Mourinho (still) approaches big games, we can expect a United side that’s deployed in a manner that’s difficult to break down, difficult to beat, and in all honesty, difficult to watch. What’s worse for United: that Wayne Rooney can’t get near the starting lineup for PL games, or that Zlatan Ibrahimovic has just one goal in his last seven games played (all competitions) and has been so uninvolved that it’s easy to forget he’s on the field? I’d probably play Marouane Fellaini as the most-advanced midfielder if I were in a predicament similar to that.

As for Chelsea, the goals are flowing in games involving the Blues — for both sides, which has been something of a problem in the early days of Conte’s reign, and could be a major problem on Sunday. For starters, Chelsea have kept just three clean sheets on the season (in 10 games – all competitions), though two of the three were achieved in their last two games. Furthermore, just one game involving Chelsea this season has seen the two sides combine to score fewer than three goals (a 2-0 win over Hull City three weeks ago). Sunday seems a surefire lock to be the tightest contest of Chelsea’s still-young season, and while they’ve little to no experience in grind-it-out games thus far, that just so happens to be the specialty of Sunday’s revenge-obsessed foe.

INJURIES: Chelsea OUT: Kurt Zouma (knee surgery) | Man United  QUESTIONABLE: Henrikh Mkhitaryan (fitness), Phil Jones (knee)