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PL Sunday preview: Leicester, Newcastle, Sheffield Utd, Wolves in action

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There will be no shortage of action and subplots during Sunday’s slate of Premier League fixtures, as Aston Villa host in-form Leicester City; Newcastle look to continue their winning ways against an improving Southampton side; Norwich City look for a way out of the relegation zone as they take on Sheffield United; and Wolverhampton Wanderers aim to continue their spectacular, unbeaten run against Brighton.

[ STREAM: Every PL match live ]

Aston Villa vs. Leicester City — 9:00 a.m. ET, on NBCSN

December is upon us, and the team putting some form of pressure on top-of-the-table Liverpool is second-best Leicester City. Who would have thought?

In similar fashion to what the masses thought of the Foxes prior to the start of the 2015/16 season, the answer is that not many were sold on the notion that Brendan Rodgers and his team were going to be a flat-out success this season, especially after dealing out Harry Maguire to Manchester United.

Whether the onlookers believed or didn’t believe is a conversation that surely doesn’t bother the majority associated with the once-Premier League champions. The Foxes are on a seven-game winning streak and Rodgers was rewarded for his accomplishments thus far, signing a new contract on Friday that keeps him at the helm until 2025.

Aston Villa’s Dean Smith recognized that his opponents on Sunday are in stellar shape but also cautioned that playing his team at Villa Park will not be a walk in the park, despite only being a point above the red line.

“They are on a fantastic run of form but there aren’t many teams who will come away from Villa Park and think they’ve had an easy game,” Dean Smith said.

It’s not the blockbuster game that will freeze the soccer community, but from the sounds of it, Leicester’s visit to Birmingham will be an authentic battle between two teams that are on the opposite sides of the spectrum.

INJURIES: Aston Villa — OUT: Keinan Davis (hamstring), Jed Steer (achilles)| Leicester City — OUT: Matty James (calf) 

Newcastle vs. Southampton — 9:00 a.m. ET, on NBC Sports Gold

Southampton haven’t won three consecutive league matches since May of 2016.

That can change on Sunday at St. James Park, mostly if Southampton manager Ralph Hasenhuttl‘s gamble of starting the same lineup for a third straight game over the span of eight days pays off. But just as it can pay off, it can certainly backfire at the hands of a slowly-but-surely improving Newcastle side.

“It’s a huge month for us,” Steve Bruce said about his Magpies ahead of the match. “It’s season defining, I think it is for every team because there are so many games.

“I have always said that a few results along the way helps everybody, so we’ve given ourselves a nice platform going into the busy Christmas period.

“The spirit among the players, and their attitude and the way they are playing has delighted me.”

That said, as expected, Hasenhuttl likes his side’s chances after demonstrating to him that they’re more than willing to follow order and fight for the crest at all costs.

“In the last three games… the team [has been] playing much more committed,” he said. “When we play like this we create chances, we don’t give the opponents chances, we are defending higher and then keep the opponent far away from our goal and this is more our style we want to play.”

INJURIES: Newcastle — OUT: Lascelles (Knee), Ritchie (ankle) | Southampton — OUT: Armstrong (calf)

Norwich City vs. Sheffield United — 9:00 a.m ET, on NBC Sports Gold

Just a couple of months ago, Daniel Farke and his players were touching the clouds.

A 3-2 win against the defending champions Manchester City was the root cause of that state of hysteria that is now nowhere to be found. With one win in their last 10 matches, the Canaries have been grounded and more. In fact, Farke’s rhetoric on his team and their future in the league says it all.

“We are a newly-promoted side who have not spent any money, so in each and every second at this level we must be at our best,” he said leading up to Sunday’s match. “We told everyone before the season this would be a difficult challenge.”

Promoted with them last season, Sheffield United, too, didn’t let lavish spendings over the summer do the talking. But even then, Chris Wilder‘s men have done a lot with a little, putting together formidable, team-oriented performances. The Blades have surprised many with their 19 points after 15 matches.

Sunday presents itself as a game in which Sheffield has the upper hand, but Wilder knows Norwich far too well. In fact, it’s a team they were constantly chasing in England’s second division this time last year.

“They were the outstanding team in the Championship last season,” he said. “I was delighted to get as close as we did to them.”

INJURIES: Norwich City — OUT: Hanley (groin), Drmic (hamstring), Timm Klose (knee) | Sheffield United — OUT: None

Brighton Hove and Albion vs. Wolverhampton Wanderers  — 12:30 p.m. ET, on NBCSN

Very few teams in the league have overcome adversity this season like Wolves.

A team that surprised many last season, started the season off in a way that was unlike anything Nuno Espirito Santo had put forward before: a sluggish, disjointed brand of play. Wolves have been participating in European competition for the first time since 1980, however, and have 28 games under their belts this season.

Riding a 10-game unbeaten streak (the best active streak in the league), Espirito Santo decided to give his players a rare Thursday off from all training ahead of Sunday’s showdown against a hungry Brighton.

“I hope [the players] enjoyed their day off [on Thursday],” the Portuguese manager said. “It was well deserved and they needed it. It was important they understand it’s a day to rest, recover, stay at home and be with family and join us today to be ready for Sunday.”

Coming off an emphatic win at the Emirates, Brighton are aware of the tough task that will be defeating a red-hot Wolves. But as Graham Potter says and just experienced against Arsenal, anything and everything goes in the Premier League.

“Anything is possible in this league, that’s the way you have to think or else it becomes boring,” Potter said. “We have to keep working towards what we’re trying to achieve and maintain the spirit around the group.”

INJURIES: Brighton  OUT: Izquierdo (knee) | Wolves  OUT: Boly (leg), Gibbs-White (back), Shabani (knee)

PL Sunday preview: Arsenal’s post-Emery era; Man Utd host Villa

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Sunday’s slate of Premier League fixtures features four games, including (but not limited to) the first game of the post-Unai Emery era at Arsenal, Manchester United with a chance to climb into fifth place, and what could be the final game of Marco Silva‘s tenure at Everton.

[ MORE: Mourinho praises “phenomenal” Dele Alli, Spurs supporters ]

Arsenal v. Norwich City — 9 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

Unai Emery was fired by Arsenal on Friday, making way for the Freddie Ljungberg (interim) era to begin on Sunday. With no obvious candidate standing out from all the others, Ljungberg, a long-time favorite as a Gunners player, could be given the chance to impress and have the “interim” tag removed, a la Ole Gunnar Solskjaer a year ago. After taking just three points from their last five PL games, Arsenal have fallen to ninth place, eight points behind fourth-place Chelsea, and could finish the weekend as low as 10th place. On the other hand, a win over 19th-place Norwich would see them climb up to fifth, a point ahead of north London rivals Tottenham Hotspur. Norwich’s Teemu Pukki, who took the PL by storm with five goals in his first three games, hasn’t found the back of the net since Sept. 14, a run of eight straight goal-less games for the Fininish forward.

INJURIES: Arsenal —  OUT: Dani Ceballos (hamstring); QUESTIONABLE: Hector Bellerin (hamstring), David Luiz (ribs), Shkodran Mustafi (foot) | Norwich  — OUT: Alexander Tettey (personal), Grant Hanley (groin), Timm Klose (knee); QUESTIONABLE: Jamal Lewis (knee), Josip Drmic (hamstring)


Wolves v. Sheffield United — 9 a.m. ET, on NBC Sports Gold

Through 13 games of their debut season in the PL, Sheffield United are threatening to “do a Wolves,” in so much that the newly promoted side currently sits seventh — where Wolves finished last season — following a red-hot start. Following a poor start of their own (zero wins from their first six games), Wolves have rebounded nicely (unbeaten in their last eight, including four wins) and climbed all the way up to sixth (each side sat a place higher coming into the weekend).

INJURIES: Wolves —  OUT: Willy Boly (ankle), Ryan Bennett (groin), Romain Saiss (suspension), Morgan Gibbs-White (back) | Sheffield United  — OUT: None


Man United v. Aston Villa — 11:30 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

Nearly four months into the season, Man United are still without back-to-back PL victories. In fact, they’ve not repeated the same result — win, loss or draw — in consecutive league games all season. The Red Devils ave been, if anything, consistently inconsistent. After drawing Sheffield United 3-3 last time out, the best Solskjaer’s side can do on Sunday is get halfway there ahead of Tottenham’s blockbuster visit, and Jose Mourinho’s return, on Wednesday. United’s injury list remains extensive — and expensive — as Paul Pogba and Eric Bailly remain out, with Nemanja Matic perhaps set to return on Sunday. As for Villa, Dean Smith‘s side snapped a three-game losing skid last time out by thoroughly besting Newcastle United at Villa Park to put four points between themselves and the relegation zone. Following Southampton’s victory on Saturday, that gap is already down to two points.

INJURIES: Man United —  OUT: Paul Pogba (ankle), Eric Bailly (knee), Marcos Rojo (undisclosed), Diogo Dalot (groin); QUESTIONABLE: Nemanja Matic (groin), Scott McTominay (ankle) | Aston Villa  — OUT: Jed Steer (calf), Jota (hernia); QUESTIONABLE: Bjorn Engels (hip)


Leicester City v. Everton — 11:30 a.m. ET, on NBC Sports Gold

Every defeat in the coming days could prove to be the final day of Silva’s employment as Everton manager, with the Toffees entering Sunday’s trip to the King Power Stadium in 17th place. It’s not just the number of losses for Everton (seven) on the season thus far, but the sides to which they’ve lost (Villa, Bournemouth, Sheffield United, Burnley, Brighton & Hove Albion and Norwich, to name most of them) that stands out as most embarrassing for a club that thought it would be competing for the top-six this season. Leicester, meanwhile, have happily and swiftly taken their place as the side most likely to break up the monotony of the same clubs finishing atop the table every season. The Foxes entered the weekend in second place (they have since fallen to second), eight points back of Liverpool (now 11), on the back of five straight league victories. Jamie Vardy‘s 12 goals have garnered most of the headlines, but the play-making duo of James Maddison and Youri Tielemans have been arguably more enjoyable to watch

INJURIES: Leicester —  OUT: Matty James (achilles) | Everton  — OUT: Andre Gomes (ankle), Theo Walcott (knock), Jean-Philippe Gbamin (thigh), Morgan Schneiderlin (knock), Fabian Delph (hamstring), Cuco Martina (knee); QUESTIONABLE: Bernard (knee)

PL Sunday Preview: Palace host Leicester; Tottenham travel to Everton

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With eight Premier League fixtures on Saturday, two more remain in Matchweek 11.

Crystal Palace v. Leicester City  — 9 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

Leicester City has plenty of things going for itself: a super reliable Jamie Vardy, an impenetrable backline, and a recent 9-0 win against Southampton, to name a few. In other words, what was supposed to be a year filled with trials and tribulations following Harry Maguire‘s record departure and Brendan Rodger’s first, full season at the helm, has been a close replica of the Foxes’ historic 2015-2016 season. Whether it will have a similar Cinderella ending is a different discussion, but there are certainly parallels.

How will this surprising Leicester hold up at Selhurst Park, though? If Rodgers has ever struggled at a venue, it’s Palace’s.

“As long as there’s green grass and posts, it doesn’t matter where the game is,” Rodgers said prior to Sunday’s game. “We go there to win. They [Palace] have got an outstanding manager who I’ve got a huge amount of respect for. The team is coached extremely well and they have some outstanding players.”

Palace, who’ve climbed as high as fifth in the table this season, are in the midst of a challenging stretch of games. A loss to Manchester City and a recent draw to Arsenal have slowed down the Eagles, who have top-three sides Chelsea and Liverpool lined up following Sunday’s bout. That wasn’t the topic of discussion in at Selhurst, however. Roy Hodgson, who is three seasons into his tenure, confirmed that there are contract extension talks being held with Palace.

“I just read today or heard today that Donald Trump, who is a little bit older than I am [by one year], is planning to stay on as President of the United States for the next five years,” Hodgson said. “With respect, this is an important job I have here but not as important as being the leader of the free world.”

“I must say I don’t wake up every morning thinking how old I am,” he said. “I don’t feel 72, no-one is going make me feel 72 or make me feel like I am too old. The day may come when I feel that way and it certainly hasn’t happened yet.”

INJURIES: Crystal Palace —  OUT: Mamadou Sakho (match fitness), Connor Wickham (match fitness); QUESTIONABLE: Vicente Guaita (groin) | Leicester City — OUT: Matty James (calf)


Everton v. Tottenham — 11:30 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

Surely, the season has more turns to give, but as it stands, Tottenham and Everton are far from meeting expectations. Only two points separate the two sides, who stand 13th and 17th in the table, respectively.

Tottenham are winless in their last three and have only picked up one win in their last five games. Their latest showing, a 2-1 defeat to Liverpool, showcased glimpses of the formidable Spurs that made headlines last season. With Everton a lopsided loss away from hitting rock-bottom, Mauricio Pochettino and company have a slim psychological edge, if anything.

Maybe they’re unaware of their mental superiority, but the Argentine manager made sure to shine some light on the topic.

“We need to be positive, feeling that positivity makes us believe we can beat any team,” Pochettino said. “At the moment we struggle a little bit in our confidence.”

“The most important is how we are going to finish, it’s not nice to see you in the middle of the table but that is a reality we need to accept,” he added. “If you don’t accept the reality you are going to struggle. In our mind we know very well that we need time, to be strong, be solid and start to win because that is going to be the best thing for us.”

As for Everton, the team’s situation has distanced itself from the messages of hopeful. Only two points out of relegation, there’s a deep sense of urgency and panic at Goodison Park. It’s a now-or-never aura that surrounds the team, specifically boss Marco Silva.

“We have not achieved the results we want [this season] and taken what we deserve,” Silva confessed heading into Sunday’s bout. “The last game is clear of that but football is about results.”

“We need to change it as you can’t have two faces – one when you play at home and one completely different away,” he added.

Game on.

INJURIES: Everton —  OUT: Jean-Philippe Gbamin (thigh), Bernard (knee); QUESTIONABLE: Yerry Mina (knee) | Spurs  — OUT: Erik Lamela (thigh), Hugo Lloris (elbow); QUESTIONABLE: Jan Vertonghen (hamstring)

Premier League Preview: Liverpool v. Leicester City

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  • PL leaders Liverpool host 3rd-place Leicester
  • Rodgers makes managerial return to Anfield
  • Reds can go 8 points clear of Man City (for a day) with a win

The clash of Matchweek 8 will see Premier League leaders Liverpool host Leicester City, the two-month-old season’s surprise performers, at Anfield on Saturday (Watch live, 10 a.m. ET on NBCSN and NBCSports.com).

The Reds haven’t so much as dropped a point this season and have only trailed one opponent, 19th-place Newcastle United for a grand total of 21 minutes. Jurgen Klopp‘s side has won 16 straight PL games dating back to last season and has conceded just five goals in seven games this term. The Reds were far from their best, at least defensively, when they beat Red Bull Salzburg in the Champions League on Wednesday. After going 3-0 up in 36 minutes, Klopp’s men gave all three goals back in a 21-minute period before Mohamed Salah grabbed a late winner. Back in England, though, Liverpool are yet to conceded multiple goals in a PL game this season.

[ STREAM: Every PL match live

On the other side, Leicester have the look a side set to challenge for a top-four place all season. After suffering their only loss, to Manchester United, three weeks ago, the Foxes have responded with a 2-1 comeback victory over Tottenham Hotspur and a 5-0 thrashing of Newcastle United. Brendan Rodgers is set to return to Anfield as the opposing manager for the first time since departing as Liverpool boss in 2015. Rodgers knows all too well the enormity of the task ahead of Klopp — chasing Liverpool’s first-ever Premier League-era title and the club’s first top-division title since 1990 — after coming oh so close in the 2013-14 season.

Injuries/suspensions

Liverpool: OUT – Xherdan Shaqiri (calf), Nathaniel Clyne (knee); QUESTIONABLE – Joel Matip (knock), Alisson (calf)

Leicester: OUT – Matty James (achilles); RETURNING – James Maddison (ankle)


Projected lineups

Liverpool: Adrian – Alexander-Arnold, Gomez, Van Dijk, Robertson – Henderson, Fabinho, Wijnaldum – Salah, Firmino, Mane

Leicester: Schmeichel – Pereira, Evans, Soyuncu, Chilwell – Ndidi, Perez, Praet, Tielemans, Barnes – Vardy


What they’re saying

Jurgen Klopp, on the near-disaster against Salzburg: “How do I explain that? I think it was obvious: we left the very successful path of the first 30 minutes. That was some of the best football we played so far, against how we all saw a little bit later a very well organized team with a clear idea and identity. We did everything they don’t like, on a high speed, scored the three goals, could have scored more. They changed the system – that’s allowed and is not really a problem usually, but tonight it was for us because we changed the approach a little bit for some reason.”

Brendan Rodgers, on returning to Anfield: “I’m really looking forward to going back. I had the real privilege of managing there. So much learning took place for me at Liverpool. I always take the positives when I analyze my time there. The first couple of seasons went well and we went close to the title. The third year was more difficult but there was great learning for me as a coach. The fourth season didn’t last so long. There were so many highs as a young manager and I’ll always be grateful for that.”


Prediction

Leicester will give Liverpool everything they can handle, and more, but the Anfield effect will certainly be felt when the Reds are forced to dig deep in the final 30 minutes. In the end, Liverpool will have too much possession and force the Foxes to work a little too hard just to stay in it. Liverpool 2-1 Leicester.

Premier League preview: Leicester City v. Newcastle

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  • Leicester City five points behind second-place Man City
  • Newcastle United 19th through six games
  • Leicester have lost their last two home games against Newcastle

In Sunday’s lone match, Leicester City have the clear-cut opportunity to move behind Liverpool and Manchester City, but Newcastle United will look to make things difficult for the home side when they face-off at 11:30 a.m ET live on NBCSN or live online at NBCSports.com.

[ STREAM: Every PL match live ] 

It’s late September, and there’s no way around it: Brendan Rodgers has done well for the Foxes so far this season. In six games, Leicester have gathered three wins, drawn twice and lost once – to Manchester United at Old Trafford in a game that could have gone either way. In other words, in position to move into the top three with a win on Sunday.

From the looks of it, Jamie Vardy has held on to the Midas touch, and the departure of Harry Maguire is a thing of the past thanks to the emergence of 23-year-old Çağlar Söyüncü. James Maddison, who took a hit to the ankle against Tottenham is doubtful, but all things point to Rodgers having a near-healthy squad to choose from.

As far as things go for Newcastle, their situation is polar opposite. The Magpies have won only a game – a 1-0 victory over Tottenham – this season under Steve Bruce. And to no surprise, as the weeks go by, the pile continues to pile on the 58-year-old manager.

The serious hamstring injury Jonjo Shelvey suffered does Bruce and company zero favors; although, there is a break in the clouds for Newcastle as USMNT fullback DeAndre Yedlin is expected to be back on the bench after months of inactivity. Still, there is lots of work to be done for Bruce, who can really buy himself time with any positive result.

Injuries/suspensions

Leicester City: OUT – Daniel Amartey (ankle), Matty James (calf); QUESTIONABLE –  James Maddison (ankle)

Newcastle United: OUT – Matt Ritchie (ankle), Jonjo Shelvey (hamstring), Florian Lejeuene (knee), Dwight Gayle (calf); QUESTIONABLE – Allan Saint-Maximin (hamstring), DeAndre Yedlin (groin)


Projected lineups

Leicester City: Schmeichel; Chillwell, Söyüncü, Evans, Pereira; Maddison, Tielemans, Ndidi; Barnes, Vardy, Perez.

Newcastle United: Dubravka; Dummett, Lascelles, Schär; Willems, Longstaff, Hayden, Manquillo; Almiron, Joelinton, Atsu


What they’re saying

Leicester City manager Rodgers on facing Newcastle: “For us, we expect a very tough game,” he added. “They set up well, defend low, set deep and we have to be at our best to get the result.”

Newcastle United manager Bruce on their counterparts: “They’re a good side, and they’ve evolved into a very, very good side over the years. We know if we’re going to get something we’ll have to be at our best. We certainly have to be better in terms of goals – we understand that – and let’s hope that we can be with the players we’ve got coming back.”


Prediction

Newcastle performed well in Leicester under Rafa Benitez. He is no longer around, and the Magpies’ fortunes have turned upside down under Bruce. The visitors’ dire state and Leicester’s recent fine form put Newcastle’s chances bleak at best. Leicester City, 3-0.