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PL Sunday Preview: Man City hosts Chelsea in high-profile matchup

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There’s plenty on the line in Sunday’s high-profile matchup between Manchester City and Chelsea. Meanwhile, in the first match of the morning, surging Tottenham takes on Leicester City side that is winless in its last five.

[READ: Liverpool back on track with win over Bournemouth]

Man City v. Chelsea — 11:00 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

After a week in which Manchester City defeated Arsenal and Everton in somewhat comfortable fashion, Pep Guardiola‘s side faces a new, even tougher test.

It was only Huddersfield Town last week, but Chelsea looked back to its best once again in its 5-0 victory, with Gonzalo Higuain already looking like a terrific fit at the top of Chelsea’s attack. Higuain’s addition will take up a lot of Manchester City’s mental energy as they plan to face Chelsea, which could leave more space for Juninho to quarterback the Blues attack or for Eden Hazard and Willian to break down the wings on the counter attack.

Then again, this is Manchester City. Guardiola has his team firing on all cylinders. Kevin De Bruyne and Raheem Sterling are set to return to the starting lineup. Manchester City can set a new Premier League record if they score two goals; it will be their 15th consecutive home match with at least two goals scored.

Though this is the Premier League, this game could be played with some caution. Both teams face each other again later this month at Wembley Stadium in the Carabao Cup final.

INJURIES: Man City —  OUT: Benjamin Mendy (knee), Vincent Kompany (muscular) | Chelsea — OUT: None; PROBABLE: Callum Hudson-Odoi (Illness), Gary Cahill (back)


Tottenham v. Leicester City — 8:30 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

They won’t be on the field, but Harry Kane and Dele Alli gave Tottenham a huge boost this week by returning to training. That could be just what the team needs as it makes a mid-season push to stay in the top four, and potentially – who knows?! – try and win the Premier League title. Tottenham can win its fourth successive Premier League match and could come within two points of Man City before it plays Chelsea. Despite cup defeats in late January, Mauricio Pochettino‘s side has found a way to win in each of its last three league matches, all one-goal victories.

On the other side, Leicester City has dropped to 12th in the table as discontent for manager Claude Puel grows. Leicester hasn’t won a match since New Year’s Day, but they suffered a narrow loss to Manchester United and drew with Liverpool, perhaps showing some improvement, even without the result. Youri Tielemens appears to have improved the midfield, and Jamie Vardy has a great history facing Tottenham. He’s scored four goals with three assists in his last seven matches against Spurs.

INJURIES: Tottenham —  OUT: Dele Alli (hamstring), Harry Kane (ankle), Ben Davies (groin), Vincent Janssen (knee), Eric Dier (illness) | Leicester City — OUT: Mark Albrighton (hamstring), Daniel Amartey (ankle)

Spurs star Kane to return early from injury

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According to Tottenham Hotspur manager Mauricio Pochettino, Spurs striker Harry Kane is preparing to return from his ankle injury earlier than anticipated.

Kane has been out of action since damaging ankle ligaments against Manchester United in mid-January, and the club ruled him out until March in the initial injury release. Since, however, news has matriculated that Kane’s recovery has been quicker than anticipated, with Kane even saying he “feels great” last weekend.

Now, it’s possible that Kane returns before the end of February, with the Premier League match against Burnley on February 23 as a target. That would be an enormous boost for Tottenham, with league matches against Chelsea and Arsenal to follow plus the second leg of their Champions League Round of 16 matchup with Borussia Dortmund after that.

“He’s doing well. He’s doing fantastic,” Pochettino said in his pre-match press conference ahead of Tottenham’s match against Leicester City on Saturday. “We have to stop him every day, because he wants to be ahead of his recovery and he’s very optimistic and his determination to play as soon as possible is unbelievable.”

Tottenham has dealt with an injury-riddled roster over the last month or so, with Heung-Min Son only recently back from international duty and Dele Alli still out with a hamstring problem. Fernando Llorente has struggled in his understudy role up front, and Lucas Moura was ultimately forced into striker duty in Kane’s absence. Still, with Son back, at least Spurs has a solid backup striker able to take the lead at the head of the attack, and can bide time until Kane returns.

“If you see him [Kane], he’s nearly ready to play, but we need to be realistic too,” Pochettino said. “I think he’s so close to come back again, not for Sunday and not for Wednesday, but we’ll see after.”

Tottenham sits third in the Premier League table, a significant achievement to be in that position after grinding out three one-goal league victories despite the riddled roster. They were knocked out of both domestic cup competitions during that time, but those exits could prove no more than a bump in the road if Spurs can bridge the shortening gap to when Kane and Alli return and the club is nearer to full strength.

Premier League Club Power Rankings: Week 25

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To drop, or not to drop, that is the question.

Liverpool has drawn back-to-back matches in the Premier League to allow Manchester City to pull into a tie for the league lead on 62 points (City has played one more match).

[ MORE: Sala body identified ]

The Reds are 2-2-2 in their last six matches across all competitions, and while this is the Premier League club power rankings, there’s little question that they’ve lost some mojo.

Man City has been pretty good despite a loss to Newcastle, and Spurs have gone about their business despite missing Harry Kane and Dele Alli (for a relatively soft patch of schedule).

So is this enough to sink Liverpool below Man City (or Spurs), given that Liverpool is just a win in its match-in-hand from reclaiming the league lead?

Read on (Or just scroll down real quick. We’re kidding. Read every word. Twice).

20. Huddersfield Town — It’s been 417 league minutes since the Terriers scored a goal. They have one point in league play since the calendar turned to December 2018.
Last week: 20
Season high: 16
Season low: 20

19. Fulham — The two goals allowed against Palace make it 12 conceded in Fulham’s last five matches.
Last week: 18
Season high: 11
Season low: 20

18. Burnley — The point gained at Manchester United is almost offset by the two dropped at home to Southampton. The Clarets’ run-in is tricky, and they simply have to find wins more often than not when they are not facing the big boys.
Last week: 17
Season high: 13
Season low: 20

17. Cardiff City — Whether you’re a Neil Warnock fan or not, the reaction he’s provoked from his men after a 3-0 loss to Newcastle and the disappearance of Emiliano Sala’s flight is impressive. A close loss to Arsenal followed by a defeat of Bournemouth sits well with all.
Last week: 19
Season high: 13
Season low: 20

(Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images)

16. Southampton — A point earned at Burnley is fine, especially considering the club’s luck in not conceding an early penalty.
Last week: 16
Season high: 13
Season low: 20

15. Brighton and Hove Albion — Failed to rebound from the loss Fulham loss; The Seagulls looked flat in a home draw with Watford.
Last week: 12
Season high: 9
Season low: 19

14. Newcastle United — Solid resolve against Spurs; The goalkeeper is part of the team, yeah, but the Magpies deserved better than the loss resulting from a very rare Martin Dubravka error. Probably too stubborn to go down now.
Last week: 15
Season high: 13
Season low: 19

13. Everton — The home loss to Wolves was disconcerting, but a close contest at Goodison Park versus Man City was encouraging enough to proffer some hope; Everton deserved a point against the champions.
Last week: 14
Season high: 5
Season low: 15

12. Crystal Palace — Did what it needed to do at home to Roy Hodgson‘s old club Fulham. How will Hodgson deal with no Wilfried Zaha for two matches?
Last week: 12
Season high: 6
Season low: 17

(Nick Potts/PA via AP)

11. Bournemouth — Just when the Cherries had claimed three points against one of the big boys (in their eighth try), they fail to deal with a charged-up Cardiff City and lose 2-0.
Last week: 9
Season high: 6
Season low: 14

10. Leicester City — Jamie Vardy was just a shade off his game, and it cost the Foxes a point against Ole Gunnar Solskjaer‘s Red Devils.
Last week: 10
Season high: 7
Season low: 13

9. West Ham United — A plucky point versus Liverpool sends the Irons above a Leicester side which couldn’t get their plucky point at home to Manchester United.
Last week: 11
Season high: 6
Season low: 20

8. Watford — A huge match ahead against former boss Marco Silva‘s Everton.
Last week: 8
Season high: 4
Season low: 14

7. Arsenal — We wouldn’t want to be Huddersfield Town this weekend, even if the desperate Terriers are at home.
Last week: 5
Season high: 2
Season low: 9

6. Wolves — If Liverpool fails to win the league, Nuno Espirito Santo should be Premier League Manager of the Year.
Last week: 7
Season high: 5
Season low: 13

5. Chelsea — Yes, it was against Huddersfield Town, but if the Eden Hazard-Gonzalo Higuain brace-bagging performance was a sign of what’s to come, well, maybe Maurizio Sarri is playing with a stacked deck.
Last week: 6
Season high: 1
Season low: 6

(Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)

4. Manchester United — The most odd thing about United’s unconvincing win over Leicester City is how encouraging it is to see the Red Devils win when it really isn’t that deserved. Ole’s unbeaten streak goes forward, and should reach PSG.
Last week: 4
Season high: 4
Season low: 14

3. Spurs — Not Mauricio Pochettino‘s fault Man City got to play twice while we only saw Spurs slip past Newcastle. One spot back.
Last week: 2
Season high: 2
Season low: 8

2. Liverpool — The best thing Liverpool has going for it right now is that they’d have to lose a game in order to fall from the title fight’s driver seat, and they are picking up points even while looking quite average (for a Top Four team).
Last week: 1
Season high: 1
Season low: 4

1. Man City — Similar to their neighbors, City’s defeat of Everton showed some resolve while on the back foot. And that win over Arsenal, aside from the set piece goal, well, c’est magnifique.
Last week: 3
Season high: 1
Season low: 3

Watch Live: Tottenham v. Newcastle

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Tottenham Hotspur host Newcastle United at Wembley on Saturday (Watch live, 7:30 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com) as Mauricio Pochettino‘s men aim to stay in the Premier League title race.

WATCH LIVE ONLINE

Rafael Benitez’s side will prove stubborn opponents to third-place Spurs and they’ll be buoyed by their massive win against Manchester City a few days ago.

In team news Tottenham rejig their side and start with Lucas Moura and Heung-Min Son in attack, while Jan Vertonghen is playing at left back. Harry Kane and Dele Alli remain out injured.

Newcastle are unchanged from the team which beat Man City in midweek.


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Tottenham boss Pochettino compares Spurs to Formula One driver

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Mauricio Pochettino is an avid Formula One racing fan, and he used an analogy from the popular racing series to help explain the razor thin margins at the top of the Premier League.

“You can be a winner but if you don’t have the tools to win, it’s difficult,” Pochettino said at his pre-match press conference ahead of Tottenham’s match against Newcastle United on Saturday. “If you have the car to win and you are good, then you win.”

Pochettino seemed to hint at his disappointment of injury-riddled Tottenham failing to add reinforcements in the January transfer window, the second straight window they have come up empty. Specifically, Pochettino pointed to Formula One champion Lewis Hamilton, winner of four of the last five titles with Mercedes, and compared him to 17-year veteran Fernando Alonso, a two-time Formula One champion who has struggled of late driving for McClaren.

“If you have the same car as another who is good, then one is going to win and the other is going to lose,” he said. “Take the example of Fernando Alonso and compare with Hamilton. If you put Hamilton in McLaren last season and Alonso in Mercedes, it’s the same result: Hamilton at the bottom and Alonso at the top.”

Pochettino believes the same theory holds true in the Premier League, as coaches are looking to put their players in the best positions to win. His point is that most players at the top clubs in Europe are all capable of beings successful if they are pushed in training, drilled with the proper mentality, and utilized correctly on the field.

But after being serious – and as Pochettino put it, “too honest” – about the realistic chances of Tottenham competing for this year’s title, he ended the press conference with a lighthearted anecdote.

“McLaren lent [Tottenham chairman] Daniel [Levy] two cars for a week to try and Daniel gave me one to try,” Pochettino said. “So I used it once from my house to the training ground and it was so dangerous I gave it back. It was a good lesson.”