Nemanja Matic

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PL Preview: Bournemouth v. Man United

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  • Bournemouth has not scored in 314 PL minutes
  • The Cherries are winless in last 7 PL matches v. MUFC with 6 losses
  • Man United has not won back-to-back PL games since last March

Manchester United looks to overcome a number of key injuries as the Red Devils travel to Vitality Stadium to take on Bournemouth, Saturday at 7:30 a.m. ET live on NBCSN or live online at NBCSports.com.

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In-form defender Harry Maguire is questionable for the game after picking up a knock in his 90-minute performance against Chelsea in EFL Cup action midweek, while fellow center-back Victor Lindelof and forward Marcus Rashford are also in doubt. Rashford limped off after scoring another vital Red Devils goal midweek, while Lindelof also came off injured during the Chelsea game. The new problems add to the growing list of injury concerns, as Paul Pogba, Luke Shaw, and Jesse Lingard are all currently sidelined.

They will go up against a suddenly anemic Bournemouth offense that has been held goalless in three matches and has not scored since the 46th minute of a 2-2 draw with West Ham in late September, held without a league strike the entire month of October. To make matters worse, the Cherries have been locked down by struggling defenses in Arsenal, Watford, and Norwich City in that time.

Injuries/suspensions

Bournemouth: QUESTIONABLE – Dan Gosling (hip). OUT – David Brooks (ankle), Charlie Daniels (knee), Junior Stanislas (knee).

Man United: QUESTIONABLE – Harry Maguire (knock), Marcus Rashford (knee), Victor Lindelof. OUT – Axel Tuanzebe, Luke Shaw (hamstring), Nemanja Matic (undisclosed), Paul Pogba (ankle).


Projected lineups

Bournemouth: Ramsdale; Rico, Ake, Cook, Smith; Lerma, Billing; Cook, Fraser, H Wilson; C Wilson.

Man United: De Gea; Young, Maguire, Rojo, Wan-Bissaka; McTominay, Fred; Rashford, Pereira, James; Martial.


What they’re saying

Bournemouth manager Eddie Howe on Solskjaer: “They’ve got quality players, a very good manager who has given them real stability. He’s working to the future to build a new Manchester United. “I imagine it is [hard under the pressure]. I think he’s handled himself really well and done an excellent job to this point.”

Manchester United manager Solskjaer on Scott McTominay“He’s been excellent. And him and Fred work in a good relationship. They’ve played well together, they did that last season at PSG, there were a few games there when we had a few injuries and now they’re working as a pair. But Scotty’s a leader, a Man United boy, he’s come through the ranks you can see he’s been a striker with the goal he scored at Norwich on the half-turn. But he’s developing into a very good midfielder.”


Prediction

Bournemouth’s struggles can’t continue for much longer, can they? Eddie Howe is too good a manager not to drag his side out of the doldrums. With the injuries piling on at Manchester United, the Red Devils could see a slip at Vitality Stadium and slump to a 1-1 draw in a tightly contested match plagued by giveaways in the final third.

EFL Cup Wed. preview: Liverpool host Arsenal; Chelsea v. Man Utd

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After five EFL Cup clashes were played on Tuesday, three more remain in the round of 16 on Wednesday, featuring six Premier League sides and a pair clashes between “big-six” sides.

[ EFL CUP: Man City cruise past Saints; Everton, Leicester into QF ]

First up, it’s PL leaders Liverpool hosting Arsenal at Anfield, where the two sides met back in August. Liverpool cruised to a 3-1 victory that day, extending their unbeaten run against the Gunners to nine games (all in the PL) since their last defeat in April 2015.

Jurgen Klopp‘s side could be without superstars Mohamed Salah (ankle) and Virgil Van Dijk (dead leg), should the manager opt to play it safe after the pair suffered minor injuries in the Reds’ 2-1 comeback victory over Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday. For Liverpool, winning on Wednesday is all about momentum as they attempt to keep alive their unbeaten start (11 games) to the domestic season (only loss to Napoli, in Champions League).

As for Arsenal, progression to the quarterfinals would provide a sense of normalcy and calm following the club’s latest crisis. Granit Xhaka has come under harsh scrutiny after he swore at fans and removed his shirt in response to being booed by his own fans as he was subbed off during the Gunners’ 2-2 draw with Crystal Palace on Sunday. The club’s captain is said to be “devastated and sad,” according to manager Unai Emery. Fortunately for Emery, the EFL Cup is the ideal time to rotate his squad and shield Xhaka from additional scrutiny.

[ MORE: Cryptic Zlatan Ibrahimovic hints at return to Spain ]

Meanwhile in London, a Chelsea side riding its best run of results all season (seven straight wins – all competitions) will welcome Manchester United to Stamford Bridge. Frank Lampard’s side beat Burnley 4-2 on Saturday, a game which featured the first goal (and hat trick) of Christian Pulisic’s Chelsea career. Given his standout performance on the weekend, Pulisic could find himself rotated out of the squad for Wednesday’s game with an eye toward facing Watford in PL play on Saturday.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, on the other hand, doesn’t have the same luxury of squad depth these days, with the likes of Paul Pogba (ankle), Eric Bailly (knee), Nemanja Matic, Luke Shaw (hamstring), Axel Tuanzebe (hip) and Diogo Dalot (groin) all currently out injured. Recent results, however, favor Man United as the Red Devils are unbeaten in their last four meetings with the Blues, including a 4-0 destruction of Chelsea at Old Trafford in August.

Wednesday’s EFL Cup schedule

Liverpool v. Arsenal — 3:30 p.m. ET
Aston Villa v. Wolverhampton Wanderers — 3:45 p.m. ET
Chelsea v. Man United — 4:05 p.m. ET

Pogba, De Gea miss Man United training

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It doesn’t seem like either David De Gea or Paul Pogba will play in the UEFA Europa League for Manchester United on Thursday.

Neither stars were training with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer‘s side on Wednesday, ahead of the Red Devils playing at Partizan Belgrade.

It is likely both will be saved for their Premier League clash at Norwich City on Sunday (Watch live, 12:30 p.m. ET online via NBCSports.com), with Pogba in a race against time to be ready.

Pogba has missed United’s last three games after a reoccurrence of foot and ankle issues, as he travelled to Dubai over the international break to try and get himself fit as soon as possible.

De Gea wasn’t expected to play against Liverpool on Sunday after suffering a thigh injury playing for Spain, but the goalkeeper rushed back and will likely be rested with Sergio Romero set to start on Thursday.

Solskjaer’s injury woes are easing a little with Jesse Lingard returning, while Anthony Martial and Aaron Wan-Bissaka played against Liverpool to give the Red Devils a boost.

Luke Shaw and Nemanja Matic are closing in on a return from injury, while Diogo Dalot, Timothy Fosu-Mensah, Eric Bailly and now Axel Tuanzebe are out.

With four-straight away games coming up in all competitions, United have reached a pivotal stage of their season after their worst PL start for 30 years.

They play Partizan (Europa League), Norwich, Chelsea (League Cup) and Bournemouth in the next 10 days, and after a morale-boosting performance and draw against Liverpool, Solskjaer is hoping the treatment room continues to empty and confidence continues to build.

Key battles for Manchester United v. Liverpool

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The fact that that question is unquestionably valid, the visiting Reds a heavy favorite at the home of their longtime rival, says a lot, doesn’t it?

[ PL PREVIEW: Man Utd v. Liverpool ]

Let’s start with two 1v1 jobs and end with a battle that only involves two men and their bodies.

Can Ole Gunnar Solskjaer spring a midfield surprise to level tilted pitch

Make no mistake about it: Whatever midfield Jurgen Klopp trots onto the field at Old Trafford will be far superior to the one on the other side.

Manchester United boss Solskjaer was pretty optimistic when he pointed to this match as the “perfect” one to follow the Red Devils setback against Newcastle United, which seems bonkers but could serve as a proper showcase of why the club continues to back its former star striker.

So how will Solskjaer attempt to outfox the Reds without Paul Pogba as a midfield different maker? It seems likely we’ll see hard men at their hardest and most ornery in the forms of Scott McTominay and Nemanja Matic, although Fred has seen plenty of playing time as of late.

Solskjaer might be best served by sitting back and trying to counter, but that doesn’t really vibe with Solskjaer’s overall “We’re Manchester United” mentality. So presuming we won’t see five at the back, it’s paramount that the boss finds a way to outduel (probably) three of Fabinho, Jordan Henderson, James Milner, and Georginio Wijnaldum.

It kinda recalls “The Dark Knight” when the Wayne Enterprises lawyer tries to blackmail the company via its bankrolling of Batman. Picture Morgan Freeman offering a smirking, “Good luck.”

Maguire hopes to defy his history versus Liverpool

Harry Maguire has a quality record against many teams, but Liverpool is not one of them.

The now-Red Devils’ center back managed a goal in Leicester City’s 1-1 draw with Liverpool last season, but that point was the first he’s won against Liverpool dating back to his time with Hull City. Maguire is 1W-1D-4L all-time against the Reds.

Maguire has seen Liverpool score eight goals in its last four matches against him, all while a member of Leicester, and the scorers are familiar: Salah (3), Mane (2),  Firmino (1), Jordan Henderson (1), Philippe Coutinho (1).

With the midfield mismatched in heavy favor of Liverpool, Maguire and Victor Lindelof will need to produce one of their finest displays.

Anthony Martial and Aaron Wan-Bissaka versus their fitness

With Paul Pogba and David De Gea out of the lineup, there’s no question that extra emphasis will be placed on United’s standout players when the ball is kicked on Sunday.

Make no mistake about: Along with Harry Maguire, Martial and Wan-Bissaka have been United’s best players when healthy this season.

Martial scored in United’s first two matches and picked up an assist in the third, where he also picked up a hamstring injury. His ability to make something out of nothing, particularly from distance, is a massive asset against a team as strong defensively as Liverpool. Wan-Bissaka missed his side’s loss at Newcastle United with tonsillitis.

Both would drastically affect which battles we also find key to this match, with their pace and prowess out wide the Red Devils’ most likely avenue to keeping Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andrew Robertson on their toes.

Martial’s return would be especially big. With Marcus Rashford on a terrible run of inconsistency, you don’t know what you’re going to get from the youngster. Martial can only help alleviate the burden.

Manchester United, Arsenal both desperate at Old Trafford

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Two teams with Top Four expectations meet sitting mid-table in an Old Trafford clash on Monday at 3 p.m. ET live on NBCSN and live online at NBCSports.com.

There is a different feeling surrounding this meeting of bitter Premier League enemies. They are both immeasurably desperate.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Unai Emery are in very precarious positions as they guide two fallen giants hoping to avoid further depths of despair. A loss here could doom one of these squads to a long, hard season of little gain, while a draw would confirm the equal plights of both rival clubs that long for a return to glory that seems so far out of reach.

[ STREAM: Every PL match live ] 

The future is now for Manchester United, as Mason Greenwood could see his first Premier League start with Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial both sidelined with injuries. Paul Pogba‘s status is questionable thanks to an ankle injury he re-aggrivated midweek in cup action, the same ailment bothering Arsenal striker Alexandre Lacazette who will likely miss out. The Gunners will, however, have Kieran Tierney available for selection having yet to make his Premier League debut.

Injuries/suspensions

Man United: OUT – Marcus Rashford (hip), Anthony Martial (hamstring), Eric Bailly (knee), Timothy Fosu-Mensah (knee). QUESTIONABLE – Paul Pogba (ankle).
Arsenal: OUT – Alexandre Lacazette (ankle), Emile Smith-Rowe (concussion).


Projected Lineups:

Man United: De Gea; Shaw, Lindelof, Maguire, Wan-Bissaka; McTominay, Matic, Mata; James, Greenwood, Pereira.

Arsenal: Leno; Tierney, Luiz, Sokratis, Maitland-Niles; Xhaka, Guendouzi; Saka, Ceballos, Pepe; Aubameyang.


What they’re saying

Man United manager Solskjaer on struggles thus far: “You evaluate every single game and look through the games, but I’m not doubting myself, no. If I doubt myself, then the rest of the world would as well. We have loads of discussions, so we believe in what we’re doing.”

Arsenal manager Emery on rivalry:  “Each match when I watched in Spain, Arsenal v Manchester United, Manchester United v Arsenal, was a special moment. I think Monday at eight o’clock, all around the world, if someone wants to watch a football match, it’s this one. We really want to play matches where we can do something important. We are preparing well. The players are wishing to play the next match – we know it’s a very big opportunity for us to get three points.”


Three key battles

  1. Daniel James v. Ainsley Maitland-Niles – The young Arsenal right-back was sent off last time out against Aston Villa with two yellow cards, and should he get a chance to start and redeem himself, he will need to bounce right back against one of the more in-form wingers in the league. Daniel James has been one of the few bright spots in attack for Manchester United this season, and Maitland-Niles will have his hands full. Should Emery decide against going with the 22-year-old at right-back, he could give Hector Bellerin a chance to return to favor, leading even more intrigue to this matchup on the Manchester United left flank.
  2. Dani Cabellos v. Nemanja Matic – Manchester United fans won’t be worried about Scott McTominay holding his own in front of the Red Devils back line, as the 22-year-old has been fantastic for the club since earning a starting place in the middle of last year. Instead, if Cabellos is to trouble the Man United midfield it will likely be at the expense of Nemanja Matic who has looked off the pace at times this season, both on the ball and off it. If Cabellos gets a hold of the midfield and has room to make magic, the Manchester United back line could be forced to pick up the slack, which means good news for Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang who would clean up the scraps.
  3. Mason Greenwood v. David Luiz/Sokratis – The 17-year-old Manchester United striker has earned praise from all corners of Red Devil land for his performances in other competitions, and it is time for his first Premier League start. The Arsenal defense, meanwhile, hasn’t done much to cover itself in glory this season, and that could mean a feast for the teenager at the Theater of Dreams. Will Greenwood reward the faith Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has shown in his young talent?

Prediction

These two teams are hungry for a result, and when desperate sides meet, the neutrals benefit from what could likely become an electric affair. Goals and big moments are to be expected, and that makes for an exciting matchup. Ultimately the fear of losing could outweigh the glory of victory, which could lead to a lack of attacking mentality late, but I like Arsenal to shock the hosts in their fortress thanks to the host of injuries Manchester United is dealing with at the moment; the loss of Paul Pogba is more troubling than most Red Devil fans care to admit. Look for Dani Cabellos to shine as Arsenal takes it in an exciting 2-1 affair that goes down to the wire with Mason Greenwood finding the back of the net in a losing effort.