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PL Sunday preview: Chelsea look to extend perfect start; Arsenal vs. Everton

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Life in the Europa League spells a harsh reality for Chelsea and Arsenal this season: Thursday night games followed by the quick turnaround to Premier League action on Sunday.

[ MORE: What did we learn in the Premier League, Week 6? ]

West Ham United vs. Chelsea — 8:30 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

Following wins by Liverpool and Manchester City on Saturday, Chelsea enter Sunday’s clash on the other side London, where they’ll take on a West Ham side that only last week picked up its first points of the season, third in the PL table. The Blues are, however — along with the Reds — one of two remaining unbeaten teams in the PL. Maurizio Sarri has stabilized Chelsea following a summer of tumult and turnover, thanks in large part to a series of dazzling performances by Eden Hazard — one of the figures at the center of the controversy this summer — as the Belgian has racked up five goals and a pair of assists in just over 300 minutes. His hat trick last weekend helped the Blues to a perfect 5-for-5 start to the season.

West Ham, on the other hand, finally have something to show for their efforts after appointing Manuel Pellegrini as manager and spending more than $100 million on transfers in the summer. All it took was one win to climb out of the bottom-three. Andriy Yarmolenko bagged a brace in the win over Everton, leaving Pellegrini more than pleased after showing faith in the Ukrainian during his first few weeks in the PL.

“I said at the start that Andriy needs a few weeks to get used to playing in the Premier League,” Pellegrini said this week. “He has a lot of quality, we know that, but in this league you can’t just play with quality.

“He demonstrated against Everton that it was the correct moment. He did it very well. After this performance, we must demand him to give more, because he’s able to be a top player for us.

INJURIES: West Ham — OUT: Manuel Lanzini (knee), Winston Reid (knee), Andy Carroll (ankle); QUESTIONABLE: Marko Arnautovic (knee) | Chelsea — QUESTIONABLE: Pedro (shoulder)

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

Another side enjoying a purple patch of results of late is Arsenal, winners of three straight after defeats to Manchester City and Chelsea to start the season. Unai Emery has worked out a decent enough formula, though the Gunners are yet to keep a clean sheet this season (their 9 goals conceded puts them in the bottom-half of the league in the goals-allowed column). Even star striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang acknowledged his side’s defensive struggles following Thursday’s 4-2 victory over Vorskla Poltava in the Europa League.

“I think we played well in the first half and at the beginning of the second as well and we scored four goals, but we need to improve and fight to not concede goals like we did in the last few minutes.”

Everton’s season has also been marked by a drastic difference between the first two games and the three which followed thereafter, only in reverse of Arsenal’s turnaround. After impressing in their first two games, the Toffees have collected just two points from the last three games. Their struggles have been, in part, down to the absence of Richarlison, who scored three goals in the first two games of the season before earning a red card and a three-game ban for head-butting Adam Smith during the 2-2 draw with Bournemouth. Injuries throughout the team proved costly against West Ham last weekend, and not much has improved on that front. Defensive pillars Michael Keane and Phil Jagielka remain out, while Seamus Coleman and Yerry Mina will undergo late fitness tests ahead of Sunday’s kickoff.

INJURIES: Arsenal — OUT: Sead Kolasinac (knee), Laurent Koscielny (achilles), Carl Jenkinson (ankle), Ainsley Maitland-Niles (knee); QUESTIONABLE: Henrikh Mkhitaryan (ankle), Lucas Torreira (knee)| Everton — OUT: Phil Jagielka (knee), Michael Keane (head), Andre Gomes (hamstring), James McCarthy (leg); QUESTIONABLE: Yerry Mina (foot) Seamus Coleman (foot)

PL Sunday preview: West Ham chasing first point, visiting Everton

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Sunday’s slate of Premier League fixtures is all about place 11 through 20 in the league table, as a pair of early-season relegation battlers are in action against sides occupying placed they presently dream of making their own: mid-table.

[ MORE: What did we learn from PL Saturday, Week 5? ]

Wolverhampton Wanderers vs. Burnley — 8:30 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

Burnley finished last season seventh in the PL table, while Wolves were busy winning the Championship and securing their place in the top flight this season. Based solely on their places in the football world five months ago, Burnley should be the mid-table side while Wolves battle every second to leave the relegation zone behind. Fortunately for the Clarets — and regrettably for Wolves — we’re barely 10 percent of the way through the 2018-19 season, so there’s plenty of time to right the early-season wrongs — or, to wrong the rights.

When the two sides meet at Molineux Stadium on Sunday, Sean Dyche‘s side — no longer dealing with the possible distraction of the Europa League — will be seeking its first win of the season, and first point(s) since their opening-day draw with Southampton. Dyche isn’t panicking yet, though, because he’s been through plenty or periods just like this one before.

“When you are good you are never that good and when you are bad you are never that bad, and we have to bear that in mind. The players are close to something, but we have to tidy up at both ends.”

INJURIES: Wolves — OUT: Raul Jimenez (knock), Ivan Cavaleiro (back) | Burnley — OUT: Ben Gibson (abdomen), Steven Defour (calf), Nick Pop (shoulder), Robbie Brady (hamstring)

Everton vs. West Ham United — 11 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

Things could actually be worse for Burnley, though: they could be West Ham, who are without a single point after four games and face the typically tough task of an away trip to take on ninth-place Everton. The arrival of Manuel Pellegrini was supposed to stabilize the Hammers and turn them into a force to be reckoned with sooner than later — at least, that was the place. So far, not a single thing has gone right: just two goals scored while conceding 10. After spending well over $100 million during the summer transfer window — including a club-record fee of $45 million on mercurial attacker Felipe Anderson — the expectation was that a manager with Pellegrini’s pedigree, a Premier League winner himself, would finally lift the east London club out of years of mid-to-lower-table mediocrity.

Perhaps the climb begins on Sunday, with Everton missing a number of key figures due to injuries and suspension. With Michael Keane, Seamus Colemand and Phil Jagielka suffering from various injuries, Marco Silva will have to piece together a makeshift defensive unit. Further up the field, Richarlison is serving the second of his three-game ban for head-butting Bournemouth’s Adam Smith.

INJURIES: Everton — OUT: Richarlison (suspension), Seamus Coleman (foot), Phil Jagielka (knee), Michael Keane (head), Andre Gomes (hamstring), James McCarthy (leg) | West Ham — OUT: Manuel Lanzini (knee), Winston Reid (knee), Andy Carroll (ankle)

Michael Keane suffers hairline skull fracture

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Everton have confirmed that center back Michael Keane suffered a small hairline skull fracture in a nasty collision at Bournemouth on Saturday.

In stoppage time of their 2-2 draw at the Vitality Stadium Keane clashed heads with his teammate Idrissa Gueye and was treated on the pitch for over six minutes before being taken to hospital.

Keane had scored Everton’s second goal to make it 2-0 and that was his first Premier League goal for the Toffees.

The England international released the following statement on his condition as he is expected to be back in full training in three to four weeks.

“Thank you to everyone for all the well wishes and support. I’m okay but suffered a small hairline fracture of the skull which will heal itself and means I won’t be able to have any head contact for three to four weeks,” Keane said. “I will be back with my team and back on the pitch as soon as I can after that. I also want to say a huge thank you to the medical staff at Everton and Bournemouth as well as all those at Poole Hospital for their excellent treatment and care.”

With Keane now out injured and new signing Yerry Mina not yet fully fit, loan signing Kurt Zouma is likely to be thrown in to start alongside Phil Jagielka on Saturday (Jagielka is returning from a three-game ban)  against Huddersfield Town.

Mason Holgate played at center back at Bournemouth with Toffees boss Marco Silva suffering a mini injury crisis in his first few months in charge of Everton.

Premier League Club Power Rankings: Week 2

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First and foremost, a note from last week’s power rankings: Everyone knows you can look at the table to see where clubs stand in a given season, but we do power rankings because we like to have fun with our beloved games and aren’t a wet paper towel on the shoe of sports.

A few grains of salt — or 300 — are always recommended when dealing with power rankings, and our Premier League club power rankings are intended to be a show of how the clubs look in both form and forecast at a moment in time.

[ MORE: Champions League wrap ]

Read on…

20. Huddersfield Town (Last week: 18) — Two monstrous opponents: Combined 9-1 score
19. Cardiff City (Last week: 20) — No threat vs 10-man Newcastle; Lack of striker looms
18. West Ham (Last week: 17) — Pellegrini needs time; This may be wrong club for that
17. Fulham (Last week: 14) — So many good components but how long will it take to gel?
16. Newcastle United (Last week: 13) — Needed 3 points at Cardiff; Should have them
15. Burnley (Last week: 15) — Understandably Europa League-weary, but depth a concern
14. Southampton (Last week: 16) — No shame in losing to Toffees; Can Ings score 15?
13. Wolves (Last week: 10) — Did we totally overlook a lack of Premier League defenders?
12. Brighton and Hove Albion (Last week: 19) — That’s more like it. Pascal Gross = a beast
11. Bournemouth (Last week: 12) — Win at West Ham probably a bonus three points
10. Leicester City (Last week: 11) — Man Utd loss doesn’t look as easy to stomach this week
9. Arsenal (Last week: 9) — It’ll happen under Emery, just not in time for Top 4 this season
8. Manchester United (Last week: 4) — Is it rotting from Woodward down, or just Mourinho?
7. Crystal Palace (Last week: 6) — Have a legit chance to be darlings of this PL season
6. Watford (Last week: 7) — Will have to resist huge January bids for Abdoulaye Doucoure
5. Everton (Last week: 8) — Are a Phil Jagielka red from sitting in second.
4. Tottenham Hotspur (Last week: 4) — If Lucas Moura is comfortable now, look out
3. Chelsea (Last week: 3) — Sarri will be daydreaming of his XI when Hazard is fit to start
2. Liverpool (Last week: 2) — Lacked its cutting edge but still won at a difficult Selhurst Park
1. Manchester City (Last week: 1) — Could’ve scored 10 and it would’ve been justified

What have we learned from PL opening weekend?

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With seven Premier League games now done and dusted on the opening weekend of the 2018-19 season and three games coming our way on Sunday, there’s plenty to digest and look forward to.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Following Manchester United’s nervy victory over Leicester City on Friday we learned plenty about the Red Devils. But what did we learn on Saturday as three new boys arrived and the likes of Chelsea and Tottenham kicked off their campaigns?

[ STREAM: Watch every PL match live ]

Here’s a look at what stood out from the opening weekend, so far.


1. Pogba is a superstar and needs to stay at Man United
He wore the captains armband. He scored a penalty kick (after usurping Alexis Sanchez to take it) and he was deemed a “monster” from his manager Jose Mourinho. Pogba was just that against Leicester as he drove on from central midfield time and time again to show his true class and give United’s fans a glimmer of hope that he’s now found the right midfield partner in Fred and Mourinho has figured out how to get the best from him.

That said, Pogba’s comments after the game suggest he still isn’t happy at United.

“Of course it makes me proud, it makes me happy to wear this (armband) at a big club like Manchester United,” Pogba said. “Like I always say, I always give my best for the fans, for my team-mates, for the people that trust me.”

Following Mourinho’s constant critiques since he arrived in 2016 and now amid rumblings of Barcelona wanting to sign him, the World Cup winner didn’t exactly seem ecstatic after his Man of the Match display. Keeping Pogba is essential to United doing well this season as the penny seems to have dropped for the powerful midfielder and his success with France this summer seems to have returned the swagger to his game.


2. Tottenham grind out win; Kane’s drought continues
With Harry Kane, Dele Alli, Eric Dier, Jan Vertonghen and Hugo Lloris only returning back to Tottenham earlier this week, it was always going to be a disjoined display from Spurs at Newcastle. Mauricio Pochettino‘s side battled to victory on the road. Vertonghen and Alli headed home in the first half but it was a shaky display overall from Spurs as Newcastle went close on several occasions and Salomon Rondon hit the crossbar on his Magpies debut. On top of this, Harry Kane continued his weird record of not scoring a PL goal in the month of August, as it’s now 14 games all-time without scoring in August. Still, the last few times he hasn’t scored in August it worked out pretty well… 


3. Roberto Pereyra had himself a day


Watford may be quite an unfashionable team to watch at times, but Roberto Pereyra wasn’t on Saturday. The Argentine attacker scored two beauties for the Hornets as they easily beat Brighton. On the hotseat after a shaky end to last season, despite keeping Watford up after arriving in January, Javi Gracia badly needs a good start to the season. Pereyra’s beauties gave him the perfect opening weekend. 


4. Chelsea unspectacular but sturdy under Sarri
Maurizio Sarri’s Chelsea got off to a winning start to the season as they beat Huddersfield and first half goals from N'Golo Kante and Jorginho set them on their way. Don’t be fooled by the scoreline as Huddersfield played well and Steve Mounie hit the bar in the first half and had some decent chances in the second half. Chelsea weren’t fluid but they looked more solid than they did against Manchester City in the Community Shield and Sarri will be pleased with the character of his squad. Bringing on Eden Hazard shows the quality they have to come as he set up Pedro for a fine third goal. They will take time to gel together but there are signs Chelsea can click under Sarri. Huddersfield isn’t an easy place to go to on opening day under a new manager who has had little time to work with his new squad. 


5. Perfect away day for Palace; Wolves the real deal 

Crystal Palace put in a fantastic away display at new boys Fulham as Palace let Fulham have the ball and two rapid counters taught the Cottagers a lesson with Schlupp and Zaha finishing off incisive counters. Textbook Roy Hodgson, and Palace. Everton’s two-goal hero Richarlison scored in each half to cap a superb debut as the Toffees dug deep after going down to 10 men in the first half and nicked a point at new boys Wolves.

Phil Jagielka‘s red card changed the game and it was debatable as he got plenty on the ball but did catch Jota and saw red for being the last man. Ruben Neves’ subsequent free kick was an absolute beauty and the atmosphere at Molineux was bouncing as the newly-promoted team proved they belong in the top-flight. For Wolves, well, they were the real deal against Everton. They fell behind to an early Richarlison goal and dragged themselves back into the game with Neves sublime on the ball. Richarlison scored a lovely second for Everton against the run of play, but Mexico’s Raul Jimenez nodded home a late equalizer to grab a point for the home side. From the stadium (it was their biggest crowd in 37 years)  to their squad and manager, everything about Wolves is Premier League. Their first PL game in seven years didn’t end in victory but it proved that Wolves will have plenty of good times this season.