A critical day of Premier League fixtures hits center stage on Sunday as four of the top six are in action, including Manchester City who controls its own destiny in the title race with three matches to go.
With Liverpool having moved in front with a big win over Huddersfield Town on Friday, it is Man City’s turn to respond. In addition, Manchester United meets Chelsea in a critical battle in the race for the top four, with both teams right in the mix for a spot. Also in that conversation is Arsenal who visits Leicester City needing a win to keep pace with whoever comes out of Old Trafford with points.
Finish to the Premier League season is riveting at the top of the table, with both the title race and Champions League battle coming down to the wire. Liverpool sits two points ahead of Manchester City at the moment, with the Citizens still to play on Sunday. Meanwhile, Tottenham sits on 70 points in third, with Chelsea three back in fourth on 67, Arsenal in fifth with 66, and Manchester United in sixth on 64.
Leicester City v. Arsenal — 7:00 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com
Arsenal travels to Leicester City to take on the in-form Foxes with an early morning kick. Leicester has won four of its last six Premier League matches and scored a late equalizer to draw West Ham last time out. The match is critical for Arsenal with either Chelsea or Manchester United figuring to get points at Old Trafford later in the day.
The Gunners, however, are not coming into this match in good form, having lost two straight and three of their last four. The Arsenal defense has coughed up six goals over the last two, and boss Unai Emery is struggling to figure out his squad with a number of injury problems to consider. The most important issue to sort out before kick on Sunday is Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, who missed the last match after minor sinus surgery.
Burnley v. Manchester City — 9:05 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com
Manchester City hasn’t dropped points since late January when they suffered a 2-1 loss to Newcastle, and Pep Guardiola‘s squad seems stronger than ever. Last time out was a perfect encapsulation of the squad strength Man City possesses, as Leroy Sane was forced onto the pitch after an injury to vital midfielder Fernandinho, only to see Sane score a goal 15 minutes later.
Burnley was clobbered by Man City last time these two teams matched up back in October, a 5-0 drubbing that sent Man City on a tear through November before bogging down around the holidays. That match also saw Burnley come in with a three-match unbeaten run, but the pasting kickstarted a miserable stretch of seven without a win for Burnley. This time around, the hosts are again coming in having performed well of late, on a run of three wins in four without a loss in that span.
Manchester United v. Chelsea — 11:30 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer faces another brutal test as he looks to bring Manchester United out of the ignominious slump the Red Devils are currently mired in. Manchester United has lost three of its four Premier League matches in April, and that coupled with the Champions League humbling at the hands of Barcelona has left the honeymoon phase of Solskjaer’s managerial tenure in the distant past. Goalkeeper David De Gea will reportedly keep his place in goal for the foreseeable future despite the Spaniard’s struggles over the past few months, which were evident in the derby loss to Man City last time out.
Chelsea, meanwhile, is in a slide of its own with just two wins in the last six matches and Maurizio Sarri desperately hoping to confirm a Champions League place to give Roman Abramovich something to cling to when assessing the Italian’s first season in charge. They also have lost two straight visiting Manchester United, and have not lost three in a row since 1957 – conversely, of the six times Chelsea has won at Old Trafford, five of them came in a manager’s first attempt with the club.
From runaway PL title leaders and favorites, to staring a four-point deficit — with a game in hand, albeit — square in the face, the last two months have been anything but ideal for Liverpool. It’s not as if Jurgen Klopp‘s side has cratered and even lost a single game, so much as Manchester City have regained their brilliant, historic form of last season (three points dropped from their last 11 games) and managed to capitalize on the Reds drawing four of their last six. When 17th-place Burnley visit Anfield on Sunday, Klopp and Co., will have their hands full against increasingly desperate opponents who now sit just two points and one place clear of the relegation zone. There can be no looking ahead to Wednesday’s UEFA Champions League clash with Bayern Munich (0-0 after the Reds’ home leg).
As for the Clarets, Sean Dyche‘s side was the very definition of up-and-down since mid-January: three draws, followed by two wins, followed by two losses most recently. Prior to starting their potentially season-saving run just before the start of 2019, Burnley sat 19th in the PL table. After winning three straight to start the new year and eventually extending their run to eight games unbeaten (five wins), they had risen as high as 14th. Back-to-back defeats to fellow relegation battlers Newcastle United and Crystal Palace have since dropped them back into perilous danger as they head northwest to take on one of the Europe’s most prolific, irresistible sides on Sunday.
Chelsea v. Wolverhampton Wanderers — 10:05 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com
Maurizio Sarri‘s debut season in the PL has been one he, and many Chelsea fans alike, would like to forget. And yet, it’s the sixth-place Blues — of the three teams currently jockeying for fourth place — who control their own destiny, due to having a game in hand and trailing the Champions League places by just two points. Sunday’s opponent, sixth-place Wolves, will be anything but a pushover, which they demonstrated the first time these sides met this season: Wolves 2-1 Chelsea, in December.
Raul Jimenez and Diogo Jota inspired Nuno Espirito Santo‘s side to the comeback victory at Molineux Stadium, and the prolific duo (17 goals and nine assists between them this PL campaign) will be desperate to complete the unlikely double over such a giant in their first top-flight season in eight years. Against all odds, it’s Wolves who have lost just once in their last seven league games (four wins), and the Blues who have lost three of their last six (three wins) and suffered a frustrating slide down the table. With a six-point advantage over 11th-place Everton, and Sunday’s game in hand, Wolves are merely a handful of results away from mathematically securing a top-half finish with plenty of the season still to run.
INJURIES: Chelsea — OUT: None | Wolves — OUT: Ryan Bennett (suspension)
Arsenal v. Manchester United — 12:30 p.m. ET, on NBC and NBCSports.com
The leading contestants for a top-four finish are set to face off in a titanic clash at the Emirates Stadium on Sunday, with the added bonus of making a real push to catch and surpass a Tottenham Hotspur side suddenly spiraling out of control. Man United moved to within three points of Tottenham with their comeback victory over Southampton last weekend, only for those very Saints to do the Red Devils a massive favor on the back end: handing Spurs their third loss in four games.
Three points won’t come easy on Sunday, however, as Ole Gunnar Solskjaer‘s side was pushed to its limits in the Champions League on Wednesday, only securing their passage to the quarterfinals in the 93rd minute against Paris Saint-Germain. Further complicating matters, United find themselves in the midst of something of an injury crisis (see below). On the bright side, Paul Pogba will be fit and fresh after missing Wednesday’s game due to suspension. On the brightest of bright sides, United remain unbeaten in 12 league games (10 wins) since Solskjaer took over for Jose Mourinho in mid-December.
Arsenal, on the other hand, will be considerably fatigued themselves after losing to Rennes in the Europa League on Thursday, and playing nearly 50 minutes with just 10 men. With dwindling hope of lifting the final trophy still in play for the Gunners, Unai Emery‘s main objective has become exceedingly clear: get the club back into the Champions League for the first time in three years. Three points would not only send Arsenal two points clear of United for fourth, but would also trim the gap between themselves and Spurs to just a single point with eight games left to play.
Burnley has never lost a top-flight match to Brighton
Brighton has not at home to a PL side outside the top 4 this season
Burnley ended a 67-match PL penalty-less streak last time out
A critical relegation battle takes place at Falmer Stadium on Saturday as Burnley travels to Brighton & Hove Albion at 12:30 p.m. ET live on NBCSN or live online at NBCSports.com.
Burnley sits in 17th position, just two points and one place above the relegation zone. Brighton is in a safer position, sitting 13th but just three above Burnley in a tight bottom third of the table. The Seagulls started the season brightly, but have not won in league play in 2019, leaving them vulnerable as the teams at the bottom battle for points.
The hosts will be without striker Florin Andone, who was suspended three matches for violent conduct after throwing a wayward elbow in the 0-0 draw with Watford last time out. Dale Stephens also left the Watford match with a hip problem and is questionable for this weekend, but Jose Izquierdo is reportedly out despite having returned to training from a knee injury.
For Burnley, Steven Defour nears a return from a calf injury that has cost him over two months of this season, but this weekend appears too soon for his return. Matt Lowton has a slightly fractured toe, but will still give this match a try, while defenders Matt Lowton and Kevin Long are looking more likely to play after returning to training. The Clarets are on a good run of form, unbeaten in their last six, coinciding with the return of Tom Heaton in goal who has helped hold opponents to just five goals in that span.
What they’re saying
Burnley manager Sean Dyche on Brighton: “They’re on a tough run and they’ll be wanting to correct that, for sure. We’re on a good run, we’ll be wanting to continue that. It makes for another good game.”
Brighton striker Glenn Murray on poor run of form: “We are absolutely fine behind closed doors, no matter what people are saying. We feel confident. We are happy with the way we are playing. We felt as though we dominated the game on Saturday at home to Watford in the Premier League. Again [Wednesday in the FA Cup] we felt as though we put a good display on and won the game.”
Brighton comes into this match in poor form, and Burnley needs the game more. With the Clarets’ good results of late, they have something to build on, and pulling themselves further away from the relegation scrap is a motivation that can have the team truly rearing to go. Burnley grabs a valuable road win in a hard-fought 1-0 victory.
As we creep towards the deadline at 6 p.m. ET on Jan. 31, you just know so many deals will be done between now and then. But what are the key areas where each Premier League club should strengthen in, if they can, this month?
With that in mind, below is a look at the key transfer needs for each PL team in January.
Key transfer needs: Center back, CAM – Unai Emery has had so many injuries in this area, but aside from that fact, the quality needed to sustain a top four charge just isn’t there. Replacing Aaron Ramsey, long-term, would also be savvy and the arrival of Denis Suarez from Barcelona seems likely. The Spanish central midfielder play for Emery while he was on loan at Sevilla and he can add that extra bit of quality to supply the likes of Aubameyrang and Lacazette.
Brighton & Hove Albion
Key transfer need: Central midfield – Some extra depth in central midfield is all that is needed, as Chris Hughton has a strong squad and the quality of his starting XI doesn’t drop significantly when a regular is replaced. Having some extra nous in central midfield would be a good move.
Key transfer needs: Winger, attacking midfielder – Injuries to key players in attack have hampered Burnley for most of this season, and with their defense sorted out in recent weeks and Tom Heaton back in goal, they are shored up at the back. They could do with adding more creativity in the final third as the likes of Steven Defour just hasn’t recovered from his horrible injury.
Key transfer needs: Striker, winger, right back – Neil Warnock is already miffed after missing out on signing Clyne, but the Bluebirds have long been linked with Emiliano Sala and Youseff Msakni. However, both attackers are said to not be keen on a move to the Welsh capital despite Cardiff currently sitting just outside of the relegation zone. Work to do for Cardiff to seal some signings, but they do not have a big budget and will have to wait for the last minute. Will it be too late by then?
Key transfer needs: Striker, central midfield – With Alvaro Morata and Olivier Giroud misfiring, Maurizio Sarri needs a new striker. Gonzalo Higuain has been linked with a move to Stamford Bridge, but it could be tough to sort out considering he is currently on loan from Juventus to AC Milan. With Cesc Fabregas on his way out, Sarri also wants a new central midfielder. Chelsea have been linked with a $55 million move for Cagliari midfielder Nicolo Barella, which would be another huge outlay after they bought Christian Pulisic for $73 million before loaning him back to Dortmund until the summer.
Key transfer needs: Striker, center back – The Toffees need a new center forward too, as Cenk Tosun‘s move just hasn’t worked out and Dominic Calvert-Lewin may not cut the mustard at the top level. Richarlison has had to play through the middle a lot this season and he is clearly better coming off the left. As for defense, Kurt Zouma, Michael Keane and Yerry Mina have had rollercoaster campaigns and getting them extra cover, especially in a 3-4-3 formation, is vital.
Key transfer needs: Center back, full backs – Claudio Ranieri has improved this Fulham defense significantly but this may be all he can do with his group of players. Gary Cahill has been linked with a loan move from Chelsea, while full back Timothy Fosu-Mensah has been told he can head back to parent club Manchester United. That suggests a new right back is on the way, and Ranieri could do with strengthening both full back positions and adding two new center backs. Going forward they look more than adequate, but there’s no real balance in this team.
Key transfer needs: Everywhere – It is quite simple, Huddersfield need to spend big in the transfer window or they are going to get relegated. After eight-straight defeats they are eight points from safety and scoring goals has been a huge problem all season. Jason Puncheon has arrived from Crystal Palace on loan and he is of course an experienced pro, but top quality in midfield and attack is needed. Losing Aaron Mooy and Danny Williams for a key part of the season was a blow, and the Terriers know they will have to act fast this month to give themselves a chance of staying up.
Key transfer needs: Striker, central midfield – With Vicente Iborra sold to Villarreal, there is a hole in central midfield for Claude Puel to plug. Up top the likes of Shinji Okazaki and Kelechi Iheanacho continue to deliver lackluster displays and Jamie Vardy really needs some support. Bringing in a strong center forward who can link up with Vardy would be ideal.
Key transfer needs: Attacking midfielder, left back – Nabil Fekir has been linked with a move to Liverpool, again, as the Frenchman’s move to Anfield collapsed at the last minute this summer. In some of their big games they’ve lacked a calming presence in midfield, and Naby Keita just hasn’t settled down. Liverpool need a No.10 type who can slow the tempo down a little when they want to. Adam Lallana can be that man if he stays fit, but a new playmaker would give them a big push towards the title. Alberto Moreno is a decent back up option at left back to Andrew Robertson, but he is set to leave in the summer so adding a new left back would be ideal.
Key transfer needs: Left back, defensive midfielder – Benjamin Mendy‘s injury problems mean that left back is the main area needed to strengthen in. Pep Guardiola‘s plan to play Fabian Delph there worked last season, but not so much this season, while Oleksandr Zinchenko hasn’t settled in that role. Aymeric Laporte has plugged the gap for now, but a long-term left back to challenge Mendy is badly needed. A long-term replacement for Fernandinho is needed too, as the Brazilian is badly missed when he’s been out injured.
Key transfer needs: Center back, left back – Defensively United need some serious help, as their stable of center backs just isn’t good enough and are injured far too often. Luke Shaw is their only real option at left back, with Matteo Darmian, Marcos Rojo and Ashley Young able to play there out of position in a pinch.
Key transfer needs: Striker, central midfielder, winger – Now, it is very unlikely Rafael Benitez will be given money to spend in January, but he does need to strengthen in a few areas. Defensively they are solid enough and are all set there. But going forward he is woefully short of quality options. Extra quality off the wing, a No. 10 and a striker to partner Salomon Rondon is needed. Miguel Almiron from Atlanta United has been linked with a move to St James’ Park but the Magpies are baulking at the $35 million transfer fee.
Key transfer needs: Winger, striker, center back – Saints have a lot of center backs, but Ralph Hasenhuttl has pretty much hinted that Wesley Hoedt is available to leave and that will open a spot up for them to strengthen in. Bednarek, Yoshida and Vestergaard have played okay at times, but RB Leipzig defender Dayot Upamecano has been linked with a move to St Mary’s. Up top there will be an almighty shake up as Manolo Gabbiadini is leaving, Shane Long is on his way out and with Danny Ings‘ injuries flaring up, Hasenhuttl needs reinforcements. His style of play is all about pace, so adding extra pace out wide and up top is the main aim this month. Saints have to sell before they buy, so that will be challenging. Roger Guedes, Yussuf Poulsen and Odio Ighalo have been a few names linked with Saints.
Key transfer needs: Central midfield, striker – Although Mauricio Pochettino has admitted he will not be looking to buy anyone in January due to the lack of funds available with the new stadium move almost complete, Spurs are likely to promote youngsters into their squad. But if they are going to be serious about mounting a title bid or going far in the Champions League, more help for Harry Kane (Fernando Llorente is fine for FA Cup games) is needed. Oliver Skipp has stepped in admirably in midfield, and given the fact that Mousa Dembele seems destined to leave, they could have some money to spend on a new midfielder.
Key transfer need: Center back – It is one of the areas which Watford have ignored for some time, but they always seem to get by. The likes of Cathcart and Kabasele could be upgraded quite easily, and Watford should aim to add extra quality in central defense as they’ve thrown away plenty of points this season. Going forward and in midfield they are littered with options for Javi Gracia. Sort out their defense ahead of the brilliant Ben Foster and they will push hard for European qualification.
West Ham United
Key transfer needs: Nowhere – The Hammers are pretty set and spent a lot of money in the summer. They have a plethora of options up top, in defense and especially in midfield. Consiering Jack Wilshere has hardly kicked a ball this season, Andriy Yarmolenko is out of the rest of the season and Manuel Lanzini is on his way back after a lengthy injury, they have plenty of quality in reserve too. Maybe some extra cover defensively could help, but apart from that Manuel Pellegrini has a very strong squad to choose from.
Key transfer need: Striker – Linked with a move for Tammy Abraham, who has spent the first half of the season on loan at Aston Villa, Wolves need help for Raul Jimenez. The Mexican striker has been far from prolific, but he creates so many chances yet doesn’t have a lot of support in games. Nuno Espirito Santo is well stocked elsewhere, but adding a new center back to work into their three-man defense would do wonders for that rotation.
Crystal Palace v. Chelsea — 7 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com
With one giant slaying already to their name in the last week, Crystal Palace now turn their attention to Sunday’s visit from Chelsea. Following their unlikely upset of Manchester City a week ago, the Eagles suffered an abrupt come-down in the form of a 0-0 draw with Cardiff City on Wednesday. Despite taking 32 shots, just five were on target and not a single one found the back of the net — an all too familiar tale for a side with just 17 goals scored this season (third-fewest in the PL).
Chelsea themselves were on the wrong side of a giant slaying of significantly lesser proportions last weekend when Leicester City turned the Blues over. It’s been relatively tough sledding for Chelsea of late, as they’ve lost three of their last seven league games after going unbeaten in the season’s first dozen.
Southampton v. Man City — 9:15 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com
The math is simple for Man City these days: nothing short of a victory — followed by another victory, and another victory, and lots more victories — will do, if they are to stay in the title race with current leaders Liverpool. Heading into Sunday’s trip to St. Mary’s Stadium, the defending champions trail the runaway Reds by 10 points. With defeats in three of their last four games, Pep Guardiola‘s side is reeling and needs not only a victory, but a resounding response and performance, to re-establish themselves and set the table for a chase-down in the second half of the campaign.
Southampton, on the other hand, have largely enjoyed the busy festive period thus far as they won back-to-back games last week and climbed out of the relegation zone, where they remain with a game in hand.
Speaking of the relegation zone, that’s where Burnley begin their second half of the 2018-19 season — in 19th place following Fulham’s victory on Saturday. With just one victory in their last 12 games — and just two draws during that period — it’s been a dire three months for Sean Dyche‘s relegation-threatened side.
Unfortunately for the Clarets, West Ham head into Turf Moor riding a wave of optimism and point — five wins in their last six games have seen them climb all the way to 11th place in the table. Another win on Sunday would see them go seventh. Felipe Anderson has been the danger man of late and has begun to repay a hefty chunk of the $48 million spent to bring him to the London Stadium this summer with seven goals in his last eight games.
Man United vs. Bournemouth — 11:30 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com
As for clubs enjoying better days following a poor start to the season, no one has done a sharper U-turn than Man United. Since firing Jose Mourinho and installing Ole Gunnar Solskjaer as interim manager nearly two weeks ago, the Red Devils have won both games they’ve played, victories over Cardiff and Huddersfield Town, by a combined score of 8-2. Paul Pogba, more than anyone else, is enjoying his new lease on life and turning in the type of performances expected of a former world-record signing.
As for Bournemouth, the Cherries’ season has largely moved in reverse of United’s, as their strong start has been undone by recent struggles (seven losses in their last nine games). Losing captain Simon Francis to a torn ACL — just weeks after midfielder Lewis Cook to the same injury — has left Bournemouth thin at the back and on the leadership front. Manager Eddie Howe has made no attempts at downplaying the loss.
“He’s been our leader on the pitch and a role model and a big miss in the dressing room. As a team it’s a big loss and a big gap to fill. He didn’t deserve that, but it’s happened and now we’ll do our best to support him through this process.”
INJURIES: Man United — QUESTIONABLE: Alexis Sanchez (hamstring), Chris Smalling (foot) | Bournemouth —OUT: Lewis Cook (knee), Simon Francis (knee), Adam Smith (knee), Dan Gosling (knee)