Sung-Yueng Ki

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PL preview: More good times for Man Utd? Chelsea host Saints

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While the entire soccer world awaits the big one on Thursday — you know, Manchester City hosting Liverpool in top-of-the-table clash that could either signal the Premier League title race being back on or all but finished — Wednesday’s six-game schedule should hold us over for 24 hours…

[ MORE: Spurs sail to win at Cardiff City | Arsenal hammer Fulham ]

Chelsea v. Southampton — 2:45 p.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

Heading into Wednesday’s showdown with Southampton at Stamford Bridge, Chelsea appear largely locked into a battle, with Arsenal, for fourth place. The Blues, however, could simply refuse to let the Gunners — who trail by two points after having already played on Tuesday — get too close to them and position themselves for a coup slightly higher in the PL table. A win would move Maurizio Sarri‘s side to within a point of third-place Manchester City and just two back of second-place Tottenham Hotspur. Sarri’s side is currently dealing something of a short-term injury crisis and could be handcuffed in making his team selection.

“In the last two days we were a bit unlucky. Yesterday in 10 minutes we had three injuries: (Cesc) Fabregas, (Ruben) Loftus-Cheek and (Danny) Drinkwater,” Sarri said this week. “Now today Giroud, and we were already without Pedro and (Callum) Hudson-Odoi, so now we are in trouble because in January we have to play every three days.”

Southampton, meanwhile, remain very much in the relegation scrap at the bottom of the table. Finally out of the bottom-three, Ralph Hasenhuttl‘s side can now turn its focus to creating a bit of a cushion between themselves and 18th place. Back-to-back wins two weeks ago were Saints’ ticket out of the relegation zone, but back-to-back defeats in the interim have seen them slip back to an equal points tally with 18th-place Burnley.

INJURIES: Chelsea — QUESTIONABLE: Olivier Giroud (ankle), Ruben Loftus-Cheek (back), Pedro (hamstring), Cesc Fabregas (neck) | Southampton — OUT: Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg (suspension), Ryan Bertrand (back), Michael Obafemi (undisclosed)


Newcastle United v. Man United — 3 p.m. ET, on NBC Sports Gold

Just two places — but a full eight points — below Chelsea in the table, you’ll find a suddenly resurgent Manchester United under interim manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. Since Jose Mourinho was sent packing, the Red Devils have won three straight games with the flair and goal-scoring prowess once associated with arguably the greatest club in English soccer history. No one has been more resurgent than Paul Pogba, whose four goals and three assists are the biggest reason Man United have outscored those three opponents by a margin of 12-3. Should the good times continue so loosely the rest of the season — especially when the quality of competition rises considerably — it would be hard to imagine Solskjaer not being a serious contender for the job on a permanent basis.

Newcastle United, on the other hand, know who’ll be their manager for as long as he’s willing to stick around and deal with the, shall we say, extenuating circumstances which make the job of keeping the Magpies in the PL far more difficult than it should be. Entering round no. 21 this week, Newcastle sit 15th in the table, just three points clear of the relegation zone. With a manager of Rafa Benitez‘s pedigree, and even a middling transfer and wage budget, Newcastle would comfortably be mid-table and two-thirds of their way to safety already. If not for the contributions of Salomon Rondon — five of Newcastle’s 15 goals this season — they would likely be two-thirds of their way to relegation, and Benitez two-thirds of his way back to sunny Spain, already.

INJURIES: Newcastle — OUT: Florian Lejeune (fitness), Sung-Yueng Ki (international duty) | Man United — OUT: Chris Smalling (foot), Marcos Rojo (undisclosed); RETURNING: Alexis Sanchez (hamsrting)


Wednesday’s remaining PL schedule

West Ham vs. Brighton — 2:45 p.m. ET, on NBC Sports Gold
Wolves vs. Crystal Palace — 2:45 p.m. ET, on NBC Sports Gold
Bournemouth vs. Watford — 2:45 p.m. ET, on NBC Sports Gold
Huddersfield vs. Burnley 2:45 p.m. ET, on NBC Sports Gold

PL Tuesday preview: B’mouth-Arsenal; relegation 6-pointer

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A look ahead to three games in the Premier League on Tuesday…

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

Bournemouth vs. Arsenal — 2:45 p.m. ET

Arsenal find themselves dead center of a five-team battle over the final three places in the top-four, four points back of second-place Liverpool and just one point clear of sixth place Manchester United. A loss would open up the door for Tottenham Hotspur to finish Matchweek 20 ahead of them (and Manchester City) for third when they take on league-leading Chelsea on Wednesday. Tuesday’s trip to the south coast of England comes barely 48 hours after the Gunners’ 2-0 home victory over Crystal Palace, spurred on by Olivier Giroud’s immaculate scorpion-kick goal. Arsene Wenger will hope to welcome Mesut Ozil back into the team after his superstar no. 10 missed Sunday’s game due to illness. Bournemouth, meanwhile, currently sit ninth in the PL table, though fewer points separate them from the relegation zone (9) than sixth place (15).

INJURIES: Bournemouth — OUT: Jack Wilshere (on loan from parent club), Lewis Cook (ankle) | Arsenal — OUT: Per Mertesacker (knee surgery), Santi Cazorla (achilles), Mathieu Debuchy (hamstring), Danny Welbeck (fitness); QUESTIONABLE: Mesut Ozil (illness), Theo Walcott (calf), Kieran Gibbs (knee)

[ MORE: Monday’s PL roundup – Liverpool draw late; Man Utd keep winning ]

Stoke City vs. Watford — 3 p.m. ET

Winless in their last five games, the PL schedule makers may have presented Stoke City with precisely the cure for what ails them: a visit from Watford, who are winless in almost as many games (4) and are fresh off a 4-1 pasting at the hands of Spurs on Sunday. New Years Eve wasn’t much kinder to the Potters, though, as Mark Hughes’ side took a 4-2 beating of their own, courtesy of the 2016-17 champions-elect. One small caveat, in Stoke’s defense: in those five games without a win, only three have been losses, which came against Arsenal, Liverpool and Chelsea (by a combined score of 11-4, it should be said).

INJURIES: Stoke — OUT: Geoff Cameron (knee), Jack Butland (ankle), Marc Muniesa (knee) | Watford — OUT: Valon Behrami (hamstring), Daryl Janmaat (groin), Roberto Pereyra (knee); QUESTIONABLE: Nordin Amrabat (knock)

[ MORE: Transfer needs for all 20 PL clubs in January ]

Crystal Palace vs. Swansea City — 3 p.m. ET

Can you say, “relegation six-pointer?” Swansea have started the season so poorly that a win against Palace wouldn’t even be enough to pull them out of the relegation zone, but it would bring them to within a point of the 17th-place Eagles, though their goal differential, which is nearly 20 goals worse, is still a problem. The Swans’ latest defeat came on Saturday, as Bournemouth walked into the Liberty Stadium, put three goals past the PL’s joint-worst (Hull City) defensive unit, and left them bottom of the league at the halfway point of the season.

INJURIES: Crystal Palace — OUT: Loic Remy (calf), Connor Wickham (knee) | Swansea — OUT: Jefferson Montero (hamstring); QUESTIONABLE: Fernando Llorente (knock), Sung-Yueng Ki (toe)