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PL Sunday preview: Title-race showdown at Anfield

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Sunday’s slate of Premier League fixtures consists of three games featuring four of the six sides with top-four aspirations, including the big one: the one we’ve all been waiting for since they met in the Champions League quarterfinals in April, Liverpool versus Manchester City.

[ MORE: What did we learn in the Premier League, Week 8? ]

Fulham vs. Arsenal — 7 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

Arsenal seek their sixth straight PL win on Sunday when Unai Emery and Co., make the short trip south to the River Thames and head west until they float up to Craven Cottage. Emery has settled in quickly — and quietly — since back-to-back defeats to Man City and Chelsea to begin his first season at the Emirates Stadium. While they’ve managed more than a handful of goals en route to five straight wins, it’s the defensive record (just four goals conceded, including back-to-back clean sheets against Everton and Watford) which has given the Gunners a foundation to build upon. Just two points separate Arsenal from fourth-place Chelsea.

Down at the other end of the table — 17th place, to be exact — Fulham are winless in their last four league games and have just five points to show for their first seven outings after spending more than $130 million this summer after winning promotion from the Championship. Injuries have been a key cause the Cottagers’ early-season struggles, as manager Slavisa Jokanovic has already used nine different defenders in PL play. American defender Tim Ream returned last weekend after missing the start of the season with a back injury and should do his part to stabilize a side that has conceded 16 goals in seven games.

INJURIES: Fulham — OUT: Timothy Fosu-Mensah (shoulder), Joe Bryan (hamstring) | Arsenal — OUT: Petr Cech (hamstring), Laurent Koscielny (achilles), Ainsley Maitland-Niles (knee); QUESTIONABLE: Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (illness)


Southampton vs. Chelsea — 9:15 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

The good news for Chelsea: they’re still unbeaten to start the PL season. The slightly-less-great news: it’s been three weeks since they last won a PL game and they’re in danger of falling away from the leading pack, which presently consists of Liverpool and Man City. The Blues have won six straight games against Southampton (all competitions), including the FA Cup semifinal in April.

“We have lost two points in both our last two (league) games, so obviously we want to get three points as much as we can,” defender Cesar Azpilicueta said this week. “We weren’t able to in the last two games so we need to improve because every time we go onto the pitch, we want to win.”

Southampton, on the other hand, currently sit 16th in the midst of a three-game winless skid, including back-to-back defeats to Liverpool and Wolverhampton Wanderers. It’s been 205 minutes since Saints last scored a goal in PL play, and they have a bottom-five offensive record this season (six goals in seven games). Mark Hughes will be desperately hoping that edging past Everton on penalty kicks in the EFL Cup third round on Tuesday gives his side a much needed boost with the busy winter period not so far away now.

INJURIES: Southampton — OUT: None | Chelsea — OUT: Marco Van Ginkel (knee)


Liverpool vs. Manchester City — 11:30 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

The last time Man City visited Anfield, they conceded three times in the game’s opening half-hour on their way to a 3-0 first-leg defeat, and a disheartening exit from the Champions League. The visit before that, Pep Guardiola‘s side conceded four times — including a three-goal barrage that lasted just nine minutes — as they watched their 22-game unbeaten start to the season vanish at Anfield. It’s been more than 15 years since City last beat Liverpool on Merseyside, as they’ve lost 11 times at Anfield since May 3, 2003.

Guardiola has not yet revealed whether or not Kevin De Bruyne (knee) will return after two months on the sidelines, though City have managed just fine — thus far — without their play-making genius. A run of four straight wins (by a combined score of 12-1) have vaulted City back ahead of Liverpool for the top spot in the table, thanks to the Reds’ 1-1 draw with Chelsea last weekend. Jurgen Klopp‘s side was perfect up until its trip to Stamford Bridge.

Klopp was very quick to downplay his side’s recent success against City, knowing his side is in for another colossal battle on Sunday.

“We won the last three games against City — twice in the Champions League and once in the league. After none of these games do you go into the dressing room and think, ‘Now we’ve got it, now we know how to beat Manchester City.’

“There is no real way; there isn’t one thing you have to do so you can beat them. That’s not there. You need a fantastic football team — which I have, thank God — with an outstanding character, ready for being really brave, ready for making mistakes in a very difficult game against an outstanding opponent.”

INJURIES: Liverpool — OUT: Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (knee); QUESTIONABLE: Naby Keita (back), Adam Lallana (groin) | Man City — OUT: Claudio Bravo (achilles); QUESTIONABLE: Kevin De Bruyne (knee), Ilkay Gundogan (hamstring), Benjamin Mendy (foot)

Everton 3-0 Fulham: Toffees dominate second half

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  • Everton wins its 2nd of the year
  • Fulham concedes two again
  • The Whites remain without a win at Goodison Park

The two sides traded small blows in the first 45 minutes, but a dominating second half saw Everton skate past a missed penalty and defend home field against Fulham for a 2-0 win on goals from Gylfi Sigurdsson and Cenk Tosun.

Sigurdsson missed a spot-kick soon after the break, but he would atone with the game’s first goal minutes later, while the Fulham defense broke down to allow Everton in for a second.

As both teams looked to feel out the game, Fulham was forced into a very early change as Timothy Fosu-Mensah went down holding his right arm, in lots of pain, and the Manchester United loanee was withdrawn for Cyrus Christie just seven minutes in.

Despite the early change, Fulham had the game’s first half-chance with Alexander Mitrovic blazing over from long-range. Everton responded with a set-piece opportunity on 15 minutes, but Marcus Bettinelli was there to parry a short-range pop and the offside flag went up. Theo Walcott had a long-range effort deflected on 19 minutes but Bettinelli ranged to his right to make the stop.

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings ]

Fulham struggled to produce its usual brand of possessional play early on, and the frustration manifested in persistent fouling. The home fans at Goodison Park begged for a yellow card to be shown, and it eventually came for substitute Christie in the 29th minute.

The visitors finally began to build onto the ball as halftime neared, and they had a monstrous chance on 41 minutes. Jean-Michael Seri found an opening through the middle and poked it left for young Ryan Sessegnon with the Whites suddenly seeing three attackers free on net. Sessegnon took the shot from a tight angle, and it rang off the crossbar and deflected back out to the other side of the pitch.

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

After the break, Everton came close to its first goal of the season from a corner, but with Richarlison at the far post, the ball bounced a bit high in front of him, and the Brazilian missed with his awkwardly acrobatic attempt to make contact. Everton’s chance came minutes later on a breakaway for Sigurdsson, and despite Bettinelli coming to collect under little pressure, a penalty was given by the assistant referee for a slight shove in the back from Denis Odoi chasing. The referee had initially waved away the penalty claims, but sheepishly gave it once the assistant waved his flag. Unfortunately for the Toffees, the Icelandic playmaker looped a poor penalty effort off the crossbar and the scoreline remained unblemished.

Sigurdsson would atone minutes later, however, as he unlocked the back line with a ball for Jonjoe Kenny, and while his cross was blocked out by Odoi, Sigurdsson was there to collect the loose ball and curl a fabulous effort into the far corner past a helpless Bettinelli.

[ STREAM: Watch every PL match live ]

Fulham had a glorious chance to get back level on a three-on-one break, but a horrid first touch from Luciano Vietto ruined the opportunity, allowing Jordan Pickford to collect despite acres of space. That would loom large as the home side doubled its lead on 65 minutes, all too easily. Theo Walcott whipped in a cross past Americand defender Tim Ream, and Cenk Tosun somehow managed to earn 10 yards of separation from the rest of the Fulham defense for the easiest backdoor header of his life.

Sigurdsson added his second and Everton’s third with just a minute left in regulation as substitute Bernard had no trouble marauding down the left, and he cut back for Sigurdsson in all kinds of space at the top of the box for a powerful low finish.

All told, Everton finished with 19 shots, six of them on target, while Fulham failed to register even a single effort on net to trouble Pickford. The win pushes Everton up to 11th with nine points, while Fulham drops to 16th in a crowd with five points. Fulham also sports the league’s worst goals conceded total, up to 16 now with the trio from Everton.

Watch Live: Fulham vs. Watford

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Fulham host Watford at Craven Cottage on Saturday (Watch live, 7:30 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com) with the Cottagers and Hornets aiming to get back to winning ways in the Premier League.

WATCH LIVE ONLINE

Slavisa Jokanovic‘s men have played some of the best soccer in the PL this season but sloppy defensive errors have cost them dear. As for Watford, Javi Gracia‘s pragmatism saw them win their opening four games of the season before they last narrowly against Manchester United last time out.

In team news Fulham bring Calum Chambers and Timothy Fosu-Mensah into the starting XI, with yet more changes to their back four.

Watford remain unchanged and have now named the same starting lineup for all six PL games this season.


LINEUPS

Fulham batter Burnley for first win back in PL

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  • Mitrovic scores double for Fulham
  • Seri, Schurrle grab a goal each
  • Burnley made it 3-2 at half time
  • Fulham secure first win back in PL

Fulham beat Burnley 4-2 on Sunday at Craven Cottage as the west London club got off and running back in the Premier League, while the Clarets are still searching for their first victory of the season.

Jean Seri scored a magnificent opener early on but Jeff Hendrick equalized soon after before a quickfire Aleksandar Mitrovic doubled put Fulham in the driving seat. In a wild first half James Tarkowski made it 3-2 but in the second half Fulham took over and Andre Schurrle sealed the win late on.

The victory moves Fulham on to three points for the season, while Burnley have just one point to their name.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ] 

A rapid start in the rain in west London saw Fulham take the lead in stunning fashion with less than five minutes on the clock.

The ball found Serri over 25 yards out and the midfielder smashed home a stunning strike to make it 1-1.

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings ]

But Fulham weren’t ahead for long as Burnley equalized. Aaron Lennon crossed to Chris Wood who touched it on and Hendrick smashed home from close range with 10 minutes on the clock. 1-1.

Mitrovic then scored two headers in just over two minutes to make it 3-1 as the Serbian striker continued his magnificent form in 2018.

But before the break Burnley were back in the game as Tarkwoski knocked home from close range to make it 3-2, but there was a hint of offside about his goal.

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

Mitrovic continued to chaos havoc in the second half as he flicked past Ben Mee but Joe Hart denied him a tap-in as Fulham poured forward.

Hendrick curled over at the other end as Burnley battled hard to get level as the second half wore on.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

Schurrle hit the crossbar with a curler and then stung Hart’s palms from distance as the German international did his best to push Fulham over the finish line. Timothy Fosu-Mensah‘s cross was so close to being tapped home by Mitrovic for his hat trick.

But soon the win was wrapped up as Mitrovic hit the post and Schurrle followed up to make it 4-2 and seal a deserved victory.

Fulham seal flurry of late deals on Deadline Day

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Fulham joined Everton in making the most of Transfer Deadline Day in the Premier League.

The Cottagers absolutely went for it.

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Newly-promoted Fulham had already had a superb transfer window after signing Andre Schurrle, Alfie Mawson, Jean Serri, Calum Chambers and Aleksandar Mitrovic, but they kept signing players on deadline day.

Take a look at this lot…

  • Joe Bryan – Left back arrives in a reported $8 million fee from Bristol City
  • Sergio Rico – Signed on loan from Sevilla, talented goalkeeper
  • Andre Zambo Anguissa – Holding midfielder from Marseille set to arrive for club-record $38 million
  • Luciano Vietto – Argentine striker set to join on loan from Atletico Madrid
  • Timothy Fosu-Mensah – A season-long loan deal from Manchester United for the versatile Dutch defender, if it goes through in time

If all of these deals are completed then it would mean Fulham have spent over $128 million, more than any other newly-promoted team in a single window in Premier League history.

American owner Shahid Khan doesn’t want the bitter taste of relegation from the PL again and he’s splashing some serious cash to make sure Slavisa Jokanovic’s men don’t finish in the bottom three this season.