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PL Sunday preview: Man Utd and Arsenal chase top five; Chelsea host Liverpool

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Sunday’s slate of Premier League fixtures is filled up to the brim of top-six sides in action, as Manchester United and Arsenal look to climb into the top five in the table, while Chelsea looks to send a strong message as they host leaders Liverpool.

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West Ham vs. Manchester United — 9:00 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

Aside from leaders Liverpool, there is no other team in the league experiencing such a positive run as West Ham. The Hammers are unbeaten in their last four bouts – wining twice and drawing twice – as they head into Sunday’s showdown against Manchester United. Equal with five other sides with eight points, Manuel Pellegrini is conscious that it’s the ideal time to make a statement and climb into the top six.

“We have a very strong team in front of us, it will be a strong test against United. It is the only way we can get into the top six, demonstrating you are able to do it,” Pellegrini said heading into Sunday.

As for the Red Devils, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer‘s side – who share the podium with West Ham – are looking to extend their current winning form to three games. Ahead of the game, however, the talk surrounding United isn’t Sunday’s game, but Paul Pogba‘s rumored move to Real Madrid this summer. What a better way to get everyone’s mind of theoretical situations and injury worries than with a win.

INJURIES: West Ham — OUT: Michail Antonio (hamstring), Arthur Masuaku (suspended) | Manchester United —OUT: Anthony Martial (thigh), Paul Pogba (back), Luke Shaw (hamstring), Eric Bailly (knee), Timothy Fosu-Mensah (knee)

Crystal Palace vs. Wolverhampton Wanderers — 9 a.m. ET, on NBC Sports Gold

Not many expected it: Wolves winless throughout the first five games of the season. That, however, is the reality for a team that finished seventh last season. By now, Wolverhampton Wanderers have had plenty of time to pick up on the alarm bells, it’s time for them to respond.

Manager Nuno Espírito Santo, for instance, knows that it’s time for his side to get back into shape before it’s too late.

“This is important,” he said. “We face the reality and the reality says we not performing well so we have to analyse it and find solutions in the team to improve. We must react immediately. We have to take decisions and find solutions for the team because we have to come out of this situation and improve our performance so we can bounce back.”

Crystal Palace, on the other hand, are dealing with adversity of their own after falling to Tottenham Hotspur, 4-0, last week. Playing at Selhurst Park this time around should be a positive, but Palace has only managed to score a goal in three matches in front of their home crowd this season.

INJURIES: Crystal Palace — OUT: None | Wolverhampton Wanderers — OUT: None

Arsenal vs. Aston Villa — 11:30 a.m. ET, on NBC Sports Gold

Arsenal have had several things going for them this season: scoring at home, positive first Europa League performance, a healthy and productive Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, among others. One thing they’ve been missing, though, is an effective Nicolas Pepe, especially after shelling record-money for the 24-year-old Ivorian.

“He needs more adaptation,” Emery said in his pre-match press conference. “He is playing good but progressively we know there is going to be more performance in him to help us and I want to do now quickly the last step in the adaptation for us, for example, against Aston Villa.”

With Alexandre Lacazette still out with an ankle injury, Pepe, again, will have the opportunity to showcase his true worth to a packed Emirates Stadium. Arsenal, too, can use his skill to get that much closer to three, vital points.

“When will Aston Villa finally break out of their shell?” is the million-dollar question for the visitors. At times, the newly promoted side has shown the flair that made it so powerful in the Championship last season, only to leave spectators on the edge of their seats, waiting for that final blow. In North London on Sunday, Dean Smith and Co. have the chance to do so with several players back in the mix, but that’s not to say the task will be a walk in the park.

INJURIES: Arsenal — OUT: Alexandre Lacazette (ankle) | Aston Villa — OUT: James Chester (thigh), Jonathan Kodjia (cheek)

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

Liverpool, like Chelsea, suffered opening losses in European play midweek; however, there is a different, more positive impetus fueling Jurgen Klopp‘s side. The defending Champions League winners’ immaculate record speaks volume to their current situation, one that’s biggest setback has been the aforementioned loss to Napoli and the injury to goalkeeper Allison, while regaining influential player Nabi Keita in trainings.

It begs to ask: with Manchester City already behind and several top-six sides struggling, how will Liverpool not runaway with the league title this season? That type of talk, however, is exactly what Klopp doesn’t want to hear. The season is green – very, ver green – and this season, for one reason or another, is nothing like last year’s.

“Nothing is won already,” Klopp said. “We have seen teams make big steps. There is nobody you think will go down with no points. Watford and Wolves have been at the bottom, struggling, but will end up going back up. The league is much different (to last season). So many things can happen. Five games is nothing, not even created a basis…”

Klopp’s counterpart on Sunday, Frank Lampard, as a result of his own environment, is managing a different dialogue ahead of the clash, like the possibility of fielding Mason Mount, who came off midweek against Valencia in Champions League play.

On the bright side, Chelsea are unbeaten in their last four league bouts, and have a game against Liverpool under their belts this season already – a penalty-shootout loss in the UEFA Super Cup – that should have seasoned them ahead of this season’s part two of the rivalry.

“Times have changed slightly, but it doesn’t change that feeling,” Lampard said on the Chelsea-Liverpool rivalry. “I think the fans feel it, the players feel it, it does involve a lot of passion whenever it’s played. If your levels aren’t there it’s a game that can get away from you quickly so my first thing to say to the players is to make sure they feel this game, recognise what it is, because it always does have an edge.”

INJURIES: Chelsea OUT: Antonio Rüdiger (groin), Ruben Loftus-Cheek (achilles), Callum Hudson-Odoi, Reece James (both fitness) | Liverpool  OUT: Alisson (calf), Nathaniel Clyne (knee)

Berbatov’s greatest Premier League hits

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Dimitar Berbatov announced his retirement on Thursday, closing out a two-decade professional career.

The Bulgarian striker never flashed much pace in the helter skelter Premier League. But it didn’t matter. Over his eight seasons in the Premier League, Berbatov may go down in history for the greatest technical player in the Premier League era. I mean, just look at this first touch!

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

Look at how nonchalantly Berbatov brought down that 50-yard bomb from across the field, controlling it as if he was just juggling the ball three feet in the air to himself. That slow, methodical play was evident for Berbatov across his time with Tottenham, Manchester United and Fulham, but it didn’t matter, because he always ended up in the right place in the box to score, or he could pick out a pass to set up a teammate. He even had a few dribbling tricks.

Berbatov finished his Premier League career with 94 goals and 40 assists in 229 games. He joined Tottenham after a stellar five-year run with Bayer Leverkusen in 2006 and immediately became a fan favorite. In 2008, he made a then-Man United record transfer to Old Trafford for around a reported $38 million. After four seasons and 48 league goals, Berbatov moved to Fulham for another couple of years before heading back abroad.

During his time in England, Berbatov left crowds stunned with stupendous goals, flicks and tricks. Here’s a collection of some of his best highlights.

Pogba, Shaw, Martial remain sidelined

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Paul Pogba will miss a second straight Premier League match as he continues to overcome a persistent ankle injury.

Man United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, ahead of his side’s league matchup at West Ham United on Sunday, confirmed that Pogba, along with left back Luke Shaw and forward Anthony Martial will all miss out on the match-up. Pogba hasn’t played since suffering an ankle injury in Man United’s 1-1 draw with Southampton before the international break.

Pogba missed a chance to join up with the France National Team for Euro 2020 qualifiers and according to Solskjaer, via the Manchester Evening News, Pogba hasn’t returned to full training. At the same time, Wales international and rising star Daniel James could also miss the match with an undisclosed injury. James reportedly suffered the injury during Man United’s 1-0 win over Leicester City.

The quartet of players all missed out on Man United’s 1-0 win over Astana in the UEFA Europa League group stage opener. Man United is now 2-0 since losing Pogba, with the wins over Leicester City and Astana. It will be fascinating to see whether Nemanja Matic retains his place alongside Scott McTominay, and whether that gives Man United a little more defensive balance.

Pogba so far has played four matches for Man United this season. Both Shaw and Martial have just played three times, though Martial already has two goals on the season.

The 2 Robbies podcast: Champions League, Europa League return

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Robbie Mustoe and Robbie Earle reflect on the opening round of UEFA Champions League and Europa League fixtures.

Manchester City bounced back from their defeat at Norwich. Who is ready to step up and lead Tottenham (8:00)? Liverpool slipped up at Napoli (19:00). There was penalty drama at Chelsea (30:00). The Robbies look ahead to the weekend’s marquee matchup: Chelsea v. Liverpool (37:00), before wrapping up with Arsenal (41:00), Manchester United (45:00), and Wolves’ opening Europa League matches (51:30).

To listen to more lively conversations and passionate debate from Robbie Earle and Robbie Mustoe, subscribe to The 2 Robbies Podcast on Apple Podcasts or anywhere you listen to podcasts.

Click here for The 2 Robbies archive ]

Follow them on Twitter @The2Robbies

UEL roundup: Man Utd survive Astana scare; Arsenal cruise in Germany

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A roundup of all of Thursday’s action in the Europa League group stage…

[ MORE: Top Premier League storylines: Week 6 ]

Manchester United 1-0 Astana

Most of Man United: bad. Mason Greenwood: good.

When the likes of Marcus Rashford, Juan Mata and Jess Lingard failed to create and finish a decisive moment against Kazakh side Astana, it was the 17-year-old who not only scored the game’s only goal in the 73rd minute, but appeared a cut above the rest in his first start of the season. Greenwood was the most active and accurate of United’s attacking quartet and a rare bright spot for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer‘s side.

Despite out-shooting Astana by a margin of 20-3 (7-0 on target), United appeared headed for an embarrassing draw until late in the second half. Greenwood’s goal made him United’s youngest-ever goalscorer in European competition.

Wolverhampton Wanderers 0-1 Braga

Elsewhere in England, Wolves were equally disappointing in suffering a home defeat to Portuguese side Braga. Ricardo Horta scored the game’s only goal in the 71st minute, punishing Wolves on the counter-attack with a simple finish past Rui Patricio.

Wolves enjoyed the lion’s share of possession (60 percent), but created very few chances of merit. Braga sat deeper and offered Wolves precious little space to play into in the final third, and it wasn’t until Diogo Jota came on in the 75th minute, already down a goal, before Nuno Espirito Santo‘s side came to life and looked likely to score a goal.

Eintracht Frankfurt 0-3 ArsenalFULL RECAP

Joe Willock opened the scoring, followed by a goal from 18-year-old Bukayo Saka and a late insurance tally from Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, and that was the recipe for Arsenal’s simple success away to last season’s UEL semifinalists.

Arsenal finished the game up a man after Dominik Kohr saw yellow for the second time in the 79th minute. The points were hardly in the bag at that point, as goals no. 2 and 3 came after Kohr’s dismissal.

Other notable Europa League results

Roma 4-0 Istanbul Basaksehir
CFR Cluj 2-1 Lazio
Wolfsburg 3-1 Olexandria
Borussia Monchengladbach 0-4 Wolfsberger
Qarabag 0-3 Sevilla
Getafe 1-0 Trabzonspor
Espanyol 1-1 Ferencvaros
PSV Eindhoven 3-2 Sporting CP
Porto 2-1 BSC Young Boys
Gent 3-2 Saint-Etienne
Rennes 1-1 Celtic
Rangers 1-0 Feyenoord