Top Premier League storylines for Week 7

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There’s potential for a major Top Four shakeup and maybe even a change in perception of title contention when the Premier League brings Week 7 to the forefront this weekend.

[ STREAM: Watch every PL match live ]


Can Chelsea beat Liverpool again, go top of Premier League?
Chelsea vs. Liverpool — 12:30 p.m. ET Saturday on NBC STREAM ]

The Premier League season will near its one-fifth point after this weekend, and three teams could sit atop the table following six match days.

Two of those teams meet at Stamford Bridge four days after Chelsea came back to beat Liverpool 2-1 at Anfield in the League Cup.

Jurgen Klopp is winless in four against the Blues after winning two of his first three matches against Chelsea as Liverpool boss. Following wins at Stamford Bridge in his first two league visits, Liverpool fell 1-0 last season.

Both teams kept key players out of the Starting XI on Wednesday, though as the intensity of the match ramped up both managers injected some: N'Golo Kante, Roberto Firmino, Eden Hazard, Mohamed Salah, David Luiz, Jordan Henderson.

Yeah, they cared.

So will Liverpool get right back on track at the Bridge following its first setback of the season, or will it be staring down consecutive losses to the same opponent in under a week?

The Reds passed their first two tests of the season, beating Spurs and PSG. The next was a failure versus the Blues, but revenge would keep the PL season firing forward.

Manuel Pellegrini hopes to get another one over on Man Utd
West Ham United vs. Manchester United — 7:30 a.m. ET Saturday on NBCSN STREAM ]

West Ham boss Manuel Pellegrini has had his fair share of success against Manchester United dating back to his time as the manager of Manchester City, posting a 3W-1D-2L record against the Red Devils.

A win on Saturday could rank right up there amongst his favorite conquests, and maybe even be a momentous moment in the tenure of Jose Mourinho at United.

Pellegrini’s 0-4 start to life at West Ham was well-documented, but the Irons beat Everton before drawing Chelsea last week with very different tactical deployments. An 8-0 throttling of Macclesfield Town in the League Cup now yields to this match, which could further endear Pellegrini to the West Ham support.

And if he doesn’t win? We bet they’d agree with Pellegrini that a draw is the next best thing.

United is coming off a 10-man loss to Derby County at home in the League Cup and a wealthy of rough headlines involving Mourinho and Paul Pogba. It’s a “rise up” moment for the Red Devils under Mourinho. They’ve done it plenty of times. Will they bail him out again?

Hornets hope to reclaim footing as Arsenal aims to pass them
Arsenal vs. Watford — 10 a.m. ET Saturday on Gold STREAM ] 

The Top Four race could be pretty cluttered after the weekend, and Arsenal’s ability to leapfrog Watford and sits fifth or better is one to watch closely. Javi Gracia‘s Hornets keep scoring, but have just one result from their last three matches in all competitions.

Try a free preview of the NBC Sports Gold pass this weekend.

Can Spurs avoid letdown without Eriksen?
Huddersfield Town vs. Tottenham Hotspur — 10 a.m. ET Saturday on NBCSN STREAM ]

There will be no Christian Eriksen again for Spurs, but Erik Lamela and Dele Alli have been in-form and firing. A visit to the John Smith’s Stadium isn’t a cakewalk, but the Terriers have been struggling and Spurs will be expected to walk over their Bottom Three opponents.

Clarets try to keep building momentum against desperate Bluebirds
Cardiff City vs. Burnley — 11 a.m. ET Sunday on NBCSN STREAM ]

The Bluebirds may not know what to make of Burnley, who struggled in both the Europa League and Premier League before breaking out for a 4-0 win over Bournemouth last week. Burnley rolled out a second-choice squad for the midweek League Cup loss to Burton Albion, but Cardiff will still be viewing this as a chance to pick up its first win of the PL season.

West Ham’s Pellegrini: ‘If you can’t win, then draw’

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Manuel Pellegrini has a knack for motto-worthy quotes every now and again, though we’re not sure that’s what he intended with his comments after West Ham held Chelsea to a 0-0 draw at the London Stadium on Sunday.

“If you can’t win, then draw,” finished the West Ham boss following the result.

Well, yeah!

[ RECAP: West Ham 0-0 Chelsea ]

The Irons had plenty of chances to score on the counter, as Pellegrini showed a willingness to mix up his tactics.

The visitors had their chances as well, but it was another improved performance after West Ham opened the season 0-4 before beating Everton last week.

[ MORE: Sarri reacts ]

Pellegrini still wanted more of the ball, but acknowledged that it’s a different challenge to do that against Chelsea than West Ham’s previous opponents. From the BBC:

“It was a good point against the leaders and a team that scored 14 goals in the first five games. It was a close game, and we had two clear chances and they had one. I think we played well tactically because we allowed them to have the ball where we wanted but we defended well

“We would prefer to have some more possession but it was a good tactical game and at least we did not lose it.”

Not sure, but “at least we did not lose it” may be just as good as the draw quip.

West Ham is going to be fine, and always was given the level of talent on the squad. The Irons were an Andriy Yarmolenko header away from seizing all the honors in this London Derby, and Pellegrini will certainly be encouraged moving forward.

Ankle surgery to sideline Jack Wilshere for six weeks

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West Ham midfielder Jack Wilshere will miss significant time after picking up an ankle injury in training that requires surgery, according to reports in England, first from The Guardian.

Wilshere signed for West Ham over the summer after the expiry of his contract at Arsenal, and played the first four games of the season – all losses – before suffering the injury just prior to the Everton match this weekend. 19-year-old Declan Rice came in for Wilshere and the Hammers won 3-1 at Goodison Park.

The Guardian reports that West Ham handed the 26-year-old a three-year contract on the urging of manager Manuel Pellegrini, even though the front office reportedly only wished to offer him a one-year deal due to his injury history. Since appearing in 35 games for Arsenal in the 2010/11 campaign – his first full season with a starting role – he has only topped 20 appearances four times and only reached the 25 appearance mark once since 2012/13.

Pellegrini reportedly developed a personal training program for Wilshere that was meant to minimize the risk of injury. “A lot of you will remember Juventus around four or five years ago, they played with one holding midfielder,” Pellegrini said of Wilshere in late August. “It was Pirlo. And Pirlo is the same as Jack. He has the same characteristics as Jack.”

The Hammers are also sweating on a knee injury that forced Marko Arnautovic out of the Everton match in the 64th minute, replaced by Michail Antonio. West Ham next faces Chelsea on Sunday at London Stadium.

Pellegrini foresaw win over Everton, ‘convinced’ by West Ham team

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Manuel Pellegrini finally has a Premier League win as manager of West Ham United, and it came on his 65th birthday.

[ RECAP: Everton 1-3 West Ham ]

The former Man City boss saw his Hammers beat Everton 3-1 on Sunday through an Andriy Yarmolenko brace and another goal from Marko Arnautovic, putting to end a run of four-straight league defeats.

It’s safe to say he’s feeling a lot better. From the BBC:

“I was not worried about my birthday today – I just wanted to win the game – it was the best gift my players could give me.

“It’s easy to say we were going to change, but I was absolutely convinced this is the way. We score goals and always try to continue scoring goals. I saw the players working every day of the week. We are working one way, and maybe in the match not able to repeat that. We tried to continue working during the week this way. I am convinced and the players are convinced.”

With Chelsea, Manchester United, and Tottenham amongst their next four league fixtures, the Irons will be happy to use a win as a springboard into a tough stretch. A week out of the drop zone will help things a bunch.

Report: Pellegrini safe at West Ham despite 0-4 start

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Four games into a new Premier League season, West Ham United is already being rumored to be switching coaches.

Sky Sports says there’s nothing to worry about yet for the 64-year-old Pellegrini, whose club made a good investment in players this summer but has started 0-4.

[ MORE: No more away goals rule? ]

Pellegrini has won hardware in five countries, including a Premier League title and two League Cups with Manchester City.

Firing Pellegrini would not be a good look for West Ham, and it would cost plenty, too. From Sky Sports:

It has been reported that sacking Pellegrini would cost West Ham as much as £15m in compensation payments but SSN understands that Pellegrini would only receive half of that, with payments to his backroom staff inflating that figure to around £10m.

Let’s take a look at West Ham’s situation: They’ve taken three more yellow cards than anyone in the league, but are midtable in a lot of decent categories: possession, passing, tackles, interceptions, and are third in dribbles per game.

They should be absolutely fine, and I’m not sure there are managers of Pellegrini’s ilk lining up for the gig. That said, maybe Jose Mourinho and Pellegrini could switch gigs, ease everyone’s burden a bit?