Premier League previews 2018-19

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PL Sunday preview: Chelsea, Arsenal, Man Utd limping to finish

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Sunday’s three Premier League fixtures will see a trio of top-four hopefuls take the field for the penultimate game of their respective seasons.

The PL’s four Champions League places could be officially awarded by the end of day, or we could wind up with four teams — including third-place Tottenham Hotspur — separated by just two points. Seeing how none of the three have even a single win from any their last three games, the latter might actually be the safer bet.

[ MORE: Liverpool survive Newcastle scare to take PL title race to final day ]

Huddersfield v. Man United — 9 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

Manchester United have the longest odds of getting into Europe’s elite competition next season, as the Red Devils (65 points) currently sit sixth and trail fourth-place Chelsea by a full three points.

If Man United can’t beat an already-relegated Huddersfield Town side at John Smith’s Stadium on Sunday — it would be the Terriers’ ninth straight PL defeat — their hopes of finishing fourth won’t be mathematically dead, only realistically so. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer isn’t throwing in the towel just yet.

“I don’t think we can give up until it’s theoretically over, but of course it’s a big mountain to climb,” he said this week. “The end of the season throws up a few marginal decisions, strange results, so anything can happen. We still want to finish the season on a high, and let’s see where that takes us now. Let’s see how many points we can get.”

INJURIES: Huddersfield —  OUT: Aaron Mooy (hip) | Man United  — OUT: Romelu Lukaku (hamstring), Eric Bailly (knee); QUESTIONABLE: Jesse Lingard (knee), Marcus Rashford (shoulder), Phil Jones (knee)


Chelsea v. Watford — 9 a.m. ET, on CNBC and NBCSports.com

Of the three sides in action on Sunday, only Chelsea control their own destiny. The math is simple: any combination of Chelsea points won and Arsenal points dropped to reach five will see the Blues qualify for Champions League.

Maurizio Sarri has made finishing in the top-four a clear priority by resting superstar Eden Hazard (for 60 minutes) in Chelsea’s Europa League semifinal first leg against Eintracht Frankfurt on Thursday. The wild card in the race for fourth remains Europe’s “other” competition, as Chelsea and Arsenal are favorites to reach the final later this month in Azerbaijan. The most likely scenario, in that event, is that one of the two will have already clinched a Champions League place and the other’s last pathway to European riches would be to win the Europa League.

INJURIES: Chelsea —  OUT: Callum Hudson-Odoi (achilles), Antonio Rudiger (knee) | Watford  — OUT: Etienne Capoue (knock), Tom Cleverley (fitness)


Arsenal v. Brighton & Hove Albion — 11:30 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

Arsenal (66) is the only side without a single point from the aforementioned last three games, meaning they would have put themselves comfortably in the driver’s seat with even a win and a pair of draws. As things stand, they trail Chelsea by two points.

The Gunners haven’t lost four straight top-flight fixtures since 1995. Fortunately for Unai Emery‘s men, Brighton have taken all of two points from their last seven league games. By playing in the day’s final game, Arsenal will be fully aware of how high three points will take them.

INJURIES: Arsenal —  OUT: Aaron Ramsey (hamstring), Hector Bellerin (knee), Danny Welbeck (ankle), Ainsley Maitland-Niles (suspension) | Brighton  — OUT: Davy Propper (hamstring)

PL Sunday preview: Spurs at Anfield; Chelsea visit Cardiff

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Liverpool have two major tests — both at home — remaining in the Premier League title race, beginning with a fellow top-three side on Sunday. Elsewhere, Chelsea are clinging to top-four dreams, while Cardiff City just want to stay in the PL…

[ MORE: What did we learn in the Premier League? (video) ]

Cardiff City v. Chelsea — 9:05 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

From one of three PL title chasers early in the season, to quickly falling away from the top-four race, it’s been a season mostly to forget for Chelsea. Sunday’s visit to Cardiff sees Maurizio Sarri‘s side in full-on desperation mode in their bid to qualify for next season’s UEFA Champions League. Now sitting in sixth place, four points back of red-hot Manchester United in fourth, the Blues’ best path into Europe’s premier competition might just be through the Europa League where they’ll face Slavia Praha in the quarterfinals next week.

It’ll be a tricky trip to south Wales, though, as Cardiff currently sit 18th in the table, five points adrift of safety, desperate for their PL lives. Their advantage, however, is the two games they now have in hand. Only once this season, in early February, have the Bluebirds won back-to-back league games. After beating West Ham United before the recently completed international break, Sunday would be the best possible time to replicate that feat and move to within two points of 17th-place Burnley.

INJURIES: Cardiff —  OUT: Callum Patterson (ankle), Souleymane Bamba (knee) | Chelsea — QUESTIONABLE: Ruben Loftus-Cheek (back)

Liverpool v. Tottenham Hotspur — 11:30 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

Liverpool’s pursuit of the PL title resumes on Sunday, when third-place Tottenham visits Anfield in a virtual must-win game for the Reds. Given that Jurgen Klopp‘s side will have played one game more than leaders Manchester City by Sunday’s end, anything short of three points could prove the final nail in the coffin. As far as random stoppages in the middle of the season go, the recent international break couldn’t have come at a better time for Liverpool, who in the two weeks since they last played have seen Trent Alexander-Arnold and Xherdan Shaqiri return to full fitness following minor injuries. On the not-so-fortunate side of injury news, Naby Keita reportedly suffered an injury this week in training and will miss Sunday’s game.

Likewise, Spurs couldn’t have been happier to break from a particularly tough stretch of results (winless in four games, including three defeats) which has seen their hold on a Champions League place hacked down from 10 points to one. On top of that, Mauricio Pochettino‘s side is so nearly fully fit after being down to a bare-bones crew for much of the season, though Eric Dier picked up an(other) injury while on England duty. On the plus side, Harry Kane appears likely to score a goal every time he takes the field after bagging at least one in each of his last five games (for Spurs and England), not to mention the fact he’s scored three in his four career appearances at Anfield.

INJURIES: Liverpool —  OUT: Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (hamstring); QUESTIONABLE: Trent Alexander-Arnold (back), Naby Keita (ankle) | Spurs — OUT: Harry Winks (hip)

PL Sunday preview: Liverpool in chase mode; Arsenal v. Man Utd

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By the time Sunday’s slate of Premier League fixtures is complete, nearly all 20 clubs will have played 30 games in the 2018-19 season, signaling the official start of the run-in.

[ MORE: What did we learn on a wild PL Saturday? (video) ]

From the title, to the top-four, to the relegation battle, there’s still so much left to play for…

Liverpool v. Burnley — 8 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

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.

INJURIES: Liverpool —  OUT: Joe Gomez (ankle), Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (knee); QUESTIONABLE: Dejan Lovren (hamstring) | Burnley — OUT: Aaron Lennon (knee), Steven Defour (calf), Jonathan Walters (achilles)


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.

INJURIES: Arsenal —  OUT: Lucas Torreira (suspension), Hector Bellerin (knee), Danny Welbeck (ankle), Rob Holding (knee) | Man United — OUT: Alexis Sanchez (knee), Jesse Lingard (hamstring), Juan Mata (hamstring), Antonio Valencia (calf); QUESTIONABLE: Anthony Martial (groin), Nemanja Matic (leg), Ander Herrera (hamstring), Phil Jones (illness), Matteo Darmian (undisclosed)

Premier League Preview: Southampton v. Tottenham

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Tottenham Hotspur, finally on the mend and nearing a full complement of first-team players, now find themselves without manager Mauricio Pochettino for Saturday’s clash with his former club, Southampton (Watch live, 10 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com), as well as the March 31 trip to Anfield, following his post-game vitriol aimed at referee Mike Dean.

Harry Kane recently returned from six weeks out; Eric Dier is back from both an appendectomy and tonsillitis in quick succession; Victor Wanyama came back from nearly six months out himself; and Dele Alli is set to return on Saturday. The return of first-team figures couldn’t come at a better time for Tottenham, who are winless in their last three Premier League games (two losses), have seen their 10-point lead on all three of Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester United cut to just three, and must remain fresh ahead of the quarterfinals of the UEFA Champions League.

WATCH LIVE, ONLINE, HERE

Southampton, on the other hand, are fighting for their PL lives. 17th in the table, just two points and one spot clear of the relegation zone, Ralph Hasenhuttl‘s side finds itself in the midst of a treacherous run of fixtures: Arsenal and Man United in the rearview mirror; Spurs and Liverpool still to come shortly.

Last weekend’s game at Old Trafford was particularly hard on Saints, as they were great value for a point — if not all three — until the Red Devils broke their hearts very late on.

“It’s really hard. The guys are very, very disappointed after the game and I that they put everything on the pitch that was possible today and showed a fantastic performance,” Hasenhuttl said this week. “Mainly the first half, but also in the second half we showed that we were very, very focused on our match plan and we wanted to get something here. We were not far away from it and also after the 2-1 we did not stop attacking them and creating for us.”

Injuries

Southampton OUT: Mario Lemina (abdomen), Danny Ings (hamstring), Michael Obafemi (hamstring) | Spurs — OUT: Kieran Trippier (leg); QUESTIONABLE: Harry Winks (hip); RETURNING: Dele Alli (hamstring)

What they’re saying

Hasenhuttl, on the defeat at United: “(James Ward-Prowse) scored a fantastic free-kick, it was a gorgeous goal and it’s a pity that Lukaku decided the game for them. “To be proud is one thing but when you wake up tomorrow and you feel that you lost, nobody asks how you lost. It’s like every manager doesn’t like to lose and we had a big chance but it was not enough.”

Pochettino, on leaving Southampton: “A lot of people were disappointed when I left the club and they are not going to forgive, but I still love them. In one year and a half I spent there, it was a great experience. For different circumstances that are difficult to understand, I left the club.”I cried a lot when I left, my family too. It was one of the most important periods in my life. I hope we beat them Saturday, but I wish all the best to them.”

Prediction

Spurs showed a ruthless, a different level of know-how, in surviving and winning in a completely different manner this week away to Borussia Dortmund. Confidence will be sky-high, and Harry Kane looks back to very nearly his best. The mountain will be tough — too tough — for Saints to climb.

Fans who want to try their hand at predicting PL games can down the NBC Sports Predictor app, with a chance to win up to $50,000 each week. Download it on iOS or Google Play.

Premier League Preview: Crystal Palace v. Brighton

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  • Palace (33 points), 13th, 8 points clear of relegation
  • Brighton (30 points), 15th, 5 points clear
  • Brighton 3-1 Palace, in December

Brighton & Hove Albion are likely no more than five points from having done enough to avoid relegation from the Premier League this season, and the Seagulls have an eminently winnable FA Cup quarterfinal matchup with Championship side Millwall next weekend. By every realistic measure, 2018-19 will go down as a successful second season back in England’s top flight. Chris Hughton‘s side could just about take care of those required points when they visit Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park on Saturday (Watch live, 7:30 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com), and complete the league double over the Eagles in the process.

After knocking off Huddersfield Town at home last weekend, Brighton are in search of back-to-back wins for the first time since Dec. 1 and 4, a stretch of 13 games without so much as a sniff of consistency (two wins in 13, including eight losses).

WATCH LIVE, ONLINE, HERE

Palace, on the other hand, have lost just one of their last six while winning three during that same stretch. Roy Hodgson has done a decent enough job to guide his boyhood in his first full season in charge, and the Eagles will feel they’ve already done enough to stay up with a victory on Saturday.

Michy Batshuayi has proven an inspired loan signing for Palace after scoring a goal in two of his last three games — both of which were victories — at the end of the January transfer window. Speaking of inspiration, winger Wilfried Zaha has bagged four goals in four games — 2W-1D-1L — since Batshuayi’s arrival. The two of them are clearly enjoying playing together.

“I told him, ‘Bro, once you get that first goal, they start coming from nowhere,'” Zaha said of Batshuayi. “I’m happy to see him on the scoresheet.”

Injuries

Crystal Palace OUT: Mamadou Sakho (knee), Pape Souare (shoulder) | Brighton — OUT: Pascal Gross (hamstring)

What they’re saying

Palace manager Roy Hodgson, on retirement: “They are not thoughts that I wish to entertain. I have no wish to entertain them. I don’t feel the need in any way to entertain them.I live in the present, basically. I try to make certain my life is as good as it can be at any given moment in time, doing what I’ve got to be doing and living my life the right way. In moments like this, where fortunately that is very much the case, I just try to profit from it without trying to get the crystal ball out and think what will it be like in March 2020.”

Brighton forward Glenn Murray, on stockpiling points: “We realized the magnitude of (facing Huddersfield), and we understand that. (In recent games) things were going against us slightly, and it was just about keeping our cool, going back to basics and (stop) conceding goals. There’s still plenty to do, we’re not home and hosed yet.”

Prediction

While Palace have been in good form of late, they’ve done most of their damage away from home (just one win in their last six at Selhurst Park). On the other side, Brighton haven’t won away from home in six tries. Each happy to take a point toward their season total, this one has draw written all over it.

Fans who want to try their hand at predicting PL games can down the NBC Sports Predictor app, with a chance to win up to $50,000 each week. Download it on iOS or Google Play.