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Top Premier League storylines for Week 18

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The Premier League weekend keeps the big boys clear of each other, but the challenges are still tricky for Liverpool and the clubs chasing the Reds.

[ MORE: Rating Mourinho’s MUFC signings ]


Solskjaer faces former club in debut as Man Utd boss 
Cardiff City vs. Manchester United, 12:30 p.m. ET Saturday on NBC 
STREAM ]

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer dazzled as a striker for Manchester United, but floundered at the wheel for Cardiff City as manager. He’ll take his first steps as Red Devils interim manager when he visits the Bluebirds. Who will start in his first XI? And who will seize the chance to restore their Manchester United reputation? Paul Pogba is a good bet for both.

Fire on the touchline when Nuno matches wits with Klopp
Wolves vs. Liverpool, 3 p.m. ET Friday on NBCSN 
STREAM ]

Nuno Espirito Santo‘s Wolves have found their footing again, and will be hoping to add to their list of impressive results when Jurgen Klopp brings his unbeaten Reds to town. Wolves lost 3-2 to Spurs, but have beaten Chelsea and drawn Man City, Arsenal, and Manchester United.

How many minutes can Crystal Palace add to its 91-minute clean sheet v. Man City?
Man City vs. Crystal Palace, 10 a.m. ET Saturday on NBCSN 
STREAM ]

DYK: Only two Premier League sides blanked Man City last season, and one was Crystal Palace (Bonus points if you remembered Huddersfield Town was the other, especially if you’re not a Terriers supporter)? Palace hopes whatever magic worked last year can be recalled for this visit to the Etihad Stadium, and City will know how Liverpool fared on Friday.

(Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)

Puel’s slumping Leicester City visits red-hot Hazard and Chelsea
Chelsea vs. Leicester City, 10 a.m. ET Saturday on CNBC 
STREAM ]

Leicester has slipped to 12th with just a point from its last three matches, and it’s not going to get any easier at Stamford Bridge. Eden Hazard has a goal and five assists in his last four matches, and scored the lone goal Wednesday in sending Chelsea to the League Cup semifinals with a win over Bournemouth.

Surging Spurs hope Everton’s defensive form stays down
Everton vs. Tottenham Hotspur, 11 a.m. ET Sunday on NBCSN 
STREAM ]

Marco Silva‘s run up the table has stalled thanks to two losses and two draws starting with their last-second loss in the Merseyside Derby, but Everton has a chance to feel a lot better about its festive season by performing well at Goodison Park against a very much in-form Spurs side. Everton has allowed seven goals in their last four matches.

Top Premier League storylines for Week 17

Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images
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The Premier League begins a run of 50 matches in 18 days when Man City hosts Everton to kick off Week 17 on Saturday morning.

[ MORE: Europa League wrap ]

That’s a storyline in itself, but here are five we’re closely monitoring this weekend.


You don’t need a storyline when the Red Devils head to Anfield
Liverpool vs. Manchester United, 11 a.m. ET on NBCSN 
[ STREAM ]

This one is easy to put in the win column for the in-form Reds against mercurial Manchester United, but be careful: When Jose Mourinho’s Red Devils hit matches like this, they tend to find something out of nothing.

League disappointment to continue for someone at the Etihad Stadium
Man City vs. Everton, 8:30 a.m. ET Sunday on NBCSN
 [ STREAM ]

The champs are no longer unbeaten in league play following a loss at Chelsea, while the visitors rescued a point against visiting Watford. Neither will want to drop points again on the bounce, and Everton could slip behind West Ham with a loss.

West Ham looks to continue its table surge with London Derby
Fulham vs. West Ham United, 12:30 a.m. ET on NBC STREAM ]

Speaking of the Irons, they very much have a chance to continue a run into contention for fifth or sixth. West Ham has won three matches, scoring nine goals, since losing to Man City, and a forgiving run of fixtures continues with Fulham, Watford, Saints, Burnley, and Brighton over the festive season. Could Manuel Pellegrini‘s men be sitting pretty by Jan. 3?

Tottenham aims for third-straight win as hopeful Clarets arrive at Wembley
Spurs vs. Burnley, 10 a.m. ET Saturday on NBCSNSTREAM ]

Sean Dyche‘s Burnley finally picked up its third win of the season with a surprising defeat of Brighton, but going to Tottenham is another story. The Lilywhites are coming off a fine draw at Barcelona to go with two league wins, and the North London Derby loss can be avenged in the League Cup next week. They just cannot overlook the Clarets on Saturday.

Six-point scrap at The John Smith’s Stadium
Huddersfield Town vs. Newcastle Utd, 10 a.m. ET on NBC Sports Gold STREAM ]

The Terriers are three points behind the Magpies heading into this one. The way the relegation scrap is shaping up, anything less than three points in December could sting come May.

Top Premier League storylines for Week 16

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The Premier League begins its third round of games in eight days when Liverpool visits Bournemouth early Saturday.

[ LISTEN: Rebecca Lowe’s new podcast ]

Here’s what we’ll be watching the closest in England and Wales this weekend.


Sorry form could sound death knell for Chelsea’s title hopes
Chelsea vs. Manchester City, 12:30 p.m. ET Saturday on NBC STREAM ]

The visitors are undefeated, reigning champions, and will be considered favorites when they enter Stamford Bridge to meet a Chelsea side which has won just four of the last 12 points available to it.

Maurizio Sarri‘s men will have to do better against Man City than they did in 2017-18 under Antonio Conte, when the Blues lost a pair of 1-0 contests. A loss Saturday would sink Chelsea 13 points back of City.

Gunners go for 21 against game Terriers
Arsenal vs. Huddersfield Town, 10 a.m. ET Saturday on CNBC STREAM ]

Arsenal toppled Spurs before drawing Manchester United, but would do well to consider Huddersfield Town as ornery as the big boys. The desperate Terriers have found some goals in recent weeks, but need results more than hope now. It seems unlikely to come at the Emirates, but that’s why they play the games.

Hasenhuttl takes charge of Saints for big six-pointer
Cardiff City vs. Southampton, 10 a.m. ET Saturday on NBC Sports Gold STREAM ]

Saints have been in the frying pan for some time, but will feel in the center of the fire should they manage to lose to improving Cardiff City on Saturday in Wales. It’s the first match on the bench for new Southampton boss Ralph Hasenhuttl, who has an impressive record in Germany.

Tottenham heads to Leicester to face tough-to-topple Foxes
Leicester City vs. Tottenham Hotspur, 2:45 p.m. ET Saturday on NBCSN STREAM ]

Unbeaten in six league matches despite the tragic story of their owners’ death and a trip to Thailand to mourn him, Leicester now gets a visit from a Tottenham Hotspur side who’s rebounded from a North London Derby loss to paste Southampton at midweek. Will the Foxes be able to continue their run up the table against a very good Spurs side?

Klopp, Howe match attack-happy wits at the Vitality Stadium
Bournemouth vs. Liverpool, 7:30 a.m. ET Saturday on NBCSN STREAM ]

The Cherries have proved tough-to-beat at home with a 4W-2D-2L record so far but also unable to take down the big boys. Bournemouth is now 0-4 against Top Four contenders despite its seventh-place start to the season. Enter a Liverpool side just as willing to entertain and the chance to hop into first place for at least a few hours, and this has all the ingredients for a fine start to the season.

Top Premier League storylines for Week 13

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The final international break of 2018 is in the rearview mirror, thus the Premier League takes center stage for the next three and a half months.

[ MORE: Barca’s next signing of a Liverpool player will cost extra $114M ]

Here are the five storylines we’ll be watching most closely this weekend…


Tottenham look to spoil Chelsea’s unbeaten start
Tottenham Hotspur vs. Chelsea, 12:30 p.m. ET, Saturday, on NBC [ STREAM ]

Chelsea, alongside Manchester City and Liverpool, remain undefeated to begin the 2018-19 season, but the Blues are set for a tough test on Saturday when they take on Tottenham, the only side in the PL without a draw this season, at Wembley Stadium. Maurizio Sarri‘s side might be unbeaten, but they’ve endured a largely indifferent run of results in recent weeks, as they’ve drawn more games (four) than they’ve won (three) over the last two months. Each side won away from home in their two meetings last season.

Who will can play for Spurs?
Tottenham Hotspur vs. Chelsea, 12:30 p.m. ET, Saturday, on NBC [ STREAM ]

Mauricio Pochettino has enough defenders and midfielder to pick a standard starting lineup on Saturday… probably. It’s been a tough season for Spurs on the injury front, but here’s a list of who’s currently unavailable: Davinson Sanchez, Mousa Dembele, Kieran Trippier, Danny Rose. Jan Vertonghen has been out for two months but is one of three players, alongside Eric Dier and Victor Wanyama, who could return just in time for this London derby. And yet, Spurs have managed nine wins from their first 12 games and sit fourth in the table. They are, however, yet to beat a side currently in the top-seven (losses to Man City, Liverpool and Watford).

Man City, Liverpool take title race on the road
West Ham vs. Man City, 10 a.m. ET, Saturday, on NBCSN [ STREAM ]
Watford vs. Liverpool, 10 a.m. ET, Saturday, on NBC Sports Gold [ STREAM ]

They look set to run neck and neck with one another all season — currently separated by just two points — and they’ll both hit the road on Saturday. Liverpool have the tougher of the two tests, as they’ll take on Javi Gracia’s seventh-place (just ahead of Manchester United) Watford at Vicarage Road. City will also be in London, taking on 12th-place West Ham at the London Stadium.

Bournemouth-Arsenal is a top-six clash
Bournemouth vs. Arsenal, 8:30 a.m. ET, Sunday, on NBCSN [ STREAM ]

Ever since Arsenal’s seven-game winning streak was snapped nearly a month ago, the points have been trickling in one at a time for Unai Emery‘s Gunners. Three straight draws — against Crystal Palace, Liverpool and Wolverhampton Wanderers — have dropped Arsenal to fifth place, three points behind Spurs, and made Sunday’s trip to the south coast of England a massively important one. No one has outperformed expectations more than Bournemouth thus far, as Eddie Howe‘s Cherries sit just four points back of Arsenal in sixth place.

Ranieri takes charge at Craven Cottage
Fulham vs. Southampton, 10 a.m. ET, Saturday, on NBC Sports Gold [ STREAM ]

The bad news for Fulham: they sit bottom of the league with just five points from 12 games. Now, the good news: they’re only three points from safety and there are 26 games still to play. Claudio Ranieri is set to make his Fulham debut when Southampton come to west London on Saturday, and nothing would do more to rally the club around the new boss than snapping the Cottagers’ six-game losing streak and securing their first victory since August..

Top Premier League storylines for Week 12

Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images
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The UEFA Champions League and Europa League midweek action has only set the table for what should be a remarkable weekend of movement on the Premier League table, highlighted by one of the best chess matches in recent managerial memory.

[ MORE: PL Club Power Rankings ]


The Manchester Derby, subtitled Pep vs. Mou, Round 3
Man City vs. Manchester United, 11:30 a.m. ET Sunday on NBCSN [ STREAM ]

Manchester City is firing on all cylinders ahead of this one, with a 12-1 combined scoreline in its last two matches and just a single goal allowed in its last seven matches in all competitions, but its rivals have had that little bit of something to get the job done against the odds in recent weeks (Most recently a 2-1 smash-and-grab comeback defeat of Juventus in the Champions League).

Since Pep Guardiola and Jose Mourinho ascended to the top chairs of Manchester City and Manchester United, the home team has a record of 1W-1D-3L in the derby. The lone win is United’s 1-0 League Cup ouster of City in 2016.

The last one, of course, was the memorable 3-2 comeback win punctuated by a Paul Pogba– and Alexis Sanchez-authored “not so fast” as Man City attempted to clinch its Premier League title on April 7.

The Foxes return home from owner’s funeral for King Power tribute
Leicester City vs. Burnley, 10 a.m. ET Saturday on NBCSN
[ STREAM ]

Leicester’s defeat of Cardiff City one week after the death of owner Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha was emotional, but the heavy hearts extended into a trip to Thailand for his funeral and now a first home match without their beloved leader. It’s difficult to imagine what it will be like playing in the building for the first time since the helicopter crash outside the ground that claimed five lives including Srivaddhanaprabha following the 1-1 draw with West Ham. Our thoughts remain with the Leicester community.

Marco Silva‘s Toffees meet massive test at Stamford Bridge
Chelsea vs. Everton, 9:15 a.m. ET Sunday on NBCSN
 [ STREAM ]

Everton is really finding itself, with Richarlison and Gylfi Sigurdsson the standout performers for new boss Marco Silva. But its another first year manager who is exceeding expectations on the job. Given Man City’s task in facing United for a derby, it’s not crazy to think Maurizio Sarri will have Chelsea atop the Premier League table if it can handle the Toffees.

Reds hope to find mojo against defensively-challenged Fulham
Liverpool vs. Fulham, 7 a.m. ET Sunday on NBCSN
[ STREAM ]

The Reds just haven’t been right of late, and that’s underlined, italicized, and bolded by the 2-0 Champions League setback in Serbia. On paper, there is no way Liverpool doesn’t explode for a bunch of goals.

Palace looks to shake slump with derby date against Spurs
Crystal Palace vs. Tottenham Hotspur, 12:30 p.m. ET Saturday on NBC
[ STREAM ]

It’s been 1-0 the last five times these teams have met, with Spurs on a four-match winning run. Tottenham came back to topple PSV Eindhoven earlier this week and kept its Champions League dreams alive, and it heads into Selhurst Park to meet an Eagles team which desperately needs a good and memorable performance.