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Premier League storylines: Matchweek 18

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Matchweek 18 of the Premier League season is swimming in storylines, even with the league leaders in Qatar battling for the Club World Cup.

We could see a change in the Top Four for the first time since Chelsea climbed into fourth with a defeat of Burnley.

Jose Mourinho aims for Top Four against 2x former employers [STREAM]

  • Tottenham Hotspur v. Chelsea, Sunday (Watch live, 11:30 a.m. ET on NBCSN)

The Mourinho bump has been very real for Spurs, and imagine the joy he’d get from getting his club back into the Top Four by beating old pals Chelsea. Spurs have lost their last two meetings with the Blues, though both were at Stamford Bridge.

If Mourinho gets the job done, he’ll sink his longtime star midfielder Frank Lampard into his deepest hole as Chelsea boss. The Blues have dropped points in four of five league outings. Lampard’s being asked a lot more about who he’ll buy in January than how well the kids have developed under his watch.

Two versus three in Manchester [STREAM]

  • Man City v. Leicester City, Saturday (Watch live, 12:30 p.m. ET on NBC)

The visitors are coming off their first dropped points in nine outings across all competitions, and have a 4-point cushion on the third-place hosts. That’s not going to scare Pep Guardiola and the Etihad Stadium set, who is coming off a clean sheet of Arsenal, its first since October in any competition. To do the same to Leicester City would be very impressive, and a win would boost City to within a point of second.

With Top Four rivals squaring off, can Solksjaer’s Red Devils avoid a sting? [STREAM]

  • Watford v. Manchester United, Sunday (Watch live, 9 a.m. ET on NBCSN)

Since an Oct. 6 loss to Newcastle, Manchester United has played 15 matches and lost just twice. One of those came in Kazakhstan with a bunch of kids. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer‘s men start the festive season with a 9W-4D-2L mark in their last 15, and a trip to Vicarage Road shouldn’t be an issue, yeah? With Chelsea facing Spurs, United could finish alone in fifth or within a win of the Top Four.

(Photo by Matthew Lewis/Getty Images)

Toffees look to continue upswing when wobbly Gunners visit [STREAM]

  • Everton v. Arsenal, Saturday (Watch live, 7:30 a.m. ET Saturday on NBCSN)

Arsenal has been as bad as its been in ages, and Mikel Arteta saw that first hand when his Man City popped the Gunners 3-0 last weekend. He’s probably going to be in charge of the Gunners one week later, though surely watching from the stands if in the stadium.

The Gunners will go up against a group of players who bothered to respond when their manager was fired earlier this season. Duncan Ferguson is still in charge of Everton as the pursuit of Carlo Ancelotti continues, and another win would give him a nearly unparalleled interim tenure.

Loser at Villa Park spends Christmas in the bottom three [STREAM]

  • Aston Villa v. Southampton, Saturday (Watch live, 10 a.m. ET on NBC Sports Gold)

Eleven goals of differential is the margin separating the hosts from the visitors’ place in the relegation zone. Starting the festive fixtures with a move clear of danger sure would be nice, wouldn’t it?

Premier League storylines: Matchweek 17

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The Premier League Fan Fest hits Miami this weekend for what will certainly be a terrific weekend of fixtures in England’s top tier.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

We’ve got two Top Seven fixtures and a pair of resurgent sides meeting in a match-up as old as most, plus a derby down south and more.

Defense-optional at the Emirates? [STREAM]

  • Arsenal v. Manchester City, Sunday (Watch live, 11:30 a.m. ET on NBCSN)

It’s been 13 matches since Arsenal blanked Bournemouth at the Emirates Stadium to record its second clean sheet of the Premier League season, and the Gunners still seek their third. Their visitors have conceded in 10-straight matches to dip 14 points back of league leading Arsenal. If that sounds like a recipe for an ironic 0-0, well, we wouldn’t bet on it.

Soured Cherries hope to test weary Chelsea [STREAM]

  • Chelsea v. Bournemouth, Saturday (Watch live, 10 a.m. ET on NBCSN)

Bournemouth upset Manchester United to pull into sixth place on Nov. 2 and have not claimed a point in the ensuing five matches. Eddie Howe‘s Cherries have found every way to lose, including losses with and against 10 men. The United defeat is their only win since a New South Coast Derby defeat of Bournemouth on Sept. 20.

The good news is that Chelsea’s red-hot form has cooled to the touch, and the Blues had to pour plenty into a 2-1 defeat of Lille in Champions League play on Tuesday. Can Bournemouth surprise the Blues at Stamford Bridge?

Mourinho’s Spurs meet rabid Wolves in top end clash [STREAM]

  • Wolves v. Tottenham Hotspur, Wednesday (Watch live, 9 a.m. ET on NBCSN)

Two sides fancying a Top Four run stand in each other’s way at the Molineux. Spurs rested more of their top players on Wednesday at Bayern Munich, and have one more day’s rest than Wolves. But Nuno Espirito Santo‘s men were home Thursday in a Europa League pounding of Besiktas, and are now unbeaten in nine matches across all competitions. They haven’t lost a league match since Sept. 14 versus Chelsea, an 11 match run with five wins and six draws.

Flying Red Devils tangle with wounded, ready Everton [STREAM]

  • Manchester United v. Everton, Sunday (Watch live, 9 a.m. ET on NBC Sports Gold)

Marco Silva is gone, and Duncan Ferguson’s Toffees will be feeling like their 3-1 defeat of Chelsea is the real Everton come clean in the wash. This weekend’s test is just as tough given United’s stylish form in defeats of AZ Alkmaar, Man City, and Spurs. You’re gonna need two screens at 9 a.m. ET Sunday.

M23 Derby promises plenty [STREAM]

  • Crystal Palace v. Brighton and Hove Albion, Monday (Watch live, 2:45 p.m. ET on NBCSN)

The Premier League weekend ends with a beauty, two rivals three points apart and sensing blood in the water on this congested table. Roy Hodgson‘s Palace is three points clear of Graham Potter‘s Seagulls, the league’s oldest managerial blood against the promise of a new era. A win keeps Palace in the thick of the Top Seven mix, while a loss puts Brighton right back in it.

Top Premier League storylines: Week 7

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The Premier League weekend includes a match-up of two of the biggest clubs in the league, as well as two closely positioned upstarts aiming for a possible Top Four place.

It’ll be a good one, sandwiched between the League Cup and UEFA Champions League.


Revamped Man City back line meets stiffer away test

  • Everton v. Man City, Saturday, 12:30 p.m. ET on NBC

The blowouts of Watford and Shakhtar Donetsk were nice, but the challenge presented by Everton’s group is a much trickier one for, presumably, Fernandinho and Nicolas Otamendi. The Toffees give up the second-fewest shots per game in the Premier League. First is City. Someone will give at Goodison, and many would bet on that being inconsistent Everton. That might be too easy of an assumption.


Alarmed Arsenal meets finish-lacking Manchester United

  • Manchester United v. Arsenal, Monday, 11:30 a.m. ET on NBCSN

Arsenal is out-scoring folks in three competitions now, but the Gunners haven’t been able to keep the door closed at the back in Premier League play. Manchester United has generated chances without finish for several games, and Arsenal is integrating a number of now-fit defenders. That’s good, but there could be growing pains for the Gunners. If there are not, United will likely find itself bottom half after seven match days.


Can Chelsea begin a soft stretch of schedule in style?

  • Chelsea v. Brighton and Hove Albion, Saturday, 10 a.m. ET on NBCSN

The numbers say Chelsea has been very unlucky over the course of its 2-2-2 start, while Brighton has scored two goals in five matches since clobbering Watford on Opening Day. The Blues are coming off a 7-goal show from their backups, and ornery after an unlucky loss to Liverpool. Can Frank Lampard‘s men make a statement of intent?


Liverpool must be wary of Chris Wilder‘s gnarly, unfazed Blades

  • Sheffield United v. Liverpool, Saturday, 7:30 a.m. ET on NBCSN

Sheffield United has been in every match its played this season, beating Everton, drawing Chelsea, and staging tight contests with upstarts Bournemouth and Leicester City. Liverpool has been a bit open at the back, and the Blades have been opportunistic. The Reds should ease past this one, but can’t be caught looking ahead to Red Bull Salzburg in the Champions League.


Low-key litmus test on the South Coast

  • Bournemouth v. West Ham United, Saturday, 10 a.m. ET on NBC Sports Gold

Weakened lineups cost both sides in the League Cup, as Eddie Howe and Manuel Pellegrini are clearly focused on Saturday’s match at the Vitality Stadium. As they should! This one has all the signs of a beauty, with the winner sitting fifth or higher after seven weeks. That’s a decent prize.

Top Premier League storylines: Week 6

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Of the seven Premier League sides to handle midweek Europeans challenges, only two face-off and that predictably is the hallmark of the weekend in England.

[ MORE: Silva to Inter Miami? ]

What else is cooking? Smell the aromas of the weekend ahead, below.


How will Frank Lampard attack Liverpool?

  • Chelsea v. Liverpool, Sunday, 11:30 a.m. ET on NBCSN

The Blues’ 5-2 defeat at Wolves last week did not help spin a win over Valencia in the Champions League, and Frank Lampard’s next chance to make a statement comes against a team that is perfect in PL play and finds itself licking its wounds from a subpar performance at Napoli. Can a very fresh Christian Pulisic make the difference for Chelsea? Will Callum Hudson-Odoi take the positive vibes from his new contract and solid PL2 appearance into the fray?


Will Fernandinho help stabilize Man City against improving Watford?

  • Man City v. Watford, Saturday, 10 a.m. ET on NBCSN

City went to Ukraine and blanked Shakhtar Donetsk with Nicolas Otamendi and Fernandinho at center back, and the Brazilian center midfielder says he’s been preparing for his possibility for some time. If Watford looks anything like it looked in a 2-2 draw with Arsenal, we could see a very decent test for City’s back line.


Weary Spurs get top-half test from Leicester City

  • Leicester City v. Tottenham Hotspur, Saturday, 10 a.m. ET on NBCSN

Inconsistent Tottenham meets a Leicester City side with Top Six ambitions, licking its wounds from a 1-0 loss to Manchester United at Old Trafford which probably deserved a point. Spurs aren’t feeling great following another blown 2-0 lead in a big spot away from home. How will they react in Leicester?


Will Solskjaer’s midweek rest risk reap rewards on Sunday?

  • West Ham United v. Manchester United, Sunday, 9 a.m. ET on NBCSN

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is set to hand heavy minutes to youngsters and second-choice players against Kazakh side Astana on Thursday at Old Trafford. Will that pay off when trying to stop Sebastien Haller, Felipe Anderson, and Manuel Pellegrini‘s Irons on Sunday morning?


Early season six-pointer at St. James’ Park

  • Newcastle United v. Brighton and Hove Albion, Saturday, 12:30 p.m. ET on NBC

Look, it’s Week Six and normally we’d say anything can happen in a Premier League season, but let’s be reasonable: If you’re looking at the teams for Newcastle and Brighton, this result will matter as many as any down the stretch in determining Premier League status for 2019/20.

Top PL storylines: Week 5

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The Premier League is finally returning after what somehow felt like the longest international break in ages.

Anyone else feel that way?

[ MORE: USMNT roundtable ]

Here’s what we have on the docket for a busy weekend in England.


The reigning champs begin life without Laporte

  • Norwich City v. Man City, Saturday, 12:30 p.m. ET on NBC

Aymeric Laporte may not get the headlines of Virgil Van Dijk, but the Man City man has been a close second to the Liverpool star when it comes to how important a role he plays to his defense. Fortunately, Man City has reliable Nicolas Otamendi and a healthy John Stones. How they perform together will go a long way to determining whether a 3-peat is an option once Laporte returns after the new year. The first Laporte-less test comes against Teemu Pukki and defense-starved Norwich City


Spurs aching for stability, return to form

  • Tottenham Hotspur v. Crystal Palace, Saturday, 10 a.m. ET on NBCSN

Both Tottenham and their visitors had a key attacker in the rumor mill throughout August, and both Christian Eriksen and Wilfried Zaha stayed put at the transfer deadline. Spurs have just five points through four games, but have already played two Top Four rivals (draws with Man City and Arsenal). It’s fair to say nothing short of a home win over Palace will be acceptable to the Lilywhite faithful. Can Spurs “re-focus?”


New (old) boss bump against dangerous Gunners?

  • Watford v. Arsenal, Sunday, 11:30 a.m. ET on NBCSN

Watford fired Javi Gracia in favor of a return to Quique Sanchez Flores, and the Hornets’ home faithful will see whether it gives the moribund Hornets a return to 2018-19 form. Watford has just one point from the first four matches of the season, while Arsenal has only lost to Liverpool. Goal fest?


Someone’s stalling has to end here

  • Wolves v. Chelsea, Saturday, 10 a.m. ET on NBC Sports Gold

Europa League congestion can rightfully be blamed for some of Wolves’ struggles to start the season, but no such prognosis can be made ahead of a visit from less-than-inspiring Chelsea. This is a good litmus test for two teams’ high-end hopes, and a loss for the hosts could see them finish the weekend in the drop zone.


Business as usual for Salah, Mane versus Newcastle

  • Liverpool v. Newcastle United, Saturday, 7:30 a.m. ET on NBCSN

Forget the argument last week: Sadio Mane, Mohamed Salah, and their fellow Reds will be licking their lips to face a Newcastle team which hasn’t won at Anfield since a League Cup match in 1995. The goal scorer? Steve Watson.


Brendan Rodgers aims to make statement at Old Trafford

  • Manchester United v. Leicester City, Saturday, 10 a.m. ET on NBC Sports Gold

The hosts Red Devils are running out of excuses for their in-game dominance not producing three points, and the latest test at Old Trafford comes via an in-form Leicester City. Will Foxes manager Brendan Rodgers deliver his first big result of the season?