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English Premier League Preview: Tottenham hosts Leicester City, and more

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After squandering their chance at a Premier League title last season, Tottenham now faces the team that succeeded in lifting England’s ultimate prize.

Following a midweek defeat to Liverpool in the EFL Cup, Spurs are looking to bounce back in league play as they take on last year’s champions, Leicester City. The Foxes have yet to replicate their title-winning form in 2016, and sit all the way down in 12th in the Premier League table. Now riding two straight wins, though, Leicester City appears to be finding some form heading into a clash with a Tottenham team that should be without injured defender Toby Alderweireld.

Several other title contenders face comfortable matches over the weekend as they look to end their recent skids. Chelsea and Manchester City have both struggled in recent weeks, with the latter currently sitting atop the table despite a string of six matches without a win. Pep Guardiola’s side now visits a beatable West Brom team with the aim of turning things around, while Chelsea will look to deploy its new three-at-the-back system in a clash with midtable Southampton.

Elsewhere, Christian Benteke leads Crystal Palace against his former club, Liverpool, which continues to push into the title race on the strength of an exhilarating attack. Meanwhile, Everton and West Ham collide in a clash of two teams looking to leap into the competition in the top half of the table.

Here’s a closer look at all of this weekend’s Premier League action:

Games to watch

Tottenham (19 points) vs. Leicester City (11 points), Saturday, 10 a.m., NBC Sports Live

Injuries of note: Toby Alderweireld is expected to miss out due to a knee injury, while Moussa Sissoko will be suspended. Harry Kane is also unlikely to feature as he returns to fitness. For Leicester, Andy King is available while Nampalys Mendy and Ben Chillwell are out.

Key to the game: Without Alderweireld, Tottenham’s defense will need to stand tall against Leicester’s usual counterattack. Eric Dier is likely to step in alongside Jan Vertonghen, and the pace of Ahmed Musa and Jamie Vardy could prove a handful throughout Saturday’s match.

Player to watch: Heung-Min Son is the man in form for Tottenham, and he will have to continue that form on Saturday. With five goals in nine appearances, Son has contributed plenty in Harry Kane’s absence. However, he will also have to track back defensively, helping cover down the wings against the likes of Riyad Mahrez.

Quote: “We’ve now got a massive game against Leicester which will mean a lot to everyone for different reasons so everyone is now fully focused on that,” said Tottenham defender Eric Dier. “I feel like we were in a title race with them last season and they got the better of us in the game at home and that changed where the league went. It’s an important game for us.”

Southampton (13 points) vs. Chelsea (19 points), Sunday, 12 p.m., NBC Sports Live/Telemundo

Injuries of note: Southampton enters the weekend with major injury woes, as Jay Rodriguez, Matt Targett, Shane Long, Ryan Bertrand, Cedric and Jeremy Pied are all set to miss out, with the latter three depriving the Saints of its usual fullback options. Chelsea, meanwhile, will likely be without Cesc Fabregas, while Kurt Zouma continues to battle back from injury.

Key to the game:  Chelsea has recently switched to a three-at-the-back system, one that proved quite successful during Antonio Conte’s time in Italy. With John Terry’s lack of pace, the key is for Gary Cahill and David Luiz to cover ground, while allowing the team’s wingbacks to create havoc up top. If Terry is left out, as he was prior to a midweek loss to West Ham, look for Cesar Azpilicueta to step in to the back three.

Player to watch: Southampton has been strong at home for the better part of a year, having lost just once in nine months within the friendly confines of St. Mary’s Stadium. Coincidentally, that loss came to Chelsea, and if the Blues are to repeat the feat, they will likely need a contribution from Eden Hazard. With so many injuries at fullback, Southampton is ripe for the picking out wide, and Hazard will need to find ways to exploit the advantage to help spur the Chelsea attack.

Quote: “I saw a lot of things that can be useful for the future,” said Chelsea manager Antonio Conte, reflecting on a midweek loss to West Ham. “For example I saw Pedro as wing-back and Oscar as one of the two midfielders, and then Oscar in a position like a striker. I had positive answers and I want to use that in the Premier League. Now I have more solutions.”

Crystal Palace (11 points) vs. Liverpool (20 points), Saturday, 12:30 p.m., NBC Sports Live

Injuries of note: Scott Dann should be set to return to the Crystal Palace lineup, giving the visitors a major leadership boost in the center of defense. Liverpool should a full squad, as Divock Origi appears ready to go despite dealing with a leg issue midweek. The only Liverpool concern is Joe Gomez, who is nearing a return from a long-term injury but not fully fit.

Key to the game: Liverpool tends to play to the level of competition, especially when it comes to their defense. On the attacking end, Liverpool is among the more exciting teams in the league, as Sadio Mane, Roberto Firmino, Phillipe Coutinho and Adam Lallana buzz all around the box from the attacking positions. However, defensively, the Reds always seem to slip up early against the “weaker” teams, allowing the opposing side to drop back and defend in numbers. Liverpool needs a hot start, and some composure at the back, in order to play a free-flowing game against an Alan Pardew-led Palace.

Player to watch: Christian Benteke was deemed surplus to requirements at Liverpool, but the Belgian striker has caught on fairly well since moving to Palace. The former Aston Villa striker has scored three goals in seven appearances since making his move this summer, and he should prove a dangerous option in Saturday’s revenge game. As strong as they come, Benteke will at the very least test Liverpool’s defense, a unit that will need to be ready to win some physical battles in and around the box

Quote: “It is like it is: we couldn’t change it and I thought, and I am pretty sure Christian thought the same, that it made sense that he made the transfer,” said Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp. “For Crystal Palace, what a player. We know it best because we had him all the time in training. In all moments in the last year, he always showed his quality. In the area he is really strong. He is not only good at heading, but he is especially good at heading, and has good technical skills. He is a wonderful player, but now at Crystal Palace.”

West Bromwich Albion (10 points) vs. Manchester City (20 points), Saturday, 10 a.m., NBC Sports Live

Injuries of note: Kevin De Bruyne and Vincent Kompany could feature for Manchester City, with the latter the more likely to be in the lineup after easing in with 45 minutes in a midweek loss to Manchester United. Bacary Sagna and Pablo Zabaleta, though, are question marks as they recover from their respective injuries. On the other end, West Brom is quite healthy, and is only expected to miss Claudio Yacob due to yellow card accumulation.

Key to the game:  Manchester City is simply in need of a spark. Winless in six matches, the Premier League leaders have looked like a shell of a Pep Guardiola team throughout the past month or so, dropping points to everyone from Barcelona and Celtic to Everton and Southampton. The return of Kevin de Bruyne should help, but City needs to find and stick to a system, as the past month has been headlined by a lack of an identity. The talent is there, but the style simply isn’t, as City continues to reinvent and reinvent some more under its new manager.

Player to watch: If West Brom have anyone capable of doing legitimate damage to Man City, it’s Nacer Chadli. The former Tottenham midfielder has been a revelation since joining the Baggies, scoring four goals to start the season. The Belgian is the player that runs the show for West Brom, and stopping him should be City’s No. 1 aim heading into Saturday’s match.

Quote: “All professional players can play in different styles, and of course he can [play in my side],” Guardiola said of Kompany. “He has a contract, no? So of course, I don’t know what is the problem. He didn’t play as much the last two seasons and we want to keep him safe. We want him to have the same options as his teammates…The game against Southampton he played 78 minutes and he said he can’t play no more, and the last game was 45 minutes. We need to handle the situation until he can play 90 minutes.”

Everton (15 points) vs. West Ham (10 points), Sunday, 9:30 a.m., NBCSN

Injuries of note: Leighton Baines and James McCarthy headline Everton’s list of notable absences, while forward Enner Valencia will be unable to play against his parent club. West Ham, meanwhile, have significantly more issues, as the Hammers will be without Gokhan Tore, Sam Byram, Arthur Masuaku, Andy Carroll and Diafra Sakho for Sunday’s clash. However, West Ham could be boosted by the return of Andre Ayew, who rejoined the team midweek against Chelsea following a thigh injury.

Key to the game: West Ham boast a formidable centerback partnership, and they’ll need it against one of the league’s elite strikers. Winston Reid and Angelo Ogbonna are both top-level centerbacks, even if the Hammers have struggled mightily on the defensive end this season. On the other side of the field is Romelu Lukaku, who enters the match second in the league with six goals. Everton goes as far as Lukaku goes, and if Ogbonna and Reid can lock things up, West Ham has a chance to continue their recent upswing.

Player to watch: Lukaku may be the most potent goalscorer at Goodison Park on Sunday, but Michail Antonio continues to make strides for West Ham. The 26-year-old winger, or sometimes fullback, sits just being Lukaku with five goals this season after leading the league in headed finishes last year. Antonio is a sneaky goalscorer, one that brings plenty of pace and a knack for being in the right place at the right time.

Quote: “If everything goes well it’s easy to come into the team, it’s easy to play but now really we need the personalities to turn it around and I think we have enough personalities in the team,” said Everton manager Ronald Koeman.”We have really experienced players, we have young players and, in terms of age, I think we have a good balance in the squad but you always try to be better and try to be stronger, and that starts this weekend.”

Stoke City (9 points) vs. Swansea City (5 points), Monday, 4 p.m., NBCSN

Injuries of note: Modou Barrow and Fernando Llorente are expected to return to the Swansea squad, while Jefferson Montero is believed to be closing in on full fitness. The same can’t be said about Nathan Dyer, who remains sidelined. For Stoke, several key starters remain out of action. Jack Butland and Glen Johnson should be out for another week or two, while Stephen Ireland and Ibrahim Affelay remain long-term absences. Geoff Cameron, meanwhile, remains questionable as the U.S. Men’s National Team defender battles a knee injury.

Key to the game: There’s a limited sample size, but Bob Bradley’s Swansea has looked a bit better than before he arrived in Wales. However, the Swans have yet to put together a complete performance, as Bradley remains in search of his first Premier League win. To get that win, Bradley and Swansea will likely once again rely on a young and inexperienced central defense of 22-year-old Alfie Mawson and 24-year-old Mike van der Hoorn, a pairing that maintained a clean sheet last time out

Player to watch: Xherdan Shaqiri’s potential has been touted for years, but the Swiss international is a player that has never fully put it together. This season, though, Shaqiri has shown flashes of brilliance, especially in recent weeks. Shaqiri scored a pair of wonderful goals in last week’s win over Sunderland and, with Joe Allen pulling the strings from the center, the former Bayern Munich winger should be expected to have another big game against an inexperienced Swansea backline.

Quote: “(Confidence levels) are up slightly compared to when I arrived I think,” Bob Bradley said. “I think the players can see progress. They felt after Watford that the effort was stronger. But now is the time we have to turn the positives into more points, and for sure there is still work to do.”

Sunderland (2 points) vs. Arsenal (20 points), Saturday, 7:30 a.m., NBCSN

Manchester United (14 points) vs. Burnley (10 points), Saturday, 10 a.m., NBCSN

Middlesbrough (7 points) vs. Bournemouth (12 points), Saturday, 10 a.m., NBC Sports Live

Watford (12 points) vs. Hull City (7 points), Saturday, 10 a.m., NBC Sports Live

1 comment
  • Mal

    Is this a new sbi feature? Don’t remember having seen a round up like this. I enjoyed it, thanks.

    Like

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