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English Premier League Preview: Man City faces Arsenal, Liverpool takes on Everton and more

Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

Following a busy midweek slate, the Premier League returns over the weekend, with a clash of perennial contenders and one of the league’s fiercest rivalries headlining the schedule.

Title contenders collide in Manchester as fourth-place Manchester City hosts third-place Arsenal in the weekend’s marquee matchup. The two sides remain in the thick of the title race, but both have some work to do to catch league-leaders Chelsea, who take on Crystal Palace.

Meanwhile, at Goodison Park, Everton and Liverpool collide for the latest chapter in Merseyside Derby history. Liverpool enters the weekend second in the league following a midweek beating of Middlesbrough, but Everton has plenty of confidence themselves after toppling Arsenal in their last match.

Elsewhere, Manchester United takes on West Brom, as Jose Mourinho’s side looks to continue the club’s recent run of form.

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


Manchester City (33 points) vs. Arsenal (34 points), Sunday, 11:00 a.m., NBCSN, Telemundo

Injuries of note: Manchester City are starting off on the wrong foot, as they’ll be without both Fernandinho and Sergio Aguero, both of whom are suspended after their actions during the match against Chelsea. Ilkay Gundogan will be unavailable as well after suffering a long-term injury against Watford on Wednesday, and Vincent Kompany remains out with Fabian Delph questionable. Arsenal have their own plethora of inuries, with Aaron Ramsey, Shkodran Mustafi, Mathieu Debuchy, Danny Welbeck, Per Mertesacker, and Santi Cazorla all still out for the Gunners.

Key to the game: With several key pieces missing on each side, their replacements will need to step up big. Arsenal’s beat-up back four catches a break with Aguero out on suspension, but City have more than enough attacking pieces to compensate. The goal for Arsenal will be to throw a wrench in City’s backup plan, as a shootout favors the hosts, and keep the score down.

Player to watch: Kevin de Bruyne will have as big a role as ever. With Fernandinho and Aguero out, and Gundogan out for quite awhile, de Bruyne will be asked to pick up a huge amount of slack both in the midfield and in attacking positions. The Belgian has been stellar for City, and will need to be on his top game if they wish to emerge victorious on Sunday.

Quote: “Look, the perfect game is the next one – always,” Arsene Wenger said. “When you’ve had a defeat, I think a defeat should not hit the confidence we have. It should just hit the pride we have and that makes us respond well.”

Everton (23 points) vs. Liverpool (34 points), Monday, 3:00 p.m., NBCSN

Injuries of note: Everton enter the match without Yannick Bolasie and Muhamed Besic, who are injured, as well as Phil Jagielka, who will serve a one-match suspension. Liverpool, for their part, will be without Philippe Coutinho, Daniel Sturridge, Emre Can, and Danny Ings, though Dejan Lovren and Joe Gomez returned in midweek action against Middlesbrough.

Key to the game: Confidence can make all the difference in the world. Everton enters this match against Liverpool on the highest of notes after defeating second-place Arsenal in their midweek match on Tuesday, a fantastic victory for the team as they seek European qualification. Liverpool also enter on a big, but less impressive, 3-0 victory over Middlesbrough this week. With Everton claiming the better win, and having an extra day of rest, they could pull off another big result this weekend.

Player to watch: Seamus Coleman came up huge for Everton on Tuesday, equalizing after the team fell behind 1-0 to Arsenal. Ashley Williams may have finished off the match with his late goal, but Coleman was the most impactful man on the field for Everton and will likely be so again against a talented Liverpool attack.

Quote: “That’s the game you want to have, how I said a few times – football is not the most important thing in the world, but on Monday night I’d say for 90 minutes in and around Liverpool, probably it is,” said Jurgen Klopp. “So let’s do our best.”

West Brom (23 points) vs. Manchester United (27 points), Saturday, 12:30 p.m., NBC Sports Live

Injuries of note: Manchester United is without the recently-resurgent Henrik Mkhitaryan, who was stretchered off in the Red Devils’ midweek win. Eric Bailly is also set to miss out, but the Ivorian’s absence is negated by the return of Chris Smalling. West Brom is likely to be without defender Jonny Evans, while Craig Dawson is set to miss out due to suspension.

Key to the game: Unbeaten in seven matches, Manchester United is finally finding some sort of form, helping the team climb back into the race for the top four. A major key to that ascendance has been Paul Pogba who, after several rough weeks, appears to be readjusting to the Premier League. Against a Tony Pulis-coached team, Manchester United will need to be prepared to break down a stout defense, and players like Pogba, Anthony Martial, Juan Mata and Ander Herrera will need an extra bit of creativity in the final third to nick a goal or two.

Player to watch: With eight goals in his last eight appearances, Zlatan Ibrahimovic is hot. The Swedish striker has been an absolute monster over the last month or two, scoring goals in a variety of ways. Ibrahimovic’s physicality should give West Brom fits, helping open up the match for Manchester United.

Quote: We didn’t (yet) arrive at half of the race,” Jose Mourinho said. ” That is the 31st of December. I’d say first half of (the) race would be almost impossible to be in the top four, but one thing is to be 15 points from the top four, another thing is to be five points from the top four.”

Crystal Palace (15 points) vs. Chelsea (40 points), Saturday, 7:30 a.m., NBCSN

Injuries of note: Eden Hazard’s status is up in the air for Chelsea, but it’s Palace that will be battling the injury bug. James Tomkins, Connor Wickham, Bakary Sako, Loic Remy, Pape Souare and Steve Mandanda are all sidelined, while Jason Puncheon returns to the team following a suspension.

Key to the game: Heading into Saturday’s match, Chelsea has looked as unstoppable as Palace has poor. The Blues are riding a 10-game winning streak, while their opponents have won just once since September. Something eventually has to give, right? If Palace are to snag some sort of points off of Chelsea, it will have to come via a strong defensive effort, someting Alan Pardew-coached teams have been able to muster over the years. Palace can’t go toe-to-toe with Chelsea, but they can hold on and hope to be underestimated on home field.

Player to watch: Diego Costa was recognized as the Premier League Player of the Month for November and has scored five times in his past seven matches. The Spanish bruiser is a real weapon against any team planning to bunker, as his hold up play draws players out while his mental game causes defenders to lose their discipline at a moments notice. Saturday’s match may be ugly, and Costa could be the one to lead Chelsea to a grind of a win.

Quote: “I don’t like stats,” said Chelsea boss Antonio Conte. “I prefer not to read them because you find a story. You have to write the new story. History doesn’t matter, above all this season. We started without great ambition from the people. This season is very difficult for us, but until now we are doing very well and we are a great surprise for many people. Now it’s important to continue to be this great surprise.”

Middlesbrough (15 points) vs. Swansea City (12 points), Saturday, 10:00 a.m., NBC Sports Live

Stoke City (20 points) vs. Leicester City (16 points), Saturday, 10 a.m., NBC Sports Live

Sunderland (11 points) vs. Watford (21 points), Saturday, 10 a.m., NBC Sports Live

West Ham (16 points) vs. Hull City (12 points), Saturday, 10 a.m., NBC Sports Live

Bournemouth (21 points) vs. Southampton (21 points), Sunday, 8:30 a.m., NBCSN

Tottenham (30 points) vs. Burnley (17 points), Sunday, 11:00 a.m., NBC Sports Live

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