Sunday’s slate of Premier League fixtures promise to have it all as an in-form Manchester United host a new-era Everton; Wolves look to continue a historic unbeaten run against Jose Mourinho and company; and Arsenal take on Manchester City, who are in dire need of three points.
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Wolves vs. Tottenham — 9:00 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com
Just how much do Portuguese managers Jose Mourinho and Nuno Espirito Santo care about Sunday’s clash between their teams?
So much that both managers elected to omit key players during European midweek duty in order to have full-power lineups for a match that has serious implications on their chances of qualifying for European competition next year.
Wolves will have a fresh Raul Jimenez and Adama Traore, while Harry Kane will reappear for Spurs after being absent midweek against Bayern Munich. But the 26-year-old striker will not have any additional breaks ahead of a busy festive period, according to Mourinho.
For now, it’s tough to say who has the upper hand from resting key players. That said, Wolves had more players sidelined, and while two-thirds of the attack (Jimenez and Traore) watched Wolves pulverize Besiktas from the stands, Diogo Jota bagged a hat-trick.
With a club-record 12-match unbeaten run in Premier League play, there are no doubts that things are going well for Espirito Santo and company. They are the team to beat.
“[He] is getting some praise for the work he is doing,” Mourinho said ahead of the match. “In my opinion, not enough. He deserves more than what he is getting. Fantastic work.”
“He is a much better manager than a player. I’m not saying he was a bad player, but he’s a much better manager. Wolves are one of the best teams from a tactical point of view.”
If Spurs want to stand a chance, they’ll have to correct their defensive deficiencies. There’s a 99-percent chance Mourinho knows that already, though.
INJURIES: Wolves — OUT: Boly (leg), Gibbs-White (back)| Tottenham — OUT: Lamela (hamstring), Ndombele (groin), Vorm (calf), Lloris (elbow), Davies (ankle)
Manchester United vs. Everton — 9:00 a.m. ET, on NBC Sports Gold
All of the parallels between Manchester United and Everton are conjoining at the Theater of Dreams on Sunday.
Around this time a year ago, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was appointed caretaker of Manchester United. A former standout Red Devil, the task to take the helm of the club was not only a tall one given the popularity of Manchester United, but one that was emotionally taxing given his past with the team.
A year later, Duncan Ferguson – a striker who also made a name for himself in the ’90s – has the keys to the club that considers him a legend.
When the first whistle goes off, the subplots will evaporate, however.
Manchester United will go for their third consecutive league win since January, while Everton – still probably feeling the side effects of Marcelo Silva’s sacking – look for a second consecutive win in their new era. It’s not probable that it will be the case, but “Big Dunc” will go for it.
“It is going to be difficult for us but it’s one we will be up for,” he said. “United are on the up at the moment and they are a very good team. It will be a big ask but I am sure we can give a good account of ourselves.”
“I’d be on the roof if we get a win there,” he added. “But we can do it and that’s what we’ll try to do.”
INJURIES: Manchester United — OUT: Bailly (knee), Fosu-Mensah (knee), Pogba (ankle) | Everton — OUT: Walcott (calf), Schneiderlin (calf), Gbamin (thigh), Gomes (ankle)
Arsenal vs. Manchester City — 9:00 a.m ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com
Just how tough is the main job at Arsenal? If we strictly zero in on Freddie Ljungberg’s latest request, it becomes apparent that managing the Gunners at this point in time comes with unique challenges and limitations that not every manager-in-the-making can bare.
The 42-year-old Arsenal legend, who is currently serving as Arsenal’s interim manager, is calling for the club’s board to swiftly come to a resolution in their search for a full-time manager, according to The Guardian.
In three league matches at the helm of Arsenal, Ljungberg has earned four points – losing only to Brighton 2-1 at the Emirates. That said, the former winger has yet to face a side that sits higher than his team on the table.
That will change with Manchester City visiting on Sunday.
Looking to bounce back from their Manchester Derby defeat, Pep Guardiola reveled that he’s studied his opponent’s new look, although when going against the North London team, it’s all about not letting them feel comfortable.
“I have not watched the previous games with Unai,” he says “I watched the games they played with Ljungberg to try to figure out what they’ll try to do.”
“But normally Arsenal have a typical style of play. If you let them play, they have the quality to play. Arsenal away is always a big test for any team.”
INJURIES: Arsenal — OUT: Ceballos (thigh), Xhaka (concussion), Holding (knee), Tierney (shoulder) | Manchester City — OUT: Agüero (thigh), Stones (thigh), Laporte (knee), Sané (knee)