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Premier League

Bullet point previews of Premier League weekend matches

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Premier League - Brighton & Hove Albion v Manchester City - The American Express Community Stadium, Brighton, Britain - May 24, 2023 The big screen displays a VAR review message NO GOAL for Manchester City's Erling Braut Haaland REUTERS/Toby Melville

Match-by-match facts and statistics ahead of the next round of Premier League fixtures on May 28 (all games at 1530 GMT):

Sunday, May 28

Arsenal v Wolverhampton Wanderers

* Arsenal have won 25 league games this season, only winning more in the Premier League era in their title-winning campaigns of 2001-02 and 2003-04 (both 26).

* Arsenal have won their final match of the season more than any other league side (21), with a win rate of 70%.

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* Wolverhampton are winless in their last seven league away games (D2 L5), losing the last three by an aggregate score of 10-1.

Aston Villa v Brighton and Hove Albion

* A victory for Villa will see them qualify at least for the Europa Conference League next season, their first appearance in European competition since 2010-11.

* Brighton’s Danny Welbeck has been involved in five goals in his last four league appearances on matchday 38 (two goals, three assists), scoring in each of his last two games.

* Brighton have lost their last three league games against Villa.

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Brentford v Manchester City

* Erling Haaland has scored five of City’s nine league goals in London this season, the joint most for a City player in a single campaign (Sergio Aguero in 2015-16 and Edin Dzeko in 2011-12 also five).

* City’s Kevin De Bruyne has been involved in nine goals in his last six final-day appearances in the league, scoring three and assisting six. Only Nolberto Solano (7) has more assists on the final day in league history than the Belgian.

* Following their 2-1 win at the Etihad in November, Brentford are looking to complete their second league double over City (previously in 1937-38).

Chelsea v Newcastle United

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* Chelsea are winless in their last seven home games in all competitions (D3 L4), their longest since a run of 10 between November 1987 and April 1988.

* Kai Havertz (five) and Raheem Sterling (four) are the only two players to score more than once for Chelsea in the league at Stamford Bridge this season, with 10 players netting one home goal.

* Defender Kieran Trippier has created 110 chances in the league this season – it’s the most on record (since 2003-04) for a Newcastle player.

Crystal Palace v Nottingham Forest

* Eberechi Eze has been involved in 14 goals in 37 league games this season (10 goals, four assists), more than any other Palace player.

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* Taiwo Awoniyi has scored in seven league games this season, putting Forest 1-0 ahead every time.

* Palace have lost just one of their last nine league home games (W3 D5) and are unbeaten in all four since Roy Hodgson’s return (W3 D1).

Everton v Bournemouth

* Dwight McNeil is Everton’s top league goal-scorer this season with seven goals, the lowest top scorer in a single campaign since 2001-02.

* Bournemouth have conceded 70 league goals this season but are safe from relegation and could finish as high as 13th.

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* Everton are winless in their last four league home games (D1 L3), losing the last three in a row and conceding 10 goals in the process.

Leeds United v Tottenham Hotspur

* Leeds will be relegated to the Championship if they fail to beat Tottenham, their seventh top-flight relegation overall and second from the league after 2003-04.

* A defeat for Tottenham would ensure no European football for them next season, for the first time since 2009-10.

* Harry Kane has scored in 25 league games for Tottenham this season, the most of any player in a 38-game campaign.

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Leicester City v West Ham United

* If Leicester fail to win this game, they will get relegated from the top-flight just seven years after winning the title.

* James Maddison has been involved in more league goals than any other Leicester player this season (10 goals, nine assists).

* West Ham’s Jarrod Bowen has been involved in five goals in his five league games against Leicester (three goals, two assists), his most goal involvements against a single top-flight opponent.

Manchester United v Fulham

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* Fulham are guaranteed their first top-half finish in the league since 2011-12 (ninth).

* Aleksandar Mitrovic has scored 14 league goals this season, including three in his two games since returning from suspension.

* United have won all five of their league games against promoted sides this season, last winning all six in a single campaign in 2011-12.

Southampton v Liverpool

* Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah has been involved in 17 goals in 14 league games since March (11 goals, six assists), more than any other player in the competition in that time.

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* Liverpool have won their last three league away games, as many as they had in their first 15 on the road this season (D4 L8).

* Southampton have lost 10 of their last 11 league games against Liverpool, with the exception being a 1-0 home win in January 2021.

-Reuters

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Kunle Solaja is the author of landmark books on sports and journalism as well as being a multiple award-winning journalist and editor of long standing. He is easily Nigeria’s foremost soccer diarist and Africa's most capped FIFA World Cup journalist, having attended all FIFA World Cup finals from Italia ’90 to Qatar 2022. He was honoured at the Qatar 2022 World Cup by FIFA and AIPS.

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Nigerian-born Man United’s new striker promises  creativity and unpredictability to fans

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Manchester United newcomer Joshua Zirkzee said fans can expect to see a creative, unpredictable player who developed his skills in cage football, and idolised Ronaldinho and Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

He is a Dutch, but has Nigerian mother.

The 23-year-old striker signed for the Red Devils on July 14 after an excellent season with Italian Serie A club Bologna, where he scored 11 goals and made five assists and helped them secure a place in the Champions League.

“Yeah, it’s been a roller-coaster the past few weeks, but some very good experiences. I’m very happy to be here,” Zirkzee said in an interview for United’s website on July 17.

“Obviously, (I’m arriving) at a good point, making a transfer to Manchester United is something very positive. So yeah, I just can’t wait to get started and continue what I basically did last season.”

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The 1.93m-tall Dutchman is technically gifted for a player his size, which he attributes to his childhood in Spijkenisse, in the south of the Netherlands where he developed his skills in Johan Cruyff cages – enclosed football pitches named after the Dutch football great.

“As a young boy growing up, playing mostly with tougher, bigger guys who are older than you makes you adapt, so I think that’s something that you learn at a young age in Holland, especially where I grew up,” Zirkzee added.

“(I’m a) creative player, good with the ball, I’m just a bit unpredictable at times.”

He laughingly recounted the countless times he got in trouble with his mother for coming home late.

“I hope she forgives me now for all the times I came home late, or if I broke something in the backyard,” he said.

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“Eventually, it all worked out pretty well… that was just life back when I was younger, playing football, forgetting about the time and getting back home late.”

Zirkzee also said that having a Dutch manager in Erik ten Hag is a “privilege” and the added presence of Ruud van Nistelrooy – the former Netherlands and United striker who joined ten Hag’s coaching staff earlier this week – will help him adjust to his new team.

But they are not the only reasons he made the move to United.

“Manchester United is a great, huge club so it’s just an extra privilege,” he said.

“Having some Dutch people around obviously makes it a bit easier, (but) to be fair I’m not too difficult adapting.

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“When I was younger, watching the Dutch national team, Manchester United, watching (van Nistelrooy) play, he was one of the guys who you pretend to be when you were playing with friends. So, having him out here is a bit special.

Zirkzee was a late addition to the Netherlands squad for the European Championship, making his senior debut in the quarter-final victory against Turkey.

On the heels of Euro 2024, he will be given some time off and is not expected to link up with his new teammates until early August.

Following his arrival at Old Trafford for a fee of about £36.5 million (S$63.6 million), United are set to sign Lille’s promising teenage defender Leny Yoro in a £52 million swoop, according to reports on July 17.

The 18-year-old had been linked with a move to European champions Real Madrid, but he has since travelled to England and has undergone a medical test with the Red Devils, before putting pen to paper.

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United will reportedly pay £52.7 million as an initial fee, with add-ons worth a further £6.7 million.

Yoro, who made his Lille debut at the age of 16, has been ranked as one of the best young players in Europe.

Ten Hag has been keen to land a new centre-back after Raphael Varane left at the end of last season.

Varane and Lisandro Martinez were United’s starting centre-backs in their FA Cup final victory over Manchester City in May, with Harry Maguire missing the showpiece due to an injury that also ruled him out of Euro 2024.

United have also been chasing Bayern Munich’s Dutch defender Matthijs de Ligt and is understood to have had two offers rejected for Everton’s Jarrad Branthwaite.

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Reuters/AFP

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Sancho back in training with Man United after positive meeting with Ten Hag

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Jadon Sancho was back training with Manchester United for the first time in 10 months, with a club source confirming the winger and manager Erik ten Hag have resolved their differences following their public fallout last year.

Sancho and Ten Hag had a positive meeting at Carrington Training Centre and the two have decided to draw a line under last season’s drawn-out argument, the club source said.

The 24-year-old Sancho made just three appearances for United last season, spending the second half of the campaign on loan to Borussia Dortmund after his relationship with Ten Hag soured in September.

Ten Hag had left the winger out of his squad for United’s 3-1 loss to Arsenal, saying Sancho’s performances in training had not warranted a place in his team. Sancho immediately lashed out on social media, accusing Ten Hag of making him a “scapegoat.”

He was banished from the first team and trained with United’s youth squad before returning to his former club Dortmund in January, where he shone during their Champions League semi-final victory against Paris St Germain, earning praise from Ten Hag. Dortmund were beaten by Real Madrid in the final.

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“(Sancho) is a very good player… he showed why Manchester United bought him and he showed he represents a high value for Manchester United, which is good,” Ten Hag told reporters following Dortmund’s 1-0 win over PSG in the first leg.

“I’m happy for Jadon, for the performance, and we’ll see what is going to happen in the future.”

Sancho will not travel with the team to Norway for their pre-season opener against Rosenborg since he began training later than the other players but the club source said he would be available for selection after that.

-Reuters

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Another Nigerian blood replaces Ndidi at Leicester

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Wilfred Ndidi who has just left Leicester City will have another Nigerian blood replacing him.

Leicester has never been without a Nigerian since Ahmed Musa joined in 2016. Ndidi and Kelechi Iheanacho joined in 2017.

Another Nigerian blood, Caleb Okoli, a centre back, has just been signed from Italian  Serie A side Atalanta on a five-year contract. Born in Itali, Caleb Okoli is Igbo and Yoruba by descent.

The 22-year-old, who spent the last season on loan at Frosinone Calcio, represented Italy at the European Under-21 Championship last year.

“I think now is the right moment (for me) to make a step forward and a very big one. I’m very happy with the choice I made, so I’m very excited to start in the Premier League,” Okoli said in a statement. The clubs did not disclose financial details of the deal.

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