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Premier League Preview: Title, Champions League races in focus in Sunday derbies

Mar 16, 2014, 4:22 AM EST

Britain Soccer Premier League AP

Two rivalries among the most heated in English soccer take center stage on Sunday, with the Premier League’s title and Champions League races serving as subtext for what would be a standout day under any circumstances. Thanks to Chelsea’s stumble at Villa Park, however, both Liverpool and Arsenal have a chance to give their title hopes a major boost, should they come away with victories in Sunday’s derbies.

At 8:30 a.m. ET, NBCSN begins Premier League Sunday with coverage of the seasons’ third Manchester United-Liverpool derby. In the day’s second match (11:30 a.m. ET), Tottenham looks to recovery from a disastrous week against Arsenal, who hope to add to their rivals’ misery with a win at White Hart Lane.

With a win in Sunday’s early game, the Reds will move into second in the Premier League, only four points behind Chelsea while holding a game in hand. Win at White Hart Lane, and Arsenal will do the same, with their uneven winter potentially put behind them with a victory over Tim Sherwood’s Spurs.

For Tottenham, three points could revitalize their hopes of claiming a top-four spot, moving Spurs within three of Arsenal. While their rivals will still have a game in hand, a three-point gap would leave Tottenham one Arsenal slump away from reclaiming a Champions League spot.

And if Spurs get some help from Manchester United? They’ll be in position to take advantage of stumbles from either Arsenal or Liverpool.

Here’s more on the teams ahead of Sunday’s big doubleheader:

source: APManchester United vs. Liverpool (live, 8:30 a.m. ET, NBCSN)

How Liverpool sets up will speak to the level of respect Brendan Rodgers has for this Manchester United team. Given the Red Devils’ problems in the middle, Rodgers could elect to put Phillipe Countinho in his starting XI, choosing a more attacking team against their seventh place hosts. A more reverential view might see Joe Allen start, with Liverpool electing to go with three in the middle at Old Trafford.

Manchester United will be without Jonny Evans, Javier Hernández, Nani, and Rafael De Silva, while Liverpool’s only major absence will be fullback José Enrique.

Tottenham Hotspur vs. Arsenal (live, 11:30 a.m. ET, NBCSN)

A Spurs team coming off 4-0 and 3-1 losses will be without its first choice center halves, with Vlad Chiriches and Michael Dawson both out until later this month. That means Jan Vertonghen will move inside, making Danny Rose the likely starter at left back.

Spurs’ injury problems are minor compared to Arsenal’s, though, with the Gunners expected to be without Mesut Özil, Aaron Ramsey, Jack Wilshere and Theo Walcott. Arsenal’s depth in the middle means it can still put out a capable midfield, but with Santi Cazorla, Tomas Rosicky, and Alex Oxlade-Chmberlain expected to start behind Olivier Giroud, Arsenal won’t be at full strength.

If form truly goes out the window in derbies, Tottenham could deal a major blow to Arsenal’s title hopes. If recent results are any indication of future performance, the Gunners can find success Sunday at White Hart Lane.

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Man United thrash Liverpool