Liverpool's Uruguayan striker Luis Suare

Shipped from abroad: Reflections on an English Premier League Saturday

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These days, everything that happens with Liverpool spurs perspective. Coming into Saturday’s match, that perspective was a wide one, seeing the Reds in their worst form for 50 years. After Luis Suarez’s late equalizer got them a point from visiting Aston Villa, the perspective shifts, through it doesn’t narrow. Nothing from today’s match helps focus on the now.

Instead, it’s a wide, sorrowful view that sees a home point from the league’s 15th place side as a cause for relief. And describing Villa as a 15th place side is the most flattering way you can describe Alex McLeish’s team, at this point. They’re not good, and as such, don’t expect LFC supporters to take much solace from this result. At least it’s not a loss will be the refrain.

That won’t console for long. We’re now one week away from Liverpool’s Merseyside Derby at Wembley in the FA Cup semifinals, a must-win match in the hearts of supporters who, after Saturday, can ask “If we need a late goal to draw Villa at home, are we going to be able to get past Everton?”

Liverpool has one more match to find something: Tuesday at Blackburn. Unfortunately, these are just the types of matches where the Reds have stumbled – matches where they have to impose instead of react. Based on what we saw today, dropping points at Ewood almost has to be expected.

Elsewhere in the Premier League

All results: Sunderland 0-0 Tottenham; Chelsea 2-1 Wigan; Liverpool 1-1 Aston Villa; Norwich City 2-2 Everton; Bolton 0-3 Fulham; West Brom 3-0 Blackburn; Stoke City 2-1 Wolverhampton.

Stuff that stuck out:

  • Chelsea moves back into fifth and are now only three points behind Spurs. If Arsenal fall to Manchester City tomorrow, the Blues will be two back of a Champions League spot. Unfortunately, Newcastle’s staying right with them (and are in two fewer competitions). They could beat out Arsenal or Tottenham and still end up in Europa.
  • Two goals from Nikica Jelavic have me convinced I was wrong. Bought from Rangers at the end of the winter transfer window, I thought he was a reach – especially for the €6.6 million that’s hard to come by at Goodison. He had a good goal return in Scotland, but I put no stock in it. To the eye, he seemed little better than other options. He’s now up to five goals in 10 matches with the Toffees, and while that may be nothing but a decent start, it’s enough to convince me I’d judged too harshly.
  • Clint Dempsey’s double (in Fulham’s 3-0 win at Bolton) could have led this post, but his goalscoring exploits have become so common that we no longer have to break out the confetti to celebrate his exploits. The guy is fifth in the league in goals, behind only van Persie, Rooney, Aguero and Ba. It’s an amazing status commensurate with a year so successful that “Clint Dempsey scores!” is no longer the story. Instead, it’s “Clint Dempsey scored again.” A more subdued message? Sure, but at this point, it’s also more meaningful.
  • Here’s that full goalscorers list:
Player Club Goals
van Persie, Robin Arsenal 26
Rooney, Wayne Manchester United 21
Aguero, Sergio Manchester City 17
Ba, Demba Newcastle 16
Dempsey, Clint Fulham 15
Ayegbeni, Yakubu Blackburn 14
Adebayor, Emmanuel Tottenham 13
Balotelli, Mario Manchester City 13
Dzeko, Edin Manchester City 13
Holt, Grant Norwich City 13

Up next: Manchester United’s at QPR tomorrow ahead of Manchester City’s visit to Arsenal.

Premier League Preview: Middlesbrough vs. Hull City

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  • Teams have only met twice in PL before
  • Boro have 6 draws from 13 games
  • Hull have won just once in last 11 PL games

Middlesbrough host Hull City at the Riverside Stadium on Monday (Watch live, 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com) in what can already be described as a six-pointer in the Premier League between two newly-promoted teams.

WATCH LIVE ONLINE HERE

Boro has won just once at home in the Premier League this season and sits on 12 points, while Hull has only won once on the road and Mike Phelan‘s side has just one victory in their last 11 games as the Tigers sit in the relegation zone on 11 points.

In team news Hull’s Sam Clucas and Ryan Mason are available but Abel Hernandez and Shaun Maloney are both struggling with injuries and striker Dieumerci Mbokani is suspended. As for Boro, Daniel Ayala could return but George Friend is still out.

What they’re saying

Aitor Karanka on Boro’s bad luck: “I think for example against Stoke we could have won and against Watford and Crystal Palace we didn’t deserve to lose. But the truth is we have 12 points and one day we will not deserve to win and we will win. When you have been working in the Championship for two and a half years and know how tough every single game is, having the opportunity to work against the best teams in the world is amazing, but we know we have to improve every single day.”

Hull boss Phelan on the story so far: “We can talk about spirit and determination but we can apply that by taking the games on and getting in front. That still requires the same sort of detail but you can see the players are grafting. They are learning and observing things. It’s possibly taken us this far to understand where we’re at and what league we’re in.”

Prediction

This will be a tight encounter and it may not be pretty. Both teams need the points to drag themselves away from an increasingly congested relegation battle. 1-o to ‘Boro.

Blatter loses appeal against six-year ban

ZURICH, SWITZERLAND - JULY 20: Comedian Simon Brodkin (not pictured) throws cash at FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter during a press conference at the Extraordinary FIFA Executive Committee Meeting at the FIFA headquarters on July 20, 2015 in Zurich, Switzerland. (Photo by Philipp Schmidli/Getty Images)
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Sepp Blatter should get the message this time.

[ MORE: Zlatan defends kick ]

It was announced on Monday that the former president of FIFA from 1998 until 2015 has lost his appeal with the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) over a six-year ban from all soccer related activity.

After being found guilty of making an illegal payment of $1.65 million to the former head of UEFA, and close friend, Michel Platini, in 2011, the Swiss official has already had his initial eight-year ban reduced to six and Platini had his eight-year ban reduced to four years.

However, Blatter has reached the end game and at the age of 80, it is unlikely he will ever hold any position in world soccer ever again.

Plus, Blatter has the small matter of still being investigated by the Swiss authorities who are looking into FIFA’s records, and the FBI continues to arrest and charge officials within world soccer’s governing body due to allegations of widespread corruption over the past two decades.

Things could get much worse than a six-year ban for Blatter.

In a statement released by CAS, they revealed why Blatter’s appealed had been turned down:

“The appeal of Joseph S. Blatter has been dismissed. As a consequence, the decision rendered by the FIFA Appeal Committee (FIFA AC) on 16 February 2016 remains in force and Mr Blatter remains banned from taking part in any football-related activity at national and international level for six years as from 8 October 2015 and must pay a fine of 50,000 Swiss francs.

“By approving a payment of £1.3m to Mr Platini in 2011 for the balance of work carried out under the alleged oral agreement, Mr Blatter breached the FIFA Code of Ethics since the payment amounted to an undue gift as it had no contractual basis.

“The Panel further found that Mr Blatter unlawfully awarded contributions to Mr Platini under the FIFA Executive Committee retirement scheme which also amounted to an undue gift.”

Aguero banned four games, Fernandinho gets three

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The English FA have confirmed that Manchester City duo Sergio Aguero and Fernandinho will be banned for four and three games respectively after being sent off late in the 3-1 defeat against Chelsea last weekend.

[ MORE: 3 things we learned ]

Aguero, 28, lunged in on David Luiz and was shown a straight red card for the tackle (if you can even call it that) and Fernandinho, 31, was sent off in the ensuing melee as he pushed Cesc Fabregas repeatedly and grabbed him around the throat.

In the case of Aguero, he would have already been banned for three games but his punishment has been extended by an extra game due to his suspended three-game ban which he received for elbowing West Ham’s Winston Reid back in August.

As for Fernandinho, he has been handed the standard three-game ban for being sent off for violent conduct.

Pep Guardiola‘s City ended the game with nine-men against Chelsea and looked frustrated after blowing a 1-0 half time lead as they lost 3-1 against the Premier League leaders.

Without Aguero and Fernandinho, their upcoming games against Leicester, Watford and Arsenal are now looking very difficult, plus Nicolas Otamendi will be unavailable against Leicester this Saturday (Watch live, 12:30 p.m. ET on NBC and online via NBCSports.com) due to picking up his fifth yellow card of the season.

With regards to the melee at the end of Chelsea’s win at City, it is expected the FA may fine both teams for their actions and Fabregas could also be implicated as some camera angles appeared to show him striking Fernandinho in the face first.

Let’s wait and see.

As for City, injuries and suspension are adding up and they’re now four points behind leaders Chelsea, plus they’ll have to do without their leading score Aguero who has 10 of their 30 goals in the Premier League.

A chance has now arrived for City’s only other central striker as 20-year-old Kelechi Iheanacho will likely be given the opportunity to lead the line, or if not Nolito or Kevin De Bruyne may operate as the highest player in a false nine formation.

Ibrahimovic denies deliberately kicking Coleman in the head

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 04:  Zlatan Ibrahimovic of Manchester United tangles with Seamus Coleman of Everton as they battle for the ball during the Premier League match between Everton and Manchester United at Goodison Park on December 4, 2016 in Liverpool, England.  (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)
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Zlatan Ibrahimovic was involved in an incident in the second half of Manchester United’s 1-1 draw at Everton on Sunday which have raised a few eyebrows.

[ VIDEO: Rojo red card? ]

As Zlatan and Everton defender Seamus Coleman tussled for the ball, the duo fell down and the Manchester United striker eventually fell on top of Coleman.

However, as he went to get up he kicked Coleman in the head and the Toffees’ right back was later subbed out with an apparent head injury.

Speaking to MUTV after the game, Ibrahimovic was asked about the incident.

The response of the 35-year-old striker — who scored once again for the Red Devils to take his tally this season to 12 — to the incident was not exactly the perfect PR answer…

“It was a physical game, they played hard,” Ibrahimovic explained. “I heard one of the commentators say I kicked someone in the head on purpose, but it was a 50/50 duel and he pulled me down. Trust me if I want to kick someone in the head, I know how to kick someone in the head and make him fall asleep. That is the only thing I have to say.”

It is unlikely that Zlatan will be facing any further action from the FA for the kick out but I look at that incident and say he was lucky to escape with a petulant act. He knew where Coleman was and took a chance on leaving his boot in and letting the Everton defender know he was there.

Sure, it may have been accidental but anybody who has played the game knows you can get away with certain things and when a master of the “dark arts” such as Zlatan is involved, I find it tough to believe he didn’t know what he was doing.

It was unnecessary from Zlatan and the act seemed to steam from the frustration of playing up top on his own against a bruising Everton defense.