In the final installment of ProSoccerTalk’s Premier League Narratives for Matchweek 31 we examine the last three matches on the slate: Everton v. Stoke City, Aston Villa v. Liverpool and Fulham v. Queens Park Rangers.
EVERTON v. STOKE CITY (Goodison Park, Sat 1:30pm ET)
After soundly defeating Manchester City 2-0 in Matchweek 30, Everton looks to continue its push for European football against an out-of-form Stoke side that has lost three of its last four matches. Tony Pulis will have a full squad available for the clash at Goodison Park while David Moyes’ lack of depth could be exposed as both Steven Pienaar (red card) and Marouane Fellaini (card accumulation) are unavailable for selection.
The wheels look to be coming off at Stoke. Expect Kevin Mirallas (pictured) and Everton to capitalize.
ASTON VILLA v. LIVERPOOL (Villa Park, Sun 8:30am ET)
When these two sides met last December Aston Villa emerged from their slumber to inflict the Reds’ worst home defeat (3-1) for more than three years. Now Paul Lambert’s side must repeat the feat as only three points separates the Villains from an up-start Wigan side looking to break out of the relegation zone. For Liverpool, the fixture is a must-win if the Reds have any intent on realizing its European dreams.
Should be an absolute cracker of a match with goals galore. In the end, I think Liverpool gets its revenge.
FULHAM v. QUEENS PARK RANGERS (Craven Cottage, Mon 3:00pm ET)
With 8 matches remaining Queens Park Rangers sits at the bottom of the table, seven points from safety. It will take a mammoth effort from Harry Redknapp’s men if they are to make a great escape but the R’s gaffer remains upbeat about his side’s chances claiming they still have four or five wins in them. Fulham should consider that a warning shot. Sitting comfortably at 10th in the table on 36 points, the Cottagers have effectively ensured survival and will be keen on preserving a four match unbeaten run.
A very unassuming Monday night encounter but I bet this entertains as the sides share the spoils.
PRAGUE (AP) Former Czech Republic defender Frantisek Rajtoral, who won the domestic league title four times before joining Turkish club Gaziantepspor, died on Sunday. He was 31.
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The Czech football federation said in a statement that Rajtoral had “committed suicide in Turkey.”
His agent Pavel Zika confirmed the player’s death, describing it as a “huge tragedy.”
Gaziantepspor announced Rajtoral’s death in a brief statement on its website.
Rajtoral played 14 international matches for the Czech Republic.
In the top Czech league, he won four titles with Viktoria Plzen and played in the group stage of the Champions League twice for the club. He moved to Hannover in the Bundesliga in 2014 for half of the season, on loan.
He left Viktoria Plzen last year to move to Turkey.
Arsene Wenger has made it clear about Hector Bellerin representing Spain this summer but the Arsenal defender is prepared to go against his manager’s wishes if he is selected.
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The 22-year-old has said he hopes to play for Spain’s Under-21 side this summer during the 2017 European U-21 Championship but Wenger has been weary of Bellerin’s injury status and wants his fullback to maintain a clean bill of health throughout the offseason.
“I really want to play,” Bellerin told IBTimes. “Representing Spain is very important. If [Albert] Celades gives me the chance I’ll be there.
“Those are opinions of the managers. I have to keep working. The truth is that I had a difficult injury but I think that I am at 100% now and I’ll try to prove it when I get the chance.”
Bellerin signed a six-and-a-half year deal with the Gunners in November, where he has resided since coming up in the club’s academy. He has made 102 appearances for Wenger’s team in that span over all competitions.
PESCARA, Italy (AP) Roma boosted its bid for second place in Serie A and automatic entry into the Champions League with a 4-1 win at Pescara, which was mathematically relegated on Monday.
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Roma moved four points clear of third-placed Napoli, which drew against Sassuolo 2-2 on Sunday. Third place in Serie A receives a Champions League playoff.
Pescara remained 15 points behind Empoli. There are only five matches left and Empoli has the better head-to-head record, which is the deciding factor if two teams finish level on points.
There were 48 goals in total in the 33rd round, matching the record set in October 1992.
Roma took control shortly before halftime, with Kevin Strootman breaking the deadlock after Stephan El Shaarawy unselfishly rolled the ball across the area.
Radja Nainggolan, who earlier hit the bar, doubled Roma’s lead two minutes later.
Mohamed Salah extended Roma’s advantage three minutes after the break and the winger doubled his tally on the hour following a swift counterattack.
Ahmad Benali got a consolation for Pescara and a Cristiano Biraghi free kick also hit the post for the home side.
The timing is a bit sudden and certainly leaves many questions up in the air, but Phoenix Rising will have to look for a new manager.
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On Monday, head coach Frank Yallop resigned from his position with the United Soccer League (USL) club less than one day after former Chelsea legend Didier Drogba joined the organization as a player-owner.
With Phoenix seen as one of several lower-level clubs with ambitions of making the leap to MLS over the coming seasons, Yallop’s departure is surely a shock to many.
According to ESPN FC, Rising lead owner Berke Bakay was quite surprised by Yallop’s decision to step down, as was Drogba.
“Didier was as surprised and disappointed as we were that Frank is unable to continue coaching our Club,” Bakay told ESPN FC. “But, we all respect his decision to put his family first.
“Didier’s focus will remain on improving our team as a player and assisting our MLS expansion team ownership group as a co-owner. Frank will be helping with our international search for a new head coach.”
Rick Schantz, the current Rising assistant coach, will head the team’s managerial duties for the interim while the club completes a full search for a new manager.