Stoke City v Aston Villa - Premier League

England’s relegation battle: What changed on Saturday

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Barring two highly improbable runs (and help from almost everybody around them), Reading and Queens Park Rangers are going to be relegated. Each sit on 23 points, eight points adrift with just over a month left in the Premier League season. If they recover, the story will be their miraculous turnarounds, not our assumptions it won’t happen.

That leaves six teams trying to avoid the last relegation spot: Norwich City, Stoke City, Newcastle United, Aston Villa, Sunderland, and Wigan.

Aston Villa came into the day in 18th, but after two late goals at the Britannia, the relegation battle’s in flux. And with the continued disappointing results of Stoke and Norwich, the picture’s becoming even more cluttered.

Here’s where the teams stand after Saturday’s results.

(MORE: Rosicky revitalized with brace at West Brom)

Relegation battle – England

Pos. Club GP Pts.
13 Norwich City 32 35
14 Stoke City 32 34
15 Newcastle United 31 33
16 Aston Villa 32 33
17 Sunderland 31 31
18 Wigan Athletic 30 30
  • Aston Villa increase pressure on Wigan, Sunderland

Of course it’s three huge points. When you start the day in 18th, any points are, and with Saturday’s 3-1 win at Stoke City, Aston Villa have climbed all the way to 16th, a status that could be temporary.

Thanks to that result, Wigan now need a Sunday win at QPR to return to safety. Sunderland need to spring an upset at Stamford Bridge to guarantee they’ll stay above the drop.

Wigan do have a game in hand, but even if Roberto Martínez’s men are able to climb on Sunday, Villa’s win should sound an alarm. Having floundered for most of the season, Aston Villa now seem capable of getting a few surprise results. While Stoke’s quality is in question, Paul Lambert’s side showed an admirable resiliency in finding two late raod goals.

The team that joins Reading and QPR in the Championship will be the one that flounders most. If Villa prove as resilient over these next six weeks, somebody else will volunteer to go down.

Right now that looks like Sunderland. It could be Wigan. Maybe Stoke will supplant them both. But based on what we say on Saturday, it probably won’t be Villa.

  • Reading, Southampton’s fates sealed

source: Getty ImagesWhat a bitter day for Nigel Adkins. The new coach at Reading saw Mauricio Pochettino guide his former club to their third straight win and 11th place. That spot in the table makes it highly unlikely every team between them and 18th will out-play them over the season’s last six rounds.

Most galling to Adkins will be the ease with which Saints got their win. In a must win game at home, Reading offered little. Adam Le Fondre had a chance to put them up early, after which Southampton controlled the game, with basic passing around an ineffectual midfield maintaining their hold on the match.

Reading are last place with 23 points through 32 rounds. Seven points back of Wigan, they’d need an unprecedented comeback to survive. Unfortunately, they showed no sign they’re capable of turning things around.

  • Stoke City, Norwich City making things too interesting

source: Getty ImagesNorwich City may be five points clear, but after today’s 2-2 draw at home with Swansea City, the Canaries have two major problems. First and most important, they’re not getting results, winless in five while being out-scored 8-3. Second, their goal difference is terrible. At -19, they’re unlikely to win a tiebreaker against anybody but Aston Villa. Their only saving grace right now is their run-in, a schedule that features visits from Reading, Villa, and West Brom.

Stoke’s in a similar situation. Although they don’t have Norwich’s goal difference issue, they’re only four points clear after a season where relegation was a blur in the rearview. They’re winless in six and have only one league win since December. They’ve been hel scoreless three times in their last five matches and have scored a league-low 28 goals.

Both Stoke and Norwich have played so poorly that their previously comatose relegation worries have been awakened and emboldened. Having allowed themselves to be pulled into this fight, there now needs to be a sense of urgency, the type of intensity we’ve seen from Southampton, Aston Villa, and Wigan.

Stoke doesn’t have that. Neither does Norwich. Their only saving grace may be Sunderland, an even more inept squad that sits lower in the table.

But all it takes is one Black Cats result to pull Stoke in. And the Canaries would be right there, too. Neither side can afford to take anything for granted.

Barcelona signs striker Paco Alcacer

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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) Barcelona says it has signed striker Paco Alcacer for five seasons after securing his transfer from rival Spanish club Valencia.

[ MORE: Latest transfer news ]

Alcacer, who turns 23 on Tuesday, joins an already daunting attack of Lionel Messi, Lius Suarez, and Neymar.

Barcelona says it is paying 30 million euros ($33.5 million), plus a possible two million euros ($2.2 million) more in variables, to Valencia.

[ MORE: Wilshere to leave Arsenal? ]  

The Liga champions also say they are loaning forward Munir El Haddadi to Valencia, which will have the option to buy his rights next summer for 12 million euros.

Alcacer scored 43 goals in the last three seasons at Valencia.

Done Deals: Perez to Arsenal, Remy joins Palace, Marshall to Hull

MADRID, SPAIN - SEPTEMBER 14:  Lucas Perez of RC Deportivo la Coruna reacts during the La Liga match between Rayo Vallecano and RC Deportivo La Coruna at Estadio Teresa Rivero on September 14, 2015 in Madrid, Spain.  (Photo by Denis Doyle/Getty Images)
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It has been a busy Transfer Deadline Day eve in the Premier League.

[ MORE: Wilshere to leave Arsenal? ]

Below is a look at three deals which have already been confirmed.

And don’t forget, the summer transfer window shuts at 6 p.m. ET on Wednesday so stay up to date with all the latest transfer news right here.


Arsenal have completed the signing of Lucas Perez from Deportivo La Coruna.

Perez, 27, was on fire for Deportivo last season, scoring 17 goals and adding eight assists in 36 games. The Spanish striker has had a nomadic career to date but after his breakout season in La Liga, he has now sealed a move to the Gunners for a fee believed to be close to $23 million.

Able to play as a central striker or out wide, Perez will give Arsene Wenger plenty of attacking options as the Spanish international arrives at the Emirates. Not quite the wow factor Gunners fans had been hoping for but still a player who can contribute goals and push Olivier Giroud all the way for the starting spot up top.


French international striker Loic Remy has landed at Selhurst Park.

Remy, 29, has joined the Eagles on a season-long loan deal from Chelsea and is reunited with Alan Pardew who he worked with at Newcastle United.

The former QPR striker has found life pretty tough at Chelsea, making just 47 appearances over the last two seasons in all competitions but he did score 12 goals in that time. Pardew managed to get the best out of Remy at Newcastle, with the former Marseille forward scoring 14 goals in 26 Premier League appearances during the 2013-14 campaign.

Now Remy will line up alongside Christian Benteke in a completely revamped Palace attack and all of a sudden the Eagles look much more capable of scoring goals. What a partnership Benteke and Remy could be in south London.


Goalkeeper David Marshall has joined Hull City from Cardiff City for a fee believed to be in the region of $6.5 million.

Marshall, 31, is a Scottish international and has previously played in the PL with Cardiff during the 2013-14 season. Now he is returning to the top-flight with the Tigers, as caretaker boss Mike Phelan makes him Marshall his first significant signing of the summer as the club continues to finalize a takeover from Chinese investors.

He is likely to be the first-choice goalkeeper at Hull although Allan McGregor will push him all the way when he returns from injury and Eldin Jakupovic has certainly not let anyone down after Hull surprisingly won two of its first three PL games this season after securing promotion from the Championship.

Hull is expected to also add Ryan Mason from Tottenham Hotspur in the coming hours.

VIDEO: Hope Solo launches furious rant after being handed suspension

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Hope Solo did not take her six-month suspension from the U.S. women’s national team well.

[ MORE: Wilshere to leave Arsenal?

Solo, 35, was suspended by U.S. Soccer on Aug. 24 and also had her contract terminated with immediate effect after calling Sweden’s national team “cowards” following their quarterfinal win over the USWNT at Rio 2016.

After finding out about her suspension in person in Seattle from USWNT head coach Jill Ellis and Dan Flynn of U.S. Soccer, Solo launched an furious, expletive laden tirade which was caught on camera by a Fullscreen documentary “Keeping Score” which has been following her and other members of the U.S. women’s national team around. The full video will be released soon.

“Six month suspension no pay, terminated contract effective immediately,” Solo said. “17 f***ing years and it’s over!”

She was consoled by her husband Jerramy Stevens in the video clip.

Here is the video of Solo’s initial reaction.

Wayne Rooney to retire from England after 2018 World Cup

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Wayne Rooney will not play again for England after the 2018 World Cup in Russia.

[ MORE: Wilshere to leave Arsenal? ]

Speaking ahead of England’s opening 2018 World Cup qualifier against Slovakia this Sunday, Rooney confirmed the next World Cup will be his last major tournament with England.

Rooney, 30, is the all-time leading goalscorer for England with 53 goals and he has once again been named captain of the English national team under new manager Sam Allardyce.

The Manchester United skipper spoke to reporters at England’s training HQ at St. George’s Park and confirmed his plans to retire from international duty in 2018.

“I know myself that Russia will be my last opportunity to do anything with England. I am going to try and enjoy these two years and then hopefully I can end my time playing for England on a high,” Rooney said. “I am not old. I am 30 years of age. Come Russia I feel like that will be the time for me to say goodbye to international football. My mind is made up. It’s down to Sam Allardyce again, in terms of the next two years, but that will be my last tournament if selected. I will have enjoyed some highs, some lows but I am an immensely proud man.”

Rooney first played for England as a 17-year-old in 2003 and over the last 13 years he has played six major tournaments for the Three Lions, captaining them since 2014 when Steven Gerrard retired from international duty.

So often criticized, especially in recent months after being dropped into a deeper midfield role by Hodgson for England and Louis Van Gaal at his club, Rooney is still the talisman for England. He will become the all-time leading appearance holder for an outfield player when he next plays for England, surpassing David Beckham’s record of 115 caps. The former Everton striker is only 11 appearances away from equaling legendary goalkeeper Peter Shilton’s record of 125 appearances.

When all is said and done, despite disappointments at major tournaments (the kick at Ronaldo at the 2006 World Cup and the rant at England’s fans at the 2010 World Cup stick out) Rooney will go down as one of the greatest, if not the greatest, players to ever play for England.

His legacy will remain intact no matter what happens between now and the end of the road in the summer of 2018.