Six Premier League clubs are in action today in matches with huge relevance at both ends of the standings. Here’s the run-down:
West Ham v Manchester United (2.45pm ET): The visitors are 15 points clear of second-placed Manchester City, so they can afford to slip up here and still cruise to the title. Not that history suggests they will: West Ham haven’t beaten United in the league since December, 2007. United knocked Sam Allardyce’s men out of the FA Cup in January, but first they needed a late equalizer from Robin van Persie to force a replay.
Van Persie scored in the first minute and it was the only goal when these teams met in the league at Old Trafford last November. Three points for West Ham would all but guarantee their Premier League survival. Their defenders, James Tomkins, Winston Reid and George McCartney are fitness doubts. United manager Sir Alex Ferguson is likely to rotate his team after Sunday’s 2-0 win over Stoke City. Rio Ferdinand (pictured) could be rested against his former club.
Manchester City v Wigan Athletic (2.45pm ET): The identities of next month’s FA Cup finalists were only revealed at the weekend, and already the fixture list has provided us with a dress-rehearsal. City are odds-on favorites for then and now, having won their past six games against Roberto Martinez’s club without even conceding a goal.
A win for City today would help cement second place, while three points for Wigan would see them move above Aston Villa on goal difference and exit the relegation zone. Wigan have no injury worries but City are likely to be without David Silva, who has a hamstring problem. Defender Micah Richards is back in contention after being sidelined since October last year with a knee injury.
Fulham v Chelsea (3pm ET): These West London clubs are only two miles apart, though the gap in size, wealth and talent is just a little bigger. Yet Chelsea haven’t beaten Fulham in the Premier League since November, 2010. The four subsequent fixtures have been draws, most recently a goalless encounter last November. Chelsea will look to rebound quickly from Sunday’s FA Cup exit to Manchester City by capitalizing on their game in hand over fifth-placed Tottenham, while Fulham are safely mid-table.
A win lifts Rafael Benitez’s side (that’s something we can’t write for much longer) above Arsenal into third. Fulham could leapfrog Swansea into ninth. For the home team, former Chelsea winger Damien Duff is out with a thigh strain and midfielder Steven Sidwell is suspended. Benitez may recall Frank Lampard and John Terry after leaving them out of the Cup tie at Wembley.
Manchester United have announced that revenue levels for the three months leading up to December 31 rose by 26.6 percent.
The Red Devils released the figures on Thursday which show revenue of $192.4 million, with commercial revenue up a massive 42.5 percent but matchday revenue was down 1.6 percent.
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The overall profit for the quarter was $26.7 million and over that period club debt fell by 6 percent but still stands at an eye-watering $463.6 million. That said, in a recent review of the finances of the top clubs on the planet Deloitte believes United will top the rich-list next season.
Despite Louis Van Gaal‘s future being questioned, United being knocked out of the UEFA Champions League at the group stage in December and being six points off the top four with just 13 games of the current Premier League season to go, the strength of their results off the pitch continue to show just how successful a business they’ve become.
Executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward told investors that: “Our solid results off the pitch help contribute to what remains our number one priority – success on the pitch.”
Woodward has also vowed to continue United’s “strong commitment to investing in our squad, youth academy.”
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Van Gaal, 64, will need a strong finish to the season on the pitch to help United to success and in turn improve those financial figures for next season. Failure to finish in the PL’s top four and qualify for the UCL will substantially impact United’s financial results next season, and the pressure remains on him and his players to claw back the deficit.
With speculation mounting that Jose Mourinho could be appointed as United’s new boss there also seems to be a surplus of cash which Rob Harris from the Associated Press speculates could be used for a new manager…
The U.S. Women got off to a flying start in Olympic qualification Group A play by torching Costa Rica 5-0, including goals from Alex Morgan, Carli Lloyd, and Crystal Dunn.
Morgan led the way with a double, including one in the opening 12 seconds – only six passes off the opening kick – that set the record for quickest goal in U.S. Soccer history. Lloyd and Dunn both struck in the opening 15 minutes to make it 3-0 before Costa Rica even had time to blink. Lloyd’s came on a penalty after Dunn was felled for the captain’s 83rd international goal, and then the latter bagged one of her own minutes later on a rebound off a shot by Morgan.
[ VIDEO: Alex Morgan caps off a 12-second, six-pass goal ]
The visitors were able to make it Morgan scored her second after the hour mark to cap the goal tally. Jill Ellis completed her trio of substitutions after the fourth goal and the U.S. saw the game out easily.
The fifth came late on a cross from Tobin Heath that fell to Christen Press in the box. With her back to the goal, the 27-year-old produced a simply stunning first touch, back-heeling the ball down before whipping around the opposite direction to lose her defender and firing home the fifth goal.
With the final whistle, the United States improved their record against Costa Rica to a perfect 13-0. The U.S. will play Mexico next on Saturday before finishing out Group A play against Puerto Rico on Monday, February 15.
The United States got off to a historically roaring start in Olympic qualifying. Taking on Costa Rica in Frisco, Texas to begin Group A play, Alex Morgan opened the scoring in just 12 seconds, taking just six passes to complete the masterpiece.
According to the USWNT twitter account, the goal is the fastest in U.S. Soccer history.
According to CONCACAF, the goal is also the quickest in CONCACAF Olympic qualifying, breaking Abby Wambach’s of 35 seconds in a 14-0 domination of the Dominican Republic in 2012.
[ WATCH LIVE: USWNT vs Costa Rica live online on NBC Sports Live Extra ]
The United States scored three goals in the first 15 minutes against Costa Rica tonight. They will take on Mexico and Puerto Rico across the next five days.
The United States women are set to begin Group A play in Olympic qualification, taking on 36th ranked Costa Rica at Toyota Stadium in Frisco, Texas at 8:30 a.m. ET.
The game takes place after a 17-day camp at the national training camp in Carson, California.
[ WATCH LIVE: USWNT vs Costa Rica live online on NBC Sports Live Extra ]
Other teams in the group include Mexico and Puerto Rico. The Mexicans dominated Puerto Rico 6-0 in the first game.
United States: Solo; Krieger, Johnston, Sauerbrunn, Klingenberg; Brian, Horan, Dunn, Lloyd, Heath; Morgan.