File photo of Liverpool's Luis Suarez reacting at their English Premier League soccer match against Reading in Reading

Suarez accepts 10 match ban as his Premiership future hangs by a thread

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Luis Suarez has accepted the FA’s 10-match ban after deciding not to appeal the punishment for biting Chelsea defender Branislav Ivanovic.

Liverpool received the independent panel’s written reasoning for the length of Suarez’ suspension and had until noontime Friday to contest ruling. In deciding against doing so, the 26 year old will now miss the remaining four games of the Premier League season and the first six domestic games of next term, assuming he remains at Anfield.

The FA confirmed Suarez’ decision to accept the ban in a statement: “Liverpool forward Luis Suarez has not appealed the suspension issued to him by an independent regulatory commission this week.

“A three-person independent regulatory commission upheld the FA’s claim that a suspension of three matches was clearly insufficient and the player will now serve a further seven first-team matches in addition to the standard three.

“The suspension begins with immediate effect and applies to Liverpool FC’s next 10 domestic first-team fixtures.

“The FA intends to publicise the independent regulatory commission’s written reasons in due course.”

Liverpool’s managing director, Ian Ayre, and manager, Brendan Rodgers, have both been vociferous in noting their discontent with the FA’s decision and “the differing standards that have been applied across various previous incidents.” Nevertheless, both men claim they respect the FA and accept the decision.

Only time will tell the ultimate implications of Suarez’ ban. The striker is reportedly considering his future in the English game after the regulatory commission’s punishment is said to have left him feeling distraught. Merely one week ago the Uruguayan pledged his loyalty to the Anfield club but the events of past week mean Suarez may now be open to offers from his list of admirers, which includes Bayern Munich, Atlético Madrid and Juventus.

On Friday morning Suarez issued the following statement over Twitter: “I am truly very sorry about the incident with Branislav Ivanovic. I hope that all the people who I have offended at Anfield last Sunday will grant me forgiveness. I know that all the things that are happening to me in England will help me improve my conduct on the field. Right now I just want to focus on becoming a better footballer on and off the field.

“I would like to explain to everybody that I decided to accept the ban because whilst 10 games is clearly greater than those bans given in past cases where players have actually been seriously hurt, I acknowledge that my actions were not acceptable on the football pitch so I do not want to give the wrong impression to people by making an appeal. I really want to learn from what has happened in the last two and a half years, many things have been said and written about me, I just tried to do my best on the field. I hope to come back early to play. Luis Alberto Suarez.”

If Suarez does decide to leave England in the summer, Liverpool could be forced to accept a reduced sum for his services as the biting incident – in addition to his ban for racially abusing Patrice Evra – has left him one of world football’s biggest liabilities. What’s more, Suarez can expect that any club that decides to sign him will be sure to include strict contractual provisions outlining financial ramifications that will result from any future bans or suspensions the player may receive.

EFL Cup Final preview: Saints aim to deny Manchester United, Mourinho

LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 28:  Vincent Kompany of Manchester City and team mate Pablo Zabaleta celebrate victory with the trophy after the Capital One Cup Final match between Liverpool and Manchester City at Wembley Stadium on February 28, 2016 in London, England. Manchester City win 3-1 on penalties.  (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)
Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images
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With the Community Shield in tow, Jose Mourinho aims for his first full tournament trophy as Manchester United boss when his Red Devils meet Southampton at 11:30 a.m. EDT Sunday.

Wembley Stadium is the venue for the EFL Cup Final, a trophy United has claimed four times. The last one came in 2010, as the Red Devils clinched their third League Cup in five seasons.

[ JPW: Southampton comes full circle ]

Sunday marks Southampton’s first final since 1979, when Saints fell 3-2 to Nottingham Forest.

Saints continue to make due without Virgil Van Dijk and Charlie Austin, but newcomers Manolo Gabbiadini, Sofiane Boufal, and Martin Caceres could all feature on Friday.

Gabbiadini almost certainly will, and he’s been a difference maker for Saints since arriving from Napoli. The 25-year-old has three goals in two Premier League matches.

[ MORE: Projected lineups for EFL Cup final ] 

United will not have Henrikh Mkhitaryan back after the Armenian midfielder limped off the pitch midweek, but fellow walking wounded star Michael Carrick will be back for the Red Devils. Wayne Rooney, Ander Herrera, and Eric Bailly will be available.

The Red Devils won the FA Cup last season and the league in 2012-13. Mourinho has three League Cups from his time at Chelsea.

But Antonio Valencia says that United has to act like this is a chance for a new era. From ManUtd.com:

“We have to forget about the fact that we might have won there three, four or five times,” he added. “We have to put that to one side. This is another final, and a totally different story. We cannot afford to make one single mistake, this is a final and we cannot lose our concentration for even one minute.”

Saints will be underdogs for this one, but this trophy isn’t alien to avoiding the hands of the big boys as we’ve seen with Birmingham City, Middlesbrough, and Swansea City since the turn of the century.

Claudio Ranieri issues classy goodbye to Leicester City

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Claudio Ranieri has issued a statement on his somewhat surprising firing from Leicester City, less than 10 months after winning the Premier League title.

[ MORE: Chelsea-Swans preview ]

The Italian manager with a knack of word play pulls on the heart-strings in discussing his exit from Leicester, a club he did not plan to leave any time soon.

From the Leicester Mercury:

Yesterday my dream died.

After the euphoria of last season and being crowned Premier League champions all I dreamed of was staying with Leicester city, the club I love, for always.

Sadly, this was not to be.

He went on to thank his family, Leicester City, saving the kindest words for the Foxes’ supporters.

No one can ever take away what we together have achieved, and I hope you think about it and smile every day the way I always will.

It has been a pleasure and an honour to be a champion with all of you.

No surprise to read class from Claudio. Read the full statement here.

Premier League Preview: Chelsea vs. Swansea City

SWANSEA, WALES - SEPTEMBER 11:  Chelsea manager Antonio Conte battles to get the ball back with Cesar Apilicueta (r) from Swansea forward Modou Barrow during the Premier League match between Swansea City and Chelsea at Liberty Stadium on September 11, 2016 in Swansea, Wales.  (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)
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  • Chelsea leads all-time 14W-11D-7L
  • Sides drew 2-2 in September
  • Swans unbeaten vs Blues since Jan ’15

Premier League leaders Chelsea face a resurgent Swansea City side which has given it fits (Watch live at 10 a.m. EDT Saturday on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

The Blues have dropped points in two of their last three Premier League matches, and also have two draws and a loss to Swans in the past three match-ups.

Swansea has won three of four in Premier League play, the lone setback a 2-1 loss to Manchester City. New manager Paul Clement has led Swans from deep in the relegation zone to four points clear of the drop zone.

To succeed, Swans will have to avoid conceding often and early. According to Chelsea’s club statistician:

Conte’s players have scored the opening goal more times than any other Premier League team this season (19) and have yet to lose (16 wins, three draws).

What they’re saying

Antonio Conte on former Chelsea assistant Clement“He has had a great impact on the team. Also, with the transfer window, they reinforced the team, and we must pay great attention. If you watch their games against Liverpool, against Man City, you understand the difficulty of the game. I am sure my players understand this. They have worked very well to face them in the right way.”

Clement on staring down Chelsea“I have said to the players that yes we have put ourselves in a good position, but how hard are we willing to work to make sure we continue to improve? How much do we want to avoid suffering at the end of the season? Because unless we keep winning games and progressing up the table, we are going to find ourselves in a position where we need, say, four points from the last two games of the season.”

Prediction

Stamford Bridge will be the difference here, as Chelsea keeps it tight against Swans. 2-0.

PREVIEW: Tottenham Hotspur’s “To Dare Is To Do”

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The latest Premier League Download makes its debut on Sunday, as we dive deep into Tottenham Hotspur.

With a brand new stadium under construction and a solid look at perennial top-end pushes, Spurs are among the more intriguing stories in the Premier League.

[ MORE: JPW’s Premier League Picks ]

Spurs host Stoke City on Sunday at 8:30 a.m. EDT on NBCSN, and “Tottenham Hotspur: To Dare Is To Do” debuts at 11 a.m. EDT, right after the match.