Your quick, neophyte viewer’s guide to Premier League Saturdays

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The Premier League makes its debut on NBC Sports in a little over three weeks, giving fans in the United States an unprecedented amount of access to games from the world’s most popular soccer league.  For sports addicts, however, that can be a dangerous thing, with early kickoffs allowing fans to roll out of bed and straight into the peak of another country’s soccer weekend.

There’s a sublime pleasure to starting your sports weekend before people in your life have even considered coffee, but it can also be the start to a full day in your pajamas, with soccer bleeding into college and pro football, bleeding into fall evenings of basketball and hockey. Kiss your wife on the cheek, say goodbye to your children, and get used to ignoring their agape mouths when they comeback from Ice Age 12 to see you’re still on the couch. You’ll be sympathetic at first, but soon you’ll be tired of apologizing for incorporating the Premier League into your weekend ritual.

Don’t worry. We’re here to help. No, we’re not going to help you find a balance. All that’s over. We’re here to help you get the most out of your Premier League weekends; specifically, those Saturday mornings where the league’s early kick offs will really test your commitment.

Heed the following:

DON’T UNDERESTIMATE THAT EARLY KICKOFF

That 7:00 a.m. Eastern start is daunting. That’s what time most Premier League weekends will begin each Saturday, usually with a game that’s worth your time (Aug. 17th’s features Liverpool). While that commitment may seem imposing, there is something mundane about two hours you’ll spent on the quiet of morning watching soccer before the life around you stirs.

But don’t underestimate that commitment. With most big college football games kicking off in the early afternoon (at the earliest), we’re talking about moving your day’s new kickoff up five or six hours – the perfect amount of time to take in the Premier League Saturday before transitioning to your other favorite sports.

If you’re an alarm clock person Monday through Friday, you’ll want extend that routine an extra day. If you’re not an alarm clock person, you might consider the investment.

PREGAME IS NOW PART OF THE PACKAGE

For those familiar that routine, the days of waking up to the teams’ handshakes are over. Early games on NBC Sports Network will be preceded by Premier League Live – a 45-minute pregame show that will lead in each day’s matches. While most early games are going to kickoff closer to 7:45 a.m. Eastern, your weekend starts at the top of the hour.

KEEP SUPPLIES ON HAND

If you need your coffee, have it on the shelf Friday before you go to bed, and if you’re somebody that needs to snack on something through the games, make sure the Captain Crunch is in supply before kickoff. Once the games start, you’re not going to want to venture far from your screen. With Saturdays typically featuring three successive kickoff times (7:45 a.m., 10:00 a.m., 12:30 p.m. Eastern), you’re either going to remember to stock up or become famous at the local pizzeria for being the person who calls at 11:00 a.m. on the nose.

HAVE YOUR LAPTOP, MOBILE DEVICE HANDY

If you get NBCSN at home, you also have access to NBC Sports Live Extra, where games will be streamed live to your desktop, mobile device, or tablet. If somebody’s monopolizing the televisions in your house, you’ll still have a way to catch games, and if you’re lucky enough to have your set tuned to NBC or NBC Sports Network, your laptop or tablet becomes a great way to check for stats and updates at NBCSports.com or keep track of the conversation at ProSoccerTalk.

But don’t underestimate the power of soccer and social media. Twitter, in particular, has a dense and ardent soccer community. For U.S.-based fans often watching in that morning’s peace, Twitter becomes a great way to connect (and complain) with others.

THOSE COMPUTERS WILL COME IN HANDY AT 10 A.M. EASTERN

Enjoy that 7:45 a.m. game and the luxury of watching one game at a time, because the next kickoff time (10:00 a.m.) will feel like watching the early NFL kickoffs. On a typical Saturday, you’ll get five or six games starting at the same time, leaving you monitoring NBCSports.com to keep track of the latest goals, cards, and controversies.

So keep that laptop or tablet handy, because whatever games aren’t available on NBC Sports Network, you’ll be able to stream via NBC Sports Live Extra. If your game looks like it’s over, you can jump to another spot in the league to see England’s evening games wind down.

SWITCH TO NBC FOR THE MAIN EVENT

Most Saturdays, the day’s final match will be featured on NBC – big, national broadcast, over-air NBC. On the season’s first weekend, that means defending champions Manchester United will kickoff at 12:30 p.m. Eastern against Swansea City. In the weeks that follow, Everton-Chelsea, Swansea-Arsenal, Arsenal-Liverpool, and Manchester City-Tottenham will get that regular, prime spot on NBC.

AND BACK TO NBC SPORTS NETWORK FOR THE POSTGAME SHOW

After each day’s matches, Premier League Live will wrap up the action from NBC’s International Broadcast Center in Stamford, Conn., part of the over 600 hours of studio programming set to augment the network’s live coverage. That total includes Match of the Day – a two-hour highlights show modeled after the BBC program of the same name, set to air after Saturdays’ games.

RECHARGE, RESET

Premier League addicts are going to get a full Saturday worth of programming, every Saturday. And for those who will incorporate Premier League soccer into their existing rituals, NBC’s offering a full day’s worth of action to fill that morning void before you favorite sports start.

But regardless of how much you take in, there’s always Sunday, were the league typically allocates two high profile games. And in the soccer world, Monday Night football’s also a thing.

And no matter who much Premier League you take in each weekends, Saturdays take a little getting used to. As well as some preparation.

Foul or flop? Player “headbutts” referee, is sent off

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Well, there must be something in the water down in Brasilia, because things got a little weird this evening.

Flamengo drew with Vasco da Gama 2-2, but that was just the start.

In the 54th minute, with Vasco da Gama leading 1-0 at Estadio Nacional Mané Garrincha, 36-year-old Luis Fabiano was sent off for “headbutting” the referee. Headbutting is in quotes because looking at the video, it certainly appears there was little to no contact, and the referee flops.

Yes, the referee flopped. Take a look:

To be fair, Fabiano was already on a yellow, so getting in the referee’s face even without the headbutt/pelvic thrust would likely still have seen him sent to an early shower.

So the former Porto and Sevilla man was sent off, and Vasco da Gama was down to 10 men. Immediately after the red card, Flamengo took advantage, powering in a pair of goals via Willian Arao and Orlando Berrio to take the lead 2-1. But Vasco wouldn’t quit, and they earned a penalty five minutes into stoppage time, which Nene buried for the 2-2 draw.

To top things off, a player named Yago Pikachu scored the opener for Vasco da Gama, which was followed by a delay in the game seven minutes later after a power surge in the stadium. Go figure.

Lletget diagnosed with foot sprain, escaping further damage

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Word has arrived from the LA Galaxy camp that will see USMNT fans feel relieved as Sebastian Lletget has escaped the news many feared.

The young attacker was impressive in the first 18 minutes of the United States’ 6-0 win over Honduras, but was injured minutes after scoring the opening goal and could not continue. Replays showed that Lletget got his foot caught underneath a defender in the process of a hard challenge on the right wing.

There was concern that Lletget would be out for a significant amount of time, but the Galaxy announced that after testing over the weekend, Lletget did not suffer any structural damage and was diagnosed with a left foot sprain.

[ MORE: USMNT adds Paul Arreola to roster, drops Lletget, Brooks, Morris ]

Lletget will visit a specialist on Monday to determine a plan for recovery, and it’s possible that he will still have to miss some time in the near future. The Galaxy visit Vancouver on Saturday, and his status for that match has to be considered up in the air. They then host Montreal on April 7.

While Lletget obviously misses out on the next USMNT game at Panama on Tuesday having already been dumped from the roster, he will most definitely be available for the June games against Trinidad & Tobago and Mexico, and will likely be an option for Bruce Arena given the manager’s history with Lletget at Los Angeles.

The United States have been struck with a collection of injuries that all occurred just before the international break, hampering the squad significantly. Bobby Wood, Jordan Morris, and Fabian Johnson all went down in the days before reporting for international duty, and the team lost Lletget and John Brooks in the Honduras win. Lletget’s departure could see Alejandro Bedoya into the starting lineup on Tuesday, with the Union midfielder having replaced Lletget in the Honduras match. Also in contention is Jermaine Jones, who could come in after his suspension and push Darlington Nagbe onto the wing.

Southgate can see Defoe in England squad long-term

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Gareth Southgate praised Jermain Defoe after his contributions to England’s 2-0 win over Lithuania on Sunday, but accidentally put a condition on his position in the squad.

The 34-year-old scored the opening goal and contributed heavily to the buildup of Jamie Vardy‘s score, and Southgate was happy that his decision to play an in-form striker paid off.

“If he scores like he is in the Premier League, there’s no reason why he wouldn’t be,” Southgate said. “We’re never able to pick a full cohort, so it’s important we can call upon the likes of Jermain and he can have the impact like he did today.

“I think we’ve got to look every time we get together as to who is in form. I don’t know if we can have a distinct pecking order because players who are playing well deserve the opportunity. If we are going to be successful, we have to have that competition for places. The reality is we will always lose players to injury.”

[ MORE: Defoe walks out Bradley Lowery before England game ]

A reporter asked him to clarify why he specified that Defoe should be scoring in the Premier League, and with his club Sunderland under heavy threat of relegation, Southgate admitted he let one slip.

“I walked into that,” Southgate said. “I guess the ideal world for all our players is they are playing regularly at a high level. The flip-side is we don’t have a huge pool of players to pick from.  We have to balance off a few different things. I can’t constrain myself on selection entirely, but I know ideally what I’d like to have. His performances and his goalscoring form this season have counted for him.”

Defoe has 14 goals in 28 Premier League appearances for Sunderland this season, but he’s proved the Black Cats’ only threat as they sit bottom of the league table with 20 points. Defoe has become the center of opposition game plans, and as a result he’s slowed down, with just two goals in his last seven games, and the club has little else to pick up the slack.

Still, at 34 years old, many wonder how much longer Defoe can contribute, and if he’ll be a viable option for next year’s World Cup.

Group F gets messy as Slovakia and Scotland grab wins

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England is in control at the top of Group F, but below them things are beginning to get complicated.

Despite the absence of Marek Hamsik due to a last-minute injury, Slovakia defeated Malta 3-1. They took the lead just 97 seconds in as Vladimir Weiss put the visitors in front with a beautiful curling strike from outside the box. Malta struck back through domestic striker Jean Paul Farrugia in the 14th minute, but that was all Malta could muster.

Slovakia would go ahead just before halftime as FC Copenhagen midfielder Jan Gregus put them in front in the 41st minute. The speculative shot from Gregus came from a great distance out, and as it skipped across the ground, it appeared Malta goalkeeper Andrew Hogg saw it late, as his dive was poor and it skipped off his hands and in.

Both teams ended with 10 men on the field, as Farrugia was sent off with 16 minutes to go for a second yellow, and Adam Nemec saw the same fate in injury time, but before he was sent off, Nemec was there to kill the game off in the 84th minute.

That put Slovakia up to nine points, and it moved them into second place thanks to late drama in Glasgow. Chris Martin gave Scotland all three points with an 88th minute strike as the home side won 1-0 over Slovenia, who dropped from second to third with the loss. The Fulham striker got a beautiful feed through the back line from Stuart Armstrong, and while his shot wasn’t terribly accurate, it was enough to win the game as Slovenia goalkeeper Matus Kozacik gave it a poor effort.

The win for Scotland pulls them above Lithuania and into fourth, a point back of Slovenia in third.