MLS Preview: Seattle Sounders FC vs. Chicago Fire

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• The Chicago Fire is 0-4-3 all-time in Major League Soccer matches against Seattle Sounders FC, including a 0-2-1 record in the Northwest.

• The Sounders are 7-1-3 at home this season, while the Fire is 2-6-3 on the road.

• Chicago’s Joel Lindpere (Estonia) and Arévalo Ríos (Uruguay) and Seattle’s Clint Dempsey and Eddie Johnson (United States) will be on international duty. Meanwhile, Seattle’s Brad Evans and Obafemi Martins are fighting through injuries.

The upstart Seattle Sounders FC, in the quest for Major League Soccer’s Supporters’ Shield with six wins in seven games, hosts the Chicago Fire on Saturday (10 p.m. ET on NBCSN). Chicago is just two points behind the playoff field in the Eastern Conference after conceding a 90th-minute goal to the Houston Dynamo last week in a disappointing 1-1 tie.

Meanwhile, Seattle went away to Columbus last Saturday, and despite losing defender Leo González to a seventh-minute red card, the Sounders beat the Crew 1-0. Then on Wednesday, they found another narrow 1-0 win, at home over Chivas USA.

Seattle is starting to look like a team that can get a result every time it steps on the field, in stark contrast to earlier in the season, when it would seemingly alternate between dominant 4-0 and 4-2 wins over the San Jose Earthquakes and FC Dallas and 4-0 and 2-0 losses to the Los Angeles Galaxy and Real Salt Lake.

Despite Obafemi Martins missing Wednesday due to injury and Clint Dempsey and Eddie Johnson on international duty, the Sounders got a solid showing from goal-scorer Lamar Neagle (pictured). It was the Sounders’ 10th straight match unbeaten at home, a run that started after a surprising opening-day 1-0 loss to the Montreal Impact.

With its 2013 road woes, Chicago will likely find it difficult to snap the streak. The last time the Fire won on the road before Aug. 3 at Philadelphia Union was June 22 at Columbus, and those are the only two away wins on the season for Chicago.

In a long MLS season, experienced teams and coaches often put their emphasis on peaking at the right times. The Houston Dynamo made a late push into the 2012 playoffs and ended up making it to the MLS Cup final. The Los Angeles Galaxy won the competition after making it as a No. 4 seed in the West.

Both Chicago and Seattle are heating up, but one is hotter than the other. A Chicago win on Saturday would even the situation out a bit, but Seattle still has two games in hand on the first-place RSL in the West.

What they’re saying

Sounders FC head coach Sigi Schmid on what he expects out of the Fire: “They’re a team that is in desperate need for points. They want to stay in the hunt in the East. So for them, it’s a very important game. I think it’s a team that’s going to play pretty tight to the vest in terms of opening themselves up defensively. … You have to be sharp and alert and be prepared for a lot of place changing [among players].”

Prediction

Seattle is on a roll, especially at home, and Chicago is still struggling to find consistent results on the road. Even though the Sounders are missing a few national team players, Chicago will likely feel its two losses more, and Seattle has enough quality and depth to step up and beat the Fire at home.

Premier League Preview: Liverpool vs. West Ham United

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  • West Ham one loss in last 8 PL matches
  • Liverpool won 4-1 in London on Nov. 4
  • Reds lead all-time 70W-37D-28L

Liverpool can move second in the Premier League if it handles its business against West Ham United at Anfield on Saturday (Watch live at 10 a.m. ET on CNBC and online via NBCSports.com).

The Reds enter the day two points and two goals of differential behind Manchester United, and are a point ahead of fourth-placed Chelsea. The Red Devils and Blues meet on Sunday.

WATCH LIVE, ONLINE, HERE

A Mohamed Salah double led the Reds past the Irons in a London Stadium meeting earlier this season, but West Ham is a much different team under David Moyes.

Part of that is a firing Marko Arnautovic, who has seven goals and three assists in his last nine matches for West Ham.

The Irons announced the sale of Jose Fonte to Chinese Super League club Dalian Yifang on Friday.

What they’re saying

Jurgen Klopp on Liverpool’s Spanish training camp“As always with a training camp, you want the boys to be together the whole day. We are a lot together but not when we have time off so we had that time as well.  The weather was brilliant and everything was easier – if you have to do hard work, which we did there, it is easier if the weather plays in your cards and that was a change of circumstance after a long winter. ”

West Ham’s Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez on the Irons renewed season“We had our targets, but they changed. At the beginning of the season, we were aiming to qualify for European competition, but now we are fighting against relegation, but that is sport, that is football and part of life, so we need to accept it and try to be better and get out and see what’s going to happen next year. If we have all these players recovered, probably next year we are going to be fighting for a European position, you never know.”

Prediction

The Reds are hard to predict, but the lay-off between their Porto triumph in the Champions League and Saturday’s match should benefit Liverpool. 2-1 to the hosts.

Pochettino: Dembele “next to Ronaldinho, Maradona”

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Mousa Dembele‘s been appreciated as a midfielder for sometime, but the Belgian is getting as many rave reviews as any other non-scorer these days.

Tottenham’s middle man got the twice-over from his manager on Friday, as Spurs boss Mauricio Pochettino prepares for Crystal Palace.

[ MORE: Europa League draw ]

Calling Dembele a “genius,” Pochettino heaped praise on the 30-year-old.

“I’ve told you, I put him next to Ronaldinho, Maradona, Okocha – players I’ve been lucky enough to play with. For me he’s one of the unbelievable talents in the history of football.”

The temptation is to make a joke about Dembele being next to Ronaldinho and Maradona in the lobby of an awards ceremony, but the player has been dynamite for some time.

The advanced stats, for what they’re worth, aren’t incredibly kind to Dembele aside from his club-best 93 percent passing percentage and average of 2.2 successful dribbles per game. Still, it’s improbably hard to ignore the eye test, and Dembele passes that one every time.

Spurs are off to Selhurst Park for a Sunday match with Palace (Watch live at 7 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

Fonte leaves West Ham after one year (for Dalian Yifang)

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Surely it was supposed to go a bit better than this: West Ham has moved center back Jose Fonte to the Chinese Super League.

Fonte, 34, is the latest member of Dalian Yifang, the Irons announced Friday. Reports say it’s a move for about $7 million.

[ MORE: Europa League draw ]

It ends an unexceptional 12 months for the center back, who made just 24 appearances for West Ham after engineering a move away from Southampton.

Fonte was publicly criticized by West Ham’s co-owner David Sullivan earlier this season as Sullivan said his children “begged him” not to sign Fonte and Robert Snodgrass last January. Ouch.

Injured for much of this season, Fonte was one of the Saints’ heroes as the club moved from the disappointment of League One to the Europa League.

Those heroics inspired this longform piece from Joe Prince-Wright.

Premier League TV, streaming schedule

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Week 28 of the Premier League season is here and the main talking points are the battle for the top four and the ever-changing relegation situation.

MORE: Sign up for NBC Sports Gold ] 

Remember: due to the League Cup final on Sunday, finalists Arsenal will host Manchester City on Thursday, Mar. 1 as they were also scheduled to play in the PL this weekend. That worked out smoothly.

The full TV schedule for the games this weekend are below, plus you can watch every single second of every single game live online via NBC Sports.com,the NBC Sports App and by purchasing the new “Premier League Pass” via NBC Sports Gold.

Gold also includes an extensive selection of shoulder programming such as Premier League News, Premier League Today and NBC Sports originals such as Premier League Download and much more.

[ STREAM: Premier League live here ] 

You can also watch Premier League “Goal Rush” at for all the goals as they go in around the grounds. Goal Rush is available via NBC Sports.com and the NBC Sports App.

[ MORE: Premier League “Goal Rush” ] 

If you’re looking for full-event replays of Premier League games, you can find them here for the games streamed on NBCSports.com and here for the games on NBC Sports Gold.

Here’s your full TV schedule for the coming days. Enjoy.


FULL TV SCHEDULE

Saturday
7:30 a.m. ET: Leicester City vs. Stoke City – CNBC [STREAM]
10 a.m. ET: Liverpool vs. West Ham – CNBC [STREAM]
10 a.m. ET: Bournemouth vs. Newcastle United – NBC Sports Gold [STREAM]
10 a.m. ET: Brighton vs. Swansea City – NBC Sports Gold [STREAM]
10 a.m. ET: Burnley vs. Southampton – NBC Sports Gold [STREAM
10 a.m. ET: West Brom vs. Huddersfield Town – NBC Sports Gold [STREAM
12:30 p.m. ET: Watford vs. Everton – NBC [STREAM]

Sunday
7 a.m. ET: Crystal Palace vs. Tottenham Hotspur – NBCSN [STREAM]
9:05 a.m. ET: Manchester United vs. Chelsea – NBCSN [STREAM