Premier League Preview: Sunderland vs. Manchester United

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  • Sunderland have not beaten United in the league for 22 years
  • Manchester United have won the last five games vs. the Black Cats
  • The Mackems have picked up just three points in their last 10 PL games

On Saturday afternoon at the Stadium of Light, beleaguered Sunderland take on a Manchester United (12:30pm ET, watch live on NBCSN and online via NBC Sports Live Extra) also struggling at the start of the season.

However the Black Cats’ situation seems much worse, with Sunderland rock bottom of the table with just one point from their opening six games.

As for United, new manager David Moyes has had an acrimonious start to the campaign, with three defeats from their opening six games. Those losses came against Liverpool, Manchester City and most surprisingly, West Brom last weekend. Moyes will be looking for a reaction from his side, especially after letting a 1-0 lead slip late on against Shakhtar Donetsk in the Champions League on Wednesday.

In the dugout for Sunderland, Kevin Ball will again be taking charge on an interim basis, as the Mackems board searches for their long-term replacement for Paolo Di Canio. Following the 3-1 defeat to Liverpool at home last Sunday, Sunderland could very quickly become cut off from the rest of the league at the bottom of the table. Favorites for the vacant managers job include Gus Poyet and Tony Pulis, amongst others.

On the injury front, the home side have no fresh worries, with Steven Fletcher still recovering from his shoulder injury. As for Untied, Rio Ferdinand and Tom Cleverley could miss out but Wilfried Zaha, Anderson and Fabio could all return.

Expect a tough battle up in the North East, with the Mackems scrapping for their lives and United eager to climb back into PL title contention.

What they’re saying

David Moyes on Sunderland’s struggles: “There is a long way to go in the Premier League. It’s a long season. You’ll see great changes as the season goes on. We’ll hang in there and get ourselves as close to the top as soon as we can. You never can tell at clubs but you’re always disappointed when people lose their jobs. I don’t know the ins and outs of Sunderland and the workings of it. You never like to see people lose their job.”

Moyes on Manchester United’s poor start: “We need to concentrate on the Premier League now and getting back on track. We have really good players, they know the standards they’ve set and together we’ll work to get it right. In any new job you learn as you go, and I’m in that position as well. I knew they were good players, but there will be difficult times as well.”

Jozy Altidore on what Sunderland must do to win: “I can’t wait, it will be a great experience to play them. For me though it’s another opportunity to give everything that I have for the fans and everything that I have for the club then hopefully we can get that first win because it’s all that matters. It has been incredible to play in some of the games that I have and to play in front of our fans and in our amazing stadium every weekend. Obviously I want to hit the back of the net but if we can keep the intensity up then we’re going to score a lot of goals.”

Prediction

All signs lead to an away win, despite Manchester United’s recent poor form in the Premier League. Sunderland still haven’t got a manager and with Untied wounded and ready to launch themselves back towards the top of the Premier League, I would expect a reaction from them. But after a long trip to Donetsk in the Champions League on Wednesday and also letting in a late equalizer, this could be a good time to play United. Expect another stumbling display, but a Manchester United win.

Spurs’ Alli wins PFA Young Player award for 2nd straight season

Photo credit: Tottenham Hotspur / Twitter: @SpursOfficial
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Dele Alli joined Wayne Rooney on Sunday as the only repeat or back-to-back winners of the PFA Young Player of the Year award winners since the turn of the century.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

Alli showed in 2016-17 — much like his Tottenham Hotspur teammate and 2014-15 Young Player of the year winner Harry Kane — that he’s much more than a one-season wonder, improving upon 2015-16’s goal and assist numbers (10 and 9) with a 16-goal, 5-assist season this time around.

Alli was signed by Tottenham (out of League One and relative obscurity) for a fee just north of $6 million in 2015. Recent rumors have linked the 21-year-old with a move to join the likes of Barcelona and Real Madrid, for a transfer fee well over 10 times what Spurs paid to MK Dons.

[ MORE: Chelsea advance to FA Cup final | They’ll face Arsenal ]

Between Alli and Kane, Spurs players have won the last three Young Player of the Year awards, and five of the last six (Gareth Bale in 2012-13; Kyle Walker in 2011-12). Only Eden Harzard could break up Spurs’ stranglehold on the award, in 2013-14.

El Clasico: Messi scores 499, 500; Barca, Madrid level on points

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After 31 (and 32, respectively) games played, three points were all that separated Real Madrid and Barcelona at the top of the table in La Liga.

[ MORE: Chelsea advance to FA Cup final | They’ll face Arsenal ]

After another 90 scintillating, pulsating, thrilling, plot-twisting minutes of El Clasico on Sunday, there’s not a single thing to separate the two sides (other than Barca’s current tiebreaker on head-to-head meetings, and Madrid’s game in hand). This time, it was Lionel Messi who outshone Cristiano Ronaldo in the meeting of the world’s brightest stars, the former scoring twice and reaching the 500-goal mark in his Barcelona career (all competitions).

Casemiro opened the scoring with a tap-in into an empty net in the 28th minute. Marcelo floated a ball to the back post, where Sergio Ramos made clean contact but came up with nothing but hit nothing but woodwork. Fortunately for Los Blancos, the ball ricocheted off the post, bounced across the face of goal and found the Brazilian midfielder all by his lonesome.

The lead was short-lived, though, as a bloodied Messi scored yet another of his patented Messi goals just five minutes later. With two touches atop Madrid’s penalty area, he slalomed past and beat three defenders before applying the cool finish past Keylor Navas with that magical left foot of his.

Following the halftime break, the balance of play tipped in Barca’s favor. Gerard Pique and Luis Suarez went oh so close to putting the visitors ahead either side of the hour mark, but Navas produced a pair of stunning saves that’ll (perhaps) go a long way toward silencing his increasingly vocal critics.

[ MORE: Griezmann scores no. 25 as Atleti win to hold onto 3rd ]

There was absolutely nothing the Costa Rican no. 1 could do about Rakitic’s 73rd-minute strike, though. Cutting inside onto his left foot, the Croatian caressed and curled the ball toward the far post, where it made a hard right turn at the last possible second and nestled itself into the

Already up a goal, the game appeared to swing totally in Barca’s favor just four minutes later. Sergio Ramos, the most Sergio Ramos player to ever Sergio Ramos, went lunging in, with two sets of studs exposed, on Messi. He was rightly shown a straight red card.

Another pair of plot twists were still to come, though, as James Rodriguez got on the end of Marcelo’s cross and slammed the first-time finish past Marc Andre ter Stegen with four minutes of regular time remaining.

Then, with all of 13 seconds remaining in stoppage time, that man — the undisputed best player in the world and the greatest of all time — broke Madridista hearts once again. Sergi Roberto started the sequence all the way back in midfield, and Jordi Alba supplied the cross to the top of the box, and Messi drove that same left foot through the ball to beat Navas for the last-kick winner. The shirt-off-held-aloft celebration was simply salt in the wound.

MLS Snapshot: Larin outduels Villa in Orlando’s win over NYCFC

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The game in 100 words (or less): I’ve been saying it since the preseason: Cyle Larin is going to Europe, and it wont be long before MLS’s best young striker since… ever(?) makes the jump across the Atlantic Ocean. Canada’s greatest-ever hope for international soccer relevance bagged a brace (31st and 51st minutes) on Sunday, bringing his 2017 season total to six goals (37 for his career, which is just over two full seasons old), as Orlando City SC narrowly edged New York City FC, 2-1 at Yankee Stadium. He’s also scored nine goals in seven career games against NYCFC. Larin wasn’t the only star striker on display, and the scoresheet, though, as David Villa provided NYCFC’s lone goal of the game which made the final 15 minutes mighty interesting. If not for Joe Bendik’s stunning, point-blank save in stoppage time, Villa would have drawn NYCFC level and stolen a point.

[ MORE: Saturday’s MLS roundup — FCD win battle of unbeatens ]

Three moments that mattered

31′ — Larin finishes from close range for 1-0 — Scott Sutter provided the cross into the box, and Lain found space between two defenders for the easy finish.

51′ — Larin brushes off Wallace, heads home for 2-0 — Larin versus an opposing winger (Rodney Wallace on this occasion) is a mismatch that Orlando will look to exploit every single time. 9 times out of 10, it’ll end up like this.

74′ — Villa finishes a brilliant set-piece routine — Maxi Moralez couldn’t have hit a better ball into the box, and we couldn’t have expected any better finish from Villa.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverageStandings | Stats | Schedule ]

Man of the match: Cyle Larin

Goalscorers: Larin (31′, 51′), Villa (74′)

LIVE: Real Madrid host Barcelona in El Clasico

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Let’s go.

Real Madrid host Barcelona at 2:45 p.m. ET on Sunday in the final installment of El Clasico this season in La Liga.

[ LIVE: Follow El Clasico, here ] 

With Barca three points behind their bitter rivals who top the La Liga standings and also have a game in hand with six weeks to go, nothing but a win will do for Luis Enrqiue’s men.

All of the talk before this game has been about the absence of Neymar as Barca have decided to not put the Brazilian forward in their squad after they appealed his three-game ban but have yet to hear back on his suspension.

Aside from that bizarre situation, it’s been a mixed week for the Spanish giants in the UEFA Champions League.

Barca were knocked out by Juventus at the quarterfinal stage, while Real Madrid got by Bayern Munich in an exhausting clash at the Santiago Bernabeu which required extra time to set up a semifinal tie against Atletico Madrid.

The stars will come out to play as Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez, Cristiano Ronaldo, Gareth Bale and Karim Benzema will collide.