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.

Barcelona plan Cruyff tribute at club’s training center

Photo by Alex Caparros/Getty Images
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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) One year after his death, Barcelona says it will name the future stadium at its training center after Dutch great Johan Cruyff.

The new stadium at Barcelona’s training center just outside the Catalan city will be called “Johan Cruyff Stadium” in honor of the club’s former player and coach.

Barcelona says in a statement that “the most emblematic building in the facility where future Barca players are coached is to be named after somebody who played such a central role in fostering youth talent at the club.”

Barcelona also says it will commission a “commemorative sculpture” of Cruyff, who died of lung cancer on March 24 last year at age 68. The statue will be placed at Barcelona’s main Camp Nou stadium.

Cruyff is largely credited with launching Barcelona’s era of trophy success, both as a player and a coach.

As a player, Cruyff joined Barcelona midseason in 1973 and led the middle-of-the-table team to its first national title in a decade.

He later returned as a coach and guided Barcelona to four consecutive Spanish leagues from 1991-94 and the club’s first European Cup in 1992.

“I think the tributes are very warming,” said Cruyff’s son, Jordi Cruyff. “It sort of changes the sadness that we might feel as family to lose a father, a husband and a grandfather. It changes to a certain kind of pride to understand that he left something behind.”

MLS Snapshot: Defense optional — Crew SC outlast Timbers, 3-2

AP Photo/Bryan Woolston
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The game in 100 words (or less): As far as teams who get out in the open field and score the lion’s share of their goals on the counter-attacking, there aren’t many MLS teams better than Columbus Crew SC and the Portland Timbers. The two sides met Saturday night at MAPFRE Stadium, site of their MLS Cup 2015 clash, and lived up to their reputations. Of the five goals scored, two were notched on flat-out counters and two more came to pass through quick transitional movements. Portland (9 points) dropped their first points of the season, falling 3-2 to goals scored by Justin Meram, Ola Kamara and Niko Hansen, while Crew SC have back-to-back wins and find themselves level on points (7) with the New York Red Bulls with each side having played four games.

[ MORE: Saturday’s MLS (afternoon) roundup ]

Three Four Five moments that mattered

4′ — Asprilla opens the scoring early on — 2017 Crew SC defending, same as 2016 Crew SC defending.

11′ — Meram fires home the rebound for 1-1 — One of Portland’s biggest weaknesses last season was their set-piece defending. Looks like not much has changed.

19′ — Higuain feeds Kamara for a 2-1 lead — The question mark that Portland will eventually have to answer is this: How much, if at all, have they improved defensively in the open field? Based on this Crew SC counter-attack, the answer might be “not much.”

45+3′ — Adi recovers to make it 2-2 — Everything Adi does these days (even the bad things, like this first touch) ends up being good.

84′ — Hansen cleans up at the back post for 3-2 — Jake Gleeson made a spectacular reaction save to deny Kamara his second goal of the game, but the rookie, making his MLS debut, was in the right place at the right time.

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

Men of the match: Wil Trapp

Goalscorers: Asprilla (4′), Meram (11′), Kamara (19′), Adi (45+3′), Hansen (84′)

Andorra’s 11-year, 58-game losing streak is over

Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images
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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) Rarely has a scoreless stalemate in front of the home fans tasted so sweet.

But 11 years of nothing but losing will do that to a team.

Andorra’s 0-0 draw with fellow minnow Faroe Islands in World Cup qualifying on Saturday ended its run of 58 competitive defeats.

It was the first point in qualifying for the Pyrenees mountain principality, population 80,000, since a scoreless draw with Finland in 2005.

Faroe Islands finished with 10 men after Joan Edmundsson was booked a second time with 15 minutes to play.

World Cup qualifiers: Dutch disaster persists; Greece hold Belgium

AP Photo/Armando Franca
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A roundup of all of Saturday’s World Cup qualifying fixtures, as Groups A, B and H hit the halfway point in Europe…

[ MORE: USA 6-0 Honduras | Three things we learned | Player ratings ]

Bulgaria 2-0 Netherlands

Spas Delev scored both Bulgarian goals (5th and 20th minutes) to secure all three points and send Danny Blind’s Netherlands side (7 points) into fourth place in Group A, six points back of leaders France and three back of second-place (qualifying playoffs) Sweden.

17-year-old Matthijs de Ligt was handed his international debut for the Dutch; he was ultimately at fault for both of Delev’s goals; he was subbed off at halftime (as was Georginio Wijnaldum).

Luxembourg 1-3 France

Olivier Giroud scored twice (28th and 77th minutes) for France, and Antoine Griezmann added the other (37th minute – penalty kick), as Les Bleus maintained their three-point lead in Group A. Kylian Mbappe, Monaco’s 18-year-old rising star, made his international debut in the 78th minute, when he replaced Dimitri Payet.

Portugal 3-0 Hungary

Cristiano Ronaldo bagged the 69th and 70th goals of his international career (36th and 65th minutes), as Portugal (12 points) kept pace with an unbeaten Switzerland side (15 points) which managed a 1-0 victory over Latvia to keep their 100-percent record intact. Andre Silva scored the opener (32nd minute) for Portugal, the 21-year-old Porto striker’s fifth goal in six international appearances.

Belgium 1-1 Greece

Romelu Lukaku‘s 89th-minute rescued a point for Group H leaders Belgium (13 points), but it did little to mask an otherwise uninspiring performance from Roberto Martinez’s side. Kostas Mitroglu put Greece ahead in the first minute of the second half, but Panagiotis Tachtsidis saw his second yellow of the game in the 65th minute, and that was the start of Greece’s unraveling. The draw was just enough to keep Greece (11 points) in second, ahead of Bosnia-Herzegovina, whose 5-0 thrashing of Gibraltar moved them to 10 points with a superior goal differential.

Elsewhere in UEFA’s World Cup qualifying

Group A

Sweden 4-0 Belarus

Group B

Switzerland 1-0 Latvia
Andorra 0-0 Faroe Islands

Group H

Bosnia-Herzegovina 5-0 Gibraltar
Cyprus 0-0 Estonia