MLS’s Eastern Conference playoff picture is set

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We had to wait until the last game on the East’s slate, but now we know the match-ups (or, potential match-ups) for the Major League Soccer’s Eastern Conference playoff.

After their win in Washington, D.C., Houston was in, but while at one point today they were sitting third, last year’s conference representatives in the MLS Cup final will have to go through the four-five game once more. New England’s win in Columbus gave the Revolution the conference’s third seed.

[MORE: Garcia, Barnes goals put Houston into MLS postseason.]

[MORE: Agudelo goal in Columbus puts New England into playoffs.]

The other open spot coming into the day was claimed by a team that played yesterday, with the Montréal Impact handed their first postseason spot despite yesterday’s loss in Toronto. Whether they’ll remain alive past mid-week will be settled mid-week at BBVA Compass Stadium.

[MORE: Toronto win leaves Montréal vulnerable.]

At the top of the conference, New York’s history making performance means they get the one-seed, the first time since 2010 Sporting Kansas City hasn’t held the top spot going into the postseason.

[MORE: New York’s surge helps Red Bulls claim first major honor.]

Here are the matches:

Who: Houston Dynamo vs. Montréal Impact
What: First Round (Four-Five game)
How: One-game, winner take all
When: Wednesday or Thursday

The enigmatic Impact, Eastern Conference leaders through much of the season, back in thanks to Chicago’s loss in New York. If they’re to stay alive, they’ll have to win mid-week at Houston, with the exact day likely to be announced on Monday. Though Houston won the team’s last meeting, Montréal is 2-1-0 this year against the Dynamo, outscoring the four-seed 7-1.

Who: Sporting Kansas City vs. New England Revolution
What: Conference Semifinal
How: Two-legged series, Sporting hosting game two
When: Saturday or Sunday; then Nov. 6 or 7

Sporting’s been part of the East’s lead pack all season while New England’s stayed back in the peloton. But the seven-point gap between the teams may as well be one after the clubs finished second and third in the East, pairing them off in the conference semifinals. Kansas City took four points from the teams’ two regular season meetings, outscoring the Revolution 3-0 over 180 minutes.

Who: New York Red Bulls vs. Houston/Montreal
What: Conference Semifinal
How: Two-legged series, New York hosting game two
When: Saturday or Sunday; then Nov. 6 or 7

New York is 3-0-0 against Houston this season and have outscored the Dynamo 9-1. They’re 2-1-0 against Montréal, having outscored Le Impact 6-2. New York should be  big favorites against either team, but given how the Dynamo have performed in the last two postseasons, you’d forgive the Red Bulls for secretly hoping Montréal pulls an upset mid-week.

Pardew laments firing, credits Palace turnaround to new players

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Alan Pardew knows why Crystal Palace was failing when he got fired, knows he could’ve fixed it, and seems pretty bummed he’s not there any more.

Pardew emerged to make the comments after Sam Allardyce helmed another upset win for Palace, a 2-1 win over Liverpool which joins defeats of Arsenal and Chelsea.

The win moves Palace 12th, and the Eagles have a legitimate shot at a top-half finish despite their poor start to the season. But Pardew wants fans to know it was about a personnel mistake, and that Palace dropped into the relegation zone after he was fired.

[ PL PREVIEW: Chelsea vs. Southampton ]

The Northeast Chronicle says Pardew aimed to bring former Newcastle left backs Davide Santon and Paul Dummett to Palace, but couldn’t get the moves over the line. Then Pape Souare was hurt in a car accident and Palace was in trouble.

Over to you, Pards (From the Chronicle’s Lee Ryder):

“We were kicking ourselves not to have any left-footed cover. We were playing right-footed players there and things were exploiting that situation. We became one dimensional.

“I was really disappointed I didn’t get to the window because Sam Allardyce followed me and the results didn’t really improve until the new players got bedded in and they made a big difference.”

Allardyce brought in Patrick Van Aanholt from Sunderland and Jeff Schlupp from Leicester to shore up the left side.

The story is made more amusing by the fact that Allardyce has not hesitated to make Palace’s return to form almost exclusively about his influence, while Pardew bleeds the very same blood.

Who’s on first?

Atletico Madrid at CAS to fight FIFA transfer ban

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LAUSANNE, Switzerland (AP) Atletico Madrid officials are at sport’s highest court to appeal against a FIFA transfer ban that will prevent the club from signing youth players from overseas during the coming offseason.

The Court of Arbitration for Sport is hearing the appeal Monday, but says a verdict is not expected immediately.

Atletico and FIFA previously agreed to seek a CAS verdict by June, before the summer trading period opens.

[ MORE: Griezmann’s advisor speaks on future ]

FIFA imposed a one-year ban on registering new players as punishment for Atletico breaking rules introduced to prevent child trafficking and luring youngsters from their home country.

Atletico denies wrongdoing, though it agreed not to sign players in January while its appeal went ahead.

Spain’s soccer federation has been criticized for its role in player registrations, with Barcelona and Real Madrid also having served FIFA transfer bans.

Premier League Preview: Chelsea vs. Southampton

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  • Chelsea won 2-0 on Oct. 30
  • Saints won fixture 3-1 last season
  • Chelsea 13W-2L at home this season
  • Blues lead all-time 40W-28D-28L

Chelsea aims to stack some wins following a momentum-restoring weekend win when Southampton visits Stamford Bridge on Tuesday (Watch live at 2:45 p.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

The Blues have lost two of four inside the Premier League — home to Crystal Palace and at Manchester United — but beat Spurs 4-2 in a thrilling FA Cup semifinal this weekend, extending their season to a May 27 final against Arsenal.

Saints are coming off their first loss in four outings, a 3-0 home beatdown at the hands of Manchester City. Now to the road, where Southampton has the eighth-best record in the Premier League. And Saints boast Manolo Gabbiadini, who Chelsea boss Antonio Conte says has one of the world’s best left foots.

What they’re saying

Chelsea’s David Luiz on Antonio Conte“He’s a fantastic person before a fantastic manager, so we talk a lot, every day, because we have a great relationship,’ he explained. We try to give our best for our club and he tries to help me with his intelligence for football to improve my football so I am very happy to work with him. He did an amazing job in this game.”

Southampton’s Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg on facing Chelsea“Of course, you say every game is important, but somehow, when you play against number one, it gets a little bit more important. I saw the game they lost against Manchester United, and now they are a little bit under pressure, and we also want to continue getting good results. Chelsea away is, of course, maybe the toughest game this year, but I think that we have the possibility to get the result.”

Prediction

Rested Southampton provides a real test, but one which Chelsea finds a way to pass thanks to a relatively rested Costa and Hazard. This is Costa’s day, with a brace in a 2-1 win.

Griezmann’s advisor namechecks Man Utd, 4 others

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Antoine Griezmann has maintained a desire to stay at Atletico Madrid, but his advisor says the French striker has five realistic destinations for next season if he doesn’t stay at the Vicente Calderon.

Speaking on the French outlet Telefoot, advisor Eric Olhats says the 26-year-old Griezmann is limited by his $109 million release clause.

[ MORE: Zlatan’s comeback vow; Mata close ]

Griezmann has 25 goals and 11 assists this season, slightly lighter on the goals and a step up in helpers with Atleti alive in two competitions this season. He’s still played centrally and wide right, and Yannick Carrasco is starring on the left.

From Sky Sports:

“There is an unavoidable 100m clause so that restricts the number of candidates. You have United, City, Chelsea, Barcelona and Real Madrid.

“United were the first to come and see us and the most concrete in their wishes.”

Griezmann to the Premier League is a move many would love to see, or at least a new challenge for the fantastic attacker. With respect to Barcelona and Real Madrid, we’ve seen plenty of top La Liga talents move within the division.

Of course, there would be something special to both Diego Simeone and Griezmann winning the UEFA Champions League and defending it at Atleti. Something tells us their fate in this year’s semifinal against Real Madrid may tip the scales for both men, or at least Griezmann.