Premier League Preview: West Bromwich Albion vs. Aston Villa

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  • The 14 Premier League fixtures between the sides have ended either as draws or 2-1 victories
  • West Brom have lost just one of their last 8 PL games (W3, D4, L1)
  • Villa has the best defense away from home in the PL, conceding just 3 times

Separated by just four miles, this two Black Country rivals are both in good form as a Midlands derby will heat up the chilly confides on the Hawthorns on Monday.

In fact, this battle couldn’t be closer as only one goal separates the two sides after an almost identical start to the season.

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The Baggies come off the back of that controversial point at Chelsea after they thought a famous win was secured, only for the Blues to be handed a last-gasp penalty that referees chief Mike Riley has since apologized for. WBA are in good form after their early struggles and have not lost to Villa in their last five meetings. Steve Clarke’s side can move into the top half with a win.

But the same can be said for Villa, as their young side sit just one place below West Brom and level on points with the Baggies.

Last time out the Villans beat Cardiff City 2-0 at home and have found a way to grind out results with some solid defensive displays marshaled by USMNT ‘keeper Brad Guzan. Villa have recorded four shutouts in their last seven games… before that they hadn’t managed to keep a clean sheet in 26 PL matches.

In terms of injury news, West Brom welcome back Nicolas Anelka after he missed their draw with Chelsea, while Scott Sinclair could return from a hamstring strain but a similar problem keeps Billy Jones out.

Aston Villa are facing late fitness concerns over strikers Christian Benteke and Andreas Weimann, while Ciaran Clark, Fabian Delph and Antonio Luna are fully fit.

What they’re saying

Aston Villa manager Paul Lambert on the derby rivalry: “I think a derby game can throw up anything. Nobody knows what’s going to happen. Everyone knows a derby is important for supporters, first and foremost. For the team and the football club it’s vital to try to win a derby game. I have been involved in two West Brom v Villa derbies now too. I know the atmosphere will be there. You can see it’s a great game to play in.”

WBA boss Steve Clarke on what to expect: “It’s a West Midlands derby – the only West Midlands derby in the Premier League this season because, unfortunately, some of the other teams have dropped out. It’s a big game. We understand what it means to our supporters. I’m sure the Villa people know what it means to their supporters. We’ve got the Monday night all to ourselves, the whole country can watch if they want, and hopefully we put on a good spectacle.”

Prediction

I think this will follow last years lead and be an enthralling encounter. It may not have all the goals and drama of the Merseyside derby on Saturday but these two teams are fierce rivals and both sets fans will make the Hawthorns a cacophony of noise on Monday. If Villa score early, they will invited West Brom to attack and that should make the game a terrific spectacle. Who am I going for? Well, both teams are so even and separated by just one goal in the standings… I’m going for a home win to the Baggies.

Ligue 1: Depay’s goal streak hits 5 games; Lyon reeling in Monaco

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MONACO (AP) Lyon won at Dijon 5-2 and moved within one point of second-place Monaco in the French league on Friday.

Lyon’s sixth straight league win kept them level on points with fourth-place Marseille.

The team finishing second qualifies automatically for next season’s Champions League, while the team in third goes into the playoffs. After this weekend, there will be four rounds remaining.

Memphis Depay has scored or created 12 of Lyon’s 16 last goals.

The Netherlands forward opened the scoring in the fourth minute with a close-range volley, and set up the fourth goal for winger Bertrand Traore in the 77th.

Depay almost scored another, just failing to reach right back Rafael‘s cross in the 50th. Midfielder Houssem Aouar followed up and his strike was turned into his own net by defender Valentin Rosier.

Lyon’s other goals came from forwards Nabil Fekir in the 53rd and Maxwell Cornet in the 82nd.


MONACO (AP) — After losing the French title last weekend, Monaco is in danger of throwing away second place after losing at Guingamp 3-1 on Saturday.

The defeat leaves Monaco just one point ahead of Lyon and Marseille as the three sides chase an automatic place in the Champions League with four games left.

Monaco was thrashed by champion Paris Saint-Germain 7-1 last Sunday and the defense leaked easily again, albeit with a little help from one of its defenders.

A makeshift Monaco fell behind midway through the first half after Brazilian defender Jemerson was given a red card for stopping a shot on the line. He was sent off and veteran forward Jimmy Briand netted from the penalty spot for mid-table Guingamp.

Monaco capitulated and trailed 3-0 after 47 minutes. Defender Almamy Toure replied in vain with a consolation goal midway through the second half.


Marseille crushed Lille 5-1 to join Lyon on 69 points. Lyon, which won at Dijon 5-2 on Friday for a sixth straight win, has a better goal difference.

Marseille also has the Europa League and plays the first leg of its semifinal at home to Austrian side Salzburg next Thursday. But Lyon has only Ligue 1 to think about.

Still, Marseille is also brimming with confidence these days, especially winger Florian Thauvin.

He scored twice against Lille to extend his career-best league tally to 19. Greece striker Kostas Mitroglou also netted twice, and forward Lucas Ocampos completed the rout against 19th-place Lille.

In other matches: Amiens won against Strasbourg 3-1; struggling Toulouse beat Angers 2-0, and last-place Metz drew at home to Caen 1-1.

PSG is at Bordeaux on Sunday. Also, Nice is at home to Montpellier, and Saint-Etienne takes on Troyes.

UEFA says Europa League trophy not damaged after being stolen

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NYON, Switzerland (AP) UEFA says the Europa League trophy was not damaged after being stolen in Mexico.

The silverware was at a promotional event in the central city of Leon when it was reported by authorities to have been taken from a vehicle.

The theft came ahead of the semifinals of Europe’s second-tier club competition.

UEFA says the “Europa League trophy was in Mexico for a partner event and got briefly stolen. It was quickly recovered and has suffered no damages.”

In the semifinal first legs next week, Arsenal plays Atletico Madrid and Marseille takes on Salzburg.

Serie A: Roma prep for Liverpool by beating SPAL; Benevento win at Milan

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A roundup of all of Saturday’s action in Italy’s top flight…

[ MORE: Man United reach FA Cup final | Premier League preview ]

SPAL 2013 0-3 Roma

A few hours after a reserves-heavy Liverpool side played last-place West Bromwich Albion to a 2-2 draw in the Premier League, Roma, the Reds’ UEFA Champions League semifinal foes beginning Tuesday, hammered 17th-place SPAL on the back of goals scored by Radja Nainggolan and Patrik Schick.

Roma shocked the world — and Barcelona — to reach the semifinals, but still have a battle on their hands to finish inside Serie A’s top-four and qualify for next season’s Champions League. Following Saturday’s victory, Eusebio Di Francesco’s side is three and four points clear of fourth- and fifth-place Lazio and Inter Milan, respectively, though both of the chasing sides play on Sunday.

AC Milan 0-1 Benevento

The 2017-18 season has treated AC Milan, who spent massively last summer, far worse than Roma. Following Sunday’s home defeat to first-year top-flight (and last-place) side Benevento, Gennaro Gattuso’s side sits sixth (final automatic Europa League place) and lead seventh-place Atalanta, who play on Sunday, by just two points.

Pietro Iemmello scored the game’s only goal in the 29th minute.

Elsewhere in Serie A

Sassuolo 1-0 Fiorentina

Sunday’s Serie A schedule

Cagliari vs. Bologna — 6:30 a.m. ET
Lazio vs. Sampdoria — 9 a.m. ET
Chievo vs. Inter Milan — 9 a.m. ET
Atalanta vs. Torino — 9 a.m. ET
Udinese vs. Crotone — 9 a.m. ET
Juventus vs. Napoli — 2:45 p.m. ET

Barcelona cruise past Sevilla, lift historic 4th straight Copa del Rey

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MADRID (AP) Barcelona became the first team in 85 years to win four straight Copa del Rey titles after blowing away Sevilla 5-0 in the final on Saturday.

Luis Suarez scored twice, and Lionel Messi, Andres Iniesta, and Philippe Coutinho also made the scoresheet for Barcelona’s record-extending 30th Copa triumph, and sixth in the last decade.

Sevilla was trying to win a sixth Copa and save a season which will end without any trophies and maybe not even a place in the Europa League next season.

The final took place at Atletico Madrid’s Wanda Metropolitano Stadium in the capital amid the ongoing political turmoil involving Catalonia’s bid for independence.

There were jeers by part of the Barcelona crowd when the national anthem was played, but the boos were largely subdued by the reaction of the numerous Sevilla fans in the crowd. Spain’s King Felipe VI smiled and saluted the fans after the anthem.

No other team had won four Copa titles in a row since Athletic Bilbao from 1930-33. The only other team to do it was Real Madrid from 1905-08.

Barcelona lost a chance to win the treble when it was eliminated by Roma in the quarterfinals of the Champions League, but it is three points away from winning the Spanish league.