Premier League Preview: Newcastle United v. West Bromwich Albion

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  • West Brom have won just one of their last eight Barclays Premier League away games (W1 D4 L3).
  • In the last eight Barclays Premier League meetings between Newcastle and West Brom, neither side has kept a clean sheet.
  • Shane Long has scored three goals in his last two Premier League appearances, this after failing to score in his previous 10 in the competition.
  • Magpies’ striker Loic Remy has scored eight goals in his last eight Premier League games.

Five days after Shane Long’s stunning double against Aston Villa, the Republic of Ireland striker and his West Brom teammates travel to up-start Newcastle (watch live on NBC 12:30pm ET and online via NBC Sports Live Extra) at St. James’ Park.

In the corresponding fixture in October 2012, a 93rd minute strike by Papiss Cisse cancelled out a Romelu Lukaku leveller to hand the Magpies a 2-1 victory. Six months later West Brom exacted revenge in the form of a 1-1 home draw with Billy Jones scoring a second half goal for a share of the points.

This year it’s a different story as Newcastle are enter the match in red-hot form having won their last three in the league. Alan Pardew’s side got things started following the 1-2 loss to Sunderland in the Tyne-Wear derby by upsetting Chelsea 2-0. The Magpies followed that up with a 1-0 win over Spurs at White Hart Lane before returning home to knock off Norwich City 2-1.

Much of Newcastle’s success is due to the fantastic play by on-loan striker Loic Remy, who brought his strike-tally to eight goals this past weekend. But while the offense is clicking, the defense deserves credit with Mike Williamson and Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa stepping up brilliantly in the absence of the injured Steven Taylor and Ryan Taylor. If both ends of the pitch get it right on Saturday, Newcastle could make the leap from eight to fourth in the table, making European dreams a potential reality on Tyneside.

West Brom enter the match in a decent run of form, having taken five out of possible nine points from their last three fixtures against Crystal Palace (2-1 win), Chelsea (2-2 draw) and Aston Villa (2-2 draw). Of all the clubs in the Premier League, they’re the one that nobody wants to face.

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Keep not paying attention to Shane Long at your own peril. Hands down, the most underrated striker in the Premier League.

With a tricky front four that includes Shane Long (for me, the most underrated striker in the Premier League), Saido Berahino, Morgan Amalfitano and Stephane Sessegnon, the Baggies can be devastating on the counter-attack. They’re strong up the spine as well, with Claudio Yacob and Youssuf Mulumbu forming a menacing holding pair that sits in front of a pair of underrated center-backs Jonas Olsson and Gareth McCauley.

West Brom’s current susceptibility is at the full-back position where Goran Popov and Steven Reid have deputized for the injured Liam Ridgewell and Billy Jones. Reid has been decent but Popov was atrocious last Monday when his lazy marking allowed Karim El Ahmadi to score and his poor clearance allowed Ashley Westwood to level.

If the Baggies are to avoid a loss this weekend, they’ll need to shore up the flanks where players like Yoan Gouffran and Moussa Sissoko and Hatem Ben Arfa will be looking to feast.

What They’re Saying

Newcastle manager Alan Pardew: “The focus now is on this period because it really is the nuts and bolts of this league. Between now and the end of January is really when it all happens.”

West Brom manager Steve Clarke: “At the moment, the feeling is more disappointment than anything else . . . . I’ve touched on it a couple of times this season that I feel we’re drawing too many games, and we have to turn those draws into wins.”

Prediction

People are high on Newcastle right now and I don’t blame them. The Magpies have been impressive and look to have put the woes of last season into their rear-view mirror. If they truly are the real deal they have to prove it against mid-table clubs like West Brom. Problem is, West Brom are one heck of a difficult mid-table club.

Expect these sides to share the points.

UEFA says Europa League trophy not damaged after being stolen

Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images
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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

Elisabetta Baracchi/ANSA via AP
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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

AP Photo/Francisco Seco
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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.

PL Sunday preview: Man City’s title trot; Wenger’s farewell tour

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Manchester City will play as the confirmed champions of the Premier League, though they won’t celebrate as such for a couple more weeks, on Sunday. Meanwhile, the only manager Arsenal have known for more than two decades begins saying goodbye

[ MORE: Man United come back to beat Spurs, reach FA Cup final ]

Arsenal vs. West Ham United — 8:30 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

So begins the Arsene Wenger farewell tour, and with a London derby at that. Wenger announced on Friday that he’ll leave Arsenal at the end of the current season, which has little to no chance of seeing the Gunners finish in the PL’s top-five, let alone the top-four. Sunday’s clash with West Ham will be the first of Wenger’s three remaining games at the Emirates Stadium, including the Europa League semifinal against Atletico Madrid on Thursday. Unfortunately for Wenger, three of his final five PL games (four of seven in all competitions) will be played away from home, where his side has lost five straight in league play.

Speaking of lost and wayward seasons, 14th-place West Ham are almost mathematically clear of relegation (there’s currently three places and six points between themselves and 18th-place Southampton). It’s hardly the future they imagined upon moving to the London Stadium at the start of last season. Andy Carroll scored the late equalizer in the Hammers’ 1-1 draw with Stoke City on Monday, which rescued perhaps a perfectly timed point with all five remaining games to be played against sides currently in the top-nine (Arsenal, Man City, Leicester, Man United and Everton).

INJURIES: Arsenal — OUT: Henrikh Mkhitaryan (knee), Santi Cazorla (achilles); QUESTIONABLE: Jack Wilshere (ankle) | West Ham — OUT: James Collins (hamstring), Sam Byram (ankle), Winston Reid (knee), Michail Antonio (hamstring), Pedro Obiang (knee)


Stoke City vs. Burnley — 8:30 a.m. ET, on NBC Sports Gold

Here’s what’s at stake at the bet365 Stadium on Sunday:

Stoke sit two places and five points adrift of safety from relegation, with four games left to play (17th-place Swansea City have a game in hand, to boot). After 10 seasons in the PL, it’s looking more and more likely that Paul Lambert (with a tip of the cap to Mark Hughes earlier in the season) will take the Potters back to the Championship for the first time since they won promotion in 2008.

Burnley trail Arsenal by just two points (though the Clarets have played one more game than the Gunners) in the race for sixth place. A sixth-place finish would be the club’s highest top-flight finish since 1966 (3rd).

INJURIES: Stoke — QUESTIONABLE: Eric-Maxim Choupo-Moting (groin) | Burnley — OUT: Steven Defour (knee), Scott Arfield (calf), Robbie Brady (knee), Jonathan Walters (fitness); QUESTIONABLE: Ben Mee (knock), Georges-Kevin Nkoudou (hamstring)


Manchester City vs. Swansea City — 11:30 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

While Man City won’t lift the PL trophy until their May 6 clash with Huddersfield Town, Sunday’s visit from Swansea will be Pep Guardiola‘s side’s first outing since clinching the title courtesy of Man United’s defeat to West Bromwich Albion last weekend. Guardiola’s focus has turned to breaking the all-time PL points record (95 — they currently have 87 with five games still to play).

“In the past, I won the league at Bayern and at Barca with five, six or seven games (left) but the next games were not good,” he said this week. “We have to think about how many points we can get, it can be a good argument. What we need to do is already done, the points record is not the most important thing, but maybe it can help us to be focused. It would be uncomfortable to finish in a bad way, there always has to be a target and maybe scoring the most goals and winning the most points will be a good focus.”

INJURIES: Man City — OUT: Sergio Aguero (knee), Benjamin Mendy (knee); QUESTIONABLE: John Stones (thigh) | Swansea — OUT: Wilfried Bony (knee), Leroy Fer (achilles), Renato Sanches (hamstring)