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Premier League Preview: Cardiff City vs. Arsenal

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  • Aaron Ramsey has made more tackles than any other player in the Premier League this season (57)
  • This marks the first league meeting since 17 March 1962 – a 1-1 draw at Arsenal
  • Only Manchester United and Aston Villa have gained more points from losing positions than Cardiff’s five

There will be a rambunctious battle in Cardiff this Saturday as the Bluebirds host Arsenal (watch live on NBCSN and online via NBC Sports Live Extra) in front of a sold out stadium in the Welsh capital.

Cardiff have already had a great success at home in their first-ever season in the Premier League as they’ve already beaten Manchester City and last time out they snatched a last-gasp draw with Manchester United.

WATCH LIVE ON NBCSN AND NBC SPORTS LIVE EXTRA, SATURDAY 10am ET

Are league leaders Arsenal the next team to suffer at the hands of Malkay Mackay’s side?

Cardiff have had a solid start to life in the big-time and are extremely tough to beat, especially at home. Against the top 10 they’ve won twice and draw twice in seven games as their fight and determination to prove they belong in the PL shines through against the big boys.

source: AP
Cardiff’s players celebrate a late goal against Manchester United.

But Arsenal aren’t going to roll over easy as their new found tough streak will hold them in good stead on Saturday. Their last PL away game was a 1-0 defeat to Manchester United but the Gunners have previously gone on long winning-streaks away from the Emirates and they have the best away record in the PL (W4, D1, L1).

Midfield is where this game will be won and lost as former Cardiff City star Aaron Ramsey returns to face his hometown club. Ramsey, 22, has been in terrific form for the Gunners this season and is arguably the Premier League’s player of the season so far. He will face a stern task against the likes of Gary Medel and Aron Gunarrsson in the engine room.

Injury wise, Cardiff have no new concerns and will likely start with the same side which drew 2-2 with Manchester United last week. Arsene Wenger must decide whether or not to start with Theo Walcott after his return from injury in the last two games from the bench, while Kieran Gibbs is back in the squad.

What they’re saying

Arsene Wenger’s on Cardiff’s never-say-die attitude: “They look to have good solidarity, good togetherness [and] fantastic support as well. They are all on the same wavelength in the team and are very efficient at home on set-pieces. Even on Sunday when they were 2-1 down against Man United, many teams could have thought ‘OK, it’s Man United, we will not come back’. But you always had the feeling that they don’t give up. You could feel that they would come back. They have that special attitude and belief in the side, and that makes them dangerous.”

Malkay Mackay on Aaron Ramsey’s homecoming to Cardiff: “I hope he gets a great reception here and I am pretty sure he will. He is a fine young man, I met him a couple of weeks ago when the Welsh squad were here. He popped in and at that point I said to him to make sure that in a couple of weeks’ time he goes easy with us. It’s good to see a young British player grasping the nettle at Premier League level and actually being one of the main men at Arsenal.”

Prediction

As well as Cardiff played last week against Manchester United, I don’t think the same approach will work against Arsenal. Their pressing, work rate and determination was impressive but they can’t get pushing high up the field against the Gunners because players like Ozil, Cazorla and Wilshere will pick them off to easily. A disciplined defensive display where they let Arsenal have the majority of the ball is the only way the Bluebirds can get something from this. I don’t think they’ll be able to do that, I’m going for an away win with Olivier Giroud to cause plenty of problems.

Watch Live: Guatemala vs. T&T; Canada vs. Guyana in Olympic qualifying

Canadian players wave to fans after a 2-1 loss to England in a quarterfinal of the Women's World Cup soccer tournament, Saturday, June 27, 2015, in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press via AP)
Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press via AP
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Group B is set to kick off Thursday night at the 2016 CONCACAF Women’s Olympic Qualifying Championship, as Canada, third-place finishers at the 2012 Olympics, begin their quest to qualify for this summer’s games in Rio de Janeiro.

Guyana versus Trinidad and Tobago is up first (6 p.m. ET) from BBVA Compass Stadium in Houston, Tex, followed by the Canadians, who will take on Guyana (8:30 p.m. ET) in the nightcap.

[ WATCH LIVE: Guatemala vs. T&T live online on NBC Sports Live Extra ]

[ WATCH LIVE: Canada vs. Guyana live on line on NBC Sports Live Extra ]

The U.S. women’s national began its Olympic qualifying campaign in impressive fashion on Wednesday with a 5-0 victory over Costa Rica, while Mexico jumped to the top of Group A with a 6-0 victory over Puerto Rico.

Sunderland terminate Adam Johnson’s contract after guilty pleas in sex case

Sunderland winger Adam Johnson arrives at Bradford Crown Court, England, Wednesday Feb. 10, 2016. Johnson has pleaded guilty in court to one count of sexual activity with a child and another of grooming. The 28-year-old Johnson, who has made 12 appearances for England, denies two charges of sexual activity with a girl under the age of 16. (Peter Byrne/PA via AP) UNITED KINGDOM OUT NO SALES NO ARCHIVE
Peter Byrne/PA via AP
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SUNDERLAND, England (AP) Sunderland has fired winger Adam Johnson after he pleaded guilty to grooming and sexual activity with a 15-year-old girl at the start of his trial.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

Johnson, who has played 12 times for England, continues to deny two further counts of sexual activity with a child.

Sunderland dismissed Johnson ahead of his trial resuming on Friday at Bradford Crown Court.

[ MORE: Top 5 Premier League storylines — Sunday’s top-four battle royal ]

In a statement, Sunderland announced Thursday that “in light of Adam Johnson’s guilty pleas, the club has today terminated his contract with immediate effect.”

The former Manchester City player joined Sunderland in 2012 for 10 million pounds (now about $14.5 million).

Week 26: Top 5 Premier League storylines — Top-four battle royal

Tottenham Hotspur’s Harry Kane, right, lifts the ball over Leicester City’s goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel but fails to score during their English Premier League soccer match between Tottenham Hotspur and Leicester City at the White Hart Lane stadium in London Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2016. (AP Photo/Alastair Grant)
AP Photo/Alastair Grant
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Whoever says, “No one could have ever predicted Leicester City would be top of the league on Valentine’s Day,” is wrong.

One group of Premier League savants knew: the PL schedule makers, which is why this Sunday shall henceforth be known as “Super Duper Mega Uber Sunday,” as it’s 3rd versus 1st, and 4th versus 2nd.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

Top-four battle royal, part 1

Arsenal vs. Leicester City — Sunday, 7 a.m. ET (NBCSN)

Will Arsenal “Arsenal it up?” Will Leicester finally fall apart and blow the PL title, as they were supposed to have done weeks months ago? The battle of narratives in so strong in this one. Are Leicester really title favorites? Upon further review, they are. No PL team has won more points away from home this season than Leicester (28). Is another giant-slaying on the cards for the Foxes? At this point, who would be crazy enough to doubt them?

[ MORE: PL schedule, stream links ]

Top-four battle royal, part 2

Manchester City vs. Tottenham Hotspur — Sunday, 11:15 a.m. ET (NBCSN)

The last time Tottenham were ahead of Man City this late in the season will have to have been the final day of the 2009-10 season, when Spurs qualified for the UEFA Champions League just ahead of City. Heading into Sunday, a single point is all that separates the sides. When they met earlier this season, Spurs hammered City, to the tune of 4-1. The importance of three points speaks for itself, as either side could surge into a commanding place in the title race with a victory on Sunday.

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings | Schedule | Stats ]

Man United’s top-four hopes hanging by a thread

Sunderland vs. Manchester United — Saturday, 6:45 a.m. ET (NBCSN)

As the PL’s top-four teams have kept winning in recent weeks, so too have Man United, to an extent. With that, the Red Devils are no closer to Champions League qualification today than they were three weeks ago before their mini-run of 11 points from six games. Only Aston Villa (10), who are rock bottom of the league, have won fewer points at home this season than Sunderland (12). United are currently six points back of 4th, so with at least two of the four sides ahead of them guaranteed to drop points on Sunday, it’s a big, big weekend for United to take of their own business and apply a little pressure.

[ WATCH LIVE: Stream every PL game via Live Extra ]

The Fallen On Hard Times But Someone Has To Win (Maybe) Derby

Crystal Palace vs. Watford — Saturday, 10 a.m. ET (Premier League Extra Time)

When 2016 began, Crystal Palace were 5th in the PL. Unfortunately for them, the clock also struck midnight on what had been a hugely successful season to that point — five losses and one draw since, and they’re now 12th in the league table. The story is eerily similar for Watford, who were 7th after a Boxing Day draw with Chelsea — five losses, a draw and a win later, they’re 10th. A single point is all that separates Saturday’s combatants desperately hoping to regain their early-season form.

Is Roberto Martinez’s employment under review? It might be

Everton vs. West Bromwich Albion — Saturday, 10 a.m. ET (NBCSN)

Everton will be a fascinating club to watch as the 2015-16 season winds down. There’s essentially no chance of them finishing in the top-four or -five (12 and 6 points back, respectively), and they look essentially the same side that massively disappointed en route to an 11th-place finish last season — they’re atrocious and hugely naive defensively, which has been a characteristic of Roberto Martinez-managed teams since, well, the beginning of his managerial career. $100 million is a lot of money to spend over four transfer windows without any discernible progress.

Men In Blazers podcast: Leicester, Spurs continue to defy the odds

Men In Blazers - Sept. 22
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Rog and Davo break down Leicester City’s 3-1 win at Manchester City, marvel at Spurs going second in the table, and talk about the headlines surrounding the mid-table clash between Chelsea and United.

Listen to the latest pod by clicking play below.

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