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Premier League Wednesday Preview: Moyes vs. Martinez and a Cross-London Clash

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The mid-week fixtures — isn’t this week like an extra holiday? — find full-form this afternoon after Marouane Chamakh headed Crystal Palace out of the basement Tuesday with a 1-0 home win over West Ham.

While David Moyes’ first match against his old Everton club is receiving the bulk of the attention ahead of the nine fixtures (watch them all live and online HERE), there’s plenty of intrigue surrounding the day’s matches. Let’s dig in, shall we?

Fulham vs. Tottenham Hotspur, 3pm ET
Spurs displayed decent road form right up until their brutal 6-0 defeat at the hands of Manchester City, but may find a decent tonic at Craven Cottage for an all-London affair. Fulham are losers of five-straight since a road win over Crystal Palace. Yet Fulham should be anything but a lame bunch after Sunday’s performance against West Ham costs Martin Jol his job. Longtime Manchester United assistant Rene Meulensteen will watch over his first match as manager.

Arsenal vs. Hull, 2:45pm ET
Winners of five-straight at home, the Gunners certainly are heavy favorites to take all three points against a Hull City Tigers team that — name debates aside — has one win and five losses in their away form (though Hull did dispatch of Liverpool 3-1 on the weekend). The first goal scored is always crucial but perhaps more so with these two teams, as Arsenal is 11-1-1 after scoring first in 13 of its last 20 matches, while Hull have conceded 11 times in 20 to the tune of a 1-0-10 mark in those matches.

Swansea City vs. Newcastle United, 245pm ET
Is red-hot Newcastle, holders of the Premier League’s longest-active win streak, going to assert itself as a top team in the league? Four-straight wins that include the likes of Chelsea and Spurs on the victim list would indicate ‘Yes’, but the Magpies have been prone to lesser follies than a road loss at Liberty Stadium. Manager Alan Pardew was all-but-sacked by supporters after a road loss to Sunderland, but can make it five-in-a-row with three points over the Swans, who have earned points in their last three matches at home (albeit versus Stoke, West Ham and the aforementioned Black Cats). Adding injuries to insult is the name of the game for Swansea, who will be without Wilfried Bony, Angel Rangel, Garry Monk and likely Michu.

Liverpool vs. Norwich City, 2:45pm ET
Norwich boss Chris Hughton has claimed no worries regarding an angry Liverpool squad that dropped all the points from an ugly fixture at Hull last weekend, and perhaps that’s because the Canaries road form is worrisome enough. Norwich is 1-5 in its last six away from Carrow Road but coming off a Gary Hooper-led home win over Crystal Palace. Liverpool has been strong at home, 5-1 over the last six and three on the bounce, and should be steaming. The Reds have Philippe Coutinho back while Norwich has fresh injury problems with Robert Snodgrass, Anthony Pilkington and Ricky van Wolfswinkel joining the walking wounded.

Manchester United vs. Everton, 2:45pm ET
Oh, this should be a beauty. Can you imagine the noise at Old Trafford should Roberto Martinez come into David Moyes new digs and take care of business with the Scottish manager’s old charges? This has all the makings of a cracker, as United haven’t lost in seven matches since their home setback to West Brom and Everton are unscathed through six (outscoring opponents 11-4 in those contests).

Our own Mike Prindiville let fly with a lengthy piece on this NBC-featured match on Tuesday morning. If you missed it, you need to dig in.

Southampton vs. Aston Villa, 2:45pm ET
True: the Saints lost two top tests against Chelsea and Arsenal, but that should not be held against them for a home tilt versus Aston Villa. Southampton remains unbeaten at home, where they’ve conceded just twice, and Rickie Lambert will have Aston Villa on red alert, as the Villan killer struck thrice against them last season. For their part, the Claret and Blue have not lost in four overall. AV will be hoping Andreas Weimann’s weekend hamstring tightness is gone ahead of the clash.

Stoke City vs. Cardiff City, 2:45pm ET
Here are two teams in Bottom Five form, although Stoke has points from its last three home fixtures. Cardiff, however, is struggling overall and on the road. The Bluebirds are 1-5 in their last six. Stoke are unbeaten in six against Cardiff (4-2-0) and Jonathan Walters has been big for the Potters in those contests, scoring thrice in four appearances.

Sunderland vs. Chelsea, 245pm ET
Mourinho’s boys are humming, with 13 points in their last six fixture, while Sunderland — yes, Sunderland — are winners of two-straight at home. Guy Poyet’s charges received a boost when John O’Shea had a good training session, plus the Blues will be missing David Luiz and Oscar. History is on Chelsea’s side as they’ve won 16 of 17 Premier League games against Sunderland. Those are wins, not points.

West Bromwich Albion vs Manchester City, 3pm ET
Man City’s road demons are well-documented and the Hawthorns isn’t exactly the prescription for resurgence despite the Baggies poor form. West Brom has just two points in its last three matches and six from six. City’s 1-1-4 in its last six away from the Etihad Stadium. Vincent Kompany could be back after a 10-game layoff and he’ll likely be in front of Costel Pantilimon, who continues to impress between the sticks in Joe Hart’s stead. The Telegraph brings the ugly stat that West Brom have scored just once in their last six matches against City.

Be sure to get your fix across all of our NBC platforms, live and online.

La Liga: Ronaldo scores twice, Neville gets 1st win as a manager

Real Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates after scoring a goal during a Spanish La Liga soccer match between Real Madrid and Athtletic Bilbao at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid, Spain, Saturday, Feb. 13, 2016. (AP Photo/Daniel Ochoa de Olza)
AP Photo/Daniel Ochoa de Olza
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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) Cristiano Ronaldo scored two goals to lead Real Madrid to a 4-2 win over Athletic Bilbao on Saturday, provisionally lifting it into second place in the Spanish league.

Ronaldo opened the scoring in the third minute before Javier Eraso quickly leveled for the Basques in a back-and-forth first half at the Santiago Bernabeu that finished with James Rodriguez and Toni Kroos giving Madrid a 3-1 lead at halftime.

https://twitter.com/beINSPORTSUSA/status/698523289841328130

Madrid defender Raphael Varane, whose error led to Eraso’s goal, was sent off in the 83rd after earning identical bookings for twice thrusting his forearm into Aritz Aduriz’s head while contesting a high ball.

Despite being a man down, Ronaldo found the net again in the 87th to move past Barcelona’s Luis Suarez as the competition’s leading scorer with 21 goals this season.

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Gorka Elustondo headed in Bilbao’s second goal in the 90th.

Madrid’s fourth win in as many home matches under coach Zinedine Zidane – by a combined score of 20-3 – lifted it two points ahead of Atletico Madrid before it visits Getafe on Sunday.

Leader Barcelona is one point ahead of Madrid with two matches to play: against Celta on Sunday and at Sporting Gijon on Wednesday.

Zidane will make his European coaching debut on Wednesday when Madrid visits Roma in the Champions League’s round of 16.

Ronaldo’s goals were his 31st and 32nd in 30 games across all competitions this campaign, a season in which he has been criticized by some for failing to score against important rivals.

“About Cristiano, what can I say?” Zidane said before employing an expletive in Spanish to describe how good he considers the forward’s form.

“We are ready for the match against Roma. We are in shape, playing well, and very pleased with how we played today against a very good rival. We are prepared for Wednesday.”

Also Saturday, Villarreal strengthened its hold on fourth place and the last Champions League spot with a 1-0 win at home over Malaga thanks to striker Roberto Soldado‘s 18th-minute goal.

Ronaldo gave Madrid a brilliant start when he received a pass from Karim Benzema, used a deft dribble to wrong-foot Xabier Etxeita and fired a right-footed strike just under the crossbar.

But Bilbao was undaunted and quickly leveled in the 10th when Eraso pounced on Varane’s poor backpass that goalkeeper Keylor Navas did well to stop from becoming an own goal but left for Eraso to finish off.

Aduriz went close twice to putting the visitors ahead with a header saved by Navas before the striker hit the bar.

Rodriguez turned the flow back in Madrid’s favor with an excellent strike with his left foot from outside the area that curled around outstretched goalkeeper Gorka Iraizoz in the 37th.

Kroos put Madrid in full control heading into the break when he took a pass from Ronaldo in the area and sent a shot that deflected off a defender past Iraizoz in first-half injury time.

“We leave with the feeling that we had a good first half. Maybe we missed a great opportunity today,” said Bilbao manager Ernesto Valverde, impressed by Madrid’s “extraordinary firepower.”

Ronaldo hit the upright before finally getting his second goal from a pass by substitute Lucas Vazquez.

Valencia hosts Espanyol later, while Real Betis visits Deportivo La Coruna.

Juventus win 15th straight to take Serie A lead from Napoli

Juventus' Simone Zaza, second from right, celebrates with is teammates after scoring during a Serie A soccer match between Juventus and Napoli at the Juventus stadium, in Turin, Italy, Saturday, Feb. 13, 2016. (AP Photo/Massimo Pinca)
AP Photo/Massimo Pinca
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(AP) — Substitute Simone Zaza scored two minutes from time and Juventus beat visiting Napoli 1-0 on Saturday to take the Serie A lead from the southern club.

[ MORE: Napoli fans support racially abused Koulibaly ]

Seeking its fifth consecutive title, Juventus moved one point ahead of Napoli with 13 rounds remaining in the Italian league.

Near the end of a match in Turin that had been characterized by few chances for either side, Zaza’s goal came with a long, curving shot that deflected slightly off defender Raul Albiol.

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[ MORE: Chelsea’s next manager? Juve GM tells Allegri to “think twice” ]

It was Juventus’ 15th straight win, moving the Bianconeri within two victories of the Serie A record established by Inter Milan in 2006-07.

Earlier, Daniel Ciofani scored twice as promoted Frosinone beat Empoli 2-1 for its first away win in the top division. Also, Chievo Verona and Sassuolo drew 1-1.

Bundesliga wrap: Leverkusen win without Chicharito, drop Hertha to 4th

Leverkusen's Omer Toprak, right, celebrates his side's equalizing goal during a German Bundesliga soccer match between SV Darmstadt 98 and Bayer Leverkusen in Darmstadt, Germany, Saturday, Feb. 13, 2016. (AP Photo/Michael Probst)
AP Photo/Michael Probst
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A roundup of all of Saturday’s action in Germany’s top flight…

[ FOLLOW: PST’s Bundesliga coverage ]

Borussia Dortmund 1-0 Hannover

Bayern Munich’s lead has been cut to five points (for the time being – they play on Sunday) after Borussia Dortmund (48 points) returned to winning ways via Henrikh Mkhitaryan’s game-winning goal in the 57th minute (below video).

Darmstadt 1-2 Bayer Leverkusen

No Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez, no problem for Bayer Leverkusen, who went third in the Bundesliga with a 2-1 away victory over 12th-place Darmstadt. After going down a goal in the 28th minute, the game swung on a pair of goals 15 minutes apart just after the hour mark. Aytac Sulu put the ball into his own net for Leverkusen’s equalizer on 62 minutes, and Julian Brandt scored the winner in the 77th minute. Now on 35 points with a +9 goal differential, Leverkusen have leapfrogged Hertha Berlin for the third and final automatic qualification spot into the UEFA Champions League.

Stuttgart 2-0 Hertha Berlin

Hertha are now four league games without a win (three draws) after falling 2-0 away to Stuttgart. Serey Die and Filip Kostic were the goalscorers on Saturday, as U.S. national team defender John Brooks completed his 12th straight 90-minute shift (all competitions). With 35 points and a +6 goal differential, Hertha now sit just two points ahead of Schalke and Mainz in the race for the Bundesliga’s fourth and final Champions League place.

Elsewhere in the Bundesliga

Wolfsburg 2-0 Ingolstadt
Werder Bremen 1-1 Hoffenheim
Koln 3-1 Eintracht Frankfurt

Sunday’s Bundesliga schedule

Hamburg vs. Borussia Monchengladbach (9:30 a.m. ET)
Augsburg vs. Bayern Munich (11:30 a.m. ET)

Team GP W D L GF GA GD Home Away PTS
Bayern Munich 20 17 2 1 50 9 41 10-0-0 7-2-1 53
Borussia Dortmund 21 15 3 3 53 24 29 9-1-0 6-2-3 48
Bayer Leverkusen 21 10 5 6 31 22 9 5-3-2 5-2-4 35
Hertha BSC Berlin 21 10 5 6 29 23 6 6-3-1 4-2-5 35
FC Schalke 04 21 10 3 8 30 28 2 6-2-3 4-1-5 33
FSV Mainz 05 21 10 3 8 27 25 2 6-1-4 4-2-4 33
Mönchengladbach 20 10 2 8 40 35 5 7-1-3 3-1-5 32
VfL Wolfsburg 21 8 6 7 31 28 3 7-3-1 1-3-6 30
1. FC Köln 21 7 8 6 24 27 -3 4-4-3 3-4-3 29
VfB Stuttgart 21 8 3 10 33 41 -8 5-1-5 3-2-5 27
FC Ingolstadt 04 21 7 5 9 14 23 -9 4-2-4 3-3-5 26
Darmstadt 21 6 6 9 22 31 -9 1-4-6 5-2-3 24
Hamburger SV 20 6 5 9 22 28 -6 2-3-5 4-2-4 23
FC Augsburg 20 5 6 9 22 28 -6 2-3-5 3-3-4 21
Eintracht Frankfurt 21 5 6 10 27 37 -10 3-3-4 2-3-6 21
Werder Bremen 21 5 5 11 25 42 -17 1-3-6 4-2-5 20
1899 Hoffenheim 21 2 9 10 19 31 -12 1-5-4 1-4-6 15
Hannover 96 21 4 2 15 19 36 -17 2-0-8 2-2-7 14

USWNT tops Mexico, advances to Olympic qualifying semis on late Lloyd PK

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The U.S. women’s national team is one step closer to qualifying for the 2016 Olympics in after the Lady Yanks, on the back of Carli Lloyd’s 79th minute, knocked off their North American rivals, Mexico, in a narrow, physical affair at Toyota Stadium in Frisco, Tex., on Saturday.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s USWNT coverage ]

With only bottom-of-the-group Puerto Rico (0 points, -15 goal differential through two games) still to face, the USWNT are through to the semifinal round, at which point they’ll be one more win away from qualifying for this summer’s Olympic games in Rio de Janeiro.

The first half of Saturday’s clash was much different from what either side saw in their opening game — USWNT beat Costa Rica, 5-0, while Mexico routed Puerto Rick, 6-0 — as both sides engaged in a rough-and-tumble affair, racked up plenty of fouls and failed to create much of anything in terms of quality scoring chances.

The USWNT’s best chance early in the second half came in the 53rd minute, when Christen Press rifled a right-footed effort toward the far post from 15 yards out, but found nothing but woodwork before the ball caromed back into the field of play.

[ MORE: USWNT routs Costa Rica in Olympic qualifying opener ]

Alex Morgan very nearly opened the scoring in the 67th minute. Becky Sauerbrunn’s long throw was flicked on by Lindsey Horan’s header inside the penalty area, and eventually made its way to Morgan near the top of the six-yard box, from where her volleyed effort was sent inches over the crossbar.

With 77 minutes on the clock, Horan followed suit with a shot of her own off the post. From 20 yards out, her right-footed effort had beaten the goalkeeper, only to hit the same far post and bounce across the face of goal, where not a single American player was waiting to tap home the rebound.

All of Mexico’s dogged defensive work was undone in the 79th minute, though, as the USWNT was awarded a controversial penalty for handball. Lloyd’s initial effort from the penalty spot was saved, but the reigning World Player of the Year was first to the rebound and slotted the ball into an empty net (below video).