Premier League Sunday Preview: Newcastle host Man City, Stoke take on Liverpool

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On Sunday there are two tremendous treats heading your way.

Make sure you’re up early to witness a soccer masterclass, as back-to-back matches from the Premier League is a sure-fire way to start your Sunday off right.  

Title hopefuls against top six teams, hostile atmospheres and global sueprstars galore… this Sunday has it all.

Grab some breakfast, and a big ol’ cup of tea before you settle down to watch these four teams slog it out in the harsh English winter. Expect plenty of twists and turns and plenty of pulsating action.

Let’s get to it.

Newcastle United vs. Manchester City, live on NBCSN at 9:05am ET

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Expect a powerful battle at St. James’ Park on Sunday, as two in-form teams go at it.

Early on Sunday we will be treated to a masterful game at St. James’ Park as free-flowing Man City roll into town to play Newcastle. City have scored 92 goals in their 31 games so far this campaign and the interchangeable attackers they have at their disposal means a game against the Citizens often feels like a date with clinical creativity. Newcastle are in the top eight after a marvelous spell for Alan Pardew’s men, as his strong French legion headlined by Loic Remy, Yoann Gouffran and Yohan Cabaye have blossomed. A top six finish is well in sight for the Magpies and the passionate fans in the North East will welcome City with plenty of hostility, as the Premier League’s entertainers look to go top of the table. City will be buoyed by their recent results against Newcastle, with the Manchester club winning the last eight-straight and they haven’t tasted defeat at the hands of Newcastle in 14 games.

Manuel Pellegrini’s side are unstoppable at home, but have struggled away all season. Recently they’ve done better away from the Etihad but a tricky trip to in-form Newcastle should be a real test, especially without top striker Sergio Aguero who is still injured. That said they do have Edin Dzeko and Alavaro Negredo who can’t stop scoring, so they should be set for a goal threat. Get ready for this brutal battle on the North Sea coast, as Newcastle look to avenge a 4-0 hammering on the opening weekend of the season back in August.

Stoke City vs. Liverpool, live on NBCSN at 11:10am ET

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Daniel Sturridge is set to return from injury vs. Stoke on Sunday. As S.A.S. will be back together.

The Potters like playing against Liverpool at the Britannia Stadium. They like it a lot, and in fact Liverpool have not won at Stoke in the league since 1984. Last season Stoke recorded a memorable 3-1 win over the Reds and will be looking to emulate that when the Reds roll into Staffordshire on Sunday. Stoke are playing much better soccer under Mark Hughes, and in the Welshman’s first season in charge his side are developing nicely as the season progresses. The Potters have already beaten Chelsea at home and have added some creativity to their staunch defensive displays. As for Liverpool, they will welcome back Daniel Sturridge from his long-term injury as the famous S.A.S. partnership will be reunited, with Sturridge and Luis Suarez leading the line on Sunday.

Whilst captain Steven Gerrard is also back fit and ready to help Liverpool maintain their terrific season, with a top four finish the main aim for Brendan Rodgers side. If they want to do that they’ll need to go to places like Stoke, where the home side are unbeaten in seven in an intimidating atmosphere, and win. Expect a real clash of style at the Britannia as Suarez and co. aim to keep up with the chasing pack at the top of the table.

Report: Arsenal interested in Leicester keeper Kasper Schmeichel

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According to a report by The Sun, Arsenal is monitoring the progress of Leicester City goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel.

The rumor does make sense. With Petr Cech at 34 years old and having a poor season in front of net and backup David Ospina failing to challenge him for the starting job, the Gunners are looking elsewhere to bring in a potential future starter.

Schmeichel has been one of the best goalkeepers in the Premier League the past two seasons. Last season he led the Foxes to the Premier League title, organizing a stunningly good defensive line of patchwork players. This season, the defense has largely regressed and let Schmeichel down, but he has still performed well and has the metrics to remain one of the league’s top shot-stoppers.

The Danish keeper is 30 years old himself, but that puts him in his prime for a goalkeeper. He has been with Leicester City since 2011, and he will tick 250 appearances for the club with his next match. Schmeichel was rumored to be a member of the secret player delegation that worked hard to see Claudio Ranieri pushed out of the club, a sentiment which he and the other players have strongly denied.

Still, with an improbable Premier League title in hand and an appearance in the Champions League quarterfinals now on the cards, there probably isn’t much else for him at Leicester City. It’s possible Schmeichel could look to bank on his past performances and secure a move to a bigger club this summer.

Should Arsene Wenger stay with Arsenal past this season, a possibility that looks more and more likely, he could look to move on from Cech despite signing the former Chelsea goalkeeper just two summers ago.

Diego Costa injured, but will stay with Spain squad for friendly

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Chelsea striker Diego Costa pulled up in Spain training on Sunday, and with the Blues in first in the Premier League and Costa in great form, there were obvious concerns.

With Costa struggling with leg and ankle injuries, the RFEF informed Chelsea that there was an issue, and Costa was pulled from training and sent for tests. X-Rays at the local hospital in Madrid were negative, and he’s rejoined the squad.

According to the RFEF, doctors will continue to monitor the 28-year-old and he will continue with the national team for the rest of the international break. With a World Cup qualification win over Israel already in the books and just a friendly against France to go on Tuesday, it’s odd that Spain would risk Costa moving forward, but they will continue to keep him around.

Costa has scored 18 goals this season to lead the Blues, and he scored in the win over Israel. Spain takes on France in Saint-Denis on Tuesday, with both teams leading their World Cup qualification groups. Spain has a goal-differential lead on Italy with both teams miles above the rest of the Group G, and France is ahead of Sweden by three points in Group A, with the Netherlands back in fourth.

Foul or flop? Player “headbutts” referee, is sent off

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Well, there must be something in the water down in Brasilia, because things got a little weird this evening.

Flamengo drew with Vasco da Gama 2-2, but that was just the start.

In the 54th minute, with Vasco da Gama leading 1-0 at Estadio Nacional Mané Garrincha, 36-year-old Luis Fabiano was sent off for “headbutting” the referee. Headbutting is in quotes because looking at the video, it certainly appears there was little to no contact, and the referee flops.

Yes, the referee flopped. Take a look:

To be fair, Fabiano was already on a yellow, so getting in the referee’s face even without the headbutt/pelvic thrust would likely still have seen him sent to an early shower.

So the former Porto and Sevilla man was sent off, and Vasco da Gama was down to 10 men. Immediately after the red card, Flamengo took advantage, powering in a pair of goals via Willian Arao and Orlando Berrio to take the lead 2-1. But Vasco wouldn’t quit, and they earned a penalty five minutes into stoppage time, which Nene buried for the 2-2 draw.

To top things off, a player named Yago Pikachu scored the opener for Vasco da Gama, which was followed by a delay in the game seven minutes later after a power surge in the stadium. Go figure.

Lletget diagnosed with foot sprain, escaping further damage

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Word has arrived from the LA Galaxy camp that will see USMNT fans feel relieved as Sebastian Lletget has escaped the news many feared.

The young attacker was impressive in the first 18 minutes of the United States’ 6-0 win over Honduras, but was injured minutes after scoring the opening goal and could not continue. Replays showed that Lletget got his foot caught underneath a defender in the process of a hard challenge on the right wing.

There was concern that Lletget would be out for a significant amount of time, but the Galaxy announced that after testing over the weekend, Lletget did not suffer any structural damage and was diagnosed with a left foot sprain.

[ MORE: USMNT adds Paul Arreola to roster, drops Lletget, Brooks, Morris ]

Lletget will visit a specialist on Monday to determine a plan for recovery, and it’s possible that he will still have to miss some time in the near future. The Galaxy visit Vancouver on Saturday, and his status for that match has to be considered up in the air. They then host Montreal on April 7.

While Lletget obviously misses out on the next USMNT game at Panama on Tuesday having already been dumped from the roster, he will most definitely be available for the June games against Trinidad & Tobago and Mexico, and will likely be an option for Bruce Arena given the manager’s history with Lletget at Los Angeles.

The United States have been struck with a collection of injuries that all occurred just before the international break, hampering the squad significantly. Bobby Wood, Jordan Morris, and Fabian Johnson all went down in the days before reporting for international duty, and the team lost Lletget and John Brooks in the Honduras win. Lletget’s departure could see Alejandro Bedoya into the starting lineup on Tuesday, with the Union midfielder having replaced Lletget in the Honduras match. Also in contention is Jermaine Jones, who could come in after his suspension and push Darlington Nagbe onto the wing.