Liverpool v. Everton Preview: Injuries to play big role in Merseyside Derby

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The Premier League has a full-slate of matches scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday this week, lead by the mouth-watering fixture between Liverpool and Everton (watch live on NBCSN at 2:00pm ET and online at NBC Live Extra).

Only a point separates 4th placed Liverpool from 6th placed Everton meaning there will be much more than pride on the line when these two sides square off. In the reverse fixture at Goodison Park last fall the Merseyside clubs engaged in what was arguably one of the best matches of the season, a pulsating 3-3 draw.

The 222nd installment of the Merseyside Derby promises to be just as exiciting. Liverpool enter the match unbeaten in their last three, having beaten Hull City 2-0 and Stoke City 5-3 before dropping points at home in the 2-2 draw with Aston Villa.

The Villa match was an aberration that no right-minded pundit could’ve called but nevertheless underscored Liverpool’s injured defense that featured a center-back pairing of Martin Skrtel and Kolo Toure, and full-backs Aly Cissokho and Glen Johnson. Johnson succumbed to injury in that match meaning he’ll be sidelined for at least a month, joining Daniel Agger (calf) and Mamadou Sakho (hamstring).

The defense will also be blunted by the loss of holding midfielder Lucas Leiva, who injured his knee against Villa and now faces three weeks out. Joining him on the sidelines is fellow midfielder Joe Allen (muscle injury) and Jose Enrique (knee). The defensive injuries mean Martin Kelly or Jon Flanagan will likely play the role of right-back, setting up a potentially tasty matchup for Steven Pienaar, who is likely to return to Everton from a groin injury.

The Toffees come into the game unbeaten in their last four, beating Southampton and Norwich (2-0 and 2-1, respectively) but drawing with Stoke and West Brom (both 1-1 draws). Joining Pienaar as late fitness tests will be Sylavin Distin (knock) and Seamus Coleman (hamstring). Ross Barkley remains out with a foot injury as does Gerard Deulofeu with knee ligament damage, while Bryan Oviedo’s broken leg in the 4-0 FA Cup win over Stevenage means he is out for the season.

What They’re Saying

Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers: “There are still going to be quality players and the football ideas of both teams will come out, but it is unfortunate a number of players are out of the game – and a lot of them starting players – it would’ve made it a different game.”

Everton manager Roberto Martinez: “We are capable of going anywhere and beating any team. What we will need on Tuesday night is a combination of those two games. We need to be absolutely perfect.”

Prediction

Everton have not won in the last seven derbies – a run stretching back to since October 2010 – while Liverpool’s defensive issues will be tough to overcome. In the end, honors even. 1-1 draw.

Day Four: All the action from the U20 World Cup

Hong Hae-in/Yonhap via AP
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South Korea and Venezuela clinched berths in the knockout rounds of the U-20 World Cup on Tuesday, while Germany and Argentina have surprising work to do after two matches in South Korea.

[ MORE: Allardyce steps down at Palace ]

South Korea 2-1 Argentina

Barcelona B man Lee Seung-woo helped South Korea take a 2-0 lead, then hold on for the win and group lead over England.

England 1-1 Guinea

Chelsea youngster Fikayo Tomori scored a wild long range own goal to cost England the three points, but the Blues are still well-positioned to advance out of the group stage. Bournemouth midfielder Lewis Cook scored for England, and it was a beaut.

Venezuela 7-0 Vanuatu

Seven different Venezuelans have scored through a pair of shutout wins, with Caracas’ Sergio Cordova the only one to bag a pair.

Mexico 0-0 Germany

Germany has just one point through two matches, thanks largely to Pachuca’s Abraham Romero’s seven saves. Mexico was outshot 12-6.

Porto, Watford, Hull? Marco Silva in demand

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Marco Silva is one of the hottest properties in management, months after eliciting cries of “Who?” following his appointment at Hull City.

While those cries may have been a tiny bit myopic given his time at Sporting CP and Olympiacos, the 39-year-old is now visible to the world despite Hull’s relegation.

[ MORE: Real Madrid nabs $50m teen ]

Silva will be back in England to meet with Hull on Wednesday, but a clause in his contract that said he could leave if the club was relegated gives the Tigers very little hope.

Rumors have him wanted at Watford, and he’s also been linked with a number of other jobs including Southampton (should the club part ways with Claude Puel).

However, the former right back is also reportedly a target of one of the biggest clubs in his home country: Champions League side Porto.

UEFA Europa League Final preview: Manchester United vs. Ajax

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Jose Mourinho’s big European gamble takes center stage on Wednesday in Sweden, when Manchester United attempts to topple young Ajax in the UEFA Europa League Final.

United’s chances for UEFA Champions League qualification, a magnificent opportunity, are overshadowed by the pall cast over Manchester by sinister terrorist attacks at a pop concert that killed and injured many on Monday night.

Alas, there’s soccer to be played, and Mourinho is looking to make it a trio of shiny items in his first year on the job. United beat Leicester City for the Community Shield, then topped Southampton in the EFL Cup Final en route to Sweden.

United’s well-documented dearth of healthy defenders will march out one more time on Wednesday, with Chris Smalling and Phil Jones tasked with manning the center of the back line. Expect Antonio Valencia and Matteo Darmian out wide.

[ MORE: Full 2016-17 season reviews

Despite the injury to Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Mourinho’s attack is going to give Ajax fits. Marcus Rashford has been next level for most of the second half of the season, and United will also likely feature Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Paul Pogba atop Ander Herrera.

If someone is going to break United down, it could be midfield wizards Davy Klaassen and Lasse Schone. The creative middle men have a variety of options to find with the ball, including on-loan Chelsea man Bertrand Traore and Danish teenager Kasper Dolberg.

But how will they deal with United’s attack? Sure Ajax has stopped Lyon, Schalke, Copenhagen, and Legia Warsaw, but United and Mourinho? That’s another challenge for Peter Bosz and his men.

Ajax won the 1992 UEFA Cup, and this is United’s first ever trip to this particular final. The Red Devils are heavy favorites, and we expect United to prevail. Don’t sleep on Juan Mata heroics. Call it 3-1.

Allardyce resigns, opening up intriguing vacancy at Palace

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Sam Allardyce is walking away on top outside the relegation zone.

The veteran Premier League manager, 62, resigned his post as Crystal Palace on Tuesday, weeks after leading another team to safety.

The move ends a tumultuous eight months for Allardyce, who was fired as England manager after an undercover sting exposed unethical dealings with agents.

[ MORE: Full 2016-17 season reviews

It also comes about an hour after somebody wrote that Crystal Palace should move on from Allardyce. What a jerk, that somebody.

Rarely at a loss for words, here’s Big Sam from cpfc.co.uk:

I want to be able to savour life while I’m still relatively young and when I’m still relatively healthy enough to do all the things I want to do, like travel, spend more time with my family and grandchildren without the huge pressure that comes with being a football manager.

This is the right time for me. I have no ambitions to take another job, I simply want to be able to enjoy all the things you cannot really enjoy with the 24/7 demands of managing any football club, let alone one in the Premier League.”

All kidding aside — and I’m far from a Big Sam fan — congrats to the man on walking away to enjoy the finer things in life. He had a heck of a run, and we’ll see how long he can resist being away from the fray. Cheers, Sam.