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Premier League Preview: Manchester United vs. Cardiff City

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  • Manchester United’s 37 points through 22 matches are fewest for club in history of the Premier League.
  • Cardiff last won at Old Trafford in 1954.
  • Craig Pawson’s your referee

Manchester United’s relative struggles at Old Trafford inspired podcasters The Football Ramble to hilariously search for a new nickname for the building, but Ole Gunnar Solskjær’s return to the building as Cardiff City manager will bring plenty of positive memories and familiar faces into the Theater of Dreams on Tuesday. (Watch at 2:45pm ET on on NBC Sports Live Extra).

And while “LOL’D Trafford” and “The Al Ferguson Loser Dome” are worth a few laughs, surely Red Devils supporters haven’t been giggling it up as their team was booted from the League Cup at home and losing three of five Premier League fixtures at their former fortress.

Enter Solskjaer, who scored 91 goals over 10 years for Manchester United and comes with an unknown number of old friends. There’s former Manchester United youth star Magnus Wolff Eikrem and recent Red Devils red cardee Fabio in addition to on-loan Wilfried Zaha as Solskjaer stocks Vincent Tan’s cupboard with players he knows from his days developing players in Manchester.

Despite all that familiarity, it’s a new face who deserves all the run. Juan Mata will don the No. 8 as he’s expected to make his bow after leaving the clutches of Jose Mourinho at the bargain basement price of 37.1 million pounds (which could buy you 211 average houses in Manchester).

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Cardiff’s picked up a pair of road FA Cup wins at Newcastle and Bolton but hasn’t won away from home in the Premier League in eight matches, since a 2-1 win at Craven Cottage in late September. They haven’t won at all in PL play in six tries, dating back to a 1-0 win over fellow strugglers West Bromwich Albion on Dec. 14.

What They’re Saying

Cardiff boss Solskjaer on returning to Old Trafford: “I have always had a great relationship with Manchester United’s fans. Back in Norway, when we’ve been watching United games over the years, I’ve nudged the kids and said: ‘They are still singing about your dad.’ I am not that emotional a man so it is hard to say how I will feel. You never know. Sometimes, it just catches you, doesn’t it? Like when you do your wedding speech.”

Mata upon his arrival at Manchester United: “I would like to win the Premier League here, it’s a very special trophy for every player who plays in this country and it would be amazing, and I think at this club you can achieve it because this club is used to winning leagues and I will try my best. Obviously I’m still young and I’ve been lucky to win some trophies but I want to win lots more.”

Prediction

There are some who say Manchester United’s leaky defense will prevent them from a return to Champions League football, but Mata’s arrival and Wayne Rooney’s expected return make them dangerous even if Robin van Persie isn’t ready today (which he just may be). Whether you’re calling it the “Theater of Dreams” or the “Theater of Screams,” it’ll be rowdy tonight. I would not dream of betting against Manchester United here. In fact, here’s my proffer: two goals to the good for the Red Devils. 3-1 your final.

Thibaut Courtois committed to Chelsea despite links to PSG

WATFORD, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 03:  Thibaut Courtois of Chelsea in action during the Barclays Premier League match between Watford and Chelsea at Vicarage Road on February 3, 2016 in Watford, England.  (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)
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Thibaut Courtois has denied reports he could leave London for Paris Saint-Germain this summer after a disappointing season at Chelsea.

The 23-year-old goalkeeper missed a large portion of the season through injury and failed to regain his top form when healthy as the Blues struggled throughout the year.

With a new manager in Antonio Conte taking over in June, some believed Courtois would be sold to allow the Italian to bring in a goalkeeper of his choice.

[ MORE: Atletico Madrid reach UCL final ]

Despite recent reports linking Courtois with a transfer to PSG that would make him the most expensive goalkeeper in the world, the Belgian international does not fancy a move to France.

Speaking to French newspaper Le Parisien, Courtois said he is happy at Chelsea and will “100-percent” be back at Stamford Bridge next season.

I have never had any contact with PSG. I have played a lot against PSG recently – twice last season, again this season in a friendly and twice more in the Champions League this year.

They are a good club who win their league easily. Me, I like playing in England. Paris is a very good club but I am happy at Chelsea.

I have a contract for three years, so I will say 100 per cent [be staying at Chelsea]. Rumours affect any club where things are going badly. People think the top players want to leave because they are not in the Champions League.

Those words show quite a change from Courtois’ opinion a few months ago, when he cast doubt over his Chelsea future.

At just 23, Courtois has already made more than 200 appearances in his career for Atletico Madrid and Chelsea. Although he did not have a standout season this year, Courtois has shown his talent as a potential top-five goalkeeper in the world and Conte would be wise to keep him.

Former CONMEBOL president has petition to stop extradition rejected

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ASUNCION, Paraguay (AP) Paraguay’s top court has rejected a petition by Nicolas Leoz, the former head of the South American football confederation, to halt his extradition to the United States.

Leoz is being held under house arrest in Paraguay. He is accused of receiving millions in bribes and kickbacks and was among dozens of top officials indicted in the FIFA corruption scandal.

[ FOLLOW: Leicester City’s miracle ]

Leoz’s lawyer Ricardo Preda told The Associated Press that his petition was turned down, but that he would continue to appeal against the extradition.

Leoz was the head of CONMEBOL from 1986 until 2013 when he resigned, and was replaced by Eugenio Figueredo of Uruguay.

Figueredo is under house arrest in Uruguay on similar charges. Figueredo was replaced by Juan Angel Napoul of Paraguay, who is under house arrest in Miami.

Cristiano Ronaldo back healthy for Real Madrid; will play vs. Man City

MADRID, SPAIN - MAY 03:  Cristiano Ronaldo of Real Madrid warms up during a training session ahead of the UEFA Champions League Semi Final Second Leg between Real Madrid and Manchester City at Valdebebas training ground on May 3, 2016 in Madrid, Spain.  (Photo by Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images)
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Real Madrid manager Zinedine Zidane has confirmed that Cristiano Ronaldo is “100-percent” for Wednesday’s Champions League semifinal match against Manchester City.

Ronaldo missed the first leg at the Etihad while recovering from a thigh injury, which ended a scoreless draw.

[ MORE: UCL semifinal preview ]

The Champions League’s all-time leading scorer with 93 goals, Ronaldo has not featured for Real since suffering the injury in a La Liga match against Villarreal on April 20.

Real Madrid had the better of chances in the first leg in Manchester, but Joe Hart’s heroics stopped Zidane’s side from grabbing an all-important away goal. However, Ronaldo’s absence was clearly visible and his return is a massive boost for Real.

[ RELATED: Atletico Madrid eliminate Bayern Munich, advance to UCL final ]

Even if Ronaldo is not 100-percent fit as Zidane claims, his inclusion in the lineup is still vital for Real’s success. A threat in so many different aspects of the game, his presence alone can throw off opposing defenses, leaving more time and space for his teammates to expose a City back-line that has its flaws.

Premier League chairman: Leicester City made mugs of all of us

LEICESTER, ENGLAND - MAY 03:  Leicester reacts to Leicester City's Premier League Title Success on May 03, 2016 in Leicester, England.  (Photo by Matthew Lewis/Getty Images)
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Premier League executive chairman Richard Scudamore has been around football for a long time, but even he can’t explain Leicester City’s miraculous title run.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s Leicester coverage ]

With the Foxes now officially champions of England, Scudamore hailed the achievement as “the biggest sporting story ever.”

Speaking to BBC Sport, the Premier League’s top exec said Leicester’s run has silenced all the bookmakers and critics who said it could never happen, but that he wouldn’t want it any other way.

It’s probably the biggest sporting story ever and the biggest sporting achievement ever.

Nobody saw it coming and even when it was halfway through the season nobody said it could be sustained.

We don’t know what the future holds because we’ve all become completely hopeless at predicting anything, including the bookmakers and everybody else – because this one nobody saw coming.

It’s made mugs of all of us and that is just the most fantastic feeling.

If the bookmakers had it as a 5,000-1 event, you would imagine you should achieve these type of things once every 5,000 years. It gives us 10, 20, 30, 40, 50 years of being able to say: ‘Leicester 2016. Just remember Leicester 2016.’

Pegged as pre-season favorites for relegation, Leicester defied the odds (5,000-1 odds) and claimed the most unlikely of championships. A top executive with the Premier League since 1999, even Scudamore had to admit he had a bit of egg on his face.

[ VOTE: What is the top moment from Leicester’s fairytale run? ]

Scudamore may not have believed in the Foxes, but few outside the city really did. One thing the chairman did have right though, is that we will all remember ‘Leicester 2016.’