Newcastle v. Sunderland: No Cabaye or Remy leaves Magpies in tight spot

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Saturday morning kicks-off with the second installment of the fantastic Tyne-Wear derby where Sunderland can record their first double over Newcastle since 1967 (watch live on NBCSN at 7:00am ET and online at NBC Live Extra).

Newcastle lost 2-1 at Sunderland back in October making it two straight derby victories for the Mackems, who also won last spring with Paulo Di Canio’s sideline knee-slides forever etched in our memories. The Magpies head into Saturday’s match in a precarious situation having sold their best player Yohan Cabaye to Paris Saint-Germain earlier this week and without star striker Loic Remy, who was hit with a three-match ban following his altercation with Norwich City midfielder Bradley Johnson in last Wednesday’s 0-0 draw.

Prior to Wednesday’s draw the Magpies comprehensively defeated West Ham United 3-1 at Upton Park to stop the bleeding on a three match losing streak (to Arsenal, Manchester City and West Brom). Alan Pardew is likely to hand a debut to on-loan striker Luuk de Jong but will be without Gael Bigiriama (ankle), Fabricio Colocinni (knee) and Ryan Taylor (knee), while Papiss Cisse (back) and Yoan Gouffran (knock) face late fitness tests.

Sunderland enters the match in their best form of the season, unbeaten in their last three matches. Since losing 0-1 to Aston Villa the Black Cats crushed Fulham 4-1, drew 2-2 with Southampton and beat Stoke 2-1, which was enough to put them two points clear of the relegation zone.

While Lee Cattermole (knock), Kieran Westwood (shoulder) and Carlos Cuellar (hip) are all out, Gus Poyet’s side will be boosted by the availability of new Argentine striker Ignacio Scocco and fellow compatriots defender Santiago Vergini and goalkeeper Oscar Ustari.

What They’re Saying

Newcastle striker Luuk De Jong: “I’m really motivated. The first half of the season hasn’t been nice for me because I didn’t play much. I just want to show my talent, score goals and be successful again. That is why I’m here.”

Sunderland winger Adam Johnson: “We’re confident, and if we can pick up some points away from home too we should be fine and there’s the cup final to look forward to. There’s plenty of positives.”

Prediction

Sunderland have been playing some superb football of late, especially Adam Johnson who looks to be staking his claim on the England World Cup squad. The Black Cats do the double over their staunch rivals.

Pochettino calls out Xavi for Dele Alli-Man City “lie to lie to lie”

Photo by Dan Istitene/Getty Images
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“He tried to destroy our focus to win because he hates me because he’s Barcelona.”

Even half-kidding, the Derby Barceloni is alive and well for longtime Espanyol man Mauricio Pochettino and Barcelona legend Xavi.

At least that’s why the latter is trying to sabotage the former’s Premier League title fight, Pochettino says.

[ RECAP: Chelsea 4-2 Saints ]

Speaking from his club team in Qatar, Xavi claimed that Manchester City is going to bid high for Spurs’ young star Dele Alli.

Tottenham boss Pochettino says that’s just not true. Pochettino was joking a bit when he answered questions on the topic, but then told a story about Xavi diving for a penalty in the derby. Here are a few of his thoughts, from The Telegraph:

“It wasn’t a penalty but Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored for Barcelona and they won the game. After in the replay it was very funny because it was clear no one touched him. Come on! It goes from lie to lie to lie.”

“He is working for Manchester City, maybe? He wants to help Guardiola and [Vincent] Kompany.”

Boa Esporte goalkeeper back to prison as murder appeal denied

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The risk clearly wasn’t worth it for Boa Esporte.

The Brazilian club signed Bruno Fernandes de Souza in March, not long after the convicted murderer and goalkeeper was released from prison on appeal.

Fernandes, 32, had been jailed for ordering the murder of a lover, who was fed to dogs by the killer. Boa Esporte lost several big sponsors for signing him, but vocally defended the move.

The owner, Rone Moraes da Costa, said he’d rather move the team than not give Fernandes a chance to revive his career. Fernandes admitted his mistakes but said he wasn’t “a bad guy”.

According to the Associated Press:

“Brazil’s Supreme Court decided on Tuesday to deny an appeal to Boa Esporte goalkeeper Bruno Fernandes de Souza, who was released in March while appealing a 22-year sentence in the 2010 killing of Eliza Samudio.”

So it’s back to jail for Fernandes, and we’ll be waiting with baited breath to hear from Boa Esporte’s owner.

Conte: Chelsea “ready to fight to the end”

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Following Saturday’s FA Cup semifinal win over Spurs and Tuesday’s blowout of Southampton — the 4-2 score line didn’t tell the story of the second half — Antonio Conte is fired up for Chelsea to complete its Premier League title run.

The manager admits that his side was under pressure after Spurs narrowed the table gap to four points last week, but the wins have eased the Blues’ burden.

Chelsea had lost two of four PL matches before the weekend.

From Football.London:

“I think we passed a big, big psychological step after the defeat to United. We lost three points and had to prepare a semi-final against Tottenham and then another tough game in the league. In that moment we had a really important test and our answer was very good.

“We must think that this race is open, we have reached the final of the FA Cup. The situation in the league is totally open. We are ready to fight to the end. We must be proud for the job we are doing and to fight to the end.”

Spurs can bring the gap back to four with a win at Crystal Palace on Tuesday, but have a tougher run-in with five matches to play. As long as the gap is within six points, anything is possible, but the Blues have certainly answered the bell over the past four days.

Chelsea: Big win “feels like a massive step” to title

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“It feels like a massive step to be honest,” said game-changing goal scorer Gary Cahill of Chelsea’s 4-2 win over Southampton at Stamford Bridge on Tuesday.

Chelsea’s Premier League lead stands at seven points after the win, which saw a dominant second half from the hosts.

[ RECAP: Chelsea 4-2 Saints ]

Perhaps it was cued up by Cahill’s first half stoppage time header, which boosted the Blues to a 2-1 lead just before the whistle.

Cahill darted in front of Diego Costa‘s scissor kick attempt to power a header past Fraser Forster.

“(Costa) tried to claim it afterward as well,” Cahill said. “When the ball’s just lofted over, it’s dying to be attacked. We went into halftime with our tails up and it was a big boost for us.”

Cesc Fabregas said Southampton surprised the Blues tactically, leading to an entertaining first half that could’ve seen either side ahead before half.

“We needed a little bit of time to adapt to what they did because we prepared for something else,” he said.

Fabregas said the win was big with second-place Spurs watching at home. Tottenham plays at Crystal Palace on Wednesday.

“We needed a good response after the Man United game. We have to keep going with five games to go, to keep it up and make the last push. It would be a big shame if now we relaxed. We just have to push now more than ever,” he said.

“It’s a statement for (Spurs), for us, for everyone, but most of all for us.”
Eden Hazard agreed.
“We scored four beautiful goals,” said the Belgian, who scored the game’s first goal. “It’s good to play before and put pressure on them.”