Premier League Sunday Preview: Liverpool travels to West Brom, Arsenal hosts Crystal Palace

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These are the situations that Premier League contenders must rise and conquer.

Two of the title challengers, Liverpool and Arsenal, meet teams knee-deep in relegation trouble. At The Hawthorns, Brendan Rodgers men need all three points as they travel into West Brom, otherwise they stand the chance of losing sight of the league leaders.

The task is a smidge easier for Arsene Wenger’s men, who will be at home in North London, hosting the team from London’s less fashionable south side, Crystal Palace. Then again, Palace has renewed vim, vigor and hope under a new manager.

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These are two of the last three games of Round 24, with only Manchester City-Chelsea still to come on Monday.

Liverpool vs. West Brom, live on NBCSN 8:00 am ET

  • Liverpool won the teams’ first meeting, 4-1
  • The Baggies have just one win in 13 matches
  • Liverpool’s Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge have combined for 36 Premier League goals this year

Liverpool was all that and more in an emotional mid-week derby triumph over Everton, but the sheen will come off that one quickly if Rodgers’ men cannot regroup and put all their mental energy into this one.

Midfielder Joe Allen is expected to be available after missing the showy win over Everton because of a hamstring strain.  Don’t be surprised if midfield mate Steven Gerrard gets into the scoring action; the longtime England international has scored in his last three league matches. It’s Gerrard’s best run of goals since striking in four consecutive matches back in December of 2012.

And, of course, there is always Luis Suarez to talk about, especially as his hat trick earlier this year keyed his team’s 4-1 win at Anfield in the teams’ initial meeting of 2013-14.

On the other side, controversial West Brom striker Nicolas Anelka will miss the match against his former club after taking a cut that required stitches in a midweek loss to Aston Villa.

By the way, Liverpool didn’t make much hay in the January transfer window; what you see is what you’ll get for the final three-plus months.

Arsenal vs. Crystal Palace, live on NBCSN 10:30am ET

  • Palace has just one win in 14 trips to Arsenal, a one-goal win in 1994
  • Enlivened under manager Tony Pulis, Palace has won three of its last five
  • The south Londoners have just five road goals this year

No time for the Gunners to feel badly about their injury woes in midfield; Wenger’s men need this one – and could then sit and watch in good humor as City and Chelsea beat up on one another Monday. Media and other observers are using words like “resilience” and “determination” to describe Arsenal this year, which hasn’t always been the case. So, we’ll see.

Among the reasons Arsenal has established itself as a surprising title contender is its stubbornness at the Emirates; Wenger’s men are unbeaten in their last 10 games at the Emirates (in all competitions).  And considering Palace’s historic lack of success when traveling to the other side of London, this is one the Gunners absolutely cannot let slip away.

As mentioned, Arsenal’s midfield is a bit of a MASH unit mess at the moment: Jack Wilshere (ankle), Mathieu Flamini (suspension) and Aaron Ramsey (thigh) are all out. So is Theo Walcott, on a longer-term injury, no less. On the other hand, Tomas Rosicky appears healthy again after surgery to fix up his broken nose, so that’s provides some lineup relief.

The south Londoners have just five road goals this year, but times are pretty good, all things considered, at the moment under Tony Pulis. In fact, Palace has become something of a master of the 1-0 result under Pulis, something that surely unnerves Gunners faithful ahead of this one.

Conte: Costa “situation was very clear” in January

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At this point, there is no doubt Diego Costa‘s future lies away from London and Stamford Bridge.

Chelsea manager Antonio Conte broke his silence on the Brazilian-born Spain international striker, saying he’s been ready to move on from Costa since January, when Costa and Conte had a disagreement following a big-money offer from Chinese club Tianjin Quanjian during the winter transfer window.

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“I don’t like to talk about players who are not here but the only thing I can tell you [is that] in January, the Costa situation was very clear, for the club for him and his agent,” Conte told reporters Friday. “For me the situation is closed.”

It’s an amazing turn of events after Costa scored 20 Premier League goals in Chelsea’s title-winning 2016-2017 season, including 14 goals through the end of December. But after falling out with Jose Mourinho a year earlier, the same issue happened again under Conte, with Costa proving much less effective down the stretch.

But Conte and Costa were able to put their differences aside on the field, photographed multiple times hugging after wins, as well as after winning the title.

Costa is reportedly now agitating for a move back to his former club Atletico Madrid, but the Spanish club’s transfer ban until the next window complicates matters. In a World Cup year, would Costa be willing to sit out half a season just to leave Chelsea?

If Costa’s time in the Premier League is up, he’ll go down as one of the league’s best pound-for-pound goalscorers. He scored 52 goals in 89 Premier League appearances, with seven more cup goals in his three-year spell at Chelsea.

And if he is gone, defenders across the Premier League will sure be happy to wave goodbye.

Sparta Prague signs France midfielder Rio Mavuba

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PRAGUE (AP) Sparta Prague says it has signed France midfielder Rio Mavuba to a three-year contract.

The 33-year-old Mavuba comes from French club Lille, which he joined in 2008. Before that, he played for Bordeaux and Spanish club Villarreal.

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Mavuba was on the France team at the 2014 World Cup.

He is the 10th player signed by Sparta after Italian coach Andrea Stramaccioni took charge in May.

Mexico 1-0 Honduras: Pizarro strikes early to put El Tri in Gold Cup semifinals

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Mexico had little trouble dispatching Honduras as El Tri won 1-0 in Glendale, AZ and eased into the Gold Cup semifinals.

Just four minutes into the game, Mexico took the lead as they got Honduras on its heels, with Rodolfo Pizarro sticking the ball in at the far post at the end of a scramble. Jesus Duenas carved a ball through the defense, and while Elias Hernandez whiffed on the tap-in, Pizarro was right behind him to finish the chance.

Mexico settled in after scoring, while Honduras tried to out-muscle El Tri, with the latter receiving a pair of yellow cards in the first 45 minutes. There were precious few other chances throughout the first half, with Honduras completely incapable of creating anything in the attacking half.

Mexico continued to dominate out of the halftime break, but they lost Monterrey midfielder Jesus Molina in the 65th minute with discomfort, replaced by Chaka Rodriguez. The best moment for Honduras as they chased the game late came in the 78th minute as Jose Corona made a spectacular save when substitute Alexander Lopez nearly scored directly from a corner. They came close again in stoppage time after a set-piece as Alfredo Mejia scuffed a shot agonizingly wide.

Honduras ended their Gold Cup without a single goal scored. They technically defeated French Guyana 3-0 in the group stage, but that came on the typical forfeit scoreline, whereas the actual game played ended in a 0-0 draw.

Meanwhile, Mexico will take on Jamaica in the semifinal in a rematch of last tournament’s final.

Manchester United beats City 2-0 in preseason Derby

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Manchester is Red, at least for the preseason.

Manchester United used quickfire first-half goals from Romelu Lukaku and Marcus Rashford to topple Manchester City 2-0 in Houston as part of the International Champions Cup.

The first half-hour saw plenty of action, but nothing in terms of goals. New Manchester City full-back Kyle Walker made a great run to cut down Rashford before he could shoot, while goalkeeper Ederson was required to keep out Paul Pogba.

On the other end, Chris Smalling was active often, nearly conceding a penalty with a pull on the shirt of Patrick Roberts, while also cleaning up after a high City press caught United in their own defensive third.

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Just before halftime, United went in front thanks to their prized new striker. Pogba launched an absolutely brilliant long-ball, and Lukaku streaked to meet it, heading past a charging Ederson before cutting from a tight angle into the empty net before defenders could recover.

Immediately after, Rashford put United 2-0 up on a cool finish from the right with space after a ball from Henrikh Mkhitaryan. The score is Rashford’s third goal of the United States tour.

After a host of changes at halftime that saw City keep just four players on the field, it didn’t help as United kept on the pressure. Rashford almost scored an accidental long-range chip as his long-ball to the far post nearly went in, but Ederson tipped it over. Moments later, Lukaku thundered a howitzer into the crossbar.

United made a host of changes past the hour mark, and they nearly had another if not for the offside flag raising on Phil Jones after a double-save by Ederson. City had a big chance in the final 10 minutes, as a great ball from Samir Nasri found Gabriel Jesus, but the Brazilian put it well over.

Ederson had a solid game in net for Manchester City despite the loss, while Kyle Walker and 17-year-old City youth product Brahim Diaz also stood out. For United, Henrikh Mkhitaryan was bright as were Paul Pogba and goalscorer Marcus Rashford.

LINEUPS

Manchester United: De Gea (Romero 45′); Valencia (Fosu-Mensah 77′), Lindelöf (Bailly 45′), Smalling (Jones 45′), Blind (Darmian 45′); Herrera (Fellaini 62′), Pogba; Rashford (Martial 62′), Mkhitaryan (Carrick 62′), Lingard (Pereira 78′); Lukaku.

Manchester City: Ederson; Adarabioyo (Otamendi 45′), Kompany (Mangala 45′), Fernandinho, Yaya Toure (Sane 45′), Walker, Foden (Zinchenko 74′), De Bruyne (Diaz 45′), Sterling (Jesus 45′), Aguero (Stones 45′), Roberts (Nasri 45′).