Premier League Preview: Arsenal vs. Sunderland

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  • The last time Sunderland won away at Arsenal was 1983
  • Arsenal have not conceded in their last 5 PL home games
  • The Gunners haven’t scored in the opening half of their last 6 PL home games

Arsenal host Sunderland on Saturday (Watch live on USA, 10am ET and online via Live Extra) at the Emirates, with Arsene Wenger’s men hoping to pick themselves up after their deflating UEFA Champions League defeat to Bayern Munich on Wednesday.

The Gunners went down fighting to Munich, as Mesut Ozil’s missed penalty and Wojciech Szczesny’s red card changed the shape of the game. Back in the Premier League, Arsenal are still right up there at the top of the standings as they sit just one point behind leaders Chelsea. Arsenal need their star man Ozil to recapture the form which saw him dazzle on his debut away at Sunderland last September. I was there for that game and he was sublime. The German international is lacking in confidence but he has more than enough quality to come through this rough patch.

Sunderland are in the bottom three, so this should be a routine home win for Arsenal… right? Think again. Sunderland are unbeaten in six games away from home, keeping four clean sheets in those and three of the last five matches between these two at the Emirates have ended in 0-0 draws.

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The Black Cats are scrapping for their lives at the bottom of the table but do have the League Cup final against Manchester City coming up at Wembley next Sunday, Sunderland’s first major final for over 22 years. However with silverware in the back of the minds of both teams, Arsenal will be desperate to rack up another home win and potentially jump over Chelsea back into top spot in the PL. Expect this match to be a tight and tense affair.

In team news Arsenal will be without left back Kieran Gibbs who injured his hamstring against Bayern on Wednesday, while Olivier Giroud is expected to return to the starting lineup after being rested. Sunderland could have Steven Fletcher and Carlos Cuellar back fit, while Wes Brown is suspended.

What they’re saying

Wenger on facing Sunderland: “We are playing in three different competitions in one week. It’s extremely difficult to adjust every time and it’s physically very demanding. We have fought hard so far in the Premier League and of course now we want to come back and win our home game.”

Poyet on Arsenal: “Arsenal played on Wednesday and they are supposed to be tired, which is a possibility. So we need to make sure we play at a high intensity, keep the ball and attack. We will try to use everything to our advantage, but we know how difficult it will be.”

Prediction

Arsenal’s fans will be looking for a reaction from their team, as the Gunners must bounce back from their midweek defeat to Bayern. Sunderland will be distracted by their cup final next week, but players will also be playing for places in that lineup so the Gunners shouldn’t underestimate the Mackems. This will be a midfield battle, and probably not the prettiest of games. Arsenal 2-0 seems to be the bet during home games this season. I can see that happening once again on Saturday.

Official (finally): Salah completes move from Roma to Liverpool

Photo credit: Liverpool FC / Twiter: @LFC
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It was the summer’s first transfer rumor-turned-real-story-turned-never-ending-saga that seemed to refuse to cross the finish line, but it’s finally come to pass: Mohamed Salah is a Liverpool player.

Salah’s move from Roma to Liverpool took so long to complete that the club’s poor social-media manager probably never wants to read the words “Announce Salah” for the rest of his/her life.

The deal will cost Liverpool something in the neighborhood of $50 million, and completes the utterly terrifying attacking quartet Jurgen Klopp can’t wait to unleash on the Premier League come August — Salah on one side, Sadio Mane opposite, Philippe Coutinho in the middle, and Roberto Firmino at striker. Salah, by the way, will take over Firmino’s no. 11 shirt, with the Brazilian switching to no. 9.

Alexis sets the record, but Germany come back for draw

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Alexis Sanchez became Chile’s all-time leading goalscorer (38) on Thursday, and La Roja inched ever closer to progression at the 2017 Confederations Cup with a 1-1 draw against Germany.

[ MORE: VAR steps in to help Aussies draw Cameroon, 1-1 ]

Sanchez moved past Marcelo Salas with his 6th-minute opener (above video) to capitalize on a poor turnover and complete a quick one-two atop Germany’s 18-yard box. Arturo Vidal put a foot in to disrupt Germany’s attempt to play out of the back, and the ball fell to Sanchez who quickly played it back to Vidal, who played Sanchez into the box for a left-footed finish inside the near post.

[ MORE: Latest 2017 Confederations Cup news

Chile’s lead wouldn’t quite last until halftime, though, as Lars Stindl got on the end of Jonas Hector’s cross in the 41st minute to bring the reigning World Cup champions back to level terms and all but secure their place in the next round.

With the result, Chile and Germany remain tied on top of Group B (4 points) with one game to play. Given the distance between themselves and Australia and Cameron (1 point each) in third and fourth, a draw in their final group games would be more than enough to go through to the semifinals. One-goal defeats would even do the trick.

Kenny Saief approved for one-time switch from Israel to USMNT

Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images
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Kenny Saief has been officially cleared by FIFA to make his one-time switch of international allegiance from Israel to the United States, the U.S. Soccer Federation announced on Thursday.

Saief, 23, was born in Panama City, Fla., to Druze-Israeli parents and began his youth career with Maccabi Haifa in 2005, at the age of 11. After a handful of first-team appearances for various Israeli clubs between 2010 and 2013, Saief earned a regular place in Ironi Nir Ramat HaSharon’s first team during the 2013-14 season. In the summer of 2014, he moved to Belgian side Gent, where he’s played in the UEFA Champions League and Europa League. U.S. men’s national team head coach Bruce Arena included Saief on his 40-man preliminary roster for next month’s 2017 Gold Cup.

[ MORE: Transfer rumor roundup ]

He appeared for Israeli youth national teams at just about every level, but having grown frustrated at the lack of a call-up to the senior team, Saief made it known many months ago he would consider a switch to the USMNT if the omission continued.

Saief figures to serve as something of a utility-man for the USMNT, at least from the start. He’s a left-footed midfielder who’s played extensively on both the left and right wings, and even a bit at left back. It’s the latter that should most intrigued USMNT fans, considering the dearth of options available at the position.

Geiger, Marrufo, Villarreal picked as Gold Cup referees

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MIAMI BEACH, Fla. (AP) Mark Geiger, who three years ago became the first American to referee a knockout stage match at the World Cup, is among 17 referees picked for next month’s CONCACAF Gold Cup.

Americans Jair Marrufo and Armando Villarreal also were announced Thursday for the 12-nation tournament, which runs from July 7-26 in various U.S. cities.

[ MORE: Latest 2017 Confederations Cup news

Geiger, who is from New Jersey, was a referee for France’s 2-0 win over Nigeria in the round of 16.

Three each were picked from Mexico (Roberto Garcia, Fernando Guerrero and Cesar Ramos) and Honduras (Melvin Matamoros, Oscar Moncada and Hector Rodriguez).

Two will come from Costa Rica: Henry Bejarano and Ricardo Montero.

Others picked for the tournament are Joel Aguilar (El Salvador), Drew Fischer (Canada), Walter Lopez (Guatemala), Yadel Martinez (Cuba), John Pitti (Panama) and Kimbell Ward (St. Kitts and Nevis).