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Premier League Sunday Preview: Liverpool hosts Swansea City in the biggie of a trio

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Anyone buying this public stance from Liverpool, where they keep downplaying their Premier League title chances?

C’mon. We all know that Steven Gerrard and Co.  privately believe they can get this thing done. But for any chance of passing the heavies still in their way, this is the very sort of match they absolutely must win – a home contest against a mid- or lower-table team.

And depending on what happens at Norwich, Brendon Rodgers’ men could put some serious distance between themselves and Tottenham for fourth spot and the coveted Champions League berth that goes with it.

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Here is a quick look at all three Premier League matches set for Sunday as Round 27 closes (no Monday matches, as Champions League matches take over.)

Liverpool vs. Swansea City, 8:30 a.m. ET, NBCSN

  • Talented right back Glen Johnson is back from Liverpool
  • Liverpool has 66 goals this year; Swansea has 33
  • Liverpool is unbeaten in their last seven Premier League games

Right back Glen Johnson is back from Liverpool after missing more than a month with ankle and groin injuries, although defender Mamadou Sakho remains sidelined with a hamstring problem.

But it’s the Swansea defense that needs to worry; high-scoring Liverpool, led by Luiz Suarez, has 66 goals, second best in the Premier League.

The Welsh meanwhile, is just barely clear of the relegation zone. These team drew, 2-2, in their earlier meeting this year.

Norwich City vs. Tottenham, 11 a.m. ET, NBCSN

  • Tottenham  won the teams’ first meeting, 2-o last September at White Hart Lane
  • Norwich has just one win in its last 10 Premier League matches

Tim Sherwood’s Spurs must recover quickly from a long trip east for a Thursday Europa match, and Carrow Road will hardly be an easy place for the London side.

On the other hand, Hugo Lloris, Emmanuel Adebayor, Kyle Walker, Younes Kaboul and Aaron Lennon were all held back Thursday, and will presumably be back into Sherwood’s first 11.

While Norwich worries about relegation, Spurs need all three points to keep pace with Liverpool for fourth in the table and the Champions League berth.

If Spurs can get just one, they stand a good chance of leaving Carrow Road with a  point, at least; Chris Hughton’s club has just four goals in its last 10 contests.

Newcastle United vs. Aston Villa, 8:30 a.m. ET, Premier League Extratime

  • Talented Newcastle striker Loic Rémy returns to the lineup for Alan Pardew
  • Alan Pardew’s club has been shut out in four consecutive matches
  • Brad Guzan and Aston Villa could use another win or two to put some breathing room between themselves and the relegation -threatened

Ordinarily, the return of a mid-level striker would not rate as “big news.” But Newcastle’s rate of goal scoring as fallen to such anemic depths, anything could help – and the Frenchman is available once again after serving a three-match suspension.

Alan Pardew’s team has been shut out in four consecutive matches and in five of its last six Premier League encounters.

Lambert’s squad came through a recent warm-weather training camp in Portugal well and he expects to have a largely fit squad at his disposal for the Barclays Premier League clash.

Newcastle manager Alan Pardew “went there,” verbally lashing his team’s latest meek performance, a 4-0 loss to Tottenham.

Morgan, USWNT cruise past Costa Rica 5-0 behind early flurry of goals

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The U.S. Women got off to a flying start in Olympic qualification Group A play by torching Costa Rica 5-0, including goals from Alex Morgan, Carli Lloyd, and Crystal Dunn.

Morgan led the way with a double, including one in the opening 12 seconds – only six passes off the opening kick – that set the record for quickest goal in U.S. Soccer history. Lloyd and Dunn both struck in the opening 15 minutes to make it 3-0 before Costa Rica even had time to blink. Lloyd’s came on a penalty after Dunn was felled for the captain’s 83rd international goal, and then the latter bagged one of her own minutes later on a rebound off a shot by Morgan.

[ VIDEO: Alex Morgan caps off a 12-second, six-pass goal ]

The visitors were able to make it Morgan scored her second after the hour mark to cap the goal tally. Jill Ellis completed her trio of substitutions after the fourth goal and the U.S. saw the game out easily.

The fifth came late on a cross from Tobin Heath that fell to Christen Press in the box. With her back to the goal, the 27-year-old produced a simply stunning first touch, back-heeling the ball down before whipping around the opposite direction to lose her defender and firing home the fifth goal.

With the final whistle, the United States improved their record against Costa Rica to a perfect 13-0. The U.S. will play Mexico next on Saturday before finishing out Group A play against Puerto Rico on Monday, February 15.

VIDEO: Alex Morgan scores goal against Costa Rica in 12 seconds

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The United States got off to a historically roaring start in Olympic qualifying. Taking on Costa Rica in Frisco, Texas to begin Group A play, Alex Morgan opened the scoring in just 12 seconds, taking just six passes to complete the masterpiece.

According to the USWNT twitter account, the goal is the fastest in U.S. Soccer history.

According to CONCACAF, the goal is also the quickest in CONCACAF Olympic qualifying, breaking Abby Wambach’s of 35 seconds in a 14-0 domination of the Dominican Republic in 2012.

[ WATCH LIVE: USWNT vs Costa Rica live online on NBC Sports Live Extra ]

The United States scored three goals in the first 15 minutes against Costa Rica tonight. They will take on Mexico and Puerto Rico across the next five days.

Watch Live: USWNT vs Costa Rica in Olympic qualifying

SAN DIEGO, CA - JANUARY 23:  (L-R) Carli Lloyd #10 of the United States is congratulated by teammate Alex Morgan #13 after a goal against Ireland at Qualcomm Stadium on January 23, 2016 in San Diego, California.  (Photo by Todd Warshaw/Getty Images)
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The United States women are set to begin Group A play in Olympic qualification, taking on 36th ranked Costa Rica at Toyota Stadium in Frisco, Texas at 8:30 a.m. ET.

The game takes place after a 17-day camp at the national training camp in Carson, California.

[ WATCH LIVE: USWNT vs Costa Rica live online on NBC Sports Live Extra ]

Other teams in the group include Mexico and Puerto Rico. The Mexicans dominated Puerto Rico 6-0 in the first game.

LINEUP

United States: Solo; Krieger, Johnston, Sauerbrunn, Klingenberg; Brian, Horan, Dunn, Lloyd, Heath; Morgan.

Columbus, NYCFC release new kits to mixed results

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New York City FC
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Two Major League Soccer clubs have put their kits out there for the 2016 season. They’ve received a mediocre welcome at best.

Columbus was the first, and their kit makes a bold statement moving away from the traditional yellow and black that so often adorns their regular shirts. Instead, the kit incorporates the Columbus flag onto it. The release has seen quite a negative reaction on social media.

The kit was unveiled at the Columbus City Hall on Wednesday, featuring the traditional adidas stripes, although instead of the usual placement on the shoulders, the stripes come down the side of the torso. Recently, adidas has the tendency to copy general jersey patterns across its multiple properties, so look for this design with other clubs in the near future.

The negative reaction to the Columbus release isn’t terribly surprising considering fans often enjoy sticking to tradition, and backlash is common when clubs deviate from the norm. As an additional hurdle, the color contrast between red and yellow is somewhat stark, lending to the difficult reception. Add in the bright pastel blue shorts and…yikes.

While the club didn’t describe how they will utilize this kit during the season, it’s likely to be the primary (at least for now) as the club release says the kit portfolio also includes last year’s black kit, which is traditionally the away kit.

NYCFC’s release of their secondary kit was more positive, receiving a mixed response on social media.

As you can see, adidas again copied their general outline with the stripes down the side of the torso. However, the German clothing manufacturer did much better with the general design of these kits than the Columbus ones. I will give a bit of personal opinion here: I absolutely love these kits. The ripple effect accentuates the crest with a near-3D effect, and the colors mesh perfectly which serves to assuage the eye from being overwhelmed by a busy design. If there’s any criticism, it’s that without an outline, the Etihad logo tends to get in the way a bit, but that’s nitpicking. Well done NYCFC. Columbus…I’ll leave that one to you all.