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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.

Sydney FC return to winning ways in A-League

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - FEBRUARY 24:  Goalkeeper Danny Vukovic of Sydney FC makes a save as Bruno Fornaroli of City competes for the ball during the round 21 A-League match between Melbourne City and Sydney FC at AAMI Park on February 24, 2017 in Melbourne, Australia.  (Photo by Scott Barbour/Getty Images)
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SYDNEY (AP) Bobo scored twice as Sydney FC rebounded from its first loss in the A-League to beat Melbourne City 3-1 and continue atop the table.

[ MORE: Schmeichel speaks about Ranieri sacking, state of Leicester ]

Sydney’s ambitious attempt to become the first team to end the regular season unbeaten came unstuck last week when it was beaten by Western Sydney Wanderers in a fractious local derby, repercussions of which continued through the week. Wanderers were fined $20,000 by Football Federation Australia after its fans unfurled an obscene banner targeting Sydney coach Graham Arnold.

[ MORE: Chelsea, Everton extend unbeaten run in Saturday’s PL play ]

Sydney raised itself above that controversy on Friday with a comprehensive win over Melbourne City which briefly took it 11 points clear in first place.

Melbourne Victory restored the gap to eight points when it beat defending champion Adelaide United 2-1, and Perth leapfrogged Melbourne City into third place when it dumped the Wanderers 2-0.

Bobo opened Sydney’s scoring with a penalty, but City canceled that out only a minute later.

Sydney went in front again after the break, and Bobo sealed the win, set up by a superb through ball by Milos Ninkovic which highlighted their developing combination.

Midfielder Brandon O’Neil said Sydney was determined to leave behind the contention of their derby loss.

“When it all came out, the FFA and Western Sydney had to deal with it and it did,” O’Neil said. “It brought us together and we spoke about a few things, and nothing changed for us. We want to be premier (champions).”

Melbourne Victory’s win over Adelaide kept it in touch with Sydney with seven regular season rounds remaining.

Wellington kept its faint playoff hopes alive, staying in seventh place with a 2-1 win over Brisbane.

Whitecaps acquire U.S. defender Brek Shea in deal with Orlando City

Toronto FC v Orlando City SC
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With almost a week to go until the Major League Soccer season kicks off, the Vancouver Whitecaps and Orlando City may have pulled off one of the biggest trades of offseason.

[ MORE: MLS negotiating to bring Chicharito to U.S. in 2018 ]

The clubs announced on Saturday that the Whitecaps have acquired U.S. Men’s National Team midfielder/defender Brek Shea in exchange for forward Giles Barnes, who is headed to Orlando City.

“We are excited to welcome Brek to our club and city,” said Whitecaps FC manager Carl Robinson. “Brek is a tall, physical, skilled player and will bring a different dimension to our attack. Brek will join the group in coming days and we anticipate he will be available for selection as early as this Thursday’s Champions League match against New York.”

Shea, 26, began his career in MLS with FC Dallas before heading to England for a brief stint with Stoke City. The U.S. defender made his way back to MLS ahead of Orlando City’s inaugural season in 2015 and started 39 matches in that span.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverage ]

Meanwhile, Barnes has scored 33 goals since joining MLS in 2012. The 28-year-old forward played with the Houston Dynamo before spending last season with the Whitecaps.

Report: MLS negotiating to bring Chicharito to U.S. in 2018

Javier "Chicharito" Hernandez, Bayer Leverkusen & Mexico
AP Photo/Martin Meissner)
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Major League Soccer has attracted some of the world’s biggest stars over recent years and now one of the Mexican national team’s top talents could be heading stateside very soon.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverage ]

According to ESPN FC, MLS is currently in negotiations with Bundesliga side Bayer Leverkusen in an attempt to lure Mexican striker Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez to the U.S. in the summer of 2018.

Expansion side Los Angeles FC has been heavily linked with Hernandez, with the club making its entrance into MLS in 2018. Additionally, the Los Angeles Galaxy have also been said to have strong ties with Chicharito.

Hernandez, 28, is currently under contract until next summer, and MLS is reportedly seeking a move in 2018 to avoid paying a transfer fee for the El Tri forward.

ESPN FC is also reporting that Chicharito could make around $9 million annually if he does in fact join MLS.

In 2015, Orlando City and the Chicago Fire were both linked with acquiring Hernandez but the Leverkusen forward was insistent upon the fact that he play Champions League football.

PL Sunday: Spurs look to regain second against Stoke

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Although there’s only one match on Sunday’s Premier League docket, the fixture bears great weight for both clubs.

[ MORE: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

Tottenham vs. Stoke City — 8:30 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

Spurs have the chance to move back into second place at White Hart Lane as Mauricio Pochettino‘s side are firmly in a battle to finish runners’ up to Chelsea this season. Tottenham currently sit 13 points out of the top spot, however, five clubs are within four points of another in the battle for second. Danny Rose and Erik Lamela remain sidelined due to injuries but Spurs will remain the favorites in the fixture after having won their previous two league meetings.

Stoke enters Sunday having gone unbeaten in five of its last six PL matches and the Potters can enter the top 10 with a victory. Mark Hughes‘ side could be given a big lift with the potential return of Xherdan Shaqiri while Saido Berahino could be in line to earn his first start since joining Stoke. Both players could present massive upside for the Potters, who have struggled to find goals as of late. In their last four matches, Stoke have managed just three finishes, one of which came from an own goal.