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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.

Former Czech Republic defender Rajtoral kills himself

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PRAGUE (AP) Former Czech Republic defender Frantisek Rajtoral, who won the domestic league title four times before joining Turkish club Gaziantepspor, died on Sunday. He was 31.

[ MORE: Bayern scouted Kyle Walker, Alex Sanchez this weekend ]

The Czech football federation said in a statement that Rajtoral had “committed suicide in Turkey.”

His agent Pavel Zika confirmed the player’s death, describing it as a “huge tragedy.”

Gaziantepspor announced Rajtoral’s death in a brief statement on its website.

Rajtoral played 14 international matches for the Czech Republic.

In the top Czech league, he won four titles with Viktoria Plzen and played in the group stage of the Champions League twice for the club. He moved to Hannover in the Bundesliga in 2014 for half of the season, on loan.

He left Viktoria Plzen last year to move to Turkey.

Bellerin wants to represent Spain U21s despite Wenger’s wishes

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Arsene Wenger has made it clear about Hector Bellerin representing Spain this summer but the Arsenal defender is prepared to go against his manager’s wishes if he is selected.

[ MORE: Bayern scouted Kyle Walker, Alexis Sanchez over the weekend ]

The 22-year-old has said he hopes to play for Spain’s Under-21 side this summer during the 2017 European U-21 Championship but Wenger has been weary of Bellerin’s injury status and wants his fullback to maintain a clean bill of health throughout the offseason.

“I really want to play,” Bellerin told IBTimes. “Representing Spain is very important. If [Albert] Celades gives me the chance I’ll be there.

“Those are opinions of the managers. I have to keep working. The truth is that I had a difficult injury but I think that I am at 100% now and I’ll try to prove it when I get the chance.”

Bellerin signed a six-and-a-half year deal with the Gunners in November, where he has resided since coming up in the club’s academy. He has made 102 appearances for Wenger’s team in that span over all competitions.

Roma boosts bid for 2nd in Serie A by beating Pescara 4-1

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PESCARA, Italy (AP) Roma boosted its bid for second place in Serie A and automatic entry into the Champions League with a 4-1 win at Pescara, which was mathematically relegated on Monday.

[ MORE: Newcastle joins Brighton in promotion to Premier League ]

Roma moved four points clear of third-placed Napoli, which drew against Sassuolo 2-2 on Sunday. Third place in Serie A receives a Champions League playoff.

Pescara remained 15 points behind Empoli. There are only five matches left and Empoli has the better head-to-head record, which is the deciding factor if two teams finish level on points.

There were 48 goals in total in the 33rd round, matching the record set in October 1992.

Roma took control shortly before halftime, with Kevin Strootman breaking the deadlock after Stephan El Shaarawy unselfishly rolled the ball across the area.

Radja Nainggolan, who earlier hit the bar, doubled Roma’s lead two minutes later.

Mohamed Salah extended Roma’s advantage three minutes after the break and the winger doubled his tally on the hour following a swift counterattack.

Ahmad Benali got a consolation for Pescara and a Cristiano Biraghi free kick also hit the post for the home side.

Frank Yallop resigns as Phoenix Rising coach shortly after Drogba arrival

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The timing is a bit sudden and certainly leaves many questions up in the air, but Phoenix Rising will have to look for a new manager.

[ MORE: Chicharito talks heating up with LA FC ]

On Monday, head coach Frank Yallop resigned from his position with the United Soccer League (USL) club less than one day after former Chelsea legend Didier Drogba joined the organization as a player-owner.

With Phoenix seen as one of several lower-level clubs with ambitions of making the leap to MLS over the coming seasons, Yallop’s departure is surely a shock to many.

According to ESPN FC, Rising lead owner Berke Bakay was quite surprised by Yallop’s decision to step down, as was Drogba.

“Didier was as surprised and disappointed as we were that Frank is unable to continue coaching our Club,” Bakay told ESPN FC. “But, we all respect his decision to put his family first.

“Didier’s focus will remain on improving our team as a player and assisting our MLS expansion team ownership group as a co-owner. Frank will be helping with our international search for a new head coach.”

Rick Schantz, the current Rising assistant coach, will head the team’s managerial duties for the interim while the club completes a full search for a new manager.