Premier League Preview: Fulham vs. Chelsea

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On Saturday down by the banks of the River Thames Fulham host Chelsea (Watch live on NBCSN, 10 a.m. ET and online via Live Extra) in a massive game for both West London clubs.

Chelsea sit on top of the Premier League and know a win will keep them at the summit with just 10 games to go. Fulham need all three points to spark their survival bid, as new manager Felix Magath will take charge of his first home game with his side rooted to the bottom off the standings.

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On paper Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea should waltz past Fulham, but as the Cottagers showed earlier this season in a 2-0 defeat at Stamford Bridge, they are no pushovers. But Chelsea’s record against Fulham is sublime and they haven’t lost to the Cottagers in 16 games, and only once in their last 35. But, and it’s a big but, Chelsea have just traveled to Turkey on Wednesday to face Galatasaray and will be exhausted from all of that traveling. Could this be the perfect time play the Blues? Magath is hoping his team can build on their encouraging 1-1 draw away at West Brom on his managerial debut last week, as the German coach will set his side out to defend and thwart Chelsea’s attack.

In team news Fulham’s record signing Kostas Mitroglou will not play against Chelsea as Magath believes his fitness levels aren’t where they need to be, while Darren Bent is available after missing the West Brom game last week. Chelsea are set to start with Fernando Torres up top again after he scored in the midweek Champions League draw against Galatasaray. At he back John Terry and Gary Cahill are expected to shake off knocks but David Luiz is still out.

What they’re saying

Felix Magath on his first game for Fulham: “At home games the crowd will be the 12th man for a team and that’s what we have to get. We need every supporter that we can get and I think our performance will convince our fans here at Craven Cottage. We have to fight, we have to put pressure on Chelsea, and if we’re able to make pressure then we have a chance for the game.”

Jose Mourinho on Chelsea’s travel problems: “It is basic and in a world where not many people are honest in the way they analyze things, I have to praise [Fulham manager] Felix Magath because he is the first to say it’s a different match because Chelsea had this special situation with a midweek game so far away. We don’t play Sunday which would be difficult anyway, we play Saturday which is even more difficult, and he knows that because he has experience at this level for many years. I have to praise him because he is honest in his approach.”

Prediction

Anything other than an away win would seem bonkers… but I am going for a draw here. Fulham need the points badly and will be tough to beat in a West London derby. Chelsea, on their day, should wipe the floor with their neighbors but after a long midweek trip and the rigors of chasing titles across the board, you have to expect the odd slip up away from home. Score draw.

FA Cup: Man Utd drawn vs. Brighton in QF; Chelsea to face Leicester

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Three more Premier League sides joined Chelsea and Leicester City in the quarterfinals of the 2017-18 FA Cup on Saturday, followed by the draw for the final eight…

[ WATCH: Lionel Messi finds Luis Suarez with a brilliant through ball ]

Huddersfield Town 0-2 Manchester United

Romelu Lukaku‘s first season at Man United has been, on the whole, quietly fruitful (12 PL goals, plus another 8 in other competitions), though his $96-million price tag continues to loom large. On Saturday, the big Belgian fired the Red Devils into the final eight with a brace against fellow Premier Leaguers Huddersfield.

It was 1-0 after just three minutes, when Lukaku slotted home to finish a quick counter attack set forth by a brilliant through ball from Juan Mata.

Mata made it 2-0 just before halftime, but the goal was wiped away after utilizing the video-assistant refereeing system. They don’t get much closer than this one.

United’s second came 10 minutes into the second half, when Alexis Sanchez took his turn playing Lukaku into acres of wide open space.

When the draw was made following the conclusion of Saturday’s game, we learned that United will host another PL side, Brighton & Hove Albion, in the next round.

Brighton & Hove Albion 3-1 Coventry City

That’s because Brighton brushed aside League 2 side Coventry City to reach their first quarterfinal since 1986.

Jurgen Locadia, Connor Goldson and Leonardo Ulloa bagged the goals for the ‘Gulls.

West Bromwich Albion 1-2 Southampton

Southampton are also through to the quarterfinals, thanks to their 2-1 victory away to West Brom. Salomon Rondon’s stunning volley undoubtedly stole the headlines (WATCH HERE), but Saints are the ones to advance, thanks to goals scored by Wesley Hoedt (11th minute) and Dusan Tadic (56th).

In the next round, Southampton will be away to the winner of Wigan Athletic vs. Manchester City (Monday, 2:55 p.m. ET).

Sheffield Wednesday 0-0 Swansea City

The last thing relegation battlers Swansea City would have wanted is for a replay to be shoehorned into their remaining schedule, but Carlos Carvalhal’s side was unable to best Championship side Sheffield Wednesday, thus a replay at the Liberty Stadium on a yet-to-be-determined date over the next month.

Full quarterfinal draw

Sheffield Wednesday/Swansea City vs. Rochdale/Tottenham Hotspur
Manchester United vs. Brighton & Hove Albion
Leicester City vs. Chelsea
Wigan Athletic/Manchester City vs. Southampton

Sunday’s FA Cup schedule

Rochdale vs. Tottenham Hotspur — 11 a.m. ET

Monday’s FA Cup schedule

Wigan Athletic vs. Manchester City — 2:55 p.m. ET

Bundesliga wrap: Bayern wins it late, Leverkusen goes second

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It looked like Bayern Munich was on pace to drop points for just the fifth time this season, but then the club’s star striker stepped up in the biggest of moments.

[ MORE: TFC on the brink of adding Athletic Bilbao midfielder Ager Aketxe ]

The German leaders came back to pick up a 2-1 victory on the road at Wolfsburg after Robert Lewandowski converted a penalty kick in stoppage time.

Sandro Wagner’s second-half header had pulled the match level off of an Arjen Robben cross in the 64th minute. Robben atoned for an earlier penalty-kick miss, which would have tied the match ten minutes prior.

Meanwhile, Bayer Leverkusen and Schalke were each big winners on the day, with the two clubs moving into the top four.

Leverkusen’s 2-1 win on the road against Hertha Berlin saw Heiko Herrlich and his side move up to second place in the Bundesliga, albeit a lengthy distance behind leaders Bayern.

Schalke took care of business at home against Hoffenheim, bringing the Miners one step closer to the top four. The side is now level on 37 points with Borussia Dortmund for fourth, but the Christian Pulisic and Co. currently boast a superior goal differential.

Below are all of Saturday’s scores from around Germany’s top flight.

Cologne 1-1 Hannover 96
Hertha Berlin 1-2 Bayer Leverkusen
Freiburg 1-0 Werder Bremen
Wolfsburg 1-1 Bayern Munich
Schalke 2-1 Hoffenheim

Rodchenkov to AP: Russian footballers immune from drug bans

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Russian doping whistleblower Grigory Rodchenkov claims he helped soccer players in the country to avoid being caught doping after he followed government orders to ensure cheating was covered up.

[ MORE: Mourinho denies Pogba exit rumors ]

The former Russian anti-doping laboratory director told The Associated Press in response to questions through his lawyer that an instruction to avoid scandal came from Vitaly Mutko. Mutko is the former Russian sports minister who serves as deputy prime minster despite being at the center of the doping deception controversy exposed by Rodchenkov.

The focus is sharpening on doping practices in Russian soccer with the World Cup kicking off in Moscow in four months.

Rodchenkov says “Russian footballers were immune from doping-control actions or sanctions.”

Rodchenkov claimed Mutko said “avoid any scandal by hiding positive results” and that “doping would be handled internally”.

Video: Rondon’s exquisite volley not enough to save West Brom

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Salomon Rondon’s second-half volley was not only a beauty, but one of tremendous difficulty.

Unfortunately for he and his West Bromwich Albion side, though, it wasn’t enough for the Baggies to survive in this season’s FA Cup fifth-round tie against Southampton.

[ MORE: Brilliant Messi through ball sends Suarez in for Barcelona opener ]

The Saints progressed to the quarterfinals on Saturday behind goals from Wesley Hoedt and Dusan Tadic, and join fellow Premier League sides Chelsea, Brighton & Hove and Leicester City in the final eight.

Tadic’s goal came in the 56th minute, doubling the Southampton lead, but Rondon’s quality volley two minutes later provided West Brom with a temporary moment of relief (below).