Premier League Preview: West Bromwich Albion vs. Manchester United

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  • The last time United lost in the league at West Brom was March 1984
  • Robin van Persie has scored in four of United’s last five PL games
  • West Brom have won fewer matches (four) than any other PL team

On Saturday West Bromwich Albion host Manchester United (Watch live on NBCSN at 7:45 a.m. ET and online via Live Extra) at the Hawthorns with the Baggies battling against relegation.

That said, West Brom are looking to do a rare double over the Red Devils as they completed their first-ever win over United earlier this campaign with a shock 2-1 win at Old Trafford last September.

As for United, they are desperately trying to salvage their season as they chase the top six after several defeats have left David Moyes’ men languishing 12 points outside the top four.

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West Brom have only won once in their last 18 games as new boss Pepe Mel is still searching for his first win since arriving from Spain. Four draws and two defeats see the Baggies just one point above the relegation zone as they are in serious trouble with 10 games to go. Mel has also been involved in intense speculation about his job, just weeks after taking charge.

United desperately need to finish the season on a high after so many lows and after a UEFA Champions league defeat to Olympiakos in their last game, they’ve had over 10 days to stew over that poor performance in Greece due to FA Cup matches cancelling their PL fixtures. West Brom should expect a backlash.

In team news the hosts will be without Billy Jones after a hamstring tear and Nicolas Anelka who starts the first match of his five-game ban. Although Stephane Sessegnon and Claudio Yacob could return. For United, Juan Mata will be back in the squad after being ineligible for the clash vs. Olympiakos but Javier Hernandez could be struggling after picking up a knock while play for Mexico.

What they’re saying

Jonas Olsson on West Brom’s relegation struggle: “There are a lot of teams down there with us also having tough seasons. For example, it is only recently that West Ham have started to pick up. Experience is going to count for a lot. What we have in this squad is a lot of Premier League experience – and a lot of experience of being in a situation like this.”

Man United’s assistant coach Phil Neville on the rise of Januzaj: “When a young player joins this club we treat them all the same. Can they play football for Manchester United? Can they handle the pressure? Do they have the courage to take the ball in front of 75,000 people? Have they got the determination and desire to succeed? We hope Adnan is just one of many players over the next five years that comes through and plays for the first team.”

Prediction

An away win. Simple as that. United have been slaughtered for their inept, unimaginative and awful defeat away at Olympiakos. But they have kept two clean-sheets in a row in the PL for the first time this season and look solid and steady at the back. I think they will have their way with a West Brom side lacking in confidence, as the Baggies continue to tumble down the standings. Wayne Rooney and RVP will tear it up at the Hawthorns.

WATCH: Camila’s wicked swerving goal for Brazil

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The Tournament of Nations got underway earlier Thursday, with Brazil and Japan drawing 1-1 in Seattle.

While some in the crowd may’ve been waiting to see the United States women’s national team and Australia in the second game of the twin bill, they got an absolute treat from Brazil’s Camila.

[ MORE: Galaxy’s season-changing signing ]

The Orlando Pride midfielder is yet to scoop up 10 caps, but blasted this 25-yard goal home with a wicked outside bend.

The aesthetics are terrific.

LA Galaxy’s second Dos Santos signing is a season-changer

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Remember this day, MLS fans, as one that perhaps helped determine an MLS Cup Finalist.

The LA Galaxy have signed Villarreal midfielder and Mexican national teamer Jonathan Dos Santos, and he’s the sort of player who could alter the landscape of the Western Conference.

Like Nicolas Lodeiro to Seattle last season and New England’s addition of Jermaine Jones in 2014, Dos Santos’ move comes with the distinct possibility of elevating LA into the next stratosphere.

[ MORE: USMNT’s Arriola attracting transfer interest ]

Take the Galaxy’s history of winning, and toss in a midseason coaching improvement from Curt Onalfo to Sigi Schmid, as well as MVP-in-their-own-right caliber teammates Giovani Dos Santos, Romain Alessandrini, and Jelle van Damme.

Don’t sleep on the fact that Schmid might be gathering momentum from inheriting a talented and underachieving roster and a brand new game-changing midfielder, which feels a bit like karmic retribution for Seattle firing him and signing Lodeiro the next day last season. Seattle only went and won the MLS Cup.

Schmid has used any number of formations, but could deploy a 4-3-3 with Jona Dos Santos, Jermaine Jones, and Joao Pedro in the midfielder and Giovani Dos Santos, Alessandrini, and Gyasi Zardes up top (Sebastian Lletget could return at some point, too).

Now FC Dallas is very deep, Sporting KC looks powerful, and Seattle won it all last year — plus, may be adding Derlis Gonzalez?!? — but LA’s move to add Dos Santos creates a quartet of teams with proven mettle (Houston looks decent, too, but I have concerns about their first-time as a unit in the playoffs).

Joey Barton’s gambling ban lowered by almost 5 months

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Joey Barton’s 18-month ban for betting on almost 1,300 soccer-related events has been lowered to 13 months and one week.

Putting aside the hilarity of grown men and women discussing whether an extra week was necessary, the alteration means he’ll be eligible to return to football on June 1, 2018.

[ MORE: USMNT’s Arriola attracting transfer interest ]

While that still hampers the idea of the 34-year-old playing again — he’ll be 36 when the ban ends — it’s a significant change if he’s open to the idea of returning to the game.

Barton’s original ban expired in late October 2018, well into a season. From Sky Sports:

The appeal board also agreed: “It was clear that Mr Barton was not involved in any cheating, he did not influence any games and there was nothing suspicious about his bets.

“(The reduction) reflects the overall seriousness of the breaches and also the mitigation of Mr Barton’s addiction.”

Barton’s remarkably controversial career has including several suspensions and imprisonment, but he always found his way back to the field and was very good when in form. After time at Manchester City and Newcastle United, Barton fended off naysayers with stints at QPR, Marseille, Burnley, and a regrettable move to Rangers.

We may see him on the field in August 2018.

FIFA fines Qatar after players’ political support for Emir

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ZURICH (AP) FIFA has fined Qatar’s soccer federation after national team players breached rules against political statements by displaying T-shirts of the country’s Emir at a World Cup qualifier.

FIFA says its disciplinary panel imposed a 50,000 Swiss francs ($51,800) fine and reprimanded Qatar, the 2022 World Cup host.

[ MORE: Nainggolan staying at Roma ]

The incident happened in Doha on June 13, amid a dispute with regional rivals Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates.

Qatar’s players warmed up for a 3-2 win over South Korea wearing white T-shirts with an image of Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani to show their support for him.

FIFA says the charges related to “displaying a political image” and “political displays” by spectators.