Premier League Preview: Manchester City vs Fulham

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  • Alvaro Negredo and Sergio Aguero have combined (24) for more goals than all of Fulham (22)
  • Fulham hasn’t won consecutive league games since October
  • Only Norwich has conceded more away goals than Fulham this season

On Saturday, Manchester City welcome relegation threatened Fulham to the Etihad (watch live on NBC Sports Live Extra at 11am ET) as Manuel Pellegrini’s squad hopes to secure maximum points ahead of a grueling away schedule.

With the Citizens facing trips to Manchester United, Arsenal, and Liverpool in their next four fixtures, it is of vital importance that they send Fulham back empty-handed.

Fulham remain mired in last place, but a win last weekend against Newcastle has temporarily given the Cottagers hope.

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Giving the visitors an even brighter glimmer of hope will be key absences on either end of the Manchester City teamsheet.

Captain Vincent Kompany will not be available along the back line due to suspension, likely forcing reserve defender Jolean Lescott into duty alongside Martin Demichelis.  In addition, leading scorer Sergio Aguero will miss out thanks to a hamstring injury.

Aguero won’t be back until after next weekend’s Manchester derby, leaving Alvaro Negredo to lead the City attack this weekend and in the near future.

(MORE: Fulham’s Premier League hopes rest on history repeating itself)

With Fulham sitting bottom of the table, they need points wherever they can find them, but will be without key players as well. The club confirmed that due to injury, the trio of Kostas Mitroglou, Ashkan Dejagah, and Dan Burn will not play a part this weekend. Dejagah scored the winner against Newcastle last weekend.

Whites fans will take solace in memories, recalling the club’s miraculous win in 2008 over Manchester City that began a three-game winning streak to save their Premier League status in what is known as the Great Escape.

What they’re saying:

Manuel Pellegrini on missing captain Vincent Kompany: “He is a very important player but we have had so many injuries during the whole year from different players and always we have managed to play well. I am sure the players who will play tomorrow instead of Vincent will play well.”

Fulham manager Felix Magath on former player Edin Dzeko: “Edin has a different situation here (than in Germany). He is not the only striker at Manchester City and there are a lot of very good players. Perhaps he should come to Fulham and he could score a lot more goals than he does at City.”

Fulham midfielder William Kvist on life at the bottom: “A victory just changes everything; the mood, and in training, it lifts you a notch higher so it was really important for us. I get this feeling that it’s still in our hands – we have a lot of games left and we need to play really well, that’s the way I see it.”

Prediction:

The Newcastle win will give the struggling visitors a boost, and they may prove stubborn for the first half, but the legs will get tired and the pace of Negredo up the middle and the stacked Manchester City wings will be too much for the Whites. While an away win would once again prove to be a season-saver for the bottom side, there’s a reason City are 1/7 favorites to win. This fixture has 2-0 Manchester City written all over it, with both goals coming in the second half.

New York Red Bulls introduce space at RBA for autistic families

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HARRISON, N.J. (AP) The Red Bulls have announced plans for a permanent sensory-friendly space at their stadium for families impacted by autism.

Formerly executive offices, the space overlooking midfield is a calm area that is free from the crowds and the noise of Red Bull Arena during matches. Families can use it for free.

The team announced the new space on Saturday before the Red Bulls were set to host the Chicago Fire. It was Autism Awareness Night at the stadium.

“Families deserve to feel welcome and comfortable each time they step foot into Red Bull Arena, not just one night a year,” Red Bulls GM Marc de Grandpre said in a statement released by the club. “We hope all sports teams and entertainment venues are inspired to take similar action to provide comfort for families with loved ones on the autism spectrum.”

League Two game restarted in empty stadium after fans storm field

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LONDON (AP) An English soccer game restarted in an empty stadium after a pitch invasion led to the crowd being told the fixture had been abandoned.

There were five minutes remaining in Leyton Orient’s fourth-tier game against Colchester on Saturday when a sit-down protest was staged on the pitch by Orient fans against Italian owner Francesco Becchetti.

It forced the referee to take the players off the field. The protests lasted for more than an hour before the crowd was told the game had been abandoned and the stadium eventually cleared. The teams came out and finished the game.

Leyton Orient lost 3-1 a week after its relegation from the English Football League was confirmed after 112 years.

“A decision was taken with the police to announce that the game had been abandoned as it was felt this would help clear the pitch, which proved correct,” the EFL said in a statement. “However, it was deemed appropriate that the game needed to be played to a conclusion in order to maintain the integrity of the competition.”

La Liga: Barcelona, Real Madrid hold serve in tight title race

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A roundup of Saturday’s action in Spain’s top flight…

[ MORE: Super-duper Sunday preview — North London derby, plus 6 of top 7 ]

Espanyol 0-3 Barcelona

Barcelona are doing all they can do — win — in their bid to usurp Real Madrid in the race for the title. While they entered the weekend — and still are — ahead of their El Clasico rivals based on head-to-head results this season, Los Blancos still have a game in hand which will surely decide whether Madrid claim their 33rd top-division title, or a 25th for Barca.

On Saturday, Luis Enrique’s side had more than just the title at stake — also at stake: the Derbi Barceloni, against fellow Catalan side Espanyol.

For 45 minutes, the home side held firm and refused to break, but once Luis Suarez put the Blaugrana ahead in the 50th minute, that was all she wrote. Ivan Rakitic doubled the advantage in the 76th minute, and Suarez completed the scoring 11 minutes later.

Real Madrid 2-1 Valencia

By the time the derby kicked off, Madrid had already applied the pressure and gone three points clear with a 2-1 victory that was a whole lot closer than the final score indicates.

Cristiano Ronaldo opened the scoring just before the half-hour mark, and Zinedine Zidane’s side was well on its way to victory. Ronaldo followed up his opening goal with a missed penalty kick 10 minutes into the second half, and Daniel Parejo pulled the visitors level with a sensational free kick just eight minutes before the end of regular time. Points looked sure to be dropped, and the door opened wider for Barca, but Marcelo was prepared to play the part of hero on the day, and the Brazilian left back bagged one of the season’s more improbable goals, a right-footed strike from the top of the box, in the 86th minute.

Elsewhere in La Liga

Las Palmas 0-5 Atletico Madrid
Real Sociedad 2-1 Granada

Sunday’s La Liga schedule

Osasuna vs. Deportivo La Coruña — 6 a.m. ET
Real Betis vs. Alaves — 10:15 a.m. ET
Eibar vs. Leganes — 12:30 p.m. ET
Celta Vigo vs. Athletic Bilbao — 2:45 p.m. ET

Monday’s La Liga schedule

Malaga vs. Sevilla — 3 p.m. ET

Championship Focus: It’s all about the playoff places now

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With Brighton & Hove Albion and Newcastle United having already clinched the Championship’s two automatic promotion places, all eyes turn to the four teams behind them still jockeying for playoff positioning…

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s coverage of the Championship ]

3rd — Reading — 82 points, +2 GD
4th — Sheffield Wednesday — 81 points, +16 GD
5th — Huddersfield Town — 81 points, +1 GD
6th — Fulham — 77 points, +27 GD

First of all, the Championship remains the least sensible league in the world. Disagree? Just try to explain the above wildly varying points totals and the corresponding goal differentials. Go ahead, I’ll wait

As for the weekend’s results, Reading and Wednesday did themselves major favors in the race for third with victories over Wigan Athletic (1-0) and Ipswich Town (1-0), respectively, while Huddersfield, who entered the weekend in that top playoff place, played 67 minutes with a man advantage against Birmingham City, and lost 2-0. All three of Reading, Wednesday and Huddersfield have clinched their place in the promotion playoffs, which begin two weeks from Saturday, on May 13.

[ MORE: PL Sunday preview — North London derby, plus 6 of the top 7 play ]

Given Leeds United’s 3-3 draw with Norwich City, a win would have clinched the fourth and final playoff place for Fulham, but the Cottagers dropped a pair of points themselves in a 1-1 draw with Brentford at Craven Cottage. Still, Fulham are all but into the playoffs with a three-point lead on Leeds, and a goal differential that’s 13 goals better.