Premier League Preview: Manchester United vs. Aston Villa

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  • Man United have lost a club record 10 PL games this season
  • Villa have won just once in their last 34 league and cup games vs. United
  • United have only dropped points in 3 games, after taking the lead

The last time Aston Villa visited Manchester United, the Red Devils secured a comprehensive victory to seal the Premier League title.

What a difference a year makes.

On Saturday at Old Trafford Man United host Villa (Watch live on NBCSN, 8:45 a.m. ET and online via Live Extra) with real turmoil engulfing the famous club. Fan groups have arranged to have a banner saying “Wrong One- Moyes Out” flown over the stadium during the game, as they protest against the poor season from United and their new manager David Moyes.

Following the 3-0 demolition from Manchester City in the Manchester derby on Wednesday, tensions have been high in the red half of Manchester.

On Friday Moyes stated that the majority of fans are still on his side, but this game will be more about the off-field action than the match itself, as the reaction the Scotsman gets at Old Trafford will be a telling sign as to how he’s really viewed.

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Looking at the match, Villa have only beaten United once in their last 34 league and cup games against the Reds and United have lost just once against the Villans since 1995. Some record. But as we know this season, going to Old Trafford isn’t as daunting as it once was, so Paul Lambert’s men will fancy their chances of causing an upset.

Nemanja Vidic will return from suspension, but Chris Smalling, Robin van Persie and Jonny Evans are all out injured for United. As for Villa, they may be without Karim El Ahmadi but Andreas Weimann is expected to play some part.

What they’re saying

David Moyes on criticism from his own fans: “I am witnessing great support inside the ground, I’m witnessing great support when I bump into supporters outside the ground. There’s a rebuilding plan underway. Anybody who has an understanding of the game will understand that it happens. The people who put me in the job here are top football people, who understand the game and know exactly what is required at Manchester United and exactly the kind of characters you need to run the club.”

Paul Lambert on Villa’s chances of winning: “Yes they might be having a hard time at the minute. But David is following one of the greatest managers of all-time. That is no mean feat in itself. Whoever went in there at the start of the season was always going to find it difficult because they have had incredible success over a 20-plus year period. They still have some great, great players there. It’s not as if they have become poor players overnight. You’re probably expecting them to come out firing on all cylinders this weekend but it’s our job to try and win and what we can do best is to try and hurt them. That’s our intent, to go up there and try and win.”

Prediction

In this dreadful season for United, its hard to predict any kind of positive outcome. Finishing in the top five would be a commendable achievement right now, how they mighty have fallen. But after that battering from Manchester rivals Man City, I expect a response from the Red Devils. Villa aren’t in that much danger of relegation, and aren’t great at the back either. I fancy Wayne Rooney to tear the Villans apart and give Moyes’ men a big win at Old Trafford.

Report: Arsenal interested in Leicester keeper Kasper Schmeichel

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According to a report by The Sun, Arsenal is monitoring the progress of Leicester City goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel.

The rumor does make sense. With Petr Cech at 34 years old and having a poor season in front of net and backup David Ospina failing to challenge him for the starting job, the Gunners are looking elsewhere to bring in a potential future starter.

Schmeichel has been one of the best goalkeepers in the Premier League the past two seasons. Last season he led the Foxes to the Premier League title, organizing a stunningly good defensive line of patchwork players. This season, the defense has largely regressed and let Schmeichel down, but he has still performed well and has the metrics to remain one of the league’s top shot-stoppers.

The Danish keeper is 30 years old himself, but that puts him in his prime for a goalkeeper. He has been with Leicester City since 2011, and he will tick 250 appearances for the club with his next match. Schmeichel was rumored to be a member of the secret player delegation that worked hard to see Claudio Ranieri pushed out of the club, a sentiment which he and the other players have strongly denied.

Still, with an improbable Premier League title in hand and an appearance in the Champions League quarterfinals now on the cards, there probably isn’t much else for him at Leicester City. It’s possible Schmeichel could look to bank on his past performances and secure a move to a bigger club this summer.

Should Arsene Wenger stay with Arsenal past this season, a possibility that looks more and more likely, he could look to move on from Cech despite signing the former Chelsea goalkeeper just two summers ago.

Diego Costa injured, but will stay with Spain squad for friendly

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Chelsea striker Diego Costa pulled up in Spain training on Sunday, and with the Blues in first in the Premier League and Costa in great form, there were obvious concerns.

With Costa struggling with leg and ankle injuries, the RFEF informed Chelsea that there was an issue, and Costa was pulled from training and sent for tests. X-Rays at the local hospital in Madrid were negative, and he’s rejoined the squad.

According to the RFEF, doctors will continue to monitor the 28-year-old and he will continue with the national team for the rest of the international break. With a World Cup qualification win over Israel already in the books and just a friendly against France to go on Tuesday, it’s odd that Spain would risk Costa moving forward, but they will continue to keep him around.

Costa has scored 18 goals this season to lead the Blues, and he scored in the win over Israel. Spain takes on France in Saint-Denis on Tuesday, with both teams leading their World Cup qualification groups. Spain has a goal-differential lead on Italy with both teams miles above the rest of the Group G, and France is ahead of Sweden by three points in Group A, with the Netherlands back in fourth.

Foul or flop? Player “headbutts” referee, is sent off

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Well, there must be something in the water down in Brasilia, because things got a little weird this evening.

Flamengo drew with Vasco da Gama 2-2, but that was just the start.

In the 54th minute, with Vasco da Gama leading 1-0 at Estadio Nacional Mané Garrincha, 36-year-old Luis Fabiano was sent off for “headbutting” the referee. Headbutting is in quotes because looking at the video, it certainly appears there was little to no contact, and the referee flops.

Yes, the referee flopped. Take a look:

To be fair, Fabiano was already on a yellow, so getting in the referee’s face even without the headbutt/pelvic thrust would likely still have seen him sent to an early shower.

So the former Porto and Sevilla man was sent off, and Vasco da Gama was down to 10 men. Immediately after the red card, Flamengo took advantage, powering in a pair of goals via Willian Arao and Orlando Berrio to take the lead 2-1. But Vasco wouldn’t quit, and they earned a penalty five minutes into stoppage time, which Nene buried for the 2-2 draw.

To top things off, a player named Yago Pikachu scored the opener for Vasco da Gama, which was followed by a delay in the game seven minutes later after a power surge in the stadium. Go figure.

Lletget diagnosed with foot sprain, escaping further damage

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Word has arrived from the LA Galaxy camp that will see USMNT fans feel relieved as Sebastian Lletget has escaped the news many feared.

The young attacker was impressive in the first 18 minutes of the United States’ 6-0 win over Honduras, but was injured minutes after scoring the opening goal and could not continue. Replays showed that Lletget got his foot caught underneath a defender in the process of a hard challenge on the right wing.

There was concern that Lletget would be out for a significant amount of time, but the Galaxy announced that after testing over the weekend, Lletget did not suffer any structural damage and was diagnosed with a left foot sprain.

[ MORE: USMNT adds Paul Arreola to roster, drops Lletget, Brooks, Morris ]

Lletget will visit a specialist on Monday to determine a plan for recovery, and it’s possible that he will still have to miss some time in the near future. The Galaxy visit Vancouver on Saturday, and his status for that match has to be considered up in the air. They then host Montreal on April 7.

While Lletget obviously misses out on the next USMNT game at Panama on Tuesday having already been dumped from the roster, he will most definitely be available for the June games against Trinidad & Tobago and Mexico, and will likely be an option for Bruce Arena given the manager’s history with Lletget at Los Angeles.

The United States have been struck with a collection of injuries that all occurred just before the international break, hampering the squad significantly. Bobby Wood, Jordan Morris, and Fabian Johnson all went down in the days before reporting for international duty, and the team lost Lletget and John Brooks in the Honduras win. Lletget’s departure could see Alejandro Bedoya into the starting lineup on Tuesday, with the Union midfielder having replaced Lletget in the Honduras match. Also in contention is Jermaine Jones, who could come in after his suspension and push Darlington Nagbe onto the wing.