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.

Malta captain mutes goal celebration after journalist slain

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Malta captain Andre Schembri says the car bomb slaying of a Maltese investigative journalist prompted him not to exult after scoring an historic goal.

Schembri’s temporary equalizer for Cypriot club Apollon in a 3-1 loss to Italian side Atalanta in the Europa League on Thursday made him the first Maltese player to score in proper European competition – excluding qualifying.

[ PL PREVIEW: Saints vs. West Brom ]

But instead of pumping his fist or leaping in joy over the achievement, Schembri hung his head as teammates mobbed him.

Schembri wrote on Facebook on Friday, “Celebrating my goal didn’t feel right after what happened in Malta this week.”

Malta has been stunned since Monday by the slaying of Daphne Caruana Galizia, an anti-corruption reporter whose targets included Malta’s leading politicians.

“When they killed Daphne I wasn’t able to sleep for three nights,” Schembri told the ANSA news agency. “Malta is Europe, it’s not the third world. We need to be united when faced with grief like this, to say that we’re better than all of this.

“I love my country and with that goal it came naturally to me to think about a reporter’s freedom and the life of a mother of three children.”

Premier League Preview: Southampton vs. West Bromwich Albion

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  • West Bromwich Albion hope to choose from goalkeepers Ben Foster (back) and Boaz Myhill (hamstring) for the trip to St Mary’s. Hal Robson-Kanu (strain), James Morrison (calf) and Oliver Burke (hamstring) will all be absent for the Baggies.
  • Southampton are again without Jeremy Pied but have no other injury concerns.
  • Of all teams to have met in at least seven different Premier League campaigns, Southampton v West Brom has the lowest goals-per-match ratio in the competition (21 in 14 matches, 1.5 per match). 
  • Dusan Tadic has been directly involved in a goal in each of his last three PL appearances against the Baggies (one goal, two assists).

Two mid-table sides meet up in the south of England as Southampton hosts West Bromwich Albion at 13:20 p.m. Saturday afternoon. (Watch live on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Both teams are struggling for form heading into the match. West Brom is winless in its last seven games while Southampton has just one win in its last five, coughing up a chance to defeat Newcastle a week ago.

It’s a big boost for Southampton though that Manolo Gabbiadini is back on the scoresheet after scoring twice against Newcastle. It was Gabbiadini’s first goal since the second week of the Premier League season.

At the other end, West Brom have a worry with both of its top two goalkeepers, Ben Forster and Boaz Myhill. recovering from injuries.

What they’re saying

Southampton manager Manuel Pellegrino on his team: “The reaction of the team was really good, but we have to start from the beginning with this spirit. Sometimes you have to be patient, because at the beginning teams have more energy, they are fresher and they can press you better. I think we feel comfortable with the ball. If we are precise with the ball and with our tempo, we can create more problems – it doesn’t matter who we are playing. We know that West Brom are really strong physically, and dangerous from set plays and on the counter-attack. That’s something we’ve been working on this week. Every single week we are learning from our last few games, and I feel that my players are better prepared.”

West Bromwich manager Tony Pulis on facing Southampton: “They’re a good footballing team. Pellegrino has come in with his own ideas and the way he wants to play. From watching them in a couple of games away from St Mary’s they seem a little more relaxed. They look a little more uptight at home. But I’m sure they’ll become the team everyone knows they can be.”

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Prediction

West Bromwich doesn’t look closer to stopping its slide down the table, especially on the road. Even with Jay Rodriguez returning to his former club, Southampton should find the offense to put Tony Pulis and West Brom away. Southampton 2-1 West Bromwich Albion

Watch Live: West Ham vs. Brighton and Hove Albion

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West Ham and Brighton kick off the weekend’s Premier League action at the London Stadium on Friday afternoon. (Watch live, 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN an online via NBCSports.com).

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Both teams have just eight points from eight games, and are looking to move up in the table with a win.

Manuel Lanzini makes his second consecutive start, playing behind Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez in West Ham’s 4-2-3-1 formation. On the other side, Tomer Hemed sits his final match of his three-match suspension, with Glen Murray playing atop the 4-4-1-1 Brighton formation.

LINEUPS

West Ham United: Hart; Zabaleta, Fonte, Reid, Masuaku; Kouate, Obiang; Antonio, Lanzini, Arnautovic; Chicharito Hernandez. Subs: Adrian, Cresswell, Ogbonna, Byram, Ayew, Noble, Fernandes

Brighton and Hove Albion: Ryan; Bong, Duffy, Dunk, Saltor; Izquierdo, Propper, Stephens, Knockaert; Gross; Murray. Subs: Krul, Goldson, Suttner, Schelotto, Molumby, March, Brown.

Report: FIFA considering updating international rules

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Under current FIFA rules, once a player plays a senior international competitive match, they’re cap-tied permanently to that nation. But that rule could be changing.

That’s according to a report from Reuters, which quotes CONCACAF president Victor Montagliani that FIFA could look into updating some of its nationality laws. Montagliani is the head of FIFA’s stakeholders committee.

“There are so many issues that have popped up over the years because the world is changing, immigration is changing,” Montagliani said. “There are nationality issues that pop up all over the world, in Africa, there are issues in Asia and CONCACAF, so its a good time to have a look at this and see if there are solutions, without hurting the integrity of the game.”

Changing the rules would have a big impact on nations with diverse populations or nationalities with large diasporas.

The report states the Cape Verdean FA requested relaxing the rule of cap-tying a player after playing a competitive game, if that player drops out of the player pool and likely wouldn’t be called up again. Cape Verde relies on a lot of Portugal-based and raised players with Cape Verdean heritage.

A relaxation of the rules could have an affect on U.S. Men’s National Team players as well. In theory, if Kenny Saief decided he wanted to play for Israel again, under a relaxation of the rules, and some sort of proof that a new USMNT coach wouldn’t call him up, Israel could potentially use him. In addition, players such as Cristian Roldan or Jesse Gonzalez could in theory be lost should they fall down the depth chart and other countries they’re eligible for.