Premier League Sunday Preview: Liverpool, Everton look to continue late season surges

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Merseyside is in focus on Sunday in the Premier League, with Everton and Liverpool in action in the day’s two games. The Toffees start that day at Craven Cottage looking to close the gap on fourth place Arsenal while Liverpool, with a chance to go top of the league, hosts Tottenham Hotspur.

The doubleheader begins at 8:30 a.m. Eastern on NBCSN, with both games available to stream via NBC Sports Live Extra.

Everton enters the day with an opportunity to gain more ground on Arsenal ahead of the teams’ meeting next week. After drawing Saturday with Manchester City, the Gunners sit on 64 points, seven ahead of the Toffees.

Liverpool has a chance to take advantage of Chelsea’s upset loss at Crystal Palace, with a Spurs team that’s lost two of its last three in league making the trip to Anfield. That game kicks off at 11:00 a.m. Eastern.

Here’s a closer look at the day’s action:

Fulham vs. Everton, 8:30 a.m. ET, NBCSN and NBC Sports Live Extra

  • Cottagers six points away from safety with seven matches to go
  • Everton carries a four-game winning streak into Craven Cottage
  • Toffees’ five losses tied for fewest in Premier League

It’d be an exaggeration to call Sunday’s game a must-win for Everton, but it is a golden opportunity. Though Arsenal played well Saturday against City, the Gunners still dropped points, giving the Toffees a chance to narrow the gap between themselves and the team they’re trying to overtake for fourth. Between Sunday’s fixture, next week’s meeting with Arsenal, and the team’s game-in-hand, a Champions League spot is a realistic goal for Everton.

For Fulham, times are more desperate. Though the Cottagers are five points from safety, their terrible goal difference means they’ll need to gain six points on West Bromwich Albion (currently in 17th) to stay up. They’ll also need to out-perform Cardiff City (18th) and Sunderland (19th) while doing so. While Sunday’s game is not a must win, it’s unclear Fulham can afford to waste a chance to pick up points at home, where they’ve only won four times all season.

Liverpool vs. Tottenham, 11:00 a.m. ET, NBCSN and NBC Sports Live Extra

  • Liverpool leads the league with 84 goals scored
  • Spurs ended a two-match league losing streak last weekend against Southampton
  • Liverpool has taken 32 of a possible 36 points in 2014

Saturday couldn’t have done better for Liverpool, who saw Chelsea lose while City and Arsenal drew, keeping the Gunners on the fringe of the title race while costing the Citizens points. Now it’s a matter of taking advantage of the opportunity. A win or a draw will leave them first, with a victory over sixth place Spurs giving Liverpool a two-point lead on Chelsea.

If Tottenham’s going to slow them down, they’ll have to figure out a way to stop Luis Suárez and Daniel Sturridge, a task that will rely on defenders Michael Dawson and Jan Vertonghen. The duo will need help from the midfield, with Nabil Bentalib and Paulinho potentially tasked with cutting off the supply from Coutinho and Steven Gerrard.

In attack, Tottenham will hope the form Christen Eriksen flashed in last weekend’s two-goal performance will persist, though foot injury may keep leading scorer Emmanuel Adebayor on the sidelines. If the Togo international misses out, Roberto Soldado will get the call up top.

Barcelona plan Cruyff tribute at club’s training center

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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) One year after his death, Barcelona says it will name the future stadium at its training center after Dutch great Johan Cruyff.

The new stadium at Barcelona’s training center just outside the Catalan city will be called “Johan Cruyff Stadium” in honor of the club’s former player and coach.

Barcelona says in a statement that “the most emblematic building in the facility where future Barca players are coached is to be named after somebody who played such a central role in fostering youth talent at the club.”

Barcelona also says it will commission a “commemorative sculpture” of Cruyff, who died of lung cancer on March 24 last year at age 68. The statue will be placed at Barcelona’s main Camp Nou stadium.

Cruyff is largely credited with launching Barcelona’s era of trophy success, both as a player and a coach.

As a player, Cruyff joined Barcelona midseason in 1973 and led the middle-of-the-table team to its first national title in a decade.

He later returned as a coach and guided Barcelona to four consecutive Spanish leagues from 1991-94 and the club’s first European Cup in 1992.

“I think the tributes are very warming,” said Cruyff’s son, Jordi Cruyff. “It sort of changes the sadness that we might feel as family to lose a father, a husband and a grandfather. It changes to a certain kind of pride to understand that he left something behind.”

MLS Snapshot: Defense optional — Crew SC outlast Timbers, 3-2

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The game in 100 words (or less): As far as teams who get out in the open field and score the lion’s share of their goals on the counter-attacking, there aren’t many MLS teams better than Columbus Crew SC and the Portland Timbers. The two sides met Saturday night at MAPFRE Stadium, site of their MLS Cup 2015 clash, and lived up to their reputations. Of the five goals scored, two were notched on flat-out counters and two more came to pass through quick transitional movements. Portland (9 points) dropped their first points of the season, falling 3-2 to goals scored by Justin Meram, Ola Kamara and Niko Hansen, while Crew SC have back-to-back wins and find themselves level on points (7) with the New York Red Bulls with each side having played four games.

[ MORE: Saturday’s MLS (afternoon) roundup ]

Three Four Five moments that mattered

4′ — Asprilla opens the scoring early on — 2017 Crew SC defending, same as 2016 Crew SC defending.

11′ — Meram fires home the rebound for 1-1 — One of Portland’s biggest weaknesses last season was their set-piece defending. Looks like not much has changed.

19′ — Higuain feeds Kamara for a 2-1 lead — The question mark that Portland will eventually have to answer is this: How much, if at all, have they improved defensively in the open field? Based on this Crew SC counter-attack, the answer might be “not much.”

45+3′ — Adi recovers to make it 2-2 — Everything Adi does these days (even the bad things, like this first touch) ends up being good.

84′ — Hansen cleans up at the back post for 3-2 — Jake Gleeson made a spectacular reaction save to deny Kamara his second goal of the game, but the rookie, making his MLS debut, was in the right place at the right time.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverageStandings | Stats | Schedule ]

Men of the match: Wil Trapp

Goalscorers: Asprilla (4′), Meram (11′), Kamara (19′), Adi (45+3′), Hansen (84′)

Andorra’s 11-year, 58-game losing streak is over

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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) Rarely has a scoreless stalemate in front of the home fans tasted so sweet.

But 11 years of nothing but losing will do that to a team.

Andorra’s 0-0 draw with fellow minnow Faroe Islands in World Cup qualifying on Saturday ended its run of 58 competitive defeats.

It was the first point in qualifying for the Pyrenees mountain principality, population 80,000, since a scoreless draw with Finland in 2005.

Faroe Islands finished with 10 men after Joan Edmundsson was booked a second time with 15 minutes to play.

World Cup qualifiers: Dutch disaster persists; Greece hold Belgium

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A roundup of all of Saturday’s World Cup qualifying fixtures, as Groups A, B and H hit the halfway point in Europe…

[ MORE: USA 6-0 Honduras | Three things we learned | Player ratings ]

Bulgaria 2-0 Netherlands

Spas Delev scored both Bulgarian goals (5th and 20th minutes) to secure all three points and send Danny Blind’s Netherlands side (7 points) into fourth place in Group A, six points back of leaders France and three back of second-place (qualifying playoffs) Sweden.

17-year-old Matthijs de Ligt was handed his international debut for the Dutch; he was ultimately at fault for both of Delev’s goals; he was subbed off at halftime (as was Georginio Wijnaldum).

Luxembourg 1-3 France

Olivier Giroud scored twice (28th and 77th minutes) for France, and Antoine Griezmann added the other (37th minute – penalty kick), as Les Bleus maintained their three-point lead in Group A. Kylian Mbappe, Monaco’s 18-year-old rising star, made his international debut in the 78th minute, when he replaced Dimitri Payet.

Portugal 3-0 Hungary

Cristiano Ronaldo bagged the 69th and 70th goals of his international career (36th and 65th minutes), as Portugal (12 points) kept pace with an unbeaten Switzerland side (15 points) which managed a 1-0 victory over Latvia to keep their 100-percent record intact. Andre Silva scored the opener (32nd minute) for Portugal, the 21-year-old Porto striker’s fifth goal in six international appearances.

Belgium 1-1 Greece

Romelu Lukaku‘s 89th-minute rescued a point for Group H leaders Belgium (13 points), but it did little to mask an otherwise uninspiring performance from Roberto Martinez’s side. Kostas Mitroglu put Greece ahead in the first minute of the second half, but Panagiotis Tachtsidis saw his second yellow of the game in the 65th minute, and that was the start of Greece’s unraveling. The draw was just enough to keep Greece (11 points) in second, ahead of Bosnia-Herzegovina, whose 5-0 thrashing of Gibraltar moved them to 10 points with a superior goal differential.

Elsewhere in UEFA’s World Cup qualifying

Group A

Sweden 4-0 Belarus

Group B

Switzerland 1-0 Latvia
Andorra 0-0 Faroe Islands

Group H

Bosnia-Herzegovina 5-0 Gibraltar
Cyprus 0-0 Estonia