Premier League Relegation Watch: Nervy times for West Brom and Norwich City

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With six weeks left in the Premier League, only nine points separate bottom feeders Fulham from 13th placed Swansea City.

Here we look at all the relegation-threatened sides and evaluate their remaining matches, form, injuries and odds of staying up in the Premier League.

13. SWANSEA CITY 33 PTS (32 PLD)

Remaining Matches (6): Hull City (A); Chelsea (H); Newcastle United (A); Aston Villa (H); Southampton (H); Sunderland (A)

League Form: LDLLDW

Other Competitions: None

InjuriesKyle Bartley, hamstring (no return date)

Vegas odds to be relegated: 28/1

Verdict: It was a good week for Swansea, drawing 2-2 with Arsenal and spanking Norwich City 3-0. With Michu back healthy and a reasonable end-of-the-season schedule, there’s little to no fear of relegation at the Liberty.

14. HULL CITY 33 PTS (32 PLD)

Remaining Matches (6): Swansea City (H); Manchester United (A); Arsenal (H); Fulham (A); Aston Villa (A); Everton (H)

League Form: WLLWLL

Other Competitions: FA Cup (v. Sheffield United on April 13th)

Injuries: Allan McGregor, kidney (no return date); Robbie Brady, groin (no return date); Paul McShane, ankle (no return date), Joe Dudgeon, knee (no return date)

Vegas odds to be relegated: 16/1

Verdict: It was a tough week for Hull, outplaying West Ham and losing before playing even with Stoke and suffering the same result. Losing McGregor to a kidney injury is also a concern. Still, the Tigers have quality and three more points should be enough to keep them afloat.

15. NORWICH CITY 32 PTS (32 PLD)

Remaining Matches (6): West Bromwich Albion (H); Fulham (A); Liverpool (H); Manchester United (A); Chelsea (A); Arsenal (H)

League Form: WLDLWL

Other Competitions: None

InjuriesLeroy Fer, hamstring (April 12th); Michael Turner, hamstring (April 5th); Elliot Bennett, knee (April 20th); Joseph Yobo, calf (April 5th)

Vegas odds to be relegated: 3/1

Verdict: Things are not looking good for the Canaries. They were spanked 3-0 by Swansea last weekend and now have two matches – against West Brom and Fulham – to get points out of before they face four Top 7 sides to end their season. For me, they’re the club that’s currently safe but is most likely to end up relegated.

16. CRYSTAL PALACE 31 PTS (31 PLD)

Remaining Matches (7): Cardiff City (A); Aston Villa (H); Everton (A); West Ham United (A); Manchester City (H); Liverpool (H); Fulham (A)

League Form: LDLDLW

Other Competitions: None

Injuries: Dwight Gayle, ankle (April 12th); Marouane Chamakh, hamstring (April 5th)

Vegas odds to be relegated: 3/1

Verdict: Gigantic, season-changing win last weekend for the Eagles over Chelsea. Might very well be the victory that keeps them in the Premier League. Palace will need to find more points elsewhere but with a game in hand and a favorable end-of-the-season schedule, Tony Pulis’ record of never being relegated should remain in tact.

17. WEST BROMWICH ALBION 29 PTS (31 PLD)

Remaining Matches (7): Norwich City (A); Tottenham (H); Manchester City (A); West Ham United (H); Arsenal (A); Sunderland (H); Stoke City (H)

League Form: DDLWLD

Other Competitions: None

Injuries: Gareth McCauley, ankle (no return date); Victor Anichebe, hamstring (April 5th); Claudio Yacob, hamstring (April 12th); Chris Brunt, knee (April 12th); Billy Jones, hamstring (April 12th)

Vegas odds to be relegated: 3/1

Verdict: Had last week’s game in the palm of their hand before Berahino failed to go to the corner flag, lost the ball and Cardiff scored in the last second to draw 3-3. Dropping points to Cardiff is a bad, bad thing and this week the Albion will try to avoid the same fate against Norwich in a match both sides will be desperate to win.

18. CARDIFF CITY 26 PTS (32 PLD)

Remaining Matches (6): Crystal Palace (H); Southampton (A); Stoke City (H); Sunderland (A); Newcastle United (A); Chelsea (H)

League Form: LLWLLD

Other Competitions: None

InjuriesCraig Noone, muscle (April 5th); Mark Hudson, hamstring (no return date)

Vegas odds to be relegated: 1/4

Verdict: Nice to snatch a point last weekend against West Brom but Cardiff needs wins. Three of their next four matches offer a strong possibility with Palace, Stoke and Sunderland all in the cards. Still, Cardiff in the Championship next season feels right, doesn’t it?

19. SUNDERLAND 25 PTS (30 PLD)

Remaining Matches (8): Tottenham (A); Everton (H); Manchester City (A); Chelsea (A); Cardiff City (H); Manchester United (A); West Bromwich Albion (H); Swansea City (H)

League Form: LLDLLL

Other Competitions: None

InjuriesSteven Fletcher, ankle (no return date);Keiren Westwood, shoulder (no return date)

Vegas odds to be relegated: 2/5

Verdict: Decent fight last week against Liverpool but a poor effort against West Ham put Gus Poyet’s side in a really bad place. Yes, they have two games in hand on most of their competitors but the Black Cats look positively anemic up top. No goals, no Premier League. Seems like a fair rule.

20. FULHAM 24 PTS (32 PLD)

Remaining Matches (6): Aston Villa (A); Norwich City (H); Tottenham Hotspur (A); Hull City (H); Stoke City (A); Crystal Palace (H)

League Form: DLLWLL

Other Competitions: None

InjuriesDan Burn, muscle (no return date); Kostas Mitroglu, knee (no return date); Scott Parker, knee (April 5th); Damien Duff, knock (no return date); Georgios Karagounis, knock (April 5th)

Vegas odds to be relegated: 1/6

Verdict: Vegas offering 1/6 is likely the last odds for Fulham before they stop taking bets. It’s sad, really. Anyone who loves the Premier League, especially Americans, should have a soft spot for Fulham. The Cootagers schedule still has five very winnable games left but, well, you know, that’s a huge long shot.

Wild day in American soccer: Crew relocation, NASL LOIs, USL reserves

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The top three soccer leagues in the United States of America are dealing with varying bits of turmoil this Tuesday in October.

It began late Monday with reports that Columbus Crew owner Anthony Precourt aims to take the MLS founding member to Texas, seemingly only paying lip service to the idea of investment keeping the team in Ohio.

[ MORE: Leicester sacks Shakespeare ]

Some have said Precourt’s goals have always been to find a way out of Ohio, and the Crew owner was asked what has changed in the four years he’s owned the club (From ColumbusCrewSC.com):

Q:When we read your story about your purchase of the team, this was back in 2013, part of that was that it was very important to the Hunt family that the Crew remained in Columbus and you said at the time that you were committed to that. So what’s changed?

AP: I was committed to that and I believe that I demonstrated my commitment through significant investment in infrastructure, in personnel, in the quality of our product on the field. What has changed? Our League has grown leaps and bounds, it’s been unprecedented the improvement we’ve seen year over year and new markets that have come in the League have shown dramatic attendance. Let’s look at Atlanta with over 70,000 fans over their last few games, with Orlando building a new facility and averaging over 30,000 fans a game, with New York City FC. The list goes on and on. Our peers get stronger and stronger, year in and year out and I have to get back to our ambition as a club. This is key: our ambition as a club is to be a standard bearer in Major League Soccer, to be respected on and off the field in terms of our soccer operations and our business operations and to operate world-class, soccer-specific infrastructure. We’re going through growing pains now. It’s time for us to explore building a world-class, soccer-specific stadium so that we can be celebrated and successful and sustainable.

So, yes, barring a king’s ransom — word use intended — from the Ohio business community, it’s not being cynical to read Precourt’s intention to leave Ohio as very strong. The idea is very sad for the league, and makes every pro/rel honk’s argument against the closed model.

Then there’s the NASL, where it’s almost head-spinning to keep abreast of the future of the league. New York Cosmos owner Rocco Commisso has taken the wheel in an attempt to not only see the NASL rise, but remove Sunil Gulati from power at the United States Soccer Federation in the hopes of a complete overhaul. In what should not be read as a footnote, the NASL is currently suing the USSF.

There are reports that the league could have as many as 17 teams next season in a bid to regain sanctioning from the Unites States Soccer Federation, including a series of teams from the fourth-tier National Premier Soccer League.

According to SocTakes.com, the NASL has letters of intent from NPSL clubs in Boca Raton, Boston, Detroit, Arizona, New Orleans, and Virginia Beach. Additionally, there’s interest in Hartford and it may not be the NPSL club.

Then came this Tweet:

Now here’s a league, the USL, whose only issues have been perception-related. Growing well and instituting a D-3 companion, the biggest concern has been the mentioned MLS Reserve sides creating a minor league feel for the league.

All of this is manageable, and you could argue that the disappearance or at least rebranding of most of these reserve sides would be a boon for the league.

Taken in a vacuum, any of these stories has the potential to carry a day’s news. Together, and in the wake of the United States men’s national team’s failure to qualify for the World Cup, they give Tuesday one of those Soccer-USApocalyptic feelings.

UEFA Champions League Weds. preview: Chelsea, Man Utd look to break out

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Only one of 16 teams was held off the score sheet on Tuesday. Could the same level of entertainment reach the UEFA Champions League a day later?

Two more Premier League teams take the pitch on Wednesday, with Manchester United facing its stiffest test of the group stage and Chelsea with a tricky visit from AS Roma.

[ MORE: Champions League Tues. wrap ]

Manchester United has a significant challenge in Benfica, and may need a man familiar with the Estadio da Luz to help them out. Center back Eric Bailly remains out for United, which could bring Victor Lindelof into the fold to help stop Haris Seferovic, Gabriel Barbosa, Raul Jimenez, and especially Jonas.

Coming off a sleepy weekend draw versus Liverpool in an underwhelming derby, United will take on a desperate Benfica team which is traditionally strong but lost at home to CSKA Moscow and was crushed in Switzerland by Basel.

(AP Photo/Armando Franca)

Speaking of the need to rebound, Chelsea’s loss to Crystal Palace still has many scratching their heads. Fortunately, Roma is also in a mini-funk after a weekend loss to Napoli that ended a five-match winning streak.

There’s a reunion for Antonio Rudiger inside Stamford Bridge with Roma in town. I Lupi has been pretty one-dimensional in terms of offense, with ex-Man City man and reigning Serie A capocannoniere winner Edin Dzeko. He’s scored eight times in nine matches for Roma this season.

Full Wednesday UCL schedule
All kickoffs at 2:45 p.m. ET except where indicated

Qarabag vs. Atletico Madrid — Noon ET
Anderlecht vs. Paris Saint-Germain
Benfica vs. Manchester United
Juventus vs. Sporting Lisbon
Barcelona vs. Olympiacos
Chelsea vs. Roma
Bayern Munich vs. Celtic
CSKA Moscow vs. Basel

U-17 World Cup wrap: England advances to meet USA

AP Photo/Bikas Das
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The United States now knows it’ll have to take down England’s best to get to the semifinals of the U-17 World Cup in India.

[ MORE: Champions League wrap ]

England, don’t laugh, won in penalty kicks after a scoreless match with Japan, advancing to meet the Baby Yanks.


England 0-0 (5-3, PKs) Japan

There wasn’t a single miss amongst the England shooters, as Rhian Brewster (Liverpool), Callum Hudson-Odoi (Chelsea), Phil Foden (Man City), Nya Kirby (Crystal Palace), and Curtis Anderson (Man City) converted from the spot to set up a date against the U.S.

Mali 5-1 Iraq

Lassana Ndiaye scored twice to join France’s Amine Gouiri atop the goal scoring list for the tournament as Mali advances to face the winner of Ghana vs. Niger.

France 1-2 Spain

Barcelona prospects Juan Miranda and Abel Ruiz get the better of France to set up a date with high-flying Iran.

 

Iran 2-1 Mexico

Iran conceded for just the second time in the tournament, but not before Mohammad Sharifi and Allahyar Sayyad (both of Iranian club Saifa) made it 2-0 by the 11th minute.

UEFA Champions League wrap: Tables turned on wild day

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One clean sheet in eight Tuesday matches certainly helped the entertainment value of the UEFA Champions League, and the group ramifications follow suit.

Borussia Dortmund whiffed on a chance to take advantage of Real Madrid’s home draw versus Spurs, while Sevilla was waxed in Russia, and Besiktas continues to strut in UCL play.

Real Madrid 1-1 Tottenham HotspurRECAP, VIDEO

Raphael Varane’s plans to mark Harry Kane were subverted by the French defender’s unwitting legs, but Serge Aurier chopped down Toni Kroos in the 42nd minute for a yellow card and penalty that Cristiano Ronaldo sent beyond the reach of Spurs backstop Hugo Lloris.

It was Lloris’ outstanding day, along with a couple timely Keylor Navas saves, that kept the score line 1-1 after 90 minutes. The backstops will likely match wits again come Nov. 1 at Wembley Stadium.

Manchester City 2-1 NapoliRECAP

Raheem Sterling and Gabriel Jesus scored in the ninth and 13th minutes as City has been an unwelcoming host for the Neapolitan side. Ederson stopped a Dries Mertens penalty, adding insult to Napoli’s twin concessions, but Napoli would get a second penalty kick and pulled back a goal courtesy of Amadou Diawara.

Monaco 1-2 Besiktas

Reported Newcastle United and Crystal Palace target Cenk Tosun scored a pair of goals as group-leading Besiktas came back to beat Monaco after Radamel Falcao made it 1-0 to the hosts.

Feyenoord 1-2 Shakhtar Donetsk

Similar story in the Netherlands, where Ex-Watford man Steven Berghuis gave the Eredivisie hosts a lead only to see a Bernard brace lead Shakhtar at De Kuip.

Spartak Moscow 5-1 Sevilla

Liverpool’s score line was a bit surprising, but this one raised eyebrows even given Sevilla’s long road (or flight path) to Russia. Quincy Promes scored twice to make Sevilla consider its Europa roots (though plenty of time remains in the group stage).

Spartak’s Luiz Adriano scores past Sevilla’s Sergio Rico (AP Photo/Ivan Sekretarev)

Maribor 0-7 LiverpoolRECAP

Jurgen Klopp‘s Reds are sent their finishing demons off a cliff. It was 3-0 after 20 minutes, 4-0 at half, and when all was said and done there were braces for Roberto Firmino and Mohamed Salah to go with single markers from Philippe Coutinho, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, and Trent Alexander-Arnold.

APOEL Nicosia 1-1 Borussia Dortmund

A significant step backward for BVB, who would’ve done well to take advantage of Real and Spurs drawing at the Bernabeu. The Germans even trailed for five second-half minutes before Sokratis Papastathopoulos provided the equalizing goal.

RB Leipzig 3-2 Porto

Five first half goals felt like the start of something special, but the upstart Germans held on through a scoreless second half to claim their first UCL win.