Premier League Relegation Watch: Fulham gaining ground

Leave a comment

With five weeks to go there’s some separation in the relegation race with 17th placed Norwich City enjoying a five point lead on a tight bottom three of Fulham (27 points), Cardiff City (26 points) and Sunderland (25 points).

North of Norwich is West Brom (32 points), Swansea City (33 points) and Crystal Palace and Aston Villa, both on 34 points.

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. ASTON VILLA 34 PTS (32 PLD)

Remaining Matches (6): Crystal Palace (A); Southampton (H); Swansea City (A); Hull City (H); Manchester City (A); Tottenham (A)

League Form: LWWLLL

Other Competitions: None

Injuries: Christian Benteke, achilles (out for season); Fabian Delph, calf (April 12th); Karim El Ahmadi, thigh (April 12th); Libor Kozak, broken leg (out for season); Jores Okore, knee (April 26th); Charles N’Zogbia, calf (no return date)

Vegas odds to be relegated: 10/1

Verdict: Unlikely to be relegated but looked poor this past weekend losing 2-1 to Fulham, which largely had to do with Benteke, Agbonlahor and Delph all being out. This weekend the latter two should be available and one more victory should do it to secure the Villains’ survival in the top flight.

14. CRYSTAL PALACE 34 PTS (32 PLD)

Remaining Matches (6): Aston Villa (H); Everton (A); West Ham United (A); Manchester City (H); Liverpool (H); Fulham (A)

League Form: DLDLWW

Other Competitions: None

Injuries: None

Vegas odds to be relegated: 8/1

Verdict: A dominant 3-0 victory over Cardiff City last weekend has spirits high at Selhurst Park. Palace, the club no one gave a shot to stay up in the beginning of the year, looks all but set to be playing in the Premier League next season.

15. SWANSEA CITY 33 PTS (33 PLD)

Remaining Matches (5): Chelsea (H); Newcastle United (A); Aston Villa (H); Southampton (H); Sunderland (A)

League Form: DLLDWL

Other Competitions: None

InjuriesKyle Bartley, hamstring (no return date)

Vegas odds to be relegated: 5/1

Verdict: The 0-1 loss to Hull City did Swansea City no favors and if Garry Monk isn’t careful the difficult end of the year schedule means it might come down to the wire for the Swans.

16. WEST BROMWICH ALBION 32 PTS (32 PLD)

Remaining Matches (6): Tottenham (H); Manchester City (A); West Ham United (H); Arsenal (A); Sunderland (H); Stoke City (H)

League Form: DLWLDW

Other Competitions: None

InjuriesClaudio Yacob, hamstring (April 12th); Chris Brunt, knee (April 12th); Billy Jones, hamstring (April 12th); Zoltan Gera, hamstring (no return date); Graham Dorrans, knee (no return date)

Vegas odds to be relegated: 4/1

Verdict: Huge victory at Norwich City last weekend but the Baggies will need more to assuage worries of relegation. And with a fixture list that has Spurs, Manchester City and Arsenal, it won’t come easy.

17. NORWICH CITY 32 PTS (33 PLD)

Remaining Matches (5): West Bromwich Albion (H); Fulham (A); Liverpool (H); Manchester United (A); Chelsea (A); Arsenal (H)

League Form: LDLWLL

Other Competitions: None

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

Vegas odds to be relegated: 1/1

Verdict: Saying it now, the Canaries are going down. They were horrible in last weekend’s loss to West Brom, they just sacked their manager and their last four matches of the season are brutal. Done and done.

18. FULHAM 27 PTS (33 PLD)

Remaining Matches (5): Norwich City (H); Tottenham Hotspur (A); Hull City (H); Stoke City (A); Crystal Palace (H)

League Form: LLWLLW

Other Competitions: None

InjuriesDan Burn, muscle (no return date); Kostas Mitroglu, knee (no return date); Scott Parker, knee (April 12th); Damien Duff, knock (no return date); Georgios Karagounis, knock (April 12th)

Vegas odds to be relegated: 1/2

Verdict: Huge win last weekend and, given what’s gone on at Norwich of late, Fulham will feel as if this weekend should go the same way. If it does the Cottagers will find themselves two points away from safety with four matches to play. Very doable stuff.

19. CARDIFF CITY 26 PTS (33 PLD)

Remaining Matches (5): Southampton (A); Stoke City (H); Sunderland (A); Newcastle United (A); Chelsea (H)

League Form: LWLLDL

Other Competitions: None

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

Vegas odds to be relegated: 1/5

Verdict: Buried 0-3 at home by Crystal Palace last weekend says it all, Cardiff is going down.

19. SUNDERLAND 25 PTS (31 PLD)

Remaining Matches (7): Everton (H); Manchester City (A); Chelsea (A); Cardiff City (H); Manchester United (A); West Bromwich Albion (H); Swansea City (H)

League Form: LDLLLL

Other Competitions: None

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

Vegas odds to be relegated: 1/5

Verdict: Crushed 5-1 by Spurs looks to be a death sentence for Sunderland.

Matuidi having a medical at Juventus ahead of move from PSG

Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images
Leave a comment

TURIN, Italy (AP) Paris Saint-Germain midfielder Blaise Matuidi was having a medical at Juventus on Wednesday ahead of a potential move to the Serie A club.

Juventus said that Matuidi arrived at Turin airport in the afternoon and was undergoing tests.

Juventus will reportedly pay PSG 20 million euros ($23 million) plus bonuses for the 30-year-old Matuidi, who had a year left on his contract with the French club.

[ MORE: Wenger issues updates on Alexis, Ox, Wilshere ]

PSG, which is also trying to balance the books after buying Neymar for 222 million euros, could not afford to lose Matuidi on a free transfer.

Matuidi played nearly 300 games for PSG in all competitions after joining from Saint-Etienne in 2011.

After a difficult first season, he quickly became an integral part of the team for successive managers, Carlo Ancelotti and Laurent Blanc.

He flourished from a largely defensive midfielder to a robust, tireless runner with an eye for goal and an enormous work-rate.

Overcoming some technical deficiencies in his game, Matuidi gradually earned himself a place in the France lineup and became a key player at the 2014 World Cup and last year’s European Championship.

At the beginning of last season, after Blanc was fired and replaced by Unai Emery, he expressed a desire to leave PSG and already wanted to join Juventus. But the club blocked his move, considering him too important to leave, and he stayed for another season.

Altogether, Matuidi has scored 33 goals for PSG in 295 appearances, becoming a well-respected player among fans and teammates alike, often taking a public stance when others would not and when tensions arose within the club.

In all, Matuidi has won four league titles, three French Cups and four League Cups with PSG.

This story has been corrected to show that Neymar’s fee was 222 million euros, not 220 million euros.

Furious Cristiano Ronaldo responds to five-game ban

Getty Images
1 Comment

Cristiano Ronaldo has hit out at the Spanish soccer federation after his five game ban for pushing a referee in the back was upheld.

Ronaldo, 32, pushed the ref after he was shown a second yellow card in Real Madrid’s 3-1 win in the first leg of the Spanish Super Cup at Barcelona on Sunday.

It capped an eventful El Clasico for Ronaldo who arrived in the second half as a sub, then scored a stunner to put Real 2-1 up.

He received his first yellow for taking off his shirt and holding it up to the Nou Camp crowd to mock Lionel Messi for doing the same in a goal celebration in April at the Santiago Bernabeu. Ronaldo then received a second yellow for going down in the box under a challenge.

In an Instagram post the Real Madrid forward had the following to say about the decision which sees him banned for the second leg ag the Bernabeu on Wednesday as well as Real’s next four games.

“It seems to me exaggerated and ridiculous, this is called persecution.”

 

 

LIVE – Champions League playoff: Napoli, Celtic, Sevilla in action

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Five more UEFA Champions League playoff first leg games take place on Wednesday after Liverpool, CSKA Moscow, APOEL and Qarabag all recorded wins on Tuesday to take them one step closer to the UCL group stage.

[ LIVE: Champions League scores ] 

Brendan Rodgers‘ Celtic host Kazakhstan’s Astana at Celtic Park hoping for a big first leg lead with the Scottish champs aiming to make the UCL group stage for the second-straight season under former Liverpool boss Rodgers.

A tasty clash at the Stadio San Paolo sees Napolo host Nice in what is the best tie in the UCL playoff round. Can Lorenzo Insigne down Mario Balotelli and Co.?

Elsewhere Turkish side Istanbul Basaksehir have the likes of Gael Clichy, Gokhan Inler and Emmanuel Adebayor as they try to upset Sevilla, while Greek giants Olympiacos host Croatia’s Rijeka, Israeli champs Hapoel Be’er Sheva do battle with Slovenian champs Maribor.

Below is the full schedule for Wednesday’s games, which kick off at 2:45 p.m. ET, while you can click on the link above to follow live commentary on all five matches.


Wednesday’s UEFA Champions League playoff first legs

Napoli vs. Nice
Cetlic vs. Astana
Olympiacos vs. Rijeka
Istanbul Basaksehir vs. Sevilla
Hapoel Be’er Sheva vs. Maribor

SERIE A 2017-18: 5 key players signed in the off season

Getty Images
Leave a comment

ROME (AP) Here’s a look at five offseason signings to watch in the upcoming Serie A season:

LEONARDO BONUCCI

Considered Italy’s top defender – which is saying a lot for a nation that prides itself on its great defenders – Bonucci’s transfer from Juventus to AC Milan could alter the balance of power in Serie A.

While Bonucci clashed often with Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri last season, his decision to leave the six-time defending champion was still surprising.

The 30-year-old Bonucci brings leadership qualities and will allow Milan coach Vincenzo Montella to employ a three-man defense that promotes the center back’s excellent passing skills.

Bonucci’s transfer fee topped 40 million euros ($45 million), and he signed a five-year contract worth up to 10 million euros ($11 million) per season – making him the highest-paid player in Italy.

Milan won the last of its 18 Serie A titles in 2011 – just before Juventus’ current reign started.

FEDERICO BERNARDESCHI

One of Italy’s top young players, the 23-year-old winger will provide a new attacking dimension for Juventus following a move from Fiorentina.

Also capable as a playmaker, there was pressure for Bernardeschi to take the No. 10 shirt that Michel Platini, Roberto Baggio and Alessandro Del Piero wore at Juventus. Bernardeschi cautiously chose No. 33 instead, saying he needs to show that he “deserves” No. 10 in the future.

Juventus paid a transfer fee of 40 million euros ($45 million) for Bernardeschi and signed him to a five-year contract worth 4 million euros ($4.6 million) per season.

BORJA VALERO

Another Fiorentina export, this Spanish passing wizard could provide Inter Milan with the touch of class that it lacked during a tumultuous campaign last season that included four managerial changes.

At 32, Valero has long been overlooked by Spain’s national team but he was a fan favorite at Fiorentina.

The bald-headed midfielder’s vision on the pitch can be compared to Andrea Pirlo’s skills, although he’s not as precise on free kicks as the former Italy international.

ANDRE SILVA

Cristiano Ronaldo’s wingman with Portugal, the 21-year-old Silva has been compared to a young Fernando Torres, the former Spain striker currently playing for Atletico Madrid.

At AC Milan, the tall forward should be a constant danger on set pieces inside the area.

Silva has already scored eight goals in just 13 matches for his national team.

He also scored 21 times in 44 matches for FC Porto last season, before joining Milan in a transfer that cost 38 million euros ($42.5 million).

MATTIA DE SCIGLIO

Mattia De Sciglio’s transfer from AC Milan was not greeted with too much enthusiasm by Juventus fans.

The fullback was brought in as a replacement for Dani Alves, who departed for Paris Saint-Germain, and supporters believe it’s a downgrade.

But De Sciglio is reliable at either right or left back and is still developing at 24 years old – even though he made his Serie A debut at 18.

It will be interesting to see if De Sciglio can prove the doubters wrong, and if he can fit into Massimiliano Allegri’s preferred three-man defense.

Andrew Dampf on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/asdampf