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Premier League Relegation Watch: Fulham gaining ground

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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.

Spanish playmaker Bojan signs new long-term contract at Stoke City

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Bojan Krkic will be a Potter for plenty of years to come.

On Thursday Stoke City announced that Bojan, 25, has signed a contract extension keeping him at the Britannia Stadium for another four-and-a-half years.

[ MORE: New-look Stoke to progress

Since arriving from Spanish giants Barcelona at the start of the 2014-15 season the playmaker has been a revelation in the Premier League.

Despite suffering a serious knee injury midway through his debut season in England, Bojan has battled back this campaign and has scored five times in 23 outings for the Potters.

Speaking to the club website, Bojan revealed his delight in signing the contract extension that will see him stay with Stoke until the summer of 2020.

“I am very happy and motivated. Stoke City gave me the opportunity to play in the most competitive league in the world, the Premier League, and I have only words of gratitude for their trust and for the way they have treated me since the first day I arrived to England,” Bojan said. “Mark Hughes convinced me to come to Stoke, he has helped me and showed his trust in me from the beginning, he followed closely the recovery process from my injury and there is no doubt I have signed an extension of my contract thanks to him.”

With Mark Hughes’ side battling for a top six finish, being knocked out agonizingly on penalty kicks by Liverpool in the League Cup semifinal and still in the FA Cup, it’s been another stellar season for Stoke as their progress continues.

Bojan’s presence has been central to attracting top names to join him at Stoke, with the likes of Xherdan Shaqiri, Ibrahim Afellay and Mark Arnautovic all part of a new-look attack which in-turn has provided a much more attractive team to watch on the pitch.

Amid interest from plenty of other teams around the Premier League and Europe, Stoke have kept hold of their main creative hub and fans will be delighted to see the Barca academy product progress with the Potters over an extended period of time.

VIDEO: USWNT’s Press scores stunning goal after amazing spin move

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What a first touch.

The U.S. women’s national team beat Costa Rica 5-0 in the opening game of their CONCACAF Olympic Qualifying campaign on Wednesday and USWNT forward Christen Press scored the pick of the bunch after she teed herself up with a superb first touch.

[ MORE: NBC to stream every Olympic qualifier

Click play on the video above to watch the World Cup winner control the ball with a deft outside-of-the-foot touch before spinning and striking home in a mesmerizing movement.

Majestic.

Press and the USWNT face Mexico on Saturday in their second Group A game (Watch live, 9:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN and online via Live Extra).

On the up, off the pitch: Manchester United’s revenue continues to rise

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Manchester United have announced that revenue levels for the three months leading up to December 31 rose by 26.6 percent.

The Red Devils released the figures on Thursday which show revenue of $192.4 million, with commercial revenue up a massive 42.5 percent but matchday revenue was down 1.6 percent.

[ VIDEO: Ferrell – “I got Mourinho fired”

The overall profit for the quarter was $26.7 million and over that period club debt fell by 6 percent but still stands at an eye-watering $463.6 million. That said, in a recent review of the finances of the top clubs on the planet Deloitte believes United will top the rich-list next season.

Despite Louis Van Gaal‘s future being questioned, United being knocked out of the UEFA Champions League at the group stage in December and being six points off the top four with just 13 games of the current Premier League season to go, the strength of their results off the pitch continue to show just how successful a business they’ve become.

Executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward told investors that: “Our solid results off the pitch help contribute to what remains our number one priority – success on the pitch.”

Woodward has also vowed to continue United’s “strong commitment to investing in our squad, youth academy.”

[ MORE: Report – Mourinho tells friend he will take over at United

Van Gaal, 64, will need a strong finish to the season on the pitch to help United to success and in turn improve those financial figures for next season. Failure to finish in the PL’s top four and qualify for the UCL will substantially impact United’s financial results next season, and the pressure remains on him and his players to claw back the deficit.

With speculation mounting that Jose Mourinho could be appointed as United’s new boss there also seems to be a surplus of cash which Rob Harris from the Associated Press speculates could be used for a new manager…

Morgan, USWNT cruise past Costa Rica 5-0 behind early flurry of goals

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The U.S. Women got off to a flying start in Olympic qualification Group A play by torching Costa Rica 5-0, including goals from Alex Morgan, Carli Lloyd, and Crystal Dunn.

Morgan led the way with a double, including one in the opening 12 seconds – only six passes off the opening kick – that set the record for quickest goal in U.S. Soccer history. Lloyd and Dunn both struck in the opening 15 minutes to make it 3-0 before Costa Rica even had time to blink. Lloyd’s came on a penalty after Dunn was felled for the captain’s 83rd international goal, and then the latter bagged one of her own minutes later on a rebound off a shot by Morgan.

[ VIDEO: Alex Morgan caps off a 12-second, six-pass goal ]

The visitors were able to make it Morgan scored her second after the hour mark to cap the goal tally. Jill Ellis completed her trio of substitutions after the fourth goal and the U.S. saw the game out easily.

The fifth came late on a cross from Tobin Heath that fell to Christen Press in the box. With her back to the goal, the 27-year-old produced a simply stunning first touch, back-heeling the ball down before whipping around the opposite direction to lose her defender and firing home the fifth goal.

With the final whistle, the United States improved their record against Costa Rica to a perfect 13-0. The U.S. will play Mexico next on Saturday before finishing out Group A play against Puerto Rico on Monday, February 15.