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.

MLS (afternoon) roundup: Historically awful MNUFC spanked again

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The fourth (partial — playing during international breaks should be banned) MLS Saturday of 2017 is two-thirds of the way complete. A quick roundup of the day’s early games…

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New England Revolution 5-2 Minnesota United

What else needs to be said about Minnesota at this point? What else can be said? The number of goals they’ve conceded in their first four MLS games: 5, 6, 2, and 5. While (we think) a bit of luck will eventually go their way, and they’ll curtail the goals they’re conceding (we can’t be sure anymore), Adrian Heath’s side is on pace to conceded 153 goals this season.

Anyway, New England picked up their first win of the season. The quality (and ease) of goals scored will tell you everything you need to know about Minnesota’s defending.

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

New York Red Bulls 0-0 Real Salt Lake

Five days after firing head coach Jeff Cassar, RSL returned to their inept, toothless ways in a scoreless draw away to New York. Through four games, the Claret and Cobalt have scored all of one goal, and genuinely look the league’s most lifeless side; Minnesota have at least shown signs of quality in the attacking half.

On Saturday, New York created the majority of the game’s best chances — a pair of shots from distance, masterfully saved by deputy goalkeeper Matt VanOekel — but the chance that will live in the memories of RSL fans for a lifetime came and went in agonizing fashion.

Albanian federation denounces “extremist acts” of their fans in Italy

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TIRANA, Albania (AP) Albania’s soccer federation has strongly denounced the incident that halted the World Cup Group G qualifier with Italy for nearly nine minutes on Friday.

During the match, which was won by Italy, 2-0, a group calling itself Illyrian Elite threw flares onto the pitch.

“Such totally extremist actions from the grouping Illyrian Elite have nothing to do with the excellent Albanian fans” who were distinguished in the EURO 2016 finals in France for their friendship and camaraderie in their festivities, the statement added.

The federation said an coach Gianni De Biasi also was “upset by the flares,” adding that during five years he has been in charge “I’ve seen something that’s never happened before.”

USMNT: 4 players, including Brooks, Lletget, released; Arriola added

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Hours after his side’s 6-0 thrashing of Honduras to resuscitate dreams of qualifying for the 2018 World Cup, Bruce Arena announced on Saturday five changes to the U.S. national team roster ahead of Tuesday’s qualifier against Panama.

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John Brooks (sinus infection), Sebastian Lletget (foot), Jordan Morris (knee) and Michael Orozco (knee) were all released back to their club teams, while Club Tijuana midfielder Paul Arriola was added to the squad.

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

Brooks dealt with the sinus infection throughout USMNT camp this past week, as Morris did his knee injury which he picked up last weekend. Lletget left Friday’s win over Honduras in the 18th minute and will undergo further tests to determine the severity of his injury; he was seen leaving the stadium on crutches and wearing a walking boot.

The USMNT’s roster for Tuesday’s qualifier in Panama City, Panama, now stands at 23 players, and reads as follows:

Goalkeepers: David Bingham (San Jose Earthquakes), Tim Howard (Colorado Rapids), Nick Rimando (Real Salt Lake)

Defenders: DaMarcus Beasley (Houston Dynamo), Matt Besler (Sporting Kansas City), Geoff Cameron (Stoke City), Omar Gonzalez (Pachuca), Tim Ream (Fulham), Jorge Villafaña (Santos Laguna), Walker Zimmerman (FC Dallas), Graham Zusi (Sporting Kansas City)

Midfielders: Kellyn Acosta (FC Dallas), Paul Arriola (Club Tijuana), Alejandro Bedoya (Philadelphia Union), Michael Bradley (Toronto FC), Jermaine Jones (LA Galaxy), Sacha Kljestan (New York Red Bulls), Dax McCarty (Chicago Fire), Darlington Nagbe (Portland Timbers), Christian Pulisic (Borussia Dortmund)

Forwards: Jozy Altidore (Toronto FC), Clint Dempsey (Seattle Sounders FC), Chris Wondolowski (San Jose Earthquakes)

Rapinoe won’t back down on social issues despite U.S. Soccer policy

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Megan Rapinoe recently earned her spot back in the U.S. Women’s National Team squad ahead of next month’s friendlies against Russia, but the veteran won’t remain silent when it comes to her stance on the social climate of America.

[ MORE: Looking back on USMNT’s big win over Honduras ]

The 31-year-old was scrutinized for joining NFL player Colin Kaepernick in 2016 when they knelt during their respective sporting events, along with dozens of other athletes across the United States.

While Rapinoe admits that the form of protest is up for discussion, she also states that social inequality issues in the U.S. go far beyond that.

“What has surprised me the most, especially post-election, is that people are still sort of arguing against it. It’s really obvious that we have very serious inequality in this country across many different spectrums,” Rapinoe told the Guardian. “Yes, we can talk about the form of protest, or the way it’s done, or this or that. But it’s still not really the conversation that I think we desperately need to have more of in this country.”

A few weeks back, U.S. Soccer announced that it now requires all players that represent the Stars and Stripes to stand when the national anthem is played, and Rapinoe has agreed to do such.

While her days of kneeling on the pitch are in the past, Rapinoe believes she wouldn’t do anything different because she was simply trying to spark discussion amongst the American people.

“I don’t think there’s any perfect way to protest. I think if there was something else being done, something else would have been said about it. I can’t look back and say that I would have done this different, this different or this different.

“I can sleep at night knowing that I genuinely tried to have a really important conversation, or at least tried to open it up. I think I came to it with an open mind, an open heart and tried to get as many people to talk about it as I could.”