Premier League Relegation Watch: Fulham, Cardiff muddy the waters

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With just four matches remaining for most teams, things are somewhat structured at the bottom…or so we thought.

Now, with teams outside the relegation zone suddenly struggling and those inside it picking up enormous victories, things could get interesting down the stretch.

Fulham won an absolutely massive three points with a win over 17th-placed Norwich City, which manager Felix Magath labeled as “lucky.”

With everyone’s attention at Craven Cottage for that big six-pointer, Cardiff City pulled out a big win under everyone’s noses, beating Southampton 1-0.

Struggling teams include Sunderland, who have games in hand but a tough schedule, and Swansea City, who have been dragged into the fight with some very poor form.

Despite this, things still remain with four likely teams still “battling” for three positions. With all that in mind, let’s take a deeper look at the situation:

20. SUNDERLAND, 25 PTS (32 PLD)

Remaining Matches: Manchester City (A), Chelsea (A), Cardiff City (H), Manchester United (A), West Brom (H), Swansea City (H).

League Form: LLLLLD

Vegas Odds to be Relegated: 1/12

Verdict: A brutal schedule and terrible form amount to a death sentence for Sunderland. Of all the teams in the fight, Sunderland seem to be the surest bet to go down.  Gus Poyet tried, but hasn’t been able to come up with the answers.

19. CARDIFF CITY, 29 PTS (34 PLD)

Remaining Matches: Stoke City (H), Sunderland (A), Newcastle (A), Chelsea (H)

League Form: WLDLLW

Vegas Odds to be Relegated: 2/7

Verdict: Their form coming into Southampton was ugly, but a big win last week puts them in a decent position. Their schedule isn’t too terrible going forward, with winnable matches in all of their next three. However, playing a Chelsea squad that could be gunning for a title in the final match of the season is a terrible, awful prospect that could end up seeing them down. Their goal differential is something to keep an eye on as well, sitting at -34, the closest of anyone to Fulham’s -40.  If the Whites keep playing well, that could play a real factor.

18. FULHAM FC, 30 PTS (34 PLD)

Remaining Matches: Tottenham (A), Hull City (H), Stoke City (A), Crystal Palace (H)

League Form: WWLLWL

Vegas Odds to be Relegated: 1/1

Verdict: Felix Magath may have just rescued Fulham yet. There’s still work to be done, but with Norwich’s absolutely ridiculous upcoming schedule, the Whites are in a pole position to save their season. Things are also shaping out well around them.  The Cardiff win last weekend hurt, but Spurs are in horrible form coming into this weekend’s match, and with the rest of their schedule against teams mid-table, their opponents will likely have little to play for.

It’s all in front of Fulham; if they fail to escape the drop, they’ll have only themselves to blame. Also to note: fans will be weirdly rooting for local derby rivals Chelsea, as the Blues play all of their relegation opponents down the stretch.

17. NORWICH CITY, 32 PTS (34 PLD)

Remaining Matches: Liverpool (H), Manchester United (A), Chelsea (A), Arsenal (H)

League Form: LLLWLD

Vegas Odds to be Relegated: 4/9

Verdict: BRUTAL schedule to finish out the year. Manchester United is always up for an upset this season, but judging by Norwich’s recent form, that’s a long way away. Every one of their other opponents will have something big to play for, and it’s quite possible they don’t see another point this season. The loss to Fulham was devastating, and it could be over for the Canaries.

16. WEST BROMWICH ALBION, 33 PTS (33 PLD)

Remaining Matches: Manchester City (A), West Ham United (H), Arsenal (A), Sunderland (A), Stoke City (H)

League Form: DLDLWL

Vegas Odds to be Relegated: 7/1

Verdict: Everyone from here on up is relatively safe.  The thing keeping West Brom out of the race is their game in hand along with a decent schedule. The club has seen plenty of turmoil this season, but they should be alright barring a disastrous end-of-season collapse. Credit to Pepe Mel.

15. SWANSEA CITY, 33 PTS (34 PLD)

Remaining Matches: Newcastle (A), Aston Villa (H), Southampton (H), Sunderland (A)

League Form: LLWDLL

Vegas Odds to be Relegated: 11/1

Verdict: Personally, I’d be more worried as a Swansea fan than a West Brom fan. They don’t have the luxury of a game in hand, and the team has played some ugly soccer the last two matches. The remaining schedule is a breeze compared to others, but they’ll have to pick things up if they want to be considered safe.

14. ASTON VILLA, 34 PTS (33 PLD)

Remaining Matches: Southampton (H), Swansea City (A), Hull City (H), Manchester City (A), Tottenham (A)

League Form: LLLLWW

Vegas Odds to be Relegated: 16/1

Verdict: Talk about poor form. Four straight losses – including ones to Fulham, Crystal Palace, and Stoke – have Villa fans a bit worried, but they still would need the club to lose out plus some help to be considered a real candidate. One or two wins should see them easily safe, despite the limp towards the finish line that has some calling for Paul Lambert’s head. The win over Chelsea looks more and more important, and not just in the title race.

NEXT IN LINE: Hull City (35 PTS, 33 PLD), Crystal Palace (37 PTS, 33 PLD), West Ham United (37 PTS, 33 PLD)

MLS Snapshot: New York City FC 2-1 New England Revolution (video)

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The game in 100 words (or less): For nearly 75 minutes, NYCFC couldn’t muster up any chances in the attacking third, but thankfully their captain did what he does best. David Villa scored his 19th goal of the season on Sunday night to pull out a 2-1 win against the New England Revolution, but it was rookie Jonathan Lewis that notched the winner. The visitors took the lead 20 minutes prior after Sean Johnson spilled a shot in front of his own goal, allowing Teal Bunbury to pounce on the rebound. NYCFC now moves to within four points of Eastern Conference leaders Toronto FC with nine matches remaining in the regular season.

Three four moments that mattered

16′ — Harrison breaks ankles, but Villa can’t finish — This might be the only time all see you’ll see David Villa miss a chance like this…

38′ — Johnson gets a finger tip to Rowe’s blast — Sean Johnson had no work to do in the first half, at least until Kelyn Rowe decided to rip a shot from distance just before halftime.

57′ — Johnson’s error grants Bunbury, Revs the lead — Look away, NYCFC fans.

77′ — Villa find the back of the net — When you need a goal, who you gonna call? That’s right. David Villa. The NYCFC captain is now up to 19 this season.

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Man of the match: David Villa

Goalscorers: Teal Bunbury (57′), David Villa (77′), Jonathan Lewis (90+4′)

Honoring victims of attacks, Barcelona wins league opener

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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) Wearing shirts honoring victims of the recent attacks in Spain, Barcelona opened its Spanish league season with a comfortable 2-0 win over Real Betis on Sunday.

[ MORE: Neymar double helps PSG cruise past Toulouse ]

Players had the word “Barcelona” instead of their names on the back of their shirts, and the Catalan hashtag “TOTSSOMBARCELONA” (We are all Barcelona) was on display around the Camp Nou stadium. The message was also shown on the stadium’s large screens, as well as on many banners carried by fans.

An emotional minute’s silence was held before the game as the music of Catalan cellist Pau Casals played in the background.

Before the minute was up, the more than 55,000 fans at the stadium broke into a round of applause and began chanting “No tinc por” (I’m not afraid), a chant which has become a symbol of people’s reactions to the attacks that killed 14 people and injured more than 120 in Barcelona and the nearby seaside resort of Cambrils.

Extra security was implemented in and around Camp Nou.

There was a minute’s silence before every Spanish league match this weekend.

Without Neymar and the injured Luis Suarez, Barcelona got off to a winning start in the league after consecutive losses to rival Real Madrid in the Spanish Super Cup final.

It scored two goals three minutes apart near the end of the first half – an own-goal by Betis defender Alin Tosca and a close-range shot by Sergi Roberto. Both goals came after plays started by Gerard Deulofeu, one of the players expected to try to replace Neymar after his world record transfer to Paris Saint-Germain.

“We lost depth with Neymar’s departure and we have to find a way to overcome that,” Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde said.

Lionel Messi looked lively but wasn’t able to score his 350th goal in La Liga. He came close, though, being denied by the woodwork three different times.

AP Sports Writer Tales Azzoni contributed to this report.

More AP Spanish soccer coverage: https://apnews.com/tag/LaLiga

Brighton breaks club record with signing of winger Jose Izquierdo

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Brighton hasn’t gotten off to the ideal start in its debut season in the Premier League, but a key reinforcement is on the way.

[ MORE: Chelsea tops Spurs at Wembley behind Alonso’s brace ]

After starting the 2017/18 campaign with back-to-back defeats, the Seagulls announced on Sunday the signing of Colombian winger Jose Izquierdo from Club Brugge in Belgium for a record fee.

The 25-year-old spent three seasons in Belgium’s top flight and totaled 38 goals across all competitions for Brugge, prior to making the move to England.

Additionally, Izquierdo has worked his way into the Colombia squad as of late, and scored his first international goal for his country in June 2017 in a friendly against Cameroon.

MLS Follow Live — NYCFC hosts Revs, Minnesota meets Sounders

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Only two matches will feature on the MLS docket Sunday evening, but luckily two of the league’s most exciting teams will take to the pitch.

[ MORE: Toronto tops Fire as East leaders reach 50 points on season ]

First, New York City FC will attempt to continue its ascent up the Eastern Conference ladder when they host Kei Kamara and the New England Revolution.

In the night cap, the Seattle Sounders look to extend their unbeaten streak to nine matches when they welcome newcomers Minnesota United to CenturyLink Field.

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Here’s the schedule and kick-off times for Sunday’s two MLS fixtures.

New York City FC vs. New England Revolution — 6 p.m. ET
Seattle Sounders vs. Minnesota United — 10 p.m. ET