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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)

Klinsmann wants top-four finish at Copa America, but can the USMNT do it?

KANSAS CITY, KS - MAY 28: The USA soccer team poses for a group photo before taking on Bolivia in the international friendly match between Bolivia and United States on May 28, 2016 at Children's Mercy Park in Kansas City, Kansas.  (Photo by Kyle Rivas/Getty Images)
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With the United States kicking off the Copa America this Friday, Jurgen Klinsmann has made his goal clear:

Reach the final four.

After a disappointing showing last summer in the Gold Cup and a poor finish to 2015, the USMNT heads into the Copa winners of six of their last seven matches and ready to make a run. But can they really reach the semifinal?

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s USMNT coverage ]

The U.S. faces their toughest test in the opening match against Colombia. One of the most dangerous teams in the tournament, few are expecting the U.S. to get a result against Los Cafeteros. Just a draw would be a great result for Klinsmann’s men, but it will be a big ask against the fourth-ranked team in the world.

The second match against Costa Rica is key. The two CONCACAF foes have plenty of experience playing against each other, and it is a relatively even matchup. The last time these sides met in October, the U.S. put in one of their worst performances ever under Klinsmann, and he must avoid a similar result at the Copa. If the United States wants to secure their position as one of CONCACAF’s top two sides along with Mexico, they cannot afford to drop points against Costa Rica.

Paraguay will be the USMNT’s final opponent, a very intriguing matchup for Klinsmann. Paraguay’s recent form doesn’t look threatening on paper, as Ramon Diaz’s side has not won since November, taking just two wins from their last 12 matches overall. However, they reached the quarterfinals in last summer’s Copa, earning a draw against Argentina and knocking out Brazil in penalty kicks.

[ MORE: Klinsmann excited about USMNT’s promising youngsters ]

The two sides that advance from Group A will face off against Group B in the quarters. Brazil are the heavy favorites in that group, paired with Ecuador, Peru, and Haiti. The U.S. beat Ecuador last week, defeated Peru in a September friendly, and are strides above Haiti, arguably the weakest team in the field. With Brazil likely to win Group B, a second-place finish in Group A would give the U.S. a brutal matchup in the quarters. Brazil embarrassed Klinsmann’s side in Massachusetts last fall, walking over the U.S. en route to an easy 4-1 win.

[ MORE: Mexico’s Pulido fought off kidnappers to call police for help ]

With the prospect of potentially facing Brazil in the quarters, the U.S. needs to put all their focus on winning Group A if Klinsmann really wants to reach the semifinals. The only match that the U.S. is not expected to take points from is the opener against Colombia, meaning a surprise result, however unlikely it may be, could kickstart a nice little run for the Stars and Stripes.

Firm issues plan urging companies to let employees watch EURO 2016

SUNDERLAND, ENGLAND - MAY 27:  Wayne Rooney of England celebrates with team mates after scoring his team's second goal of the game during the International Friendly match between England and Australia at Stadium of Light on May 27, 2016 in Sunderland, England.  (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)
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Worried about trying to balance work with EURO 2016 this summer? Acas is here to help.

Acas, a British conciliation firm that helps companies maintain good working relationships with their employees, has called for bosses to allow their staff to watch EURO matches.

[ MORE: Bellerin to make Spain squad ]

Some matches, including England’s Group B showdown with Wales, kick off during the workday at 3 p.m. London time.

Sir Brendan Barber, who is the chairman of Acas, believes workers should be given some time off during games, or work later hours on other days to allow time to watch the EURO.

The EURO 2016 tournament is an exciting event for football fans but staff should avoid getting a red card for unreasonable demands or behaviour in the workplace during this period.

Employers should have a set of agreements before kick-off to help ensure their businesses remain productive while keeping staff happy too.

Our guidance can help managers get the best from their teams, arrange substitutions if necessary and avoid unnecessary penalties or unplanned sendings off.

With the tournament getting underway on June 10, I suggest printing out Acas’ statement and seeing if your boss will follow the sage advice of Sir Brendan Barber.

VIDEO: Payet scores sensational free kick winner for France

AMSTERDAM, NETHERLANDS - MARCH 25:  Dimitri Payet of France in action during the International Friendly match between Netherlands and France at Amsterdam Arena on March 25, 2016 in Amsterdam, Netherlands.  (Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images)
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Don’t let Dimitri Payet get a free kick, because he’s probably going to score.

After scoring four of his 12 goals for West Ham from dead-ball situations this season, his touch has carried over to the French national team.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s EURO coverage ]

With France playing Cameroon and the match tied 2-2 in the 90th minute, Payet stepped up from about 30 yards out and did this:

While there may be some suspect goalkeeping on this one, it’s a stellar strike that found the top corner perfectly from a tough angle for a right-footed shot.

[ MORE: Saints set to give Long new contract as Liverpool, Spurs show interest ]

Payet has three goals for the French national team, with two of them coming from free kicks. After being named to the PFA Team of the Year this season, Payet will be a key member of the France squad that has high hopes as the host nation for the upcoming EURO.

El Tri striker Pulido fought kidnappers, used cell phone to call police

HYERES, FRANCE - JUNE 01:  Alan Pulido (no.19) of Mexico celebrates his goal during the Toulon Tournament Final between  Mexico and Turkey at Stade Perruc on June 1, 2012 in Hyeres, France.  (Photo by Matthew Lewis/Getty Images)
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More details have been released regarding Alan Pulido’s kidnapping in Mexico.

The Mexican international and Olympiakos striker was taken at gunpoint early Sunday morning in Tamaulipas. He was then freed on Monday after a police “rescue operation.”

Seen leaving the police station with a bandaged hand, officials have now given information on how Pulido was injured.

[ MORE: PSG defender Aurier arrested ]

The 25-year-old striker cut his hand while punching through a glass pane in an attempt to escape. Officials also said Pulido fought his kidnapper, doing enough to grab a cell phone and notify police of his whereabouts.

From BBC News:

State prosecutor Ismael Quintanilla said the masked gang had taken Pulido to a house in Ciudad Victoria where he eventually found himself alone with one of his abductors.

“They traded blows. He takes it [the phone] and calls [emergency number] 066. It all happened very quickly,” Mr Quintanilla told Imagen radio.

An official report of the calls Pulido made to the emergency operator, obtained by the Associated Press, revealed that he threatened and beat the kidnapper while on the phone, demanding to be told where they were.

In one of the calls, Pulido said police were outside and starting to shoot so he described what he was wearing to avoid being mistaken for a kidnapper.

A wild situation, but the most important thing is that Pulido is safe while one arrest has been made.