Premier League Preview: Fulham vs Hull City

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  • Only Sunderland (12) have scored fewer points at home than Fulham (16).
  • Only Cardiff City (10) and Norwich (8) have scored fewer points on the road than Hull City (11).
  • Hull have won four of their five-ever Premier League matches against Fulham, with the Whites winning the other.

It’s last-chance saloon…again…for Fulham as they host Hull City at Craven Cottage at 10am ET on NBCSN or live online at NBC Sports Live Extra.

With the bottom of the Premier League table a cluttered mess, things are dire once again for the Whites as they face a team that beat them 6-0 at KC Stadium in the reverse fixture.

However, the Tigers have just 12 total goals since that meeting. Despite that, Hull are gunning for their best-ever top-flight finish and a win could potentially put them as high as 12th.

Fulham are full-strength other than Kostas Mitroglou, who Felix Magath has said is back at training but not match-fit.  Aside from the Greek striker, the Whites will have Kieran Richardson and Mahamadou Diarra back, both important pieces in the win over Norwich two weeks ago.

They’ll also have on-loan midfield creator Lewis Holtby eligible again, as he was unable to face his parent club Tottenham last week.

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Hull City also receive a double boost, with strikers Sone Aluko and Shane Long both back in action from injury scares. Aluko missed out last week at Arsenal with a hamstring injury, while Long came off at halftime with a calf problem.

It’s a mystery who manager Steve Bruce will pick up front, with Nikica Jelavic, Matt Fryatt, and Yannick Sagbo all available in addition to Aluko and Long.

What they’re saying:

Fulham manager Felix Magath on Hull: “Hull are six points ahead so they will be fine. The manager of Hull [Steve Bruce], he is a very experienced and good manager, and he will be telling everybody that they have to make points because they are not safe. But six points ahead is a lot going into the last three games so I think the teams with 37 points should not be afraid of relegation.”

Bruce on Hull’s position: “The players have worked incredibly hard this season to come this far and just need to get over the line. We’ve not been lower than 14th all season and that’s a reflection of how well we’ve done as a newly-promoted team. They’ve been a terrific bunch of lads and a pleasure to work with. All it needs now is one more result and we want that to come at Fulham.”

Magath on other relegation teams: “In my opinion I think the atmosphere at Norwich or Sunderland or Cardiff will be more nervous than here. We are under pressure, but not so as under pressure as these clubs from the small towns where the whole town is behind the club.”

Prediction:

With Fulham looking for points and Hull City likely playing for little to gain, the home side certainly has the advantage on the mental stage.  The match will struggle for goals, with both teams looking to stay secure at the back, but a 1-0 Fulham win will muddy the waters at the bottom of the table even further.

Spartak and Zenit fined in latest Russia fan racism cases

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MOSCOW (AP) Spartak Moscow and Zenit St. Petersburg have both been fined for racist chants by their fans, the latest such incident in World Cup host nation Russia.

Spartak’s fans were accused of aiming monkey chants at FC Tosno player Nuno Rocha, who is black, while some Zenit supporters allegedly chanted a Nazi slogan during a league game.

[ MORE: Bayern 1-2 Real Madrid ]

The clubs must each pay a 100,000-ruble ($1,600) fine, and Spartak has been hit with a partial stadium closure for its next cup game, state news agency RIA Novosti quotes Russian Football Union disciplinary committee head Artur Grigoryants as saying.

The verdict comes after FIFA charged Russia with racist abuse of France players during last month’s friendly.

Zenit has also faced two racism charges from UEFA this season.

Europa League: Arsenal, Marseille host semifinal 1st legs

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Arsenal’s Champions League dreams could be in for a rude awakening against tournament-tested Atletico Madrid.

The Premier League vs. La Liga match-up is one of two Europa League semifinal first legs set to be served up Sunday, with Marseille and Red Bull Salzburg meeting in the other.

[ MORE: Bayern 1-2 Real Madrid ]

There’s something romantic about Arsene Wenger closing out his time at Arsenal against French opposition in Lyon, but Atleti and Salzburg won’t step aside for poetics.

Both matches kickoff ay 3:05 p.m. ET

Arsenal vs. Atletico Madrid

It’s a bit stunning that this tie has no history considering both club’s statures in their leagues and Europe, but that’s what we’ll se when Arsenal welcomes Atleti for the first leg.

Arsenal boasts two of the top 10 performers in the UEL this season — it would be three had the Gunners not sold Theo Walcott — and are paced by Aaron Ramsey, who has four goals and an assist. Mesut Ozil, who’s ready to return to the pitch, has the reverse with a goal and four helpers.

The Gunners have outscored UEL opposition 29-10 this season.

It’s no surprise that Antoine Griezmann has been Atleti’s best attacker since the Madrid side dropped out of the UCL to run rampant through the UEL knockout rounds. Atleti beat Copenhagen 5-1, Lokomotiv Moscow 8-1, and Sporting Lisbon 2-1 for an aggregate score line of 15-3.

Marseille vs. Red Bull Salzburg

Don’t expect this to be a simple case of Ligue 1 bossing inferior opposition: This pair met in the group stage, with the Austrian side winning at home and drawing 0-0 in France.

Salzburg has shown its mettle in various ways during the UEL. After allowing just one goal in an unbeaten group stage, they’ve won 4-3 over Real Sociedad, 2-1 against Borussia Dortmund, and 6-5 versus Lazio. That’s no easy road, and Marseille represents another big challenge.

Marseille is bidding to make its first European final since 2004, and has been led by Dimitri Payet‘s three goals and four assists, and Lucas Ocampos’ four goals and one assist. Marseille has knocked off RB Leipzig, Athletic Bilbao, and Braga after the group stage.

Names you’ll need to know from Salzburg: defenders Stefan Lainer and Paulo Miranda have been spectacular, and Munas Dabbur and Valon Berisha have each scored five times in the tournament.

Mourinho on longtime nemesis Wenger: ‘We can be friends in future’

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Jose Mourinho and Arsene Wenger have had a poor relationship, but the former thinks he’s soon to get along with the latter.

[ MORE: Bayern 1-2 Real Madrid ]

Manchester United boss Mourinho, 55, heaped praise on the departing Arsenal manager ahead of the two sides’ Sunday meeting at Old Trafford (Watch live at 11:30 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com), saying the Frenchman has earned much respect.

Branding Wenger “iconic,” Mourinho says his fiery rivalry with Wenger stemmed from Arsenal’s stature in the Premier League when the Portuguese took over Chelsea.

“If he respects me even 50 percent of what I respect him we can even be friends in the future,” Mourinho told Sky Sports News. “I have lots of respect for him. But the reality is that he was at Arsenal, he was the champion and I came to the country in 2004 and wanted to steal his title. That’s football.”

Mourinho said he’s tried to show his respect for Wenger, 68, over the past few seasons. It may become a passable relationship, but we find it hard to believe the pair will be dining together on a regular basis as the sun sets on their managerial careers (Mou has a while to go, we think).

Real’s Modric on Bayern feeling unlucky: “That’s their problem”

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Bayern Munich produced far more chances than visiting Real Madrid in Wednesday’s UEFA Champions League semifinal first leg in Germany, but lost 2-1 at the Allianz Arena.

Franck Ribery butchered an open shot at goal, Robert Lewandowski beat Keylor Navas but didn’t score late, and Thomas Mueller missed getting contact on a shot inside the six.

[ MORE: Bayern 1-2 Real Madrid ]

It was that kind of day, and Mueller is baffled that his team did not finish more than Joshua Kimmich’s opener.

“Everybody is wondering why this game is 1-2 for Madrid,” Mueller reportedly said. “We still cannot believe it.”

The quote comes from BeIN Sport’s Tancredi Palmeri, who has a stinging rebuke from Real Madrid maestro Luka Modric.

Real wasn’t great on Wednesday, but also limited their big mistakes to one: Marcelo’s lapse of judgment which helped Kimmich to open the scoring for Bayern Munich.

The hosts had a huge giveaway from Rafinha on the match-winner, and backup backstop Sven Ulreich didn’t have a phenomenal day on either goal. Throw in Arjen Robben’s injury requiring an 8th minute substitution, and Bayern did not have much good fortune on the day.

This one, though, doesn’t seem over, even with the tie moving to the Bernabeu.