Will Nurnberg spend next season in 2.Bundesliga?

Bundesliga Roundup: Have the bottom three been decided?

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With just two rounds left after this weekend, maybe it’s worth giving a quick glance to the structure of the Bundesliga. In Germany’s top division, the bottom two sides get relegated to 2. Bundesliga, while the top two sides in the second division are promoted. What’s unique is that, instead of a four-team playoff for the third promotion place, the third-placed second division side takes on the side third from bottom in the Bundesliga.

Oh, and the tiebreaker is goal difference, followed by total goals scored.

That means this weekend more or less cemented the bottom three sides. Depending on how Hamburg fare against Augsburg on Sunday, Braunschweig might be certainly relegated. They certainly can’t finish higher than the playoff slot, while Nurnberg’s only hope is scoring enough goals to overcome a very poor goal difference.

Friday Results

Hannover 0-0 Stuttgart
A rare goalless draw in the Bundesliga – and one that has little effect on the table. Stuttgart are 15th, but with a five point advantage over Hamburg, a drop looks unlikely. Hannover are nine points clear and are now set to start planning for next season…possibly by finding a way to be less boring.

Saturday Results

Hoffenheim 0-0 Eintracht Frankfurt
Not one but two goalless draws in the BuLi this weekend? It’s almost as if they no longer want to entertain us. This result is particularly surprising coming from Hoffenheim, who’ve scored 67 goals while conceding 66. It also means Hoffenheim won’t be in Europa League next season.

Wolfsburg 2-2 Freiburg
Wolfsburg threw away a great chance to take fourth, Germany’s last Champions League position. Ivan Perišić put his side up after just three minutes, but Admir Mehmedi put in the equalizer with thirty minutes left to go. That lasted less than ten minutes before Perišić got on the end of a ball from Christian Träsch to put his side ahead once more. But Freiburg’s quick counter put Marco Terrazzino past the Wolfsburg defense, securing the point for the visitors – a point that just might keep Wolfsburg out of Europe’s top tournament.

Mainz 2-0 Nurnberg
Shinji Okazaki and Christoph Moritz had the hosts up 2-0 by the halftime break, but Nurnberg just never managed to get a toe in the game. With just one shot on target, is it really surprising that they’re almost certainly going down?

Hertha Berlin 2-0 Braunschweig
Another game, another dooming to relegation. Well, technically Braunschweig can still make the playoff, but it’s highly unlikely they’ll be playing in the top division next season. As for Hertha, second half goals from John Anthony Brooks and Sami Allagui gave them the win, but their poor showing in the second half means it’s just a second straight Bundesliga season for them, without any European play.

Bayern Munich 5-2 Werder Bremen
Yet another match in which a struggling side poked the dozing giant. With an eye on Real Madrid’s visit on Tuesday, Pep Guardiola fielded a slightly weakened side. So Theodor Gebre Selassie’s goal in the 10th minute wasn’t that surprising. Franck Ribéry equalized ten minutes later, but a goal from Aaron Hunt put the visitors back in front at the break. Then Bayern hit back, with a brace from Claudio Pizarro, a fourth from Bastien Schweinsteiger and a final strike from substitute Arjen Robben.

Bayer Leverkusen 2-2 Borussia Dortmund
Why bother defending? Surely it’s not necessary when one side is pushing to keep control of second, and the other really needs all three points to maintain their fourth place position. Fortunately for Leverkusen, Wolfsburg could only manage a draw, so they keep a one point advantage in the last Champions League spot. All the goals came in the first 40 minutes, with Lars Bender starting out the scoring in the 7th minute. Oliver Kirch equalized in the 29th minute, but Gonzalo Castro’s header put the hosts ahead once more in the 35th. But a handball from Roberto Hilbert gave Marco Reus the chance to step up to the spot, and the penalty put Dormund back on level terms. 

Sunday Fixtures

Augsburg vs. Hamburg
If Hamburg don’t get a win here, they could still technically save themselves if Stuttgart lose their last two and Hamburg win out. But considering their last two games are against Bayern and Mainz, three points here might be their best chance at not going into a playoff. Augsburg, though, can still squeeze themselves into the final Europa League place – if they want it, that is.

Schalke vs. Borussia Mönchengladbach
A tasty match to send the weekend out in style (we hope, anyway). Leverkusen are a little too close to third for Schalke’s comfort, and a win here could help assure them of going straight to the Champions League group stages. Gladbach are six out of the Champions League and still hold out hope for that final spot, although last week’s loss to Freiburg may have condemned them to Europa League already.

Messi named La Liga Player of the Month for first time in career

BARCELONA, SPAIN - JANUARY 06:  Lionel Messi of FC Barcelona celebrates after scoring his team's second goal during the Copa del Rey Round of 16 first leg match between FC Barcelona and RCD Espanyol at Camp Nou on January 6, 2016 in Barcelona, Spain.  (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)
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Lionel Messi has won every individual award imaginable, but now he can add another trophy to his shelf.

For the first time in his career, Messi was named La Liga’s Player of the Month for January.

[ MORE: PL Power Rankings, Vol. VIII ]

It’s hard to believe, but somehow the Barcelona superstar had never won this honor before. Despite winning a record five Ballon D’or trophies as the best player in the world, this trophy had eluded Messi since its inception in 2013.

Messi scored six goals in six January matches as Barcelona sit atop the La Liga table, currently holding a three-point lead over Atletico Madrid.

Despite their dominance in La Liga, this is only the second time a Barcelona player has won this monthly award, as Neymar took home the honor in November of 2015.

USWNT-Mexico preview: Energized Yanks look to keep rolling toward Rio

FRISCO, TX - FEBRUARY 10:  Team USA poses for a photo before play against Costa Rica during 2016 CONCACAF Women's Olympic Qualifying at Toyota Stadium on February 10, 2016 in Frisco, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
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The United States women’s national team looks to keep rolling through CONCACAF Olympic Qualifying with a match with Mexico on Saturday.

Toyota Stadium in Frisco, Texas, is again the scene after the Yanks battered Costa Rica 5-0 on Wednesday.

[ MUST WATCH: Christen Press’ dazzling first touch, spin, goal ]

A win over Mexico would move the USWNT into the all-important semifinal, where a win would gain them entry into this Summer’s Olympic Games.

Mexico staged a blowout of its own on Wednesday, cruising past Puerto Rico 6-0 thanks in large part to a hat trick from Maribel Dominguez.

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

Mexico has only beaten the USWNT twice in history, and only the 2010 Gold Cup semifinal is considered official.

In recent history, the USWNT beat up Mexico 5-1 last year, and thrice in 2014 by a combined score of 15-0. Expect very little to change with an energized, impressive U.S. side on Saturday.

[ SATURDAY: Watch USWNT vs Mexico live online on NBC Sports Live Extra ]

Prince-Wright’s Premier League picks: Big boys to turn up

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Week 26 of the Premier League season is here. This will be a lot of fun with massive games at both ends of the table.

If you, like me, love to dissect all the games and predict what the score will be and which team will win, I encourage you to get involved in the comments section below. Let’s have a bit of fun.

[ STREAM: Every PL game live online ]

Okay, so I’ve consulted my crystal ball and here’s how we see things panning out.

With the first section labelled “basically, free money” for the picks I think are dead certs. The section labelled “don’t touch this” means if you’re betting I advise you to stay clear, while the “so you’re telling me there’s a chance” section are the longshots. If it is better odds you are after, those are the picks to go for.

BASICALLY, FREE MONEY

Arsenal 3-2 Leicester City – (Sunday, 7 a.m. ET, NBCSN) –  [STREAM]

Norwich City 0-2 West Ham – (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, USA) –  [STREAM]

Man City 3-1 Tottenham Hotspur – (Sunday 11:15 a.m. ET, NBCSN) –  [STREAM]

Sunderland 0-2 Manchester United – (Saturday, 7:45 a.m. ET, NBCSN) – [STREAM]

DON’T TOUCH THIS…

Everton 2-1 West Brom  – (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, NBCSN) –  [STREAM]

Swansea 1-1 Southampton – (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, Premier League Extratime) –  [STREAM] 

Crystal Palace 2-1 Watford – (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, Premier League Extratime) –  [STREAM]

Chelsea 3-2 Newcastle – (Saturday, 12:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN) – [STREAM

“SO YOU’RE TELLING ME THERE’S A CHANCE…”

Bournemouth 2-1 Stoke City – (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, Premier League Extratime) –  [STREAM]

Aston Villa 2-1 Liverpool – (Sunday, 9:05 a.m. ET, NBCSN) –  [STREAM]

Ranieri on Leicester City’s dream season: “Nobody wake us up please!”

during the Barclays Premier League match between Manchester City and Leicester City at the Etihad Stadium on February 6, 2016 in Manchester, England.
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There’s plenty to like about Leicester City’s run to the top of the Premier League, but perhaps nothing is more enjoyable that its manager’s musings.

Claudio Ranieri, the Tinkerman himself, has provided some of the best quips of the season.

[ MORE: Top 5 storylines to look for in PL ]

From “I want to be the crazy man in the Premier League” to “It’s like nobody wants to win the league“, the 64-year-old Italian has offered plenty of beauties.

Make way for some more gems, from LCFC.com:

“I think we work so hard to achieve this level. We want to stay at this level. It’s no pressure for us. The pressure was at the beginning to start well, to carry on and maintain the standard of our performance.
“Now we are safe and we want to fight with respect with all our opponents. Face to face, we play with our strength and they play with theirs. If we win, fantastic. If we lose, next match.
“I think the pressure is on the other teams. We have pressure for our little gap. We continue to dream with our fans and we want to continue to dream. Nobody wake us up please!”
We love this man. To go from a short-lived run in Euro qualifying with Greece to this remarkable roll with Leicester has to be a bit dream-like. We get it. And we love that he’s going with it.