Premier League Preview: Liverpool vs Newcastle

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  • Newcastle haven’t won in their last 18 league visits to Anfield, a run back to 1994
  • Luis Suarez needs one goal to set the new Premier League single-season player scoring record of 31
  • Liverpool require a win and Manchester City loss to win the Premier League title

Two weeks ago, Liverpool were on top of the world.  Now, it may just slip entirely out of their hands.

Despite what happens with the 2014 title race, the Reds will have completed an unbelievable season when the final whistle blows at Anfield, the final whistle after their 10:00am ET kick against Newcastle, live on NBCSN or live online at NBC Sports Live Extra.

However, Brendan Rodgers will still keep his sights set on the championship trophy when Liverpool take on Newcastle in their season finale.  A win and a Manchester City loss would give the Reds the ultimate prize, no matter how unlikely.

Newcastle dispatched relegated Cardiff City last week, but have six straight prior to that.  It will be an interesting fixture for Liverpool, as Newcastle have more to play for than may meet the eye.

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With Liverpool’s minds possibly preoccupied with the result at the Etihad, the Magpies could be playing for their manager’s future. The ugly finish to the season could doom Alan Pardew, and having been the manager at Newcastle for four seasons now (an eternity in the top flight these days), the players could look to save his job.

The Reds will have some reinforcements returning to their ranks for the final performance. Jordan Henderson will return from a three-match absence due to suspension, and Philippe Coutinho should be fit after coming off the bench in the draw with Crystal Palace last week.

What they’re saying:

Rodgers on Liverpool’s title chances: “The expectancy is – without being disrespectful to West Ham – that Manchester City will win…We can only take care of ourselves and if we do our job I’ll be happy. We need to win our game and then see where we finish up. We have a 5% chance of winning the league on Sunday. That’s the same chance the statistics guys will tell you we had at the beginning of the season. We are somewhere no-one expected us to be. It’s been a huge success for us – an incredible season. We are getting ready to finish the season well and to celebrate putting Liverpool back on the world footballing map.”

Pardew on his job this season: “I haven’t been good enough and the results have followed. I obviously let myself down on the touchline for sure so that’s an area I have looked to improve and I think I have made some strides with that. I think I’ve made some calls this year where I could have been a bit more positive tactically.”

Prediction:

It’s possible Liverpool have already been dealt a deathblow, and they come out flat against Newcastle. But with the Magpies struggling mightily, it will be hard for them to overcome a quality team that simply stumbled – as all teams have this year – at simply the wrong time.  There’s a slight possibility they can still come up with a miracle, but whatever happens Rodgers will have them primed to give the home fans a fantastic send off at Anfield.  Liverpool will win a cool 2-0 and Luis Suarez will take home the Premier League scoring record – by two, with a brace. How’s that for a bold prediction? Ok, I guess it’s not that bold.

La Liga releases schedule: First El Clasico coming in December

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It’s Christmas in July for fans of La Liga Friday as the Spanish league published its schedule for the upcoming season.

Defending champions Real Madrid travel to Deportivo La Caruña on August 20, the opening match of the season while its rival Barcelona hosts Real Betis.

As it’s La Liga, the first date most fans searched for was the first El Clasico of the season, and the biennial battles between Real Madrid and Barcelona will take place on December 20 and May 6, with Real Madrid hosting the first match.

The first match comes just ahead of the Spanish winter break, while the second match comes at a busy period at the end of the season, where both teams will be hoping to still be competing in the UEFA Champions League.

Other interesting matches to keep an eye on in the first few weeks of the season include Real Madrid hosting Valencia in week two, the Barcelona derby between Barca and Espanyol in week three and Atletico Madrid taking on Sevilla in week six.

Here’s a look at this year’s La Liga schedule.

Conte: Costa “situation was very clear” in January

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At this point, there is no doubt Diego Costa‘s future lies away from London and Stamford Bridge.

Chelsea manager Antonio Conte broke his silence on the Brazilian-born Spain international striker, saying he’s been ready to move on from Costa since January, when Costa and Conte had a disagreement following a big-money offer from Chinese club Tianjin Quanjian during the winter transfer window.

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“I don’t like to talk about players who are not here but the only thing I can tell you [is that] in January, the Costa situation was very clear, for the club for him and his agent,” Conte told reporters Friday. “For me the situation is closed.”

It’s an amazing turn of events after Costa scored 20 Premier League goals in Chelsea’s title-winning 2016-2017 season, including 14 goals through the end of December. But after falling out with Jose Mourinho a year earlier, the same issue happened again under Conte, with Costa proving much less effective down the stretch.

But Conte and Costa were able to put their differences aside on the field, photographed multiple times hugging after wins, as well as after winning the title.

Costa is reportedly now agitating for a move back to his former club Atletico Madrid, but the Spanish club’s transfer ban until the next window complicates matters. In a World Cup year, would Costa be willing to sit out half a season just to leave Chelsea?

If Costa’s time in the Premier League is up, he’ll go down as one of the league’s best pound-for-pound goalscorers. He scored 52 goals in 89 Premier League appearances, with seven more cup goals in his three-year spell at Chelsea.

And if he is gone, defenders across the Premier League will sure be happy to wave goodbye.

Sparta Prague signs France midfielder Rio Mavuba

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PRAGUE (AP) Sparta Prague says it has signed France midfielder Rio Mavuba to a three-year contract.

The 33-year-old Mavuba comes from French club Lille, which he joined in 2008. Before that, he played for Bordeaux and Spanish club Villarreal.

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Mavuba was on the France team at the 2014 World Cup.

He is the 10th player signed by Sparta after Italian coach Andrea Stramaccioni took charge in May.

Mexico 1-0 Honduras: Pizarro strikes early to put El Tri in Gold Cup semifinals

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Mexico had little trouble dispatching Honduras as El Tri won 1-0 in Glendale, AZ and eased into the Gold Cup semifinals.

Just four minutes into the game, Mexico took the lead as they got Honduras on its heels, with Rodolfo Pizarro sticking the ball in at the far post at the end of a scramble. Jesus Duenas carved a ball through the defense, and while Elias Hernandez whiffed on the tap-in, Pizarro was right behind him to finish the chance.

Mexico settled in after scoring, while Honduras tried to out-muscle El Tri, with the latter receiving a pair of yellow cards in the first 45 minutes. There were precious few other chances throughout the first half, with Honduras completely incapable of creating anything in the attacking half.

Mexico continued to dominate out of the halftime break, but they lost Monterrey midfielder Jesus Molina in the 65th minute with discomfort, replaced by Chaka Rodriguez. The best moment for Honduras as they chased the game late came in the 78th minute as Jose Corona made a spectacular save when substitute Alexander Lopez nearly scored directly from a corner. They came close again in stoppage time after a set-piece as Alfredo Mejia scuffed a shot agonizingly wide.

Honduras ended their Gold Cup without a single goal scored. They technically defeated French Guyana 3-0 in the group stage, but that came on the typical forfeit scoreline, whereas the actual game played ended in a 0-0 draw.

Meanwhile, Mexico will take on Jamaica in the semifinal in a rematch of last tournament’s final.