World Cup today: Italy, Uruguay in elimination match, three-way battle in Group C

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It was a stellar Monday at the World Cup as both Groups A and B came to a conclusion.

Hosts Brazil topped Group A by thrashing Cameroon, while the Netherlands scored twice late on to beat Chile and finish atop Group B with a 100 percent record.

Mexico also got in on the act as they beat Croatia to advance to the last 16 for the sixth-straight World Cup. El Tri will now face the Netherlands, while Brazil play Chile in two mouth-watering knockout matches.

[ MORE: How will U.S. lineup vs. Germany ]
[ MORE: Soccerly covers the World Cup ]

Two more group finales are in store on Tuesday, as Italy and Uruguay battle it out for the final Round of 16 spot in Group D, while everything is up for grabs in Group C. Let’s take a look at what’s in store today:

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MATCH 39: Italy vs. Uruguay
Location: Estadio das Dunas, Natal
Time: Noon ET
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Cheater’s Guide
With a win, both teams can advance to the knockout rounds. Their entire World Cup campaigns come down to this match. For Uruguay, it is win in or bust. Simple. As for Italy, a draw would see them through to the last 16 due to their superior goal difference but they have to stop red-hot Luis Suarez.

What they’re saying
Luis Suarez on Uruguay’s respect for Italy: “From last year’s Confederations Cup I know how organised they are. If you leave them just an inch they will make you pay. But they have weaknesses as well as strengths, and we will try to exploit those weaknesses. We expect Italy to be tough opponents, but we know what’s at stake and we are going out there to qualify.”

History
The two nations have played each other nine times, with Uruguay edging out Italy with three wins to two.

Premier League Players
Uruguay: Luis Suárez, Sebastian Coates (both Liverpool), Gastón Ramírez (Southampton)

RELATED: World Cup news, analysis from Soccerly

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MATCH 40: Costa Rica vs. England
Location: Estadio Mineirao, Belo Horizonte
Time: Noon ET
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Cheater’s guide
England are out of the World Cup and have made nine changes to the team which lost to Uruguay. The Three Lions will be hoping to not bow out with a whimper. As for Costa Rica, they know a win will likely see them top the group.

source: AP
England’s manager Roy Hodgson makes nine changes to his side.

What they’re saying
Roy Hodgson on giving the youngsters a chance vs. Costa Rica: “With a very different team and a lot of players who haven’t played in the tournament so far, I wanted everyone to go home from this tournament — or at least as many as possible — having taken part and played in a game, not just training. We’re very conscious of the fact that our fans are as disappointed and devastated as we are, but they are still here supporting us.

History
The two nations have never met.

Premier League players
22 of England’s 23-man squad play in the Premier League.
Costa Rica: Joel Campbell (Arsenal)

MLS players
Costa Rica: Roy Miller (New York Red Bulls), Waylon Francis, Giancarlo Gonzalez (both Columbus Crew)

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MATCH 41: Japan vs. Colombia
Location: Arena Pantanal, Cuiaba
Time: 4pm ET
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Cheater’s Guide
Japan need to win to make it through to the last 16 of the World Cup, while Colombia will rest several key players ahead of the knockout stages. The Samurai Blue will be going for broke in this one.

What they’re saying
Japan star Keisuke Honda believes in miracles: “Of course there is still a possibility of advancing to the next round. We can’t qualify now without relying on external forces, but I believe in miracles and I am focused on us beating Colombia.”

History
These sides have met twice before, with Colombia winning 1-0 in the 2003 Confederations Cup and the two teams drawing 0-0 in a friendly back in ’07.

Premier League Players

Japan: Shinji Kagawa (Manchester United) Maya Yoshida (Southampton)

RELATED: World Cup news, analysis from Soccerly

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source: Getty Images
Can the Ivory Coast seal their first every berth in the knockout stages?

MATCH 42: Greece vs. Ivory Coast
Location: Estadio Castelao, Fortaleza
Time: 4pm ET
SOCCERLY PREVIEW | SOCCERLY MATCHCENTER

Cheater’s guide
Both teams are in with a shout of making the last 16, with Ivory Coast in the driving seat. They know a win will secure a spot in the knockout stages for the first time in history and they come up against a Greek team that has yet to score in the World Cup… but somehow has a chance of making it through.

What they’re saying
Greece’s manager Fernando Santos on their offensive struggles: “We have to score goals. I don’t care who does it. If it is (goalkeeper Orestis) Karnezis, that’ll be fine with me. We have to show the qualities that got us here. The Ivory Coast is a strong team with good players. But we are strong too and we got here on merit … talk of anything else is just a distraction.”

History

The two nations have never met.

Premier League players

Greece: None.
Ivory Coast: Wilfried Bony (Swansea City), Cheick Tioté (Newcastle), Kolo Touré (Liverpool), Yaya Touré (Manchester City)

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Wenger: Sanchez, Giroud will both be with Arsenal next year

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Arsene Wenger thinks Alexis Sanchez will sign a new deal at Arsenal this summer, whether the manager changes or not.

Speaking ahead of Wednesday’s visit from Leicester City, Wenger did not offer any clues as to his future with the club. He also said it does not hinge on how the Gunners finish the current campaign, and that he is working on transfers for the benefit of Arsenal regardless of his future.

[ MORE: Will Real open door for Barca? ]

That’s no surprise, given his reputation and fidelity to the club. What may surprise some is Wenger’s confidence that Sanchez will stay at the Emirates Stadium.

From Sky Sports:

“I personally think he will stay and sign. First of all he is happy here, his desire is to stay, that is what I deeply believe.

“I don’t think you would sell him to any Premier League club, that is for sure. The question is why would you sell him to another club? You want to be as strong as you can be and not strengthen the other teams.”

Wenger said both sides want to work out a deal and that the hold-up resides in agent-related matters. He also said Arsenal does not have interest in selling Olivier Giroud, who backed Wenger just over a month ago.

Title fight in Spain: Will Real slip up again?

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Barcelona’s dramatic 3-2 win over Real Madrid has set La Liga’s title race on its ear, with both clubs level on points with 75.

Real still controls its own destiny in a bid for its first league title since 2011-12, but a single loss puts Barcelona in pole position for its fourth title in five seasons.

[ RECAP: Chelsea 4-2 Saints ]

The tiebreaker is head-to-head, which Lionel Messi lifted from Real with his thrilling stoppage time thriller on Sunday at the Bernabeu.

Here are the run-ins for both sides, with Real facing a more congested schedule thanks to its status as a UEFA Champions League semifinalist.

Real Madrid

Only two of Real’s remaining five La Liga matches are at home, a boon for Barcelona considering Real boasts a strong home mark. The loss to Barca was Real’s first at the Bernabeu this season, and the Merengues only drew three matches at home (Villarreal, Eibar, Atletico Madrid).

Those home matches, however, are against teams that beat Real in the sides’ other league meetings this year, Sevilla and Valencia.

Wednesday – at Deportivo de la Coruna (16th)
Saturday – vs. Valencia (12th)
May 2 – vs. Atletico Madrid (UCL)
May 6 – at Granada (19th)
May 10 – at Atletico Madrid (UCL)
May 14 – vs. Sevilla (4th)
May 21 – at Malaga (14th)

Barcelona

Barca is home for three of its remaining five matches. The Blaugranas drew Villarreal and blew out Osasuna and Eibar ahead of the return visits.

As for the road matches, Barca has the Derbi barceloni with Espanyol, having taken the Camp Nou meeting 4-1, as well as a trip to Las Palmas (5-0 at home).

Wednesday – vs. Osasuna (20th)
Saturday – at Espanyol (9th)
May 6 – vs. Villarreal (5th)
May 14 – at Las Palmas (13th)
May 21 – vs. Eibar (8th)
May 27 – vs. Alaves (Copa del Rey Final)

The verdict

Any whiplash Real faces from schedule congestion should be offset by Barcelona’s much tougher schedule. Real could lose again, perhaps versus Sevilla, but Barca will likely finish second thanks to dropped points against Espanyol, Eibar, or Villarreal.

Premier League Weds. preview: Desperation on display

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Two London powers face a race to stay alive for their lofty season goals, while two Northeast sides see their last chances to claim hope for another year in the Premier League.

[ STREAM: All PL games here ]

That’s what’s on the docket for Wednesday’s PL matches, one day after Chelsea buried Southampton 4-2 t0 move seven points clear of Spurs in the race for the league’s 2016-17 crown.

Crystal Palace vs. Tottenham Hotspur — 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN

No team has looked better than Spurs lately, though Palace won’t be bowed by a big name or good form. Sam Allardyce‘s Eagles boast wins at Liverpool and Chelsea, as well as a home defeat of Arsenal. Those have all come in 2017, as Palace has leapt to within striking distance of the top half.

Spurs need to win at Selhurst Park to keep pace with Chelsea and sit four points back of the No. 1 spot with five matches to play. Lose, concede, and feel like last April all over again. It was a year from Tuesday that Spurs coughed up a home lead to Leicester and saw any hopes of catching Leicester fade into the sunset.

Middlesbrough vs. Sunderland — 2:45 p.m. ET

This Tees-Wear Derby oozes desperation, with Sunderland knowing it needs to win its matches-in-hand on Hull City and Swansea to have any hope of staying up, and Middlesbrough nearly as desperate.

Boro’s 24 points is three more than Sunderland, who has played one less game. Hull sits 17th with 33 points while Swansea holds 31.

Middlesbrough hasn’t won in the Premier League since Dec. 17, a run of 16 matches. Their only wins of the year are over lower league opposition, a trio of victories against Sheffield Wednesday, Accrington Stanley, and Oxford United.

Sunderland has just one league win since that same date in December, and that came at Crystal Palace. The Black Cats have lost six of eight, and look destined to join Boro in the second tier as Northeast neighbors Newcastle comes up.

(Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images )

Arsenal vs. Leicester City — 2:45 p.m. ET

Did Sunday’s FA Cup semifinal win over Manchester City snap Arsenal out of its funk, or was it just a matter of Alexis Sanchez’s class squeezing a bit of excellence out of the tube?

Arsene Wenger will hope for the latter, because Arsenal’s Top Four hopes hinge on winning its matches-in-hand on Liverpool and getting significant help from Man City and Manchester United. Their opposition will also be rested, having rested since bowing out of the UEFA Champions League on April 18.

Leicester’s five match winning streak, part of Craig Shakespeare’s new manager bounce, has died down a bit. The Foxes lost at Everton and drew at Palace, and get a third tricky road test in a row at the Emirates Stadium.

Pochettino calls out Xavi for Dele Alli-Man City “lie to lie to lie”

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“He tried to destroy our focus to win because he hates me because he’s Barcelona.”

Even half-kidding, the Derby Barceloni is alive and well for longtime Espanyol man Mauricio Pochettino and Barcelona legend Xavi.

At least that’s why the latter is trying to sabotage the former’s Premier League title fight, Pochettino says.

[ RECAP: Chelsea 4-2 Saints ]

Speaking from his club team in Qatar, Xavi claimed that Manchester City is going to bid high for Spurs’ young star Dele Alli.

Tottenham boss Pochettino says that’s just not true. Pochettino was joking a bit when he answered questions on the topic, but then told a story about Xavi diving for a penalty in the derby. Here are a few of his thoughts, from The Telegraph:

“It wasn’t a penalty but Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored for Barcelona and they won the game. After in the replay it was very funny because it was clear no one touched him. Come on! It goes from lie to lie to lie.”

“He is working for Manchester City, maybe? He wants to help Guardiola and [Vincent] Kompany.”