Britain Soccer Premier League

Premier League Preview: Leicester City vs. Everton

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•Everton have won four of their last five Premier League away matches.

•Leicester City have failed to win any of their last five Premier League matches on the opening weekend (0-2-3), (W-L-D).  Everton have only won three of their last 11 opening-day fixtures (0-7-1).

•Everton had a winless 2014 preseason, while Leicester was unbeaten, including a 1-0 victory over the Toffees. 

•Leicester have not beaten Everton in nine attempts since a 2-0 Premier League home win in August 1998, but seven of the ensuing nine matches were drawn. 

Tomorrow, Everton will battle newly promoted Leicester City at King Power Stadium, in each team’s first Premier League fixture of the 2014-15 season. Tune into NBCSN at 9:45 a.m. ET for the start of the match’s coverage, as Everton boss Roberto Martinez looks to build off of a promising 2013-14 campaign that saw his club finish fifth place for Europa League qualification.

Leicester City, meanwhile, is the reigning titleholder in the Championship, the second-lowest English football division, after manager Nigel Pearson failed to seal a promotion for two-straight years. Although their main goal is to avoid relegation, the Foxes are striving to jump into the lower-mid table. Their offseason was a success, notably because of the club-record signing of Argentine striker Leonardo Ulloa for £8 million. Last year, Ulloa notched a 23-goal season at Brighton & Hove Albion following a £2 million transfer from Spanish side Almeria. City also acquired a slew of veterans and youngsters on free transfers: Louis Rowley, Matthew Upson, GK Ben Hamer, Marc Albrighton, and Jack Barmby.

Nonetheless, Everton’s dealings this offseason was more impressive, as the Toffees were able to finalize stays with some of their most important players. Striker Romelu Lukaku transferred from Chelsea for a club-record transfer of $29 million, while youngster Ross Barkley inked a four-year deal, and Gareth Barry signed a three-year contract on the heels of his release from Manchester City. Plus, the four-year extension of Seamus Coleman, believed to be one of the best fullbacks in the BPL, and 20-year-old John Stones, Everton looks primed to make headway in the Premier League for years to come.

Match Absences/Inclusions

Anthony Knockaert has fought past an ankle injury. Jamie Vardy and Marc Albrighton, though, probably won’t be risked with respective thigh and groin injuries. Seamus Coleman, Kevin Mirallas and Romelu Lukaku have fitness issues, and Martinez will make the game day decision on them. Additionally, Muhamed Besic and Christian Atsu could debut.

What they’re saying

Leicester manager Nigel Pearson on Martinez and his hopes for the squad in the Premier League, via the team’s official website: “I’ve a lot of respect for Roberto Martinez. At Wigan and Swansea he was a man who goes out his job in a very defined way. He has his own values and it is very interesting that he has been recruited for what he is……I’m not sure how exactly people think we’ll do. It’s an unknown quantity. We can utilise that. We have to play the game, not the occasion. It should be a great occasion for the club.”

Roberto  Martinez on transfer window moves, per Yahoo Sport UK“In football you always have to try to use the transfer window to your advantage and see if there is anything that can help the team be prepared until the next window opens. We are always looking at that. In terms of the squad that we have, I’m delighted with what we achieved [this summer] and the continuity that we have got. That will allow us to carry on working on what we did last season. In terms of being desperate to bring someone in, the answer is no, we’re not.”

Prediction

In a perfect world, the odds favor Everton, and they should win this game conformably. It’s opening day, though, and even top-tier  side’s can struggled against weaker opponents. So, even though Everton should win by at least a goal, perhaps ending with a 2-1 scoreline, I would watch this one. It has upset potential.

Loss to Sevilla quickly puts Real Madrid’s Zidane on the defensive

SEVILLE, SPAIN - JANUARY 15:  Head Coach of Real Madrid CF Zinedine Zidane looks on prior to  the match against Real Madrid CF during the La Liga match between Sevilla FC and Real Madrid CF at Estadio Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan on January 15, 2017 in Seville, Spain.  (Photo by Aitor Alcalde/Getty Images)
Photo by Aitor Alcalde/Getty Images
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MADRID (AP) Real Madrid’s first loss after a 40-game unbeaten streak was enough to put coach Zinedine Zidane on the defensive.

Two days after Madrid’s unbeaten record was halted by a 2-1 defeat at Sevilla in the Spanish league, Zidane was forced to defend some of his players against criticism from fans and local media.

[ MORE: Klopp, Liverpool still consulting lawyers over absurd Matip situation ]

Most comments were aimed at goalkeeper Keylor Navas, who failed to stop Sevilla’s injury-time winner on Sunday. Navas got to Stevan Jovetic‘s long-range shot but was unable to keep the ball from going in.

“He’s having a really good season,” Zidane said on Tuesday. “You can always ask for more, but if up until now we had gone 40 games without losing, it’s for a reason, and he has been there all the way.”

There have been calls for Zidane to give reserve goalkeeper Kiko Casilla a chance, but the coach said there was “no need to go over this again.”

Zidane also dismissed talk about signing a new goalkeeper.

“These are rumors,” he said. “We are focused on what we are doing this year. Whatever happens next I’m not interested and it’s not the time to talk about it. The three goalkeepers we have are important, they’re doing well and I’m very happy with them. I don’t want to change anything we’re doing.”

[ MORE: How Sevilla hope to break up the Madrid-Barca duopoly ]

Zidane defended forward Karim Benzema, who lost possession near midfield in a mistake that led to host Sevilla’s winner on Sunday.

“Everyone can say and write what they want,” Zidane said. “On a field, playing 90 minutes, you can’t do everything right. There is talk of lack of concentration, but we only had five bad minutes and that happens in football.”

Benzema also missed a chance to score from close range in the game, but a few days earlier it was the French striker who netted in stoppage time in a Copa del Rey match against Sevilla to help Madrid set the Spanish unbeaten record.

Zidane downplayed the end of Madrid’s unbeaten streak. The club hadn’t lost since a 2-0 defeat at Wolfsburg in the Champions League in April.

[ MORE: Monday’s transfer rumor roundup | Sunday | Friday | Thursday ]

“These things happen,” he said. “Nothing is going to change in what I’m going to do. Those who are not Real Madrid fans will want us to lose, but we must be ready and think that what we’re doing is fine. We lost a game, something that happens, and now we have to make sure that it doesn’t happen again.”

Madrid hosts Celta Vigo on Wednesday in a first-leg match in the quarterfinals of the Copa del Rey.

Celta has won all four matches this year.

“I am not surprised by Celta’s record because they’re a very good team, they fight and play very good football,” Zidane said. “It’ll be another complicated match for us.”

FA fines Man City’s Sagna over “10 against 12” Instagram message

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - JANUARY 02: Scott Arfield of Burnley (L) tackles Bacary Sagna of Manchester City (R) during the Premier League match between Manchester City and Burnley at Etihad Stadium on January 2, 2017 in Manchester, England.  (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)
Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images
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LONDON (AP) The English Football Association has fined Manchester City defender Bacary Sagna 40,000 pounds (around $50,000) for an Instagram post about a referee.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

Sagna posted a photo with the caption “10 against 12.. but still fighting and winning as a team” on the social network site following City’s 2-1 win against Burnley on Jan. 2.

Sagna later amended the post to read “still fighting and winning as a team” after a match that saw referee Lee Mason send off midfielder Fernandinho.

[ MORE: Klopp, Liverpool still consulting lawyers over absurd Matip situation ]

The FA also warned Sagna about his future conduct.

Klopp, Liverpool still consulting lawyers over in-limbo Matip

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 11: Joel Matip of Liverpool and Andre Ayew of West Ham United compete for the ball during the Premier League match between Liverpool and West Ham United at Anfield on December 11, 2016 in Liverpool, England.  (Photo by Jan Kruger/Getty Images)
Photo by Jan Kruger/Getty Images
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Few footballing sagas will ever reach heights of absurdity comparable to that of the Joel Matip/Liverpool versus Cameroon/FIFA battle currently raging, as the Reds defender finds himself “ineligible” to play for his club due to an international call-up 18 months after announcing his international retirement.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

PST’s Joe Prince-Wright summed up the situation quite well, in full, right here. An excerpt:

Matip, 25, was called up by the Cameroon national team for the 2017 African Cup of Nations which is currently taking place in Gabon. However, the former Schalke defender has previously stated that he did not want to play for them and he had retired from international duty.

Cameroon called him into their initial 35-man squad for the competition anyway but did not include him in their final 23-man squad once it became clear Matip, along with six other players, had no interest in playing for them at AFCON.

FIFA has confirmed that Liverpool has been in touch regarding Matip’s status and it now appears that he will not be able to play in any other competition while Cameroon is still in AFCON action under Article 5 of FIFA’s rules.

[ MORE: Monday’s transfer rumor roundup | Sunday | Friday | Thursday ]

Fast forward a few days, and Jurgen Klopp and Co. have no further clarity regarding the situation. It’s so unclear, in fact, that Klopp said on Tuesday he may select the 25-year-old during one of two remaining games this week, and hope for the best — quotes from the Guardian:

“As you can imagine, we are in a lot of talks. We’ve done transfers quicker than this. It’s already long term but now it’s getting really tense on our side. We’ve tried everything but at the end I have to make the decision. Of course I have to ask [Liverpool’s lawyers] but the decision is for me to make. I could put him in the lineup. I don’t think the referee is going to say: ‘Stop, stop, you cannot go on the pitch.’ But I will do it when it’s OK from our point of view. Of course I need advice — I’m not a lawyer.”

“Most of the time in life you know if you do this, then you get this. But it’s not 100 percent clear what happens [if Matip plays]. We try everything to win football games. If this can happen — out of the tournament or whatever — then we have to decide about the risk. He’s ready to play for us and that makes it difficult.”

What an utter disaster of a situation Cameroon have intentionally created here.

VIDEO: Jeison Murillo’s incredible bicycle from a corner kick

MILAN, ITALY - JANUARY 17:  (R-L) Jeison Murillo of FC Internazionale celebrates his first goal with Geoffrey Kondogbia during the TIM Cup match between FC Internazionale and Bologna FC at Stadio Giuseppe Meazza on January 17, 2017 in Milan, Italy.  (Photo by Pier Marco Tacca/Getty Images)
Photo by Pier Marco Tacca/Getty Images)
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Look away now, Andy Carroll. Take a bow, Jeison Murillo.

[ VIDEOS: All in a week’s work — Messi free kick no. 1 | Messi free kick no. 2 ]

Just three days after Carroll scored the bicycle-kick goal of the year (so we thought), here comes Murillo, Inter Milan’s 24-year-old Colombian striker, to steal his thunder (below video). The fact he did it directly from a corner kick, with the ball traveling roughly 40 yards before flinging his body into the air and striking the ball so cleanly, (somehow) trumps Carroll’s accomplishment from Saturday.

[ MORE: PL Power Rankings — Tight at the top… and bottom ]

Sensational goals come in twos now, apparently, as Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Olivier Giroud scored stunning scorpion-kick goals (WATCH HERE and HERE) just days apart earlier in the season.