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Premier League Preview: Swansea City vs. Arsenal

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5th vs. 19th doesn’t sound very appetizing until you consider the position of both these clubs and what this match means to each side.

Arsenal has flirted with the outside of the Champions League for years, but has yet to be punished, as Arsene Wenger‘s 19-year streak of qualifying for the top European competition has survived. Now, with the Gunners on the outside looking in at the beginning of the new year, suddenly that feels in jeopardy as a host of teams seem legitimate contenders while the Gunners’ form feels like it is slipping.

[ MORE: Men In Blazers look at Premier League contenders and pretenders ]

Arsenal has turned things around on paper since two straight losses in mid-December, but they still have been unable to shake the mistakes. Most recently, Wenger and company took the entire match to come back against Preston North End in the FA Cup, with another comeback against Bournemouth needed to scratch their way to a 3-3 draw.

With a growing injury list that includes Hector Bellerin, Francis CoquelinMohamed Elneny, Theo Walcott, Santi Cazorla, Per Mertesacker and Kieran Gibbs, the Gunners must not take Swansea City lightly.

[ PL Video: Matchday 21 preview ]

Meanwhile, the Swans could not translate Premier League success to a Cup victory, losing to lowly Hull City in FA Cup action last weekend following a galvanizing league win over Crystal Palace. Now however, a statement win could not only further boost the club, but could climb them out of the relegation zone with some help elsewhere.

Needless to say, this match at the Liberty Stadium bears great importance to either team.

The Swans will not have new signing Luciano Narsingh due to a calf injury, and Neil Taylor fractured his cheekbone in training. Otherwise, the hosts are healthy.

What they’re saying

Swansea City manager Paul Clement on Arsenal: “I saw them play West Brom so I have got my notes. It’s just I’ll be using them for Swansea instead of Bayern now. The notes are the same, just looking at what they do and hopefully take advantage. I’ll send Carlo [Ancelotti] a photocopy!”

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger on Olivier Giroud“When you face the situation he faced, either you feel sorry for yourself or you say, ‘I have a challenge I have to take on and work even harder’. That’s what he did. He benefits from the fact he has worked very hard and as well from the fact he is fresh at the moment where some other players have already played many games and sometimes need a little breather.”

Prediction

Despite the 90-minute struggles, Arsenal has figured out to gut out results of late. Swansea has posed little threat for much of the year, and it’s hard to see them holding off the Gunners’ pressure that can be relentless at times, even if there is little offered on net. Arsenal takes this 2-0, even if they leave it late.

WATCH: Camila’s wicked swerving goal for Brazil

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The Tournament of Nations got underway earlier Thursday, with Brazil and Japan drawing 1-1 in Seattle.

While some in the crowd may’ve been waiting to see the United States women’s national team and Australia in the second game of the twin bill, they got an absolute treat from Brazil’s Camila.

[ MORE: Galaxy’s season-changing signing ]

The Orlando Pride midfielder is yet to scoop up 10 caps, but blasted this 25-yard goal home with a wicked outside bend.

The aesthetics are terrific.

LA Galaxy’s second Dos Santos signing is a season-changer

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Remember this day, MLS fans, as one that perhaps helped determine an MLS Cup Finalist.

The LA Galaxy have signed Villarreal midfielder and Mexican national teamer Jonathan Dos Santos, and he’s the sort of player who could alter the landscape of the Western Conference.

Like Nicolas Lodeiro to Seattle last season and New England’s addition of Jermaine Jones in 2014, Dos Santos’ move comes with the distinct possibility of elevating LA into the next stratosphere.

[ MORE: USMNT’s Arriola attracting transfer interest ]

Take the Galaxy’s history of winning, and toss in a midseason coaching improvement from Curt Onalfo to Sigi Schmid, as well as MVP-in-their-own-right caliber teammates Giovani Dos Santos, Romain Alessandrini, and Jelle van Damme.

Don’t sleep on the fact that Schmid might be gathering momentum from inheriting a talented and underachieving roster and a brand new game-changing midfielder, which feels a bit like karmic retribution for Seattle firing him and signing Lodeiro the next day last season. Seattle only went and won the MLS Cup.

Schmid has used any number of formations, but could deploy a 4-3-3 with Jona Dos Santos, Jermaine Jones, and Joao Pedro in the midfielder and Giovani Dos Santos, Alessandrini, and Gyasi Zardes up top (Sebastian Lletget could return at some point, too).

Now FC Dallas is very deep, Sporting KC looks powerful, and Seattle won it all last year — plus, may be adding Derlis Gonzalez?!? — but LA’s move to add Dos Santos creates a quartet of teams with proven mettle (Houston looks decent, too, but I have concerns about their first-time as a unit in the playoffs).

Joey Barton’s gambling ban lowered by almost 5 months

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Joey Barton’s 18-month ban for betting on almost 1,300 soccer-related events has been lowered to 13 months and one week.

Putting aside the hilarity of grown men and women discussing whether an extra week was necessary, the alteration means he’ll be eligible to return to football on June 1, 2018.

[ MORE: USMNT’s Arriola attracting transfer interest ]

While that still hampers the idea of the 34-year-old playing again — he’ll be 36 when the ban ends — it’s a significant change if he’s open to the idea of returning to the game.

Barton’s original ban expired in late October 2018, well into a season. From Sky Sports:

The appeal board also agreed: “It was clear that Mr Barton was not involved in any cheating, he did not influence any games and there was nothing suspicious about his bets.

“(The reduction) reflects the overall seriousness of the breaches and also the mitigation of Mr Barton’s addiction.”

Barton’s remarkably controversial career has including several suspensions and imprisonment, but he always found his way back to the field and was very good when in form. After time at Manchester City and Newcastle United, Barton fended off naysayers with stints at QPR, Marseille, Burnley, and a regrettable move to Rangers.

We may see him on the field in August 2018.

FIFA fines Qatar after players’ political support for Emir

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ZURICH (AP) FIFA has fined Qatar’s soccer federation after national team players breached rules against political statements by displaying T-shirts of the country’s Emir at a World Cup qualifier.

FIFA says its disciplinary panel imposed a 50,000 Swiss francs ($51,800) fine and reprimanded Qatar, the 2022 World Cup host.

[ MORE: Nainggolan staying at Roma ]

The incident happened in Doha on June 13, amid a dispute with regional rivals Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates.

Qatar’s players warmed up for a 3-2 win over South Korea wearing white T-shirts with an image of Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani to show their support for him.

FIFA says the charges related to “displaying a political image” and “political displays” by spectators.