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Top PL Storylines: Will Spurs have a chance to close down Chelsea?

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From start to finish, the Premier League always has something on the line week in and week out. This time around, there are battles up and down the table.

[ MORE: Previews for every Premier League game this weekend ]

With Chelsea’s difficult test at in-form Manchester United, could the Blues drop points and allow Spurs back into the title race? Who will gain and who will fall in the vicious relegation battle? What will the gap at the top look like at the end of the weekend? All that and more comes your way in the next few days.

Can Spurs move closer to the top?

Tottenham vs. Bournemouth — 7:30 a.m. EDT Saturday online via NBCSports.com

Spurs sit seven points back of Chelsea. If they are to catch the Blues, they obviously need some outside help. However, Mauricio Pochettino knows his side must be ready in the event Chelsea slips up, which there’s a serious chance of them doing this weekend. With Chelsea not playing until Sunday (more below), Spurs can put the pressure on and pull within four for at least a day.

Bournemouth is a dangerous team. They’ve drawn with Liverpool and Manchester United in recent weeks, and Harry Kane‘s return for Tottenham has come at a fantastic time. With the club’s leading scorer back, Tottenham will be well positioned to pull out the three points in this one, but need to get the job done.

Massive test for leaders Chelsea at Old Trafford

Manchester United vs. Chelsea — 11:00 a.m. EDT Sunday online via NBCSports.com

With Spurs at home facing a bottom-half side, Chelsea knows it needs to keep separation, or things become much more difficult. Manchester United is the highest-positioned side left on Chelsea’s remaining schedule, and should they get by this test, the title is all but secure.

That’s no given, however, considering Manchester United hasn’t lost since October 23rd – to Chelsea. That 4-0 drubbing sent the Red Devils on a 21-match unbeaten streak. A draw here would be a decent result for both sides, but the Blues would prefer not to eat up any of the cushion they’ve built on the rest of the field.

Manchester United themselves are fighting a significant battle, as they hope to gain ground on either Manchester City or Liverpool in the fight for a Champions League place. With Manchester City visiting a strong Southampton squad and Liverpool on the road at the Hawthornes, the chance could be there to pull within a single point of the promised land.

Which in-form team will pick up points?

Crystal Palace vs. Leicester City — 10:00 a.m. EDT Saturday online via NBCSports.com

Sam Allardyce has led Crystal Palace onto a tear of impressive results that have pulled them out of the relegation zone (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images).

 

The run Crystal Palace is on has shocked England. The run Leicester City was on rejuvenated the club. These two teams seem to have saved their respective Premier League statuses by completing a set of impressive results, but the job is not completely done.

Sam Allardyce has given the Eagles hope by rattling off five wins over their last six matches, including impressive victories over Arsenal and Chelsea. Their stretch run remains painful viewing, with Liverpool, Manchester City, and Manchester United all still to come on the fixture list. Nevertheless, with an impressively paltry four goals conceded over those six games – three of those coming in the lone loss during that span – Palace is not just out of the relegation zone but six points clear. Is that enough cushion with such a brutal end-of-season run?

Leicester City, meanwhile, was bullied around the pitch against Atletico Madrid in Champions League play this week, but the Foxes still have their impressive start to Craig Shakespeare’s managerial tenure fresh in their memory. The bottom of the table is crammed together, so their 11th place position lends more sense of security than the eight-point gap might warrant, but the Foxes are solidly in the Premier League next season barring a total collapse. Will they have enough to overcome the high-flying Eagles?

Which relegation-threatened club will gain ground?

Sunderland vs. West Ham — 10:00 a.m. EDT Saturday online via NBCSports.com

Stoke City vs. Hull City — 10:00 a.m. EDT Saturday online via NBCSports.com

Watford vs. Swansea City — 10:00 a.m. EDT Saturday online via NBCSports.com

Three matches, four teams in the bottom seven and another two clubs gasping for air. Sunderland has precious little room for error, and the Black Cats are catching West Ham at the right time. Could they put pressure on the rest of the relegation scrap?

Meanwhile, Hull City is flying high with three wins in its last five, and catch Stoke City at the right time. The Potters have dropped four in a row and have won just twice since late January. A win here could potentially see Hull City shoot five points above the relegation zone, a huge gap for the stretch run.

Finally, Swansea City fans were overjoyed at the start to Paul Clement‘s tenure, seeing the 45-year-old turn their fortunes around in his first few weeks on the job. Fast-forward to now, and the club is on a five-match winless run and back in the drop zone having fallen victim to the great runs by Palace and Hull. They take on a Watford side firmly entrenched in the middle of the table. The Swans will find Walter Mazzarri‘s side difficult to break down, and with few goals scored between these to teams in the past, every moment will be precious.

Can Arsenal turn things around?

Middlesbrough vs. Arsenal — 3:00 p.m. EDT Monday online via NBCSports.com

The wheels have come off Arsenal’s season, and a loss at Middlesbrough would no doubt seal their fall from Champions League grace. Even with a win, it seems unlikely for the Gunners to catch the top four, but confidence is needed to make a push, and a road win over a defensively stout team would provide just that.

Boro’s inability to score is well-known throughout the land, but their defensive shape is just the kind of mentality that seems to stifle Arsenal teams in years past. Can the hosts keep the Gunners at bay, or even nick a scrappy win? If so, it would continue Arsenal’s nosedive…and let’s not forget the relegation fight, which could give Boro a much-needed boost as they battle for their Premier League lives.

MLS roundup: FCD, POR thrill in 2-2 draw; Sounders’ epic comeback

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With eight MLS Saturday afternoons/evenings officially in the books, only 26 more to go…

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverage ]

FC Dallas 2-2 Portland Timbers

For the third straight week, we were a matchup featuring two of the top three teams in the Western Conference. After Sporting Kansas City beat Portland two weeks ago, and Dallas topped Sporting KC last week, it was FCD’s turn to host Portland on Saturday. Thankfully, the third game of the early-season round robin did not disappointed, and delivered a higher level of entertaining, attacking soccer (each of the first two ended 1-0).

Fanendo Adi opened the scoring to conclude a cagey opening 30 minutes, and out the window went all semblance of structure and discipline from either side. FCD needed a full 30 minutes before they’d draw level, courtesy of Maximiliano Urruti, a goal that set up a fantastic, frantic final half-hour.

Sebastian Blacno’s first MLS goal put Portland ahead for the second time in the game, in the 71st minute, but the advantage was short-lived, as Tesho Akindele’s 80th-minute header brought FCD back to level terms once again.


Seattle Sounders 3-3 New England Revolution

Game. Of. The. Day.

Seattle found themselves 3-0 down to New England, at home, after 54 minutes. In 13 minutes’ time, from minute 75 to 88, the comeback was on. There’s not much to be said of this one. Just sit back, and enjoy.


Orlando City SC 2-0 Colorado Rapids

Five home games, five wins for Orlando City. The best home-field advantage in all of MLS might just reside in central Florida, and the summer humidity is yet to reach full effect.

Saturday’s victory over a truly awful Rapids side was more labored than you might have expected — all of 70 minutes passed before Carlos Rivas scored the breakthrough — but the result was never in doubt. Colorado managed all of three shots (one on target) over the course of 90 minutes, and Kaka marked his return to action (hamstring injury) with a goal in the 91st minute. All is very, very well in the City Beautiful.


New York Red Bulls 2-1 Chicago Fire

Dax McCarty’s return to Red Bull Arena, following the trade that sent him to Chicago during the offseason, was more than a little bittersweet for the box-to-box bulldog when spent five and a half seasons with New York.

After falling behind to Bradley Wright-Phillips’ opener in the 37th minute, McCarty assisted on Nemanja Nikolic’s 59th-minute equalizer — the spin and lay-off were perfectly executed. The evening ended in disappointment, though, as Kemar Lawrence broke the deadlock in the 71st minute and secured all three points. That’s back-to-back losses for Chicago, who were unbeaten in their first three games since Bastian Schweinsteiger‘s arrival. On the other end, three straight wins for New York, and they’re within two points of first-place Orlando in the Eastern Conference.


Columbus Crew SC 2-3 New York City FC

When two teams with zero desire to play the game at a non-frenetic pace, and no clue how to slow things down and control the game, get together, fireworks are to be expected.

Columbus and New York City meet the above criteria, and were happy to prove as much on Saturday. Jack Harrison put the visitors ahead with the deftest chip in the 8th minute, but Federico Higuain’s equalizer 21 minutes later was just as impressive.

Ola Kamara put Columbus 2-1 ahead in the 49th minute, and all Gregg Berhalter’s side seemed to be in total control. 15 minutes, later Angel Herrera’s header made it 2-2, and Jack Harrison completed the comeback in the 76th minute. Few victories in MLS this season will deserve greater praise than this one, achieved without the services of David Villa (illness).


Sporting Kansas City 3-0 Real Salt Lake

When Sporting KC get themselves a lead, it’s game over. In the four games in which they’ve scored this season, they’ve won 12 out of 12 points possible. On the season, they’ve conceded three goals in eight games, and haven’t conceded multiple goals in a game yet this season.

Of course, scoring has been the majority of the problem, as Peter Vermes’ side has already been blanked four times themselves. It wasn’t a problem on Saturday, though, as Benny Feilhaber, Dom Dwyer and Gerso Fernandes were each stellar from beginning to end, and each bagged a goal in Sporting’s 3-0 win over RSL. An inability close out games has haunted this team in the past, but they’re a perfect 4-for-4 thus far in 2017.


Montreal Impact 1-2 Vancouver Whitecaps

Someone’s giving Colorado a run for their money as the worst team in MLS. With just a single win to their name this season, Montreal have to make the most out of 1) home games; 2) games in which they lead, if they’re to mount any kind of playoff challenge in 2017.

They did neither against Vancouver, throwing away an early 1-0 lead — Marco Donadel opened the scoring in the 9th minute — by conceding goals either side of halftime, to Andrew Jacobson and Cristian Techera. In truth, Vancouver were the better side over 90 minutes and fully deserved the three points, and it’s a crushing result for a Montreal side with just one victory (and zero clean sheets) on the season.


Minnesota United 0-1 San Jose Earthquakes

Elsewhere in MLS

LA Galaxy 0-0 Philadelphia Union

Ligue 1: Level on games played, Monaco go 3 points ahead of PSG

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PARIS (AP) Monaco warmed up for its Champions League semifinal against Juventus with a 3-1 win over Toulouse to move three points clear of Paris Saint-Germain at the top of the French league on Saturday.

Teenage striker Kylian Mbappe, the new wonder of French football, scored his 14th league goal this season.

Kamil Glik and Thomas Lemar also got on the scoresheet for the hosts.

Mbappe has been unstoppable in recent months, scoring 22 goals in his last 20 starts in all competitions.

Having turned 18 just four months ago, Mbappe has scored 24 goals in 38 games in his first full professional season to become one of the most sought-after players across Europe.

Both Monaco and PSG, which travels to third-placed Nice on Sunday, have four league matches left to play.

After rotating his team in a 5-0 loss to PSG in the French Cup to save his best players for Wednesday’s Champions League clash, Monaco coach Leonardo Jardim switched back to his usual starting lineup. His players made a slow start but ended up scoring three goals – their average this season.

Toulouse, which upset Monaco 3-1 in the corresponding fixture last October, had the first chance in the 10th minute when the unmarked Andy Delort sent a header inches wide at the far post from a free kick.

Monaco gradually worked its way into the game and took a firm grip near the half-hour. Following a one-two with Thomas Lemar, Bernardo Silva dribbled past a defender and forced `keeper Alban Lafont to make a good save to his left.

The youngest player in French league history to reach 10 goals in a season, Mbappe was then perfectly set up by Nabil Dirar’s long ball down the left flank but saw his effort deflected by a last-minute tackle from Toulouse skipper Issa Diop.

Struggling to break a well-organized defense, Monaco kept peppering the box with teasing crosses but lacked a cutting edge.

Monaco found itself trailing against the run of the play just after the interval following a blunder from Jemerson. The Brazilian defender fluffed the ball in front of goal, allowing Ola Toivonen to beat Danijel Subasic with a clean finish.

The goal spurred Monaco on even more and Glik put the teams level with a beautiful header into the top right corner from Joao Moutinho’s cross.

Mbappe made it 2-1 in the 64th minute after Bernardo Silva set him up on the right side of the area, rifling a shot into the net from a tight angle.

Lemar completed the win in the 75th minute from Dirar’s clinical cross.

New York Red Bulls introduce space at RBA for autistic families

Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images for New York Red Bulls
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HARRISON, N.J. (AP) The Red Bulls have announced plans for a permanent sensory-friendly space at their stadium for families impacted by autism.

Formerly executive offices, the space overlooking midfield is a calm area that is free from the crowds and the noise of Red Bull Arena during matches. Families can use it for free.

The team announced the new space on Saturday before the Red Bulls were set to host the Chicago Fire. It was Autism Awareness Night at the stadium.

“Families deserve to feel welcome and comfortable each time they step foot into Red Bull Arena, not just one night a year,” Red Bulls GM Marc de Grandpre said in a statement released by the club. “We hope all sports teams and entertainment venues are inspired to take similar action to provide comfort for families with loved ones on the autism spectrum.”

League Two game restarted in empty stadium after fans storm field

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LONDON (AP) An English soccer game restarted in an empty stadium after a pitch invasion led to the crowd being told the fixture had been abandoned.

There were five minutes remaining in Leyton Orient’s fourth-tier game against Colchester on Saturday when a sit-down protest was staged on the pitch by Orient fans against Italian owner Francesco Becchetti.

It forced the referee to take the players off the field. The protests lasted for more than an hour before the crowd was told the game had been abandoned and the stadium eventually cleared. The teams came out and finished the game.

Leyton Orient lost 3-1 a week after its relegation from the English Football League was confirmed after 112 years.

“A decision was taken with the police to announce that the game had been abandoned as it was felt this would help clear the pitch, which proved correct,” the EFL said in a statement. “However, it was deemed appropriate that the game needed to be played to a conclusion in order to maintain the integrity of the competition.”