Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images

Top Premier League story lines – Week 37

Leave a comment

Here goes nothing everything.

Chelsea can clinch the Premier League, Hull City can be relegated, and both Man City and Liverpool can go a long way toward ensuring their Top Four fate with wins this weekend.

Will Chelsea make it official?
West Bromwich Albion vs. Chelsea — 3 p.m. ET Friday on NBCSN

Leicester City’s run as unlikely Premier League champions could be over as soon as 5 p.m. ET Friday, as Chelsea sits on the precipice of a league title. Three points will do the trick for Antonio Conte in his first season at Stamford Bridge. Standing in Chelsea’s way is a West Bromwich Albion team which hasn’t done much of anything since ensuring breaching the 40-point mark.

Can Spurs snap back to form in White Hart Lane goodbye?
Tottenham Hotspur vs. Manchester United — 11:30 a.m. Sunday on NBCSN

Mauricio Pochettino has admitted that Spurs’ mentality took a hit with last week’s loss to West Ham, and Tottenham could see its title hopes officially dead if Chelsea manages a win on Friday. But the club will not be able to avoid positive emotions in its final home match at White Hart Lane.

Jose Mourinho’s Manchester United played Thursday with a full strength side in the UEFA Europa League, and the manager’s mind is far from anything but May 24’s UEL final in Sweden. That said, don’t expect the Red Devils to roll over on Sunday.

Palace has to hold its nerve after failing to seal safety
Crystal Palace vs. Hull City — 7 a.m. ET Sunday on CNBC

Sam Allardyce has never led a side to relegation, but would enter the final weekend of the season in danger with a loss to visiting Hull City. The visitors will know whether they have a chance to pass Swansea City by kickoff.

Palace still needs to implode to dip into the Championship, as a single point against Hull or a single loss from Swans would do the trick to ensure safety (barring two massive blowout losses from the Eagles). But with a trip to Manchester United left on the docket, a loss Sunday would provide nervy times for the Selhurst Park set.

 Crystal Palace 36 11 5 20 46 61 -15 5-2-11 6-3-9 38
 Swansea City 36 10 5 21 41 69 -28 7-3-8 3-2-13 35

 Hull City 36 9 7 20 36 69 -33 8-4-6 1-3-14 34

Swansea heads North for safety-clinching effort
Sunderland vs. Swansea City — 10 a.m. ET Saturday on NBCSN

The already-relegated Black Cats of Sunderland rose up to knock off Hull last week, and can drastically alter Swans fortunes one week later. Swans will know that a win will heap pressure on both Palace and Hull ahead of Sunday, and also rest comfortably knowing a win and a Hull draw would save the relegation worries for another season.

Who will finish the weekend in third?
Manchester City vs. Leicester City — 7:30 a.m. ET Saturday on NBCSN
West Ham vs. Liverpool — 9:15 a.m. ET Sunday on CNBC

Both Liverpool and Manchester City control their Top Four destinies as we enter the league’s penultimate weekend, and wins will all but settle things for both sides. Liverpool enters Saturday with two matches left and 70 points, while Man City has three and 69. Arsenal maxes out at 75 points and Manchester United can gather 74, so wins aren’t simply nice, they still feel quite necessary.

Wenger called ref Dean “not honest,” “a disgrace” to earn ban

Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images
Leave a comment

LONDON (AP) Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger accused a referee of being “not honest” and called him “a disgrace” in a rant inside the match officials’ changing room that led to a three-match touchline ban for one of English soccer’s most experienced coaches.

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

The English Football Association published Tuesday the written reasons behind its decision to ban Wenger for being abusive toward referee Mike Dean after Arsenal’s 1-1 draw at West Bromwich Albion in the Premier League on Dec. 31.

In his match report given to the FA, Dean said Wenger “was pointing aggressively at me saying, ‘You’re not honest’ on numerous occasions.” Dean then said Wenger said “you’ve done this to us many times before, you’re supposed to be professional, you’re a disgrace.”

[ MORE: Newcastle sale talks collapse — Staveley, not Ashley, out ]

Wenger had been incensed at Calum Chambers being penalized for a handball and West Brom converting the resulting penalty to equalize late in the game.

The FA said “there is simply no justification for this behavior” and considered a stadium ban for Wenger.

Wenger was also fined $54,200 for his conduct.

FA Cup: Leicester, West Ham survive replays to reach 4th round

Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Two more Premier League sides reached the fourth round of the 2017-18 FA Cup on Tuesday, winning their respective replays and joining 10 other top-flight clubs already through to the next round…

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

Leicester City 2-0 Fleetwood Town

Kelechi Iheanacho moved to Leicester from Manchester City for $33 million this summer and has, through his first half-season in the East Midlands, failed to live up to that price tag. In nine PL appearances, he is yet to score his first league goal. Tuesday, however, saw the 21-year-old Nigerian international put forth a bit production and performance more befitting a player of his promise and pedigree.

Manager Claude Puel picked a side consisting of first-team regulars and lesser-used squad players for the Foxes FA Cup third-round replay against League One side Fleetwood Town. It was Iheanacho, who started alongside/just behind target man Islam Slimani, who shown brightest with a pair of goals, in the 43rd and 77th minutes, to send Leicester into the fourth round. Iheanacho’s second, the one that put the game away for Leicester, was originally ruled out for offside, but was eventually after consultation of the video-assistant referee.

Leicester will travel to League One side Peterborough in the fourth round, on Sat. Jan. 27.

[ MORE: Newcastle sale talks collapse — Staveley, not Ashley, out ]

West Ham United 1-0 (AET) Shrewsbury Town

It took far longer than Hammers fans would have liked — or expected — but West Ham, over the course of 120 minutes, survived the Cupset bid of third-division Shrewsbury Town. With eight minutes remaining before Tuesday’s replay went to penalty kicks at the London Stadium, 21-year-old defender Reece Burke fired home from inside the box to break the scoreless deadlock.

West Ham will be away to the winner of the replay between Bournemouth and Wigan Athletic (Wednesday), on Sat. Jan. 27.

Elsewhere in FA Cup replay action

Mansfield Town 1-4 Cardiff City
Sheffield Wednesday 2-0 Carlisle United
Reading 3-0 Stevenage

Wednesday’s FA Cup replay schedule

Chelsea vs. Norwich City — 2:45 p.m. ET
Swansea City vs. Wolverhampton Wanderers — 2:45 p.m. ET
Wigan Athletic vs. Bournemouth — 2:45 p.m. ET

Report: Newcastle sale talks between Ashley, Staveley collapse

Photo by Steve Bardens/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Talks between Mike Ashley and Amanda Staveley over the much-desired and -rumored sale of Newcastle United are off, according to a report from Sky Sports and various other UK news outlets.

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

Sky has quoted a source close to Ashley as having said: “Attempts to reach a deal (with Staveley) have proved to be exhaustive, frustrating and a complete waste of time.” (Full quote below)

Ashley, the club’s current and long-beleaguered owner, has been seeking a potential buyer since putting the club up for sale back in October. Staveley emerged as the front-runner (the only runner, perhaps) in the days following Ashley’s announcement, and reportedly tabled an offer of $335 million in early December before reportedly offering something closer to $400 million a couple weeks later.

Ashley selling the club — and doing so before the end of the January transfer window, which now appears nigh impossible — appeared to be one the few scenarios in which Rafa Benitez would remain the Magpies’ manager beyond the end of the current Premier League season (Newcastle currently sit 15th, just three points clear of relegation) after constant rumors of his discontent and lack of financial backing last summer.

LIVE, FA Cup replays: West Ham, Leicester on upset alert

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Five FA Cup third round replays take place on Tuesday with two Premier League clubs on upset alert.

[ LIVE: Follow all the FA Cup scores here ]

Leicester City and West Ham United both host third-tier opponents, with the Hammers welcoming Shrewsbury to the London Stadium and Leicester hosting Jamie Vardy‘s former club Fleetwood.

Both Claude Puel and David Moyes have named strong teams to try and breeze through to the fourth round. You can follow commentary on all five games by clicking on the link above and we will have reaction right here on Pro Soccer Talk.

[ MORE: FA Cup fourth round draw in full ]

Below is the full schedule for Tuesday, with all the games kicking off at 2:45 p.m. ET unless otherwise stated.

Tuesday’s FA Cup replay schedule

Leicester City vs. Fleetwood Town
Mansfield Town vs. Cardiff City
Reading vs. Stevenage Town – 3pm
Sheffield Wednesday vs. Carlisle United
West Ham United vs. Shrewsbury