Rafa Benitez

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PL roundup: Man Utd best Liverpool; Newcastle safe?

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Get caught up on all seven Premier League fixtures from Saturday…

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Manchester United 2-1 LiverpoolFULL RECAP

It wasn’t pretty — is it ever with Jose Mourinho? — but Man United rode a pair of early Marcus Rashford goals to all three points and reclamation of the steering wheel in the race for second place. Rashford scored after 14 and 24 minutes, at which point United gladly handed over the vast majority of possession (Liverpool finished with 68 percent, at Old Trafford), but the Red Devils held firm outside of Eric Bailly‘s own goal in the 66th minute. With eight games still to play, United lead Liverpool by five points (Tottenham Hotspur could get back to within four with a win on Sunday).

Chelsea 2-1 Crystal PalaceFULL RECAP

Antonio Conte‘s Chelsea snapped a two-game losing skid with a narrow home victory over Crystal Palace, courtesy of a slow roller from Willian and a Martin Kelly own goal inside the first 32 minutes at Stamford Bridge. Patrick Van Aanholt brought the visitors back to 2-1 in the 90th minute, the Blues held on to win for just the second time in six PL outings. They trail Tottenham by two points, having already played one more game than Spurs.

West Ham United 0-3 BurnleyFULL RECAP

West Ham’s season has gone from bad, to worse, to this has to be the worst it can get, right? Saturday’s 3-0 home defeat to seventh-place Burnley saw the London Stadium devolve into a set of truly ugly scenes, as fan violence and protests became the main storyline. Chris Wood scored twice in the second half, to go with another goal from Ashley Barnes, all in the span of 15 second-half minutes.

Newcastle United 3-0 SouthamptonFULL RECAP

Back in August — and September, and October, and probably November, too — Newcastle United seemed a surefire lock for relegation from the PL. Fast-forward to early March, and Rafa Benitez has somehow — masterfully — managed to guide the Magpies to 13th place in the league table, a full five points clear of 18th place. Southampton, on the other hand, are just one place and one point clear of the drop zone after a brace from Kenedy and a third from Matt Ritchie dropped Saints to four games without a win on Saturday.

West Bromwich Albion 1-4 Leicester CityFULL RECAP

West Brom aren’t likely to realize the same rescue from relegation that Newcastle have enjoyed, as Alan Pardew‘s side currently sits bottom of the league, eight points away from safety, after another humiliating defeat at home, this time to eighth-place Leicester. Jamie Vardy, Riyad Mahrez, Kelechi Iheanacho and Vicente Iborra got the goals after Salomon Rondon had put the Baggies 1-0 up after eight minutes.

Everton 2-0 Brighton & Hove AlbionFULL RECAP

Speaking of sides who managed to rebound after a torrid start to the season, Everton have reclaimed their (apparent) birthright as a top-half side following Saturday’s 2-0 victory over Brighton. Gaetan Bong put the Seagulls behind with an own goal on the hour mark, followed by an insurance goal for the Toffees courtesy of Cenk Tosun.

Huddersfield Town 0-0 Swansea CityFULL RECAP

15th-place Huddersfield and 14th-place Swansea played to perhaps the most lopsided 0-0 draw in the history of soccer after Jordan Ayew was sent off in the 11th minute.

Sunday’s PL schedule

Arsenal vs. Watford — 9:30 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com
Bournemouth vs. Tottenham Hotspur — 12 p.m. ET, on NBCSports.com

Monday’s PL schedule

Stoke City vs. Manchester City — 4 p.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

PL roundup: Liverpool, Spurs running hot in race for 2nd

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Get caught up on all seven Premier League fixtures from Saturday…

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Liverpool 2-0 Newcastle UnitedFULL RECAP

Jurgen Klopp‘s Liverpool continues to keep the pressure on Manchester United as the two northwestern rivals battle for the first runners-up spot behind runaway leaders and champions-elect Manchester City. The Reds won their third straight on Saturday, besting former Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez and Newcastle. Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane bagged the goals, and Salah moved level with Harry Kane in the race for the Golden Boot, both on 24 goals this season. Liverpool now lead Man United, who don’t play until Monday, by a single point.

Tottenham Hotspur 2-0 Huddersfield TownFULL RECAP

Kane failed to score a goal of his own on Saturday, but the two-time defending Golden Boot winner did pick up an assist as Tottenham eased past Huddersfield at Wembley Stadium. Heung-Min Son scored both goals for Spurs — the aforementioned assist from Kane rightly stole a bit of the spotlight — for his ninth and 10th of the season. Spurs remain fourth in the league table, now just one point back of United for third, two back of Liverpool for second, and five ahead of Chelsea, who play on Sunday, in fifth.

Burnley 2-1 EvertonFULL RECAP

For the first time since Dec. 12, Burnley have won a game in the PL. Even after having suffered through that 11-game winless skid, Sean Dyche‘s men still sit seventh in the league table. Everton went ahead early in the first half through Cenk Tosun, but Ashley Barnes and Chris Wood each scored in the second half to give the Clarets a much-needed comeback victory.

Leicester City 1-1 BournemouthFULL RECAP

Riyad Mahrez played the part of hero on Saturday, scoring his first goal since Man City’s approach on transfer deadline day and his ensuing standoff with the club, rescuing a point for Leicester in the 96th minute. Joshua King scored from the penalty spot to put Bournemouth ahead in the first half, but Claude Puel‘s side battled back for the draw, though they remain winless in five.

Watford 1-0 West Bromwich AlbionFULL RECAP

Watford leapfrogged Everton for ninth place with a narrow victory over West Brom. Troy Deeney scored in the 77th minute to mark his 300th league appearance for Watford in the best way possible.

Swansea City 4-1 West Ham UnitedFULL RECAP

Just a couple months ago, Swansea had the look of a team destined for relegation without so much as a whimper. Carlos Carvalhal has worked a minor miracle in south Wales, though, and has the Swans all the way up to 13th place, now a full three points clear of the relegation zone.

Southampton 0-0 Stoke CityFULL RECAP

Stoke remain 19th, firmly in the relegation zone, after a thoroughly uninspiring scoreless draw with fellow relegation battlers Southampton, who sit just one spot and one point clear of the drop zone.

Sunday’s PL schedule

Brighton & Hove Albion vs. Arsenal — 8:30 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com
Man City vs. Chelsea — 11 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

Premier League Preview: Liverpool vs. Newcastle

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  • Sides drew 1-1 at St. James’ Park on Oct. 1
  • Liverpool leads all-time 81W-42D-49L
  • Reds have beaten NUFC once in five tries
  • NUFC manager Benitez won FA Cup, Champions League with Liverpool

Newcastle United is hoping manager Rafa Benitez can harness some Anfield magic of old when he leads the Magpies against former club Liverpool on Saturday (Watch live at 12:30 p.m. ET on NBC and online via NBCSports.com).

Reds boss Jurgen Klopp will hope to keep up a remarkable league run which has seen Liverpool lose just one match since late October.

Benitez will be without playmaking midfielder and former Liverpool man Jonjo Shelvey, while ex-Newcastle man Georginio Wijnaldum should be available for the Reds.

What they’re saying

Benitez on squaring up with his former club“The main thing for me is to try to win. I wish Liverpool all the best, but after this game. We have to do our best. [My staff and I] won so many things there. Six years, four trophies. We enjoyed every minute. Their fans and our fans are very similar. The connection is there.”

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain credits LFC teammate James Milner“He is the workhorse and engine, but a lot of his technical ability and things he’s been doing have gone unnoticed. In games where we’ve maybe scored seven goals and the front three have scored maybe two or a hat-trick [he’s contributed to it]. I even think Millie was playing left-back in a Champions League game and got three assists in the second half or something silly. That stuff goes unnoticed.”


Newcastle has performed well against several of the big boys this season, beating Manchester United while drawing Liverpool and hanging tight with Man City and Arsenal. Doing it at Anfield feels like a bridge too far. Liverpool 3-1.

Top Premier League storylines — Week 29

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First seems certain, 20th seems likely, but places Nos. 2-19 remain anyone’s educated guess as the Premier League begins the first of 10 remaining match days.

[ MORE: Arsenal 0-3 Man City | City’s 3 goals ]

Can Chelsea keep the Top Four in focus?
Manchester City vs. Chelsea —  11 a.m. ET Saturday on NBCSN

While Man City waltzes, sambas, and occasionally jigs toward the Premier League table, challenged Chelsea finds itself in danger of finishing the weekend five points back of the Top Four. At least the Blues will catch City on short rest.

Last year’s champions would need a point in a building which hasn’t seen much besides wins this season; Man City has only dropped two points at home this season, and those came in a second week draw against Everton (City did need penalty kicks to knock Wolverhampton Wanderers out of the League Cup).

Will it be Dr. Jurgen or Mr. Klopp at Anfield?
Liverpool vs. Newcastle United —  12:30 p.m. ET Saturday on NBC

Jurgen Klopp‘s Reds have been both stylish and head-scratching, usually the former, in their climb to third place in the Premier League. On paper, Liverpool will find several ways through stingy Newcastle, who may still be reeling from a come-from-ahead 2-2 draw at home to Bournemouth. But the Reds will also contend with a man who’s had plenty of success at Anfield in former boss Rafa Benitez.

Six points of alliteration and relegation
Southampton vs. Stoke City —  10 a.m. ET Saturday on CNBC

Stoke, Southampton, St. Mary’s, six-pointer: Bring all your S’s to the South as Paul Lambert‘s 19th place Potters hope to pilfer a trio of points and leap above 16th place Saints. The race to avoid relegation is as congested as ever, probably, with 10 matches to go in the season. This is one of the match-ups that will tell its tale.

(Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)

Who will lay claim to seventh?
Burnley vs. Everton —  7:30 a.m. ET Saturday on NBCSN
Leicester City vs. Bournemouth —  10 a.m. ET Saturday on NBC Sports Gold

In another world, one of adequate mid-table performance, these teams would be battling to overtake slipping Arsenal. Instead, it’s “finish seventh and hope for help in qualifying for Europe.”

Seventh place Burnley has 37 points, just one more than Leicester and three ahead of Saturday’s visitors to Turf Moor.

Can Palace keep its amazing comeback season alive?
Crystal Palace vs. Manchester United —  3 p.m. ET Monday on NBCSN

Selhurst Park is without its star in Wilfried Zaha, but the home of the Eagles was in far worse shape earlier this season. Roy Hodgson has led them on a heroic rebound, but three of its next four are United, Chelsea, and Liverpool. Meanwhile, the visiting Red Devils have looked pretty darn good lately and have to keep their form ahead of a March 10 visit from Liverpool.

Benitez praises debut hero Dubravka after upset win

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Rafa Benitez was feeling quite good after his Newcastle United side held on to beat Manchester United 1-0 at St. James’ Park on Sunday.

And why wouldn’t Rafa in a good place? Newcastle kept their stay in the Premier League’s Bottom Three to just over two hours. And in doing so, Benitez one-upped longtime rival Jose Mourinho, who is yet to win a match at St. James’ Park.

Matt Ritchie‘s second half goal did the trick, but the goalkeeper Benitez landed on loan just before the January transfer window closed was the star of the show.

Martin Dubravka made a number of fine saves in his first start for the Magpies.

“He can buy the lottery and win today. He was composed and that gave confidence to the team. All the players worked hard, so it is not fair to say just the goalkeeper played well.”

He also knows he got a bit lucky with goal mouth clearances and substandard finishing from Mourinho’s men.

“They are dangerous, but the teamwork we showed to fight for every ball was amazing,” Benitez said. “I am pleased for the players and the fans. Because we won here at home.

Here’s what Dubravka said, courtesy the BBC:

“It was an amazing game. It was important for us that we got the three points. Everybody is super happy. I tried to focus on the game and just think about helping the team in critical situations.”