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Mason, 26, forced to retire after fracturing skull

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Ryan Mason, just 26 years old, has been forced to retire from the game.

Following a challenge with Gary Cahill in Hull City’s 2-0 Premier League defeat at Chelsea last January, Mason fractured his skull and the former Tottenham Hotspur and England midfielder has failed to fully recover from his injuries.

In a statement released by Championship side Hull, they revealed that Mason had been advised by “numerous world renowned neurologists and neuro surgeons” that a “return to competitive football is not advised.”

It is with deep regret that the Club has to announce that, following the head injury suffered on 22nd January 2017, Ryan Mason is to retire from football with immediate effect. 

Ryan has sought the guidance of numerous world renowned neurologists and neuro surgeons who have all advised that a return to competitive football is not advised.

Ryan would like to put on record his thanks to all at the Club who have aided his recovery to this point and he his is indebted to them for their support and compassion over the past 12 months.

Mason moved to Hull from Tottenham in the summer of 2016, while he made his England debut in March 2015, winning his only cap against Italy in a friendly in Turin.

A product of Spurs’ academy, Mason played 70 times for Tottenham in all competitions, scoring four goals. He spent numerous spells out on loan on Yeovil, Doncaster Rovers, Millwall, Lorient and Swindon before becoming a regular under Mauricio Pochettino.

PL Sunday preview: Van Dijk, Liverpool visit St. Mary’s, Man United in action

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Liverpool and Southampton sit in considerably different positions, but a former player’s return to St. Mary’s will garner much of the attention on Sunday when the two clubs collide.

Meanwhile, three sides firmly in the relegation race aim to pull away from the bottom three with strong performances.

[ MORE: Saturday PL roundup — Citizens crack 70 points, Spurs win NLD ]

Here’s a look at Sunday’s three PL matches.

Huddersfield Town vs. Bournemouth — 7 a.m. ET on CNBC

When these sides last met in November, the Cherries came away with a convincing 4-0 defeat. That leaves Huddersfield boss David Wagner with some tough decisions at home.

Jonathan Hogg is expected to be reintroduced to the Huddersfield lineup on Sunday, while Christopher Schindler and Laurent Depoitre could feature after the pair came off of foot injuries recently.

The Terriers have had a terrible time scoring as of late, scoring just once in their last 620 league minutes, while Bournemouth has gone unbeaten in its last seven fixtures.

Bournemouth has seen a solid improvement since the Christmas period, with the club boasting 15 points in that span — which is second to only Liverpool’s 16 points.

Newcastle vs. Manchester United — 9:15 a.m. ET on NBCSN

In 28 career PL meetings, Newcastle has won just twice against the English giants — which doesn’t bode well for Rafa Benitez and Co. The club’s last victory against the Red Devils came back in 2012.

With loan signing Islam Slimani still yet to play a match for the Magpies, Benitez will be desperately hoping for the Algerian to be fit in time for Sunday’s clash. The side will benefit from Ciaran Clark‘s return though, who is coming back from a knee injury.

Meanwhile, United has clamped down recently on the defensive side, boasting five shutouts in its last six matches.

Southampton vs. Liverpool — 11:30 a.m. ET on NBCSN

The biggest story on the day will be Van Dijk’s return to his former club, however, four other current Liverpool players have previously played a role for Southampton.

The Saints have had success recently against Liverpool, with the hosts unbeaten in their last three home fixtures against Jurgen Klopp‘s group.

Klopp and Co. have been through a tumultuous period since their confidence-boosting win over table-toppers Manchester City, with the Reds winning just one of their last four fixtures.

Kick It Out: Discrimination in English soccer soars 60 percent

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LONDON (AP) Discrimination in English soccer soared 60 percent in the first half of the season.

The Premier League accounted for 64 of the 282 incidents of abuse reported to anti-discrimination group Kick It Out, a 50 percent jump on the first half of the previous season. Racism accounted for just over half of the reports gathered by Kick It Out.

“Our latest statistics reveal a significant increase in incidents of discrimination in football, which should act as a wake-up call to everyone in the sport,” Kick It Out chairman Herman Ouseley said.

“The spike in these mid-season reporting statistics comes against the backdrop of rising hatred in our society.”

Reporting incidents of abuse has also become more accessible as Kick It Out’s phone app becomes more prevalent. In the 2012-13 season only 53 discriminatory incidents were reported by the halfway point.

“Ultimately, tackling discrimination must be a collective effort,” Ouseley said. “The leaders across all sections of society and football, as well as the broader public and football supporters themselves, need to take action, report discrimination and help us eradicate hatred.”

After racism, incidents of homophobia, biphobia and transphobia account for next largest source of reports of discrimination (22 percent), followed by anti-Semitism (9 percent).

Incidents in the Premier League accounted for half of the reports in the professional game. Social media is becoming a growing outlet for discrimination, with most incidents on Twitter.

Report: Conte faces sacking if Chelsea fails to beat Watford

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Changes could be coming at Stamford Bridge, and Antonio Conte would be the pawn to fall at Chelsea if the club continues to trend downward.

The Express is reporting that the Blues could be in the market for a new manager if Monday’s result against Watford doesn’t go in favor of Conte and his side.

[ MORE: A closer look at a competitive PL relegation race ]

Chelsea currently sits fourth place in the Premier League on 50 points, following their bid to win the top flight last season.

The Blues are 19 points behind league leaders Manchester City, who have fallen just once in PL play.

Conte, only in his second season with the London side, has been noticeably fiery about the club’s lack of transfers as of late.

In his year-and-a-half with the club, Conte has won 59 of his 87 matches with the Blues, over 67 percent, which is his best winning percentage with any club or national team previously managed.

PL Sunday preview: Spurs, Liverpool meet in crucial top-five battle

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A monstrous clash of two of the Premier League’s elite headlines the action on Sunday, while two clubs aiming to stay out of the relegation heap meet at Selhurst Park.

Liverpool and Tottenham will attempt to keep chase in a heated top-four battle, as Crystal Palace and Newcastle begin the day’s play with the two bottom-half clubs seeking relief from a relegation race that sees seven teams within six points of one another.

[ MORE: Alexis scores first goal in Man United’s win over Huddersfield ]

Here’s a look at Sunday’s two PL matches.

Crystal Palace vs. Newcastle — 9:15 a.m. ET on NBCSN

The last time these two clubs met up at Selhurst park, things were very much in favor of the hosts — who went on to pick up a 5-1 victory. Palace will aim to capture a similar result on Sunday, as the Eagles look to stay above the red line in England’s top flight.

Both clubs are firmly in contention for a bottom-three place, with Palace two points above 18th and Newcastle equal on points with Stoke City, who currently occupy that spot.

The Magpies will be hoping that new signing Islam Slimani can play a role for the club, as Newcastle seeks a major upgrade in the attack. However, a thigh issue could leave the Algerian sidelined for the match.

Meanwhile, Palace has been dealt a major injury setback of its own, with Bakary Sako ruled out for the rest of the PL season after suffering a serious ankle break.

Liverpool vs. Tottenham Hotspur — 11:30 a.m. ET on NBCSN

The Manchester City defeat back in December seemed to give Spurs a much-needed kick-in-the-behind, with Mauricio Pochettino‘s side having gone unbeaten since the loss.

Jurgen Klopp‘s Liverpool — on the other hand — have had an inconsistent run of form since their clash with league leaders City, which actually went in favor of the Reds.

The hosts will be once again without Adam Lallana, who is battling a thigh injury, while Spurs appears to be getting healthy at the right time.

Serge Aurier, Harry Winks and Toby Alderweireld each look to be in contention to play on Sunday, although new addition Lucas Moura won’t feature after just recently joining Tottenham.