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Germany, England to test depth; Canada off to Scotland

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International week gets kicked off bright and early Wednesday, as Papua New Guinea and Tahiti tangle to stay alive for Oceania’s berth in the 2018 World Cup at 2 a.m. EDT.

[ MORE: Cameron pumped for USMNT return ]

There’s also a nine-spot of friendlies on tap.

Germany vs. England — 3:45 p.m. EDT Wednesday

It’ll be called a glamour friendly, but England’s trip to Germany is more of a depth test than anything else thanks to injuries on both sides.

There’s no Manuel Neuer, Julian Draxler, Mario Gomez, and Mesut Ozil for Germany, while Wayne Rooney, Harry Kane, and Daniel Sturridge are out for England and Raheem Sterling is a question.

Lukas Podolski takes the arm band for his final cap, No. 130, as Germany looks to keep up its fine international form. It’ll be interesting to see whether Joachim Loew hands uncapped striker Timo Werner of RB Leipzig a start.

A perfect 4-for-4 in World Cup qualifying, Germany is off to Azerbaijan after the match. Gareth Southgate has England atop Group F with a 3-1 record, and the Three Lions have yet to concede in qualifying. They host Lithuania on Sunday

Scotland vs. Canada — 3:45 p.m. EDT Wednesday

New manager Octavio Zambrano will get his first look at the Canucks since being named Canada boss when they visit Gordon Strachan’s Scottish side.

Canada will be captained by FC Edmonton’s Nik Ledgerwood in his 50th cap, and his leadership will be needed with the new boss and eight of 18 call-ups having five or fewer caps. Two defenders, La’Vere Corbin-Ong (FSV Frankfurt) and Luca Gasparotto (Falkirk) are complete uncapped.

Scotland will boast several in-form players, including Bournemouth’s Ryan Fraser and Fulham’s Tom Cairney. Strachan will want to get the squad humming in the absence of Matt Phillips and James McArthur and a huge World Cup qualifier looming Sunday versus Slovenia.

Elsewhere
All times EDT

Vietnam vs. Chinese Taipei — 7 a.m.
Cambodia vs. India — 7:30 a.m.
Philippines va. Malaysia –7:30 a.m.
Cyprus vs. Kazakhstan — Noon
Yemen vs. Palestine — Noon
Curacao vs. El Salvador — 8 p.m.
Bahrain vs. Tajikistan

WC Qualifier – Oceania
Papua New Guinea vs. Tahihi — 2 a.m.

Top relegation six-pointers on the Premier League docket

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Though 10 matches is plenty of time for a slide in form to dip another side into the drop zone, five teams look set to duke it out for two safe spots in the Premier League.

There are varying degrees of desperation in the bunch at this point. Sunderland is seven points shy of safety and cannot handle many more losses, while Northeast neighbor Middlesbrough is also multiple results from safety.

Hull City is three points back of 16th place Swansea City, while Crystal Palace is four points above the drop.

[ MORE: Should injured USMNT be worried? ]

You can see why Boro made a managerial change with a massive April on the way which includes two six-pointers in four days, both on the road. Those days could swing the drop zone race altogether, with both Swans and Hull having a chance to gain three points, doom Boro, while Palace plays at Chelsea and Southampton.

Swansea City vs. Middlesbrough — 8:30 a.m. EDT on April 2

Hull City vs. Middlesbrough — 2:45 p.m. EDT on April 5

Boro then gets the next six-pointer as well, though it will be looking mighty academic if Sunderland keeps losing and Boro falls to Swans and Hull.

This kickstarts a trio of six-pointers for the Black Cats, who have to hope to be alive when this run starts.

Middlesbrough vs. Sunderland — 2:45 p.m. EDT on April 26

Hull City vs. Sunderland — May 6

Sunderland vs. Swansea City — May 13

Palace could well be safe by now, as their talent really does sit above a relegation race (Wilfried Zaha, Andros Townsend, and Christian Benteke alone make Sam Allardyce‘s task easier than it’s looked).

Crystal Palace vs. Hull City — May 13

Premier League Power Rankings: Man Utd up, Arsenal slides

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Leaps for Leicester City, Manchester United, and Bournemouth highlight our Power Rankings heading into this international break.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

TEAM RANKING
source:
20 (20) Sunderland: Jermain Defoe says he needs to play in the Premier League to represent England, which means the Black Cats would be hit extra hard by relegation.
200px-Middlesbrough_crest 19 (19) Middlesbrough: Finally scored a goal against Manchester United… but allowed three.
Hull City logo 18 (18) Hull City: Once Tom Huddlestone was sent off, the Tigers essentially quit against Everton. That’s troubling for manager Marco Silva.
source: 17 (15) Swansea City: A disappointing loss that threatens to halt Swans’ momentum toward safety.
source: 16 (11) Watford: Losers of three in four, and by almost any manner possible. The latest? Troy Deeney‘s pinpoint header into his own goal.
source: 15 (16) Crystal Palace: Another win! But it’s a bit alarming that it took an own goal for Palace to finish the job against Watford.

14 (14) Burnley: The Clarets haven’t won since the tail end of January.
logo_westham 13 (12) West Ham United: Slaven Bilic‘s future has to be in question as the Irons have regressed to below even Sam Allardyce era levels.
source: 12 (17) Bournemouth: Winners of consecutive PL matches for the first time since March 2016, and not a moment too soon for Eddie Howe‘s Cherries.
11 (13) Leicester City: Six points clear of safety and facing Atletico Madrid in the UEFA Champions League quarterfinals.
source: 10 (10) Southampton: Lost to a fine Spurs side after winning two-straight, and probably was good enough to get a point.
source: 9 (8) Stoke City: A gut punch to lose late to Chelsea.
source: 8 (5) Arsenal: Matches-in-hand keep Top Four dreams in play, but the Gunners have been awful.
source: 7 (9) West Bromwich Albion: Beating Arsenal after a pair of losses is the definition of rebounding in style.
source:
6 (3) Liverpool: An Adam Lallana missed sitter away from a much improved feeling, but that’s the Liverpool season in a nutshell.
5 (6) Everton: Given a remaining Merseyside Derby and the inconsistent play of both Liverpool and Arsenal, the Top Five isn’t out of the question.
Logo_Manchester_City 4 (4) Manchester City: Looked very much like a team nursing UCL wounds in the 1-1 draw against Liverpool, but it sure could have been worse.
source: 3 (7) Manchester United: Last Premier League loss? October 23.
source: 2 (2) Tottenham Hotspur: Scrapped a 2-1 win against tricky Southampton. Virtually identical season as Chelsea in terms of goals, goals conceded… just not wins.
source: 1 (1) Chelsea: Have won 10 of 15 on the road in league play after wins at Stoke and West Ham.

Premier League roundup: Chelsea delight, Arsenal misery

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Here’s what you may have missed from a seven-match day across England, including West Brom advertising for its “Behind the Badge” series (Watch Ep3 at 4:30 p.m. EDT Saturday on NBCSN) with a defeat of reeling Arsenal.

West Bromwich Albion 3-1 ArsenalRECAP

Craig Dawson scored a pair of goals and Hal Robson-Kanu added another as West Bromwich Albion heaped misery on Arsenal with a fourth Premier League loss in five outings.

Crystal Palace 1-0 WatfordRECAP

Troy Deeney headed a pinpoint effort… into his own goal as Palace gained some breathing room in the relegation battle.

Stoke City 1-2 ChelseaRECAP

Gary Cahill conceded the penalty that allowed Jon Walters to cancel out Willian‘s opener, and then scored the winner as Chelsea moved closer to coronation.

Everton 4-0 Hull CityRECAP

Hull was down 1-0 when it went down to 10 men, and Romelu Lukaku scored a brace in stoppage time to lead the Toffees sixth.

Sunderland 0-0 BurnleyRECAP

The Black Cats wasted a few chances and now sit seven points back of safety.

Bournemouth 2-0 Swansea CityRECAP

Alfie Mawson has been good of late for Swans, but saw Benik Afobe‘s shot take a turn off of him and defy Lukasz Fabianski to make it 1-0. Afobe added another, and the Cherries scooped up back-to-back wins for the first time since March 2016.

West Ham United 2-3 Leicester CityRECAP

Leicester’s heroes of 2015-16 were on point Saturday, as Riyad Mahrez, Robert Huth (!!), and Jamie Vardy all scored and Kasper Schmeichel made some key saves to make sure Manuel Lanzini and Andre Ayew’s goals were in defeat. It’s four-straight wins for the Foxes.

For more on Saturday’s action, listen to the latest 2 Robbies podcast.

Crystal Palace 1-0 Watford: Deeney own goal lifts Eagles

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  • Deeney scores own goal
  • Palace four clear of drop
  • Eagles take 4 of 6 pts from Hornets

Troy Deeney‘s finish appeared clinical, it just went in the wrong goal.

Crystal Palace continued its safety push with a bit of luck, winning 1-0 over visiting Watford at Selhurst Park on Saturday.

The win moves Palace four points clear of the drop zone and into 16th place, three spots behind Walter Mazzarri‘s Hornets.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Palace was on the front foot at home, and Wilfried Zaha should’ve earned a penalty when Craig Cathcart dropped him inside the 18. Roger East was not moved.

The cagey match didn’t find its breakthrough until the 69th minute, as Deeney headed Yohan Cabaye‘s free kick inside his own near post.

Halftime sub Abdoulaye Doucouré lashed a shot that Wayne Hennessey dove to push clear of the goal in the 76th minute.

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings ]

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]