Premier League Wednesday Preview: Moyes vs. Martinez and a Cross-London Clash

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The mid-week fixtures — isn’t this week like an extra holiday? — find full-form this afternoon after Marouane Chamakh headed Crystal Palace out of the basement Tuesday with a 1-0 home win over West Ham.

While David Moyes’ first match against his old Everton club is receiving the bulk of the attention ahead of the nine fixtures (watch them all live and online HERE), there’s plenty of intrigue surrounding the day’s matches. Let’s dig in, shall we?

Fulham vs. Tottenham Hotspur, 3pm ET
Spurs displayed decent road form right up until their brutal 6-0 defeat at the hands of Manchester City, but may find a decent tonic at Craven Cottage for an all-London affair. Fulham are losers of five-straight since a road win over Crystal Palace. Yet Fulham should be anything but a lame bunch after Sunday’s performance against West Ham costs Martin Jol his job. Longtime Manchester United assistant Rene Meulensteen will watch over his first match as manager.

Arsenal vs. Hull, 2:45pm ET
Winners of five-straight at home, the Gunners certainly are heavy favorites to take all three points against a Hull City Tigers team that — name debates aside — has one win and five losses in their away form (though Hull did dispatch of Liverpool 3-1 on the weekend). The first goal scored is always crucial but perhaps more so with these two teams, as Arsenal is 11-1-1 after scoring first in 13 of its last 20 matches, while Hull have conceded 11 times in 20 to the tune of a 1-0-10 mark in those matches.

Swansea City vs. Newcastle United, 245pm ET
Is red-hot Newcastle, holders of the Premier League’s longest-active win streak, going to assert itself as a top team in the league? Four-straight wins that include the likes of Chelsea and Spurs on the victim list would indicate ‘Yes’, but the Magpies have been prone to lesser follies than a road loss at Liberty Stadium. Manager Alan Pardew was all-but-sacked by supporters after a road loss to Sunderland, but can make it five-in-a-row with three points over the Swans, who have earned points in their last three matches at home (albeit versus Stoke, West Ham and the aforementioned Black Cats). Adding injuries to insult is the name of the game for Swansea, who will be without Wilfried Bony, Angel Rangel, Garry Monk and likely Michu.

Liverpool vs. Norwich City, 2:45pm ET
Norwich boss Chris Hughton has claimed no worries regarding an angry Liverpool squad that dropped all the points from an ugly fixture at Hull last weekend, and perhaps that’s because the Canaries road form is worrisome enough. Norwich is 1-5 in its last six away from Carrow Road but coming off a Gary Hooper-led home win over Crystal Palace. Liverpool has been strong at home, 5-1 over the last six and three on the bounce, and should be steaming. The Reds have Philippe Coutinho back while Norwich has fresh injury problems with Robert Snodgrass, Anthony Pilkington and Ricky van Wolfswinkel joining the walking wounded.

Manchester United vs. Everton, 2:45pm ET
Oh, this should be a beauty. Can you imagine the noise at Old Trafford should Roberto Martinez come into David Moyes new digs and take care of business with the Scottish manager’s old charges? This has all the makings of a cracker, as United haven’t lost in seven matches since their home setback to West Brom and Everton are unscathed through six (outscoring opponents 11-4 in those contests).

Our own Mike Prindiville let fly with a lengthy piece on this NBC-featured match on Tuesday morning. If you missed it, you need to dig in.

Southampton vs. Aston Villa, 2:45pm ET
True: the Saints lost two top tests against Chelsea and Arsenal, but that should not be held against them for a home tilt versus Aston Villa. Southampton remains unbeaten at home, where they’ve conceded just twice, and Rickie Lambert will have Aston Villa on red alert, as the Villan killer struck thrice against them last season. For their part, the Claret and Blue have not lost in four overall. AV will be hoping Andreas Weimann’s weekend hamstring tightness is gone ahead of the clash.

Stoke City vs. Cardiff City, 2:45pm ET
Here are two teams in Bottom Five form, although Stoke has points from its last three home fixtures. Cardiff, however, is struggling overall and on the road. The Bluebirds are 1-5 in their last six. Stoke are unbeaten in six against Cardiff (4-2-0) and Jonathan Walters has been big for the Potters in those contests, scoring thrice in four appearances.

Sunderland vs. Chelsea, 245pm ET
Mourinho’s boys are humming, with 13 points in their last six fixture, while Sunderland — yes, Sunderland — are winners of two-straight at home. Guy Poyet’s charges received a boost when John O’Shea had a good training session, plus the Blues will be missing David Luiz and Oscar. History is on Chelsea’s side as they’ve won 16 of 17 Premier League games against Sunderland. Those are wins, not points.

West Bromwich Albion vs Manchester City, 3pm ET
Man City’s road demons are well-documented and the Hawthorns isn’t exactly the prescription for resurgence despite the Baggies poor form. West Brom has just two points in its last three matches and six from six. City’s 1-1-4 in its last six away from the Etihad Stadium. Vincent Kompany could be back after a 10-game layoff and he’ll likely be in front of Costel Pantilimon, who continues to impress between the sticks in Joe Hart’s stead. The Telegraph brings the ugly stat that West Brom have scored just once in their last six matches against City.

Be sure to get your fix across all of our NBC platforms, live and online.

Khedira laughs off Swedish reporter’s offer of tickets home

AP Photo/Matthias Schrader
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Juventus midfielder Sami Khedira brushed off a gesture from a Swedish reporter, trading a bit of banter ahead of Germany’s big World Cup match against Sweden on Saturday.

Germany fell 1-0 to Mexico in its opener while Sweden beat South Korea, leading a playful Swede to hand Khedira boarding passes for a flight home to Germany.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

Khedira’s reply? He joked that Sweden won’t be a problem and he’ll use the tickets after the World Cup Final.

From Goal.com:

“After this bad start, we know that it’s super difficult, but we know that we are a strong team. We analysed the game, we saw Sweden play and we are sure that we are winning this game.

“I think we’ll need them [plane tickets] on the 16th of July.”

Report: Newcastle’s Clark knocked out on Spanish dance floor

Scott Heavey/PA via AP
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A wild story out of Spain says an Englishman knocked Newcastle United defender Ciaran Clark unconscious at a night club.

[ MORE: Sampaoli defends Messi ]

Clark was on vacation in Spain, where he was spending time at Crystal’s Bar in Punta Ballena, Magaluf very early Sunday morning.

Clark and a man “in his 30s” got into an argument that saw the Irish defender knocked out, according to the BBC.

Clark was left unconscious and taken to hospital after an argument between him and the suspect broke out on the dance floor.

The 28-year-old suffered cuts and bruises to his face.

Clark, 28, scored twice in 20 Premier League appearances this season, his second at St. James’ Park.

WATCH: World Cup, Day 9 — Iceland’s next step, Brazilian bounce back?

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Brazil is one of the favorites of the 2018 World Cup, while Iceland is the smallest nation to qualify for the world’s biggest tournament.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

On Friday, both enter their second match days feeling quite different after 1-1 draws.

They won’t face each other, of course, but the contrast is striking nevertheless.

Brazil opens the day’s action when it squares off with Costa Rica, who fell to Serbia in the opener. For Serbia, a dark horse of the tournament, it will be a meeting with Switzerland.

Then there’s Iceland’s bid to climb into the Group D driver’s seat by knocking off Nigeria. A win from Iceland would make Lionel Messi and Argentina’s task of qualifying for the knockout rounds extremely unlikely.

Below is Friday’s schedule in full.

Click here for live and on demand coverage of the World Cup online and via the NBC Sports App.


2018 World Cup schedule – Wednesday, June 20

Group D
Nigeria vs. Iceland: Volgograd, 11 a.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE

Group E
Brazil vs. Costa Rica: Saint Petersburg, 8 a.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE
Serbia vs. Switzerland: Kaliningrad, 2 p.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE

Sampaoli defends Messi, blasts Argentina

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Jorge Sampaoli is lambasting his team after a 3-0 loss put Argentina on the edge of failing to qualify for the 2018 World Cup’s knockout rounds.

“The reality of the Argentina squad clouds Lionel Messi’s brilliance,” Sampaoli said. “The team doesn’t gel as well as it should.”

[ MORE: Modric urges humility ]

Sampaoli said his players could not find a way to get the ball to Messi, and that the introduction of Boca Juniors youngster Cristian Pavón was aimed at opening up the field a little bit.

And Sampaoli is not shying away from the long-discussed comparison between Messi and Portuguese star Cristiano Ronaldo. From the BBC:

“Cristiano is a great player and he has achieved a lot with club and country. Right now it is hard to compare these two players because of the ability in the Argentinian squad clouds the judgment. Leo is in a difficult position because the squad doesn’t gel with him. As coach I have to accept that. I don’t feel shame but I definitely feel pain. It has been a long time since I have gone through this experience as a coach and obviously it is more painful when I’m wearing the colours of my country.

“We have no alternative but to give it our all in the final match. We have not performed at the level the country expects. We were ambitious ahead of the game but now it is harder for us as a group. We did think this would be the match we can take off as a team, but it wasn’t in the end. I think this is an excellent squad but we didn’t gel or come together. We need to take advantage of the next match, when the pressure will be on, and hope to progress.”

Now, of course Sampaoli is going to defend Messi, but Argentina’s team is not chopped liver. The side certainly isn’t as deep or solid as Croatia, but 1-1 with Iceland preceded this one.

That said, Argentina’s performance once Croatia essentially decided to surround Messi was unacceptable. If favored Nigeria doesn’t handle its business against Iceland, the World Cup finalists won’t have a prayer of going back.