Premier League Preview: West Ham United vs. West Bromwich Albion — Six-pointer kicks off Saturday

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  • West Brom have drawn both matches since Clarke ouster
  • West Ham have just one point from last five matches
  • Baggies hold slim series lead, 37W-20D-36L

Three points could give West Brom some breathing room or boost West Ham out of the relegation zone when the two sides butt heads early Saturday morning at the Boleyn Ground (watch live on NBCSN, 7:45am ET, via NBC Sports Live Extra).

Hammers boss Sam Allardyce is stressing all three points from the home fixture as West Ham struggles to find any semblance of form. Their only wins have come against Fulham, Spurs and Cardiff and their home record is a poor 2-2-5. To boot, the 19th place side will be without James Collins, who suffered a calf injury on Thursday.

Meanwhile, Keith Downing continues to play the role of caretaker following Steve Clarke’s sacking and has watched over consecutive draws to Hull and Spurs. West Brom’s three wins are tied for league-worst with West Ham and Sunderland, but a league-high eight draws have them in 15th place.

The Hammers haven’t been able to score, with just three in their last five matches and ‘0’ next to their name on nine separate occasions this season, but they can also boast eight clean sheets. No one in the Premier League has kept more.

This is the first time the two clubs will meet in consecutive Premier League seasons, as both have bounced up-and-down to the Championship in recent season. Last season saw West Ham win 3-1 at home and a scoreless draw at The Hawthorns. The clubs drew four-straight between the aforementioned Hammers win and a 3-2 home victory by the Baggies on Sept. 13, 2008.

What they’re saying

WHU striker Carlton Cole after his Boxing Day goal: “All I care about is winning. I don’t look at those sort of stats I just want to win games. Whether I score or not it doesn’t matter, I just want to win games. Today wasn’t the day but the next time we go out on that field if I’m starting, I just want to win that game. Whether I’m starting or not I just want to contribute to us winning the game.”

West Brom caretaker Keith Downing on playing twice in 48 hours: “Playing again in less than 48 hours is ludicrous. Asking the players to play twice in less than 48 hours, and provide quality and entertainment, doesn’t make sense That had some bearing on my team selection (at Spurs on Boxing Day). We’ve got a 22-man squad of players staying down here for three days and I’m sure the majority of them will be playing a part in the two games.”

Prediction

The X-factor in this match is the Collins injury and how the Hammers deal with it. Young, mercurial Irish forward Shane Long has now gone five matches without a goal since his brace against Aston Villa that gave him four goals in as many matches but continues to take his shots. He may be the difference maker in a low-scoring affair, but I’ll peg both teams to find the net in a 1-1 draw.

LIVE, UCL: Two knockout spots remain; Man City, Tottenham in play

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Two more spots in the knockout round remain unclaimed as the final day of group stage play begins on Wednesday.

Groups C and D both require a second team to progress through to the Round of 16, with five teams still in the mix.

[ LIVE: Champions League scores ]

Manchester City has already won Group D, but the remaining three teams Shakhtar Donetsk, Dinamo Zagreb, and Atalanta all remain in contention for the second spot. Shakhtar currently sits second and has a home match with Atalanta, while Dinamo Zagreb host Man City in Croatia. Both those games feature in the early 12:55 p.m. ET kickoffs.

Group D, meanwhile, has a pair of sides vying for the last spot. Atletico Madrid has a point advantage, currently sitting in second with a home match against already eliminated Russian side Lokomotiv Moscow. Bayer Leverkusen, meanwhile, hosts group winners Juventus in Germany.

Elsewhere, Tottenham Hotspur has already locked up a spot in the knockout stage, locked into the second spot in Group A, and they finish out the group stage with a visit to confirmed group winners Bayern Munich. Jose Mourinho told the press he forbid his players from watching any footage of the 7-2 defeat to Bayern to begin group stage play, and is resting “a few players” ahead of the festive Premier League fixtures.

Finally, Group A has already been decided with Real Madrid confirmed to finish second behind winners Paris Saint-Germain, but the two still have to complete the fixture list. Madrid heads to Belgium to take on Club Brugge, while PSG hosts Galatasaray. The Spanish side is most likely to rest players, with a weekend visit to Valencia coming up on Sunday followed by a midweek El Clasico that was rescheduled from earlier in the season.

Below is the full schedule for the last UCL games on Wednesday, with all games kicking off at 3 p.m. ET unless otherwise noted, and you can follow the action live by clicking on the link above.


Wednesday Champions League action

Group A

Club Brugge v. Real Madrid
Paris Saint-Germain v. Galatasaray

Group B

Bayern Munich v. Tottenham Hotspur
Olympiakos v. Red Star Belgrade

Group C

Dinamo Zagreb v. Manchester City (12:55 p.m. ET)
Shakhtar Donetsk v. Atalanta (12:55 p.m. ET)

Group D

Atletico Madrid v. Lokomotiv Moscow
Bayer Leverkusen v. Juventus

Late goalkeeper strike seals knockout spot in UEFA Youth League

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Club Brugge goalkeeper Senne Lammens may just be 17 years old, but he just lived every goalkeeper’s dream: to score a dramatic equalizer in the dying seconds of a game to send the club through to a European competition’s knockout stage.

The young goalkeeper came forward on a corner in the 94th minute of a game against Real Madrid in the UEFA Youth League Wednesday morning in Belgium. With the visitors leading 2-1 and added time just about expired, Brugge needed to score an equalizer to secure passage to the knockout stage, lest they be left at the mercy of Galatasaray’s match against PSG.

Lammens delivered. The corner swung in to the top of the six-yard box and the youngster was on hand to head home a pinpoint effort inside the far post.

The header was quite literally the last act of the game, with stoppage time already creeping more than 60 seconds past the minimum three added minutes.

Lammens has shuttled back and forth between the youth squad and the senior squad this season serving occasionally as an emergency third goalkeeper behind Simon Mignolet and Ethan Horvath. Mostly, though, he’s been with the youth squad appearing in five of their six UEFA Youth League games, with three wins and a draw.

Report: Arsenal not interested in Ancelotti “profile”

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According to The Athletic reporter David Ornstein, Arsenal is not interested in a manager of Carlo Ancelotti’s “profile.”

The Italian was recently let go by Napoli after a disappointing first half of the season despite qualifying for the Champions League knockout stage.

Ancelotti has won a Premier League title, three Champions League titles, and a Scudetto during his career but apparently a manager with his resume does not interest the Gunners, who may be looking for a more youthful boss with a longer-term strategy and potentially stronger club or domestic ties.

At 60 years old, Ancelotti has been fired from posts at Real Madrid, Bayern Munich, and now Napoli over the last four years. Over those four seasons, he has just one league title, the 2016/17 Bundesliga crown he won with Bayern in runaway fashion, and has exceeded expectations in very limited capacities, instead seeing things turn sour at each job relatively quickly. This season at Napoli, the club sits seventh in the Serie A table, mired in a horrible seven-match winless run that has seen them tumble further from the Champions League places.

Ornstein’s report also touched on the timeline of a potential hire, with the club apparently still deciding on whether to see out the season with interim manager Freddie Ljungberg or make a mid-season appointment. He states that the club “want situation settled asap” but also prefer “right man over quick decision.” He does not identify who the number one target is, but suggests that if that person is available at this point in time, they will make the hire mid-season, otherwise there will be a waiting game.

Jorge Sampaoli resigns as Santos boss

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Brazilian club Santos confirmed Tuesday evening that manager Jorge Sampaoli has resigned as boss.

Sampaoli, who won the 2015 Copa America in charge of Chile but could not recreate that success with the Argentinian national team, signed on with Santos a year ago and guided them to a second-place finish in the Brazilian top flight, 16 points behind runaway champions Flamengo. His contract had another year, expiring in the winter of 2020, but with reports of offers from multiple clubs, he has stepped down.

The most widely reported destination is fellow Brazilian club Palmeiras, whom many believe Sampaoli has already entered talks with. He has also been linked with Argentinian club Racing, and his name has cropped up on occasion with the Arsenal vacancy, although that seems like a longshot. It was said in late October that Sampaoli had an offer from an unnamed La Liga club, but those rumors have cooled.

His reason for leaving Santos after just one successful season in charge is unconfirmed, but rumors are circulating that Sampaoli had incredibly ambitious transfer plans for the offseason, and when club president Jose Carlos Peres could not guarantee his support, the relationship became strained.

The 2019 season was mostly successful for Sampaoli at Santos, finishing second in the league table, but the secondary competitions were somewhat disappointing. They received a tough first-round draw in the Copa Sudamericana, falling to River Plate on away goals. They were also ousted from the Copa do Brasil in the Round of 16, falling 2-1 to an Atletico Minero side that finished 13th in the league table.