Newcastle v. Sunderland: No Cabaye or Remy leaves Magpies in tight spot

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Saturday morning kicks-off with the second installment of the fantastic Tyne-Wear derby where Sunderland can record their first double over Newcastle since 1967 (watch live on NBCSN at 7:00am ET and online at NBC Live Extra).

Newcastle lost 2-1 at Sunderland back in October making it two straight derby victories for the Mackems, who also won last spring with Paulo Di Canio’s sideline knee-slides forever etched in our memories. The Magpies head into Saturday’s match in a precarious situation having sold their best player Yohan Cabaye to Paris Saint-Germain earlier this week and without star striker Loic Remy, who was hit with a three-match ban following his altercation with Norwich City midfielder Bradley Johnson in last Wednesday’s 0-0 draw.

Prior to Wednesday’s draw the Magpies comprehensively defeated West Ham United 3-1 at Upton Park to stop the bleeding on a three match losing streak (to Arsenal, Manchester City and West Brom). Alan Pardew is likely to hand a debut to on-loan striker Luuk de Jong but will be without Gael Bigiriama (ankle), Fabricio Colocinni (knee) and Ryan Taylor (knee), while Papiss Cisse (back) and Yoan Gouffran (knock) face late fitness tests.

Sunderland enters the match in their best form of the season, unbeaten in their last three matches. Since losing 0-1 to Aston Villa the Black Cats crushed Fulham 4-1, drew 2-2 with Southampton and beat Stoke 2-1, which was enough to put them two points clear of the relegation zone.

While Lee Cattermole (knock), Kieran Westwood (shoulder) and Carlos Cuellar (hip) are all out, Gus Poyet’s side will be boosted by the availability of new Argentine striker Ignacio Scocco and fellow compatriots defender Santiago Vergini and goalkeeper Oscar Ustari.

What They’re Saying

Newcastle striker Luuk De Jong: “I’m really motivated. The first half of the season hasn’t been nice for me because I didn’t play much. I just want to show my talent, score goals and be successful again. That is why I’m here.”

Sunderland winger Adam Johnson: “We’re confident, and if we can pick up some points away from home too we should be fine and there’s the cup final to look forward to. There’s plenty of positives.”

Prediction

Sunderland have been playing some superb football of late, especially Adam Johnson who looks to be staking his claim on the England World Cup squad. The Black Cats do the double over their staunch rivals.

New Premier League schedule for April announced

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The new Premier League schedule for April has been announced and there are plenty of changes to times and days.

This is always a huge month in the Premier League season, especially with the title about to be wrapped up, the top four battle set to go down to the wire and the relegation scrap heating up very nicely.

[ STREAM: Every PL match live ]

Take a look at the new schedule for April below and click on the link to watch every single Premier League game live across NBC Sports.


New Premier League schedule for April

April 4
7:30 a.m. ET: Aston Villa v. Wolves
12:30 p.m. ET: Sheffield United v. Tottenham

April 5
7:30 a.m. ET: West Ham v. Chelsea
12:30 p.m. ET: Man City v. Liverpool

April 6
3 p.m. ET: Everton v. Leicester

April 11
7:30 a.m. ET: Man United v. Bournemouth
12:30 p.m. ET: Tottenham v. Everton

April 12
9 a.m. ET: Chelsea v. Watford
11:30 a.m. ET: Liverpool v. Aston Villa

April 13
3 p.m. ET: Wolves v. Arsenal

April 18
7:30 a.m. ET: Crystal Palace v. Chelsea
12:30 p.m. ET: Arsenal v. Leicester

April 19
9 a.m. ET: Sheffield United v. Wolves
11:30 a.m. ET: Aston Villa v. Man United

April 20
3 p.m. ET: Brighton v. Liverpool

April 25
7:30 a.m. ET: Liverpool v. Burnley
12:30 p.m. ET: Brighton v. Man City

April 26
9 a.m. ET: Sheffield United v. Chelsea
11:30 a.m. ET: Tottenham v. Arsenal

Premier League Storylines: Matchweek 27

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Matchweek 27 is almost here in the Premier League and it is time to focus on the top storylines ahead of the action.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule

Below we take a deeper look and preview the big battles.


Lampard v. Mourinho in huge top 4 battle at Stamford Bridge [ STREAM ]

  • Chelsea v. Tottenham, Saturday (Watch live, 7:30 a.m. ET on NBCSN)

Talk about pivotal. So many storylines are swirling ahead of this one as Frank Lampard‘s Chelsea have won just four of their last 14 Premier League and are somehow still in fourth, but they are now just one point ahead of Jose Mourinho’s Spurs who at one stage were 11 points off the top four. This rivalry is always intense and both sets of players know what is expected. It may not be pretty but this London derby will be hugely important in deciding how the final months of the season pans out for both. Heung-min Son has joined Harry Kane on the injury list so Spurs will look to Steven Bergwijn and Lucas Moura for an attacking threat, while Frank Lampard is without Christian Pulisic (still) and N’Golo Kante with Tammy Abraham a doubt. The key man here could be Olivier Giroud who looks primed to play a big role either from the start or off the bench and his clinical finishing may be the difference. Expect plenty of antics from Mourinho on the sidelines as he returns to the Bridge, a place where he hasn’t won as an opposing manager since 2010 and no longer gets a warm welcome from the Chelsea faithful.


Chance for Guardiola’s boys to seal second [ STREAM ]

  • Leicester City v. Man City, Saturday (Watch live, 12:30 p.m. ET on NBC)

Man City have had themselves one of the toughest weeks in recent history as last Friday they were handed a two-season ban from European competitions by UEFA. Since then the fans have had their say with plenty of anti-UEFA banners and chants during their midweek home win against West Ham, while CEO Soriano has called the allegations ‘false’ and Pep Guardiola has said he will stay next season no matter what. They want all of the focus to now be on the pitch and they certainly look much better defensive with Aymeric Laporte back fit. He will have to stop Jamie Vardy and the Foxes and this should be a tight, tense game. Brendan Rodgers and Leicester sit in third and are four points back from City and if they have any hope of finishing in the second place, they need to at least not lose at the King Power Stadium. With a trip to Real Madrid coming up in the Champions League last 16 first leg next week, maybe Guardiola will rest a few starters for the trip to Leicester?


Surging Gunners, Toffees getting bounce from new managers [ STREAM ]

  • Arsenal v. Everton, Sunday (Watch live, 11:30 a.m. ET on NBCSN)

Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta is a former captain of Arsenal and Everton so this will always be a special game for him and as for Everton’s new man in charge, Carlo Ancelotti was linked with the Arsenal job again and again in recent seasons. Both coaches could have easily ended up in charge of their opponents this Sunday but both won’t care about that as the teams they are managing now are flying. Everton have lost just once in their last 11 games and have dragged themselves from a relegation battle to in the battle for European qualification. Arsenal sit one place and two points behind them as defensive improvement have been key to both teams turning things around. They’ve spent big money to add exciting attacking talents but their recent success is more about adding structure. This will be a tight game. That said, the Gunners are unbeaten in their last 23 league games against the Toffees, winning 19 times, and for whatever reason they just love playing against Everton in the Premier League.


Two steps forward for Man United? [ STREAM ]

  • Man United v. Watford, Sunday (Watch live, 9 a.m. ET on NBCSN)

They rode their luck with VAR calls going their way in a big win at Chelsea on Monday but all of a sudden Ole Gunnar Solskjaer‘s Man United are just three points off the top four. Will it be a case of one step forward and one step back like it has been all season long for them? Man United have beaten Chelsea (twice), Man City, Tottenham and Leicester City but they have lost against the likes of Bournemouth, Watford and West Ham to bring the back down to earth with a bang each and every time they looked like serious top four contenders once again. Anthony Martial is in fine form with goals in back-to-back games and the January additions of Bruno Fernandes and Odion Ighalo give them fresh options and extra creativity and power in the final third. Fernandes will be key against Watford as they will sit back, get 10 men behind the ball and try to hit the Red Devils on the counter. United need to develop a Plan B against teams who love to sit back against them and the Portuguese playmaker was brought in to help them break down stubborn opponents. United don’t need any help beating the big boys. It’s the strugglers they’ve struggled against this season but this is a chance for them to take two giant steps forward as defensively Harry Maguire, Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Eric Bailly, Luke Shaw and Brandon Williams look like a settled back five.

In the Mixed Zone with JPW: Episode 1

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NBC Sports’ Pro Soccer Talk lead writer and editor Joe Prince-Wright shares his behind-the-scenes access into the Premier League mixed zones highlighting the intriguing interviews from this week’s marquee matches.

This week, JPW shares his mixed zone interviews from Chelsea-Manchester United, Arsenal-Newcastle and Manchester City-West Ham.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

To listen to more from the mixed zone with Joe Prince-Wright as he takes you deep inside Premier League stadiums, subscribe to In the Mixed Zone with JPW Podcast on Apple Podcasts or anywhere you listen to podcasts.

And you can follow him on Twitter @JPW_NBCSports here.

Click here for In the Mixed Zone with archive ]

Click play below to listen to Episode 1 in full.

Pep reacts to Sterling’s Real Madrid comments

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Man City boss Pep Guardiola has responded to comments from his player Raheem Sterling about their upcoming UEFA Champions League opponents Real Madrid.

Sterling, 25, spoke to Spanish outlet AS and confirmed that he is really happy at Man City ‘right now’ but admitted that Real Madrid are a ‘fantastic club’ and waxed lyrical about their famous white shirt.

“Right now I’m at City and I’m really happy. But I say Real Madrid are a fantastic club,” Sterling said. “When you see the white shirt you know exactly what the club stands for, it’s massive. [Rumours of their interest], it’s something that you see all the time, but I’m a City player and I’m enjoying it at the moment, even if things haven’t gone quite planned in the league.

“We now have a massive opportunity in the Champions League. I keep saying Real Madrid is a fantastic club, there’s lovely weather, but I keep saying that I am quite happy at City. I have a contract with City now and I have to respect this. But it’s a fantastic club.”

The photo on the front of AS showed Sterling with a Real Madrid shirt on one shoulder and a Man City shirt on the other.

Guardiola was asked about his response to those comments and if he thought Sterling, or any other players, would be less committed to Man City given their two-year ban from European competitions.

“Players are free to talk and say what they believe and think,” Guardiola said. “We are not hear to tell them what they think. I am sure about the commitment of our players. They have shown it for many years and nothing changes.”

Sterling has returned to training after two weeks out through injury and he could play at Leicester City on Saturday (Watch live, 12:30 p.m. ET on NBC and online via NBCSports.com) as Guardiola’s men aim to open up a seven-point gap to third-place Leicester with a win.

Sterling’s comments are complimentary about Real Madrid and given their reported admiration for him for quite some time, the timing of saying this is a little odd given City’s ban from UEFA and so much uncertainty around the future of the club in the Champions League.

Despite Guardiola committing himself to staying at Man City for next season and until the end of his contract in the summer of 2021, his players will get plenty of offers to leave if the Champions League ban is upheld. Lionel Messi has joked that Barcelona should “sign the lot of them!” when asked about Sergio Aguero and others signing for the Spanish giants.

Sterling isn’t the first or last Man City player who will be targeted by European giants over the next few months as the situation remains uncertain.