Premier League Relegation Watch: Who’s primed to go down (Matchweek 28)

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With only nine points separating 12th placed Hull City from last placed Fulham, the Premier League relegation race is set to come down to the wire.

With Matchweek 28 complete, here’s where the relegation watch currently stands.

12. HULL CITY 30 PTS (28 PLD)

Remaining Matches (10): Manchester City (H); West Bromwich Albion (H); West Ham United (A); Stoke City (A); Swansea City (H); Manchester United (A); Arsenal (H); Fulham (A); Aston Villa (A); Everton (H)

League Form: LDWLWL

Other Competitions: FA Cup (v. Sunderland on March 9th)

Injuries: Robbie Brady, groin (no return date); Paul McShane, ankle (no return date)

Vegas odds to be relegated: 10/1

Verdict: With the exception of this past weekend, there is nothing about Hull City that makes them look like a side facing relegation.

13. STOKE CITY 30 PTS (28 PLD)

Remaining Matches (10): Norwich City (A); West Ham United (H); Aston Villa (A); Hull City (H); Chelsea (A); Newcastle United (H); Cardiff City (A); Tottenham (H); Fulham (H); West Bromwich Albion (A)

League Form: LWDDLW

Other Competitions: None

Injuries: Peter Odemwingie, calf (March 8th); Oussama Assaidi, knee (no return date); Robert Huth, knee (March 8th)

Vegas odds to be relegated: 16/1

Verdict: The Potters have what looks to be the easiest end of the season schedule of any relegation threatened sides. It would be shocking if they went down.

14. SWANSEA CITY 29 PTS (28 PLD)

Remaining Matches (10): Arsenal (PPD, A); West Bromwich Albion (H); Everton (A); Norwich City (H); Hull City (A); Chelsea (H); Newcastle United (A); Aston Villa (H); Southampton (H); Sunderland (A)

League Form: WLWDLD

Other Competitions: None

Injuries: Pablo Hernandez, hamstring (no return date); Jonjo Shelvey, hamstring (no return date); Michu, ankle (no return date)

Vegas odds to be relegated: 12/1

Verdict: They have a number of quality players beaten up but Swansea have too much swagger and too easy a final schedule to go down.

15. NORWICH CITY 28 PTS (28 PLD)

Remaining Matches (10): Stoke City (H); Southampton (A); Sunderland (H); Swansea City (A); West Bromwich Albion (H); Fulham (A); Liverpool (H); Manchester United (A); Chelsea (A); Arsenal (H)

League Form: DLDLWL

Other Competitions: None

Injuries: Robert Snodgrass, wrist (no return date); Ricky van Wolfsfinkle, knee (no return date); Leroy Fer, hamstring (no return date); Jonas Gutierrez, calf (March 8th); Michael Turner, hamstring (March 15th); Elliot Bennett, knee (March 29th)

Vegas odds to be relegated: 2/1

Verdict: Norwich’s season will be determined in the next six weeks via matches with relatively easy opponents. After that, the road gets darn near impossible with Liverpool, United, Chelsea and Arsenal closing out their season.

Without Snodgrass, van Wolfsfinkel and Fer it’s going to take a herculean effort from Chris Hughton’s men – and a little bit of luck – if Norwich are to stay up. I worry for the Canaries.

16. CRYSTAL PALACE 27 PTS (27 PLD)

Remaining Matches (11): Everton (PPD, A); Southampton (H); Sunderland (A); Newcastle United (A); Chelsea (H); Cardiff City (A); Aston Villa (H); West Ham United (A); Manchester City (H); Liverpool (H); Fulham (A)

League Form: WWLWLD

Other Competitions: None

Injuries: Kagisho Dikgacoi, back (no return date); Joe Ledley, hip (no return date)

Vegas odds to be relegated: 15/8

Verdict: Their brilliant run of form (winning three of four) has come to an abrupt stop and reality is setting in for Palace. They’re relatively healthy, have a game in hand and a schedule that’s favorable to staying up but it will be air tight for Tony Pulis’ side.

17. WEST BROMWICH ALBION 25 PTS (27 PLD)

Remaining Matches (11): Sunderland (PPD, H); Manchester United (H); Swansea City (A); Hull City (A); Cardiff City (H); Norwich City (A); Tottenham (H); Manchester City (A); West Ham United (H); Arsenal (A); Stoke City (H)

League Form: DLDLDD

Other Competitions: None

Injuries: Billy Jones, hamstring (no return date); Claudio Yacob, hamstring (March 8th; Nicholas Anelka, suspension (April 12th); Stephane Sessegnon, groin March 8th)

Vegas odds to be relegated: 5/2

Verdict: They’ve been horrible of late and face a difficult schedule down the line. With the unproven Pepe Mel at the helm and injuries to four key starters, Baggies fans will be low on confidence.

18. SUNDERLAND 24 PTS (26 PLD)

Remaining Matches (12): Manchester City (PPD, A); West Bromwich Albion (PPD, H); Crystal Palace (H); Norwich City (A); Liverpool (A); West Ham United (H); Tottenham (A); Everton (H); Chelsea (A); Cardiff City (H); Manchester United (A); Swansea City (H)

League Form: WDWWLL

Other Competitions: FA Cup (v. Hull City on March 9th)

Injuries: Keiren Westwood, shoulder (no return date)

Vegas odds to be relegated: 7/4

Verdict: Despite being favored to go down the Black Cats have been steadily improving and have two games in hand on their fellow relegation contenders. Bowing out of the FA Cup could prove vital for Gus Poyet’s side, who face an incredibly difficult schedule down the run.

19. CARDIFF CITY 22 PTS (28 PLD)

Remaining Matches (10): Tottenham Hotspur (A); Fulham (H); Everton (A); Liverpool (H); West Bromwich Albion (A); Crystal Palace (H); Southampton (A); Stoke City (H); Sunderland (A); Newcastle United (A); Chelsea (H)

League Form: LWLDLL

Other Competitions: None

Injuries: Craig Noon, knock (no return date); Mark Hudson, hamstring (no return date)

Vegas odds to be relegated: 1/5

Verdict: With their horrid current form and new manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer showing little signs of being able to maneuver Cardiff through this mess, the Bluebirds look destined to go down.

20. FULHAM 21 PTS (28 PLD)

Remaining Matches (10): Cardiff City (A); Newcastle United (H); Manchester City (A); Everton (H); Aston Villa (A); Norwich City (H); Tottenham Hotspur (A); Hull City (H); Stoke City (A); Crystal Palace (H)

League Form: LLDLDL

Other Competitions: None

Injuries: Brede Hangeland, head injury (no return date); Damien Duff, knock (no return date); Fernando Amorebieta, muscle injury (no return date); Matt Briggs, groin (no return date)

Vegas odds to be relegated: 1/4

Verdict: Will decent talent and Felix Magath help Fulham do the impossible? A doable end of the season schedule says there’s a chance.

Fan banned from all NWSL games after investigation

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A person who directed racist taunts at Portland Thorns’ goalkeeper Adrianna Franch has been banned from attending National Women’s Soccer League games.

A fan at the Sept. 6 game between the Thorns and Utah Royals in Salt Lake City first called attention to the unidentified person on Twitter. The tweet was later deleted, but both the Thorns and Royals, as well as the league, investigated the incident.

The NWSL issued a statement Saturday saying the person was identified. In addition to being banned from NWSL matches, the person – who was not identified publicly by the league – was also banned from attending events at Rio Tinto Stadium.

“NWSL will not tolerate inappropriate fan behavior,” the league’s statement said. “Racism has no place in our sport.”

The Royals also offered “thanks in no small part to assistance from fans seated in the vicinity,” for identifying the offending party.

A few days after the incident, Franch posted a statement to Twitter: “The situation surrounding our game Friday night is not a NEW issue, nor is it a first for me. RACISM is NOT okay in any form!! We as a HUMAN RACE can be better and should be better. We as a SPORT can help show the way.”

Franch was on the roster of the U.S. national team that won the Women’s World Cup this summer in France.

More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/apf-Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

MLS Wrap: What we learned

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Here’s what we learned from MLS’ jam-packed action on Saturday.

[ MORE: All of PST’s MLS coverage ]

NYCFC rally to edge San Jose, remain first in Eastern Conference 

Dominating possession and taking a healthy amount of shots, it seemed like the San Jose Earthquakes were going to pull off a Matias Almeyda-era victory in New York City on Saturday.

But in just the span of three minutes, NYCFC changed the landscape of the game completely, scoring twice right before halftime. Keaton Parks recorded his first league goal in the 40th minute. In the 43rd, the Eastern Conference leaders put together this (yes, the covered half the field just like that):

Like in the sequences that led to the home side’s goals, the Quakes’ confidence to overtake the scoreline took a hit, failing to finish a number of chances following attack-heavy substitutions in the second half. As a result, San Jose, who are fighting for a playoff spot, dropped their fourth straight game on the road.

Speaking with media after their 2-1 loss, Almeyda – despite praising NYCFC as being one of the league’s best – took shots at Yankee Stadium’s field size. Should the league care? Absolutely. NYCFC? Not at all, just look at their record.


FC Cincinnati win first game under Ron Jans

FC Cincy supporters can finally rejoice, even their 1-0 win in Montreal wasn’t ideal.

The league’s youngest team ended up with 10-men late in the game. Kendall Watson was shown a straight red card, but Ron Jans earned his first three points at the helm. Early in the game, Allan Cruz’s goal foreshadowed what was to come for the Ohioan side following the final whistle: a celebration.

 

The Impact (37 points) remain three points behind New England, while Cincinnati (21 points) look to finish strong in order to avoid the ugly side of the history books. 

Carlos Vela rejoins LAFC, scores

There’s no way around it: LAFC is a completely different team with (or without) Carlos Vela, who can’t stop scoring.

The Mexican recorded his 28th goal of the season (six behind Jose Martinez’s single-season record) in the Supporter Shield favorite’s 1-1 draw in Philadelphia. It wasn’t a Vela-esque sequence at all, but it was enough to change the score.

The Union, who played without Marco Fabian because of his absence in the team’s meeting on Friday, opened the scoring. Three minutes in, Kacper Przybyłko’s floating header surprised Tyler Miller, giving the home side a perfect start in front of a noisy Talen Energy Stadium.

Just a couple of months ago, these were the two best teams in the league. LAFC remain atop of the Western Conference. The Union, however, are now five points behind NYCFC.


Crew trounce Atlanta United 3-1 despite Josef Martinez’ goal

Caleb Porter’s Columbus Crew, arguably, play the most effective soccer out of all the teams that are on the outside looking in when it comes to qualifying for the playoffs this season.

On Saturday, despite being statistically outdone by Atlanta United, the Crew managed to execute their chances, scoring three goals on only four shots on target. Gyasi Zardes, a pivotal piece of their attack, scored his 12th goal of the season. Costa Rican Luis Diaz added one of his own in the second half, before Miles Robinson’s own-goal 25 minutes later sealed three points for Columbus.

No goal, however, had as much significance as Josef Martinez’s.

The Venezuelan scored for a 14th consecutive game, making it the third longest streak in the history of the sport. The 26-year-old is now seven games away from Lionel Messi’s world record set in 2014.

Third in the Eastern Conference, nine points away from NYCFC with six games to go, don’t count the single-season scoring king to hold back from wanting to break the record.

Elsewhere in MLS

Chicago Fire 4-0 FC Dallas 

Orlando City 3-3 New England Revolution

Vancouver Whitecaps 2-1 Houston Dynamo

Serie A roundup: Inter edge 10-man Udinese

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Napoli and Inter Milan walked away winners in Saturday’s Serie A action.

Inter Milan 1-0 Udinese

After three games, Antonio Conte‘s spell at Inter Milan remains in immaculate shape.

According to the table, there is no better team than I Nerazzurri, who have won their first three league matches – notching seven goals and conceding only one along the way. In other words, the Italian’s astute coaching style remains effective.

Despite, Inter’s convincing play throughout the 90 minutes, only a goal would separate them from visiting Udinese, who played a with 10 players from the 35th minute on, following Rodrigo De Pual’s slap to the back of Antonio Candreva’s head.

In the 44th minute, Stefano Sensi – one of the smallest players on the field – headed the ball into the back of the net. Late in the game, Alexis Sanchez nearly scored in his Inter debut.

In the end, Udinese were no match for Antonio Conte and Co., who find themselves in prime form heading into their Champions League return midweek.

Up next for Inter in league play: Derby della Madonnina. Udinese, on the hand, host Brescia.

Napoli 2-0 Sampdoria

Dries Mertens is the gift that keeps on giving for Napoli.

To be exact, the Belgian gifted his team two goals on Saturday. 13 minutes in, following a perfectly-placed cross from Giovanni Di Lorenzo, Mertens’ first-time strike was unstoppable for Emil Audero.
Emiliano Rigoni had Sampdoria’s best chance of the night in a one-on-one opportunity with Alex Meret. The Argentine, however, wasted one of the visiting side’s two chances all night.
Then in the 67th minute – with some luck on his corner -Mertens completed his brace off a deflected shot, giving his team their second win of the season.

Quick turnaround for Napoli as they host Liverpool midweek before traveling to take on Lecce in league play, while Sampdoria take on Torino next.

Elsewhere in Serie A

Fiorentina 0-0 Juventus

La Liga roundup: Real Sociedad spoil Atletico Madrid’s perfect start

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Atletico Madrid’s first hiccup of the season headlines Saturday’s La Liga action.

[ FOLLOW: PST’s La Liga coverage ]

Real Sociedad 2-0 Atletico Madrid

La Liga had an upset of their own.

Atletico Madrid remain league leaders, but their undefeated record is no more after a 2-0 loss to Real Sociedad in San Sebastian.

Both sides played to a quiet first half, but in the 58th minute Martin Odegaard opened the score in front of a packed Anoeta, as his left-footed shot was deflected by Stefan Savic.

Just two minutes later, in his Real Sociedad debut, longtime Arsenal fullback Nacho Monreal tapped in a second chance inside the box, following an initial stretching save from Jan Oblak.

Diego Simeone’s side pushed desperately in the latter stages of the game; not enough to get passed Miguel Moya, though.

La Reala sets their sights on Espanyol, while Los Colchoneros, with Athletic Bilbao and Real Madrid at their heels, look to bounce back against Celta Vigo.

Real Madrid 3-2 Levante

Real Madrid conceded two goals in the second half in Saturday’s game, but their formidable first 45 minutes was enough to help them walk away a wet Santiago Bernabeu with three, precious points.

Coming on in the 60th minutes, Eden Hazard and Militao made their La Liga debuts with Zinedine Zidane’s side.

With two goals in six minutes, Karim Benzema gave the home side an early comfortable lead. Shortly before the halftime whistle, Casameiro added his own, following an assist from Vinicius Junior.

Despite falling short, Levante quickly got after evaporating Real Madrid’s first-half dominance. In the 49th minute, Borja Mayoral, cutting through Raphael Varane and Sergio Ramos, put one past Thibaut Courtois.

Following Benzema’s post-rattling shot and disallowed Real Madrid goal by VAR, Gonzalo Melero’s header gave the visiting side their final goal of the bout.

One point behind rivals Atletico Madrid, Real Madrid look for another victory against Sevilla. Elsewhere, Levante, who are in decent shape, host Eibar next.

Elsewhere in La Liga

Barcelona 5-2 Valencia

RCD Mallorca 0-0 Athletic Bilbao

Leganes 0-3 Villareal