Premier League Preview: Cardiff City vs. Fulham

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Saturday boasts a relegation six-pointer, as last-placed Fulham travel to Cardiff City Stadium to take on the Bluebirds, who are just one point above in the standings. (Watch live at 10 a.m. ET online via Live Extra).

Both sides have struggled in the Premier League this season, and both sides have undergone changes in hopes of ensuring survival. But will new faces – both on the field and in the dugout – be enough to keep either Cardiff or Fulham afloat?

Since coming in at the beginning of January, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has guided Cardiff to just one Premier League win, during which new Bluebirds Kenwyne Jones and Wilfried Zaha scored to cancel out Norwich’s early lead. Combined with a goalless draw with Aston Villa, that’s just four points from nine games for the new manager.

Something’s gotta give, you feel, as it doesn’t seem as though owner Vincent Tan is a patient man. But while not even three points will pull Cardiff into safety – unless they manage to close the -22 goal gap between themselves and West Bromwich Albion – Solskjaer will likely sleep much better should he take what amounts to six points from Fulham.

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Fulham, meanwhile, are on their third manager of the season. Felix Magath stepped in to replace René Meulensteen a few weeks ago – strangely enough, after the Liverpool barely managed to nick all three points from their match. Fellow strugglers West Brom came back to get a draw late in Magath’s first match in charge, then Fulham fell 3-1 to Chelsea last time out.

It doesn’t much help that Fulham, in addition to their many pickups over the January transfer window, appear to have acquired a record-breaking dud. Greek striker Kostas Mitroglou, who should have been able to help Fulham collect some goals, is injured once more, leaving fans wondering if they’ll ever see him in action. That leaves the Cottagers relying on Darren Bent up top. Hey, at least the striker managed an assist to Johnny Heitinga’s consolation goal last weekend.

What they’re saying

Magath on Premier League survival: “I’m convinced that we will avoid relegation because we’ve developed in the last 14 days,” Magath said. “The team is growing together and that is what makes me sure that we can avoid relegation.” The Fulham manager continued, “I get the feeling here that everybody knows that and everybody sleeps well with the knowledge there are games ahead of us we can win.”

Aron Gunnarsson on Cardiff’s desperate need for points:  “It’s what you call a six-pointer. It’s going to be a hard game. We know they’re fighting for the three points and they need the points as well,” said the Bluebirds midfielder. “Hopefully we’ll keep on fighting and get the points we need because we desperately need them at the moment.”

Prediction

A cautious game. What’s clear is that both sides need three, rather than one, points, but the fear of collecting none at all may lead to a dull affair. With Fulham’s forward problems and Cardiff having scored just 19 goals in 28 games (and no goals in 399 minutes), a free-flowing, frenetic affair seems highly unlikely. Should the deadlock be broken, expect the hosts to nick it, 1-0. Because a streak’s gotta end sometime, right?

Luchi Gonzalez named new FC Dallas head coach

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FC Dallas announced on Sunday that 38-year-old Luchi Gonzalez, the second-youngest head coach in MLS, has been chosen to replace the recently departed Oscar Pareja as head coach.

[ MORE: Report: Chrstiain Pulisic agrees Premier League transfer ]

Gonzalez, who was seen as the favorite to succeed Pareja since the day the job came open, has been director of the FCD academy, and head coach of the program’s hugely successful U-16 team, for the last three years. Prior to that, he served as a coach on the academy’s U-18 staff.

Pareja recently resigned from his post at FCD as he sought a new challenge. He was named the new boss at Liga MX side Club Tijuana last month.

Given Gonzalez’s appointment, and his intimate knowledge of an academy system bursting at the seams with elite prospects — not to mention the payroll which FCD has managed to shed already this offseason — it seems likely that the 2019 team skew extremely young. While Pareja was always painted as a champion of academy products, an uncomfortably large number of graduates were unable to establish themselves as members of the first team during his tenure.

Serie A: Napoli’s stoppage-time winner; Roma’s comeback

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A roundup of all of Sunday’s action in Italy’s top flight…

[ SATURDAY: Cristiano Ronaldo scores winner in his first Turin derby ]

Cagliari 0-1 Napoli

Arkadiusz Milik scored a stoppage-time winner to hand Napoli all three points and keep them within eight points of runaway leaders and presumed champions-elect Juventus.

Roma 3-2 Genoa

There is very little doubt about who will likely almost certainly win the Serie A title this season — that honor appears reserved for Juventus, for the eighth straight year — and Napoli and Inter Milan have pretty well established themselves as the second- and third-best teams, interchangeably, which leaves anywhere from three to nine teams with dreams of finishing fourth.

As things stand, five teams are within three points of fourth place, including Roma who needed a comeback (twice) to beat Genoa on Sunday and move to within two points of AC Milan for the final UEFA Champions League place. It should be noted that fourth-place Milan and fifth-place Lazio are yet to play their round-16 fixture.

A dreadful start to the season (just one win from their first five league games) has relented very little for Eusebio Di Francesco’s side which has now won just two of its last eight league games.

Krzysztof Piatek put the visitors ahead after just 17 minutes, only for Federico Fazio to level the score just after the half-hour mark. The 1-1 scoreline was short-lived, though, as Oscar Hiljemark restored Genoa’s lead in the 33rd minute. Justin Kluivert scored just before halftime, setting the stage for Roma to assume control in the second half.

Bryan Cristante smashed home the winner from just outside the penalty area, set up by Kluivert’s cushioned header, in the 59th minute.

Elsewhere in Serie A

SPAL 0-0 Chievo
Fiorentina 3-1 Empoli
Frosinone 0-2 Sassuolo
Sampdoria 2-0 Parma

Remaining Serie A schedule

Atalanta vs. Lazio — 2:30 p.m. ET (Monday)
Bologna vs. AC Milan — 2:30 p.m. ET (Tuesday)

Bundesliga: Leipzig join Gladbach, Bayern in 2nd-place battle

Jan Woitas/dpa via AP
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BERLIN (AP) Germany forward Timo Werner again scored twice to help Leipzig consolidate fourth place in the Bundesliga with a 4-1 home win over Mainz on Sunday.

Yussuf Poulsen also scored two goals as Leipzig maintained its unbeaten record at home this season and tightened its grip on the last qualification place for the Champions League.

Leipzig stayed two points ahead of Eintracht Frankfurt and two behind Borussia Moenchengladbach and Bayern Munich. Borussia Dortmund leads Bayern and Gladbach by nine points after 15 rounds.

If Werner scores in the league, fans have got used to expecting another goal – with his 10 goals coming in five games.

The former Stuttgart striker sealed Leipzig’s win in the 74th and claimed his second goal in the 88th off an assist from Poulsen, who grabbed two goals in five minutes in the first half.

Karim Onisiwo pulled one back before the break for Mainz, which remained 10th.

Mourinho hits out at “injury prone” Man United; praises Liverpool

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LIVERPOOL — Jose Mourinho insisted he was happy with the effort of his players in their 3-1 defeat at bitter rivals Liverpool on Sunday, but it didn’t take Manchester United’s manager long to start having a dig at his players “physicality”.

Once again.

[ MORE: 3 things we learned ]

Mourinho spoke to reporters after the humiliating defeat at Anfield, as the scoreline didn’t tell the story of just how dominant Liverpool were.

United lost Chris Smalling in the warm up and played an injured Eric Bailly, struggling Victor Lindelof and Ashley Young as the likes of Luke Shaw and Antonio Valencia were missing amid a string of injuries.

When asked about the style of his team Portuguese coach once again referred to “mad dogs” he had in his previous teams, and once again suggested this United squad do not possess the grit and ability to play through injury that he needs.

“First of all we have lots of problems related with physicality,” Mourinho said. “We have lots of players that I could consider injury prone. Some of our players are always injured. It is not just with me, it is before me. If you look to the stats with Mr. Van Gaal and David [Moyes], in that period we have players that are permanently injured. When you are permanently injured physicality is very hard to get.”

He then went on to describe the qualities his team has, and seemed to go around in circles before lauding Liverpool’s physical, high intensity players.

“Then you have qualities which a player either does or he doesn’t have. You cannot improve, make them have, I give you an example: Robertson, Mane, Salah, Wijnaldum, Keita, Fabinho. They are physical players, on top of that they are good players technically, I also have lots of good players, technically, but we don’t have many players with that intensity, with that physicality,” Mourinho said. “So when the game has high levels of intensity it is difficult for us. First 20 minutes was difficult for us. Then when we had the ball, the tension and intensity went down it was easier for us to be in the game and to bring the game into our side, to play the way we can. Those are our qualities.”

Not content with lauding Liverpool’s intensity and having a pop at the lack of physicality of United’s squad, Mourinho then went on a trip down memory lane, rattling off how great his teams at Porto, Real Madrid and Inter Milan were in different playing systems.

“You look to say some times that it is the managers choice. You can compare my Porto team with Liverpool. The qualities of the players are there,” Mourinho said. “It was my best team in defensive transition. We lose the ball, we bite like mad dogs and recover the ball after two seconds. In Real Madrid I had my best team in direct counter attack because I had young Di Maria, young Ronaldo, young Higuain and young Benzema. We killed everybody in offensive transition. In Inter I had my best team in a defensive low block, Materazzi, Samuel, Lucio, Cordoba in a low block you can be there five hours and you don’t concede a goal. Players make teams play in a certain way.”

Right now, whatever players Mourinho has at his disposal aren’t getting it done as they’re 11 points off the top four and have now lost away at Man City and Liverpool, as well as Brighton and West Ham.

“I believe we are going to make many more points in the second part of the season than we did in the first part,” Mourinho said. “I know we lost some of the other matches, but we played away at Liverpool, Chelsea and Manchester City, probably the three best teams apart from Tottenham. We played with them away.”

The excuses keep on rolling out of Mourinho’s mouth and with United’s banged up squad, and with star players being left on the bench such as Paul Pogba, the Red Devils look like they have no clear plan and are destined to finish outside of the top four.

One word can sum up United’s season so far under Mourinho: regression.

It is tough to see how he is going to turn this tide around and last beyond the end of the 2018-19 campaign.