Premier League Preview: Everton vs. Cardiff City

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Cardiff City need a result at Goodison Park on Saturday – but the struggling Bluebirds will have to take points off an Everton side that have lost just once at home this season (Watch live at 11 a.m. ET online via Live Extra).

Everton’s only home loss this season came at the hands of, of all sides, Sunderland – which might give Cardiff some hope. The visitors will also be bolstered by last weekend’s 3-1 victory over Fulham, their first in five matches. But Cardiff aren’t safe yet, occupying the final spot in the Premier League relegation zone and in danger of being pushed down by Sunderland’s three games in hand.

The Toffees have had a bit of a tough time as of late. In addition to a 4-1 loss to Arsenal that knocked them out of the FA Cup last weekend, Everton lost to both Spurs and Chelsea by a 1-0 scoreline, before finally managing to beat West Ham by the same score two weeks ago – and even that win required a late goal from substitute Romelu Lukaku.

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Everton are currently one place back of the final Europa League spot, but they’re even on points with Manchester United and still have two games to make up. But to finish in the top six, they’ll need to be practically perfect from here on out, meaning Roberto Martínez will need his side to be fit and healthy, and he’ll need to be using his best players for every match.

There was some criticism after Martínez elected to use Joel to face Arsenal in the Cup last weekend, but don’t worry – it’ll be Tim Howard in goal this time around. No word yet, however, on whether Everton captain Phil Jagielka returns to defense after missing the last two matches with a hamstring injury.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is blessed with an almost fully-fit squad, with only defender Ben Turner in doubt, after he picked up an injury in the win over Fulham. However, it was his center back partner, Steve Caulker, that scored two against Fulham, and he’ll certainly get the nod this week. Upfront it’ll likely be Kenwyne Jones alone, although both Craig Bellamy and Wilfried Zaha are pushing to return to the starting lineup.

What they’re saying

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer on Cardiff’s fight to avoid the drop: “The pressure is not off after win against Fulham, but three points does help the team and players. A win is always good, but we know it’s going to be a two month test of character and team spirit. It was a great start in what was an important game against a team who are bottom. There were lots of positives, but nobody will relax now.”

Roberto Martínez on Everton’s push for Europe: ‘This is a very intense period and we were disappointed to leave the FA Cup. Can we get top four? Mathematically we can. It’s still achievable. Reaching Europe would be a massive step forward, it would bring the massive nights we want that helps us grow as a club.”

Prediction

Home win. Cardiff may have bagged multiple goals last weekend, but that was against Fulham. Everton will be itching to come back from their rather embarrassing defeat to Arsenal, and they’ll be hyper-aware of the need to collect three points to keep hold of a European position.

De Gea signs new Man United contract

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Dave stays.

David De Gea has finally signed a new contract at Manchester United.

After months of talks, the 28-year-old has agreed to a new four year contract, which also includes the option to extend by another year.

Reports suggest that De Gea could earn up to $434,000 per week, making him the best-paid goalkeeper on the planet.

Speaking to the club website about extending his stay at Old Trafford, De Gea was delighted to finally sign the deal and remain in the Premier League after reported interest from both Juventus and Real Madrid.

“It has been a privilege to spend eight years at this great club and the opportunity to continue my career at Manchester United is a genuine honor,” De Gea said. “Since I arrived here, I could never have imagined I would play over 350 games for this club. Now my future is fixed, all I want is to help this team achieve what I believe we can and win trophies again, together.

“As one of the senior players in the squad, I want to support and lead in any way that I can to assist the younger players, so they know what it means to play here. I still feel that I have so much more to achieve at the club and I truly believe that Manchester United can build on the club’s tradition of success and reward our fans for their support. I am committed to continue repaying the fans for all of the care that they’ve shown me during the good times and the bad.”

That last line is key here. De Gea and United have had plenty of wobbles over the past six months, with the Spanish goalkeeper making some big errors at the tail end of last season as they dropped out of the top four race in disappointing fashion.

There is no doubt these lengthy contract negotiations played their part in De Gea’s dip in form, but there’s also no doubting his supreme quality as one of the best goalkeepers on the planet.

Nailing him down to a new long-term deal was a necessity and United and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will be relieved that it’s done. To replace a goalkeeper of De Gea’s quality would’ve cost the Red Devils at least $100 million, and this is a massive reward for DDG after his years of exceptional play.

He arrived in 2011 and has become one of the best goalkeepers on the planet, as he won four of the last six club Player of the Season awards.

A fully focused De Gea is wonderful news for United, as their defense is improving with two clean sheets and just four goals conceded so far this season.

Along with Harry Maguire, Luke Shaw, Victor Lindelof and Aaron Wan-Bissaka, all of a sudden this United defense has a very settled look to it.

Mane: Feud with Salah is over

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Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah are friends again.

Sort of.

Following Mane’s angry reaction to not being passed the ball by Salah in their win at Burnley before the international break, there were concerns that the relationship between the two star forwards would impact their play on the pitch.

But speaking to French outlet Canal+ after their 3-1 win against Newcastle United on Saturday, Mane put a lid on the matter.

“With Salah? It’s forgotten,” Mane said. “Sometimes you have to say things face to face. These are things that happen in football, sometimes it happens that I am not given the pass. But we have reconciled and become the good friends we were before.”

That’s that then.

Salah posted the following video ahead of the weekend, which says it all.

Mane scored twice on Saturday to continue his stunning start to the season, so it hasn’t impacted his form. But Salah, the Egyptian King and darling of Anfield, has come out of this worse.

Liverpool fans, generally, were on Mane’s side in this disagreement and the Senegalese attacker has been applauded for his response.

Will this impact Salah’s confidence and the fluidity of Liverpool front three? Probably not.

As Mane said, these things happen in football but it does prove that despite all of the success something has been brewing behind-the-scenes at Liverpool.

Arsenal “too scared” of Watford in collapse

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Arsenal captain Granit Xhaka admitted the Gunners were “too scared” of Watford as they collapsed in the second half.

Leading 2-0 at half time thanks to Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Arsenal were totally outplayed in the second half as Watford roared back to draw 2-2 at Vicarage Road on Sunday.

Speaking after the game, Xhaka said the Arsenal players were not confident enough to see out the game.

“No-one wanted the ball. In the end we are happy to take a point,” Xhaka said. “We didn’t show our game in the second half, we were too scared… Every team in the Premier League is strong enough to score but you have to keep calm, to show good character, to be mentally strong. We weren’t today.”

If only this was a rare occurrence for Arsenal.

Under Unai Emery their defensive collapses have been frequent, and this issue even dates back to Arsene Wenger‘s final few seasons in charge.

Arsenal were their own worst enemies on Sunday.

Instead of playing the ball out of dangerous areas they tried to play short goal kicks time and time again and were caught in possession on several occasions. David Luiz gave away a penalty kick, Xhaka and Mateo Guendouzi were overrun in central midfield in the second half and in the end they were lucky to grab a point.

Trying the same things time and time again and expecting different results is just bonkers, and that is what this Arsenal squad is going.

Luiz, Bernd Leno, Sokratis and Xhaka are players Arsenal have built their defensive core around, and the same issues keep cropping up when they are in the team. Adding Luiz to the mix after losing Laurent Koscielny was a risk and it seems like a move which will backfire for the Gunners.

It is true that defenders Rob Holding, Hector Bellerin and Kieran Tierney are all close to returning from injury, so when that happens perhaps we will see a newfound defensive solidity and things will improve.

Then again, it’s likely neutral everywhere will be grabbing their popcorn whenever Arsenal play this season because you’re guaranteed entertainment at both ends of the pitch.

Galaxy hammer Sporting KC; Zlatan: “I’m the best ever in MLS”

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LA Galaxy smashed Sporting Kansas City 7-2 on Sunday, as Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored a hat trick then called himself the best player in MLS history.

Just a casual Sunday for Zlatan, then…

Ibrahimovic, 37, scored a hat trick as LA raced into a 7-1 lead after falling 1-0 behind early on as Felipe Gutierrez scored both of Sporting’s goals.

Speaking to reporters after the game, Ibrahimovic was typically humble after his hat trick which means he now holds the record for the highest scoring season in Galaxy history with 26 goals.

“I think I am the best ever to play in MLS. And that’s without joking,” Ibrahimovic said. “Scoring goals is easy, you just have to be like Zlatan and it’s coming.”

Zlatan is now two goals behind Carlos Vela in the race for the Golden Boot in MLS with four games remaining, and he’s now scored 48 goals in 52 games since arriving in MLS.

Joe Corona, Uriel Antuna and Sebastian Lletget grabbed the Galaxy’s other goals as they won for the first time in five MLS games to boost their chances of making the playoffs in the congested Western Conference.

With the defeat Sporting KC’s hopes of reaching the playoffs is all but over.

Check out the highlights in full below. It will take quite a while to sort through the nine goals, so set down and soak in Zlatan’s brilliance.