Premier League Relegation Watch: Hull and Norwich gain separation while the others tumble

Leave a comment

Matchweek 31 saw massive wins by Hull City and Norwich City to distance themselves from the relegation-threatened pack while the bottom seven clubs all took losses setting up a dramatic end to the season.

Here we look at all the relegation-threatened sides and evaluate their remaining matches, form, injuries and odds of staying up in the Premier League.

12. HULL CITY 33 PTS (30 PLD)

Remaining Matches (8): West Ham United (A); Stoke City (A); Swansea City (H); Manchester United (A); Arsenal (H); Fulham (A); Aston Villa (A); Everton (H)

League Form: WLWLLW

Other Competitions: FA Cup (v. Sheffield United on April 13th)

Injuries: Shane Long, knee (no return date); Robbie Brady, groin (no return date); Paul McShane, ankle (no return date), Joe Dudgeon, knee (no return date)

Vegas odds to be relegated: 22/1

Verdict: Hull did itself a huge favor with the 2-0 win over West Brom on Saturday giving the Tigers an eight point cushion on the relegation zone. Forty points is typically the bench-mark for safety in the Prem but it would take an epic collapse for Steve Bruce’s side to botch this up.

13. NORWICH CITY 32 PTS (31 PLD)

Remaining Matches (7): Swansea City (A); West Bromwich Albion (H); Fulham (A); Liverpool (H); Manchester United (A); Chelsea (A); Arsenal (H)

League Form: LWLDLW

Other Competitions: None

InjuriesLeroy Fer, hamstring (April 12th); Michael Turner, hamstring (March 29th); Elliot Bennett, knee (April 5th)

Vegas odds to be relegated: 4/1

Verdict: A huge victory over Sunderland last weekend has Norwich looking like a side destined to stay up but the Canaries can’t take their foot off the gas over the next four weeks because the last four matches of the season are extremely difficult.

14. WEST HAM UNITED 31 PTS (30 PLD)

Remaining Matches (8): Hull City (H); Sunderland (A); Liverpool (H); Arsenal (A); Crystal Palace (H); West Brom (A); Tottenham (H); Manchester City (A)

League Form: WWWLLL

Other Competitions: None

Injuries: James Tomkins, ankle (March 26th); Marco Boriello, shin (no return date); Joey O’Brien, shoulder (April 19th)

Vegas odds to be relegated: 12/1

Verdict: Thoroughly out-played this weekend against Manchester United means West Ham have lost three straight. Like Norwich, the end of their season is a tough go with matches against Spurs and City meaning Sam Allardyce will want his side playing top quality football over the net six matches to secure safety.

15. SWANSEA CITY 29 PTS (30 PLD)

Remaining Matches (8): Arsenal (A); Norwich City (H); Hull City (A); Chelsea (H); Newcastle United (A); Aston Villa (H); Southampton (H); Sunderland (A)

League Form: WDLDLL

Other Competitions: None

InjuriesKyle Bartley, hamstring (no return date)

Vegas odds to be relegated: 8/1

Verdict: Despite the 3-2 loss on Saturday, Swansea looked a much improved side against Everton. Healthy and with a manageable end-of-the-season schedule, it’s hard to see the Swans going down.

16. WEST BROMWICH ALBION 28 PTS (30 PLD)

Remaining Matches (8): Cardiff City (H); Norwich City (A); Tottenham (H); Manchester City (A); West Ham United (H); Arsenal (A); Sunderland (H); Stoke City (H)

League Form: LDDLWL

Other Competitions: None

Injuries: Gareth McCauley, ankle (no return date); Victor Anichebe, hamstring (no return date); Morgan Amalfitano, knock (no return date); Chris Brunt, knee (April 21st); Billy Jones, hamstring (March 29th); Diego Lugano, knee (April 5th)

Vegas odds to be relegated: 3/1

Verdict: Bad loss to Norwich last weekend also saw key players Gareth McCauley and Victor Anichebe succumb to potential long term injuries. These are nail-biting times at the Hawthorns. The Albion have the quality but can they find the points?

17. CRYSTAL PALACE 28 PTS (30 PLD)

Remaining Matches (8): Chelsea (H); Cardiff City (A); Aston Villa (H); Everton (A); West Ham United (A); Manchester City (H); Liverpool (H); Fulham (A)

League Form: WLDLDL

Other Competitions: None

Injuries: Dwight Gayle, ankle (April 5th); Marouane Chamakh, hamstring (March 29th)

Vegas odds to be relegated: 5/4

Verdict: Heart-breaking loss for the Eagles last weekend on a goal that was scored well beyond the three minutes of stoppage time noted by the fourth official. Tony Pulis went ballistic and for good reasons, not only did it strip his side of a point but because there are precious winnable matches in Palace’s remaining eight games.

18. SUNDERLAND 24 PTS (28 PLD)

Remaining Matches (10): Liverpool (A); West Ham United (H); Tottenham (A); Everton (H); Manchester City (A); Chelsea (A); Cardiff City (H); Manchester United (A); West Bromwich Albion (H); Swansea City (H)

League Form: WWLLDL

Other Competitions: None

InjuriesSteven Fletcher, ankle (no return date);Keiren Westwood, shoulder (no return date)

Vegas odds to be relegated: 10/11

Verdict: The devastating loss to Norwich City last weekend put the Black Cats three points shy of safety. Fortunately for Gus Poyet’s side, they have 10 matches to play. Unfortunately, six of those are against sides in the Top 10.

19. CARDIFF CITY 25 PTS (31 PLD)

Remaining Matches (7): West Bromwich Albion (A); Crystal Palace (H); Southampton (A); Stoke City (H); Sunderland (A); Newcastle United (A); Chelsea (H)

League Form: DLLWLL

Other Competitions: None

Injuries: Craig Noone, muscle (no return date); Andrew Taylor, knock (no return date); Mark Hudson, hamstring (no return date)

Vegas odds to be relegated: 2/7

Verdict: Of the current teams in the relegation zone, Cardiff has the most favorable schedule to secure promotion. Whether Ole Gunnar Solskjær can figure out how to make that happen has South Wales on the edge of its seat.

20. FULHAM 24 PTS (31 PLD)

Remaining Matches (7): Everton (H); Aston Villa (A); Norwich City (H); Tottenham Hotspur (A); Hull City (H); Stoke City (A); Crystal Palace (H)

League Form: LDLLWL

Other Competitions: None

Injuries: Dan Burn, muscle (no return date); Kostas Mitroglu, knee (March 30th);Ashkan Dejagah, groin (no return date); Scott Parker, knee (March 30th); Damien Duff, knock (no return date)

Vegas odds to be relegated: 1/4

Verdict: The Cottagers have the fewest amount of matches remaining among the relegation-based clubs and the most amount of key injuries. Mitroglu, Dejagah and Parker must get healthy if this side is to have any shot at staying up, which Vegas says isn’t happening.

WATCH: World Cup, Day 7 — Spain, Portugal aim for wins

Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Spain and Portugal got through the toughest match on their Group B dockets, against each other, but now need to stack some W’s.

Cristiano Ronaldo’s EURO champs open Wednesday’s World Cup action with a match against Morocco, and manager Fernando Hierro leads Spain against Iran to close out the day.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

In the middle, Uruguay looks to suck the drama out of Group A by joining Russia as 2-0 sides.

Below is Wednesday’s schedule in full.

Click here for live and on demand coverage of the World Cup online and via the NBC Sports App.


2018 World Cup schedule – Wednesday, June 20

Group A
Uruguay vs. Saudi Arabia: Rostov, 11 a.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE

Group B
Portugal vs. Morocco: Moscow, 8 a.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE
Iran vs. Spain: Kazan, 2 p.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE

Fortunes up or down? 32 thoughts after first 17 World Cup games

AP Photo/Martin Meissner
Leave a comment

All it took was one round of games for some favorites to be doubted, others to verify their status, and some underdogs to earn dark horse status.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

While there are valid reasons to make early judgments, it’s important to note that some perceived setbacks don’t change much while others put a serious crimp in tournament hopes.

Group A

Russia (2 games played) — Fortunes way up — Two resounding wins combined with early tumult in Group B could help Russia consider a quarterfinal spot.

Uruguay — Fortunes level — Jose Gimenez’s 89th minute winner may allow the CONMEBOL side to render its group finale moot by hammering Saudi Arabia.

Egypt (2 games played) — Fortunes way down — Could be out of the tournament should Uruguay get a point against lowly Saudi Arabia on Wednesday.

Saudi Arabia — Fortunes down — Unsure anyone figured the Green Falcons as anything other than an obstacle, but their performance against host Russia was miserable.

Group B

Iran — Fortunes up — Carlos Queiroz would’ve circled the Morocco opener as a must-win. Mission accomplished, however it was done.

Portugal — Fortunes level — Needed a PK, goalie error, and wonder free kick to get a point from Spain. Still, got the point.

Spain — Fortunes down — Still look capable of imposing themselves on the tournament, but too many errors in their first outing.

Morocco — Fortunes down — Probably should’ve had a point against Iran, but would’ve wanted three anyway. Very disappointing and now a mountain ahead.

SAINT PETERSBURG, RUSSIA – JUNE 15: Karim Ansarifard of Iran is challenged by Noureddine Amrabat of Morocco (Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)

Group C

France — Fortunes level — Clearly the better side against Australia, didn’t inspire title confidence but could’ve easily nabbed a three- or four-goal win.

Denmark — Fortunes up — Despite being the second-best side against Peru, now can expect the knockout rounds by beating the Socceroos.

Australia — Fortunes down — France first was always going to be a struggle, but to fight so valiantly and fall to an own goal will be a mental hurdle ahead of Peru.

Peru — Fortunes down — Terrific energy and performance would’ve led to a win with any finishing luck, but getting a result from Denmark was very important. A loss presents a major challenge.

Group D

Croatia — Fortunes up — Its tactical options for the second match against Argentina are wide open after securing three points against Nigeria.

Argentina — Fortunes down — Forget control of the game and Lionel Messi’s 11 shots on target; Not getting full points against Iceland is a significant setback. A group stage without Messi is possible.

Iceland — Fortunes up — It remains hard to picture Iceland getting out of the group, but the UEFA side has now flummoxed Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi in successive tournaments. Can they find a win against Nigeria to set up a wild final day?

Nigeria — Fortunes down — Group D was always going to be tough, but a 2-0 loss to Croatia means the margin of error is almost zero.

Group E

Serbia — Fortunes up — Forget how Serbia won, their fortunes have leapt due to Brazil drawing Switzerland.

Brazil — Fortunes down — Drawing their second-trickiest game could see Neymar and Co. in position to finish second in the group instead of first. The only silver lining is that Germany may also fail to claim its group and make runner-up a good thing for the Round of 16.

Switzerland — Fortunes up — Maybe Swiss supporters were expecting it, but a result against Brazil is a positive step for a team that took Argentina to extra time at the 2014 tournament but underwhelmed at EURO 2016.

Costa Rica — Fortunes down — Now needs to beat Brazil to have much hope of anything going into the final group match vs. Switzerland.

Group F

Sweden  — Fortunes level — Beating South Korea was nice and we understand the chemistry argument, but a certain Zlatan Ibrahimovic would’ve feasted on the spoils offered in the opener.

Mexico  — Fortunes way up — El Tri is a very good tournament team, but if you had them beating Germany 1-0 in the opener you’re a better prognosticator than me.

Germany  — Fortunes down — Still favored to come out of the group and deep enough to repeat as champions, being unable to get a result from Mexico will only raise more questions about leaving Leroy Sane home (fair or not).

South Korea — Fortunes down — Would’ve wanted no less than four points from the Sweden and Mexico encounters, and has zero heading into the second against El Tri.

NIZHNIY NOVGOROD, RUSSIA – JUNE 18: Andreas Granqvist of Sweden. (Photo by Jan Kruger/Getty Images)

Group G

Belgium  — Fortunes up — Delivered expected dominance against Panama and could have a spot in the knockout rounds sewn up by the end of Day Two versus Tunisia.

England  — Fortunes up — There will not be Wayne Rooney questions about this tournament’s captain, as Harry Kane scored twice on a day he perhaps wasn’t at his best. Will clinch a berth in the knockout rounds by beating Panama next, you’d have to think.

Tunisia  — Fortunes slightly down — Needed to surprise England or Belgium to get out of the group, and still has a second opportunity after losing late to the Three Lions.

Panama  — Fortunes slightly down — Not sure anyone was expecting a Cinderella story, but even those will feel it more unlikely after a big loss to Belgium.

Group H

Japan  — Fortunes up — Not a bad team at all, but prospects were dim given the talent of the group. After beating Colombia in match one, there’s a house money feel to this one.

Senegal  — Fortunes up — Controversy aside, the Lions of Teranga deserved all three points against Poland and are in pole position to win the group.

Poland  — Fortunes down — Disappointing is an understatement leading into a match versus Colombia which could leave both on the outskirts with a match to go.

Colombia  — Fortunes down — Carlos Sanchez’s third minute red card didn’t ultimately doom them, but the task is tall with equally desperate Poland up next.

Arsenal seals transfer of German goalkeeper Leno

Arsenal.com
Leave a comment

Arsenal unveiled German goalkeeper Bernd Leno on Tuesday as the latest member of Unai Emery’s unit.

The longtime Bayer Leverkusen goalkeeper, 26, has six caps for Germany but is not on the World Cup roster.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

Leno had appeared in 304 matches for Bayer before the move, which will reportedly cost the Gunners approximately $25 million.

Head coach Unai Emery said: “We are very pleased that Bernd Leno will be joining us. Bernd is a goalkeeper of high quality and experience. He has been a top performer and regular number one goalkeeper with Leverkusen in the Bundesliga for the past seven years. We are all excited that Bernd has chosen Arsenal Football Club and look forward to start working with him in pre-season.”

The Gunners have Petr Cech and David Ospina at goalkeeper, but it’s reasonable to expect at least one to leave town. Emery has already added Stephan Lichtsteiner from Juventus to help shore up his defense.

Clinical Russia tops Egypt to likely reach knockout rounds

Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images
1 Comment
  • Russia goals: Fathy o.g. (48′), Cheryshev (59′), Dzyuba (62′)
  • Egypt: Salah (PK, 73′)
  • Next: Russia-Uruguay, Egypt-Saudi Arabia

Hosts Russia scored a trio of second half goals to all but seal the first spot in the 2018 World Cup’s Round of 16 with a 3-1 win over Egypt on Tuesday in Saint Petersburg.

The loss means Egypt is 0-2, the Pharoahs unable to find momentum despite the return of Mohamed Salah. Egypt needs a wild combination of factors to stay alive for the knockout rounds, and is likely heading home.

Salah won and converted a penalty for Egypt, while Denis Cheryshev, Artem Dzyuba, and an Egyptian own goal accounted for Russia’s goals.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

Some sloppy play out of the back allowed Golovin a shot from outside the 18 but he hit his effort wide of the frame.

Egypt stayed in the mix though, and a Russian mistake  deep in its own end forced Zhirkov to concede a corner with a desperation intervention that stopped Mo Salah from a doorstep opportunity.

Salah then won a yard of space but fired wide in the 42nd minute after Zhirkov stopped him from going to his right peg.

Click here for live and on demand coverage of the World Cup online and via the NBC Sports App.

[ LIVE: World Cup scores ]

Russia went ahead through an Egypt own goal from Fathy, who was jostling for position with Artem Dzyuba and turned Roman Zobnin’s mishit inside his net.

After Cheryshev made it 2-0, Dzyuba took an Ilya Kutepov long ball out of the air with his chest before turning past Ahmed Hegazy and blasting Russia’s third goal home.

Salah won a penalty in the 73rd minute, one initially ruled a free kick, and the Liverpool man blasted his shot home.