Premier League Preview: Southampton vs. Everton

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  • Everton have gone four matches without a win at St Mary’s since 2002 (D3, L1)
  • Saints have the highest average ball possession (59.5%) in the league
  • The Toffees have won 18 and lost one of the 20 league games in which they’ve opened the scoring

Southampton welcome Everton to St. Mary’s on Saturday (Watch live on NBCSN, 7:45 a.m. ET and online via Live Extra) as two of the Premier League’s most stylish sides collide.

Expect silky skills in abundance.

With both teams impressing throughout the PL season, they’ve definitely exceeded expectations as Saints sit in eighth spot, while Everton are in fifth with a real chance of qualifying got the UEFA Champions League by finishing in the top four.

The Toffees know they can’t come unstuck against a hugely talented Southampton side, who boast two PFA Player of the Year nominees in Adam Lallana and Luke Shaw. Saints have brushed away reports that they are going to sell their best players this summer and have stated their intent to build on what will likely be their best-ever season in the Premier League.

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Everton have won eight of their last nine and are coming off the back of a hugely impressive home victory over Manchester United last time out, as Robert Martinez’s side are going all out to finish in the top four. As for Saints boss Mauricio Pochettino, his young side have being playing well without getting wins as they’re now three games without victory in the PL.

In team news Everton will be missing Kevin Mirallas who is out for the season, while Sylvain Distin is also out. As for Southampton, Morgan Schneiderlin is out injured as he joins long-term absentees Jay Rodriguez, Kelvin Davis and Maya Yoshida on the treatment table.

What they’re saying

Mauricio Pochettino on facing Everton: “It’s going to be an amazing challenge because we’re going to be facing a team that’s trying to break into the top four. They’re a great side and they’re having a great end to the season as well, but we’re going to try and dominate the game and to win the game with a very good performance against them.”

Roberto Martinez on Saints’ impressive season: “It’s a team that plays with a real bravery, they condense the spaces, they press very dynamic and they have got really good quality in the young players that have been given strong roles. It’s been very impressive how they always get good performances against the top sides, especially at home. They always get good results against the top teams. I think that shows you that the team plays with incredible swagger, with incredible intelligence in the way that they are set up tactically and they make it very difficult.”

Prediction

This game should be one for the purists, with both Saints and Everton possessing a plethora of talented youngsters. The Toffees need the win more than Saints, as Martinez’s men aim to push Arsenal all the way for the final UEFA Champions League spot. That said, Saints are a dangerous team and Everton know that only too well. With plenty of injuries piling up for both teams, players on each side will be eager to prove their worth. Saints could pull off a shock here but I am going for an entertaining draw at St. Mary’s.

Transfer Rumor Roundup: Fekir negotiations back on; Chelsea waiting on transfer targets; and more

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Could Liverpool get its star attacking midfield target after all?

That’s what seems to be the case, as the agent for Lyon and France midfielder Nabil Fekir told French TV channel LCI Monday evening that negotiations aren’t over between Liverpool and Lyon.

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“He didn’t sign because um… it is not over! This is not the end of the story,” Fekir’s agent, Jean-Pierre Bernes reportedly said.

It was just two weeks ago when Lyon president Jean-Michael Aulas stated that Fekir, Lyon’s captain, would remain with the club for the upcoming season, after negotiations with Liverpool fell through. According to the Liverpool Echo, the Reds wanted a second opinion on a previous knee injury, and had balked at the $70 million price tag.

But now it appears Liverpool and Aulas could still be in conversations to try and find a mutually accepted fee.

At the same time, stirring up transfer drama is in Bernes interest, as it could drive other teams into the race to sign Fekir and raise his transfer fee, meaning more money to him, Fekir (if he gets a cut) and Lyon. Watch this space for more to come during and after the World Cup.

Here’s some more transfer rumors from across the Premier League and Europe:

(more…)

Japan upsets ten-man Colombia in Group H opener

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On paper, the 61st-ranked team in the world beating the 16th-ranked team in the world is a massive upset. But considering the circumstances within the game, perhaps this wasn’t an upset after all.

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Two set pieces were the difference as Japan defeated ten-man Colombia, 2-1 on Tuesday morning in Saransk. Colombia played with ten men for nearly the entire match, after Carlos Sanchez was sent off for a handball in the box and a denial of a goal scoring opportunity.

The game took a massive turn in the third minute, as Colombia centerback Davinson Sanchez failed to control a pass and Yuya Osako found himself free on goal. His shot was parried away by Colombia goalkeeper David Ospina but Kagawa’s rebound shot was clearly blocked by Sanchez’s right arm. The referee, Damir Skomina immediately pointed to the penalty spot and went to the back pocket, sending Sanchez to the showers.

Kagawa stepped up and cooly sent Ospina the wrong way to put Japan on top.

Late in the first half, after both teams had chances on target, Colombia came back and evened the scoreline.

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Juan Fernando Quintero, starting in place of the recovering James Rodriguez, smartly took a free kick and fired it low, under the wall as it jumped. Japan goalkeeper Eiji Kawashima reacted late and although he arrived as the ball was crossing the line, he couldn’t keep it from going over, tying the game in the 39th minute.

Ultimately, despite its efforts, Colombia began to tire and on a corner kick, the Blue Samurai took back the lead and control of their destiny in Group H. A corner kick from Keisuke Honda was re-directed past Ospina by Osako, who jumped well over Santiago Arias, to give Japan a 2-1 lead in the 75th minute.

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Rodriguez was introduced in the 57th minute but try as he did, Colombia was unable to find the final pass in the box, and Japan held on for the unexpected victory.

With the win, Japan top Group H ahead of a meeting with Senegal, while Colombia will have to regroup to face Poland.

In a World Cup full of unexpected results, Tuesday brought yet another memorable win for an underdog.

New Zealand women footballers rebel against national coach

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Wellington, New Zealand (AP) Only weeks after New Zealand Football made headlines by signing a revolutionary equal pay deal with its female players, the organization is facing a mutiny by members of its women’s team against the national coach.

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New Zealand Football confirmed on Tuesday it had received a letter signed by a number of New Zealand players complaining about the methods and tactics employed by Austria-born coach Andreas Heraf.

The complaints follow the New Zealand team’s recent 3-1 loss at home to Japan. Heraf angered his players, and fans of the Football Ferns national team, by taking an entirely defensive game plan into the rare home international.

Heraf then further angered his players with comments defending his approach.

He said there was “a big difference in quality” between the New Zealand and Japanese players and that New Zealand “will never have that quality” to compete with top teams like Japan. He said the scoreline might have been 8-0 if New Zealand had not adopted a defensive approach.

One of New Zealand’s leading players, United States-based Abby Erceg, retired after playing 132 matches for New Zealand, citing Heraf’s approach in previous international matches.

She later told New Zealand media: “I couldn’t stand to wear that (national symbol) on my chest any more when his vision was to cower in a corner and not get beat by too much.”

New Zealand Football defended Heraf against the media and public criticism but admitted his comments were “strange” and “wrong” and did not accurately reflect his views. Heraf later apologized and said he had not expressed himself clearly.

But efforts to dampen the controversy have failed. New Zealand Football said in a statement it had “received a letter from the NZ Professional Footballers Association (NZPFA) last night with a number of complaints from the players of the Football Ferns.”

The mutiny comes only weeks after New Zealand gained international headlines for a deal which gives female pay parity with their male counterparts.

New Zealand Football signed the deal which provided female players with equal match payments, travel arrangements and prize money.

At the time, New Zealand women’s captain Ali Riley said the deal meant New Zealand would “be able to compete against the top teams, to be able to do well at a World Cup and the Olympics – this is what we needed.”

VIDEO: Colombia sees red, Japan takes early lead

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The first red card of the World Cup came just moments after fans took their seats in Saransk.

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After David Ospina blocked a breakaway opportunity from Yuya Osako in the third minute of the match, Japan star and former Manchester United midfielder Shinji Kagawa fired the rebound on goal. But his shot was blocked by the arm of Colombia midfielder Carlos Sanchez, which earned him a straight red card from referee Damir Skomina and an early trip to the locker room.

Kagawa then stepped up to the spot and calmly sent Ospina the wrong way to give Japan the shock early lead.

Colombia will play the rest of the match with ten men and no James Rodriguez, who was named to the bench for this match as he recovers from a reported calf injury.