Premier League Preview: Aston Villa vs. Newcastle United

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Aston Villa host Newcastle United on Saturday at Villa Park (Watch live on NBCSN, 7:45 a.m. ET and online via Live Extra) as the Villans look to continue their good start to the season.

On the opening day of the campaign they beat Stoke City 1-0 away from home and after a few seasons embroiled in relegation battles at the wrong end of the table, is this the year Paul Lambert’s men finally exceed expectations?

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Newcastle lost their opener to Manchester City 2-0, but Alan Pardew saw some moments of promise from his side. New signings Remy Cabella and Daryl Janmaat looked at ease on their PL debuts and the Magpies will be confident of picking up their first points of the new campaign away at Villa Park. Newcastle will be hoping for a top half finish again this season, while Villa are hoping for the same. With U.S. national team ‘keeper Brad Guzan securing a shutout on the opening day, the former Chivas USA goalkeeper will now become the USA’s number one after Tim Howard stepped down from the USMNT for the next year.

In team news Aston Villa could see new signing Carlos Sanchez join the squad, while Joe Cole and Jores Okore will return from injury. Newcastle could hand a debut to new signing Siem de Jong, while loan signing Facundo Ferreyra could also feature.

What they’re saying

U.S. ‘keeper Brad Guzan on Villa’s solid defense: “It was a great win at the Britannia Stadium – and we had the added bonus of the clean sheet so it was a good day for everyone at the club. There’s a good confidence in our team. Each player has a big desire to not get beat one on one – in terms of blocking shots, winning balls in the air, winning tackles and winning second balls. When you create that atmosphere and have that in a team, good things will come from it.”

Newcastle boss Alan Pardew: “We face a Villa side which has just picked up an away win and in the Premier League. That is gold-dust, so they will be feeling fairly confident to turn us over at home and we have to make sure we are a really stiff opposition. They have good players – they still carry great players, and it will be a difficult game. But Villa Park is somewhere where we have played well and we have proved we can win there.”

Prediction

Villa looked solid yet t unspectacular in their opening day win and with the likes of Ron Vlaar and Philippe Senderos at center back, they will be hard to break down. Newcastle forced the issue against Man City but lacked cutting edge up top. The Magpies will struggle to score this season and Villa’s pacey forward, Gabriel Agbonlahor and Andreas Weimann, are always a threat. A narrow home win in this one.

Video: Mbappe taps home to give France first blood

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The match is really opening up now, and France has begun to assert itself with an opener just beyond the half-hour mark.

[ MORE: Denmark, Australia draw, leaving Group C wide open ]

Kylian Mbappe has given Les Bleus a 1-0 lead over Peru after a deflected Olivier Giroud cross found the Monaco attacker just in front of goal for a tap-in finish.

The sequence began after Paul Pogba dispossessed Peru deep in their own half, before dishing the ball off to Giroud.

The goal for Mbappe is his first at a World Cup, as the 19-year-old continues to impress for both club and country.

American referee Geiger accused of asking for Portugal kit

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Morocco’s World Cup journey will conclude after the group stage, but the African side isn’t pleased with how their second match transpired on Wednesday against Portugal.

[ MORE: Spain gets win after Iran sees equalizer ruled off ]

The Moroccans have lodged a complaint with FIFA against referee Mark Geiger — an American who has become one of the most well-known officials in Major League Soccer.

Geiger was alleged to have asked Portuguese captain Cristiano Ronaldo for his jersey at halftime of the 1-0 win over Morocco, to which Geiger has categorically denied the claims.

FIFA released the following statement on the matter:

The claims stemmed from Morocco player Nordin Amrabat, who addressed the matter in an interview following the match.

“I don’t know what [Geiger] is used to, but he was very impressed by Cristiano [Ronaldo],” Amrabat said. “I’ve been just told by Pepe that in the [first half], he asked if he could have his shirt. Come on, man. What are we talking about? … We are at the World Cup, not a circus here.”

Geiger returned to action on Thursday as video assistant referee for the Denmark-Australia match, which included an important alteration in a call that led to an Australia penalty kick.

Group C wide open as Denmark, Australia settle for draw

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Denmark and Australia settled for a 1-1 draw on Thursday, as this exciting Group C affair had nothing to separate the two nations at the end of 90 minutes.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

As it stands, the Danes lead the group with four points, while Australia earned its first point of the World Cup.

France will meet Peru later on Thursday, with Les Bleus having won its first match and Peru having suffered defeat to Denmark.

The Danes broke through after seven minutes when Nicolai Jørgensen picked out a perfect back-heel pass to Christian Eriksen at the top of the box, before the Tottenham Hotspur attacker volleyed home for a 1-0 lead.

Jørgensen nearly doubled the Denmark advantage in the 24th minute when the 27-year-old had an open header from close range that skewed just wide of the target.

Australia worked its way into the match following the opener, and were awarded a penalty kick in the 37th minute after VAR Mark Geiger altered an initial decision for a handball inside the box.

Mile Jedinak converted the spot kick to level the match at 1-1, giving the Socceroos life.

A dangerous free kick four minutes later almost gave Denmark the lead once again, however, Eriksen couldn’t get a crucial touch on the ball to knock it over the goal line before Ryan collected.

The second half continued with lightning pace from both sides, and Aaron Mooy‘s 71st minute blast came inches away from giving Australia an improbable lead.

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The two nations will conclude Group C play on June 26, as Denmark faces France and Australia takes on CONMEBOL side Peru.

Video: VAR awards Australia penalty, before Jedinak converts

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The Socceroos battled admirably in the latter stages of the first half, and Australia was rewarded for their efforts.

Australia has leveled the match at 1-1 after a Mile Jedinak penalty kick cancelled out Christian Eriksen’s stunning opener in the seventh minute.

After an initial decision to play on by the head referee, VAR Mark Geiger opted to award a penalty kick to the Aussies after Yussuf Poulsen was caught with his hand away from his body on a Mathew Leckie header.

Poulsen was also shown a yellow card for the infraction, which rules him out for Denmark’s group-stage finale against France.