MLS weekend preview: Sounders meet Galaxy again, Caps and Timbers jostle for playoff spot

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It’s the last weekend of MLS regular season, and the playoff picture is almost complete. All five postseason spots in each conference have been clinched, except for fifth place in the West. The Vancouver Whitecaps will try to save that spot, and the Portland Timbers, only a point behind the Caps, will attempt to surpass Caleb Porter’s side.

Here’s a quick preview of each match.

Chicago Fire vs. Houston Dynamo: Both teams are out of the playoffs, so there are zero postseason implications. But it will definitely be interesting to see how these two teams close out the season. Houston and Chicago both regressed from a year ago, with encouraging play coming from young Fire midfielder Harry Shipp and the Dynamo’s 26-year-old goalkeeper Tyler Deric. It will be Dominic Kinnear’s last game after eight years as Houston’s manager.

Seattle Sounders vs. LA Galaxy: Two of Major League Soccer’s best teams with some of the best attackers in the league will continue their showdown on Saturday. Last week, the Galaxy gained a 2-0 lead at the StubHub Center, but Dempsey and Co. stormed back to salvage a 2-2 draw. The Supporter Shield is at stake, though for unbiased viewers, interest will arise from watching Clint Dempsey combine with Obafemi Martins for Seattle, or the wizardry of Robbie Keane and burgeoning talent of Gyasi Zardes on LA.

Montreal Impact vs. D.C. United: The East’s first-place squad, D.C. United, will face the conference’s last-place team, the Montreal Impact, in what will be Marco Di Vaio’s last competition for the Impact prior to his retirement at the end of the year. United never has any tricks up their sleeve; they just play fundamentally-sound soccer, and they should extend their unbeaten run to six matches.

New England Revolution vs. Toronto FC: A very disheartening season (missing the playoffs) for Toronto took place following their signings of two marquee Designated Players—U.S. international Michael Bradley and former Tottenham Hotspur striker Jermain Defoe. On the other side, the Revolution will make the playoffs for the second-straight year, and the combination of MLS MVP candidate Lee Nguyen and Jermaine Jones, a mid-year acquisition,  have propelled the Revs to second place in the Eastern Conference.

FC Dallas vs. Portland Timbers: The Timbers have a lot more at stake in this scenario than the Toros do, as Portland sits in tight contention for the West’s last playoff position. If they grab three points on the road, Vancouver must draw or lose to keep the MLS Cup dream of Porter and Co. alive. Nevertheless, the magnificent performances of Blas Perez and Fabian Castillo have bolstered Dallas’ attack and carried the squad to the playoffs on the heels of a weak 2013 campaign. Diego Valeri has been a key component to the Timbers, and his play will certainly help decide the result.

Vancouver Whitecaps vs. Colorado Rapids: Vancouver’s wealth of attacking players hasn’t made the biggest of impacts this season, but the Canadian crew has managed a four-game unbeaten run that has guided it into strong playoff contention. The Rapids, meanwhile, haven’t won since July, and having one of the worst statistical defenses in MLS moved Colorado in the wrong direction. Deshorn Brown, who leads the Rapids in goals with 10 scores, has been the only player to supplement their offensive end.

Columbus Crew vs. Philadelphia Union: The Union beat the reigning champion Sporting Kansas City last week, 2-1, but that victory wasn’t enough to keep them in the race for fifth place in the East. With interim manager Jim Curtin supposedly staying in Philly for the long run, there won’t be any efforts from players to retain his job. Columbus is secure for the playoffs, and has lost only two our of their past eight competitions. For purely the spectacle, let’s hope Federico Higuain buries a well-taken free kick for the Crew.

Chivas USA vs. San Jose Earthquakes: Chivas and San Jose just didn’t have the magic this season, and we’ve come to expect the poor record from the Goats. In 2013, however, the Quakes almost slid into the playoffs. Chris Wondolowski has scored more goals this season, too, but his supporting cast hasn’t contribute much on the attacking side. The same goes for Chivas. Erick Torres is surely a top striker in MLS, but once he stopped putting the ball in the net, he had no secondary support in addition to a dreadful defense.

Sporting Kansas City vs. New York Red Bulls: To cap off the series of MLS contests this weekend, Sporting KC will enjoy home-field advantage when the Red Bulls, coming off a tough 3-1 defeat to the Crew last weekend. All eyes will examine Thierry Henry and Bradley Wright-Phillips, as the dynamic duo is set to face the strongest defense in league anchored by U.S. center back Matt Besler. Dominic Dwyer will look to overshadow the Red Bulls’ stars and snag a win that prevent the Red Bulls from overtaking KC in the standings.

Everton, Southampton battle to draw

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Everton – Southampton was a tight, tense clash as Danny Ings’ opener was canceled out by a fine Richarlison goal.

[ MORE: New PL TV schedule ]

Saints first missed a penalty kick as James Ward-Prowse’s spot kick hit the bar but Ings scored soon after as Saints impressed. Everton hit back just before half time through Richarlison’s lovely finish and despite chances for both teams in the second half, it ended even.

EVERTON – SOUTHAMPTON: FULL REPLAY

With the point Everton have 45 for the season and remain in 11th, while Saints have 44 and stay in 12th.


Three things we learned

1. Ings sharp throughout: Danny Ings hit the bar, scored a goal, was occupied by several Everton defenders throughout and still came out on top. The Englishman has 19 goals this season and his hold-up play and quality on the ball compliments his clever runs and incredible work ethic. It is great to see Ings in full flow like this and he is key, obviously, to Southampton sitting in midtable. He may come up just short in the Golden Boot race but he’s had a superb season.

2. Everton’s formation switch changes game: Everton were lucky to go in level at the break and then the maestro Carlo Ancelotti changed the game with his tactical switch. He went to a 3-4-3 formation with Sidibe on as a right wing back and that pinned Saints back and stopped their high-press. Everton were much better in the second half and looked more in control. Ancelotti has improved Everton’s defense impressively since he arrived and these little tactical tweaks show his experience.

3. Both teams set up for top 10 in 2020-21: Both of these teams have improved massively from December onwards and they look to be set up nicely for a top 10 finish next season. Saints and Everton are evenly-matched but have very different budgets and Europa League for Everton next season is a must, while Saints will be happy to finish in the top 10.

Man of the Match

Danny Ings – He was absolutely everywhere as he scored, hit the woodwork and Everton just couldn’t handle his movement.


Southampton thought they had taken the lead as Ings wriggled free superbly and crossed for Adams who knocked the ball down to Stuart Armstrong who finished, but the Scotsman had just strayed offside. James Ward-Prowse had a shot from the edge of the box but his own player Adams as they set the tempo.

Lucas Digne’s cross fell to Alex Iwobi at the back post but his powerful shot was pushed away by Alex McCarthy. Ward-Prowse then had a free kick at goal which Jordan Pickford tipped over. From that corner Ings hit the crossbar as Everton half cleared and a few moments later Ward-Prowse was then brought down by Andre Gomes for a penalty kick.

Ward-Prowse smashed the bar with the penalty as Saints passed up a great chance to take the lead but soon after they were ahead. Armstrong’s scuffed shot found the lively Ings and he adjusted his feet superbly and tapped home to make it 1-0.

Gordon went down in the box after a shoulder barge from Kyle Walker-Peters but no penalty kick was given and just before half time Everton equalized. One long ball over the top from Digne found Richarlison who lobbed home. 1-1.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

At half time Everton made a tactical switch as Djibril Sidibe came on and they move to a 3-5-2 system with Gylfi Sigurdsson also on to replace the injured Gomes before the break.

Saints went close twice early in the second half as Pickford pushed Adams’ shot away, then Ward-Prowse’s free kick was deflected wide. An almighty scramble then saw Ings denied as Everton somehow cleared after Adams’ shot was blocked.

McCarthy then denied Sidibe as Everton’s formation change saw them improve drastically in the second half. In the closing stages Saints kicked on again but couldn’t find a winner as Ings had a shot blocked, plus Nathan Redmond flashed a shot wide and Armstrong smashed it over.

Last-16 games to be hosted by home teams in Champions League

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GENEVA (AP) The remaining four games of the Champions League’s round of 16 can be hosted by the home team, UEFA announced Thursday, instead of playing them in neutral Portugal.

The competition was halted in March because of the coronavirus and is set to conclude with a mini-tournament at an empty stadium in Lisbon next month, starting with the quarterfinals.

However, Barcelona, Bayern Munich, Juventus and Manchester City will be allowed to host the second leg of their last-16 matches at home.

[ MORE: New Premier League TV schedule ]

UEFA confirmed Thursday it had clearance from public authorities in Spain, Germany, Italy and England to let the teams play at home on Aug. 7 and 8. Few or no fans will be allowed in the stadiums.

UEFA also said no tickets will be sold to fans for mini-tournament in Lisbon.

“In light of the current situation, the UEFA executive committee felt it prudent to conclude that UEFA matches should take place behind closed doors until further notice,” the governing body said.

In the Europa League, six clubs including Manchester United can also host their outstanding second-leg games in the round of 16 ahead of a mini-tournament in Germany.

Starting on Aug. 12, the Champions League quarterfinals will be played on four straight nights in single-leg knockout games at the home stadiums of Benfica and Sporting Lisbon.

The semifinals are on Aug. 18 and 19, and Benfica’s Stadium of Light hosts the final on Aug. 23.

In the remaining round-of-16 games, Bayern is the clearest favorite to advance having won 3-0 at Chelsea in the first leg in February.

Man City leads 2-1 over Real Madrid, Juventus trails 1-0 against Lyon, and Barcelona resumes at 1-1 against Napoli.

Atalanta, Atlético Madrid, Leipzig and Paris Saint-Germain already advanced to the quarterfinals in March.

[ MORE: Solskjaer hopeful of new long-term Pogba deal ]

The quarterfinals and semifinals pairings will be drawn Friday at UEFA headquarters.

The final was postponed from May 30 at the Ataturk Olympic Stadium in Istanbul. It will host the 2021 final.

In the Europa League, six second-leg games will now be hosted on Aug. 5 and 6 by Man United, Bayer Leverkusen, Shakhtar Donetsk, Wolverhampton, Basel and Copenhagen.

The first-leg games were played in March with four in empty stadiums. Only İstanbul Başakşehir and Rangers had fans in the stands for games against Copenhagen and Bayer Leverkusen, respectively.

The two remaining pairings – Inter Milan-Getafe and Sevilla-Roma – could not be played in Italy or Spain in March as those countries were hit hard by the spreading coronavirus. Those pairings will be settled in single knockout games in neutral Germany, also on Aug. 5 and 6.

The quarterfinals are scheduled for Aug. 10-11 in Cologne, Duisburg, Düsseldorf and Gelsenkirchen. The semifinals are Aug. 16-17.

The final is Friday, Aug. 21 in Cologne, replacing the postponed May 27 final in Gdansk, Poland.

By GRAHAM DUNBAR
AP Sports Writer

Aston Villa – Manchester United stream: How to watch, start time, prediction

Aston Villa - Manchester United preview
Photo by Neville Williams/Aston Villa FC via Getty Images)
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Aston Villa – Manchester United preview: Manchester United can pull within a point of fourth place by beating desperate Aston Villa at Villa Park on Thursday (Watch live at 3:15 pm ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com)

There’s also the potential for Premier League history, as United can become the first team to win four-straight matches by three or more goals come Thursday.

STREAM ASTON VILLA – MANCHESTER UNITED LIVE

Villa sits 18th place, four points behind West Ham and Watford for the last two safe spaces on the PL table. Villa plays West Ham on the last day of the season.


Team news

United does get Victor Lindelof despite an injury suffered versus Bournemouth, while Axel Tuanzebe and Phil Jones remain out.

Tyrone Mings and Jack Grealish are both ready to go despite minor knocks, while Matt Targett and Bjorn Engels are out for Villa.


What they’re saying

Dean Smith on Villa needing to get production from forwards“I’ve just been talking to our front three. They want to get involved with our build-up play at times, but I want them to go and get inside our six-yard box. As I get judged by results, they get judged by goals. Our goals return hasn’t been great for the five games but we have actually created chances. We’ve put some really good crosses into the box at Newcastle, Sheffield United and Liverpool but we weren’t able to execute them chances so it’s something been working on this week.”

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer on stopping Jack Grealish“There’s been lots said and talked about him and we need to be aware of him. Whoever is close to him, if he’s off the left, in the middle, on the right. What he does is attract players to him and create space for others, so there’s not just one player in that Villa team. There’s many of them.”


Odds and ends (Full matchweek odds)

Villa’s a big underdog at +900, while DraftKings sees United at -315.

A Victor Lindelof goal completed a United comeback in a 2-2 draw at Old Trafford earlier this year, Jack Grealish and Tyrone Mings on the board for the Villans.


Prediction

The question is whether United will tempt blowout history. They may come up just short. 2-0 United.


How to watch Aston Villa – Manchester United stream, start time

Kickoff: 3:15 pm ET Wednesday
TV Channel: NBCSN
Online: Stream via NBCSports.com

Bournemouth – Tottenham, Everton – Southampton: Stream, how to watch

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Bournemouth – Tottenham and Everton – Southampton take place on Thursday as the Cherries need the win to try and save themselves from relegation, while Spurs need to stay in the top four hunt. (Watch live at 1pm ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

Eddie Howe’s Bournemouth have been awful since the restart, losing all four games, and are in deep trouble in the bottom three with a very tough run of games to end the season.

Jose Mourinho and Tottenham beat Everton 1-0 last time out and they are still in the hunt to finish in fifth place, which could be a Champions League spot.

BOURNEMOUTH – TOTTENHAM STREAM LIVE

EVERTON – SOUTHAMPTON STREAM LIVE

As for the other early game on Thursday, Everton host Southampton with just one point and one place between them. Everton sit in 11th on 44 points, while Saints are in 12th on 43 points after their shock win against Man City last weekend.

Here’s a look at the team news for the two games at 1pm ET.


Team news

Bournemouth bring back Callum Wilson as he returns from suspension, while Dan Gosling comes back into the midfield.

Tottenham bring Jan Vertonghen into central defense to replace the injured Dier, while Steven Bergwijn and Erik Lamela come into the starting lineup with Heung-min Son on the bench.

Everton bring Anthony Gordon and Yerry Mina into the team with Gylfi Sigurdsson on the bench and Mason Holgate out injured.

Ralph Hasenhuttl names the same Southampton team which beat Manchester City on Sunday, while Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg is fit enough for a place on the bench.


 

Odds and ends (Full matchweek odds)

DraftKings have Tottenham (-157) as the heavy favorites at Bournemouth (+425) with the tie at +310. Anything other than a big Spurs win would be surprising but we all know the Cherries have a few shocks up their sleeves.

As for the game at Goodison, Everton have a great all-time home record against Southampton and the Toffees are the favorites (+100) but Southampton (+270) have been in sensational form away from home for most of this season. The draw at +255 looks very interesting.


How to watch Bournemouth – Tottenham stream, start time

Kickoff: 1 pm ET Wednesday
TV Channel: NBCSN
Online: Stream via NBCSports.com

How to watch all Premier League games

Online: Stream via NBCSports.com