Premier League Preview: Everton v. Southampton

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• Everton have failed to score in three of their last four games against Southampton.

• Saints’ last win at Goodison Park was a 2-0 victory in November 1997, when Matt Le Tissier and Kevin Davies both scored.

• Southampton have kept 14 clean sheets – more than any other top-flight team this term. (BBC Sport)

It’s been a disappointing 2014-15 league campaign for the Toffees, who were among the Premier League’s best when they didn’t also play in a major tournament abroad.

Everton finished at fifth-place a year ago to prompt their inclusion in the Europa’s League group stage, while Roberto Martinez witnessed his side make an admirable push in that competition, advancing to the final 16 before Dynamo Kiev provided the 6-4 on-aggregate knockout in March.

Winning two of their past seven league contests, Everton is hovering around the middle of the table in 13th place: one point above West Brom and eight points below 10th-place Stoke City.

On the other end, Southampton have cruised through a largely wonderful year and have surpassed expectations. That’s why manager Ronald Koeman is a strong favorite for PL coach of the year.

[Other PL previews: Manchester United v. Aston Villa | Arsenal v. Liverpool | Chelsea v. Stoke City]

At sixth in the league table, the Saints fell to West Brom in a 1-0 defeat at the end of February but have made up for that misfortune by remaining unbeaten in their past three games—a draw to Chelsea with victories over Crystal Palace and Burnley.

Though nicely positioned to slide into that fifth-place slot where Liverpool currently resides, Koeman knows the following 2015-16 campaign, if Europa League qualification occurs, will be demanding for his current roster, presenting one of the highest-quality back lines in England now.

Catch the full live game online on NBC Sports Live Extra at 10 a.m. ET this Saturday.

What they’re saying

Southampton boss Ronald Koeman on Everton’s inconsistent season (Saints official website): “It’s a tough test because I think Everton deserve a higher position on the table because I like the way they play football. I like the way how Roberto Martinez is doing his job…They have good individual qualities in the squad but it’s a difficult season for them. I think one of the reasons because they play Europa League on Thursday and the risk to have more players injured is there.”

Everton manager Roberto Martinez on Ross Barkley’s performance this year (Sky Sports): “Although he’s a young man, I think Ross is already used to dealing with extremes. When he plays well, he’s the best footballer England could have and when he has a bad game, it’s the end of the world….I think what is true that Ross Barkley has achieved an incredible level of maturity this season. He’s had to go through a period of difficulty the same way we have as a team.”

Match injuries/absences

Romelu Lukaku was recently ruled out of Belgium’s double-header after sustaining a  hamstring injury in the Toffees’ last league match against QPR, and his status will likely be revealed by game time.

Darron Gibson’s stomach strain will face proper judgement. Kevin Mirallas, sidelined following Everton’s Europa League loss to Dynamo Kiev, and Steven Pienaar, out since December with a knee problem, may see time on the pitch.

Southampton midfielder Steven Davis might sit out due to a groin ailment picked up on international duty with Northern Ireland, and netminder Kelvin Davis should take Fraser Forster’s spot, who is coping with a notable knee injury.

Prediction

Although Everton’s not in the thick of contention for a top-five spot, a first-class display from the Toffees could well result in three points, and I like their chances at Goodison Park enough. Everton 1-1 Southampton.

Transfer rumor roundup: Mari to Arsenal; Defoe makes permanent Rangers move

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A roundup of all of Saturday’s biggest transfer rumors, including those involving Premier League outfits.

[ MORE: Premier League January transfer needs ]

Arsenal are reportedly hours from adding a defender to Mikel Arteta‘s squad.

Flamengo’s Pablo Mari has reportedly arrived in London and set for a medical at Arsenal, Sky Sports reports. The 26-year-old Spaniard will join the North London side for the remainder of the season with an option to buy.

It won’t be Mari’s first time signing for a Premier League side, however.

In 2016, the center-back signed with Manchester City, but never featured for the defending champions, instead making appearances for Girona, NAC and Deportivo La Coruna on loan.


Jermaine Defoe is not returning to Bournemouth.

On Saturday, Rangers announced that Defoe signed a pre-contract to join Rangers on permanent basis in the summer.

The storied 37-year-old English striker has 20 goals in 57 appearances since joining the Scottish giants last January on a 18-month loan. Defoe’s new contract runs through the 2020-21 season, a one-year deal.

“It’s fantastic news,” Rangers manager Steven Gerrard told the club’s website. “It’s something we have been working on over the weeks and it is great to finally get that done and dusted.”

“He is an incredible professional with the way he goes about his work on and off the pitch – he is a credit to himself and his family. And also on the pitch, which is the main thing. He is still contributing heavily – he is a major part of this group, this team and this squad and hopefully together we can go and share some success as I think he deserves that.”

This season, Defoe has scored 16 goals in 28 games.


Crystal Palace are in talks to sign Belgium international Yannick Carrasco, according to Sky Sports.

Carrasco, 26, wants to leave Chinese Super League side Dalian Yifang and is currently training in Belgium, ahead of a return to European play.

Carrasco has scored 24 goals in 52 appearances since making a move to China from Atletico Madrid in February 2018.


Norwich City are actively pursuing Danel Sinani, according to the Daily Mail.

The 22-year-old Luxembourg winger is out of contract with Luxembourg side FC Dudelange this summer. If the parties involved can’t reach a deal this week,  the Canaries are reportedly ready to propose a pre-contract agreement.

Mourinho hints Spurs to sign Lo Celso permanently: ‘I think the boy is earning the decision’

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Tottenham Hotspur loanee Giovani Lo Celso is closer to permanently stay in North London than he is to return back to Sevilla.

[ MORE: Spurs, Saints draw and force 4-th round FA Cup replay ]

The 23-year-old Argentine, who arrived at Spurs from Real Betis last summer on a season-long loan, experienced a rocky start in the Premier League. Lo Celso – with only 44 minutes of English top-flight playing time under his belt – suffered a hip injury with Argentina, ruling him out two months in the fall.

Since, the attacking midfielder has worked his way up Jose Mourinho’s pecking order, featuring heavily in the Portuguese’s scheme over the past few months. Most recently, on Saturday, Lo Celso displayed his well-balanced virtues in Tottenham’s 1-1 draw with Southampton in the fourth round of the FA Cup.

Following the match, Mourinho addressed questions on whether or not his club is going to sign the midfielder on a permanent contract. Praiseworthy of Lo Celso’s learning abilities, Mourinho hopes the midfielder will be a part of the club’s long-term plans.

“It’s not an obligation, it’s an option,” Mourinho said of Lo Celso, who is reportedly available at reduced price of $35 million. “I think the boy is earning the decision. He’s making an easy decision for the club to execute the option.”

“Incredible evolution since I arrived,” he added. “Barely played a game, I think he played against Red Star Belgrade, with me a little bit difficult to come in the first few weeks. But he understood what we wanted. Good learner, good kid and I think by himself he made the decision that the club is going to execute the option. That’s normal, he earned it.”

With Christian Eriksen on the verge of departing the London side, Mourinho and company will have additional funds to land Lo Celso this winter before his price spikes in the summer.

Everything points to the creative midfielder having a future in London, but will Spurs brass follow suit and make it official soon?

Netherlands forward Rob Rensenbrink dies at age 72

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THE HAGUE, Netherlands — Rob Rensenbrink, the forward who was centimeters away from delivering the Netherlands a World Cup title in 1978, has died at age 72, the Dutch football association said Saturday.

“We have heard with sadness of the death of football legend Rob Rensenbrink,” the association said in a tweet.

Rensenbrink played most of his club football in Belgium with Club Brugge and Anderlecht, where his weaving runs earned him the nickname “Snake Man.” He also played briefly for the Portland Timbers in the United States in 1980.

He was a regular for the Netherlands national team in its period of dominance in the 1970s.

He played 46 times and scored 14 goals for the Dutch team known for its slick, position-swapping “total football.”

But he will always be best remembered for the goal he didn’t quite score in the 1978 World Cup final.

With the scores tied at 1-1 between the Netherlands and host Argentina and the seconds ticking away in injury time of the final in Buenos Aires, Rensenbrink’s shot hit the post. The match went to extra time and Argentina scored twice to win 3-1.

It was the second straight World Cup final defeat for the Netherlands, which has appeared in three finals and lost them all.

Rensenbrink was diagnosed with a muscle disease in 2012 and died as a result of the illness, according to Dutch national broadcaster NOS.

Anderlecht said he died Friday night.

“Thanks for everything Robbie!” the Belgian club wrote on its website. “We will never forget you.”

Serie A roundup: Ilicic powers Atalanta in historic win over Torino (video)

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Atalanta’s historic and overpowering win over Torino highlights Saturday’s Serie A action.

 [ MORE: Serie A scores, schedule ]

Torino 0-7 Atalanta

Josip Ilicic scored a hat-trick, including a center-line strike, as Atalanta humiliated Torino 7-0 on Saturday, handing the hosts their worst home loss ever in Serie A play.

With only nine men on the field towards the end of the match for Turin-based side, Atalanta were able to capitalize, elevating their goal count to 57 goals in 21 games this season. Gian Piero Gasperini’s men, who are back in Champions League contention, lead the league in goals.

Robin Gosens and Duvan Zapata, who scored a minute before the break, added to Ilicic’s first of three. A three-goal advantage after the first 45 minutes foreshadowed what Torino was going to encounter in the second half: more goals.

Eight minutes into the final 45 minutes of Saturday’s bout at the Olimpico di Torino, Ilicic quick-fired two more past an exposed Salvatore Sirigu.

With less than 10 minutes to go, Luis Muriel took the field for the visitors. And just six minutes after his first foot on the natural surface, the Colombian striker had a brace to his name.

“All we can do is apologize,” Torino coach Walter Mazzarri said. “In so many years of my career I had never had such a game.”

In fourth place with 38 points, Atalanta look to increase their seven-goal performances this season to three as they host struggling Genoa in a weeks time. Torino, on the other hand, meet AC Milan on Tuesday in the quarterfinal’s of the Coppa Italia.

Elsewhere

SPAL 1-3 Bologna

Fiorentina 0-0 Genoa