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Premier League Preview: Stoke City vs. Chelsea

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  • Jose Mourinho will not be present
  • Chelsea sit one spot below Stoke
  • Stoke keeper Jack Butland leads the PL in saves

Chelsea looks to avoid a third-straight defeat in the league on Saturday when the Blues head north for a tough trip to Stoke City (Watch live, 12:30 p.m. ET on NBC and online via Live Extra). The last time Chelsea lost three consecutive Premier League matches was in 1999.

[ WATCH LIVE: Stream every PL game via Live Extra ]

Jose Mourinho will not be at the Britannia on Saturday, as the Chelsea boss is serving a one-match stadium ban. With his assistants in charge, the Blues will look to earn a much needed win over Stoke City, the same team that eliminated the Blues from the League Cup ten days ago.

Stoke City will look to take advantage of Chelsea’s porous defense, as the Potters have struggled on the attack. Stoke has scored a league-low nine goals on the season, and have only tallied twice in their past four matches. In team news, United States international Geoff Cameron is fit to play after missing the past two games with a thigh injury.

[ MORE: JPW sits down with Stoke’s Geoff Cameron, Jack Butland and Bojan Krkic ]

What they’re saying

Stoke boss Mark Hughes on his focus: “What happens to Chelsea isn’t our priority – we only worry about ourselves. Whilst we’ll work to beat Chelsea, we know they’re a good side despite the fact that they’re getting a lot of criticism. I’ve said before that most top players and managers react to situations like that and at some point I’m sure their season will turn around. We just have to make sure it doesn’t happen tomorrow evening. Once the game starts that’s when our focus really narrows.”

Mourinho on not being at the match: “My assistants are completely free of that extra pressure which doesn’t belong to their jobs. I choose the team and I predict to the maximum I can the different aspects of the game and the different directions it can follow. I try to prepare the players and assistants even better than ever because it is only the way.”

Prediction

Neither team is in good form as of late, but this match means a lot more to Chelsea’s season, which is why I see them pulling through. A midweek win in the Champions League should give the Blues some added confidence, although it will be a close one. Stoke City 1-2 Chelsea.

USMNT’s Brooks scores equalizer for Wolfsburg

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John Brooks is enjoying a career year for Wolfsburg, and he just added another highlight to his strong season.

Brooks, running up in the attack in a rare foray forward, tapped home into an empty net to save Wolfsburg a point at home in its 1-1 draw with Eintracht Frankfurt. It was Brooks’ third goal of the season and second in the last two months.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

The U.S. Men’s National Team centerback has played and started 29 times this season for Wolfsburg, the most games he’s ever played in a single season in Germany’s top tier. Brooks started alongside Aaron Long in the USMNT’s 1-0 win over Ecuador in Orlando in late March, and could play a key role for the USMNT this summer at the Gold Cup, unless coach Gregg Berhalter decides to let him rest this summer.

Season over: Hudson-Odoi suffers suspected Achilles tear

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One incident on Monday showed why some players are so desperate to change clubs when given the chance. They may never get it again.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Callum Hudson-Odoi said on his Instagram post Monday evening that he had suffered a ruptured Achilles tendon. If confirmed by the club, it’s usually a nine-month recovery process, with some players needing a full year to return to full fitness. Considering the timing of this, towards the end of the season, it means that Hudson-Odoi may miss an entire season of top-flight soccer, as well as possibly miss out on a chance to move to Bayern Munich this summer.

The injury is a huge blow to the 18-year-old, who had forced his way into the Chelsea side after strong performances in the UEFA Europa League, and now he’s making regular Premier League starts at the tender age of 18. Hudson-Odoi had started four-straight Premier League games including Monday, but now he faces a long layoff.

In Hudson-Odoi’s favor is his youth. While it can be a career-ending injury, hopefully Hudson-Odoi could retain his electric pace once he recovers and can return to the starting lineup for Chelsea.

But it’s a big disappointment to the young Englishman, who surely would have played for England youth national teams this summer and could have potentially made a big-money move abroad.

Prince-Wright’s Premier League picks

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Four midweek Premier League games will be pivotal in shaping the title race, top four battle, race for seventh and the relegation picture.

Tuesday and Wednesday will be a lot of fun.

[ STREAM: Every PL game live ]

If you, like me, love to dissect all the games and predict what the score will be and which team will win, I encourage you to get involved in the comments section below. Let’s have a bit of fun.

Okay, so I’ve consulted my crystal ball and here’s how we see things panning out. Listen carefully, because this is very specific.

While you can download the NBC Sports Predictor app (below) and play the Premier League Pick ‘Em game yourself to predict the scores and win the prizes.

DOWNLOAD NBC SPORTS PREDICTOR

With the first section labelled “basically, free money” for the picks I think are dead certs. The section labelled “don’t touch this” means if you’re betting I advise you to stay clear, while the “so you’re telling me there’s a chance” section are the long shots. If it is better odds you are after, those are the picks to go for.


BASICALLY, FREE MONEY

Tottenham 3-1 Brighton – (Tuesday, 2:45 p.m. ET, NBCSN) – [STREAM]

Watford 3-1 Southampton – (Tuesday, 2:45 p.m. ET, NBC Sports Gold) – [STREAM


DON’T TOUCH THIS…

Man United 1-2 Man City – (Wednesday, 3 p.m. ET, NBCSN) – [STREAM


“SO YOU’RE TELLING ME THERE’S A CHANCE…”

Wolves 2-1 Arsenal – (Wednesday, 2:45 p.m. ET, NBC Sports Gold) – [STREAM

Relevant Sports sues USSF over proposed Ecuador match in Florida

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NEW YORK (AP) A promoter has sued the U.S. Soccer Federation, asking a court to order the governing body to sanction an Ecuador league match in Florida.

Relevent Sports filed suit Monday in New York Supreme Court in Manhattan, alleging the USSF illegally refused to approve its application to have Ecuador’s Barcelona and Guayaquil clubs play on May 5 at Miami Gardens.

The lawsuit quotes USSF policy as stating the governing body’s secretary general “shall grant such sanction unless it is decided by clear and convincing evidence that holding or sponsoring the international soccer competition would be detrimental to the best interest of the sport.”

The USSF did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment.

Relevent attempted to stage the first Spanish La Liga match in the U.S., between Barcelona and Girona at Miami Gardens on Jan. 26. That effort fell through following opposition from the governing body of Spanish soccer, the Real Federacion Espanola de Futbol, and the players’ union, the Asociacion de Futbolistas Espanoles.