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Premier League preview: Everton vs. Newcastle United

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  • Everton currently 12th in the PL (28 points)
  • Newcastle a worrying low 18th (21)
  • Everton 17th in home form; Newcastle 18th away
  • First meeting (Boxing Day): Newcastle 0-1 Everton

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Wednesday’s clash between Everton and Newcastle United (Watch live at 2:45 p.m. ET, on Live Extra) seems a safe bet to feature goals, goals and more goals, as two with a pair of of the Premier League’s worst defensive records face off at Goodison Park.

Few teams in the PL possess worse defenses than Newcastle (just two, to be exact), who have conceded 41 times on the season, and Everton (five), whose 34-in-23 games record actually looks stellar in comparison. Their defensive frailties have been the cause for nearly all of Everton’s problems this season, as Roberto Martinez, now in his third year in charge, has yet to address his own Toffees side’s porousness at the back (Everton conceded 50 goals last season – one away from being well into the bottom half of the league defensively). On the bright side, Romelu Lukaku finally looks like a $40-million player, having scored 15 goals in 23 league games this season, though the goals have dried up of late (zero in his last three appearances).

[ MORE: Transfer grades — How did each PL club fare in January? ]

While the Magpies have been shambolic in defense, they’ve been equally inept in attack, having scored just 25 goals in 23 games (15th-most in the PL) this season. In response, first-year manager Steve McClaren was allowed to splash a little cash during the recently completed January transfer window, when he snapped up Jonjo Shelvey and Andros Townsend for a combined $35 million and brought in Ivorian striker Seydou Doumbia on loan from Roma for the rest of the season. On paper, Newcastle are much better during the final 15 games of the regular season and should avoid relegation with ease. This is Newcastle, though, remember.

On the injury front, Everton will be without midfielders Kevin Mirallas (knee) and Muhamed Besic (lower body), while goalkeeper Tim Howard will undergo a fitness test to determine his status. For Newcastle, the injury list is a mile long and much simpler to have a look for yourself.

What they’re saying

Everton manager Roberto Martinez: “We’ve got three important league games in a short period of time and it’s true our points return at home hasn’t been good enough. We have conceded too many goals at home compared to our away performances and we know our fans deserve better and deserve more from us. That’s where we want to work and where we rely on our fans – we can correct that. We’re facing the opportunity of fighting for a lot of points – seven home games offers 21 points at Goodison.”

Newcastle manager Steve McClaren: “We’ve kept very quiet about our business and gone about it very quietly, but we have recruited very good players, and it is a statement of intent on what we want to do. We go forward now with some very good players and a good squad. With these new players coming in, it ups the level in training, and we’ve noticed that. There’s been a spring in the step.”

Prediction

While Everton haven’t been great at home, Newcastle have managed to be even worse away from home this season. A total inability to find and hold any semblance of defensive shape on the road, combined with the fluidity Everton possess going forward, is a disastrous combination for Newcastle. Everton 3-1 Newcastle.

Watch Live: Sheffield United v. Crystal Palace

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Sheffield United host Crystal Palace at Bramall Lane on Sunrday (Watch live, 9 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com) as the Blades fans will enjoy their first home game back in the Premier League.

WATCH LIVE ONLINE

Chris Wilder, the lifelong United fan who is now their manager, will be emotional and fans of the Yorkshire club will create a heated atmosphere for opponents to visit this season.

In team news Sheffield United are unchanged from the team which drew at Bournemouth last week, with club captain Billy Sharp on the bench.

Crystal Palace bring in star man Wilfried Zaha who starts up top


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Zidane says Bale will stay at Real Madrid

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Gareth Bale is staying at Real Madrid.

The Welshman was not wanted by manager Zinedine Zidane, who stated that publicly on many occasions over the summer.

But Bale started and grabbed an assist as 10-man Real beat Celta Vigo 3-1 in their La Liga opener on Saturday and it seems like Zidane is ready to brush all of this Bale talk under the carpet.

“He’s going to stay and we all have to think of that as a positive thing,” Zidane said. “The injury to Eden Hazard was bad luck for us but it didn’t change the plans we had for Bale in this game. Gareth and everyone else here is going to show this shirt the respect it deserves.”

After his move to China broke down at the last minute amid conflicting reports blaming Bale and the club for the collapse of the deal, his future at Real has seemed pretty much dead in the water.

Adding in a serious injury to Marco Asensio and Eden Hazard picking up a knock, and all of a sudden Bale is needed again. But for how long?

He was linked with a loan move to Bayern Munich but Philippe Coutinho moved to Bavaria instead, and Bale wasn’t chased by Premier League clubs during the summer due to his huge wage demands. With the transfer window across many European countries closing at the end of this month, he has run out of options to leave a club where the hierarchy and fans don’t want him.

Bale, 30, is now stuck at Real and he has another three years left on his contract. It will be interesting to see how this plays out for the man who has won four Champions League trophies at Real, yet has become the main villain at the Santiago Bernabeu as fans lambast him for playing golf and not learning to speak Spanish fluently during his six years in Spain.

Ibrahimovic scores twice, 10-man Galaxy ties Sounders 2-2

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Carson, Calif. (AP) Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored in each half and the LA Galaxy tied the Seattle Sounders 2-2 on Saturday night despite playing nearly the entire match down a man.

The Galaxy’s Daniel Steres was sent off in the sixth minute for the denial of obvious goal opportunity.

Ibrahimovic tied it at 1 for the Galaxy (13-11-2) with a header in the 45th minute. In the 65th minute, he was taken down by Kim Kee-hee while going for a header in the area and converted the penalty, making it 2-1 with his 20th goal of the season.

LA defender Jorgen Skjelvik scored an own goal in the 82nd minute when he inadvertently deflected goalkeeper David Bingham’s attempted clearance into the Galaxy net.

Raul Ruidiaz opened the scoring in the 42nd minute for the Sounders (11-8-7). Harry Shipp hustled to round up a loose ball and fed it to an open Ruidiaz, who slotted it home.

MLS Wrap: What we learned

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Three unanswered goals from FC Dallas to earn a draw, a late Jozy Altidore goal and Chicago cruises past Eastern Conference leaders Philadelphia Union: Saturday’s early slate of games had it all. Here’s what we learned from the busy action.

[ MORE: All of PST’s MLS coverage ]

Montreal, Dallas split points in six-goal thriller

The Montreal Impact, up 3-0 in the 56th minute, probably thought they had the game in the bag. Dallas said, ‘not so fast.’

With three unanswered goals – one of those in stoppage time – Dallas did the unthinkable, stunning the Impact and flying back home with a point that tastes like three.

Dallas, like practically everyone else in the West this season, is dreaming of cracking into the final seven. Whether that happens or not is yet to be seen. What was palpable on Saturday, however, is that Dallas played with a lot of determination on the road and with all the odds against them.


Chicago gets by Philadelphia with ease

The Philadelphia Union are good but not good enough to beat the Chicago Fire, apparently.

It could have been the league’s well-known parity, or the fact that the Union were on the road, but the Fire were able to squeeze out the three points, winning 2-0 with 10 men. Nicolas Gaitan earned a straight red right before halftime.

The Union, a proven side time and time again this season, alternatively, have questions to answer and a set of defects that were unearth Saturday (including finishing) to polish up on. But as they shown several times this season after suffering loses, they’ll bounce back under Jim Curtin.

The Fire (33 points) sit one point behind Montreal, Toronto and Orlando, while Philadelphia (45 points) remain clear leaders in the Eastern Conference.


 

NYCFC too much for Cincinnati 

NYCFC had quite the showing.

With Valentin Castellanos and Heber recording a brace each, Allan Cruz’s goal stood no chance. City, who are now third in the Eastern Conference with 41 points (one behind Atlanta), are clearly in midseason form, while FC Cincinnati is yet to win under Ron Jans.

With a defense that has allowed 61 goals – like the one above – Jans’ rest of the season is looking bleaker than brighter. But then again, it’s with a team he purely adopted. It worth noting that New York’s attack has produced eight goals in the last three games, so maybe that was the determining factor.

 

 


 

Altidore earns last-minute draw for Toronto

Like in many other instances, it was Altidore to the rescue for Toronto FC.

Its goal No. 10 for the 29-year-old goal, making it his fourth season with double digit goals. Jonathan Osorio, too, pitched in a goal in the 42nd minute. 26 games in, this is exactly when Greg Vanney needs his big-time players to step up.

The Columbus Crew, in contrast, can’t catch a break. Once again the superior team, a lack of finishing and defensive concentration make it three-straight draws for the Caleb Porter’s men. With seven games to go and seven points out of playoff contention, even a late run might not be enough for a postseason regular.