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EURO 2016 preview, Group C: Poland, Ukraine, Northern Ireland take aim at Germany

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Germany

Perennial powers and reigning World Cup champions, Germany looks to build off a semifinal in 2012 and win its first Euro since 1996.

Game schedule:

June 12 — vs. Ukraine at Stade Pierre-Mauroy in Lille
June 16 — vs. Poland at Stade de France in Saint-Denis
June 21 — vs. Northern Ireland at Parc des Princes in Paris

Star player: Manuel Neuer (Bayern Munich) — Okay, okay… using the star keeper is a total cop-out so we don’t have to select whether Thomas Muller, Toni Kroos, Mats Hummels, Mesut Ozil or any of Germany’s other megawatt stars is the best field player on the squad. But really, Neuer’s great.

Germany will win this tournament again because they are Germany and that’s what they do: win. Loaded from top-to-bottom, they are the one team that can topple France at home due to a mix of experience, guile and star power.

Or they won’t, because for whatever reason they’ve been mercurial in the run-up to the tournament and can’t flip the switch when it matters.


Ukraine

After qualifying as a host nation last cycle, Ukraine needed a playoff win to make a second-straight Euro.

Andriy Yarmolenko of Ukraine (Photo by Dennis Grombkowski/Getty Images)

Game schedule:

June 12 — vs. Germany at Stade Pierre-Mauroy in Lille
June 16 — vs. Northern Ireland at Parc Olympique Lyonnais in Lyon
June 21 — vs. Poland at Stade Velodrome in Marseille

Star player(s): Andriy Yarmolenko (Dynamo Kyiv) and Yehven Konoplyanka (Sevilla) — Two players who can terrorize defenses and open up the play for forwards and fellow midfielders.

Ukraine will be the darlings of the tournament thanks to a cohesive bunch ready to give captain Anatoliy Tymoshchuk a Euro to remember forever. With sneaky pace and a good mix of creativity and power, Ukraine wins the Group and makes a run to the final.

Their forwards could really let them down especially if the club rides a one-striker system. If you don’t have the guy for that job, you might want to find a better formation. Just saying.


Poland

After waiting 12 tournaments to debut, Poland is on its third-straight Euro. The White Eagles, however, are still looking to get out of the group stage.

POZNAN, POLAND - MARCH 23: Robert Lewandowski of Poland controls the ball during the international friendly soccer match between Poland and Serbia at the Inea Stadium on March 23, 2016 in Poznan, Poland. (Photo by Adam Nurkiewicz/Getty Images)
Robert Lewandowski (Photo by Adam Nurkiewicz/Getty Images)

Game schedule:

June 12 — vs. Northern Ireland at Allianz Riviera in Nice
June 16 — vs. Germany at Stade de France in Saint-Denis
June 21 — vs. Ukraine at Stade Velodrome in Marseille

Star player: Robert Lewandowski (Bayern Munich). 30 goals in 32 Bundesliga matches is good, I guess, if you’re into that sort of thing.

Poland will advance deep thanks to stingy goalkeeping and defense helping out unselfish midfielders working the ball to the best target man in the world.

There will be a lot of problems for Poland if Lewandowski does anything but absolutely star up top (although Ajax man Arkadiusk Milik is a true sleeper for this tournament).


Northern Ireland

Thrice in the World Cup, Northern Ireland makes its European Championship bow.

BELFAST, NORTHERN IRELAND - MAY 27: Will Grigg of Northern Ireland celebrates after scoring during the international friendly game between Northern Ireland and Belarus on May 27, 2016 in Belfast, Northern Ireland. (Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)
Will Grigg of Northern Ireland (Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)

Game schedule:

June 12 — vs. Poland at Allianz Riviera in Nice
June 15 — vs. Albania at Stade Velodrome in Marseille
June 19 — vs. Switzerland at Stade Pierre-Mauroy in Lille

Star player: Will Grigg (Wigan Athletic) — The striker is, after all, on fire.

They’ll shock the world because they are a team of fate with hard-nosed, committed, workmanlike players.

But really Norn Iron was fortunate to draw a qualifying group with Romania, Hungary, Finland, Faroe Islands and out-of-sorts Greece. It will take heroic defense and plenty of help to see the side out of the group basement.


Who’s going through, who’s going home: Germany is going through, but razor-thin margins separate Ukraine and Poland. The difference could be the pressure Ukraine is under after an opener against Germany, and we’ll just tip Poland for that reason. Tough luck for Northern Ireland.

Marquee match: The middle match for both Germany and Poland could be to clinch the group.

Top players to watch:

  1. Mesut Ozil, Germany
  2. Robert Lewandowski, Poland
  3. Thomas Muller, Germany
  4. Andriy Yarmolenko, Ukraine
  5. Manuel Neuer, Germany

Watch Live: Liverpool v. West Ham

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Liverpool v West Ham takes center stage at Anfield on Monday (Watch live, 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com) as the Reds aim to reclaim their 22-point lead at the top of the Premier League table.

WATCH LIVE ONLINE

Jurgen Klopp‘s side remain unbeaten this season and with five more wins needed to guarantee the Premier League title, the finishing line is in sight. They are aiming for an 18th consecutive Premier League win which would equal Man City’s record for the most victories on the trot in top-flight history.

As for David Moyes and the Hammers, they are scrapping for their lives at the other end of the table and their daunting run of fixtures makes them one of the favorites for relegation.

Last season the Hammers did draw at home against Liverpool in the PL which was a key factor in the Reds not winning the title last time out but West Ham look extremely far from the team they were last season.

Liverpool v West Ham is first against 18th and all signs point to a big win for the home side as their unbeaten season continues with 25 victories from 26 games so far.

In team news Liverpool are without captain Jordan Henderson who has suffered a hamstring injury and will be out for the next three weeks.

Naby Keita comes in for Henderson in midfield as the rest of the Liverpool team is what you expect.

West Ham are without the injured Ryan Fredericks who suffered a shoulder injury in the 2-0 defeat at Man City on Wednesday.

Teenager Jeremy Ngakia comes in to replace Fredericks, while Felipe Anderson also comes into the lineup.

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Kids under 12 banned from heading in UK

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LONDON (AP) Children up to the age of 12 will be banned from heading a soccer ball in practice sessions in England, Northern Ireland and Scotland as authorities look to address the potential long-term impact on health of head injuries.

[ MORE: US Soccer bans heading ]

The governing bodies of the three regions announced the new heading guidelines on Monday, months after a Scottish study found former professional players there were less likely to die of common causes such as heart disease and cancer compared with the general population but more likely to die with dementia.

The guidelines say there will be a “graduated approach” to heading in practice for kids from 12-15, while the heading will be restricted to one practice session per week for kids 16 and 17.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule

There will be no change in terms of heading in matches, taking into consideration the extremely limited number of headers which actually occur in youth matches.

The Scottish study did not state that heading a ball was the cause of the increased prevalence of neurodegenerative conditions among soccer players, but the decision to update the guidelines was taken to “mitigate against any potential risks”, the English Football Association said in a statement.

“This guidance is a responsible development to our grassroots coaching,” FA chief executive Mark Bullingham said, “without impacting the enjoyment that children of all ages take from playing the game.”

The associations said the guidance had been produced in parallel with the UEFA medical committee, which is seeking to produce Europe-wide guidance later this year.

More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

Champions League score predictions: Round of 16

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The 2019-20 UEFA Champions League is finally back as the Round of 16 kicks off this week and two of the four Premier League clubs are in action.

[ LIVE: Champions League scores

Man City and Chelsea face Real Madrid and Bayern Munich respectively and both know they face tough tasks to advance to the Champions League quarterfinals as they do battle with two European heavyweights.

Glory in the Champions League is now the main focus for Pep Guardiola and Man City following their two-season European ban from UEFA which they are appealing. Frank Lampard‘s young Chelsea side host the Bundesliga leaders and hugely experienced Bayern, with the German giants the favorites to advance.

[ MORE: Which Premier League team(s) will reach last eight? ]

The Premier League sides are up against it but both teams are extremely capable of scoring goals for fun but it is at the other end of the pitch where they struggle as both Real Madrid and Bayern Munich will be hoping their star attackers shine on the big stage once again.

In the other two last 16 clashes this week Napoli host Barcelona as Lionel Messi warmed up very nicely with four goals against Eibar, while Cristiano Ronaldo’s Juventus head to Lyon for the first leg as the Italian giants are expected to advance with ease.

Both Messi and Ronaldo badly want another Champions League title to their name but Lyon and Napoli are more than capable of picking up big first leg wins at home.

Below we predict the scores for the UCL round of 16 games taking place over the next two days. Feel free to make your own predictions in the comments section below, too.


Tuesday
Napoli 1-1 Barcelona
Chelsea 1-2 Bayern Munich

Wednesday
Lyon 1-3 Juventus
Real Madrid 2-3 Man City

Details for Premier League Mornings Live Fan Fest in Philadelphia

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The NBC Sports and Premier League fan fest is heading to Philadelphia in April and here are all of the details you need to know.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule

Our crew will be broadcasting live for the latest Premier League Mornings Live fan fest on April 4-5, 2020 and the venue is Dilworth Park, located outside of Philadelphia’s City Hall in Center City.

This is the third and final fan fest of the 2019-20 season after October’s event in Austin, Texas, and December’s event in Miami Beach, Florida.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule

Over two days in Philly there will be nine Premier League games shown across five different windows, with Manchester City v. Liverpool on Sunday, April 5 at 11:30 a.m. ET on NBCSN and Telemundo the main event.

As always, there will be lots going on as the Premier League Trophy will be present plus club mascots and special guests and you can join us for free.

All you have to do is sign up here.

The NBC Sports studio team of Rebecca Lowe, Robbie Earle, Kyle Martino and Robbie Mustoe are heading to the City of Brotherly Love and here are more details about what we have planned:

  • NBC Sports and the Premier League have also teamed up to bring the ePremier League USA Finals, a free-to-play esports tournament operated by Gfinity and FACEIT, to the Philadelphia Fan Fest. Registration for the tournament, which will see competitors battle it out online to reach the Philadelphia finals in April, begins today and can be accessed by clicking here. Online qualification matches on Xbox and PlayStation consoles begin March 4 and the finalists will be flown to Philadelphia for the ePremier League USA Finals at the Fan Fest on April 4-5.
  • The Premier League has an ongoing commitment to bringing unique experiences to its fans and working with NBC Sports on Premier League Mornings Live continues that direct outreach to passionate fans in different cities across the United States. Premier League Chief Executive, Richard Masters, said: “It seems only fitting that we round off our Premier League Mornings Live events for the 2019/20 season by bringing soccer fans together in the city famed for brotherly love, Philadelphia. The event at Dilworth Park will be another exciting chance for NBC Sports and us to bring Premier League action direct to supporters in the US and will be the first time at a Mornings Live Fan Festival where we have hosted an esports final. We hope that this and the other great free activities available to fans will encourage them to come down and get involved.”
  • Soccer fans from across the country can interact with the event by sharing their #MyPLMorning on social media, from wherever they are watching. Select viewer photos will be featured on air throughout the weekend.