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The story of EURO 2016 so far

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Okay, that was fun.

The group stage of EURO 2016 is now over and with 36 games in the books, the next 15 are the business end of the tournament.

[ MORE: Latest EURO 2016 news ]

Before the knockout rounds begin this Saturday, let’s take a look at the main themes from the opening games in France as things have got going rather nicely.


Playmakers paradise

It is clear that the mercurial talents at EURO 2016 are enjoying themselves.

With Dimitri Payet scoring goals for France and Gareth Bale the main man for Wales, Gylfi Sigurdsson adding poise to Iceland’s purpose and Mesut Ozil purring for Germany, there’s plenty of attacking delights to choose from.

[ MORE: EURO 2016 stats | EURO 2016 bracket

Looking at some of the stars who have emerged in this tournament, Ivan Perisic of Croatia has been particularly impressive, as have established deep-lying playmakers Luka Modric, Wayne Rooney (this is what he’s classed as, now) and Toni Kroos. Others who have shone are Slovakia’s Marek Hamsik, while emerging stars include Poland’s teenager Bartosz Kapustka and England’s Dele Alli. There hasn’t been a shortage of quality on display and now the group stage is over, these quality attackers will clash against one another. Bring it on.

TOULOUSE, FRANCE - JUNE 20: Gareth Bale of Wales celebrates scoring his team's third goal during the UEFA EURO 2016 Group B match between Russia and Wales at Stadium Municipal on June 20, 2016 in Toulouse, France. (Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images)
(Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images)

Overall, if it style and flair you’re after, you’re watching the right tournament. Even if Andrea Pirlo and Sebastian Giovinco are scrapping away in Major League Soccer instead of playing for Italy while this all goes on…


Rise of the underdogs

Iceland. Wales. Northern Ireland. Slovakia. All four are in the Round of 16 and all four are competing in their first-ever European Championships. Plus, Hungary is through in their first tournament since 1972. Not bad.

Wales and Hungary won their groups. Slovakia and Northern Ireland finished third and have tough games against Germany and Wales respectively in the knockout rounds but they are just happy to still be in the dance.

LYON, FRANCE - JUNE 16: Gareth McAuley (L) of Northern Ireland celebrates scoring his team's first goal with his team mate Conor Washington (R) during the UEFA EURO 2016 Group C match between Ukraine and Northern Ireland at Stade des Lumieres on June 16, 2016 in Lyon, France. (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)
(Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)

There’s no doubting which underdog has stolen the show: Iceland. With a population of just over 320,000, the Icelandic players have won admirers the world over. Except for Cristiano Ronaldo…

Iceland now face England in the Round of 16 in Nice next Monday and many believe an upset of the Three Lions isn’t out of the realms of possibility.

Given how things have gone for the outsiders at EURO 2016 so far, why can’t at least one of them reach the last eight?


Intrigue until the end

With the tournament expanded to 24 teams for the first-time ever, everything was set up to make every single game in group play interesting. That was a resounding success.

There’s been hardly any talk of “dead rubber” games as teams scramble to be among the four best third-placed teams to reach the Round of 16 and no team has won all three games in the group stages.

BORDEAUX, FRANCE - JUNE 21: David Silva of Spain and Marko Rog of Croatia compete for the ball during the UEFA EURO 2016 Group D match between Croatia and Spain at Stade Matmut Atlantique on June 21, 2016 in Bordeaux, France. (Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images)
(Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images)

Only 11 of the 36 group games were won by one or more goal with tight games playing out — yes, there should have been some blowouts but poor finishing from some of the big boys has kept things interesting — and putting to bed fears there would be a huge imbalance in talent due to the expanded field. That has clearly not been the case. Plus, now we get an extra round of knockout games.

The 24-team experiment has been hugely successful and perhaps plenty of the excitement has come from late goals as 19 of the 63 strikes has come in the 80th minute or later, with 15 of those arriving after 87 minutes. Tight.


Bext XI of the group stage

Here’s my team of the group stage.

Agree? Disagree? Hit me up in the comments below.

—– McGovern —–

— Sagna — Pique — Bonucci — Alba —

— Kroos — Modric —

— Payet — Ozil — Perisic — 

—– Bale —–


Violent outbreaks, fan misbehavior

I don’t want to spend more time than necessary discussing this but it needs to be addressed. Some of the fan behavior at this tournament has been absolutely shocking.

From the running battles in Marseille between English and Russian fans to flares being thrown on the pitch by Croatian supporters, there is no place for any of this in the beautiful game.

Russia and England were threatened with expulsion by UEFA and the former was charged for throwing fireworks and crowd disturbances inside the Velodrome. Russia was handed a “suspended disqualification” but they’ve already been knocked out. England and Russian fans clashed again in Lille and Turkey, Croatia, Hungary, Belgium, Romania, Albania and the Czech Republic have all been investigated by UEFA for crowd issues inside stadiums.

MARSEILLE, FRANCE - JUNE 11: England fans throw bottles and clash with police ahead of the game against Russia later today on June 11, 2016 in Marseille, France. Football fans from around Europe have descended on France for the UEFA Euro 2016 football tournament. (Photo by Carl Court/Getty Images)
(Photo by Carl Court/Getty Images)

This is 2016. We should not be reading about woman and children fleeing baying mobs as tear gas canisters fly around or supporters being hospitalized. It is a miracle nobody has been killed and although security inside the stadiums in France and in the fanzones has been generally on point, questions have to be asked about the often heavy-handed policing in and around host cities by French police.

Plus, how supporters are still managing to smuggle fireworks and flares into stadiums when security is supposed to be ultra-tight is extremely concerning. Let’s hope scenes of utter jubilation we’ve seen from the Republic of Ireland, Northern Ireland and Iceland fans spread to supporters of every other nation competing in the Round of 16.


Bracket imbalance

All it took was a couple of favorites to finish second in their groups and now we have a very lopsided bracket in the knockout rounds.

With Germany, Spain, Italy, France and England all on the same side, we are set for some stacked quarterfinal and semifinal matchups. As for the other side of the bracket, the likes of Belgium and Croatia will be rubbing their hands with glee. Heck, even the likes of Poland and Wales will be fancying their chances of making a run to the final four.

Everywhere you look in the Round of 16 there are huge storylines. From a British battle between first-timers Wales and Northern Ireland, to a potential upset of England from Iceland, a rematch of the EURO 2012 final, Spain vs. Italy, and a chance for redemption for the Republic of Ireland against France, this next round is packed with narratives.

Take a look at the schedule below to see what I’m talking about. Yep. If the Round of 16 games go the way of favorites, it will be France vs. England and Germany vs. Spain in the quarterfinals. Tasty.

Newcastle – Brighton: How to watch, start time, team news, prediction, odds

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Newcastle v Brighton: A pair of sides that impressed on the opening weekend of the 2020-21 Premier League season — but only one of them with anything to show for it — will meet at St. James’ Park on Sunday (Watch live at 9 am ET, online via Peacock).

NEWCASTLE – BRIGHTON STREAM LIVE

Newcastle United were far and away the better side in their season-opening victory away to West Ham United last weekend, while Brighton looked the better part of Chelsea’s equals for 54 minutes but ultimately fell to a 3-1 defeat at the Amex Stadium.

[ MORE: How to watch PL in the USA ]  

Here is everything you need to know ahead of Newcastle v Brighton this Sunday with team news, odds, stream link and more.


Team news: Newcastle v Brighton (INJURY REPORT)

Newcastle will be without five players — Matty Longstaff (thigh), Martin Dubravka (ankle), Fabian Schar (shoulder), Paul Dummett (thigh), Dwight Gayle (knee) — leaving Steve Bruce with an increasingly thin squad, but he’ll be able to trot out the same XI that beat West Ham on Opening Day.

Jose Iquierdo (knee), Florian Andone (knee) and Christian Walton (ankle) have all been ruled out for Sunday, with rising star Ben White passes a late fitness test after picking up a minor injury last week.


What they’re saying

Newcastle manager Steve Bruce, on starting with a win: “I’m like everybody else, we all like to get off to a start and we couldn’t have had a better week in terms of results. The players have hit the ground running, which was always part of the reason why we went after who we went after. We’ve got a chance to get off to an outstanding start.”

Brighton manager Graham Potter, on Newcastle: “Newcastle will be strong. They were worthy winners at West Ham and they will be a tough test for us. Impressive, the business they have done. They have added to the squad and they will be really strong. Everyone knows what Andy Carroll brings to the team and physically he is very strong, and aerially he is strong. Him and [Callum] Wilson will be a strong partnership.”


Odds and ends (full odds provided by our partner, PointsBet)

There’s almost nothing to separate Newcastle (+160) from Brighton (+185) as the oddsmakers see Sunday’s clash a near-tossup. Even the draw (+210) isn’t far out of line with either side winning.

PointsBet is our Official Sports Betting Partner and we may receive compensation if you place a bet on PointsBet for the first time after clicking our links


Prediction

At the risk of placing too much importance upon a game in week no. 2, this one has the feel of an important litmus test for Newcastle. West Ham have been chaotic for quite some time now, but Brighton, despite finishing 15th last season, have appeared far more stable and trending upward under Potter. They’re likely a mid-table side this season, and Newcastle could be, too. In the end, it ends Newcastle 1-1 Brighton.


How to watch Newcastle v Brighton stream and start time

Kickoff: 9 am ET Sunday
Online: Stream via Peacock

Leicester City seals Under loan with no obligation to buy

Cenzig Under Leicester
Photo by Loris Roselli/NurPhoto via Getty Images
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Leicester City confirmed the acquisition of Roma winger Cenzig Under on Sunday, giving the Foxes an exciting player one year removed from a breakout season in Serie A.

The 23-year-old Turkish international is reunited with “best friend” Caglar Soyuncu, bringing six goals in 21 caps to the King Power Stadium on a loan with an option to buy.

[ MORE: Jota to Liverpool confirmed ]

Sky Sports says the loan fee is just under $4 million with a $26 million purchase option after the season.

Under scored just thrice for Roma last season after losing his place in the XI during an early-season injury spell, but had seven goals and 10 assists the previous season and joins a Leicester wing corps with Ayoze Perez and Harvey Barnes amongst others.

From LCFC.com:

“I’ve always wanted to play in England and this is a great opportunity to play in the Premier League. I think I am fast and can create lots of chances for my colleagues. I feel very good because my best friend plays for Leicester City. I am very happy to be able to play with Çağlar and I always watched Leicester’s games because of him.”

Under and Soyuncu were together from 2011-13 in the academy at Bucaspor before both joined Altınordu in 2014 for initial forays into first team football.

If Under’s spell at Leicester is anything like Soyuncu’s, you can bet on that purchase option being snapped up by Brendan Rodgers.

Southampton – Tottenham: How to watch, start time, team news, prediction, odds

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Southampton – Tottenham: This will be a tight game on Sunday (Watch live at 7am ET, online via Peacock) at St Mary’s as Ralph Hasenhuttl and Jose Mourinho have locked horns three times already in 2020.

SOUTHAMPTON – TOTTENHAM STREAM LIVE

Saints have won the league game, draw an FA Cup game at home and lost the FA Cup replay away at Tottenham and all three of those games were tightly contested encounters. With Spurs having a quick turnaround given their Europa League qualifying win in Bulgaria on Thursday, plus League Cup and Europa League games next midweek, Mourinho may be forced to shuffle his pack.

After losing their opening game of the Premier League, both clubs will want to get back on track quickly.

[ MORE: How to watch PL in the USA ]  

Here is everything you need to know ahead of Tottenham this Sunday with team news, odds, stream link and more.


Team news: Southampton – Tottenham (INJURY REPORT)

Southampton boss Ralph Hasenhuttl has Stuart Armstrong back from injury and he starts, replacing the injured Nathan Redmond.

Mourinho has Giovani Lo Celso back fit and he’s on the bench, while this game comes too soon for new signings Gareth Bale and Sergio Reguilon. Tanguy Ndombele starts in midfield and Dele Alli is not in the squad.


What they’re saying

Ralph Hasenhuttl on Southampton not being fully fit to start the season: “We are not playing quick enough at the moment. Not aggressive enough without the ball. We are not at the fitness levels we had last season. This is not surprising we had no pre-season where we could work together. But yes we should go quickly to a different level otherwise it’ll be difficult.”

Eric Dier on Tottenham’s congested fixture schedule: “If you look at the schedule, it isn’t showing any care for players’ physical welfare. It’s common sense really, trying to ask someone to play Sunday, Tuesday, Thursday, Sunday, Tuesday, Thursday, Sunday. It doesn’t seem like there is any care for players’ welfare in that situation.”


Odds and ends (full odds provided by our partner, PointsBet)

Southampton are the underdogs (+210) but have matched up well against Tottenham in recent meetings. Spurs are favored (+130) but the draw (+235) looks likely in this one and Mourinho will probably take that given all of their recent games.

PointsBet is our Official Sports Betting Partner and we may receive compensation if you place a bet on PointsBet for the first time after clicking our links


Prediction

Danny Ings can cause Tottenham problems and if Saints start quickly, as they like to do, they can catch Spurs out. Tottenham will sit back and then look to hit Saints on the counter and hope the quality of Son, Kane and Co. will see them through. I’m going for a draw. 1-1.


How to watch Southampton – Tottenham stream and start time

Kickoff: 7 am ET Sunday
Online: Stream via Peacock

Aston Villa – Sheffield United: How to watch, start time, prediction, odds

Aston Villa - Sheffield United
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Aston Villa – Sheffield United: Dean Smith’s new-look Aston Villa begins its Premier League campaign at home to Sheffield United at Villa Park on Monday (Watch live at 1 pm ET, online via Peacock).

Villa has added Bertrand Traore, Emiliano Martinez, Matty Cash, and Ollie Watkins this summer and have been linked to more talent. Of course, it’s just as critical that the club signed Jack Grealish to a new contract.

STREAM ASTON VILLA – SHEFFIELD UNITED LIVE

Blades lost to Wolves to start the Premier League season before falling to Burnley in penalties at midweek in League Cup action.

Getting points against Villa and Leeds the next two fixtures would be a boon to a club that then sees Arsenal, Liverpool, Man City, and Chelsea in four of five league outings.

[ MORE: How to watch PL in the USA ]  

Here is everything you need to know ahead of Aston Villa – Sheffield United this Saturday with team news, odds, stream link and more.


Team news: Aston Villa – Sheffield United (INJURY REPORT)

Tom Heaton, Wesley, and Bjorn Engels remain out for Villa, while Blades are going to be without Lys Mousset for some time following a foot operation.


What they’re saying

Bertrand Traore on returning to the Premier League with Villa: “I’m very happy to join Aston Villa. I’m happy to be here. I played with JT at Chelsea, I spoke to him. I spoke to the manager, spoke with the sporting director as well and some players I used to play with. I spoke to Nakamba, I talked to him a little bit about the club. Many things made me take the decision to come here. I’m happy.”

Sheffield United boss Chris Wilder on competition for places: “You’ve already seen a step up in training and instruction. You have to keep raising the bar and quality of your group. I think there are any shoo-ins to our team. Everybody’s got an opportunity and we talked about that the other night against Burnley. Take the opportunity and don’t waste it. I believe they didn’t.”


Odds and ends (full odds provided by our partner, PointsBet)

This one’s as close as it gets, as hosts Villa are +165 to win and the visiting Blades are barely off that at +175. Even a draw nets +220. Anything could happen.

PointsBet is our Official Sports Betting Partner and we may receive compensation if you place a bet on PointsBet for the first time after clicking our links


Aston Villa – Sheffield United prediction

There are a lot of new pieces with big expectations for Villa, who overcame a slow start to beat Burton Albion well in the League Cup at midweek. Blades haven’t looked right for a few matches now stretching into preseason. It’s tempting to call this one for Villa, 1-0, but 0-0 or 1-1 shouldn’t surprise anyone.


How to watch Aston Villa – Sheffield United stream and start time

Kickoff: 1 pm ET Monday
Online: Stream via Peacock