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Premier League preview: Liverpool vs. Stoke City

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  • Liverpool (3rd) 9 points back of leaders Chelsea
  • Reds top scores in the PL
  • Stoke (12th) would go 9th with a win

The Premier League title race — if it’s not been won by Chelsea already — feels like it’s been whittled down to a three-horse race, with Manchester City and Liverpool quickly losing sight of the runaway leaders. Simply put, when Stoke City visit on Tuesday (Watch live, 12:15 p.m. ET, on NBCSN and online via, is a must-win for Jurgen Klopp‘s Reds. Making the issue all the more pressing, Liverpool have never lost a home, top-division game to Stoke in the two clubs’ histories (53 all-time top-division meetings at Anfield). However, Stoke were the last away side to win at Anfield (all competitions), winning 1-0 in the League Cup semifinal second leg, though Liverpool advanced to the final on penalties.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

Man City’s trip to Anfield, which comes on Saturday, will almost certainly cut the chasing pack down to one. The Reds’ dramatic, late triumph over Everton in Monday’s Merseyside derby gave Klopp’s side back-to-back wins for the first time since Oct. 29 and Nov. 11. All the while, Chelsea haven’t dropped a single point, moving to a dozen victories in a row seven days later, on Boxing Day.


Joel Matip (ankle) will be unavailable once again, as will Philippe Coutinho (ankle) and Danny Ings (knee surgery) for Liverpool, while Stoke will be without Marko Arnautovic (suspension), Geoff Cameron (knee), Jack Butland (ankle) and Phil Bardsley (knee).

What they’re saying

Klopp, on the busy holiday schedule: “It is a run that could do that [end a title challenge] but I am the type of guy who thinks you can make it work the other way around. It is all the same for all the teams, or nearly all the teams. We all have to go through it and in the end the teams who use all the different situations in the best way will be top of the table.”

Mark Hughes, on Joe Allen‘s return to Anfield: “I think Joe will want to do well when he goes back there, that is natural. He has nothing to prove there though in fairness, because I know that he was appreciated there by supporters and players alike.”


Perhaps more so than any other side in the PL, once Liverpool get rolling, they’re just about impossible to slow down. They should thrive during the upcoming congested series of fixtures, solidifying their place as Chelsea’s most legitimate title competition.

Ronaldo explains his new chin hair at World Cup

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Now that Cristiano Ronaldo has taken to sporting a reasonable hairstyle atop his head, people are talking about the foliage on his face.

[ RECAP: Morocco 0-1 Portugal ]

Ronaldo, 33, drew speculation when he stroked his chin following a goal in his hat trick performance against Spain in the World Cup opener. Some said he was demonstrating defiance against Lionel Messi posing with a goat (Greatest Of All Time) in a recent photograph.

Ronaldo scored again on Wednesday, and there was seemingly little doubt his goatee was a wink to the speculators. But what did it mean, CR7? From ESPN:

“This goatee? It’s a joke I had with [Ricardo] Quaresma. “We were in the sauna [before Friday’s match against Spain] and I started to shave and I left the goatee. I said if I score tomorrow, I would leave it for the rest of the tournament. And it gave me luck.

“I scored in that game, I scored in this one, so it stays.”

Personally, I like to imagine Ronaldo starting to get as wild with his facial hair as he did his head hair.

Perhaps a beatnik style, or something like Serj Tankian from System of a Down. Get nuts, C-Ron.

Report: Southampton could sell Tadic to Ajax for $20m

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Could Southampton be selling one of its most creative forces?

Dusan Tadic, 29, is in the middle of a World Cup run with dark horse Serbia, but the Saints star is also being talked about as a purchase item for Ajax.

[ MORE: Serbia tops Costa Rica ]

The celebrated Eredivisie has traditionally been a selling club for the Premier League, but could be a $20 million buy for Ajax.

The report says director of players Marc Overmars and financial director Jeroen Slop have flown to Southampton to work out a deal.

Tadic starred for Dutch sides Groningen and Twente between 2010-14 before moving to St. Mary’s for a reported $12 million.

He’s scored 24 goals with 35 assists in 162 appearances for Saints, 21 and 30 of which came in the Premier League.

Toronto locks down USMNT backstop Bono with extension

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Toronto FC goalkeeper Alex Bono is going to stay Toronto FC goalkeeper Alex Bono.

[ RECAP: Morocco 0-1 Portugal ]

The newly-capped USMNT backstop, 24, has been attracting interest from abroad since breaking past Clint Irwin to win the TFC job and guiding the club to multiple MLS Cup Finals.

Now general manager Tim Bezbatchenko has locked down his young goalkeeper to an undisclosed contract extension. From

“Alex was a big part of our success last season. He set club records for wins and clean sheets and was a critical piece of our championship team,” said Toronto FC Sr. Vice-President, Soccer Operations & General Manager Tim Bezbatchenko. “Since joining the club as a first round pick in 2015, Alex’s ability to make key saves in big moments has been critical to our success.”

The Syracuse-born product of Syracuse University has made 64 appearances for the Reds.

WATCH: World Cup, Day 8 — Argentina on the edge; France aims for berth

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France, Denmark, and Croatia can clinch knockout round berths on Thursday in Russia, the last nation also holding the opportunity to help deprive the World Cup of an extended Lionel Messi run.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

Messi’s Argentina drew Iceland in its opener, the megastar infamously missing a penalty, and will look to beat a Croatian side that looked quite good in dispatching Nigeria.

That’s the final match of the day, which begins with Denmark facing Australia and continues with a tasty match-up between France and Peru.

Below is Thursday’s schedule in full.

Click here for live and on demand coverage of the World Cup online and via the NBC Sports App.

2018 World Cup schedule – Wednesday, June 20

Group C
Denmark vs. Australia: Samara, 8 a.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE
France vs. Peru: Yekaterinburg, 11 a.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE

Group D
Argentina vs. Croatia: Nizhny Novgorod, 2 p.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE