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PL Tuesday preview: B’mouth-Arsenal; relegation 6-pointer

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A look ahead to three games in the Premier League on Tuesday…

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Bournemouth vs. Arsenal — 2:45 p.m. ET

Arsenal find themselves dead center of a five-team battle over the final three places in the top-four, four points back of second-place Liverpool and just one point clear of sixth place Manchester United. A loss would open up the door for Tottenham Hotspur to finish Matchweek 20 ahead of them (and Manchester City) for third when they take on league-leading Chelsea on Wednesday. Tuesday’s trip to the south coast of England comes barely 48 hours after the Gunners’ 2-0 home victory over Crystal Palace, spurred on by Olivier Giroud’s immaculate scorpion-kick goal. Arsene Wenger will hope to welcome Mesut Ozil back into the team after his superstar no. 10 missed Sunday’s game due to illness. Bournemouth, meanwhile, currently sit ninth in the PL table, though fewer points separate them from the relegation zone (9) than sixth place (15).

INJURIES: Bournemouth — OUT: Jack Wilshere (on loan from parent club), Lewis Cook (ankle) | Arsenal — OUT: Per Mertesacker (knee surgery), Santi Cazorla (achilles), Mathieu Debuchy (hamstring), Danny Welbeck (fitness); QUESTIONABLE: Mesut Ozil (illness), Theo Walcott (calf), Kieran Gibbs (knee)

[ MORE: Monday’s PL roundup – Liverpool draw late; Man Utd keep winning ]

Stoke City vs. Watford — 3 p.m. ET

Winless in their last five games, the PL schedule makers may have presented Stoke City with precisely the cure for what ails them: a visit from Watford, who are winless in almost as many games (4) and are fresh off a 4-1 pasting at the hands of Spurs on Sunday. New Years Eve wasn’t much kinder to the Potters, though, as Mark Hughes’ side took a 4-2 beating of their own, courtesy of the 2016-17 champions-elect. One small caveat, in Stoke’s defense: in those five games without a win, only three have been losses, which came against Arsenal, Liverpool and Chelsea (by a combined score of 11-4, it should be said).

INJURIES: Stoke — OUT: Geoff Cameron (knee), Jack Butland (ankle), Marc Muniesa (knee) | Watford — OUT: Valon Behrami (hamstring), Daryl Janmaat (groin), Roberto Pereyra (knee); QUESTIONABLE: Nordin Amrabat (knock)

[ MORE: Transfer needs for all 20 PL clubs in January ]

Crystal Palace vs. Swansea City — 3 p.m. ET

Can you say, “relegation six-pointer?” Swansea have started the season so poorly that a win against Palace wouldn’t even be enough to pull them out of the relegation zone, but it would bring them to within a point of the 17th-place Eagles, though their goal differential, which is nearly 20 goals worse, is still a problem. The Swans’ latest defeat came on Saturday, as Bournemouth walked into the Liberty Stadium, put three goals past the PL’s joint-worst (Hull City) defensive unit, and left them bottom of the league at the halfway point of the season.

INJURIES: Crystal Palace — OUT: Loic Remy (calf), Connor Wickham (knee) | Swansea — OUT: Jefferson Montero (hamstring); QUESTIONABLE: Fernando Llorente (knock), Sung-Yueng Ki (toe)

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 TorontoFC.com:

“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