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Premier League Preview: Swansea City vs. Arsenal

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5th vs. 19th doesn’t sound very appetizing until you consider the position of both these clubs and what this match means to each side.

Arsenal has flirted with the outside of the Champions League for years, but has yet to be punished, as Arsene Wenger‘s 19-year streak of qualifying for the top European competition has survived. Now, with the Gunners on the outside looking in at the beginning of the new year, suddenly that feels in jeopardy as a host of teams seem legitimate contenders while the Gunners’ form feels like it is slipping.

[ MORE: Men In Blazers look at Premier League contenders and pretenders ]

Arsenal has turned things around on paper since two straight losses in mid-December, but they still have been unable to shake the mistakes. Most recently, Wenger and company took the entire match to come back against Preston North End in the FA Cup, with another comeback against Bournemouth needed to scratch their way to a 3-3 draw.

With a growing injury list that includes Hector Bellerin, Francis CoquelinMohamed Elneny, Theo Walcott, Santi Cazorla, Per Mertesacker and Kieran Gibbs, the Gunners must not take Swansea City lightly.

[ PL Video: Matchday 21 preview ]

Meanwhile, the Swans could not translate Premier League success to a Cup victory, losing to lowly Hull City in FA Cup action last weekend following a galvanizing league win over Crystal Palace. Now however, a statement win could not only further boost the club, but could climb them out of the relegation zone with some help elsewhere.

Needless to say, this match at the Liberty Stadium bears great importance to either team.

The Swans will not have new signing Luciano Narsingh due to a calf injury, and Neil Taylor fractured his cheekbone in training. Otherwise, the hosts are healthy.

What they’re saying

Swansea City manager Paul Clement on Arsenal: “I saw them play West Brom so I have got my notes. It’s just I’ll be using them for Swansea instead of Bayern now. The notes are the same, just looking at what they do and hopefully take advantage. I’ll send Carlo [Ancelotti] a photocopy!”

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger on Olivier Giroud“When you face the situation he faced, either you feel sorry for yourself or you say, ‘I have a challenge I have to take on and work even harder’. That’s what he did. He benefits from the fact he has worked very hard and as well from the fact he is fresh at the moment where some other players have already played many games and sometimes need a little breather.”

Prediction

Despite the 90-minute struggles, Arsenal has figured out to gut out results of late. Swansea has posed little threat for much of the year, and it’s hard to see them holding off the Gunners’ pressure that can be relentless at times, even if there is little offered on net. Arsenal takes this 2-0, even if they leave it late.

Red Bulls handle Atlético Pantoja to start CCL campaign (video)

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The New York Red Bulls didn’t need to leave it late (like DaMarcus Beasley and Houston), nor did the MLS side forget how to play (like Toronto FC).

[ MORE: Nashville gets its MLS logo ]

RBNY scooped up a 2-0 first leg defeat of Dominican Republic side Atlético Pantoja in CONCACAF Champions League play in Santo Domingo on Wednesday.

Daniel Royer inspired a first half Pantoja own goal, but it was Kaku’s looping assist to Royer that stole the show with an insurance marker in the 67th minute.

Academy product and former Wake Forest midfielder Omir Fernandez, 20, made his senior debut off the bench in the 75th minute.

Nashville SC to keep its name, unveils logo for MLS 2020

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Nashville SC will remain Nashville SC when it moves into Major League Soccer next season, the USL club announced on Wednesday.

Nashville SC’s logo is an N wearing headphones — I apologize if I’m wrong here, but that’s what I see — as the Music City becomes a welcome addition to the United States’ top flight.

[ MORE: Europa League preview ]

Stunningly The fans wanted to keep the name of the club they’ve been supporting for a few years, and former Liverpool executive Ian Ayre announced that the club will keep a color from its crest as well.

“Gold is our primary club color, and we need to own that color in the sport. As we grow as a team we want to be recognizable by our color, our name and our values as a club.”

What do you think? It certainly could’ve been worse! We look forward to the building up of a regional rivalry with FC Cincinnati, Atlanta United, Sporting KC, and maybe one day Saint Louis FC.

Sarri, Emery face 2nd leg challenges at home

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Sevilla clinched the first Round of 16 spot with a Europa League win over Lazio on Wednesday, and the other 15 berths will be settled by late Thursday.

[ MORE: PL Power Rankings ]

That includes home second legs with varying degrees of difficult for a pair of London sides from the Premier League.

Maurizio Sarri looks like he’ll need to win the Europa League in order to get Chelsea back into the Champions League, and Chelsea needs to bounce back from another poor showing while also preparing for a hardware tilt; The FA Cup loss to Manchester United was three days before Thursday’s match with Malmo, which is three days before the League Cup final against Man City.

Chelsea holds a 2-1 lead after one leg. From ChelseaFC.com:

“We have to solve a big problem because we stayed in the other half for 75 minutes out of 90, and we were not able to score. They played only 15 or 16 balls into our box and they scored two goals. We have to solve this problem. It is probably a problem of aggression, determination in both boxes.”

Arsenal has an even bigger fish to fry than recent form, down 1-0 after one leg in Belarus.

Unai Emery is hoping the North London faithful can be the difference.

“It is also very important to play in our stadium with our supporters, and we need their support for this match and I hope there is a big atmosphere for us. Together, with their support, I know our players can play and give their all. The supporters want to watch our team play with the best performance possible.

“For this reason, I think we need good feedback between the supporters and us. … We need to listen to them supporting us and the players must give them the best performance in our stadium.”

The full schedule is below.

Thursday’s Europa League second legs
All times ET

12:55 p.m. ET
Arsenal v. BATE Borisov (BATE leads 1-0)
Eintracht Frankfurt v. Shakhtar Donetsk (2-2)
Villarreal v. Sporting Lisbon (Villareal leads 1-0)
Dinamo Zagreb v. Viktoria Plzen (Plzen leads 2-1)
Zenit Saint-Petersburg v. Fenerbahce (Fener leads 1-0)
Red Bull Salzburg v. Club Brugge (Brugge leads 2-1)
Valencia v. Celtic (Valencia leads 2-0)
Napoli v. FC Zurich (Napoli leads 3-1)

3 p.m. ET
Chelsea v. Malmo (Chelsea leads 2-1)
Benfica v. Galatasaray (Benfica leads 2-1)
Rennes v. Real Betis (3-3)
Inter Milan v. Rapid Vienna (Inter leads 1-0)
Dynamo Kiev v. Olympiakos (2-2)
Bayer Leverkusen v. Krasnodar (0-0)
Racing Genk v. Prague (0-0)

Juve: ‘No use crying over spilt milk’ after ‘ugly’ first leg loss

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Max Allegri and Juventus look set to fall short of a UEFA Champions League title again, and this time are staring down an exit before the quarterfinals.

[ MORE: Match recap ]

The club has two things going for it after a 2-0 first leg loss to Atletico Madrid in Spain: The 90 minutes or more of the second leg, and Cristiano Ronaldo.

The player has already made his feelings known by setting the second leg stage with a very Patrick Roy (for you hockey fans out there) title rip.

Allegri is a bit more diplomatic, ripping Juve’s “ugly” second half at the Wanda Metropolitano but also demanding the club move past it immediately. From Football-Italia.net:

“Now we have the chance to turn this around, we must have faith, we’ll have some players back and there’s no point crying over spilt milk. We knew it was going to be tough, that Atletico Madrid force you to play badly, with a slow tempo. We moved the ball quicker in the first half, but not in the second.

“We got the approach wrong in the second half. It’s that simple. These things can happen, there will be great disappointment after this 2-0, but we can turn it around. It won’t be easy, we need a great second leg, but it can be done and we must have faith.”

And there’s Ronaldo, Dybala, and a number of world class players on his side. An inspired, spiteful Ronaldo is one thing, but take into account the man clearly carries his legacy on his hip pocket and the Portuguese hero is going to be flying come March 12 in Turin.