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Top PL Storylines; Top Four fortunes, final impressions, Mou’s kids

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There’s neither title nor relegation drama as the Premier League hits Championship Sunday, but the table is far from set.

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There’s the Top Four to consider, but you know that, and the midtable is also in play. With approximately $2.6 million per place, some teams could gain or lose $10-plus million on Sunday.


Who will go to the UEFA Champions League?

Arsenal vs. Everton — 10 a.m. ET on NBC and online via NBCSports.com
Liverpool vs. Middlesbrough — 10 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com
Watford vs. Man City — 10 a.m. ET on USA and online via NBCSports.com

It’s as simple as this: Whether they start fast or slow, Liverpool and Manchester City control their destinies in the race for the Top Four. A point will do it for Man City, while Liverpool needs a win to ensure its spot. Arsenal needs a win and either a Man City loss or a Liverpool draw. There are tiebreaking scenarios…

According to The Sun, If Arsenal draw 1-1 Everton and Liverpool lose 0-2 against Middlesbrough the teams would be forced into a tie-breaker after finishing level on points, goal difference and goals scored.

Champs and their captain vs. the Championship

Chelsea vs. Sunderland — 10 a.m. ET online via NBCSports.com

Chelsea’s players have one final chance to impress Antonio Conte before the FA Cup Final, and the boss may hand John Terry one final start at Stamford Bridge. Meanwhile, Sunderland would relish one last big result before a season in the second tier.

Will the kids be alright?

Manchester United vs. Crystal Palace — 10 a.m. ET online via NBCSports.com

Jose Mourinho is going to play a host of youngsters on Sunday, and Paul Pogba will return. This is a club that loves promoting its youth, and would love to see some new Old Trafford heroes take care of business against Big Sam Allardyce and mercurial Palace.

What impression will Puel, Hughes leave?

Southampton vs. Stoke City — 10 a.m. ET online via NBCSports.com

Mark Hughes feels safer than Claude Puel, but both Stoke City and Southampton underachieved this season (at least in terms of total points produced). Puel led his club to a EFL Cup final and didn’t look bad in UEFA Europa League play, but has still be under fire at St. Mary’s. Hughes had a head-scratching year at the bet365 Stadium. A positive impression would help either heading into the summer.

Carlos Vela scored a celestial goal. We are blessed to have seen it

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Carlos Vela is making all other spectacular individual MLS seasons look run of the mill.

I mean, look at the gumption on this guy.

[ VIDEO: Rooney sent off, Kamara scores golazo ]

The Cancun-born playmaker left the San Jose Earthquakes back line on the beach with a soft shoe routine to give LAFC its third goal in a 4-0 win on Thursday

Vela, 30, now has 25 goals and 11 assists in 25 league matches for LAFC this season. He added two goals and an assist in Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup play.

But this one, yeah, this one takes the cake.

First, there’s Vela’s non-chalant dummy before picking up the pass.

Then, there’s Florian Jungwirth’s body language during and after his being cooked with a nutmeg. That’s an entire mood.

Next, Vela dribbles around the keeper and allows a slide tackler so glide past him before finishing with aplomb, the magic touch his going near post as if to say, “Can I beat this guy a second time, or do I have to use the easier route?”

Diego Rossi also had a goal and an assist, while Mark-Anthony Kaye continued his strong season with an assist to ex-Fiorentina prospect Joshua Perez. It’s a first MLS goal for the California-born Perez, now 21.

WATCH: Rooney sees red for forearm shiver, Kamara scores golazo

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Midweek MLS provided plenty to talk about on Wednesday, with two red cards and a golazo in one match alone.

The two main talking points from the New York Red Bulls’ 2-1 win over DC United weren’t really part of what led the victors to three points.

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How? Well, one of the world’s marquee names earned a red card via VAR and a returning star scores an absolute stunner, that’s how.

Here’s Ola Kamara’s debut marker for the Black-and-Red, adding to a record which included 49 goals in 97 matches between Columbus and the LA Galaxy before moving to the Chinese Super League for a wildly disappointing time with Shenzhen FC.

All of that is forgotten.

As for the Rooney incident, the Red Bulls already led 1-0 when DC’s star striker went forearm shiver on Cristian Casseres Jr.

It’s the second red of the season for Rooney, who is set for Derby County in January.

Amro Tarek was later sent off for the Red Bulls, who moved ahead of DC in the standings. Kaku and Daniel Royer had RBNY’s goals.

Newcastle takeover could be back on if in holiday relegation battle

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How much do Newcastle United supporters dislike their owner Mike Ashley right now?

Enough that this report is likely to condemn many to hoping their favorite club in the world is in the Bottom 3 come Christmas.

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The Chronicle’s Mark Douglas speculates that Ashley will lower his asking price for the club if it is in a relegation fight come December — something that looks certain after the Steve Bruce-led Magpies got bossed around by promoted Norwich City.

Nothing But Newcastle transcribed Douglas’ chatter from his podcast, in which he says,

“It wouldn’t surprise me if we hear more in December because there are still people sniffing around that football club and if the team are in the bottom three, there’ll be people thinking they can get a bargain out of Mike Ashley again. … He will probably more open to listening to lower offers in January and December which is what happened last December. He was basically saying ‘take it off my hands, you now have to take the risk’'”

This is notable for two reasons. First: the social experiment of wondering how many fans could see themselves rooting for their team to take a major and perilous back step just to see the back of a man they perceive is at the root of their failures (and that perception is widespread in this case).

But second, we can see if this rumor comes true because it’s difficult to imagine Newcastle as comfortably mid table by Christmas.

Fan protests and anger are nothing new, but here’s an effort to show how wobbly Ashley’s reputation is on Tyneside: Fans have taken to selling a black and white striped shirt with player name and number but no sponsor just so they can have a Newcastle jersey that doesn’t put money into Ashley’s pockets. And this is after he broke the club’s transfer record twice in one year.

If we’ve learned anything from the past few seasons, though, it’s that boycotts and anger will spur Ashley into insisting that he’s willing to sell and just conveniently enough it will be before the January transfer window. He “won’t be able to buy any players” with the takeover in play, and talks will hit a wall come late January, when they’ll loan a couple young players from Top Six sides.

Yes he spent significant money on Joelinton, Allen Saint-Maximin, and others this summer, but one decent window doesn’t make a culture. Count us amongst the skeptical, for now.

Messi back in training, could be fit for Betis

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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) Lionel Messi was back in full training again on Wednesday and may be fit to face Real Betis in the Spanish league on Sunday.

Messi had been training separately from the squad since injuring his right calf in the preseason.

He missed the team’s 1-0 loss to Athletic Bilbao in the league opener on Friday.

Barcelona has not said how long it expects Messi to be sidelined.

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Coach Ernesto Valverde is also dealing with injuries to forwards Luiz Suarez and Ousmane Dembele.

Dembele is certain to miss Sunday’s match at the Camp Nou because of a left thigh injury that should keep him out for about five weeks.

Suarez also isn’t likely to play this weekend because of a muscle injury sustained before halftime of Friday’s game in Bilbao.

Two-time defending champion Barcelona hadn’t loss a league opener in 10 seasons.

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