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MLS at Week 29: NYCFC looks to clinch vs. Houston, Atlanta hosts Impact

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Five weeks remain in the MLS regular season, and the playoff picture in both conferences are still quite murky despite time running out ahead of the postseason.

[ MORE: Sporting KC claims its fourth U.S. Open Cup title ]

While the playoff situation in the Western Conference likely won’t be settled until the final week or two, another team in the East can lock up a spot in the postseason this weekend with a victory.

New York City FC vs. Houston Dynamo

New York City FC has struggled a bit as of late with injuries and are also winless in their last two matches, but Patrick Vieira’s side has the opportunity to clinch its place in the East playoffs and potentially draw one step closer to locking up the second seed.

Vieira’s boys have scored just two goals in their last three outings (1-1-1 in that span), but the good news for NYCFC is that David Villa is expected to return to the starting XI on Saturday. MLS’ leading goalscorer has racked up an impressive 19 goals this season, and the Spaniard looks on pace to capture another MLS MVP award in 2017.

They’ll face the Dynamo in a “home” match in Hartford, Connecticut after the game was moved from Yankee Stadium due to a stadium conflict with the Yankees. The fixture still bodes well though for NYCFC, as the Dynamo boast one of the worst road records in MLS this season, at 1-9-5.


Atlanta United vs. Montreal Impact

Tata Martino’s side continues to benefit from playing at their new venue, Mercedes-Benz Stadium, and Atlanta will have the opportunity to put on another show on Sunday against the Impact.

Atlanta has leapt all the way up to fourth in the Eastern Conference and could potentially go third this weekend with a victory. Over the team’s last four matches, Atlanta has scored an astounding 17 goals, putting the rest of MLS on watch over the club’s potent attack.

For the Impact, they are in desperate need of a victory after picking up three points against Toronto on Wednesday. Mauro Biello’s side is on the outside looking in with five matches remaining, and the Impact are still three points behind the New York Red Bulls for the final playoff spot in the East.


Real Salt Lake vs. Seattle Sounders

Even if the Claret and Cobalt don’t qualify for the playoffs, Mike Petke has done a really special coaching job this season in Salt Lake City. RSL holds the final playoff spot out West for the time being, and it’s no coincidence that they’ve risen in the table given their form.

Since July 4, RSL is unbeaten in nine of its 11 matches, including six victories during that span. Unfortunately for Petke and Co., they have to play the Sounders this weekend — who haven’t lost June 17 at NYCFC.

The Sounders have drawn four in a row, but their unbeaten streak has extended to an MLS-best 13 matches as of late, putting them within a point of the Western Conference lead.


Here’s a look at the full rundown of the weekend’s action around MLS.

Saturday

New York City FC vs. Houston Dynamo — 3 p.m. ET
New England Revolution vs. Toronto FC — 5 p.m. ET
D.C. United vs. San Jose Earthquakes — 7 p.m. ET
Philadelphia Union vs. Chicago Fire — 7 p.m. ET
Columbus Crew vs. New York Red Bulls — 7:30 p.m. ET
Minnesota United vs. FC Dallas — 8 p.m. ET
Real Salt Lake vs. Seattle Sounders — 9:30 p.m. ET
Vancouver Whitecaps vs. Colorado Rapids — 10 p.m. ET

Sunday

Sporting KC vs. LA Galaxy — 2 p.m. ET
Atlanta United vs. Montreal Impact — 5 p.m. ET
Portland Timbers vs. Orlando City — 8 p.m. ET

Southampton – Brighton stream: How to watch, start time, odds, prediction

Southampton - Brighton stream
Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images
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Southampton – Brighton stream: Two South Coast sides tangle for bottom half positioning when the Seagulls of Brighton and Hove Albion fly into St. Mary’s to meet Southampton on Thursday (Watch live at 3:15 pm ET on NBC Sports Gold via NBCSports.com).

Saints have 45 points and have taken points off Man City and Manchester United in the last two weeks, while Brighton’s 36 points are still not quite safe. Three points will formalize another season in the Premier League for Graham Potter’s men.

STREAM SOUTHAMPTON – BRIGHTON LIVE

Team news

Michael Obafemi is rewarded for his late heroics at Manchester United and will start alongside Danny Ings.

Brighton will plug Tariq Lamptey back into the Starting XI.

Odds and prediction

Southampton are slight favorites to win at +117 according to DraftKings while Brighton is +255.

We’re looking for goals. Call it 2-2.

How to watch Southampton – Brighton stream, start time

Kickoff: 3:15 pm ET Thursday
Online: Stream via NBCSports.com

Leicester City – Sheffield United, Everton – Aston Villa: How to watch, stream

Leicester City - Sheffield United preview
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Leicester City – Sheffield United and Everton – Aston Villa are both massive games but for very different reasons on Thursday (start time, 1pm ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

If Leicester City is to hang onto its top four spot, it will have earned it in a three-match crucible beginning with a visit from Sheffield United on Thursday. While at Goodison, Aston Villa badly need a win to boost their survival hopes as they head to Everton.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

King Power Stadium is the scene for the big tilt, with both Foxes and Blades aiming for places in Europe in the fall. Injury-hit Leicester was given a slight reprieve after its embarrassing loss to Bournemouth when Southampton drew Manchester United, while Blades helped, too, by clobbering Chelsea.

Fourth-place Leicester’s a point back of Chelsea on 59 points, ahead of Manchester United on goal differential. Only the top four will make the 2020-21 Champions League unless Man City wins the 2019-20 edition in August. Sheffield United has an outside shot to catch the Foxes. The Blades have 54 points and will know Leicester still has to face Manchester United.

LEICESTER CITY – SHEFFIELD UNITED STREAM

EVERTON – ASTON VILLA STREAM

As for Everton – Aston Villa, the Toffees are playing for pride after some shocking recent displays and Carlo Ancelotti at least wants a top 10 finish to show for as their Europa League hopes are all but over.

For Aston Villa, this is a massive game in their battle against relegation. Dean Smith’s side beat Crystal Palace last time out know they must win at Everton to try and drag West Ham and Watford further back into the relegation battle. Villa play at West Ham on the final day of the season and if they can get to that game knowing a win in a what would essentially be a relegation playoff would keep them up, they would take that.


Team news

Caglar Soyuncu is suspended and Ricardo Pereira is out injured, while three other key players are questionable in Ben Chilwell, James Maddison, and Marc Albrighton all miss out with youngster Luke Thomas coming in for the start.

John Fleck is back on the bench as Sheffield United are unchanged from their win against Chelsea.

Aston Villa have no new injury concerns as Matt Targett comes back into the starting lineup, while Everton make five changes from the team embarrassed at Wolves last time out.


What they’re saying

Leicester’s Brendan Rodgers on holding off Chelsea and Manchester United“If you look at the clubs below us and around us. We’re ambitious but we understand that there are super clubs around us. Are we as big as them? No. We want to be up there challenging irrespective of size of club. It doesn’t change the way I approach it. We were 12th when I came in, and to be fighting for a Champions League place. That’s amazing.”

Blades boss Wilder on Sheffield Wednesday fan Jamie Vardy: “To be released by the team you love is a hammer blow but he got up off the canvas and proved people wrong by getting his hands dirty at Stocksbridge and Halifax and Fleetwood. Then for Nigel (Pearson) to take a punt for a million quid was a huge statement, and one that’s been justified. … I go to the pub after a win and people say: ‘I could have made it but had an injury.’ Well it wasn’t you because you didn’t do it. You didn’t prove it like Vardy did, so you deserve to be in the pub and have the career you had, not the one Vardy had. So shut up. And I’ve got a few pals like that who I have to put in their basket sometimes. He keeps going so he deserves everything that comes his way, even though it’s from a Blade to an Owl.”


Odds and ends (Full matchweek odds)

DraftKings has any result within reasonable reach, with host Leicester at +100 and Sheffield United at +310 with a tie near the middle at +225. Jamie Vardy and Oliver McBurnie traded goals early when these two met at Bramall Lane in August before Harvey Barnes found the decisive goal in a 2-1 Leicester City win.

The hosts Everton are favored (+110) but don’t rule out Aston Villa (+250) who have improved defensively and have the likes of Trezeguet, Grealish and McGinn looking dangerous. The tie is +250 but Villa have to go all-out for the win.


Prediction

It’s tempting to pick against Leicester City due to their injuries and form but the Foxes are a proud, experienced bunch and a good match for the Blades. Call it points split in score draw.

Aston Villa have to go for the win and they will just get it at a sloppy Everton side.


Premier League: How to watch, stream, Leicester City – Sheffield United

Kickoff: 1 pm ET Thursday
TV Channel: NBCSN + Gold/Peacock
Online: Stream via NBCSports.com

Transfer news: Sancho to Man United update; Koulibaly to Man City

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In the latest transfer news there is an update on Jadon Sancho to Manchester United, while a price has been set for Kalidou Koulibaly to Manchester City.

[ MORE: New PL TV schedule ]

Starting in the red half of Manchester, things have gone a little quiet in recent weeks when it comes to talk about Jadon Sancho to Manchester United but the latest update is interesting.

Multiple outlets, including this one from Bild in Germany, state that Borussia Dortmund are waiting for a $137 million offer to arrive from Man United for the English winger.

Sancho, 20, has dazzled at Dortmund over the last two seasons and his stock has risen considerably. However, with Mason Greenwood, Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial thriving in attack at Man United, is there a need for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer to spend big on a new winger?

They’ve been linked with Mikel Oyarzabal and many others in recent weeks as alternatives to Sancho, who is probably the most expensive winger out there right now. There’s a reason for that because his quality is obvious and his poise on the ball and creativity in the final third would give Man United something slightly different.

If Man United are willing to spend this type of cash on Sancho, a report from the Manchester Evening News says he wants to return to Manchester after his time at Man City’s youth academy before he left for Dortmund.

Koulibaly to Manchester City
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Switching to Sancho’s former club, Kalidou Koulibaly continues to be linked with a host of teams across Europe and the latest reports says Manchester City have been quoted a price for the superb Senegalese center back.

Koulibaly, 29, will be available for $82 million this summer, according to the Daily Mirror, and Pep Guardiola wants a new center back to help solidify his Man City team.

We’ve all seen how badly Man City have struggled this season when Aymeric Laporte has been out injured as John Stones and Nicolas Otamendi have struggled, while Vincent Kompany was never replaced as youngster Eric Garcia is still raw and Fernandinho has had to play out of position at center back for vast swathes of the season .

Koulibaly would be a perfect fit for this Man City team but he seems pretty happy at Napoli. It’s safe to say Man City are not alone in wanting Koulibaly but now they know they will be in the Champions League next season and they have extra funds coming in from that, Guardiola can kick on with his defensive rebuilding plans.

In an ideal world, that rebuild would center around Koulibaly who has been one of the most consistent defenders in Europe over the past few years.

Arteta has ‘big concern’ about lack of Arsenal transfer funds

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Mikel Arteta has admitted he has a ‘big concern’ about how Arsenal can compete given a lack of transfer funds.

[ WATCH: Analysis on Arsenal – Liverpool ]

Arsenal beat Liverpool 2-1 on Wednesday but they were second-best for large periods and they hung in there and made the most of Liverpool’s defensive mistakes.

Despite being pleased with the win, Arteta is under no illusions as to how far Arsenal have to go to compete with Liverpool and Manchester City, let alone Chelsea, Manchester United and Leicester City ahead of them in the table.

Speaking to our partners in the UK Sky Sports, Arteta was asked how much of a concern a lack of Arsenal transfer funds is.

“It’s a big concern. You can see how [Liverpool] build their squad and there is no magic, you need to improve the squad with quality, quality players. And we need a bigger squad to compete in this competition,” Arteta said. “That is the challenge. It’s a massive job. You only have to look at the difference between the two teams – it’s enormous. The gap in many areas we can’t improve it in two months but the gap between the accountability, the energy, the commitment and the fight between the two teams is now equal. Before it wasn’t like this. I’m very proud of that. The rest will take some time but at least we’ve got that now and my message to the players is with that we can create something.”

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights

Arteta is a realist and realistically he has done pretty much all he can with this group of players during his first seven months in charge at Arsenal.

He’s made them more solid defensively, something which is key as he told ProSoccerTalk recently, but with the players at his disposal he’s close to maxing out their potential.

Arsenal probably need two new center backs and a holding midfielder to start with. Arteta is going to have to go creative in the transfer market to do that and may have to sacrifice Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang to rebuild his defense.

Rob Holding, Shkodran Mustafi, Sokratis, David Luiz and Callum Chambers are his current center back options and he does have youngster William Saliba coming in for next season. It’s likely that Holding, Chambers and Saliba will be the only three long-term center backs at Arsenal.

In holding midfield, Matteo Guendouzi will likely leave, while Dani Ceballos has been a revelation in a deeper role but his loan from Real Madrid ends soon and it’s unlikely that Arsenal can afford to buy him permanently. Granit Xhaka is what he is. Solid enough but not a game-changer, while Lucas Torreira is back fit but is he strong enough to thrive in the Premier League?

If Arsenal could sign Thomas Partey and Kalidou Koulibaly, that would be perfect to strengthen their defensive unit because we all know they have plenty of quality in attack. However, a loan move for Samuel Umtiti at center back seems more likely and can Arsenal afford Partey?

It remains to be seen if Arteta gets the funds he needs and if he doesn’t it’s tough to see this current Arsenal squad doing any more than challenging for a top four spot, if everything goes their way and their players play at the top of their potential.