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Premier League preview: Newcastle vs. Leicester City

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  • Newcastle United welcome back Jamaal Lascelles and Christian Atsu and has a clean bill of health.
  • Leicester City has no new injury concerns with Matty James (Achilles) and Robert Huth (ankle) the only absentees.
  • Newcastle United have lost only two of their last 17 home league meetings with Leicester City, although the Foxes won on their last visit to St James’ Park in November 2015.
  • Jamie Vardy is one away from becoming the first Leicester City player to hit 50 Premier League goals.
  • Shinji Okazaki scored in both fixtures the last time these sides met in 2015/16, making Newcastle the only team he’s scored in more than one match against in the Premier League.

Newcastle has lost five of its last six games, but they return home to try and turn things around with Leicester City coming to St. James Park on Saturday evening. (Watch live at 12:30 p.m. ET on NBC and online via NBCSports.com).

Rafa Benitez has plenty of big-game experience – usually in UEFA Champions League matches – but now his Newcastle side is in a relegation battle and needs a big performance to create some space between the side and the drop zone.

Leicester City meanwhile has won two games on the bounce and has lost just one game in its last nine fixtures, showing good form with Jamie Vardy, Riyad Mahrez and Damarei Gray showing their talent on a week-by-week basis.

What they’re saying

Newcastle manager Rafa Benitez on his team’s recent results: “We have to improve as a team to be sure we can compete against some of the top sides. The teams at the top at the moment, we are a little bit far away, but still we could do something against Liverpool, for example. I think it is important that the next two games at home, if we can compete, we can win. If we cannot compete – like happened in the second half against Manchester United or Chelsea – we cannot win. As I have said before, we have to maximize what we have, and what we have is fantastic fans behind the team, at home and away. So, they have to show again that they support the team because these are the players we have.”

Leicester City manager Claude Puel on his side’s performance since joining the club: “I don’t know if I expected this but the most important thing is to continue this work and to keep building momentum and confidence. It is important to get results for confidence and to try and improve all the time. Time will tell. For me it is about keeping a good focus and concentration on the next game and to try and play a strong game.”

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Prediction: Newcastle will come out with plenty of energy and spirit, but defensive frailties, even with the return of Jamal Lascelles will cause them to lose as the quality of Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez take over. Leicester City 2-1 Newcastle

Not going anywhere: Pochettino signs new 5-year deal at Spurs

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Ahead of what’s expected to be a busy summer for Tottenham, the club’s fans got some exciting news.

Tottenham announced that it had signed manager Mauricio Pochettino to a new five-year contract. Also joining Pochettino with new contracts are assistants Jesús Pérez, Miguel D’Agostino and Toni Jimenez.

[READ: Transfer Rumor Roundup]

“I am delighted that we have agreed a new, extended contract with Mauricio,” Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy said in a statement. “We have been on an extraordinary journey and the times ahead look even more exciting as the Club enters the next phase in its history. Mauricio has fostered an incredible spirit in the team and has embraced a style of play our fans have loved watching. I know they will welcome this commitment by Mauricio.”

Since joining in 2014, Pochettino has led Tottenham to a fifth-place finish in his first season followed by three-straight finishes in the top three of the Premier League. While the club still has the title and UEFA Champions League hump to overcome, Pochettino has done great work to help the club shed it’s also ran status as a club with history and power, but below the top four.

Keeping Pochettino is also huge for keeping the squad together, including the likes of Harry Kane, Dele Alli and Eric Dier, while also adding to a starting lineup that battled with the best in the Premier League all season.

Transfer rumor roundup: Man United on verge of signing Shakhtar’s Fred

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Jose Mourinho is nearing a boost to his attacking midfield, with Brazilian international Fred reportedly on the verge of joining Manchester United.

The 25-year-old midfielder has starred for Shakhtar Donetsk the past five seasons, cementing his place as a starter for the Ukrainian side and impressing in UEFA Champions League matches. Fred follows the likes of Manchester City’s Fernandinho and Chelsea’s Willian as using Shakhtar as a mid-way point between Brazil and the Premier League.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

According to multiple reports in England, Manchester United is in advanced negotiations to sign Fred for a reported transfer fee of nearly $59 million. The singularly-named Fred would be the third-famous Fred to play for Man United, following Freddie Goodwin, who played for the Red Devils from 1954-60 and Fred Erentz, who played from 1892-1902.

Although he is not physically big, Fred could be an Eden Hazard-type player, a tricky midfielder who puts defenders on their heels as he skates past them with the ball.

Here are more transfer rumors and notes from around the Premier League:

(more…)

FIFA Council member Nyantakyi arrested on return to Ghana

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ACCRA, Ghana (AP) FIFA Council member and Ghana Football Association head Kwesi Nyantakyi has been arrested on his return to his home country following a complaint made against him by the Ghanaian president.

Police spokesman David Eklu confirmed to The Associated Press on Thursday that Nyantakyi, also a vice president of the Confederation of African Football, is in custody and being interrogated.

[READ: Yaya Toure talks future, playing with Paul Pogba]

Ghana President Nana Akufo-Addo asked police to investigate Nyantakyi after the soccer boss allegedly was caught in an undercover documentary promising businessmen access to the president and other senior government officials in return for money.

Nyantakyi was out of the country at the time President Akufo-Addo made the complaint.

Ghana media reported that Nyantakyi, a member of the powerful FIFA Council since 2016 and an influential figure in African football, was picked up by plain-clothes police at the airport in Accra and taken straight to police headquarters.

NFL’s 49ers purchase minority stake in Leeds United

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One of England’s most famous clubs is receiving investment and strategic business connections from one of the NFL’s most famous brands.

Leeds United and the San Francisco 49ers announced Thursday that 49ers Enterprises, an investment arm of the 49ers ownership, has purchased a minority stake in the Championship club. Multiple reports state that the 49ers now own 10-15 percent of the club, but current Leeds chairman Andrea Radrizzani remains the majority owner.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

As part of the deal, 49ers President Paraag Marathe gets a seat on the Leeds United board of directors. Per Leeds, the money invested will stay with the club and be used for the first team, as Leeds looks again to make its way back to the Premier League in next season’s campaign.

An American ownership group investing in England is nothing new, but to identify and purchase a stake in a club with history and a decent chance at making it to the Premier League is impressive. In addition, the York Family, who owns the 49ers, has a net worth in the billions, which could help fund Leeds’ push back into the Premier League.

For the 49ers, this is also a savvy business decision. By investing low in a club in the Championship, they hope that they can experience the financial windfall of playing in the Premier League. This season, clubs made a combined $3.2 billion (with a capital B) thanks to revenue sharing, international and domestic TV rights, and other sponsorship deals.

With even the relegated sides taking home nine figures in revenues from the league, who wouldn’t want to invest and take a cut of that?

Now, only time will tell how long it is before the 49ers influence helps – or hinders, based on the 49ers current state of affairs in the U.S. – Leeds reach the pinnacle of English football.