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PL preview: Liverpool, Arsenal hit the road in race for 4th

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After taking the weekend off for the fourth round of the FA Cup, the Premier League returns with a full slate of midweek fixtures, beginning on Tuesday…

[ MORE: PL TV schedule — Tuesday & Wednesday ]

Swansea City vs. Arsenal — 2:45 p.m. ET, on NBC Sports Gold

With Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur each dropping points in their last league game, Arsenal took advantage with a resounding 4-1 victory over Crystal Palace and closed the gap between themselves and the Reds to five points (three back of Tottenham) in the top-four race. For one 90-minute period, at least, “addition by subtraction” appealed to Gunners fans who had accepted Alexis Sanchez would leave the club this month, as he did last week in exchange for Henrikh Mkhitaryan. Tuesday’s visit to the Liberty Stadium, where Arsene Wenger‘s side will take on last-place (and three points away from safety) Swansea, should see the Armenian playmaker make his debut for the club. Wenger has insisted that Mkhitaryan and Mesut Ozil, a world-class playmaker himself, will play together.

“Yes, our intention is (to play them together),” Wenger said this week. “As I have said before, we signed Mkhitaryan on a long-term contract and our intention is to keep Ozil at the club and hopefully we will manage to do that very soon.”

It was Swansea, meanwhile, who did Arsenal the massive favor of knocking off Liverpool last Monday, and in the process breathed life into their own fight against relegation. Carlos Carvalhal’s side has collected seven points from their last four PL games and has begun to believe that a 17th-place finish is possible.

“When you’re in this position, you want the team to show character and that we’re fighting to get ourselves out of danger,” goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski said. “You also have to make it hard for the opposition and, when you do that, you always have a chance to get something out of it and we were rewarded for the performance [against Liverpool].”

West Ham United vs. Crystal Palace — 2:45 p.m. ET, on NBC Sports Gold

It’s been something of a roller-coaster season for West Ham, who find themselves right where they were expected to be — 11th in the PL table, two points out of 9th — after 24 of 38 rounds. After winning just two of their first 15 league games, David Moyes has guided a once-wayward ship to positive results in eight of his side’s last nine league games. Last time out, though, the Hammers suffered a somewhat embarrassing defeat to League One leaders Wigan Athletic in the fourth round of the FA Cup.

“We didn’t play well at Wigan but I would hope there was a bit of an understanding that, with the team we took up there, it was always going to be a struggle,” Moyes said in the aftermath. I said after the game that I don’t think, unless we had our best team out, we had a realistic chance of winning because I don’t think you can go to these clubs with less than your best team; maybe one or two players out, but not what we had out for the game.”

Palace, meanwhile, have quickly overcome their horrendous start to the season (zero points won and zero goals scored in their first seven games), and find themselves comfortably in 13th place just shy of the two-thirds mark of the season — even if they’re still only five points clear of the relegation zone. Roy Hodgson‘s men have lost just two of 13 league games.

Huddersfield Town vs. Liverpool — 3 p.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

Liverpool also went out of the FA Cup on the weekend, as Jurgen Klopp‘s side fell to relegation battlers West Bromwich Albion at Anfield. Couple that with last week’s defeat away to Swansea, which snapped a 14-game unbeaten run in the PL, and the Reds enter Tuesday’s visit to Huddersfield having lost back-to-back games for the first time all season. While Spurs and Arsenal loom not far behind, Liverpool also sit just three points back of Chelsea for third. In order to chase and catch the Blues, though, captain Jordan Henderson knows his side will need to maintain a strong mental approach following setbacks.

“Teams that go on to be successful always respond in a positive way. If you look at us last season there were moments where we stumbled, but we got straight back on our feet, likewise this season. I think it can become a characteristic of this team and this dressing room that we don’t sink after a loss – we make sure they are infrequent and the impact isolated.”

Huddersfield, on the other hand, have endured nothing but setbacks of late — the Terriers are winless in their last six league games and have slipped to within two points of the relegation zone after a strong start to the season. After Liverpool leave Kirklees Stadium on Tuesday, up next is a visit to Old Trafford, where they’ll face second-place Manchester Untied. No rest for the weary.

Wednesday’s PL schedule

Chelsea vs. Bournemouth — 2:45 p.m. ET, on NBC Sports Gold
Everton vs. Leicester City — 2:45 p.m. ET, on NBC Sports Gold
Newcastle United vs. Burnley — 2:45 p.m. ET, on NBC Sports Gold
Southampton vs. Brighton & Hove Albion — 2:45 p.m. ET, on NBC Sports Gold
Tottenham Hotspur vs. Manchester United — 3 p.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com
Man City vs. West Bromwich Albion, 3 p.m. ET, on NBC Sports Gold
Stoke City vs. Watford — 3 p.m. ET, on NBC Sports Gold

CCL wrap: Atlanta United, Cruz Azul advance

CONCACAF Champions League
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The underdogs did not have their days on Tuesday in the CONCACAF Champions League.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

MLS side Atlanta United and Liga MX mainstays Cruz Azul cruised to second legs win at home to clinch places in the quarterfinals.

Cruz Azul 4-0 (6-1 agg.) Portmore United

Bringing a pair of away goals from Jamaica, the Liga MX hosts just needed to put this one on ice early.

Orbelin Pineda did that in the 22nd minute, and Cruz Azul struck thrice in the second half to win in a landslide.

Atlanta United 3-0 (4-1 agg.) Montagua

It was all about the Martinezes in Georgia, as Pity sandwiched a pair of goals around Josef’s 61st minute tally to send the Five Stripes into the next stage.

All the goals showed calm under pressure, but Pity’s first was gorgeous football. He also assisted Josef’s goal in Honduras during the first leg.

Remaining Round of 16 second legs

NYCFC v. San Carlos (5-3) — 6 p.m. Wednesday
Montreal Impact v. Deportivo Saprissa (2-2) — 8 p.m. Wednesday
Tigres UANL v. Alianza (1-2) — 8 p.m. Wednesday
Club America v. Comunicaciones (1-1) — 10 p.m. Wednesday
Seattle Sounders v. Olimpia (2-2) — 10 p.m. Thursday
LAFC v Leon (0-2) — 10 p.m. Thursday

Coronavirus: Italy may lift ban on sporting events by Monday

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MILAN (AP) The Italian government could lift its ban on sporting events by Monday in areas affected by the coronavirus if the number of cases stabilizes.

The outbreak forced a number of sporting events to be called off throughout the country this past weekend, including four Serie A matches in the north of Italy.

This week, the ban on sporting events was extended from Lombardy, Veneto and Piedmont – the areas hardest hit by the outbreak – to also include the regions of Friuli Venezia Giulia, Emilia Romagna and Liguria, until March 1.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

“If, as I hope, the statistics don’t give us different signs then maybe already by Monday these measures won’t be continued,” Sports Minister Vincenzo Spadafora said. “But it’s only Tuesday today and we have to wait and see what happens over the next few days. The health of the Italian citizens is the most important thing.”

Italy reported a 45% increase in the number of coronavirus cases Tuesday, from 222 to 300. Ten people have died, all of them elderly or suffering from other ailments.

“Obviously, I can’t say I’m not worried because I don’t want anyone to think we’re underestimating this emergency,” Premier Giuseppe Conte said before meeting with visiting World Health Organization representatives. “But we trust that with the measures we have implemented, there will be a containing effect in the coming days.”

Italy has closed schools, museums and theaters in the two regions where clusters have formed and troops are enforcing quarantines around 10 towns in Lombardy and the epicenter of the Veneto cluster, Vo’Euganeo.

Serie A matches this weekend are set to be played behind closed doors, including Juventus’ key match against Inter Milan. That game is not only potentially crucial to the title race but also sees the return of former Juventus coach Antonio Conte.

Inter’s Europa League match at home to Ludogorets on Thursday will also take place without any fans allowed in.

Serie C canceled all games in two leagues which have teams in the north. Volleyball and rugby games were also suspended nationwide through next weekend.

The Italian Winter Sports Federation suspended all of its events throughout the country for an entire week, although it said that “for now” next weekend’s World Cup ski races in La Thuile in the Valle d’Aosta region were still set to go ahead. Those races are operated by the International Ski Federation, which has already canceled races this season in China that were slated to test the course for the 2022 Beijing Games.

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

El Tri winger Jurgen Damm headed for MLS this summer

Jurgen Damm
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This season’s Liga MX invasion of MLS continues with Jurgen Damm announcing that he’ll leave UANL Tigres this summer after five years with the club.

TUDN has the destination as Atlanta, though previous reports have linked Damm to the LA Galaxy is the spot.

And MLSSoccer.com scribe Tom Bogert says the Houston Dynamo have his “discovery rights” (which remains the worst concept in the entire league).

Reports emerged over the past 48 hours that the El Tri man was headed for an MLS club.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

The 12-times capped winger has one goal for Mexico, but has not been capped since Oct. 2018. He has spent his entire career in Liga MX.

Damm spent the early part of his career with Tecos and Pachuca, but has been with UANL Tigres since 2015.

He won four league titles with UANL, as well as the 2018 Campeones Cup.

Ex-Arsenal man Gnabry: “London’s still red” after Bayern beats Chelsea

Serge Gnabry
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Ex-Arsenal man Serge Gnabry still has love for the club.

Gnabry tweeted that “London is still red” after he scored twice for Bayern Munich in a 3-0 beating of Chelsea on Tuesday in the first leg of a UEFA Champions League Round of 16 tie.

This after scoring four times against Spurs in a previous Champions League group stage match and Tweeting that “North London is Red.”

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

So what’s with the London form?

“I’ve got a lot of friends here,” Gnabry said after the game. “A lot of them were in the stands tonight, and it seems they give me a lot of good power.”

Gnabry only scored once during his time in England with Arsenal and West Brom but is a bona fide star in the Bundesliga.

With a three-goal advantage over Chelsea heading to Munich for a second leg, however, he’s not got his head in the clouds.

“Three goals ahead gives us a little bit of confidence, but we need to be prepared for the second leg. We can’t take it not seriously enough. … We’ve seen it last year with Liverpool beating Barcelona, so we have to be careful. We have to go into the second leg with all of our focus.”

Gnabry now has 51 goals and 29 assists in four seasons since returning to Germany from Arsenal. Not terrible production for a player the Gunners offloaded to Werder Bremen for under $6 million in 2016.

What color will London be when Chelsea buys him next year? We kid, we kid…