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Premier League Preview: Newcastle vs. Southampton

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  • Last Newcastle win in this fixture came in 2013
  • Saints have won just once in last 16 PL matches
  • Only seven goals have been scored at St. James in last six games

Newcastle hosts Southampton from St. James’ Park on Saturday (Watch live at 10 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com) as the two bottom-half sit in the midst of a heavy relegation battle.

The Magpies currently sit two points above the bottom three in the Premier League, while the Saints are a mere point above Crystal Palace.

Rafa Benitez and his club will have the luxury of Jonjo Shelvey‘s return from injury, however, Islam Slimani remains sidelined with a thigh injury.

Southampton is still without Steven Davis and Maya Yoshida, but the club doesn’t appear to have any new injuries to cope with.

What they’re saying

Rafa Benitez on importance of match: “Every game is important for us. This is the most important because it is the next one. But until the end we must keep going. I hope we win, but until the last one that is what we will do. Every game is a final. We have a lot of games to play. The target is 40 points. Southampton are around us in the table, sometimes you can win even making mistakes. The Manchester United game was excellent, the atmosphere was great with the fans behind the team, we want to replicate that.”

Mauricio Pellegrino on Newcastle’s strengths“They are a very compact team, their fans always lift the team. They will be difficult to manage. Really good defensively and on the counter. But I think we are in a good moment and our players have been training very well, it will be a tough game for Newcastle too. It is interesting because both teams need to win. I can’t imagine they will be comfortable with just one point.”

Prediction

The Liverpool defeat was expected for Rafa Benitez and his club, but Newcastle has managed to play well over the last month with results against Manchester United (win) and Bournemouth (draw). Newcastle 1-0 Southampton

Nothing to separate Portland and 10-man LAFC

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There was entertainment value in Los Angeles FC’s potential playoff preview with the Portland Timbers on Sunday in the City of Angels, but all that arrived was a scoreless draw.

[ MORE: Atlanta 1-1 Seattle ]

Both Giovani Savarese’s Timbers and Bob Bradley‘s nickname-free expansion club remain in the West’s Top Four. PLAFC remains unbeaten at home during their maiden voyage through Major League Soccer.

Adama Diomande came close for the hosts, who finished with 10-men when Lee Nguyen went studs-up on Sebastian Blanco‘s thigh for a pretty easy red card (though it took some time for Silviu Petrescu to produce the red).

VIDEO: France stars projected onto Arc de Triomphe

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If France’s players had any doubt about the level of import their World Cup title had back home, it was erased when their photos were projected onto one of the most celebrated monuments in the world.

The photos of Hugo Lloris, Paul Pogba, Antoine Griezmann, and company made their way onto the Arc de Triomphe on Sunday, hours after France defeated Croatia 4-2 in the World Cup Final.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

The Arc de Triomphe honors those who died in the French Revolution and early 19th century wars, and sits above France’s Tomb of the Unknown Soldier from World War I.

How humbling must it be for those players to grace such a heavy monument (both in weight and substance).

Dalic: In one day, Croatia went from lucky to unlucky

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Ante Cacic’s Croatia was on pace to miss out on the World Cup.

Zlatko Dalic’s Croatia rallied the troops to second place in their qualifying group, a playoff defeat of Greece, and a run to the World Cup Final.

Pretty decent stuff.

[ MORE: FIFA awards Golden Ball, Golden Glove ]

And surely the 51-year-old will reflect on that, probably even this evening, but he’s more focused on a letdown after Sunday’s 4-2 loss to highly-favored France.

Key to the match was a penalty awarded to France when a partially-obscured Mario Mandzukic handled a ball inside the 18, leading to Antoine Griezmann’s pivotal goal.

The PK was awarded via VAR, and France went up 2-1 en route to a three-goal lead. From the AFP:

“I never comment on referees but in a World Cup final you do not give such a penalty,” said Dalic.

“It in no way diminishes France’s win. We were a bit unlucky. Maybe in the first six games we were favored by luck and today we weren’t.

“I have to congratulate my players. Maybe today we played our best game at these championships. Against such a strong side as France you must not make mistakes. We are a bit sad but we must also be proud of what we’ve done.”

Croatia had two-thirds of the ball and doubled France’s shot attempts, and Dalic isn’t the least bit controversial in wondering whether the match is much different if that penalty goes unawarded by referee Nestor Pitana.

Atlanta comes back to draw 10-man Seattle (video)

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A scrappy if not downright venomous affair between the lowly Seattle Sounders and high-flying Atlanta United ended in a 1-1 draw in Georgia on Sunday.

The Sounders went ahead through a Nicolas Lodeiro penalty kick, awarded via VAR a la this morning’s World Cup Final, but Atlanta leveled the score with a highlight which show every bit of the game story.

[ MORE: FIFA awards Golden Ball, Golden Glove ]

Just check Josef Martinez’s barking at Stefan Frei, who made an uncharacteristic error on the play, after his 19th goal of the season (Nice cross, Julian Gressel).

Martinez needs nine more goals to break the MLS single season record, and he has 13 games to score them.

Jordan McCrary was sent off for Seattle in the 63rd minute for a second yellow, but Seattle navigated the final half hour or so to scoop up an unlikely point.

Atlanta still sits first with its earned point but opens the door for New York City FC to reach the top of the table when it plays its match-in-hand, while Seattle is now 11 points back of the West’s final playoff spot.