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Relegation showdown: Swansea v. Saints

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If you see a Swansea City or Southampton fan over the next 24 hours, give them a hug.

They’ll likely be a nervous wreck as their entire season comes down to a 90-minute game in South Wales.

On Tuesday the Swans and Saints clash in what is basically a relegation playoff (Watch live, 2:45 p.m. ET on NBCSN and online on NBCSports.com), with the teams level on points with two games of the season to go and the Swans in the final relegation place due to their inferior goal differential. Saints are out of the drop zone by the skin of their teeth.

The main permutation is clear: if a team wins the game at the Liberty Stadium they will be all but safe from relegation.

In essence this is a $230 million game, with similar implications to the winner and loser to the Championship Playoff final which seals promotion to the Premier League from the second-tier. The PL doesn’t have a relegation playoff like the Bundesliga or other leagues, but this game is about as close as it comes to a straight shootout.

For both cities of Swansea and Southampton, their teams losing their Premier League status is a huge deal. Both local economies rely heavily on their clubs being in the PL and there will be a huge impact on not only the wider community but also the clubs themselves as several employees will likely be let go if their team is relegated.

Players from both clubs will have to compartmentalize the fact that the social media team filming their pre-game warmups may well be out of a job by the final whistle. Their decisions on the pitch on Tuesday will determine the overall mood in two regional cities (both roughly the same size with a population of around 300,000) in the UK for the next 12 months. Each cross, tackle, header and shot will have that bit of extra pressure on it.

This winner takes all battle is about much more than just securing a place in the Premier League.

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If it’s a draw, Swansea are in the driving seat as they host already-relegated Stoke City on the final day with Saints hosting all-conquering Manchester City. With Huddersfield only three points above Swansea and Saints, they’re still in the relegation mix too but Saints beating Man City on the final day and hoping Huddersfield lose to both Chelsea and Arsenal in their final two games seems like a long shot.

A draw would be a decent result for Swansea but playing for a draw is a dangerous game for the Swans and Carlos Carvalhal. Especially given their recent form with no wins in their last seven games and no victory in the PL since early March.

“We have two more games and a big opportunity on Tuesday. The game will start 0-0 and when everything is in your hands you must believe. If someone had said when I first took over that we would have it in our hands at this stage, I would’ve taken it,” Carvalhal said.

For Saints and Mark Hughes, they’re in better form than Swansea and if they win they know that all they need to do on the final day of the season is avoid an eight-goal swing in goal differential. Saints are unbeaten in three and should have sealed back-to-back wins but a 96th minute deflected goal from Everton on Saturday (typical of their season) stole two points from them and set up this mammoth clash which will shape both clubs irrevocably for the foreseeable future.

Add into the mix that both clubs have been on incredible journeys from the depths of the lower leagues — amid financial ruin and near extinction in the past decade or so — to the upper echelons of the PL which led to European campaigns, and both teams have certainly been worse off than if they are relegated to the second-tier this week.

But that won’t make an entire season of struggle any easier to swallow if they fail to seize the moment on Tuesday and take a huge leap towards saving themselves.

Swansea have spent the last seven seasons in the PL. Southampton the last six. Both are often lauded for their player recruitment, attractive playing style and massively overachieving. None of that makes one bit of difference now. Both clubs have lost their way over the past 12-18 months and now past success means nothing. It’s all about Tuesday.

This is it.

So yeah, give a Swans and Saints fan a hug, or maybe a beer or two, for their date with destiny and to help them cope in their time of need.

The agony and ecstasy of the relegation battle will be clear for all to see in Swansea on Tuesday.

For all neutrals it will be essential viewing. Full of drama, heartache, jubilation and high stakes.

For anyone connected with either club it will be like watching a horror movie in slow motion for almost two hours.

Reaction to Premier League return on June 17

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Our partners in the UK, Sky Sports, have confirmed that the 2019-20 Premier League season will restart on June 17 and the reaction to that news has been one of relief and delight across the globe.

VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

The Premier League is holding in-depth meetings with all 20 clubs on Thursday to determine the potential restart date, among many other matters, and June 17 has emerged as the date games will return.

Due to the coronavirus pandemic the Premier League season was suspended on March 13 with 92 games remaining, and when the season restarts on June 17 it will have been 100 days without a game in England’s top-flight.

It is believed that the clubs want the Premier League season to be finished by August 1, so clubs can then focus on the FA Cup and European action in the Europa League and Champions League, while the 2020-21 season can then resume in early September.

All players and staff at Premier League clubs will be tested twice a week during the strict return to training protocols put in place, with contact training now allowed after a return to small-group training was a success. The third round of COVID-19 testing saw a slight rise in positive tests compared to the last, as a total of 2,752 COVID-19 tests have now been carried out on Premier League players and staff with a total of 12 positive results.

Here’s a look at the reaction from key figures across the soccer world to the news the Premier League season will restart in less than three weeks’ time.

You beauty.

Bundesliga schedule for Matchweek 29

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The return of German soccer has been hugely successful and the Bundesliga schedule for Matchweek 29 is locked and loaded and below are details on how you can watch the games in the USA.

Dust off your lederhosen, fill that stein to the brim and make sure you know which young American stars to keep an eye on. Live sports is back.

[ LIVE: Bundesliga scores ] 

Bayern Munich are top of the table with a seven-point lead after their big win at Borussia Dortmund, while RB Leipzig, Bayer Leverkusen and Borussia Monchengladbach have all dropped points as their title bids have faltered.

Given that Bayern look likely to secure an eighth-straight title, there is an epic scramble for European qualification. The top four in Germany qualify automatically for the UEFA Champions League group stage and that means one of the five teams mentioned above as title contenders will miss out, while Wolfsburg, Hoffenheim and Hertha Berlin are surging and Schalke and Freiburg have struggled in the Europa League spot.

Below is the full Bundesliga schedule for this week, as the fourth round of games to restart the campaign is a beauty, while there are also details on how you can watch on TV in the USA.

Bundesliga schedule

  • TV Channels: FS1, FS2
  • Stream Live: Via Fox Soccer
  • USMNT players to watch: Gio Reyna, Weston McKennie, Tyler Adams, Alfredo Morales, Josh Sargent

Friday, May 29

2:30 p.m. ET: Freiburg v. Bayer Leverkusen

Saturday, May 30

9:30 a.m. ET: Hertha Berlin v. Augsburg
9:30 a.m. ET: Mainz v. Hoffenheim
9:30 a.m. ET: Schalke v. Werder Bremen
9:30 a.m. ET: Wolfsburg v. Eintracht Frankfurt
12:30 p.m. ET: Bayern Munich v. Fortuna Dusseldorf

Sunday, May 31

9:30 a.m. ET: Borussia Monchengladbach v. Union Berlin
12 p.m. ET: Paderborn v. Borussia Dortmund

Monday, June 1

2:30 p.m. ET: Cologne v. RB Leipzig

Barcelona ready to sell six players this summer

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According to the latest news out of Barcelona, the Catalan giants are ready to rework their squad and want to sell up to six players to fuel their transfer plans.

Those players being sold are Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez, Sergio Busquets… just kidding. Of course not.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights

According to a report from the Daily Mirror, Barca have made Rafinha, Arturo Vidal, Jean-Clair Todibo, Nelson Semedo, Junior Firpo and Moussa Wague available for permanent transfers. Wague is currently on loan at Nice, while Todibo is on loan at Schalke and Rafinha at Celta Vigo. Ousmane Dembele is another player who has been consistently linked with a move away from the Nou Camp too, as he continues to be hampered by injuries.

Why the huge exodus? It is believed Barcelona want to sign Lautaro Martinez from Inter Milan and Miralem Pjanic from Juventus to spruce up their squad under relatively new manager Quique Setien, who only arrived in mid-January.

It is believed Inter boss Antonio Conte is a big fan of Vidal, but any deal for the Chilean midfielder would reportedly be separate for a deal for Martinez. The Argentine striker has been sensational for the Italian giants so far this season and is said to have been in close contact with Messi about a move to Barcelona.

As for Pjanic’s potential arrival, what does that mean for Ivan Rakitic? He has just one year left on his current Barcelona contract and seems relaxed about his future but Pjanic plays in a very similar position to the Croatian playmaker.

One thing is for sure, Barcelona need to freshen up this squad and there is plenty of transfer news floating around when it comes to ins and outs. They are just ahead of Real Madrid at the top of La Liga and Real have certainly had a huge overhaul over the last 12 months with Vinicius Jr., Eden Hazard, Brahim Diaz, Ferland Mendy, Rodrygo and Luka Jovic all arriving at different times.

Barcelona’s old guard remains intact with Messi, Busquets, Gerard Pique and Jordi Alba as instrumental as ever but there’s no doubt Setien will want to strengthen his squad as they aim for Spanish and European glory next season and beyond.

With plenty of talk about Barcelona’s financial situation and the huge contracts that Messi, Suarez and Antoine Griezmann in particular have, offloading this many players suggests they have to cut their cloth accordingly in order to bring in top talent.

Setien will be hoping he can offload as many players as possible reshape this Barcelona squad which is still incredibly talented but has a few glaring needs.

Premier League to restart on June 17

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The 2019-20 Premier League season will restart on June 17, Sky Sports confirmed on Thursday.

The Premier League is holding in-depth meetings with all 20 clubs and, among other matters, and June 17 has emerged as the date games will return. Due to the coronavirus pandemic the Premier League season was suspended on March 13 with 92 games remaining.

Other reports also indicate clubs and the league have agreed on that date, which is five days later than the original placeholder date suggested last month. It has been reported the two games in hand, Man City v. Arsenal and Aston Villa v. Sheffield United, could be played on June 17 so all teams are on 29 games played, then the rest of the games would kick off on June 19-21.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

It is believed that the clubs want the Premier League season to be finished by August 1, so clubs can then focus on the FA Cup and European action in the Europa League and Champions League, while the 2020-21 season can then resume in early September.

Other reports suggest that a sticking point remains neutral stadiums as police forces in the UK want certain high-profile games to be played at neutral stadiums over fears of fans congregating outside home stadiums. However, it is believed the majority of games could be played at home stadiums as normal.

More details will no doubt filter out in the coming hours, while the meeting is also set to discuss the plan for possible curtailment if playing the remaining games of the 2019-20 season is not possible. The schedule for how games will be played will also be discussed, with five games back-to-back on both Saturday and Sunday reported as a possibility.

All players and staff at Premier League clubs will be tested twice a week during the strict return to training protocols put in place, with contact training now allowed after a return to small-group training was a success.

The third round of COVID-19 testing saw a slight rise in positive tests compared to the last, as a total of 2,752 COVID-19 tests have now been carried out on Premier League players and staff with a total of 12 positive results.

All 20 Premier League clubs have agreed to return to contact training in stage two of the ‘Project Restart’ plan, as the main focus is to agree on a Premier League restart date that managers and players can now focus on.