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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.

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.

Live, Europa League: Wolves, Celtic, Rangers all in action

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The UEFA Europa League playoff round has arrived and it is crunch time for three British teams hoping to reach the group stage of the competition.

[ LIVE: Europa League scores  ]

Wolverhampton Wanderers have negotiated the second and third qualifying rounds to reach this stage, as the Premier League side have made light work of Crusaders and Pyunik but Nuno Espirito Santo‘s men now have a really tough challenge. They play Serie A side Torino in Turin on Thursday in the first leg, and after Wolves drew against Man United on Monday they’ve had little time to rest.

Scottish giants Glasgow Celtic and Rangers are also in action, with Neil Lennon’s Celtic disappointed to crash out of the Champions League in the qualifying rounds as they now have to dust themselves off and get past Swedish side AIK.

Steven Gerrard and Rangers have had to battle through three rounds of qualifying to get to this stage and they head to Legia Warsaw knowing they will be up against it. The Polish giants finished second in their top-flight last season and Rangers will be relying heavily on top goalscorer Alfredo Morales to come up with the goods once again.

Feyenoord host Hapoel Beer-Sheva, Daniel Sturridge‘s Trabzonspor head to AEK Athens and Northern Irish side Linfield host Qarabag in some of the other intriguing clashes, as the first legs are set to be tight and tense with group stage qualification on the line.

Click on the link above to follow all of the action live, while below is the schedule for the Europa League playoff games on Thursday. We will have you covered on Wolves’ European adventure here on Pro Soccer Talk with reaction and analysis.


Thursday’s Europa League playoff round first legs

Astana 3-0 BATE Borisov
Avan Academy v. Dudelange — 11 a.m. ET
FK Suduva v. Ferencvaros — 1 p.m. ET
Malmo v. Bnei Yehuda — 1 p.m. ET
Feyenoord v. Hapoel Beer-Sheva — 1:30 p.m. ET
Ludogorets v. Maribor — 1:30 p.m. ET
Copenhagen v. Riga — 1:45 p.m. ET

AEK Athens v. Trabzonspor — 2 p.m. ET
Legia Warsaw v. Rangers — 2 p.m. ET
FCSB v. Vitoria — 2:30 p.m. ET
Gent v. Rijeka — 2:30 p.m. ET
PSV Eindhoven v. Apollon Limassol — 2:30 p.m. ET
Strasbourg v. Eintracht Frankfurt — 2:30 p.m. ET
AZ Alkmaar v. Antwerp — 2:30 p.m. ET
Celtic v. AIK — 2:45 p.m. ET
Linfield v. Qarabag — 2:45 p.m. ET
Braga v. Spartak Moscow — 2:45 p.m. ET
Espanyol v. Zorya — 3 p.m. ET
Torino v. Wolves — 3 p.m. ET
Partizan v. Molde — 3 p.m. ET
Slovan Bratislava v. PAOK — 3 p.m. ET

Premier League TV, streaming schedule

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Matchweek 3 of the 2019-20 Premier League season is here, with a massive encounter at Anfield headlining the games and a chance for the new boys to cause some upsets.

[ MORE: Sign up for NBC Sports Gold ]

The full TV schedule for the games this weekend are below, plus you can watch every single second of every single game live online via NBC Sports.com,the NBC Sports App and by purchasing the new “Premier League Pass” via NBC Sports Gold.

Gold also includes an extensive selection of shoulder programming such as Premier League News, Premier League Today, Sky Sports News, NBC Sports originals such as Premier League Download and much more.

[ STREAM: Premier League live here ] 

You can also watch Premier League “Goal Rush” for all the goals as they go in around the grounds. Goal Rush is available via NBC Sports.com and the NBC Sports App.

[ MORE: Premier League “Goal Rush” ] 

If you’re looking for full-event replays of Premier League games, you can find them here for the games streamed on NBCSports.com and here for the games on NBC Sports Gold.

Here’s your full TV schedule for the coming days.


FULL TV SCHEDULE

Friday
3 p.m. ET: Aston Villa v. Everton – NBCSN [STREAM]

Saturday
7:30 a.m. ET: Norwich v. Chelsea – NBCSN [STREAM]
10 a.m. ET: Man United v. Crystal Palace – NBCSN [STREAM]
10 a.m. ET: Brighton v. Southampton – NBC Sports Gold [STREAM]
10 a.m. ET: Sheffield United v. Leicester – NBC Sports Gold [STREAM]
10 a.m. ET: Watford v. West Ham – NBC Sports Gold [STREAM]
12:30 p.m. ET: Liverpool v. Arsenal – NBC [STREAM]

Sunday
9 a.m. ET: Bournemouth v. Man City – NBCSN [STREAM]
11:30 a.m. ET: Tottenham v. Newcastle – NBCSN [STREAM]
11:30 a.m. ET: Wolves v. Burnley – NBC Sports Gold [STREAM]

How will Liverpool, Arsenal line up?

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The big game of the weekend is at Anfield as Liverpool host Arsenal on Saturday (Watch live, 12:30 p.m. ET on NBC and online via NBCSports.com) as the Premier League’s only teams who remain perfect collide.

[ MORE: Biggest surprise PL players

Jurgen Klopp‘s Liverpool have beaten Norwich and Southampton to start the season, while Unai Emery‘s Arsenal beat Newcastle and Burnley but both have had some defensive issues to deal with early in the campaign.

If previous battles between these two giants are anything to go by (see the video above for more on that) we are in for a real treat on Saturday.

Here’s a look at our projected lineups for both teams, with some analysis on why we think Klopp and Emery will start off this way.


Liverpool

—– Adrian —–

—- Alexander-Arnold —- Matip —- Van Dijk —- Robertson —-

—- Henderson —- Fabinho —- Wijnaldum —- 

—- Mane —- Firmino —- Salah —-


Arsenal

—– Leno —–

—- Maitland-Niles —- Sokratis —- Luiz —- Monreal —-

—– Guendouzi —– Torreira —–

—– Ceballos —–

—- Pepe —- Lacazette —- Aubameyang —-


Analysis

Adrian will continue in goal for Liverpool with Alisson out injured and after his howler against Saints last week, plus several other shaky moments and a wonderful save to deny Maya Yoshida, you just don’t know what you’re going to get from the Spanish goalkeeper. Arsenal will look to press him high early and often. Liverpool’s back four should revert back to what it looked like for most of last season with Joel Matip alongside Virgil Van Dijk at center back, with Joe Gomez missing out. In midfield it wouldn’t be surprising if Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain started but in big games against top six rivals, Klopp has gone a little more conservative over the past 12 months and it is likely Wijnaldum, Henderson and Fabinho will start with Milner coming off the bench as needed. Up top, the famed trio of Salah, Mane and Firmino will look to rip the Gunners apart just like they did at Anfield last season.

Arsenal’s back four is a work in progress, with Monreal and Kolasinac fighting for the left back spot, while Holding is back in training but not yet fit enough to battle with Sokratis and David Luiz for a starting spot. Maitland-Niles is playing well at right back but Hector Bellerin will soon return to give Emery yet another option. Reiss Nelson and Joe Willock both started against Burnley last week but the youngsters could be replaced in the lineup. Lucas Torreira will add extra bite in midfield, while Nicolas Pepe looks ready to make his first start out wide but he could come off the bench in favor of playing Nelson who is more defensive minded. Dani Ceballos will look to build on his early promise in an Arsenal shirt, while Mesut Ozil and Granit Xhaka are both fit again but this game may come too soon for them to feature.

Junior Agogo dies aged 40

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Ghanian striker Junior Agogo has died at the age of 40.

The former Sheffield Wednesday, Nottingham Forest and Colorado Rapids striker played for over 15 teams across the globe in his career and represented Ghana 27 times and scored 12 goals.

Agogo suffered a stroke in 2015 which impacted his speech and he revealed to the BBC how he was suffering from anxiety over not being able to express himself.

It was announced that he died in London, England on Thursday.

Several of Agogo’s former clubs have paid tribute to the striker, as he played for Colorado, the San Jose Earthquakes and the Chicago Fire in MLS.