Getty Images

Top Premier League Storylines – Championship Sunday

Leave a comment

We’ve come so far, and yet there’s still something to play for. Whether it’s near the top of the table, near the bottom, or bidding a legend farewell, there’s plenty to take in on the final day of the 2017/18 Premier League season.

[ WATCH: TV schedule and JPW’s picks for Championship Sunday ]

Arsene Wenger bids Arsenal a farewell after 22 seasons, while there is still a Champions League place and Premier League safety to be confirmed as everything comes to a head all at once this coming Sunday.

Liverpool looks to hold off Chelsea for Champions League spot
Liverpool vs. Brighton – 10:00 a.m. ET Sunday on NBC
Newcastle vs. Chelsea – 10:00 a.m. ET Sunday on NBCSN

Thanks to Chelsea’s flop against Huddersfield at home midweek, the Reds need just a single point to confirm a Champions League place next season. A Liverpool draw and Chelsea win would see them level on points, but the Reds have a goal difference superiority of 15, so the Blues effectively need Liverpool to lose.

Liverpool, more than holding Chelsea off, will want to turn around its recent league form and head into the Champions League final on a high note. They have looked toothless over the last few weeks, with a 0-0 draw against relegated Stoke City setting the stage for their near-disaster at Roma in the Champions League semifinals. They followed that up with a 1-0 loss at Chelsea last weekend, and the players could really use something positive before the big game.

Chelsea, meanwhile, will need plenty of help to shock the Premier League. The Blues seemed dead in the water a few weeks ago, with Antonio Conte a dead man walking. Last time out is a big mo-killer, but nevertheless, it’s surprising to see Chelsea with even a mathematical chance on the season’s final matchday.

Arsene Wenger’s farewell
Huddersfield Town vs. Arsenal – 10:00 a.m. ET Sunday on MSNBC

This is it. The time has come. Arsene Wenger’s final game in charge of Arsenal is nearly upon us. It is one of those moments we never thought would actually happen, and yet here we are.

Whether you’re in the #WengerOut or #WengerIn crew, all should give him a positive send-off for what he’s given Arsenal, the Premier League, and soccer as a whole. Still, Huddersfield Town won’t roll over and die to appease a legend, and David Wagner will want his group to finish a successful season strong. Can Wenger go out on a high note and avoid a double-digit deficit to Chelsea above them in the table?

Spurs England crew limping to finish line
Tottenham Hotspur vs. Leicester City – 10:00 a.m. ET Sunday on Bravo

Harry Kane, Dele Alli, Eric Dier, and the rest of Spurs’ England internationals have limped to the Premier League finish line. With the World Cup just on the horizon, these players will want to pick up the pace rather than ease into the summer. Spurs have two wins in their last five league games, and while Harry Kane has grabbed three goals in those five matches, his countrymates have not supported behind. There are plenty of stereotypes for English players to break, and they could put the foot on the gas pedal Sunday.

Watch Live: Everton vs. Crystal Palace

Photo by Mark Robinson/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Wilfried Zaha starts up top for Crystal Palace after passing his late fitness ahead of Crystal Palace’s clash with Everton at Goodison Park on Sunday (Watch live at 11 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

WATCH LIVE, ONLINE, HERE

Andre Gomes will make his Toffees debut after joining Everton from Barcelona in the summer — a hamstring injury has kept the Portuguese out of action thus far — while Yerry Mina, Everton’s other Barcelona buy, could make his debut from the bench.

LINEUPS

Everton: Pickford; Coleman, Zouma, Keane, Digne; Gueye, Andre Gomes; Walcott, Sigurdsson, Bernard; Richarlison | Subs: Stekelenburg, Bines, Mina, Davies, Tosun, Calvert-Lewin, Lookman

Crystal Palace: Hennessey: Wan-Biassaka, Sakho, Tomkins, Van Aanholt; Milovijevic, McArthurt, Kouyate; Schlupp, Townsend; Zaha | Subs: Guiata, Ayew Wickham, Kaikai, Kelly, Puncheon, Riedewald

Opposition to Wembley sale “bizarre” and led by “old men”

Photo by Oli Scarff/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Greg Dyke sees Shahid Khan’s capsized bid to buy Wembley Stadium as a massive missed opportunity for English soccer, and the former Football Association chairman is quite displeased by the “bizarre” opposition of the “old men” on the FA council.

[ MORE: What did we learn in the Premier League, Week 9? ]

With an offer of more than $780 million on the table, Dyke believes that unprecedented — and otherwise impossible — investments could have been made to grassroots soccer that might just create a brighter future for the English game. If only it wasn’t for those meddling kids “the council is living in the past, as it always has done,” as he put it — quotes from the BBC:

“If I’d been chairman, I would have said it is the board’s decision.

“I don’t think the council is equipped to make this decision — that is what the FA board is for.”

Most notably, England is in desperate need of artificial playing fields up and down the country, as well as a tidal wave of newly licensed coaches to begin working at younger and younger age groups.

“The FA has only owned Wembley for 10 to 15 years, before that it was a private business.

“The idea you are going to lose something of value to Britain because it is not owned by the FA is the wrong one compared to spending [$784 million] doing what is desperately needed in this country and that is to spend money on grassroots facilities.

“If you want to have a step change in grassroots facilities in this country, you need this sort of money to be spent.

“It’s bizarre that the old men of the FA Council have stopped this.

“One of the tragedies of English football in recent years is that all the extra money that has come into the Premier League has by and large gone to players or agents, and not to football generally.”

Oftentimes, tradition and history come at the expense of revolution and progression, only to later realize that a golden opportunity has come and gone.

Agent says Usain Bolt has contract offer

Photo by Matt King/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Usain Bolt’s agent claims that his client has received an A-League contract offer from Central Coast Mariners after spending more than two months on trial with the Australian club.

[ MORE: What did we learn in the Premier League, Week 9? ]

The eight-time Olympic goal medalist, who’s 32 years old after retiring from track and field last year, scored twice in a Mariners exhibition last week. Now, his agent says he’s been offered an official contract — quotes from the AP:

“In response to the media stories, yes, Usain has been offered a contract. I do not want to make any further comment at this stage.”

Mike Mulvey, the Mariners manager, not only claims to be unaware of any such offer, but sounds rather dubious and unenthusiastic about the prospects of Bolt being a first-team player.

“You have a look at our front line today and you wonder whether he could get into any of those positions, wouldn’t you? I do appreciate how important this story is for the rest of the world.

“You’re just talking about speculation, I don’t know anything about what you’re talking about and that’s the honest truth.”

“We’re going to go back, have some dinner, have a little look at the game that’s on … then get on a plane tomorrow, go home and start preparing for Melbourne City next week. That’s the plan.”

La Liga: Messi breaks his arm; Real Madrid lose again

AP Photo/Manu Fernandez
Leave a comment

MADRID (AP) Barcelona ended its slump and regained the Spanish league lead but there was little to celebrate as Lionel Messi broke his right forearm and will be sidelined for three weeks.

[ WATCH: Messi scores, assists, breaks arm in first 16 minutes ]

Also, Real Madrid lost again while suffering its worst scoring drought.

Messi scored and walked off injured in the first half of Barcelona’s 4-2 win over Sevilla at Camp Nou Stadium, while Real Madrid players and coach Julen Lopetegui were jeered off the field after they lost to Levante 2-1 at Santiago Bernabeu Stadium.

Messi was taken to a clinic, and Barcelona said he broke the radial bone. At the least, he will miss the Champions League match against Inter Milan on Wednesday, and El Clasico against Barcelona next Sunday.

“We will notice his absence,” Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde said. “But we’ve played without him in the past. We will be prepared to overcome this.”

Messi was trying to reclaim the ball when he ran into the back of a defender and fell in the 17th minute. Trying to cushion his fall, his right elbow bent badly and he was in visible pain. Doctors wrapped his arm with bandages and the playmaker tried to continue but gave up.

“We shouldn’t let Messi’s injury affect us,” defender Gerard Pique said. “We have a team good enough to do well in the matches that we have ahead.”

Messi scored their second goal with a shot from outside the area in the 12th, about 10 minutes after Phillipe Coutinho opened the scoring. Luis Suarez added the third by converting a second-half penalty kick.

[ MORE: What did we learn in the Premier League, Week 9? ]

Sevilla replied through Pablo Sarabia, Ivan Rakitic increased Barcelona’s lead in the 88th, and Sevilla netted again thanks to Luis Muriel in injury time.

Barcelona struggled more than the scoreline showed, with goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen having to make a pair of remarkable double-saves, but the result was enough to give Valverde’s team a one-point lead over surprising Alaves.

Sevilla, which had won four in a row in the league, including 3-0 against Real Madrid, dropped to third place, two points off the lead.


Atletico Madrid, which drew at Villarreal 1-1, also was two back after nine matches.

Real Madrid was four points behind Barcelona, in fifth place.

Real Madrid fans ran out of patience after seeing their team suffer its worst scoring drought and lose for the fourth time in five matches.

Fans loudly jeered after Madrid reached 481 minutes without finding the net in the loss to Levante, which entered the game with the league’s third-worst defense.

Levante scored early with goals by Jose Luis Morales in the sixth minute and Roger in the 13th after a penalty awarded following a video review. Marcelo pulled one back in the 72nd.

Madrid began the match without Gareth Bale and Karim Benzema, who are coming off injuries. It still created enough chances, striking the woodwork three times and having a goal by Mariano Diaz disallowed for offside in the final minutes. Marco Asensio also had a first-half goal disallowed by VAR.

Madrid finished with 70 percent possession and more than 30 attempts.

Local media immediately questioned whether Madrid should fire Lopetegui before El Clasico next weekend at Barcelona or give him a chance to try to save his job against the rival.

“Football matches are won by scoring goals and not according to who deserves to win,” said Lopetegui, who is only three months into his stint with the club after being fired from Spain’s national team.

Before El Clasico, Madrid hosts Viktoria Plzen on Tuesday in the Champions League to try to rebound from a 1-0 loss at CSKA Moscow.