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Championship Playoff Final preview: Fulham vs. Aston Villa

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Imagine playing in a single game where your performance over 90 minutes means the difference between over $300 million for your club or at least another year in the lower leagues.

That’s what is estimated to be on the line as Fulham and Aston Villa meet at Wembley on Saturday in the Championship playoff final at 12 p.m. ET hoping to earn the final spot in next year’s Premier League campaign.

Aston Villa manager Steve Bruce will be searching for an unprecedented fifth Championship promotion after previously guiding Birmingham City and Hull City to the top flight on multiple occasions. He is 2-0 in the playoff final, having won it previously once with each former club, taking Birmingham City to the Premier League in 2002 after defeating Norwich City in a penalty shootout, and earning the victory with Hull City in 2016 via a 1-0 victory over Sheffield Wednesday. Players Sam Johnstone and Robert Snodgrass have both won playoff finals before as well.

Fulham, meanwhile, has experience of its own on the touchline, as boss Slavisa Jokanovic has taken Watford to the top flight previously, finishing second in the Championship in 2015, but he has never experienced a playoff final before.

The Whites appear to be in the better form, having nearly ended the season in historic form with 24 straight unbeaten, but lost on the final day of the campaign, missing out on automatic promotion by just two points. They play a possession-based style under Jokanovic, and while it’s taken a while for the team to grasp the tactics, they look as deadly as ever. However, the last few games have exposed the team yet again, with the loss to lowly Birmingham on the final day before a 1-0 loss to Derby County in the first leg of their playoff semifinal, a scoreline which they turned around in the second leg at home.

The Fulham midfield duo of Kevin McDonald and Stefan Johansen has a claim to be the best pairing in the Championship over the past two seasons, and they anchor Jokanovic’s setup behind playmaker Tom Cairney. The club brought embattled Newcastle striker Aleksandr Mitrovic to London in January, and he’s brought a cutting edge to an attack that was just missing a target man up front. Young winger Ryan Sessegnon, who just turned 18 years old on Friday, has been the club’s most heralded player, and could move to a top Premier League side this summer, especially if the Whites fall at Wembley this weekend. Finally, USMNT defender Tim Ream has led the defensive improvement of a club that conceded 83 goals three seasons ago to halve that this campaign.

They’ll take that attacking prowess up against one of the league’s most pragmatic opponents, as Villa finished the regular season with the third-fewest goals allowed and shut out Middlesbrough across both legs in the semifinals. They feature former Chelsea defender John Terry anchoring the back line, and he partners with experienced 29-year-old James Chester who has played under Bruce before at Hull. Terry himself has won five separate trophies at Wembley Stadium, experience he will surely share with the squad.

Villa’s most dangerous player this season has been Albert Adomah whose blistering pace down the right has been something for opponents to deal with. However, he’s hit a cold streak, without a goal since scoring in a 4-1 win over champions Wolves back on March 10th.

Villa is looking to go back to the Premier League after relegation two years ago, while Fulham has spent four years in the second tier after being sent down back in 2014.

Premier League: How to watch, stream schedule

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The NBC Sports Premier League schedule for the 2019-20 season has been released, with time and dates for the first six matchweeks confirmed. For a full Premier League how to watch TV and streaming schedule in the USA, read on.

[ STREAM: Premier League live here ] 

Matchweek 33 takes place over this weekend as the games continue to come thick and fast from now until July 25 when the 2019-20 season will end. Buckle up, folks.

Games will be played in empty stadiums and at home venues for the most part, with the venues for handful of games TBC due to UK government and police concerns as they continue to work to control the coronavirus pandemic in the UK. The Premier League season was suspended on March 13 but just over three months later it is back.

[ MORE: Premier League fixtures remaining ]

The full TV schedule for the games this month 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 “Premier League Pass” via NBC Sports Gold and the new Peacock streaming service from NBC.

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. You can sign up for NBC Sports Gold here.

Below is the schedule for the Premier League games on NBC Sports from July 4-6, as the full schedule for the first six matchweeks of the schedule are here.


Premier League schedule: How to watch in USA (all times EST)

Matchday 33

Saturday, July 4: Norwich v. Brighton, 7:30 a.m. NBCSN
Saturday, July 4: Man United v. Bournemouth, 10 a.m. NBCSN
Saturday, July 4: Leicester v. Crystal Palace, 10 a.m. Gold/Peacock
Saturday, July 4: Wolves v. Arsenal, 12:30 p.m. NBCSN
Saturday, July 4: Chelsea v. Watford, 3 p.m. NBCSN
Sunday, July 5: Burnley v. Sheffield United, 7 a.m. NBCSN
Sunday, July 5: Newcastle v. West Ham, 9:15 a.m. NBCSN
Sunday, July 5: Liverpool v. Aston Villa, 11:30 a.m. NBCSN
Sunday, July 5: Southampton v. Man City, 2 p.m. NBC
Monday, July 6: Tottenham v. Everton, 3 p.m. NBCSN

VIDEO: Bernardo Silva doesn’t applaud Liverpool in ‘guard of honor’

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Bernardo Silva didn’t applaud Liverpool in the ‘guard of honor’ Man City gave them and couldn’t get off the pitch quick enough.

Silva and his teammates lined up on the pitch before the game at the Etihad on Thursday and welcomed the newly-crowned champions by flanking them on both sides.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights

Every other Man City player gave Liverpool a round of applause, which will be expected from each team Liverpool face in the rest of the Premier League season as they won the title with seven games to go. It will be intriguing to see if other teams and players have a similar reaction to Silva.

Bernardo Silva was not having it, though, as he sipped on a drink, look disinterested and started walking to the benches before most of the Liverpool team had got past the end of the line.

Check out the video clips below of Silva showing perhaps why Man City went on to batter Liverpool 4-0 in the game as he looked angry and most of the Man City players looked far from pleased that they had to applaud Liverpool onto the pitch.

These rivals are a lot closer than the current 20-point gap in the table suggests and given the flashpoints which arrived throughout the game, Man City will be coming back even stronger next season to challenge Liverpool for their title.

Report: USMNT’s McKennie linked with Everton, Newcastle

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Weston McKennie has been linked with a move to Premier League sides Everton and Newcastle United.

The USMNT midfielder, 21, has been the main man in Schalke’s midfield over the past few seasons but he is reportedly available for $28 million this summer and several Premier League teams are interested in McKennie.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights

According to a report from Bild, both Everton and Newcastle want to sign Weston McKennie from Schalke this summer.

McKennie has been one of the only Schalke players who can come out of the end of the season with his head held high. David Wagner’s side ended the season on an incredible 16-game winless run and scored just five times after the restart. McKennie scored two of them.

The versatile midfielder can also play at full back and per other reports, Hertha Berlin are also interested in signing him. Schalke’s sporting director Jochen Schneider pointed to the fact that McKennie has a contract until 2024 which he signed last summer but he wouldn’t rule out a move.

Schalke are said to be in a dire financial situation and are trimming their wage bill and squad accordingly this summer.

McKennie has previously said he wants to make the move to the Premier League and both Everton and Newcastle would seem like very good landing spots for him. In fact, along with Crystal Palace and West Ham, those were the two teams I previously selected as being the best place for him to land if he did indeed get his wish for a move to England.

“For me, the next target is England. It has always been my dream to play in the Premier League. I want to join a club that is fighting for a place in Europe: the Champions League or the Europa League. For now, I am happy in Schalke because I can play,” McKennie said.

That’s the key here. McKennie will want to play and at Everton and Newcastle he would have a battle to get into the team initially but he would surely be a regular contributor considering what we’ve seen from him in the Bundesliga over the last few seasons. Both Everton and Newcastle need a destructive holding midfielder and McKennie fits the bill.

The $28 million price tag seems a little high in the current market, so that could be a stumbling block, but there’s a deal to be done here. Schalke need to trim their wage bill, McKennie wants to move to the Premier League and Premier League clubs wants to sign him.

NBC Sports Premier League schedule

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The new NBC Sports Premier League schedule for the 2019-20 season has been released, with time and dates for the first three matchweeks confirmed and here’s how you can watch it all live on TV in the USA.

[ WATCH: Premier League video ] 

With games spread out across multiple days and many in separate time slots, there are lots of changes to your regular schedule as the league returns on June 17 after being suspended on March 13 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Games will be played in empty stadiums and at home venues for the most part, with the venues for a handful of games TBC due to UK government and police concerns.

The full TV schedule for the games this month 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 “Premier League Pass” via NBC Sports Gold and the new Peacock streaming service from NBC.

Below is the new schedule for the Premier League on NBC Sports from June 17 to July 12, as we will release the dates and times for the final three matchweeks of the 2019-20 season when they become available.


Premier League: How to watch in USA (all times EST)

Matchday 29

Wednesday, June 17: Aston Villa 0-0 Sheffield United
Wednesday, June 17: Man City 3-0 Arsenal

Matchday 30

Friday, June 19: Norwich 0-3 Southampton
Friday, June 19: Tottenham 1-1 Man United
Saturday, June 20: Watford 1-1 Leicester
Saturday, June 20: Brighton 2-1 Arsenal
Saturday, June 20: West Ham 0-2 Wolves
Saturday, June 20: Bournemouth 0-2 Crystal Palace
Sunday, June 21: Newcastle 3-0 Sheffield United
Sunday, June 21: Aston Villa 1-2 Chelsea
Sunday, June 21: Everton 0-0 Liverpool
Monday, June 22: Man City 5-0 Burnley

Matchday 31

Tuesday, June 23: Leicester 0-0 Brighton
Tuesday, June 23: Tottenham 2-0 West Ham
Wednesday, June 24: Man United 3-0 Sheffield United
Wednesday, June 24: Newcastle 1-1 Aston Villa
Wednesday, June 24: Norwich 0-1 Everton
Wednesday, June 24: Wolves 1-0 Bournemouth
Wednesday, June 24: Liverpool 4-0 Palace
Thursday, June 25: Southampton 0-2 Arsenal
Thursday, June 25: Burnley 1-0 Watford
Thursday, June 25: Chelsea 2-1 Man City

Matchday 32

Saturday, June 27: Aston Villa 0-1 Wolves
Sunday, June 28: Watford 1-3 Southampton
Monday, June 29: Crystal Palace 0-1 Burnley
Tuesday, June 30: Brighton 0-3 Man United
Wednesday, July 1: Everton 2-1 Leicester
Wednesday, July 1: Bournemouth 1-4 Newcastle
Wednesday, July 1: Arsenal 4-0 Norwich
Wednesday, July 1: West Ham 3-2 Chelsea
Thursday, July 2: Sheffield United 3-1 Tottenham
Thursday, July 2: Man City 4-0 Liverpool

Matchday 33

Saturday, July 4: Norwich City v. Brighton, 7:30a.m. ET
Saturday, July 4: Leicester v. Crystal Palace, 10 a.m. ET
Saturday, July 4: Man United v. Bournemouth, 10 a.m. ET
Saturday, July 4: Wolves v. Arsenal, 12:30 p.m. ET
Saturday, July 4: Chelsea v. Watford, 3 p.m. ET
Sunday, July 5: Burnley v. Sheffield United, 7 a.m. ET
Sunday, July 5: Newcastle United v. West Ham, 9 a.m. ET
Sunday, July 5: Liverpool v. Aston Villa, 11:30 a.m. ET
Sunday, July 5: Southampton v. Man City, 2 p.m. ET
Monday, July 6: Tottenham v. Everton, 3 p.m. ET

Matchday 34

Tuesday, July 7: Crystal Palace v. Chelsea, 1 p.m. ET
Tuesday, July 7: Watford v. Norwich City, 1 p.m. ET
Tuesday, July 7: Arsenal v. Leicester City, 3:15 p.m. ET
Wednesday, July 8: Man City v. Newcastle United, 1 p.m. ET
Wednesday, July 8: Sheffield United v. Wolves, 1 p.m. ET
Wednesday, July 8: West Ham v. Burnley, 1 p.m. ET
Wednesday, July 8: Brighton v. Liverpool, 3:15 p.m. ET
Thursday, July 9: Bournemouth v. Tottenham, 1 p.m. ET
Thursday, July 9: Everton v. Southampton, 1 p.m. ET
Thursday, July 9: Aston Villa v. Manchester United, 3:15 p.m. ET

Matchday 35

Saturday, July 11: Norwich City v. West Ham, 7:30 a.m. ET
Saturday, July 11: Watford v. Newcastle United, 7:30 a.m. ET
Saturday, July 11: Liverpool v. Burnley, 10 a.m. ET
Saturday, July 11: Sheffield United v. Chelsea, 12:30 p.m. ET
Saturday, July 11: Brighton v. Manchester City, 3 p.m. ET
Sunday, July 12: Wolves v. Everton, 7 a.m. ET
Sunday, July 12: Aston Villa v. Crystal Palace, 9 a.m. ET
Sunday, July 12: Tottenham v. Arsenal, 11:30 a.m. ET
Sunday, July 12: Bournemouth v. Leicester City, 2 p.m. ET
Monday, July 13: Man United v. Southampton, 3 p.m. ET