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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.

Watch Live: Arsenal vs. Everton

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Richarlison returns for Everton as the Toffees head to North London for a match against Unai Emery‘s Arsenal (Watch live at 11 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

WATCH LIVE, ONLINE, HERE

Cenk Tosun is on the bench for Everton at the Emirates Stadium, while Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang both start for Arsenal.

LINEUPS

Arsenal: Cech, Bellerin, Sokratis, Mustafi, Monreal, Xhaka, Torreira, Ramsey, Ozil, Lacazette, Aubameyang. Subs: Leno, Elneny, Lichtsteiner, Holding, Iwobi, Guendouzi, Welbeck.

Everton: Pickford, Kenny, Zouma, Keane, Digne, Gana, Davies, Walcott, Sigurdsson, Richarlison, Calvert-Lewin. Subs: Stekelenburg, Holgate, Baines, Tosun, Schneiderlin, Bernard, Lookman.

BWP set to miss big clash after yellow for swearing

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Bradley Wright-Phillips would like referees to consider his adulthood.

The New York Red Bulls’ super striker is going to miss a massive MLS clash with Atlanta United last weekend due to yellow card accumulation. RBNY is four points behind Atlanta in the race for the Supporters’ Shield with four matches each to play.

[ MORE: 2 Robbies on Mourinho, Man Utd ]

BWP was given a yellow for swearing at a linesman during RBNY’s 2-0 win over Toronto FC on Saturday.

Though we don’t know what he said and certainly don’t condone swearing at officials, the player didn’t make a show of it (something that earned Jozy Altidore a second yellow in a USMNT shirt a few years ago).

A fine is coming Wright-Phillips’ way for this one:

“It’s ridiculous man, it’s too big. We’re men. If you can’t take a swear word and what really happened then we’re in the wrong sport man, it’s ridiculous,” he said. “If someone said that to me, I wouldn’t even be like…I’d be like ‘Sorry, I missed.’ It’s a yellow card. The guy was having a nightmare all game. Nightmare.”

One thing that BWP is missing: It’s not the AR’s duty to know you’ll miss a game with a yellow. Still, this is a huge disadvantage for the Red Bulls on Sept. 30 at home.

Ben Yedder makes it 5 goals in 3 days with 1st half hat trick

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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) Wissam Ben Yedder hit a first-half hat trick to lead Sevilla to a 6-2 rout at Levante in the Spanish league on Sunday.

[ MORE: 2 Robbies on Mourinho, Man Utd ]

It was the second big win for Sevilla in three days. Ben Yedder scored twice in a 5-1 home win over Standard Liege in the Europa League on Thursday.

Sevilla goalkeeper Tomas Vaclik saved a penalty kick by Jose Morales that would have allowed Levante to pull level at 2-2 midway through the first half.

Pablo Sarabia also scored for Sevilla and set up three more goals. Daniel Carrico and Andre Silva also got on the scoresheet for the visitors.

Sevilla had gone three rounds without a win in La Liga since its victory in the opening round at Rayo Vallecano.

Roger Marti scored for Levante, which also got a late own goal from Simon Kjaer.

Later, Barcelona hosts Girona seeking a fifth win in as many rounds.

More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/tag/apf-Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

Watch Live: West Ham United vs. Chelsea

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Chelsea returns from Greece for a London Derby at West Ham United on Sunday (Watch live at 8:30 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

WATCH LIVE, ONLINE, HERE

The 5-0 Blues are looking to keep pace with 6-0 Liverpool, and kept some stars home from the Europa League. Fresh for the tilt are Eden Hazard, David Luiz, and Mateo Kovacic.

West Ham is hoping to build on its first win of the season, which was inspired by Andriy Yarmolenko and Marko Arnautovic. The former starts, but the latter is not fit for the 18.

LINEUPS

West Ham United: Fabianski, Zabaleta, Balbuena, Diop, Masuaku, Rice, Obiang, Noble, Yarmolenko, Anderson, Antonio. Subs: Adrian, Cresswell, Fredericks, Ogbonna, Sanchez, Snodgrass, Lucas.

Chelsea: Arrizabalaga, Azpilicueta, Luiz, Rudiger, Alonso, Jorginho, Kante, Kovacic, Willian, Hazard, Giroud. Subs: Caballero, Cahill, Zappacosta, Moses, Fabregas, Barkley, Morata.