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Guide to the 12 World Cup stadiums across Russia

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MOSCOW (AP) Russia’s World Cup is spread across 12 stadiums in 11 host cities. They range from St. Petersburg, which is so far north that the sun doesn’t set on some summer days, to Sochi and its subtropical climate on the Black Sea coast.

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Cost rises, worker deaths, and corruption have marred the building of Russia’s World Cup stadiums.

Unlike in Brazil four years ago, venues were finished on time, but there’s sure to be a few last-minute tweaks ahead of the tournament.

Legacy is an issue as only five stadiums hosted top-level clubs this season, and the government will need to cover the upkeep with subsidies after the tournament.

Here is a look at the stadiums:


LUZHNIKI STADIUM

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City: Moscow

Capacity: 81,006

Cost: 24 billion rubles ($410 million) for rebuild

A vast bowl built in the 1950s to showcase the sporting might of the Soviet Union, Luzhniki has been transformed to host the World Cup final.

The old stands were ripped out and the athletics track from the 1980 Olympics torn up as the stadium was converted into a football-specific venue.

That increases capacity and comfort, while bringing fans closer to the action.

Luzhniki reopened on Nov. 11 when Argentina beat Russia 1-0 in a friendly. Russian fans praised the rebuild, but many were angered by lengthy delays in accessing nearby public transport. That improved for subsequent friendlies, but allow plenty of time for travel to Luzhniki and back.

A fan zone will show games on big screens near Moscow State University, on the other side of the river.


SPARTAK STADIUM

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City: Moscow

Capacity: 43,298

Cost: 14.5 billion rubles ($250 million)

Home of the 2017 Russian Premier League champion Spartak Moscow, this stadium opened in 2014 and is already well tested as a venue for Champions League and Confederations Cup games.

It is usually known as the Otkritie Arena, but FIFA rules on sponsorship mean a temporary name change for the tournament.

The towering statue of a gladiator outside is a nod to Spartak being named after the Roman slave rebel Spartacus.

It is the only World Cup stadium built without government money. Transport is relatively easy from central Moscow, though chronic traffic jams mean most fans prefer the subway.


ST. PETERSBURG STADIUM

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City: St. Petersburg

Capacity: 68,134

Cost: 43 billion rubles ($735 million)

Almost everything that could go wrong did go wrong with the St. Petersburg stadium.

Severe delays and soaring costs were just the start for a project which became notorious for employing North Korean laborers, one of whom was among at least eight people to die on the stadium and 17 across all World Cup construction sites, according to the trade union Building and Wood Workers’ International.

A deputy governor of St. Petersburg has admitted his role in a 50-million-ruble ($850,000) scheme to siphon off the stadium’s budget, though officials say the true picture of corruption was much larger.

The spaceship-like arena – which will host a semifinal – remains plagued by a leaking roof and a pitch which had to be replaced repeatedly.

Confederations Cup games, however, passed largely without incident and Russia says it’s working to iron out any more problems.


FISHT STADIUM

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City: Sochi

Capacity: 47,700

Cost: 23.5 billion rubles ($400 million) for initial construction, 4 billion rubles ($68 million) to convert for football

While memories of the Sochi Olympics became dominated by Russia’s doping scandals, one part of the legacy is still gleaming.

Nestled by the Black Sea, Fisht Stadium hosted the lavish opening and closing ceremonies for the 2014 Winter Olympics, and then Confederations Cup games.

How that Olympic legacy continues after the World Cup isn’t clear; Sochi doesn’t have a football club to use the stadium.

Fans are advised to book hotels near the Olympic Park because the main city of Sochi is an hour away.


KAZAN ARENA

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City: Kazan

Capacity: 44,779

Cost: 14.4 billion rubles ($250 million)

Opened in 2013 as the first of Russia’s new generation of football stadiums and was used as the prototype for the other new arenas.

It’s a versatile venue which has hosted Confederations Cup football, ceremonies, and even the 2015 world swimming championships, where a temporary pool was installed.


SAMARA ARENA

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City: Samara

Capacity: 44,807

Cost: 18.2 billion rubles ($310 million)

This stadium in the Volga River city of Samara is ambitious but proved tricky to finish on time.

Its ambitious design – a glass dome evoking Samara’s history as a center of the Russian space program – needed extra time to build but finally opened in April.

The stadium is on the outskirts of the city, so fans should allow plenty of time for travel to games including a World Cup quarterfinal.


NIZHNY NOVGOROD STADIUM

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City: Nizhny Novgorod

Capacity: 45,331

Cost: 17.9 billion rubles ($307 million) – Russian media estimates

With a roof which seems to float atop white columns, the Nizhny Novgorod Stadium has one of Russia’s more impressive designs and will host a quarterfinal.

It also offers fans views of the Oka and Volga rivers which meet in Nizhny Novgorod, a historic city located around four hours east of Moscow.

Legacy could be a problem as local club Olimpiyets Nizhny Novgorod plays in the second tier and struggles to attract crowds.


ROSTOV ARENA

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City: Rostov-on-Don

Capacity: 45,145

Cost: 19.4 billion rubles ($330 million)

Sweltering summer temperatures could be a problem for teams coming to the southern Russian steppe to play group or last-16 games in Rostov-on-Don.

The stadium sits on the bank of the Don river and is planned to become the center of a vast new housing and leisure development after the World Cup.

When the tournament is over, the stadium will be the new home of FC Rostov, which beat Bayern Munich in the Champions League group stage in 2016 but has since slipped back into the middle of the Russian standings.


VOLGOGRAD ARENA

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City: Volgograd

Capacity: 45,568

Cost: 17.3 billion rubles ($300 million)

In the city once known as Stalingrad, every spot has wartime history, and the stadium is no different.

Workers during construction had to deal with finding unexploded munitions and soldiers’ corpses from the Battle of Stalingrad. The stadium sits at the foot of Russia’s best-known World War II memorial.

The location meant the stadium had to be designed with a low roof-line so as not to obscure views of “The Motherland Calls” sculpture. German youth players were invited to a test game at the stadium in a gesture of international reconciliation.


EKATERINBURG ARENA

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City: Yekaterinburg

Capacity: 35,696

Cost: 12.7 billion rubles ($220 million) for rebuild

Even before it opens, the stadium in the Ural mountain city of Yekaterinburg is famous for its unusual design.

In an attempt to keep costs down, the stadium has 12,000 temporary seats. So far, so normal for a World Cup.

However, those seats are on vast towers of scaffolding stretching over the walls of the main stadium, which could make being in the top row a vertigo-inducing experience.

Reducing the capacity to 23,000 after the tournament should make life easier for local club Ural Yekaterinburg, which averaged crowds of just over 8,000 in the Russian Premier League this season.

Human Rights Watch alleged that some workers were required to work in temperatures of minus-25 degrees Celsius, and weren’t given enough breaks to stay warm.


MORDOVIA ARENA

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City: Saransk

Capacity: 44,442

Cost: 17.1 billion rubles ($295 million)

With a population of just 300,000, Saransk was a surprise choice as a host city.

Located 10 hours by road south-east of Moscow, it’s by far the smallest of the 11 cities but hopes to make up for that with a warm welcome for foreigners at the biggest international event in the city’s history.

Many fans arriving for the World Cup won’t be staying in hotels – Saransk simply doesn’t have enough – but on campsites or in newly finished apartment blocks which will be sold after the tournament.

Large parts of the stadium are temporary, meaning it can be reduced to a 25,000-capacity venue after the tournament.


KALININGRAD STADIUM

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City: Kaliningrad

Capacity: 35,212

Cost: 17.4 billion rubles ($300 million)

Kaliningrad is the capital of a sliver of Russian land cut off from the rest of the country and sandwiched between Poland and Lithuania.

Until World War II, the city was part of Germany and called Koenigsberg. Officials are hoping its location and history make Kaliningrad an attractive destination for fans from other European countries.

The stadium is a compact, modest design which has been built quickly.

There have been repeated allegations of corruption involving the stadium, including several arrests.

AP World Cup coverage: http://www.apnews.com/tag/WorldCup

Transfer news: Jota to Liverpool; Yedlin to Besiktas

Jota to Liverpool
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The transfer news just keeps on coming a Diogo Jota to Liverpool and DeAndre Yedlin to Besiktas are just a few of the deals developing.

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Let’s start in the north west of England.

Jota to Liverpool close?

Diogo Jota to Liverpool is moving fast, with a report from Sky Sport in Italy stating that talks are ongoing between the clubs and Jota’s agent, Jorge Mendes, is ironing out the details. It is claimed that Portuguese international Jota is close to agreeing a four-year contract at Liverpool.

A separate report from The Athletic states that Liverpool will pay Wolves over $45 million for Jota, 23, who has been incredibly consistent over the last two seasons in the Premier League.

This could be the extra winger Liverpool were looking for as they’ve been linked with Ismaila Sarr and are clearly looking for extra options to try and ease the burden on Roberto Firmino, Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane.

Why would Wolves let Jota leave? They have just signed Portuguese whizkid Fabio Silva and Nuno Espirito Santo did rotate Jota in and out of his lineup last season, as Raul Jimenez was the main man and the likes of Pedro Neto and Daniel Podence picked up regular minutes as the season progressed.

Jota has scored 44 goals in 116 appearances for Wolves as he joined them initially on loan from Atletico Madrid when they were in the Championship and was a key part of them getting promoted to the Premier League and then qualifying for the Europa League and sealing back-to-back seventh place finishes.

This signing, off the back of signing Thiago Alcantara, would be another big boost for Liverpool and could mean the likes of Divock Origi, Xherdan Shaqiri or Takumi Minamino may be looking at loan moves away from Anfield this season.

USMNT right back Yedlin to leave Newcastle?

DeAndre Yedlin, 27, is said to be close to joining Turkish giants Besiktas on a free transfer.

Yedlin has one year left on his current contract at Newcastle United but became a squad player last season under Steve Bruce. It appears that will be the case once again this season and the USMNT defender is apparently heading to Turkey where he will link up with fellow U.S. international Tyler Boyd.

This would be a good move for Yedlin, who are currently in Europa League qualifying. The speedy right back has always been a threat out wide but his defending has sometimes been a little suspect, especially at the Premier League level.

A fresh start in Turkey would be interesting and with as host of MLS clubs said to be interested in the former Seattle Sounders star, maybe he will head home in a few years’ time?

Premier League odds, Prince-Wright’s picks: Week 2

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EPL betting odds for the Premier League Week 2 have been released but we know the bookies don’t always get it right and there is plenty of cash to be made up there.

Here are the latest Prince-Wright’s Premier League score predictions as the Premier League 2020-21 season is here and the EPL betting odds all over the place with new signings galore, some teams having more of a preseason than others and injuries already having an impact early in the season.

[ MORE: How to watch PL in the USA ]   

The Premier League score predictions below encompass the 10 games during Week 2 of the new season, as Manchester City and Manchester United both begin their season after being given an extended break over the summer following their European exploits.

If you, like me, love to dissect all the games and predict what the score will be and which team will win, I encourage you to get involved in the comments section below. Let’s have a bit of fun with these Premier League games.

VIDEO: Premier League highlights ] 

Okay, so I’ve consulted my crystal ball and here’s how we see things panning out. Listen carefully, because this is very specific.

While you can download the NBC Sports Predictor app (below) and play the Premier League Pick ‘Em game yourself to predict the scores and win the prizes.

DOWNLOAD NBC SPORTS PREDICTOR

With the first section labelled “basically, free money” for the picks I think are dead certs. The section labelled “don’t touch this” means if you’re betting I advise you to stay clear, while the “so you’re telling me there’s a chance” section are the long shots. If it is better odds you are after, those are the picks to go for.

Check out our Premier League score predictions below, plus the betting odds provided by our partner, PointsBet.

PointsBet is our Official Sports Betting Partner and we may receive compensation if you place a bet on PointsBet for the first time after clicking our links.


PREMIER LEAGUE PREDICTIONS

BASICALLY, FREE MONEY

Manchester United 3-1 Crystal Palace – (Saturday, 12:30 p.m. ET, Peacock) – [STREAM

Arsenal 4-0 West Ham – (Saturday, 3 p.m. ET, NBCSN) – [STREAM

Everton 2-0 West Brom – (Saturday, 7:30 a.m. ET, Peacock) – [STREAM


DON’T TOUCH THIS…

Newcastle 2-1 Brighton – (Sunday, 9 a.m. ET, Peacock) – [STREAM

Leicester 2-1 Burnley – (Sunday, 2 p.m. ET, NBCSN) – [STREAM

Southampton 1-1 Tottenham – (Sunday, 7 a.m. ET, Peacock) – [STREAM

Wolves 2-3 Man City – (Monday, 3 p.m. ET, Peacock) – [STREAM


“SO YOU’RE TELLING ME THERE’S A CHANCE…”

Leeds United 2-2 Fulham – (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, Peacock) – [STREAM

Chelsea 3-3 Liverpool – (Sunday, 11:30 a.m. ET, Peacock) – [STREAM

Aston Villa 2-1 Sheffield United – (Monday, 1 p.m. ET, Peacock) – [STREAM


ODDS – full odds provided by our partner, PointsBet

Saturday, September 19: (-195) Everton v. West Brom (+540), Tie: +320
Saturday, September 19: (-160) Leeds v. Fulham (+450), Tie: +290
Saturday, September 19: (-325) Man United v. Crystal Palace (+850), Tie: +440
Saturday, September 19: (-195) Arsenal v. West Ham (+500), Tie: +340
Sunday, September 20: (+215) Southampton v. Tottenham (+130), Tie: +235
Sunday, September 20: (+160) Newcastle v. Brighton (+185), Tie: +210
Sunday, September 20: (+220) Chelsea v. Liverpool (+110), Tie: +270
Sunday, September 20: (-165) Leicester v. Burnley (+460), Tie: +290
Monday, September 21: (+170) Aston Villa v. Sheffield United (+170), Tie: +215
Monday, September 21: (+520) Wolves v. Man City (-195), Tie: +325

Thiago to Liverpool confirmed: How big of a deal is this?

Thiago to Liverpool
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Thiago to Liverpool has finally been confirmed as the worst kept secret in the transfer world has reached its end game with a transfer deal which could rise to $36 million reached.

What does Thiago Alcantara signing for Liverpool actually mean though?

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First up, Liverpool have themselves a ‘baller with a capital B who was influential in Bayern winning the treble and sealing the UEFA Champions League trophy in the 2019-20 season.

Thiago, 29, has been instrumental at Bayern Munich and is the deep-lying playmaker Liverpool didn’t have. Speaking about his arrival at Anfield, his excitement is clear and so is one other thing: he’s a born winner.

“I think it’s an amazing feeling. I was waiting for this moment for a long time and I am very, very happy to be here,” Thiago said. “When the years are passing, you are trying to win as much as you can – and when you win, you want to win more. I think this club describes what I am as well; I want to achieve all of the goals, win as many trophies as possible. It also [has] this kind of family [feeling] that I need because we [like to] have a very close relationship with the club and I think I will feel this, I will have this feeling, with this club as well.”

Thiago is exactly the type of signing Liverpool needed to make to back up their hopes of being back-to-back Premier League champions. That sound you can hear is Pep Guardiola’s heart breaking, as the current Manchester City boss brought Thiago from Barcelona to Bayern Munich in 2013 and knows how key of a cog he can be in this well-oiled Liverpool machine.

The Spanish international is exactly the type of player the reigning Premier League champions needed to reach the next level. He gives them that Plan B they haven’t previously had. If Thiago had played for Liverpool against Atletico Madrid in the 2019-20 season, they would not have lost that game. He would have slowed things down, picked passes to rip apart Atleti’s watertight midfield and defense.

His skills are special and will complement the hard-working players Liverpool primarily have in their midfield. Jordan Henderson, Fabinho and Georginio Wijnaldum were a formidable trio but the latter may now leave for Barcelona and both Naby Keita and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain have struggled with injuries. Thiago gives this Liverpool midfield a new dimension and his arrival likely means Fabinho and Henderson will line up alongside him in a three-man central midfield.

He will have to settle in, though, and playing in England and for Klopp’s Liverpool is very different to what he was used to at Bayern Munich. That said, he oozes class and will be given the license to dictate the tempo of Liverpool’s play and sit in alongside Fabinho and spray passes and snap into tackles. In many ways, just like at Bayern, his role will be to allow the full backs to attack. His presence will allow Andy Robertson and Trent Alexander-Arnold to bomb on just as Alphonso Davies and Joshua Kimmich did at Bayern.

Simply put, he allows Liverpool to play a different way in comparison to their full-throttle, high-press style which isn’t always possible when teams sit back and defend deep. Now they have Thiago, Liverpool can do it all. If you sit back, Thiago can thread a ball through the eye of a needle to open up defenses. If you push up, one ball over the top will see Salah and Mane set free.

The son of a former World Cup winner with Brazil (Mazinho) who was born in Italy to Brazilian parents and made his name in Spain, Thiago Alcantara is a high quality player, professional and human. This signing is a big statement by Liverpool and for many, including myself, it means they are now the favorites to win the Premier League title this season ahead of Manchester City.

That is how big of a deal it is.

Transfer news: Sarr to Liverpool, Man United

Ismaila Sarr to Liverpool
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The latest transfer news sees Ismaila Sarr to Liverpool and Ismaila Sarr to Manchester United among the main reports.

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So, the two bitter rivals are set to battle for Watford and Senegal winger Ismaila Sarr. Let’s roll!

Ismaila Sarr to Liverpool or Manchester United?

According to a report from the Daily Mail, Liverpool are willing to pay $46 million for Sarr. However, a report from The Independent states that Sarr is an alternative option if Manchester United can’t sign Jadon Sancho.

Would Ismaila Sarr to Liverpool or Ismaila Sarr to Manchester United make more sense?

Starting with Liverpool, they obviously have their star three forwards in Roberto Firmino, Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane. After that, Sarr is an upgrade on their current back-up options of Divock Origi, Takumi Minamino and Xherdan Shaqiri, plus youngsters Curtis Jones and Harvey Elliott.

Sarr is also close friends with his countryman and Liverpool star Mane, and the 22-year-old showed enough promise in his debut Premier League season (five goals, four assists in 22 PL starts) to suggest he can make the step up to playing for a top six team.

He only arrived at recently relegated Watford last summer from Rennes and is a target for plenty of the big boys. Sarr has end product to his game and scored twice in Watford’s shock 3-0 win against Liverpool.

As for Sarr to Manchester United, it is stated that “intermediaries are understood to have made initial enquiries” as they line up deals if they don’t sign top target Sancho this summer.

It is clear Sarr is to good to be playing in the second tier in England this season and after he adapted to life in the Premier League the Senegalese winger was always a threat.

Let’s see who wins this battle as Sarr would significantly upgrade the secondary options for both Liverpool and Manchester United.