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World Cup players juggle national team and fatherhood

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MOSCOW (AP) Having a baby is even more important than playing in the World Cup for some.

Three dads-to-be have made trips home from Russia to welcome a child, with the blessing of coaches and teammates.

[ MORE: Real denies Neymar offer ]

On Tuesday, Fabian Delph will likely miss England’s match against Colombia in the round of 16 while awaiting the birth of his third child.

“Some things in life are more important than football,” England coach Gareth Southgate said Monday. “His focus needs to be with his family at this time.”

Southgate echoed a view of parenting that runs through the World Cup.

Switzerland forward Breel Embolo is preparing to face Sweden on Tuesday after dashing home within hours of a 2-2 draw with Costa Rica last week. The 21-year-old Embolo saw his daughter born and described it as “the most beautiful 24 hours” of his life.

The family-friendly trend was started by Denmark’s players, who helped send teammate Jonas Knudsen home in a private jet. Knudsen’s daughter was not due until after the tournament, but the team wanted him to see her right away.

“It’s a bit of perspective in life,” Southgate said. “Everybody says you only get one chance to be in a World Cup but also there’s only one day in your life where your children are born.”

In soccer, players fulfil their family duties at the discretion of team leaders.

Paternity leave is mandated in Major League Baseball. A rule was passed in 2011 allowing teams to place a player on the paid paternity leave list for 1-3 days if he is “the father of a child whose delivery or adoption is imminent or has occurred within the prior 48 hours.”

[ MORE: Kovacic, Plea in PL transfer links ]

The rule did not spare then-New York Mets second baseman Daniel Murphy in April 2014 from criticism on sports radio for taking two days off with his wife and newborn son.

However, the backlash against radio hosts Boomer Esiason and Mike Francesa – who said Murphy could “hire a nurse” if his wife needed help beyond one day – showed that athletes have public support to be good fathers.

In 2013, golfer Hunter Mahan won praise for leaving a tournament he led by two shots to return home for the unexpectedly early birth of his first child.

“Thanks to all to my sponsors who appreciate what’s important in life and all my fans for being Awesome!” Mahan wrote on his Twitter account.

It was not always so in soccer. A notorious English case in 1989 saw a player with Queen’s Park Rangers fined two weeks’ salary for missing an away game to attend a birth.

The manager who ordered the fine, for England player Trevor Francis, was fired soon after.

The subject is still a dilemma for Sweden captain Andreas Granqvist, who on Tuesday is set to play against Switzerland in what is likely his last World Cup at the age of 33. Granqvist has stayed in Russia with the approval of his wife, Sofie, who is overdue to give birth to their second child in Sweden.

“I’m fully focused on the game tomorrow and my wife is very strong,” Granqvist said Monday.

Southgate acknowledged his decision to release Delph, who played in England’s two previous games, would not always have been approved.

“My father’s generation and those before them would view that differently,” said the England coach, who is building a reputation for smart and thoughtful handling of his players. “But you have got to be there for your family.”

More AP World Cup coverage: https://apnews.com/tag/WorldCup

Prince-Wright’s Premier League picks

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Matchweek 16 is here in the Premier League as things are heating up very nicely ahead of the festive season.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

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.

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.


BASICALLY, FREE MONEY

Tottenham 3-0 Burnley – (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, NBC Sports Gold) – [STREAM

Bournemouth 1-3 Liverpool – (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, NBCSN) – [STREAM] 

West Ham 1-3 Arsenal – (Monday, 3 p.m. ET, NBCSN) – [STREAM


DON’T TOUCH THIS…

Newcastle 1-1 Southampton – (Sunday, 9 a.m. ET, NBC Sports Gold) – [STREAM]

Man City 2-2 Man United – (Saturday, 12:30 p.m. ET, NBC) – [STREAM]

Watford 1-2 Crystal Palace – (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, NBC Sports Gold) – [STREAM


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

 

Everton 2-1 Chelsea – (Saturday, 7:30 a.m. ET, NBCSN) – [STREAM

Aston Villa 2-2 Leicester City – (Sunday, 9 a.m. ET, NBCSN) – [STREAM]

Brighton 2-1 Wolves – (Sunday 11:30 a.m. ET, NBCSN) – [STREAM]

Norwich 2-0 Sheffield United – (Sunday, 9 a.m. ET, NBC Sports Gold) – [STREAM

Premier League TV, streaming schedule

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Matchweek 16 of the Premier League season is here, as the busy festive season has well and truly arrived.

Get in there.

[ 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

Saturday
7:30 a.m. ET: Everton v. Chelsea – NBCSN [STREAM]
10 a.m. ET: Bournemouth v. Liverpool – NBCSN [STREAM]
10 a.m. ET: Tottenham v. Burnley – NBC Sports Gold [STREAM]
10 a.m. ET: Watford v. Crystal Palace – NBC Sports Gold [STREAM]
12:30 p.m. ET: Man City v. Man United – NBC [STREAM]

Sunday
9 a.m. ET: Aston Villa v. Leicester City – NBCSN [STREAM]
9 a.m. ET: Newcastle United v. Southampton  – NBC Sports Gold [STREAM]
11:30 a.m. ET: Brighton v. Wolves – NBCSN [STREAM]
9 a.m. ET: Norwich City v. Sheffield United – NBC Sports Gold [STREAM]

Monday
3 p.m. ET: West Ham v. Arsenal – NBCSN [STREAM]

The 2 Robbies podcast: Analyzing chaos at Everton, Arsenal

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In the latest The 2 Robbies podcast, Robbie Mustoe and Robbie Earle discuss Everton’s decision to sack Marco Silva after their 5-2 defeat to Liverpool in the Merseyside Derby (0:50), Arsenal’s shocking defeat at home to Brighton (14:00) and Tottenham’s 2-1 loss to Manchester United in the Jose Mourinho’s return to Old Trafford thanks to a brace from Marcus Rashford (22:25).

Plus, thoughts on Gabriel Jesus‘ long-term role at Manchester City (29:00), Jamie Vardy and Leicester City can’t stop winning (35:10), back to winning ways for Chelsea (39:00) and the Underappreciated Performances of the week (43:40).

To listen to more lively conversations and passionate debate from Robbie Earle and Robbie Mustoe, subscribe to The 2 Robbies Podcast on Apple Podcasts or anywhere you listen to podcasts.

And you can follow them on Twitter @The2RobbiesNBC here.

Click here for The 2 Robbies archive ]

Projected lineups: Man City v. Man United

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A feisty Manchester Derby takes center stage at the Etihad Stadium on Saturday (Watch live, 12:30 p.m. ET on NBC and online via NBCSports.com) as Man City and Man United need the points for their respective title and top four bids.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

With key players missing or injury doubts for both teams, there is plenty of debate about who will line up for Man City and Man United.

Below we look at how Pep Guardiola and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer should set up their teams and give our own analysis of the situation.


Man City

—– Ederson —–

— Walker — Stones — FernandinhoAngelino

—- Rodri —- Silva —-

—- Bernardo —- De Bruyne —- Sterling —-

—– Jesus —–


Man United

—– De Gea —–

— Wan-Bissaka — Lindelof — Maguire — Young —

—- McTominay —- Fred —-

— James — Lingard — Rashford —

—– Martial —–


Analysis: Man City have a few big decisions to make in defense, with either John Stones or Nicolas Otamendi expected to partner Fernandinho at center back, with Otamendi likely to get the nod after playing against Burnley in midweek. At full back Pep has been rotating his options with Angelino maybe edging ahead of Mendy, while Walker seems to be winning the battle with Cancelo. For now. Midfield picks itself with Rodri the holder and Kevin De Bruyne playing ahead of him, but the big decisions is who out of David Silva and Ilkay Gundogan starts alongside Rodri. Up top Riyad Mahrez is pushing Bernardo Silva for a start with Raheem Sterling on the other flank and Gabriel Jesus continuing up top with Aguero out injured.

Given their injury issues, which have eased a little, Man United’s lineup choices are a little simpler. De Gea will have Wan-Bissaka, Lindelof, Maguire and probably Young ahead of him, while McTominay’s return in midfield is a big boost and he will likely line up with Fred. Up top they are sweating on the fitness of Anthony Martial who missed the midweek win against Tottenham and is questionable to start, but Rashford, Lingard and James are expected to start behind either Martial or Mason Greenwood.