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Vermaelen out a month, compounding Barcelona defensive woes

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Barcelona’s back line has been forced to dig deep of late, and they’ll be digging even deeper with the news that center-back Thomas Vermaelen will miss a month with a calf injury.

The La Liga leaders announced that Vermaelen would miss approximately four weeks with a torn calf muscle, meaning he would be healthy to return sometime around mid-January. Barcelona has league games against Eibar on the 13th and Leganes on the 20th, with the second leg of a Copa del Rey Round of 16 matchup against Levante sandwiched in between.

Vermaelen hasn’t exactly been a heavily used player this season, nor throughout his Barcelona career, but his presence of late had become vital after Samuel Umtiti went down in late September with a long-term knee injury. Vermaelen himself had just returned from a hamstring injury, playing his first minutes since early October on Sunday. However, he was forced off after 52 minutes in the 5-0 win over Eibar, sidelined yet again.

The 33-year-old has been plagued by injuries his entire career, known first at Arsenal and again at Barcelona for his struggles to stay on the field. Vermaelen missed time last year with knee, leg, and hip injuries that held him to just over 1,500 total minutes across all competitions.

In addition, full-backs Sergi Roberto and Nelson Semedo are struggling with injuries. Manager Ernesto Valverde had decided to utilize a back-three against Eibar to cover for the lack of full-backs, with Clement Lenglet in as the third, but after Vermaelen went down,, central midfielder Arthur was brought on, leaving Lenglet to partner with Gerard Pique at the back and switching to a tradtitional back-four. While Jordi Alba was easily able to switch back to his traditional left-back spot, the absence of both Roberto and Semedo leaves no true right-back available for the more traditional formation.

With the absences, it would be surprising if Barcelona did not bring in cover during the January transfer window to ease the injury woes.

American coach Marsch named Austrian Bundesliga Coach of the Year

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American coach Jesse Marsch saw his incredible season grow with a predictable but wonderful honor.

Marsch is the Austrian Bundesliga Coach of the Year after leading Red Bull Salzburg to a domestic double despite myriad challenges.

Obviously all coaches had to manage their teams during the coronavirus pandemic, but Marsch also had to contend with sales of stars Erling Haaland (Borussia Dortmund), Takumi Minamino (Liverpool), and Marin Pongracic (Wolfsburg) to big clubs in top European leagues.

[ MORE: Premier League summer schedule ]

The Salzburg release brands Marsch as someone with “his American charm and sheer endless positivity” and includes this quote from Marsch:

“Winning Coach of the Year for me is a reward for the entire team, which I think is deserved. The trophy is for the whole coaching staff, as we have worked so well together. Losing players in winter brought us even closer together.

Aided by LASK Linz loses its table lead when it was docked six points for unauthorized team training during the pandemic, Marsch’s Salzburg left no questions in winning the league with four matches left (The club went 1W-1D-2L in the final matches).

Marsch spent last season assisting Ralf Rangnick and RB Leipzig to a third-place finish in the Bundesliga. Prior to that he was MLS Coach of the Year with the New York Red Bulls. As a player, he won three MLS Cups and four Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cups while also earning two USMNT caps.

It will be interesting to see if Marsch sticks around another year in Austria. His name has risen in renown like a rocket and he had been linked with Borussia Dortmund, and there are no guarantees he can continue to impress with Salzburg in the Champions League and Europa League.

Salzburg was a stepping stone for its last Coach of the Year, and Marco Rose enjoyed success at Borussia Monchengladbach this season. With league Player of the Year winner Dominik Szoboszlai expected to fetch a big fee and join Naby Keita, Sadio Mane, Konrad Laimer, and the aforementioned transfers in challenging a coach to rebuild his squad, perhaps Marsch will go sooner rather than later.

We wouldn’t put anything past him, though. At one point before he’s done, Marsch will be an exciting USMNT coach if he wants the job.

Premier League confirm zero positive COVID-19 test results

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Following the latest batch of tests on players and club staff the Premier League have revealed that there were zero positive COVID-19 results out of 1,973 tests from Monday 29 June to Sunday 5 July.

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With the twelfth round of testing now completed in the Premier League, a total of 16,280 COVID-19 tests have now been carried out with 18 positive results.

All players and staff at Premier League clubs will be tested twice a week during the strict return to training protocols put in place, as games are now up and running after a restart date of June 17 has been set.

Here is the statement from the Premier League in full on the latest result:


The Premier League can today confirm that between Monday 29 June and Sunday 5 July, 1,973 players and club staff were tested for COVID-19. Of these, zero have tested positive.

The Premier League is providing this aggregated information for the purposes of competition integrity and transparency. No specific details as to clubs or individuals will be provided by the League and results will be made public after each round of testing.

Previous test results

Round 1: 17-18 May – 748 tested, with six testing positive from three clubs.
Round 2: 19-22 May – 996 tested, with two testing positive from two clubs.
Round 3: 25-26 May – 1,008 tested, with four testing positive from two clubs.
Round 4: 28-29 May – 1,130 tested, with zero testing positive.
Round 5: 1-2 June – 1,197 tested, with one testing positive.
Round 6: 4-5 June – 1,195 tested, with zero testing positive.
Round 7: 8-9 June – 1,213 tested, with one testing positive.
Round 8: 11-12 June – 1,200 tested, with two testing positive from two clubs.
Round 9: 15-16 June – 1,541 tested, with one testing positive.
Round 10: 17-21 June – 1,829 tested, with one testing positive.
Round 11: 22-28 June – 2,250 tested, with zero testing positive.
Round 12: 29 June – July 5 – 1,973 tested, with zero testing positive.

Premier League odds: Matchweek 34

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Check out the EPL betting odds for the games in Matchweek 34, as the Premier League return continues with games coming thick and fast.

[ MORE: New PL TV schedule ]

Take a look below at the odds for the Premier League games in midweek, as the action has resumed following the suspension on March 13 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Click on the link above to watch all of the games live via our platforms here at NBC Sports, while below are the individual EPL betting odds for each game via DraftKings.

[ MORE: Prince-Wright’s Premier League predictions ]

Also, click play on the video above to watch my predictions for the games and where you should focus your attention this weekend as the Premier League action continues to come right at us.


Matchweek 33

Tuesday, July 7: (+650) Crystal Palace v. Chelsea (-220), Tie: +335
Tuesday, July 7: (-152) Watford v. Norwich (+440), Tie: +285
Tuesday, July 7: (+125) Arsenal v. Leicester (+220), Tie: +245
Wednesday, July 8: (-835) Man City v. Newcastle (+2000), Tie: +245
Wednesday, July 8: (+310) Sheffield United v. Wolves (+107), Tie: +210
Wednesday, July 8: (+104) West Ham v. Burnley (+285), Tie: +235
Wednesday, July 8: (+510) Brighton v. Liverpool (-182), Tie: +320
Thursday, July 9: (+100) Everton v. Southampton (+270), Tie: +255
Thursday, July 9: (+425) Bournemouth v. Tottenham (-157), Tie: +310
Thursday, July 9: (+900) Aston Villa v. Man United (-315), Tie: +420

Crystal Palace – Chelsea preview: How to watch, odds, team news, prediction

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Crystal Palace – Chelsea promises to be an intriguing clash at Selhurst Park on Tuesday (start time, 1pm ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com) in a London derby.

Christian Pulisic continues to be the main man for Chelsea as the USMNT star put in another superb display in their 3-0 win against Watford and the Blues remain on track to finish in the top four and qualify for the Champions League.

CRYSTAL PALACE – CHELSEA STREAM LIVE

As for Palace, they have lost their last three games on the trot without scoring and Roy Hodgson’s side look destined for a midtable finish.

Below is everything you need to know ahead of Crystal Palace – Chelsea on Tuesday.


Team news

Palace will be without James Tomkins, Jeffrey Schlupp and Martin Kelly, while Hodgson may bring back Cheikhou Kouyate, Scott Dann and James McCarthy as they were rested.

Chelsea will be without N’Golo Kante and Mateo Kovacic through injury, as Fikayo Tomori is also out.

What they’re saying

Roy Hodgson on facing Chelsea: “They a very, very good team with many, many good players and, irrespective of our own position in this moment in time, all we can do is prepare for it, get ready for it and look forward to it – I do look forward to it, and I know all the players are looking forward to the game. I know we will do our best, work very hard and make life as difficult for them as possible. But we 100% aware of all the challenges, with the quality that they have, that they’re going to present us.”

Frank Lampard on the threat of Man United to their place in the top four: “They’re closest, they’re a very strong team, they’re in great form for a long period of time. They have got really good individual players. You have seen the momentum they have gained across their front three, all scoring, lots of goals. They’re the biggest threat from behind, but this is the Premier League. It looks that way today, but it’s how each team finishes the season.”

Odds and ends

Crystal Palace are huge underdogs (+650) as Chelsea (-220) are the red-hot favorites given their three wins from their first four games of the restart. The tie at +335 is where the value is at because as we saw with Chelsea’s shock defeat at West Ham last week, they can be dominated from set pieces and hit on the counter. Those two aspects are huge strengths of Palace’s game.

Prediction

We are all expecting a Chelsea win here but don’t be surprised if Wilfried Zaha has a day at makes it a very tough outing for this leaky Chelsea defense. Palace have been fired up and shocked Chelsea before but I think the Blues, led by Pulisic, have too much for Palace. 3-1 to Chelsea.