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Premier League relegation picture in focus

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Six teams are within six points of the final relegation place following big wins for Newcastle United and Southampton at midweek in the Premier League.

Cardiff City is the side set for the drop at the moment, holding just 10 precious matches on their season docket.

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The good news is that the Bluebirds are within a single win over getting over the line, and that 16th place Brighton and Hove Albion’s match-in-hand is against dangerous Chelsea.

Before we go into what looms for these six side, here’s the portion of the table in question (Apologies to Fulham and Huddersfield Town and their quests for 10-plus point great escapes, but we’re excluding miracles in this particular study).

Team GP W D L GF GA GD Home Away PTS
 13. Newcastle United 28 8 7 13 26 34 -8 6-1-8 2-6-5 31
 14. Crystal Palace 28 8 6 14 32 38 -6 3-4-7 5-2-7 30
 15. Burnley 28 8 6 14 31 50 -19 5-2-6 3-4-8 30
 16. Brighton & Hove Albion 27 7 6 14 29 41 -12 5-4-4 2-2-10 27
 17. Southampton 28 6 9 13 30 46 -16 3-6-5 3-3-8 27

18. Cardiff City 28 7 4 17 25 55 -30 5-2-8 2-2-9 25

Let’s begin at the bottom: Cardiff City still faces four of the big boys in Chelsea, Man Cirty, Liverpool, and Manchester United, but also sees six-pointers with Burnley, Brighton, and Fulham. At current pace, the Cottagers will have already been relegated by the time they host Cardiff on April 27.

Southampton‘s Wednesday win over Fulham could hardly have come at a better point on the schedule, given a three-match run against Manchester United, Spurs, and Watford. Saints will have a trio of perceived six-pointers (Brighton, Newcastle, and Huddersfield Town).

Brighton and Hove Albion has that match-in-hand, though it will still have added action with a visit to Millwall and in the FA Cup quarterfinals as well as potential for a longer run. The Seagulls can ease their burden a bit by beating visitors Huddersfield on Saturday, and still face Cardiff, Saints, and Newcastle before a rough finish away to Arsenal and home to Man City.

Burnley lost significant momentum with its 2-0 loss to Newcastle, which feels pretty harsh coming off an 8-match unbeaten run. Sean Dyche‘s Clarets have a tricky fixture list to navigate, and its final four matches are tests at Chelsea, home to Man City, away to Everton, and home to Arsenal. Saturday at home to Palace and April 13 home to Cardiff look monumental.

Crystal Palace is back in the relegation picture, but could be close to safe and sound within 10 days, as Burnley and Cardiff are next before FA Cup quarterfinal action at Watford. Huddersfield and Newcastle follow, and it’s very hard to see the Eagles not getting enough points from their next four matches to survive. If not, May 4 at Cardiff City will be a big one.

Rafa Benitez‘s Newcastle United road into the finale isn’t easy, but could be much worse. Liverpool and Arsenal are their lone Top Six tests, the latter at home, and there are four current relegation candidates on their docket. A finale at Fulham, who will likely be relegated by then, presents an unpredictable item. Newcastle will be aware of the freedom that comes with playing after relegation, having smoked Spurs in the last match of the season three years ago.

VIDEO: Lacazette scores superb solo goal

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Alexandre Lacazette is off and running for the new Premier League season.

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The Frenchman, fresh from his return from injury, wriggled free at the near post and somehow snuck his shot home to put Arsenal 1-0 up at the Emirates Stadium against Burnley.

Watch his superb strike in the video above, as the Gunners looked solid and dangerous with Dani Ceballos pulling the strings.

Watch Live: Arsenal v. Burnley

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Arsenal host Burnley on Saturday (Watch live, 7:30 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com) as both teams aim to stay perfect after wins to open up the new season.

The Gunners won 1-0 at Newcastle last week, while Burnley hammered Southampton at home, and Unai Emery’s men are red-hot favorites to make it two wins from two as their attacking stars start to find their groove.

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In team news Arsenal start David Luiz and Dani Ceballos, while Alexandre Lacazette returns from injury. Henrikh Mkhitaryan drops to the bench and club-record signing Nicolas Pepe is also named as a sub. Mesut Ozil misses our through illness.

Burnley start with the same team that beat Southampton 3-0 last weekend, as Jay Rodriguez and Aaron Lennon are handy attacking options to have on the bench.

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NWSL: Sam Kerr focused on leading Red Stars to title

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BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. (AP) Sam Kerr sat down on a metal bench after taking a few extra shots after practice. Chicago Red Stars coach Rory Dames poked fun at her competitive streak, and Kerr just laughed it off.

If the Aussie star is on her way out of town, it was hard to tell on a picturesque summer afternoon in suburban Chicago. While speculation abounds about where Kerr might play next season, she is focused on leading the Red Stars to the franchise’s first NWSL title.

“I want to win the NWSL. I’ve never done it, and I love Chicago,” Kerr told The Associated Press. “The NWSL’s given me so much. I think it’s made me the player who I am.”

And that’s one of the world’s most dangerous attackers, capable of creating a prime scoring opportunity for herself or one of her teammates in seconds. It’s easy to see why Chelsea might be interested in bringing her to Europe, or why she might draw lucrative offers from Lyon or Real Madrid.

What Kerr decides to do about her future could be a major test for the NWSL after it saw renewed interest in the wake of the United States’ championship in the Women’s World Cup last month. While the top Americans play in the NWSL, the loss of a foreign star like the 25-year-old Kerr would be a blow to the league as it tries to grow in the coming years.

“The best players in the world are in this league,” Dames said, “and if you want to be one of the best players in the world, you need to come into this league and prove yourself, not prove yourself in leagues where the competition is a little different or the quality of the teams in the league from top to bottom are a little different.

“I think that’s one of the reasons why Sam has really excelled, is because a lot of the other perceived top players in the world I don’t think could have the success that they’re currently having where they are in this league.”

Taking in the whole picture like a defense unfurled in front of her, Kerr seems at ease with the discussion.

“I think there’s a lot of new women’s teams coming forward, and I think it’s just fans wanting me to go to their club,” she said. “It’s new teams, new fans, which is great. That’s what happens in the men’s game. The more talk about women’s football, the better.”

Kerr, who captained the Matildas in the World Cup, splits time between Chicago and the Perth Glory in Australia’s W-League. She is the all-time leading scorer in each league, and shows no signs of slowing down.

Kerr scored her NWSL-best 13th goal Wednesday night, but the Red Stars’ five-game win streak was snapped by a 2-1 loss at Sky Blue FC. She also led the NWSL in goals in each of the previous two seasons, including a league-record 17 in 2017 when she was the NWSL MVP and Golden Boot winner during her final season with Sky Blue.

With Kerr powering the attack and Chicago fully stocked once again after the World Cup, the Red Stars are second in the NWSL standings heading into this weekend, one point back of Portland and one clear of North Carolina.

“I think she’s just so dynamic,” said defender Katie Naughton, who also plays with Kerr in Australia. “Her movement on and off the ball is just something that you don’t necessarily see in the women’s game a lot.”

Kerr was acquired by Chicago in a three-team trade on draft day in January 2018 that also featured U.S. stars Carli Lloyd and Christen Press. Midfielder Nikki Stanton, Kerr’s longtime girlfriend, also moved to the Red Stars as part of the deal.

While the couple is competitive, Kerr said they know when to leave it back on the field.

“She kind of knows when I’ve had a bad game or when she’s had a bad game, and we don’t bring it up,” Kerr said. “It’s actually better, because it’s someone, you know when you talk to your parents and they say the wrong thing and annoy you, so we kind of know what to say to each other.”

Kerr, the youngest of four siblings, grew up in an Australia rules football family. Her father, Roger, and Daniel, one of her two brothers, played professionally. Soccer “was kind of seen as a little bit of a girls’ sport compared to an AFL game,” Sam Kerr said.

Sam started focusing on soccer after she had to stop playing AFL when she was 12 because there was no women’s league for the hard-hitting sport. The women have their own league now, and Kerr has received several offers from its teams over the years.

“It would be amazing to play AFL and maybe one year I will retire there,” she said, “but yeah, I’ve just grown to love football now. … I can’t see myself back there.”

Huddersfield fire Siewert three games into Championship season

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Jan Siewert was hired to replace David Wagner as Huddersfield Town manager on Jan. 21, with the Terriers bottom of the Premier League and quite clearly headed for an inevitable relegation.

Fast-forward nearly seven months, and Siewert has been fired by Huddersfield after three games without a win in the EFL Championship.

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Siewert began his tenure 10 points adrift of safety from relegation, but then finished 20 points back of 17th place.

Siewert’s only victory (in any competition) as Huddersfield manager (19 games) came in a 1-0 upset of Wolverhampton Wanderers, last season’s seventh-place finishers in the PL.

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Huddersfield’s decision came down Friday night, just minutes after the club suffered a 2-1 home defeat to fellow relegated side Fulham. Huddersfield sit 20th (of 24 teams) with just a single point from their first three games of the season.

The Terriers were also bounced from the League Cup by League One side Lincoln City last week.