Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

PL Sunday preview: Merseyside, west London derbies on tap

Leave a comment

A big weekend of Premier League derbies wraps up on Sunday, when Merseyside and west London showdowns take center stage with plenty of title and top-four implications.

[ MORE: Man City win, lose KDB | Man United come back, beat Southampton ]

Watford v. Leicester City — 7 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

Brendan Rodgers is set to make his return to the PL when he debuts as Leicester manager on Sunday. Rodgers, who was appointed the Foxes’ new boss earlier this week, was in attendance for his new side’s 2-1 victory over Brighton & Hove Albion on Tuesday — a result that snapped the six-game winless skid (five losses) that ultimately cost Claude Puel his job. It was Leicester’s first victory since New Year’s Day. Rodgers was hugely successful at Celtic — two league titles, two Scottish Cups and three League Cups in two-plus seasons — his first stop after being fired by Liverpool in October 2015.

Up first is a trip to eighth-place Watford, a side that went to Anfield and suffered a 5-0 hammering at the hands of Liverpool on Wednesday, just five days after hanging five goals of their own on Cardiff City. The Hornets, under first-year boss Javi Gracia, haven’t lost back-to-back games since the first week of December, a streak which included a 2-1 defeat to Leicester in these sides’ first meeting of 2018-19.

INJURIES: Watford —  OUT: None | Leicester — OUT: Marc Albrighton (hamstring), Daniel Amartey (ankle)


Fulham v. Chelsea — 9:05 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

Fulham’s first season back in the PL will almost certainly end with the west London club making an immediate return to the Championship, but that fact hardly suffices to explain the Cottagers’ struggles this season: following Claudio Ranieri‘s dismissal and the appointment of Scott Parker as interim manager, Fulham have now employed the same number of managers as they have won games (4). The deficit they must overcome to pull off the greatest escape the PL has ever seen? 10 points with 10 games left to play, beginning with a visit from nearby Chelsea on Sunday.

Speaking of managers coming under fire of late, Maurizio Sarri‘s situation at Chelsea is hardly any better these days. Not only have the fans turned on him, but the Blues have lost three of their last five league games while also falling flat in the League Cup final. That league form has seen them tumble to sixth in the PL table, now five points back of fourth-place Manchester United, though Chelsea now have a pair of games in hand. Sarri says Kepa Arrizabalaga will reclaim his place as first-choice goalkeeper in one of the next two games after refusing to be subbed off in that final defeat, giving way to Willy Caballero to keep the clean sheet in a 2-0 victory over Tottenham Hotspur on Wednesday.

INJURIES: Fulham —  OUT: Alfie Mawson (knee); QUESTIONABLE: Andre Schurrle (illness) | Chelsea — OUT: Danny Drinkwater (undisclosed)


Everton v. Liverpool — 11:15 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

Sure, Liverpool would be delighted to complete their second double over Everton in three seasons’ time, but the Reds will have their sights set much higher than Merseyside dominance on Sunday. Now two points back of Manchester City in the PL title race, Jurgen Klopp‘s side needs all three points from one of its toughest games each season to keep pace with the defending champions and remain on pace to lift England’s top-flight trophy at Anfield for the first time since 1990 (pre-PL era). Having only beaten the Toffees in the season’s first meeting via one of the stranger goals you’ll ever see, the trip to Goodison should prove more difficult than Everton’s ninth-place standing might indicate.

Everton have a bit more confidence now than they would have had this, the 233rd edition of the derby, been played earlier this week. After losing three straight, by a combined score of 6-1, Marco Silva‘s side bounced back with a 3-0 thrashing of Cardiff on Tuesday — a result that might have just bought the first-year Portuguese manager a bit of time. Of particular worry for Everton: star forward Richarlison, who paced the side with 10 goals until Gylfi Sigurdsson‘s brace against Cardiff pulled him one ahead, went without a goal for the entire month of February and has scored just one PL goal since Boxing Day.

INJURIES: Everton —  QUESTIONABLE: Leighton Baines (ribs) | Liverpool — OUT: Dejan Lovren (hamstring), Joe Gomez (ankle), Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (knee); QUESTIONABLE: Roberto Firmino (ankle)

LAFC’s Adama Diomande voluntarily enters MLS’s health program

AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill
Leave a comment

LOS ANGELES (AP) Los Angeles FC forward Adama Diomande has entered Major League Soccer’s substance abuse and behavioral health program.

[ Premier League Previews: Leicester City v. Tottenham | Man City v. Watford ]

MLS announced Diomande’s voluntary decision Friday.

Diomande won’t play for LAFC at least until the program’s doctors complete their evaluation and he is cleared by program officials.

The 29-year-old Norwegian scorer has eight goals and seven assists in 25 appearances this season, including 15 starts. He has played a valuable complementary offensive role alongside MLS scoring leader Carlos Vela.

[ MORE: Report: Netherlands FA to meet with Sergiño Dest ]

Diomande is in his second MLS season after joining LAFC from Hull City. He also previously played under LAFC coach Bob Bradley in Norway.

LAFC (19-4-7) has clinched the Western Conference title, and it leads the overall MLS table by seven points despite a four-game winless streak.

Premier League Preview: Newcastle v. Brighton

Photo by Alex Broadway/Getty Images
Leave a comment
  • Early-season relegation battlers meet on Saturday
  • 18th-place Newcastle to host 16th-place Brighton
  • Brighton won at Newcastle, drew at home last season

Newcastle United and Brighton & Hove Albion, a pair of Premier League sides with just two wins from the first five weeks of the season between them, will meet at St. James’ Park on Saturday (Watch live, 12:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN and NBCSports.com) for what could prove to be a retrospective relegation six-pointer when May rolls around.

Each side replaced its manager — Steve Bruce for Rafa Benitez at Newcastle; Graham Potter for Chris Hughton at Bright — in the summer and neither of the new bosses has had a particularly enjoyable start to the 2019-20 campaign. Brighton won on the opening day of the season, but have taken just two points from the following four games. Newcastle lost their first two games, won their third, and have drawn and lost again since. It’s the kind of form that’ll see both sides stuck in the high-teens of the PL table if they don’t find their footing in the coming weeks.

[ STREAM: Every PL match live

Things are particularly worrying for Newcastle, who didn’t they’d be without Benitez until the end of June and didn’t appoint Bruce until mid-July. Key players had already left the club and reinforcements for few and far between. Forward Joelinton joined for $50 million and is one of four players with a single goal scored thus far.

Last week was nearly fruitful for the Seagulls, until the conceded a stoppage-time equalizer and settle for a point at home against Burnley. Summer signing Neal Maupay bagged his second goal for Brighton earlier in the game, giving Potter a potential trump card over a handful of other relegation-threatened sides without a consistent goalscorer.

Injuries/suspensions

Newcastle: OUT – Matt Ritchie (ankle), Florian Lejeune (knee), Dwight Gayle (calf); QUESTIONABLE – DeAndre Yedlin (groin)

Brighton: OUT – Leandro Trossard (groin), Jose Izquierdo (knee), Ezequiel Schelotto (knee)


Projected lineups

Newcastle: Dubravka – Krafth, Schar, Lascelles, Dummett, Willems – Almiron, Hayden, Shelvey, Atsu – Joelinton

Brighton: Ryan – Duffy, Dunk, Webster – March, Stephens, Propper, Burn – Gross, Maupay, Murray


What they’re saying

Joelinton, on Andy Carroll: “It’s always great to have experienced players in the group, and he’s one of them. He can help the club, he can help the young players. Andy Carroll has scored a lot of goals in the Premier League, and it’s great to be playing alongside him. He’s a calm guy. I still haven’t spoken to him a lot because my English isn’t great! But every day he’s trying to help. He’ll help me before the games, he’ll give me positional advice and suggest what I’ve done both good and bad.”

Graham Potter, on the trip to Newcastle: “Newcastle away is a tough game just like all the others. We don’t target particular matches — it’s about what we need to do to get a positive result. They have an experienced manager who I came across last year and he’s someone I have a lot of respect for. They have good quality players and we know it can be a hostile environment, it’s a big club and we know we have to play well to get something.  Steve has a lot of games under his belt – he’s had a lot of success and he’ll understand the challenge that lies ahead.


Prediction

Newcastle haven’t scored multiple goals in a game yet this season, and they’ve conceded twice as many as they’ve scored (four). It’s hard to trust them to be anything resembling consistent from game to game. It wouldn’t be surprising if they battled to a boring 0-0 draw, or conceding three times before halftime. It’ll probably be closer to the former, a 1-1 stalemate.

AC Milan announces internal anti-racism task force

Photo by Marco Luzzani/Getty Images
Leave a comment

MILAN (AP) AC Milan has announced it will establish an internal task force to address racism in Italian football.

[ Premier League Previews: Leicester City v. Tottenham | Man City v. Watford ]

The club says the task force will be supported by “an external consultancy” and “develop a program of activities to increase awareness, monitor and address racist behavior on social media and in the stadium, and drive the adoption of global best practices on diversity and inclusion.”

The move comes after reports of racist chants directed at Milan midfielder Franck Kessie, who is black, during a match at Hellas Verona last weekend.

Milan says the anti-racism initiative will be launched during Saturday’s derby against Inter Milan.

[ MORE: Premier League TV, streaming schedule ]

Inter striker Romelu Lukaku was subjected to racist chants in a match at Cagliari this month.

Milan CEO Ivan Gazidis, who is South African, says: “Italian football needs to wake up and take a strong stance against racist behaviors. AC Milan will take a leadership position on this issue. . We believe that we have a moral obligation to do everything we can to address this issue.”

Slow start dooms Southampton again: ‘We lost the game in first half’

Photo by Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Slow starts are, ironically, quickly becoming the story of Southampton’s Premier League season. It happened again on Friday, resulting in a 3-1 home defeat to Bournemouth in the Premier League‘s budding south coast rivalry

[ Premier League Previews: Leicester City v. Tottenham | Man City v. Watford ]

Through six games, Saints have conceded the first goal four times. In those four games, they have taken just one point. When scoring the game’s first goal, they have two wins and two clean sheets.

It would appear that Ralph Hasenhuttl‘s side is set up to play one way, and one way only. Speaking after Friday’s defeat, Hasenhuttl lamented his side’s slow start, conceding that the game was all but lost when they fell 2-0 behind in the 35 minutes — quotes from the BBC:

“The finish was not important anymore. If you lose 2-1 or 3-1 it does not make too much difference. We lost the game in the first half.

“In the second half, we were sharp. Had about 26 shots to six from Bournemouth but the most important stat is the goals. They scored three, we scored once.

“We weren’t aggressive enough and too easy in the first half. It is not easy to be 1-0 down after 10 minutes. We had a lot of blocked shots and misses near the post. It was a good performance in the second half but without a result.

“For the second goal was had a lot of players in our attacking box so it was not easy to defend.

“We showed a good reaction because we knew we needed to be brave. We changed our shape and were aggressive for the second ball. It gave us 64% possession and we had a lot of shots. Maybe we didn’t deserve to take something because of our first half.”

Southampton’s next chance to start a game quickly will come in an away bout with Tottenham Hotspur next Saturday.