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Europa League preview: Arsenal seeks comeback, Chelsea sees “disaster” pitch

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Arsenal has its work cut out for itself in Thursday’s Europa League second legs, while Chelsea has to just hold its water in Ukraine.

The Gunners have experience flipping a tie on its ear, doing the same in the previous round, and received some good news: Alexandre Lacazette‘s suspension was cut short and he can play as Arsenal looks to overcome a 3-1 first leg deficit to Stade Rennes.

[ MORE: Champions League power rankings ]

“We all know how important Alex Lacazette is to us as a group and obviously the more players we have available, the better it is because we do have some quality players, particularly in midfield and up top,” said Unai Emery. “Hopefully we will be able to make that danger pay. Let’s just hope that Lacazette can help us to achieve the result.”

Arsenal will not have suspended Sokratis Papastathopoulos.

As for Chelsea, the Londoners lead 3-0 after 90 minutes at Stamford Bridge but know things can get dicey far from home.

Manager Maurizio Sarri says that Dynamo Kiev’s pitch is a far cry from its “wonderful” status when he led Napoli there two seasons ago.

“A disaster,” Sarri said. “The pitch is not good, I think it’s really dangerous. It will be very difficult to play good football here at this moment, and I think it’s dangerous for injuries, but we have to accept the situation and play on this pitch. There isn’t another solution.

“I don’t understand why UEFA give so much attention to everything, like the players’ list, and then we have to play on such a bad pitch. It will also be very difficult for Dynamo. It’s a problem for us but also for our opponents.”

Chelsea gets an early kickoff, 1:55 p.m. ET, while Arsenal kicks off at 4 p.m.

Thursday’s Europa League second legs

1:55 p.m. ET
Dynamo Kiev v. Chelsea — Chelsea leads 3-0
FK Krasnodar v. Valencia — Valencia leads 2-1
RB Salzburg v. Napoli — Napoli leads 3-0

4 p.m. ET
Arsenal v. Rennes — Rennes leads 3-1
Inter Milan v. Eintracht Frankfurt — 0-0
Slavia Prague v. Sevilla — 2-2
Villarreal v. Zenit Saint-Petersburg — Villarreal leads 3-1
Benfica v. Dinamo Zagreb – Zagreb leads 1-0

LA Galaxy release Katai after wife’s social media mocks protestors

Aleksandar Katai released
Photo by Shaun Clark/Getty Images
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The LA Galaxy have “parted ways” with Aleksandar Katai after the Serbian winger’s wife posted racist and violent comments regarding protestors.

On Tuesday, Tea Katai posted a comment to “kill the s—-” with an accompanying video of a New York PD police vehicle ramming into a barricade help up by protestors and another photo of looters with sneakers she captioned, “Black Nikes Matter.”

[ BUNDESLIGA: Week 30 preview and predictions ]

Aleksandar Katai issued an apology on Instagram saying that the views would not “be tolerated in my family” and condemned white supremacy while posting that “Black Lives Matter.”

That wouldn’t be enough for the Galaxy, who announced they would meet with Katai on Thursday. Their consideration may have been affected by protests outside their stadium.

According to the LA Times’ Kevin Baxter:

On Thursday four men stood before a statue of David Beckham outside the team’s stadium holding a bedsheet-sized banner that read “No Racists in Our Club” with Katai’s uniform No. 7 encircled with a red line through it.

Katai, 29, was in his first season with the Galaxy after spending 66 matches with the Chicago Fire, scoring 19 goals with 12 assists. Prior to that, he spent time with Red Star Belgrade and Vojvodina. He is nine times capped by Serbia including thrice in 2019.

Newcastle United season restart preview

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With the 2019-20 Premier League season soon to restart, let’s focus on all 20 clubs and see where they stand ahead of the final nine matches of the season.

Newcastle United is next.

[ MORE: Remaining PL schedule in full ]

Here is a closer look at all things Magpies when it comes to the season restart.


Outlook: The Magpies won’t be qualifying for Europe and also are extremely unlikely to be relegated, but is there some danger of the latter? It seems more likely that Newcastle’s season will be more headline watching to see if its controversial takeover is approved and serious pitch-analyzing to see if Joelinton can rediscover what he did well in the Bundesliga last season. Steve Bruce’s men are also in the FA Cup quarterfinals but have Man City coming to St. James’ Park, but the veteran manager getting a result against Pep Guardiola twice in one season seems a tall ask.

[ MORE: Ranking every Newcastle player in 2019-20 ]


Tactical analysis: The Magpies have done their best work replicating the system Rafa Benitez implemented last season, but Bruce has shown some real nous in getting four of six points from a flat back four in the final two matches before the pause (That said, the Burnley draw was abysmal).

It’s easy to imagine Bruce using four at the back for the first two matches of the restart, home outings against Blades and Villa, though the Magpies’ 2-0 defeat of Sheffield United at Bramall Lane saw the side effective in a 3-4-3. How it goes from there could dictate Bruce’s plans, though expect more 5-man back lines with Man City, Liverpool, and Spurs yet to come.

[ MORE: The 2 Robbies assess Newcastle’s chances ]


Possible XI (4-2-3-1) 

—– Dubravka —–

— Manquillo — Lascelles — Fernandez — Rose —

—– Shelvey —– S. Longstaff —–

— Ritchie— Almiron — Saint-Maximin—

—– Joelinton —–

There are plenty of things that could and should change here. Loan signings Valentino Lazaro and Nabil Bentaleb have good chances to start and Isaac Hayden’s been more consistently than sophomore-slumping Sean Longstaff. The club also will want to court Matty Longstaff into a new deal and Geordie hero Andy Carroll is healthy and works well in place of or next to Joelinton, who can move to the wing. Fabian Schar and Ciaran Clark are starting caliber backs looking for homes since Steve Bruce moved away from a back five, and Paul Dummett is a healthy and adequate CB, too.


[ STREAM: Every PL match live ]

Remaining schedule
Home: Sheffield United (6/21), Aston Villa (6/24), West Ham, Spurs, Liverpool
Away: Bournemouth (7/1), Man City, Watford, Brighton and Hove Albion

Predicted finish: We’ll know plenty within three days of the season’s restart, as Blades and Villa visit St. James’ Park and the Magpies could sit top half in no time. Eight points clear of the drop zone is not entirely safe with eight matches left, though, so there’s some potential for danger if they lose those winnable matches at an empty SJP. That said, there are too many ways to cross the 40-point mark and so many teams behind them. They sit 13th, and they’ll finish within a place or two of that.

LIVE, Bundesliga: Freiburg hosts top four hopefuls Gladbach

Freiburg v. Borussia Monchengladbach live
Photo by Christian Verheyen/Borussia Moenchengladbach via Getty Images
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Alassane Plea and Marcus Thuram bring red-hot form and top four hopes to Freiburg when Borussia Monchengladbach visits the Schwarzwald-Stadion on Friday for a 2:30 p.m. ET kickoff.

Gladbach is ahead of fifth-place Bayer Leverkusen on goal differential and four points back of second-place Borussia Dortmund.

[ LIVE: Bundesliga scores, stats ]

Freiburg is winless in four and staring down a tough run of fixtures while their Europa League hopes have taken a massive hit.

There were six goals between the sides in late November when Gladbach took all the points in a 4-2 win.

[ BUNDESLIGA: Week 30 preview and predictions ]

Below is the schedule for the Bundesliga game early on Friday and how you can watch live on TV in the USA and online and follow along via the link above.

Bundesliga how to watch

  • TV Channels: FS2
  • Stream LiveVia Fox Soccer
  • USMNT players to watch: Fabian Johnson, Gladbach (not on bench)
  • Kick off time: 2:30 p.m. ET — Freiburg v. Gladbach

Southampton season restart preview

Southampton
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With the 2019-20 Premier League season soon to restart, let’s focus on all 20 clubs and see where they are at ahead of the final nine weeks of the season as Southampton are up next.

[ STREAM: Every PL match live ]

Focusing on Ralph Hasenhuttl’s Saints, they have rebounded superbly after that humbling 9-0 defeat to Leicester City in late October. Hasenhuttl’s young side have gone back to basics and have a pretty favorable run of games to finish the season. They still aren’t totally out of the relegation battle but three more wins should keep them up and there is a renewed sense of belief about their future as the boss recently signed a new contract.

[ MORE: Every PL season restart preview ] 

Let’s take a closer look at all things Southampton when it comes to the season restart.


Outlook: The season started very badly and hit rock bottom with that hammering by Leicester. Hasenhuttl then went back to his tried and tested 4-2-2-2 formation and kept things simple, as previously he messed around with several formations and his players seemed confused. A run of seven wins from 11 games around the turn of the year pushed them up the Premier League table and they are seven points above the relegation zone with nine games to go. Danny Ings is their main man with 18 goals in all competitions and their high-pressing style often catches out opponents. Defensively they still need to improve but Hasenhuttl has recently signed a new four-year contract extension and there’s a clear plan in place for the future. Saints have some talented young players coming through again and even though they haven’t got a lot of cash to spend, Hasenhuttl has made his team horrible to play against and they should be a solid PL club for the next few seasons.


Tactical analysis: The 4-2-2-2 formation that Hasenhuttl perfected at RB Leipzig has worked well since November with Southampton possessing plenty of speedy attacking players who use this system perfectly. Nathan Redmond, Shane Long and Ings lead the charge, while Sofiane Boufal and Moussa Djenepo are wild cards off the bench. Having extra defensive stability has been key with Hojbjerg and Ward-Prowse playing in deeper midfield roles, plus Stuart Armstrong a perfect blend of a central midfielder and a winger. This formation is very narrow but Saints have pressing from the front mastered and when it works, it works very well.


Possible XI (4-2-2-2) 

—– McCarthy —–

— Walker-Peters — Stephens — Bednarek — Bertrand —

—- Ward-Prowse —- Hojbjerg —-

—- Redmond —- Armstrong —-

—- Long —- Ings —-


Remaining schedule:
Home: Arsenal, Man City, Brighton, Sheffield United
Away: Norwich, Watford, Everton, Man United, Bournemouth

Predicted finish: This really could go one of two ways for Saints. Hasenhuttl has just signed a new contract and there is finally some stability at the club after several managers have come and gone, the Chinese ownership group has said the club has to be self-sustaining and previous star players haven’t been replaced. In theory Saints aren’t really in this relegation battle but if they fail to pick up any points from their first three games, they will be looking nervously over their shoulders. On the other hand, if the pressure is off they could easily push for a top 10 finish as they have a favorable run-in, but is playing a bunch of teams in the relegation spots really a good thing at this time of the season?