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Key games left in Premier League season

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With just seven games left for the majority of Premier League teams, crunch time has arrived in the 2018-19 season.

Clubs across the PL are readying themselves for a crucial final few weeks of the season, with so much still on the line. It is tough to know what to focus on, right?

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Of course, you’ll be soaking up every single Premier League game you can, but now seems like a good time to help you focus on the games you simply cannot miss between now and the end of the season on May 12.

Below we take a look at eight clashes which will have a huge say in deciding the title race, the top four battle and the scrap against relegation.


Brighton v. Southampton – March 30
A South Coast derby with just three points separating the two teams. Brighton and Saints have had many battles in the lower leagues in recent seasons, and there is a genuine rivalry bubbling up here. Saints are almost better away from home than they are at home under Ralph Hasenhuttl, and their fast breaks will cause Brighton problems. Expect a tight, tense game as both teams are desperate to pull further clear of Cardiff City who occupy the final relegation place.


Liverpool v. Tottenham – March 31
A few weeks ago this seemed like being a battle between two teams who were battling for the title. How quickly things change. Spurs’ dismal recent run has seen them drop out of the title race, and now they need the points to stay in the top four hunt. Liverpool need the points to keep their title bid going, and this is the toughest game remaining (on paper) for Jurgen Klopp‘s side to negotiate. The fiery 2-2 draw between these two teams last season was a classic, and Harry Kane has been in thorn in Liverpool’s side in recent seasons. Kane’s battle with Virgil Van Dijk promises to be epic, and it could have a huge say in the title race.


Burnley v. Cardiff City – April 13
Not one for the purists this, but it is likely to be an enthralling encounter between two committed teams who sit just one place from each other in the table. Cardiff are in 18th place and in the final relegation spot, but they are just two points behind Burnley who are really struggling after an upturn in results around the New Year’s period. Sean Dyche and Neil Warnock have built hard-working teams on limited resources, and Cardiff have nothing to lose in many regards as everyone expected them to be relegated this season. The new boys have a chance with eight games to go, and this is a massive chance to gain ground on a team around them.


Liverpool v. Chelsea – April 14
Memories of April 2014 will come flooding back to Liverpool fans, as Steven Gerrard‘s costly slip against Chelsea handed the Premier League title to Manchester City. Surely lightning won’t strike twice as Liverpool host Chelsea at Anfield late in the season once again… Klopp’s side must negotiate the home games against Spurs and Chelsea, but Anfield is a fortress and they haven’t lost at home all season in the Premier League. However, the only team to win at Anfield in any competition this season was Chelsea, as Eden Hazard inspired a League Cup victory way back in September. This will be Liverpool’s last major hurdle in the title race.


Man City v. Tottenham – April 20
This game will be played in the middle of three games between City and Spurs after they were drawn against one another in the UEFA Champions League quarterfinals. That should complicate things, as the two sets of players will be so used to the tactics of the other and it will be a lot tighter than most expect. City beat Spurs 1-0 at Wembley earlier this season, and have only lost one of their last eight home games against Tottenham. Pep Guardiola has more options than Mauricio Pochettino to rotate his team, and that could be key with three matches between these PL clubs in just 11 days.


Man United v. Man City – April 24
A Manchester Derby that will surely decide the season for both clubs. If City win, they will take a big step towards the title. If United win they will not only scupper City’s title chance but also significantly boost their top four hopes. If everything goes to plan between now and late April for both clubs, they could also be in the midst of being in the Champions League semifinals too. United will sit back and soak up pressure and then try to launch devastating counters. That worked very well against PSG, Arsenal, Chelsea and Tottenham, but City are a different beast. What an atmosphere it should be inside Old Trafford for this one.


Man United v. Chelsea – April 28
Both teams should be bang in the top four battle going into the final two weeks of the season, and this game will be massive in deciding who will qualify for the UEFA Champions League. Just one point separates the two teams right now, with United in fifth and Chelsea in sixth. United have already knocked Chelsea out of the FA Cup this season and pushed them all the way in a 2-2 draw at Stamford Bridge when Jose Mourinho was boss. The clash of styles sets up an intriguing tactical battle. United’s counter attacks and direct style is totally opposite to Sarri-ball. Both teams will have expected to be in the title battle at the start of the season, and this game may well present itself as their final chance to shore up a spot in the top four. It is unlikely both will finish in the top four this season. Something has to give.


Cardiff City v. Crystal Palace – May 4
With Palace having to play plenty of big boys in the next few weeks, it is likely their battle against relegation will go down to the wire. Cardiff will also be up against it with their schedule, so this game represents a good chance of three points for both. If Cardiff are still in with a shout of staying up, this encounter, their final home game of the season, will see an incredible atmosphere generated in the Welsh capital. Just five points separate the Eagles and Bluebirds right now, and their direct, counter-attacking styles of play should set things up very nicely for an end-to-end encounter.

WATCH: Rooney sees red for forearm shiver, Kamara scores golazo

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Midweek MLS provided plenty to talk about on Wednesday, with two red cards and a golazo in one match alone.

The two main talking points from the New York Red Bulls’ 2-1 win over DC United weren’t really part of what led the victors to three points.

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How? Well, one of the world’s marquee names earned a red card via VAR and a returning star scores an absolute stunner, that’s how.

Here’s Ola Kamara’s debut marker for the Black-and-Red, adding to a record which included 49 goals in 97 matches between Columbus and the LA Galaxy before moving to the Chinese Super League for a wildly disappointing time with Shenzhen FC.

All of that is forgotten.

As for the Rooney incident, the Red Bulls already led 1-0 when DC’s star striker went forearm shiver on Cristian Casseres Jr.

It’s the second red of the season for Rooney, who is set for Derby County in January.

Amro Tarek was later sent off for the Red Bulls, who moved ahead of DC in the standings. Kaku and Daniel Royer had RBNY’s goals.

Newcastle takeover could be back on if in holiday relegation battle

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How much do Newcastle United supporters dislike their owner Mike Ashley right now?

Enough that this report is likely to condemn many to hoping their favorite club in the world is in the Bottom 3 come Christmas.

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The Chronicle’s Mark Douglas speculates that Ashley will lower his asking price for the club if it is in a relegation fight come December — something that looks certain after the Steve Bruce-led Magpies got bossed around by promoted Norwich City.

Nothing But Newcastle transcribed Douglas’ chatter from his podcast, in which he says,

“It wouldn’t surprise me if we hear more in December because there are still people sniffing around that football club and if the team are in the bottom three, there’ll be people thinking they can get a bargain out of Mike Ashley again. … He will probably more open to listening to lower offers in January and December which is what happened last December. He was basically saying ‘take it off my hands, you now have to take the risk’'”

This is notable for two reasons. First: the social experiment of wondering how many fans could see themselves rooting for their team to take a major and perilous back step just to see the back of a man they perceive is at the root of their failures (and that perception is widespread in this case).

But second, we can see if this rumor comes true because it’s difficult to imagine Newcastle as comfortably mid table by Christmas.

Fan protests and anger are nothing new, but here’s an effort to show how wobbly Ashley’s reputation is on Tyneside: Fans have taken to selling a black and white striped shirt with player name and number but no sponsor just so they can have a Newcastle jersey that doesn’t put money into Ashley’s pockets. And this is after he broke the club’s transfer record twice in one year.

If we’ve learned anything from the past few seasons, though, it’s that boycotts and anger will spur Ashley into insisting that he’s willing to sell and just conveniently enough it will be before the January transfer window. He “won’t be able to buy any players” with the takeover in play, and talks will hit a wall come late January, when they’ll loan a couple young players from Top Six sides.

Yes he spent significant money on Joelinton, Allen Saint-Maximin, and others this summer, but one decent window doesn’t make a culture. Count us amongst the skeptical, for now.

Messi back in training, could be fit for Betis

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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) Lionel Messi was back in full training again on Wednesday and may be fit to face Real Betis in the Spanish league on Sunday.

Messi had been training separately from the squad since injuring his right calf in the preseason.

He missed the team’s 1-0 loss to Athletic Bilbao in the league opener on Friday.

Barcelona has not said how long it expects Messi to be sidelined.

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Coach Ernesto Valverde is also dealing with injuries to forwards Luiz Suarez and Ousmane Dembele.

Dembele is certain to miss Sunday’s match at the Camp Nou because of a left thigh injury that should keep him out for about five weeks.

Suarez also isn’t likely to play this weekend because of a muscle injury sustained before halftime of Friday’s game in Bilbao.

Two-time defending champion Barcelona hadn’t loss a league opener in 10 seasons.

More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/apf-Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

Inter, Man Utd yet to find wage agreement for Alexis loan

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How close are we to an Alexis Sanchez-Romelu Lukaku reunion in Italy?

Depends if you think about $236,000 a week is a reasonable amount of money to pay a guy to not work for you.

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Inter Milan is ready to offer that figure — half Alexis Sanchez’s salary — per week to take the Chilean on loan from Manchester United, but the Red Devils don’t really like the idea of paying the player that much.

We wouldn’t be surprised if Inter wouldn’t want to go much higher than that, and that’s a weight United needs to bear considering they greenlit the wild wages when they sent Henrikh Mkhitaryan to Arsenal in exchange for Sanchez.

The 30-year-old entered the summer with the sixth-highest salary in football. Only Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, Neymar, Paul Pogba, and Andres Iniesta make more.

Put in perspective further, Lukaku’s new deal at Inter is reportedly close to $309,000 a week.