Where will Premier League title be won and lost?

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In the words of Kevin McAllister from Home Alone: “This is it. Don’t get scared now.”

We have entered the final weeks of the Premier League season and the title race is set to be one of, if not the greatest in history. Both Jurgen Klopp and Pep Guardiola have already said their teams must win all of their remaining games to have a chance of being crowned champions.

That is how tight this will be.

[ MORE: Salah – Four wins and we win title ]

Liverpool lead Manchester City by two points, but Guardiola’s side have a game in hand over Liverpool. Would you rather have points on the board or games to play at this stage of the season? It would seem the former is preferable, meaning Liverpool have a bit of an edge.

Given the kindness of their schedule in their final four games, Klopp’s side are also licking their chops in anticipation of a first-ever PL title and their first league trophy since 1989-90. The elusive title is so close, Liverpool’s fans, players and staff can almost taste it.

[ MORE: Klopp reacts to victory | De Bruyne “incredible” ]  

As for Man City, everybody is expecting them to slip up, but the equation for them is simple: win all five of their remaining games and they will be back-to-back PL champions with 98 points on the board. Quite remarkably, Liverpool could win all four of their remaining games and secure 97 points but not win the title.

Below we take a look at where the title will be won and lost in the remaining games.


Liverpool
Apr. 21: Cardiff City (A)
Apr. 28: Huddersfield (H)
May 5: Newcastle (A)
May 12: Wolves (H)

The way they are playing right now, there is basically a 99.9 percent chance that Liverpool are going to win their final four games of the season. Mohamed Salah is back in form, Jordan Henderson is playing like a man possessed and defensively they are very solid. Cardiff could be pretty much relegated by the time their clash with Liverpool rolls around on Sunday, while Huddersfield are already down, Newcastle aren’t playing for anything and Wolves’ seventh-place hopes could be dashed before the final day of the season. Simply put, if Liverpool play to 75 percent of their potential in their last four games, they will win them all.

The only problem is that coming up against teams like Newcastle and Wolves who have little to play for and have talented attacking players on the counter, is dangerous. And if Wolves need a win on the final day to finish in seventh and qualify for Europe, Anfield will be a nervous place. If Liverpool beat Cardiff, Huddersfield and Newcastle, it will go to the final day of the season. Then, the game against Wolves, a team who have played and shocked most of the top six this season, is the big one.


Man City
Apr. 20: Tottenham (H)
Apr. 24: Man United (A)
Apr. 28: Burnley (A)
May 4: Leicester City (H)
May 12: Brighton (A)

On paper, this is not an easy run-in at all. It appears that the next two games will decide where the title will go. Spurs at home and a trip to Man United in the space of four days is pivotal for Pep Guardiola’s men, as their game in hand (a Manchester derby which will confuse the heck out of Man United) will see them pull one point clear ahead of both teams playing on Apr. 28. City travel to Burnley and Liverpool host Huddersfield on that day, and if City do beat both Spurs and Man United, getting past Burnley at Turf Moor is a tricky proposition. The Clarets have been in fine form in recent weeks and City have struggled there in the past, and with Burnley almost safe from relegation (and probably safe by the time that game rolls around) there is no pressure on them.

There is also the added prospect of Leicester traveling to Man City on May 4, as Brendan Rodgers can do his old club Liverpool a massive favor in the title race five years on from leading Liverpool so close to a PL title, but losing out to Man City, himself. Like Burnley, Leicester are flying high (aside from that blip against Newcastle) and they are pushing for seventh place and European qualification. If City can somehow go into the final day of the season with a one point advantage, you feel they will get the job done at Brighton. But an added layer there is that the Seagulls could also need the points as they battle against relegation. Simply put: City have the harder schedule compared to Liverpool, but with their game in-hand and superior goal difference, many would still back them to win the title.

Real Madrid confident of signing Pogba, Hazard

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Two of the Premier League’s biggest stars could be heading out this summer, with Real Madrid increasingly confident of signing both Eden Hazard and Paul Pogba.

[ MORE: Has Pogba delivered at United?

With Chelsea star Hazard only having one year left on his contract, it seems he is far more likely to leave, but Pogba’s recent displays and comments after Zinedine Zidane’s return to Real Madrid have certainly set tongues wagging about his future.

Our partners at Sky Sports are reporting that Real are confident that both Pogba and Hazard will arrive at the Santiago Bernabeu this summer. It has been reported that Pogba’s agent, Mino Raiola, has cancelled a meeting between United and Pogba about signing a new contract (Pogba has two years left on his current deal) and is keen for his client to head to Real this summer.

Asked about the recent speculation regarding Pogba ahead of United’s clash with Chelsea at Old Trafford on Sunday (Watch live, 11:30 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com), Ole Gunnar Solskjaer reaffirmed his belief that Pogba will remain at United.

But Solskjaer doesn’t seem as sure as he was a few weeks ago when talking about this topic…

“You can’t guarantee anything in football but yes I think Paul is going to be here,” Solskjaer said. “I can assure you he is now very determined to succeed at Man United. I would say yes I can guarantee, but in life you can never. He will be as far as I can answer.”

Which player would be the bigger loss for their respective club?

Hazard, no question. He has scored 16 goals and added 13 assists this season in the Premier League, meaning he has had a hand in just under 50 percent of Chelsea’s goals. With a transfer ban hanging over Chelsea, they won’t be able to replace him either, meaning more pressure will be placed on the likes of newcomer Christian Pulisic and youngsters Callum Hudson-Odoi and Ruben Loftus-Cheek to deliver.

The Belgian star has spent the past seven seasons at Chelsea and many of their fans, although reluctant, will accept it if he tells the club he wants to leave this summer.

As for Pogba at United, even though he’s scored 13 goals in his best-ever return in a PL season and was the only non-Liverpool and Man City player named to the PFA Team of the Year on Thursday, it is tough to say United would be totally lost without him.

If United do want to cash in on Pogba, the time is now. With two years left on his contract, they could probably recoup a large chunk of the $120 million they paid Juventus to sign the midfielder in 2016. Pogba’s influence in the dressing room is huge, with the likes of Marcus Rashford and Jesse Lingard close friends, and the way his dip in form has coincided with United losing seven of their last nine outings under Solskjaer is worrying.

With Zidane undertaking a huge rebuild of Real’s squad which failed so miserably in all competitions this season, it would be a huge shock if at least one of Pogba or Hazard aren’t lining up at the Bernabeu next season. Selling the likes of Gareth Bale could enable Real to spend big, while reports of Neymar also heading to the Spanish capital also continue. In the prime of their careers, Hazard and Pogba seem like prime targets for Zizou to kickstart his rebuild this summer.

Emiliano Sala’s father dies three months after plane crash

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The father of Emiliano Sala, Horacio, has died suddenly in Argentina.

It has been reported that Horacio, 58, suffered a heart attack and died before paramedics arrived at the Sala family home in Progreso, Argentina.

The mayor of Progreso, Julio Muller, confirmed to radio station La Red that Horacio Sala had passed away and that a ‘heart issue’ was the cause.

“The partner of Horacio called me at five in the morning. The doctors were already there. When he left his home, he had already died,” Muller said. “He could never get over Emi’s death.”

This terrible news for the Sala family comes just over three months since Emiliano tragically died in a plane crash in the English Channel. The Argentine striker was flying back from Nantes to his new home of Cardiff, just two days after completing a club-record $19 million transfer to the Premier League side.

An investigation into why the small aircraft flying Sala crashed continues, as his body has been recovered from the English Channel but pilot David Ibbotson, the only other person on board, has never been found.

Cardiff City and Nantes are currently in discussions with legal teams and FIFA over the payment of the transfer fee and other funds that were due to Sala, and now his family, after his big move to the PL in January.

Clubs push for promotion-relegation in European competitions

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LONDON (AP) The head of the European Club Association says the existing Champions League format should be overhauled to introduce promotion and relegation.

ECA chairman Andrea Agnelli, who runs Juventus, wrote in a letter to the organization’s 232 clubs that “European matches with higher sporting quality and a more competitive environment at all levels” are desired.

That points to more games between elite clubs in a formatted Champions League after 2024 rather than less attractive games that can feature in the group stage.

Agnelli wrote “a pyramidal Pan European League System with continuity and opportunity to grow from within enhancement of mobility and dynamism across the system through carefully applied promotion and relegation.”

While stressing that entry to competitions should be on “sporting meritocracy, not historical privilege,” Agnelli says European competitions should be “open to all – keeping the dream alive.”

Agnelli has told his members to boycott a meeting being staged by the European Leagues group in Madrid on May 6-7.

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

U.S. Soccer makes it official: USMNT’s first Gold Cup tuneup to be vs. Jamaica

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It will be a rematch of the 2017 CONCACAF Gold Cup final as the U.S. begins its preparations for this summer’s Gold Cup.

U.S. Soccer announced that the U.S. Men’s National Team will host Jamaica in a friendly match on June 5 in Washington D.C. at Audi Field, the home of D.C. United. Jamaica, ranked No. 53 in FIFA’s latest world rankings, has made the finals of each of the last two Gold Cups, and they’ll be hosting matches at the Gold Cup for the first time in tournament history in this year’s edition.

“As we prepare for the start of the Gold Cup, this is the perfect opportunity in terms of opponent and venue,” USMNT head coach Gregg Berhalter said in a statement. “Playing against Jamaica we get exposure to another different style of play, and one that we may see later in the tournament. For us, there’s always something special about playing in the nation’s capital. There have been so many memorable games for the National Team in Washington, D.C., and now we look forward to beginning another chapter in the new stadium.”

For the U.S., it’s a strong test and part of a really solid 1-2 punch of friendly matches, beginning with Jamaica and then Venezuela ahead of the Gold Cup. Berhalter is hoping it will prepare the U.S. for battles with Panama and Trinidad and Tobago. Should the U.S. advance, it could face potentially Jamaica, Honduras, or even El Salvador in the quarterfinals or semifinals, with a trip to the final on the line.

Gregg Berhalter has just a few weeks before he has to make one of his first big decisions, albiet one with a lot of flexibility. By May 16, Berhalter must submit to CONCACAF his provisional Gold Cup squad, which can include up to 40 players and four goalkeepers. By Monday, June 3, just two days before this friendly match against Jamaica, Berhalter must submit his final roster of 23 players, including three goalkeepers.

Berhalter, any any coach, has up until 24 hours until the USMNT’s first game (on June 18) to make any emergency replacements. As such, it’s likely that Berhalter will carry more than 23 players with him when the U.S. plays Jamaica and Venezuela.