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Premier League preview: Sheffield United v. Liverpool

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  • Liverpool holds 5-point lead over Man City
  • Sheffield United 10th through six games
  • Liverpool has never won at Bramall Lane in PL play

The early morning Saturday match sees the current Premier League leaders look to keep a stranglehold on the top spot with a trip to newly promoted Sheffield United at 7:30 a.m ET live on NBCSN or live online at NBCSports.com.

The Blades are rested and ready, having made 10 midweek changes in the League Cup hoping to keep the regulars fresh for a clash with the leaders. David McGoldrick will miss out with injury while Billy Sharp completes a three-match ban, but Sheffield United is otherwise at full strength. Their results this season have been a mixed bag, but a convincing road win last weekend over Everton proves they are not to be taken lightly and could be more of a threat to stay up than many thought to start the campaign.

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Liverpool has yet to fall in Premier League play this season, and while the Champions League opener at Napoli didn’t go the Reds’ way, they bounced back nicely with a quality road victory at Stanford Bridge last time out. They’ve won 15 league matches in a row dating back to last season, all the way back to their fateful loss to Manchester City that likely cost them the league title.

James Milner seems to be ok despite a midweek back problem against MK Dons, as is Sadio Mane. Alisson is nearing a return to training but will not be ready for this weekend, while Xherdan Shaqiri remains sidelined.

The Reds will be facing a dubious record at Bramall Lane, one of just three grounds Liverpool has played at in Premier League action and not won. They have two draws and a loss at the Sheffield United ground in their last three top flight matches there, with the last victory coming in 1990 when the hosts were forced to play defender John Pemberton in goal thanks to an early injury.

Injuries/suspensions

Sheffield United: OUT – David McGoldrick (groin), Bobby Sharp (suspended).

Liverpool: OUT – Xherdan Shaqiri (calf), Alisson (calf). QUESTIONABLE – James Milner (back), Sadio Mane (dead leg), Divock Origi (ankle).


Projected lineups

Sheffield United: Henderson; Egan, Basham, O’Connell; Stevens, Norwood, Lundstram, Fleck, Baldock; McBurnie, Robinson.

Liverpool: Adrian; Robertson, Van Dijk, Matip, Alexander-Arnold; Wijnaldum, Fabinho, Henderson; Mane, Firmino, Salah.


What they’re saying

Sheffield United manager Chris Wilder on Jurgen Klopp“There are all sorts of different aspects in successful managers but I love his connection with his players. There’s a genuine affection from him for them, and vice versa as well. Even the players who aren’t heavily involved. And his connection with the fans is there to be seen.”

Liverpool manager Klopp on playing Sheffield for the first time: “It’s really interesting what they do. In the system they play it’s really aggressive, good pressing. Then of course when they have the ball they have this interesting pattern where the centre halves overlap. I’m four years in England so I don’t know everything about the clubs historically, but it seems to be a big club.”


Prediction

Liverpool will face a tough test, but Klopp seems rightly prepared on how the opponent will play. Being aggressive against Liverpool can lead to deadly mistakes, and while Sheffield may find a goal against Liverpool’s defense that has been spotty this season, they won’t find enough. The Reds win 3-1 for their first Premier League win at Bramall Lane.

Atletico Madrid temporarily cuts player salaries by 70 percent

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Atletico Madrid says it has reached an agreement with its players and coaching staff to reduce their salaries by 70 percent while competitions are stopped during the coronavirus pandemic.

[ MORE: FIFA extends men’s age limit for Tokyo Olympics due to virus ]

Atletico announced the agreement on Thursday and said it is temporarily suspending the jobs of club employees.

Atletico had previously said it would need to take such a drastic step but had yet to reveal the details.

A job suspension under Spanish law allows a company to greatly reduce its labor costs by having workers stay at home while guaranteeing they will go back to their positions when conditions improve.

[ MORE: UEFA threatens Belgian league with European expulsion ]

The Spanish club added that some of the money saved by the players’ salary cuts will be given to its other employees who will be furloughed.

Barcelona recently announced it had come to a similar agreement with its players.

Both clubs said that such cost-saving measures were necessary to ensure their financial stability due to the loss in revenue during the stoppage of competitions.

CONCACAF postpones Nations League finals, Gold Cup qualification

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CONCACAF announced on Friday that the 2019-20 Nations League finals and the opening rounds of 2021 Gold Cup qualification have been postponed due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

[ MORE: UEFA threatens Belgian league with European expulsion ]

The Nations League finals — featuring the U.S. men’s national team, Mexico, Costa Rica and Honduras — were previously scheduled to take place in Houston and Dallas in early June. CONCACAF says the semifinals and final will be rescheduled for a later date.

The seconds round of Gold Cup qualifying was previously scheduled to be made up in June — following their postponement in March, with four two-leg ties featuring largely Caribbean and Central American nations. Those, too, will be rescheduled for a later date.

Given the ongoing public health situation, and following consultation with FIFA regarding the international football calendar, we have made the decision to suspend the CONCACAF Nations League finals, which was scheduled for June 4-7, 2020 in the Houston and Dallas areas.

The event, which includes the Costa Rica, Honduras, Mexico and USA men’s national teams, will be rescheduled to take place at a later date in venues to be determined. This will be confirmed following further discussions with FIFA regarding the remaining international windows in the football calendar, and will obviously be subject to public health authorities deeming it safe for professional sports events to resume.

FIFA extends men’s age limit for Tokyo Olympics due to virus

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GENEVA — FIFA has extended the age limit for the men’s soccer tournament at the rescheduled Tokyo Olympics due to the coronavirus pandemic.

[ MORE: UEFA threatens Belgian league with European expulsion ]

The amended Olympic rule on Friday retains the “players born on or after Jan. 1, 1997” standard for the Tokyo Games following a one-year postponement agreed last week by the International Olympic Committee and Japanese authorities.

It means players eligible for the intended under-23 tournament in 2020 can still play in Japan at age 24 next year. Men’s soccer kicks off ahead of the July 23, 2021 opening ceremony in Tokyo.

FIFA also postponed two women’s age-group World Cups due this year in Central America and India, and confirmed no international games for men and women will be played in the early June dates protected for national team call-ups.

Soccer’s world body said “health must always be the first priority and the main criteria in any decision-making process, especially in these challenging times.”

The Olympic decision was made by a FIFA panel of soccer officials worldwide, created to address the soccer shutdown during the health crisis.

The 16 men’s teams at the Tokyo Olympics next year can also select three over-age players in their rosters. A stellar lineup includes Argentina, Brazil, France, Germany and Spain.

Two women’s World Cup tournaments — the Under-20s hosted by Panama and Costa Rica in August and September, and the Under-17s in India in November — are postponed. No new dates were announced.

[ MORE: Report: Serie A could resume training May 2, games late in month ]

Until the COVID-19 outbreak, national team games scheduled in June included the 2020 European Championship, World Cup qualifying games in South America and Asia, and qualifiers for the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations.

After Euro 2020 was postponed for one year, UEFA hoped to schedule playoff games in June to confirm the last four places in a 24-nation lineup. Those playoffs were postponed indefinitely this week.

World Cup qualifiers for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar now face uncertain scheduling in a congested calendar in Europe, South America and Asia.

FIFA said on Friday it would “organize bilateral discussions” with continental governing bodies “to finalize a revised match schedule pending health and safety developments.”

FIFA plans to direct hundreds of millions of dollars from its cash reserves to support a global emergency fund, and has agreed to appoint one official from each of the six soccer continents to coordinate the work.

Arsenal want season completed ‘to maintain integrity’ of PL

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Arsenal remain in support of finishing the 2019-20 season in order to “to maintain the integrity” of the competition, despite Friday’s unanimous vote that the Premier League cannot resume at the start of May as previously hoped due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

[ MORE: UEFA threatens Belgian league with European expulsion ]

The Gunners, who currently sit ninth in the PL table with 10 games left to play (one more than the majority of clubs around them), were five points back of fifth-place Manchester United for qualification to next season’s UEFA Champions League thanks to Manchester City’s two-year European ban.

In a statement released on Friday, Arsenal reiterated their stance that the current season should be played to completion rather than called to completion at things stand or abandoned altogether.

We are in full support of the objective for all remaining domestic league and cup matches from the 2019-20 season to be played, in order to maintain the integrity of each competition.

We also fully agree with the principle that any return to action will only be with the full backing of government and when medical guidance allows.

The restart date is under constant review as the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic develops and we continue to work together with all stakeholders through this very challenging time