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Premier League Preview: Man Utd v. Liverpool

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It’s been a while since a Liverpool trip to Manchester United felt like such a heavy lift for the home team, but that’s precisely the case when Old Trafford is our scene for one of the biggest rivalries in the Premier League (Watch live at 11:30 a.m. ET Sunday on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

United sits 15 points behind the unblemished visitors, and will be without Paul Pogba and David De Gea for the event.

[ STREAM: Every PL match live ]

Still, all is not lost; The Red Devils’ poor attack may see the return of Anthony Martial, who had a goal or an assist in all three of his PL matches this season before a hamstring injury cost him six weeks.

And Liverpool will be tasked with breaking down a United defense which has only allowed multiple goals twice this season (Crystal Palace, West Ham).

They’ll be confident of doing that, especially knowing that a win would match two Premier League records:

  • Most consecutive matches unbeaten in league play (18)
  • Most wins to start a PL season (9)

Those numbers also mean the Reds have won a remarkable nine-consecutive away matches in the Premier League. Not bad.


Injuries/suspensions

Manchester United: OUT — Eric Bailly, Paul Pogba, David De Gea, Diogo Dalot. QUESTIONABLE — Anthony Martial, Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Luke Shaw, Jesse Lingard

Liverpool: OUT — Nathaniel Clyne. QUESTIONABLE — Mohamed Salah, Alisson Becker, Joel Matip


Probable lineups

Manchester United: Romero; Wan-Bissaka, Lindelof, Maguire, Young; Fred, McTominay; Pereira, James, Martial; Rashford.

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


What they’re saying

United’s Daniel James on his regular playing time: “When I joined that’s what I wanted to do. I wasn’t coming here just to be a squad player, but for the gaffer to believe in me and play me from the start, that’s something I want to continue to do.”

Jurgen Klopp on Liverpool’s status as heavy favorites“Sky made a combined line-up and had 11 Liverpool players. That’s like a joke, like building a banana skin. The world in the moment is a circus, and we are at the center: a couple of people want us to win, a couple want us to lose. I’m not influenced by it.”


Prediction

The ball is in Liverpool’s court here, though the possible but unlikely absence of Salah would loom large. The Pogba loss won’t be as glaring if Martial is able to return. Still, this has big Liverpool win written all over it, and asks the question of how much heart the Red Devils will show on behalf of its embattled manager? Even if it’s a lot, we expect something like 2-0 to Liverpool.

German federation explains review of players who honored George Floyd

George Floyd tributes in soccer
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BERLIN (AP) The German soccer federation has defended its decision to assess whether four young Bundesliga players who made gestures in solidarity with George Floyd over the weekend must face sanctions.

The DFB also said on Monday that Jadon Sancho’s booking for removing his jersey to reveal a T-shirt with the demand “Justice for George Floyd” had nothing to do with the message — rather, the yellow card was issued because the 20-year-old England forward broke a rule that says players who celebrate goals by taking off their jerseys or lifting them over their heads must be booked for “unsporting behavior.”

Borussia Dortmund teammate Achraf Hakimi, 21, who displayed the same message after scoring in the same game on Sunday, was not booked because he did not lift his jersey over his head.

The DFB control committee is looking into their gestures and those made by Schalke’s 21-year-old American midfielder Weston McKennie and Borussia Monchengladbach’s 22-year-old French forward Marcus Thuram to see if the four players broke laws that prohibit players from displaying “political, religious or personal slogans.”

McKennie was the first to make a statement when he wore an armband with the handwritten message “Justice for George” around his left arm on Saturday.

Thuram on Sunday took a knee after scoring in Borussia Monchengladbach’s win over Union Berlin.

Sancho and Hakimi followed suit later Sunday.

Floyd, a handcuffed black man, died on Monday after a white Minneapolis police officer, Derek Chauvin, pressed his knee for several minutes on his neck. Three other officers were also at the scene. Chauvin has been charged with murder and all four were fired.

DFB president Fritz Keller on Monday showed his respect and understanding for McKennie, Thuram, Sancho and Hakimi’s gestures.

“If people are discriminated against on the basis of their skin color, it is unbearable. If they die because of their skin color, then I am deeply distraught,” Keller said in a DFB statement. “The victims of racism need all of us to show solidarity.”

Keller referred to meetings with victims of discrimination and representatives of organizations that have faced anti-Semetic, anti-Muslim or racist hostility, and said the DFB and German soccer was showing its clear rejection of all forms of racism, discrimination and violence.

Keller also praised both male and female players for taking a stand and showing their solidarity.

“I’m proud of them. I can completely understand the actions from the weekend. Nobody can be indifferent to what happened in the United States,” Keller said.

Former Mainz forward Anthony Ujah was just given a warning by the DFB in 2014 in regard to the ban on political statements when he displayed a T-shirt with Eric Garner’s name and the words “can’t breathe” and “justice,” in reference to Garner’s death after a police officer placed him in what appeared to be a chokehold.

Now playing for Union Berlin, Ujah on Thursday tweeted a picture of his protest from the time, but with Floyd’s name typed above in bold.

Floyd also said “I can’t breathe” before he died.

“If the DFB’s control committee wants to investigate, then I have to ask myself if we all have the same values,” Union sporting director Oliver Ruhnert said. “It’s about a global issue here: The no to racism.”

Leipzig doubles up Koln behind Werner’s 25th

Koln v. Leipzig recap and video highlights
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Timo Werner hit 25 goals for the first time in his Bundesliga career and Christopher Nkunku continued his fine season as RB Leipzig overcame hosts Koln 4-2 in a Monday thriller.

Leipzig moves third with the win, moving onto 58, after Patrik Schick scored his ninth goal in 18 league matches to open the contest. Dani Olmo also scored for the victorious visitors.

[ Bundesliga: Fixtures, box scores ]

Jhon Cordoba and Anthony Modeste scored for Koln, whose top six hopes take a big hit. The Billy Goats remain 11th and are now closer to the drop zone than sixth.

Only Robert Lewandowski of Bayern Munich has scored more league goals (29) than Werner.

[ MORE: Sancho honors George Floyd after scoring ]

A great early save from Timo Horn on Timo Werner preceded Koln’s opener.

Elvis Rexhbecaj timed his run well and knifed to the near post, where he shot through the legs of Leipzig goalkeeper Peter Gulacsi.

The ball hit the post and skittered into the box and Gulacsi could only get a piece of Cordoba’s left-footed attempt.

Leipzig leveled when Upamecano dribbled up the heart of the pitch before finding Man City loanee Angelino on the left for a perfect cross and Schick header. Angelino had an exceptional day on the left flank.

Leipzig took its lead in the 38th minute with a deft finish from Nkunku, who took Konrad Laimer’s perfect feed and popped it over a charging Horn for 2-1.

Werner finished off a lightning counter as Gulacsi collected a free kick and hit a perfect punt to the league’s second-leading scorer.

That was far from the end of the fun.

Modeste hit an absolute hammer to make it 3-2, but Leipzig restored the two-goal advantage when Olmo hit a seeing-eye shot through the traffic to cap three goals in seven minutes between the two sides.

French striker Modeste won a penalty that was denied by VAR with under 20 minutes to play, he then missed wide after beating the keeping one 1v1 break with four minutes to play.

Americans Abroad: American midfielder Tyler Adams continued his streak of playing in every Leipzig match since the break when he came off the bench just before the hour mark.

Adams hit 94 percent of his 18 passes, drawing three fouls, making an interception, and winning three of four duels.

Reports: Messi to stay at Barcelona as exit clause expires

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Lionel Messi is going to spend at least one more year with Barcelona.

The world’s best player had an exit clause in his contract that allowed him to leave without a transfer fee, but that expired at Midnight according to Marca.com.

Messi has 19 goals and 12 assists in just 22 La Liga appearances this season, one of just four players in Europe’s top five leagues to collect double-digit goals and assists (Jadon Sancho, Serge Gnabry, Alassane Plea).

It had been reported since November that Messi would not exercise his option to leave the club, but there were numerous reasons to think he might rethink things given problems at Barcelona.

[ MORE: Remaining PL schedule in full ]

There been chaos in the board room and players including Messi were angry to be thrown under the proverbial bus when Ernesto Valverde was fired early this year.

Notably, he called Barcelona “home” but noted “weird things happening” at the Camp Nou.

And there were, with the club denying accusations it used an outside firm to slander current and former players on social media. The club saw six board members resign in April.

Wouldn’t you love to be a fly on the wall for the calls that headed to his reps from clubs across the world?

Major League Soccer releases statement on murder of George Floyd

MLS statement on George Floyd
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Major League Soccer released a statement Monday expressing grief at the death of George Floyd, saying it stands “united with the black community through our country.”

Floyd, an African American man, was killed Monday in Minneapolis, Minn., and there have been widespread protests across the United States.

[ MORE: MLS owners threaten lockout ]

A video showed former Minneapolis police officer, Derek Chauvin, putting his knee on George Floyd’s neck for more than 8 1/2 minutes. Chauvin was arrested last Friday and charged with murder, authorities confirmed.

Tributes to Floyd stood out across the soccer world this weekend, where Borussia Dortmund’s Jadon Sancho and Achraf Hakimi revealed messages of support on their jerseys.

VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

Elsewhere, USMNT midfielder Weston McKennie wore an armband saying ‘Justice for George’ and Borussia Monchengladbach’s Marcus Thuram took a knee after he scored in the Bundesliga. Stars for Liverpool and Manchester United made public statements Monday as well.

Here is the full statement.

The entire Major League Soccer family is deeply saddened and horrified by the senseless murder of George Floyd.

We stand united with the black community throughout our country and share in the pain, anger and frustration.

We hear you.

We see you.

We support you.

We are committed to use our voices and the platform of our League, our Clubs and our players to continue to champion equality and social justice.