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PL Preview: Leicester City v. Liverpool

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Among the Boxing Day fixture list, one game stands above all the rest. Leicester City v. Liverpool, live Thursday at 3:00 p.m. ET on NBCSN or live online at NBCSports.com.

While it doesn’t present the potentially enormous stakes it could have had the Foxes downed Manchester City last weekend, it still looms largest among the festive fixtures and could still be one of the final true tests for the Reds as they march towards not just a Premier League crown but also a potentially unbeaten league campaign. With a ten point lead and a game in hand, Liverpool could give itself a nearly insurmountable advantage atop the table should they emerge victorious, but defeat will procure doubt among the supporters with half the season still to go.

Leicester City will consider themselves very much in the title race despite the mountain to climb, given their narrow defeat at Anfield in the last meeting, a game that required a James Milner penalty in the dying seconds to secure victory for the Reds. The Foxes will be buoyed by the home crowd, unbeaten at King Power Stadium this year while conceding just five goals and keeping four clean sheets.

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The Reds have a tougher task than anticipated given the litany of injuries across the squad. Alongside long-term absentees Joel Matip, Fabinho, Dejan Lovren, and Nathaniel Clyne, they are also missing Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain who picked up an ankle problem at the Club World Cup. Jurgen Klopp was forced to move Jordan Henderson into the defensive unit during the semifinal in Qatar last week, and any other potential issues in the squad through the festive period could force a similar emergency shift for the Reds.

Leicester City is in much better shape health-wise, but will be monitoring the status of Harvey Barnes who also finds himself saddled with an ankle injury after the Man City loss, while Matty James is still out for a while longer as he builds up his fitness from a long-term Achilles injury.

Brendan Rodgers has prior history with Jurgen Klopp, beating the German handily while managing Liverpool in a pre-season game against Borussia Dortmund in 2014.

Injuries/suspensions

Leicester City: OUT – Matty James (Achilles). QUESTIONABLE – Harvey Barnes (ankle).

Liverpool: OUT – Dejan Lovren (hamstring), Fabinho (hamstring), Joel Matip (knee), Nathaniel Clyne (ACL), Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (ankle). QUESTIONABLE


Projected lineups

Leicester City: Schmeichel; Chilwell, Evans, Soyuncu, Pereira; Ndidi, Tielemans, Maddison; Barnes, Vardy, Perez.

Liverpool: Alisson; Robertson, Gomez, van Dijk, Alexander-Arnold; Henderson, Wijnaldum, Keita; Mane, Firmino, Salah.


What they’re saying

Leicester City boss Rodgers on long-term Liverpool domination: “I think that’s pretty difficult now in this modern time. But it doesn’t take away that they’re a fantastic team. And now they have that feeling of winning which gives that hunger to win even more. For us, they and Manchester City are a great benchmark for a lot of the teams at this level. We always have to fight and improve and get as close as we possibly can to that level.”

Liverpool manager Klopp on Jamie Vardy“He is a massive threat obviously. He’s an exceptional striker what can you say? Since I’m in England he’s one of the top three. He’s always scoring, he’s difficult to defend, always on your shoulder running at your back playing the offside line. Really, really dangerous. The only thing you can do in football is try and avoid as many passes as you can to him and that’s what we’ll try. Leicester is not only Jamie Vardy. Brendan has done an excellent job there.”


Key stats

  • Leicester City is winless in its last five PL meetings against Liverpool, losing four and drawing one (last win: Feb 2017)
  • Neither side has kept a clean sheet in any of the last 7 PL meetings against one another
  • Liverpool has won its last 4 Boxing Day fixtures by a combined 11-0 score
  • Jamie Vardy has scored 29 goals in 2019, the most in the league – he has scored in each of his last three home games against Liverpool (5 goals)
  • Liverpool is unbeaten in its last 34 Premier League fixtures, and are the only PL side to have scored in every game so far this season

Prediction

The Reds are banged up, but in all other respects are the better side. Leicester City showed weaknesses against Manchester City, and they are ones Jurgen Klopp could exploit. Still, Jamie Vardy is on an undeniable tear, and his presence alone gives the Foxes a chance. An exciting 2-2 draw should give both sides a coveted point and keep Liverpool as clear favorites to win the league.

Chelsea’s Willian eager to stay in Premier League

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Chelsea and Brazil star Willian has revealed he is eager to stay in the Premier League, even if that’s not with Chelsea.

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Willian, 31, has revealed that contract talks have stopped for now during the suspension for the coronavirus pandemic, and his future is uncertain as his current deal at Chelsea expires this summer.

The likes of Tottenham and Arsenal have been linked with a move for Willian, who almost joined Spurs in 2013 but instead joined Chelsea in a last-second change of heart.

Willian told ESPN Brazil  that he wants to stay in the Premier League and he feels he is now at his peak.

“My wish is to stay in the Premier League, but I’m not ruling out playing in other leagues,” Willian said. “I’m going to play until the end of the season and then see what happens. I’m very used to life in England. I’m not thinking about going back to Corinthians at the moment. My aim is to stay in Europe. I feel that I’m at my peak at the moment. Players improve throughout their careers and I think I’m currently at my peak.”

It is not secret that Mourinho and Willian get on very well, which will intrigue Tottenham’s fans…

“I got on very well with Mourinho, learnt a lot under him and we’ve remained friends,” Willian said. “We still message each other a lot, but I don’t see him often. I haven’t managed to meet up with him since he came back to London.”

His form for Chelsea has been a little erratic this season but Frank Lampard has spoken fondly about Willian time and time again and it is quite clear Chelsea would like to extend his stay at Stamford Bridge for at least another season.

With so many young wingers around (Callum Hudson-Odoi, Christian Pulisic and Mason Mount to name a few), Willian can help ease them into the first team but there’s no doubting plenty of Premier League clubs will be eager to snap him up on a free transfer this summer, or whenever the transfer window reopens.

Tottenham would seem like a particularly good fit for Willian. He would link up with Jose Mourinho, the manage who bought him to Chelsea, and his experience would be vital at Spurs as they aim to finally secure some silverware. Tottenham need to prioritize buying new defenders but if Willian is available for free, you can’t turn that deal down, even if he turned Spurs and Daniel Levy down in 2013…

Arsenal would make sense too but you’d have to say Tottenham are the frontrunners given the connection between Willian and Mourinho. Of course, he could stay at Chelsea, but with Pedro also out of contract it does feel like a changing of the guard as Lampard will put his faith totally in new signing Hakim Ziyech, Pulisic and Hudson-Odoi next season.

With $2.7 billion reserves, FIFA has ‘duty’ to aid virus-hit soccer

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FIFA says it has a “duty” to use its vast financial reserves to assist a football industry ravaged by the coronavirus pandemic wiping out games and creating unexpected economic hardship in the world’s biggest sport.

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The spread of COVID-19 has impacted the wealthiest clubs, with Barcelona and Juventus players taking wage cuts; those in smaller countries, with Slovakian champion Zilina entering bankruptcy; and national football federations, with Uruguay furloughing hundreds of staff.

Having amassed reserves it last reported at $2.745 billion, FIFA has the resources to give much-needed financial help to the game at many levels. Now the organization has provided more details around the need agreed two weeks ago by FIFA President Gianni Infantino and his vice presidents to explore a “support fund” for the sport.

“FIFA is in a strong financial situation and it’s our duty to do the utmost to help them in their hour of need,” world football’s governing body said in a statement to The Associated Press on Tuesday.

“FIFA is working on possibilities to provide assistance to the football community around the world after making a comprehensive assessment of the financial impact this pandemic will have on football.”

FIFA is exploring the mechanism to provide the financial lifeline to the football industry with the six regional confederations and member associations to ensure there is an announcement “in the near future.”

“The football community around the world is experiencing, to a greater or lesser extent, serious financial problems on account of the coronavirus outbreak,” FIFA said. “This threatens to disrupt and impair the ability of FIFA’s member associations and other football organizations such as leagues and clubs to develop, finance and run football activities at all levels of the game, including professional, non-professional, youth and grassroots.

“It is foreseen that in many parts of the world a considerable number of persons involved in football including both men and women players will be left in extremely difficult economic conditions.”

FIFA already operates a “Forward” development program to redistribute its wealth to member associations. In the 2015-18 cycle, investment dedicated to the scheme was $1.079 billion, of which $832 million had been approved and committed to member associations, confederations or regions, according to the last published financial results.

Premier League TV schedule: April 4-5

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We have 16 hours of Premier League programming coming your way this weekend and here is your TV schedule for April 4-5

This Saturday and Sunday we will have eight hours of programming coming your way each morning from 6 a.m. ET to 2 p.m. ET on NBCSN on your TV.

With the current 2019-20 Premier League season suspended until April 30 due to the coronavirus pandemic, we have a lot of programming treats planned for you in the coming weeks and will keep up fully updated with a TV schedule posted every single week.

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Remember, during the season you can watch every single second of every single game live online via NBC Sports.com,the NBC Sports App and by purchasing the new “Premier League Pass” via NBC Sports Gold.

Gold also includes an extensive selection of shoulder programming such as Premier League News, Premier League Today, Sky Sports News, NBC Sports originals such as Premier League Download and much more.

[ STREAM: Premier League live here ] 

If you’re looking for full-event replays of Premier League games, you can find them here for the games streamed on NBCSports.com and here for the games on NBC Sports Gold.

Below is your full Premier League TV schedule and stream links for Saturday and Sunday as we have classic matches, Goal of the Season, Behind the Badge, a focus on Liverpool v. Man City and much more coming up.


FULL TV SCHEDULE FOR NBCSN

Saturday, April 4
6-6:30 a.m. ET: Soccerbox – Matt Le Tissier [STREAM]
6:30-7 a.m. ET: Soccerbox – John Barnes [STREAM]
7-7:30 a.m. ET: Soccerbox – Sol Campbell [STREAM]
7:30-8 a.m. ET: Soccerbox – Ryan Giggs [STREAM]
8-9 a.m. ET: PL Goals of the Season: 2001-02 [STREAM]
9-10 a.m. ET: PL Goals of the Season: 2002-03 [STREAM]
10-10:30 a.m. ET: Classic Match: Liverpool v. Tottenham, Feb. 2015 [STREAM]
10:30-11 a.m. ET: Classic Match: Chelsea v. Man United, Feb. 2012 [STREAM]
11-11:30 a.m. ET: Classic Match: Tottenham v. Chelsea, Jan.  2015 [STREAM]
11:30 a.m. – 12 p.m. ET: Classic Match: Man United v. Arsenal, Aug., 2011 [STREAM]
12-12:30 p.m. ET. ET: Behind the Badge – Watford, Episode 1 [STREAM]
12:30-  p.m. ET. ET: Behind the Badge – Watford, Episode 2 [STREAM]
1-1:30 p.m. ET. ET: Behind the Badge – Watford, Episode 3 [STREAM]
1:30-2 p.m. ET. ET: Behind the Badge – Watford, Episode 4 [STREAM]

Sunday, April 5
6-7 a.m. ET: PL season in review 1998-99 [STREAM]
7-8 a.m. ET: PL season in review 1999-00 [STREAM]
8-10 a.m. ET: Match of the Week, Man City v. QPR, May 2012 [STREAM]
10 a.m. – 12 p.m. ET: Match of the Week, Everton v. Liverpool, Nov. 2013 [STREAM]
12 p.m. – 2 p.m. ET: Match of the Week, Chelsea v. Arsenal, Oct. 2014 [STREAM]

VIDEO: Top 25 moments in Premier League history

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It’s time to take a trip down memory lane and countdown the top 25 moments in Premier League history.

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There have been so many memorable goals, incidents, performances and players throughout the league’s history and back in 2017 we celebrated its 25th anniversary by counting down our top 25 moments.

From Wayne Rooney’s bicycle kick, the arrival of Arsene Wenger and Jose Mourinho, Leicester’s title win and Man City’s dramatic last-gasp success, there are so many wild moments packed into this video.

In truth, it was so tough to narrow down the best moments in PL history to just 25 moments.

Click play on the video above to replay some of the greatest moments in history.