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Premier League Preview: Newcastle United v. Chelsea

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Chelsea visits surprising Newcastle United in a marquee match Saturday at St. James’ Park (Watch Live at 12:30 p.m. ET on NBC and online via NBCSports.com).

The hosts have scrapped their way to 26 points, five points both clear of the drop zone and back of seventh place. A draw at Wolves last weekend snapped a three-match league losing streak.

Chelsea maintains a five-point gap over Manchester United in its bid to claim a Top Four place, with the Red Devils meeting unbeaten Liverpool this week. The Blues are seeking back-to-back league wins for the first time since Nov. 9.

WATCH LIVE, ONLINE, HERE

Newcastle has had a fair bit of success against the big boys this season, beating Manchester United and Spurs while drawing Man City.

Christian Pulisic stole the ball en route to Marcos Alonso‘s late goal in a 1-0 win when the two sides met at Stamford Bridge in October.

Pulisic, of course, is still out injured for Chelsea and Lampard says the American could return near the club’s February break. Newcastle has electric winger Allan Saint-Maximin back in the fold after more than a month on the sidelines. Matt Ritchie and Jonjo Shelvey are also available.


Injuries/suspensions

Newcastle United: OUT — Paul Dummett, Dwight Gayle, DeAndre Yedlin, Fabian Schar, Jetro Willems, Javi Manquillo. QUESTIONABLE — DeAndre Yedlin, Yoshinori Muto.

Chelsea: OUT — Ruben Loftus-Cheek, N’Golo Kante, Pulisic. QUESTIONABLE — Marcos Alonso.


Probable lineups

Newcastle United: Dubravka; Willems, Clark, Lascelles, Fernandez, Ritchie; Hayden, Shelvey; Saint-Maximin, Joelinton, Almiron.

Chelsea: Arrizabalaga, Azpilicueta, Zouma, Rudiger, James; Jorginho, Willian, Mount, Kovacic, Hudson-Odoi; Abraham.


What they’re saying

Newcastle boss Steve Bruce on his meeting with owner Mike Ashley: “It went very well. We showed what we are trying to do, and he was fully supportive. We have plates spinning and hope to add to the squad by the end of the month. We have said that the targets have to improve us. He has been fully supportive of the remit. He agrees we buy quality not quantity. That has to be the mantra.”

Chelsea’s Frank Lampard on Newcastle’s many injuries: “It is still an opportunity, but this is vital. Every game brings challenges, going to Newcastle, the emotion of the crowd and they are an organized side. We won’t take it lightly. We have to take every game head-on. We don’t underestimate there. Bournemouth were down to the bare bones and we lost, it can bring out a different feeling. They have done very well and I don’t look at the bare bones.


Prediction

St. James’ Park has been a tough place to play, but the Blues shake off any travel to collect a 2-1 win over the Magpies.

Liverpool find another way to win in West Ham comeback

Liverpool v. West Ham recap and video highlights
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Sadio Mane punched in a back-post winner as poor Liverpool found a way to keep its unbeaten Premier League season alive with a 3-2 defeat of West Ham United at Anfield.

The Reds improve their record to 26-1, leading second-place Manchester City by 22 points.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

West Ham threw away a 2-1 lead when star goalkeeper Lukasz Fabinaksi fumbled an easy save, and Mane made the most of the disorganized Irons defense late in the match.

The Irons remain a point off safety with 24 points.


Three things we learned

1. Team of destiny Liverpool again wins while miles off its best: Liverpool center back Joe Gomez and to a lesser extent his partner Virgil Van Dijk had poor days, and Jurgen Klopp‘s attackers’ finishing touches were largely absent. Still, the defiant league leaders found their way to three points are now 11 matches from history.

When you can play way off your standard and still out-attempt a Premier League side 25-7, well, you’re pretty good.

2. Fabianski gifts Reds equalizer: Lukasz Fabianski has saved West Ham so, so many times, and he made some nice saves on the day including a wonderful stop on Trent Alexander-Arnold. But his howler of the highest variety on Salah’s tepid low shot is about as bad as it gets for a keeper short of turning and firing into your own goal.

3. Amazing Alexander-Arnold: The right back was again phenomenal an easy Man of the Match in assisting two goals. He would’ve had three if Mane stayed onside in a late lapse of judgment.


If a game had the makings of a 4-4, it was this one; Liverpool has quality players, obviously, but has been prone to lapses. There are fewer of the former and more of the latter for West Ham, but the attackers have high potential.

Liverpool took the leader when Wijnaldum turned a header inside the near post, but Issa Diop answered with a header of his own off a corner kick. The West Ham center back started in the six and darted back in front of Joe Gomez to nod home.

Chances for Sadio Mane after fooling Robert Snodgrass with a dribble and Trent Alexander-Arnold from the right led to near misses.

[ MORE: Premier League stats ] 

Roberto Firmino was sent through by Trent Alexander-Arnold and missed a chance badly to start the second half, and Mohamed Salah soon saw a shot blocked by West Ham.

West Ham was stout at the back and looked prepared on the counter, but Liverpool can only blame itself for the second goal. Fornals hung out between Joe Gomez and Virgil van Dijk, with Fabinho also in the vicinity of Declan Rice‘s cross.

Lukasz Fabianski made a wonderful flying save on an Alexander-Arnold knuckler outside the box, and Liverpool move into the final half-hour up one.

The keeper made a huge error to allow to Liverpool 2-2, a Salah shot squirting through the player’s hands and legs.

Michail Antonio flubbed a 72nd-minute point blank chance.

Liverpool blew chances to make it 3-2 through Van Dijk and Salah as the match reached the final quarter-hour.

Alisson collected a low drive from Sebastian Haller.

Alexander-Arnold set Mane up for a back post finish to put Liverpool ahead, and the same pair saw a fourth goal chalked offside as the Senegalese lazily lost his focus.

Substitute attacker Jarrod Bowen was saved by Alisson when Antonio played him through in the 88th minute.

West Ham had a few more big chances, Noble seeing a rip deflect wide for a final corner. It was cleared by Andy Robertson.

Smalling considering full-time Roma switch: “Long may it continue”

Chris Smalling
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Manchester United loanee Chris Smalling is talking up life in Rome amidst a possible Serie A Team of the Season campaign.

Smalling had a disappointing 2018/19 season at Old Trafford, so it’s not a surprise that Solskjaer thought he could do better than the 30-year-old.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

Instead, Smalling’s numbers are close to that of record-signing Harry Maguire in a Serie A league with slightly more scoring. Smalling ranks in Italy’s top ten for interceptions (2.2), clearances (4.5) and blocks (1.2).

Roma boss Paulo Fonseca wants the player to stay, as i Lupi are fifth in Serie A and Smalling when has played nearly every minute when healthy. Smalling told our friends Sky Sports that he has “an interesting decision to make.”

“Some of the other players said if you really hit the ground running, the love that you can have in this city is unbelievable. That’s really what I’ve felt and so have my family. Long may it continue.”

His age makes it tricky, but the advanced stats show that Smalling has been a very effective Premier League center back for four of his last six seasons.

Smalling may want to leave if Solskjaer isn’t prepared to hand him regular football, which would be a given in Rome. Now what’s the price tag?

According to WhoScored’s player comparison tool:

Chris Smalling
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Watch Live: Liverpool v. West Ham

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Liverpool v West Ham takes center stage at Anfield on Monday (Watch live, 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com) as the Reds aim to reclaim their 22-point lead at the top of the Premier League table.

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Jurgen Klopp‘s side remain unbeaten this season and with five more wins needed to guarantee the Premier League title, the finishing line is in sight. They are aiming for an 18th consecutive Premier League win which would equal Man City’s record for the most victories on the trot in top-flight history.

As for David Moyes and the Hammers, they are scrapping for their lives at the other end of the table and their daunting run of fixtures makes them one of the favorites for relegation.

Last season the Hammers did draw at home against Liverpool in the PL which was a key factor in the Reds not winning the title last time out but West Ham look extremely far from the team they were last season.

Liverpool v West Ham is first against 18th and all signs point to a big win for the home side as their unbeaten season continues with 25 victories from 26 games so far.

In team news Liverpool are without captain Jordan Henderson who has suffered a hamstring injury and will be out for the next three weeks.

Naby Keita comes in for Henderson in midfield as the rest of the Liverpool team is what you expect.

West Ham are without the injured Ryan Fredericks who suffered a shoulder injury in the 2-0 defeat at Man City on Wednesday.

Teenager Jeremy Ngakia comes in to replace Fredericks, while Felipe Anderson also comes into the lineup.

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Kids under 12 banned from heading in UK

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LONDON (AP) Children up to the age of 12 will be banned from heading a soccer ball in practice sessions in England, Northern Ireland and Scotland as authorities look to address the potential long-term impact on health of head injuries.

[ MORE: US Soccer bans heading ]

The governing bodies of the three regions announced the new heading guidelines on Monday, months after a Scottish study found former professional players there were less likely to die of common causes such as heart disease and cancer compared with the general population but more likely to die with dementia.

The guidelines say there will be a “graduated approach” to heading in practice for kids from 12-15, while the heading will be restricted to one practice session per week for kids 16 and 17.

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There will be no change in terms of heading in matches, taking into consideration the extremely limited number of headers which actually occur in youth matches.

The Scottish study did not state that heading a ball was the cause of the increased prevalence of neurodegenerative conditions among soccer players, but the decision to update the guidelines was taken to “mitigate against any potential risks”, the English Football Association said in a statement.

“This guidance is a responsible development to our grassroots coaching,” FA chief executive Mark Bullingham said, “without impacting the enjoyment that children of all ages take from playing the game.”

The associations said the guidance had been produced in parallel with the UEFA medical committee, which is seeking to produce Europe-wide guidance later this year.

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