Bundesliga
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Bundesliga Week 30 predictions, preview, schedule

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The eyes of the top four hopefuls will be on Leverkusen on Saturday as one of Bayern’s last true obstacles to its likely ninth-straight title meets the Bavarians head-on.

[ MORE: Bundesliga Wk29 review, Team of the Week ]

Bayern holds a 7-point lead on the field, with five teams competing for four slots in the UEFA Champions League. Both Bayern and Saturday hosts Bayer Leverkusen are still alive in European competitions, so a UCL spot could expand to fifth, but neither will know that until after the domestic season.

Second-place Borussia Dortmund plays last of the five, hosting in-form Hertha Berlin in 12:30 p.m. ET slot on Saturday. We’ll know a lot more about the chase to represent the Bundesliga in the UCL by the conclusion of that contest. If Bayer falls to Bayern, it could sit multiple results below the other three teams in the top four fight.

Friday

Freiburg v. Borussia Monchengladbach — 2:30 p.m. ET

There were six goals between the sides in late November, when Gladbach took all the points in a 4-2 win. Freiburg is winless in four and staring down a tough run of fixtures while their Europa League hopes have taken a massive hit. Alassane Plea and Marcus Thuram have been too good lately. Last week, Plea became the fourth players in Europe to post double digit league goals and assists this season. Thuram may join him soon, two assists shy of 10. Gladbach 2-1.

Bundesliga preview and predictions
JEREZ DE LA FRONTERA, SPAIN – JANUARY 10: Breel Embolo of Borussia Moenchengladbach in action during the second friendly match between Borussia Moenchengladbach and SC Freiburg at the Borussia Moenchengladbach Training Camp on January 10, 2020 in Jerez de la Frontera, Spain. (Photo by Christian Verheyen/Borussia Moenchengladbach via Getty Images)

Saturday

Bayer Leverkusen v. Bayern Munich — 9:30 a.m. ET

The two sides have midweek German Cup semifinals but will be not be distracted on Saturday. Bayer won the first match-up of the season and, yes, Hansi Flick had already taken hold of Bayern. That 2-1 loss saw Robert Lewandowski kept off the score sheet as Lukas Hradecky made 10 saves and Leon Bailey’s first-half brace drove Bayer to three points despite a late red card shown to Jonathan Tah. Also notable: Kai Havertz didn’t play. There’s every reason to think this will be a beauty, and a rare blemish on Bayern’s amazing season. The unbeaten streak goes to 16, but via a 2-2 draw.

RB Leipzig v. Paderborn — 9:30 a.m. ET

Paderborn’s three-match unbeaten streak was smashed to bits by Borussia Dortmund’s six-star show, and RBL will be just as stiff a challenge. Difficult to see anything but a home win, though Paderborn is desperate with a bottom-place 19 points now nine points behind the safe spaces and eight back of the relegation playoff match. Leipzig 3-0.

Eintracht Frankfurt v. Mainz — 9:30 a.m. ET

The hosts are basically safe following a big win over Werder Bremen and can all-but-seal that status by beating 15th-place Mainz, who’s scored just four times in its last five outings. Eintracht has scored and conceded more, so we could have entertainment, but the home side will be favored to get it done. Eintracht 3-1.

Fortuna Dusseldorf v. Hoffenheim — 9:30 a.m. ET

Fortuna’s unbeaten run was emphatically stopped by Bayern Munich and there’s no shame in that. Hoffenheim’s taken seven of nine points against other lesser sides and is very much alive in the race for sixth and a spot in the UEL. Take out the Bayern blowout and you see two teams finding ways to get points. That happens again here to Fortuna’s dismay with a 1-1 draw.

Borussia Dortmund v. Hertha Berlin — 12:30 p.m. ET

Four Bundesliga teams are unbeaten in their last five matches and Hertha is the unlikeliest of the bunch. Bruno Labbadia’s men have played a scrappy brand of football that has punched and counter-punched. Borussia Dortmund is a bigger ask, but Hertha made RB Leipzig make mistakes in a 2-2 tie. Will it be able to get a result at the Westfalenstadion? Perhaps a bridge too far. Dortmund 2-0.

Bundesliga preview and predictions
Julian Brandt of Borussia Dortmund and Marko Grujic of Hertha BSC Berlin (Photo by TF-Images/Getty Images)

Sunday

Werder Bremen v. Wolfsburg — 7:30 a.m. ET

Florian Kohfeldt’s hosts need to get off the mat after a midweek setback, and their legs will be the biggest challenge against a Wolfsburg side that joined them in producing a 3-2 thriller at the Volkswagen Arena in early December. There’s a lot to like here but we’re not ready to trust Bremen’s ability to score. Please prove us wrong Josh Sargent. Wolfsburg 1-0.

Union Berlin v. Schalke — 9:30 a.m. ET

The two worst teams on the form table, it’s difficult to predict good things from either side right now. In their last combined 10 matches, Schalke and Union have scored five total goals (American midfielder Weston McKennie has Schalke’s two). We have little faith in this prediction due to Schalke’s abysmal form and finishing but we’re betting against what we’ve seen the past few weeks. Schalke 1-0.

Augsburg v. Koln — Noon ET

It’s hard to separate these two who staged a 1-1 draw in Koln on Nov. 30 in which both goals were scored after the teams went down to 10 men. Koln’s the bet because it’s been better at putting the ball in the goal, but just. Koln 2-1.

Manchester United: Solskjaer hopeful of new Paul Pogba contract

Paul Pogba contract
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Manchester United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is singing a new tune, hopeful that star midfielder Paul Pogba will stick around Old Trafford for the long term.

Reports say that United has an option to extend Pogba’s contract by an extra year beyond its 2021 expiry, but Solskjaer is thinking bigger. He has been praising Pogba plenty since the World Cup winner returned to the lineup.

[ MORE: Premier League summer schedule ]

It’s a bit surprising given Pogba and his super agent’s constant time in the rumor mill, with Real Madrid often linked with the Frenchman. And that agent, Mino Raiola, has not been so nice when it comes to judging Solskjaer.

But Solskjaer is reportedly hopeful that Pogba can join Bruno Fernandes, Marcus Rashford, and others in building a new power.

“I can’t comment on discussions between player and the club but. of course, we want to keep the best players around the club,” Solskjaer said. “We want to build a squad for the future and Scott and Nemanja are a similar position but at different stages in their careers. One at the start, one really experienced one.”

Pogba leads United in key passes per game with 2.3, though his minutes have been severely limited by injuries this season. He had 13 goals and nine assists last season, and turned 27 in March.

The way United’s performed in recent weeks it would not be a surprise if keeping its main talents while adding another stalwart center back and wing would propel it into a more serious table discussion.

Do you buy the idea that Pogba could be with United well into the future?

Suarez goal gives Barcelona win, relegates neighbors Espanyol

Espanyol relegated
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Seventh-place one season ago, La Liga mainstays Espanyol are being relegated from Spain’s top flight.

The final decision came at the hands of their Catalan neighbors Barcelona, who got a second-half goal from Luis Suarez to relegate Espanyol.

[ MORE: Premier League summer schedule ]

Espanyol are 11 points back of 17th place and can only capture nine more points this season following the 1-0 loss in a match where both teams had a player sent off.

Suarez’s goal was a nice one after Antoine Griezmann’s back heel pass to Lionel Messi saw the Argentine’s shot deflect onto the path of the Uruguayan finisher.

Espanyol had been in the top flight since 1994 and has only spent four single seasons outside La Liga since 1929. Leganes and Mallorca may join them soon.

Barcelona moves a point back of Real Madrid. Real has four matches left to Barca’s three and holds the tiebreaker.

Klopp reacts to Liverpool wins, says Henderson injury ‘not nothing’

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Liverpool’s 3-1 win over Brighton and Hove Albion was a bit more what we’re used to from the Premier League champions.

But that wasn’t the focus of the post-match despite a highlight-reel show from Mohamed Salah, as Reds boss Jurgen Klopp sounded an ominous note when asked about Jordan Henderson leaving the match with injury.

“I don’t know exactly but it was something with the knee I think. We know it’s not nothing.”

[ MORE: Premier League summer schedule ]

Henderson’s not exactly a player to hit the deck unless he’s feeling pain, and Klopp removed him for James Milner with 10 minutes to play.

That’s about the only bad news from the win, as Liverpool became the first team this season to breach the 90-point mark and saw Salah’s brace move him within three goals of the Golden Boot lead.

Salah would only say, “Let’s take it game-by-game,” but it’s clearly on his mind.

Trent Alexander-Arnold says the Egyptian is hungry to get a share of a third-straight Golden Boot.

From the BBC:

“He has his targets, he’s around the Golden Boot and it’s something he wants to retain,” Alexander-Arnold said. “He’s a world class player who scores so many goals for us and we try to get him on the board as much as possible.”

As for the match, Brighton almost as missed some big chances as Liverpool before the game was out of reach. Klopp admits that it was a challenge.

“We started really well,” Klopp said. “We had to adapt a little bit as we knew what they wanted to do but it was a little bit hard to defend. We left one or two players in a position where if we won the ball we had players in the counter-attack position. We got the first two goals with super balls but we could have scored more. I said to the boys at half-time they could have been 2-2 too. It was a nice game to watch.”

The Reds finish with Burnley, Arsenal, Chelsea, and Newcastle United.

Liverpool march continues with 3-1 win at Brighton

Brighton - Liverpool recap
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Mohamed Salah had two goals and an assist in the first eight minutes of Liverpool’s 3-1 win over Brighton and Hove Albion at the Amex Stadium on Wednesday.

Salah is now three goals behind league leader Jamie Vardy, and Liverpool’s 92 points are 23 more than Man City. Jordan Henderson also scored for the Reds.

BRIGHTON – LIVERPOOL FULL MATCH REPLAY

Leandro Trossard scored for Brighton, whose 36 points are nine clear of the bottom three with four matches to play (The 18th and 19th place sides do have a match each in hand).

[ MORE: Premier League summer schedule ]

Liverpool’s 30 wins through 34 outings is a Premier League record and Jurgen Klopp’s men are chasing several PL records. The Reds finish with Burnley, Arsenal, Chelsea, and Newcastle United.


Three things we learned

1. Salah somehow under the radar: Look, the Egyptian star’s 32-goal league season was an outlier. Not a lot of guys consistently hit 25, let alone the 30 mark in the Premier League. But Salah has rather quietly put together another amazing season with 19 goals and nine assists in PL play plus another four and three in cup competitions. Salah is one assist of joining the a small group of players to get double digit league goals and assists in a top five European league this season.

While it’s become sexy to praise Sadio Mane as the Reds’ top winger, Salah has been just as good. He could’ve had another goal in the 53rd but Mat Ryan made a fine intervention at close range. If Salah is under the radar, it’s because Liverpool has spread the wealth this season and had so many heroes in close matches. But boy, oh boy, is he their best weapon.

2. Lamptey shows glimpses, then youth: The sample size is very small, but 19-year-old Chelsea outcast Tariq Lamptey has played well at right back in most of his outings for Brighton since the return from the coronavirus pause. Lamptey was at blame for Liverpool’s third goal in both the chance conceded and actual finish from Salah, but the $4 million January buy looked well worth the price tag in a terrific first half at the Amex.

3. Seagulls still missing final ball: Brighton produced four big chances in the game to Liverpool’s two, but only put one in the back of the net (SofaScore). That’s sadly been par for the course this season, as Brighton’s style has been worthy of a top half place. Brighton entered the day with seven fewer goals than its expected goals total. Only Everton, Watford, and Norwich have been less fortunate.

Man of the Match:

Salah.


Brighton – Liverpool recap

Salah had a goal and an assist within 500 seconds of kickoff.

The Egyptian took a feed from Naby Keita to score off a Davy Propper giveaway and then set up Henderson’s second to have the Seagulls’ heads spinning early.

Brighton found a chance in the 19th but Neco Williams recovered with a slide to block Leandro Trossard from slotting a point-blank goal.

The Seagulls pulled within one just before halftime when in-form youngster Tariq Lamptey swept a cross into the mix for Trossard to punch home.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

Salah could’ve had it 3-1 at one end but Brighton’s Dan Burn asked the Egyptian to hold his drink with a butchered wide-open shot at the back post in the 60th minute.

Jurgen Klopp didn’t like the close score, and brought on Fabinho, Andy Robertson, and Sadio Mane in the second half. One of the players he removed, Naby Keita, had a strong hour before departing the contest.

Henderson almost produced a third Liverpool goal after a rare Lamptey error spring a chance that took a wicked turn off Dale Stephens.

The Reds made it 3-1 off the ensuing corner, Salah’s clinical header in front of Lamptey. Henderson limped off for Liverpool late in the contest.

Ryan denied Salah a hat trick in stoppage time and the Egyptian headed over the bar at the final whistle. He could’ve had five.