Christian Atsu

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Africa Cup of Nations last 16 preview: Salah, Mane on collision course?

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The group stage of the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations has been low-scoring, so we’ll be hoping for some early goals to open up play for the many electric stars of Africa.

That doesn’t mean we haven’t seen the big names find the score sheet, as Mohamed Salah of Liverpool and host nation Egypt has two goals — as many as anyone in the tournament — the same amount as club teammate Sadio Mane.

[ MORE: JPW’s Round of 16 predictions ]

The Reds may be on a collision course for Cairo on July 19, with Senegal the 22nd ranked team in the world via FIFA and Egypt hosting the tournament.

All five of the nations to qualify for the 2018 World Cup remain alive, with three in the top of the bracket and two in the bottom.

The 32nd edition of the competition could see a rematch of the 31st final in the quarterfinals, but it will require Cameroon emerging from a massive Round of 16 meeting with Nigeria.

Should they do so, and the hosts beat South Africa, the rematch will arrive on Wednesday in Cairo.

The Cameroon-Nigeria match may be topped by one in the upper half of the bracket, as Ghana looks to reassert itself as a power by knocking of Tunisia. The Black Stars missed out on the 2018 World Cup, and the winner is arguably a favorite to reach the final.

Premier League talents on show

Senegal – Mane (Liverpool), Idrissa Gana Gueye (Everton), Cheikhou Kouyate (Crystal Palace)

Morocco – Romain Saiss (Wolves)

Democratic Republic of Congo – Arthur Masuaku (West Ham)

Ghana – Christian Atsu (Newcastle), Jordan Ayew (Crystal Palace)

Mali – Moussa Djenepo (Southampton)

Ivory Coast – Serge Aurier (Spurs), Wilfried Zaha (Crystal Palace), Jonathan Kodija (Aston Villa)

Algeria – Riyad Mahrez (Man City), Islam Slimani (Leicester)

Guinea – Naby Keita (Liverpool)

Nigeria – Leon Balogun (Brighton), Alex Iwobi (Arsenal), Wilfred Ndidi (Leicester), Henry Onyekuru (Everton).

Cameroon – Gaetan Bong (Brighton),

Egypt – Salah (Liverpool), Mohamed Elneny (Arsenal), Ahmed Elmohamady (Aston Villa)

Round of 16 schedule

Uganda v. Senegal – July 5
Morocco v. Benin – July 5

Madagascar v. Democratic Republic of Congo – July 7
Ghana v. Tunisia – July 8

Mali v. Ivory Coast – July 8
Algeria v. Guinea – July 7

Nigeria v. Cameroon – July 6
Egypt v. South Africa – July 6

Early double sparks Magpies rout of Fulham (video)

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Fulham will head to the Championship on a sour note, while Rafa Benitez has something to cling to in contract talks with the club as Newcastle wins 4-0 at Craven Cottage to wrap up the Premier League campaign. Jonjo Shelvey‘s stunner opened things up with Ayoze Perez following up, and Fabian Schar sealed the deal in the second half, with an exclamation mark from Solomon Rondon.

The game opened up immediately and Newcastle scored inside the opening 10 minutes, on a brilliant strike from Jonjo Shelvey. A looping volley from the top-right corner of the box found the opposite corner, a highlight-reel goal on the final day of the season.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Newcastle bagged the second just two minutes later with Perez bundling home to double the lead. Sergio Rico couldn’t handle an initial shot from Christian Atsu, and Perez was first to reach the rebound.

Fulham held a significant amount of possession through the first half, but couldn’t do much with it. Newcastle, meanwhile, made the most of its touches, nearly finding a third before the break with Rico nervously palming away a corner which looked destined to find the back of the net.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

The Whites looked better after the break, but Newcastle held at the back amid a few corners to defend. The Magpies went further ahead on the hour mark with Fabian Schar getting wide open on a corner and bagging a header to make it 3-0. The game ended in open end-to-end fashion and the Magpies got a fourth as Rico again couldn’t collect at the post and Rondon finished from an absurdly tight angle with stoppage time beckoning.

The Whites finish the season in 19th on 26 points, a massively disappointing result given their summer spending spree. Newcastle will cling to 13th on 45 points, and hope that the punctuating result can help convince their Spanish boss to stay.

Liverpool survive Newcastle scare to take PL title race to final day

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  • Liverpool back in front in PL title race
  • Van Dijk’s header opened the scoring (13′)
  • Atsu leveled it 7 minutes later | Salah for 2-1 (28′)
  • Rondon levels it again (54′) | Origi wins it late (86′)

Liverpool guaranteed the Premier League title race will go down to the final day of the season with a 3-2 victory over Newcastle United at St. James’ Park on Saturday. As the final score suggests, it was anything but easy or straightforward for Jurgen Klopp‘s Reds.

Whether or not Manchester City beat Leicester City in their penultimate league fixture on Monday (Watch live, 3 p.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com) will determine who takes the pole position into next Sunday’s simultaneous finales.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

The opening 45 minutes of between the Reds and Magpies were frantic and goal-filled.

Virgil Van Dijk opened the scoring with one of the easiest headed goals that any player will ever score (WATCH HERE), but Liverpool’s lead lasted just seven minutes before Christian Atsu drew the home side level. Trent Alexander-Arnold will actually have been thankful that Atsu scored his chance, because the Liverpool defender would have otherwise been sent off for the clearest of handballs to block a goal-bound shot. Had the rebound not fallen to Atsu, and perhaps had he missed with his follow-up shot, Liverpool would have played a man down for 70 minutes.

Mohamed Salah restored Liverpool’s lead just eight minutes later with a deftly placed finish from a really difficult position. The ball came in from Alexander-Arnold on the right, but was too high for Salah to strike it with power and too low to head it. Instead, he re-positioned himself ever so slightly and leaned back just as the ball arrived, expertly re-directing it inside the far post.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

The twists and turns weren’t finished, though — far from it, in fact.

Newcastle drew level again in the 54th minute, thanks to Salomon Rondo’s instinctual strike off the assist of another former Red, Javier Manquillo. It should have been little more than a half-chance, but the Venezuelan struck the ball ever so cleanly from near the penalty spot and Alisson could do nothing about it.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

Salah was stretchered off the field in the 73rd minute after taking a powerful blow to the head from Newcastle goalkeeper Martin Dubravka (WATCH HERE).

Without last season’s PL Player of the Year, Liverpool struggled to create even a handful of chances from open play. Fortunately for Klopp, his side excels on set pieces. Divock Origi rose highest and got his head to Xherdan Shaqiri‘s free kick in the 86th minute.

Liverpool (94 points) will finish their title challenge when Wolverhampton Wanderers visit Anfield next Sunday. Man City (92, with a game still in hand), meanwhile, will be away to Brighton & Hove Albion.

Almiron sizzles for Newcastle (video)

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  • Smith sent off, 10th minute
  • Rondon with goal, assist
  • Almiron makes first Premier League start
  • Newcastle four points clear of 18th

Salomon Rondon and Ayoze Perez scored as Newcastle United collected a cool three points with a 2-0 defeat of 10-man Huddersfield Town at St. James’ Park on Saturday.

Newcastle and MLS record transfer Miguel Almiron was fantastic in his first Premier League start, doing everything but score including drawing a 20th minute red card from Tommy Smith.

Newcastle moves onto 28 points, four clear of the drop zone, while the visiting Terriers remain 14 points back of safety with 11 matches to play in their PL season.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

The team’s traded early chances, but Miguel Almiron nearly made himself an instant Newcastle hero when sprung 1v1 with Jonas Lossl. But his chip hit the post and Salomon Rondon’s rebound hit the same piece of iron.

Another Newcastle break led to a Fabian Schar shot directly to Lossl, who minutes later got a piece of Rondon’s in-tight effort on goal.

With Town under pressure, Tommy Smith saw straight red for a foul on Almiron.

The ex-Atlanta United man would get the next chance, with Lossl stopped his near-post effort.

Lossl then lost an Almiron shot between his legs and Chris Lowe cleared the effort.

Yedlin cued up Perez for another shot that Lossl tipped out for a corner, and Rondon’s diving attempt to head a as Huddersfield was happy to get to halftime down just a man and not a goal or three.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

[ MORE: Premier League schedule

Isaac Hayden‘s mistouch turned into a fine assist, as Rondon lashed past Lossl within 90 seconds of the match’s restart.

The Magpies doubled its advantage and started working on their goal differential when Perez completed a move started by an Almiron cross and moved ahead by Yedlin and Rondon.

Almiron almost cued Perez up for 3-0, but the Spaniard spun his shot just wide of the near post. Almiron was then stopped by Lossl before Longstaff hit the cross bar.

The Paraguayan import got wild applause when he was replaced by Christian Atsu with under 10 minutes to play.

What should we expect from Miguel Almiron’s Premier League debut half-season?

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What’s reasonable to expect from Miguel Almiron in his first half season at Newcastle United?

Remember: I wrote reasonable, not realistic. Newcastle smashing its 14-year transfer record to sign the Paraguayan will have supporters thinking big.

[ MORE: Club-by-club grades ]

First things first, Almiron’s first meaningful minutes for Newcastle will be his first serious match action since the MLS Cup Final on Dec. 9. That means there will be some rust on the wiry playmaker who produced 13 goals and 13 assists for the Five Stripes in 2018.

Next: It’s likely that Rafa Benitez views Almiron as that playmaking No. 10 he’s needed, though there’s no guarantee his closest comparison on the Magpies — Ayoze Perez — won’t be a bit more suited to the job while Almiron gets used to the league.

Speaking of which, Perez is a terrific base line for which to judge Almiron. That won’t happen since Perez was a plucked gem from Tenerife while Almiron cost a club record, but follow me here.

The 25-year-old Perez is only a half-year older than Almiron, but arrived Tyneside at the age of 21. Perez also has Almiron by a half-inch.

Perez arrived at Newcastle having torn apart a lesser league, La Liga2, to the tune of 16 goals and 7 assists. He did not come on like a flash, either, with his first six appearances off the bench.

He scored goals in his next three en route to five by New Year’s Day and seven on the Premier League season, where he was deployed by Alan Pardew as an undersized center striker in two-thirds of his matches.

That Newcastle team, as hard as this is to believe, was nearly as offensively wretched as this season’s iteration. Perez was the second-leading goal scorer, behind Papiss Cisse and ahead of a wayward crowd of Moussa Sissoko and Jack Colback (Yes, they were relegated).

Almiron is much more seasoned than Perez, and the Paraguayan’s lesser league of MLS is a lot more physical than La Liga2. Almiron has also been the focal point of a team’s creative center, and will not be thrown off by the responsibility and expectations at a new club. Remember, he cost an MLS expansion team about $8 million.

Benitez may cater to Almiron in a free-ranging role to blood him on the Premier League, ousting Christian Atsu from the lineup instead of Perez at the No. 10.

What’s reasonable, like really reasonable? We’d say a goal — perhaps two given set piece chances — to go with 3-4 assists over his final 14 matches would qualify as a statistical success, but just looking the part and encouraging his owner to back Benitez with similar talent over the summer will be almost as important.

No pressure, kid.