Premier League preview: Fulham v. Man City

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  • City can regain top spot with a win
  • Fulham 13 points from PL safety
  • Man City aiming for 7th-straight win

Fulham host Manchester City on Saturday at Craven Cottage (Watch live, 8:30 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com), in one of the most lopsided games of the season.

Surely there won’t be an upset…

WATCH LIVE ONLINE, HERE

The beautiful thing about the Premier League, and this season in particular, is that this shock results have been cropping up. Fulham are 19th in the table and any hope of surviving has all but evaporated with eight games to go. Caretaker boss Scott Parker has made Fulham into a tough defensive unit, but they have lost all four games since he took charge.

As for Man City, the imperious machine rolls on for Pep Guardiola as they have won six-straight Premier League games to drag themselves back into the driving seat in the title race. A win here puts them ahead of Liverpool (at least until Jurgen Klopp‘s side play against Tottenham on Sunday), but playing in the first PL game after the international break could cause some problems for Pep.

But with a game in hand of Liverpool and City going for a historic quadruple, Pep seems pretty relaxed about everything. At least that’s right now…

In teams news Fulham could have Andre Schurrle back after recovering from a virus, while Kevin De Bruyne, Fernandinho, John Stones, Benjamin Mendy, Vincent Kompany and Nicolas Otamendi are all back from injury for City with Fabian Delph and Claudio Bravo their only absentees.


What they’re saying

Parker on the challenge of trying to stop Man City: “You certainly have to adapt to face City, and we’ve been working on that over the last 10 days and now for the next couple of days too. They are well-coached, well-drilled, and we’ve been trying to give the lads as much information as possible for the challenges we’re going to face. They are that good that we can put all the scenarios in place, but you’ve still got to face them. We all understand the challenge ahead, fantastic players, team and along with a manager who will arguably go down as one of the greatest as well.”

Guardiola on trying to win a historic quadruple: “I would say after international break we came back good, the rhythm is quite similar. Now we will play 11 games and we deserve to play 12, maybe 14 maybe 15. Eight left for Premier League, game by game we see what happens.”


Prediction

This will be a little trickier for Man City than we all think, especially after the international break, but they have so many star players returning that squad rotation will see them come out all guns blazing. 3-1 win to City.

Fans who want to try their hand at predicting PL games can down the NBC Sports Predictor app, with a chance to win up to $50,000 each week. Download it on iOS or Google Play.

Alexander-Arnold the latest to withdraw from England squad

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Trent Alexander-Arnold will miss out on playing for England this week after withdrawing from the squad with a back injury.

The FA announced the decision on Wednesday afternoon, noting that Alexander-Arnold came into the England camp with the injury and wasn’t able to fully recover in time. Alexander-Arnold suffered the injury during Liverpool’s 4-2 win over Burnley on March 10.

[READ: Sane survives horror tackle]

Alexander-Arnold has had a pretty consistent season for Liverpool, playing 32 times so far in all competitions. Despite being a regular starter for Liverpool, though, he has competition at right back with England from Kieran Trippier and Kyle Walker.

At the same time, Alexander-Arnold is the third (or fourth, depending on where he plays) defender to leave the England squad. Alexander-Arnold joins John Stones, Luke Shaw, Fabian Delph and Ruben Loftus-Cheek as walking wounded for England.

The Three Lions play a pair of UEFA Euro 2020 qualifying matches in the next week. First, England hosts the Czech Republic on Friday at Wembley Stadium before traveling to Montenegro on Monday.

Euro 2020 qualification set to begin Thursday

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With the international break upon us, qualification for Euro 2020 is set to begin, with 55 countries spread across 10 groups to determine who will make the final field of 24 that will take place in the main event in the summer of 2020.

As the group stage draws nearer, we take a look at the important matches that will begin qualification play through the first three competitive days of the international break in round one of qualifying.

Austria v. Poland

Bayern Munich teammates Robert Lewandowski and David Alaba will go head-to-head as Austria hosts Poland in Vienna. Lewandowski hasn’t scored for the national team since a pre-World Cup friendly last summer, and the visitors will be looking to put a poor World Cup behind them for good. As the two highest-ranked teams in Group G, there will be plenty of eyes on this match between two teams who haven’t met in over a decade.

Belgium v. Russia

The two favorites in Group I go head-to-head to kick off the competition as two teams fresh off happy World Cup memories clash in Brussels. Both of these teams failed to win their UEFA Nations League groups, meaning Euro qualification is their only method of entry into the final competition. Kevin De Bruyne misses out for Belgium, but the rest of the star-studded Belgian roster is intact. The Russians are looking for a new goalkeeper after the international retirement of Igor Akinfeev, and the three men called up to replace him have a combined 12 caps between them.

Slovakia v. Hungary

In surely one of the most hotly contested groups of Euro 2020 qualification, Slovakia and Hungary meet hoping to get the jump on one another as they compete with Croatia, Wales, and Azerbaijan for a slot in the final tournament. Hungary has not won a competitive road match since 2016, and they have scored just one goal against Slovakia in their last five tries. Marek Hamsik, fresh off his move to Chinese club Dalian Yifang, leads the lines for Slovakia in this critical match.

England v. Czech Republic

The two favorites in Group A meet to see if either side can get a leg up on the other four teams early. England will be without John Stones and Luke Shaw due to injury, but otherwise most first-choice players are fit. Jadon Sancho may get a chance to continue his stellar club form on the international level, while Callum Hudson-Odoi is with the squad as well. The Czech Republic called up just 18 players, including Burnley forward Matej Vydra, one of only five players on the squad with over 20 international appearances.

Portugal v. Ukraine

Group B has three main contenders, and two of them will meet on Friday looking for an early advantage. Cristiano Ronaldo is in great club form and was rested in the latest Juventus match as they lost for the first time all Serie A season. All the usual suspects are back for a ridiculously experienced Portugal team that hopes to defend its Euro 2016 title. The squad features five players with at least 50 caps, including three with over 100. Ukraine, meanwhile, is without the injured Andriy Yarmolenko who tore his Achilles back in October. Coach Andriy Shevchenko made the bold decision to leave experienced defenders Yaroslav Rakytskyi and Yevhen Khacheridi at home, with their 104 caps more than the entire defensive unit currently in the squad.

Spain v. Norway

An absolutely loaded Group F begins play on Saturday as Spain hosts Norway in Valencia. While Spain is considered the favorite for the group, the rocky and disappointing World Cup journey and spotty Nations League performances leaves them considered vulnerable heading into qualifying, and with Sweden, Norway, and Romania all considered contenders for that second spot, Luis Enrique’s squad will have to be on top of its game throughout. Enrique has left out Real Madrid struggler Isco as well as Atleti pair Koke and Saul in favor of greener players like Iker Muniain. On the other side, Norway boss Lars Lagerback has an inexperienced squad captained by West Brom midfielder Stefan Johansen.

FULL ROUND 1 SCHEDULE (all times Eastern)

Thursday, 3/21

Kazakhstan v. Scotland – 11am
Cyprus v. San Marino – 1pm
Austria v. Poland – 3:45pm
Belgium v. Russia – 3:45pm
Israel v. Slovenia – 3:45pm
Macedonia v. Latvia – 3:45pm
Netherlands v. Belarus – 3:45pm
Northern Ireland v. Estonia – 3:45pm
Slovakia v. Hungary – 3:45pm

Friday, 3/22

Bulgaria v. Montenegro – 1pm
Albania v. Turkey – 3:45pm
Andorra v. Iceland – 3:45pm
England v. Czech Republic – 3:45pm
Luxembourg v. Lithuania – 3:45pm
Moldova v. France – 3:45pm
Portugal v. Ukraine – 3:45pm

Saturday, 3/23

Georgia v. Switzerland – 10am
Gibraltar v. Republic of Ireland – 1pm
Malta v. Faroe Islands – 1pm
Sweden v. Romania – 1pm
Bosnia & Herzegovina v. Armenia – 3:45pm
Italy v. Finland – 3:45pm
Lichtenstein v. Greece – 3:45pm
Spain v. Norway – 3:45pm

Declan Rice gets first England call-up after winning Irish award

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On Tuesday, it was announced that Declan Rice had been selected for Ireland’s Young Player of the Year award, though he will not be present to celebrate his honor at an awards ceremony on Sunday.

[ MORE: Pep Guardiola loving life as “bold” Man City advances in UCL ]

That’s because the 20-year-old will be with the England team after receiving his first call-up after switching international allegiances earlier this year. The call came from Gareth Southgate‘s Three Lions on Wednesday and will have Rice in camp for EURO 2020 qualifiers against the Czech Republic and Montenegro.

“His form warrants it,” Southgate said of West Ham’s rising star. “It’s been a well-publicized situation with Declan. We’ve tracked him for quite a while … His form has been excellent. We like what we see. … There aren’t many players of his age playing as well as he is in the Premier League.”

England’s 25-man squad

Goalkeepers: Jack Butland (Stoke City), Tom Heaton (Burnley), Jordan Pickford (Everton)

Defenders: Trent Alexander-Arnold (Liverpool), Ben Chilwell (Leicester City), Michael Keane (Everton), Harry Maguire (Leicester City), Declan Rice (West Ham United), Danny Rose (Tottenham), Luke Shaw (Manchester United), John Stones (Manchester City), James Tarkowski (Burnley), Kieran Trippier (Tottenham), Kyle Walker (Manchester City)

Midfielders: Dele Alli (Tottenham), Ross Barkley (Chelsea), Fabian Delph (Manchester City), Eric Dier (Tottenham), Jordan Henderson (Liverpool), Ruben Loftus-Cheek (Chelsea)

Forwards: Harry Kane (Tottenham), Marcus Rashford (Manchester United), Jadon Sancho (Borussia Dortmund), Raheem Sterling (Manchester City), Callum Wilson (Bournemouth)

Guardiola loving life as ‘bold’ Man City advances

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There’s no much for a manager to say after his side beats another 7-0 on the day, and 10-2 on aggregate.

So don’t judge Pep Guardiola too harshly for his words following Manchester City’s Tuesday demolition of Schalke in the UEFA Champions League.

[ RECAP: Man City 7-0 (10-2 agg.) Schalke ]

“It was a clear result,” Guardiola said. “We are happy to get to the quarter-finals. We didn’t start that well, we were a bit scared to play. But after it went 1-0, we relaxed and decided to play and be aggressive.”

Sergio Aguero scored twice for Pep’s men, with Leroy Sane, Raheem SterlingPhil FodenGabriel Jesus, and Bernardo Silva also finding the back of the net.

With Danilo on his back line and both Foden and Fabian Delph coming off the bench to get some minutes, it all went according to plan for Guardiola.

“We have a lot of injured players so we want to continue this run and get those players back fit,” he said. “Everyone has to compete with each other to play. They all want to play. Everybody tried to play, be bold and keep going.”

City can hang with anyone, and shut down Schalke despite the absence of Fernandinho, Vincent Kompany, and John Stones. Oh, and Kevin De Bruyne did not play either. And Riyad Mahrez was an unused sub.

So yeah, pretty much full strength (Shoulder shrug emoji).