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Report: Evans set to join Leicester via $10m release clause

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Jonny Evans isn’t going far from West Bromwich Albion, and for quite a discount (so to speak)

The Northern Irish center back, 30, will reportedly have a medical at Leicester City in the next 48 hours ahead of a move to join Claude Puel‘s Foxes.

[ MORE: Stewart named USMNT GM ]

Evans was linked with moves to Manchester City and former club Manchester United last season, but instead will reportedly try his hand at Premier League life just an hour’s drive from the Hawthorns after West Brom met a near $10 million release clause.

That’s at least less than half than the reported bid of Pep Guardiola last summer.

Leicester City’s stout back line of its Premier League championship season has taken significant steps back, with the Foxes partly addressing it with the addition of Harry Maguire last season.

Maguire, 25, was strong last season as Wes Morgan struggled and Robert Huth made just one appearance.

Evans won three Premier League titles while making nearly 200 appearances for Manchester United, leaving in 2015 for West Brom.

This would be a nice addition for Leicester, whose defending cost it a bid to return to European competition.

PL Sunday preview: Man Utd to delay City’s party another week?

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Manchester United are the last hurdle standing between Manchester City and the Premier League title, a race which could come to its rather anti-climactic end on Sunday, while Arsenal continue battling for Champions League Europa League qualification…

[ MORE: Man City on the brink of PL title ]

Newcastle United vs. Arsenal — 8:30 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

10th-place Newcastle entered the weekend every bit as hot as sixth-place Arsenal, with both sides having won three straight PL games ahead of Sunday’s clash at St. James’ Park. The Magpies have clawed their way back following a disastrous start to the season (just four wins from their first 18 games, including a run of one point from nine games from October to December) and are all but mathematically safe from relegation after knocking off fellow relegation battlers Southampton and Huddersfield Town, as well as eighth-place Leicester City. Rafa Benitez will surely feel this is one of the best coaching jobs of his illustrious career, given the (lack of) resources at his disposal in the summer.

For Arsenal, the top-four is no longer a possibility (they sit 13 points behind north London rivals Tottenham Hotspur), and even fifth appears a big ask with just five games to go (six points separate them from Chelsea). In short, Arsene Wenger is all-in on the Europa League, which will see them face Atletico Madrid in the semifinals beginning next week. Similarly to Newcastle, their three-game streak has come against sides all currently 12th or lower in the table (12th, 18th and 19th). After a late scare away to CSKA Moscow in Thursday’s quarterfinals second leg, expect a heavily rotated lineup on Sunday.

INJURIES: Newcastle — OUT: Jesus Gamez (ankle) | Arsenal — OUT: Henrikh Mkhitaryan (knee), David Ospina (ankle), Santi Cazorla (achilles); QUESTIONABLE: Granit Xhaka (flu)

[ MORE: Three things we learned from Man City’s win over Spurs ]

Manchester United vs. West Brom — 11 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

Jose Mourinho’s Man United already delayed Man City’s PL title-winning party one week, and they have the chance to do it again on Sunday. City breezed past Tottenham on Saturday, leaving them three points from the title, which could also be achieved by a United loss to last-place West Brom at Old Trafford — an unlikely outcome, in all honesty.

“During the week I was trying to fight that result (the win over Man City) by working hard and trying to make the players understand that it’s not enough to deserve to finish second, we need the points to finish second,” Mourinho said this week. “Obviously to finish top-four we need four or five points, but to finish second we need much more than that and after three important points last weekend, we have to try to … be closer to the second position, which is, in this moment, our ambition.”

As for West Brom, their fate as a Championship side next season could be sealed as soon as next weekend. A loss on Sunday would mean the only way to avoid relegation is to win their final four games and Swansea City would have to lose all of their final five while overturning a minor goal-differential disadvantage (-19 to -26). An even more unlikely sequence of extraordinary events.

“From my discussions with the owners already, I know there is a genuine desire to build a team with greater goal power and attacking threat which can capture the fans’ imagination,” chief executive Mark Jenkins said this week. “In the event of our losing Premier League status, it will be a squad we will want to compete strongly for promotion back to the top tier.”

INJURIES: Man United — OUT: Phil Jones (fitness), Daley Blind (fitness), Sergio Romero (knee) | West Brom — OUT: Gareth Barry (knee), Hal Robson-Kanu (concussion), James Morrison (achilles); QUESTIONABLE: Daniel Sturridge (hamstring), Nacer Chadli (thigh), Jonny Evans (knee)

Pardew ‘furious’ after four WBA players steal taxi in Spain

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At least when you’re bottom of the Premier League table and appear headed for relegation, as West Bromwich Albion now find themselves, you can take the positive approach that “the only way to go from here is up.”

[ FA CUP: Man United advance, drawn against PL opposition in QF ]

Alternatively, four of your most senior players — Jonny Evans, Gareth Barry, Jake Livermore and Boaz Myhill, in this case — might have other ideas and elect to steal a cab during a late-season training camp in Barcelona. That’s the current state of affairs for the Baggies and manager Alan Pardew, who openly admits he was “furious” and felt “let down” — quotes from the Guardian:

“This is obviously not ideal. They broke the curfew and that’s unacceptable and I feel a bit let down by that.”

“It’s difficult for managers. Obviously, I was furious with what happened but at the same time I’ve got to stay faithful to the players and give them a chance to remedy the situation.”

The night’s timeline reads something like this: the quartet wanted to go out in the city center, but everything was closed late at night; they got a taxi to a McDonald’s by the Barcelona port; the driver left the car, at which point the players decided to drive back to the team hotel around 5:30 a.m.; the care was returned to the cab driver around 8 a.m.

Evans was stripped of his captaincy for Saturday’s FA Cup fifth-round defeat to Southampton. The players have since released the following statement through the club’s website:

“We felt it important we identify ourselves as the players involved in an incident which occurred during the training camp in Spain this week out of respect for team-mates who otherwise could be implicated by association. We freely acknowledge and apologize for the break of curfew which we accept represented a breach of the standards of professionalism required of us as representatives of West Bromwich Albion.

“The club has informed us that it will now conduct its own inquiry into the incident and we will cooperate fully. In the meantime, we would like to assure our supporters that this incident does not reflect the determination and resolve we possess to do all we can to recover a difficult season.”

With 11 games left to play, West Brom currently sit seven points adrift of safety; Pardew’s position grows more and more tenuous with each point dropped; and three of their final 11 games are against Manchester United, Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur.

Evans, Barry, two others release apology for incident in Spain

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The quartet of West Brom players accused of stealing a taxi while breaking curfew in Spain has apologized to its team, fans, and bosses.

[ MORE: Chelsea loanees shining ]

Club captain (!!) Jonny Evans of Northern Ireland, backup goalkeeper Boaz Myhill (Wales) and English midfielders Jake Livermore and Gareth Barry are the players in question, and they released a statement on West Brom’s web site.

Saying they needed to claim responsibility for the incident so speculation could stop over which four players were in trouble, the four said (from wba.co.uk):

We freely acknowledge and apologise for the break of curfew which we accept represented a breach of the standards of professionalism required of us as representatives of West Bromwich Albion FC.

The Club has informed us that it will now conduct its own inquiry into the incident and we will co-operate fully.

In the meantime, we would like to assure our supporters that this incident does not reflect the determination and resolve we possess to do all we can to recover a difficult season.

It’s an incredibly stupid standard, especially considering not one of the four is a young buck, but it’s also not an indictment on their focus in the relegation race. The Spanish camp is a break for the players to come together; These four just chose to do something illegal (allegedly).

Chelsea 3-0 West Brom: Giroud, Hazard link downs Baggies

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  • Eden Hazard brace earns Chelsea the win
  • Giroud bags assist on full debut
  • Blues jump back into Champions League place

Olivier Giroud was brought in to score goals, but on his full Chelsea debut it was his strong hold-up play that earned the Blues all three points.

The Frenchman started and set up Eden Hazard for the opening goal after a half-hour, warding off a defender and letting his new teammate slice through the back line to score as Chelsea topped West Brom at Stamford Bridge 3-0.

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings ]

West Brom was forced into an early change as January signing Daniel Sturridge limped off injured after just four minutes following, a familiar sight for Premier League fans. On came Jay Rodriguez, who had the best chance of the first half-hour after Victor Moses accidentally played him through, but he fired wide one-on-one with Chelsea goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois.

The opening 30 minutes saw Chelsea enjoy decent control but West Brom poked and prodded. However the Blues opened the scoring through Hazard, who took a strong layoff from Olivier Giroud on a one-two play, leaving the Belgian clean through after the nifty touch.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

After halftime, the game ground to a halt, and with an hour gone Antonio Conte withdrew Giroud in favor of Alvaro Morata who returned from his injury layoff. The change sparked the Blues, and they scored just three minutes later. Victor Moses found Cesc Fabregas at the top of the box, and the Spaniard looked to play the ball back to Moses, and while his rabona pass clipped a defender, it still found Moses streaking on net and the Nigerian finished cooly for a 2-0 lead.

With the Blues firmly in control, they tacked on a third with 20 minutes to go. A moment of brilliance saw Hazard cut inside to beat Jonny Evans, and fired on net, crashing the shot home inside the near post for a 3-0 lead and the game decided.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

The win gets Chelsea back to winning ways after a small two-game losing streak in Premier League play, pushing them above Tottenham into fourth position and a single point back of Liverpool in third. For West Brom, it’s their third straight defeat in league play and leaves them bottom of the table, without a win since defeating Brighton 2-0 on January 13.