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Europa League preview: Arsenal, Chelsea aim to stay perfect

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Arsenal and Chelsea will both clinch their Europa League groups with victories on Thursday.

The Gunners are at home to face a Sporting Lisbon side it defeated in Portugal two weeks ago, while the Blues head to Belarus for a rematch with BATE Borisov.

[ MORE: Champions League Weds. wrap ]

Chelsea will use Eden Hazard, but has left Cesc Fabregas, Alvaro Morata, Marcos Alonso, David Luiz, Toni Rudiger and Victor Moses back in London. Here’s manager Maurizio Sarri:

“Sometimes it’s better for the players to train rather than just play, to train on some particular physical qualities. If they only play they will lose that physical quality they need, and that’s been proved scientifically over a 21-day period.”

Arsenal will use Alex Iwobi in its match, the Nigerian playing very well in Unai Emery‘s system.

Iwobi credits Emery’s training sessions:

“Unai’s very intense in training and he’s demanding because he knows how good we are. He always wants us to be at 100 per cent, giving our best. It’s not just him, though. We know what we expect from each other, so we’re also trying to get the best out of each other in training.”

Up in Scotland, the Old Firm rivals are facing markedly different challenges on Thursday.

Steven Gerrard‘s Rangers are in Russia to face a group-bottom Spartak Moscow who can leapfrog their visitors with a win. And Celtic needs to attack after losing at RB Leipzig, with the Bundesliga side visiting with a three-point advantage on the third place Bhoys

Full schedule

10:50 a.m. ET
Fenerbahce vs. Anderlecht
Astana vs. Jablonec

12:55 p.m. ET
Spartak Moscow vs. Rangers
Lazio vs. Marseille
Malmo vs. Sarpsborg 08
Genk vs. Besiktas
Dynamo Kiev vs. Stade Rennes
Rapid Vienna vs. Villarreal
BATE Borisov vs. Chelsea
MOL Vidi vs. PAOK
Apollon Limassol vs. Eintracht Frankfurt
Krasnodar vs. Standard Liege
Akhisar Belediyespor vs. Sevilla

3 p.m. ET
Bayer Leverkusen vs. FC Zurich
Real Betis vs. AC Milan
Slavia Prague vs. Copenhagen
Dinamo Zagreb vs. Spartak Trnava
Rosenborg vs. Red Bull Salzburg
Vorskla Poltava vs. Qarabag
Arsenal vs. Sporting Lisbon
Celtic vs. RB Leipzig
Olympiacos vs. F91 Dudelange
Bordeaux vs. Zenit St. Petersburg
Ludogorets vs. AEK Larnaca

Ranking top 10 Premier League players in each position

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It’s always nice to open up a can of worms before the start of the season, right?

[ MORE: 2018/19 PL season preview hub ]  

With new players arriving in the Premier League and superstars staying put this summer, we thought it would be a good idea to rank the best players in each position ahead of the 2018/19 season.

Think of this as a preseason PL player Power Rankings, if you will, and if you want to use this us a “cheat-sheet” for your PL fantasy teams, go for it.

Here’s a list at the top 10 in each position.

I’m sure you we will all agree wholeheartedly on these selections…


Goalkeepers

1. David De Gea
2. Ederson
3. Thibaut Courtois
4. Hugo Lloris
5. Jordan Pickford
6. Kasper Schmeichel
7. Alisson
8. Rui Patricio
9. Ben Foster
10. Lukasz Fabianski


Right back

1. Kyle Walker
2. Kieran Trippier
3. Trent Alexander-Arnold
4. Victor Moses
5. Antonio Valencia
6. Hector Bellerin
7. Serge Aurier
8. Pablo Zabaleta
9. Cedric
10. Adam Smith


Center back

1. Virgil Van Dijk
2. Harry Maguire
3. Toby Alderweireld
4. Jan Vertonghen
5. Cesar Azpilicueta
6. Nicolas Otamendi
7. Davinson Sanchez
8. Eric Bailly
9. Vincent Kompany
10. John Stones


Left back

1. Andrew Robertson
2. Ben Davies
3. Benjamin Mendy
4. Ashley Young
5. Marcos Alonso
6. Danny Rose
7. Ryan Bertrand
8. Arthur Masuaku
9. Leighton Baines
10. Patrick Van Aanholt


Central midfielders

1. N'Golo Kante
2. David Silva
3. Naby Keita
4. Paul Pogba
5. Fernandinho
6. Nemanja Matic
7. Jordan Henderson
8. Ruben Neves
9. Jean Serri
10. Luka Milivojevic


Attacking midfielders/wingers

1. Mohamed Salah
2. Kevin De Bruyne
3. Eden Hazard
4. Sadio Mane
5. Alexis Sanchez
6. Raheem Sterling
7. Mesut Ozil
8. Leroy Sane
9. Christian Eriksen
10. Riyad Mahrez


Strikers

1. Harry Kane
2. Sergio Aguero
3. Romelu Lukaku
4. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang
5. Roberto Firmino
6. Wilfried Zaha
7. Gabriel Jesus
8. Alexandre Lacazette
9. Marko Arnautovic
10. Jamie Vardy

Nigeria beats Iceland; Argentina still alive

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Ahmed Musa scored a pair of terrific goals as Nigeria set up Group D for a thrilling final day with a 2-0 win over Iceland in Volgograd on Friday.

Gylfi Sigurdsson was arguably Iceland’s Man of the Match before he sent a penalty kick over the bar.

Nigeria now has three points, two more than Argentina and Iceland. Nigeria plays Argentina and Croatia faces Iceland on Tuesday.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

Gylfi Sigurdsson swung a dangerous early free kick over the bar, then produced the game’s second chance. That one was caught by Francis Uzoho, the 19-year-old Deportivo de la Coruna backstop.

Nigeria’s breakthrough came courtesy a lethal counter attack, as Kenneth Omeruo headed a cross clear of the Eagles’ 18. Kelechi Iheanacho collected and found Victor Moses racing down the right flank.

Moses’ cross was collected by Musa with an unorthodox outside of the boot trap, allowing him a second against his surprised mark. Musa lashed home for 1-0.

Click here for live and on demand coverage of the World Cup online and via the NBC Sports App.

The game was delayed for a bit when Ragnar Sigurdsson was waylaid with a head injury.

Wilfred Ndidi had a rip deflected over the bar in the 57th, and Nigeria opted for a short corner.

[ LIVE: World Cup scores ]

Musa then basically put it to bed when he cut into the 18 and danced around two defenders with the goalkeeper in between before putting a composed finish into the goal.

Iceland got new life through an 81st minute penalty kick awarded via Video Assistant Referee, but Gylfi Sigurdsson blazed it over the bar.

2018 World Cup team preview: Nigeria

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Getting to know Nigeria: Yes, we know their jerseys are selling out, but the team’s pretty good, too.

With Alex Iwobi (Arsenal), Victor Moses (Chelsea), and Wilfred Ndidi (Leicester City), this may be the best Nigeria side at a World Cup since the 2002 side with Nwankwo Kanu and Jay-Jay Okocha.

[ LIVE: World Cup scores ] 

Two of the Super Eagles’ four World Cup berths have ended in the Round of 16, including 2014’s 2-0 loss to France. Remember: this is a nation which has won a pair of U-17 World Cups in the past five years.

For more history on Nigeria, click here.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 


What group are they in? D


Game schedule – Group D – Full 2018 World Cup schedule, here

Saturday, June 16: Croatia v Nigeria, Kaliningrad 3 p.m. ET
Friday, June 22: Nigeria v Iceland, Volgograd 11 a.m. ET
Tuesday, June 26: Nigeria v Argentina, St. Petersburg 2 p.m. ET


Projected lineup (4-3-3) – Check out the 23-man squad list in full

—– Uzoho —–

— Idowu — Troost-Ekung — Balogun — Shehu

—- Ndidi —- Onazi —- Obi —-

—- Iwobi —- Iheanacho —- Moses —-


Star player: Alex Iwobi – It was close, but Iwobi gets the nod over Chelsea’s Victor Moses. The Arsenal attacker is Jay-Jay Okocha’s nephew, and his two goals against Argentina last year served notice that he’s capable of shining on the international stage.


Manager: Gernot Rohr – The 64-year-old German has been around the block, doing club stints with Bordeaux, Nantes, Nice, and Young Boys as well as international duty with Gabon, Niger, and Burkina Faso.


Secret weapon: Wilfred Ndidi —  Just like in the Premier League with Leicester City, Ndidi may not stand out from the XI but he’s a disruptive force. At 20 years old, he’s got a chance to start a journey as an African legend of the World Cup.


Prediction: Man (or woman), is this a tough one. Argentina is one of the tournament favorites, and both Croatia and Nigeria could be considered the top dark horse of the field (lest we forget group mate Iceland’s EURO run). A lot rides on match No. 1 against Croatia, and we think Nigeria just comes up short in a bid to finish second.

Which Premier League players will be at World Cup?

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There are 107 players from the Premier League who are going to the 2018 World Cup.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news

Manchester City have more players going to the tournament (16) than any other club in the world, while the English national team are the only country in the entire competition to have 100 percent of their players from their domestic league.

Belgium have an incredible 11 of their 23-man squad who play in the Premier League, while Senegal and Brazil have six players each from the PL and Argentina, Denmark and France boast five players each in their final rosters.

Below is a breakdown of the PL players heading to Russia this summer, with players from recently relegated teams in 2017/18 and teams coming up to the PL in 2018/19 included.

Here’s a country-by-country breakdown.


Argentina
Manuel Lanzini (West Ham United)
Marcos Rojo (Manchester United)
Nicolas Otamendi (Manchester City)
Sergio Aguero (Manchester City)
Willy Caballero (Chelsea)


Australia
Mat Ryan (Brighton & Hove Albion)
Aaron Mooy (Huddersfield Town)


Belgium
Thibaut Courtois (Chelsea)
Simon Mignolet (Liverpool)
Vincent Kompany (Manchester City)
Jan Vertonghen (Tottenham Hotspur)
Toby Alderweireld (Tottenham Hotspur)
Mousa Dembele (Tottenham Hotspur)
Eden Hazard (Chelsea)
Marouane Fellaini (Manchester United)
Kevin De Bruyne (Manchester City)
Romelu Lukaku (Manchester United)
Nacer Chadli (West Bromwich Albion)


Brazil
Gabriel Jesus (Manchester City)
Danilo (Manchester City)
Fernandinho (Manchester City)
Willian (Chelsea)
Roberto Firmino (Liverpool)
Ederson (Manchester City)


Colombia
David Opsina (Arsenal)
Jose Izquierdo (Brighton & Hove Albion)
Davinson Sanchez (Tottenham Hotspur)


Croatia
Dejan Lovren (Liverpool)


Denmark
Kasper Schmeichel (Leicester City)
Andreas Christensen (Chelsea)
Christian Eriksen (Tottenham Hotspur)
Mathias Jorgensen (Huddersfield Town)
Jonas Lossl (Huddersfield Town)


England
Jack Butland (Stoke City)
Jordan Pickford (Everton)
Nick Pope (Burnley)
Trent Alexander-Arnold (Liverpool)
Kieran Trippier (Tottenham Hotspur)
Kyle Walker (Manchester City)
Gary Cahill (Chelsea)
Phil Jones (Manchester United)
John Stones (Manchester City)
Harry Maguire (Leicester City)
Danny Rose (Tottenham Hotspur)
Ashley Young (Manchester United)
Eric Dier (Tottenham Hotspur)
Fabian Delph (Manchester City)
Ruben Loftus-Cheek (Chelsea, on loan at Crystal Palace)
Jordan Henderson (Liverpool)
Jesse Lingard (Manchester United)
Dele Alli (Tottenham Hotspur)
Raheem Sterling (Manchester City)
Harry Kane (Tottenham Hotspur)
Marcus Rashford (Manchester United)
Danny Welbeck (Arsenal)
Jamie Vardy (Leicester City)


Egypt
Mohamed Salah (Liverpool)
Mohamed Elneny (Arsenal)


France
Hugo Lloris (Tottenham Hotspur)
Paul Pogba (Manchester United)
Olivier Giroud (Chelsea)
N'Golo Kante (Chelsea)
Benjamin Mendy (Manchester City)


Germany
Mesut Ozil (Arsenal)
Antonio Rudiger (Chelsea)
Ilkay Gundogan (Manchester City)


Iceland
Gylfi Sigurdsson (Everton)
Johann Berg Gudmundsson (Burnley)


Japan
Maya Yoshida (Southampton)
Shinji Kagawa (Leicester City)


Korea Republic
Son Heung-min (Tottenham Hotspur)
Ki Sung-Yueng (Swansea City)


Mexico
Javier Hernandez (Mexico)


Morocco
Roman Saiss (Wolverhampton Wanderers)


Nigeria
Wifried Ndidi (Leicester City)
Kelechi Iheanacho (Leicester City)
Victor Moses (Chelsea)
Alex Iwobi (Arsenal)


Peru
Andre Carrillo (Watford)


Poland
Jan Bednarek (Southampton)
Grzegorz Krychowiak (West Brom, on loan from PSG)
Lukasz Fabianski (Swansea City)


Portugal
Bernardo Silva (Manchester City)
Joao Mario (West Ham United, on loan from Inter Milan)
Cedric Soares (Southampton)
Adrien Silva (Leicester City)


Serbia
Luka Milivojevic (Crystal Palace)
Nemanja Matic (Manchester United)
Dusan Tadic (Southampton)
Aleksandar Mitrovic (Newcastle United, on loan at Fulham)


Senegal
Sadio Mane (Liverpool)
Idrissa Gueye (Everton)
Cheikhou Kouyate (West Ham United)
Mame Biram Diouf (Stoke City)
Alfred N'Diaye (Wolverhampton Wanderers)
Badou Ndiaye (Stoke City)


Spain
David De Gea (Manchester United)
Cesar Azpilicueta (Chelsea)
Nacho Monreal (Arsenal)
David Silva (Manchester City)


Sweden
Victor Lindelof (Manchester United)
Martin Olsson (Swansea City)
Kristoffer Nordfeldt (Swansea City)


Switzerland
Granit Xhaka (Arsenal)
Xherdan Shaqiri (Stoke City)


Tunisia
Yohan Benalouane (Leicester City)