Oussama Assaidi

Report: Liverpool sell to Assaidi to UAE club Al-Ahli

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It seems Liverpool have done some good business to kick off the 2015 winter transfer window.

James Pierce of the Liverpool Echo is reporting the Reds will make a profit on 26-year-old Moroccan winger Oussama Assaidi despite making just 12 appearances for Liverpool since his move from the Eredivisie.

Liverpool paid Dutch side Heerenveen around $4.7 million for Assaidi in August 2012, and according to Pierce, he will now move to the United Arab Emirates for around $7.1 million as Dubai club Al-Ahli came calling.

Assaidi spent healthy time last season on loan at Stoke City, which came to a height when he scored a last-minute winner against Chelsea that went a long way towards killing off the Blues in their Premier League title chase. He became somewhat of a fixture for Stoke until a knee injury stunted his season down the stretch.

Unfortunately, he was never really able to break into the Liverpool side, and went back to Stoke this year, but even at the Britannia he’s now struggling to make the starting lineup.

Pierce says the transfer should go through “in the next 48 hours.”

Before coming to the Premier League, Assaidi spent his entire early career in the Eredivisie and lower divisions in the Netherlands. His family moved to Amsterdam from Morocco when he was just a child.

Championship Sunday focus: Stoke City

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Story so far… Change is in the air at the Britannia, and the fans are loving it. This season brings not only the club’s highest point total ever in the Premier League, but the most home points Stoke have racked up in the top division and, almost certainly, their highest ever finish.

Stoke began the season under new leadership, with Tony Pulis departing at the end of last season. At first it seemed a case of “meet the new boss, same as the old boss.” Prior to January, Stoke scored 18 goals in 19 games, playing out nine matches in which the squad didn’t manage to score.

MORE: Head here for all things Championship Sunday

Since the start of 2014, Stoke have managed 25 goals in 18 matches, failing to score in just five of those games, bringing their total to 43. For comparison’s sake, in their last five seasons in the Premier League, the Potters have bagged more goals than games played in just one season. They scored just 34 last year, beating out only Queens Park Rangers for lowest number of goals scored. It was dismal. It was dreary.

And it’s in the past. Hughes has had his opportunity to put his mark on the side, and his approach is perhaps best personified by last week’s 4-1 victory over Fulham. Hughes’ 4-2-3-1 was lead by Peter Odemwingie, brought in by the manager this January. Marko Arnautović, signed from Werder Bremen, added to Odemwingie’s opener, with Oussama Assaidi adding the third. All Hughes signings. All signaling the future: A Stoke City side that thrills the fans in its possibilities, while no longer prompting the neutrals to whine about having to watch the Potters.

Who do they play and where can I watch it? Stoke’s final match is at The Hawthorns. Technically West Brom aren’t yet safe, but Norwich would need to score an absurd number of goals against Arsenal to force the Baggies down. Still, this is a Midlands Derby, so don’t expect Stoke to go easy on their hosts.

You’re almost certain to appreciate Stoke’s revamp if you tune in on Sunday. Watch live at 10 a.m. ET on Oxygen or live online via NBC Sports Live Extra.

Form guide: Back in October, before the attack was really clicking, Stoke played out a goalless draw with the Albion. But after last week’s performance, such a result looks unlikely.

March 29 vs. Hull City, W 1-0
April 5 at Chelsea, L 3-0
April 12 vs. Newcastle, W 1-0
April 19 at Cardiff City, D 1-1
April 26 vs. Tottenham Hotspur, L 1-0
May 3 vs. Fulham, W 4-1

What’s at stake? Pride. The Potters are almost certain to end the day in 10th, their highest ever finish in the Premier League. But if Liverpool beat Newcastle and Stoke get all three points against West Brom, that takes them into 9th. Either way, an impressive finish indeed for Hughes’ side.

When the final whistle blows…start dreaming, Stoke fans. Hughes is in a position to keep finding bargain acquisitions that still make the side fun to watch. Bring in Assaidi on a permanent deal, make sure Marko Arnautović sticks around, and by all means, make sure you get a fair price for Asmir Begović. Then go spend it on more attackers. Who knows what might happen next season – Europe, even?

Premier League Roundup: Man City go top, Fulham and Cardiff relegated

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On Saturday in the Premier League we said goodbye to Fulham and Cardiff City as both were relegated after their defeats.

At the other end of the table, Manchester City took a huge step towards the PL title as they ground out a 3-2 win over Everton, knowing if they win their last two home games of the season against Aston Villa and West Ham then they will win their second title in three seasons.

MORE: Latest Premier League standings

Elsewhere Sunderland bagged a massive 1-0 victory away at Manchester United, Villa beat Hull 3-1, West Ham beat London rivals Tottenham to secure their PL status and Southampton scored late to beat Swansea on the road.

In case you missed anything, below we have recaps, analysis and videos of all seven PL games from a pivotal Saturday. Enjoy.

Aston Villa 3-1 Hull City

Villa went ahead inside a minute thanks to Ashley Westwood’s goal but an own goal from Jordan Bowery made it 1-1. Then Andreas Weimann popped up twice before the break and made it 3-1 and the Villans cruised to victory. Paul Lambert’s men have staved off relegation once again, while Hull still aren’t mathematically safe.

Everton 2-3 Manchester City

A nervy and edgy encounter at Goodison as City just held on for a crucial win. Ross Barkley’s stunner put Everton but then Sergio Aguero equalized and Edin Dzeko headed them ahead before the break. After the interval Dzeko struck again as City looked to be cruising but Everton, despite a strange atmosphere from the home crowd as they knew a win would help crosstown rivals win the league, pulled another back as Romelu Lukaku headed home. That set up a nervous finish but if City beat Aston Villa and West Ham at home in their final two games, they will have won the PL title.

Manchester United 0-1 Sunderland

Sunderland beat Ryan Giggs’ United side at Old Trafford, as Sebastian Larsson’s cool volley after 30 minutes did the damage. United missed Wayne Rooney through injury and struggled to create any top chances, as Giggs’ second game in charge ended in defeat. The Black Cats are three points clear of safety and if Norwich lose on Sunday against Chelsea they will be safe from relegation.

Newcastle United 3-0 Cardiff City

The Magpies fans staged their mass walkout in the 69th minute, but the fans who did stay in the stadium saw Newcastle hammer Cardiff 3-0 and relegate the Bluebirds in the process. Goals from Shola Ameobi, Loic Remy and Steven Taylor stopped the Magpies’ run of six-straight defeats. As for Cardiff, Ole Gunnar Solksjaer’s side head back to the Championship at the first time of asking.

Stoke City 4-1 Fulham

The Potters hammered the final nail in Fulham’s coffin with a resounding win at the Britannia Stadium. Stoke led 1-0 at half time after Peter Odemwingie tapped home, then Marko Arnautovic and Oussama Assaidi scored before Kieran Richardson netted a consolation for the Cottagers. Fulham’s misery was complete later on when Jonathan Walters scored, as Felix Magath saw his team’s 13-year stay in the PL come to an end.

Swansea City 0-1 Southampton

Not a classic at the Liberty Stadium as the Swans and Saints both had nothing but pride to play for. Saints pushed hard throughout but Swansea had some great chances to go ahead however Wilfried Bony was off target. In stoppage time the winner arrived as Ashley Williams’ clearance looped back towards his own goal and Rickie Lambert was on hand to knock home on the line. Saints will finish eight, midtable for Swansea.

West Ham United 2-0 Tottenham Hotspur

The Hammers are safe after a derby win over Spurs at Upton Park. Andy Carroll’s header was put into his own net by Harry Kane just after Tottenham had been reduced to 10-man following Younes Kaboul hauling down Stewart Downing as last man. Speaking of Downing, he scored a free kick before the break to make it 2-0 and Tottenham never recovered.

Stoke City 4-1 Fulham: Fulham are relegated (video)

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Fulham are officially relegated after losing to Stoke City on Saturday. A late goal from Kieran Richardson was not enough to save the side, whose defense looked shaky throughout the match, and whose attack was unable to muster more than two shots on target.

It was the visitors that were fighting for their Premier League lives, yet it was Stoke that very nearly took the lead inside five minutes. A cross from Steven N’Zonzi fell kindly to Oussama Assaidi, but he managed to put his shot both wide and well high.

Fulham did their best to hang on, soaking up any pressure, possibly thinking that a point just might save them from relegation. But Stoke managed to break through in the 38th minute. Stephen Ireland hit the crossbar, but Peter Odemwingie was on hand to mop up the damage. Dan Burn very nearly cleared away Odemwingie’s shot, but fell down instead – possibly a good anecdote to sum up the Fulham season.

Despite an early change from Felix Magath – Ashkhan Dejagah replaced Lewis Holtby in the 34th minute – Fulham just couldn’t muster anything resembling a quality attack. Scott Parker’s shot early in the second half was only their third, and it was the first that required a save from Asmir Begović.

So Stoke’s second came as little surprise. The hosts hit poor, beleaguered Fulham on the break. Almost before the Cottagers knew what was happening, Odemwingie slipped the ball across the face of goal, setting up Marko Arnautović to knock in for Stoke.

Fulham were dead and buried – and they knew it. Sure enough, another Stoke goal came almost too easily for the hosts. Another counterattack saw Arnautović as the provider this time, putting the ball in for Assaidi to tap home.

Up 3-0, Mark Hughes thought it ok to make a couple changes, removing Odemwingie and Assiadi for Jonathan Walters and Matthew Etherington. Shortly after, Fulham managed to score. Darren Bent, getting a rare start, put one in for Kieran Richardson, who dutifully knocked in a low shot. But with the side all but down, there was barely any celebration.

Nor defense, for that matter. Just two minutes later, Walters restored the Stoke lead. Charlie Adam easily slipped a through ball inside the Fulham defense, practically giggling as he did so. It was all too easy for Walters to get on the end of it, easily beating David Stockdale with his low shot.

LINEUPS

Stoke City: Begovic; Pieters, Muniesa, Wilson, Cameron; Arnautovic, Nzonzi, Whelan, Assaidi (Etherington 75); Ireland (Adam 70), Odemwingie (Walters 78)

Goals: Odemwingie 39′; Arnautović 54′; Assaidi 73′; Walters 82′

Fulham: Stockdale; Heitinga, Hangeland, Burn (Mitroglou 58), Riise; Holtby (Dejagah 34), Parker, Sidwell, Diarra (Kasami 73), Richardson; Bent

Goals: Richardson 80′

Watch Live: Stoke City vs. Fulham (Lineups and Discuss)

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Fulham may no longer be sitting dead last in the Premier League, but they still absolutely must win against Stoke City today (Watch live at 10 a.m. ET online via Live Extra).

The match at the Britannia is vital to the Cottagers’ safety: If Fulham lose and both Norwich City and Sunderland win, the end of the weekend will see Fulham relegated. Considering Stoke are already safe, will they be nice enough to throw the visitors a bone?

Probably not. The Potters, currently tenth, are hoping for their highest finish in the league, as well as their highest points total. Mark Hughes has his pride, and he wants the numbers to reinforce the work he’s done growing the side – and moving him away from the dour Pulis-ball previously plaguing the squad.

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Stoke fell 1-0 to Tottenham last week, unable to overcome a goal from Danny Rose after Ryan Shawcross was sent off with a second yellow. Obviously Shawcross is out this week, replaced by Erik Pieters. Hughes also makes another change, dropping Peter Crouch to the bench in favor of using Stephen Ireland and Peter Odemwingie up top, and putting Oussama Assaidi into the midfield.

For Fulham, it’s another shuffle for Felix Magath. After playing a 3-5-1-1 last week, he looks to be using a 4-5-1 this week, with Darren Bent getting a (surprising) start up top as the loan striker. Costly forward Kostas Mitroglou remains on the bench, as does Ashkan Dejagah, who scored Fulham’s opener last week.

LINEUPS

Stoke City: Begovic; Pieters, Muniesa, Wilson, Cameron; Arnautovic, Nzonzi, Whelan, Assaidi; Ireland, Odemwingie

Subs: Sorensen; Palacios, Adam, Walters, Crouch, Etherington, Wilkinson

Fulham: Stockdale; Heitinga, Hangeland, Burn, Riise; Holtby, Parker, Sidwell, Diarra, Richardson; Bent

Subs: Joronen, Kasami, Mitroglou, Dejagah, Woodrow, Riether, Amorebieta