Hodgson speaks out after Zaha reveals racial abuse

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Crystal Palace star Wilfried Zaha awoke to vile racist messages on his social media feeds prior to Sunday’s visit to Aston Villa from an account claiming to represent an AVFC fan.

The winger posted them on Twitter and both Palace and Villa — as well as the soccer world at large —  have leapt to the defense of the Ivorian.

“This is an absolute disgrace and should not be happening,” Tweeted Palace along with a RT of Zaha’s shared examples. “We stand with you, Wilf, and anyone else who has to suffer such horrific abuse.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

Villa added a message rejecting the messages and promising both Palace and Zaha that the Midlands club would find the offending party and issue him a lifetime ban.

The commentary from the offending account included Ku Klux Klan and Blackface imagery as well as gross personal attacks.

Palace manager Roy Hodgson commented on the incident during our pregame coverage (above).

“It’s important. It’s being highlighted very much at the moment with the Black Lives Matter. Everyone seems to be making such an effort to eradicate this type of behavior. It’s very sad on the day of a game that player wakes up to this cowardly and despicable abuse but I think it’s right that Wilf made people aware of it. I don’t think this is something you should keep quiet about.

“It’s very good that our club, Aston Villa, and the Premier League are doing everything they can to find out who this despicable individual is and one can only hope that he’ll get identified, called into account, and he will pay for these actions. There is literally no excuse at all. He wants to put off one of our best players but to do it in the way he’s chosen to do it is inexcusable.”

Aston Villa – Crystal Palace stream: How to watch, team news, start time

Aston Villa - Crystal Palace stream
Photo by Sebastian Frej/MB Media/Getty Images
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Aston Villa – Crystal Palace preview: Dean Smith’s Villans need a win over Crystal Palace to keep hope of remaining in the Premier League alive (Watch live at 9:15am ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

Villa has just left a brutal run of fixtures and finds itself seven points back of safety with four matches to play. If that figure remains seven with three to play, well, the math is grim even with West Ham as the last name on that fixture list.

WATCH ASTON VILLA – CRYSTAL PALACE STREAM LIVE ONLINE

Palace’s European hopes have settled into a valley, eight points away from the 42 points and 14th place.

Team news

Both Jack Grealish and Tyrone Mings start for Villa along with John McGinn in the middle and Pepe Reina at the back.

It’ll be the usual suspects for Palace, with possible subs including James McCarthy, Andros Townsend, and Max Meyer.

 

How to watch Aston Villa – Crystal Palace

Kickoff: 9:15 am ET Sunday
TV Channel: NBCSN
Online: Stream via NBCSports.com

Top four, relegation battle: What’s the situation?

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The top four and relegation battle is absolutely bonkers as we head into the final four matchweeks of the 2019-20 Premier League season.

[ MORE: New PL TV schedule ]

So many teams are involved in the Champions League battle, the Europa League push and the relegation scrap.

With four games to go for each team in the Premier League, there are some massive games set up for the final weeks of the season.

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings ]

Let’s take a look at the situation up and down the table.


Top four, Europa League race

Man City pretty much have second place wrapped up but with a decision on their appeal on a two-year ban from UEFA expected imminently, we will soon find out if they will be in the Champions League next season, or if fifth place in the Premier League will become a Champions League spot.

Focusing on third and fourth, Chelsea are in the driving seat but Man United are just two points behind in fifth and Leicester are sandwiched in-between them in fourth. The Foxes have looked disjoined since the restart, and for many months, while Man United are surging and have all the momentum in the top four. If fifth place does become a Champions League spot, Wolves, Sheffield United, Arsenal and Tottenham seem like outside bets to finish above one of Man United, Leicester and Chelsea to finish fifth. At this point, I think Man United will finish third, Chelsea fourth and Leicester fifth. It will all come down to Leicester v. Man United on the final day of the season.

When it comes to the Europa League, if Man City are banned from Europe then eighth place could be a Europa League spot along with sixth and seventh. That is because Man City have already won the League Cup and the four FA Cup semifinalists (Arsenal, Man City, Man United and Chelsea) are likely to qualify for Europe through their league position. Everton and Southampton are unlikely to reach eighth place, but could, and wouldn’t it be something if Burnley could keep their run going? They face Liverpool, Wolves, Norwich and Brighton.

Team GP W D L GF GA GD Home Away PTS
 Liverpool 34 30 2 2 75 26 49 17-0-0 13-2-2 92
 Manchester City 34 22 3 9 86 34 52 13-2-2 9-1-7 69
 Chelsea 34 18 6 10 63 46 17 9-3-5 9-3-5 60
 Leicester City 34 17 8 9 64 32 32 10-4-3 7-4-6 59
 Manchester United 34 16 10 8 59 33 26 10-5-2 6-5-6 58
 Wolves 34 13 13 8 45 37 8 6-7-4 7-6-4 52
 Sheffield United 34 13 12 9 35 33 2 9-3-5 4-9-4 51
 Arsenal 34 12 14 8 50 42 8 8-6-3 4-8-5 50
 Tottenham Hotspur 34 13 10 11 52 44 8 10-3-4 3-7-7 49
 Burnley 34 14 7 13 38 46 -8 8-3-6 6-4-7 49
 Everton 34 12 9 13 41 49 -8 8-6-3 4-3-10 45
 Southampton 34 13 5 16 43 56 -13 5-2-10 8-3-6 44

Relegation battle

So, things are becoming a little clearer at the bottom as the bottom three have yet to win since the restart and both West Ham and Watford have picked up big wins in recent weeks. Brighton are almost safe from relegation after an impressive start to the restart, while Norwich are all but down after five defeats on the trot since the action resumed.

Now it’s all about Bournemouth or Aston Villa and if they can somehow string together two or three wins in their final four games of the season. Both teams have tough remaining schedules with Bournemouth facing Leicester, Man City, Southampton and Everton. Aston Villa face Crystal Palace, Everton, Arsenal and West Ham and Villa will hope they still have a chance of staying up ahead of that last game at West Ham.

 Brighton & Hove Albion 34 8 12 14 36 47 -11 5-6-6 3-6-8 36
 West Ham United 34 8 7 19 40 59 -19 5-3-9 3-4-10 31
 Watford 34 7 10 17 31 53 -22 5-6-6 2-4-11 31

 Bournemouth 34 7 7 20 32 59 -27 4-6-7 3-1-13 28
 Aston Villa 34 7 6 21 36 65 -29 5-3-9 2-3-12 27
 Norwich City 34 5 6 23 26 63 -37 4-3-10 1-3-13 21

Pogba, Fernandes lead Manchester United over Aston Villa

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Bruno Fernandes and Paul Pogba are loving life.

Heck, all of Manchester United is feeling mighty good after the Red Devils won yet another game with ease, this one a 3-0 defeat of Aston Villa at Villa Park on Thursday.

[ MORE: Premier League summer schedule ]

Fernandes had a goal and an assist, joining Mason Greenwood and Pogba on the score sheet in a cruise past the relegation-threatened Villans.

United moves six points ahead of sixth-place Wolves and within a point of fourth-place Leicester City. The two sides meet to finish the Premier League season, and the Red Devils will meet Southampton, Crystal Palace, and West Ham before that.

Villa is four points behind safety and still meets Palace, Everton, Arsenal, and West Ham.

ASTON VILLA – MANCHESTER UNITED FULL MATCH REPLAY


Three things we learned

1. Bruno and Pogba unfair: The are systems that will make Bruno Fernandes and Paul Pogba work a whole lot harder than what’s demanded by Aston Villa, of course, but don’t let that deter you from witnessing the special combination play between the Portuguese midfielder and his World Cup-winning French teammate. Fernandes had a goal and an assist, the latter a training ground routine that Pogba scored with class, and United looks a new team. No team has benefited more from the break than United.

2. He’s got the look: The stories out of the Manchester United training ground have been coming for years and we’re now getting an eyeful of what they’ve been promising about Mason Greenwood. The 18-year-old strikes a ball like it’s his job, or even better like he’s an artisan. Few players on earth possess a way about them that the ball’s path off their foot just looks different. His strike to beat Pepe Reina was absolutely marvelous and we can’t wait to see what he does in the future.

3. Villa through the ugly stretch (hopefully): Dean Smith’s men have tried to escape the drop zone by getting points against a rough stretch of opponents and it has not gone well. Draws against Sheffield United and Newcastle have been joined by losses to Chelsea, Wolves, Liverpool, and now Manchester United. Villa finds itself four points adrift with four opponents to play: Palace, Everton, Arsenal, and West Ham. There are points there. Will Villa take them?

Man of the Match:

Fernandes — The way he won his penalty was unsavory but that doesn’t change his status as the best player on the pitch.

Aston Villa – Manchester United recap

Jack Grealish missed a back-post chance to give the hosts an early lead, as United was a bit uneven over the opening 20 minutes.

VAR helped United to a penalty soon after that, won and converted by Fernandes off Ezri Konsa.

United had a chance to double the lead in the 36th minute when Mason Greenwood got past Douglas Luiz to pump a hard shot saved by Pepe Reina.

Fernandes missed with a bullet header in the 45th minute off a Luke Shaw cross, but United scored just before halftime when Greenwood took an Anthony Martial layoff and blasted a shot past Reina. He has such a sweet stroke.

Pogba made it 3-0 with a tremendous strike in the 58th minute, Fernandes spotting the Frenchman above the arc and Villa giving him ages to address the ball.

Martial smashed the ball off the bottom of the bar at the hour mark, United threatening to put a cartoonish figure on the scoreboard..

Sargent, Werder Bremen avoid Bundesliga relegation (video)

Werder Bremen avoids relegation
Photo by Pool/Ronald Wittek/Pool via Getty Images
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Werder Bremen is staying the Bundesliga on away goals after a 2-2 draw at Heidenheim in the second leg of the promotion/relegation playoff preserved their place in Germany’s top flight.

Bremen’s American forward Josh Sargent had a front-row seat for the decisive goal, getting the last touch before Norman Theuerkauf put it in his own goal in the third minute.

Heidenheim thickened the drama late when Tim Kleindienst put home the rebound of a shot smashed off the crossbar in the 85th, but a grinder’s effort from veteran Fin Bartels to set up Ludwig Augustinsson in stoppage time put the tie to bed. Heidenheim added a penalty at the death as Kleindienst finished his brace.

[ MORE: Marsch named Coach of the Year ]

Bremen avoids its first relegation in nearly 40 years. Heidenheim finished third in 2.Bundesliga while Bremen was third-bottom of Bundesliga.

Sargent, 20, worked his way into becoming a Bremen regular this season, featuring in its last 17 league matches and both playoff matches. He started Monday, one of 15 starts between the Bundesliga and playoffs. He finished the season with four goals and four assists.

His stats over 88 minutes were good. Sargent had two shots on target, one blocked, completed two of four dribbles, and influenced the own goal (SofaScore). One of his shots saved could’ve easily been a goal but it did not cost Bremen. The industrious Sargent was involved in 24 duels and drew two fouls.

Manager Florian Kohfeldt asked Sargent to run his shorts off and press hard at forward and Bremen was not good at getting service to anyone this season. Sargent will have hardened his game this season and can now claim to be a part of one of the greatest escapes in Bundesliga history.

An editorial note of pure opinion: Keep an eye on Heidenheim’s Niklas Dorsch, a Bayern Munich academy product who drove Heidenheim with influential performances all season. Unsure there’s another year in the second tier for him.