Man of the Match: The knock on Fabian Castillo is that for all his speed, his faulty decision making leaves the ultimate productivity wanting. Not Saturday at FC Dallas Stadium. His brutally accurate shot from 25 yards became the early equalizer. The young Colombian was fouled to set up Jair Benitez’s free kick goal, and then Castillo assisted on the second-half game-winner.
Packaged for take-away
- This is the kind of year Brek Shea is having for Dallas: In the 6th minute, Ruben Luna delivered a nearly perfect ball across goal, one with just a smidge too much zip on it, though. Still, if Shea sticks out his right foot, he’s quickly hugging his teammates over in the corner after supplying that killer, early lead. Instead, he sticks out his left leg (for a ball coming in from the left) and the chance gets away.
- At least twice in the first half, Dallas center backs were forward to hunt for set piece deliveries. Rather than playing balls toward then, Dallas went for something short and then watched as their center backs needed to sprint back. Curious.
- The Rapids’ early goal was more or less something from nothing, but it was typical Brian Mullan, who has been putting in the hard work in MLS for a dozen years now. Julian de Guzman’s failure to match Mullan’s aggressiveness near the end line meant that the Rapids’ midfielder got on the ground and around the passive challenge to put a dangerous ball near goal. Jamie Castrillon made it count.
- Mullan apparently wasn’t doing enough of that stuff. Or enough of something. He was off at halftime, although apparently not injured.
- David Ferreira is a wonderful player, ever so skillful at holding off challenges and retaining possession under duress. On the other hand, since returning from injury, he’s sometimes looking for the foul too often rather than working out of the challenge. He does get kicked and fouled a lot, but still …
- Colorado was doing such an outstanding job with its midfield shape, Joseph Nane and Jeff Larentowicz working in well-synched tandem as holders in the 4-2-3-1. They were constantly up Ferreira’s backside, and the Dallas creator was having trouble getting turned. When he did, young striker Luna was too static to become a target. That’s an element of sophistication Luna must add, because Ferreira will reward clever runs.
- The Rapids got a little too concerned with Ferreira, perhaps, and got stretched late in the first half trying to deal with him along Dallas’ left side. Fabian Castillo exploited the vulnerable space in the middle, running into the space to sneak a ball just inside the post from about 25 yards. You wonder if maybe Matt Pickens should have gotten to the ball, which was a very good shot but maybe not a fantastic one.
- Jair Benitez needed 87MLS matches to score his first goal, but it really was a sweet free kick.
- Kevin Hartman’s double stop in the 34th minute sure helped the home team, but so did Omar Cummings missing an open goal from about 40 yards when Hartman inaccurately adjudged he could get to a ball far, far out of goal.
- Castillo supplied the assist on Dallas’ third goal, but it was the hustle-bustle work of Hernan Pertuz, charging in to win a loose second ball, that made it all happen.
- Yellow cards inside the first 51 minutes to two Rapids defenders and to Nane meant the visitors couldn’t be as physical, which meant Luna had an easier time receiving balls as a target and then laying off for Castillo and Ferreira.
- A game that was progressively more open became even moreso when Castrillon decided it was a good idea to kick out at George John’s face when the FCD defender was on the turf. Referee Armando Villarreal, in just his fifth MLS match, was right to send the Rapids’ midfielder off.
- Dallas clearly hasn’t had much work on seeing out the late leads. Even a man down the Rapids were finding space in Dallas’ end. Larentowicz, a never-quit type, kept finding ways to create a little something here or there. And too many times, Dallas was caught in the final 10 minutes defending with just five. Just five!
With Paul Pogba linked with a possible summer move to Barcelona worth more than $100 million, one legend at Camp Nou believes Pogba may not be the right signing.
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After making more than 700 appearances for Barcelona, Xavi knows the club as well as anyone, and he prefers Pogba’s Juventus teammate Paulo Dybala for a move to the Catalan giants.
Xavi also praised the play of Paris Saint-Germain’s Marco Verratti, saying that while Pogba is a star player, Dybala and Verratti have “Barca DNA.”
There’s two players I really like, both of whom I think have Barca’s DNA. They are Marco Verratti and Paulo Dybala.
They are amazing and, thanks to their quality and style of play, would easily integrate into the [Barca] machine. I see them as future stars at the club.
[Pogba] is a great player. He’ll be a star for France as he is for Juve, but I see him with a different game to ours.
Both Pogba and Dybala are 22-years-old, while Verratti is 23. All three players have been among the elite young talents in the world, with Pogba earning the most praise of the group and always linked with a big-money move to Europe’s top clubs.
[ RELATED: Messi named La Liga Player of the Month for first time in career ]
Dybala is enjoying a breakout season at Juventus, currently with 13 goals and eight assists in Serie A play. In Paris, Verratti is part of a PSG side that hasn’t lost in 25 matches and holds a 24-point lead at the top of the table.
Vincent Kompany is set to make his first appearance for Manchester City since Boxing Day as the defender has returned from injury.
City’s captain and center-back missed more than six weeks with a calf injury before Christmas, and then reaggravated the injury just minutes into his return at the end of December.
[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]
However, Kompany has been back in training and manager Manuel Pellegrini said he is fit to play this weekend when City host Tottenham in a huge top-four matchup.
We’ll see what the starting XI is tomorrow – we’re not just thinking about one player and one game, we’re involved in a lot of competitions. Maybe we have a lot of criticism when we don’t play well but I’m happy with the squad over the whole season.
Every player must play a game when they’re 100%. Vincent has worked for three weeks with no problems. He played 45 minutes in a friendly game against the under-21s and I think he’s ready to play.
Kompany’s presence in the City back-line has been pivotal this season. In the eight Premier League games Kompany has started, City have kept seven clean sheets. In the 18 matches without the big Belgian in the starting lineup, City have kept just five.
[ RELATED: Diego Costa suffers broken nose in Chelsea training ]
With City just a point behind Tottenham, Kompany returns from injury just in time for one of the biggest matches of the season. Tasked with slowing down Harry Kane and Spurs’ high-flying attack, Kompany’s play could prove crucial to the Citizens getting a result.
- CFC unbeaten under Hiddink (W5, D6)
- Newcastle have just 6 away goals all season
- Diego Costa: 6 goals in his last 7 PL matches
Chelsea look to extend their unbeaten streak under Guus Hiddink to 12 matches on Saturday when the Blues host relegation-threatened Newcastle (Watch live, 12:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN and online via Live Extra).
The Blues’ last loss came under Jose Mourinho in December.
[ WATCH LIVE: Stream every PL game via Live Extra ]
Chelsea are up to 13th on the table, currently riding a run of 11 matches unbeaten in all competitions. Guus Hiddink is yet to suffer a loss after taking over for his second stint at Stamford Bridge in December, although draws have kept Chelsea from climbing further up the table. Diego Costa has had the hot-hand with six goals in his last seven appearances, but the Spanish striker will be forced to play with a mask after suffering a broken nose in training.
[ MORE: Hiddink has “no fear” of playing youngsters in Zouma’s absence ]
For Newcastle, the Magpies sit 17th on the table just one point above the drop. Their away form has hurt the club all season, as Steve McClaren‘s men have scored a league-low six goals on the road this year. The Magpies are coming off of a win over West Brom, and supporters will be hoping the club’s new January signings continue to produce. Seydou Doumbia could make his Premier League debut on Saturday, which would be a massive boost to the attack.
What they’re saying
Chelsea manager Guus Hiddink: “The status of being unbeaten sounds good but realistically we would have wished to have more victories, especially at home. And we have an opportunity to do so against Newcastle. They improved their squad with substance, some good signings, and they are more competitive now.”
Newcastle boss Steve McClaren: “In our home games we are starting to get a consistency in our performance and the way we play. We need to start transferring that to our away games and picking up points away from home – we owe it to the fans.”
Newcastle have just two wins in their last 18 league matches away from home, and I don’t see that trend changing this weekend. Chelsea have looked a new team with Guus Hiddink in charge, and they stay unbeaten under the Dutchman. Chelsea 2-1 Newcastle United.
Mauricio Pochettino is getting ready for one of his biggest matches in charge at Tottenham, but he’s not letting the pressure get to him.
The Spurs’ boss talked down the importance of Sunday’s match against Manchester City (Watch live, 11:15 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via Live Extra), and went on to say he is currently having the most enjoyable time of his career.
[ WATCH: Full PL match replays ]
Pochettino has Tottenham sitting second on the table, and they travel to the Etihad this weekend for a clash against fourth-placed Manchester City, who sit one point behind Spurs.
When asked if this weekend’s match could be a decisive result in the title race, Pochettino was unwilling to admit it was anything more than three points in a long campaign. However, when asked about the season as a whole, the Argentinian manager said he was having great fun at White Hart Lane, responding “Is it my most enjoyable time of career? Yes, maybe yes if I’m honest.”
[ MORE: Who are the Premier League title favorites? ]
Pochettino’s work at Tottenham has made him one of the most well-respected managers in the Premier League, with some reports tabbing him as the potential future boss of Manchester United.
Spurs have won six on the spin in all competitions, and will be confident facing a City side they smashed 4-1 earlier this season. With leaders Leicester facing Arsenal on Sunday, Tottenham could see themselves just two points off the pace if results go their way.