Fabian Johnson was back in the TSG Hoffenheim lineup yesterday, which is good wonderful news for the U.S. back line situation – one that was suddenly looking a bit sketchy at a pretty bad time.
A knee injury had kept Johnson out of Hoffenheim’s last two matches, a 2-1 loss last week to Eintracht Frankfurt and a scoreless draw with Borussia Monchengladbach as Bundesliga action resumed on Jan. 19 following the winter break.
But he was on the field as previously slumping Hoffenheim turned up with a 2-1 victory at home over Freiburg.
Longtime U.S. right back Steve Cherundolo is out for Hannover at the moment, also with apparent knee trouble.
Johnson (pictured) and Cherundolo are Jurgen Klinsmann’s first-choice back line starters along the outside when healthy, although Timmy Chandler will presumably have something to say about that soon. He will, that is, if he’s around.
Chandler has been quite wishy-wahsy about getting permanently attached to the United States. He says he’s in – but that will be easier to believe when we know for sure the German-American has landed in Miami, where the United States is gathering to prep for this week’s trip into Honduras.
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The situation might have ticked upward had Tony Beltran done a better job of seizing his opportunity last week. The Real Salt Lake man got a start against Canada but hardly distinguished himself. (He wasn’t alone.) Justin Morrow did a little better in his start along the left, although he did not quite rise to “difference-maker” status.
Meanwhile, we all know that the central defense has questions makes of its own to consider.
Add it all up and, yes, Johnson’s ability to get back on the field is quite a positive development for Klinsmann and the U.S. national team.
Napoli fans showed their support for Kalidou Koulibaly on Sunday after the Senegalese center-back was the subject of racial abuse in a match against Lazio last week.
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The Lazio match was temporarily stopped in the second half as Lazio supporters hurled racial insults at Koulibaly.
At Napoli’s match against Carpi on Sunday, fans wore Koulibaly masks and painted signs in his honor to show their support for the 24-year-old defender.
A statement from Napoli’s supporters’ group read: “Everyone in Naples is offended by what happened to our young star. Because of this, we want to show our full support to Koulibaly.”
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Lazio was fined more than $50,000 and will be forced to close certain sections of their stadium for the next two league matches because of the incident.
Benik Afobe and Harry Kane are Premier League foes, but as kids, they were teammates.
Now Afobe is at Bournemouth and Kane at Tottenham, though both strikers played together with the Arsenal U-9 team as children.
[ RECAP: Bournemouth 0-2 Arsenal ]
While Kane left Arsenal at 10 and eventually settled at crosstown rivals Tottenham, Afobe stayed under contract with the club until 2015 despite never making an appearance for the Gunners.
Afobe went on six loan spells before moving to Wolverhampton last season, then joining Bournemouth in January.
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With three goals in his first five Premier League matches for the Cherries, Afobe is no stranger to scoring, as he said he would combine with Harry Kane for 15 goals a game back in the day.
I’ve got pictures of us from Arsenal.
He was so small at the time, a bit of a late developer, but he’s always loved scoring. The scores used to be 17-15 and stuff – we just knew we’d score in every game.
But it’s weird because he used to play in goal sometimes, and wasn’t bad actually. You wouldn’t think it – remember that goal he let in for Tottenham a couple of years ago (against Asteras Tripolis in the Europa League) when he had to play in goal.
I think Mauricio Pochettino and Spurs’ supporters are happy Harry Kane chose to play striker over goalkeeper…
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Kane has proven that he is an elite goalscorer in the Premier League, and Afobe is off to a fine start himself. With both players just 22-years-old, we’ll likely be seeing many more goals to come from the duo.
Gary Neville was appointed manager at Valencia on December 2. He is still yet to win a La Liga match.
After falling 1-0 to Real Betis on Sunday, Neville is now winless in nine league matches at Valencia as pressure grows on the new boss.
[ MORE: La Liga & Serie A roundup ]
Some have called for Neville to step down from his position, as the club has fallen from 8th to 13th and now sit just four points clear of the drop.
However, the former Manchester United legend has said he has been judged too quickly and will work hard to turn things around.
I said before I came that I would be judged in five months. I have been judged in six weeks.
There’s no doubt that at times like this everyone needs to stay together.
Everyone suffers. It’s just not going for us at the moment. I continue to work, I continue to have belief.
Conversations with the owners are between me and the owners. We have to turn it round quickly, I understand that. It is hard to explain the defeat. It will turn.
Not only has Neville struggled in La Liga play, but he has also seen Valencia bounced from the Champions League and saw his side smashed 7-0 by Barcelona in the Copa del Rey semifinal.
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Valencia’s next league match is on Saturday against Espanyol, who sit three points below Valencia and haven’t won a match since December. If Neville fails to win again, there could be some real trouble at the Mestalla.
France’s biggest rivalry has been quite one-sided, as Paris Saint-Germain defeated Marseille 2-1 on Sunday to take their ninth-straight Le Classique.
Marseille’s last win over PSG in Ligue 1 play was in November of 2011.
[ MORE: Juve win 14th straight ]
PSG got off to a dream start in Sunday’s Classique as Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored in the opening two minutes to give the Le Parisiens an early lead. It was Zlatan’s league-leading 21st goal of the season.
On loan from Newcastle, Remy Cabella equalized for Marseille in the 25th minute. Cabella scored on a brilliant individual effort, taking the ball from his own half on a solo run to the PSG box before firing a low shot into the bottom corner.
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However, PSG pushed on and claimed the win thanks to a 71st minute goal from Angel di Maria, who has been impressing in his first season in Paris. With eight goals and ten assists in Ligue 1 play, only Zlatan has been involved in more goals than di Maria.
Through 25 matches, PSG hold a ridiculous 24-point lead at the top of the Ligue 1 table.