Saturday’s games just started in the Premier League, so there’s still time for one or two U.S. internationals to have an impact on the day’s festivities. But with three big names failing to make their team’s starting XIs, it stands to be a quiet Saturday for England’s Americans Abroad.
Let’s go from least to most surprising.
Brek Shea made Stoke City’s 18. That’s good news. The 22-year-old had a foot problem this offseason. And in the grand scheme of things, he’s still very raw. That he’s been able to immediately make Stoke’s match day 18s is a big accomplishment.
With first choice left winger Matthew Etherington out, there was hope he’d make his first start today, but the former FC Dallas star was on the bench as West Ham visited the Britannia. To me, that’s still great progress.
More concerning is the absence of Geoff Cameron, a regular throughout the season for Tony Pulis.Young Ryan Shotton got the call at right back while Steve N’Zonzi and Glenn Whelan got the call in midfield. For the first time this season, we’re given reason to wonder if the U.S.’s first choice center half is part of Pulis’s ideal XI.
That could be very bad new for the U.S. It was already a problem that Cameron was seeing zero time at center back, his playing time at right back and in midfield keeping him from getting the valuable experience he needs to avoid mistakes like the one that contributed to the game-losing goal in Honduras. If Cameron’s not playing at all, a precarious center half situation for Jurgen Klinsmann gets even worse.
But let’s not draw too many conclusions from one game. Just put this on your watch list and hope things improve ahead of this month’s qualifiers.
And finally (and sadly), Tim Howard isn’t in the team for Everton. Two short of Everton’s record for consecutive appearances, Howard was left out of the team with what manager David Moyes described as a “knock” midweek.
The 34-year-old’s consecutive games streak ends at 210, two short of the club record held by legendary keeper Neville Southall.
- United 6 points outside the top four
- Sunderland winless in four
- MUFC has one loss in 27 vs. SAFC (W20, D6, L1)
Manchester United’s uphill battle for a top-four finish continues on Saturday when the Red Devils travel to the Stadium of Light to face Sunderland (Watch live, 7:45 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via Live Extra).
United won this fixture in September 3-0 behind goals from Memphis, Wayne Rooney, and Juan Mata.
[ WATCH LIVE: Stream every PL game via Live Extra ]
Sunderland sit 19th on the table four points from safety as the time has come for Sam Allardyce‘s side to start getting results. Without a win in their last four matches, the Black Cats must turn things around if they want to stay up in the Premier League. Jermain Defoe scored last time out in a draw at Liverpool, and he’ll once again be tasked with finding the back of the net if Sunderland are to win.
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For Manchester United, the pressure is still on Louis Van Gaal as rumors and reports circle linking Jose Mourinho to the job. Fifth on the table and six points behind Manchester City, a top-four finish is slipping away from United if they don’t rattle off a few wins. A late goal at Chelsea last weekend cost the Red Devils all three points, but they’ll look at this matchup against Sunderland as a good opportunity to get a positive result.
What they’re saying
Sunderland boss Sam Allardyce: “Providing chances for Jermain Defoe is critical for us. But our first major problem is that we haven’t kept a clean sheet in nine matches. We need to start putting a zero against us in games and if we start doing that we’ll win more matches. If we win more matches, we’ll get out of trouble.”
United manager Louis van Gaal: “We had lost four matches in a row in December and you see us now. You can only say that we are mentally very strong and that we can cope with the pressure. That is not enough as we have to improve our results and consistency to win a lot of matches in a row. We have to minimize the gap to our competitors.”
Sunderland need all the points they can get to try and stay up, but United always seem to cause the Black Cats problems. Jermain Defoe is kept off the board as Louis van Gaal takes the win. Sunderland 0-2 Manchester United.
Chelsea striker Diego Costa broke his nose in training after a clash of heads, but should be fit to play in Saturday’s match against Newcastle (Watch live, 12:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN and online via Live Extra).
Costa has six goals in his past seven Premier League games as Chelsea are unbeaten in their last 11 in all competitions.
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Manager Guus Hiddink spoke about the injury in his press conference on Friday, saying Costa collided with an Academy player in training. Hiddink said he believes Costa will be ready to play this weekend for his “Zorro team” as Costa joins Gary Cahill, Nemanja Matic, and Cesar Azpilicueta as Chelsea players to wear a mask this season.
It was not a tough duel but he put his nose on the back of the head of one of the youngsters from the Academy that we like to participate in our training games. He was very unlucky.
They are putting a mask on Diego as well, we are the team with a lot of masks, a Zorro team, and he will come back do some light training this afternoon as he must experience how he is dealing with the form and the fitting of the mask.
Costa scored a stoppage-time equalizer against Manchester United last weekend as Chelsea continue to get results under Guus Hiddink. The Blues are up to 13th on the table, just three points outside the top half.
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Chelsea will look to extend their unbeaten run to 12 matches on Saturday against a Newcastle side that is just one point above the drop and in need of a result.
Lionel Messi has won every individual award imaginable, but now he can add another trophy to his shelf.
For the first time in his career, Messi was named La Liga’s Player of the Month for January.
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It’s hard to believe, but somehow the Barcelona superstar had never won this honor before. Despite winning a record five Ballon D’or trophies as the best player in the world, this trophy had eluded Messi since its inception in 2013.
Messi scored six goals in six January matches as Barcelona sit atop the La Liga table, currently holding a three-point lead over Atletico Madrid.
Despite their dominance in La Liga, this is only the second time a Barcelona player has won this monthly award, as Neymar took home the honor in November of 2015.
The United States women’s national team looks to keep rolling through CONCACAF Olympic Qualifying with a match with Mexico on Saturday.
Toyota Stadium in Frisco, Texas, is again the scene after the Yanks battered Costa Rica 5-0 on Wednesday.
[ MUST WATCH: Christen Press’ dazzling first touch, spin, goal ]
A win over Mexico would move the USWNT into the all-important semifinal, where a win would gain them entry into this Summer’s Olympic Games.
Mexico staged a blowout of its own on Wednesday, cruising past Puerto Rico 6-0 thanks in large part to a hat trick from Maribel Dominguez.
[ VIDEO: Alex Morgan caps off a 12-second, six-pass goal ]
Mexico has only beaten the USWNT twice in history, and only the 2010 Gold Cup semifinal is considered official.
In recent history, the USWNT beat up Mexico 5-1 last year, and thrice in 2014 by a combined score of 15-0. Expect very little to change with an energized, impressive U.S. side on Saturday.
[ SATURDAY: Watch USWNT vs Mexico live online on NBC Sports Live Extra ]