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Jurgen Klinsmann talks U.S. roster, Clint Dempsey’s fitness and Carlos Bocanegra omission

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Why didn’t Jurgen Klinsmann include captain Carlos Bocanegra for the upcoming pair of World Cup qualifiers? There’s no mystery here, the U.S. manager said.

The veteran U.S. defender isn’t playing for Racing de Santander. Lacking the form and rhythm of regular matches (at a Spanish second division club, no less), Bocanegra could not be expected to perform at a high level internationally.

“With Carlos I had several very good conversations,” Klinsmann said. “The reason he is not here is simply he is not playing.”

The coach did insist during a Monday afternoon teleconference, where he talked about the 23-man roster announced Monday, that Bocanegra’s national team career is not necessarily finished at 110 caps.

“Carlos is still in the picture,” Klinsmann said of the U.S. defender who turns 34 in May. “This is not the end of his international career.”

He talked about the unfortunate situation with Rangers – the financially troubled Scottish giant was forced to dump or, as with Bocanegra, loan out players late last summer – and of the former U.S. captain’s need to get into a more favorable club situation this summer.

(MORE: U.S. lineup announced for qualifiers ahead)

Other highlights of Klinsmann’s national news conference, held in Denver, site of Friday’s qualifier clash with Costa Rica:

  • Twice in the 30-minute call the U.S. coach called Friday’s match a “must-win.” Not that we needed Klinsmann to tell us that … but he did, anyway.
  • Klinsmann talked briefly, although not in much depth, about “other options” out of midfield as options to play fullback. We know DaMarcus Beasley is one of them because he has played there before in World Cup qualifiers (during the 2010 cycle). In fact, he spoke highly of the Puebla man. “He can solve different things, in different positions if needed,” Klinsmann said. “His personality is always as a giving person to the group, to our team. So we have always followed him over last 18 months … therefore, we are happy to have him back in the group.”

(MORE: Looking at the perilously thin, young U.S. back line)

  • Klinsmann said he is not worried about Michael Bradley’s diminishing playing time of late at Serie A club AS Roma. Klinsmann speaks regularly to all players about their club situation, and Bradley is no different. The U.S. manager does not appear concerned. “I’m just curious to hear his side of it. But Michael is the kind of player, maybe if he is on the bench for one game or two, he finds his way back on the field again quickly. And we are confident he is doing that as well.”
  • (I see zero possibility that Bradley will not be on the field Friday against Costa Rica. And probably once again Tuesday against Mexico.)
  • Klinsmann said he has already decided on a captain, but isn’t revealing it just yet. As Bocanegra, Tim Howard and Landon Donovan are all out, there appears to be two logical choices: Clint Dempsey or Bradley.
  • Can Dempsey, with limited playing and training time recently due to injury, go a full match in high altitude venues? No worries, Klinsmann says: “We are confident he can go the distance in both games.”
  • He said Tony Beltran and Justin Morrow are starting candidates based on performance in the U.S. January camp. The trouble is, Beltran probably isn’t a starting candidate based on his sluggish performance in the match against Canada to punctuate that January camp. (Beltran was carrying a bit of an injury, so that deserves mention.) Morrow looked OK in the match down in Houston, a scoreless draw.
  • About the Honduras loss to open final stage CONCACAF qualifying, Klinsmann is clearly ready to move on – even if others don’t necessarily feel the same. “There’s no need for us to discuss [the Honduras] loss anymore.”

Report: Milan says Nocerino sale to Orlando City to be formalized Monday

REGGIO NELL'EMILIA, ITALY - AUGUST 12:  Antonio Nocerino of Milan celebrates after scoring the goal 4-3 during the TIM pre-season tournament match between AC Milan and US Sassuolo Calcio at Mapei Stadium - Città del Tricolore on August 12, 2015 in Reggio nell'Emilia, Italy.  (Photo by Giuseppe Bellini/Getty Images)
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Football Italia says the sale of Antonio Nocerino to Orlando City will be completed on Monday

The 30-year-old was first whispered as a target for DC United before Orlando emerged as a destination, a move that caused some consternation due to Major League Soccer’s controversial Discovery Process.

[ SERIE A: Juventus wins 15th-straight to replace Napoli at No. 1 ]

Capped 15 times between 2007-2012, Nocerino has spent his entire career in Italy with the exception of a loan to West Ham United in 2014.

From Football Italia:

“Tomorrow we will terminate our rapport with Nocerino, who will go to play in Orlando,” Galliani told Mediaset Premium. “With that move, our transfer activity will be finished for this session.”

“Football has changed so much, until a few years ago nobody went to China or the United States. The sport is becoming more globalised.”

The reunion with Kaka obviously helps strengthen Orlando City’s midfield, and the Lions will be daydreaming of the impact Sebastian Giovinco made coming from Serie A to MLS.

Watch Live: Arsenal vs. Leicester City (Lineups, Live Stream)

Arsenal's Alexis Sanchez, center, scores their third goal during their English Premier League soccer match against Leicester City at the King Power Stadium, Leicester, England, Saturday, Sept. 26, 2015. (Paul Harding/PA via AP)     UNITED KINGDOM OUT       -     NO SALES      -      NO ARCHIVES
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Arsenal host Leicester City at the Emirates Stadium on Sunday (Watch live, 7a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via Live Extra) in a huge clash between two title contenders.

First-place Leicester have a five-point lead over third-place Arsenal going into this one and the Foxes have won three on the spin, including a huge win at Man City last weekend.

WATCH LIVE ONLINE VIA LIVE EXTRA

As for the Gunners, they won for the first time in five last week and their offensive stars seem to be purring once again.

In team news Arsenal have Danny Welbeck on the bench after his long spell out through injury, while Leicester is unchanged.

LINEUPS

Arsenal: Cech, Bellerin, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Monreal, Coquelin, Ramsey, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Ozil, Alexis, Giroud. Subs: Ospina, Chambers, Flamini, Elneny, Campbell, Walcott, Welbeck

Leicester City: Schmeichel, Simpson, Morgan, Huth, Fuchs, Mahrez, Kante, Drinkwater, Albrighton, Okazaki, Vardy. Subs:Subs: Schwarzer, King, Gray, Ulloa, Dyer, Wasilewski, Chilwell

La Liga: Ronaldo scores twice, Neville gets 1st win as a manager

Real Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates after scoring a goal during a Spanish La Liga soccer match between Real Madrid and Athtletic Bilbao at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid, Spain, Saturday, Feb. 13, 2016. (AP Photo/Daniel Ochoa de Olza)
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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) Cristiano Ronaldo scored two goals to lead Real Madrid to a 4-2 win over Athletic Bilbao on Saturday, provisionally lifting it into second place in the Spanish league.

Ronaldo opened the scoring in the third minute before Javier Eraso quickly leveled for the Basques in a back-and-forth first half at the Santiago Bernabeu that finished with James Rodriguez and Toni Kroos giving Madrid a 3-1 lead at halftime.

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Madrid defender Raphael Varane, whose error led to Eraso’s goal, was sent off in the 83rd after earning identical bookings for twice thrusting his forearm into Aritz Aduriz’s head while contesting a high ball.

Despite being a man down, Ronaldo found the net again in the 87th to move past Barcelona’s Luis Suarez as the competition’s leading scorer with 21 goals this season.

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Gorka Elustondo headed in Bilbao’s second goal in the 90th.

Madrid’s fourth win in as many home matches under coach Zinedine Zidane – by a combined score of 20-3 – lifted it two points ahead of Atletico Madrid before it visits Getafe on Sunday.

Leader Barcelona is one point ahead of Madrid with two matches to play: against Celta on Sunday and at Sporting Gijon on Wednesday.

Zidane will make his European coaching debut on Wednesday when Madrid visits Roma in the Champions League’s round of 16.

Ronaldo’s goals were his 31st and 32nd in 30 games across all competitions this campaign, a season in which he has been criticized by some for failing to score against important rivals.

“About Cristiano, what can I say?” Zidane said before employing an expletive in Spanish to describe how good he considers the forward’s form.

“We are ready for the match against Roma. We are in shape, playing well, and very pleased with how we played today against a very good rival. We are prepared for Wednesday.”

Also Saturday, Villarreal strengthened its hold on fourth place and the last Champions League spot with a 1-0 win at home over Malaga thanks to striker Roberto Soldado‘s 18th-minute goal.

Ronaldo gave Madrid a brilliant start when he received a pass from Karim Benzema, used a deft dribble to wrong-foot Xabier Etxeita and fired a right-footed strike just under the crossbar.

But Bilbao was undaunted and quickly leveled in the 10th when Eraso pounced on Varane’s poor backpass that goalkeeper Keylor Navas did well to stop from becoming an own goal but left for Eraso to finish off.

Aduriz went close twice to putting the visitors ahead with a header saved by Navas before the striker hit the bar.

Rodriguez turned the flow back in Madrid’s favor with an excellent strike with his left foot from outside the area that curled around outstretched goalkeeper Gorka Iraizoz in the 37th.

Kroos put Madrid in full control heading into the break when he took a pass from Ronaldo in the area and sent a shot that deflected off a defender past Iraizoz in first-half injury time.

“We leave with the feeling that we had a good first half. Maybe we missed a great opportunity today,” said Bilbao manager Ernesto Valverde, impressed by Madrid’s “extraordinary firepower.”

Ronaldo hit the upright before finally getting his second goal from a pass by substitute Lucas Vazquez.

Valencia hosts Espanyol later, while Real Betis visits Deportivo La Coruna.

Juventus win 15th straight to take Serie A lead from Napoli

Juventus' Simone Zaza, second from right, celebrates with is teammates after scoring during a Serie A soccer match between Juventus and Napoli at the Juventus stadium, in Turin, Italy, Saturday, Feb. 13, 2016. (AP Photo/Massimo Pinca)
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(AP) — Substitute Simone Zaza scored two minutes from time and Juventus beat visiting Napoli 1-0 on Saturday to take the Serie A lead from the southern club.

[ MORE: Napoli fans support racially abused Koulibaly ]

Seeking its fifth consecutive title, Juventus moved one point ahead of Napoli with 13 rounds remaining in the Italian league.

Near the end of a match in Turin that had been characterized by few chances for either side, Zaza’s goal came with a long, curving shot that deflected slightly off defender Raul Albiol.

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[ MORE: Chelsea’s next manager? Juve GM tells Allegri to “think twice” ]

It was Juventus’ 15th straight win, moving the Bianconeri within two victories of the Serie A record established by Inter Milan in 2006-07.

Earlier, Daniel Ciofani scored twice as promoted Frosinone beat Empoli 2-1 for its first away win in the top division. Also, Chievo Verona and Sassuolo drew 1-1.