You know things are getting dicey when Roy Hodgson is considering playing Michael Carrick at center-back for England’s World Cup qualifier against San Marino.
Assuming your love for the England Center-Back Circus isn’t as pants lifting as mine, here’s a quick recap of how we got in this spot. Faced with veterans John Terry and Phil Jagielka still recovering from injury, Roy Hodgson named Gary Cahill, Chris Smalling, Rio Ferdinand and Michael Dawson as the four candidates to lead the back line. Three days later, Ferdinand and Dawson had both dropped out and Steven Caulker and Joleon Lescott were brought in to deputize. On Tuesday, Cahill joined the list of fallen soldiers, prompting Hodgson to call Newcastle’s Steven Taylor into the fold.
The rash of dropouts left the England manager with four pure center-backs – Smalling, Caulker, Lescott and Taylor. So why bring Carrick out of the midfield and into the defense? He’s a fantastic insurance policy. Not only has Carrick occasionally featured in that role for Manchester United but the 31 year old is an expert at sitting in and keeping possession.
At this point Hodgson is still only considering putting Carrick in the back four. The manager is likely to keep the United pass-master in his usual midfield role while using Lescott and Smalling to hold down the fort. These two are the most logical options for England, as Caulker, 21, has only one cap in his young career and Taylor, 27 has yet to step on the field for the Three Lions. Lescott, however, will need to be careful as he was booked last fall against Ukraine so a yellow on Friday will see him suspended for the match in Podgorica.
Potentially lost among all the center-back clamor is one massively important final factor to keep in mind:
We’re talking about San Marino.
Heading into the their final UEFA Champions League Group B game, Manchester United hold their destiny in their own hands, but any slip-up could mean it’s Europa League on Thursday nights for Louis Van Gaal‘s men.
[ MORE: Champions League standings ]
The Red Devils would have advanced to the knockout stage with a victory over third-place PSV Eindhoven on Wednesday, but slumped to an ugly 0-0 draw instead.
[ MORE: Three things we learned from Man United 0-0 PSV ]
So, here’s all of the scenarios for the final matchday of the group stage, away to Wolfsburg, in which United would advance to the round of 16 advance:
- A Man United win will see Man United finish top of Group B
- A Man United draw, coupled with a PSV draw or loss (vs. CSKA Moscow), will see Man United finish second in Group B
- A Man United draw, coupled with a PSV victory, will see Man United finish third in Group B
- A Man United loss, coupled with a PSV loss, will see Man United finish second in Group B
- A Man United loss by more than one goal, coupled with a PSV draw, would see Man United finish third in Group B
- A Man United loss, coupled with a PSV win, would see Man United finish third in Group B
[ MORE: Champions League schedule ]
There are your scenarios for Man United as it’s pretty simple to break it down: Win, and they go through. Fail to win, and their fate is completely in the hands of PSV.
The Foxes are top of the Premier League and are led by a surging Jamie Vardy but how long can they keep shocking the world?
With six tough games coming up between now and the start of 2016, Claudio Ranieri‘s men will be pushed to their limit but so far this season they’ve been sensational and Vardy has equaled Manchester United legend Ruud van Nistlerooy’s record of scoring in 10-straight PL games.
[ MORE: Full PST Extra archive ]
Can he make it 11 in a row on Saturday (Watch live, 12:30 p.m. ET on NBC and online via Live Extra) when United visit the King Power Stadium? As for the Red Devils, they sit in second place and are just one point behind the flying Foxes’. Louis Van Gaal‘s men have certainly flown under the radar so far and our churning out wins at an impressive rate.
Jenna Corrado and I discuss that and more in the latest edition of PST Extra. Click play on the video above to see our chat in full.
Rog and Davo revel in another chapter of the Leicester City fairytale, break down Liverpool’s shock dismantling of Manchester City and discuss Arsenal’s slip against West Brom.
Listen to the latest pod by clicking play below.
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Joe Hart was forced to leave Manchester City’s 1-0 defeat to Juventus in UEFA Champions League play on Wednesday due to a hamstring injury, which he seemed to incur while making a spectacular one-on-one kick-save late in the second half.
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Man City manager Manuel Pellegrini confirmed after the game that Hart’s injury is indeed a hamstring issue, and went on to say that he would need further tests once the team arrives back in Manchester to determine the severity and how long, if at all, City and England’s no. 1 would be out of action.
Man City, currently third in the Premier League on 26 points, will host eighth-place Southampton at the Etihad Stadium on Saturday (Watch live at 10 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via Live Extra).