Jurgen Klinsmann says he isn’t playing the young guys just because they are, you know, “young”

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DENVER – Everyone wanted to see Jurgen Klinsmann heading up the national team. For so doggone long.

As U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati wooed the enigmatic German not once, but twice, the deciders as well as the supporters were just so charmed by the progressive and preternaturally positive manager who had guided his home country back in 2006 out of the dark alley into which it had wandered.

Well, this is what Klinsmann always was: positive and optimistic, perhaps to a fault.

We’re about to find out.

Part of the bigger rebuild was likely to include going younger.  That means putting a certain faith in the lesser tested. Faith and optimism walk hand in hand, as we know.

Only, now that things are going something less than swell, the inevitable push-back has arrived. And then the counter-punching, etc.

Among the controversial elements of the less-than-perfect U.S. slog thus far through World Cup qualifying has been the use of younger players over older ones. Mostly, it’s about Omar Gonzalez and Geoff Cameron ushering in the new era along the back line, rather than falling back on Carlos Bocanegra. You could say that Bocanegra would represent the “old guard” choice.

Is Klinsmann right? Or is the optimism and positive energy that guides him leading him down a Brazilian rabbit hole? We’ll see.

U.S. Soccer is paying the man a whole bunch of money to make these tough choices.

Here’s how Klinsmann explained it as the team set up for their first workout in Denver, via U.S. Soccer.

I’m not choosing them because they are young. I am choosing them because they are better in my opinion than maybe somebody else. That being said, giving them the trust, giving them the confidence, and helping them break through, is really just based on their qualities. It’s based on, ‘they deserve it,’ because they are good. They deserve to play right now.

Obviously, when you break them into the international game, World Cup qualifying, which is huge, there is a lot of tension, some are nervous, it’s a normal process. It’s something they will work their way through it, and get used to it, and then a couple of games down the road, they won’t even think about it anymore.

But transition only happen because the players have the qualities.

And here is the video from U.S. Soccer, as reported by Allen Hopkins, a member of the U.S. Soccer staff.

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Premier League Preview: Chelsea vs. Watford

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  • Chelsea are without N'Golo Kante, Victor Moses (both hamstring) and Danny Drinkwater (calf) is still absent.
  • Watford remain without Younes Kaboul and Sebastian Prodl (both thigh), plus long-term absentees Craig Cathcart, Nathaniel Chalobah and Isaac Success (all knee).
  • Watford have not won against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge since 1986, but the Hornets have won 10 points of a possible 12 on the road. 
  • Chelsea have lost three of their first eight matches this season. No team has ever lost this many of their opening eight matches and still won the Premier League title.

Watford heads south for another London derby with Chelsea at Stamford Bridge on Saturday at 7:30 a.m. (Watch live on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

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The Hornets have had an amazing start to the season and currently occupy fourth place on 15 points, two points ahead of fifth-place Chelsea, which has lost two-straight Premier League games. The Blues have struggled without N’Golo Kante and Alvaro Morata and there have been reports of grumbles from the squad about dissatisfaction with Antonio Conte‘s training methods, but the Chelsea coach has brushed those rumors off.

Meanwhile Watford is coming off a confidence-boosting win last weekend against fellow Londoners Arsenal, and the club is looking to take down another big club for a second-straight week.

What they’re saying

Watford manager Marco Silva on his team’s start“I want everybody to be really calm. We did really in the first eight matches but it’s too early. We want to continue to work hard every day. Everything changes fast and you need to keep going and treat the next game as the most important. But of course I feel proud.”

Chelsea manager Antonio Conte on being under pressure: “‘Do I feel the pressure? Every manager feels pressure, but I try to give all of myself into my job, so I’m happy when I go home because I know in every moment I give all of myself for the fans, the players and the club. In football you know anything can happen, but the most important thing is to work.”

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Prediction

Chelsea has its back against the wall but the team’s overall quality should be enough to see them through with all three points against Watford. The Hornets luck runs out in Stamford Bridge as Chelsea hold on for a late win. Chelsea 2-1 Watford

Leicester City record massive earnings from UEFA Champions League

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Leicester City’s UEFA Champions League campaign may have ended without a trophy, but the Premier League side pipped the European champions in the bank account.

UEFA announced on Friday that Leicester City earned $96,167,125 during the Champions League run that ended in the quarterfinals, the farthest of any Premier League club. Real Madrid, the back-to-back champions, earned a slightly less $95,385,679. Much of the difference comes from TV rights deals in England, which pays out more to teams compared to the TV rights deal in Spain.

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Juventus, the Italian giant, earned the most of any club in last year’s Champions League, making a whopping $129,965,357, mostly thanks to the TV rights again.

Mourinho: Ibrahimovic could return in December

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Dare to Zlatan? It could be only a couple of months away.

That’s according to Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho, who said the veteran striker could return from his torn ACL before the end of the calendar year.

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“Zlatan is here, he’s working here and under our control,” Mourinho told reporters. “He’s working as you would expect so, so, so hard. But he’s not to be back in the next week or next couple of weeks. Do I believe he’ll be back in 2017? Yes, I do. But it’s just a feeling.”

The big Swede scored 28 goals for Man United last year in all competitions, proving that he’s still got it at the age of 36, but it’s going to be tough for him to find his old form coming off an ACL injury at such an old age. After suffering the injury last April, it’s been a long road to recovery for Ibrahimovic.

However, with the play of Romelu Lukaku up top, Ibrahimovic would only play from time to time, which could help in his recovery both from the knee injury and just the general recovery between games.

Manchester City quartet called up by Brazil for friendlies

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Brazilian National Team coach Tite has decided on calling up a full-strength squad for November’s upcoming friendly matches in Europe, including four Manchester City players in his 25-man squad.

Gabriel Jesus, Fernandinho, Danilo and Ederson all made the squad as Tite looks to develop more chemistry among his side ahead of the 2018 World Cup, which Brazil breezed into after Tite took over in 2016.

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Luckily for Manchester City and the other European-based players in the squad, Brazil’s friendly matches will be played in Western Europe. The Selecao first faces Japan in Lille, France on November 10 before taking on England at Wembley Stadium on November 14.

The call-ups may be a tough pill for Guardiola to swallow though. As of Friday, Manchester City has 17 games remaining in the calendar year, and surely he would prefer for some of his starters to get a two-week break in November to preserve some energy instead of play in friendly matches.