Swansea City v Tottenham Hotspur - Premier League

Premier League Wrap-Up (Matchweek 31)

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Matchweek 31 delivered on the excitement it promised as Spurs moved into 3rd place with a win over Swansea (and Chelsea’s loss), Arsenal once again proved its desire for Champions League football and Wigan secured a vital three points that (for now) moves the Latics out of the relegation zone.

SUNDERLAND 0 MANCHESTER UNITED 1 (Stadium of Light)

An enemic offensive display from Sunderland dropped them to within one point of the relegation zone as Manchester United triumphed 1-0 at the Stadium of Light. The goal came via a Titus Bramble own goal from a Robin van Persie strike in the 27th minute and was all Sir Alex Ferguson’s squad would need to preserve its 15 point advantage over 2nd placed Manchester City. 

ARSENAL 4 READING 1 (Emirates Stadium)

Gervinho (11′), Santi Cazorla (48′), Olivier Giroud (67′) and Mikel Arteta (77′) were all on target as the Gunners showed real quality to defeat a desperate Reading side 4-1. The Royals cut Arsenal’s lead to 3-1 through Hal Robson-Kanu’s 68th minute header but it wasn’t enough to spur a comeback in Nigel Adkins’ first match as manager.

MANCHESTER CITY 4 NEWCASTLE UNITED 0 (Etihad Stadium)

After a sound 2-0 defeat at the hands of Everton, Roberto Mancini’s men found their feet on Saturday with a clinical display against Newcastle. City received goals from Carlos Tevez (41′) David Silva (45′), Vincent Kompany (’56) while a 69th minute own goal by James Perch sealed the Magpies fate. With the win City holds a five point cushion over 3rd place Spurs while the loss drops Newcastle to 15th in the table, merely three points above the drop.

SOUTHAMPTON 2 CHELSEA 1 (St. Mary’s Stadium)

Another huge scalping for Mauricio Pochettino as goals by Jay Rodriguez (23′) and Rickie Lambert (35′) buried Chelsea 2-1. Since the Argentinian manager’s arrival on the south coast in late January he’s secured victories over Manchester City, Liverpool and now Chelsea, confirming that Southampton is a squad to be reckoned with.

SWANSEA CITY 1 TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 2 (Liberty Stadium)

Spurs held on for victory at the Liberty Stadium with Jan Vertonghen (7′) and Gareth Bale (21′) each producing stunning first-half goals before a Michu header in the 71st minute cut the lead in half. It was a massive three points for Tottenham, who leapfroged Chelsea into 3rd place after the Blues were outclassed by Southampton.

WEST HAM UNITED 3 WEST BROMWICH ALBION 1 (Upton Park)

West Brom’s hopes for an end-of-the-season push to qualify for the Europa League were dashed at Upton Park as a confident West Ham side destroyed the Baggies 3-0. A thunderous header from Andy Carroll opened the scoring in the 16th minute and four minutes later Gary O’Neill doubled the lead with a sweet curler from the top of the box.  Carroll found his brace in the 80th minute and West Brom got one back through a Graham Dorrans’ penalty but it was all West Ham as Sam Allardyce earned a much needed three points.

WIGAN ATHLETIC 1 NORWICH CITY 0 (DW Stadium)

Arouna Kone was the hero for Wigan as his 81st minute strike from the edge of the penalty area being the difference at the DW Stadium. For now the win raises the Latics out of the relegation zone, heaping pressure on Aston Villa to get a result in tomorrow’s clash with Liverpool.

EVERTON 1 STOKE CITY 0 (Goodison Park)

Everton kept its European hopes alive with a 1-0 victory over Stoke City at Goodison Park. The difference came in the 28th minute when Everton goalkeeper Tim Howard punched Marc Wilson’s cross into the path of Kevin Mirallas, who collected the ball and exploded into a pitch-long counter-attack before slotting the ball past Asmir Begovic. The fantastic individual effort was the crown jewel of an otherwise drab contest and was enough to secure the Toffees stayed in 6th place, two points behind 5th place Arsenal and four points behind 4th place Chelsea.

ASTON VILLA 1 LIVERPOOL 2 (Villa Park)

Thirty minutes in and a Christian Benteke goal gave Aston Villa hope of distancing themselves from the relegation zone but it was all-for-naught as Liverpool scored twice in the 2nd half to stay within three points of 6th place Everton. Jordan Henderson leveled in the 47th minute courtesy of Philippe Coutinho’s brilliant through-ball and thirteen minutes later Steven Gerrard converted a Luis Suarez penalty to secure the Reds’ victory.

Brazilian midfielder Fred has doping ban extended to club, out until June

VIENNA, AUSTRIA - AUGUST 19:  Fred of Donetsk goes for a header during the UEFA Champions League: Qualifying Round Play Off First Leg match between SK Rapid Vienna and FC Shakhtar Donetsk on August 19, 2015 in Vienna, Austria.  (Photo by Christian Hofer/Getty Images)
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Shakhtar Donetsk striker Fred, a regular for the Brazilian national team, has seen his CONMEBOL doping ban extended worldwide to all competitions.

A FIFA disciplinary committee announced that Fred’s suspension now covers “all types of matches, including domestic, international, friendly and official fixtures.”

The 22-year-old tested positive for the diuretic hydrochlorothiazide during last summer’s Copa America, and has not played for the Brazilian national team since, having been banned for a year by CONMEBOL. He had been playing for his Ukranian club while FIFA was reviewing the case, making 12 appearances in league play and scoring two goals. He also played six times in the Champions League without scoring a goal.

The one-year ban is back-dated to Fred’s last international squad appearance, when he was on the bench for the Copa America quarterfinals on June 27 of last summer. That date will allow Fred to be eligible for the Rio Olympics, which start August 5.

Men In Blazers podcast: Irvine Welsh Pod Special

Men In Blazers - Sept. 22
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Rog talks with “Trainspotting” author Irvine Welsh about his new novel “A Decent Ride,” unconventional career arc, and love for West Ham United/Hibernian.

Listen to the latest pod by clicking play below.

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LA Galaxy newcomer Ashley Cole takes responsibility for previous MLS quote

CARSON, CA - FEBRUARY 5: Ashley Cole #3 of the Los Angeles Galaxy speaks after he was introduced during a news conference at StubHub Center February 5, 2016, in Carson, California. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Wireimage)
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During Ashley Cole‘s introductory press conference today, where the former Chelsea legend was officially unveiled by the LA Galaxy to the media alongside Belgian defender Jelle Van Damme, a predictable question came his way.

Cole was asked about comments he made a year and a half ago when he joined AS Roma, where he said he turned down offers from Major League Soccer because he didn’t want to go “relax on the beach.”

The 35-year-old took responsibility for the quote, saying, “Of course, I hold my hands up, it was said.” However, he defended himself saying he was baited into the comments by the Italian reporter.

“I’m not going to come here and try to defend myself,” Cole said. “It was said, but it was for sure taken out of content. I was talking to the reporter, and he kind of said it to me, ‘We’re glad to have you at Roma. We didn’t expect you to be here, we thought you would go and relax on the beach.'”

“Of course you have to understand, I was at a new team, I have to tell the fans at Roma I was here to fight, I was there to win things and play in the Champions League.”

Cole said he spoke to Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard, and Robbie Keane about the league before deciding to join Major League Soccer. “I know it’s going to be hard for me for sure, but I’m happy to be here, I’m going to work as hard as I can, change a few views on me being here, and we’ll see. I’m a winner, I always want to win, I didn’t come here to sit on the beach – to rest – I’m here to play football and work hard. I’m not a diva, I’m not this egotistical guy that comes and thinks he’s bigger than anyone.”

3 key battles for USMNT against Canada

CARSON, CA - JANUARY 31:  Jozy Altidore #17 of the United States chases down a pass against Iceland during the first half at StubHub Center on January 31, 2016 in Carson, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
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The United States takes on Canada in the second of two matches throughout January camp to test those brought in and see who stands out.

They took out Iceland in the first match, and now the Canadians stand in the way at the Stubhub Center in Carson, CA at 10:30 on Friday night.

[ PREVIEW: Get the full look at US vs Canada ]

Head coach Jurgen Klinsmann no doubt has already run through is list of positives and negatives in the win over Iceland. While the win is nice, the overriding purpose here is to both evaluate certain players and determine the best formula for success moving forward into World Cup qualifying, the Copa America, and the Olympics.

So, with that in mind, here are three key matchups to keep an eye on as the USMNT players battle both Canada and each other for spots on the roster in future meaningful games.

1) United States attack vs Canada’s organization

The US was solid in possession against Iceland, but it came against an opponent that showed a more attacking intent and also appeared to have limited motivation. Canada would not be what you call a “defensive” team, but they are very organized under Benito Floro, and it shows. They’ve conceded 1 or 0 goals in each of their last 13 matches, losing just once across that time. Their goalscoring numbers have suffered, but it’s translated into marginal success.

To hold the ball against Iceland, the US used a slow build-up process beginning with Jermaine Jones (who stayed surprisingly composed and centralized during his time on the field) who fed Michael Bradley and Lee Nguyen further up the pitch. That tactic may not be as effective against a less erratic opponent, but it will be interesting to see how Klinsmann decides to break down the Canadian defensive unit. The wide areas may be vital.

The 0-0 scoreline has been a fixture in this matchup, finishing goalless the last two times and in four of the last eight, so the US will no doubt be looking to break that deadlock early lest they get frustrated as time progresses.

2) USMNT full-backs vs wide play

Michael Orozco and Brad Evans were sent back to their clubs, leaving the United States incredibly thin at a position the nation has already been weak at for years. Jurgen Klinsmann has been searching far and wide for an answer to this question, and with young Kellyn Acosta slightly out of his depth or potentially star-struck in his debut against Iceland, there are a few other question marks.

The options are limited. Acosta could get another shot if Klinsmann likes what he sees in training, or he could move to the likes of Brandon Vincent or Matt Polster. The latter logged 30 matches for Chicago last year as a rookie, while Vincent was just drafted by FC Dallas and has yet to even make a professional appearance. Either way, it’s likely Canada targets the wide areas as a point of weakness for the US, so whoever plays will be in the spotlight.

[ VIDEO: Bobby Wood scores skillful goal for club ]

3) Central defenders vs Akindele and Larin

Whether Floro decides to play Larin centrally by himself, or partner him with Akindele, the striker(s) will be the main target for Canada’s attack. Larin and Akindele both have not seen the scoresheet since a 4-0 win over the Dominican Republic in World Cup qualifying last June, so they will be itching to get back on board. Should one be deployed centrally, look for the lone wolf to split the central defenders and receive service from wide areas where Canada may exploit the aforementioned weaknesses along the outside of the US back line.

How do you see the US matching up against Canada, and visa-versa?