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Christian Benteke – fresh and poised to re-sign with Aston Villa

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According to manager Paul Lambert, Aston Villa fans shouldn’t worry about Christian Benteke burning out. Whether the Belgian striker will sign a new deal with the club remains to be seen although things are looking up the West Midland’s club.

From the moment he arrived at Villa Park last August Benteke has been terrific. Having signed a four year deal from Genk for $10.7m (£7m) the 22 year old has racked up 15 goals in 29 league games and 19 in all competitions. Manager Paul Lambert has repeatedly hailed Benteke’s work ethic, attitude and contribution to a Villa squad that entered the season in desperate need of offensive output. In Benteke, as well as Austrian striker Andreas Weimann who Lambert brought up from Villa’s youth ranks after signing from Rapid Vienna at age 16, Lambert has found lightning in a bottle.

The key is not letting that energy escape – whether through fatigue or transfer. Lambert remains convinced that despite the 44 matches that Benteke has played for club and country, the hulking striker isn’t running out of energy anytime soon. “He played for Genk before our season started, he’s played every game for the national team, and then played for ourselves,” Lambert said. “But he doesn’t look tired at all. The big guy has been terrific.”

Benteke has been so terrific that many pundits projected him the target of a move to a big club that could provide a sizeable pay raise and a bigger stage to perform. Tottenham, Manchester City, Liverpool and Arsenal were all rumored to be interested. Worries concerning such a move subsided on Tuesday when reports emerged the striker will engage in talks this week over a lucrative new contract to keep him at Villa. Benteke told manager Paul Lambert that he wants to stay with the Villains to continue playing regular football thereby providing him with the best chance to stay in Belgium’s squad for the 2014 World Cup.

Villa are believed to be preparing a package that would add an additional year onto Benteke’s contract (currently due to end in 2016) and to raise his salary from £20,000 per week to £40,000 per week. A similar move is believed to be in the works with Weimann after Lambert revealed that he had owner Randy Lerner’s backing to tie down his young strike force.

For Lambert, doing so is his top priority. “I don’t want to go back to square one,” the manager said. “These are only young guys in their early 20s, they still have so much to learn and so much to prove. That is what you want — to work with guys to keep them progressing.”

The Villains, currently 16th in the table and two points from the drop, will look to continue their progression to safety this weekend when they take on Fulham at Villa Park.

On the up, off the pitch: Manchester United’s revenue continues to rise

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Manchester United have announced that revenue levels for the three months leading up to December 31 rose by 26.6 percent.

The Red Devils released the figures on Thursday which show revenue of $192.4 million, with commercial revenue up a massive 42.5 percent but matchday revenue was down 1.6 percent.

[ VIDEO: Ferrell – “I got Mourinho fired”

The overall profit for the quarter was $26.7 million and over that period club debt fell by 6 percent but still stands at an eye-watering $463.6 million. That said, in a recent review of the finances of the top clubs on the planet Deloitte believes United will top the rich-list next season.

Despite Louis Van Gaal‘s future being questioned, United being knocked out of the UEFA Champions League at the group stage in December and being six points off the top four with just 13 games of the current Premier League season to go, the strength of their results off the pitch continue to show just how successful a business they’ve become.

Executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward told investors that: “Our solid results off the pitch help contribute to what remains our number one priority – success on the pitch.”

Woodward has also vowed to continue United’s “strong commitment to investing in our squad, youth academy.”

[ MORE: Report – Mourinho tells friend he will take over at United

Van Gaal, 64, will need a strong finish to the season on the pitch to help United to success and in turn improve those financial figures for next season. Failure to finish in the PL’s top four and qualify for the UCL will substantially impact United’s financial results next season, and the pressure remains on him and his players to claw back the deficit.

With speculation mounting that Jose Mourinho could be appointed as United’s new boss there also seems to be a surplus of cash which Rob Harris from the Associated Press speculates could be used for a new manager…

Morgan, USWNT cruise past Costa Rica 5-0 behind early flurry of goals

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The U.S. Women got off to a flying start in Olympic qualification Group A play by torching Costa Rica 5-0, including goals from Alex Morgan, Carli Lloyd, and Crystal Dunn.

Morgan led the way with a double, including one in the opening 12 seconds – only six passes off the opening kick – that set the record for quickest goal in U.S. Soccer history. Lloyd and Dunn both struck in the opening 15 minutes to make it 3-0 before Costa Rica even had time to blink. Lloyd’s came on a penalty after Dunn was felled for the captain’s 83rd international goal, and then the latter bagged one of her own minutes later on a rebound off a shot by Morgan.

[ VIDEO: Alex Morgan caps off a 12-second, six-pass goal ]

The visitors were able to make it Morgan scored her second after the hour mark to cap the goal tally. Jill Ellis completed her trio of substitutions after the fourth goal and the U.S. saw the game out easily.

The fifth came late on a cross from Tobin Heath that fell to Christen Press in the box. With her back to the goal, the 27-year-old produced a simply stunning first touch, back-heeling the ball down before whipping around the opposite direction to lose her defender and firing home the fifth goal.

With the final whistle, the United States improved their record against Costa Rica to a perfect 13-0. The U.S. will play Mexico next on Saturday before finishing out Group A play against Puerto Rico on Monday, February 15.

VIDEO: Alex Morgan scores goal against Costa Rica in 12 seconds

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The United States got off to a historically roaring start in Olympic qualifying. Taking on Costa Rica in Frisco, Texas to begin Group A play, Alex Morgan opened the scoring in just 12 seconds, taking just six passes to complete the masterpiece.

According to the USWNT twitter account, the goal is the fastest in U.S. Soccer history.

According to CONCACAF, the goal is also the quickest in CONCACAF Olympic qualifying, breaking Abby Wambach’s of 35 seconds in a 14-0 domination of the Dominican Republic in 2012.

[ WATCH LIVE: USWNT vs Costa Rica live online on NBC Sports Live Extra ]

The United States scored three goals in the first 15 minutes against Costa Rica tonight. They will take on Mexico and Puerto Rico across the next five days.

Watch Live: USWNT vs Costa Rica in Olympic qualifying

SAN DIEGO, CA - JANUARY 23:  (L-R) Carli Lloyd #10 of the United States is congratulated by teammate Alex Morgan #13 after a goal against Ireland at Qualcomm Stadium on January 23, 2016 in San Diego, California.  (Photo by Todd Warshaw/Getty Images)
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The United States women are set to begin Group A play in Olympic qualification, taking on 36th ranked Costa Rica at Toyota Stadium in Frisco, Texas at 8:30 a.m. ET.

The game takes place after a 17-day camp at the national training camp in Carson, California.

[ WATCH LIVE: USWNT vs Costa Rica live online on NBC Sports Live Extra ]

Other teams in the group include Mexico and Puerto Rico. The Mexicans dominated Puerto Rico 6-0 in the first game.

LINEUP

United States: Solo; Krieger, Johnston, Sauerbrunn, Klingenberg; Brian, Horan, Dunn, Lloyd, Heath; Morgan.