With the Premier League title race done and dusted, the fight for relegation will get even more focus than usual from now until the end of the season.
With QPR and Reading virtually relegated, barring a miracle for either side, who will join them in the Championship next season?
The side who currently lie in the relegation zone are Wigan. They are known for their heroic end-of-season form, however, and do have two games in hand on those above them. Although the FA Cup final against Manchester City could act as a distraction, they have a little too much quality to go down.
Aston Villa are just outside the bottom three, and one week they leave you impressed after a great win but then they go and draw with Fulham in a game they had to be winning. They are a very young side lacking in experience, which could work against them when the really vital games arrive in the last two or three games. What they would give to have captain Stilian Petrov fit and bossing the midfield. You feel it could go right up to the final day with Paul Lambert’s side.
Stoke are level on points with Villa, and they are unquestionably the most out of form side in the Premier League. Since Christmas they have got less points than anyone, and coach Tony Pulis is under huge pressure now. Their home form used to win them so many points, but the Britannia Stadium is not the fortress it once was. If they don’t start scoring soon and playing more positively away from home, they will be relegated.
Sunderland and Norwich are the only other two sides in danger if going down. Paolo Di Canio’s arrival at Sunderland has given them a massive boost, and their 3-0 derby win over Newcastle was huge. You feel that they have momentum in their favour and that they will be safe. Norwich have the ability to grind out important wins at home, and there’s just a few too many sides below them for them to get sucked into the bottom three.
At the moment it looks like Aston Villa and Stoke will be the ones battling it out for safety, with Stoke the one’s seriously lacking confidence. If Wigan lose their games in hand, however, they will be favourites to join QPR and Reading, but they just have enough in their ranks to avoid the drop for yet another season.
The United States takes on Canada for the second of two friendlies that test those involved in January camp. With Iceland already dispatched 3-2, Canada is next up, at 10:30 p.m. ET from the StubHub center in California.
Jurgen Klinsmann has chosen his lineup, and it’s not easily discernible.
[ MORE: Full preview United States vs Canada ]
The back line is the biggest head-scratcher, with three central defenders starting, and at least one of them out of position. Jermaine Jones, who performed well in a midfield distribution role against Iceland, has been moved back to the defensive line, partnering with Matt Besler. Steve Birnbaum, also a central defender who had ups and down against Iceland, is back in the lineup. There’s nowhere to fit a third central defender, so he will play out wide. Kellyn Acosta, a natural full-back, rounds out the back four.
In midfield, the personnel lends itself to a flat four, if only because there’s really no other way it can go. Again, a multitude of central defenders are deployed, with Michael Bradley, Lee Nguyen, and Mix Diskerud forming some kind of CM/CM/Winger combination (Nguyen is likely the odd man out wide), with Gyasi Zardes out wide on the other end.
[ MORE: 3 key battles for USMNT vs Canada ]
Jozy Altidore returns up front, this time to partner with Jordan Morris, who makes his first USMNT appearance as a professional player.
Finally, San Jose Earthquakes goalkeeper David Bingham makes his USMNT debut between the sticks.
Jurgen Klopp has made his frustrations with Daniel Sturridge‘s injury history very clear, but he still knows the England international is a crucial part of his squad, and he will be patient, no matter how frustrating it is.
Sturridge has been out since early December, and has made just five appearances all season due to a number of recurring injuries that have sapped him of his consistency for the last two years.
But with the 26-year-old back in training the last two days, the English media has speculated that Sturridge is looking to leave Liverpool, and that the club is trying to rid themselves of him as well. Klopp does not see it that way.
[ RELATED: Daniel Sturridge says he’s “good to go” ]
“I have no feeling that Daniel is thinking like this so stop thinking about it,” Klopp said in his pre-match press conference, speaking ahead of the match Saturday against Sunderland. “I spoke to him but not about this. I didn’t ask: ‘do you want to leave?’ “Why should I? He’s been back in training for two days. I don’t go over and say: ‘Daniel, I hear you want to leave? Is there truth in it?’ I don’t believe that it is like this.”
Klopp called the rumors a “non-story” and believes as soon as Sturridge is out on the field, the rumors will stop. He just has to get out on the field first.
“Since I was here I’ve had a normal relationship with Daniel Sturridge,” Klopp said. “The only problem is I have only had him 10 or 12 times on the training pitch – that is the truth. Now he is back we hope he can stay in team training and everything will be good. If everything is normal from now on then he is in the race.”
The German said that just having returned to training, Sturridge won’t be ready for Saturday’s game, but he could potentially be back to action for the FA Cup match against West Ham on Tuesday.
BERLIN (AP) — The German football federation has opened legal proceedings against Franz Beckenbauer, former members, and FIFA in a bid to limit potential damages arising from the 2006 World Cup corruption affair.
The DFB tells The Associated Press in a statement that it has “taken the necessary measures to prevent a possible limitation of claims” against former head of the German World Cup organizing committee Beckenbauer and his then vice-president Fedor Radmann, former DFB presidents Theo Zwanziger and Wolfgang Niersbach, former DFB general secretary Horst R. Schmidt, the executors of Robert Louis-Dreyfus’ estate, together with FIFA.
Central to the affair is a suspect 6.7 million euro payment made to FIFA by the DFB before the 2006 World Cup was awarded. The money was loaned to the German federation by Dreyfus.
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.