Manchester City v. Chelsea – 4 Youngsters to Watch

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As Manchester City and Chelsea set to commence their second meeting on stateside soil in less than three days, both teams are handing starts to four youngsters looking to make their respective breakthroughs.

For Chelsea, they’ve opted to bring three youngsters into the fold.

Andreas Christensen (pictured) is a 17 year old Danish international who signed with the club in early 2012 after numerous top English clubs, including City, sought his signature. The 6ft tall center-back is expected to a key man to the Blues back four in the coming seasons, and notably signed with the West London club after they agreed to hire his father as an academy goalkeeping coach. Christensen will partner with David Luiz in today’s clash.

Ruben Loftus-Cheek is a 17 year old box-to-box midfielder who has been at Stamford Bridge since the age of 8. The England U-17 international has recovered from nagging hip and groin injuries to make seven appearances in the club’s NextGen Series. Expect him to line up alongside Jon Obi Mikel and to control possession and utilize his range of passing skills to set free Fernando Torres and Demba Ba, who partner each other in today’s Starting XI.

Finally, Nathan Ake is an 18 year old Dutchman who joined the Blues from Feyenoord in the summer of 2011 after being noticed in the Under-17 World Cup. Interim manager Rafa Benitez has shown his affinity for Ake, handing him a debut against Norwich on Boxing Day 2012, starting him against Middlesborough in an FA Cup fifth-round tie in February 2013 and giving him a full 90 against Ruben Kazan in the 3-2 quarter-final second leg defeat. Look for Ake to be deployed as a left-back alongside Christensen, Luiz and Cesar Azpilicueta.

For City, interim manager Brian Kidd has opted for a full strength lineup but for the inclusion of Dedryck Boyata. Since joining City in 2006 from Brussels, Boyata has struggled to find himself at the Eastlands club. He was handed his debut in January 2010 and marshaled the back four to a 1-0 victory over Middlesbrough in the FA Cup.

Over the course of the next year and a half Boyata made 10 appearances for the Citizens  before being sent on loan to Bolton Wanderers in 2011-12 and FC Twente this past season. He struggled to make a dent at both clubs, managing only 14 appearances with the Wanderers and 8 with the Dutch side. Today he’ll state his claim that he deserves a chance to battle Matija Nastasic for a spot alongside captain Vincent Kompany, who he’ll be partnering at center-back in today’s mach.

Today’s match kicks off at 6pm and can be seen on Fox Soccer.

Chelsea Starting XI: Hilario, Luiz, Azpilicueta, Christensen, Ake, Loftus-Cheek, Mikel, Ramires, Oscar, Ba, Torres

City Starting XI: Hart, Kompany, Zabaleta, Kolarov, Nasri, Yaya Toure, Silva, Boyata, Barry, Aguero, Tevez

FIFA seeking sponsors for video replays at World Cup

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LONDON (AP) Video replays will be used at the World Cup for the first time and talks are underway with potential sponsor branding to appear when the technology is used, a FIFA executive said on Monday.

Soccer’s rule-making panel met Monday to assess recent trials ahead of video assistant referees (VAR) being officially approved by FIFA later this season for use in Russia in June and July.

“Definitely VAR will happen,” FIFA chief commercial officer Philippe Le Floc’h told The Associated Press. “It’s great to have technology in football because this is also a fair(ness) thing.”

Referees were assisted for the first time by high-tech aids at a World Cup in 2014 when goal-line technology was used. That system sees a message instantly flash on referees’ watches saying only whether the ball crossed the line.

Video review is used when there is a “clear and obvious error” involving goals, penalty awards, red cards, and mistaken identity.

Replays could lead to delays in games in Russia as different angles are reviewed, presenting an opportunity for FIFA to brand up the segment on the global broadcast feed.

“We are talking to various technological companies who are very interested with what we are doing on the technology side of things,” Floc’h said on board the World Cup trophy tour plane during a stop at London Stansted Airport.

The final decision on allowing replays to become part of the rules of the game falls to the International Football Association Board on March 3 when its annual meeting is held at FIFA.

Video review has been expected at the World Cup because FIFA controls half the votes in IFAB’s decision. The other voters are the four British soccer federations.

Monday’s meeting brought together IFAB technical experts, FIFA refereeing officials, and researchers from the University of Leuven in Belgium, who have studied use of video review in 804 games across more than 20 competitions.

“The discussions we had today do not indicate that further experiments need to be conducted,” said Johannes Holzmueller, FIFA’s lead official for technological innovation.

Watch Live: Swansea City vs. Liverpool

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Swansea City’s bid to slow down steamrolling Liverpool begins at 3 p.m. ET Monday at the Liberty Stadium (Watch live on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

WATCH LIVE, ONLINE, HERE

The rampaging Reds are coming off a 4-3 win that ended Manchester City’s unbeaten Premier League season, and will hope to avoid a let down against desperate Swans.

The Welsh hosts are six points adrift in the race for Premier League safety, and look set for a 5-4-1 with Jordan Ayew the only forward. Wilfried Bony and Oliver McBurnie are on the bench along with attack-minded Luciano Narsingh.

LINEUPS

Swansea City: Fabianski, Naughton, Van der Hoorn, Fernandez, Mawson, Olsson, Ki, Fer, Clucas, Dyer, Ayew. Subs: Nordfeldt, Bartley, Roque Mesa, Carroll, Narsingh, McBurnie, Bony.

Liverpool: Karius, Gomez, Matip, Van Dijk, Robertson, Can, Wijnaldum, Salah, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Mane, Firmino. Subs: Mignolet, Milner, Klavan, Lallana, Ings, Solanke, Alexander-Arnold.

Kevin De Bruyne commits to Man City through 2022-23

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Kevin De Bruyne is one of the best players in the world, and he’s committing his prime to the club which has taken him to the next level.

[ MORE: How will Arsenal, Man Utd line up? ]

Manchester City announced a new deal for the Belgian wizard, keeping him at the Etihad Stadium through 2023.

De Bruyne, 26, has posted 31 goals and 38 assists for Pep Guardiola‘s men since returning to England from the Bundesliga, and appreciates being given a lot more money. From ManCity.com:

“As I’ve said previously, my intention has always been to stay here at City, where I’ve felt at home from day one. Not only are we winning – we are playing great football. It’s a pleasure to be a part of and I’m really excited about what we can achieve in the coming years.”

De Bruyne is in the discussion for a Ballon d’Or finalist spot this year, along with Lionel Messi, Neymar, Gareth Bale, Harry Kane, and others (Hot take: This does seem to be year Ronaldo possibly knocked off, barring a remarkable run in the Champions League or World Cup).

After the swap: Alexis, Mkhi-infused XIs for Man Utd, Arsenal

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The deal is done: Henrikh Mkhitaryan has moved to Arsenal with Alexis Sanchez going the other way in a monumental January move.

[ MORE: Transfer rumor roundup ]

How will it look for each side once the shape’s settled?

Arsenal

When Henrikh Mkhitaryan was at his very best — for Borussia Dortmund in 2014-15 — he was deployed as a left or right wing. He contributed 23 goals and 32 assists in 52 matches during his final season at the Westfalenstadion, and predictably saw those numbers drop as Jose Mourinho consistently moved him toward an attacking center midfield role.

He’ll get the chance to go out wide again at the Emirates Stadium, though perhaps not always to the extreme flanks. Expect Alexandre Lacazette‘s numbers to explode with this move.

Arsene Wenger used a 4-3-3 to batter Crystal Palace 4-1 at the weekend, with Ozil on the right wing and Alex Iwobi on the left. The club still needs better at center defensive mid while Aaron Ramsey is out, so that will likely keep the lineup similar until he returns (at a minimum):

Cech

Bellerin — Mustafi — Koscielny — Montreal

Elneny (Ramsey, eventually)

Xhaka — Wilshere

Ozil — Lacazette — Mkhitaryan

By the way, a lot of Arsenal supporters aren’t feeling great about this (understatement alert):

Manchester United

Alexis Sanchez prefers left wing, too, and Mourinho has a trio of in-form players who like that side of the field. Anthony Martial is red hot but plays wider than Jesse Lingard, and it seems one of them will take the slot of Juan Mata to the right of Paul Pogba in a 4-1-4-1. Marcus Rashford could also see the far right positioning.

But against top competition — continued apologies to Burnley — it’s usually a 4-2-3-1 for Mourinho with Pogba dropping next to Nemanja Matic a little deeper in the formation. Lingard has been getting the run as CAM here, usually to the detriment of Juan Mata. With Alexis as the clear-cut left wing in this formation, it causes real combat for the two other slots between Mata, Lingard, Rashford, and Martial.

So while it’s likely we’d see something like this in a big game for Manchester United…

De Gea

Young — Jones — Smalling — Valencia

Matic — Pogba

Martial — Lingard —  Sanchez

Lukaku

… We’d love to see something more like this:

De Gea

Young — Jones — Smalling — Valencia

Matic — Herrera

Pogba

Martial — Lukaku — Sanchez

How do you think Wenger and Mou will run ’em out?