Germany v United States - International Friendly

Three things that looked great for the United States vs. Germany … and three that didn’t

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We already talked about Jozy Altidore, our pick for Man of the Match. Past that, here are three things that looked great for the United States in Sunday’s 4-3 win over Germany .. and then three that, well, not so much …

(MORE: Man of the Match, Altidore)

Three that worked well …

Michael Bradley as the essential linchpin

It’s not enough at this point to say the team is better with Michael Bradley in the lineup. Everyone knows that. Let’s walk a step further and say this: The team just doesn’t work without Michael Bradley on the field.

The team just moves forward with such improved clarity and balance when he’s around. Bradley’s elemental movement and ability to direct others is absolutely essential. His touches are so clean. And when the United Sates loses possession, the pressure in  midfield arrives so much more reliably when Bradley partners with Jermaine Jones.

High pressure up the field

Remember two things about Sunday’s result. First, it was a friendly – and you know what we always say about reading too much into friendlies, one way or the other. And the other remark here is how Germany allowed the United States to grab the game by the scruff of the neck, sitting back and letting the United States get comfortable. (Well, with that, and with shaky marking, some ridiculous goalkeeping …)

Yes, it was hot Sunday in D.C.  But Klinsmann and Co. chose to ignore the conditions and pursue the usual tactical goal, pressuring up high up the field rather than yielding to the sultry afternoon and dropping into low pressure crouch as Germany did. It was a fairly bold call from Klinsmann, but it worked beautifully.

(MORE: Video of Germany’s ridiculous own goal Sunday)

Better individual stuff from attackers

We won’t write books about Fabian Johnson’s move into midfield, but it wasn’t bad, either. His timing on runs inside did leave the Germans confused at moments.

Graham Zusi had a far more effective match along the right, making good choices and crossing well from the right while still tracking reliably back to assist his inexperienced right back.

And then there’s Dempsey, who had a quiet first half. But how many times have we seen it now, where “Deuce” does seem to be having a sleepy evening – right up to the moment he puts one or two into goal?

And now three elements we need to talk about …

The outside back situation

Klinsmann made a change along the right with utility man Brad Evans taking his turn along the outside of the back line. The Seattle Sounder, a real thinking man’s player, had a solid first half defensively. Then again, he and left back DaMarcus Beasley needed something more assertive going forward. Yes, it’s nit-picky, but outside backs at this level have to press into the attack.

And then there’s Edgar Castillo, who replaced Beasley midway through the second half and got beat badly two or three times. So, there’s still plenty to talk about at both outside back spots.

Omar Gonzalez giving up a goal

The big LA Galaxy center back had a reasonable match all the way around, vocal, winning balls and generally finding good spots. But he lost his mark on Germany’s second goal, directly off a corner kick, furthering an alarming trend where Gonzalez momentarily drops concentration. Simply put, Gonzalez’s game will reach the next level when he holds strict concentration for 90 minutes, and not a second less.

Of course, Gonzalez wasn’t alone in flagging concentration during certain spells. Keep reading …

Two concerning periods of play

As positive as the response was to begin Sunday’s match – shaking off the stinker against Belgium and kicking off so confidently against Germany – the second half had a couple of concerning windows, where  “response” was seriously lacking. Klinsmann had warned his team to be particularly alert over the first 10 minutes, to look for a proud German team to put their big and talented boots on this game.

Sure enough, the Americans looked a bit fat and happy, a bit labored immediately after intermission. And Germany got back in the game.

Dempsey hit a couple of goals and order seemed restored in a 4-1 lead. Only, Klinsmann’s kids seemed to drop concentration again, this time at about 75 minutes, allowing the visitors to make things far from comfortable and leaving the Americans to do the “just hanging on” thing by the end.

(MORE: Goals galore, as the United States tops Germany, 4-3)

Xavi backs Dybala, Verratti to succeed at Barcelona over Pogba

TURIN, ITALY - JANUARY 24:  Paulo Dybala (R) of Juventus FC celebrates after scoring the opening goal with team mate Paul Pogba during the Serie A match between Juventus FC and AS Roma at Juventus Arena on January 24, 2016 in Turin, Italy.  (Photo by Valerio Pennicino/Getty Images)
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With Paul Pogba linked with a possible summer move to Barcelona worth more than $100 million, one legend at Camp Nou believes Pogba may not be the right signing.

[ MORE: Top 5 PL storylines ]

After making more than 700 appearances for Barcelona, Xavi knows the club as well as anyone, and he prefers Pogba’s Juventus teammate Paulo Dybala for a move to the Catalan giants.

Xavi also praised the play of Paris Saint-Germain’s Marco Verratti, saying that while Pogba is a star player, Dybala and Verratti have “Barca DNA.”

There’s two players I really like, both of whom I think have Barca’s DNA. They are Marco Verratti and Paulo Dybala.

They are amazing and, thanks to their quality and style of play, would easily integrate into the [Barca] machine. I see them as future stars at the club.

[Pogba] is a great player. He’ll be a star for France as he is for Juve, but I see him with a different game to ours.

Both Pogba and Dybala are 22-years-old, while Verratti is 23. All three players have been among the elite young talents in the world, with Pogba earning the most praise of the group and always linked with a big-money move to Europe’s top clubs.

[ RELATED: Messi named La Liga Player of the Month for first time in career ]

Dybala is enjoying a breakout season at Juventus, currently with 13 goals and eight assists in Serie A play. In Paris, Verratti is part of a PSG side that hasn’t lost in 25 matches and holds a 24-point lead at the top of the table.

Vincent Kompany set to make Manchester City return this weekend

during the Barclays Premier League match between Manchester City and Arsenal at Etihad Stadium on January 18, 2015 in Manchester, England.
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Vincent Kompany is set to make his first appearance for Manchester City since Boxing Day as the defender has returned from injury.

City’s captain and center-back missed more than six weeks with a calf injury before Christmas, and then reaggravated the injury just minutes into his return at the end of December.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

However, Kompany has been back in training and manager Manuel Pellegrini said he is fit to play this weekend when City host Tottenham in a huge top-four matchup.

We’ll see what the starting XI is tomorrow – we’re not just thinking about one player and one game, we’re involved in a lot of competitions. Maybe we have a lot of criticism when we don’t play well but I’m happy with the squad over the whole season.

Every player must play a game when they’re 100%. Vincent has worked for three weeks with no problems. He played 45 minutes in a friendly game against the under-21s and I think he’s ready to play.

Kompany’s presence in the City back-line has been pivotal this season. In the eight Premier League games Kompany has started, City have kept seven clean sheets. In the 18 matches without the big Belgian in the starting lineup, City have kept just five.

[ RELATED: Diego Costa suffers broken nose in Chelsea training ]

With City just a point behind Tottenham, Kompany returns from injury just in time for one of the biggest matches of the season. Tasked with slowing down Harry Kane and Spurs’ high-flying attack, Kompany’s play could prove crucial to the Citizens getting a result.

Premier League Preview: Chelsea vs. Newcastle United

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  • CFC unbeaten under Hiddink (W5, D6)
  • Newcastle have just 6 away goals all season
  • Diego Costa: 6 goals in his last 7 PL matches

Chelsea look to extend their unbeaten streak under Guus Hiddink to 12 matches on Saturday when the Blues host relegation-threatened Newcastle (Watch live, 12:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN and online via Live Extra).

The Blues’ last loss came under Jose Mourinho in December.

[ WATCH LIVE: Stream every PL game via Live Extra ]

Chelsea are up to 13th on the table, currently riding a run of 11 matches unbeaten in all competitions. Guus Hiddink is yet to suffer a loss after taking over for his second stint at Stamford Bridge in December, although draws have kept Chelsea from climbing further up the table. Diego Costa has had the hot-hand with six goals in his last seven appearances, but the Spanish striker will be forced to play with a mask after suffering a broken nose in training.

[ MORE: Hiddink has “no fear” of playing youngsters in Zouma’s absence ]

For Newcastle, the Magpies sit 17th on the table just one point above the drop. Their away form has hurt the club all season, as Steve McClaren‘s men have scored a league-low six goals on the road this year. The Magpies are coming off of a win over West Brom, and supporters will be hoping the club’s new January signings continue to produce. Seydou Doumbia could make his Premier League debut on Saturday, which would be a massive boost to the attack.

What they’re saying

Chelsea manager Guus Hiddink: “The status of being unbeaten sounds good but realistically we would have wished to have more victories, especially at home. And we have an opportunity to do so against Newcastle. They improved their squad with substance, some good signings, and they are more competitive now.”

Newcastle boss Steve McClaren: “In our home games we are starting to get a consistency in our performance and the way we play. We need to start transferring that to our away games and picking up points away from home – we owe it to the fans.”

Prediction

Newcastle have just two wins in their last 18 league matches away from home, and I don’t see that trend changing this weekend. Chelsea have looked a new team with Guus Hiddink in charge, and they stay unbeaten under the Dutchman. Chelsea 2-1 Newcastle United.

Pochettino enjoying best spell of career ahead of massive clash at Man City

LONDON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 23:  Mauricio Pochettino (R) Manager of Tottenham Hotspur is seen on arrival at the stadium prior to the Barclays Premier League match between Crystal Palace and Tottenham Hotspur at Selhurst Park on January 23, 2016 in London, England.  (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)
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Mauricio Pochettino is getting ready for one of his biggest matches in charge at Tottenham, but he’s not letting the pressure get to him.

The Spurs’ boss talked down the importance of Sunday’s match against Manchester City (Watch live, 11:15 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via Live Extra), and went on to say he is currently having the most enjoyable time of his career.

[ WATCH: Full PL match replays ]

Pochettino has Tottenham sitting second on the table, and they travel to the Etihad this weekend for a clash against fourth-placed Manchester City, who sit one point behind Spurs.

When asked if this weekend’s match could be a decisive result in the title race, Pochettino was unwilling to admit it was anything more than three points in a long campaign. However, when asked about the season as a whole, the Argentinian manager said he was having great fun at White Hart Lane, responding “Is it my most enjoyable time of career? Yes, maybe yes if I’m honest.”

[ MORE: Who are the Premier League title favorites? ]

Pochettino’s work at Tottenham has made him one of the most well-respected managers in the Premier League, with some reports tabbing him as the potential future boss of Manchester United.

Spurs have won six on the spin in all competitions, and will be confident facing a City side they smashed 4-1 earlier this season. With leaders Leicester facing Arsenal on Sunday, Tottenham could see themselves just two points off the pace if results go their way.