Costa Rica plan Mexico upset, Honduras host Jamaica

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The US national team are playing a key World Cup qualifier against Panama in Seattle tonight, you probably knew that.

But elsewhere in CONCACAF qualifying, two huge games kick off prior to the USMNT this evening.

With the standings so tight and all three automatic World Cup spots wide open, these next round of games will prove pivotal in deciding who takes charge of the Hex.

In the Azteca at 8pm ET Mexico host Costa Rica, with Los Ticos aiming for a huge upset to rival the 2001 win in Mexico City. El Tri are struggling along. They’re joint top of the Hex but have played one more game than the US and Costa Rica, and Jose Manuel de la Torre could be out of a job soon if he doesn’t couple results with impressive displays. With the Confederations Cup coming up next week, the Mexicans have to get their act together, quickly.

Mexico have conceded just twice in their five World Cup qualifiers so far, but scoring has been their main problem. With just three goals to their name and after three shutouts, El Tri must up the offense against Costa Rica in the Azteca this evening.

While in Honduras at 9pm ET, the home side will be desperate to record a win against bottom side Jamaica. A demoralizing 1-0 defeat to Costa Rica on Friday has seen Honduras drop back in the standings, meaning three points against the Reggae Boyz is vital ahead of tough road trips to the US and Mexico.

Lineup changes are planned as Honduras aim to mix things up, will that do the trick tonight against Jamaica? A draw would be a good result for the USMNT, or maybe even a Jamaica win.

(More: Confident United States expecting victory against Panama)

But with just five points separating top from bottom, a win for Jamaica would complicate things further.

I pose you this question, is there a more competitive World Cup qualifying region on the planet? I doubt it.

There’s no room for error and with the margins between winning and losing in CONCACAF so slim, teams are extremely reluctant to go gun-ho for the win. Hence the incredible amount of draws so far.

But by the end of this evening we should have a better idea who will qualify from CONCACAF for World Cup 2014…then again, probably not.

(More: US lineup prediction vs. Panama)

AT THE HALF: Manchester derby scoreless after 45 minutes

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After 45 minutes, the final Manchester derby of the 2016-17 Premier League season — the one that’ll go a long, long way toward deciding which of the city’s sides will finish in the top-four — is scoreless, but not without incident.

WATCH LIVE ONLINE, HERE

The game’s best chances thus far fell Manchester City’s way, as Sergio Aguero missed a clear-cut chance after 10 minutes — Kevin De Bruyne whipped in the perfect ball to the back post, and Aguero put it wrong side of David De Gea‘s post.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Ander Herrera has, once again, be Manchester United’s danger man, combining well with Marcus Rashford and Henrikh Mkhitaryan, but Claudio Bravo made the one save he was forced into during the first half. One thing to keep an eye on during the final 45 minutes: Rashford picked up a knock very early on, and struggled to move around the field after that.

STREAM LIVE: The Manchester Derby

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The third Manchester Derby of the season is the first away from Old Trafford, as Manchester United visits Manchester City (Watch live, 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com) at the Etihad Stadium on Thursday.

There’s much on the line, as the sides sit just two points apart in the race for the Top Four. Man City would leapfrog third-place Liverpool with a win, while United could join the Reds on 66 points with a match-in-hand.

WATCH LIVE ONLINE, HERE

Sergio Aguero starts for Man City, with Gabriel Jesus on the bench.

On the other side, it’ll be a physical middle-third guarded by Ander Herrera, Michael Carrick, and Marouane Fellaini. Wayne Rooney and Jesse Lingard start on the bench.

LINEUPS

Manchester City: Bravo, Zabaleta, Kompany (C), Otamendi, Kolarov, Fernandinho, Yaya Toure, Sterling, De Bruyne, Sane, Aguero. Subs: Caballero, Sagna, Fernando, Navas, Clichy, Gabriel Jesus, A. Garcia

Manchester United: De Gea; Valencia, Bailly, Blind, Darmian; Herrera, Carrick, Fellaini, Mkhitaryan; Rashford, Martial. Subs: Romero, Shaw, Fosu-Mensah, Tuanzebe, Young, Lingard, Rooney.

Ex-Liverpool CEO shares biting story of Suarez transfer

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Ian Ayre’s got jokes.

The former Liverpool CEO lifted the lid on some transfer stories during a Merseyside lecture this week.

Of note, Ayre admitted that the club thought Dele Alli demanded too much given what he had produced when the Reds has the chance to sign him as a 16-year-old, and said that Liverpool could’ve landed Alexis Sanchez but the player wanted to live in London (“We couldn’t move the football club to London, unfortunately,” he quipped).

The best part relayed by Sky Sports had to do with Luis Suarez, and shows the relentless nature of the transfer market. Clearly Barcelona had interest in Suarez before the fiery striker bit Giorgio Chiellini at the World Cup, because, well…

“I remember the sporting director of Barcelona calling me during that game, immediately as Suarez bit the player, and he said to me ‘my friend, he’s bitten somebody, how can this be the price?’ I said ‘he’d already bitten somebody when you first bid!'”

We’re sure there’s a certain amount of storytelling in there, but undoubtedly some truth.

Given Barca paid a reported $84 million for the striker, the asking price couldn’t have started that much higher.

Men in Blazers podcast: Chelsea tops Spurs, Top Four predictions

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Rog and Davo return to discuss Chelsea’s FA Cup semifinal victory over Spurs, update their Top Four predictions (again), and dive into the depths of the relegation zone. Plus, the very important movement to change “Hudson Street” to “Ray Hudson Street.”

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