Houston Dynamo v Philadelphia Union - 1st Leg

ProSoccerTalk’s weekly MLS rankings

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Like last week, Round 16 was abbreviated in Major League Soccer due to the international matches, so there was little movement in this week’s ranking:

19. Chivas USA – The Carolina Railhawks took down slow-starting Chivas in the U.S. Open Cup. So, there’s goes that opportunity, too.

18. D.C. United – Seriously, guys? You lost at home to Toronto? Don’t make us move you into last place, bumping Chivas USA! Don’t make us do it!

17. Toronto FC – To all TFC fans who read the comment above: No offence, guys! The 2-1 win at RFK was quite worthy on your part. Well done.

16. Chicago Fire – Mike Magee’s next chance to make an inspirational difference is up Wednesday as Round 17 kicks off with Colorado visiting Toyota Park.

15. San Jose Earthquakes – Mark Watson’s first match as interim manager was anything but forgettable; the Earthquakes got a road win and almost saw their manager instigate a brawl on the sidelines.

14. Vancouver Whitecaps – Hard to peg the team’s 4-3 win over New England. Martin Rennie’s team fell behind at home, but did rally against the 10-man Revs. Kenny Miller’s re-emergence as a goal scorer will certainly help things around BC Place.

13. Columbus – We’ll see if the Crew can continue to heroically rally around their debilitating injuries. The men in yellow certainly did last week as Dominic Oduro had a goal and an assist in a win over Montreal.

12. Philadelphia Union – After tumbling out of the U.S. Open Cup last week, Jack McInerney and Co. get a high-profile afternoon in a nationally televised match Sunday at PPL Park (pictured) against New York.

11. New England Revolution – Jay Heaps’ young team certainly did not react well after going a man down to Andrew Farrell’s red card. Vancouver hit three goals over the next 20 minutes as the visitors fell, 4-3.

10. Colorado Rapids – Atiba Harris’ reckless challenge was costly, leaving his team down a man and making a major difference in the Rapids’ highly contentious loss to San Jose.

9. LA Galaxy – Bruce Arena’s team is slumping, and a trip Wednesday into Jeld-Wen Field is hardly a “slump-busting” place these days. Pablo Mastroeni’s arrival from Colorado will be a talker.

8. New York Red Bulls – The club just announced a friendly against Lyon for July 16, and that should be a swell occasion.  More immediately, an ESPN Sunday afternoon date is ahead as Mike Petke’s team travels just south to PPL Park outside Philadelphia.

7. Seattle Sounders – If nothing else, the Sounders should be well-rested for this weekend’s big visit to Rio Tinto to face Real Salt Lake; the club will have had 13 full days off before kicking off in Utah. Midfielder Osvaldo Alonso is healing but remains questionable.

6. Real Salt Lake – The team was idle in Round 16, but it was a big week anyway. They eliminated Charleston in the U.S. Open Cup, played host to the U.S. national team and saw Kyle Beckerman added to Jurgen Klinsmann’s roster for tonight’s qualifier.

5. Houston Dynamo – Dominic Kinnear’s team had the weekend off following last week’s elimination by FC Dallas in the Open Cup.

4. Sporting Kansas City – If Sporting KC is to get where it wants to be, they’ll have to handle the big matches at home better. Period. Last week, Orlando City SC eliminated Peter Vermes team at Sporting Park, so there will be a new U.S. Open Cup champion this year.

3. Montreal Impact – Marco Schallibaum’s team had a big opportunity to pick up road points at tired and injury-depleted Columbus, but couldn’t exploit it.

2. FC Dallas – The team has three top-shelf strikers, but circumstance conspired to keep all three off the field for most of the 1-0 loss to Portland.

1. Portland Timbers – Darlington Nagbe had an absolute peach of a goal and goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts’ save just before the break was one of the best in MLS this year as the Timbers took down Dallas, 1-0, in a battle of Western Conference leaders.

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.