The FA is in a tizzy over the Premier League schedule

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The new Premier League fixture list has the Football Association’s panties in a bundle.

After politiely requesting that the Premier League hold off on staging “box-office” matches before England’s World Cup qualifiers, the league went ahead and did exactly that – scheduling two blockbuster matches before the Three Lions’ double header against might Moldova and the Ukraine.

Here’s how it breaks down.

On August 31st one of the best rivalries in club football kicks off when Liverpool welcomes Manchester United to Anfield. One day later it is the first installment of the North London derby with Tottenham heading to the Emirates for a clash with Arsenal.

Five days after the Arsenal-Tottenham match the national team faces Moldova at Wembley before heading to Kiev where they will battle Ukraine on September 10th.

Fair play to the FA for being concerned over the match schedule, especially since they requested the league work with them on the issue. The fact is, if England are to qualify for the World Cup they need to win against Moldova and Ukraine.

England currently sit second in Group H on 12 points through six matches. The Three Lions are two points adrift of leader’s Montenegro although England enjoys a game in hand. One point behind England is Ukraine, who also have played six matches. Moldova are second from bottom on five points, eliminating them from qualifying for the World Cup.

The FA’s main concern is that the intensity of these “box-office” matches may increase the injury risk to players. The list of those who will play in those marquee matches and could potentially be involved in the national team as quite long – Glen Johnson, Steven Gerrard, Stewart Downing, Raheem Sterling, Jordan Henderson, Daniel Strurridge, Michael Carrick, Wayne Rooney, Tom Cleverley, Ashley Young, Phil Jones, Danny Welbeck, Chris Smalling, Theo Walcott, Kieran Gibbs, Jack Wilshire, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Kyle Walker, Aaron Lennon, Michael Dawson, Steven Caulker and Scott Parker.

But does those players involvement in competitive Premier League matches before facing Moldova and Ukraine really make it more likely they will be injured?

Doubtful. In fact, those players would have just as much of a chance of injury (if not more) if they were matched up against, say, Stoke City or Sunderland. (Apologies Potters and Black Cats supporters, but, you know…)

The FA is also concerned that the intensity of those blockbuster league matches could tire the players. But do players really drain themselves more against certain opposition that others? That, too, would seem to be a very speculative argument.

Further rubbishing the FA’s concerns is that the first qualifier is at home against Moldova, a nation that England thrashed 5-0 when the two sides met last September. That match should be a walk in the park for Roy Hodgson’s men.

The real issue for England has to do with the incredibly tight schedule it faces, having to play Moldova and then immediately hop on a trans-European flight to the Ukraine to play a hotly contested match four days later.

 

 

 

 

Independiente and Flamengo meet for South American trophy

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SAO PAULO (AP) Independiente, relegated for the first time in its history in 2013, can complete a remarkable turnaround by winning the Copa Sudamericana at the Maracana Stadium on Wednesday.

[ MORE: LA FC selects Urena, four others in MLS Expansion Draft ]

The Argentine team will go into the second leg of the final holding a 2-1 lead over Brazilian club Flamengo from the first leg.

Independiente, which has won multiple titles in South American tournaments, will be counting on 18-year-old midfielder Ezequiel Barco, one of the best players in this year’s competition.

Flamengo is also seeking to restore some pride in Rio de Janeiro. The big-spending Brazilian club, playing in its first Copa Sudamericana final, finished its domestic championship in a disappointing sixth place.

The Rio team will be without Peru striker Paolo Guerrero, who is serving a one-year doping ban.

Instead, veteran midfielder Diego will be the key player as Flamengo looks to claim its first regional title since winning the now-defunct Copa Mercosur in 1999.

After Independiente won the first leg, the club posted on its social media channels a picture of its players celebrating at the Maracana in 1995 when the two teams played for the Supercopa.

If the Argentines lose 1-0 on Wednesday, there will be a penalty shootout to decide the winner.

Last year, Brazilian club Chapecoense was awarded the title before the final after 19 players, plus club directors and several members of staff, died in an air crash.

The Copa Sudamericana is the continent’s second most prestigious tournament after the Copa Libertadores.

Bundesliga wrap: Dortmund wins in Stoger’s managerial debut

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For the first time since late September, Borussia Dortmund has won a league match, while Leipzig’s slip up opens the door for Bayern Munich to extend its lead in Germany’s top flight.

[ MORE: Chelsea tops Huddersfield, level on points with Man United ]

Here’s a brief look at all of Tuesday’s Bundesliga action.

Mainz 0-2 Borussia Dortmund

10 points separates Dortmund from league leaders Bayern Munich, who also have a match in hand, but for the moment, the bleeding his stopped. BVB picked up a crucial win on Tuesday to end its domestic woes upon manager Peter Stoger’s debut. The side’s drought stretched over an eight-match winless period. Second-half goals from Sokratis and Shinji Kagawa moved Dortmund into the top four, while Mainz remains 15th in the league table.

 

Wolfsburg 1-1 Red Bull Leipzig

Meanwhile, RB Leipzig’s form continues to slide downward after the second-place side dropped points in its fourth straight match across all competitions. The road side’s fortunes were dampened early on when Paul Verhaegh converted from the penalty spot, however, Marcel Halstenberg did manage to pull a goal back for Leipzig in the 52nd minute. Leipzig’s misfortunes carried on in stoppage time though when Dayot Upamecano was sent off after picking up his second yellow card of the day.


The rest of Tuesday’s scores

Hamburg 1-2 Frankfurt
Freiburg 1-0 Borussia Monchengladbach

Inter beats 3rd-division Pordenone 5-4 on penalties in Cup

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MILAN (AP) Inter Milan scraped into the Italian Cup quarterfinals after the Serie A leader was taken to penalties by third-division Pordenone on Tuesday.

[ MORE: Chelsea tops Huddersfield, moves level on points with Man United ]

Pordenone goalkeeper Simone Perilli pulled off several saves in regulation time to keep the game scoreless, and he almost proved to be the hero during the shootout, stopping two penalties.

But Inter prevailed 5-4, with Yuto Nagatomo tucking away the final spot kick.

Both sides hit the woodwork during the 120 minutes.

Inter coach Luciano Spalletti rang the changes, and only Milan Skriniar and Matias Vecino remained in the starting 11 from Saturday’s 0-0 draw at Juventus.

[ MORE: Burnley moves into top four after win over Stoke ]

However, he was forced by desperation to bring on Marcelo Brozovic at halftime as well as star forwards Ivan Perisic and Mauro Icardi.

Report: Cosmos coach Savarese to be named new Timbers manager

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In a time where NASL’s status moving forward is hanging in the balance, one of the league’s top managers is set to make the jump to Major League Soccer.

[ MORE: LA FC close to acquiring Red Bulls captain Sacha Kljestan ]

According to ESPN soccer analyst Taylor Twellman, New York Cosmos head coach Giovanni Savarese is set to be named the next Portland Timbers manager.

Savarese will take over for the recently departed Caleb Porter, who stepped down from his head coaching role with the Timbers in November.

The former professional player spent five seasons in MLS during his career, including stints with the New York/New Jersey MetroStars (now the Red Bulls), as well as the New England Revolution and the San Jose Earthquakes.

The 46-year-old has managed the Cosmos from 2013 to present, and guided the NASL side to three Soccer Bowl titles in that span.