Kevin Santamaria Guzman, Kyle Beckerman, Menjivar Peraza

What we learned from Sunday’s U.S. quarterfinal Gold Cup win over El Salvador

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  • Joe Corona may be lapping Jose Torres before our eyes:

Joe Corona and Jose Torres had strong matches Sunday, horizontal bookends of the wide areas in the United States attack. But in the end, who had the greater bottom line impact?

Once again, it was Corona, who moved aggressively into a goal-scoring spot, found a ball off Landon Donovan’s nifty footwork and proceeded to pinpoint a meaningful shot into the left corner of El Salvador’s goal.

Torres was adept in possession, as usual, and his switching balls in particular proved highly effective as a sharp U.S. attack found one opportunity after another in Sunday’s quarterfinal. But the knock on Torres internationally has always been his lack of final product. Jurgen Klinsmann has urged him to put all that abundant technical savvy to better use, to find more ways to grab the game, to create more, to shoot more, to take on defenders with further frequency, etc.

In other words, exactly what Corona has done this tournament.

(MORE: Game report — Landon Donovan’s goal, three assists lead U.S. past El Salvador)

When the serious roster allocation begins in the U.S. coaches’ minds, they’ll look at the two creators and quite possibly decide there is room on the 23-man U.S. roster for just one of them. We might be seeing Corona pull ahead in the race. Torres, after all, has had his chances.

  • A highly entertaining match – and what that means in the bigger picture:  

We can analyze the heck out of Sunday’s highly entertaining match, but this part needs no dissecting: it was an absolute delight to watch, a real plum for Fox to place into the big boy network spotlight. Play was tough but still managed to be open (thanks in large part to a guy like Donovan, who worked hard to find the right spots that helped create a lot of offense.)

Some of the credit for a lively contest also goes to Klinsmann. Leading by two goals in the first half, the U.S. boss urged his men to keep pushing, to “go, go, go!” Later, he kept making offensive-minded changes and encouraging players to move forward and think “forward,” even when ahead by scores of 3-1 and then 4-1.

This is all about the mentality Klinsmann is working hard to drive home: More professionalism, more of a business-like approach, never relinquishing tempo, further forging of a mentality that says “We are the boss of this region. Get used to it.”  Mashing the pedal when ahead is one way to do it.

  • A word about Nick Rimando and the U.S. goalkeeping situation:

Media and supporters will talk plenty about Donovan’s day, and rightly so. And we’ll surely chat about what some strong performances from Torres and (especially) Corona might mean, what a better afternoon of attacking from Michael Parkhurst means, etc. (Or, at the other end, what a slightly muted performance from Mix Diskerud means … at least before his late goal.)

But can we say a quick word about U.S. goalkeeper Nick Rimando? It will be overlooked because the score makes Sunday’s quarterfinal win look like a contest where you or I could have stood in goal. Not so.

(MORE: U.S. Man of the Match … Landon Donovan)

Rimando was outstanding the first half hour, catching crosses in traffic and handling tough balls that came in with some force. And what about that 25th minute double save! This match could have looked a lot different if not for that bit of really sharp stuff – because El Salvador would have remained motivated for a longer period with another goal somewhere in there.

In the bigger picture, it’s a case of “nothing new here” with the U.S. goalkeeping scene. Tim Howard and Brad Guzan as the first two U.S. ‘keepers are as solid  as any pair in the world. Rimando as the third … that’s just this side of unfair!

  • The team sometimes needs Kyle Beckerman

I feel like I spend an inordinate amount of time defending the guy, so I’ll keep this one short.

Beckerman is hardly the be-all at international level, as I keep saying. But you need a couple of guys like that in a game like Sunday’s where a passionate underdog’s entire afternoon is about making life very, very difficult and then hoping to nick a result.

That was a tough match for about 60 minutes, and Beckerman was the ball winner and the fearless, calming presence needed. If Klinsmann puts 11 Jose Torres out there, they would win all the technical battles but lose all the tussles. And there were tussles aplenty.

Plus, Beckerman’s long-range passing deliveries were sharp as they come Sunday.

Yes, Beckerman remains well behind Michael Bradley, Jermaine Jones and others in the U.S. central midfield order. Yes, there are deficiencies in his game. But there is a place for the guy in a balanced player pool.

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.