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Decision time looms, who will start for USA in Sunday’s Gold Cup final?

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Is this Jurgen Klinsmann’s hardest decision as USMNT head coach?

It has to be up there.

As Sunday’s Gold Cup final against Panama draws closer, Klinsmann has an incredible selection conundrum to unravel.

With so many of his players performing to a level never seen before, the USA’s squad is stronger than ever. But, as tends to happen in soccer, you can only select 11 players to go out there between the white lines.

Klinsmann must have a good idea of who he will select, but there are certain areas where two or three players are vying for the same position. There will be some very disappointed men on the subs bench at Soldier Field when Sunday afternoon’s final begins.

(MORE: Strongest U.S. national team in history? Check out these three starting XI’s)

So let’s break this down by each position and see who may have the edge. As you’ll see, Klinsmann has plenty of options.

Goalkeeper: Perhaps the easiest decision of the bunch to start off with, Nick Rimando has done extremely well in the Gold Cup, thwarting El Salvador superbly when the US had a slender 2-1 lead in the quarterfinal. Expect him to get the nod between the sticks.

Defense: This will be a somewhat tricky decision for Klinsmann, as Clarence Goodson played so well in the semifinal on Wednesday night. Does he bring back Omar Gonzalez to partner Matt Besler? Those two were the first-choice pairing during the USA’s recent World Cup qualifiers and handled the pressure superbly. Left back is set with captain DaMarcus Beasley, although he has been found out a few times. And Michael Parkhurst will put in another solid shift at right back.

Midfield: Perhaps the only man guaranteed a spot in the US midfield is Kyle Beckerman. Real Salt Lake’s dread-locked genius was incredible against Honduras, reading the game superbly and cutting off the supply line to the Honduran forwards. His role as destroyer is safe. But the other central midfield spots are between Stuart Holden, Joe Corona and Mix Diskerud. That is a very tough choice. Holden may have the edge and he put in a great shift on Wednesday, but Diskerud and Corona have both shown more going forward. It depends if Klinsi will play a diamond or a flat four across the middle, Alejandro Bedoya and Jose Torres did well out wide against Honduras, especially Bedoya, but he may opt to leave out the winger and bring Corona in to the middle to create a more compact unit. Huge call for the center of the field.

Forward: Seattle Sounders forward Eddie Johnson has grabbed his chance with both hands and looks set to lead the line against Panama. And Landon Donovan should operate just underneath him. But will Klinsmann decide to play Donovan out wide and leave EJ up front on his own? And what about Chris Wondolowski? I think we will see the San Jose man come on in the second half, especially if the US need a goal to clinch the Gold Cup.

EFL Cup Final preview: Saints aim to deny Manchester United, Mourinho

LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 28:  Vincent Kompany of Manchester City and team mate Pablo Zabaleta celebrate victory with the trophy after the Capital One Cup Final match between Liverpool and Manchester City at Wembley Stadium on February 28, 2016 in London, England. Manchester City win 3-1 on penalties.  (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)
Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images
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With the Community Shield in tow, Jose Mourinho aims for his first full tournament trophy as Manchester United boss when his Red Devils meet Southampton at 11:30 a.m. EDT Sunday.

Wembley Stadium is the venue for the EFL Cup Final, a trophy United has claimed four times. The last one came in 2010, as the Red Devils clinched their third League Cup in five seasons.

[ JPW: Southampton comes full circle ]

Sunday marks Southampton’s first final since 1979, when Saints fell 3-2 to Nottingham Forest.

Saints continue to make due without Virgil Van Dijk and Charlie Austin, but newcomers Manolo Gabbiadini, Sofiane Boufal, and Martin Caceres could all feature on Friday.

Gabbiadini almost certainly will, and he’s been a difference maker for Saints since arriving from Napoli. The 25-year-old has three goals in two Premier League matches.

[ MORE: Projected lineups for EFL Cup final ] 

United will not have Henrikh Mkhitaryan back after the Armenian midfielder limped off the pitch midweek, but fellow walking wounded star Michael Carrick will be back for the Red Devils. Wayne Rooney, Ander Herrera, and Eric Bailly will be available.

The Red Devils won the FA Cup last season and the league in 2012-13. Mourinho has three League Cups from his time at Chelsea.

But Antonio Valencia says that United has to act like this is a chance for a new era. From ManUtd.com:

“We have to forget about the fact that we might have won there three, four or five times,” he added. “We have to put that to one side. This is another final, and a totally different story. We cannot afford to make one single mistake, this is a final and we cannot lose our concentration for even one minute.”

Saints will be underdogs for this one, but this trophy isn’t alien to avoiding the hands of the big boys as we’ve seen with Birmingham City, Middlesbrough, and Swansea City since the turn of the century.

Claudio Ranieri issues classy goodbye to Leicester City

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Claudio Ranieri has issued a statement on his somewhat surprising firing from Leicester City, less than 10 months after winning the Premier League title.

[ MORE: Chelsea-Swans preview ]

The Italian manager with a knack of word play pulls on the heart-strings in discussing his exit from Leicester, a club he did not plan to leave any time soon.

From the Leicester Mercury:

Yesterday my dream died.

After the euphoria of last season and being crowned Premier League champions all I dreamed of was staying with Leicester city, the club I love, for always.

Sadly, this was not to be.

He went on to thank his family, Leicester City, saving the kindest words for the Foxes’ supporters.

No one can ever take away what we together have achieved, and I hope you think about it and smile every day the way I always will.

It has been a pleasure and an honour to be a champion with all of you.

No surprise to read class from Claudio. Read the full statement here.

Premier League Preview: Chelsea vs. Swansea City

SWANSEA, WALES - SEPTEMBER 11:  Chelsea manager Antonio Conte battles to get the ball back with Cesar Apilicueta (r) from Swansea forward Modou Barrow during the Premier League match between Swansea City and Chelsea at Liberty Stadium on September 11, 2016 in Swansea, Wales.  (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)
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  • Chelsea leads all-time 14W-11D-7L
  • Sides drew 2-2 in September
  • Swans unbeaten vs Blues since Jan ’15

Premier League leaders Chelsea face a resurgent Swansea City side which has given it fits (Watch live at 10 a.m. EDT Saturday on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

The Blues have dropped points in two of their last three Premier League matches, and also have two draws and a loss to Swans in the past three match-ups.

Swansea has won three of four in Premier League play, the lone setback a 2-1 loss to Manchester City. New manager Paul Clement has led Swans from deep in the relegation zone to four points clear of the drop zone.

To succeed, Swans will have to avoid conceding often and early. According to Chelsea’s club statistician:

Conte’s players have scored the opening goal more times than any other Premier League team this season (19) and have yet to lose (16 wins, three draws).

What they’re saying

Antonio Conte on former Chelsea assistant Clement“He has had a great impact on the team. Also, with the transfer window, they reinforced the team, and we must pay great attention. If you watch their games against Liverpool, against Man City, you understand the difficulty of the game. I am sure my players understand this. They have worked very well to face them in the right way.”

Clement on staring down Chelsea“I have said to the players that yes we have put ourselves in a good position, but how hard are we willing to work to make sure we continue to improve? How much do we want to avoid suffering at the end of the season? Because unless we keep winning games and progressing up the table, we are going to find ourselves in a position where we need, say, four points from the last two games of the season.”

Prediction

Stamford Bridge will be the difference here, as Chelsea keeps it tight against Swans. 2-0.

PREVIEW: Tottenham Hotspur’s “To Dare Is To Do”

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The latest Premier League Download makes its debut on Sunday, as we dive deep into Tottenham Hotspur.

With a brand new stadium under construction and a solid look at perennial top-end pushes, Spurs are among the more intriguing stories in the Premier League.

[ MORE: JPW’s Premier League Picks ]

Spurs host Stoke City on Sunday at 8:30 a.m. EDT on NBCSN, and “Tottenham Hotspur: To Dare Is To Do” debuts at 11 a.m. EDT, right after the match.