Paulo Di Canio believes he can get the best out of Jozy Altidore

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Few will deny that Jurgen Klinsmann has gotten the best out of Jozy Altidore.

After poor form and a sub-par work ethic saw Altidore dropped from the U.S. roster ahead of a pair of World Cup qualifiers last fall, the striker was forced to recalibrate.

Klinsmann’s decision to demote Altidore proved vital as the 23 year old returned to the Stars & Stripes a new man, scoring seven goals in his past five internationals. Which is exactly the kind of output that Altidore’s club manager, Paulo Di Canio, is looking to unearth.

The Black Cats boss discussed Altidore’s debut performance at Sunderland with the Chronicle. “We need physical presence up front and Jozy gives us that,” said Di Canio. “In the second half he was receiving the ball in the middle of the field and that’s good for us, that he was willing to come back and attack the space. We needed him to stretch their central defenders and there were signs that he can do that. He has energy and pace and youth.”

Di Canio went on to discuss his view on how to bring the best out of Altidore. “Jozy is good but he can improve and I can be a very good coach for him,” the manager continued. “We are here to improve and I’m sure the players will but they have to listen to me. Jozy is only 23 and is stronger than he was the last time he was in the Premier League but he will get better. We are working on his movement and stretching defenses, because otherwise he can become difficult.”

Despite failing to score against Fulham last weekend, Altidore earned high praise from fans who rated him the most influential Black Cats player on the pitch.

More: A clunker for Sunderland but not for U.S. striker Jozy Altidore

As it stands, the competition for Altidore up top is relatively paltry. Connor Wickham and Ji Dong-Won both featured as substitutes against Fulham with little impact while Stephane Sessegnon is likely to remain in the supporting striker role. Altidore’s biggest competition will come from Steven Fletcher, who is currently sidelined through mid-September as he recovers from ankle ligament surgery.

American soccer fans can get a full dose of Altidore this Saturday when he and his teammates travel to St. Mary’s Stadium to take on Southampton. That match is set to kickoff at 10:00am ET and has been marked as the featured match to be shown on NBCSN.

Remember to check out NBC Sports’ Match Finder to determine the channel where every Premier League fixture will reside given your respective television provider.

Europa League Preview: Everton, Milan look to make group stage

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Everton look to make it back into the Europa League group stage for the first time since the 2014-2015 season and it has a two-goal advantage heading into the second leg of its tie.

Ronald Koeman and co. travel to Croatia to face Hadjuk Split Thursday having won the first leg at Goodison Park, 2-0. Everton is coming off a hard-fought draw on Monday with Manchester City and will be on short rest heading into the match.

Elsewhere in Europa League action, AC Milan take its 6-0 aggregate lead to Skopje, Macedonia as the legendary club looks to return to the group stage of a European competition for the first time since 2013-2014.

Here’s a look at all of Thursday’s Europa League matches, with the current aggregate scores:

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EFL Cup Rewind: Southampton, Newcastle knocked out by Championship sides

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Last season, Southampton made it to the EFL Cup final. This year, it’s a different story.

The Saints were bounced by Wolverhampton Wanderers, 2-0 at home on Wednesday in the second round of the cup. Joining Southampton of Premier League sides going home early was Newcastle, which lost 3-2 after extra time at home against Nottingham Forest.

Four other Premier League sides did advance to the third round, as Stoke City, Huddersfield Town, West Ham United and Burnley all won their fixtures.

Here’s a look at the rest of Wednesday’s EFL Cup action:

Blackburn 0-2 Burnley

Cheltenham 0-2 West Ham

Huddersfield 2-1 Rotherham

Newcastle 2-3 Nottingham Forest

Southampton 0-2 Wolverhampton

Stoke City 4-0 Rochdale

Breaking down who each Premier League team could face in the UCL Group Stage

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The UEFA Champions League group stage lineup is complete, with five Premier League clubs making the list.

On Wednesday, Liverpool joined Chelsea, Tottenham, Manchester City and Manchester United in the group stage after beating Hoffenheim, 6-3 on aggregate in the playoff qualification round.

Thursday’s Champions League draw (2 p.m. ET) will place clubs into groups of four, where they’ll play three matches at home and away.

Here’s a look at the four coefficient pots and who each Premier League club could face:

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Follow Live – Texas Derby, Cascadia Cup headline busy night of MLS action

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Welcome to MLS Rivalry Week.

The surging Houston Dynamo could move to first place in the Western Conference with a win over rivals FC Dallas while the current first-place side, the Seattle Sounders travel north and across the border to face Vancouver Whitecaps FC.

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The Dynamo have made an impressive turnaround under coach Wilmer Cabrera and he’ll have the trio of Ricardo Clark, Alberth Elis and star forward Erick Torres available to face Dallas after missing the Dynamo’s match at Vancouver last weekend, which ended 2-1 in favor of the Whitecaps.

FC Dallas are in its worst form of the season, winless in its last four games, but the team will be extra motivated to beat its rivals.

El Capitan is on the line after draws between FC Dallas and the Dynamo in two matches earlier this season.

Meanwhile up in Vancouver, the Whitecaps host a Sounders squad that pulled out a last-gasp victory last weekend over Minnesota United. While the team is in great form on the road recently (two wins and two draws), the top story heading into the game is the unexpected absence of Joevin Jones, who left the Sounders for his home in Trinidad and Tobago ahead of the upcoming international break.

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On the other side, Fredy Montero faces his former club and carries an interesting record into Wednesday’s match. Of his 35 MLS goals, 11 have been scored against Cascadia Cup competition.

Here’s a look at Wednesday’s action:

Full schedule

Columbus Crew vs. LA Galaxy – 7:30 p.m. ET

D.C. United vs. Atlanta United – 7:30 p.m.ET

FC Dallas vs. Houston Dynamo – 8 p.m. ET

Toronto FC vs. Philadelphia Union – 8 p.m. ET

Real Salt Lake vs. San Jose Earthquakes – 10 p.m. ET

Vancouver Whitecaps vs. Seattle Sounders – 10 p.m. ET

Portland Timbers vs. Colorado Rapids – 10:30 p.m. ET