FBL - WC2014 - QUALIFIER - USA - HON

Who will start for US national team vs. Costa Rica?

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Tonight in San Jose the US could take a huge step towards sealing qualification to the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, provided they don’t lose to Costa Rica (10 pm ET, beIN Sport).

After Gold Cup success this summer with ‘reserve’ squad, friendly victories in Europe with another set of players and plenty of WC qualifying success of late, head coach Jurgen Klinsmann once again has a real selection dilemma.

Following second half success in the recent friendly win over Bosnia in August, Klinsmann has a plethora of options to choose from in the crucial Hexagonal match.

(MORE: Jozy Altidore healthy but US taking his situation ‘day-by-day’)

Will Klinsi go with the tried and tested players who have fared so well in CONCACAF World Cup qualification so far? Or should a few new names appear in the starting lineup down in Central America for the crunch clash with Los Ticos?

We won’t know until later today for sure, but that means there’s still plenty of time for us to speculate who will start.

In my opinion, Klinsmann could go one of three ways with this. Which group of players should he trust to help the US edge even closer to securing World Cup qualification?

European flavor

Following that incredible 4-3 comeback win in Sarajevo, Klinsmann will have seen plenty of positives from many of his Euro contingent. The likes of Hertha Berlin youngster John Brooks and winger Alejandro Bedoya showed that they’re more than ready to be included in the World Cup squad although both could be long shots to grab a starting spot. Jozy Altidore is nursing a hamstring injury while Michael Bradley only featured briefly for AS Roma at the weekend. And another European based player emerging as a major option is AZ Alkmaar striker Aron Johannsson, especially after Altidore picked up a hamstring knock. Could Klinsmann again favor an almost all-European based starting lineup?

Gold Cup goodies

With so many good performances from US players during the triumphant Gold Cup campaign earlier this summer, Klinsmann must surely consider some of his ‘B squad’ players to come in and start for the Yanks in the upcoming qualifiers. Of course the one player that stands out is Landon Donovan, but more on him later. Elsewhere Kyle Beckerman proved he can consistently shore up the midfield in front of the backline, while Michael Parkhurst is a good option at right back and Mix Diskerud proved he’s a great two-way player during the Gold Cup win. Will any feature prominently this evening after dominating the rest of CONCACAF on US soil?

Experience prevails

This is where Donovan comes in to play. Having played in multiple World Cup qualifying campaigns and getting the job done in tricky away venues such as Costa Rica, LD should get the nod in Klinsmann’s side. His experience will be crucial to pass onto the younger MLS contingent in the squad. Other veterans such as Eddie Johnson and Jermaine Jones may also get the nod as Klinsmann looks to safeguard a draw in San Jose. Experience in these situations is key and the aforementioned players have that in abundance.

UEFA Champions League final preview — Madrid’s finest Real or Atleti?

MILAN, ITALY - MAY 27:  Diego Simeone head coach of Atletico Madrid looks on during an Atletico de Madrid training session on the eve of the UEFA Champions League Final against Real Madrid at Stadio Giuseppe Meazza on May 27, 2016 in Milan, Italy.  (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)
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Saturday’s UEFA Champions League final isn’t quite the unstoppable force against the immovable object — Real’s defense is good and Atleti has plenty of attacking intent — but it’s fair if you’re expecting the Madrid Derby final to be Diego Simeone’s diligent defenders attempting to counter Cristiano Ronaldo and Real Madrid’s potent attack.

[ MORE: Mourinho confirmed ]

Simeone’s built his name on tight teamwork, and La Liga teams broke Atleti down a mere 18 times in 38 matches this season. Before you crow about the weakness of Spain’s top flight from top to bottom, Real only managed a single goal against Atleti in a 1-1 draw that came at the Vicente Calderon. Atleti triumphed 1-0 at the Bernabeu to take four of six points from their derby mates.

But this is the big one, and a rematch of the late thriller we saw in the 2014 final. That’s when Diego Godin’s 36th minute goal came within seconds of being the difference, only for Sergio Ramos to net in stoppage time and Real to score three goals in extra time for a 4-1 win.

[ MORE: Torres ready for “game of my life” ]

Ronaldo will be fine to go, which is obviously bad news for Atleti. While his goal at the end of the 2014 final was just chiseled-ab window dressing, he has scored in both of his UCL finals (He scored for Manchester United in the 26th minute of their 2008 defeat of Chelsea).

(Photo by Denis Doyle/Getty Images)

The beauty of Atleti’s defense is how well it springs into the attack, with Godin and Filipe Luis both capable of providing offense.

But really, with respect to Gabi and Antoine Griezmann… that defense! Atleti allowed three goals in the group stage, and just seven across its 12 UCL matches.

How will Simeone aim to stop Real this time around? Will it be banks of four or five, with Torres and Griezmann waiting to strike on a fleet-footed counter? That could serve their disciplined unit well, but something tells me Simeone has something special cooked up for this much-anticipated rematch, and manager is a distinct edge for Atleti against a still-learning Zinedine Zidane.

As an aside, Griezmann has been fantastic, scoring 32 times this year with seven coming in the UCL. Torres is second in scoring, with 12.

Championship playoff preview: Sheffield Wednesday vs. Hull City

DERBY, UNITED KINGDOM - MAY 14:  Eldin Jakupovic of Hull City celebrates as Andrew Robertson of Hull City scores their third goal during the Sky Bet Championship Play Off semi final first leg match between Derby County and Hull City at the iPro Stadium on May 14, 2016 in Derby, England.  (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)
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One is hoping to rejoin the Premier League at the first time of asking, while the other to see its first top flight action since 2000 with a win in Saturday’s promotion playoff final at Wembley Stadium.

Hull City did not make the top flight from its inception in 1904 until winning the playoffs in 2008. Since, the Tigers have spent a pair of 2-season stints in the Premier League.

Sheffield Wednesday, for its part, spent nine seasons in the top tier from 1991-2000, but fell as low as League One in the 21st century before a run to the playoffs this season.

[ MORE: Three battles that could determine UCL final ]

Hull’s stingy defense allowed 35 goals this season, tied for the second-best mark in the league, while scoring the fourth-most goals (69). The Tigers finished in fourth place to Wednesday’s sixth, and the sides drew 0-0 at Hull and 1-1 in the reverse fixture.

Uruguayan striker Abel Hernandez was far and away Hull’s most deadly scorer, notching 21 goals in the Championship this season, while Sam Clucas paced the club with 8 assists.

Wednesday’s scoring was paced by former Watford attacker Fernando Forestieri’s 15 goals. Veteran Gary Hooper added 13 for the Owls, who got a team-best eight assists from Ross Wallace.

It’s the “richest game in sports”, and kicks off at Noon ET Saturday.

Sturridge injured again, Rashford set for England debut

England v Norway - International Friendly
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GATESHEAD, England (AP) England striker Daniel Sturridge has picked up another injury, potentially affecting his chances of being selected for the European Championship.

England manager Roy Hodgson says Sturridge has a calf injury that has prevented him from training and is a doubt to play in the warmup match against Australia on Friday. Hodgson has until Tuesday to finalize his 23-man squad for the tournament in France.

[ MORE: Mourinho confirmed | Speaks more ]

Sturridge has been beset by injury problems in recent years.

His latest injury increases the possibility of 18-year-old Manchester United striker Marcus Rashford‘s fairytale season being extended to include Euro 2016.

Hodgson said Thursday that Rashford will make his debut against Australia in Sunderland – as a starter if Sturridge isn’t fit. Rashford only made his United debut in February.

Ex-Leicester boss Pearson hired by Derby County

Nigel Pearson, Leicester City FC
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Nigel Pearson lives.

The combustible former manager of Southampton, Hull City and Leicester City will now lead Derby County in the hopes of Premier League promotion.

Derby has been on the edge of promotion to the Premier League for several seasons, but neither Steve McClaren and Darren Wassall could do the trick.

[ MORE: Mourinho confirmed | Speaks more ]

Enter Pearson, 52, who has been hired on a three-year deal. It’s his first stop since a roller coaster ride saw him guide Leicester into the Premier League, only to be fired in the aftermath of some players being involved in a racist sex tape incident on a tour of Thailand.

This was after a bizarre season that saw him put his hands on an opposing player’s throat, call a journalist an ostrich, and ultimately save Leicester from the drop.

From Derby County’s site:

“I am honoured to be named as the Manager of Derby County, which is one of the biggest clubs in the country, a club in excellent shape and one with strong ambitions. It is firmly focused on achieving Premier League football.

“I will give absolutely everything I have to this role and do all I can to bring exciting, entertaining and winning football which our supporters can be proud of.”

At the very least, the Rams will be interesting to watch next season.