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.

Premier League Preview: Stoke City vs. Manchester United

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 02:  Paul Pogba of Manchester United (L) shoots while Erik Pieters of Stoke City (R) attempts to block the shot during the Premier League match between Manchester United and Stoke City at Old Trafford on October 2, 2016 in Manchester, England.  (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)
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  • Man Utd leads all-time 43W-34D-28L
  • Clubs even in last six (2-2-2)
  • Red Devils unbeaten in 16
  • Stoke winners of two-straight

After wins over Sunderland and Watford, Stoke City gets a higher class of opponent on Saturday at the Britannia Stadium (Watch live at 10 a.m. EDT on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

Fortunately for Stoke, it’s had some success against Manchester United in recent years.

Stoke and United drew 1-1 at Old Trafford on Oct. 2, though Jose Mourinho’s Red Devils are flying now. United is hard to break down, and arguably deserved better than the 1-1 draw it earned versus Liverpool last weekend.

Stoke is now 11 points clear of the drop zone, and a win could raise its status to closer to the Top Five than Bottom Three. United, meanwhile, wants three points that would move it to precipice of the Top Four.

 

What they’re saying

Stoke City’s Glenn Whelan on facing United“There has been a wind of change there and the supporters seem a lot happier now and you get the sense that they are together as a group now. You only have to look at the players within the squad, and even the ones who are leaving, to see how much strength in depth they have there.”

Jose Mourinho praises newly-extended Antonio Valencia“I don’t think it is a reward, I don’t see it in this perspective. I just think he is the best right-back you can have. There is no better right-back in football. It is just for us to keep the best. I don’t think it is a reward. It is a privilege for us to have such a good player and such a good man.”

Prediction

United gets it done, only barely. Stoke will put up a brave battle for boss Mark Hughes, but there are too many weapons to suppress. United, 1-0.

AFCON wrap: Results keep Group C undecided

Ivory Coast's Wilfried Bony controls the ball on his head during their training session at the Stade Akoakam, Oyem, Gabon, Tuesday, Jan. 17, 2017, ahead of their African Cup of Nations Group C soccer match against Congo. (AP Photo/Sunday Alamba)
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Like Group A, Group C in the Africa Cup of Nations has very little decided ahead of the final group stage match.

[ MORE: Guardiola “said goodbye to title” ]

Ivory Coast 2-2 DR Congo

A thrilling first half had DR Congo leading 1-0 and 2-1, with only Wilfried Bony netting for the Ivory Coast. Les Elephants grabbed a draw through Serey Die’s 67th minute goal.

DR Congo now leads the group and is primed to advance with a result against Togo or a Morocco loss or draw against Ivory Coast.

Morocco 3-1 Togo

Mathieu Dossevi gave Togo a surprise fifth minute lead lead, but Aziz Bouhaddouz kickstarted the Moroccan attack to plug the victors into Group C’s second spot ahead of a Jan. 24 showdown with Ivory Coast.

Saturday’s matches

Ghana vs. Mali — 11 a.m. ET
Egypt vs. Uganda — 2 p.m. ET

Premier League Preview: Liverpool vs. Swansea City

SWANSEA, WALES - MAY 01:  Jefferson Montero of Swansea City is challenged by Nathaniel Clyne of Liverpool during the Barclays Premier League match between Swansea City and Liverpool at The Liberty Stadium on May 1, 2016 in Swansea, Wales.  (Photo by Steve Bardens/Getty Images)
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  • Liverpool leads all-time 22W-8D-10L
  • Swans lost five-straight at Anfield
  • Reds unbeaten in 7 PL matches

One of the Premier League’s top attacks hosts the division’s leakiest defense, as Liverpool may be licking its chops ahead of a visit from struggling Swansea City on Saturday (Watch live at 7:30 a.m. EDT on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

Liverpool has drawn at Sunderland and Manchester United in its last two Premier League outings, and sits seven points back of leaders Chelsea.

Swansea City has allowed multiple goals in five of six PL matches since beating Sunderland 3-0 on Dec. 10. It’s no surprise that they’ve lost those five (the sixth being a 2-1 win at struggling Crystal Palace).

What they’re saying

Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp on the match“We’re really looking forward to this game. I don’t know when it happened but in England every game now is like a final. Swansea are trying to survive. I don’t know when the title run-in will start, maybe now and we’re in the race. I hope for a special atmosphere tomorrow.”

Swansea City back Federico Fernandez on Liverpool“They are a team that is very strong going forward and that is shown by the number of goals they have scored. If you lose a little bit of focus against these teams then they have the players that will punish you every time. But it’s not only defending strongly when they are attacking, it is also how we keep hold of the ball and how we use it when in possession.”

Prediction

Swansea boss Paul Clement has his hands full, and is grabbing reinforcements in the transfer window (Luciano Narsingh, Martin Olsson, Tom Carroll). That won’t be enough to handle what Liverpool will dish out Saturday, as the Reds break free with a 3-0 win.

Saints’ Fonte moves to West Ham for $10 million

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West Ham has been linked with big name strikers since the summer, but the Irons’ big January transfer to date is a center back.

EURO champion and Southampton mainstay Jose Fonte is moving to London.

[ MORE: West Brom finally sells Berahino ]

Fonte, 33, makes an approximately $10 million move from the South Coast, where the Portuguese back will better Slaven Bilic‘s back line while forcing Southampton to find an answer alongside Virgil Van Dijk.

It’s been a strange trip to London for Fonte and Southampton, detailed by our own Joe Prince-Wright here. Fonte joined Saints during the 2009-10 season, and became a cult hero at St. Mary’s in helping the club move from League One to the Europa League in just over a half-decade.

Something won’t feel right about seeing Fonte in claret and blue, and Saints host West Ham on Feb. 4. Should be quite interesting.