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Fernando Torres’ ban could increase to four games, after ugly spat with Jan Vertonghen

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In the 50th minute of Chelsea’s 1-1 draw with Tottenham on Saturday, Fernando Torres lost the plot.

He petulantly clipped the heels of Spurs defender Jan Vertonghen as the ball was rolling harmlessly out of play, which saw the Belgian defender, understandably, react angrily.

And as Torres laughed off Vertonghen’s complaints, the Spanish striker suddenly grabbed the defenders face and scratched his neck and cheek in one fell swoop. Neither the referee or the linesman apparently saw it, because if they did, Torres would have gotten a straight-red. Instead he got a yellow card for the initial trip.

(MORE: Jose Mourinho fuming at Jan Vertonghen as Fernando Torres sent off)

However the 27-year-old forward now faces an anxious wait to see if the incident is included in Mike Dean’s match report, if it isn’t, the video will be passed onto the Football Association’s new independent disciplinary panel, (very similar to MLS’ disciplinary panel) who will decide if the striker was guilty of violent conduct.

If they find Torres guilty, his ban will be increased from one game to four, handing Jose Mourinho a huge blow as he begins to rebuild Chelsea to the way he wants them. And despite many mocking his goalscoring record, Torres will have a pivotal role to play in Mourinho’s new-look side.

Jose was certainly complimentary of Torres’ display afterwards, as I spoke with him.

source: Getty Images
A massive battle between Torres and Vertonghen played out, as the Chelsea striker excelled despite lashing out.

“He was playing very well,” Mourinho said. “I was watching Fernando’s matches for Chelsea in other seasons and it looked to me, a bit heavy, a little slow. Fernando now looks in fantastic shape. He played a very good game. He knows what I think, I don’t have to tell him. He knows I’m very happy with his performances. He knows already.”

One of the reasons Torres got involved in such an incident on Saturday, is because he was all over the pitch after the break. He twice ran through on goal after terrific runs to beat two, three or more players, and looked like a man possessed in the second half. It was the Torres of old, he was chasing lost causes, giving Vertonghen and Spurs’ other defenders a tough time, while using his pace to run effortlessly at Tottenham’s backline.

(MORE: All-square between the master and his apprentice, as Chelsea fight back to draw at Tottenham)

But his bullish display boiled over in the far right corner of White Hart Lane, raising his hands to Vetonghen should have seen him handed a red card. So Torres was lucky to stay on the pitch but eventually, as we now know, he was sent off for a second yellow after an innocuous collision with, you guessed it, Vertonghen.

The Belgian defender got his own back by making a meal of a challenge from Torres, where there was no contact whatsoever. Mourinho wasn’t impressed with the Belgian defender.

“I think in this situation, the referee is not guilty, the player is guilty,” Mourinho said. “Because if nobody touches me and in this moment, I fall, it is not your fault, it is my fault because I fall. So, I think the referee went in the trust when he saw, I think it was Vertonghen. When he pretends that Fernando had a big contact on him, the referee is at a distance and he makes the second yellow card.”

Torres’ display against Spurs showed plenty of promise and helped Chelsea grab a point, but his moment of petulance may see him out of league action until November.

Messi named La Liga Player of the Month for first time in career

BARCELONA, SPAIN - JANUARY 06:  Lionel Messi of FC Barcelona celebrates after scoring his team's second goal during the Copa del Rey Round of 16 first leg match between FC Barcelona and RCD Espanyol at Camp Nou on January 6, 2016 in Barcelona, Spain.  (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)
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Lionel Messi has won every individual award imaginable, but now he can add another trophy to his shelf.

For the first time in his career, Messi was named La Liga’s Player of the Month for January.

[ MORE: PL Power Rankings, Vol. VIII ]

It’s hard to believe, but somehow the Barcelona superstar had never won this honor before. Despite winning a record five Ballon D’or trophies as the best player in the world, this trophy had eluded Messi since its inception in 2013.

Messi scored six goals in six January matches as Barcelona sit atop the La Liga table, currently holding a three-point lead over Atletico Madrid.

Despite their dominance in La Liga, this is only the second time a Barcelona player has won this monthly award, as Neymar took home the honor in November of 2015.

USWNT-Mexico preview: Energized Yanks look to keep rolling toward Rio

FRISCO, TX - FEBRUARY 10:  Team USA poses for a photo before play against Costa Rica during 2016 CONCACAF Women's Olympic Qualifying at Toyota Stadium on February 10, 2016 in Frisco, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
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The United States women’s national team looks to keep rolling through CONCACAF Olympic Qualifying with a match with Mexico on Saturday.

Toyota Stadium in Frisco, Texas, is again the scene after the Yanks battered Costa Rica 5-0 on Wednesday.

[ MUST WATCH: Christen Press’ dazzling first touch, spin, goal ]

A win over Mexico would move the USWNT into the all-important semifinal, where a win would gain them entry into this Summer’s Olympic Games.

Mexico staged a blowout of its own on Wednesday, cruising past Puerto Rico 6-0 thanks in large part to a hat trick from Maribel Dominguez.

[ VIDEO: Alex Morgan caps off a 12-second, six-pass goal ]

Mexico has only beaten the USWNT twice in history, and only the 2010 Gold Cup semifinal is considered official.

In recent history, the USWNT beat up Mexico 5-1 last year, and thrice in 2014 by a combined score of 15-0. Expect very little to change with an energized, impressive U.S. side on Saturday.

[ SATURDAY: Watch USWNT vs Mexico live online on NBC Sports Live Extra ]

Prince-Wright’s Premier League picks: Big boys to turn up

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Week 26 of the Premier League season is here. This will be a lot of fun with massive games at both ends of the table.

If you, like me, love to dissect all the games and predict what the score will be and which team will win, I encourage you to get involved in the comments section below. Let’s have a bit of fun.

[ STREAM: Every PL game live online ]

Okay, so I’ve consulted my crystal ball and here’s how we see things panning out.

With the first section labelled “basically, free money” for the picks I think are dead certs. The section labelled “don’t touch this” means if you’re betting I advise you to stay clear, while the “so you’re telling me there’s a chance” section are the longshots. If it is better odds you are after, those are the picks to go for.

BASICALLY, FREE MONEY

Arsenal 3-2 Leicester City – (Sunday, 7 a.m. ET, NBCSN) –  [STREAM]

Norwich City 0-2 West Ham – (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, USA) –  [STREAM]

Man City 3-1 Tottenham Hotspur – (Sunday 11:15 a.m. ET, NBCSN) –  [STREAM]

Sunderland 0-2 Manchester United – (Saturday, 7:45 a.m. ET, NBCSN) – [STREAM]

DON’T TOUCH THIS…

Everton 2-1 West Brom  – (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, NBCSN) –  [STREAM]

Swansea 1-1 Southampton – (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, Premier League Extratime) –  [STREAM] 

Crystal Palace 2-1 Watford – (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, Premier League Extratime) –  [STREAM]

Chelsea 3-2 Newcastle – (Saturday, 12:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN) – [STREAM

“SO YOU’RE TELLING ME THERE’S A CHANCE…”

Bournemouth 2-1 Stoke City – (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, Premier League Extratime) –  [STREAM]

Aston Villa 2-1 Liverpool – (Sunday, 9:05 a.m. ET, NBCSN) –  [STREAM]

Ranieri on Leicester City’s dream season: “Nobody wake us up please!”

during the Barclays Premier League match between Manchester City and Leicester City at the Etihad Stadium on February 6, 2016 in Manchester, England.
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There’s plenty to like about Leicester City’s run to the top of the Premier League, but perhaps nothing is more enjoyable that its manager’s musings.

Claudio Ranieri, the Tinkerman himself, has provided some of the best quips of the season.

[ MORE: Top 5 storylines to look for in PL ]

From “I want to be the crazy man in the Premier League” to “It’s like nobody wants to win the league“, the 64-year-old Italian has offered plenty of beauties.

Make way for some more gems, from LCFC.com:

“I think we work so hard to achieve this level. We want to stay at this level. It’s no pressure for us. The pressure was at the beginning to start well, to carry on and maintain the standard of our performance.
“Now we are safe and we want to fight with respect with all our opponents. Face to face, we play with our strength and they play with theirs. If we win, fantastic. If we lose, next match.
“I think the pressure is on the other teams. We have pressure for our little gap. We continue to dream with our fans and we want to continue to dream. Nobody wake us up please!”
We love this man. To go from a short-lived run in Euro qualifying with Greece to this remarkable roll with Leicester has to be a bit dream-like. We get it. And we love that he’s going with it.