U.S. roster announcement delayed until weekend, at earliest

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U.S. Soccer officials have delayed the roster announcement, originally set for Thursday, until the weekend, at earliest.

U.S. Soccer spokesman Michael Kammarman told me late last night that Saturday is the tentative target – but it would not surprise me if this gets pushed into early next week, just before the team arrives into Kansas City for a few days of training ahead of Friday’s contest at Sporting Park.

Jurgen Klinsmann had hoped to name the roster for the remaining pair of World Cup qualifiers today. But injuries and Major League Soccer’s schedule, and the combined, complicating effect of both, are mucking up the works. It all goes to underscore just how tricky this one is for the U.S. manager, with more moving pieces than usual at work.

Thus, U.S. Soccer wanted to see out the weekend matches to access availability, and the subsequent ripple effect, of a few familiar faces.

The starting point for Klinsmann, as he has repeatedly said, is that he wants the best team possible for next week’s home match against Jamaica in Kansas City and the qualifier finale in Panama.

(MORE: Anthony Brooks, Michael Bradley ruled out for U.S. roster)

Michael Bradley and Anthony Brooks have already been ruled out. That’s according to Klinsmann himself, who also said expects Clint Dempsey (pictured) and Landon Donovan to be available.

Here’s where things get dicey – and it’s mostly twisted up in Major League’s Soccer decision to play through FIFA dates:

The Seattle Sounders stand to lose three players for two matches to the call-ups. Not only are Sigi Schmid’s men targeting a Supporters Shield, both matches are Cascadia Cup contests – and Schmid will be loath to lose Dempsey, Eddie Johnson or Brad Evans (or any combination thereof) for these contest.

Further complicating things are the whispers and wonders about how a Supporters Shield would impact Schmid’s ongoing employment around CenturyLink? Voices in the game are wondering if claiming a Supporters Shield would be enough to get Schmid a new deal, regardless of what happens in the playoffs (where Seattle has not done well previously).

(MORE: Injuries undermining U.S. plans for final World Cup qualifiers)

Then we have Sporting Kansas City, the Los Angeles Galaxy and perhaps Real Salt Lake, all three of which stand to lose two U.S. internationals each.

Los Angeles was thinking “Supporters Shield possibilities” two or three weeks ago. Now Bruce Arena’s team could be one loss away from tumbling out of playoff positioning entirely. Yikes!

So the guess here is that a little negotiating is going on. As in: “Can we keep this guy for this match, or can he arrive late into your camp?” Or perhaps, “Can we get that guy back after Friday’s qualifier in Kansas City, so that he doesn’t travel down to Panama?”

source: Getty Images
Seattle’s Sigi Schmid … tangled up in all this.

In any scenario, how one player comes through the MLS weekend – That is, 100 percent healthy or something south of that? – may have a trickle-down effect on these ongoing discussions. And for any player that may bail out for one of the U.S. matches, Klinsmann has to line up a replacement, one from abroad or from an MLS team that may also be reluctant to give up one of their best players.

Oh, one other complicating factor: several U.S. players sit on yellow card warning, set to miss the finale if they collect a booking next week at Sporting Park.

To be clear, clubs are required to release players for FIFA qualifiers, and Klinsmann values his time with these guys in camp. He wants them in camp, no question, and clubs don’t have any choice if the players are summoned. But the U.S. manager also understands the politics of it all and values relationship, so he is likely to bend here and there. After all, it’s not the players’ fault or the MLS coaches’ fault that Major League Soccer continues to plow through these FIFA dates.

Wenger: Sanchez, Giroud will both be with Arsenal next year

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Arsene Wenger thinks Alexis Sanchez will sign a new deal at Arsenal this summer, whether the manager changes or not.

Speaking ahead of Wednesday’s visit from Leicester City, Wenger did not offer any clues as to his future with the club. He also said it does not hinge on how the Gunners finish the current campaign, and that he is working on transfers for the benefit of Arsenal regardless of his future.

[ MORE: Will Real open door for Barca? ]

That’s no surprise, given his reputation and fidelity to the club. What may surprise some is Wenger’s confidence that Sanchez will stay at the Emirates Stadium.

From Sky Sports:

“I personally think he will stay and sign. First of all he is happy here, his desire is to stay, that is what I deeply believe.

“I don’t think you would sell him to any Premier League club, that is for sure. The question is why would you sell him to another club? You want to be as strong as you can be and not strengthen the other teams.”

Wenger said both sides want to work out a deal and that the hold-up resides in agent-related matters. He also said Arsenal does not have interest in selling Olivier Giroud, who backed Wenger just over a month ago.

Title fight in Spain: Will Real slip up again?

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Barcelona’s dramatic 3-2 win over Real Madrid has set La Liga’s title race on its ear, with both clubs level on points with 75.

Real still controls its own destiny in a bid for its first league title since 2011-12, but a single loss puts Barcelona in pole position for its fourth title in five seasons.

[ RECAP: Chelsea 4-2 Saints ]

The tiebreaker is head-to-head, which Lionel Messi lifted from Real with his thrilling stoppage time thriller on Sunday at the Bernabeu.

Here are the run-ins for both sides, with Real facing a more congested schedule thanks to its status as a UEFA Champions League semifinalist.

Real Madrid

Only two of Real’s remaining five La Liga matches are at home, a boon for Barcelona considering Real boasts a strong home mark. The loss to Barca was Real’s first at the Bernabeu this season, and the Merengues only drew three matches at home (Villarreal, Eibar, Atletico Madrid).

Those home matches, however, are against teams that beat Real in the sides’ other league meetings this year, Sevilla and Valencia.

Wednesday – at Deportivo de la Coruna (16th)
Saturday – vs. Valencia (12th)
May 2 – vs. Atletico Madrid (UCL)
May 6 – at Granada (19th)
May 10 – at Atletico Madrid (UCL)
May 14 – vs. Sevilla (4th)
May 21 – at Malaga (14th)

Barcelona

Barca is home for three of its remaining five matches. The Blaugranas drew Villarreal and blew out Osasuna and Eibar ahead of the return visits.

As for the road matches, Barca has the Derbi barceloni with Espanyol, having taken the Camp Nou meeting 4-1, as well as a trip to Las Palmas (5-0 at home).

Wednesday – vs. Osasuna (20th)
Saturday – at Espanyol (9th)
May 6 – vs. Villarreal (5th)
May 14 – at Las Palmas (13th)
May 21 – vs. Eibar (8th)
May 27 – vs. Alaves (Copa del Rey Final)

The verdict

Any whiplash Real faces from schedule congestion should be offset by Barcelona’s much tougher schedule. Real could lose again, perhaps versus Sevilla, but Barca will likely finish second thanks to dropped points against Espanyol, Eibar, or Villarreal.

Premier League Weds. preview: Desperation on display

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Two London powers face a race to stay alive for their lofty season goals, while two Northeast sides see their last chances to claim hope for another year in the Premier League.

[ STREAM: All PL games here ]

That’s what’s on the docket for Wednesday’s PL matches, one day after Chelsea buried Southampton 4-2 t0 move seven points clear of Spurs in the race for the league’s 2016-17 crown.

Crystal Palace vs. Tottenham Hotspur — 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN

No team has looked better than Spurs lately, though Palace won’t be bowed by a big name or good form. Sam Allardyce‘s Eagles boast wins at Liverpool and Chelsea, as well as a home defeat of Arsenal. Those have all come in 2017, as Palace has leapt to within striking distance of the top half.

Spurs need to win at Selhurst Park to keep pace with Chelsea and sit four points back of the No. 1 spot with five matches to play. Lose, concede, and feel like last April all over again. It was a year from Tuesday that Spurs coughed up a home lead to Leicester and saw any hopes of catching Leicester fade into the sunset.

Middlesbrough vs. Sunderland — 2:45 p.m. ET

This Tees-Wear Derby oozes desperation, with Sunderland knowing it needs to win its matches-in-hand on Hull City and Swansea to have any hope of staying up, and Middlesbrough nearly as desperate.

Boro’s 24 points is three more than Sunderland, who has played one less game. Hull sits 17th with 33 points while Swansea holds 31.

Middlesbrough hasn’t won in the Premier League since Dec. 17, a run of 16 matches. Their only wins of the year are over lower league opposition, a trio of victories against Sheffield Wednesday, Accrington Stanley, and Oxford United.

Sunderland has just one league win since that same date in December, and that came at Crystal Palace. The Black Cats have lost six of eight, and look destined to join Boro in the second tier as Northeast neighbors Newcastle comes up.

(Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images )

Arsenal vs. Leicester City — 2:45 p.m. ET

Did Sunday’s FA Cup semifinal win over Manchester City snap Arsenal out of its funk, or was it just a matter of Alexis Sanchez’s class squeezing a bit of excellence out of the tube?

Arsene Wenger will hope for the latter, because Arsenal’s Top Four hopes hinge on winning its matches-in-hand on Liverpool and getting significant help from Man City and Manchester United. Their opposition will also be rested, having rested since bowing out of the UEFA Champions League on April 18.

Leicester’s five match winning streak, part of Craig Shakespeare’s new manager bounce, has died down a bit. The Foxes lost at Everton and drew at Palace, and get a third tricky road test in a row at the Emirates Stadium.

Pochettino calls out Xavi for Dele Alli-Man City “lie to lie to lie”

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“He tried to destroy our focus to win because he hates me because he’s Barcelona.”

Even half-kidding, the Derby Barceloni is alive and well for longtime Espanyol man Mauricio Pochettino and Barcelona legend Xavi.

At least that’s why the latter is trying to sabotage the former’s Premier League title fight, Pochettino says.

[ RECAP: Chelsea 4-2 Saints ]

Speaking from his club team in Qatar, Xavi claimed that Manchester City is going to bid high for Spurs’ young star Dele Alli.

Tottenham boss Pochettino says that’s just not true. Pochettino was joking a bit when he answered questions on the topic, but then told a story about Xavi diving for a penalty in the derby. Here are a few of his thoughts, from The Telegraph:

“It wasn’t a penalty but Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored for Barcelona and they won the game. After in the replay it was very funny because it was clear no one touched him. Come on! It goes from lie to lie to lie.”

“He is working for Manchester City, maybe? He wants to help Guardiola and [Vincent] Kompany.”