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Americans Abroad preview: League play before qualifier call-ups

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Having already qualified for the 2014 FIFA World Cup, the United States’ last two qualifiers, against Jamaica and at Panama, have little important meaning. However, head coach Jürgen Klinsmann will likely use the opportunity to begin figuring out who will be on his squad next summer.

Due to injuries, the coach has delayed announcing his roster until after the weekend games. He can wait to see who is still in form and if anybody unexpectedly plays his way onto the team for a couple games.

(MORE: Americans Abroad – Full Archive)

Klinsmann has a vast number of Americans playing in other countries at his disposal. Here are a few whom fans on this side of the pond can watch this weekend:

ENGLAND

• Tim Howard and Everton take on Manchester City in the early Saturday Premier League match (7:45 a.m. ET, NBCSN and NBC Sports Live Extra). The American No. 1 will look to stay sharp before what will likely be two more starts for his country.

• Stoke City, with Geoff Cameron likely in the back, travels to West London to play Fulham (Saturday, 9:45 a.m., NBCSN and NBC Sports Live Extra). With the injuries in defense and midfield for the U.S., Cameron could play an important role against Jamaica and Panama.

• Aston Villa plays Hull City in a match that could see Brad Guzan be the least busy American goalkeeper in the league (Saturday, 9:45 a.m., NBC Sports Live Extra). His performances so far have reminded fans (and Klinsmann and Howard) that the U.S. has more than one capable goalkeeper at its disposal.

• Jozy Altidore faces a reeling Manchester United side when Sunderland hosts the defending champion (Saturday, 12:30 p.m., NBCSN and NBC Sports Live Extra). A goal against one of the best clubs in the world would boost his confidence just in time to do it again on the international stage.

MEXICO

• Club Tijuana and its American contingent — Edgar Castillo, Greg Garza, Joe Corona, Herculez Gómez and Paul Arriola — host Querétaro on Friday night (10:25 p.m., ESPN Deportes). Gómez finally made his return from injury in league play, finding the field for 72 minutes and 31 minutes, respectively, against Club América and Puebla in the last week.

GERMANY

• Schalke 04 and Jermaine Jones host Augsburg on Saturday, with Schalke needing points to move up the table. It’s been a disappointing early season in the Bundesliga for the club, but a 1-0 Champions League win at FC Basel on Tuesday provided some optimism.

• Hoffenheim, with Fabian Johnson in tow, travels to Mainz to face a side that has lost its previous four league matches after winning its first three. Both Johnson and Jones played the majority of Hoffenheim and Schalke’s 3-3 draw last week.

FRANCE

• Alejandro Bedoya (pictured) and Nantes host Evian TG on Saturday, and another good game could see him earning some minutes for the national team next week. Bedoya came on in the 23rd minute on the left wing last week, after Vincent Bessat picked up a thigh injury, and he looks to be the likeliest candidate for a start at the position this time around.

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)
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)
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.