Mexico v United States - FIFA 2014 World Cup Qualifier

Preview: U.S. vs. Jamaica

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• The United States has already qualified for the 2014 World Cup, regardless of the results in its final two matches against Jamaica and at Honduras. Meanwhile, Jamaica is in last place in the final group, with just four points out of eight matches.

• Jamaica gave Colorado Rapids forward Deshorn Brown his first international call-up for the match. The U.S. will be without forwards Clint Dempsey and Eddie Johnson. Dempsey is recovering from an injury, and Johnson left camp early with a fresh groin strain.

The United States hosts Jamaica on Friday (6:30 p.m. ET on ESPN) with World Cup qualification already secured. Now, head coach Jürgen Klinsmann and his staff can begin fine-tuning their roster and deciding who they will take to Brazil next summer.

Jamaica hardly has any chance to earn fourth place in the CONCACAF Hexagonal and face New Zealand in a two-legged playoff for a spot in the tournament. The Reggae Boyz, in sixth right now, need two wins against the U.S. and Honduras and Mexico and Panama to lose their final match after tying each other on Friday.

That doesn’t mean Sporting Park in Kansas City, Kan., will be a relaxed atmosphere. Jamaica proved to be a difficult opponent in both of the last two rounds of qualifying, with the U.S. needing a last-gasp winner from Brad Evans to secure all three points back in June. Each of the last three games between the teams have been decided by one goal.

With an injury-depleted squad, Klinsmann’s lineup on Friday will likely be different than what fans are used to seeing. In his press conference on Thursday, the coach hinted that Geoff Cameron could start at center back in place of the injured Omar González, and he said Eddie Johnson was due to start at forward until he picked up an injury.

That could open the door for Aron Jóhannsson to get his first start for the U.S. since filing for his one-time switch from Iceland. He has been on a tear for AZ Alkmaar, scoring four goals in his last four appearances and seven overall to start the season. For Jamaica, Deshorn Brown could get his first start during his Rookie of the Year-candidate season in Major League Soccer.

Predicted U.S. lineup (4-4-2): Tim Howard — DaMarcus Beasley, Matt Besler, Geoff Cameron, Brad Evans — Alejandro Bedoya, Kyle Beckerman, Jermaine Jones, Graham Zusi — Landon Donovan, Jozy Altidore

What they’re saying

U.S. head coach Jürgen Klinsmann on putting together a roster with qualification in the bag: “The thought process was the same as all the previous qualifiers. We want to win these games. … These games already count toward the World Cup in 2014 in terms of the internal competition and the mentality we are trying to build.”

Jamaica assistant coach Vin Blaine on his team’s chances to advance: “We are aware that we are in a difficult situation, and we have to depend on other results to stand a chance to advance, but when we take the field on Friday, we will only be focused on what we have to do. … I really don’t think the USA are going to come and play us hard knowing that they already qualified for the World Cup. I don’t think they will come and play with the same intensity as if they were trying to qualify.”

U.S. left back DaMarcus Beasley on the team’s mentality: “Right now, there are spots for Brazil, and everyone knows that. There’s 23 spots that go on the plane next summer. You want to be one of them that’s on the plane.”

Prediction

Jamaica really needs a win, but its quality has sorely lacked for much of the Hexagonal round. The U.S. has enough quality that it should expect to take all three points, regardless of whether they are needed or not. Anything less than a U.S. win, especially in a raucous atmosphere in Kansas City, would be shocking and worrisome.

Premier League Preview: Sunderland vs. Manchester United

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  • United 6 points outside the top four
  • Sunderland winless in four
  • MUFC has one loss in 27 vs. SAFC (W20, D6, L1)

Manchester United’s uphill battle for a top-four finish continues on Saturday when the Red Devils travel to the Stadium of Light to face Sunderland (Watch live, 7:45 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via Live Extra).

United won this fixture in September 3-0 behind goals from Memphis, Wayne Rooney, and Juan Mata.

[ WATCH LIVE: Stream every PL game via Live Extra ]

Sunderland sit 19th on the table four points from safety as the time has come for Sam Allardyce‘s side to start getting results. Without a win in their last four matches, the Black Cats must turn things around if they want to stay up in the Premier League. Jermain Defoe scored last time out in a draw at Liverpool, and he’ll once again be tasked with finding the back of the net if Sunderland are to win.

[ MORE: Prince-Wright’s Premier League Picks for Week 26 ]

For Manchester United, the pressure is still on Louis Van Gaal as rumors and reports circle linking Jose Mourinho to the job. Fifth on the table and six points behind Manchester City, a top-four finish is slipping away from United if they don’t rattle off a few wins. A late goal at Chelsea last weekend cost the Red Devils all three points, but they’ll look at this matchup against Sunderland as a good opportunity to get a positive result.

What they’re saying

Sunderland boss Sam Allardyce: “Providing chances for Jermain Defoe is critical for us. But our first major problem is that we haven’t kept a clean sheet in nine matches. We need to start putting a zero against us in games and if we start doing that we’ll win more matches. If we win more matches, we’ll get out of trouble.”

United manager Louis van Gaal: “We had lost four matches in a row in December and you see us now. You can only say that we are mentally very strong and that we can cope with the pressure. That is not enough as we have to improve our results and consistency to win a lot of matches in a row. We have to minimize the gap to our competitors.”

Prediction

Sunderland need all the points they can get to try and stay up, but United always seem to cause the Black Cats problems. Jermain Defoe is kept off the board as Louis van Gaal takes the win. Sunderland 0-2 Manchester United.

Costa breaks nose, will be fit to play for “Zorro team” vs. Newcastle

LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 07:  Diego Costa of Chelsea reacts during the Barclays Premier League match between Chelsea and Manchester United at Stamford Bridge on February 7, 2016 in London, England.  (Photo by Paul Gilham/Getty Images)
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Chelsea striker Diego Costa broke his nose in training after a clash of heads, but should be fit to play in Saturday’s match against Newcastle (Watch live, 12:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN and online via Live Extra).

Costa has six goals in his past seven Premier League games as Chelsea are unbeaten in their last 11 in all competitions.

[ MORE: Top 5 PL storylines ]

Manager Guus Hiddink spoke about the injury in his press conference on Friday, saying Costa collided with an Academy player in training. Hiddink said he believes Costa will be ready to play this weekend for his “Zorro team” as Costa joins Gary Cahill, Nemanja Matic, and Cesar Azpilicueta as Chelsea players to wear a mask this season.

It was not a tough duel but he put his nose on the back of the head of one of the youngsters from the Academy that we like to participate in our training games. He was very unlucky.

They are putting a mask on Diego as well, we are the team with a lot of masks, a Zorro team, and he will come back do some light training this afternoon as he must experience how he is dealing with the form and the fitting of the mask.

Costa scored a stoppage-time equalizer against Manchester United last weekend as Chelsea continue to get results under Guus Hiddink. The Blues are up to 13th on the table, just three points outside the top half.

[ RELATED: Frank Lampard urges Chelsea to sign John Terry ]

Chelsea will look to extend their unbeaten run to 12 matches on Saturday against a Newcastle side that is just one point above the drop and in need of a result.

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 ]