CONCACAF World Cup Qualifying: Honduras want to wrap up third, Mexico and Panama desperate to slip in

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There’s just two matches left in the Hexagonal, but that doesn’t mean there’s no more drama. Sure, the United States have qualified, so there’s little to fret about regarding their match with bottom-dwellers Jamaica (although the match presents plenty of opportunities for the USMNT before they travel to Brazil). Costa Rica, too, have qualified with two games to spare. But there’s still that third placed slot, the one that leads directly to the World Cup, and fourth-place, which requires a win over New Zealand to get to Brazil.

Here’s where the drama comes in: two spots, four contenders. Honduras currently occupy the third spot, the last that can take a country directly to the World Cup. They seem relatively safe, but with two games left, their three point lead over both Panama and Mexico looks a bit too narrow, particularly considering they face Costa Rica on Friday night. A win, however, combined with a draw between Mexico and Panama, sees Honduras buying tickets to Brazil.

Jamaica could still, technically, slip in to that playoff spot, but they’ll have to beat both the United States and Honduras, and hope that Panama and Mexico play out a draw. If that happens, and Panama lose to the U.S., and Mexico lose to Costa Rica, Jamaica will have staged a wonderful comeback and will just need to beat New Zealand to reach Brazil.

CONCACAF Matches (Friday, October 11)

Honduras vs. Costa Rica (5 p.m. ET)

If Honduras want to keep their hold on third place, they really need more than a point in San Pedro Sula. Sure, it’s just Jamaica in the final round, and Los Catrachos can likely make it to Brazil with just four points. But do they really want to put that sort of pressure on themselves? If Honduras can secure a win, and Mexico vs. Panama ends in a draw, the Catrachos are through. But there’s an added complication: Costa Rica coach Jorge Luis Pinto has declared his intention to finish first in the Hex, stating that he will not treat these last two matches as mere friendlies, but instead as a warm up to the World Cup.

United States vs. Jamaica (6:30 p.m. ET)

Don’t worry, United States supporters — Steve Davis has you covered with an excellent, in-depth preview on the opportunities the USMNT has to fine-tune and perfect its game in the match against Jamaica. There will be more to follow from Kansas City as we count down the hours to kick off.

 Mexico vs. Panama (9:30 p.m. ET)

Definitely the big match in CONCACAF qualifying. Both sides are going to need to go full out: a draw, plus a win for Honduras, leaves them fighting for the spoils of fourth place. Mexico have lost their last two, but new coach Victor Manuel Vucetich is determined to reverse that trend. He hasn’t recalled Carlos Vela, despite his performances with Real Sociedad, but he’s brought in playmaker Lucas Lobos and recalled Rafa Marquez and Guillermo Memo Ochoa. Panama, meanwhile, will be looking to emulate Honduras by getting a win at the Azteca in Mexico City. The Canaleros beat Mexico twice in the Gold Cup this summer, and are hoping that the third time’s a charm as they continue to chase the dream of reaching their first World Cup.

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Spanish police dismantle match-fixing scheme in 3rd, 4th tiers

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MADRID (AP) Spanish police have dismantled a match-fixing scheme involving players and clubs in the country’s lower divisions.

Authorities said more than 20 people have been detained as part of the police operation launched on Monday, including players, although no names were immediately disclosed.

The matches under suspicion were in the third and fourth divisions this season and last season.

The match-fixing scheme reportedly involved Chinese betting sites.

The Spanish league said the operation was based on information collected by its analysts about suspicious activities.

UCL preview: Chelsea host Barcelona; Bayern vs. Besiktas

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  • Chelsea vs. Barcelona, at Stamford Bridge
  • Bayern Munich vs. Besiktas, at Allianz Arena
  • Champions League round of 16 resumes on Tuesday

[ UCL: Spurs fight back to draw Juventus | Liverpool thrash Porto in leg 1 ]

Chelsea, mired in some of their worst form since the disastrous 2015-16 season, welcome a Barcelona side enjoying one of the best six-month runs of results in the famed club’s entire history. The Blues have won just four of their last 12 games across all competitions, while the Blaugrana have lost once in 38 games.

On the plus side, Chelsea enter Tuesday’s colossal clash as winners of their last two games — back-to-back wins for the first time in 2018 — having outscored the likes of West Bromwich Albion and Hull City by a combined 7-0. Star striker Alvaro Morata returned to action against Hull after five weeks out with a back injury, thus Antonio Conte has something of a selection dilemma on his hands with the Spaniard perhaps only partially fit, and Olivier Giroud racking up a goal and three assists in the last two games, his first starts for the club.

Barcelona, meanwhile, have conceded just two goals in their last nine games (all competitions) and even managed to overturn their lone defeat, to Espanyol, and advance to the Copa del Rey semifinals (and eventually final). Despite losing Neymar in the summer, Barca mostly cruised through their Champions League group, only dropping points in draws away to Juventus and Olympiacos. Lionel Messi has, strangely, never scored a goal in his eight career appearances against Chelsea, a record which has been spoken about at length in the build-up to Tuesday — similarly to the goal-less record which plagued him against Juve goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon, whom he finally bested back in September.

[ MORE: Man City win big away to Basel | Real Madrid 3-1 PSG ]

In the other round-of-16 first-leg matchup on Tuesday, five-time (soon-to-be six) defending Bundesliga champions Bayern Munich host surprise winners of Group G, Besiktas, ahead of the likes of Monaco, RB Leipzig and Porto.

Since taking over on an interim basis (through the end of the season), Bayern boss Jupp Heynckes has won 21 of 22 games of which he’s been in charge, including four of six games during the group stage en route to finish second behind Paris Saint-Germain, while also racing out to a 19-point lead back home in Germany.

Aguero involved in clash with Wigan fan after FA Cupset

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MANCHESTER, England (AP) Sergio Aguero was involved in a confrontation with a Wigan fan as ugly scenes marred the end of the third-division side’s shock FA Cup win over Manchester City on Monday.

[ MORE: Wigan shock Man City, the world and themselves ]

Fans spilled on to the pitch at DW Stadium as the host celebrated its 1-0 fifth-round win against the runaway English Premier League leader.

Supporters from both clubs were involved in disturbances, while television pictures appeared to show a home supporter and striker Aguero involved in a physical exchange.

Aguero appeared to hit the supporter after the fan said something to the player, and Aguero had to be held back by his City teammates.

[ MORE: Money from Wembley replay “will support Rochdale for 2 or 3 years” ]

Advertising hoardings were also ripped out and thrown as a pitch invasion by Wigan fans got out of hand while the defeated City players were being escorted off the pitch.

Footage also appeared to show objects, including an advertising board, being thrown at police officers by fans in the City end.

Wigan shock themselves: “Not sure how it feels, hasn’t sunk in yet”

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Wigan Athletic didn’t just shock Manchester City with their FA Cup fifth-round slaying of the runaway Premier League leaders; nor did they merely shock the rest of the footballing world; they also shocked themselves into disbelief, according to defender Dan Burn.

[ MORE: Goodbye, quadruple! Wigan bounce 10-man City from FA Cup ]

Speaking following Monday’s triumph over Pep Guardiola‘s quadruple-chasing side at the DW Stadium, Burn admitted he himself didn’t know what to make of the night that would undoubtedly highlight and change his own professional career — quotes from the BBC:

“Not sure how it feels, hasn’t sunk in yet. It was a really tough game. The belief was always there. We’ve got Will Grigg, who does what he keeps doing.

“We pride ourselves on our clean sheets. We had a couple bad results before, so we wanted to prove ourselves, so a clean sheet against the best team in England is great.

“Once we scored, the fans really got behind us, just knew we needed to hang on. It was the longest 10 minutes of my life.”

[ MORE: Money from Wembley replay “will support Rochdale for 2 or 3 years” ]

Manager Paul Cook was able to articulate his happiness and pride only slightly better — “It feels great” — but offered the highest of praises to his players, whom “had to ride [their] luck at times” during the game, and gave everything they had to the cause, because that’s the only way you beat a team like Man City:

“It feels great. It’s such a severe test. They’re such a strong side and move the ball so well. We had to ride our luck at times and the sending off is always a big incident.

“Our lads deserve credit for their work and some of the blocks they made were outstanding, and to beat Man City you have to do that.”