Which U.S. players have the biggest opportunities tonight against Jamaica?

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KANSAS CITY — Fate has conspired to give a few World Cup hopefuls an additional chance at impressing U.S. boss Jurgen Klinsmann.

That’s the same Jurgen Klinsmann who tipped his hand just a little more Thursday when he said, almost matter of factly, that there “aren’t many suprises coming around the corner.”

What he meant was that none of us should expect some young buck who has yet to spend a minute with the national team to burst spectacularly onto the scene.

But it’s also a reminder that his core group will continue to be the core group; chances to gather his top players are dwindling, down to five FIFA dates between now at training camp time for Brazil.

That said, there are some choices ahead for the U.S. boss. Injuries to some of the front line men mean a few guys who weren’t going to get a chance tonight in Kansas City now may get one. So, here are the players who have the most to gain from some kind of standout night at Sporting Park:

Alejandro Bedoya: This is a great chance to follow up on some good work near the end of the Gold Cup. The lack of true wingers around the U.S. program will help, but Klinsmann won’t take Bedoya (pictured, on the left) just because he can play out wide; he’s got to be effective at it. Clearly, Klinsmann isn’t afraid to deploy guys to the wings who are better suited for inside positions, Eddie Johnson and Graham Zusi as good examples.

Aron Johannsson: Klinsmann knows by now what Chris Wondolowski can and cannot do. With the recent Icelandic-American addition to the player pool … not so much. Again, the chances to impress are shrinking fast. Johannsson has lots of potential; Klinsmann needs to see that the young striker is far enough along that he could be useful by next summer is Brazil.

Terrence Boyd: Between Clint Dempsey, Jozy Altidore, Landon Donovan, Eddie Johnson and Herculez Gomez, there just is not much room on the roster for young strikers. For guys like Boyd and Johannsson, they’ll have to force Klinsmann into considering them. How can they do that? Well, scoring a goal or two in a World Cup qualifier (even a mostly meaningless one like tonight’s) is a fantastic start.

Sacha Kljestan: Micheal Bradley is easily Klinsmann’s most important man, and the brain of this U.S. bunch will find himself on the field every possible minute he can be. That said, the team needs a Plan B in that linking midfield role. (Other than Jermaine Jones, that is, who mans the position when Bradley doesn’t). Either way, they need one more versatile, two-way man like Bradley. It’s probably going to be Mix Diskerud or Kljestan, and at the moment Diskerud is a little ahead.

Brad Davis: The Houston Dynamo man sits on the bubble. Davis has been on the list for some World Cup qualifiers this year, so that’s a check mark for him. And his set piece service can come in handy if Landon Donovan or Graham Zusi are not around, for whatever reason. All that said, nothing is guaranteed for the 31-year-old midfielder, and a few good minutes against Jamaica (likely off the bench, since he played Wednesday for Houston) sure wouldn’t hurt.

Brad Evans: The U.S. right back spot is wide, wide open. Longtime fixture Steve Cherundolo remains in the picture, but even if the Bundesliga vet regains his health and good form, the team needs a backup, and nobody has stepped up forcefully to lay claim to it. Klinsmann seems determined to use Geoff Cameron as a center back or a reserve holding midfielder (Klinsmann said Thursday that center back was Cameron’s best spot). So Evans, Michael Parkhurst and others remain in the hunt. (Fabian Johnson, too, although he is better suited on the left.)

(MORE: Helping to explain tonight’s goofy kickoff time)

Reports: Barcelona holding talks with Verratti’s agent

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Barcelona has their eyes set on a new Andres Iniesta.

Sure, projecting anyone to meet Ballon d’Or finalist standards is silly, but news that Barca has had multiple meetings with Paris Saint-Germain’s Marco Verratti does inspire comparison hunting.

[ MORE: Klopp explains Lovren extension ]

An influential and creative central midfielder, the 24-year-old Verratti is 8.5 years younger than Iniesta and wowed Barca in the first leg of PSG’s ill-fated UEFA Champions League tie with the Catalans.

Mundo Deportivo, amongst others, reports that Verratti feels life at PSG has gotten stale and that Barca is one of the few clubs that represents a significant jump up in class. He’s also been linked with Real Madrid and Manchester United in the past few transfer windows.

Verratti has a contract through 2020-21, so any purchase will not be cheap considering PSG’s desire to continue growing its status as a UCL contender. The Italian is 21 times capped by the Azzurri.

Klopp talks new Lovren deal, Top Four worries, Watford

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Liverpool announced a new contract for Dejan Lovren on Friday, complete with the requisite “I love my club” comments from the defender.

Then Jurgen Klopp got his hands on a microphone.

The outspoken manager explained that re-signing Lovren to a new “long-term” deal ensures that the Croatian spends the best years of his career with the Reds.

[ MORE: Top PL Storylines ]

He also spoke plainly about Lovren’s perceived struggles and successes since arriving at Anfield from Southampton in 2014.

From The Liverpool Echo:

“If Dejan played for another club you would want to sign him – and pay a lot of money. He is 27, the best time is still to come.”

“If you’d asked fans after the Dortmund game they would said give him a 20-year contract. After the Palace game fans would have said ‘can we find another team who will have him?’ Truth is somewhere in between.”

Turning to Monday’s trip to Watford, Klopp isn’t concerned about the chance that his Reds will open the day outside the Top Four if Man City and Manchester United both win at the weekend.

He also says the Reds could have Adam Lallana and Daniel Sturridge at Vicarge Road, though Jordan Henderson remains out.

Premier League Preview: Sunderland vs. Bournemouth

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  • Sunderland won 2-1 on Nov. 5
  • Fourth meeting since 1990
  • Sunderland leads all-time 5W-3D-1L

Sunderland looks to keep its faint hopes of Premier League safety alive by managing a season sweep of Bournemouth when the two sides meet at the Stadium of Light on Saturday (Watch live at 10 a.m. ET on CNBC and online via NBCSports.com).

The Black Cats are a mess, having lost to Tees-Wear Derby rivals Middlesbrough on Wednesday and living 12 points back of 17th place Swansea City.

Bournemouth battered Middlesbrough 4-0 last weekend to move seven points clear of the drop zone, and can finish the day in the top half with a win up north.

What they’re saying

Sunderland boss David Moyes on calls for him to quit“I’m here, I’m the manager, you take it on the chin. … I’m a football supporter, I know what it’s like. You don’t like seeing your team lose. There is nobody who wants to win more than me. I am used to winning, I’m not used to losing and I don’t want to get used to it either.”

Bournemouth captain Simon Francis on Sunderland’s woes“It just show how things can happen when clubs are not run properly. If we do lose Sunderland from the Premier League it will be a real shame. They are an enormous club and playing at grounds like theirs is the pinnacle of anyone’s career.”

 

Prediction

The Black Cats haven’t quit, but manage two fewer points than they need, all but heading for the Championship after a 2-2 draw.

Premier League Preview: Southampton vs. Hull City

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  • Hull won 2-1 on Nov. 6
  • Tigers two points clear of drop zone
  • Saints lead all-time 23W-20D-15L

After back-to-back losses to Man City and Chelsea, Saints meet a different kind of desperation when Hull City arrives at St. Mary’s (Watch live at 10 a.m. ET Saturday on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

With a win, Hull can move five points clear of the final relegation spot and heap pressure on Swansea City, who plays Sunday. With a loss, Marco Silva’s men open the 17th place door for Swans.

[ MORE: JPW on Romeu the Destroyer ]

Since the start of the 2011-12 season in the Championship, Southampton has won six of seven matches against Hull. That seventh, however, was the match at the KCOM Stadium earlier this season, one that saw now-West Ham man Robert Snodgrass spur a Tigers comeback.

Saints open the day four points back of eighth place West Brom, and also hold a match-in-hand on the Baggies.

What they’re saying

Saints boss Claude Puel on slump busting“After two losses it’s important to move forward now and take points on Saturday in front of our own fans. We have to improve in the right areas and find a good balance of play, but also a good clinical edge in both penalty areas.”

Marco Silva on Hull’s away troubles““We have conceded goals on the counter-attack away from home in games when the result has been looking good for us – we cannot make it possible for our opponents to do this to us. The second goal we conceded at Stoke is an example of this – conceded at a time when we were in control of the game. Details like this are making the difference and these are things we must look to change. This is clear to me and I pass this on to my players.”

Prediction

Saints have more quality than Hull, but may not have as much fire in the belly. Still, home field means a lot here and Southampton should reverse the score line from November’s tilt. 2-1, with Manolo Gabbiadini and Dusan Tadic leading the way.