Egypt faces biggest challenge of World Cup qualification yet in Ghana

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Fate threw one final piece of adversity at Egypt and head coach Bob Bradley during the draw for the African World Cup qualification playoffs when it matched the Pharaohs against Ghana. Bradley’s bogey team from his time as the United States coach stands in his way once again, at the end of a qualification campaign fraught with stumbling blocks.

From revolutions to riots to massacres, Egypt’s road to the 2014 FIFA World Cup has been probably the most difficult in the world. If Bradley can carry his team that one final step, his status as national hero would climb again, nearly to the point of erecting another pyramid in his honor.

“In Egypt, everyone speaks about their World Cup dream, regardless of their political background,” Bradley said in a press conference on Thursday (via KingFut). “Qualification could indicate that the country is moving forward.”

The Pharaohs’ perfect record in the final round of qualification will be severely tested in the first leg in Kumasi, Ghana, on Tuesday (noon ET, beIN Sport). In 18 matches between the countries, Ghana has won eight, while the teams have drawn five times. The most recent matchup was a 3-0 friendly win for the Black Stars on Jan. 10.

However, the record in competitive fixtures has been much closer, with each team taking a win and drawing once in three Africa Cup of Nations games spanning from 1970 to 2010. In the 2010 final, Egypt took the trophy after a narrow 1-0 win, delivered in the 85th minute on Gedo’s boot.

“We studied Ghana well,” Bradley said. “We respect them, but not too much. We are a good team. … We must be smart in Kumasi. We need to play with the right mentality — intellectually, but with confidence.”

Logically, confidence should be in short supply, with Egypt having failed to qualify for a World Cup since 1990, while Ghana has been to the last two, reaching the quarterfinals in 2010. However, Egypt doesn’t seem to care much for the odds this World Cup cycle, running the table in six matches against Guinea, Mozambique and Zimbabwe before meeting Ghana.

The Black Stars will be without star midfielder Kevin Prince Boateng for at least the first leg, as he suffered a knee injury in club duty for Schalke. Meanwhile, CAF qualification leading scorers Mohamed Salah and Mohamed Aboutrika are set to start for Egypt.

Leading scorer Asamoah Gyan should also get the nod for Ghana. American fans will remember him as the player who knocked the U.S. out of the 2010 World Cup with an extra-time volley in the Round of 16.

While Ghana’s attack is what Bradley will remember, the other end of the field has been the Black Stars’ best asset in qualification, conceding just three goals in six group games. However, Jonathan Mensah and John Boye are both injured after starting the last four games together in defense. Boye started all six group games for Ghana.

After everything Egypt has overcome so far, the final hurdle should provide the most difficult on-field test in reaching Brazil. Considering the context, it seems the stars have aligned for a last piece of odds-defying Pharaoh magic that could unite the country in some of its most difficult days.

Watch Live: Six Premier League games at 10am ET

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Six Premier League games are coming your way at 10 a.m. ET on Saturday.

You can watch all the games live online.

[ STREAM: Every PL game live here ]

Arsenal welcome Crystal Palace, Man United head to Burnley, West Ham host Bournemouth, Stoke and Huddersfield clash, while Leicester welcome Watford and Everton do battle with West Brom.

[ MORE: Sign up for NBC Sports Gold ] 

You can access additional games by purchasing the new “Premier League Pass” via NBC Sports Gold which also includes an extensive selection of shoulder programming such as Premier League News, Premier League Today and NBC Sports originals such as Premier League Download and much more.

[ STREAM: “Goal Rush” here ]

For those of you familiar with the Premier League Breakaway Show during busy days (Boxing Day, New Year’s Day, Championship Sunday etc.) in the PL, this will follow that model of being similar to the NFL RedZone with action shown from all of the games in the 10 a.m. ET window. More info is available here.

The schedule for all six games at 10 a.m. ET is below and you can stream each game live by clicking on the links.


10 a.m. ET: Burnley vs. Manchester United – NBCSN [STREAM]
10 a.m. ET: Arsenal vs. Crystal Palace – CNBC [STREAM]
10 a.m. ET: Everton vs. West Brom – NBC Sports Gold [STREAM
10 a.m. ET: Leicester City vs. Watford – NBC Sports Gold [STREAM]
10 a.m. ET: Stoke City vs. Huddersfield Town – NBC Sports Gold [STREAM]
10 a.m. ET: West Ham United vs. Bournemouth – NBC Sports Gold  [STREAM]

Brighton 0-4 Chelsea: Magic Hazard runs the show

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  • Chelsea snap run of five-straight draws
  • Brighton have one win in last 13 PL games
  • Hazard scores twice, rips Brighton apart
  • Chelsea have won 11 of last 16 games

Chelsea beat Brighton and Hove Albion 4-0 at the Amex Stadium on Saturday as Eden Hazard scored twice and tore the Seagulls apart.

Two goals in the opening six minutes from Hazard and Willian set Chelsea on their way to victory, then Hazard capped the win off with a fine individual goal late on and Victor Moses added a fourth.

Brighton battled hard and hit the woodwork and had penalty shouts but Chris Hughton‘s men were outclassed by Hazard in dazzling form.

Without the suspended duo of Alvaro Morata and Pedro, plus injured goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois, Chelsea deserved the win and moved level on 50 points with second-place Manchester United, while the Seagulls are just three points above the drop zone.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Less than three minutes into the game Chelsea took the lead as Moses’ cross from the right deflected into Hazard’s path and the Belgian took a touch to settle himself before he rifled home.

It got worse soon after for Brighton as Chelsea pounced to double their lead via Willian. The Brazilian surged forward, played the ball into Eden Hazard and he then flicked the ball into Michy Batshuayi with the back of his heel and Batshuayi followed suit to play in Willian who fired home. 2-0 with six minutes on the clock.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

Brighton responded well and should have had a penalty kick as Willy Caballero rushed off his line and appeared to catch Ezequiel Schelotto, but no penalty kick was given and Chelsea cleared the danger. Moments later a high ball into the box caused Cabellero problems again as he flapped at a cross but his defense bailed him out.

On the break Batshuayi had an effort stopped by Mat Ryan as Hazard ran riot, while at the other end Caballero then made a superb save to deny Tomer Hemed and Shane Duffy nodded wide as Brighton had their chances in a action-packed first half.

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings ] 

In the second half, Brighton continued to push for a goal back and Davy Propper‘s header hit the post and came out. Andreas Christensen was then forced off after being involved in a nasty clash of heads as David Luiz came on.

At the other end Willian had his free kick pushed onto the post by Ryan as Chelsea looked to end any hope of a Brighton comeback.

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

Hazard (who else?) did just that in the closing stages as he sauntered towards goal and send Ryan the wrong way with a fine finish to make it 3-0.

Charly Musonda then made a great impression as he jumped off the bench and clipped a fine ball forward for Moses who controlled and finished for Chelsea’s four goal to hammer the final nail in Brighton’s coffin.

Report: Arsenal bid $61 million for Aubameyang

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It has begun.

According to German outlet Kicker, Arsenal have made an opening offer of $61 million to Borussia Dortmund for Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.

Dortmund’s star striker, 28, has been left out of their last two matchday squads amid discpilinary problems and question marks over his future at the Westfalenstadion.

The leading goalscorer in the Bundesliga last season (31 goals in 32 games) has been linked with a move to Arsenal over the past week as they get ready to sell Alexis Sanchez to Manchester United. Reports linking Aubamyenag to Arsenal have seen Dortmund’s sporting director hit out at Arsene Wenger and called the Gunners’ behavior disrespectful.

Talking of disrespect…

Aubameyang was spotted playing five-a-side with friends in Dortmund on Friday while his teammates drew 1-1 with Hertha Berlin (something his manager Peter Stoeger had a less than positive reaction to) as the Gabonese striker wore a BVB shirt with Ousmane Dembele’s name on the back. Dembele was suspended by the club back in the summer as he tried to force through his move to Barcelona, which eventually happened for a fee of $130 million.

I’m sure the Dortmund hierarchy were pleased about that…

When it comes to Aubameyang and where he would fit in at Arsenal, this would be a great fit. He’d be the target forward they’ve needed for some time and imagine Alexandre Lacazette and Aubameyang in tandem, plus Mesut Ozil and maybe his former teammate at Dortmund, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, (if his move from Man United goes through) threading through balls.

Aubameyang is prolific and has scored 141 goals in 212 games for Dortmund over the past five seasons, including 21 goals in 23 games in all competitions this season.

Olivier Giroud was said to be offered as part of the deal, but his name isn’t mentioned in this report and the Frenchman is said to want to stay at Arsenal at least until the end of the season.

It’s likely Arsenal will have to pay closer to $70 million for a player who has three years left on his current contract, but his goal output is certainly worth that amount, even if his off-pitch antics and somewhat disruptive nature could be an issue for Wenger. At this point, Arsenal need all the help they can get to finish off games they dominate.

Barcelona issue statement on Antoine Griezmann

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Hmm, this is an interesting tactic from Barcelona.

On Saturday the Catalan club released a statement about Atletico Madrid and France striker Antoine Griezmann.

The forward has long been linked with a move to Barca and media reports in Spain have gone into overdrive regarding a move to the Nou Camp for the 26-year-old.

Below is the statement from Barca in full.

FC Barcelona strongly denies the information that has appeared over the course of the last few hours in different media regarding Atletico Madrid player, Antoine Griezmann, and an alleged deal with our club.

FC Barcelona expresses its objections in the face of these events and reiterates its full respect for the institution of Atletico Madrid.

This feels very similar to the situation with Virgil Van Dijk between Liverpool and Southampton.

Media speculation reached incredible levels back in June 2017 that VVD had agreed to sign for Liverpool, but the Anfield club then issued a public apology to Saints and ended their pursuit of Van Dijk. He then signed for Liverpool in January in a $100 million move.

With Atletico said to be incredibly unhappy that Griezmann continues to be linked with a move to Barca, plus reports suggesting the Madrid club want to report Barcelona to FIFA for an alleged approach for their star striker, it’s not too surprising to see Barca take this very unusual approach to try and calm the situation down.

Will it work? Who knows. Is it likely Griezmann will end up at Barcelona anyway? This statement suggests that the two clubs are in dialogue and Barcelona are trying to patch up their relationship to try and move for Griezmann in the summer.

Call me cynical, but that’s the way I see this.