Oguchi Onyewu, “almost certainly in Jurgen Klinsmann’s World Cup squad”

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Queens Park Rangers manager Harry Redknapp dropped some pretty significant U.S. national team news on Friday, following U.S. international defender Oguchi Onyewu signed a short-term deal with QPR.

Congratulations ‘Gooch’, it seems as though your spot in the USMNT World Cup squad is all but confirmed.

“Jurgen Klinsmann rung me about him,” Redknapp said. “To recommend him and he said he’s almost certainly going to be in his squad for the World Cup, and really was a big fan of his and liked him very much. Klinsmann said Onyewu needs to go and play somewhere, because he wants him for the World Cup squad.”

Okay, well, there you have it guys, straight from the horses mouth… sort of. English Championship side QPR have handed Onyewu a lifeline after he left Sporting Lisbon at the end of last season and has been without a club since. Redknapp revealed his been impressed with Onyewu in training, and will give the UMSNT stalwart, who featured in both the 2006 and 2010 World Cups, the chance to shine in England’s second-tier.

(MORE: Americans Abroad – Onyewu signs for QPR, Brek Shea wants loan deal)

“He’s done well,” Redknapp continued. “He’s trained well, a fantastic boy with a great attitude and we’ve sorted out a deal, not a long contract… but it’s up to him now to come and do well.”

Onyewu, 31, has bounced around Europe with varying degrees of success in recent years and his chances with the USMNT has been hampered due to injury issues and a lack of playing time with AC Milan, Malaga and Lisbon amongst others. Now he may finally get the chance to shine at Loftus Road, as the R’s challenge for an immediate return to the top flight and are currently sitting second in the Championship with a game against league leaders coming up this weekend.

source: AP
Is Oguchi Onyewu a must for the USA’s 2014 World Cup squad?

If the Washington D.C. native can recapture full-fitness and his best form, no doubt he would be a valuable addition to the USA’s World Cup roster. However with young MLS duo Matt Besler and Omar Gonzalez locking up the two central defensive spots as of right now, it seems like Onyewu should need a few good months of action under his belt to displace the likes of Clarence Goodson and Michael Orozco as back up center backs? Onyewu last played for the U.S. in the 2013 Gold Cup on July 13, as he captained the side in a 4-1 win over Cuba before returning to Europe after the group stages to sort out his club situation.

Regardless of whether or not 66-year-old Redknapp misquoted Klinsmann, the QPR manager did reveal how highly the USMNT coach rates the towering defender. And the fact that Klinsmann personally called Redknapp to arrange the deal shows how much faith he has in the defender to perform and be of use to him.

When informed that Onyewu once broke Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s ribs in a training ground bust-up a few years ago, Redknapp laughed and suggested he should lengthen the USMNT defenders deal so he didn’t get any punches thrown his way from Gooch.

“Oh my god, I didn’t know that,” Redknapp said. “I’ve got to be honest, you wouldn’t want to have a fight with this fella. He’s a big ‘un…. I think we better give him an extra year on his contract in case he ‘cops the needle with me. * But he could be a heavyweight boxer, he’s about six foot four.”

And if Onyewu can get his huge frame fit and raring to go for Brazil 2014, the USA’s defensive depth will be stronger for it.

*For those not familiar with Redknapp’s cockney terminology, he basically thinks he should offer Onyewu a new deal, otherwise he may end up getting punched like Zlatan. I’m sure you got that… just wanted to double check.

Manchester derby “the game of the season”

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Whatever way you slice it up, Thursday’s Manchester derby is huge.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights

Manchester City host Manchester United (Watch, 2:45 p.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com) at the Etihad Stadium with Pep Guardiola‘s side just one point ahead of United in the Premier League table.

City currently occupy fourth spot and the final UEFA Champions League qualification berth but are coming off the back of a damaging FA Cup semifinal defeat to Arsenal after extra time.

United and Jose Mourinho haven’t lost in 23 Premier League games, the longest current unbeaten streak across Europe’s top five leagues, and are in the UEFA Europa League semifinals as their banged up squad have stood tall in the final months of the campaign.

Speaking ahead of the derby, one of United’s stars this season believes everything comes down to this one game.

“It is going to be the game of the season,” Ander Herrera said. “We are one point behind them. If we win we have the chance to finish in the top four, if they win it is going to be very difficult. It is the game of the season.

“Make or break? Probably. Both teams are in a good moment so if one of us wins the game we are not going to lose a lot of games, or make mistakes after that. Us or them. It is going to be key. I don’t know the ‘winner takes all’ expression but it is going to be a massive game. We are in a very good moment, a very good run and we respect them but we are doing a lot of good things and we have to show it on Thursday.”

Herrera’s comments say it all.

It is fair to say that both Manchester clubs have flattered to deceive for much of this season with Guardiola’s tactics yet to flourish in England and Mourinho’s rebuild hampered by injuries and a lack of goals at crucial moments.

On Thursday there will be a raucous atmosphere at the Etihad as both teams are aware of what is at stake.

More of the pressure may well be on City who now have just a place in the top four to focus on and with many previously giving United no chance of finishing in the top four, a win at City would take them above their “noisy neighbors” and into the UCL spots.

Former Czech Republic defender Rajtoral kills himself

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PRAGUE (AP) Former Czech Republic defender Frantisek Rajtoral, who won the domestic league title four times before joining Turkish club Gaziantepspor, died on Sunday. He was 31.

[ MORE: Bayern scouted Kyle Walker, Alex Sanchez this weekend ]

The Czech football federation said in a statement that Rajtoral had “committed suicide in Turkey.”

His agent Pavel Zika confirmed the player’s death, describing it as a “huge tragedy.”

Gaziantepspor announced Rajtoral’s death in a brief statement on its website.

Rajtoral played 14 international matches for the Czech Republic.

In the top Czech league, he won four titles with Viktoria Plzen and played in the group stage of the Champions League twice for the club. He moved to Hannover in the Bundesliga in 2014 for half of the season, on loan.

He left Viktoria Plzen last year to move to Turkey.

Bellerin wants to represent Spain U21s despite Wenger’s wishes

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Arsene Wenger has made it clear about Hector Bellerin representing Spain this summer but the Arsenal defender is prepared to go against his manager’s wishes if he is selected.

[ MORE: Bayern scouted Kyle Walker, Alexis Sanchez over the weekend ]

The 22-year-old has said he hopes to play for Spain’s Under-21 side this summer during the 2017 European U-21 Championship but Wenger has been weary of Bellerin’s injury status and wants his fullback to maintain a clean bill of health throughout the offseason.

“I really want to play,” Bellerin told IBTimes. “Representing Spain is very important. If [Albert] Celades gives me the chance I’ll be there.

“Those are opinions of the managers. I have to keep working. The truth is that I had a difficult injury but I think that I am at 100% now and I’ll try to prove it when I get the chance.”

Bellerin signed a six-and-a-half year deal with the Gunners in November, where he has resided since coming up in the club’s academy. He has made 102 appearances for Wenger’s team in that span over all competitions.

Roma boosts bid for 2nd in Serie A by beating Pescara 4-1

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PESCARA, Italy (AP) Roma boosted its bid for second place in Serie A and automatic entry into the Champions League with a 4-1 win at Pescara, which was mathematically relegated on Monday.

[ MORE: Newcastle joins Brighton in promotion to Premier League ]

Roma moved four points clear of third-placed Napoli, which drew against Sassuolo 2-2 on Sunday. Third place in Serie A receives a Champions League playoff.

Pescara remained 15 points behind Empoli. There are only five matches left and Empoli has the better head-to-head record, which is the deciding factor if two teams finish level on points.

There were 48 goals in total in the 33rd round, matching the record set in October 1992.

Roma took control shortly before halftime, with Kevin Strootman breaking the deadlock after Stephan El Shaarawy unselfishly rolled the ball across the area.

Radja Nainggolan, who earlier hit the bar, doubled Roma’s lead two minutes later.

Mohamed Salah extended Roma’s advantage three minutes after the break and the winger doubled his tally on the hour following a swift counterattack.

Ahmad Benali got a consolation for Pescara and a Cristiano Biraghi free kick also hit the post for the home side.