Nemanja Vidic

More head injuries in the Premier League add to swirling cyclone of criticism (video)

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Hello? Is anyone home? Is anyone listening?

Appears not.

As we continue to progress through the Premier League season – almost a third of the way through now – all we get is more of the same.

With today’s action, we were subjected to two more instances of head injuries on the pitch as well as one more instance of Andre Villas-Boas’s foolishness as it becomes more and more obvious a protocol regarding head injuries is needed in the Premier League.

Arsenal traveled to Manchester United in the headliner match of the day, and the game quickly proved to be a physical battle with little offered on goal.  In the first half, we saw a player on each team go down with a nasty blow to the head, although the two sides handled it differently.

The Gunners proved no better than Tottenham with their handling of goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny, who was very clearly knocked out when he collided heads with Phil Jones challenging in the box.

Szczesny was soon up on his feet and appeared fine, but not before NBC cameras showed him squinting and cringing in pain as he laid on his back, a bit fuzzy as he came to. Have a watch:

And apparently, that was that. Szczesny played the rest of the match, with not even a sniff towards backup goalkeeper Lukaz Fabianski on the bench.

Manchester United gets a gold star for their performance, however, with how they handled Nemanja Vidic, although the outcome to his injury was a bit more obvious.

The United captain and central defender went in hard to his own box defending an Arsenal attacker and smacked his head against teammate David De Gea’s hip bone.  Vidic, like Szczesny, crumpled immediately into a heap, appearing to be knocked unconscious.

However, the Serbian defender fared much worse than his opponent did, coming up both bloody and woozy.  He came off immediately, with United seeing out the half before replacing him after the break. Vidic wobbled his way down the tunnel, blood visible from his lip and spitting from his mouth.

With such inconsistencies in how the situations are handled, even within the same game, how does the Premier League expect to protect its players on a regular basis?

To cap it all off, Andre Villas-Boas continued to make himself look nothing more than a bumbling fool when approached by reporters on Hugo Lloris’s situation.

Lloris, who remained on the pitch after a blow to the head despite a lengthy argument from his medical staff, was deemed unfit to play in today’s loss to Sunderland and was replaced in the lineup by American Brad Friedel.

Villas-Boas was heavily challenged by reporters on the situation, but remained fixed on supporting his decision to leave Lloris in last weekend.  “The medical staff determined it was a bit too soon for him today” he declared.

Oh really, Andre? It’s too soon 7 days later, but not 5 minutes after? That makes a whole lot of sense.

Someone needs to put an end to these shenanigans before a player ends up seriously crippled, or worse.  And that’s not an exaggeration.

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 ]

Prince-Wright’s Premier League picks: Big boys to turn up

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Week 26 of the Premier League season is here. This will be a lot of fun with massive games at both ends of the table.

If you, like me, love to dissect all the games and predict what the score will be and which team will win, I encourage you to get involved in the comments section below. Let’s have a bit of fun.

[ STREAM: Every PL game live online ]

Okay, so I’ve consulted my crystal ball and here’s how we see things panning out.

With the first section labelled “basically, free money” for the picks I think are dead certs. The section labelled “don’t touch this” means if you’re betting I advise you to stay clear, while the “so you’re telling me there’s a chance” section are the longshots. If it is better odds you are after, those are the picks to go for.

BASICALLY, FREE MONEY

Arsenal 3-2 Leicester City – (Sunday, 7 a.m. ET, NBCSN) –  [STREAM]

Norwich City 0-2 West Ham – (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, USA) –  [STREAM]

Man City 3-1 Tottenham Hotspur – (Sunday 11:15 a.m. ET, NBCSN) –  [STREAM]

Sunderland 0-2 Manchester United – (Saturday, 7:45 a.m. ET, NBCSN) – [STREAM]

DON’T TOUCH THIS…

Everton 2-1 West Brom  – (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, NBCSN) –  [STREAM]

Swansea 1-1 Southampton – (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, Premier League Extratime) –  [STREAM] 

Crystal Palace 2-1 Watford – (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, Premier League Extratime) –  [STREAM]

Chelsea 3-2 Newcastle – (Saturday, 12:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN) – [STREAM

“SO YOU’RE TELLING ME THERE’S A CHANCE…”

Bournemouth 2-1 Stoke City – (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, Premier League Extratime) –  [STREAM]

Aston Villa 2-1 Liverpool – (Sunday, 9:05 a.m. ET, NBCSN) –  [STREAM]

Ranieri on Leicester City’s dream season: “Nobody wake us up please!”

during the Barclays Premier League match between Manchester City and Leicester City at the Etihad Stadium on February 6, 2016 in Manchester, England.
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There’s plenty to like about Leicester City’s run to the top of the Premier League, but perhaps nothing is more enjoyable that its manager’s musings.

Claudio Ranieri, the Tinkerman himself, has provided some of the best quips of the season.

[ MORE: Top 5 storylines to look for in PL ]

From “I want to be the crazy man in the Premier League” to “It’s like nobody wants to win the league“, the 64-year-old Italian has offered plenty of beauties.

Make way for some more gems, from LCFC.com:

“I think we work so hard to achieve this level. We want to stay at this level. It’s no pressure for us. The pressure was at the beginning to start well, to carry on and maintain the standard of our performance.
“Now we are safe and we want to fight with respect with all our opponents. Face to face, we play with our strength and they play with theirs. If we win, fantastic. If we lose, next match.
“I think the pressure is on the other teams. We have pressure for our little gap. We continue to dream with our fans and we want to continue to dream. Nobody wake us up please!”
We love this man. To go from a short-lived run in Euro qualifying with Greece to this remarkable roll with Leicester has to be a bit dream-like. We get it. And we love that he’s going with it.