Germany Training - Group B: UEFA EURO 2012

Bayern Munich’s midfield buildup will keep paying off in Schweinsteiger’s absence

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Amid all of the analysis on Wednesday of Uruguay and Mexico’s romps, we missed this nugget from Bayern Munich’s Annual General Meeting: midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger, so crucial for both club and country, will be out until January. Club president Uli Hoeneß confirmed the news, saying the Wednesday’s surgery “went well,” and the injury is “looking better than [they] thought.”

The 29-year-old  underwent the operation to address issues persisting from an procedure on the same ankle in June. Though the surgery means Schweinsteiger’s out of Saturday’s highly anticipated match at Borussia Dortmund, the German international will be back come early January, when Bayern’s players return after winter break.

The choice to go under the knife appears to be an elective, albeit inevitable one. Schweinsteiger’s said to have played through the pain since throughout the summer, working through Germany’s World Cup qualifying campaign while getting used to club life under new head coach Pep Guardiola. But with the Nationalmannschaft’s World Cup ticket punched and Bayern four points clear atop the Bundesliga, now was the best time until after the World Cup to take clean things up. With the Bundesliga’s winter break leaving Bayern without league games between Dec. 14 and Jan. 24, Schweinsteiger only major miss will be against rival BVB.

All told, Schweinsteiger will be sidelined for matches against Einracht Frankfurt, Werder Bremen, and Hamburg, in addition to Dortmund. He’ll also miss Champions League games against CSKA Moscow and Manchester City and a German Cup match at Augsburg.

With players like Philipp Lahm and Javi Martínez in Guardiola’s squad, Bayern won’t be short of talents to play in front of the defense in their 4-1-4-1. Toni Kroos, who typically starts in central midfield, can also drop into a holding role, while summer signing Thiago Alcantara is due back this week. Whereas earlier this season Bayern’s injury situation had forced Lahm’s improvised deployment in the middle, now the European champions have plenty of cover in Schweinsteiger’s absence.

Of course, Schweinsteiger’s only played four games in that defensive midfield role. Nine other times, he’s started higher, in central midfield, a place where Guardiola’s also no longer short of options. Kroos, Thomas Müller, and Mario Götze can play those roles, and when Alcantara returned, the Spanish international will also provide cover as a more attacking option.

And to think, this summer people wondered what Bayern would do with all their midfielders. With all these injuries, the answer’s been unexpected simple: Play them. As Lahm’s  move from fullback shows, Bayern’s perceived glut proved insufficient, with only their captain’s superior play in his new position preventing their injury crisis from having any real effect on the field.

We’re only now starting to see Bayern’s depth paying off. With Schweinsteiger out, Guardiola can still choose from Lahm and Martínez in defensive midfield, eventually working Alcantara in toward the end of the month. When Schweinsteiger returns in January, Guardiola will be able to fully rotate his midfielders as FCB pursues another three-trophy season. He’ll have four players capable of starting in front of the defense and at least five who can occupy one of the two spots behind the striker.

Three months ago, we were scoffing at Bayern’s midfield gluttony, but having navigated their early-season crisis, their midfield buildup now looks more prescient than preposterous.

Watch Live: Tottenham vs. Chelsea (Lineups, Live Stream)

Chelsea v Tottenham Hotspur - Barclays Premier League
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Tottenham Hotspur welcome Chelsea to White Hart Lane on Sunday (Watch live, 7 a.m. ET on USA and online via Live Extra) with Jose Mourinho’s side looking for a big win.

Mauricio Pochettino‘s Spurs are unbeaten in 12 games heading into this London derby but only traveled back from Europa League action in Azerbaijan on Thursday night.


Chelsea are looking to secure back-to-back PL wins for the first time this season with Mourinho’s side languishing

In teams news Spurs bring in Ryan Mason for the suspended Dele Alli. Chelsea start with Kurt Zouma and Gary Cahill in central defense as John Terry couldn’t recover from an ankle injury. Diego Costa has been dropped with Eden Hazard playing up front in a false nine.


Tottenham: Lloris; Walker, Alderweireld, Vertonghen, Rose; Dier, Mason; Eriksen, Son, Dembele; Kane. Subs: Vorm, Trippier, Wimmer, Carroll, Lamela, Onomah, Clinton

Chelsea: Begovic; Ivanovic, Zouma, Cahill, Azpilicueta; Fabregas, Matic; Willian, Oscar, Pedro; Hazard. Subs: Amelia, Djilobodji, Baba Rahman, Mikel, Loftus-Cheek, Kenedy, Diego Costa

Juninho hoping Willian breaks his Champions League free-kick record

xxxx during the Barclays Premier League match between Chelsea and Southampton at Stamford Bridge on October 3, 2015 in London, United Kingdom.
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Willian has scored six goals for Chelsea this season, with all six coming from free kicks.

Four of those have been scored in the Champions League, as the Brazilian has tied the record for the most free-kick goals in a single UCL campaign.

[ MORE: Premier League roundup ]

Willian is tied with his fellow Brazilian Juninho, known as one of the deadliest set-piece takers of all-time, who scored four times for Lyon during the 2005-06 campaign.

When asked about the possibility of his record being broken, Juninho was glad it would be by another Brazilian player, and said Willian will likely surpass him in the coming matches.

It’s good it’s a Brazilian, and from this new generation of good players we have.

It is very gratifying for me because when I scored these four goals, no one said anything.

I’m being remembered by what Willian has achieved, and I think he has everything to beat the record. The Champions League has barely reached half way and Chelsea still have a few more games to play.

Willian has converted 6 of 12 free kicks this season, scoring at an unheard-of 50-percent clip. All of his goals have come from almost the exact same spot on the pitch, about 20-25 yards out at the corner of the box to the keepers right.

[ WATCH: Jamie Vardy scores in record 11th straight Premier League match ]

Chelsea’s next Champions League match is on December 9 at Stamford Bridge against Porto. The Blues need a draw to advance into the knockout round.

West Brom’s Jonas Olsson backs Zlatan for Premier League move

SOLNA, SWEDEN - NOVEMBER 14: Sweden 10 Zlatan Ibrahimovic durring a European Qualifier Play-Off between Sweden and Denmark on November 14, 2015 in Solna, Sweden.  (Photo by Michael Campanella/Getty Images)
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With his contract at Paris Saint-Germain expiring in the summer, where Zlatan will go next is one of the biggest mysteries in football.

Having already played in the Netherlands, Spain, Italy and France, the Premier League would be a logical next step in Zlatan’s career.

[ MORE: Aguero injury update ]

However, at 34-years-old, Zlatan himself has said it is “too late” for him to play in England, adding more mystery to where he will end up.

Despite what Zlatan says, his teammate on the Sweden national team Jonas Olsson believes the PSG striker is more than capable of playing in the Premier League.

Olsson, who has made nearly 400 appearances for West Bromwich Albion over the past eight seasons, said Zlatan’s elite talent would be fit for England’s top flight.

He’s still at the top of his game. He is the strongest player I have faced. I really hope he comes.

Zlatan on his day is the most talented footballer in the game. He has played under Mourinho before and the only place where he’s not 100% appreciated is in the UK.

I think he can play for any team in this league – he is still that good.

Even at 34, Zlatan has proven he is still one of the best strikers in the world. He recently became Paris Saint-Germain’s all-time leading scorer, and has scored at least 30 goals in each of the past four seasons.

[ VIDEO: Jamie Vardy speaks after scoring in 11 straight Premier League matches ]

The Premier League certainly has the money to entice Zlatan, and it is the biggest league in the world that he hasn’t conquered yet. Expect his name to be linked with a move to every major club in Europe for the rest of the year, as we’ll just have to wait until June and see what he decides.

Three questions ahead of Sunday’s MLS Conference Finals

PORTLAND, OR - NOVEMBER 22: Goal keeper Adam Kwarasey #12 of Portland Timbers slides in on Michael Barrios #21 of FC Dallas during the second half of the match at Providence Park on November 22, 2015 in Portland, Oregon. (Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images)
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There are only two matches remaining before MLS Cup, with both conference’s top seeds in need of a big result.

FC Dallas lost to the Portland Timbers 3-1 in the first leg out West, while the New York Red Bulls fell 2-0 to Columbus Crew SC in the East.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverage ]

Leg 2 of the Conference Finals will both be played on Sunday, as we will know the MLS Cup finalists by the end of the night.

WEST: FC Dallas vs. Portland Timbers — 5 p.m. ET
EAST: New York Red Bulls vs. Columbus Crew SC — 7:30 p.m. ET

With each home-side needing to overcome a two-goal deficit, here’s what to look out for in the Conference Finals.

Will FC Dallas capitalize on home-field advantage?

Despite being down 3-1 on aggregate, FC Dallas will be looking forward to Sunday’s second leg. Dallas finished the season 13-2-2 at Toyota Stadium, the best home record in MLS. After scoring a crucial away goal in Portland, a 2-0 win for Dallas will see the side advance to the final. Their 33 goals scored at home was the second-best mark in the Western Conference, as Oscar Pareja’s men will feel confident despite the aggregate.

[ VIDEO: USMNT’s Fabian Johnson scores twice for Monchengladbach ]

Is Norberto Paparatto ready to replace Liam Ridgewell?

Norberto Paparatto has played just six matches for Portland this season, but it looks like he’ll be starting on Sunday. Liam Ridgewell, who started all 32 matches at center-back, injured his calf in the first leg and manager Caleb Porter said Paparatto will “most likely” be starting, as Ridgewell was seen warming up separately from the rest of the team in training. With FC Dallas in need of goals, Paparatto will have his hands full on defense, especially with the likes of Fabian Castillo and Mauro Diaz bombing forward.

Can Luis Robles keep a clean sheet for RBNY?

The Red Bulls’ Luis Robles was named MLS Goalkeeper of the Year this season, and he’s going to need to play like that on Sunday. After losing 2-0 in the first leg without scoring an away goal, New York needs a 2-0 win themselves just to force extra-time. If Columbus scores at Red Bull Arena, New York needs to score four goals to advance. While it will have to be a collective team effort to keep the Crew off the scoresheet, Robles will have to make some big saves in goal to keep his side in it.