Premier League Preview: Everton vs. Liverpool

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  • This fixture has produced more red cards than any other PL game (20)
  • Everton have won just one of last 13 Merseyside derbies (W1, D5, L7)
  • Tim Howard will start his 272nd Premier League game for Everton, a club record

This game doesn’t need much hype, but after both Everton and Liverpool have enjoyed successful starts to the 2013-14 season… expect an extra spice to adorn this Merseyside derby.

It’s Blue vs. Red, second vs. sixth and bragging right are on the line.

Two old foes will battle it out at Goodison on Saturday, (Watch live on NBCSN, 7:45am ET and live online via NBC Sports Live Extra) as a clash of style, panache and skill will likely descend into an all out brawl.

Everton are desperate to get a stranglehold on the derby after winning just one of the last 13 league meetings between the two sides. Roberto Martinez has brought a different style of play to the Toffees and they look organized and extremely solid, as they previously did under David Moyes. In Romelu Lukaku, the Toffees have a game-changer and his personal battle with Kolo Toure will be just one of a number of intriguing match ups.

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Which manager will grab a derby win? Rodgers or Martinez?

As for Liverpool, Brendan Rodgers’ side sit second in the table but just three points ahead of their no so friendly neighbors Everton. A great start has continued but a disappointing display against Arsenal a few weeks back has left plenty of doubt surrounding Liverpool’s top four credentials.

(Exclusive: Tim Howard on Everton vs. Liverpool – ‘We’ll be heroes if we win’)

The Reds will always play attractive soccer under Rodgers after he fostered that style at Swansea after Everton’s manager Martinez laid the foundations for the Swans while they were in the Championship. In many respects the two managers who will square off on Saturday share the same soccer philosophy.

But they’ll be hoping they come out on top to send their fans home happy and with local bragging rights for the foreseeable future.

Injury wise Everton are fighting fit and have no fresh concerns, while Liverpool will be without left back Jose Enrique but Daniel Sturridge is set to shake off the numerous thigh and hamstring issues he has been suffering from.

What they’re saying

Roberto Martinez on the successful strike partnership of Suarez and Sturridge: “They have had a very good start to the season, they are very influential in their team. From that partnership up front, they have got a real goalscoring threat. You do see why Liverpool have been successful this season, it is not an accident. I do feel they are a strong side. But as a team, you are always used to coping with threats of the opposition. It is more about what we can do and how we can perform in the derby rather than being worried about what the opposition can bring.”

Brendan Rodgers on the nasty atmosphere his side will face: “It’s a really hostile environment to go and play in, but our players coped with it brilliantly. It’s a real good venue for football and it’s a ground that will test your character. But that’s something we will look forward to, because, if there’s one thing that we’ve improved in the time that I’ve been here, is there’s resilience in the team.”

Prediction

Liverpool are in second place and working hard to try and chase down Arsenal at the top of the table. Their dominance in the Merseyside derby against Everton in recent years has seen them become the undisputed kings of the city, however with Roberto Martinez Toffees’ knowing a win could put them level on points with their illustrious neighbors, expect Everton and the vibrant home crowd to be fired up. The Toffees are great at the back and I think both teams will cancel each other and a draw will prevail.

Milan reportedly meeting with Mendes re: Costa, Sanches, Falcao

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AC Milan’s big summer could get downright massive, according to a sensational report out of Italy.

It’d be fair to assume some think it already has been, given the captures of Leonardo Bonucci, Andre Silva, Mateo Musacchio, Franck Kessie, Ricardo Rodriguez, Hakan Çalhanoğlu, and Lucas Biglia.

Right?

[ MORE: Dom Dwyer traded ]

Well, Sky Sports in Italy is reporting that super agent Jorge Mendes is meeting with i Rossoneri regarding not one but three of his clients, each of whom is well-known by European soccer fans.

The biggest name is Diego Costa, who would likely be gone from Chelsea already if Atletico Madrid wasn’t under a transfer ban.

The report also names AS Monaco striker Radamel Falcao and Bayern Munich youngster Renato Sanches, who was considered one of the top summer transfers this time last year.

The 31-year-old Falcao scored 30 goals for Moncao in his return from the Premier League, while Sanches had this to say about a potential move away from the Allianz Arena:

“I’m young, I have to play a lot. I think the chance to do so is greater in Milan than in Munich.

“I want to play more consistently and [a move to] AC Milan is a very interesting option. If the two clubs reach an agreement, I would be happy to join the Rossoneri.”

Milan is participating in the Europa League this year in addition to Serie A, and already has terrific depth to take a chance at winning both.

Dom Dwyer traded to Orlando City for hefty allocation money

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Dom Dwyer is heading back to Orlando City in exchange for money.

By MLS terms, it’s a lot of cash.

Sporting KC will receive a total of $1.6 million in allocation money for the USMNT striker, and Dwyer returns to a club which saw him score 15 goals in 13 loan appearances in 2013.

[ MORE: How will USMNT line up? ] 

The England-born 26-year-old had those gaudy numbers when Orlando was still in then-USL PRO (now just USL).

Dwyer has 57 goals in 128 MLS appearances, including a career-high 22 in 2014. His departure from KC raises questions about their plans for to fill his shoes, and some are suggesting that Krisztian Nemeth could return to the club from Al-Gharafa.

And down in Orlando, could Dwyer’s arrival mean the sale of Canadian striker Cyle Larin? The prolific youngster ran afoul of the law earlier this season, and perhaps his departure will be hastened with most leagues in the world still preparing for their seasons.

Plus, the move now takes Dwyer away from the city of his wife’s place of employment. Sydney Leroux-Dwyer helps the attack at FC Kansas City, where she has three goals and an assist in 15 games this season.

What would Gold Cup win mean for Bruce Arena’s future?

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The U.S. face Jamaica in the 2017 Gold Cup final in Santa Clara, Calif. on Wednesday and winning this competition would be very significant for the USMNT and head coach Bruce Arena.

[ MORE: How will USMNT line up?

This is much more than a second-tier tournament for the U.S.

Arena arrived in November 2016, just days after Jurgen Klinsmann was fired as USMNT head coach following five years of ups and downs which yielded one Gold Cup (2013) a Round of 16 spot at the 2014 World Cup and a semifinal appearance at the 2016 Copa America Centenario. The downs were too numerous to mention.

In his 13 games so far, Arena has yet to lose in his second spell in charge of the USMNT.

Sure, plenty of those games have been friendlies, winnable World Cup qualifiers (points on the road in Honduras and Mexico were huge) and Gold Cup group games, but he’s still managed his squad exceptionally well and has put both himself and his players in a much more positive frame of mind heading into a big 12 months.

If Arena leads the U.S. to Gold Cup glory on Wednesday, it would not doubt prove U.S. Soccer correct in hiring him and turning around the fortunes of the program which seemed riddled with infighting and anguish under Klinsmann.

Arena is a straight talker, we all know that, and the Brooklyn native is feeding off his vast experience in MLS and from his first stint in charge of the the U.S. from 1998-2006. The 65-year-old is a consummate man-manager, the Sir Alex Ferguson of the U.S. soccer scene if you will, and Arena has already fostered a strong team spirit despite having a huge player pool and almost three separate squads to juggle over the past seven months.

Sure, the European contingent from the U.S is missing for the Gold Cup and so are plenty of stars from Mexico, Costa Rica and other nations but on home soil the U.S. has got by shaky defensive displays to breeze into the final. The USMNT was in a similar situation in the last Gold Cup and didn’t handle it well.

Arena has juggled the demands of his senior players, promising youngster and certain situations (think of the tactical and personnel switches at the Azteca in June) admirably but he knows his strongest team and sticks to it when crunch time arrives.

The U.S. are the heavy favorites against the Reggae Boyz but we all know what Jamaica is capable of after they beat Klinsmann’s U.S. side 2-1 in the 2015 Gold Cup semifinal to hammer another considerable nail into his fast assembling U.S. Soccer coffin.

Arena has a contract through the end of the 2018 World Cup in Russia next summer and although the U.S. still has to qualify for the tournament, if these positive results continue then maybe Arena is the long-term answer for Sunil Gulati and Co.

First up, he has to win the Gold Cup. Secondly, he has to guide the U.S. to the World Cup. And then if he excels in Russia next summer (another Round of 16 berth, or better, would be a great success) then who knows what’s next for Arena?

Everyone agreed he was the smart hire with the USMNT in turmoil back in November but nobody saw it going this smoothly.

Kudos to Arena for his understated, straight-forward approach which is exactly what the USMNT need right now, and possibly for many years to come.

Bayern defender Juan Bernat out weeks after ankle surgery

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MUNICH (AP) Bayern Munich defender Juan Bernat has been ruled out for several weeks after undergoing surgery on his left ankle.

[ MORE: Man United’s transfer plans

Bayern says the 24-year-old Bernat suffered the injury last Saturday in a friendly game against Milan in Shanghai, and that he underwent surgery in Munich on Monday.

Bernat, who joined Bayern from Valencia in 2014, has played in 65 Bundesliga games for the side, winning the league in each of his three seasons. He has made seven appearances for Spain.