BIRMINGHAM, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 28: Jose Canas of Swansea passes under pressure from Nathan Barker of Aston Villa during the Barclays Premier League match between Aston Villa and Swansea City at Villa Park on December 28, 2013 in Birmingham, England.

Aston Villa 1-1 Swansea: Hosts hang on for a point (video)

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A draw does little to help either side, but both Villa and Swansea will have to accept just a share of the spoils from this rather dreary match at Villa Park. Both clubs will go into 2014 in the top half of the bottom of the table, but both will want to start the year putting a bit more breathing room between themselves and the drop zone.

Aston Villa took a surprising early lead in the first half, but Swansea came back with an unsurprising equalizer to put the sides level before the interval.

It was the Villa captain that gave the hosts the early lead. Andi Weimann split open the Swansea defense with a lovely ball, allowing Gabby Agbonlahor to latch on to the end of it. The forward’s speed took him behind the Swans players, giving him plenty of time to slot past Gerhard Tremmel for the opening goal. The skipper, along with the rest of the Villa squad, then ran to the touchline to celebrate with Paul Lambert.

But after the first ten minutes, the Villa took their foot off the gas, losing their fluidity and resorting to the hoofed ball. Unsurprisingly, the visitors took advantage.

In the 35th minute, Villa were unable to clear a shot, with the ball falling to Jonathan De Guzmán. The Dutchman’s shot went just wide, but a minute later, the hosts were out of luck. Pablo Hernández put in an inviting cross that floated over to the far post, where Roland Lamah was waiting. Antonio Luna couldn’t get there in time to prevent Lamah from heading home.

Swansea spent the next ten minutes doing whatever they could to get the go ahead goal, and Villa were lucky to go into the break with the scoreline level. In fact, they were lucky to come out of the match with the scoreline level.

Throughout the entirety of the match, the hosts had just 27% of the possession, spending the majority of the time blocking Swansea’s 17 shots. It’s quite possible that, as Villa were coming off a run of four straight defeats, Paul Lambert was looking to simply find a point. He succeed, but will it be enough to pacify the home fans?

Aston Villa: Guzan, Lowton, Clark, Baker, Luna, Westwood, Bacuna (El Ahmadi 70), Weimann (Albrighton 79), Delph, Agbonlahor, Tonev (Kozák 61)

Swansea: Tremmel, Tiendalli (Rangel 55), Williams, Chico, Davies, Canas, de Guzman, Shelvey, Hernandez, Lamah (Pozuelo 68), Bony (Álvaro 84)

Conte not going to sell Matic, enjoys quality midfield headache

VELDEN, AUSTRIA - JULY 20: Nemanja Matic of Chelsea reacts during the friendly match between WAC RZ Pellets and Chelsea F.C. at Worthersee Stadion on July 20, 2016 in Velden, Austria. (Photo by Srdjan Stevanovic/Getty Images)
Photo by Srdjan Stevanovic/Getty Images
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Antonio Conte feels he has a bit of an embarrassment of riches in his midfield, not that it’s a problem outside of deciding who hits the pitch.

The Chelsea boss does not plan on selling Nemanja Matic despite the acquisition of N'Golo Kante — in fact Conte thinks Matic can be one of the best in the world.

[ MORE: New club for Pato ]

That’s not surprising, given that Matic was one of the keys to Chelsea’s 2014-15 PL title run.

Conte says he has some tricky selections to make in the coming days, as Chelsea prepares to open its Premier League season Aug. 15 at West Ham United.

From ChelseaFC.com:

“Kante is a good player and he was a target of our market. I am pleased the club took this player, it’s fantastic,” said the 46-year-old. “The players in a great team like Chelsea must know there are many players that can play. It’s important for me to have a good choice to try the best solution game by game. It’s important for me to see always the right attitude and behaviour from the players.

“When I have players like N’Golo, Nemanja, Cesc, Oscar and Chalobah, and Mikel who is in the Olympics, it is not easy to choose. I want to have this problem.”

For a manager who loves to keep it tight in the midfield, it would be far from shocking to see Matic and Kante behind two attacking mids (Willian and Hazard?) or even three.

Regardless, Chelsea’s match day tactics will be one of the more fascinating subplots of 2016, especially when Conte matches up against the Blues’ former boss Jose Mourinho (Oct. 22 at Stamford Bridge and April 15 at Old Trafford).

Spain’s Villarreal signs Brazilian striker Pato

SWANSEA, WALES - APRIL 09:  Alexandre Pato of Chelsea in action during the Barclays Premier League match between Swansea City and Chelsea at Liberty Stadium on April 9, 2016 in Swansea, Wales.  (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)
Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images
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MADRID (AP) Brazilian club Corinthians says it has agreed to transfer striker Alexandre Pato to Villarreal in Spain.

Corinthians says on its club website that it has “agreed to the final administrative details of the negotiation” for Pato’s move to Villarreal.

[ MORE: MLS All Star Game preview ]

It adds that both clubs have agreed to not release the financial details of the transfer.

The 26-year-old Pato played for AC Milan from 2007 to 2013, before returning to his native Brazil with Corinthians. He played the second half of last season on loan at Chelsea in the English Premier League.

Roberto Martinez linked to Atlanta United gig by Taylor Twellman

SUNDERLAND, ENGLAND - MAY 11:  Roberto Martinez, manager of Everton gives instructions during the Barclays Premier League match between Sunderland and Everton at the Stadium of Light on May 11, 2016 in Sunderland, England.  (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)
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When news of Sigi Schmid’s departure from Seattle broke, there were plenty of folks wondering who could be the second coach in the Sounders’ MLS history.

One of those doing so publicly was ESPN writer Marc Connolly, who asked whether former Wigan and Everton boss Roberto Martinez could be interested in the gig.

[ MORE: Sounders, Schmid part ways ]

Fellow media member Taylor Twellman is obviously well-connected, and his reply raised some eyebrows, especially given the news that technical director Carlos Bocanegra is closing in on selecting the first manager in Atlanta United history.

Ryan is the quarterback of the NFL’s Atlanta Falcons, for those unaware. Martinez and Twellman worked together for ESPN this summer.

Is Martinez to MLS really a thing? He’s also been linked to the vacant Hull City job, and would be one of the highest profile coaches to make the switch in the history of the league.

Premier League preseason: Everton, Burnley win; Spurs fall to Juventus

MILTON KEYNES, ENGLAND - JULY 26:  Muhamed Besic of Everton celebrates after scoring the third goal during the pre-season friendly match between MK Dons and Everton at Stadium mk on July 26, 2016 in Milton Keynes, England.  (Photo by Alex Morton/Getty Images)
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Four Premier League teams were in action on Tuesday, with two picking up wins and not a clean sheet in the joint.

[ MORE: Sounders, Schmid part ways ]

MK Dons 1-3 Everton

Ronald Koeman‘s men got goals from Gerard Deulofeu, Ross Barkley and Muhamed Besic, but wasn’t entirely pleased with every facet of their game.

From EvertonFC.com:

“The team, the players, we need to press better. The pitch in some stages of the game was too long. If you press up front, it means the midfielders they need to push up as well and it’s the same for the defenders.”

Bolton 1-2 Burnley

Andre Gray will likely be a well-known Premier League entity when his career is done, and the way he’s playing it could be by the time this season is complete. The Burnley man scored for the fifth time in four preseason games, and Josh Ginnelly also scored for the Clarets.

Barnsley 2-2 Hull City

Adama Diomande and Jarrod Bowen scored as the Tigers stayed unbeaten in preseason play.

Spurs 1-2 Juventus — RECAP