Without Radamel Falcao, should Colombia finally turn to Fredy Montero?

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José Pekerman already had Fredy Montero in his sights, but with Colombia’s wealth of attackers, it has been difficult for the former Sounders standout to find room. Radamel Falcao, Jackson Martínez, and Teó Gutíerrez have been automatics, and with James Rodríguez also capable of playing an advanced role, the Monaco midfielder offsets the need to select too many forwards. With Carlos Bacca, Carlos Darwin Quintero and Luis Muriel all receiving call ups since October, somebody like Montero has a lot to wade through to make it to shore.

Needless to say, Falcao’s injury changes things. Without their primary scoring threat, Colombia’s going to have to rethink everything, potentially shaking up how Pekerman organizes his team. The Cafeteros’ boss could just slide Martínez into his starting XI next to Gutíerrez, persisting with the same approach with which he finished South American qualifying. He could also decide a tendency to set up with two-striker approach playing to Falcao’s strengths needs to be reevaluated, perhaps leaving the door open for a 26-year-old whose 13 goals for Sporting Lisbon are tied for Portugal’s lead.

Unfortunately for Montero (and Pekerman), there’s almost no time for experimentation. National teams will be able to get together for one game in March. Beyond that, the only games teams will play before May will be without their European players, who will be obliged to their clubs. If the Argentine coach does need to overhaul his setup, he’ll be picking up the pieces as he arrives in Brazil.

That’s where somebody like Montero can help. As opposed to some of the other players who’ve already been called in, there’s a versatility to his game that could allow him to adapt to whatever solutions Pekerman’s forced to employ. He can play along the line, serve his role in a partnership, or be used as more of a creator while deployed in a withdrawn role. If Pekerman needs all options on the table when Colombia arrives in Brazil, Montero can provide them, perhaps more so than players like Bacca, Muriel or Quintero.

Unfortunately for Montero, the depth of Colombia’s attack and the size of FIFA’s World Cup rosters (23 men) means Pekerman doesn’t have to settle for a utility knife. If he wants an out-and-out forward, Bacca or Muriel might be better options. If he decides an on the ball playmaker will be more important in the absence of Falcao, Rodríguez and Macnelly Torres are already regulars in the squad.  Whatever needs end up surfacing in the wake of Falcao’s injury, it’s unclear the answer is Fredy Montero.

Of course, there is another, more obvious need we haven’t addressed: goals. With 20 goals in 50 international appearances, Falcao was Colombia’s only established international scoring threat. Though Gutíerrez has 11 goals in 27 appearances, the Cafeteros will still need to identify somebody to replace Falcao’s scoring.

Carlos Bacca has nine goals for Sevilla this year, and Martínez has a share of Portugal’s scoring lead with 13 goals in 16 games. Along with Montero, they’ve been Colombia’s most productive non-Falcao Europeans.

But as the person who shares Portugal’s scoring lead with Martínez, Montero has a case to make. If 13 goals in Portugal are good enough for Martínez to be a lock, why can’t they earn Montero one of the last spots in Colombia’s squad?

Edit: As @crashcarson15 pointed out in a reply to @NBCSportsSoccer, going by Colombia’s recent caps means I forgot another player who deserves a role in the conversation:

True.

Liga MX wrap: Pachuca earns first win, Leon stays unbeaten

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All of Saturday’s action from around Mexico’s top flight…

Pachuca 3-1 Lobos BUAP

A strong first-half push from the hosts was all Pachuca needed on Saturday night to earn their first victory of the 2018 Clausura season. Angel Sagal brought the home side in front after just 10 minutes off of a near-post header, before Pachuca’s lead soon doubled 14 minutes later from the penalty spot when strike Franco Jara converted on the dead-ball attempt.

Just prior to halftime, Pachuca was out to a 3-0 advantage when 20-year-old outside back Erick Aguirre tallied his first goal for the club.

Last-place side Lobos got on the board three minutes into the second stanza via a finish from Heriberto Olvera, however, it wasn’t enough to provide anything more than a consolation for the visiting side.

Necaxa 1-3 Chivas Guadalajara

Mexican international Alan Pulido made it a dream start for the visitors from Guadalajara at the Estadio Victoria, however, that lead was cancelled out in first-half stoppage time after Carlos Gonzalez leveled the match up at 1-1.

The difference proved to be with 25 minutes left to play, when a goalkeeping error by Marcelo Barovero allowed Chivas to regain possession inside the Necaxa penalty area, before Ronaldo Cisneros tapped home the winner.

Then, a third goal came just prior to the end of regulation when Edwin Hernandez killed the game off for Matias Almeyda’s men, who also earned their first victory of the Clausura season.

Rest of Saturday’s Liga MX action

Cruz Azul 0-0 Club Leon
Queretaro 0-0 Tigres UANL
Monterrey 0-0 Club Tijuana

Sunday’s matches

UNAM vs. Club America — 1 p.m. ET
Santos Laguna vs. Morelia — 7 p.m. ET

The 2 Robbies: Alexis/Mkhitaryan transfer saga and more

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Robbie Mustoe and Robbie Earle recap all the key stories from the latest Premier League Saturday fixtures including Manchester City’s 3-1 win over Newcastle (0:20), Chelsea’s 4-0 victory at Brighton (10:15) and the latest on the Alexis Sanchez/Henrikh Mkhitaryan saga after wins for Arsenal and Manchester United (19:00). Plus, a closer look at the bottom of the table and thoughts go out to James McCarthy after his serious injury against West Brom (29:00).

Join Earle & Mustoe on The 2 Robbies Football Show, Saturdays at 5pm ET. Listen on the NBCSports Radio App and call 855-323-4622 in the U.S. for lively passionate debate.

All of the The 2 Robbies content can be accessed by clicking on this link:

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Follow them on Twitter @The2Robbies

Video: Stoke’s Imbula scores stunner on loan at Toulouse

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Stoke City supporters know the name Giannelli Imbula, and perhaps they’ll be clamoring for the Frenchman to return to the bet365 Stadium if he can score more goals like this.

[ MORE: PL Roundup — Top three all victorious; Gunners thrash Palace ]

The holding midfielder is currently on loan with Ligue 1 outfit Toulouse, and for the first time this season, Imbula opened his goalscoring account in some fashion.

Right on half-hour mark, Imbula unleashed a left-footed strike from nearly 40 yards out to give Toulouse the lead over Montpellier (below).

Imbula joined Stoke during the 2015/16 PL season, and has made 26 appearances for the Potters in his time with the club, prior to his loan to France.

Willian proves he’s Chelsea’s x-factor against Brighton

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There’s a considerable difference when watching a Chelsea team that plays with and without one of its Brazilian influences in the attacking part of the field.

Willian — who first debuted for the Blues back in 2013 — hasn’t always managed to be a regular starter for Chelsea, whether it was Jose Mourinho, Guus Hiddink or current manager Antonio Conte at the helm, though.

[ SOURCES: Jack Harrison expected to join Stoke City this winter ]

The 29-year-old plays with considerable flair, something that certainly isn’t uncommon amongst many players that have grown up in Brazil.

At times Willian’s overconfidence is a significant blessing, and at others it can be considered a curse, however, the former Corinthians player’s presence is something that Chelsea needs now more than ever.

That was on display on Saturday during the side’s 4-0 win at Brighton, a match in which Chelsea dominated from start to finish with Willian on the pitch. While the performance cannot solely be attributed to the attacking midfielder’s showing, it’s easy to argue that the Blues midfielder is becoming the club’s biggest x factor — one that can determine the outcome of a match.

Just look six minutes into the match, when the Blues put together one of the best team goals you’ll see in a match this year (or any year for that matter), which of course, was started and finished by none other than Willian.

What stands out about the play isn’t the brilliant slicing shot into the near post corner by the veteran playmaker, but instead the confidence that Willian exudes and brings to a Chelsea lineup that has plenty of talent to be considered one of the best teams in England and all of Europe.

After all, Conte’s group is just a season removed from winning the Premier League and still sits inside the top three in the world’s top league.

Then, there’s the Blues’ third goal against Brighton, which was set up by a smart, and instinctive, through ball played into the path of Eden Hazard by Willian (below).

Even though Hazard ends up with a ton of time on the ball to make his next decision, which was ultimately to cut inside on his preferred right foot, the run by Willian towards the end line dragged a defender away from the Belgian international — allowing the sequence to progress.

Arguing Willian’s importance isn’t a knock on Hazard — a world-class player in his own right — or Alvaro Morata, who has had the intolerable task of replacing a key player like Diego Costa.

Instead, it simply shows that Chelsea has a plethora of talent, and that some of the club’s attacking struggles throughout the 2017/18 season can be chalked up to Willian being left out of the starting XI on a regular basis.

[ MORE: Sergio Aguero continues to display brilliance for Man City ]

The Brazilian international has scored eight goals and added seven assists this season in all competitions for the Blues, despite only starting 19 matches.

The mind of manager Conte is an ever-changing one, so maybe Willian still doesn’t get the starting nod on an every week basis, but just by watching the team’s performance at the Amex Stadium it’s quite hard to argue against the player being on the field as much as possible.