Radamel Falcao

Falcao’s hopes to play in World Cup 2014 get another boost

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Three weeks ago, we were all assuming the worst about Radamel Falcao, and with good reason. We’ve seen enough players go down with major knee injuries to know a six-month recovery is just too ambitious to assume.  So when the key to Colombia’s hopes at this summer’s World Cup hurt his knee on Jan.  22, we entertained the worst-case scenario. How could the Cafeteros survive this summer without the biggest star?

It’s a question that may never have to be answered. According to today’s reports, Falcao has emerged from the first phase of his recovery with reason for optimism, with the surgeon who performed his Jan. 25 surgery giving the Monaco number nine “a 55% chance of playing in the World Cup.”

Via its website, AS Monaco issued an update on their star striker’s status:

Radamel Falcao finished successfully today the first phase of the recovery further to the operation of the left knee.

AS Monaco FC and the player would like to thank all the people who took care of Falcao to Porto, in particular the medical department of Doctor Jose Carlos Noronha and club of FC Porto.

Radamel Falcao is going to pursue from this Thursday the 2nd phase of his recovery in the sport clinic in Madrid in close collaboration with the medical department of AS Monaco FC.

Colombia’s first game at World Cup 2014 is June 14 against Greece. To be match shape by kickoff in Belo Horizonte, Falcao’s going to have to be ready, playing friendlies, and training weeks before that. Given he had surgery at the end May, we’re talking about a turnaround that’s closer to four months than six.

But let’s also be clear about what we’re talking about here, because implicitly, the conversation is going in two directions:

  • Will Falcao play this summer? As in be a bench option for José Pekerman? Somebody who can be available off the bench by the team’s last group stage game against Japan on June 24 (potentially, the team’s final match). This is a much lower bar. It doesn’t require full match fitness, which means he won’t have to be training weeks ahead of the tournament. If the only goal we’re talking about is merely playing at this summer’s tournament, he doesn’tt have to start training until early- or mid-June. That’s a much lower standard than …
  • Will Falcao be Falcao this summer? Obviously, this is a long shot, but for Colombians, it should be the biggest concern. The team also has Jackson Martínez (and we talked about the other options while fixating on Fredy Montero’s chances of making the team), but when you look at the goal rates Pekerman’s options have produced on the international level, Colombia has Falcao, Teo Gutierrez, then a huge drop off. Talent, they can replace. Producing with that talent? That’s a much higher bar, one that makes the nature of Falcao’s recovery as important as his mere availability.

The good, if implied news: Falcao seems to have a chance, which is more than we thought three weeks ago. Even in  May, we still won’t know if the Monaco star will be ready for Brazil, but if the odds in mid-February are 55/45 in Falcao’s favor, Colombia has hope for their World Cup future.

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.