Saints' talented crop of youngsters are impressing at St. Mary's

England to call on Liverpool and Southampton’s youngsters for World Cup in Brazil?

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As England’s national team manager Roy Hodgson ponders his options ahead of the Three Lions’ World Cup bid in Brazil this summer, he’s spoken out about two club he’s particularly interested in.

Premier League sides Liverpool and Southampton.

Both teams now boast a whole host of youngsters playing regularly in the top-flight, as Hodgson praised the club’s investment in youth as a big plus point for England heading into the 2014 World Cup.

Needless to say, Hodgson is impressed and seems hell-bent on shaking his squad up and putting in some of the talented youngsters now on show in the PL.

The pool of players has increased this season and more teams are injecting young English players into their teams and trusting them. Raheem Sterling has been playing regularly for Liverpool, as has either Jon Flanagan or Martin Kelly. Southampton are regularly using people like Luke Shaw, James Ward-Prowse, Calum Chambers, Jack Cork and Jay Rodriguez. So more and more teams are turning to their academies and young players they are bringing through, which is of course a positive thing.

(MORE: England handed tough draw as Italy, Uruguay, Costa Rica stand in their way at World Cup)

source: AP
Raheem Sterling has been on fire as Liverpool surge up the standings.

In the case of Liverpool, Sterling and Kelly have both been capped by England, while Flanagan has performed superbly at right back in recent months as many believe he will be called-up for England’s friendly with Denmark in March. While Southampton have had recent call-ups for academy product Adam Lallana, young striker Rodriguez and stalwart Rickie Lambert, which has shown Hodgson is willing to put faith in Saints’ talented crop of players who are surprising everyone by looking at ease in the top half of the PL standings.

With Southampton boasting a whole host of talented teenagers coming out of their academy ranks, Hodgson has a big decision to make. Does he take some of the most exciting young Englishmen who are not just prodigies but are actually doing it regularly in the PL, or rely on the old guard?

Left back Luke Shaw is just 18, but many are already earmarking him to be in England’s World Cup squad this summer, while Under-21 midfielder James Ward-Prowse has impressed with wicked deliveries and another teenage right back, Calum Chambers, has been superb all season. Chambers has been keeping another England prospect, Nathaniel Clyne who is just 22, out of Saints’ starting lineup.

In Southampton’s 1-0 midweek win against Hull, nine of Saints’ 18-man squad were eligible to play for England and five were under the age of 24 and three of those were teenagers. Liverpool don’t boast that many English players in their squad, but they have more ‘finished articles’ than Saints, with Steven Gerrard, Daniel Sturridge, Flanagan, Sterling and Jordan Henderson all playing in the 3-2 win away at Fulham on Wednesday, while Martin Kelly was on the bench.

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Saints duo Shaw and Ward-Prowse could be wildcards from Hodgson this summer.

Hodgson’s comments suggest he will give youth a chance to shine in Brazil this summer, as England are well and truly in a transitional period in terms of where their squad is at. Liverpool and Southampton are two of the form teams in the PL, and it is no surprise that Hodgson wants to latch onto their talented youngsters and ride their feel-good factor into the summer and beyond.

Investment in youth is something PL teams have been slow on the uptake with, but Liverpool and Saints have shown it can work and can prove fruitful as both teams surge up the standings with young English talent leading the way.

Will these teenagers aid England’s progress this summer in Brazil? Roy is certainly contemplating giving it a go.

Why not?

Ex-Leicester boss Pearson hired by Derby County

Nigel Pearson, Leicester City FC
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Nigel Pearson lives.

The combustible former manager of Southampton, Hull City and Leicester City will now lead Derby County in the hopes of Premier League promotion.

Derby has been on the edge of promotion to the Premier League for several seasons, but neither Steve McClaren and Darren Wassall could do the trick.

[ MORE: Mourinho confirmed | Speaks more ]

Enter Pearson, 52, who has been hired on a three-year deal. It’s his first stop since a roller coaster ride saw him guide Leicester into the Premier League, only to be fired in the aftermath of some players being involved in a racist sex tape incident on a tour of Thailand.

This was after a bizarre season that saw him put his hands on an opposing player’s throat, call a journalist an ostrich, and ultimately save Leicester from the drop.

From Derby County’s site:

“I am honoured to be named as the Manager of Derby County, which is one of the biggest clubs in the country, a club in excellent shape and one with strong ambitions. It is firmly focused on achieving Premier League football.

“I will give absolutely everything I have to this role and do all I can to bring exciting, entertaining and winning football which our supporters can be proud of.”

At the very least, the Rams will be interesting to watch next season.

Castillo called up to take place of injured Chandler on USMNT roster

COLUMBUS, OH - MARCH 29:  Edgar Castillo #23 of the United States Men's National Team controls the ball against Guatemala during the FIFA 2018  World Cup qualifier on March 29, 2016 at MAPFRE Stadium in Columbus, Ohio. The United States defeated Guatemala 4-0.  (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)
Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images
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The United States men’s national team has applied to have left back Edgar Castillo take the place of Timmy Chandler on the Copa America Centenario roster.

The Monterrey back played well in the Yanks’ 4-0 win over Guatemala in World Cup qualifying, but was passed over for Chandler and others in the 23-man roster for this summer’s tournament in the United States.

[ MORE: USMNT-Bolivia preview ]

But Chandler has picked up a quadriceps strain and Jurgen Klinsmann will add Castillo in his stead.

Perhaps this is a sign that fate is on the Yanks’ side.

USMNT-Bolivia preview: Yanks look for momentum ahead of Copa America

COLUMBUS, OH - MARCH 29:  Michael Bradley #4 of the United States Men's National Team controls the ball against Guatemala during the FIFA 2018  World Cup qualifier on March 29, 2016 at MAPFRE Stadium in Columbus, Ohio. The United States defeated Guatemala 4-0.  (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)
Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images
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Momentum is a funny thing. Numbers don’t really back it up, claiming the better team has momentum simply by nature of being better, but many players and coaches swear by it.

And the United States men’s national team might just have a bit of it heading into next week’s Copa America Centenario if it can topple Bolivia on Saturday.

The Yanks played their best half in ages on Tuesday night, eventually getting a deserved winner against Ecuador when Darlington Nagbe rifled in his first national team goal in the 90th minute.

[ COPA AMERICA PREVIEWS: Group A | BC | D ]

All told, the Yanks are 6-1-1 in their last eight, the lone blemish a deplorable loss to Guatemala in World Cup qualifying. That’s kinda the story of the U.S. under Jurgen Klinsmann: pretty good record despite the on-field not always matching the numbers.

Again, that changed in Tuesday’s second half. With Michael Bradley lying deep and Darlington Nagbe attacking, the U.S. had plenty going for it even with Bobby Wood’s finishing touch a bit off. Whether Klinsmann goes back to Clint Dempsey and Gyasi Zardes in the Starting XI will go a long way to see if the coach feels he learned anything (at least if Dempsey is a center forward again).

Juan Carlos Arce of Bolivia (Photo by Valerio Pennicino/Getty Images)

Bolivia made a surprise run into the quarterfinals of last year’s Copa America, but recent history hasn’t been kind to them outside of that.

La Verde is 3-9-1 in its last 12, a pair of the wins coming against Venezuela and the other over Ecuador. That said, the losses come against far superior competition than many confederations, as CONMEBOL World Cup qualifying is an onslaught of desperate, talented teams.

Longtime Club Bolivar attacker Juan Carlos Arce is at the forefront of Bolivia’s attack, with New York Cosmos striker Yasmani Duk breaking into La Verde’s scoresheet in recent matches. Goalkeeper Romel Quinonez is also integral to a defense that can yield big chances.

The United States should pick up a win at home against Bolivia, and if they do it in style we may see an invigorated USMNT fan base heading into the Copa America. If not, unease may abound.

Atleti’s Torres ready for “game of his life” in UEFA Champions League final

MADRID, SPAIN - MAY 21: Atletico de Madrid players Saul Niguez (L) and Fernando Torres (R) stretch during the training session during the Club Atletico de Madrid Open Media Day ahead of the UEFA Champions League Final match against Real Madrid CF on May 21, 2016 in Majadahonda, Spain.
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Fernando Torres has won the UEFA Champions League before, but a victory on Saturday would ring as true as ever.

Calling it the game of his life, the Atletico Madrid striker spoke about this year’s final against Real Madrid.

[ MORE: Three battles that could determined UCL final ]

A lot has changed since the 2012 victory over Bayern Munich at the Allianz Arena, when Torres subbed into Chelsea’s comeback win.

His decline at Chelsea found him on loan to Milan, where he transferred before finding another loan back home to Atleti. Now 32, Torres has his most goals since 2013 and is preparing for a Madrid Derby final.

From Sky Sports:

“Tomorrow [Saturday] is the game of my life, without doubt,” said Torres. “To me it means everything. Everything you dream when you’re a kid, I have the chance tomorrow to make this dream come true.

“I’ve played for great teams, and won many things, but this one is special, it is different, it’s what I wanted when I was a kid.”

Later lauding Atleti for giving him the chance “to come back and fight for what I wanted”, Torres is clearly hungry for a bit of redemption. And if his side comes out on top, he’ll likely be a big part of it.