Detailing FIFA’s ‘friendly reminder’ trip to check in on Brazil’s World Cup preparations

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This week FIFA Secretary General Jerome Valcke and his team are putting certain cities in Brazil under scrutiny to see their progress.

Needless to say, some of faring better than others.

Here is a quick recap of what Valcke has been up to and which host cities he is visiting, ahead of his trip to Florianopolis to attend a meeting with representatives of all 32 World Cup team and the local World Cup organizing committee.

With stadium construction behind schedule, the death of construction workers, ongoing unrest against the Brazilian government and several disputes between public and private groups causing FIFA plenty of headaches before the event this summer, Valcke and his staff will be extremely busy.

Some pivotal inspections and meetings lie ahead this week ahead of the 2014 World Cup kicking off in June.

Here’s what he’s been up to….

  • On Sunday Valcke visited the Northern Brazilian city of Recife, where the USA will play Germany, and criticized the host cities decision to cancel the Fan Fest. That means that fans not attending the game will no longer have the chance to watch the match on large screens for free. “Not having a Fan Fest is a mistake, to make it very clear,” Valcke said.
  • Then Valcke went to Manaus, the city deep in the Amazon rainforest that will indeed have a Fan Fest as over 35,000 fans are expected to gather to watch the games, including the USA’s match vs. Portugal. The Secretary General seemed to be impressed with what he saw, as the stadium is 97 percent complete and after some issues along the way, Valcke is loving Manaus. “Today I can say that the project is one of the nicest, it is a fantastic project.”
  • Valcke visited the nations capital Brasilia on Monday for meetings, where he stated he expects a “quiet World Cup” despite all of the recent political protests in Brazil which came to the fore during last summer’s Confederations Cup.
  •  A potential flash then awaits in Porto Alegre on Tuesday, as local officials are fighting over who will pay the $13 million needed to build temporary facilities required by FIFA outside the Beira-Rio stadium. If the host club Internacional don’t pay the fee, or the local city, then games at the venue may have to be moved
  • Then late on Tuesday will come the news everyone has been waiting for, as Valcke will decide whether Curitiba is too far behind to be a host city. The Southern city is the biggest concern cropping up, as huge delays with stadium construction may see the city taken off the list of 12 host venues. With Valcke already stating that they would run with 11 venues, and spread the games scheduled for Arena da Baixada elsewhere, Tuesday is crucial for Curitiba.

We will have more news on Tuesday as and when Valcke makes a decision on Curitba. So log back onto PST for your latest editions of “Where’s Valcke?” in the next few days…

Jonas nets 2 late goals to keep Benfica in title hunt

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LISBON, Portugal (AP) Jonas scored two late goals to lead Benfica’s 3-1 comeback win at Pacos Ferreira on Saturday, keeping it close to Portuguese league leader FC Porto.

Jonas equalized in the 72nd minute and gave the defending champion the lead in the 88th.

[ MORE: Man United-Chelsea meet in giant Sunday PL clash ]

Rafa Silva added a third goal after the host was reduced to 10 men in stoppage time when Gian dos Santos was shown a direct red card.

Luiz Phellype gave Pacos Ferreira the lead in the ninth.

The double increased Jonas’ league-leading tally to 27 goals.

Benfica moved to within two points of Porto before the pacesetter visits Portimonense on Sunday.

Sporting Lisbon is third at five points behind Porto. It hosts Moreirense on Monday.

Orlando City trades defender Jose Aja to Whitecaps for allocation money

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The Vancouver Whitecaps have struck a deal with an Eastern Conference side to help solidify their back line.

[ MORE: USMNT’s Johannsson leads Werder Bremen to win ]

On Saturday, the Cascadia club finalized a deal to acquire Orlando City defender Jose Aja in exchange for $125,000 in Targeted Allocation Money (TAM) for 2019.

Additionally, Orlando could receive another $100,000 in TAM if Aja remains on the Whitecaps roster next season and a 2021 second-round MLS SuperDraft pick if Aja is in Canada for the 2020 campaign.

Aja has made 25 appearances for Orlando since coming to MLS in 2016 from his native Uruguay.

The timing of the deal is intriguing, given Tim Parker’s willingness to exit the Whitecaps ahead of the 2018 MLS season.

PST reported on Thursday that Parker is seeking a move back to the East Coast, and the New York-native is being tracked by several Eastern Conference sides, including the New York Red Bulls, D.C. United and the Montreal Impact.

Parker is considered one of the top American defenders in MLS, and is actively seeking a massive pay raise ahead of the new season, after making just under $100,000 in 2017.

PL Sunday preview: Red Devils battle Chelsea at Old Trafford

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It will surely be one of the biggest fixtures of the season when Manchester United and Chelsea get together on Sunday, and for both clubs a victory could be vital in projecting their form for the rest of the 2017/18 campaign.

Meanwhile, a crucial meeting at Selhurst Park pits teams on opposite ends of the table against one another. Crystal Palace enters the weekend levels on points with 18th-place Swansea, while Tottenham could leap Chelsea for fourth if results go in favor of Spurs.

[ MORE: Liverpool continues to score at lightning pace against West Ham ]

Crystal Palace vs. Tottenham Hotspur — 7 a.m. ET on NBCSN

The injury bug has hit Palace hard as of late, with a total of 12 senior team players being left out of Roy Hodgson‘s squad. The list includes Wilfried Zaha, Yohan Cabaye and Mamadou Sakho, which won’t make things easy against a talented Spurs side.

Tottenham have had a ton of success in this fixture recently, winning the last five encounters and only allowing one goal in the process.

Mauricio Pochettino‘s men have hit the ground running in the second half of the season thus far, picking up a league-high 15 points in the Premier League since the start of 2018.

If there is a saving grace for the Eagles though, it is that Palace has been solid at home this season, and gone unbeaten in nine of its last 10 fixtures at Selhurst.

Manchester United vs. Chelsea — 9:05 a.m. ET on NBCSN

After a pair of draws from the PL sides kicked off their Champions League Round of 16 campaigns midweek, United and Chelsea can now focus their attention back to England; at least for the time being.

Jose Mourinho’s team came away from Seville with a crucial scoreless draw after the hosts tested goalkeeper David De Gea on numerous occasions, while Chelsea were close to pulling out a victory against Barcelona had it not been for a big-time mistake from Andreas Christensen late in the match.

Nonetheless, this is a fixture that always garners significant attention, especially from the Blues, who tend to have a better go of it. United has won just once against Chelsea in their last 14 fixtures, with the lone victory coming last season.

That said, Antonio Conte and his side have failed to exemplify consistency this year, and that includes road matches. The Blues have just two road wins in their last nine attempts across all competitions, which bodes well for the Red Devils.

The good news for Chelsea is the recent form of attacking duo Willian and Eden Hazard. The Brazilian was constantly in dangerous positions up the pitch against the Blaugrana in their recent UCL encounter, nabbing the lone goal for the Blues, while Hazard has scored six times in his last six PL matches.

The 2 Robbies: Unstoppable Liverpool, Man United-Chelsea and more

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In today’s episode, Robbie Earle and Robbie Mustoe discuss Liverpool’s emphatic win over West Ham (0:17), breakdown an extremely complicated relegation situation where nearly half of the league is in jeopardy of going down (10:05), before closing the show with a preview of tomorrow’s Man United v. Chelsea match (28:10).

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.

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