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Bundesliga Wrap: Bayern’s lead even stronger as chasing teams stumble

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Bayern Munich must’ve been laughing from Friday through Saturday as their 16-point lead atop the Bundesliga held firm. The Nos. 2, 3 and 4 teams in the table all struggled, while No. 5 closed ground. Let’s take a look around Germany’s top flight.

Friday’s result

Schalke 0-0 Mainz
The match was even, aside from the fouls. It was the Kevin-Prince Boateng show on both ends, as he led the match in shots (4) and fouls committed (4). Not surprising to hear he picked up a yellow card as well. Schalke’s frustrations in not being able to topple Mainz backline boiled over, with 19 fouls on the day, and they were unable to jump the opportunity afforded them by Dortmund’s struggles at Hamburg.

Saturday’s results

SC Freiburg 2-4 FC Augsburg
Four different Augsburg players scored as the visitors kept Freiburg in severe relegation danger with a two-goal triumph. The club’s traded goals early before Admir Mehmedi briefly gave the hosts the lead in the 73rd minute. That awoke the beast, and Paul Verheagh, Halil Altintop and Andre Hahn scored thrice in 12 minutes to give Augsburg its come-from-behind victory, moving the team into a three-way tie for seventh and knocking on the door of the Top Five.

Hamburg 3-0 Borussia Dortmund
There was absolutely nothing doing for Dortmund today, as a hungry-looking Hamburg club struck before the break on Petr Jiracek’s goal before grabbing two more goals in the second half. Pierre-Michel Lasogga scored in the 58th minute before Hakan Calhanoglu scored a wondrous free kick that may have been longer than 40 yards out from goal. It was a rare blast and I’d encourage anyone to devour the footage if you can locate it.

VfB Stuttgart 1-2 Hertha Berlin
Stuttgart is still living with drop danger after a late Sandro Wagner goal doomed them at home. Levan Kobiashvili gave the visitors the lead in the 5th minute but Arthur Boka evened the score for Stuttgart. Wagner scored in the 87th and completed his day with a double yellow in the 90th minute, but it was too little, too late to benefit the home team. American defender John Anthony Brooks played the final five minutes for Hertha.

Borussia Monchengladbach 2-2 Hoffenheim
Hoffenheim is thrilled to split the spoils after falling down two goals in the match’s first 18 minutes, as Patrick Hermann struck in the fourth before Tony Jantschke doubled the host’s advantage. But Roberto Firmino, Sejad Salihovic and Kevin Volland continued to press and press and press… before the former two broke through with goals in the 56th and 82nd minutes, respectively.

American back Fabian Johnson played the right side again in what should keep Jurgen Klinsmann’s eyebrows raised in a good way (not permanently. They could freeze that way). The result leaves Monchengladbach in sixth.

Nurnberg 2-1 Eintracht
Despite a red card in the 32nd minute and an Eintracht goal from Domi Kumbela in the 24th, Nurnberg won a huge six-pointer, keeping their opponents in the No. 18 spot in the table. Eintracht’s  goal differential sunk to minus-25 as Nurnberg popped in goals in the 46th minute (Hiroshi Kiyotake) and 47th (Tomas Pekhart). Kumbela took six shots as Eintracht won the shots battle 20-7, but just seven of those went on goal.

VfL Wolfsburg 3-1 Bayer Leverkusen
Leverkusen kept the running total of points for the Nos. 2, 3 and 4 teams in the Bundesliga at one with an absolute collapse on the road. Sidney Sam equalized for the visitors in the 45th minute but Luis Gustavo and Ricardo Rodriguez provided two second-half goals for Wolfsburg, who jumped to within two points of No. 4 Schalke.

AFCON wrap: Tunisia joins Senegal in knockout rounds (video)

Tunisia's Wahbi Khazri smiles during a press conference in Libreville, Gabon, Saturday, Jan. 21, 2017, ahead of their African Cup of Nations Group B soccer match against Zimbabwe. (AP Photo/Sunday Alamba)
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Half of the field is set for the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations knockout rounds, as Group B completed his final day of group play on Monday in Gabon.

[ FIFA: World Cup draw date at Kremlin ]

Senegal will move onto play Cameroon on Saturday, while Tunisia will take on Burkina Faso.

Senegal 2-2 Algeria

Leicester City’s Islam Slimani scored twice, but it wasn’t enough to get Algeria into the knockout rounds of AFCON.

Papakouly Diop and Moussa Sow answered Slimani’s goals, and Senegal enforced its hold on the group it had already clinched after two matches.

Algeria needed a win and help, and looked to get it when Riyad Mahrez and Islam Slimani carried over their chemistry from the Foxes of England to the Fennecs of Algeria.

Zimbabwe 2-4 Tunisia

Sunderland’s Wahbi Khazri scored of the fourth of Tunisia’s first half goals as the Eagles of Carthage emphatically clinched their knockout round spot. Tunisia lost in the quarterfinals in 2015.

Lille’s Naïm Sliti was also among the goal scorers for Tunisia, with Youssef Msakni (Lekhwiya) and Taha Yassine Khenissi (Esperance de Tunis) also netting markers.

Tendai Ndoro (Orlando Pirates) and Knowledge Musona (Oostende) scored for Zimbabwe.

Three USMNT players leave camp, two with injuries

Kekuta Manneh chases the ball during practice of the U.S. men's national soccer team Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2017, in Carson, Calif. Manneh has become a U.S. citizen, moving the Vancouver Whitecaps forward closer to eligibility for the men's national team. U.S. Soccer announced Manneh received his citizenship Wednesday, after the opening practice of January training camp under new coach Bruce Arena. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
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Less than a week from Bruce Arena’s second debut as USMNT boss, we know three players who won’t be in the Starting XI.

Injuries have felled FC Dallas duo Kellyn Acosta and Matt Hedges, while Vancouver attacker Kekuta Manneh is leaving the squad to join his ‘Caps teammates for preseason in Wales.

[ MORE: JPW’s Premier League Playback ]

Acosta has a mild left ankle sprain and Hedges has a mild right knee sprain.

While Manneh may have been a long shot to see significant playing time on Sunday against Serbia or Feb. 4 versus Jamaica, Hedges had a chance to start at center back and Acosta has been capped before as well.

FIFA going to Kremlin for World Cup draw in December

SAINT PETERSBURG, RUSSIA - JULY 25:  Vladimir Putin, President of Russia speaks as FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter looks on during the Preliminary Draw of the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia at The Konstantin Palace on July 25, 2015 in Saint Petersburg, Russia.  (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)
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ZURICH (AP) FIFA says it will stage the 2018 World Cup draw on Dec. 1 at a Kremlin concert hall in Moscow.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has been allowing FIFA to use high-profile venues for World Cup ceremonies.

In July 2015, the qualifying program draw was made on the grounds of one of Putin’s official residences, Konstantin Palace near St. Petersburg. The summer was home built at the direction of Peter the Great.

The World Cup in Russia kicks off on June 14 at Luzhniki Stadium in the Russian capital, and returns there for the final on July 15.

Jurgen Klopp discusses Liverpool’s title chances

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - JANUARY 21: Jurgen Klopp, Manager of Liverpool reacts during the Premier League match between Liverpool and Swansea City at Anfield on January 21, 2017 in Liverpool, England.  (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)
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It was a disappointing weekend for Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp.

[ MORE: New odds for title contenders ]

The German coach watched on as his side lost 3-2 to Swansea City on Saturday in the Premier League and the Reds fell 10 points behind leaders Chelsea with 16 games to go.

Klopp’s men have only won once in six outings in all competitions in January, and ahead of their EFL Cup semifinal second leg against Southampton at Anfield (they trail 1-0 from the first leg) he was asked if they still have hope of overhauling Chelsea and winning the Premier League.

Speaking to the media, Klopp revealed that his team are good enough to at least be in the top four battle.

“We fight in each game, that’s maybe the most important thing. Then we have to see what happens around,” Klopp said. “Of course, in cup competitions the target is to win the competition. In the Premier League, it’s probably the same but it’s not that easy to plan or whatever. In this case, if Chelsea win all their games – which they pretty much do – there is no chance for any other team. For us, it’s still absolutely important to finish the season as well as possible – whatever that means. We’ll see after the season.

“You can imagine we have the quality to fight for the Champions League, that’s what we should do. If we do this and we are then close enough in the decisive moment of the season, you can still fight for a little bit more. But in this moment, it’s nothing we have to think about or we should think about. We now have two games and then we play Chelsea, so that’s when I’ll think about Chelsea but not how we can get them or whatever. We fight for everything we are able to, that’s all.”

He’s right. Liverpool finishing in the top four this season would be a great achievement at this stage of his project.

Perhaps more worrying for Klopp is that his side may now capitulate and finish outside of the top four for a second-straight season.

There’s no doubting that Liverpool have exceeded the expectations of most people so far in 2016-17 but Klopp’s men faded badly last season to finish in eighth place and with no wins in their last three games in the Premier League the pressure is on.

Without leading scorer Sadio Mane, who is away at the Africa Cup of Nations with Senegal, they’ve struggled to break opponents down and their defensive issues came to the fore against Swansea with sloppy mistakes costing them dear.

No team in the top seven has conceded more than Liverpool and with the Reds in fourth place and just four points ahead of sixth-place Manchester United and two points ahead of Manchester City who sit in fifth, all of a sudden they are looking over their shoulders instead of up at Chelsea.

Liverpool has lost momentum.

Boy do they need a big win in the EFL Cup against Southampton on Wednesday to regain some confidence and take that into their next PL clash, which just so happens to be against Chelsea at Anfield on Jan. 31.

Whatever he says publicly, Klopp must know that Liverpool cannot afford to lose to Chelsea. If they do and fall 13 points behind the Blues, the Kop can kiss goodbye to their title hopes for another season.