Americans Abroad Preview: Yank vs. Yank match-ups in England and Mexico

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Call it “What to expect when you’re expecting the World Cup to be awesome.” It’s this week’s Americans Abroad Preview.

Cardiff’s immediate path out of the drop zone involves putting a goal or two past Everton’s Tim Howard, while Timmy’s Toffees would love to get all three points to keep the heat on Manchester United and Tottenham in the quest for sixth place in the Premier League.

Geoff Cameron will again be in focus for Stoke City in a breathing room match with West Ham United. The Potters are at home, with both teams on 31 points but Stoke having played one more match.

Brad Guzan and Aston Villa get the marquee match at 1:30p.m. ET against Chelsea on NBCSN, with the Blues in fine form and seven points ahead of No.2 Liverpool. Guzan’s boys are level with West Ham and Stoke for 10th place and coming off a big win over Norwich.

Sunderland is playing a rare Premier League match, which have been scarce thanks to two strong Cup runs. But this is the real deal for Jozy Altidore, who is getting over illness. Sunderland are just one point out of escaping the drop zone with two and even three games-in-hand on the competition. A win over Crystal Palace on Saturday is close to a “must.”

All English Championship matches are on Saturday this week, meaning there will be a plethora of Yanks on the pitch at 3p.m. ET.

It’s an American back battleground in Sheffield, where Will Packwood, Jonathan Spector and Birmingham City visit Oguchi Onyewu and Sheffield Wednesday.

Eric Lichaj‘s season with Nottingham Forest is done as he needs double hernia surgery.

Other Championship appearances could see:

Tim Ream for Bolton host Brighton.

Reading using Danny Williams as they play host to Derby County.

Duane Holmes for Yeovil Town in a visit to QPR at Loftus Road.

Juan Agudelo and FC Utrecht are away to NEC Nijmegen in a big relegation six-pointer, with Utrecht in 14th place, five points ahead of its opponents and three points above the drop zone. Agudelo has cooled off a bit since his hot, shot-ripping start in the Netherlands and was an unused substitute to start the month before subbing on after 61 minutes at PSV last week.

Eredivisie mate Aron Johannsson of AZ Alkmaar is having no such problems, which you certainly know if you’ve hung out around Pro Soccer Talk. He has three goals, two assists and nine shots on goal in his last three league matches, with AZ boasting a 3-0 record and 9-0 aggregate scoreline. Alkmaar is lurking three points behind sixth-place Heerenveen.

Anderlecht has lost two of three in the Belgian Jupiler League, so Sacha Kljestan needs a home win over KV Oostende on Sunday if he hopes to catch Club Brugge this season for second in the standings.

Terrence Boyd and SK Rapid Wien are hosting SV Josko Ried on Saturday. It’s the third match-up of the two teams, with the home teams putting up 2-0 wins. Boyd scored in Vienna’s home win in late September.

Nantes has dropped down the Ligue 1 table after their strong start and now have some small survival doubts as Ale Bedoya and company go away to third-place Lille for a Saturday match. Bedoya hasn’t been in tremendous form for a striker, not scoring since tallying back-to-back goals in December wins over Marseille and Valenciennes.

Jermaine Jones and Besiktas can keep pressure on Galatasaray in the race of second place in the Turkish Super Lig with a road win at low-in-the-table Caykur Rizes on Saturday.

In Germany, Jon Anthony Brooks will hope to see the pitch for Hertha BSC as they host Hannover 96 on Saturday. Meanwhile, Fabian Johnson will look to put forth another impressive showing at right back, presumably, as Hoffenheim host Mainz. Both of those matches are on Saturday.

No Friday night matches in Liga MX means the US contingent South of the border has weekend duty. Tijuana’s bevy of Yanks including Herculez Gomez and Joe Corona have a big matchup with Cruz Azul on Saturday, while Tigres’ Jose Torres will see DaMarcus Beasley, Michael Orozco Fiscal and Puebla on Sunday at Estadio Cuauhtémoc.

The latter two were in the headlines for tough reasons earlier this week, protesting missing wages. They’ll need their focus, as Puebla is just one point below Tigres in the Clausura table. Let’s just say both clubs are much nearer to the bottom than the top. The two clubs drew 0-0 in Copa MX play on Thursday, also in Puebla.

Spanish police dismantle match-fixing scheme in 3rd, 4th tiers

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MADRID (AP) Spanish police have dismantled a match-fixing scheme involving players and clubs in the country’s lower divisions.

Authorities said more than 20 people have been detained as part of the police operation launched on Monday, including players, although no names were immediately disclosed.

The matches under suspicion were in the third and fourth divisions this season and last season.

The match-fixing scheme reportedly involved Chinese betting sites.

The Spanish league said the operation was based on information collected by its analysts about suspicious activities.

UCL preview: Chelsea host Barcelona; Bayern vs. Besiktas

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  • Chelsea vs. Barcelona, at Stamford Bridge
  • Bayern Munich vs. Besiktas, at Allianz Arena
  • Champions League round of 16 resumes on Tuesday

[ UCL: Spurs fight back to draw Juventus | Liverpool thrash Porto in leg 1 ]

Chelsea, mired in some of their worst form since the disastrous 2015-16 season, welcome a Barcelona side enjoying one of the best six-month runs of results in the famed club’s entire history. The Blues have won just four of their last 12 games across all competitions, while the Blaugrana have lost once in 38 games.

On the plus side, Chelsea enter Tuesday’s colossal clash as winners of their last two games — back-to-back wins for the first time in 2018 — having outscored the likes of West Bromwich Albion and Hull City by a combined 7-0. Star striker Alvaro Morata returned to action against Hull after five weeks out with a back injury, thus Antonio Conte has something of a selection dilemma on his hands with the Spaniard perhaps only partially fit, and Olivier Giroud racking up a goal and three assists in the last two games, his first starts for the club.

Barcelona, meanwhile, have conceded just two goals in their last nine games (all competitions) and even managed to overturn their lone defeat, to Espanyol, and advance to the Copa del Rey semifinals (and eventually final). Despite losing Neymar in the summer, Barca mostly cruised through their Champions League group, only dropping points in draws away to Juventus and Olympiacos. Lionel Messi has, strangely, never scored a goal in his eight career appearances against Chelsea, a record which has been spoken about at length in the build-up to Tuesday — similarly to the goal-less record which plagued him against Juve goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon, whom he finally bested back in September.

[ MORE: Man City win big away to Basel | Real Madrid 3-1 PSG ]

In the other round-of-16 first-leg matchup on Tuesday, five-time (soon-to-be six) defending Bundesliga champions Bayern Munich host surprise winners of Group G, Besiktas, ahead of the likes of Monaco, RB Leipzig and Porto.

Since taking over on an interim basis (through the end of the season), Bayern boss Jupp Heynckes has won 21 of 22 games of which he’s been in charge, including four of six games during the group stage en route to finish second behind Paris Saint-Germain, while also racing out to a 19-point lead back home in Germany.

Aguero involved in clash with Wigan fan after FA Cupset

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MANCHESTER, England (AP) Sergio Aguero was involved in a confrontation with a Wigan fan as ugly scenes marred the end of the third-division side’s shock FA Cup win over Manchester City on Monday.

[ MORE: Wigan shock Man City, the world and themselves ]

Fans spilled on to the pitch at DW Stadium as the host celebrated its 1-0 fifth-round win against the runaway English Premier League leader.

Supporters from both clubs were involved in disturbances, while television pictures appeared to show a home supporter and striker Aguero involved in a physical exchange.

Aguero appeared to hit the supporter after the fan said something to the player, and Aguero had to be held back by his City teammates.

[ MORE: Money from Wembley replay “will support Rochdale for 2 or 3 years” ]

Advertising hoardings were also ripped out and thrown as a pitch invasion by Wigan fans got out of hand while the defeated City players were being escorted off the pitch.

Footage also appeared to show objects, including an advertising board, being thrown at police officers by fans in the City end.

Wigan shock themselves: “Not sure how it feels, hasn’t sunk in yet”

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Wigan Athletic didn’t just shock Manchester City with their FA Cup fifth-round slaying of the runaway Premier League leaders; nor did they merely shock the rest of the footballing world; they also shocked themselves into disbelief, according to defender Dan Burn.

[ MORE: Goodbye, quadruple! Wigan bounce 10-man City from FA Cup ]

Speaking following Monday’s triumph over Pep Guardiola‘s quadruple-chasing side at the DW Stadium, Burn admitted he himself didn’t know what to make of the night that would undoubtedly highlight and change his own professional career — quotes from the BBC:

“Not sure how it feels, hasn’t sunk in yet. It was a really tough game. The belief was always there. We’ve got Will Grigg, who does what he keeps doing.

“We pride ourselves on our clean sheets. We had a couple bad results before, so we wanted to prove ourselves, so a clean sheet against the best team in England is great.

“Once we scored, the fans really got behind us, just knew we needed to hang on. It was the longest 10 minutes of my life.”

[ MORE: Money from Wembley replay “will support Rochdale for 2 or 3 years” ]

Manager Paul Cook was able to articulate his happiness and pride only slightly better — “It feels great” — but offered the highest of praises to his players, whom “had to ride [their] luck at times” during the game, and gave everything they had to the cause, because that’s the only way you beat a team like Man City:

“It feels great. It’s such a severe test. They’re such a strong side and move the ball so well. We had to ride our luck at times and the sending off is always a big incident.

“Our lads deserve credit for their work and some of the blocks they made were outstanding, and to beat Man City you have to do that.”