Aston Villa

Brad Guzan says Chelsea shouldn’t underestimate Villa captain Ron Vlaar

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Aston Villa first-choice goalkeeper Brad Guzan has started all 28 Premier League matches for Aston Villa this season. In other words, the 29-year-old knows what he’s talking about when it comes to his club – the lows, the highs and everything in between.

Something else that the USMNT keeper understands is just how vital defense is to a strong team. That’s why Guzan’s praise of Villa skipper Ron Vlaar, and his emphasis that the Dutchman will be vital as his side host Chelsea on Saturday, should not be taken lightly.

Guzan said, “Ron a big player for us, no doubt about it. He’s an established centre-half and a Dutch international so his quality is there for all to see. He brings leadership, organisation and experience when he plays. To have him in the team every time he plays is huge for us.”

Vlaar, 28, has struggled with injury at times this season, and his absence has only reinforced just how much Villa rely on their captain. Their other centerbacks, Nathan Baker and Ciaran Clark, are both still young, and Vlaar’s experience and guidance are what helps the Villa defense stand strong.

Guzan, too, hails Vlaar’s leadership abilities:  He has that presence. He’s commanding. He has that aura. He’s a good talker in there at centre-half. He leads by example. He’s a good skipper too. He has taken that responsibility on well. The lads respect him greatly.”

While it’s not rare to find stories of teammates praising one another, these words from Guzan are more than mere filler from the club’s official website. They reflect and expand upon what almost every Aston Villa fan knows: Vlaar is absolutely essential to the side’s success. Without the captain, Villa have lost five out of six times this season, only getting a point from a draw with Swansea.

And no, Ron Vlaar was not in the side when Chelsea beat Villa 8-0 in December 2012. Sorry, Chelsea fans.

Everton’s John Stones out of England squad with injury

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 12: John Stones of Everton clears during the Barclays Premier League match between Everton and Chelsea at Goodison Park on September 12, 2015 in Liverpool, United Kingdom.  (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)
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John Stones has been ruled out of England’s upcoming EURO qualifiers after suffering a knee injury while playing for Everton.

The 21-year-old center-back has missed Everton’s last two Premier League matches, and was unable to recover in time for England’s qualifiers this weekend.

Manager Roy Hodgson has called in Tottenham’s Andros Townsend and Kyle Walker as replacements for the absent Stones.

[ REPORTS: Klopp, Liverpool making quick progress ]

England has already qualified for EURO 2016 with a perfect record in Group E, winning all eight of their matches. With upcoming games against Estonia and Lithuania, Hodgson has said he will experiment a bit with some new players, which lessens the impact of Stones’ injury.

Despite the match being meaningless in terms of a result, players will still be eager to impress the manager in an effort to lock up a spot on the final roster for the tournament in June.

Manchester United’s Luke Shaw is out for an extended period of time after breaking his leg in the Champions League, while Everton’s Leighton Baines hasn’t played since August after undergoing ankle surgery.

[ RELATED: Samir Nasri rules out a return to France squad, hints at MLS move ]

Southampton’s Ryan Bertrand has been recalled to the side, and said he will try to grab the left-back position “by the scruff of the neck.”

Liverpool’s Danny Ings was given his first call-up and Swansea City’s Jonjo Shelvey returns to the fold, although both players missed training with injuries and their status moving forward is uncertain.

Landon Donovan: Klinsmann should be fired if USMNT loses to Mexico

WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 04: Head coach Jurgen Klinsmann of the United States looks on before playing Peru during an international friendly at RFK Stadium on September 4, 2015 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
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Landon Donovan and Jurgen Klinsmann haven’t had the rosiest of relationships.

Since being left off of the 2014 World Cup roster and retiring from the game, Donovan has often been critical of Klinsmann and his tenure with the USMNT.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s USMNT coverage ]

Ahead of Saturday’s CONCACAF playoff match against Mexico, Donovan said he believes Klinsmann should be fired if the United States loses.

Speaking to ESPN FC:

Around the world, if a player plays poorly and a player has a bad string of results, they get dropped from the team.

Jurgen said many times he wants our players to feel pressure — so if they lose a game they can’t go to the grocery store the next day. If they lose a game, they are getting hammered in the press.

Well, the same holds true for the coach, and so we had a very poor summer with bad results in the Gold Cup. The last game against Brazil was probably the worst game I’ve seen them play under Jurgen.

The reality is that now, anywhere else in the world, if this coach had those results, and they lose this game against Mexico, they’d be fired.

I think if Jurgen wants to hold all the players to that standard, then he has to be held to that standard too.

Heading into the Gold Cup this summer on the heels of some great wins over the Netherlands and Germany, the United States’ performance was wildly disappointing, losing in the semifinals to Jamaica and finishing in fourth place.

[ RELATED: Top moments from USMNT vs. Mexico ]

President of U.S. Soccer Sunil Gulati has shown great faith in Klinsmann, giving him a contract until 2018 as both manager and technical director of the program. However, pressure has been building after a string of poor results.

For Klinsmann, this is arguably his biggest match in charge of the USMNT. Not only does it have implications for the Confederations Cup in 2017, but it is also against Mexico, which always puts added pressure on a manager. If the U.S. loses, more people than Donovan will be calling for a change.