“Everyone wants to avoid Manaus.”
Those were the words of Jurgen Klinsmann prior to last December’s World Cup draw. And now, three months after having been selected to play their second Group Stage game – a June 22nd contest against Portugal – in that precise venue, the U.S. coach’s words continue to reverberate.
Thursday reports from The Guardian detail the Amazonian venue in a state of disarray ahead of this summer’s tournament. To prepare the field massive amounts of fertilizer was laid to promote growth in the notoriously steamy region where average highs approach 90 degrees with humidity levels at 80 percent. The move proved excessive and backfired leaving large portions of the surface dried out and two sections of the penalty areas nearly devoid of grass.
The Amazônia Arena now faces a race against time to be ready for the opening match between England and Italy on June 14th. Jerocilio Silva, the state official for the stadium, has recalled the São Paolo-based grass company to restore the damaged areas of the pitch and “green crystal chemicals” are now being used to alleviate the problem.
How, exactly, the “green crystal chemicals” are any different from the previous fertilizer that allegedly triggered the problem is unclear. But Silva appears convinced that he has figured out how to deal with the acidic, sandy local soil claiming that this is “the treatment for it to blossom again.”
For the U.S. Men’s National Team, poor field conditions is just one of a number of things Klinsmann has prepared his side to expect in Brazil. During the USMNT’s training in São Paulo last January, Klinsmann visited Manaus and noted that while it’s “absolutely gorgeous” it’s also “a different face of Brazil.”
“‘Listen guys, it’s not going to be all perfect,'” he told his players. “‘We have to be very tolerant and we have to be patient with things. But if we know that in advance you adjust to it right away mentally, it’s no big deal. It’s no problem at all.'”
In addition to England v. Italy and the United States v. Portugal, Manaus will host two other Group Stage matches: Cameroon v. Croatia on June 18th and Honduras v. Switzerland on June 25th.
Heading into the their final UEFA Champions League Group B game, Manchester United hold their destiny in their own hands, but any slip-up could mean it’s Europa League on Thursday nights for Louis Van Gaal‘s men.
[ MORE: Champions League standings ]
The Red Devils would have advanced to the knockout stage with a victory over third-place PSV Eindhoven on Wednesday, but slumped to an ugly 0-0 draw instead.
[ MORE: Three things we learned from Man United 0-0 PSV ]
So, here’s all of the scenarios for the final matchday of the group stage, away to Wolfsburg, in which United would advance to the round of 16 advance:
- A Man United win will see Man United finish top of Group B
- A Man United draw, coupled with a PSV draw or loss (vs. CSKA Moscow), will see Man United finish second in Group B
- A Man United draw, coupled with a PSV victory, will see Man United finish third in Group B
- A Man United loss, coupled with a PSV loss, will see Man United finish second in Group B
- A Man United loss by more than one goal, coupled with a PSV draw, would see Man United finish third in Group B
- A Man United loss, coupled with a PSV win, would see Man United finish third in Group B
[ MORE: Champions League schedule ]
There are your scenarios for Man United as it’s pretty simple to break it down: Win, and they go through. Fail to win, and their fate is completely in the hands of PSV.
The Foxes are top of the Premier League and are led by a surging Jamie Vardy but how long can they keep shocking the world?
With six tough games coming up between now and the start of 2016, Claudio Ranieri‘s men will be pushed to their limit but so far this season they’ve been sensational and Vardy has equaled Manchester United legend Ruud van Nistelrooy’s record of scoring in 10-straight PL games.
[ MORE: Full PST Extra archive ]
Can he make it 11 in a row on Saturday (Watch live, 12:30 p.m. ET on NBC and online via Live Extra) when United visit the King Power Stadium? As for the Red Devils, they sit in second place and are just one point behind the flying Foxes’. Louis Van Gaal‘s men have certainly flown under the radar so far and our churning out wins at an impressive rate.
Jenna Corrado and I discuss that and more in the latest edition of PST Extra. Click play on the video above to see our chat in full.
Rog and Davo revel in another chapter of the Leicester City fairytale, break down Liverpool’s shock dismantling of Manchester City and discuss Arsenal’s slip against West Brom.
Listen to the latest pod by clicking play below.
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Joe Hart was forced to leave Manchester City’s 1-0 defeat to Juventus in UEFA Champions League play on Wednesday due to a hamstring injury, which he seemed to incur while making a spectacular one-on-one kick-save late in the second half.
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Man City manager Manuel Pellegrini confirmed after the game that Hart’s injury is indeed a hamstring issue, and went on to say that he would need further tests once the team arrives back in Manchester to determine the severity and how long, if at all, City and England’s no. 1 would be out of action.
Man City, currently third in the Premier League on 26 points, will host eighth-place Southampton at the Etihad Stadium on Saturday (Watch live at 10 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via Live Extra).