Americans Abroad Preview: US Internationals look to follow up big weekend with another

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Last week was a tough act to follow, with Geoff Cameron, Ale Bedoya, and Fabian Johnson all playing large roles in wins for their clubs.

Now, they’ll look to follow it up.  Cameron (pictured, left) and Stoke City host Hull City as the Potters look to solidify a top-10 finish.  Their win last week over Aston Villa put them into 10th, and now they’ll look to close the eight-point gap behind Southampton.

Villa’s goalkeeper Brad Guzan will hope to shake off that defeat to Stoke and deal David Moyes and Manchester United another big blow at Old Trafford.

Tim Howard and Everton look to stave off a disappointment and continue to put pressure on Arsenal for the 4th position as they travel to Craven Cottage and Fulham.  Howard will likely be looking to keep out Fulham’s 19-year-old striker Cauley Woodrow who has been a bright spot in their recent struggles.

Sunderland continue to struggle, now winless in their last five matches. At the forefront of that struggle is Jozy Altidore, who started and played the full 90 last week against Norwich but failed to score again in a 2-0 loss. He has not scored in the Premier League since December 4th.

In the Championship there is plenty to keep watch on.  Birmingham City takes on 10th-placed Bournemouth who have lost just two of their last 10. Birmingham’s Jonathan Spector has played the full 90 in seven straight matches after missing five months with a thigh injury. Teammate Will Packwood missed a few good chances in last week’s loss to Reading.

Reading won that match 2-1 without Danny Williams, but it looks as if the knee injury he suffered against Ukraine with the USMNT has subsided, and he could return from a 5-match absence Saturday against Huddersfield Town. Duane Holmes appeared for Huddersfield for the first time since returning from his loan at Yeovil Town, used as an 85th minute substitute last weekend.  He hopes for a starting spot this week on the road.

Tim Ream continues to be a warrior for 17th-placed Bolton, playing 2,884 of a possible 2,970 minutes in their last 33 matches.  They host Wigan on Saturday.

Struggling Sheffield Wednesday is in action against Watford, and Oguchi Onyewu hopes he can continue to inch closer to a possible World Cup spot with what would be his seventh-straight full 90 for the club.

Outside of England, Aron Johannsson saw victory last week, but personally hopes to rebound from a missed penalty as AZ travels to Cambuur Leeuwarden with a chance to catch Heerenveen in in 6th position.

FC Utretch had an early Friday game, and staged a miraculous comeback against NAC Breda to stave off relegation one more week, as a pair of goals in the last four minutes saw the clubs draw 2-2. However, Juan Agudelo had to watch from the bench after being substituted off in the 66th minute again without a score. He has just one goal in 651 Eredivisie minutes during his loan from Stoke City.

John Anthony Brooks earned himself a pair of starts for Hertha BSC last weekend, but the club conceded six goals to Borussia Monchengladbach and Bayern Munich. It put him back on the bench for their 2-0 loss to Schalke earlier Friday.

USMNT scouts were on hand to watch Fabian Johnson provide the match-winning assist to Anthony Modeste as Hoffenheim trumped struggling Bayer Leverkusen. He played the full 90 in a 3-1 win over Hannover just three days later, but now will have to face unbeaten Bayern Munich Saturday morning.  Bayern has already locked up the Bundesliga crown in record time.

Julian Green picked up an assist in a Bayern Munich youth squad match earlier today, which they won 5-2.

Rapid Vienna’s Terrence Boyd had a five-match start streak snapped midweek in their 3-0 win over FC Magna Wr. Neustadt, and will look to get back in the starting lineup Saturday against SK Sturm Graz. SV Salzburg has already run away with the Austrian Bundesliga title.

On Sunday, Sacha Kljestan gets his first crack at Standard Liege in the first leg of their playoff first round matchup.

Jermaine Jones and Besiktas need to pick themselves after a crushing 1-0 defeat to Karabukspor that seriously set them back in the Turkish Super Lig table earlier today. Jones played the full 90, picking up his second yellow card in as many matches.

Over in the French Ligue 1, Alejandro Bedoya earned a penalty (which was missed) in Nantes their first win since mid-January. He’s featured in five of their last six matches (with two starts) and the club can now gun for 9th-placed Bordeaux who sit just six points above Nantes with the two teams squaring off Saturday afternoon.

How can Arsenal qualify for last 16 of Champions League?

Arsene Wenger, Arsenal FC
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Heading into the their final UEFA Champions League Group F game, the Gunners are still alive. Just.

Arsenal beat Dinamo Zagreb 3-0 at the Emirates Stadium in London on Tuesday to keep their hopes of qualifying for the knockout stages of the Champions League alive for the 16th straight season.

[ MORE: Champions League standings

So, here’s what Arsene Wenger‘s men must do in their final Group F game in two weeks time in Greece to qualify and what other results will mean for the Premier League side.

  • An Arsenal win by a two-goal margin will see Arsenal finish level on points but finish above Olympiakos by virtue of having better goal different in their head-to-head encounters. Hence sealing a spot in the last 16
  • An Arsenal win by a one-goal margin, a draw or a defeat will see Arsenal eliminated and Olympiakos qualify for last 16
  • The Gunners have already sealed at least a Europa League spot regardless of what happens in Athens

There are your scenarios for Arsenal as it’s pretty simple to break it down: Win by two goals and they’re Champions League dream lives on in the last 16.

[ MORE: Champions League schedule

Anything else and it’s a spot of Thursday night soccer in the last 32 of the Europa League for Wenger’s men.

Maccabi Tel-Aviv 0-4 Chelsea: Blues go atop Group G

during the UEFA Champions League Group G match between Maccabi Tel-Aviv FC and Chelsea FC at Sammy Ofer Stadium on November 24, 2015 in Haifa, Israel.
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Chelsea scored thee second-half goals against a ten-man Maccabi side, easing to a 4-0 win in Tel-Aviv tonight.

With the win and Porto’s loss, the Blues now sit atop Group G in the UEFA Champions League, in need of one point from their final match to advance.

[ MORE: Champions League standings ]

The match got off to a bit of a shaky start for Chelsea, as Tel-Aviv created some early offense on the counter-attack. However, the Blues stuck in after the opening minutes and gained control of the play.

After dominating possession, Chelsea broke through in the 20th minute through Gary Cahill. Willian whipped in a corner kick which Cahill headed on goal, but Predrag Rajkovic made a brilliant save for Tel-Aviv. However, the save hit the post and rolled right back to Cahill, who had an easy tap-in for the goal.

The pitch continued to be tilted in favor of Chelsea, and Tel-Aviv’s chances of a comeback took a huge hit when Tal Ben Haim was sent off in the 40th minute. The former Chelsea man took a wild hack at the legs of Diego Costa, giving the referee an easy decision to show a straight red. It was another case of Costa getting under the skin of his opposition, as Ben Haim lost his cool and made a reckless challenge.

Despite being down to ten men, the hosts didn’t fold in the second half and tried to steal a goal on the counter. After a string of fine saves from Rajkovic to keep Tel-Aviv alive, Asmir Begovic had to come up with a save of his own to keep Chelsea ahead. Eran Zahavi found himself free on the break and fired a shot to the far post, but Begovic just got his fingertips on the ball to hold the lead.

[ RELATED: Zlatan hoping to impress in UCL return to Malmo ]

A bit of bad news came for Chelsea in the 72nd minute, as John Terry went down after getting tangled up in a challenge. The captain looked to be in a lot of pain, as he was stretchered off and replaced by Kurt Zouma.

On the first touch of the ball after Terry’s substitution, Chelsea took a 2-0 lead from a Willian free kick. From his favorite spot at the corner of the box, the Brazilian curled home a set piece to the near post. It was his sixth goal of the season, all of which have come from free kicks in almost the exact same location.

Less than five minutes later, Oscar made it 3-0 for Chelsea. Baba Rahman played in a cross from the left wing as Oscar headed home from close range, officially sealing the points for Jose Mourinho’s men.

Substitute Kurt Zouma would add a fourth for Chelsea in stoppage time, grabbing another headed goal for the Blues in a comfortable yet vital win.

Arsenal 3-0 Dinamo Zagreb: Gunners keep last 16 dreams alive

Alexis Sanchez
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Arsenal eased past Dinamo Zagreb in their penultimate game of UEFA Champions Group F play on Tuesday as two goals from Alexis Sanchez and another from Mesut Ozil did the damage.

Arsene Wenger‘s side now sit in third place on six points in Group F and travel to Olympiakos — who currently sit in second spot on nine points — on the final matchday on Dec. 9 where they will need a win by two goals or more to make the last 16 of the UCL for the 16th straight season.

[ MORE: Champions League standings ]

The Gunners came flying out of the traps and were 2-0 up inside the first 32 minutes. First up Sanchez got free on the left and curled in a beautiful cross which found the onrushing Ozil who stooped and headed home. 1-0 to the Arsenal.

Moments later it was 2-0 as Nacho Monreal intercepted a pass on the edge of Zagreb’s box and slotted the ball to Sanchez who finished easily to send Wenger’s men into halftime with a healthy lead.

[ MORE: Champions League schedule ]

In the second half Arsenal were hungry for more goals as Eduardo made a good stop from Santi Cazorla‘s shot and then palmed away Olivier Giroud‘s header from the rebound.

To their credit the Croatian outfit stuck to the task and Alexandru Matel went close with an effort but Arsenal always looked dangerous on the break as Costa Rican forward Joel Campbell volleyed an effort just wide.

Arsenal saw out the game with minimum fuss as Sanchez added another in the 69th minute when Campbell set him up neatly and the Chilean grabbed his second and Arsenal’s third of the game to make it 3-0.

That’s how the game finished as the Gunners now face a showdown in Athens in two weeks as their place in the UCL’s last 16 hangs in the balance.

VIDEO: Messi scores first goal since September in typical Barca fashion

MADRID, SPAIN - SEPTEMBER 12:  Lionel Messi of FC Barcelona celebrates after scoring his team's 2nd goal goal during the La Liga match between Club Atletico de Madrid and FC Barcelona at Vicente Calderon Stadium on September 12, 2015 in Madrid, Spain.  (Photo by Denis Doyle/Getty Images)
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Lionel Messi is back.

After coming off the bench in Barcelona’s 4-0 win over Real Madrid in El Clasico this weekend, Messi made his first start today since suffering a knee injury in September.

[ FOLLOW LIVE: Tuesday’s UCL action ]

Playing against Roma in the Champions League, Barcelona jumped out to a 2-0 lead within 20 minutes, and it is clear Messi is back in form.

After Luis Suarez opened the scoring, Messi doubled Barca’s lead with a brilliant team goal, started with a string of one-touch passes before a delicate chip over the keeper from the Argentinian.

To everyone facing Barcelona in the near future, beware.