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ProSoccerTalk MLS Team of the Week – Week 6

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Forwards

Clint Dempsey, Seattle Sounders – One jaw-dropping blast, a game-winner, with a forced own goal in between. Dempsey’s Saturday was better than his hat trick in Portland. That he somehow managed to top a three-goal performance against Seattle’s arch rivals with a better performance in Dallas has to rank as one of the best eight-day runs in MLS history. He was our Player of the Week.

Robbie Keane, LA Galaxy – It was a typical day for Robbie Keane; and by typical, I mean he was probably the best player on the field. His second half run to put home Stefan Ishizaki’s cross is the type of movement we’re starting to take for granted, though his first half blast at David Ousted’s net nearly left the Ireland international with his first multi-goal game of the season.

We could be wrong about: Obafemi Martins, Seattle Sounders, Chris Wondolowski, San Jose Earthquakes

Midfielders

Federico Higuaín, Columbus Crew – San Jose’s two-man shield forced Higuaín to drop deep to pick up the ball, a roll the Argentine is accustomed to assuming in Columbus’s set up. Just before half time, however, neither of those midfielders could prevent Waylon Francis from finding Higuaín just in front of the defense, with the No. 10’s quick finish giving Pipa his fourth goal of the season.

Lloyd Sam, New York Red Bulls – Saturday was another in a strong of strong performances from Sam, whose consistently strong service from the right has only highlighted New York’s shortcomings up top. If Red Bulls had even average finishing on Saturday, the chances Sam created would have given New York its first win of the season. That Mike Petke’s team became the second straight victim at RFK can’t cost Sam a spot in this team.

Maurice Edu, Philadelphia Union – Another strong performance from the Union’s midfield anchor allowed Jack Hackworth’s trio to go toe-to-toe with RSL’s diamond, with Edu’s presence in the middle serving as the team’s greatest asset. His late header inside Jeff Attinella’s left post allowed Philly to take a deserved point, earning the U.S. international a place in this week’s squad.

Kyle Beckerman, Real Salt Lake – It’s tempting to make an Edu versus Beckerman comparison, given the increasing (but misguided) notion the midfielders are competing for a spot in Brazil. In reality, the two are very different players who went about their Saturday excellence in different ways. Beckerman’s anchored, disruptive presence helped RSL take a point in Chester, with his late second half goal nearly delivering full points.

We could be wrong about: Kyle Bekker, Toronto FC; Will Johnson, Portland Timbers; Javier Morales, Real Salt Lake; Vincent Nogueira, Philadelphia Union

Defenders

Kevin Alston, New England Revolution – Alston’s first Major League Soccer goal was a memorable one, with the fill-in left back bursting in from the flank to fire home Saturday’s winning goal. Part of a defense that held Houston without a shot on target, the former Hoosier this week’s the easy choice at left back.

Giancarlo Gonzalez, Columbus Crew – It wasn’t a perfect day for the Costa Rican, but it was close, with quick reads and decisive clearances allowing him to keep the space in front of Steve Clark as clear as possible. His 13 clearances were more than the rest of Columbus’s defense combined, making Sunday his most convincing performance since moving to Major League Soccer.

Clarence Goodson, San Jose Earthquakes – If you think Goodson could have done more on Columbus’s goal (he was the closest man to Higuaín), then the U.S. international doesn’t deserve this spot. Give it to Gonzalez, and consider this my tacit concession. You may be right.

If you’re inclined to think Goodson was right to keep dropping back with the rest of the San Jose line, Sunday becomes one of his best this season. A number of strong first half reads allowed the Earthquakes to thwart most of Columbus’s early incursions, keeping his team close enough to claim a point with its early second half breakthrough.

Dan Gargan, LA Galaxy – A strong run at the end of Saturday’s first half nearly saw Gargan assist on Landon Donovan’s record-setting goal, though the Galaxy attacker ended up pushing his header wide. Still, the ball was an example of the consistently strong crosses the journeyman defender has provided since assuming a spot in the starting lineup. Along with Baggio Husidic, Gargan’s become one of the latest examples of Bruce Arena salvaging veteran talent.

We could be wrong about: Waylon Francis, Columbus;  Jámison Olave, New York Red Bulls; Omar Gonzalez, LA Galaxy; Andrew Farrell, New England Revolution

Goalkeeper

Jaime Penedo, LA Galaxy – Of the four big saves the Panamanian international made on Saturday, his 32nd minute stop on Kekuta Manneh was our favorite. On a ball moving from left-to-right across his goal, Peneda quickly got off his line to cut down Manneh’s angles, charging toward the Vancouver attacker before he even turned toward goal. The Whitecaps eventually lost 1-0, with Penedo keeping a clean sheet in his return to Arena’s starting XI.

We could be wrong about: Andrew Dykstra, D.C. United

Xavi backs Dybala, Verratti to succeed at Barcelona over Pogba

TURIN, ITALY - JANUARY 24:  Paulo Dybala (R) of Juventus FC celebrates after scoring the opening goal with team mate Paul Pogba during the Serie A match between Juventus FC and AS Roma at Juventus Arena on January 24, 2016 in Turin, Italy.  (Photo by Valerio Pennicino/Getty Images)
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With Paul Pogba linked with a possible summer move to Barcelona worth more than $100 million, one legend at Camp Nou believes Pogba may not be the right signing.

[ MORE: Top 5 PL storylines ]

After making more than 700 appearances for Barcelona, Xavi knows the club as well as anyone, and he prefers Pogba’s Juventus teammate Paulo Dybala for a move to the Catalan giants.

Xavi also praised the play of Paris Saint-Germain’s Marco Verratti, saying that while Pogba is a star player, Dybala and Verratti have “Barca DNA.”

There’s two players I really like, both of whom I think have Barca’s DNA. They are Marco Verratti and Paulo Dybala.

They are amazing and, thanks to their quality and style of play, would easily integrate into the [Barca] machine. I see them as future stars at the club.

[Pogba] is a great player. He’ll be a star for France as he is for Juve, but I see him with a different game to ours.

Both Pogba and Dybala are 22-years-old, while Verratti is 23. All three players have been among the elite young talents in the world, with Pogba earning the most praise of the group and always linked with a big-money move to Europe’s top clubs.

[ RELATED: Messi named La Liga Player of the Month for first time in career ]

Dybala is enjoying a breakout season at Juventus, currently with 13 goals and eight assists in Serie A play. In Paris, Verratti is part of a PSG side that hasn’t lost in 25 matches and holds a 24-point lead at the top of the table.

Vincent Kompany set to make Manchester City return this weekend

during the Barclays Premier League match between Manchester City and Arsenal at Etihad Stadium on January 18, 2015 in Manchester, England.
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Vincent Kompany is set to make his first appearance for Manchester City since Boxing Day as the defender has returned from injury.

City’s captain and center-back missed more than six weeks with a calf injury before Christmas, and then reaggravated the injury just minutes into his return at the end of December.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

However, Kompany has been back in training and manager Manuel Pellegrini said he is fit to play this weekend when City host Tottenham in a huge top-four matchup.

We’ll see what the starting XI is tomorrow – we’re not just thinking about one player and one game, we’re involved in a lot of competitions. Maybe we have a lot of criticism when we don’t play well but I’m happy with the squad over the whole season.

Every player must play a game when they’re 100%. Vincent has worked for three weeks with no problems. He played 45 minutes in a friendly game against the under-21s and I think he’s ready to play.

Kompany’s presence in the City back-line has been pivotal this season. In the eight Premier League games Kompany has started, City have kept seven clean sheets. In the 18 matches without the big Belgian in the starting lineup, City have kept just five.

[ RELATED: Diego Costa suffers broken nose in Chelsea training ]

With City just a point behind Tottenham, Kompany returns from injury just in time for one of the biggest matches of the season. Tasked with slowing down Harry Kane and Spurs’ high-flying attack, Kompany’s play could prove crucial to the Citizens getting a result.

Premier League Preview: Chelsea vs. Newcastle United

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  • CFC unbeaten under Hiddink (W5, D6)
  • Newcastle have just 6 away goals all season
  • Diego Costa: 6 goals in his last 7 PL matches

Chelsea look to extend their unbeaten streak under Guus Hiddink to 12 matches on Saturday when the Blues host relegation-threatened Newcastle (Watch live, 12:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN and online via Live Extra).

The Blues’ last loss came under Jose Mourinho in December.

[ WATCH LIVE: Stream every PL game via Live Extra ]

Chelsea are up to 13th on the table, currently riding a run of 11 matches unbeaten in all competitions. Guus Hiddink is yet to suffer a loss after taking over for his second stint at Stamford Bridge in December, although draws have kept Chelsea from climbing further up the table. Diego Costa has had the hot-hand with six goals in his last seven appearances, but the Spanish striker will be forced to play with a mask after suffering a broken nose in training.

[ MORE: Hiddink has “no fear” of playing youngsters in Zouma’s absence ]

For Newcastle, the Magpies sit 17th on the table just one point above the drop. Their away form has hurt the club all season, as Steve McClaren‘s men have scored a league-low six goals on the road this year. The Magpies are coming off of a win over West Brom, and supporters will be hoping the club’s new January signings continue to produce. Seydou Doumbia could make his Premier League debut on Saturday, which would be a massive boost to the attack.

What they’re saying

Chelsea manager Guus Hiddink: “The status of being unbeaten sounds good but realistically we would have wished to have more victories, especially at home. And we have an opportunity to do so against Newcastle. They improved their squad with substance, some good signings, and they are more competitive now.”

Newcastle boss Steve McClaren: “In our home games we are starting to get a consistency in our performance and the way we play. We need to start transferring that to our away games and picking up points away from home – we owe it to the fans.”

Prediction

Newcastle have just two wins in their last 18 league matches away from home, and I don’t see that trend changing this weekend. Chelsea have looked a new team with Guus Hiddink in charge, and they stay unbeaten under the Dutchman. Chelsea 2-1 Newcastle United.

Pochettino enjoying best spell of career ahead of massive clash at Man City

LONDON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 23:  Mauricio Pochettino (R) Manager of Tottenham Hotspur is seen on arrival at the stadium prior to the Barclays Premier League match between Crystal Palace and Tottenham Hotspur at Selhurst Park on January 23, 2016 in London, England.  (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)
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Mauricio Pochettino is getting ready for one of his biggest matches in charge at Tottenham, but he’s not letting the pressure get to him.

The Spurs’ boss talked down the importance of Sunday’s match against Manchester City (Watch live, 11:15 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via Live Extra), and went on to say he is currently having the most enjoyable time of his career.

[ WATCH: Full PL match replays ]

Pochettino has Tottenham sitting second on the table, and they travel to the Etihad this weekend for a clash against fourth-placed Manchester City, who sit one point behind Spurs.

When asked if this weekend’s match could be a decisive result in the title race, Pochettino was unwilling to admit it was anything more than three points in a long campaign. However, when asked about the season as a whole, the Argentinian manager said he was having great fun at White Hart Lane, responding “Is it my most enjoyable time of career? Yes, maybe yes if I’m honest.”

[ MORE: Who are the Premier League title favorites? ]

Pochettino’s work at Tottenham has made him one of the most well-respected managers in the Premier League, with some reports tabbing him as the potential future boss of Manchester United.

Spurs have won six on the spin in all competitions, and will be confident facing a City side they smashed 4-1 earlier this season. With leaders Leicester facing Arsenal on Sunday, Tottenham could see themselves just two points off the pace if results go their way.