Americans Abroad Preview: Howard looks for bounceback vs Manchester United

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After their massively disappointing loss midweek that left Everton once again chasing Arsenal for the final Champions League spot, Tim Howard and the Toffees are hoping to turn things around.

They’ll have to do so against a resurgent Manchester United team that’s won three of its last four Premier League matches.  A point behind the Gunners without their game in hand, they’ll need Arsenal to drop points if Howard wishes to play in Europe’s top competition next season.

Elsewhere across England’s top flight, Jozy Altidore‘s struggles are starting to make Jurgen Klinsmann nervous, as Sunderland has to go to Stamford Bridge to take on Chelsea.

(MORE: Premier League Preview – Chelsea vs Sunderland)

Brad Guzan‘s Aston Villa still hasn’t secured Premier League status for next season, although their poor form recently still has a long way to go to be in any serious trouble. Villa hosts Southampton who is coming off a bad loss to Cardiff City.

Stoke City, meanwhile, are flying high and Geoff Cameron continues to be at the forefront of their success. The Potters take on Cardiff tomorrow featured on NBCSN.

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Americans in the Championship are dwindiling in numbers as injuries continue to pick people off one by one.  Those still standing include Danny Williams who’s Reading sits just a point outside the final playoff spot.  They have three matches left to make up that deficit, but must wait until Tuesday for their first crack 12th-placed Middlesbrough.

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Oguchi Onyewu (right) has been getting good minutes with Sheffield Wednesday, despite their relatively leaky defense.

Sheffield Wednesday are safe, and that leaves Oguchi Onyewu with little to play for – at least as far as the club is concerned. But he will continue his search for a very outside shot at this year’s World Cup, playing the full 90 in eight of the club’s last 10 games.

However, Oguchi’s defense has given up nine goals in the last three games he’s started. They take on Tim Ream‘s Bolton Saturday, who has little to play for, mired in the middle of the Championship table.

Huddersfield are not yet mathematically safe, but with three matches to go their seven-point cushion appears fine.  They get Yeovil Town on Monday, and Duane Holmes will look for playing time, as he was an unused sub in their loss to Derby last week.

The Eredivisie is off this weekend, and as such so are Aron Johannsson and Juan Agudelo.

Sacha Kljestan waits until Monday for Anderlecht to take the pitch, on the road at Racing Genk where a win could see them pull within three of second-place Club Brugge, if they were to fall to leaders Standard Liege.  After playing nearly all Anderlecht’s minutes through 2013, Kljestan’s had trouble finding the pitch in 2014, playing just 225 minutes in their last 12 matches.

Nantes are not mathematically guaranteed Ligue 1 safety, but with five matches left they would need an epic collapse to find themselves relegated, especially if Ale Bedoya continues his good form. He’s getting lots of minutes and scored his fourth goal of the season two matches ago. They take on relegation candidates Valenciennes on Sunday.

Down south, Puebla are desperately hoping to avoid Liga MX relegation as they take on Pachuca on Saturday with DaMarcus Beasley one of their few bright spots. They remain bottom of the Clausura table, but sit above Atlante by five points on the relegation average table.  Hercules Gomez, Edgar Castillo,and Joe Corona lead Tijuana on the road at Atlante on Sunday looking to do their Puebla buddies a favor.

Fabian Johnson travels with Hoffenheim to Werder Bremen Saturday hoping to secure their top-ten status in the Bundesliga. Johnson’s played the full 90 minutes in five straight matches, in which Hoffenheim have lost exactly none of.

John Anthony Brooks made a stupid and got a massive back tattoo, keeping him out of this weekend’s Hertha BSC fixture with Augsburg.  Things like that are becoming a problem, after German media told Brooks back in December he needs to “become an adult” aka grow up.

Mexico captain Guardado suffers hamstring injury

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With the World Cup still half a year away, there’s plenty of time to heal from injuries and get the body right after tweaking things during the club season.

And yet, there will still be some concern among Mexico fans.

Team captain Andres Guardado suffered a hamstring tear, his club Real Betis confirmed on Monday, and is expected to miss 3-4 weeks. That’s nothing to write home about when it comes to preparing for the big tournament, but with Guardado 31 years old and struggling with injuries in recent years, Mexico fans will be keenly aware that hamstring injuries can return with a vengeance if not given the right time to heal.

Guardado has shown his age in recent times, not necessarily with his play on the field, which has been critical to his country, but with his fitness. Guardado has just four full 90 minute performances for Mexico dating back to October of 2016, missing time with ankle, leg, and now hamstring injuries in that span.

The 31-year-old has had a fine season so far for Real Betis, scoring one goal and assisting six while appearing in all 15 La Liga matches for the club thus far. The club sits 12th in the La Liga table with 18 points.

Guardado will be fine with plenty of time to spare, but if not fully healed properly, there’s always the risk that muscle injuries can flare back up, and Mexico fans will hope that their captain’s club gives him plenty of rest to recover.

Mark Hughes wants Stoke City to “suck it up”

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Mark Hughes is under fire at Stoke City with the Potters firmly entrenched in the relegation battle, and with that he’s charging his players, staff, and himself to gut the rest of the season out.

With Stoke heading to Turf Moor to take on Burnley, they sit just three points above the drop. The players were faced with jeers from angry fans at the train station following this past weekend’s 5-1 disaster against Tottenham. The fiery Hughes is hoping to use this jarring moment to jolt his squad.

[ PREVIEW: Tuesday’s Premier League action ]

“That is still resonating. It’s good we have a game because it is still fresh in their ears probably, and they can use it as a motivating factor,” said Hughes during his pre-match press conference.

“You either suck it up and do ­something about it or you go under, and we can’t accept players like that. I don’t feel we have players like that.”

With managers nowadays often reaching into the excuses barrel as they hope to save their own skins, Hughes refuses to do just that, instead placing the decision firmly on the players shoulders, telling them they are the only ones who can save the club.

“Maybe some hadn’t ­confronted that before – but sometimes you need a reality check, and understand how our results and ­performances affect people,” Hughes said. “When people criticize you, you have to grow a thick skin in this industry. If you don’t, you’re in the wrong place.”

Louis van Gaal calls Mourinho’s United “far more boring”

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Louis Van Gaal has picked just the right time to pipe up.

The former Manchester United manager, who took flak while in charge for his side being hideous to watch, has now taken shots of his own at his successor Jose Mourinho, kicking Manchester United while they’re down after a 2-1 derby defeat at home.

The Dutchman told Fox Sports Netherlands, “If you ask me how did I do at United, I will say it was my best year ever, given the circumstances I was working under. We played football that was quite alright. But it’s not football that is appreciated in England. And yet, right now, looking at United, I have to conclude Mourinho is not being criticized while it’s far more boring football.”

[ PREVIEW: Premier League Tuesday matches, including Chelsea vs. Huddersfield ]

Van Gaal was blasted consistently for playing a boring style, especially in front of the home crowd, and now Mourinho is being criticized for the same concept. Mourinho was denounced for similar reasons while in charge of Chelsea, but with the club winning multiple titles under his leadership, the noise was always less while the team was winning. With Manchester United still unable to crack the top 4, Mourinho is feeling the heat.

“What United produce now is defensive football,” van Gaal said. “I always played attacking football. The proof is that the opposition were always parking the bus. They don’t do that now because Jose Mourinho plays so defensive.”

To van Gaal’s point, Manchester United is seventh in the Premier League in possession, holding 51% possession this season. They were out-possessed by Manchester City 65-35 at Old Trafford over the weekend. Meanwhile, van Gaal’s last full season with Manchester United, the 2015/16 season, saw the Red Devils hold 54%, which ranked third in the Premier League, just a percentage point behind leaders Arsenal. However, van Gaal’s United ranked 15th in the Premier League in total shots, while Mourinho’s United this season ranks sixth at this point.

Van Gaal made sure to point out he prefers their cross-town rivals.

“I would rather watch City play than United. You need quality in a squad and it’s clear City have a better squad.”

Conte blames fatigue for dip in Chelsea form

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Antonio Conte has figured out what is plaguing his Chelsea side as they sit 14 points back of Premier League leaders Manchester City.

“I think when you play every three days, it is impossible to have a training session and to work on the physical aspects,” Conte said in his pre-match press conference as the Blues get set to play Huddersfield Town on Tuesday. “It’s impossible. It’s impossible because you have to prepare with the players for a game every three days.”

Chelsea has yet to find itself eliminated from a single competition, drawn against Barcelona in the Champions League while navigating fixtures across all four competitions.

And yet, this is nothing new for Conte. The Blues boss is more than familiar with fixture congestion, having taken charge of Juventus and regularly competing at a high level on multiple fronts. In 2012/13, he won the Serie A title, won the Supercoppa Italia, and reached the quarterfinals of the Champions League.

However, this is new for Conte at Chelsea. Last season, the Blues did not take part in a European competition thanks to their disastrous season the previous year. While they reached the FA Cup final, they were knocked out of the EFL Cup in the 4th round.

“We have to try to do our best,” Conte said. “For sure, some players can be tired, that’s normal because some players are playing from this summer and our tours in China and Singapore. It’s normal. But I repeat we have to find the best solution. We have to find more rotations. I’m doing this, we will try and do our best with hunger and desire. We will fight.”

As an example, Conte said Alvaro Morata will miss the match on Tuesday against Huddersfield Town due to fatigue, with the Spaniard battling a slight back injury. “Morata is out. He is a bit tired and he has a problem in his back.