Which national team is stronger, right now: USA or England?

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Ah, the Motherland.

For so long fans of the U.S. national team have looked over at the English national team with envy. The players, infrastructure, coaching and prestige they possess has been head and shoulders above what the USMNT could offer. That was then.

What about now? How far ahead, if at all, are England?

If you go by the latest FIFA World Rankings, the difference between the two nations is miniscule. England are ranked 11th in the world, the U.S. come in at 14th but both have flip-flopped above and below each other in recent months.

MORE: Squad-for-World Cup squad: Is the U.S. better than Mexico?

On the pitch it’s hard to split the Three Lions and Nats, as at the last World Cup in South Africa they battled it out to a 1-1 draw in their opening games of the tournament.

In terms of their playing squads, this is where we can break it down to be more specific as to who is the stronger team, right here, right now.

Let’s take a look by position and decide who comes out on top.

The USA or England?

  • Goalkeepers

This is a toughy to start with. England’s first-choice ‘keeper is Joe Hart, who just won the Premier League title with Manchester City and is in fine form. However the 27-year-old had a dodgy spell to start the season and is still prone to a monumental error. As for the U.S., they have Tim Howard (the bearded fellow who looks like his head is on upside down) between the sticks. Playing in the PL for over a decade, Howard is a legend at Everton and is about as solid and reliable as they come. He gets the nod over Hart and with Brad Guzan in reserve, he would beat out both Ben Foster and Fraser Forster. The USA takes this one.

  • Defenders

Another tough one as defense could easily be described as both teams’ Achilles heel. When their players are fully-fit England’s backline of Kyle Walker, Phil Jagielka, Gary Cahill and Leighton Baines is particularly robust. However with Jagielka struggling with injury and Glen Johnson coming in for Walker, it looks a little shaky with few options as back up. That said, stars like Luke Shaw are waiting in the wings. As for the USMNT, apart from Matt Besler and perhaps DaMarcus Beasley at left back, Jurgen Klinsmann doesn’t know his strongest back four. Many would argue Stoke City’s Geoff Cameron should start alongside Besler with Omar Gonzalez recovering from a knee injury. For their experience alone, England get the nod here.

  • Midfielders

There’s no doubt about it, England have a perfect mix of youth and experience. Veterans Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard are augmented by the likes of Jack Wilshere and Raheem Sterling. The Three Lions are wonderfully talented in this area and seem to have found a system that finally suits them. The USMNT may play the diamond with Jermaine Jones sitting in front of the back four which allows Michael Bradley to roam. Is that his best position? If the U.S. are to get the best out of their team, they need to get the best out of Bradley who is the man that makes everything tick. Guys like Graham Zusi and Alejandro Bedoya could find it hard to flourish against the big teams. England win the midfield battle.

  • Forwards

This is pretty straight-forward as the likes of Wayne Rooney and Daniel Sturridge would get into most national teams if they were available. Rooney’s vision and penchant for the spectacular make him a perfect foil for Sturridge who uses his pace and unpredictability to get in-behind defenses and create havoc. Together they are a real handful. The U.S. have Jozy Altidore who has scored one in 31 PL games for Sunderland this season. Add in the likes of MLSer Chris Wondolowski and Aron Johannsson and even Clint Dempsey in a withdrawn forward role, I still can’t see past Rooney and Sturridge. England get the thumbs up again.

  • Coaches

What both managers have done over the past few years deserves great credit as Klinsmann has ushered in a new style of play in the USMNT and has helped the nation compete and kick on against some of the worlds best teams in friendly games. Hodgson has turned England into a well-drilled unit that were penalty kicks away from reaching the semifinals of the Euros in 2012 and they qualified rather comfortably from a tough group for the World Cup. For the huge changes he has made with the USA and his Gold Cup success, I give Klinsmann the nod here as his job was very difficult from the get-go. USA pull one back.

  • Overall…

England wins it 3-2 but it is a close run thing. The USA and England have perhaps never been this closely matched in their history as soccer nations. Both countries would be delighted to get out of their groups this summer in Brazil and have realistic expectations of their chances of progressing. Both are on the right path as they build for the future with young talent, but who will get their first and will they be side-by-side for the foreseeable future?

Spanish police dismantle match-fixing scheme in 3rd, 4th tiers

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MADRID (AP) Spanish police have dismantled a match-fixing scheme involving players and clubs in the country’s lower divisions.

Authorities said more than 20 people have been detained as part of the police operation launched on Monday, including players, although no names were immediately disclosed.

The matches under suspicion were in the third and fourth divisions this season and last season.

The match-fixing scheme reportedly involved Chinese betting sites.

The Spanish league said the operation was based on information collected by its analysts about suspicious activities.

UCL preview: Chelsea host Barcelona; Bayern vs. Besiktas

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  • Chelsea vs. Barcelona, at Stamford Bridge
  • Bayern Munich vs. Besiktas, at Allianz Arena
  • Champions League round of 16 resumes on Tuesday

[ UCL: Spurs fight back to draw Juventus | Liverpool thrash Porto in leg 1 ]

Chelsea, mired in some of their worst form since the disastrous 2015-16 season, welcome a Barcelona side enjoying one of the best six-month runs of results in the famed club’s entire history. The Blues have won just four of their last 12 games across all competitions, while the Blaugrana have lost once in 38 games.

On the plus side, Chelsea enter Tuesday’s colossal clash as winners of their last two games — back-to-back wins for the first time in 2018 — having outscored the likes of West Bromwich Albion and Hull City by a combined 7-0. Star striker Alvaro Morata returned to action against Hull after five weeks out with a back injury, thus Antonio Conte has something of a selection dilemma on his hands with the Spaniard perhaps only partially fit, and Olivier Giroud racking up a goal and three assists in the last two games, his first starts for the club.

Barcelona, meanwhile, have conceded just two goals in their last nine games (all competitions) and even managed to overturn their lone defeat, to Espanyol, and advance to the Copa del Rey semifinals (and eventually final). Despite losing Neymar in the summer, Barca mostly cruised through their Champions League group, only dropping points in draws away to Juventus and Olympiacos. Lionel Messi has, strangely, never scored a goal in his eight career appearances against Chelsea, a record which has been spoken about at length in the build-up to Tuesday — similarly to the goal-less record which plagued him against Juve goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon, whom he finally bested back in September.

[ MORE: Man City win big away to Basel | Real Madrid 3-1 PSG ]

In the other round-of-16 first-leg matchup on Tuesday, five-time (soon-to-be six) defending Bundesliga champions Bayern Munich host surprise winners of Group G, Besiktas, ahead of the likes of Monaco, RB Leipzig and Porto.

Since taking over on an interim basis (through the end of the season), Bayern boss Jupp Heynckes has won 21 of 22 games of which he’s been in charge, including four of six games during the group stage en route to finish second behind Paris Saint-Germain, while also racing out to a 19-point lead back home in Germany.

Aguero involved in clash with Wigan fan after FA Cupset

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MANCHESTER, England (AP) Sergio Aguero was involved in a confrontation with a Wigan fan as ugly scenes marred the end of the third-division side’s shock FA Cup win over Manchester City on Monday.

[ MORE: Wigan shock Man City, the world and themselves ]

Fans spilled on to the pitch at DW Stadium as the host celebrated its 1-0 fifth-round win against the runaway English Premier League leader.

Supporters from both clubs were involved in disturbances, while television pictures appeared to show a home supporter and striker Aguero involved in a physical exchange.

Aguero appeared to hit the supporter after the fan said something to the player, and Aguero had to be held back by his City teammates.

[ MORE: Money from Wembley replay “will support Rochdale for 2 or 3 years” ]

Advertising hoardings were also ripped out and thrown as a pitch invasion by Wigan fans got out of hand while the defeated City players were being escorted off the pitch.

Footage also appeared to show objects, including an advertising board, being thrown at police officers by fans in the City end.

Wigan shock themselves: “Not sure how it feels, hasn’t sunk in yet”

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Wigan Athletic didn’t just shock Manchester City with their FA Cup fifth-round slaying of the runaway Premier League leaders; nor did they merely shock the rest of the footballing world; they also shocked themselves into disbelief, according to defender Dan Burn.

[ MORE: Goodbye, quadruple! Wigan bounce 10-man City from FA Cup ]

Speaking following Monday’s triumph over Pep Guardiola‘s quadruple-chasing side at the DW Stadium, Burn admitted he himself didn’t know what to make of the night that would undoubtedly highlight and change his own professional career — quotes from the BBC:

“Not sure how it feels, hasn’t sunk in yet. It was a really tough game. The belief was always there. We’ve got Will Grigg, who does what he keeps doing.

“We pride ourselves on our clean sheets. We had a couple bad results before, so we wanted to prove ourselves, so a clean sheet against the best team in England is great.

“Once we scored, the fans really got behind us, just knew we needed to hang on. It was the longest 10 minutes of my life.”

[ MORE: Money from Wembley replay “will support Rochdale for 2 or 3 years” ]

Manager Paul Cook was able to articulate his happiness and pride only slightly better — “It feels great” — but offered the highest of praises to his players, whom “had to ride [their] luck at times” during the game, and gave everything they had to the cause, because that’s the only way you beat a team like Man City:

“It feels great. It’s such a severe test. They’re such a strong side and move the ball so well. We had to ride our luck at times and the sending off is always a big incident.

“Our lads deserve credit for their work and some of the blocks they made were outstanding, and to beat Man City you have to do that.”