Nani, Eduardo

Scouting Portugal: Takeaways for the US from opponent’s final preparations

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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Portugal’s final World Cup preparation match on Tuesday was more about getting everyone back on the field. Ronaldo returned and proved that he’s fit enough to make an impact, while Raul Meireles returned to the midfield and Pepe earned some minutes at centerback.

United States fans looked on eagerly with an eye on forecasting how Portugal might look against the Americans in their second Group G match on June 22, and U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann was no doubt among them. But of course, the focus for the United States is first on Monday’s opener against Ghana. Portugal coach Paulo Bento echoed those statements postgame Tuesday — that his team is only first focused on its respective opener against Germany — but Portugal midfielder Nani entertained the question of how his side lines up against the United States.

“We expect a strong team with a mentality and a lot of confidence, but we know we have to do our best and expect ourselves to play that game the best we can,” the winger said after setting up two late goals in the 5-1 win over Ireland.

That’s the common courtesy answer for any opponent, but here’s what the U.S. can take from Portugal’s performance on Tuesday:

— Ronaldo at any sort of fitness will  be dangerous and a handful. That’s obvious statement for the reigning FIFA World Player of the Year, but the health of his left knee was in question for some time. It remains a question mark, but Ronaldo at say, 75 percent, last night was enough to torch Ireland on multiple occasions. Sure, it’s Ireland, but it’s also Ronaldo.

— Of particular concern for the U.S. should be Portugal’s left side. Portugal’s second goal came from a beautiful combination between Ronaldo and Fábio Coentrão, who pushed forward with ease all night and eventually was rewarded for one of his overlapping runs with a late goal. That’s a lot of firepower for (potentially) Fabian Johnson to handle on the wing.

— That said, Johnson has done well to get forward over the last two matches against Turkey and Nigeria, and as the U.S. counterattacks he should find space on the wing with Coentrão pushed high. How effectively the United States can find that space on the counterattack will be critical to success against Portugal, who the U.S. shocked in group play at the 2002 World Cup with a 3-2 win, helping send Portugal out in the group stage. An average Ireland side showed on Tuesday that Portugal will give opponent’s opportunities, evidenced by the mental lapse shortly after halftime that led to Ireland’s lone goal.

— Mental lapses are exactly what the Americans must avoid, particularly on set piece. The big body that is Hugo Almeida scored twice Tuesday, needing just 121 seconds to show that he’s an aerial target in the box. The U.S. can sometimes switch off on set pieces and late in matches (see the Nigeria match), and struggles with marking at times (Omar Gonzalez, in particular, if he sees time centrally). Almeida and Ronaldo will make them pay. Bruno Alves hit a game-winner in stoppage time against Mexico on Friday as El Tri took their feet off the pedal a moment too soon.

— Finally, can the U.S. capitalize on a numbers advantage in the midfield? Portugal’s 4-3-3 gives the U.S. the numerical upperhand in the middle of the park — assuming Klinsmann lines up similar to how he did against Nigeria — but Bento’s system is free-flowing, with Meireles often opting to drop deep to distribute and then push forward once possession is firmly established. João Moutinho will also frequently surge forward, which will create further issues for a suspect U.S. backline.

— Oh, and that six-pass piece of brilliance that led to a Nani goal being called back for an offside call? Some of the best combination play you’ll ever see. A flash of what could be for Portugal — and what could be very scary for the United States.

Allardyce after Black Cats’ big win over Man United: “We got what we deserved”

SUNDERLAND, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 13:  Sam Allardyce, manager of Sunderland thumbs up on arrival at the stadium prior to the Barclays Premier League match between Sunderland and Manchester United at the Stadium of Light on February 13, 2016 in Sunderland, England.  (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)
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In some ways, Sunderland took a page from Leicester City’s book in keeping their Premier League safety hopes alive with a 2-1 win over Manchester United on Saturday.

The Black Cats allowed visiting United two-thirds possession — 66 to 34 — but were very good when they had the ball in out-attempting the visitors 21-12.

[ MORE: Stream 10 a.m. ET matches or watch full PL match replays ]

Manager Sam Allardyce saw a win like this coming, and the normally bombastic Englishman says the three points were both deserved and overdue.

“Today was very similar to the way the Manchester City game went (which Sunderland lost 1-0) but this time we got what we deserved from the chances we created.

“I thought we might be punished for not taking them and wondered whether it was going to go our way, but it ended up being an unbelievable win for us.”

The real story for Big Sam is that Sunderland’s transfer window buys are looking fantastic. Ex-Bordeaux man Wahbi Khazri, at least to start, has looked like an absolute game-changer, while Lamine Kone bolted in the winner (even if it’s being credited as an own goal).

Sunderland is now a point back of derby rivals Newcastle United for 17th place, and four points back of Swansea. The Magpies face Chelsea at 12:30 p.m. ET, while Swans hosts Saints at 10 a.m. ET.

Sunderland 2-1 Man United: Huge win for Black Cats; dark day for Van Gaal

during the Barclays Premier League match between Sunderland and Manchester United at the Stadium of Light on February 13, 2016 in Sunderland, England.
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  • Black Cats 1 point from safety
  • Wahzri scores 1st for Sunderland
  • United six points off top four

Sunderland beat Manchester United 2-1 at the Stadium of Light as two January signings made the difference in a huge win for the Black Cats.

[ RELATED: Watch full match replays

Wahbi Khazri gave Sunderland the lead early on but Anthony Martial equalized before half time with a superb finish. In a second half which Sunderland edged, Lamine Kone headed home late on (the goal later went down as a David De Gea own goal) to send the home fans wild.

With the three points Sunderland move to within one point of safety on 23 points following Sam Allardyce‘s first-ever home win against United, while the Red Devils stay six points off the top four and Louis Van Gaal‘s tenure is becoming increasingly untenable.

A frantic start saw Sunderland take the lead with Khazri scoring less than 10 minutes into his home debut to put the Black Cats 1-0 up.

The Tunisian playmaker whipped in a harmless looking free kick from the left which went towards Defoe and as he attempted to flick the ball goalwards but missed, the skip off the service deceived De Gea and nestled into the far corner.

Less than 15 minutes in Sunderland had to make a change as defender Jan Kirchhoff was forced off with a hamstring injury and Jack Rodwell replaced him. Anthony Martial continued to be United’s brightest attacking talent as Rooney couldn’t quite get on the end of his teasing cross.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

As half time approached Sunderland looked dangerous on the break with Khazri curling a shot over and then having a penalty appeal turned down after his shot struck Morgan Schneiderlin‘s arm in the box. At the other end Juan Mata sent a harmless shot towards goal which Vito Mannone saved easily.

Before the break United also had to make a change with Donald Love coming on for his debut and replacing the injured Matteo Darmian. Moments later USMNT international DeAndre Yedlin — who had been dealing with the threat of Martial well — was first booked for blatantly diving and trying to win a free kick, then United were level. Mata’s shot was saved by Mannone by Martial lost Yedlin and delicately dinked the ball home. 1-1. Game on.

[ RELATED: Latest Premier League standings ]

In the second half United looked to take control but Sunderland had a great chance to go ahead when Patrick Van Aanholt got behind Love and his cross almost found Jermain Defoe but Daley Blind‘s last-ditch tackle denied him.

A big chance arrived for Sunderland just after the hour mark when Dame N'Doye was set free but De Gea’s outstretched leg denied him to keep the scores level.

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score

United regrouped and increased the pressure late on as Mata’s shot was blocked well by Rodwell, Chris Smalling had a header deflected wide and then Memphis sent a shot right at Mannone after good work from the impressive Cameron Borthwick-Jackson.

Kone then rose highest in the 83rd minute and headed home Khazri’s corner from the right which a combination of De Gea and Martial couldn’t clear. 2-1 to the home side.

Memphis then forced Mannone into a fine stop and had another effort blocked by John O'Shea late on but United couldn’t grab an equalizer and the “Van Gaal out” brigade is growing stronger by the day.

Watch Live, Stream links: Everton-West Brom, Palace-Watford; every 10am ET game

Everton's Tom Cleverley, left, celebrates his goal with his teammates during the English Premier League soccer match between Newcastle United and Everton at St James' Park, Newcastle, England, Saturday, Dec. 26, 2015. (AP Photo/Scott Heppell)
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Five Premier League games are coming your way at 10 a.m. ET on Saturday, with plenty of tasty matches on the slate.

[ LIVE: Stream every PL game via Live Extra ]

Click on the link above, or the individual links below, to stream every single game live online via Live Extra. Plus, if it’s lineups, stats and a box score you are after, click on the link below.

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score

So, here is your one-stop streaming shop for every PL game kicking off at 10 a.m. ET.

Saturday, 10 a.m. ET kick offs

Everton vs. West Brom – (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, NBCSN) –  [STREAM]

After two wins on the spin, the Toffees’ top six hopes are alive. Can the Baggies give themselves some breathing space from bottom three?

Norwich City vs. West Ham – (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, USA) – [STREAM]

After five-straight defeats the Canaries have dropped into the bottom three. The injury-hit Hammers will be hoping to stay in the top six with a win.

Crystal Palace vs. Watford – (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, Premier League Extratime) –  [STREAM]

Just one point from six games for the Eagles in January. Alan Pardew needs Emmanuel Adebayor to deliver some goals. As for Watford, they only have one win in eight. Expect a nervy encounter.

Bournemouth vs. Stoke City – (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, Premier League Extratime) – [STREAM]

Stoke are sliding after three defeats on the spin. Can they get back on track at Bournemouth? The Cherries are 2-1-1 in their last four but are still in danger of getting sucked into the relegation battle.

Swansea vs. Southampton – (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, Premier League Extratime) – [STREAM]

The Swans are four unbeaten but still in touch with the bottom three, while Saints have kept five clean sheets in a row and have won four of their last five to keep their top six hopes alive.

Van Gaal would be “disappointed” if Mourinho talks held

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Louis Van Gaal has admitted he’d be “disappointed” if he found out Manchester United’s directors have held talks with out of work Jose Mourinho behind his back.

The current United boss, 64, is contracted to be in charge at Old Trafford until the end of next season.

[ VIDEO: Ferrell – “I got Mourinho fired”

However, amid mounting speculation that Mourinho is being lined up to replace him and with United currently sitting six points off the top four with 13 games to go, many expect LVG to be let go this summer.

Asked by the media if he’d be upset if he found out executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward and other United directors had been holding talks with Mourinho behind his back, LVG had this to say.

“Then I’d be disappointed,” Van Gaal said. “In a football world that is possible, I know, but I do not think that. I have a relationship with Ed and the Glazers, they tell me, I think.”

Following United’s 1-1 draw with Chelsea last Sunday LVG snapped at a journalist for asking about his future and the fact that the club hasn’t made any comment about the Mourinho rumors or publicly backed their current boss with any statements. Van Gaal insists he’s fine with the club policy of not commenting on speculation but you do sense a growing realization from the Dutchman that Mourinho’s shadow is lurking ominously over Old Trafford.

[ MORE: Rumors persist about Mourinho arriving at United

A top four finish for United and winning either the FA Cup or the UEFA Europa League this season seems like the only thing that can save Van Gaal beyond the summer.

He will be given until the end of this season to prove his worth to United but after 18 months of erratic results, an early UEFA Champions League exit this season and spending over $375 million on new players, time is running out. He knows it, but he is also correct to be “disappointed” if Mourinho is holding talks with United right now.

Doing things the right way has always been paramount to United and even though it would be smart to already have a successor lined up for Van Gaal should they fire him, it would also be incredibly disrespectful for one of the most successful coaches in Europe.