Game on: Lineups & talking points as Switzerland and Ecuador look for pole position in Group E

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Switzerland will be an unknown no more after they take on Ecuador from the Estadio Nacional in Brasilia, kicking off at 12 noon ET.

The Swiss bunch won its Euro qualifying group, but with opponents such as Iceland, Norway, Slovenia, Albania, and Cyprus, it’s hard to tell exactly what this team is made of.

With nine players 23 years old or younger, the squad is incredibly young and inexperienced, but those youngsters are massively talented.

A number of kids on the Swiss team are incredibly fresh. Striker Josip Drmic didn’t feature too much during the qualification, but has earned a place at the end of the round robin and in the subsequent friendlies, scoring three goals in two March friendlies and putting himself in pole position to start in Ottmar Hitzfeld’s attack.

Ecuador is back at the big dance after missing out in 2010, and they’re known for all-or-nothing play.  Having never drawn a World Cup game, Ecuador is 3-0-4 in tournament matches overall.

Manchester United’s Antonio Valencia is ready to lead his team into Brasilia, but will look to avoid the fate that fell to him in their most recent friendly, against England when he was sent off for a tussle with Raheem Sterling

[ MORE, Previews: Switzerland | EcuadorGroup E]
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Starting lineups:

Switzerland – Benaglio; Lichtsteiner, Von Bergen, Rodriguez, Djourou; Xhaka, Behrami, Inler; Drmic, Stocker, Shaqiri.

Ecuador – Domínguez; Paredes, Guagua, Erazo, Ayoví; Gruezo, Noboa, A Valencia, Noboa; E Valencia, Caicedo.

Talking points:

1. How will the young Swiss team react on the big stage? With so many new players, the Switzerland squad is coming into such a big stage for the first time.  They haven’t lost since November when they fell at South Korea 2-1 in a friendly – their only loss in the last two years. However, the squad has morphed and changed much since then, and the lack of consistency could also affect their performance.

2. Can Ecuador score on the Swiss defense? Since drawing 4-4 with Iceland last September, Switzerland has conceded just five goals in seven matches. Ecuador’s attack will be led by Valencia and headed by 25-year-old Pachuca striker Enner Valencia. It will be tough to get past that Swiss back line, but if this exciting World Cup has taught us anything, even the best are vulnerable.

Expectations: Honestly, this is a mystery. Expecting anything particular out of this match is setting one’s self up for disappointment. The Swiss will be the favorites thanks to their FIFA ranking, but that is misleading.

One blogger’s prediction: Oy, asking me to predict this one is scary. I’m high on Drmic, so I wouldn’t be surprised if Switzerland grabs a slim 1-0 lead, scoring towards the end of the first half and tightening up even more the last 45 minutes.

VIDEO: Top Premier League goals – Week 6

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From Fabian Delph‘s curler to Alvaro Morata’s surging run and dink and from Philippe Coutinho‘s perfect free kick to Leroy Sane’s delicate touches.

Boy, did we have some fine strikes in the Premier League in Week 6.

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Click play on the video above to see the best of the bunch and let us know your favorite in the comments section below.

“What is your favorite?” I hear you cry. Settle down, settle down. I love a good curler which clips off the bar and in so I’m going with Delphy’s goal against Crystal Palace. Sublime.

PHOTO: New USMNT jersey for 2018 World Cup leaked?

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Now, of course, they have to qualify first.

But if Bruce Arena’s men do make the 2018 World Cup in Russia they could be wearing this beauty in the photo below.

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With all leaked jerseys there is a real possibility it could turn out to look completely different but information from Conrad Burry of Sportslogos over the weekend suggested something along these lines.

Take a look at the photo below of the home jersey (the away jersey is said to be “Midnight Navy with a second color of Blue Nebula”) and let us know what you think.

Champions League score picks – Week 2

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The UEFA Champions League group stage kicks off Week 2 on Tuesday, so let’s have some fun and try to predict the scores.

[ MORE: Champions League schedule ]

Feel free to join in down in the comments section, as I’m predicting another unbeaten week for all five Premier League teams in action.

[ MORE: Group stage predictions ] 

Below you will find score predictions for all 16 UCL games across the next two days.


Tuesday

Group E
Sevilla 3-1 Maribor
Spartak Moscow 1-1 Liverpool

Group F
Man City 3-0 Shakhtar Donetsk
Napoli 3-1 Feyenoord

Group G
Besiktas 0-2 RB Leipzig
Monaco 2-1 FC Porto

Group H
Borussia Dortmund 1-3 Real Madrid
APOEL 0-3 Tottenham Hotspur

Wednesday

Group A
CSKA Moscow 1-2 Manchester United
Basel 0-2 Benfica

Group B
Paris Saint-Germain 2-2 Bayern Munich
Anderlecht 2-1 Celtic

Group C
Atletico Madrid 1-2 Chelsea
Qarabag 1-3 Roma

Group D
Sporting Lisbon 1-3 Barcelona
Juventus 2-1 Olympiacos

Court hearing opens into spectators attacking referees

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MONTEVIDEO, Uruguay (AP) Witnesses in Uruguay’s capital testified before a judge on Monday about an attack on two referees by spectators at a soccer match.

A male and a female referee were attacked on Saturday during a second division under-19 game between Basanez and Platense.

The next day, the Uruguay Football Association cancelled all organized football as referees protested the violence by refusing to officiate. Officials are expected to meet on Wednesday to decide if they will lift the stoppage.

Witnesses told Judge Julia Staricco it started after a kid threw rocks on the field with encouragement from his father. The female referee’s partner asked the kid to stop, leading to an argument with other spectators who punched and kicked the referees.

An attorney representing the country’s referees union, Fernando de Los Santos, says the officials suffered bruises to their bodies.

“There are several people responsible here: The players, especially who are all young in the under-19 category; their parents, and their families,” de Los Santos said.

“This is not new. We’ve seen this kind of violence in the lower divisions. But this is the straw that broke the camel’s back.”

The Basanez and Platense clubs have issued statements condemning the violence. Basanez also said it fired one of its players who was part of the attack.

The case is being handled by the same local judge who recently charged three people for violent acts during the Penarol-Nacional derby.