Game On: Lineups & talking points as Spain looks to bounce back against Chile

Leave a comment

The Spaniards get ready to put the Dutch embarassment behind them and charge into second place in Group B as they take on Chile at 3pm ET.

Spanish manager Vicente del Bosque has made two key changes to the lineup, removing Xavi and Gerard Pique from the starting XI that fell to the Netherlands 5-1 last time out.

In their places come Javi Martinez at the back and another striker in Pedro as del Bosque changes the formation to a 4-3-3.  With Diego Costa proving insignificant last time out, he may be helped with a pair of true wingers beside him.

The Chileans looked shaky to Australia last time out, but seeing the Dutch barely escape their matchup with the Socceroos today with their lives, that is a little more understandable. They will look to pull off another shocking defeat of Spain and put one foot into the knockout round.

[ MORE Group B: Netherlands rip Spain | Dutch escape Australian threat ]
[ MORE Soccerly: Preview | Follow live ]

LINEUPS:

Spain – Casillas; Azpilicueta, Ramos, Javi Martínez, Alba; Busquets, Xabi Alonso, Iniesta; Silva, Costa. Pedro.

Chile -Bravo; Jara, Silva, Medel; Mena, Aránguiz, Díaz, Isla; Vargas, Vidal, Sánchez

Talking points

1. Can the new Spanish lineup perform better? It’s surprising that del Bosque removed Xavi, who was much better against the Netherlands than Xabi Alonso and Sergio Busquets, but it’s the 34-year-old who is axed in favor of another attacker.  With Spain so sloppy on the ball in the midfield on Friday, it will be interesting to see if they return to form or if they truly are a dying breed.

2. Is Chile truly up to the task? If Chile makes it to the knockout round, they surely will have earned it, and today is a crucial moment. If Spain grabs momentum back, it will be easy to put the disaster on Friday behind themselves and look forward towards clinching a knockout round berth against Australia in their final group match. However, if Chile does pick up a result today, it will be against the defending champions and could even knock them completely out of contention if things go right. What will happen?

3. Can Iker Casillas put his disastrous performance behind him? It would have been interesting to see how del Bosque handled the goalkeeping situation had David de Gea been fit, but with the Manchester United goalkeeper down with an injury, it was between Casillas and Pepe Reina, not as difficult of a decision.  Del Bosque looked to take pressure off his goalkeeper by declaring the loss wasn’t his fault, but Casillas has much to prove to Spain fans if he wishes to win them back.

Expectation: Chile is a dangerous side, but Spain is the defending champions, and while Alexis Sanchez has the opportunity to truly cement his name in World Cup history, it’s likely that the Spanish get back on their feet.

One blogger’s prediction: This will be an exciting and close match, but the Spaniards come out on top with a 2-1 win with goals from Iniesta and Pedro.

Top Storylines for Premier League Week 6

Getty Images
Leave a comment

After a week of League Cup action domestically, the Premier League returns this weekend with a myriad of interesting matchups and storylines.

Let’s take a look at some of this week’s top story’s to follow:


Can Manchester City continue its torrid form?

Manchester City has finally found its groove under manager Pep Guardiola.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

The club has won five successive games, the last three coming on the road while scoring a combined 19 goals. Sergio Aguero and Gabriel Jesus are a terrific 1-2 punch while David Silva and Kevin De Bruyne have been stars in midfield, with De Bruyne pulling the strings for Man City all season.

There’s every likelihood that Man City will continue its impressive run on Saturday. The club hosts floundering Crystal Palace, which is still adjusting to new manager Roy Hodgson.

(more…)

On This Day: The Battle of Old Trafford

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Fourteen years ago today, Arsenal headed north to Manchester for a famous matchup with Manchester United.

Taking the field at Old Trafford, Arsenal were unbeaten to start the season, having won its first four Premier League matches before drawing a week prior at home against Portsmouth. Manchester United meanwhile had four wins and one loss in that span.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

By way of Arsenal’s FA Cup title and Man United’s Premier League title the year before, the two teams met for the annual Community Shield a month earlier, and the game descended into a physical battle. Five yellow cards were shown, Arsenal substitute Francis Jeffers was shown a red card and defender Sol Campbell was later banned for kicking at an opponent, and Man United – backed by a young Tim Howard in goal – won 4-3 on penalty kicks after the score was tied at 1-1 after extra time.

With numerous physical encounters over the years, the September 21 encounter was shaping up to be another monumental showdown, and in terms of physicality, it didn’t disappoint.

Each team were shown four yellow cards and there was a combined 31 fouls. The match took a turn when Patrick Vieira was shown a second yellow card and subsequent red card for kicking out at Man United’s Ruud Van Nistelrooy after Van Nistelrooy had fouled Vieira going for a header. The decision set off a scrum in the middle of the field.

Despite being down to ten men, Arsenal held on until the final minutes, when Martin Keown was whistled for a foul in the box on Diego Forlan, giving Man United a penalty kick. But whether it was karma or lady luck, Van Nistelrooy’s penalty clanged off the crossbar and away to safety. Arsenal held on for a goalless draw, which helped boost the team’s belief in itself.

The Gunners went on to finish the 2013-2014 season undefeated, the only team to finish a Premier League season without a defeat. Man United wound up taking the FA Cup crown, settling for third place in the Premier League.

Watch some highlights from the match below.

Former Sunderland forward Scocco scores five goals for River Plate

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Veteran forward Ignacio “Nacho” Scocco is quickly endearing himself to the River Plate faithful.

Nearly three months since joining River, Scocco scored an incredible five goals in the second leg of his team’s Copa Libertadores quarterfinal matchup with Bolivian side Jorge Wilstermann. Scocco scored a first half hat-trick and added two more in the second half as River turned around a 3-0 deficit heading into the second leg.

Scocco had a mostly frustrating spell in 2014 ahead of the World Cup with Sunderland, joining the club as they staved off relegation by one point. Scocco failed to score for Sunderland in eight appearances, all off the bench.

However, since then, he returned to his native Argentina and starred for his hometown club Newell’s Old Boys before moving this summer to River as a replacement for Sebastián Driussi, who completed a transfer to Zenit St. Petersburg.

Here’s a look at all of Scocco’s goals Thursday evening.

Tammy Abraham denies switching national teams

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Fans of the England National Team may still have a chance to see Tammy Abraham don the Three Lions crest one day.

Abraham refuted reports from earlier Thursday that he was in the process of switching his national team to Nigeria from England. The 19-year-old Swansea City forward on-loan from Chelsea has played as high as the England Under-21 Men’s National Team but because of his Nigerian father, he’s eligible for the African nation.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

Abraham confirmed that he had met with Nigeria Football Federation chief Amaju Pinnick after Swansea’s last game, but denied that he was looking to play for the Super Eagles.

“I have informed The FA that I remain available for selection for England,” Abraham said, via the BBC. “Contrary to reports in the media I would like to clarify that I have not agreed to switch my national team allegiance. I can confirm I met the President of the NFF after our last game against Tottenham at Wembley on Saturday given he is a friend of my father. However, any suggestion that I have made a decision to change my international representation is incorrect and wide of the mark.”

Earlier in the day, reports emerged that Pinnick said the process was underway for Abraham to switch his international allegiance.

Abraham’s apparently decision to remain with the England set-up is good news for his club Swansea City, who will get to keep him closer to Wales on a regular basis, but Abraham may be missing a chance to play senior national team soccer at a young age.