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How will the USA line up vs. Germany?

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There is just over 48 hours to go until the USA face their final Group G game vs. Germany in Recife.

You’e already nervous, aren’t you? Don’t worry, as am I. Let’s try and quell those prematch nerves by speculating who will start and what formation the U.S. will deploy against Joachim Low’s German powerhouse on Thursday. Yeah… that should do the trick.

[ RELATED: World Cup news, analysis from Soccerly ] 

With the USA only needing a point in their final group match to punch a ticket out of the “group of death” and into the Round of 16, there’s a few different ways they could approach this. The main school of thought, especially if you listen to Jurgen Klinsmann’s comments, is that the U.S. will carry on with the status quo and play the same personnel and formation which has fared well vs. Ghana and Portugal. However, with Germany by far the strongest side they will face in group play and Klinsmann’s men only needing a draw, a more cautious lineup and approach may be followed.

Here’s a look at three different ways the USA could lineup vs. Germany on Thursday, with brief explanations as to why it could work. The midfield and attack have been tweaked in all three, with the USA’s defense staying the same after two solid showings so far.

Plan A: Stick with the tried and tested…

The simplest and most likely option, Klinsmann has already spoken about “going for the win” and sticking to his sides philosophy. Starting with the same lineup that drew with Portugal 2-2 in Manaus is the safe option, but is it the best option after his players suffered 90 minutes of draining play in the intense Amazonian humidity? It depends on if Jozy Altidore is fit and ready to come back into the lineup but more than likely he will be on the bench, at best, so the lineup will remain the same. (UPDATE: Altidore is officially out.)

——–Howard——–

Johnson—Cameron—Besler—Beasley

——–Beckerman——–

—Zusi—Bradley—Jones—Bedoya—

——–Dempsey——–

Plan B: Ultra-defensive 

After all, the Germans have scored six goals already during the World Cup and have the likes of Mesut Ozil, Thomas Muller, Miroslav Klose, Lukas Podolski and a whole host of other attacking talents at their disposal. Wowza. If the U.S. are feeling drained from their tireless opening two games, it may serve them well to sit back and soak up the pressure, then aim to strike Germany on the counter. After all, don’t forget, they only need a point to advance. A narrow 4-5-1 formation, with Seattle Sounders youngster DeAndre Yedlin coming into the lineup over Bedoya out wide could happen. Can the USA soak up German pressure for the entire 90 minutes though? It would be a big ask.

——–Howard——–

Johnson—Cameron—Besler—Beasley

—Yedlin—Beckerman—Jones—Bradley—Zusi—

——–Dempsey——–

Plan C: All-out attack

Maybe Klinsmann just goes all out for the win which would see the U.S. avoid Belgium in the last 16 and instead have a much more favorable tie against our old friends Algeria or perhaps Russia or South Korea. If Altidore is back fit, maybe he comes into the lineup from the start, more likely is that Johannsson or Wondolowski come in to partner Clint Dempsey in attack  with Zusi pushed higher. This would be a daring move against a stacked German side, but maybe one they aren’t expecting. A 4-3-3 formation close to the one we saw deployed at times during qualification and the Gold Cup a could work well, but it is also a huge risk.

——–Howard——–

Johnson—Cameron—Besler—Beasley

Bradley—Beckerman—Jones

Zusi—Dempsey—Johannsson

Seven unheralded stars of this Premier League season

during the Barclays Premier League match between A.F.C. Bournemouth and Tottenham Hotspur at Vitality Stadium on October 25, 2015 in Bournemouth, England.
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Look, it’s been a crazy year in the Premier League. Leicester City is top by five points, Chelsea is a bottom-half side, and not one of the league’s top three scorers hails from a team in last season’s Top Four.

So it follows that among the league’s other statistical leaders — advanced and traditional — are some surprisingly shining stars.

[ MORE: West Ham 3-2 Liverpool | Coutinho’s slick free kick ]

Or at least they aren’t mentioned a ton. We plan to rectify that here. By no means do we claim these statistical leaders without fault this season, but hats off to the good they’ve done (or, in some cases, the pain they’ve felt).

Most saves in a starring role

You wouldn’t know it from the goal totals these past few weeks, but Stoke City’s Jack Butland has been playing otherworldly between the sticks. His 87 saves lead the Premier League, and the Potters would be in the thick of a relegation battle if he hadn’t shone as brightly.

Ironman

Eleven players have played every minute of their side’s Premier League campaign this season (a 12th, Gareth Barry, has played all but one). Four of those 11 are goalkeepers, and six more are defenders. The only midfielder? Bournemouth’s South African standout Andrew Surman (above).

Top thief, too

Surman is also the league leader in interceptions with 92. The next seven players on the list, headed by Chris Smalling, are all defenders.

The most under-appreciated of the underdogs

Kante (Mark Thompson / Getty Images)

Leicester City has been fantastic, and people are quick to name Riyad Mahrez and Jamie Vardy as big parts of the table-topping effort at King Power Stadium. Then, perhaps they’ll say something about goalkeeper Kaspar Schmeichel or defender Wes Morgan.

But how about the Premier League’s leader in tackles. Midfielder N'Golo Kante (right) has 115 tackles, 12 more than second-best Yohan Cabaye of Crystal Palace.

An all-expense paid journey to the massage parlor for…

Five players have been fouled more than 50 times this year, and you need to be around the ball a lot for that to happen. The four also-rans are Southampton’s Sadio Mane, Swansea City’s Andre Ayew, Everton’s Ross Barkley and Mahrez, but the man who deserved to skip to the head of the ice bath line is from Crystal Palace: Wilfried Zaha has been fouled 59 times. And that’s the amount of times the foulers were caught in the act.

Let Newcastle United’s captain climb in second, though; Fabricio Coloccini‘s 47 blocked shots are eight more than runners-up Neil Taylor (Swans) and Christian Fuchs (Leicester).

A man possessed

He hasn’t been heralded like a year ago, and most witnesses would tell you the midfielder’s been playing much worse. No, touches don’t equal success, but Cesc Fabregas‘ 2,027 credited touches are 74 more than the next player despite the fact that he’s the only player in the top four to have started less than 25 matches. He’s also completed 83 more passes than the closest competitor (Surman).

All-around stars

Advanced stats site Squawka uses an algorithm to generate statistics on who just might be the most complete player in the Premier League.

It’s certainly not foolproof, but the best player per-90 minutes would likely surprise you: Mousa Dembele of Spurs (Minimum 15 matches).

Screen Shot 2016-02-09 at 8.41.39 PM

As for who’s produced the most when numbers are averaged out over the entire game, one man rises to the top: Ross Barkley.

Screen Shot 2016-02-09 at 8.41.49 PM

Oft-targeted in the Premier League, Carvalho extends deal at Lisbon

Christian Hofer / Getty Images Sport
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William Carvalho has been running through the rumor mill for ages, and Sporting Lisbon has made sure they’ll get their due if he ever stops somewhere else.

The Angola-born Portuguese defensive midfielder with 15 caps has extended his contract with Sporting through 2020, a date that carries him through his 28th birthday.

[ MORE: West Ham 3-2 Liverpool | Coutinho’s slick free kick ]

Carvalho is 23 now, and has been linked with loads of big name clubs from Manchester United to Chelsea, Arsenal to PSG.

His new buyout clause is said to be as high as $53 million, and Carvalho hopes his commitment calms his supporters.

“Sportinguistas, I say to you that I am very happy with the deal which I signed up to 2020 and that you will have total effort on my part to be champions.”

Sporting is tied with Benfica atop the Portuguese table, second on goal differential. The club leads third-place Porto by six points, and is still alive in the Europa League. Bayer Leverkusen is up next.

Klinsmann hints at Euro-heavy roster for World Cup qualifiers

FOXBORO, MA - SEPTEMBER 08:  Danny Williams #14 of the United States looks on before an international friendly against Brazil at Gillette Stadium on September 8, 2015 in Foxboro, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Billie Weiss/Getty Images)
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If your favorite Major League Soccer players don’t make the cut for Jurgen Klinsmann’s next roster, don’t think you won’t see them in the red, white and blue this summer.

[ JPW: What’s the best XI for USMNT’s World Cup qualifiers? ]

Perhaps it’ll be different for the players who were a part of January camp — stars Lee Nguyen and Steve Birnbaum chief among them — but Klinsmann says the late start of the MLS season can affect fitness for the critical qualifiers home and away to Guatemala.

That means there’s a better chance to see in-form Championship midfielder Danny Williams (above) or Pachuca’s Omar Gonzalez then, say, Orlando City’s Brek Shea or Real Salt Lake’s Kyle Beckerman.

From USSoccer.com:

“We are basically looking all over the place. We monitor all the players in Europe. We monitor all the players in Mexico, and obviously we can’t wait until MLS starts as well. It’s really kind of crucial that we see everybody getting in the best shape possible, everybody getting into a rhythm and making statements.

“Then you say, ‘Is the roster you see at the end of March the same one as Copa America?’ Probably not. The end of March comes early for MLS players. The European players are in the full swing, and also Mexican players because they started already a month ago with Liga MX. So we’ll be monitoring everyone.”

We’ve already covered the obstacle that is the CONCACAF-CONMEBOL Olympic qualifying playoff occurring at the same time as the Guatemala matches, but this is still good news for players in England, Germany and other European locales seeking caps in March.

Klopp on struggling Benteke: “He wants to score and we need him to score”

LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 09:  Christian Benteke of Liverpool reacts as he foiled by goalkeeper Darren Randolph of West Ham United during the Emirates FA Cup Fourth Round Replay match between West Ham United and Liverpool at Boleyn Ground on February 9, 2016 in London, England.  (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)
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Jurgen Klopp had his appendix removed this weekend, but it’s doubtful he’s feeling as sore as his big Belgian striker.

Christian Benteke had the opportunity to put himself in the good graces of Liverpool fans with a number of decent chances in Tuesday’s FA Cup loss to West Ham, but couldn’t get the job done.

[ MORE: Match recap | Watch Coutinho’s slick free kick ]

In one case, Benteke put himself in a prime spot only to lash his shot wide of the post. Instead, he’s now at 11 appearances without a goal (despite ripping nine shots against the Irons).

From the BBC:

“I don’t believe in the easy goal. He has to carry on like this. It’s not the nicest moment in his career but he has to work hard. He wants to score and we need him to score. We will work on it in the days, weeks and months.”

Klopp maintained that Liverpool was “the better team” on the night — counterpart Slaven Bilic disagreed — despite conceding a pair of very similar looking goals.

The game could’ve avoided extra time through Benteke’s boots and body, but he couldn’t find his finish again.

The 25-year-old has seen his goal production drop by nearly half since joining from Aston Villa in the summer, and it’s sure to return… just maybe not under Klopp.