Belgium injury update: Thomas Vermaelen out; Vincent Kompany still doubtful

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The health of Belgium’s defense has been one of the major talking points ahead to the team’s Tuesday Round of 16 match against the United States. Unfortunately for Red Devils’ fans, one of the fitness doubts that team carried out of its World Cup group stage has been resolved in the negative. Thomas Vermaelen, a potential starter at left back, has been ruled out, head coach Marc Wilmots confirmed on Monday.

While the Belgium boss said the veteran defender should be ready if his team makes the quarterfinals, the defender’s hamstring will keep him out of tomorrow’s match in Salvador. Through the tournament’s first 270 minutes, Vermaelen’s only been able to play 45, toughing out the first half against Russia after incurring his injury warming up for his team’s second match.

On Monday, Wilmots confirmed his vice-captain and been ruled out. Here’s the Belgian head coach, also speaking asked about midfielder Marouane Fellaini, from FIFA.com:

“Thomas … has not enough time to be fit by tomorrow. He will be fit if we make the quarterfinals. He will return to full squad training in a day or two. Marouane is fine, no problem.”

Vermaelen wasn’t the only Belgian injury doubt coming off the team’s last match, but as Wilmots confirmed in the same press conference, little about captain Vincent Kompany’s status has changed since he was held out on Thursday against South Korea:

“I don’t know about Vincent and whether he will be fit,” said [Wilmots]. “We will see how it evolves.

That leaves U.S. fans in the awkward position of rooting for an injury, but this is Vincent Kompany we’re talking about. The man’s always in the conversation as one of the best central defenders in the world. If he can’t go on Tuesday, U.S. fans stand a better chance of seeing their team reach its third quarterfinal.

Not that Kompany’s replacements would be bums. If the Manchester City star is out, we’ll likely see Daniel Van Buyten and Nicolas Lombaerts in the middle. Out wide, Jan Vertonghen will get the call on the left, while Toby Alderweireld

 

LA FC continues active offseason with addition of Laurent Ciman

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It seems like Major League Soccer’s latest expansion team is taking a page out of Atlanta United’s playbook in its buildup to the 2018 season.

[ MORE: NYCFC provides stadium details for Belmont proposal ]

After selecting five players in Tuesday’s MLS Expansion Draft, Los Angeles FC announced that it will be sending two of those players to the Montreal Impact.

LA FC will be sending Jukka Raitala and Raheem Edwards to the Impact.

The return? Bob Bradley and LA FC will acquire Impact center back Laurent Ciman — who has proven to be one of the best defenders in MLS since arriving in 2015.

“Laurent is a top defender who provides leadership and great distribution,” Bradley said upon acquiring Ciman. “His experience in the league and with the Belgian National Team will be invaluable as we build our club.”

With the addition of Ciman now in place, LA FC has built a strong central defensive partnership after the club also brought in former FC Dallas defender Walker Zimmerman in a trade on Sunday.

The expansion side already made a major splash with its first Designated Player signing this year, bringing in Mexican international Carlos Vela.

Huddersfield 1-3 Chelsea: Blues bounce back on the road

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Chelsea picked up a convincing road victory on Tuesday as the Blues topped Huddersfield Town, 3-1, at the Kirklees Stadium.

[ MORE: Gremio reaches Club World Cup final ]

The Blues came out hungry following Sunday’s defeat at West Ham, and an unlikely goalscorer gave  Conte’s group the lead.

Sloppy passing at the back saw Willian with the ball at the top of the Huddersfield area, before the Brazilian brilliantly played Tiemoué Bakayoko in on goal for his second finish of the season.

Willian — who played a key role throughout the match — extended the Chelsea advantage three minutes prior to halftime when his header snuck past Terriers goalkeeper Jonas Lössl.

Chelsea was clicking on all cylinders after halftime, when Willian helped set up Pedro for his third goal of the Premier League season.

Meanwhile, Laurent Depoitre pulled a goal back late for the hosts, but it was too late to rescue a result for Huddersfield.

Crystal Palace 2-1 Watford: Eagles storm back late, move up to 17th

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All things were pointing towards Watford’s direction on Tuesday, but a late change in fortune gave the Eagles a share of the points.

[ MORE: Burnley climbs into Premier League top four ]

A pair of late goals gave Crystal Palace a 2-1 win over Watford at Selhurst Park, and pulled Roy Hodgson’s side out of the relegation zone.

Bakary Sako and James McArthur each found the back of the net after the 87th minute to complete an important comeback for the Eagles. Now, Palace sits 17th in the PL standings on 14 points.

The big moment of the match came in the 87th minute, when Tom Cleverley was sent off after picking up his second yellow card.

Three minutes into the match, Daryl Janmaat struck for the visitors after the Dutchman headed home Richarlison‘s cross from close-range.

Burnley 1-0 Stoke City: Barnes’ late strike guides Clarets into top four

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Don’t look now, but the Clarets have climbed into the Premier League top four.

Burnley found a way Stoke City late on Tuesday, picking up a 1-0 win at the Turf Moor behind Ashley Barnes‘ late finish.

[ MORE: Gremio reaches Club World Cup final, awaits Real Madrid or Al Jazira ]

The Clarets, who have now secured 31 points over their first 17 matches this season, leapfrogged Liverpool, Arsenal and Tottenham with the victory. However, all three sides will be in action on Wednesday.

Steven Defour nearly put Burnley ahead on 69 minutes, when the front man tested Stoke keeper Jack Butland — who had to make a sprawling save to his right.

While Stoke mustered up several quality chances, it was Johann Berg Gudmundsson’s blast in the first half that nearly found the top left corner.

Next up for Burnley will be a date against Brighton on Saturday, while Stoke travels to Huddersfield the same day.