Argentina advances with a 1-0 win over Belgium

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Another World Cup quarter-final, and another early goal. And once again, it was the team that scored quickly that emerged with the win. Argentina advances, Belgium goes home.

It took Argentina less than ten minutes to take the lead. Lionel Messi kept hold of the ball even while three Belgium players did their best to muscle him off it. His fine footwork eventually resulted in a threaded pass to Ángel di María, who quickly attempted to find Gonzalo Higuaín in the middle of the area. The ball took a deflection off Axel Witsel to fall perfectly for Pipita, who volleyed it into the back of the net.

Higuaín very nearly doubled Argentina’s lead near the start of the second half, evading a challenge from Vincent Kompany through the simple task of nutmegging the defender. However, the woodwork decided to take Belgium’s side, with Higuaín’s shot ricocheting off the bar.

With thirty minutes left to play, it was clear Marc Wilmots needed to do something to keep Belgium’s chances alive. He elected to make a double switch, bringing on Romelu Lukaku and Dries Mertens for Divock Origi and Kevin Mirallas: a like-for-like-like-for-like change. However, he also used the opportunity to shift Marouane Fellaini further up the pitch, which nearly paid off immediately, but the Manchester United man’s header went just high.

Belgium’s new urgency and coherency was immediately evident. They nearly forced Ezequiel Garay into an own-goal off a cross from Kevin De Bruyne, but Sergio Romero was there to ensure Argentina stayed on top.

Yet Belgium still couldn’t find a break, so Wilmots made one final change – and it was a rather surprising one. Eden Hazard had failed to make much of an impression in the match, so he made way, with Nacer Chadli replacing.

Belgium threw plenty at Argentina’s goal, particularly in the final moments. Argentina needed some desperate defending to keep a strike from Lukaku from flying into the back of the net, and were fortunate that Axel Witsel, who pounced on the rebound put his shot over the bar. In the end, though, Argentina proved to be just too much for one of the favorites for the World Cup’s dark horse.

LINEUPS

Argentina: Romero; Zabaleta, Demichelis, Garay, Basanta; Biglia, Mascherano, Di Maria (Perez 33); Lavezzi (Palacio 71), Messi, Higuain (Gago 81)

Goals: Higuain 8′

Belgium: Courtois; Alderweireld, Van Buyten, Kompany, Vertonghen; Witsel, Fellaini; De Bruyne, Mirallas (Mertens 59), Hazard (Chadli 75), Origi (Lukaku 59)

Premier League Preview: Chelsea vs. Watford

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  • Chelsea are without N'Golo Kante, Victor Moses (both hamstring) and Danny Drinkwater (calf) is still absent.
  • Watford remain without Younes Kaboul and Sebastian Prodl (both thigh), plus long-term absentees Craig Cathcart, Nathaniel Chalobah and Isaac Success (all knee).
  • Watford have not won against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge since 1986, but the Hornets have won 10 points of a possible 12 on the road. 
  • Chelsea have lost three of their first eight matches this season. No team has ever lost this many of their opening eight matches and still won the Premier League title.

Watford heads south for another London derby with Chelsea at Stamford Bridge on Saturday at 7:30 a.m. (Watch live on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

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The Hornets have had an amazing start to the season and currently occupy fourth place on 15 points, two points ahead of fifth-place Chelsea, which has lost two-straight Premier League games. The Blues have struggled without N’Golo Kante and Alvaro Morata and there have been reports of grumbles from the squad about dissatisfaction with Antonio Conte‘s training methods, but the Chelsea coach has brushed those rumors off.

Meanwhile Watford is coming off a confidence-boosting win last weekend against fellow Londoners Arsenal, and the club is looking to take down another big club for a second-straight week.

What they’re saying

Watford manager Marco Silva on his team’s start“I want everybody to be really calm. We did really in the first eight matches but it’s too early. We want to continue to work hard every day. Everything changes fast and you need to keep going and treat the next game as the most important. But of course I feel proud.”

Chelsea manager Antonio Conte on being under pressure: “‘Do I feel the pressure? Every manager feels pressure, but I try to give all of myself into my job, so I’m happy when I go home because I know in every moment I give all of myself for the fans, the players and the club. In football you know anything can happen, but the most important thing is to work.”

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Prediction

Chelsea has its back against the wall but the team’s overall quality should be enough to see them through with all three points against Watford. The Hornets luck runs out in Stamford Bridge as Chelsea hold on for a late win. Chelsea 2-1 Watford

Leicester City record massive earnings from UEFA Champions League

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Leicester City’s UEFA Champions League campaign may have ended without a trophy, but the Premier League side pipped the European champions in the bank account.

UEFA announced on Friday that Leicester City earned $96,167,125 during the Champions League run that ended in the quarterfinals, the farthest of any Premier League club. Real Madrid, the back-to-back champions, earned a slightly less $95,385,679. Much of the difference comes from TV rights deals in England, which pays out more to teams compared to the TV rights deal in Spain.

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Juventus, the Italian giant, earned the most of any club in last year’s Champions League, making a whopping $129,965,357, mostly thanks to the TV rights again.

Mourinho: Ibrahimovic could return in December

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Dare to Zlatan? It could be only a couple of months away.

That’s according to Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho, who said the veteran striker could return from his torn ACL before the end of the calendar year.

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“Zlatan is here, he’s working here and under our control,” Mourinho told reporters. “He’s working as you would expect so, so, so hard. But he’s not to be back in the next week or next couple of weeks. Do I believe he’ll be back in 2017? Yes, I do. But it’s just a feeling.”

The big Swede scored 28 goals for Man United last year in all competitions, proving that he’s still got it at the age of 36, but it’s going to be tough for him to find his old form coming off an ACL injury at such an old age. After suffering the injury last April, it’s been a long road to recovery for Ibrahimovic.

However, with the play of Romelu Lukaku up top, Ibrahimovic would only play from time to time, which could help in his recovery both from the knee injury and just the general recovery between games.

Manchester City quartet called up by Brazil for friendlies

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Brazilian National Team coach Tite has decided on calling up a full-strength squad for November’s upcoming friendly matches in Europe, including four Manchester City players in his 25-man squad.

Gabriel Jesus, Fernandinho, Danilo and Ederson all made the squad as Tite looks to develop more chemistry among his side ahead of the 2018 World Cup, which Brazil breezed into after Tite took over in 2016.

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Luckily for Manchester City and the other European-based players in the squad, Brazil’s friendly matches will be played in Western Europe. The Selecao first faces Japan in Lille, France on November 10 before taking on England at Wembley Stadium on November 14.

The call-ups may be a tough pill for Guardiola to swallow though. As of Friday, Manchester City has 17 games remaining in the calendar year, and surely he would prefer for some of his starters to get a two-week break in November to preserve some energy instead of play in friendly matches.