Queens Park Rangers v Aston Villa - Premier League

Aston Villa welcomes back previously marginalized players

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Aston Villa want to avoid yet another season in which they struggle against the drop. However, that might be difficult: Owner Randy Lerner put the club up for sale at the start of the summer, and has yet to find a willing buyer. As such, Villa have been restrained in the transfer market, with Lerner making it clear that money can be spent only if current players are sold.

Villa have already brought in three players on the cheap, and all are Premier League veterans: Philippe Senderos, Joe Cole and Kieran Richardson. But they’ve also decided to turn to players that were marginalized after Paul Lambert arrived at the club two years ago.

The infamous “Bomb Squad,” high-paid players that have been frozen out over much of the past 24 months, are to make a return next season, ensuring Lerner gets at least a bit of a return on his investment. While Shay Given is never likely to feature heavily, as Villa have Brad Guzan as their first choice goalkeeper, there are other big names looking to finally make their mark.

Darren Bent was Villa’s record signing in January 2011. While he helped the club avoid relegation that season, he’s made little of an impression since. He lost his starting place to Christian Benteke in August 2012, and went on loan to Fulham for the 2013-2014 season.

But despite Bent’s paltry three goals last season, Villa are determined to get some use out of him, particularly with Benteke and Libor Kozák still recovering from injury. The forward came good in his first appearance of the preseason, grabbing a brace against League Two side Mansfield on Thursday evening.

Another man looking to impress is Charles N’Zogbia. The winger tore his Achilles while on vacation last June, and had not played since. However, Lambert seemed pleased with his performance on Thursday, and with Marc Albrighton now gone, N’Zogbia could see plenty of time this season.

Finally, there’s Alan Hutton. The defender has not played for Villa since the 2011-2012 season, when he was brought in by fellow Scot Alex McLeish. Instead, he’s seen loan spells at Nottingham Forest, Mallorca and Bolton Wanderers. But with Matthew Lowton disappointing last season, it’s likely Hutton will find himself back in the first team — especially since Villa rejected an offer from West Bromwich Albion last week.

Aston Villa are set to leave for Texas, where they will play FC Dallas on July 23 and Houston Dynamo on July 26. Those two games could give Lambert even more of an idea as to whether the previously marginalized players should be welcomed back with open arms.

Judge hears arguments on US women’s team strike rights

HARRISON, NJ - MAY 30:  The United States team poses for a team picture before the match against the South Korea during an international friendly match at Red Bull Arena on May 30, 2015 in Harrison, New Jersey.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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CHICAGO — A federal judge in Chicago has heard arguments whether the world champion U.S. women’s soccer team has the right to strike for improved conditions and wages before this year’s Olympics.

Lawyers for the U.S. Soccer Federation told Judge Sharon Johnson Coleman at a Thursday hearing that a no-strike clause is implied in a still-valid 2013 memorandum with players.

[ MORE: All of PST’s USWNT coverage ]

But a lawyer for the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team Players Association balked at that claim. Jeffrey Kessler said the federation had “screwed up” by not securing a no-strike clause in writing and can’t argue three years later that such a provision is implied.

The union wants the option to strike before the Olympics start in August, but hasn’t said it will. Many players have voiced concern over gender equity in soccer.

Three battles that could determine the Champions League final

MADRID, SPAIN - APRIL 14:  Cristiano Ronaldo of Real Madrid CF is tackled by Koke of Atletico Madrid and Mario Suarez of Atletico Madrid during the UEFA Champions League Quarter Final First Leg match between Club Atletico de Madrid and Real Madrid CF at Vicente Calderon Stadium on April 14, 2015 in Madrid, Spain.  (Photo by Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images)
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We’re just two days away from the Champions League final, as Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid prepare to face each other in Milan on Saturday.

The tie is a rematch of the 2014 final when Real Madrid won 4-1 to claim a record tenth Champions League title. Atletico led that match 1-0 in stoppage time, only to concede a late equalizer before collapsing in extra time.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s UCL coverage ]

With Real one of Europe’s best attacking teams and Atleti the best defensive side, two completely different styles of play will clash at the San Siro this weekend. Below, we take a look at a few key matchups that could determine who leaves Milan as champions.

Keylor Navas vs. Jan Oblak

In the Champions League this season, Navas has kept nine clean sheets in ten appearances (tied for the most-ever in a single campaign), while Oblak has kept eight in 12 appearances. Oblak was named to the La Liga Team of the Year after a stellar season for Atleti, and his massive double-save on Thomas Muller’s penalty kick in the semifinals helped Simeone’s men reach Milan. For Navas, the keeper’s strong play is often overshadowed by Real’s attack, but the Costa Rican international has proved massive for the club all season long. In what will surely be an extremely tight match, one big save could prove the difference.

[ MORE: Ranking the Copa America Centenario contenders ]

Luka Modric vs. Gabi 

These may not be two “superstar” names in the sides, but Luka Modric and Gabi may be the most important men on the pitch for Real and Atletico, respectively. When Real goes forward, it starts with Modric in the midfield. The Croatian playmaker is confident in possession and spreads the ball all over the pitch, seemingly always in the right place at the right time. On the other side, Gabi epitomizes what Diego Simeone wants in his Atletico squad. The hard-nosed midfielder sits right in front of the back-line, in charge of clogging up and holes and making sure the rest of his midfield tracks back and keeps shape, which will be vitally important against Real. A product of the Atleti youth system, red and white runs through Gabi’s veins, and having already experienced a loss to Real Madrid in the Champions League final back in 2014, Simeone’s leader on the pitch will want to turn the tides this time around.

(Photo by Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images)
(Photo by Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images)

Atleti back-line vs. BBC

When all is said and done, the biggest battle will be between the stout Atleti defense and Real’s potent attack. Diego Godin and Jose Gimenez have become the best center-back pairing in Europe, while Real’s BBC trio of Bale, Benzema, and Cristiano combined for 119 goals in all competitions this season. Atleti have already kept clean sheets in the Champions League against Barcelona and Bayern Munich, but both of those matches were in front of a home crowd at the Vicente Calderon. Expect a few heavy challenges to come in early, as the Atletico defense will look to keep Ronaldo & Co. honest.

Skrtel’s agent “90-percent sure” center-back will leave Liverpool

BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA - JULY 17:  Martin Skrtel of Liverpool FC points during the international friendly match between Brisbane Roar and Liverpool FC at Suncorp Stadium on July 17, 2015 in Brisbane, Australia.  (Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images)
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Martin Skrtel seems to have played his last match at Liverpool as the player’s agent said he is “90-percent sure” that the center-back will move away from Anfield this summer.

Skrtel, who joined Liverpool in 2008, has made more than 300 appearances for the club, the most of any player on the current roster.

[ MORE: Delph to miss EURO 2016 ]

After a strong campaign in 2014-15, Skrtel’s play dropped off quite a bit this year, with the 31-year-old also missing three months with a torn hamstring. He managed just 22 appearances in the Premier League, his lowest total since the 2009-10 season.

Speaking to TV Markiza in Slovakia, Skrtel’s agent Karol Csonto said a move is likely to happen, with Turkish side Besiktas interested in the center-back.

Besiktas is one of those interested in Martin but we’re haven’t reached a point where I can confirm Martin is going there, or anywhere else.

But I can say that it is 90 per cent sure Martin will leave Liverpool, but it is far from closed.

Skrtel fell out of favor at Anfield when Jurgen Klopp took over the side, and the veteran defender never seemed to be in the new manager’s plans. He’s been a constant presence in the Reds’ back-line for years now, and it will be strange sight to see a Liverpool defense without a screaming Skrtel keeping things organized.

Copa America 2016: Final 23-man rosters for each team

BELO HORIZONTE, BRAZIL - JUNE 21: Sergio Aguero (L) and Lionel Messi of Argentina react while walking off the field after defeating Iran 1-0 during the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Group F match between Argentina and Iran at Estadio Mineirao on June 21, 2014 in Belo Horizonte, Brazil.  (Photo by Ian Walton/Getty Images)
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With the Copa America Centenario kicking off next Friday, the final 23-man rosters for each team are in.

This tournament is littered with talent, with top players from every major league represented. Of course, one massive name missing from this list is Neymar, who will be playing for Brazil in the Olympics rather than at the Copa.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s Copa coverage ]

Group A – Full Preview

United States
Goalkeepers: Brad Guzan (Aston Villa), Tim Howard (Colorado Rapids), Ethan Horvath (Molde IK)
Defenders: Matt Besler (Sporting KC), Steve Birnbaum (D.C. United), John Brooks (Hertha Berlin), Geoff Cameron (Stoke City), Timmy Chandler (Eintracht Frankfurt), Fabian Johnson (Borussia Moenchengladbach), Michael Orozco (Club Tijuana), DeAndre Yedlin (Tottenham Hotspur)
Midfielders: Kyle Beckerman (Real Salt Lake), Alejandro Bedoya (FC Nantes), Michael Bradley (Toronto FC), Jermaine Jones (Colorado Rapids), Perry Kitchen (Heart of Midlothian), Darlington Nagbe (Portland Timbers), Graham Zusi (Sporting KC), Christian Pulisic (Borussia Dortmund)
Forwards: Chris Wondolowski (San Jose Earthquakes), Bobby Wood(Hamburg SV), Clint Dempsey (Seattle Sounders FC), Gyasi Zardes (LA Galaxy),

Colombia
Goalkeepers: Cristian Bonilla (Atletico Nacional), David Ospina (Arsenal), Robinson Zapata (Santa Fe)
Defenders: Felipe Aguilar (Atletico Nacional), Santiago Arias (PSV), Farid Diaz (Atletico Nacional), Frank Fabra (Boca Juniors), Stefan Medina (Pachuca), Jeison Murillo (Inter Milan), Oscar Murillo (Pachuca), Cristian Zapata (AC Milan)
Midfielders: Edwin Cardona (Monterrey), Guillermo Celis (Junior), Juan Cuadrado (Juventus), Sebastian Perez (Atletico Nacional), Andres Felipe Roa (Deportivo Cali), James Rodriguez (Real Madrid), Carlos Sanchez (Aston Villa), Daniel Torres (Independiente Medellin)
Forwards: Carlos Bacca (AC Milan), Roger Martinez (Racing Club), Marlos Moreno (Atletico Nacional), Dayro Moreno (Club Tijuana)

Costa Rica
Goalkeepers: Keylor Navas (Real Madrid), Patrick Pemberton (Alajuelense), Esteban Alvarado (Trabzonspor)
Defenders: Cristian Gamboa (West Brom), Jose Salvatierra (Alajuelense), Michael Umana (Persepolis), Johnny Acosta (Alajuelense), Oscar Duarte (Espanyol), Kendall Waston (Vancouver Whitecaps), Ronald Matarrita (New York City FC), Bryan Oviedo (Everton), Francisco Calvo (Saprissa)
Midfielders: Yeltsen Tejeda (Evian), Celso Borges (Deportivo La Coruna), Randall Azofeifa (Herediano), Esteban Granados (Herediano), Bryan Ruiz (Sporting Club), Johan Venegas (Montreal Impact), Christian Bolanos (Vancouver Whitecaps), Joel Campbell (Arsenal)
Forwards: Ariel Rodriguez (Alajuelense), Alvaro Saborio (D.C. United), Marcos Urena (Midtjylland)

Paraguay
Goalkeepers: Justo Villar (Colo Colo), Antony Silva (Cerro Porteno), Diego Barreto (Olimpia)
Defenders: Paulo Da Silva (Toluca), Gustavo Gomez (Lanus), Pablo Aguilar (America), Fabian Balbuena (Corinthians), Bruno Valdez (Cerro Porteno), Miguel Samudio (America), Blas Riveros (Olimpia)
Midfielders: Oscar Romero (Racing), Nestor Ortigoza (San Lorenzo), Celso Ortiz (AZ Alkmaar), Rodrigo Rojas (Cerro Porteno), Robert Piris Da Motta (Olimpia), Miguel Almiron (Lanus)
Forwards: Roque Santa Cruz (Malaga), Nelson Valdez (Seattle Sounders), Edgar Benitez (Queretaro), Derlis Gonzalez (Dynamo Kiev), Jorge Benitez (Cruz Azul), Dario Lezcano (Ingolstadt), Juan Iturbe (Bournemouth)


Group B – Full Preview

Brazil
Goalkeepers: Alisson (Internacional), Diego Alves (Valencia), Ederson (Benfica)
Defenders: Daniel Alves (Barcelona), Fabinho (Monaco), Filipe Luis (Atletico Madrid), Douglas Santos (Atletico Mineiro), Miranda (Inter Milan), Gil (Shandong Luneng), Marquinhos (Paris Saint-Germain), Rodrigo Caio (Sao Paulo)
Midfielders: Luiz Gustavo (Wolfsburg), Elias (Corinthians), Casemiro (Real Madrid), Rafinha (Barcelona), Renato Augusto (Beijing Guoan), Philippe Coutinho (Liverpool), Lucas Lima (Santos), Willian (Chelsea)
Forwards: Douglas Costa (Bayern Munich), Hulk (Zenit), Ricardo Oliveira (Santos), Gabriel (Santos)

Ecuador
Goalkeepers: Alexander Dominguez (LDU de Quito), Esteban Dreer (C.S. Emelec), Maximo Banguera (Barcelona SC)
Defenders: Juan Carlos Paredes (Watford), Arturo Mina (Independiente del Valle), Gabriel Achilier (C.S. Emelec), Frickson Erazo (Atletico Mineiro), Robert Arboleda (U. Catolica), Walter Ayovi (Monterrey), Cristian Ramirez (Ferencvarosi)
Midfielders: Antonio Valencia (Manchester United), Angel Mena (C.S. Emelec), Christian Noboa (Rostov), Fernando Gaibor (C.S. Emelec), Pedro Larrea (El Nacional), Carlos Gruezo (FC Dallas), Jefferson Montero (Swansea), Michael Arroyo (Club America), Fidel Martinez (Pumas)
Forwards: Enner Valencia (West Ham), Jaime Ayovi (Godoy Cruz), Juan Cazares (Atletico Mineiro), Miller Bolanos (Gremio)

Haiti
Goalkeepers: Steward Ceus (Unattached), Luis Valendi Odelus (Aigle Noir), Johny Placide (Reims)
Defenders: Romain Genevois (Nice), Jerome Mechack (Jacksonville Armada), Judelin Aveska (Atletico Uruguay), Reginal Goreux (Standard Liege), Kim Jaggy (Aarau), Alex Christian (Vila Real), Jean Sony Alcenat (Voluntari), Stephane Lambese (Paris Saint-Germain)
Midfielder: Jean Marc Alexandre (Fort Lauderdale Strikers), Kevin Lafrance (Chrobry Glogow), Soni Mustivar (Sporting Kansas City), Max Hilaire (Cholet), Pascal Millien (Jacksonville Armada), Sony Norde (Mohun Bagan), James Marcelin (Carolina RailHawks)
Forwards: Wilde-Donald Guerrier (Wisla Krakow), Kervens Belfort (1461 Trabzon), Jeff Louis (Caen), Jean-Eudes Maurice (Ha Noi), Duckens Nazon (Laval)

Peru
Goalkeepers: Carlos Caceda (Universitario), Pedro Gallese (Juan Aurich), Diego Penny (Sporting Cristal)
Defenders: Luis Abram (Sporting Cristal), Miguel Araujo (Alianza Lima), Jair Cespedes (Sporting Cristal), Aldo Corzo (Deportivo Municipal), Christian Ramos (Juan Aurich), Alberto Rodriguez (Sporting Cristal), Miguel Trauco (Universitario), Yoshimar Yotun (Malmo)
Midfielders: Armando Alfageme (Deportivo Municipal), Adan Balbin (Universitario), Cristian Benavente (Charleroi), Christian Cueva (Toluca), Luiz da Silva (PSV Eindhoven), Alejandro Hohberg (Universidad Cesar Vallejo), Renato Tapia (Feyenoord), Oscar Vilchez (Alianza Lima)
Forwards: Edison Flores (Universitario), Paolo Guerrero (Flamengo), Andy Polo (Universitario), Raul Ruidiaz (Universitario)


Group C – Full Preview

Mexico
Goalkeepers: Guillermo Ochoa (Malaga), Jesus Corona (Cruz Azul), Alfredo Talavera (Toluca)
Defenders: Paul Aguilar (Club America), Miguel Layun (Porto), Rafael Marquez (Atlas), Diego Reyes (Real Sociedad), Nestor Araujo (Santos Laguna), Hector Moreno (PSV), Yasser Corona (Queretaro), Jorge Torres Nilo (Tigres), Jesus Molina (Santos Laguna)
Midfielders: Jesus Manuel Corona (Porto), Hector Herrera (Porto), Hirving Lozano (Pachuca), Andres Guardado (PSV), Carlos Pena (Chivas), Jurgen Damm (Tigres), Javier Aquino (Tigres), Jesus Duenas (Tigres)
Forwards: Javier Hernandez (Bayer Leverkeusen), Raul Jimenez (Benfica), Oribe Peralta (Club America)

Jamaica
Goalkeepers: Andre Blake (Philadelphia Union), Duwayne Kerr (Stjarnan), Ryan Thompson (Saint Louis FC)
Defenders: Rosario Harriott (Harbour View FC), Michael Hector (Reading), Kemar Lawrence (New York RB), Adrian Mariappa (Crystal Palace), Wes Morgan (Leicester City), Damano Solomon (Portmore United), Jermaine Taylor (Portland Timbers)
Midfielders: Rodolph Austin (Brondby IF), Michael Binns (Portmore United), Chevone Marsh (Cavaler Sports Club), Joel McAnuff (Leyton Orient), Garath McCleary (Reading), Andrew Vanzie (Humble Lion FC), Je-Vaughn Watson (New England Revolution), Lee Williamson (Blackburn Rovers)
Forwards: Giles Barnes (Houston Dynamo), Simon Dawkins (San Jose Earthquakes), Clayton Donaldson (Birmingham City), Allan Ottey (Montego Bay United), Dever Orgill (IFK Marieham)

Uruguay
Goalkeepers: Martin Campana (Independiente), Fernando Muslera (Galatasaray), Martin Silva (Vasco da Gama)
Defenders: Sebastian Coates (Sporting Lisbon), Jorge Fucile (Nacional), Jose Gimenez (Atletico Madrid), Diego Godin (Atletico Madrid), Alvaro Pereira (Getafe), Maximiliano Pereira (Porto), Mauricio Victorino (Nacional)
Midfielders: Mathias Corujo (Universidad de Chile), Alvaro Gonzalez (Atlas), Nicolas Lodeiro (Boca Juniors), Gaston Ramirez (Middlesbrough), Egidio Arevalo Rios (Atlas), Cristian Rodriguez (Independiente), Carlos Sanchez (Monterrey), Matias Vecino (Fiorentina)
Forwards: Edinson Cavani (Paris Saint-Germain), Abel Hernandez (Hull City), Diego Rolan (Bordeaux), Cristhian Stuani (Middlesbrough), Luis Suarez (Barcelona)

Venezuela
Goalkeepers: Jose Contreras (Deportivo Tachira), Wuilker Farinez (Caracas), Dani Hernandez (Tenerife)
Defenders: Wilker Angel (Deportivo Tachira), Rolf Feltscher (Duisburg), Alexander Gonzalez (Huesca), Roberto Rosales (Malaga), Jose Manuel Velazquez (Arouca), Mikel Villanueva (Malaga), Oswaldo Vizcarrondo (Nantes)
Midfielders: Juan Pablo Anor (Malaga), Arquimedes Figuera (La Guaira), Alejandro Guerra (Atletico Nacional), Yangel Herrera (Atletico Venezuela), Romulo Otero (Huachipato), Adalberto Penaranda (Granada), Tomas Rincon (Genoa), Carlos Suarez (Carabobo), Luis Manuel Seijas (Internacional)
Forwards: Yonathan Del Valle (Kasimpasa), Josef Martinez (Torino), Salomon Rondon (West Brom), Christian Santos (NEC)


Group D – Full Preview

Argentina
Goalkeepers: Mariano Andujar (Estudiantes), Nahuel Guzman (UANL), Sergio Romero (Manchester United)
Defenders: Facundo Roncaglia (Fiorentina), Marcos Rojo (Manchester United), Ramiro Funes Mori (Argentina), Gabriel Mercado (River Plate), Jonathan Maidana (River Plate), Nicolas Otamendi (Manchester City), Victor Cuesta (Independiente)
Midfielders: Matias Kranevitter (Atletico Madrid), Javier Mascherano (Barcelona), Ever Banega (Sevilla), Lucas Biglia (Lazio), Javier Pastore (Paris Saint-Germain), Augusto Fernandez (Atletico Madrid), Erik Lamela (Tottenham Hotspur)
Forwards: Angel Di Maria (Paris Saint-Germain), Ezequiel Lavezzi (Hebei China Fortune), Lionel Messi (Barcelona), Sergio Aguero (Manchester City), Gonzalo Higuain (Napoli), Nicolas Gaitan (Benfica)

Chile
Goalkeepers: Claudio Bravo (Barcelona), Johnny Herrera (Universidad de Chile), Cristopher Toselli (Universidad Catolica)
Defenders: Mauricio Isla (Marseille), Jose Pedro Fuenzalida (Universidad Catolica), Gonzalo Jara (Universidad de Chile), Enzo Roco (Espanyol), Gary Medel (Inter), Eugenio Mena (Sao Paulo)
Midfielders: Jean Beausejour (Colo Colo), Marcelo Diaz (Celta Vigo), Francisco Silva (Chiapas), Erick Pulgar (Bologna), Arturo Vidal (Bayern Munich), Matias Fernandez (Fiorentina), Charles Aranguiz (Bayer Leverkusen), Pablo Hernandez (Celta Vigo), Edson Puch (LDU Quito).
Forwards: Nicolas Castillo (Universidad Catolica), Fabian Orellana (Celta Vigo), Mauricio Pinilla (Atalanta), Alexis Sanchez (Arsenal), Eduardo Vargas (Hoffenheim)

Panama
Goalkeepers: Jose Calderon (Platense), Jaime Penedo (Saprissa), Alex Rodriguez (San Francisco)
Defenders: Felipe Baloy (Atlas), Harold Cummings (Alajuelense), Eric Davis (FC DAC 1904), Fidel Escobar (Sporting San Miguelito), Luis Henriquez (Tauro), Adolfo Machado (Saprissa), Roderick Miller (San Francisco)
Midfielders: Ricardo Buitrago (Juan Aurich), Armando Cooper (Arabe Unido), Anibal Godoy (San Jose Earthquakes), Gabriel Gomez (Cartagines), Amilcar Henriquez (America), Valentin Pimental (La Equidad), Alberto Quintero (San Jose Earthquakes)
Forwards: Abdiel Arroyo (RNK Split), Ismael Diaz (Porto B), Roberto Nurse (Mineros de Zacatecas), Blas Perez (Vancouver Whitecaps), Luis Tejada (Juan Aurich), Gabriel Torres (Zamora)

Bolivia
Goalkeepers: Carlos Lampe (Sport Boys), Romel Quinonez (Bolivar), Guillermo Viscarra (Oriente Petrolero)
Defenders: Diego Bejarano (The Strongest), Marvin Bejarano (Oriente Petrolero), Nelson Cabrera (Bolivar), Ronald Eguino (Bolivar), Luis Gutierrez (Hapoel Ironi Kiryat Shmona), Erwin Saavedra (Bolivar), Edward Zenteno (Wilstermann)
Midfielders: Pedro Azogue (Oriente Petrolero), Jhasmani Campos (Kazma SC), Raul Castro (The Strongest), Samuel Galindo (Club Petrolero), Cristhian Machado (Wilstermann), Alejandro Melean (Oriente Petrolero), Fernando Saucedo (Wilstermann), Martin Smedberg-Dalence (IFK Goteborg), Walter Veizaga (The Strongest)
Forwards: Juan Carlos Arce (Bolivar), Yasmani Duk (New York Cosmos), Bruno Miranda (Universidad de Chile), Rodrigo Ramallo (The Strongest)