Beasley's feat of playing at four World Cups will be tough to beat.

DaMarcus Beasley, introduced in Houston: I see myself as a left back

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DaMarcus Beasley’s homecoming will be complete when he takes the field for the Dynamo, but another part of the buildup was checked off the list when the 32-year-old was introduced to Houston’s media on Thursday. In the process, the natural midfielder made it clear: The U.S. international considers his conversion to fullback to be complete.

“Do I see myself as a left back? Yes.” he said at Thursday’s press conference, according to the league’s website. Beasley was the left back for every minute of the U.S. at Brazil 2014. “Jurgen [Klinsmann] had the confidence in me to play left back in the World Cup against some of the best players in the world, so I’ve got to have confidence in myself I can play that position.”

Though fullback has become his regular spot for the U.S., Beasley has not been able to boost play the position at club level, where he’s been used almost exclusively as a midfielder. Through his time with the Chicago Fire, PSV Eindhoven, Glasgow Rangers, Hannover, and Puebla, the IMG Academy product has persisted in wide midfielder, where he has accumulated most of his 120 caps with the national team.

Since Jurgen Klinsmann took over the team, however, Beasley has been used almost exclusively at left back, and while that spurred initial concerns about the U.S.’s lack of depth at the position, Beasley’s performance in Brazil quelled any notion the one-time winger could cover the position.

With Corey Ashe having established himself at left back for Houston, it’s still unclear where the team’s latest Designated Player will play.

“He can fit in the midfield, he can fit in the back,” Houston head coach Dominic Kinnear said, before implying Beasley’s position was secondary to the overall package.

“Longevity and consistency are two of his main traits,” Kinnear explained. “When you look at him you have the feeling he can play a couple of more years.”

Beasley, however, strongly hinted his mind’s in defense. Again from MLSSoccer.com:

“I see myself as a defender. Wherever Dom’s going to put me is where I fit best into the team I’ll play it,” Beasley continued. “Do I still have the midfield mentality sometimes? Of course. Do I still want to score goals? Of course. I never have that out of mind when I play. But I do have a job to do being a defender and that’s to defend and that’s my first job.”

Regardless of Beasley’s preferences, Houston’s footing part of this bill, and Kinnear needs to decide where he fits best. Though Ashe is entrenched at left back, a change wouldn’t be the most shocking decision, given how poorly the entire Dynamo defense has played this season. When Ashe clumsily conceded a penalty kick this weekend against Toronto, he reminded viewers he’s been part of the problem.

Then again, Houston could also move left midfielder Brad Davis to the middle, where he has played off-and-on over the last few years. A four-man midfield of Beasley, Davis, Boniek Garcia and Ricardo Clark would be one of the more enviable quartets in Major League Soccer, providing a solution that kept their former All-Star left back in the lineup.

If you’re looking for a thin hint as to Beasley’s future, consider the person Houston traded to get to the top of MLS’s allocation order. A year ago, Warren Creavalle’s progress convinced the Dynamo to trade ball-winner Adam Moffat to Seattle. Now, Creavalle’s a member of Toronto FC, with the Dynamo willing to give up a central midfielder without getting one in return.

Watch Live: Sunderland vs. Manchester United (Lineups, Stream)

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 26:  Anthony Martial of Manchester United and John O'Shea of Sunderland compete for the ball during the Barclays Premier League match between Manchester United and Sunderland at Old Trafford on September 26, 2015 in Manchester, United Kingdom.  (Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images)
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Struggling Sunderland host top-four chasing Manchester United on Saturday (Watch live, 7:45 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online goal Live Extra) at the Stadium of Light.

The Black Cats haven’t won in their last four games and are four points of safety. Desperation sums up the mood for Sam Allardyce‘s side.

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The same could be said for United as Louis Van Gaal‘s side continue to leak goals and they’re now six points off the top four with just 13 games to go. Speculation linking Jose Mourinho with a summer arrival at Old Trafford continues with LVG’s job seemingly on the line.

Sunderland’s survival hopes took an unexpected hit this week, as winger Adam Johnson had his contract terminated after he surprisingly pleading guilty to a child sex charge in court.

In team news Sunderland bring in DeAndre Yedlin for Billy Jones, while United bring in Morgan Schneiderlin for Marouane Fellaini.  

LINEUPS

Sunderland: Mannone, Yedlin, O’Shea, Kone, van Aanholt, Kirchhoff, Cattermole, M’Vila, Khazri, N’Doye, Defoe. Subs: Brown, Rodwell, Borini, Matthews, Pickford, Toivonen, Honeyman

Manchester United: De Gea, Darmian, Smalling, Blind, Borthwick-Jackson, Schneiderlin, Carrick, Lingard, Mata, Martial, Rooney. Subs: Romero, Love, Weir, Pereira, Herrera, Memphis, Keane.

Xavi backs Dybala, Verratti to succeed at Barcelona over Pogba

TURIN, ITALY - JANUARY 24:  Paulo Dybala (R) of Juventus FC celebrates after scoring the opening goal with team mate Paul Pogba during the Serie A match between Juventus FC and AS Roma at Juventus Arena on January 24, 2016 in Turin, Italy.  (Photo by Valerio Pennicino/Getty Images)
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With Paul Pogba linked with a possible summer move to Barcelona worth more than $100 million, one legend at Camp Nou believes Pogba may not be the right signing.

[ MORE: Top 5 PL storylines ]

After making more than 700 appearances for Barcelona, Xavi knows the club as well as anyone, and he prefers Pogba’s Juventus teammate Paulo Dybala for a move to the Catalan giants.

Xavi also praised the play of Paris Saint-Germain’s Marco Verratti, saying that while Pogba is a star player, Dybala and Verratti have “Barca DNA.”

There’s two players I really like, both of whom I think have Barca’s DNA. They are Marco Verratti and Paulo Dybala.

They are amazing and, thanks to their quality and style of play, would easily integrate into the [Barca] machine. I see them as future stars at the club.

[Pogba] is a great player. He’ll be a star for France as he is for Juve, but I see him with a different game to ours.

Both Pogba and Dybala are 22-years-old, while Verratti is 23. All three players have been among the elite young talents in the world, with Pogba earning the most praise of the group and always linked with a big-money move to Europe’s top clubs.

[ RELATED: Messi named La Liga Player of the Month for first time in career ]

Dybala is enjoying a breakout season at Juventus, currently with 13 goals and eight assists in Serie A play. In Paris, Verratti is part of a PSG side that hasn’t lost in 25 matches and holds a 24-point lead at the top of the table.

Vincent Kompany set to make Manchester City return this weekend

during the Barclays Premier League match between Manchester City and Arsenal at Etihad Stadium on January 18, 2015 in Manchester, England.
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Vincent Kompany is set to make his first appearance for Manchester City since Boxing Day as the defender has returned from injury.

City’s captain and center-back missed more than six weeks with a calf injury before Christmas, and then reaggravated the injury just minutes into his return at the end of December.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

However, Kompany has been back in training and manager Manuel Pellegrini said he is fit to play this weekend when City host Tottenham in a huge top-four matchup.

We’ll see what the starting XI is tomorrow – we’re not just thinking about one player and one game, we’re involved in a lot of competitions. Maybe we have a lot of criticism when we don’t play well but I’m happy with the squad over the whole season.

Every player must play a game when they’re 100%. Vincent has worked for three weeks with no problems. He played 45 minutes in a friendly game against the under-21s and I think he’s ready to play.

Kompany’s presence in the City back-line has been pivotal this season. In the eight Premier League games Kompany has started, City have kept seven clean sheets. In the 18 matches without the big Belgian in the starting lineup, City have kept just five.

[ RELATED: Diego Costa suffers broken nose in Chelsea training ]

With City just a point behind Tottenham, Kompany returns from injury just in time for one of the biggest matches of the season. Tasked with slowing down Harry Kane and Spurs’ high-flying attack, Kompany’s play could prove crucial to the Citizens getting a result.

Premier League Preview: Chelsea vs. Newcastle United

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  • CFC unbeaten under Hiddink (W5, D6)
  • Newcastle have just 6 away goals all season
  • Diego Costa: 6 goals in his last 7 PL matches

Chelsea look to extend their unbeaten streak under Guus Hiddink to 12 matches on Saturday when the Blues host relegation-threatened Newcastle (Watch live, 12:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN and online via Live Extra).

The Blues’ last loss came under Jose Mourinho in December.

[ WATCH LIVE: Stream every PL game via Live Extra ]

Chelsea are up to 13th on the table, currently riding a run of 11 matches unbeaten in all competitions. Guus Hiddink is yet to suffer a loss after taking over for his second stint at Stamford Bridge in December, although draws have kept Chelsea from climbing further up the table. Diego Costa has had the hot-hand with six goals in his last seven appearances, but the Spanish striker will be forced to play with a mask after suffering a broken nose in training.

[ MORE: Hiddink has “no fear” of playing youngsters in Zouma’s absence ]

For Newcastle, the Magpies sit 17th on the table just one point above the drop. Their away form has hurt the club all season, as Steve McClaren‘s men have scored a league-low six goals on the road this year. The Magpies are coming off of a win over West Brom, and supporters will be hoping the club’s new January signings continue to produce. Seydou Doumbia could make his Premier League debut on Saturday, which would be a massive boost to the attack.

What they’re saying

Chelsea manager Guus Hiddink: “The status of being unbeaten sounds good but realistically we would have wished to have more victories, especially at home. And we have an opportunity to do so against Newcastle. They improved their squad with substance, some good signings, and they are more competitive now.”

Newcastle boss Steve McClaren: “In our home games we are starting to get a consistency in our performance and the way we play. We need to start transferring that to our away games and picking up points away from home – we owe it to the fans.”

Prediction

Newcastle have just two wins in their last 18 league matches away from home, and I don’t see that trend changing this weekend. Chelsea have looked a new team with Guus Hiddink in charge, and they stay unbeaten under the Dutchman. Chelsea 2-1 Newcastle United.