Men in Blazers join NBC Sports Group’s coverage of the Premier League

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GFOPs, rejoice! Men in Blazers are joining NBC Sports Group’s coverage of the Premier League and will offer a full multi-media, cross-platform showcase for their unique talents. The deal makes Men in Blazers exclusive to NBC Universal for all soccer-related content.

News of the comedic duo, made up of television producer Michael Davies and writer/producer Roger Bennett, joining the network broke last night in the Wall Street Journal article written by Will Connors. That article noted the centerpiece of the deal being a 30 minute show to air every Monday of Premier League competition and today, additional details of the group’s input have emerged.

| BPLonNBC TV schedule | Premier League previews | Watch PL live online via Live Extra |

The agreement includes one studio appearance per month by Bennett where he will serve as a special contributor, a single one-hour special show (to be aired during a high point of the Premier League season), various features including four to six pieces from the United Kingdom, as well as video-on-demand previews to be distributed via Pro Soccer Talk, Soccerly and Yahoo. Bennett will also contribute long form pieces to NBCSports.com, where a Men in Blazers section will exist that houses their weekly podcast, headlines and thumbnails for all content.

[VISIT: Men In Blazers website | Get their podcast ]

Over the past three years Davies and Bennett have reached cult status with their weekly podcast on Grantland. “The pod,” as it’s commonly known, is a witty, pop culture-infused show that focuses on the Premier League but also pays homage to the U.S. Men’s National Team (referred to by the duo as “The Von Trapps”), Major League Soccer and other major stories in international football. Recurring topics of discussion include Davies’ love for Chelsea, Bennett’s love for Everton, the growth of soccer in the United States, World War I poetry as well as a smattering array of television series like Game of Thrones and Downton Abbey, all of which contribute to the fast-growing lexicon in which Men in Blazers converse.

Followers of the duo are known as ‘Great Friend of the Pod’, or, more commonly, “GFOPs”, an acronym that is frequently hashtagged in Tweets to Men in Blazers and noted in conversation by guests and fans. In recent years the two have taken their podcast to the airwaves where twice a week their show could be heard on Sirius XM FC. Always a favorite among soccer-heads in the US, the group transcended the sport with their coverage of the 2014 World Cup for ESPN where a number of casual watchers were drawn in by their intellect and repartee.

Davies, also known as “Davo” and “Positive”, is a British television producer who produced Who Wants to Be a Millionaire and broke through in the soccer scene when he authored a hugely-entertaining ESPN World Cup diary in 2002. Bennett, also known as “Rog” and, affectionately, “Toilet”, is a journalist, author and filmmaker who recently directed the highly-acclaimed ESPN documentary, Inside: US Soccer’s March to Brazil. 

In their tagline, Men in Blazers state that they are “driven by the belief that Soccer is America’s Sport of the Future. As it has been since 1972.” The irony of the statement is that, of all factors contributing to the rise of soccer in the US, one of the most profound influences is Men in Blazers themselves. They are conversationally relevant, they are social, and they understand the dynamics of the media landscape as well as any talent. The perfect addition to NBC’s extensive coverage of the Barclays Premier League.

Heath, Smith sidelined with injuries for USWNT

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CHICAGO (AP) Forward Tobin Heath and defender Taylor Smith are sidelined with injuries that will keep them out of the U.S. women’s national team training camp in Louisiana ahead of two upcoming matches against South Korea.

Heath is nursing an ankle injury and Smith her shoulder. Both women were hurt in the NWSL championship match last Saturday, the U.S. Soccer Federation said Monday.

The Americans play Thursday at New Orleans and Sunday in Cary, North Carolina.

Neither player will be replaced on the roster and coach Jill Ellis will have 18 players dressed for each game.

Report: Sam Allardyce, Laurent Blanc want to be next USMNT boss

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Yep, this is true.

Sam Allardyce has thrown his hat into the ring with the U.S. national team searching for a new manager, and so has former Paris Saint-Germain and France boss Laurent Blanc.

[ MORE: Latest USMNT news ]

According to ESPN, sources close to Allardyce say he is up for the USMNT challenge which would “enable him to impose a long-term strategy and secure a legacy in a nation regarded as a growing force.”

A report from France Football states that Blanc is also interested in replacing Bruce Arena, who resigned last week following the USA’s shock defeat at Trinidad and Tobago which saw them miss the 2018 World Cup in Russia.

Hmmm. After Jurgen Klinsmann’s time in charge of the USMNT, are the days of big name foreign managers over?

These are two relatively high-profile names with experience of managing national teams (in Allardyce’s case one game with England before The Telegraph sting scandal) but neither have experience of Major League Soccer or the unique challenges of CONCACAF.

Allardyce often talks fondly about his year spent with the Tampa Bay Rowdies in the NASL during his playing days and has used many techniques he picked up from the U.S. sporting realm in his lengthy coaching career which has spanned Premier League clubs Bolton, Newcastle, Blackburn, West Ham United, Sunderland and Crystal Palace.

Yet the scandal which cut his ill-fated time in charge of England short will likely raise eyebrows if he is to be considered for the U.S. job and his direct style of play is not to the taste of many purists out there.

When it comes to Blanc, his ultra-defensive style of play may turn off those in charge of U.S. Soccer too but there’s no doubting his record with a title win at Bordeaux in 2009 before he took France to the last eight of EURO 2012, and then led PSG to three-straight French titles from 2012-13, is impressive.

The fact that these two managers have reportedly thrown their hats into the ring suggests just how highly the job is regarded worldwide, even if U.S. Soccer fans believe the program is currently at an all-time low after the embarrassment of failing to qualify for the 2018 World Cup.

In his conference call with reporters last week U.S. Soccer Federation (USSF) president Sunil Gulati refused to rule out anybody for the USMNT job, stating that no specific profile (American, non-American coaches etc.) is preferred in their search for a new manager.

Many U.S. fans are hoping for a domestic manager to take charge with Peter Vermes, Ben Olsen and Jesse Marsch all mentioned with their vast knowledge of the U.S. national team and MLS setup.

Let’s wait and see what happens but after the Klinsmann era, one would suggest that USSF would be slightly hesitant to go overseas in their search for a new U.S. national team manager.

Champions League score predictions – Week 3

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We are entering the meaty part of the UEFA Champions League group stage with double headers coming up in the next two matchdays.

[ LIVE: Champions League scores ]

The five Premier League teams in the UCL are so far unbeaten with Manchester United, Manchester City, Chelsea and Tottenham all winning both of their opening two group games. Liverpool has two draw so far but Jurgen Klopp‘s men are still looking likely to make the knockout stage.

Below is a look at the 16 matches across the UCL on Tuesday and Wednesday as we make our score predictions for each game.

[ MORE: Champions League standings

Don’t be afraid to let us know your score picks in the comments section below.


Tuesday’s UCL games

Group E
Spartak Moscow 1-2 Sevilla
Maribor 1-3 Liverpool

Group F
Man City 2-0 Napoli
Feyenoord 1-3 Shakthar Donetsk

Group G
RB Leipzig 2-0 FC Porto
Monaco 2-1 Besiktas

Group H
APOEL 1-3 Borussia Dortmund
Real Madrid 2-1 Tottenham Hotspur

Wednesday’s UCL games

Group A
Benfica 1-2 Manchester United
CSKA Moscow 1-2 Basel

Group B
Anderlecht 1-4 Paris Saint-Germain
Bayern Munich 2-2 Celtic

Group C
Chelsea 1-1 Roma
Qarabag 1-3 Atletico Madrid

Group D
Barcelona 3-1 Olympiacos
Juventus 2-1 Sporting Lisbon

Report: Leicester City fire manager Craig Shakespeare

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Leicester City have pulled the trigger much early than many expected.

Official confirmation has yet to come from the club but multiple reports state that Craig Shakespeare, who only took charge permanently of the Foxes over the summer, has been fired after eight games of the 2017-18 Premier League season.

Claudio Ranieri‘s former assistant coach has reportedly been fired by the ruthless Leicester owners with the Foxes for winning just one of their opening eight Premier League games of the season.

That form sees the Foxes sat third from bottom and only on six points. The last three times Leicester have gained six points or less in their opening eight games of a PL season they have been relegated.

Stats like that would have surely alarmed their Thai owners.

The last time Leicester went six PL games without a win Ranieri was fired but this is still a shock considering  Shakespeare, 53, had been in charge for only four months.

Shakespeare was in interim charge at the end of last season after Ranieri was fired in February and led Leicester to seven wins from their final 13 games which saved the then reigning champs from relegation.

However, he never seemed like the long-term man to lead the shock 2015-16 PL champions back to the upper echelons of the Premier League and he is now on his way out of the King Power Stadium.