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MLS Snapshot: Chicago Fire 1-0 FC Dallas

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[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M_qQXXQEZFs]

One game, 100 words (or less): FC Dallas’s unbeaten run is over. 7-0-3 in their last 10 before arriving in Chicago, the Toros see three months of unbeaten soccer come to an end, with a late goal from Robert Earnshaw delivering the Fire an upset result.

Dallas had chances to take a lead through Ryan Hollingshead and Fabián Castillo, with Óscar Pareja’s again proving lively on the counter attack. In the 83rd minute, that approach came back to haunt them, with center back Jeff Larentowicz allowed to find Earnshaw in the middle of the area. The forward’s header inside the right post sent Chicago to its fifth win of the season.

Goals:

Chicago: Robert Earnshaw 83′
FC Dallas: None.

Three moments that mattered:

40′ – Castillo, left! – It was the type of chance Fabián Castillo’s lived off of since returning from suspension: A quick move in transition that leaves him one-on-one with an opponent. This particular opponent, midfielder-cum-stopped Jeff Larentowicz, produced something we’ve rarely seen of late. Staying on Castillo’s right foot, Larentowicz kept the Dallas attacker from cutting back inside, forcing him into a left-footed shot that was easily blocked by Sean Johnson.

52′ – Hollingshead high – Dallas’s best first half chance came through Ryan Hollingshead, who failed to give Johnson a true test when put through to the left of goal. In the second half, Jari Benítez found the midfielder near the spot, but the 23-year-old put his one-timer off the top half of the cross-bar. Dallas’s chances were just falling to the wrong boots.

83′ – Earnshaw, again – Robert Earnshaw is a limited player, but within those limitations is the ability to finish chances, something that provided instant office when he arrived in Toronto last season. Having just signed with Chicago, the former Cardiff City man has done the same for the Fire, scoring his second goal in as many games with a late header from the middle of the box. Converting a cross from Larentowicz, the English import gave Chicago its fifth win of the season.

Lineups

Chicago: Sean Johnson; Lovel Palmer, Jeff Larentowicz, Bakary Soumaré, Gonzalo Segares; Grant Ward (Harry Shipp 63′), Matt Watson, Razvan Cocis, Alex; Sanna Nyassi (Robert Earnshaw 63′), Quincy Amarikwa

FC Dallas: Raúl Fernández; Je-Vaughn Watson, Zach Loyd, Matt Hedges, Jair Benitez (Moises Hernández 84′); Kelyn Acosta, Victor Ulloa; Ryan Hollingshead (Peter Luccin 66′), Fabián Castillo, Andrés Escobar (David Texeira 76′); Tesho Akindele

Three lessons going forward

1. It’s hard being favorites – At least, it’s hard being favorites when you’re not used to the role. Throughout the summer, FC Dallas has flown under the radar, a virtue the team lost when they beat Real Salt Lake last Friday. Thrust to the edge of first in the West, Dallas had earned expectations. On Saturday, the team failed to deliver.

2. Missing that bit of quality – Blas Pérez was suspended. Mauro Díaz is still out. At Toyota Park, those absences showed. Though Dallas was able to create enough chances on the counter, the team lacked other options, and as chances for Hollingshead went begging, the absence of Dallas’s stars came back to hurt.

3. It could have been worse – Chicago didn’t play particularly well, but with two late Earnshaw chances, the Fire had a chance to put up a more convincing result. Then again, for a team that came into the day with four wins in 24, winning is enough. Be it by one goal or two, all that matters for Chicago is getting some improved results. Against a good Dallas team, the Fire did just that.

Where this leaves them

  • This is where all those draws help. Chicago, seemingly wayward all summer, is only four points out of a playoff spot.
  • Dallas, on the other hand, stays third in the West, having lost ground to first place Seattle. FCD is now six points back of the Sounders.

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.

Pochettino enjoying best spell of career ahead of massive clash at Man City

LONDON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 23:  Mauricio Pochettino (R) Manager of Tottenham Hotspur is seen on arrival at the stadium prior to the Barclays Premier League match between Crystal Palace and Tottenham Hotspur at Selhurst Park on January 23, 2016 in London, England.  (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)
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Mauricio Pochettino is getting ready for one of his biggest matches in charge at Tottenham, but he’s not letting the pressure get to him.

The Spurs’ boss talked down the importance of Sunday’s match against Manchester City (Watch live, 11:15 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via Live Extra), and went on to say he is currently having the most enjoyable time of his career.

[ WATCH: Full PL match replays ]

Pochettino has Tottenham sitting second on the table, and they travel to the Etihad this weekend for a clash against fourth-placed Manchester City, who sit one point behind Spurs.

When asked if this weekend’s match could be a decisive result in the title race, Pochettino was unwilling to admit it was anything more than three points in a long campaign. However, when asked about the season as a whole, the Argentinian manager said he was having great fun at White Hart Lane, responding “Is it my most enjoyable time of career? Yes, maybe yes if I’m honest.”

[ MORE: Who are the Premier League title favorites? ]

Pochettino’s work at Tottenham has made him one of the most well-respected managers in the Premier League, with some reports tabbing him as the potential future boss of Manchester United.

Spurs have won six on the spin in all competitions, and will be confident facing a City side they smashed 4-1 earlier this season. With leaders Leicester facing Arsenal on Sunday, Tottenham could see themselves just two points off the pace if results go their way.