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Chapecoense vows to compete, possibly with borrowed players

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CHAPECO, Brazil (AP) Six players, a handful of support staff, and deep sorrow are all that remain of Brazil’s Chapecoense soccer club.

They will still try to play again. Because they know that’s what their 19 teammates who died when a charter plane ripped into an Andean mountainside would want them to do.

“In the memory of those who died and to honor their families, we will rebuild this club from scratch so it is even stronger,” club director and local businessman Cecilio Hans said. “We had material assets and human assets. Now we’ve lost nearly all of our human assets.”

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Other clubs in Brazil’s top league are offering to loan players to Chapecoense, with a proposal that the modest club in deep southern Brazil is guaranteed to stay in the top division for the next three years.

“The club will rebuild, I am sure,” said Walter Feldman, secretary general of the Brazilian Football Confederation. “Eight clubs have already called me to offer concrete, material solidarity. We are studying ways to best help.”

Monday’s crash occurred as the team was on its way to the two-game final of the Copa Sudamericana – the No. 2 tournament on the continent. Only three players survived, and all are recovering at a hospital in Colombia: defender H�lio Zampier, commonly known as Neto, defender-midfielder Alan Ruschel and goalkeeper Jakson Follmann, whose right leg had to be amputated on Tuesday.

Chape, as the team is called locally, reached the top of South American soccer without any superstars – no high-profile players from Brazil’s celebrated national team. It was in Brazil’s fourth division just seven years ago, climbing into the first division by 2014. Now it starts the climb again, and this one is even steeper.

[ MORE: Cause of crash no fuel, electrical failure ]

Goalkeeper Marcelo Boeck said he and several players had deals to leave the club for a new one next year. He said they’re reconsidering.

“We know this is a different moment, and we are part of it,” he said. “We hope we can help rebuild in the memory of our team.”

The rebuilding could start Dec. 11, the date scheduled for the final round of league matches in the top Brazilian league. Games have been called off this weekend for a period of mourning.

Chapecoense’s acting President Ivan Tozzo told reporters on Wednesday the club hopes to play that match against Atletico Mineiro using a primarily junior team.

After that match, there is uncertainty over Chapecoense’s future. If the team is awarded the Copa Sudamericana tittle -like its final opponent Atletico Nacional proposed – it would qualify for next year’s Copa Libertadores, the Champions League of South America which begins in February.

Chapecoense guaranteed its place in the Brazilian first division for next season, and it is also scheduled to defend its Catarina state title in the regional championship starting in January.

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Data analyst Victor Hugo, one of the key assistants to coach Caio Junior, who died in the crash, said very little remains.

“We have a couple of doctors, two physiotherapists, two locker room staffers, one nurse, one masseur, one goalie coach and me,” he said, speaking at Chapecoense’s Arena Conda.

Hugo said the staff members and six players not selected for the big match in Colombia – some because of injury, others because of the coach’s decision – are trying to cope with the tragedy.

“That disappointment over not being chosen to be there was quickly replaced by that horrible mixture of grief, and with some relief just to be alive,” he said. “That will stick with us forever.”

Argentine midfielder Alejandro Martinuccio was injured and didn’t travel. He spent Tuesday answering concerned calls and comforting friends and family of the Chapecoense players.

“I am not religious, so this is even more difficult,” Martinuccio said. “I am so sorry that this beautiful story is going to end like this.”

Veteran goalkeeper Nivaldo was not selected so he could prepare for his 300th game with the club on Sunday against Atletico Mineiro in the last game of the Brazilian league season.

After the accident, the 42-year old goalkeeper said he would retire immediately, but now he wants to play in the last game to honor his fallen teammates.

CHAPECO, BRAZIL - NOVEMBER 30: Goalkeepers #1 Danilo (L) and Nivaldo #12 of Chapecoense celbrate during a match between Chapecoense and Cruzeiro for the Brazilian Series A 2014 at Arena Conda Stadium on November 30, 2014 in Chapeco, Brazil. (Photo by Alan Pedro/Getty Images)
Goalkeepers #1 Danilo (L) and Nivaldo #12 of Chapecoense. (Photo by Alan Pedro/Getty Images)

“My teammates would want us to play that match,” a teary and emotional Nivaldo said. “I just don’t know how I could stand a full stadium with people calling the name of the players that died. We will have to try, I think. But that is going to be hard.”

One of the three surviving players was Jakson Follmann, the second-string goalkeeper behind starter Danilo, who died in the crash. Authorities in Colombia said they had to amputate Follmann’s right leg, and he remains in the hospital.

“I told Follmann I was going to stay here one more year to see him thrive,” Nivaldo said. “He said he was going to carry me on his shoulders after my 300th game. That is not going to happen.”

Associated Press sports writer Mauricio Savarese reported this story in Chapeco, Brazil, and AP sports writer Stephen Wade reported from Rio de Janeiro

Mauricio Savarese on Twitter: http://twitter.com/MSavarese His work can be found at http://bigstory.ap.org/journalist/mauricio-savarese

Stephen Wade on Twitter: http://twitter.com/StephenWadeA His work can be found at http://bigstory.ap.org/content/stephen-wade

PL Preview: Manchester City vs. Newcastle

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  • Newcastle has lost 8 PL away matches in a row
  • Man City last lost at home in PL play to Chelsea in Dec 2016
  • Newcastle has picked up 1 of a possible 30 points vs. PL top half this season

Manchester City has a great chance to rebound from its first loss of the season as they host struggling Newcastle at the Etihad on Saturday, live at 12:30 p.m. ET on NBC or live online at NBCSports.com.

WATCH LIVE, HERE

The Magpies have picked up their terrible mid-season form of late, but still remain just three points above the drop. They are unbeaten in three, with a win and two draws, and have lost just once in their last five.

Through Newcastle’s losing streak, the Magpies struggled to keep the ball out of their own net, with defensive issues all over the place. They suffered through a nine-game winless run where they conceded 19 goals. However, of late, the roles have reversed, and suddenly they can’t score. In their last four games, they have just two goals.

City, meanwhile, have a few injuries to deal with on the defensive side of things, where they cannot afford them. Fabian Delph went down in the last match and could be out for significant time, along with Vincent Kompany who continues to show his age and history of fitness issues.

INJURIES: Manchester City – OUT: Fabian Delph (knee), Benjamin Mendy (knee). QUESTIONABLE: David Silva (illness), Vincent Kompany (fitness). Newcastle – OUT: Jesus Gamez (ankle). QUESTIONABLE: Dwight Gayle (knock).


What they’re saying

Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola on build-up of injuries: “In these situations, it always depends on the mentality of the players, if they can make a step forward. If they can they play in positions that are not natural positions and the other guys help them, everything is going well.”

Newcastle manager Rafa Benitez on not having a full squad: “When you have a short blanket, if you pull it to your face, your feet are cold, if you cover your feet, your top half is cold.”

Prediction

Newcastle has been ok of late, but not nearly enough to keep Manchester City out of the back of the net. This could get ugly, with the Citizens looking to rebound from their season’s first loss. 3-0 Man City with the possibility that it could get much worse if Newcastle gives up.

PL Preview: Burnley vs. Manchester United

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  • Burnley has 1 win vs. Man United in last 23 meetings
  • Manchester United has not conceded a goal in 2018
  • Paul Pogba is joint-top of the league with 9 assists

A critical top of the table battle comes our way from Turf Moor (!!) on Saturday as Manchester United travels to Burnley live on NBCSN or live online at NBCSports.com.

WATCH LIVE, HERE

Since losing at Chelsea back in early November, Manchester United in unbeaten away from home and has won four of the five road matches. Burnley, meanwhile, has lost three matches in a row to start the new year and has not won in Premier League play since December 12th against Stoke City.

The goalscoring form of each team is also in stark contrast. Manchester United has not allowed a goal in any competition in 2018, and last conceded back on Boxing Day in a 2-2 draw with this Burnley side. The Clarets, meanwhile, have just one goal in their last three Premier League games and just three goals in their last six.

INJURIES: Burnley – OUT: Chris Wood (knee), Stephen Ward (knee), Jonathan Walters (knee). QUESTIONABLE: Chris Taylor (ribs). Manchester United – OUT: Daley Blind (undisclosed), Eric Bailly (ankle), Michael Carrick (heart), Zlatan Ibrahimovic (knee). QUESTIONABLE: Marouane Fellaini, Antonio Valencia.

What they’re saying

Burnley manager Sean Dyche on the gap in riches between clubs: “I don’t think any of us are surprised by the gap in the Premier League – I think it’s been there a long time and it’s getting harder year on year since the business model of football has changed.”

Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho on focusing despite transfer rumors: “In this moment, [Henrikh] Mkhitaryan our player, [Alexis] Sanchez an Arsenal player and with a match tomorrow, I want to switch off and focus on the most important thing, which is the match.”

Prediction

Burnley may be coming back down to Earth, but they are still a formidable team with great organization, and Manchester United will be once again held to a draw, this time 1-1.

Alexis Sanchez in Arsenal squad, could play vs Crystal Palace

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Ahead of his nearly imminent move away from the Emirates, Alexis Sanchez could make an appearance for Arsenal against Crystal Palace this weekend as he was with the squad at the team hotel on Friday night, according to reports in England.

According to the reports, Arsene Wenger has not decided if he will play Sanchez against Palace or not, as any potential injury could seriously jeopardize any outgoing transfer in the works. However, naming him to the bench and allowing Sanchez to make one last appearance in front of the home fans would be a nice touch before he leaves, likely for Manchester United.

It probably doesn’t help Wenger’s selection that oft-injured Danny Welbeck will miss the match after picking up a muscle problem in training.

Sanchez did not travel with the team to Bournemouth last weekend as Arsenal lost 2-1 in stunning fashion. Sanchez has missed four Premier League games this season, and Arsenal has lost three of them.

The reports state Sanchez trained with the Arsenal first team on Friday, but only because the youth team he trained with the day before had left for a road trip.

Reports: LA Galaxy trades Gyasi Zardes to Columbus for Ola Kamara

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According to a reports by the LA Times and by ESPN, the LA Galaxy have traded US international Gyasi Zardes along with allocation money to the Columbus Crew for striker Ola Kamara.

Both reports state that Columbus will receive $400,000 in guaranteed allocation money in the deal, plus another $100,000 should Kamara score 12 goals next season to trigger the incentive.

Zardes was once a force along the wing for Bruce Arena and the Galaxy, but the 26-year-old has declined heavily in the last two seasons as injuries and poor form have held him to just eight goals over the last two seasons, including just two last campaign. Meanwhile, Kamara has been a star for Columbus in his first two years in Major League Soccer, scoring 16 goals in 2016 before netting another 18 last season, leaving him third in the league in goals scored over those two seasons.

The LA Times report states that Kamara will earn a new contract after the trade, giving him a raise over his current $482,500 yearly salary.

Zardes is an interesting case who shouldn’t be given up on just yet. A homegrown player for the Galaxy, he scored 17 goals in the 2014 season, including on in the MLS Cup Finals as the Galaxy won it all. He earned a seemingly permanent place on the USMNT as a result, and has 37 caps to this date. However, his goalscoring form has since evaporated, leaving him with no more than six goals in an MLS season since, and has just six goals in those 37 caps for the national team.

The Galaxy will need to acquire an additional international roster spot in order to activate Kamara for the season opener on March 4th against Portland, as they have filled up their seven spots as of now.