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Ligue 1: Pressure increasing on PSG’s Emery after 4th league loss

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Defending champion Paris Saint-Germain slipped to its fourth defeat in the French league, losing at Guingamp 2-1 on Saturday in another setback that cranks up the pressure on coach Unai Emery.

With one game left before the winter break, PSG has already lost twice as many league games as it did last season, when it was unbeaten in the league until Feb. 28, won Ligue 1 by a record 31 points, and scored 102 goals for whopping goal difference of +83.

[ MORE: Saturday’s PL roundup — Chelsea go 9 points clear; Man Utd streaking ]

PSG lost only four games last season in all competitions, winning a second straight domestic treble under former coach Laurent Blanc. The other two defeats were in the Champions League against Real Madrid in the group stage, and Manchester City in the quarterfinal return leg.

“Something’s not right,” PSG midfielder Marco Verratti said. “For us, it’s a crisis.”

With the exception of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who left for Manchester United, PSG has the same side.

“It’s a problem in our minds, with concentration,” Verratti said. “We’re starting games as if we’ve won them. Football is not like that. Last season, we won because we were at 100 percent when we came out onto the pitch. We have to get that back.”

[ MORE: La Liga — Atleti end poor run of results; Sevilla go 2nd (for now) ]

Still, Verratti backed Emery.

“We’re working harder than previous years. It’s not a problem with the coach,” the Italy international said. “It’s our fault, the players.”

PSG’s defensive frailties were exposed again as Guingamp scored twice in quick succession midway through the second half.

After forward Yannis Salibur opened the scoring in the 66th minute, midfielder Nill De Pauw added the second four minutes later.

Last weekend, PSG trailed 2-0 at home to league leader Nice and salvaged a 2-2 draw thanks to two second-half goals from league top scorer Edinson Cavani.

But despite Cavani’s 80th-minute goal – his 17th of the season – against Guingamp, PSG lost for the fourth time away from home this season.

The others were at Monaco, Toulouse, and Montpellier two weeks ago.

“I spoke to the president (Nasser Al-Khelaifi) after the game and he’s behind us,” Emery said. “It’s difficult for everyone.”

PSG has taken only one point from its last three league games and won only one of its past five overall – a midweek League Cup win over Lille – and Emery is struggling to impose his methods after replacing Blanc.

[ MORE: Serie A — Juventus beat 2nd-place Roma, go 7 points clear ]

Blanc was fired in the summer because of PSG’s failure to get past the quarterfinals of the Champions League. Just months before, Blanc was given a new contract and it reportedly cost PSG around 20 million euros ($21 million) to remove him and his coaching staff.

PSG replaced him with Emery, whose reputation was high having just led Sevilla to its third straight Europa League title.

Guingamp’s win must have been particularly satisfying for coach Antoine Kombouare.

He was sacked by PSG at roughly the same stage of the season five years ago, despite his side being three points clear at the top heading into the winter break.

Kombouare explained his strategy for beating PSG.

“The idea was to stop them passing out from the back,” he said. “We closed them down high up, and when we won the ball we pushed forward quickly.”

The win moved Guingamp up to fourth place behind PSG, which trails Monaco by three points and Nice by four.

Landon Donovan unveiled by Club Leon

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Landon Donovan was unveiled to Club Leon fans at Estadio Leon on Monday night.

The former USMNT star and longtime LA Galaxy forward came out of retirement for the second time to sign with the Liga MX side this past weekend. Leon finished 7th in the Apertura table, losing to Tigres in the first round of the playoffs. They currently have a perfect six points through the first two Clausura matches, sitting second in the table with a +3 goal differential.

Fans were allowed into the stadium for free, and they packed the lower stand on one end, waving USA flags and holding large “L” and “D” cutouts, and the fans faced a massive board on the field that read “I DON’T BELIEVE IN WALLS.” Chants of “U-S-A” rang out through the stadium before the unveiling.

ESPN reporter Tom Marshall pointed out that the last time the club had such a large event to welcome a player, it was in January of 2013 when the club brought Mexico captain Rafa Marquez in from the New York Red Bulls.

Donovan will don the number 20 for Club Leon.

Report: Rimando to return to RSL

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USMNT veteran and current MLS free agent Nick Rimando will reportedly return to Real Salt Lake for a 12th season with the club, according to a report by Goal.com’s Ives Galarcep.

The report states he received interest on the free agent market from both Los Angeles clubs, but the 38-year-old will return to the club he has made 350 appearances for.

Rimando came to Real Salt Lake from D.C. United in 2006, and has made at least 24 league appearances in every single season since. He has also made 22 playoff appearances for the club across eight playoff campaigns.

He last received a USMNT cap in January of 2017 in a friendly against Serbia, but was part of the 2018 World Cup qualification squad throughout 2017 backing up Tim Howard. Overall, Rimando has played 22 times for the US national team, with 14 goals conceded and nine clean sheets.

The report also states that Kyle Beckerman will return to Rio Tinto Stadium, with the veteran also testing the free agent waters but deciding to re-sign. The pair will be two of just four players left on the roster from the 2009 MLS Cup winning team.

Report: Aubameyang hands in transfer request at Dortmund

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According to German publication Bild, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has handed a transfer request to the Borussia Dortmund hierarchy.

Arsenal is the latest club linked with the Gabonese striker, with reports earlier this month of a deal to send Aubameyang to China. He has reportedly asked to leave Dortmund multiple times this January, and has been turned down thus far, and it’s causing problems. Aubameyang was suspended by the club for one match for missing a meeting last week, a match that ended in a goalless draw with Wolfsburg.

[ MORE: Man United, Chelsea battle for Alexis Sanchez ]

“We had a very heated discussion,” said Dortmund sporting director Michael Zorc after the suspension was announced. “He hasn’t behaved like this for years, he’s always been very professional. What has happened is very tolerable, there will be some fines, too. It’s not necessary to talk about a transfer, but it’s clear that things can’t continue like this because some important things are in jeopardy, and that there is tension inside the squad.”

The price tag, according to recent reports, would be around $76 million, and he would be purchased with money from the likely outgoing transfer of Alexis Sanchez.

Arsenal transfer guru Sven Mislintat is reportedly driving the deal, having signed Aubameyang at Dortmund during his days as a scout from Westfalinstadion. However, there is buzz among the British media that Arsene Wenger is unimpressed by Aubameyang’s recent insubordination and has expressed his concerns.

Emre Can says new Liverpool contract still a possibility

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Liverpool midfielder Emre Can is out of contract this summer, but says he could still sign back on at Anfield despite heavy rumors of his departure.

Still just 24 years old, the German came over from Bayer Leverkusen in the summer of 2014 and has improved in each of his four years at Liverpool, flourishing under Jurgen Klopp as a strong passer and versatile player who can be used in midfield or defense. With that, he has reportedly turned down a number of new contract offers, and Juventus is reportedly in the lead to sign him to a free transfer.

[ MORE: Arsenal should follow Liverpool’s rebuilding example ]

Can is eligible to sign a pre-contract agreement with anyone from now until the end of the season, but he says that doesn’t mean he will leave.

“My agent is looking after everything but I am here until the summer,” Can said. “I haven’t signed anything with anyone. I am talking with everyone. Of course I am talking with Liverpool. Why not? I still have a contract here. It is an amazing club. What can I say? My agent does the rest. I just concentrate on the scene, on my performance and the football. I will give everything for this team.”

The loss of Philippe Coutinho this winter is an obvious blow to the Reds, but an argument could be made that the loss of Can would hurt just as much if not more, as stout defensive midfielders are hard to come by. However, the arrival of Naby Kieta this summer could ease the blow of the German’s potential departure. Should Can stay, partnering with Keita in midfield could prove masterful as Liverpool looks to continue building towards a title challenge. Currently, Can has paired with Giorgino Wijnaldum in Liverpool’s midfield in recent weeks, and the club is on a five-match win streak that has seen them shoot into third place in the Premier League table.