Jose Mourinho predicts “trouble” ahead for Man United

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Despite Manchester United being on a 16-game unbeaten run in the Premier League, Jose Mourinho is not a happy man.

[ MORE: Costa to sign new deal? ]

With severe fixture pile-up on the way, United’s manager is concerned about the “many, many problems” his side will face in the coming weeks as they play in the UEFA Europa League, FA Cup, EFL Cup final and the Premier League.

As the battle to finish in the PL’s top four intensifies, Mourinho is right to be worried.

Speaking at a press conference ahead of United’s Europa League Round of 32 first leg clash against St. Etienne on Thusday at old Trafford, Mourinho isn’t looking forward to playing four cup games in the next 10 days and said the congested fixture list will cause his team “many, many problems” between now and the end of the season.

“If we progress in the competitions, we will be in trouble,” Mourinho said. “We know our situation is really complicated. The Europa League is a competition where we play on Thursdays and that makes it even more difficult for us. With the accumulation of FA Cup, League Cup and match postponed it is really hard for us. If you progress in the competitions, we will be in trouble in April and May. But we cannot choose competitions so we play to win.”

Mourinho went on to state that “The Europa League is a not a competition we want to play” but he remains upbeat that his team will try and win everything they can.

United face St. Etienne on Thursday, Blackburn Rovers in the FA Cup on Sunday, then St. Etienne away next Thursday before the EFL Cup final against Southampton at Wembley Stadium next Sunday. If they make it through in the Europa League and FA Cup, they will then have a further four games in 12 days from Mar. 4 onwards.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights

He has a point about the massive number of games, with United already playing 38 games this season. But with his large squad and more games meaning more success in the cup competitions, should Mourinho really be complaining?

Of course every manager wants more time to spend on the training ground bedding in his methods and getting his philosophy across to the players. That is especially the case with Mourinho being a manager in his first season at a new club and a top four finish in the Premier League is seen as the minimum requirement.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule

But, if he wins the EFL Cup next weekend, gets to the quarters of the FA Cup and makes it into another round of the Europa League won’t everyone be happy? Probably not. Getting back into the UCL is what everyone craves at Old Trafford and that’s why Mourinho was brought in and given the money to sign Paul Pogba and Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

With four of the current top six in the PL to play in their final 13 games of the league season, Mourinho knows his side could well be jaded by the final month of the season.

As the battle to finish in the top four cranks up a few notches with just four points separating second-place Manchester City and sixth-place Manchester United, having all of these games is a massive headache for Mourinho.

UEFA: Wales in trouble; Spain dominates; Buffon hits 1000

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Friday’s matches mark the midway point of the main round of qualifying in UEFA, and the tables remain tight near the top of Groups D and G.

[ MORE: Smalling hurt, Gibson called up ]

Group I, however, is seeing some distance between first and second thanks to Croatia’s result versus Ukraine.

Republic of Ireland 0-0 Wales

Neil Taylor was sent off in the 69th minute for Wales, whose World Cup hopes are in trouble.

Seamus Coleman was stretchered off after the tackle, with a scary-looking injury that will leave Everton fans sick in more ways than one. Coleman’s leg was broken, and left dangling by the challenge.

Ireland couldn’t take advantage of the sending off, and failed in a bid to overtake Serbia for first in Group D. The Irish trail on goal differential, and will host Serbia on Sept. 5.

But Wales will rue the result more, remaining four points back of second-place Ireland. Chris Coleman’s side drops a point behind Austria as well, and will not have Taylor or Gareth Bale (card accumulation) in its next match. That comes against leaders Serbia.

Italy 2-0 Albania

Daniele De Rossi scored a 12th minute penalty kick won by Andrea Belotti, and Ciro Immobile scored late to provided the goals in Gianluigi Buffon’s 1000th appearance for club and country. Fittingly, it ended in a clean sheet. The match was briefly delayed after flares were thrown onto the field.

Spain 4-1 Israel

David Silva, Vitolo, and Diego Costa stakes the Spaniards to a three-goal lead, with Lior Refaelov ruining David De Gea‘s clean sheet with 11 minutes to play. Isco scored the match’s final goal.

Spain remains atop Group G on goal differential, eight better than second place Italy. Israel is four points behind both.

Croatia 1-0 Ukraine

Fiorentina’s Nikola Kalinic’s 38th minute goal was enough for the hosts, and Croatia is now five points clear at the top midway through qualifying.

Elsewhere
Austria 2-0 Moldova — RB Leipzig’s Sabitzer nabs winner
Liechtenstein 0-3 Macedonia — Ilija Nestorovski bags brace
Kosovo 1-2 Iceland — Sigurdsson PK the match winner
Georgia 1-3 Serbia — Mitrovic, Tadic lead the way
Turkey 2-0 Finland — Brace for Cenk Tosun

Boro’s Gibson called to England after injury to Man Utd’s Smalling

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Scoring goals has been the biggest problem for Middlesbrough in its return to the Premier League, and that overshadows how well the Northeast club has defended its own goal.

Ben Gibson has been a huge part of that, and now he’ll earn the chance to represent his nation thanks to an injury to Chris Smalling. Gibson will join England ahead of Sunday’s home World Cup qualifier against Lithuania.

[ MORE: Podolski leads Germany past England ]

Gibson has far and away been Boro’s best player, leading the side in blocked shots and clearances. The blocked shots total is tied for ninth in the Premier League, 11 behind current leader and new England teammate Michael Keane.

Smalling’s undisclosed injury is a bigger problem for Manchester United, which had already lost center back depth on England duty when Phil Jones was hurt.

Dele Alli to miss next three European matches, UCL or UEL

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Tottenham Hotspur is primed to qualify for a second-straight UEFA Champions League campaign this year, and will have to start that sophomore run without Dele Alli.

The 20-year-old playmaker has banned for his next three matches. If Spurs finish fourth, that would mean both qualifying matches and an additional match.

[ MORE: Five questions for USMNT ]

If they finish higher, Dele will miss the first three group stage matches.

Dele was shown red for a tackle on Brecht Dejaegere in Spurs’ 2-2 draw with Gent in the UEFA Europa League Round of 32, as Tottenham left the tournament.

Men in Blazers podcast: Man City-Liverpool review, USMNT preview

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Rog and Davo recap the Top Four battle between Manchester City and Liverpool, ask (again) whether it’s time for Arsene to go, and break down two of the most important USMNT games in modern history.

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