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.

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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.

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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.

Rio prosecutors launch probe into soccer final violence

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RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) Prosecutors in Rio de Janeiro launched an investigation Thursday into the fan violence surrounding the Copa Sudamericana final between local club Flamengo and Argentine team Independiente.

[ SOURCE: LAFC close to signing third DP, Geraldes of Sporting CP ]

Clashes broke out on the night before Wednesday’s match at Maracana Stadium, and continued throughout the day. There was vandalism inside the stadium during the match and violence afterward, with more than 50 Flamengo supporters being detained over the two days.

The Rio prosecutor’s office said in a statement it would be questioning officials at Brazil’s football confederation, South American soccer’s ruling body, CONMEBOL, and local police about the incidents.

The statement added that “a profound investigation of the facts is needed so we can identify and punish the criminals that disguised as fans to spread chaos, fear and disorder in society.”

Major Silvio Luiz, head of policing for the final, criticized Flamengo’s handling of ticket sales.

Flamengo drew the second-leg match 1-1, and lost the final 3-2 on aggregate. The Copa is the second most prestigious club competition in South American soccer.

Ligue 1 set to use VAR starting in 2018/19 season

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With video replay technology becoming more and more prevalent in soccer across the globe, another major European league has revealed it too will join those ranks.

[ SOURCE: LAFC set to sign third DP with Sporting CP’s Geraldes ]

Ligue 1 has announced that the French top flight will begin to utilize video replay and have a video assistant referee (VAR) starting in the 2018/19 season.

Major League Soccer and the German Bundesliga are just two of the major global leagues to implement the system thus far. In MLS, the technology can be used in four instances; when goals are scored, during penalty situations, when a straight red card is given and during cases of mistaken identity.

French outlet L’Equipe wrote on Thursday that Ligue 1 would also follow a similar structure in what decisions VAR officials will be reviewable.

Spain has also announced that it will introduce VAR in 2018, ahead of the next La Liga season.

Top Premier League storylines — Week 17

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The title is looking more and more like it’s heading to Manchester, so will Tottenham be able to slow the Premier League leaders on Saturday?

[ MORE: Prince-Wright’s Premier League picks ]

 

Here are the four biggest storylines ahead of this weekend’s action.

Can anyone stop the Cityzens?

Manchester City vs. Tottenham Hotspur — 12:30 p.m. ET Saturday on NBC (Watch online at NBCSports.com)

Nobody has found a way to halt Pep Guardiola‘s side yet this season in PL play, so why would that change this weekend? City remain unbeaten through 17 matches, and while Spurs enter the weekend unbeaten in its last four, Mauricio Pochettino and Co. have their work cut out. The City attack, which has scored 52 goals this season, has shown no signs slowing down during the first four-and-a-half months of play, giving Tottenham a big test defensively. Harry Kane and his 12 goals will surely have a say in the get together, but Spurs has been lacking thus far in another go-to finisher.

Will the Toffees keep rolling under Big Sam?

Everton vs. Swansea City — 3 p.m. ET Monday on NBCSN (Watch online at NBCSports.com)

It’s been quite the turnaround recently at Goodison Park, and Everton has the chance to extend its unbeaten streak to six games on Monday. Sam Allardyce has brought life to the Toffees as of late, with Everton scoring 11 goals over the last five matches.

Foxes aim to climb higher, while Palace shoots for safety

Leicester City vs. Crystal Palace — 7:30 a.m. ET Saturday on NBCSN (Watch online at NBCSports.com)

The Foxes have found their footing this season, and dare I say there are some glimpses of the team that won the title two years ago? Since Leicester’s 2-0 defeat to Man City, the Foxes have looked the part of a top-tier PL side, winning four of five matches, including victories over Tottenham and Burnley. Meanwhile, Palace has made the relegation battle a very intriguing one, as Roy Hodgson and Co. sit just a point inside the bottom three. Amazingly, Palace is unbeaten in seven of its last eight matches, but the club remains in 18th place.

Clarets aim for third consecutive victory

Brighton vs. Burnley — 10 a.m. ET Saturday on NBC Sports Gold (Watch online at NBCSports.com)

The Clarets don’t boast a bonafide goalscorer, but Burnley looks like a well-oiled machine as Sean Dyche‘s side sits on the edge of the top four. Although the side likely won’t be pulling off a Leicester-sided feat in 2017/18, what the Clarets are accomplishing is quite amazing given the squad currently in place. Brighton has gone through its share of struggles recently, going winless in its last six matches, and scoring just three goals in that span. They’ll likely have a hard time breaking past Burnley’s tough backline.

NYCFC busy on Thursday with Abdul-Salaam, Stuver additions

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New York City FC is moving on from the club’s first-ever MLS SuperDraft selection, but they’ll be acquiring a solid defensive piece as the team continues to rebuild at the back.

[ SOURCE: LAFC finalizing deal to make Sporting CP’s Geraldes third DP ]

On Thursday, NYCFC announced a trade sending former 2015 first-round pick Khiry Shelton to Sporting KC in exchange for defender Saad Abdul-Salaam.

Shelton, who spent three seasons with NYCFC, struggled to find playing time under manager Patrick Vieira, particularly once the organization drafted England youth international Jack Harrison in 2016.

Vieira and Co. will be getting back a player also selected in the 2015 SuperDraft in Abdul-Salaam.

With the departures of Ethan White, RJ Allen and Andraz Struna this offseason, the move certainly makes sense for NYCFC, who were severely lacking at the right back position heading into this week.

NYCFC signed Malmo defender Anton Tinnerholm on Wednesday to help improve the backline.

The Eastern Conference side also added goalkeeper Brad Stuver from the Columbus Crew on Thursday, with the 26-year-old presumably serving as the backup to Sean Johnson in 2018.