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Three key battles for U.S. Men’s National Team vs. Mexico

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“We’re going to come out with a win there.”

It may have been a throwaway comment at the end of a postgame interview by the precocious Christian Pulisic after a two-goal game. But it could also have been a sneak peak into the confidence of the U.S. Men’s National Team locker room.

[ MORE: Analyzing key battles

[MORE: USMNT Player Ratings]

Heading into the USMNT’s rematch with Mexico at the Estadio Azteca, the U.S. will have to beat not only the hottest team in CONCACAF but also history. The U.S. has never won a World Cup qualifier at the Azteca and they’ve only recorded two draws, the last one famously in the run up to the 2014 World Cup.

Following the defeats to Mexico and Costa Rica that spelled the end of Jurgen Klinsmann’s tenure as USMNT manager, the U.S. has rebounded to pick up two wins and a draw on the road at Panama, with Clint Dempsey, Christian Pulisic and Michael Bradley all playing big roles.

Another draw or better at Mexico would nearly ensure the U.S. qualifies for the World Cup, barring a catastrophic collapse.

Ahead of Sunday’s crucial qualifier, here’s a look at three key battles to watch:


Michael Bradley vs. Giovani Dos Santos/Carlos Vela/Jesus Corona

In the first matchup against Mexico, Bradley and Jermaine Jones, who isn’t in the current USMNT squad had to go over to the sideline to implore Klinsmann to change systems as Mexico was overrunning the U.S. in midfield through the first 25 minutes.

In that 3-5-2 formation, the U.S. didn’t have enough protection in the middle of the park and Mexico’s attacking midfielders found plenty of time and space to run and interchange. Against Trinidad and Tobago, Bradley played as a lone pivot behind Pulisic, Darlington Nagbe and Fabian Johnson, but it’s likely the formation will change slightly as Mexico could easily outnumber Bradley in that zone of the field.

Michael Bradley, and potentially a player like Nagbe or Pulisic, in addition to setting the tempo for the U.S. attack will have to keep track of Mexico’s attackers as they look to create space ahead of the U.S. backline.

Christian Pulisic vs. Andres Guardado/Hector Herrera

While Guardado was held out of Mexico’s 3-0 romp of Honduras on Thursday, the veteran midfielder is expected to return to the lineup when Mexico hosts the U.S.

His task, along with his central midfield partner, possibly Hector Herrera, will be keeping track of Pulisic, who has floated around midfield, picking up the ball between the lines and running at and past defenders. That will be more difficult in the thin air of Mexico City but there’s no doubt he’ll try it once or twice, especially early on.

The U.S. will go as Pulisic goes, as shown by his three goals in his last two USMNT games.

Jorge Villafaña, DeAndre Yedlin vs. Mexico attacking midfielders

This may not be the battle to watch in the first half, but watch in the second half if Hirving Lozano comes on.

The pacy Pachuca winger injected great pace into the game in the second half as Mexico scored its second and third goals against Honduras. After 60 minutes of running up and down the flanks, will Villafaña and Yedlin have the stamina to keep up against a fresh young attacker?

Premier League TV, streaming schedule

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More midweek action is coming up in the Premier League. Let the festive fun continue.

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The full TV schedule for this weekend is below, plus you can watch every single second of every single game live online via NBC Sports.com,the NBC Sports App and by purchasing the new “Premier League Pass” via NBC Sports Gold.

Gold also includes an extensive selection of shoulder programming such as Premier League News, Premier League Today and NBC Sports originals such as Premier League Download and much more.

[ STREAM: Premier League live here ] 

You can also watch Premier League “Goal Rush” at for all the goals as they go in. Goal Rush is available via NBC Sports.com and the NBC Sports App.

[ MORE: Premier League “Goal Rush” ] 

If you’re looking for full-event replays of Premier League games, you can find them here for the games streamed on NBCSports.com and here for the games on NBC Sports Gold.

Here’s your full TV schedule for the coming days. Enjoy.


FULL TV SCHEDULE

Tuesday
2:45 p.m. ET: Burnley vs. Stoke City – NBC Sports Gold [STREAM]
2:45 p.m. ET: Crystal Palace vs. Watford – NBC Sports Gold [STREAM]
3 p.m. ET: Huddersfield Town vs. Chelsea – NBCSN [STREAM

Wednesday
2:45 p.m. ET: Swansea City vs. Manchester City – NBCSN [STREAM]
2:45.m. ET: Southampton vs. Leicester City – NBC Sports Gold [STREAM]
2:45 p.m. ET: Newcastle United vs. Everton – NBC Sports Gold [STREAM]
3 p.m. ET: West Ham United vs. Arsenal – NBC Sports Gold [STREAM]
3 p.m. ET: Liverpool vs. West Brom – NBC Sports Gold [STREAM]
3 p.m. ET: Manchester United vs. Bournemouth – NBC Sports Gold [STREAM]
3 p.m. ET: Tottenham Hotspur vs. Brighton & Hove Albion – NBC Sports Gold [STREAM]

Premier League notes: Wanyama, Bolasie return after long layoffs, Sakho injured

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Two Premier League clubs saw a pair of players return to the field after long spells on the sidelines.

Tottenham revealed that Victor Wanyama took part in training on Monday for the first time since suffering a knee injury in late August, which has kept him off the field since then. Wanyama started in both of Tottenham’s first two fixtures of the season before the injury.

[ MORE: Premier League stats ]

At the same time in the northwest of England, Yannick Bolasie returned to the field for Everton’s reserves for the first time since suffering a torn ACL last December against Manchester United. Everton manager Sam Allardyce hinted recently that Bolasie could even make the first team subs bench before the end of the calendar year as he continues his rehab.

(more…)

Report: Sporting KC on verge of signing French midfielder Croizet

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Sporting Kansas City could be adding some European flair to its midfield this offseason.

According to multiple reports, the MLS club is in negotiations to sign French midfielder Yohan Croizet, who currently plays for Belgian first division side KV Mechelen. Croizet, who reportedly cost Mechelen a transfer fee worth more than $1 million, has started all 15 games he’s played for his side this season but has been substituted off on seven occasions and Mechelen are currently struggling in the league, sitting in 13th place with 18 points from 18 games.

Croizet hasn’t played since November 17, and appears on his way out.

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Sporting Kansas City coach Peter Vermes, a Hungarian-American, is no stranger to the European market and has brought over plenty of diamonds in the rough from Europe to star with Sporting KC. Some previous examples, though in different positions from Croizet, include current winger Gerso, Krisztián Németh, Uri Rosell, and Aurelien Collin.

It will be interesting to see where Croizet plays in the Sporting KC side should it sign him, and how he works with Benny Feilhaber, who is turning 33-years old in January.

Arsenal lands Ostersunds in Europa League draw

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Arsenal will face a team with an English connection in the UEFA Europa League Round of 32.

The Gunners were paired with Swedish side Ostersunds in the Europa League knockout stage draw Monday, with matches set to be played on February 15 and February 22. Ostersund are managed by Englishman Graham Potter, who played in the Championship and lower in England before starting his managerial career with Ostersunds in 2010 in the fourth tier of Swedish soccer.

[READ: UCL draw+analysis]

Ostersunds surprised many earlier this year winning the Swedish Cup to qualify for the Europa League, and then advanced out of a group that included Hertha Berlin and Athletic Bilbao.

It represents an interesting draw for Arsenal, which will have to balance the squad during a tough February. The weekend prior to the first-leg match is the second leg of the North London derby against Tottenham, and following the second match with Ostersunds is a showdown with Manchester City.

Here’s a look at how the rest of the draw shook out: