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Deschamps warns France to up its game against English

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PARIS (AP) France coach Didier Deschamps warned his players they are fighting for their places in the friendly against England on Tuesday.

The match follows France’s 2-1 loss at Sweden on Friday in a World Cup qualifier. The loss, gifted to Sweden in the last seconds, dropped France to second place in Europe Group A and allowed the Netherlands – the next opponent in qualifying – to close within three points.

Deschamps guided France to the European Championship final last year with a settled side, but results since then have been inconsistent, and he thinks some players must raise their game.

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“No one has any guarantees,” Deschamps said at a news conference on Monday. “It can happen that you’re not in good form for one or two games. But there are quality alternatives available.”

Although Olivier Giroud maintained his fine form with another goal against Sweden, the rest of the forward line – Dimitri Payet, Antoine Griezmann and Moussa Sissoko – was poor.

Deschamps may be tempted to try something new against England, a game he says has more importance given the result in Sweden.

“I won’t say that I’m not taking that game into consideration. It was a cruel defeat and it’s important to finish the season on a high note,” he said. “Whoever starts needs to play as well as they can. Will it change things for August (against the Netherlands)? I’ll think about and analyze it afterward. A team can always be modified.”

Deschamps wants a marked improvement in defense against an England team led by striker Harry Kane, who is brimming with confidence after 29 Premier League goals. Kane grabbed a last-gasp equalizer in a 2-2 draw at Scotland in a qualifier on Saturday.

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“The highest level isn’t just about attacking well it’s about defending as well,” Deschamps said. “We will face an England team with a lot of attacking potential.”

Poor marking allowed Sweden to equalize, and goalkeeper Hugo Lloris – normally reliable – handed the Swedes victory by rushing out of his area and haphazardly passing to a Sweden player who then lobbed him.

Deschamps said the best thing for Lloris is to face England, to prevent him dwelling on his blunder.

“Hugo will be captain. Obviously I’ve discussed things with him,” Deschamps said. “If he’d seen things differently, I might have changed my decision. But we both thought it was the best thing for him to do, it was clear.”

Teammates have rallied around Lloris.

“When you’re playing in his position, you always pay dearly for a mistake,” center half Raphael Varane said. “The team has total confidence in him. We know that he will save us again in the future.”

England manager Gareth Southgate will rest his No. 1 Joe Hart, giving backups Tom Heaton and Jack Butland a chance to impress.

Heaton will start and Butland will play the second half, Southgate said on Monday.

Heaton helped Burnley to stay in the Premier League.

Butland recently returned from injury to play in Stoke’s last five Premier League games, keeping three clean sheets.

“We’ve got to maintain the squad environment (where) people feel involved,” Southgate said. “In the past, one or two goalkeepers have sort of given up international football because they’ve not had that chance.”

Watch Live: Swansea host Manchester United

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Swansea City welcome Manchester United to the Liberty Stadium on Saturday (Watch live, 7:30 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com) with Jose Mourinho’s side aiming to stay top of the Premier League table.

[ STREAM: Swansea v. Man United ]

Yes, it’s early days, but the Red Devils were imperious in their thumping 4-0 win against West Ham United to open their season. Romelu Lukaku and Nemanja Matic dominated and Mourinho’s men are now a powerful, well-oiled machine.

As for Swansea, they struggled at Southampton but came away with a draw, however the main storyline surrounding the South Wales side this week has been losing Gylfi Sigurdsson to Everton for over $60 million. Paul Clement will have to act fast to spend that cash wisely, but there is no doubt the Swans will miss their Icelandic playmaker.

In team news Swansea bring in Kyle Bartley and Roque Mesa as they line up in a 3-5-2 formation with Jordan Ayew and Tammy Abraham up top.

Man United are, unsurprisingly, unchanged.

LINEUPS

Swansea City: Fabianski; Fernandez, Bartley, Mawson; Naughton, Mesa, Fer, Carroll, Olsson; Ayew, Abraham. Subs: Nordfeldt, Rangel, van der Hoorn, Fulton, Narsingh, Routledge, McBurnie.

Manchester United: De Gea; Valencia, Bailly, Jones, Blind; Matic, Pogba; Mkhitaryan, Mata, Rashford; Lukaku. Subs: Romero, Lindelof, Smalling, Fellaini, Herrera, Lingard, Martial

Arsenal sends Gabriel Paulista to Valencia

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Arsenal has a thin defense, but that hasn’t stopped Arsene Wenger from thinning the squad even further.

Gabriel Paulista is headed back to the Spanish top flight after the completion of his transfer to Valencia. The Brazilian was sold for a reported $12.8 million, just below the $14 million price tag Arsenal coughed up to Villareal back in January, 2015. He will partner with Manchester City loanee Eliaquim Mangala at Valencia.

The 26-year-old made 64 appearances for the Gunners across all competitions, including 46 in the Premier League. His only goal for the club was Arsenal’s first of a 2-0 win over Bournemouth in December, 2015. His high-water mark with the club was a 120-minute performance against Manchester City in the FA Cup semifinals where Arsenal came back to win 2-1 on an Alexis Sanchez goal in extra time.

“We would like to thank Gabriel for his contribution to the club and to wish him well for his return to La Liga with Valencia,” Arsenal said in its confirmation of the deal.

Paulista was utilized more than expected last season thanks to an injury crisis at the back, and still the Arsenal squad doesn’t seem fat enough to offload defenders, but Gabriel’s over-aggressive nature and tackling inaccuracy led him to an early exit.

With Arsene Wenger now deploying a back-three, the only natural central defenders currently on the roster are Laurent Koscielny, Per Mertesacker, Shkodran Mustafi, and Rob Holding. Koscielny is suspended from a red card at the end of last season, and Mertesacker is battling a head injury. Sead Kolasinac, Nacho Monreal, and Calum Chambers have played CB for the Gunners in the recent past, but it is not their natural position.

Fabian Johnson misses Gladbach training with injury

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With John Brooks already out long-term due to a thigh injury, the United States may have another key injury to work around.

According to Borussia Monchengladbach manager Dieter Hecking, full-back/winger Fabian Johnson missed training on Friday due to an unspecified injury, and is now a question mark for Gladbach’s home match on Sunday against FC Koln. It could be nothing, but even the scare is cause for concern among U.S. fans.

Johnson has battled a few injuries the past couple of seasons, including a hamstring problem last spring that kept him out for nearly two months, including a pair of World Cup qualifiers in March.

Johnson’s absence would leave a hole at right-back for the United States. The 29-year-old has been deployed some at right wing for the USMNT, but he has been relatively poor at that position in the national setup, looking better when pushed further back where he is given more defensive duties, roaming forward with less frequency but more intent.

In place of Johnson, another converted winger in Graham Zusi has been seeing more time at right-back, but he offers less in the attack and lacks Johnson’s recovery speed, meaning mistakes by the Sporting KC veteran are punished more often.

Falcao scores again to extend red hot start

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Monaco is hoping to ride out the final two weeks of the transfer window with 18-year-old wonderkid Kylian Mbappe still in tow.

While they wait, they aren’t missing a beat.

With Mbappe out of the squad, Radamel Falcao has begun the 2017/18 Ligue 1 season as Europe’s hottest goalscorer. He bagged a hat-trick last weekend with Mbappe on the bench to give him four goals in the first two league matches. Then, with Mbappe out of the squad entirely, Falcao netted the winner in a 1-0 road win over FC Metz.

Falcao has scored five goals so far this year, and his club has a +5 goal differential. In a way, Falcao has already been worth six points thus far.

Thanks in part to Ligue 1’s early start, Falcao’s five league goals are by far more than anyone else in the major European leagues. Four players have scored a pair of Premier League goals, nobody in La Liga or the Bundesliga have scored more than one, and the Serie A season has yet to start.

The Colombian did the same thing last season. After eventually coming off the shelf from to hamstring and concussion problems to start the season, Falcao scored 10 goals in 10 Ligue 1 matches leading up to the new calendar year.

At 31 years old, Falcao isn’t a long-term solution and the club will clearly look to retain Mbappe despite Falcao’s hot start, but should they lose the young Frenchman, the club will be in good hands while they search for a replacement over the next year.