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FIFA aims to avoid errors with video review, not perfection

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ST. PETERSBURG, Russia (AP) Not perfect, but good enough to avoid game-changing referee mistakes at the World Cup.

Football’s governing body set out its aims for an experimental video review system ahead of live trials at the Confederations Cup starting on Saturday.

“To eliminate a clear scandal in football, the mistake that after many years you still remember,” FIFA’s head of refereeing Massimo Busacca said Thursday of technology designed to help referees avoid and correct errors within seconds.

FIFA wants video review approved next year before the World Cup to help decide key incidents: goals scored, penalty awards, red cards and cases of mistaken identity.

Still, video-assisted decisions this month at the Under-20 World Cup in South Korea and international friendly matches have been widely debated.

“I think the quality of the decisions are very high, never perfect,” FIFA technical director Marco van Basten said at a briefing in the St. Petersburg stadium that will host the Confederations Cup’s opening game and final.

FIFA will also use the eight-nation World Cup rehearsal tournament to stress themes it wants to be more widely accepted in one year’s time, including more actual playing time.

Referees must add more stoppage time for excessive goal celebrations and time-wasting by goalkeepers, because “the audience wants to see action,” Van Basten said.

Video review, however, is likely to define refereeing success at a World Cup that kicks off just 18 months after the 2016 Club World Cup was the first FIFA tournament to have live trials.

At the Under-20 World Cup, one decision causing confusion after advice from referee assistants watching replays was a red card for an Italy defender in a quarterfinals win over Zambia.

The referee awarded a penalty for an apparent foul by the goalkeeper, then was told to award a free kick and send off the defender for a challenge seconds earlier. Replays provoked doubt if the Zambia forward was fouled at all.

“We still have to improve of course,” said Busacca. “We are not afraid. We don’t have many hours to instruct but the top referees are really learning very fast.”

The nine referees on FIFA duty in Russia includes Damir Skomina, the Slovenian who handled the Champions League final, and Mark Geiger of the United States, who worked at the 2014 World Cup. FIFA appointed 25 refereeing teams to the last World Cup.

A lesson from South Korea – where 12 decisions were made on review in a 52-game tournament – is the need for faster judgments.

“In some situations we are taking too long, we know,” acknowledged Busacca, who has previously set a target of six seconds.

Busacca said FIFA also wants video review to be “an incredible tool of prevention” and singled out a red card at the Under-20 World Cup for an Argentina forward for striking an opponent with an elbow.

“Be careful, a camera is following you,” Busacca said FIFA is telling players in Russia. “We are talking with teams -don’t do it.”

Teams have also been warned that FIFA wants referees to be strict with players crowding around them to influence decision, and goalkeepers who hold the ball for more than six seconds.

“We have asked referees to remind goalkeepers that this rule still exists,” said Van Basten, who showed footage of Italy’s goalkeeper taking 21 seconds to release the ball against Zambia.

Van Basten said he believes “no one will complain” when referees add on longer periods of stoppage time, especially in the second half.

While FIFA has learned from other sports which adopted video review much earlier, it is not ready to follow the NFL or rugby in having referees announce their decisions or be wired for sound to broadcast how they reach a decision.

“We don’t have to explain immediately why we make a decision,” Van Basten said. “It is important to show it on the screens and let the people know what is the reason. That is enough.”

PL Preview: Manchester City vs. Newcastle

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  • Newcastle has lost 8 PL away matches in a row
  • Man City last lost at home in PL play to Chelsea in Dec 2016
  • Newcastle has picked up 1 of a possible 30 points vs. PL top half this season

Manchester City has a great chance to rebound from its first loss of the season as they host struggling Newcastle at the Etihad on Saturday, live at 12:30 p.m. ET on NBC or live online at NBCSports.com.

WATCH LIVE, HERE

The Magpies have picked up their terrible mid-season form of late, but still remain just three points above the drop. They are unbeaten in three, with a win and two draws, and have lost just once in their last five.

Through Newcastle’s losing streak, the Magpies struggled to keep the ball out of their own net, with defensive issues all over the place. They suffered through a nine-game winless run where they conceded 19 goals. However, of late, the roles have reversed, and suddenly they can’t score. In their last four games, they have just two goals.

City, meanwhile, have a few injuries to deal with on the defensive side of things, where they cannot afford them. Fabian Delph went down in the last match and could be out for significant time, along with Vincent Kompany who continues to show his age and history of fitness issues.

INJURIES: Manchester City – OUT: Fabian Delph (knee), Benjamin Mendy (knee). QUESTIONABLE: David Silva (illness), Vincent Kompany (fitness). Newcastle – OUT: Jesus Gamez (ankle). QUESTIONABLE: Dwight Gayle (knock).


What they’re saying

Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola on build-up of injuries: “In these situations, it always depends on the mentality of the players, if they can make a step forward. If they can they play in positions that are not natural positions and the other guys help them, everything is going well.”

Newcastle manager Rafa Benitez on not having a full squad: “When you have a short blanket, if you pull it to your face, your feet are cold, if you cover your feet, your top half is cold.”

Prediction

Newcastle has been ok of late, but not nearly enough to keep Manchester City out of the back of the net. This could get ugly, with the Citizens looking to rebound from their season’s first loss. 3-0 Man City with the possibility that it could get much worse if Newcastle gives up.

PL Preview: Burnley vs. Manchester United

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  • Burnley has 1 win vs. Man United in last 23 meetings
  • Manchester United has not conceded a goal in 2018
  • Paul Pogba is joint-top of the league with 9 assists

A critical top of the table battle comes our way from Turf Moor (!!) on Saturday as Manchester United travels to Burnley live on NBCSN or live online at NBCSports.com.

WATCH LIVE, HERE

Since losing at Chelsea back in early November, Manchester United in unbeaten away from home and has won four of the five road matches. Burnley, meanwhile, has lost three matches in a row to start the new year and has not won in Premier League play since December 12th against Stoke City.

The goalscoring form of each team is also in stark contrast. Manchester United has not allowed a goal in any competition in 2018, and last conceded back on Boxing Day in a 2-2 draw with this Burnley side. The Clarets, meanwhile, have just one goal in their last three Premier League games and just three goals in their last six.

INJURIES: Burnley – OUT: Chris Wood (knee), Stephen Ward (knee), Jonathan Walters (knee). QUESTIONABLE: Chris Taylor (ribs). Manchester United – OUT: Daley Blind (undisclosed), Eric Bailly (ankle), Michael Carrick (heart), Zlatan Ibrahimovic (knee). QUESTIONABLE: Marouane Fellaini, Antonio Valencia.

What they’re saying

Burnley manager Sean Dyche on the gap in riches between clubs: “I don’t think any of us are surprised by the gap in the Premier League – I think it’s been there a long time and it’s getting harder year on year since the business model of football has changed.”

Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho on focusing despite transfer rumors: “In this moment, [Henrikh] Mkhitaryan our player, [Alexis] Sanchez an Arsenal player and with a match tomorrow, I want to switch off and focus on the most important thing, which is the match.”

Prediction

Burnley may be coming back down to Earth, but they are still a formidable team with great organization, and Manchester United will be once again held to a draw, this time 1-1.

Alexis Sanchez in Arsenal squad, could play vs Crystal Palace

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Ahead of his nearly imminent move away from the Emirates, Alexis Sanchez could make an appearance for Arsenal against Crystal Palace this weekend as he was with the squad at the team hotel on Friday night, according to reports in England.

According to the reports, Arsene Wenger has not decided if he will play Sanchez against Palace or not, as any potential injury could seriously jeopardize any outgoing transfer in the works. However, naming him to the bench and allowing Sanchez to make one last appearance in front of the home fans would be a nice touch before he leaves, likely for Manchester United.

It probably doesn’t help Wenger’s selection that oft-injured Danny Welbeck will miss the match after picking up a muscle problem in training.

Sanchez did not travel with the team to Bournemouth last weekend as Arsenal lost 2-1 in stunning fashion. Sanchez has missed four Premier League games this season, and Arsenal has lost three of them.

The reports state Sanchez trained with the Arsenal first team on Friday, but only because the youth team he trained with the day before had left for a road trip.

Reports: LA Galaxy trades Gyasi Zardes to Columbus for Ola Kamara

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According to a reports by the LA Times and by ESPN, the LA Galaxy have traded US international Gyasi Zardes along with allocation money to the Columbus Crew for striker Ola Kamara.

Both reports state that Columbus will receive $400,000 in guaranteed allocation money in the deal, plus another $100,000 should Kamara score 12 goals next season to trigger the incentive.

Zardes was once a force along the wing for Bruce Arena and the Galaxy, but the 26-year-old has declined heavily in the last two seasons as injuries and poor form have held him to just eight goals over the last two seasons, including just two last campaign. Meanwhile, Kamara has been a star for Columbus in his first two years in Major League Soccer, scoring 16 goals in 2016 before netting another 18 last season, leaving him third in the league in goals scored over those two seasons.

The LA Times report states that Kamara will earn a new contract after the trade, giving him a raise over his current $482,500 yearly salary.

Zardes is an interesting case who shouldn’t be given up on just yet. A homegrown player for the Galaxy, he scored 17 goals in the 2014 season, including on in the MLS Cup Finals as the Galaxy won it all. He earned a seemingly permanent place on the USMNT as a result, and has 37 caps to this date. However, his goalscoring form has since evaporated, leaving him with no more than six goals in an MLS season since, and has just six goals in those 37 caps for the national team.

The Galaxy will need to acquire an additional international roster spot in order to activate Kamara for the season opener on March 4th against Portland, as they have filled up their seven spots as of now.