Getty Images

Jose Mourinho: England can win the World Cup

Leave a comment

I’m sure Gareth Southgate will be sending Jose Mourinho a message of thanks for keeping expectations in England low ahead of the 2018 World Cup…

Speaking after the international break and ahead of Manchester United’s clash with Newcastle United on Saturday (Watch live, 12:30 p.m. ET on NBC and online via NBCSports.com) Mourinho has backed England’s young squad to cause an upset in Russia next summer.

Seriously. He did.

“I think England must have a chance because the players are really good. There’s a great generation of players at different ages and with different qualities,” Mourinho said. “They have good experience at club level, playing in the Premier League and plenty of them play in the Champions League too. England have great potential to do something important.”

When England crash out of the tournament in the group stage or the Round of 16 on penalty kicks against Panama, you can dig these quotes back up.

Even the most optimistic Englishman would say that reaching the quarterfinals of the 2018 World Cup would represent a big success for Southgate’s side.

Tournament favorites Germany, Brazil, Argentina, France, Belgium, Portugal and Spain appear in a league of their own but after that, you’d say England are capable of at least pushing for a spot in the quarters and given some good luck (aka no penalty kick shootouts) they could even sneak into the semifinals. That would be like winning the World Cup for England.

Expectations were low heading into EURO 2016 last summer and look what happened to England. After understrength England teams drew 0-0 against Brazil and Germany in friendly games over the international break, maybe expectations should be a little higher. Still, seeing England getting past the quarterfinals is tough.

And, more than likely, this is a ploy from Mourinho to crank up the pressure on Southgate with United’s boss reportedly unhappy that England used his center back Phil Jones on international duty despite Jones complaining of a thigh problem and then hobbling off early on against Germany last Friday.

Remember, there’s always an angle with Mr. Mourinho.

AT HALF: Lukaku, Lingard have Man Utd up at West Brom (video)

Leave a comment

Romelu Lukaku didn’t celebrate much more than a fist pump following his match-opening goal against former teammates West Bromwich Albion.

[ MORE: Watch via NBCSports.com).

No one said anything about celebrating teammates’ goals, though.

Lukaku scored to give the Red Devils a 1-0 lead, then watched as Jesse Lingard‘s deflected lash left Ben Foster high and dry as United cruised into the break up two goals.

It’s 10th PL goal of the season for Lukaku, who has 15 in all competitions. For Lingard, it’s four and seven.

Here’s Lingard’s marker:

Celtic’s record unbeaten run ends at 69 matches

Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Celtic’s unbeaten domestic run has ended at 69 matches, and it ended with a thud.

Tynecastle Park was the scene for a 4-0 thumping at the hands of Hearts, a defeat started by a 16-year-old’s first Scottish Premiership goal.

[ REPORT: Luiz done at Chelsea? ]

Harry Cochrane’s his name, and his 26th minute goal gave Hearts the lead, and it was 2-0 by halftime through Kyle Lafferty, the ex-Burnley and Norwich player.

David Milinkovic scored three minutes after halftime, as the wake-up call didn’t arrive at the break, and added a penalty kick late in the match.

Celtic has a two-point lead on second-place Aberdeen with a match-in-hand. Rangers sit five-points back.

Sixty-nine games! Remarkable in any league. Here’s what Rodgers had to say:

“But I also want to congratulate my players. To have gone through 69 games and this to be their first defeat; of course it’s a sore one when you are beaten like that but they can hold their heads up. They have been absolutely amazing over those 18 months.”

WATCH LIVE: West Brom vs. Manchester United

Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images
Leave a comment

The Hawthorns is the scene as Manchester United attempts to pull back into sole possession of second place on the Premier League table with a visit to West Bromwich Albion (Watch live at 9:15 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

WATCH LIVE, ONLINE, HERE

The Baggies have several regular starters on the bench, with Chris Brunt, Gareth Barry, and Gareth McAuley (Allllll the Gareths!) getting a rest.

United will hand starts to Jesse Lingard and Juan Mata, with Anthony Martial on the bench with Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

LINEUPS

West Bromwich Albion: Foster; Nyom, Hegazi, Evans, Gibbs, Krychowiak, Yacob, Livermore, Burke, McClean, Rondon. Subs: Myhill, Robson-Kanu, Brunt, Barry, Rodriguez, McAuley, Field.

Manchester United: De Gea; Valencia, Jones, Smalling, Young, Herrera, Matic, Mata, Lingard, Rashford, Lukaku. Subs: Romero, Lindelof, Rojo, Shaw, McTominay, Ibrahimovic, Martial.

Report: Luiz done at Chelsea, perhaps as soon as January

Photo by Jordan Mansfield/Getty Images
Leave a comment

A report out of England says Chelsea defender David Luiz could be out the door in January.

Luiz, 30, has a knee injury and has played in just one match for Chelsea since a Halloween loss to Roma in the Champions League, one that supposedly culminated in a blow-up between the defender and manager Antonio Conte.

He was sold once before by Chelsea, shipped to Paris Saint-Germain for $66 million in 2014 before returning to Stamford Bridge in 2016 for $45 million.

[ MAN CITY-SPURS: 3 things |  Studs and duds ]

Luiz has made just one appearance, a Nov. 22 match in Qarabag, since that Roma loss. He returned to the bench against Liverpool before being diagnosed with a knee injury.

The report says Juventus is a possible destination for Luiz, though the Champions League could be a problem for both sides. Luiz is Cup-tied to Chelsea, and Juventus remains in the UCL as well.

And Chelsea would need reinforcements at the back. It’s back three has operated with Andreas Christensen, Cesar Azpilicueta, and Gary Cahill. Other options are Antonio Rudiger and 20-year-old Jake Clarke-Salter, which would be fine were Chelsea not alive in four competitions (The League Cup quarterfinals have the Blues hosting Bournemouth on Wednesday).

The power seems a bit more in Luiz’s hands thanks to some of Conte’s sanctioned loans. Kurt Zouma has arguably been Stoke City’s most consistent performer in an under siege unit, one of 10 backs on season-long loans. The most sense is to find reconciliation, presuming the dust-up is real, and move on in the summer if necessary.