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Premier League Preview: Manchester United vs. Burnley

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  • Man United has the Premier League’s best Boxing Day win percentage at 83%
  • Only Man City and Chelsea have conceded fewer away goals than Burnley
  • Burnley has not won at Old Trafford in league play since 1962

Jose Mourinho is not happy. Not happy at all. In fact, the Manchester United manager is so edgy that even the slightest misstep can set him off. It did this morning.

[ MORE: Top Premier League Storylines – Boxing Day ]

The Portuguese boss man abruptly ended his press conference when asked an odd but fair question about Paul Pogba‘s qualities as a leader and whether Mourinho sees him as a long-term challenger for the captain’s armband.

It’s easy to understand why Mourinho is so testy of late. His side has conceded a pair of late goals in critical moments over the past two matches, calling Manchester United’s performance against Leicester City “childish,” referring to both their ability to increase the lead in front of net and their defending at the death. Now, they return home to the friendly confines of Old Trafford hoping to use the home crowd to push the squad the full 90 minutes as they host Burnley on Tuesday (Watch live, 10:00 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com).

Meanwhile, Burnley has its own wounds to lick. The big picture view sees the Clarets in 7th position, a spot any supporter would take in a heartbeat heading into the Boxing Day test, but the 3-0 defeat to Spurs last time out exposed them as top four pretenders and will give Sean Dyche reason to brood over his team’s usually stout defensive abilities.

Team News

Manchester United:  Out – Eric Bailly (ankle), Antonio Valencia (hamstring), Marouane Fellaini (knee), Michael Carrick (heart). Questionable – Matteo Darmian (unspecified), Chris Smalling (unspecified)

Burnley: Out – James Tarkowski (suspension). QuestionableStephen Ward (knee), Chris Wood (knee).

What they’re saying

Burnley manager Sean Dyche on loaded upcoming fixture list“We’ve got some big teams coming, big challenges, but wherever you are in the league you’ve got to play them. They [Manchester United] were superb last season, [goalkeeper] Tom [Heaton] was saving all sorts. We know the run of games we’ve got – no problem with it, that’s life in the Premier League”

Jose Mourinho on loss to Leicester City: “Some players have childish decisions and time helps them to have maturity and to decide better. But some other players stay with childish decision until the end of their career. It’s a big frustration because they are easy goals to score and to kill the game. On top of that in the last couple of minutes, we allow the opposition to throw a few balls to the box and we couldn’t defend the last cross so I think we were punished by our mistakes.”

Prediction

While Manchester United have struggled in recent past, coming back home should provide the club a boost. Burnley has looked great at times this season and Sean Dyche should be praised for squeezing all he can out of this lineup, but the Clarets have not fared well against the best teams in the league this season, a trend that will likely continue. Mourinho and United should win this one in customary 1-0 fashion as United scores soon after halftime and closes up shop late, especially as Burnley continue to sorely miss James Tarkowski.

Vancouver adds versatile Juarez, formerly of Monterrey, Celtic

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Efrain Juarez is bringing his game to Major League Soccer.

[ MLS: 2018 Mock SuperDraft ]

The 39-times capped Mexico veteran has inked a deal with the Vancouver Whitecaps, joining a strengthened unit which came within a point of winning the West last season.

Juarez, 29, was unveiled as a midfielder by the ‘Caps, though he’s primarily played right back in his club career. He’s played at Celtic, Real Zaragoza, Club America, Monterrey, and Pumas.

Last capped by El Tri in 2012, Juarez has played every position except goal, center attacking mid, and center forward in his career (picture a ‘U’ on the pitch).

“I’m so happy and excited for this new stage in my career,” Juarez said. “It’s an opportunity for me to keep growing in a new league and to be a part of an amazing club in Vancouver. From the moment they showed interest me, Carl Robinson and the Whitecaps staff have made me feel very important. I promise to put all my effort into this club and do my best to help us achieve our goals.”

VIDEO: Asensio goal ends Real Madrid’s winless run

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Marco Asensio’s eighth goal of the season and second of this Copa del Rey put an end to an unlikely Real Madrid winless run in a 1-0 victory at Leganes.

[ MLS: 2018 Mock SuperDraft ]

The 21-year-old darted in front of a defender to volley home from in-tight, giving Real Madrid a first leg lead in the tournament quarterfinals.

More importantly, perhaps, it gives struggling Real a boost in morale after draws with Celta Vigo and Numancia, and a loss to Villarreal.

Real is home to Deportivo de la Coruna in La Liga before hosting Leganes in the second leg.

Hopeful Newcastle buyer Staveley: Offer still on the table

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Newcastle United owner Mike Ashley is probably happy that his for-sale club is away this weekend, even though his side’s up against Manchester City.

[ MORE: Top PL storylines — Week 24  ]

That’s because hopeful buyer Amanda Staveley has responded to claims that her hopeful takeover of the team won’t be happening any time soon.

Talks had stalled, said Tuesday reports, much to the chagrin of an #AshleyOut brigade that at times can make Arsenal’s #WengerOut brigade look like a yard full of happy puppies.

A “source” had said, “Attempts to reach a deal have proved to be exhaustive, frustrating and a complete waste of time,” but Staveley shot back on Thursday to reignite the fire. From the BBC, taken from The Times:

“Our bid remains on the table. This is an investment, but it has to be a long-term investment. Newcastle would be run as a business, but we want it to be a successful, thriving business that is an absolutely integral part of the city.”

She also said that popular manager Rafa Benitez is integral to her interest in the team, and that fact combined with her insistence that an offer remains on the table will have many Newcastle fans seething with current ownership (and there have been protests for years). It’s Ashley’s move now.

2018 MLS Mock Draft: LAFC, Galaxy hold the keys

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Major League Soccer’s latest batch of hopeful rookies learn the next steps of their professional careers beginning Friday with the first two rounds of the MLS SuperDraft.

There are several intriguing prospects, including accomplished Stanford center back Tomas Hilliard-Arce and dangerous Michigan winger Francis Atuahene.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverage ]

An MLS mock draft is always tricky given the wildly varying opinions on players from the college game. This year, it’s even trickier as clubs without picks and some with multiple first round picks may be looking to move up and down even more than the norm.

Here’s how we think the draft could play out:

  1. LAFC – Tomas Hilliard-Arce, CB, Stanford
  2. LA Galaxy – Jon Bakero, FW, Wake Forest
  3. DC United – Francis Atuahene, FW, Michigan
  4. Montreal – Joao Moutinho, LB, Akron
  5. Minnesota – Wyatt Omsberg, CB, Dartmouth
  6. Orlando City – Ema Twumasi, FW, Wake Forest
  7. Montreal – Chris Mueller, FW, Wisconsin
  8. New England – Mo Adams, MF, Syracuse
  9. New England – Chris Lema, MF, Georgetown
  10. Real Salt Lake – Justin Fiddes, LB, Washington
  11. FC Dallas – Marcelo Acuna, FW, Virginia Tech
  12. San Jose – Brandon Bye, RB, Western Michigan
  13. Sporting KC – Ed Opoku, FW, Virginia
  14. Atlanta – Alex Roldan, MF, Seattle
  15. Chicago – Mason Toye, FW, Indiana
  16. New York Red Bulls – Alan Winn, MF, North Carolina
  17. Vancouver – Tristan Blackmon, RB, Pacific
  18. Sporting KC – Jon Gallagher, FW, Notre Dame
  19. New York City FC – Daniel Musovski, FW, UNLV
  20. Houston – Mo Thiaw, FW, Louisville
  21. Columbus – Brian White, FW, Duke
  22. Seattle – Tim Kubel, MF, Louisville
  23. Toronto FC – Oliver Shannon, MF, Clemson

There are a few players to keep an eye on for the later rounds that I won’t project for the first round due almost exclusively to first person bias (Some I’ve seen play in college, others at other levels). Afonso Pinheiro from Albany produced like crazy until this season, and Bowling Green defender Alexis Souahy has a skill set that could really transmit to the MLS level.

Mac Steeves (Providence) is a prototypical big body scorer, while Evansville’s heady Ian McGrath has a flair for the absurd and can play almost every position up the center of the pitch. Charleston’s Thomas Vancaeyezeele was a D-2 monster and is probably worth a shot earlier than people suspect.