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Trio of Premier League clubs eye USMNT’s Bobby Wood

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Bobby Wood may not be fit enough to feature for the USMNT over the current international break, but the Hamburg forward still has plenty of eyes on him.

[ MORE: Cameron eager for return ]

According to Sport Bild in Germany, Wood, 24, is being monitored by Premier League trio Liverpool, Leicester City and Everton as he continues to impress in the Bundesliga.

The Hawaiian born striker has scored nine goals in 23 appearances for the Bundesliga strugglers this season after joining them last summer following impressive displays at the Copa America Centenario for the U.S.

Over the past 12 months Wood has become an integral part of the USMNT — eight goals in 29 appearances for the U.S. tells only half the story as his mobility and link-up play continues to impress — and his absence for Bruce Arena’s side will be felt in their crucial World Cup qualifiers against Honduras and Panama in the next week.

If any of these potential moves to the Premier League come off, which would be the best fit for Wood?

At Liverpool he may only be a bit-part player but if Daniel Sturridge leaves this summer he could be worked into the rotation, especially considering the fact that Jurgen Klopp‘s side will have European action to contend with next season. So, definitely the most high-profile option of the three clubs said to be interested but perhaps not the best option for Wood with Divock Origi, Danny Ings and Roberto Firmino also around.

It would be a very similar situation for Wood at Everton, but it all depends on the future of Romelu Lukaku.

If Wood signed for the Toffees he would also continue the long history of having American players at Goodison Park and with only on-loan striker Enner Valencia and youngster Ademola Lookman currently challenging Lukaku for a starting spot, Ronald Koeman would like some extra help up top especially with European qualification close to being secured for next season. Surely Wood could help the Toffees out but if Lukaku stays then there wouldn’t be many chances for the U.S. striker to feature.

Leicester would be an intriguing option for Wood. Basically, he’s an American Jamie Vardy. He chases down defenders, usually feeds off scraps and can play up top on his own or out wide. Plus, he is a pretty lethal finisher when given chances in the box. Maybe Wood would be another gem the Foxes have picked up from the European continent?

Whatever happens, the American striker is certainly making a name for himself.

Playback: Ranking expectation levels of top six

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With the final stretch of the 2016-17 Premier League season here, there’s still plenty of jostling among the top six with Champions League and title dreams on the line.

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Chelsea, Arsenal, Tottenham, Liverpool and both Manchester clubs are all back where they believe they belong but lofty expectations have been a theme of the season with some teams struggling to live up to them. Fans of all six aforementioned clubs have been scratching their heads for the most part as they try to figure out what a good season looks like.

With Liverpool and Man City drawing at the weekend in a thriller, plus Manchester United, Chelsea and Tottenham grinding out wins and Arsenal losing at West Brom as their woeful run continues, expectations are all over the place at the top with five of the six battling it out for three Champions League spots.

[ MORE: Premier League standings | Schedule

Below is a look at the current expectation levels for all six “big boys” in the PL as we enter the final nine matchdays of the campaign.

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“Curb your enthusiasm” is perhaps the catchphrase of the past few months for certain clubs…


CHELSEA

Position: 1st (69 points)
Cup competitions: FA Cup semifinal (vs. Tottenham, Apr 22), EFL Cup 4th round
Expectation-o-meter: Climbing, but spot on — A lost season in 2015-16 has lowered expectation levels around Stamford Bridge. Antonio Conte‘s arrival has seen them steadily climb as his team saunter towards the Premier League title and have a 10-point lead with 10 games to go. Seven more victories and Chelsea will be crowned PL champs for the second time in three seasons. However, winning the league and FA Cup double would be the cherry on top and then it’s a case of ‘what next?’ for Chelsea. Next season they’ll be back in the Champions League and expected to make a deep run. New challenges will come Conte’s way in terms of recruitment over the summer with the futures of Diego Costa, John Terry, Cesc Fabrgeas and others to think about. With success, expectation levels rise. So far in this incredible season for the Blues Conte’s biggest trick is perhaps keeping everyone’s feet on the ground. That won’t be so easy next season.


TOTTENHAM

Position: 2nd (59 points)
Cup competitions: FA Cup semifinal (vs. Chelsea, Apr. 22), Champions League group stage & Europa League last 32, EFL Cup 5th round
Expectation-o-meter: Surprisingly low — Now, for some reason Tottenham’s supporters and those around the club aren’t too concerned with them not winning the title. Is that okay? In each of the last two campaigns Tottenham have had a great chance to lift the Premier League. Leicester outlasted them last season and this time around Mauricio Pochettino‘s men will likely come second to Chelsea. Finishing runners up in the PL for the first time ever, and finishing above Arsenal for the first time in over two decades, is obviously a massive achievement. Still, Tottenham need to have their expectation levels increased because they can achieve so much more than just finishing above Arsenal. With a young, talented squad all signed up long-term and a new stadium on the horizon, Spurs are heading in the right direction. If they just come up short in the title race and win the FA Cup, that would be a phenomenal season. The next step: reaching the Champions League knockout stages and winning the Premier League. With Harry Kane, Dele Alli, Hugo Lloris and Toby Alderweireld, the latter is possible. Everyone connected with Spurs just has to believe it a little bit more.


MAN CITY

Position: 3rd (57 points)
Cup competitions: FA Cup semifinals (vs. Arsenal, Apr. 23), Champions League last 16, EFL Cup 4th round
Expectation-o-meter: Way too high — Following the 1-1 draw with Liverpool, Pep Guardiola declared how delighted he was with his Man City side for the reaction following their Champions League exit to Monaco. The fans probably didn’t share that delight. At times this season City have looked unstoppable. On other occasions they’ve looked shambolic. Just when you think Guardiola’s methods are going to conquer all they come crashing down (the UCL exit to Monaco proved that) and things are moving a little slower than everyone expected. City won’t win the league and they’re now in a battle to finish in the top four and also in the FA Cup semis. Pep badly needs to get some silverware on the table and finish in the top four to call this season a success. Defensively, a huge overhaul is needed and the futures of Aguero, Toure and Kompany remains up in the air. Expect the winds of change to blow through the Etihad Stadium this summer but the future looks bright with Gabriel Jesus, Raheem Sterling and Leroy Sane kicking on. Yet, this has been far from a smooth ride for City’s fans and owners who have become accustomed to success.


LIVERPOOL 

Position: 4th (56 points)
Cup competitions: EFL Cup semifinals, FA Cup 4th round
Expectation-o-meter: Just about right — Liverpool’s fans got ahead of themselves a little early in the season when Jurgen Klopp‘s side were leading the PL and the fact they had no European competitions to worry about was a big plus. Then Liverpool faded badly at the turn of the year and title talk turned into top four realism. That’s about where this team is at, so no complaints. Reaching a major cup final should’ve been easily attainable too but Klopp knows his team is on the up. Like City, if they can make their defensive unit more solid then that’s where more success will come and the Reds could challenge for a title. That may not be for another two or three years, though. With Klopp in charge, they at least have the right man at the helm and he is delivering an attacking brand of soccer which delights the fans. Brendan Rodgers did that too but now Liverpool’s fans are expecting a little more. If they finish in the top four, recruiting new players (especially top defenders) becomes so much easier for next season.


MAN UNITED

Position: 5th (52 points)
Cup competitions: Europa League quarterfinal (vs. Anderlecht, Apr. 19), EFL Cup winners, FA Cup quarterfinal
Expectation-o-meter: Too high — At the start of the season Mourinho talked about winning it all but it became quickly apparent that he will need plenty of time to turn things around. United’s fans are patient but many expect them to be challenging for the title. That may not happen for another two seasons. Paul Pogba is yet to show his best and without Zlatan Ibrahimovic, where will the goals come from? Work in progress. Top four finish and success in cup competitions would be a very, very good season. Adding a key striker (Antoine Griezmann would be nice) and another top defender is a must over the offseason. Mourinho has things moving in the right direction after Moyes and Van Gaal but this will take them. Baby steps at a club like United are hard to get excited about given their illustrious history.


ARSENAL

Position: 6th (50 points)
Cup competitions: FA Cup semifinal (vs. Man City, Apr. 23), Champions League last 16, EFL Cup 4th round
Expectation-o-meter: Off the charts — Yes. We all know about Arsenal’s fans and their lofty expectations but this season they’ve hit new levels. Not content with being in the FA Cup semis, right in the top four hunt (they have two games in hand on Liverpool) and losing to a very good Bayern Munich outfit in the Champions League, Arsenal’s fans are getting on Arsene Wenger‘s back. Did they really think they could challenge for the title this season? The squad is good but needs an overhaul in key areas. Whether Wenger is the man to do that is neither here nor there. Arsenal’s fans need a serious reality check. Finishing in the top four is not a bad season and unless they spend boatloads of cash (see: Man City, Chelsea) then they won’t win the league. Even Manchester United has found out big spending isn’t the answer.


Premier League Playback comes out every week as PST’s Lead Writer and Editor takes an alternative look at all the action from the weekend. Read the full archive, here.

Pep Guardiola gushed about Manchester City’s bounce back against Liverpool

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It had little to no effect on the makeup of the Premier League table, but it had a major impact on one of the game’s most prominent managers.

Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola, with a massive smile on his face, labeled the 1-1 draw with Liverpool “one of the most special days of my life” and gushed about his team’s ability to bounce back from its elimination from the Champions League at the hands of Monaco.

“Normally, when two teams want to win, that happens in football and it’s fantastic,” Guardiola said after the game. “When one team just wants to make travels and just defend, football is complicated. So congratulations to Liverpool, and of course Manchester City. It’s one of the days I am proud the most.”

The match featured gobs of attacking play, with each team missing big opportunities to build the scoreline. Guardiola was all smiles after the match, and joked around with both the referees and Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp in the aftermath at the Etihad.

[ MORE: Game recap from 1-1 draw between Manchester City and Liverpool ]

Guardiola praised his team’s ability to return from such a painful result midweek and put on a positive display, rambling in run-on sentences as he tried to piece together in words how happy he was with his squad. “It’s one of the most special days of my life because the defeat on Wednesday was so tough for us, and to recover how we recovered today with this mentality to play and attack and attack…we could not attack more often because Liverpool is a top top team, and how they run in the last minutes when they rest all week and we were there just three or four days [ago] resignation for qualify for the quarterfinals [of the Champions League].”

“Of course the battle to qualify for the Champions League will go until the final day.”

Guardiola felt they dominated the match and claimed that Manchester City “created more, conceded few, but we do not win.” He said that the players took the Champions League elimination hard, but responded so well. “The players, in the training session they didn’t speak, and for them to react the way they reacted against Liverpool means a lot to me.”

“There are a lot of players here with problems, and yesterday and today they said to doctors, ‘I want to play I want to play.’ Nobody dismissed, nobody said ‘I am a little tired I do not want to play’ when normally that’s happened. All of them they want to play, and they showed it today.”

Three things we learned from Man City v. Liverpool

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Manchester City and Liverpool played out an entertaining 1-1 draw at the Etihad Stadium on Sunday as Pep Guardiola and Jurgen Klopp saw their teams go all-out in their pursuit of securing a top four finish in the Premier League.

[ RECAP: City, Liverpool draw

James Milner‘s penalty kick was canceled out by Sergio Aguero’s equalizer as both teams created numerous chances but somewhat canceled one another out.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights

Here’s what we learned from an intense, gripping battle in the rain in Manchester.


PK CALLS SHAPED THE GAME

Referee Michael Oliver will need a lie down after this game.

There were three big penalty calls which shaped the outcome of this match and Oliver got all three wrong. First, Georginio Wijnaldum went down under a challenge from Yaya Toure in the box and no penalty kick was given when it seemed like it should’ve been. Then at the other end a huge moment arrived as David Silva‘s cross found Raheem Sterling at the back post but James Milner slid in and made no contact with the ball. Again, Oliver should’ve awarded a penalty kick but he didn’t.

Then, at the start of the second when Oliver should’ve waved away a penalty kick call he awarded it. Gael Clichy slipped and then launched into a challenge on Roberto Firmino. Yes, it was a clumsy tackle but Clichy got the ball first. Milner stepped up to score the PK and put Liverpool ahead and perhaps Oliver got out of jail because City equalized and both managers will be fairly happy with the point.

That said, the way Guardiola was talking to Oliver and the other officials at the final whistle, it seemed like he was the unhappy manager. He had every right to react that way.


CLASSIC ENCOUNTER, STICKING TO PHILOSOPHIES

In the first half Pep Guardiola had a huge smile on his face as he embraced Jurgen Klopp on the sidelines. Respect.

Two of the greatest managers in the world right now have both found it tough going at times this season but there’s one thing we know about them both: they will die by their philosophies.

For better or worse they are stubborn and want their teams to play open, attacking soccer as they often neglect defense. That approach resulted in a humdinger of a game which ebbed and flowed back and forth as chances came and went and moments of brilliance in the final third were not finished off.

Two moments of magic encapsulated why Guardiola and Klopp must stick to what they know best.

First, Adam Lallana spurned a great chance as he launched a lung-bursting counter. He played the ball to Firmino, who passed to Wijnaldum who then lobbed the ball over City’s defense to Firmino and his clever flick with the outside of his boot had Lallana clean through six yards out. Lallana then missed the ball completely.

At the other end moments later Aguero and Sane combined with a wonderful backheel from the latter and then the loose ball fell to Kevin De Bruyne who hit the post.

It may not be perfect right now, especially in defense, but the longer Guardiola and Klopp stay with their respective teams the better they will get and the more pieces of the jigsaw they can put in place. In this day and age everyone wants to win now but both of these managers deserve extra time to get these projects fine-tuned and add the players they need

Finishing in the top four of the Premier League will allow them both to do that as the dangling carrot of the UEFA Champions League next season will help recruit world-class players. Maybe defenders will be a little scared to play for either of these teams though…


TOP-HEAVY CITY

Yaya Toure was overrun in midfield and it was a plan which didn’t work out for City.

Guardiola played Fernandinho at right back and left Toure in midfield on his own to try and shut down Lallana, Wijnaldum and Emre Can on his own. With Kevin de Bruyne and David Silva just in front of him, those two aren’t known for their defensive abilities and as Ilkay Gundogan told Rebecca Lowe at half time in the NBC studio, Guardiola prefers KDB in a deeper role due to his ability to keep the ball.

When Fernando came on and De Bruyne was shifted out wide, City looked more balanced and able to cope with Liverpool’s attack.

We are in March and Guardiola still hasn’t got the balance of his team right. City have so many great attacking talents but they are still top-heavy.

Much has been made about the defensive mistakes from the likes of John Stones and Claudio Bravo this season but City need to get better protection for their defense, especially against the better teams who can hurt them.

For more on Man City v. Liverpool listen to the latest 2 Robbies podcast.

PL Sunday preview: Man City-Liverpool; Spurs host Saints; Boro-Man Utd

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Sunday is Super once again in the Premier League, as four of six top-four hopefuls are in action, two of the four facing off directly…

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Middlesbrough vs. Manchester United — 8 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

If Jose Mourinho is to guide Man United to a top-four finish in his first season at Old Trafford, Sunday’s trip to Boro represents a must-win opportunity for the Red Devils to leapfrog Arsenal for fifth place in the PL table, and potentially finish the weekend just three points back of fourth-place Liverpool while holding two games in hand. To do so, though, United must overcome a rash of injuries and suspensions.

Unavailable on Sunday: Zlatan Ibrahimovic (suspension), Ander Herrera (suspension); doubtful or questionable through injuries: Paul Pogba, Anthony Martial, Daley Blind, Wayne Rooney, Bastian Schweinsteiger. Woof.

“I can imagine some people will say we should play better, we could play better, we should score more goals, we should not have so many difficulties to beat this opponent, but the reality is we have lots of things going against us and we have to try and fight,” Mourinho said ahead of Sunday’s clash at the Riverside Stadium. “The boys are amazing and we will probably lose the game on Sunday but we will try our best.”

[ MORE: Saturday’s PL roundup — Chelsea delight, Arsenal misery ]

Tottenham Hotspur vs. Southampton — 10:15 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

Life without Harry Kane begins, again, for Tottenham. A top-four finish — not to mention the chance to finish above Arsenal for the first time in 22 years — are very real for a second straight season, but Mauricio Pochettino‘s side will have to navigate the all of, or most of, the season’s final 11 games without their 19-goalscorer (37 percent of his side’s league goals — 4th-highest in the PL) after the 23-year-old re-injured his left ankle during last Sunday’s FA Cup thrashing of Millwall. Up first, it’s a visit from Southampton, which sees one of the PL’s most confounding, up-and-down sides fighting for a top-half finish in Claude Puel‘s first season at St. Mary’s Stadium.

Heung-Min Son bagged a hat trick while playing up top in Kane’s absence last weekend, which seems Pochettino’s most likely Plan A to replace last season’s Golden Boot winner. The problem, of course, is the South Korean’s lack of size and strength to hold the ball up, bring others into the attack, and muscle defenders around the 18-yard box in order to create space for himself. Dele Alli will likely play further forward, and more centrally, to provide a greater numerical advantage for Spurs.

“We have different options (up front) — you could see in the last game against Millwall,” Pochettino believes. “At the beginning of the season, Harry got injured in the Sunderland game and we missed him for nearly two months but we played with different options – with Son, with Vincent Janssen. We used different players, but we are sure that we will play well.

[ MORE: Wenger to determine his future “very soon” ]

Manchester City vs. Liverpool — 12:30 p.m. ET, on NBC and NBCSports.com

It’s a matchup between third and fourth in PL, as Jurgen Klopp‘s Reds visit the Etihad Stadium to a Man City side which hasn’t lost a league game in over two months (six games — four wins, two draws). After failing to win a single one of their first five PL games of the 2017 calendar year, Liverpool’s title challenge was put to bed, as their dreams of returning to the top-four for just the second time in eight seasons so nearly were as well.

Pep Guardiola‘s men must rebound immediately after bowing out of the UEFA Champions League on Wednesday, having blown a two-goal advantage in the second leg away to Monaco. Having played one game more than City thus far, Liverpool trail Sunday’s opponents by a single point, and currently sit five points clear of Arsenal.

“These games are always important. Actually, I can’t remember a not-important game in the Premier League, to be honest,” Klopp said. “But I think we all know about the quality of Manchester City, probably a few people think they’re out of the Champions League now against Monaco, but I think the way they played was quite impressive.”