Andres Iniesta, Franck Ribery, and Spain-France: Saturday’s Euro 2012 playlist

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source: Getty Images

If Sweden was France’s wake-up call, what do we call Spain? Les Bleus face the defending world and European champions Saturday in Donetsk, a match that asks France to complete one of the more remarkable one-match turnarounds in recent memory. On Monday, the Group D favorites lost to a Sweden team that had failed to record a point through two rounds. In the process they gave up first place in their group. Just under one week later, their tournament lives depend on beating a team that has lost just two competitive matches since 2007.

Stylistically, it’s a bad matchup for France. The two losses Spain’s suffered have come to teams that played for counter attacks – defending deep and rarely challenging Spain’s control of the game. The United States defeated Spain 2-0 at 2009’s Confederations Cup by sitting on the early lead gifted them by some horrible Spanish defending. Switzerland upset Spain 1-0 at the last World Cup on the back of one lightning bolt counter attack. If this type of approach is in the French repertoire, we’ve yet to see it.

Of the teams that qualified for the quarterfinals, France may have been the least efficient in the final third. They’ve had a lot of the ball and at times have looked quite fluid, but they’ve generated a disproportionately small number of chances, scoring only three times. The biggest concern when they face Spain: Two of their three goals have been the product of a possession-based attack. Against Spain, they won’t see much of the ball.

Not proficient at counter attacking, without a killer dead ball specialist, and not particularly good on set pieces, what can France lean on against Spain? The same thing the United States used in South Africa: Patience and opportunism. Perhaps the United States are a better counter attacking team than France, and surely they were more used to playing without the ball, but there’s always a chance Spain (or any team) can replicate those errors. No matter the style Laurent Blanc employs on Saturday, France is going to have to make the most of those few chances Spain grants them.

Kickoff is at 2:45 p.m. Eastern time. Here is your playlist.

source: AP1. Let’s be, Franck

France does have one option beyond pure opportunism. On their left, they have one of the best wide attackers in the world: Bayern Munich’s Franck Ribery. When Laurent Blanc sketches out the Spanish formation, the pairing of right back Alvaro Arbeloa opposite his best attacker carries a lot more promise than any other match up.

The problem comes in getting the ball to Ribery. Think back to Spain’s three group games, and it’s hard to remember very many players having a lot of chances on the ball. Luka Modric stands out, but he played through the middle. Italy’s Antonio Cassano and Mario Balotelli had a few opportunities thanks to Andrea Pirlo, a combination that provides France some hope. Blanc may need Yohan Cabaye to do his best Pirlo impression in order to take advantage of Ribery.

2. More left versus right

In the corner opposite Ribery and Arbeloa, Spain will be pressing one of their advantages: Andres Iniesta on anybody. By formation, it should be France right back Mathieu Debuchy, though with Iniesta often coming inside, midfielders Alou Diarra and Yann M’Vila will be pressed into action. It will likely take a team effort to slow down a man making a claim as the tournament’s best player.

The battle could be the biggest test of M’Vila’s young career. The highly touted defensive midfielder is projected to be one of the world’s best at his position, precisely the reason why Arsenal has considered spending some very un-Arsenal-like money to get him from Rennes. But to live up to that hype and price, he’ll be expected to perform in these types of situations.

M’Vila won’t be expected to completely shut down Iniesta, but he must prevent him from influencing the game coming in from the left. While M’Vila providing that deterrent means Debuchy will likely see more of the Barcelona star, at least it will be in a less dangerous spot on the field. And Debuchy’s unlikely to have to handle him alone.

source: AP3. Haven’t missed you so far

One of our major reasons for downgrading Spain’s prospects going into the tournament was the absence of Carles Puyol. The holders’ best defender underwent knee surgery last month and won’t be available against until late summer. That’s forced Sergio Ramos inside, Arbeloa into the starting XI, but most importantly, it’s deprived Spain of the player most likely to handle people like Karim Benzema.

France’s number nine hasn’t had a huge impact challenging for goals mostly because he’s been playing like a nine-and-a-half or ten. While Samir Nasri orchestrated the attack against England, Benzema has served as the focal point in the matches that have followed, providing both assists on France’s goals versus Ukraine.

Against Benzema, Puyol could be particularly missed. Benzema’s willingness to drop from his position and take the ball to feet will require strong decision making from Spain’s central defenders. If they can break up the play, follow him, but they better be sure. One touch to Nasri or Cabaye gives another skilled passer a chance to target the space that’s been vacated.

With Puyol, you have somebody who makes the right decision almost every time. Can we say the same about Sergio Ramos and Gerard Pique? It’s a high standard to meet.

4. Too soon?

France has come a long way in two years, and by almost anybody’s post-South Africa expectations, they are ahead of schedule. Their status as Group D favorites showed the regard the rest of Europe’s cultivated for their new core. With nine of their potential starters 26 or younger, France’s best days are ahead of them.

This game, however, seems like too much, too soon. The steep climb from South African’s trough to where they are now leaves them a promising but untested team. This core doesn’t have the experience of leading a team into must win games. That may have shown against Sweden.

Spain’s a big ask for any team, and as we saw when Germany and the Netherlands met La Roja in the World Cup, the champions have a way of taking the best teams out of their game. It all just feels like a little too much, too soon for France to handle. Saturday may prove to be a valuable if disappointing learning experience.
ProSoccerTalk is doing its best to keep you up to date on what’s going on in Poland and Ukraine. Check out the site’s Euro 2012 page and look at the site’s previews, predictions, and coverage of all the events defining UEFA’s championship.

Wolves vs Liverpool, live! Score, updates, stream link, video highlights

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Liverpool hopes it can boost its top-four hopes by hurting Wolves’ plans for Premier League safety when the duo meet Saturday at the Molineux (watch live, 10am ET Saturday online via Peacock Premium).

It’s the third meeting since early January between the sides following a 2-2 draw in the FA Cup and a 1-0 Liverpool win in the replay.

STREAM LIVE WOLVES vs LIVERPOOL

Wolves sit 17th with 17 points, only outside of the bottom three due to Bournemouth’s poor goal differential. Last place is just two points away, as there are seven teams within three points between 14th and 20th.

Liverpool, meanwhile, is 10 points off the top four but has played at least one fewer match than all but two of the eight teams ahead of them (Sixth-place Brighton and leaders Arsenal).

Here’s everything you need to know ahead of Wolves vs Liverpool.

[ MORE: How to watch Premier League in USA ]


How to watch Wolves vs Liverpool live, stream link and start time

Kick off: 10am ET, Saturday
Online: Premier League on Peacock


Key storylines & star players

Winning games is about scoring goals and only two Wolves players have more than one. Daniel Podence has collected five, while Ruben Neves has four. Even more surprising, Wolves are still waiting on a goal from Raul Jimenez, Diego Costa, or injured Pedro Neto. Perhaps Matheus Cunha or Pablo Sarabia will chip in soon.

Liverpool has one win from its last three Premier League outings, but there’s a heaping helping of bad luck to their struggles. The Reds have 24 goals from open play and 20 allowed in that same situation. Their expected goals in those spots is 34.6 – 24. Mohamed Salah and Darwin Nunez have been especially unlucky despite combining for 12 goals and six assists on the season.


Wolves team news, injuries, lineup options

OUT: Pedro Neto (ankle), Sasa Kalajdzic (torn ACL), Boubacar Traore (undisclosed), Chiquinho (knee)

Liverpool team news, injuries, lineup options

OUT: Virgil van Dijk (thigh), Roberto Firmino (calf), Ibrahima Konate (hamstring), Luis Diaz (knee), Diogo Jota (thigh), Arthur Melo (thigh)

Brentford vs Southampton, live! Score, updates, how to watch, stream, videos

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Brentford will try to extend their unbeaten run, which began all the way back in October, when they host bottom-of-the-table Southampton at Gtech Community Stadium on Saturday (watch live, 10 am ET on Peacock Premium). 

STREAM LIVE BRENTFORD vs SOUTHAMPTON

The Bees’ (30 points) eight-game unbeaten run (4W-4D-0L) has taken them up to 8th in the Premier League table, now closer to the top-four (nine points) than the relegation zone (13 points) in their second-ever season in the PL. Saints (15 points), meanwhile, are living dangerously at the bottom, though the gap between themselves and safety in 17th place is just two points.

Here’s everything you need to know ahead of Brentford vs Southampton

[ MORE: How to watch Premier League in USA ]


How to watch Brentford vs Southampton live, stream link and start time

Kick off: 10 am ET, Saturday
Online: Stream via Peacock Premium


Key storylines & star players

Last time out, Brentford settled for a frustrating 0-0 draw with Leeds, but before that they rattled off successive wins over West Ham, Liverpool and Bournemouth with just one goal conceded in three games. Ivan Toney is 3rd in the Premier League with 13 goals, trailing only Harry Kane (16) and Erling Haaland (an absurd 25). After initially struggling to replace the creativity of Christian Eriksen (4 assists in 11 appearances last season), Thomas Frank’s side is firing once again thanks to Mathias Jensen (4 in 20), Toney (3) and Josh Dasilva (2) picking up the slack.

After losing 3-1 to Newcastle over two legs in the League Cup semifinals, Southampton return their attention to the ongoing relegation battle. Having won just one of their last nine Premier League fixtures (1W-1D-7L), Saints made four first-team signings to strengthen the midfield and attack. They brought in some experience (30-year-old midfielder Mislav Orsic from Dinamo Zagreb and 28-year-old forward Paul Onuachu from Genk) along with some youth and potential (a pair of 20-year-olds, midfielder Carlos Alcaraz from Racing Club and winger Kamadeen Selumana from Rennes).


Brentford team news, injuries, lineup

OUT: Pontus Jansson (thigh), Frank Onyeka (hamstring), Shandon Baptiste (adductor)

Southampton team news, injuries, lineup

OUT: Valentino Livramento (knee), Kyle Walker-Peters (hamstring), Juan Larios (adductor), Alex McCarthy (ankle)

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Dream debut for Dyche as Everton stuns Arsenal

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The Sean Dyche era at Everton got off to the perfect start as they stunned Premier League leaders Arsenal at Goodison Park.

Everton were joint-bottom of the table at the start of play and beat the leaders to secure their first Premier League win since October. The new manager bounce was monumental.

FULL MATCH REPLAY

After taking charge earlier this week, Dyche’s side were excellent as James Tarkowski headed home Dwight McNeil’s cross as the former Burnley duo combined to get the former Burnley manager off to a winning start as Everton boss.

Arsenal were sluggish throughout and Mikel Arteta’s side just couldn’t make the energy and tempo of Everton’s play.

The win moves Everton on to 18 points for the season, while this defeat is just Arsenal’s second of the campaign as they remain five points clear atop the table.

[ MORE: How to watch Premier League in USA ]


Everton do their best Burnley impression to bully Arsenal

From the very first whistle Everton looked well organized, had a clear plan and their players believed in what they are doing. The new manager bounce from Dyche was incredible but it isn’t just a bounce. It’s because he’s a very good manager who did a phenomenal job at Burnley. Calvert-Lewin was the focal point and McNeil and Iwobi delivered energy and quality from out wide. Doucoure, Onana and Gueye will excellent in midfield and the solid back four never looked out of position. This was exactly what we would expect from a Dyche side and if Everton changed their kit colors to claret it was like watching his peak Burnley teams. Arsenal were bullied throughout, couldn’t find their rhythm and had no answer for the energy Everton showed. Now, can Dyche get that effort and organization week in, week out? It is clear the Toffees have the players to drag themselves away from a relegation scrap and it is now clear they have a manager who is able to lead them up the table. Dyche to Everton felt like a perfect fit about five years ago and now it has finally happened, it has started exactly how he would have hoped.


Stars of the show

Dwight McNeil: Superb display as he whipped in crosses, worked so hard defensively and did his best to support Calvert-Lewin.

James Tarkowski: Got the goal, defended resolutely and delivered a big moment for his former Burnley boss.

Everton vs Arsenal
Graphic via FotMob.com

What’s next?

Arsenal host Brentford on Saturday, Feb. 11, while Everton have a huge Merseyside derby at Liverpool on Monday, Feb. 13.


Everton vs Arsenal live! Score, updates, how to watch stream

Kick off: 7:30am ET, Saturday
TV Channel: USA Network
Online: Stream via NBCSports.com

FULL TIME: Everton 1-0 Arsenal – A quite incredible result, and performance, from Everton. Sean Dyche is applauding the home fans and Goodison is going wild. What an unexpected victory to blow the title race and relegation scrap wide open.

Zinchenko blasts a shot from the edge of the box over the bar. Lovely corner from Saka to pick him out but the shot was a tough one to keep down.

Saka has a shot deflected over. Arsenal running out of time.

Pickford with a good stop. Arsenal pushing hard for the equalizer.

GOALLL! James Tarkowski puts Everton ahead. Wow. 1-0 to the Toffees. Can Arsenal respond?

Second half is underway! Arsenal pushing hard for the opener.

OFF THE LINE! A high cross to the back post finds Bukayo Saka and he brilliantly volleys the ball towards the bottom corner but Conor Coady gets back on the line to clear. Superb play by all involved.

CLOSE! Another massive chance goes begging as Dwight McNeil whips in a cross and Doucoure heads wide when he should do better. Sean Dyche applauds from the sidelines. Goodison roars.

CHANCE! Incredible play by Amadou Onana to surge down the left and he crosses for Dominic Calvert-Lewin who is sliding in and two yards out. He can’t get enough on the ball and a huge chance goes begging for Everton.

Eddie Nketiah lashes wide after being played in and that sort of sums up Arsenal so far. They haven’t been able to get in-behind Everton and everything seems a bit rushed from the Gunners.

Excellent so far from Everton. They are defensively sound but have a purpose when they go forward. The home fans are loving the start of the Sean Dyche era.

CLOSE! After a lengthy delay as Bukayo Saka went down after getting a knock in the face, Everton have plenty of corners and Arsenal are digging deep to head crosses away at the back post.

CLOSE! Positive move from Everton as Dwight McNeiil surges towards goal and his low effort is smothered by Aaron Ramsdale with Calvert-Lewin lurking. DLC was just offside but that was good from the hosts.

Bright start from the hosts who look very organized in their 4-5-1 formation and are looking to get it up to Dominic Calvert-Lewin as much as possible.

KICK OFF: The action is underway at Goodison Park! The home fans are right behind their team, and new manager, Sean Dyche. Is he the right man for the job? Can he keep Everton up? Our analysts discuss and are very positive about Dyche’s appointment at Goodison.


Key storylines & star players

Is this what Dwight McNeil has been waiting for after stop-start usage from Frank Lampard? He’s one of the key pieces to monitor when team news arrives Saturday.  Everton hasn’t played since Jan. 21, when it rolled out a 5-4-1 in a 2-0 loss to West Ham. Dyche hasn’t used five at the back since 2019, but this Arsenal team, man…

Arsenal enters having navigated the absence of Gabriel Jesus pretty darn nicely, thank you very much. Will Eddie Nketiah keep feasting off the playmaking of Martin Odegaard and Bukayo Saka?

Let’s just say Everton’s new manager bounce is going to have to include Flubber.


Everton team news, injuries, lineup

OUT: Michael Keane (knee), Nathan Patterson (knee), Andros Townsend (knee), James Garner (back)

Arsenal team news, injuries, lineup

OUT: Gabriel Jesus (knee), Reiss Nelson (thigh), Mohamed Elneny (knock), Emile Smith Rowe (thigh)

Manchester United vs Crystal Palace, live! Score, updates, how to watch, stream, videos

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Manchester United looks to keep climbing up the Premier League table when its hosts improving Crystal Palace at Old Trafford on Saturday (watch live, 10am ET online via Premier League on Peacock).

United has won all three of its cup matches since a Jan. 22 setback at Premier League leaders Arsenal, and now face Palace before two matches with Leeds

STREAM LIVE MANCHESTER UNITED vs CRYSTAL PALACE

Palace hasn’t won in 2023, though the Eagles managed back-to-back draws with Manchester United and Newcastle in their past two matches. Both of those were at Selhurst Park.

Here’s everything you need to know ahead of Manchester United vs Crystal Palace.

[ MORE: How to watch Premier League in USA ]


How to watch Manchester United vs Crystal Palace live, stream link and start time

Kick off: 10am ET, Saturday
Online: Premier League on Peacock


Key storylines & star players

Man United’s lost Christian Eriksen through April but acted quick and in impressive fashion with the loan addition of Marcel Sabitzer from Bayern Munich. Desperate for playing time and a more attacking role than what was asked of him by Bayern, the Austrian star may be just what the doctor ordered even before Eriksen went down. This is a hard-edged player with plenty of attcking firepower to boot.

Palace, of course, is still all about their creative players, as Wilfried Zaha, Michael Olise, Eberechi Eze, and Odsonne Edouard can deliver the goods with just a half-chance, but look out for Deadline Day adds Albert Sambi Lokonga, on loan from Patrick Vieira’s former team Arsenal, and Naouirou Ahamada, who they hope will add a needed ball progressor in the heart of the pitch.


Manchester United team news, injuries, lineup options

OUT: Christian Eriksen (ankle), Donny van de Beek (knee), Mason Greenwood (suspension – MORE) | QUESTIONABLE: Jadon Sancho (undisclosed), Anthony Martial (undisclosed), Diogo Dalot (thigh), Luke Shaw (illness), Scott McTominay (undisclosed)

Crystal Palace team news, injuries, lineup options

OUT: Wilfried Zaha (hamstring), Joachim Andersen (calf), Nathan Ferguson (undisclosed), James McArthur (groin)