Preview: Southampton vs. West Ham United

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  • The two sides have faced each other 98 times in all competitions, with West Ham holding a slight edge at 37-32-28.
  • West Ham manager Sam Allardyce has never lost to Southampton in top flight competition, winning 3 and drawing 6.
  • Southampton are a goal shy of 650 Premier League goals in club history.

With both teams sitting on four points in their first three league matches, the two sides come into this match at St. Mary’s Stadium in very different shape.

The home side are almost entirely injury free and playing lovely soccer, especially striker Rickie Lambert who has vaulted to star status in international play for England along with playing fantastic for Southampton to start the season as well.

Saints manager Mauricio Ponchettino have loads of quality strikers to choose from, between Lambert, Jay Rodriguez, and Pablo Daniel Osvaldo.

The Hampshire club seems to be quite boosted by their fantastic captures in the summer window, including Osvaldo, Victor Wanyama in the midfield, and defender Dejan Lovern.  The team only swopped for those three players, but spent an estimated £33 million ($53 million) on the trio combined.

On the other side of the coin, Sam Allardyce and West Ham have a serious striker conundrum.

With Andy Carroll mired in foot injury misery (a Lis Franc problem most likely, given what Allardyce said) and new signing Mladen Petric not match fit yet, Allardyce will continue to turn to Malian targetman Modibo Maïga. The 26-year-old has played every minute of the three matches so far and has yet to find the net.  His only other option up front is 18-year-old Englishman Elliott Lee, who has a grand total of 3 Premier League minutes in his career, making his debut in the Hammers loss to Stoke City two weeks ago

What they’re saying

Victor Wanyama on Southampton’s chances against West Ham: “I think it is going to be a hard game, but we are ready for it and looking forward to the challenge. We have been working hard and we had some good results, and also some bad ones, but I think we are still on track and looking forward to doing well. I would say (our) first (goal) is to just do better than last season and from there we will see what happens. I think that is possible.”

West Ham midfielder Mark Noble on Lambert: “When you see a player like that who has worked so hard and played the leagues you can’t help but be happy for him. I played against him a couple of times (in the Championship), and I always thought he was a top player. As a holding midfielder you are always in close contact with centre-forwards and the ball was getting fizzed into him and he was laying it off, so you can appreciate that. Lambert is a dangerous player, but we have got two good centre-halves so I am hopeful they can look after him over the 90 minutes.”

Allardyce on Andy Carroll’s injury setback: “We had been very cautious, very patient with him along the way and it’s sad this has happened for him as well as us. He doesn’t need an operation but we need to give the foot time to re-heal, continue the rehab and get him back in training again.”

Prediction

With Allardyce’s striker problems, this match’s result depends solely on whether the home side is ready to take the leap forward together with the new signings and put on a real show.  This has all the resources to be a big Southampton win, but they will need to grab the bull by the horns and prove to the Premier League that this is one unit rather than 11 players.  A 2-0 Saints victory is not a bad bet at all in this scenario.

How will USMNT line up versus Costa Rica?

USMNT
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Saturday brings a first look at the United States men’s national team in 2020, though Gregg Berhalter’s bunch won’t look anything like its best self.

The Yanks have an almost exclusively MLS roster for the match, with Hobro’s Christian Cappas, Wolfsburg II’s Uly Llanez and unattached 17-year-old Bryang Kayo in the fold.

Many of Berhalter’s best MLS stars won’t be in Carson either for the 3:55 p.m. ET Saturday kickoff. Jordan Morris, Jozy Altidore, and Michael Bradley are the biggest names.

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Ronald Gonzalez’s Ticos will be similarly hampered, although more of Costa Rica’s A-side play in MLS and domestically.

We’ll leave the breakdown of the visitors for a later date, but who will rep the U.S. in Saturday’s Starting XI?

The travel roster includes keepers Sean Johnson, Bill Hamid, and Matt Turner, as well as defenders Aaron Long, Walker Zimmerman, Reggie Cannon, Julian Araujo, Chase Gasper, Justen Glad, Mark McKenzie, and Sam Vines. Listed midfielders Sebastian Lletget, Jackson Yueill, Brenden Aaronson, Cappis, Kayo, and Brandon Servania are joined by forwards Gyasi Zardes, Paul Arriola, Jonathan Lewis, Jesus Ferreira, and Ulysses Llanez.

Goalkeeper is anyone’s guess, but Johnson’s got the most run of the three during the Berhalter era. The younger Turner or more accomplished Hamid may step in there.

It would be surprising to see any other center backs besides Walker Zimmerman and Aaron Long given what we know of Berhalter and his respect for regulars. Reggie Cannon should start at right back and it’s between Chase Gasper and Sam Vines for the left. We’ll choose Vines out of intrigue.

Jackson Yueill, Paul Arriola, Sebastian Lletget, and Gyasi Zardes are safe bets to start, and this would seem a spot to give Jonathan Lewis more than subs’ run. That leaves one spot, and we’re pegging Brandon Servania to be the one chosen of four midfielders aged 17-20.

There’s also the matter of whether FC Dallas striker Jesus Ferreira will be internationally cleared to play Saturday. We sure hope he will be!

How do you think Berhalter will line them up?


How Berhalter may go

Johnson

Cannon — Zimmerman — Long — Vines

Yueill — Servania

Arriola — Lletget — Lewis

Zardes


What we’d like to see

Turner

Cannon — Zimmerman — McKenzie — Vines

Yueill — Cappis — Servania

Arriola — Ferreira — Lewis

Watch our transfer deadline day show from 6-8 p.m. ET on Jan. 31, live on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com.

Report: Sheffield United in ‘advanced talks’ for $22M Norway star

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Sheffield United is ready to add one of the game’s brightest young talents to its blossoming Premier League side.

Norway midfielder Sander Berge is the name, and he’s been linked with Liverpool amongst others over the past few months.

Berge turns 22 next month and already has 20 caps for Norway in addition to 113 senior appearances for Genk in Belgium and 43 more for Valerenga in his home country.

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The defensive midfielder has chipped in six goals and four assists. He won the Belgian Super League with Genk last year and has a career-best four goals so this season.

It shows what success brings to a club, as Sky Sports reports that Berge turned down a move to Bramall Lane in the summer.

The fee is said to be $22 million, which isn’t small but completely reasonable given his stature for club and country.

This may move may join the Lys Mousset purchase as one of the Blades’ smartest bits of business, especially as Chris Wilder‘s men look for success on multiple fronts. Their success as a newly-promoted side is one of the great stories of the European season, and a place in Europe would be a fantastic achievement.

From The Yorkshire Post:

“It is going well, no doubt about it,” Wilder said. “On the Premier League front and in the Cup. You probably would not think it, but the win at Millwall has given me an enormous amount of pleasure in confirming, not even seeing, what my team is about. Players have come in with the likes of the skipper (Billy Sharp) and other players who are really driving it forward and want to produce individual performances and the atmosphere is good.”

Watch our transfer deadline day show from 6-8 p.m. ET on Jan. 31, live on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com.

Espanyol identify 12 fans who racially insulted player

Racism in football
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BARCELONA, Spain — Spanish club Espanyol says it has identified 12 fans who racially insulted an Athletic Bilbao player in the Spanish league last weekend.

Espanyol said on Monday in a statement that nine of the fans were club members and would face punishment that could include suspension or a full-time ban.

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It said a report of its analysis of the video images of Saturday’s game at RCDE Stadium were sent to authorities.

The club reiterated its “categorical condemnation of any displays of violence and racism.”

The fans made monkey noises directed at Athletic forward Inaki Williams, who is black. Television images showed Williams confronting the section of Espanyol fans who taunted him after he was substituted late in the game in Barcelona.

The Spanish league said it will seek a partial stadium closure for Espanyol and will raise the incident with the Spanish soccer federation’s competition committee, which handles disciplinary issues.

Transfer rumors: West Ham want $44M midfielder, Barca eyes Rodrigo

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West Ham United is being linked with a big transfer splash, and it’s not even a striker.

Uruguayan midfielder Nahitan Nandez is the man in question, and West Ham is reportedly tempting Cagliari with a $44 million offer this January.

Nandez, 23, arrived from Boca Juniors for less than half that fee this summer, and has chipped in a goal with three assists for Tommaso Giulini’s sixth-place Serie A side.

He’s got 31 caps for his national team, and is averaging 1.5 tackles per match with Cagliari. Nandez is also averaging a key pass and 1.1 successful dribbles per league outing.

Football-Italia says that Cagliari will try to tie Nandez to a new deal with a $44 million release clause if the move to West Ham is unsuccessful.

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Meanwhile Barcelona’s pursuit of a Luis Suarez replacement isn’t limited to Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, according to Marca.

Club president Josep Maria Bartomeu admits that Valencia striker Rodrigo Moreno is interesting his coaches.

“We don’t talk about players from other teams. But [Rodrigo’s] name is on the table of the coaches, and a replacement will arrive. I do not know whether it will be from Barcelona B or from outside. I like many players.”

The Spaniard has eight goals in 21 caps, and turns 29 in March. Rodrigo has four goals and 10 assists in 23 matches across all competitions this season.

Valencia beat Barcelona this weekend to send the Blaugranas three points back of La Liga leaders Real Madrid.