Premier League Preview: West Ham United vs. West Bromwich Albion — Six-pointer kicks off Saturday

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  • West Brom have drawn both matches since Clarke ouster
  • West Ham have just one point from last five matches
  • Baggies hold slim series lead, 37W-20D-36L

Three points could give West Brom some breathing room or boost West Ham out of the relegation zone when the two sides butt heads early Saturday morning at the Boleyn Ground (watch live on NBCSN, 7:45am ET, via NBC Sports Live Extra).

Hammers boss Sam Allardyce is stressing all three points from the home fixture as West Ham struggles to find any semblance of form. Their only wins have come against Fulham, Spurs and Cardiff and their home record is a poor 2-2-5. To boot, the 19th place side will be without James Collins, who suffered a calf injury on Thursday.

Meanwhile, Keith Downing continues to play the role of caretaker following Steve Clarke’s sacking and has watched over consecutive draws to Hull and Spurs. West Brom’s three wins are tied for league-worst with West Ham and Sunderland, but a league-high eight draws have them in 15th place.

The Hammers haven’t been able to score, with just three in their last five matches and ‘0’ next to their name on nine separate occasions this season, but they can also boast eight clean sheets. No one in the Premier League has kept more.

This is the first time the two clubs will meet in consecutive Premier League seasons, as both have bounced up-and-down to the Championship in recent season. Last season saw West Ham win 3-1 at home and a scoreless draw at The Hawthorns. The clubs drew four-straight between the aforementioned Hammers win and a 3-2 home victory by the Baggies on Sept. 13, 2008.

What they’re saying

WHU striker Carlton Cole after his Boxing Day goal: “All I care about is winning. I don’t look at those sort of stats I just want to win games. Whether I score or not it doesn’t matter, I just want to win games. Today wasn’t the day but the next time we go out on that field if I’m starting, I just want to win that game. Whether I’m starting or not I just want to contribute to us winning the game.”

West Brom caretaker Keith Downing on playing twice in 48 hours: “Playing again in less than 48 hours is ludicrous. Asking the players to play twice in less than 48 hours, and provide quality and entertainment, doesn’t make sense That had some bearing on my team selection (at Spurs on Boxing Day). We’ve got a 22-man squad of players staying down here for three days and I’m sure the majority of them will be playing a part in the two games.”

Prediction

The X-factor in this match is the Collins injury and how the Hammers deal with it. Young, mercurial Irish forward Shane Long has now gone five matches without a goal since his brace against Aston Villa that gave him four goals in as many matches but continues to take his shots. He may be the difference maker in a low-scoring affair, but I’ll peg both teams to find the net in a 1-1 draw.

Rapinoe, Ellis win FIFA honors; Five USWNT players in Best XI

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Zero surprise here.

Megan Rapinoe has been named the Best women’s player Jill Ellis has been named the top manager in women’s soccer at FIFA’s The Best awards ceremony in Milan on Monday.

[ MORE: Messi win’s men’s honor, City shut out ]

Ellis led the USWNT to its second-straight Women’s World Cup this summer, the first boss to manage the feat (Germany won two-straight World Cups, but had Tina Theune and Silvia Neid at the helm).

Rapinoe made waves on and off the field during the USWNT’s spell-binding run to a second-successive title, its fourth in history.

The Women’s Best XI sees four of her teammates join her: Alex Morgan, Kelley O’Hara, Julie Ertz, and Rose Lavelle.

Three members of Women’s Champions League winners Lyon also make the list, as does top goalkeeper winner Sari van Veenendaal.

  • Sari van Veenendaal (NED) – Arsenal / Atletico Madrid
  • Lucy Bronze (ENG) – Olympique Lyonnais
  • Wendie Renard (FRA) – Olympique Lyonnais
  • Nilla Fischer (SWE) – VfL Wolfsburg / Linkopings
  • Kelley O’Hara (USA) – Utah Royals
  • Amandine Henry (FRA) – Olympique Lyonnais
  • Julie Ertz (USA) – Chicago Red Stars
  • Rose Lavelle (USA) – Washington Spirit
  • Megan Rapinoe (USA) – Reign FC
  • Marta (BRA) – Orlando Pride
  • Alex Morgan (USA) – Orlando Pride

Messi named FIFA’s Best men’s player; Best XI controversial

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Lionel Messi is the winner of FIFA’s The Best men’s player, awarded Monday in Milan.

The prolific megastar beat out Liverpool’s Virgil Van Dijk and Juventus’ Cristiano Ronaldo for the honor.

All three, of course, were on the Best XI, though it was not without controversy.

[ MORE: Rapinoe, Ellis headline women’s winners ]

Premier League champions Manchester City had no representation on FIFA’s The Best XI, which comically included three Real Madrid players.

Champions League winners Liverpool followed up the Best Goalkeeper honor given to Alisson Becker and Best Manager nod to Jurgen Klopp with spots for Van Dijk and obviously  Alisson on the XI.

Real Madrid, La Liga’s third place side, put Sergio Ramos, Marcelo, and Luka Modric on the team, as well as Eden Hazard who spent most of the awards season with Chelsea.

Juve’s Ronaldo is joined by Matthijs de Ligt, who led Ajax’s long UCL run before leaving for Turin.

Kylian Mbappe helps shut the attacks of Man City and Liverpool out of the team. Not one player from Germany or the Bundesliga was named to the team.

  • Alisson Becker (BRA) – Liverpool
  • Matthijs de Ligt (NED) – Ajax / Juventus
  • Sergio Ramos (ESP) – Real Madrid
  • Virgil van Dijk (NED) – Liverpool
  • Marcelo (BRA) – Real Madrid
  • Luka Modric (CRO) – Real Madrid
  • Frenkie de Jong (NED) – Ajax/Barcelona
  • Eden Hazard (BEL) – Chelsea/ Real Madrid
  • Cristiano Ronaldo (POR) – Juventus
  • Kylian Mbappe (FRA) – Paris Saint-Germain
  • Lionel Messi (ARG) – Barcelona

Leeds, Bielsa win Fair Play honor at FIFA’s The Best awards

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Well this is peak FIFA.

Football’s governing body has just awarded Leeds United and much-admired manager Marcelo Bielsa its FIFA Fair Play award at its 2019 The Best awards ceremony in Milan.

[ MORE: Klopp wins manager award ]

The reason the Whites won the award is understandable, if you just ignore the fact that they were publicly caught cheating months earlier… and that the “fair play” moment came after an extremely questionable play which led to a brawl.

The win comes for Bielsa’s decision in late April, when his player Mateusz Klich scored a goal despite Aston Villa’s Jonathan Kodija being injured on the pitch.

Bielsa instructed his players to allow Villa to tie the match after a post-goal fight saw a red card to Anwar El Ghazi.

Fair play? Sure, and Leeds kissed goodbye its slim hopes of finishing in automatic promotion place in the Championship.

However, Leeds was also caught monitoring Derby County training sessions, leading to Bielsa to admit in January that he had spied “all the rivals” that season.

I mean, who were the other nominees? Jose Callejon and the Turkish player who fouled players with a sharp object during play?

Bielsa admitted this during an extraordinary Powerpoint session for media members in England which showed the maniacal depths of his preparation, which curried a lot of favor with the media and fans.

Yes, even though he admitted Leeds cheated the whole season.

He also said, “I thought I wasn’t violating the norm,” which is ridiculous.

Now of course we should be too pious, either; A whole lot of teams cheat in this way and football is a cutthroat game. Bielsa is a managerial legend and loved by Pep Guardiola, Mauricio Pochettino, and Jorge Sampaoli.

Jurgen Klopp wins FIFA’s The Best men’s manager

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Jurgen Klopp has been named the top manager in the world for the past season at FIFA’s The Best awards ceremony on Monday in Milan, Italy.

The UEFA Champions League-winning manager beat out Premier League winner Pep Guardiola of Manchester City and UCL finalist Mauricio Pochettino of Spurs.

[ WATCH: FIFA’s The Best awards ceremony ]

Klopp, of course, was magnanimous in victory.

 “It is great, nobody expected this 20, 10, five, four years ago that I would be standing here,” Klopp said. “We know what an incredible job Mauricio Pochettino did and what Pep did.”

He thanked the owners and players of his club.

“To the owners thank you, they gave me an incredible team. I have to thank my team – as a coach you can only be as good as your team is. I’m really proud of being manager of such an incredible bunch of players. This is an individual prize, I don’t 100% understand individual prizes, I’m here for a lot of people.”

Good for Klopp.