Bundesliga Wrap: Bayern Munich could clinch title this month

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With their win over Bayer Leverkusen, combined with Dortmund’s loss to Gladbach, Bayern Munich now have a 23-point lead at the top of the Bundesliga table. That means the Bavarian giants could find themselves crowned champions before the month is even out.

And considering Saturday’s win marks Bayern’s 50th straight unbeaten game in the league, well…it might just be simpler to hand them the trophy right now.

Although that doesn’t mean the rest of the Bundesliga can’t throw up some surprises now and then:

Friday results

Augsburg 1-2 Schalke
The hosts got off to a fantastic start when Tobias Werner scored after just five minutes. But Schalke, mindful of losing out on third after fighting so hard to reach the Champions League places, came roaring back. Klaas-Jan Huntelaar had his side even before the break, and then put in the winner shortly after the restart.

Saturday results

Borussia Dortmund 1-2 Borussia Mönchengladbach
It’s Gladbach’s first win of 2014 and what a win to get – victory over their rivals, currently in second place. The Foals did do their best to throw away yet another lead, playing down a man for 25 minutes after Havard Nordtveit got sent off, and allowing a goal from Miloš Jojić. But in the end, goals from Raffael and Max Kruse – and an impressive performance from Patrick Herrmann – got Gladbach all three points.

Braunschweig 1-1 Wolfsburg
Bottom-side Braunschweig continue trying to pull their way up, point by point, and it continues making little difference. But the equalizer from Karim Bellarabi was better than letting Luis Gustavo’s goal go unanswered, even if Braunschweig remain dead last.

Hertha Berlin 0-3 Hannover
Hertha continue their slide down the table, letting Hannover run roughshod over them. Lars Stindl, Jan Schlaudraff and Szabolcs Huszti all scored for the visitors, who are now three in a row unbeaten.

Hoffenheim 2-4 Mainz
Sejad Salihović missed a penalty for Hoffenheim in the fifth minute, which rather set the tone for the rest of the match. The hosts bounced back and, thanks to goals from Eugen Polanski and Roberto Firmino, were up 2-0 by the 52nd minute. But Mainz took less than 25 minutes to turn things around. Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting starting things off, with Benedikt Saller scoring five minutes later. Shinji Okazaki followed up with a header before grabbing his second in stoppage time. Mainz are now fifth, and are closing in on Leverkusen for a Champions League spot.

Werder Bremen 1-1 Stuttgart 
The point keeps Stuttgart out of the danger zone, but only just – and if Hamburg or Freiburg win on Sunday, they may slip down into the bottom three. Stuttgart, too, managed to miss a penalty, attempted by Martin Harnik. They took the lead in the second half through a goal from Georg Niedermeier, but a direct free kick from Aaron Hunt ensured Werder Bremen got a share of the spoils.

Bayern Munich 2-1 Bayer Leverkusen
At least Leverkusen tried to make things interesting – but the stoppage time goal from Stefan Kießling proved too little, too late. Mario Mandžukić had headed home to close the first half, and a Bastian Schweinsteiger free kick doubled the hosts’ lead early in the second. Now Leverkusen are down in fourth, and could very well find themselves losing out on Champions League play next season.

Sunday fixtures

Hamburg vs. Nurnberg
Are Hamburg really set to go down for the first time in their history? If they can’t get a result against Nurnberg, just three points above them in the table, that just might be the case. But the visitors have lost their last two while Hamburg came back to draw Frankfurt last weekend, so the advantage might be to the hosts.

Frankfurt vs. Freiburg
Freiburg will be hoping to pull themselves out of the relegation zone with a win over Frankfurt, but their current form -without a win in their last six – suggests that’s unlikely to be the case. The hosts, meanwhile, have had a bit of an up-and-down season, but are certainly capable of beating weaker sides.

Nashville signs Mexican striker for MLS 2020 debut, loans him to USL

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Nashville has its first official Major League Soccer signing, and it’s raided a USL rival to land him for the 2020 season.

[ REPORT: New Chelsea deal for Kante? ]

Daniel Rios is the debut member of their MLS side, and the 23-year-old Mexican striker will spend the 2019 season on loan to USL side Nashville SC.

Rios is bringing an outstanding 2018 season west from North Carolina, where he scored 20 goals and 13 assists for NCFC.

A former Mexico U-20 player, Rios was on loan to NCFC from Chivas Guadalajara.

LIVE: USMNT vs. Italy – Pulisic wearing captain’s armband

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Christian Pulisic may be only 20-years old, but he’ll have to take a big step up in leadership on Tuesday evening.

Pulisic has been given the captain’s armband for the first time as the youth-laden U.S. Men’s National Team side finishes the 2018 calendar slate facing an experimental Italy side. The U.S. Starting XI has an average age of just 22-years and 71 days, making it the youngest lineup in the modern era.

[ FOLLOW: PST’s Joe Prince-Wright reporting LIVE from Genk, Belgium ]

It’s also a chance for fans to see Josh Sargent play alongside Pulisic, while two members of the New York Red Bulls, Tyler Adams and Aaron Long, both make starts on this cool Tuesday evening. Reggie Cannon and Shaq Moore earn the nods at wing back and Cameron Carter-Vickers also makes his return to the field, after Dave Sarachan went with Matt Miazga and John Anthony Brooks against England in central defense. The USMNT will play with a three-man backline against Italy.

Stay tuned to PST for wall-to-wall coverage, reaction and analysis of Thursday’s game as soon as the final whistle blows.

Report: Chelsea to double Kante’s wages

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Count Chelsea’s ownership and coaching staff among the many who value N'Golo Kante‘s talents, and are willing to pay big bucks for them.

According to a report in The Telegraph, Chelsea and Kante have agreed on a new five-year contract, worth $19.9 million per season. If true, Kante’s new contract doubles the French World Cup winner’s wages as he continues to prove his mettle as the top holding midfielder in the Premier League.

[READ: U.S. U-20s to face Mexico in CONCACAF U-20 Championship]

Kante’s so far scored one goal in 18 appearances in all competitions for Chelsea under new manager Maurizio Sarri, who has paired Kante in midfield with Jorginho. The Brazilian-born Italian serves as the deep-lying playmaker while Kante is the destroyer, winning the ball back before it gets into the final third.

The new contract is significant because in the past, mainly attackers have been given large contracts while defensive-minded players have had to settle for smaller wages. However, nearly $20 million per season is no small chunk of change, and this could raise the rest of the tide of holding midfielders across the Premier League.

For Chelsea, the club needed to re-sign Kante and keep him happy, in part because their title ambitions rest with him. The lure of playing for Paris Saint-Germain or Real Madrid can be strong, but with Chelsea paying his wages, he now has almost $20 million reasons not to leave Stamford Bridge.

UEFA to introduce VAR in Champions League knockout stage

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Following a successful run at the 2018 FIFA World Cup, UEFA is finally getting on board with adopting video assistant refereeing.

VAR will be in use during the Champions League’s knockout stage in 2019, according to a report from the Times of London, which states that UEFA’s executive committee is expected to approve VAR for this season at an upcoming meeting on Dec. 3 in Dublin. Video review was reportedly not supposed to be approved until the 2019-2020 Champions League campaign but recent refereeing errors in the face of successful trials of VAR changed UEFA’s mind.

[READ: Ibrahimovic back to AC Milan?]

Video review at the World Cup proved that VAR could be conducted in a speedy and accurate manner, ensuring the integrity of the game while adding some new drama to the game. Raheem Sterling‘s penalty kick in Man City’s match against Shakhtar Donetsk, when video replay showed he tripped over his own feet, only renewed calls from fans and the media for video assistant referees to be used in these big-time events.

Technology has improved to the point where it is imperative that referees are given all the help they can receive. Players are moving quicker than ever, and the human eye can only watch so much. The fact that referees get nearly every decision correct is in it of itself, an impressive feat. Hopefully, with VAR coming to the Champions League and the Premier League, referees can return to getting game-changing decisions correct.