Bundesliga Roundup: Bayern fall, twice in a row

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It took more than three years, but it’s finally happened: Bayern Munich have lost back-to-back Bundesliga games for the first time since March 2011. Of course, the German giants have already wrapped up the title and are focused on winning the Champions League once more, but the 3-0 victory was still quite a coop for Dortmund.

Little changed in the bottom half of the table, with Hamburg, Nurnberg and Braunschweig still occupying the last three slots, and Stuttgart sitting just above.

Friday Results

Schalke 2-0 Eintracht Frankfurt
Schalke are looking more and more certain of an automatic Champions League place next season, holding an eight point lead in third place with six games left to go. Klaas-Jan Huntelaar failed to score again, missing a penalty in the 66th minute, but both Max Meyer and Jefferson Farfán stepped up, the latter grabbing a late goal after coming on to replace Julian Draxler in the 86th minute.

Saturday Results

Borussia Mönchengladbach 1-1 Stuttgart
Gladbach fought back to claim a draw, keeping the Foals within a point of fourth place and what’s certain to be a hard-earned Champions League spot. Daniel Didavi opened the scoring with a goal in the 12th minute, and it looked as though Stuttgart were set to hold on for a win. But Juan Arango got on the end of a cross from Max Kruse to equalize in the 89th minute. That leaves Stuttgart in the thick of the relegation battle, one point clear of the danger spots.

Freiburg 2-0 Braunschweig
Last week’s surprise 3-0 victory over rivals Hannover is now but a distant memory, with bottom-side Braunschweig losing once more and remaining three points clear of safety. The visitors even graciously gifted Freiburg the opener, with Damir Vrančić putting the ball into the back of his own net, and Julian Schuster added a second shortly after the restart. With just one loss in their last six, Freiburg are now looking like they just might stay up.

Hannover 2-1 Hamburg
After beating Leverkusen last weekend, Hamburg are once again back in the danger zone. Hannover’s Lars Stindl gave the hosts the lead before ten minutes were up, but Hakan Calhanoglu found an equalizer just after the second half began. It looked as though Hamburg might manage a point, but a tap-in from Didier Ya Konan secured the win for Hannover.

Mainz 3-0 Werder Bremen
It was all too easy for Mainz, who lost to Frankfurt last weekend, to overcome Werder this week. Another own goal, from Nils Petersen, opened the scoring, with Christoph Moritz and Yunus Malli adding two more before the clock had reached forty minutes. The result keeps Mainz, currently seventh, in the hunt for a Europa League spot, but they’ll be four points out if Leverkusen beat Hertha on Sunday.

Wolfsburg 4-1 Nurnberg
Their emphatic victory over Nurnberg lifted Wolfsburg into fourth, although they’ll remain wary of Gladbach and Leverkusen sneaking in – particularly with a potentially tiring Cup game against Dortmund midweek. Markus Feulner opened the scoring for the visitors, but goals from Ivica Olić and Ivan Perišić put Wolfsburg up 2-1 at the break. Junior Malanda put in the hosts’ third and Perišić  grabbed a second to make it 4-1. Nurnberg remain second from bottom, having lost three in a row and with Leverkusen, then Mainz up next.

Bayern Munich 0-3 Borussia Dortmund
A surprise win at the Allianz Arena keeps Dortmund in second, three points above Schalke. Marco Reus proved instrumental in the victory, setting up Henrikh Mkhitaryan for the first goal and scoring the second himself. Jonas Hofmann got the third, before the hour mark. The match ended with Bayern’s Rafinha being shown a straight red for fighting. Oh, and if you’re worried about Manuel Neuer being subbed off at halftime, fret not – it was just a precautionary move to keep the goalkeeper healthy.

Sunday Fixtures

Bayer Leverkusen vs. Hertha Berlin
The hosts have a chance to get themselves back into the Champions League spots, but you have to wonder – do they really want to reach such dizzying heights? In the twelve games played since the winter break, Leverkusen – who were second in January – have won just three times. Hertha, too, have fallen in the second half. They’ve won just twice and slid into tenth, but their excellent start to the season means they’ll spend another year in the top division.

Hoffenheim vs. Augsburg
The week finishes with a mid-table clash, so you might be tempted to tune it out. But Hoffeheim absolutely love high-scoring thrillers, routinely either netting four or allowing four. They have 64 goals scored, as many as Dortmund, but 63 conceded, which is the most in the Bundesliga. How can you not want to watch?

How will USMNT line up versus Costa Rica?

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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.