US Soccer Fans – ditch that World Cup drama and revel in the positives

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Drama is something that most crave like crack and, within American soccer, the gluttony for hubbub has been at an all time high since World Cup 2014 began staring us in the face.

While it’s been years of anticipation the drama truly began to spike six months ago during the World Cup draw that placed the Yanks in Group G alongside Ghana, Portugal and Germany.

The damned Group of Death,’ was the collective sigh as shoulders slumped and heads dropped.

The fear was reasonable that this National Team was heading full throttle towards the resting place of the 1998 World Cup squad — three losses, one goal scored and last place in the tournament. It was hard to see the light. Ghana is the World Cup nemesis of the US, Portugal have mighty Cristiano Ronaldo and Germany could very well win the tournament. Walking on water might just be easier than getting out of this group.

Over the coming months the drama increased ten-fold: Clint Dempsey was a shell of his former self on loan at Fulham, Timmy Chandler continued to shirk his US commitment with the glee of a high school tease, Michael Bradley made the controversial move to swap Serie A for MLS, Omar Gonzalez shape-shifted into a deer in headlights, Jermaine Jones couldn’t keep his discipline in a straight-jacket and barns weren’t built big enough for Jozy Altidore to hit…

And just when things couldn’t get more bleak, Jurgen Klinsmann made the absolutely heinous decision to cut Landon Donovan, which went down like whiskey on top of tequila catapulting the US collective into a vertigo-inducing stupor that somehow convinced many of us that 18-year-old Julian Green was either a) the reason why Donovan was cut or b) the player who will serve as the US all-time leading scorer’s immediate successor in Brazil. (Note: he’s neither).

Of course, we Americans are not alone in acting out this version of the Real Housewives of International Soccer. The same thing goes down in Italy, Spain, Brazil and every other country in anticipation of the World Cup. We want to do well, so we dramatize. But look on the bright side, at least we’re not Mexico!

See, didn’t that feel better? Nothing like kicking El Tri between the legs to lighten the mood. Because truth be told, it’s not all doom and gloom for the USMNT and to ensure you don’t wander off into a dark place over the next week and a half leading up to the games, here are a few bullet-points of positivity to keep in your back pocket:

  • Nothing To Lose, All To Gain: That has to be the motto when it comes to the US and Group G. It’s a hard freaking draw, yes, but there’s no where to go but up. Getting a point off of Ghana, Portugal or Germany would be great. Taking all three points, momentous. And it can definitely happen. Believe.
  • Jozy Knows No Slump: Did you watch him last summer? Dude scores once and can go unconscious for extended periods of time. So stop worrying about some ‘slump’.
  • Klinsmann’s Won The World Cup: That’s no small feat and that experience allows Jurgen, the master motivator, to say all the right words to get the boys fired up.
  • Bradley Has No Ceiling: Is it just me or does Michael Bradley get better every time he steps foot on the pitch?
  • Cameron-Besler Is Legit: Stop worrying about a center-back partnership because Cam and Bes have it on lock. Yes, they need 1-2 more matches together but they’re our best defensive leaders, mentally sound and dialed in.
  • Deuce Face: ‘Nuf said.
  • Ghana’s Not That Good: We need to stop over-hyping this Ghana squad. I’ve watched them play, they’re not that good. We should get a result here.
  • American Outlaws: Don’t know who they are? Use the Google and find out. Then enlist.
  • Berti’s Here: Berti Vogts was named special advisor by Klinsmann just a few months ago and with good reason – the guy is a master tactician. Which is exactly the trait where Klinsy could use some help. Credit to the man, though, he recognized the mistake and remedied it. Yes, Bogts also coaches Azerbaijan and it meant we had to play them in a friendly but who cares?! He’s ours in Brazil and he’s brilliant.
  • The Rise of Fabian: Said it before, I’ll say it again – Fabian Johnson is a weapon. Easily one of the US’s best players and, from all accounts, he’s poised to explode down in Brazil.
  • Howard and Guzan: Brick walls are tough to get through.
  • Ronaldo Is Struggling: Look, I’ll be in Manaus for that game and CR7 better damn well play. But judging from reports I’m reading now, 18 days away from that match, there’s a very strong chance Ronaldo is struggling with his fitness for that match. I’m calling it now, the US wins this game.

 

Man City to sign Ruben Dias for $84 million

Ruben Dias to Manchester City
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Ruben Dias to Manchester City has been confirmed by Benfica, as the Portuguese international center back will complete his $84 million transfer to the Premier League.

Given their 5-2 mauling at home against Leicester City on Sunday, City need defensive help. Big time.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

Dias, 23, is regarded as one of the best central defensive players in Europe and Pep Guardiola’s Man City have moved swiftly to try and address their defensive issues.

In a statement on their website, Portuguese giants Benfica confirmed the sale of Dias as the formalities of the move will now be ironed in the coming days.

“In the first statement (10:59 pm) it informed that it had reached an agreement with Manchester City for the sale of the central defender Ruben Dias for 68 million euros, plus an additional 3.6 million euros, depending on the achievement of objectives related to the sporting performance of the English club. This agreement is dependent on the signing of the player’s sports labor contract with Manchester City.”

Benfica also announced that they have bought Man City defender Nicolas Otamendi, 32, for $17.5 million to replace Dias.

“In the second statement (11 pm) Sport Lisboa e Benfica – Futebol, SAD informed that it has reached an agreement with Manchester City for the signing of the central defender Nicolas Otamendi for 15 million euros. This agreement is dependent on the signing of a sports labor contract with the player and the completion of medical examinations.”

After spending $53 million on center back Nathan Ake already this summer, Guardiola is still trying to fill a Vincent Kompany sized hole in his defense. 12 months on, Man City are still struggling defensively.

Kalidou Koulibaly was linked with a move to Man City but it is believed they couldn’t agree a deal with Napoli and have instead gone for Dias. With Aymeric Laporte close to a return to full fitness, there is no doubt Man City’s defense will improve in the coming weeks and months.

And my goodness, it has to. If Pep Guardiola’s side have any chance of winning the Premier League and challenging for the Champions League they simply have to get better at the back, and the current players have shown they aren’t up to the task. An upgrade on their current full backs will be needed as well as Dias and Ake.

Dias is a confident defender on the ball, which will suit City, but more importantly they need him to hit the ground running and be a dominant defender.

Liverpool – Arsenal: How to watch, start time, odds, predicted lineup

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Liverpool – Arsenal: Two heavyweights clash at Anfield on Monday (Watch live at 3pm ET online via Peacock) as both team have a perfect record with two wins from two so far.

[ MORE: How to watch PL in the USA ]  

Reigning champions Liverpool have perhaps been more impressive as they’ve beaten upstarts Leeds United and then Chelsea, while Arsenal eased past Fulham but struggled past West Ham.

[ MORE: ProSoccerTalk unfiltered, Week 2 ]

When it comes to Jurgen Klopp and Mikel Arteta, their playing philosophy as managers could not be more different as Arsenal beat Liverpool on penalties at Wembley to win the Community Shield last month.

Here’s everything you need to know ahead of a massive early-season clash as Arsenal look to put down a marker.


Team news: Liverpool – Arsenal (INJURY REPORT)

Liverpool will be hoping center back Joe Gomez will be fit after he missed the win at Chelsea last weekend, while this game will come too soon for fellow defender Joel Matip. Judging by the early reports, Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson should also be fit to start.

Arsenal could have Kieran Tierney back fit for this game, which would be a big boost. Pablo Mari, Calum Chamberls, Gabriel Martinelli and Shkodran Mustafi all remain out injured.


Predicted lineup

Liverpool (4-3-3): Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Fabinho, Van Dijk, Robertson; Wijnaldum, Thiago, Henderson; Salah, Firmino, Mane

Arsenal (3-4-3): Leno; Holding, Gabriel, Tierney; Bellerin, Ceballos, Xhaka, Maitland-Niles; Willian, Lacazette, Aubameyang


Odds and ends (full odds provided by our partner, PointsBet)

Understandably Liverpool are the heavy favorites (-210) given their long unbeaten home record at Anfield. That said Arsenal (+520) do seem a high price after they beat Liverpool during ‘Project Restart’ and also in the Community Shield final. The draw at +360 is intriguing and the value perhaps lies there.

PointsBet is our Official Sports Betting Partner and we may receive compensation if you place a bet on PointsBet for the first time after clicking our links


Liverpool – Arsenal prediction

Arsenal have a lot more grit under Arteta and they ware capable of bending but not breaking. This is a huge test for them, though, and Gabriel against the fluid front three of Salah, Firmino and Mane will be his biggest test yet. Arsenal have the attackers to make the most of any more slack defending from Liverpool but I expect Klopp’s side to have just too much in midfield and attack. Liverpool 2-1 Arsenal.


How to watch Liverpool – Arsenal stream and start time

Kickoff: 3pm ET Monday
TV Channel: Peacock
Online: Stream via NBCSports.com

Fulham – Aston Villa: How to watch, start time, team news, prediction, odds

Fulham - Aston Villa
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Fulham – Aston Villa: How early is too early to call a game “must-win” in the Premier League? Perhaps we will find out on Monday (Watch live at 12:45 pm ET, online via Peacock), when bottom-of-the-table Fulham host Aston Villa at Craven Cottage.

FULHAM – ASTON VILLA STREAM LIVE

Scott Parker’s side has had a torrid start to life back in the PL — not at all dissimilar to the way their last stint ended — and find themselves with zero points and seven goals conceded after their first two games. Losing 3-0 to Arsenal on the opening day of the season wasn’t altogether surprising, but following that defeat with four more goals conceded to Leeds United last weekend will undoubtedly have done a number on the Cottagers’ confidence.

Villa, on the other hand, have played just once and secured a 1-0 victory over Sheffield United earlier this week. A win on Monday would see Dean Smith’s side start the season with back-to-back PL victories for the first time since the 1999-2000 season.

[ MORE: How to watch PL in the USA ]  

Here is everything you need to know ahead of Fulham – Aston Villa this Monday with team news, odds, stream link and more.


Team news: Fulham – Aston Villa (INJURY REPORT)

Fulham – No injuries or suspensions

Aston Villa – OUT: Bjorn Engels (thigh), Tom Heaton (knee), Wesley (knee), Ahmed Elmohamady (thigh)


What they’re saying: Fulham – Aston Villa

Scott Parker, on a “must-win” game: “I don’t see it as drastic as a must-win. We want to win. I know it’s either high or low in a drastic world, but we need to stay level and take realism of where we are in the campaign and where we are as a team. We will try everything we can to take some points and be up to the challenge. I don’t think we’re the only team at this present moment in time who have let in some goals in the first two games. It’s not ideal, of course not. Villa at home on Monday is a game we’re going to try to get three points.”

Dean Smith, on needing another signing: “We’re always looking in the market, we’re probably one short in the squad at the moment so we’ll keep looking at that. I think there’s seven days left until the window shuts internationally, another seven days domestically. Our sporting director at the moment has got his finger on the pulse, hopefully we might get one more in and maybe a couple more out.”


Odds and ends (full odds provided by our partner, PointsBet)

This one is just about a coin flip with Fulham (+185) ever so slight underdogs to Villa (+150). In a game that could go either way like this one, the draw (+225) might just be the safe middle ground.

PointsBet is our Official Sports Betting Partner and we may receive compensation if you place a bet on PointsBet for the first time after clicking our links


Prediction: Fulham – Aston Villa

There’s not much to separate these two sides right now, and there likely won’t be much ground between them come the season’s final table. There should be a few goals, but that’ll be more down to poor defending than excellent attacking quality from either side. Fulham 2-2 Villa.


How to watch Fulham – Aston Villa stream and start time

Kickoff: 12:45 pm ET Monday
Online: Stream via Peacock

Serie A: Lozano scores twice for Napoli; 10-man Juve drop points to Roma

Cristiano Ronaldo - Juventus
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A roundup of all of Sunday’s action in Serie A, where Cristiano Ronaldo scored twice to save a point for Juventus and Hirving Lozano also scored twice in Napoli’s 6-0 victory…

[ MORE: Suarez plays just 20 minutes, scores two goals in Atleti debut (video) ]

Roma 2-2 Juventus

Juventus overturned a pair of deficits to salvage a point from their trip to Rome, but Andrea Pirlo might just feel his side should have taken more from the game if not for Adrien Rabiot’s red card in the 62nd minute.

Jordan Veretout fired Roma ahead from the penalty spot in the 31st minute, but Cristiano Ronaldo matched him with a spot kick of his own in the 44th. Veretout made it 2-1 less than a minute into the second half, with thanks to an assist from Henrikh Mkhitaryan.

Rabiot got his second yellow card of the game 15 minutes later, but it didn’t stop Ronalado from scoring his second equalizer in the 69th minute.

Regardless of the country, league or club, we’re seeing some of Europe’s greatest powerhouses struggle through uncharacteristically slow starts to the 2020-21 season. The safe assumption is that the cream will inevitably rise to the top after working out the early kinks, but it might just open the door for an unlikely title challenger or two as well.

[ MORE: Saturday in Serie A: Inter win 7-goal thriller in 89th minute ]

Napoli 6-0 Genoa

Napoli went top of the table (after two games) by way of Sunday’s beatdown of Genoa.

Mexican superstar Hirving Lozano opened the scoring in the 10th minute and added his second goal on the game in the 65th. In between his two tallies, Piota Zielinski (46th) and Dries Mertens (57th) also scored.

Eljif Elmas (69th) and Matteo Politano (72nd) each scored not much later to complete the scoring and the rout.

Crotone 0-2 AC Milan

Franck Kessie converted from the penalty spot in first-half stoppage time and Brahim Diaz added an insurance goal five minutes into the second half to give AC Milan their second 2-0 victory in a row to start the season. All appears to be going too well for the Rossoneri right now.

Other Serie A results

Spezia 1-4 Sassuolo
Hellas Verona 1-0 Udinese