Belgium injury update: Thomas Vermaelen out; Vincent Kompany still doubtful

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The health of Belgium’s defense has been one of the major talking points ahead to the team’s Tuesday Round of 16 match against the United States. Unfortunately for Red Devils’ fans, one of the fitness doubts that team carried out of its World Cup group stage has been resolved in the negative. Thomas Vermaelen, a potential starter at left back, has been ruled out, head coach Marc Wilmots confirmed on Monday.

While the Belgium boss said the veteran defender should be ready if his team makes the quarterfinals, the defender’s hamstring will keep him out of tomorrow’s match in Salvador. Through the tournament’s first 270 minutes, Vermaelen’s only been able to play 45, toughing out the first half against Russia after incurring his injury warming up for his team’s second match.

On Monday, Wilmots confirmed his vice-captain and been ruled out. Here’s the Belgian head coach, also speaking asked about midfielder Marouane Fellaini, from FIFA.com:

“Thomas … has not enough time to be fit by tomorrow. He will be fit if we make the quarterfinals. He will return to full squad training in a day or two. Marouane is fine, no problem.”

Vermaelen wasn’t the only Belgian injury doubt coming off the team’s last match, but as Wilmots confirmed in the same press conference, little about captain Vincent Kompany’s status has changed since he was held out on Thursday against South Korea:

“I don’t know about Vincent and whether he will be fit,” said [Wilmots]. “We will see how it evolves.

That leaves U.S. fans in the awkward position of rooting for an injury, but this is Vincent Kompany we’re talking about. The man’s always in the conversation as one of the best central defenders in the world. If he can’t go on Tuesday, U.S. fans stand a better chance of seeing their team reach its third quarterfinal.

Not that Kompany’s replacements would be bums. If the Manchester City star is out, we’ll likely see Daniel Van Buyten and Nicolas Lombaerts in the middle. Out wide, Jan Vertonghen will get the call on the left, while Toby Alderweireld

 

Wasteful Man City advances to Carabao Cup final past Man United

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Manchester United won the battle, but Manchester City won the war.

Looking to overcome a 3-1 first-leg deficit, Manchester United got a fabulous first-half goal from Nemanja Matic but that was all, earning a 1-0 victory in the game but failing to keep Man City from advancing to the Carabao Cup final via a 3-2 aggregate score. Man City was dreadful in front of net in a game they likely could have scored three or more goals, but after Matic was sent off with 15 minutes remaining, it wasn’t to be for the Red Devils.

The hosts had a big chance early on as Sergio Aguero got through behind the United defense and headed on frame inside the opening 10 minutes, but David De Gea made a spectacular diving save to keep out the Premier League’s second-leading scorer. Aguero tested de Gea again in the 17th minute with a shot destined for the top-right corner, but the Spaniard got up to his left this time for another fingertip save.

Manchester United struck first in the 35th minute as Nemanja Matic delivered a venomous volley off a free-kick, burying the chance on the Red Devils’ first shot of the game. The set-piece delivery from Fred came from the left flank and swung out, coming off the head of the first man Bernardo Silva and falling right to Matic near the top of the box who leg-whipped the ball off the inside of the post.

City had the equalizer in the back of the net before halftime as Raheem Sterling latched onto a Kevin De Bruyne cross, but Sterling and Aguero behind him were both offside by a significant margin and the flag correctly went up to nullify the strike.

After halftime, Sterling again had a massive opportunity but couldn’t cash in on the hour mark. Charging on the break, Sterling got past Victor Lindelof and could have taken an early shot, but with de Gea charging and closing him down, Sterling panicked and failed to pinch off an effort. Instead, with de Gea crawling along the ground and defenders scrambling back, there was no room to shoot and eventually his effort was much too late and skied over the bar.

Manchester United looked compact after the halftime break, often packing in and preventing Man City shots from good areas just by sheer numbers behind the ball. De Gea was forced into another good save as he kept out a vicious long-distance Kyle Walker effort, punching it away against his body diving to the right. Somehow, City again came up empty in the 73rd minute after forcing a bad Harry Maguire turnover, but David Silva didn’t take the blatant wide-open chance, instead passing to Ilkay Gundogan who was closed down by two scrambling defenders and unable to get a shot off.

While it seemed United was right in the match, they fell down to 10 men after Nemanja Matic – already on a yellow card – chopped down Gundogan on the break and earned himself an early shower. Referee Kevin Friend had clearly already spoken to Harry Maguire about Matic, saying he was on his last warning. It was all City from there, and while Aguero couldn’t finish their best chance on 84 minutes thanks to the offside flag, they saw out the match to advance on aggregate.

Man City fails to score for the first time in 26 games across all competitions, but despite that they still advance to take on Aston Villa at Wembley, hoping to earn its fourth League Cup title in the last five years.

Liverpool youngster Elliott scores bicycle kick goal in reserve match

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Harvey Elliott came to Liverpool via Fulham as highly rated as youngsters come. He’s got plenty of maturing still to do both on and off the field, but his talent is undoubtable.

That was on display as Liverpool’s reserve squad took on Wolverhampton Wanderers in a Premier League 2 fixture. Just after halftime, Elliott leveled the score at 2-2 with a stunning bicycle kick at the near post on a corner. The skill it took to essentially catch up to the ball as it floated parallel past him was fabulous, and his strike was true as it caught the Wolves goalkeeper off guard, unable to catch up to the pace of the shot.

The 16-year-old has been a regular for the Liverpool first-team squad in Cup matches but has then taken the field for the U-23 squad to get him some playing time, and clearly it’s done wonders.

Elliott came over from Fulham this past summer for an undisclosed fee given his age. He had already become the youngest player to appear in a Premier League game, coming on for the Whites in a game in May against Wolves with relegation looming.

Watch Live: West Ham United v. Liverpool

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After weeks of having a game in hand on Premier League title chasers Manchester City and Leicester City, the full extent of Liverpool’s lead will be revealed when the Reds visit West Ham United on Wednesday (Watch live, 2:45 p.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com).

[ STREAM: Every PL game live here ]

Once the full-time whistle blows at the London Stadium, all 20 PL sides will have played 24 games. Ahead of kickoff, Jurgen Klopp‘s side leads second-place Man City by a whopping 16 points.

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West Ham, meanwhile, sit 17th in the table and are only clear of the relegation zone by way of goal differential. That’s something that could very easily change between now and 5 p.m. ET.

LIVE, League Cup semifinal: Man City v. Man United

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It’s time for leg two of the Manchester derby in the semifinals of the EFL Cup (Wednesday, 2:45 p.m. ET) at the Etihad Stadium.

[ LIVE: Man City v. Man United ]

Manchester City lead 3-1 following their first-leg dismantling of Manchester United at Old Trafford. In theory, it’s a mere formality to reach the final at Wembley, where they would take on Aston Villa following their late dramatics on Tuesday.

Click on the link above to follow the action live, while we will have you covered here at Pro Soccer Talk with all of the reaction and analysis.

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