Geoff Cameron: Eden Hazard is “best I’ve played against” in Premier League

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Geoff believes Hazard is the best player he’s faced in the Premier League.

Each week at ProSoccerTalk we will hear from from U.S. national team and Stoke City defender Geoff Cameron, who is now a special correspondent for NBCSports.com

[ RELATED: Cameron’s latest on PST ]

The proud Bostonian tells us what life is like behind-the-scenes in England’s top-flight with Q&A’s, first-person pieces and more. This week, he talks about his admiration for Eden Hazard, how to beat Chelsea and the festive season.

It is a big test for us on Monday, playing against Chelsea who are top of the league and have shown everyone just how good they are this season. With the likes of Cesc Fabregas, Eden Hazard and Diego Costa up top, they have a lot of good players but you can’t just focus on one. You have to focus on them all.

I’ve said this in the past, but for me Hazard is the best player I have played against in the Premier League. Jose Mourinho has come out to this week and said Hazard could become “a club legend” and having marked him last season, I totally agree with that. You don’t want him to pick up the ball with no pressure, because he will just run away with it. You have to be close and tight with him because he is so good on the ball, he’s neat, quick and shifty. Those are the things you have to be aware of. As we all saw when the U.S. played Belgium at the World Cup, a guy like Hazard, if he turns with the ball and has 10 yards to run at your defense, that is the last thing you want a guy like him doing. We kept him quiet that game in Brazil, so hopefully Stoke can do the same on Monday.

[ RELATED: Watch full match replays ]

source:
Geoff, Wilson Palacios, Marc Muniesa and Bojan enjoying the sights in London.

Hazard is a wonderful player, but you can’t give time to Fabregas, Costa, Willian, Oscar, either. Chelsea have so many top players who are dangerous like Hazard but we want to make it uncomfortable for them because if they are not comfortable and confident, then it gives us a chance to implement our tactics in the game.

For us it is all about trying to string wins together and we are striving for consistency. We got a decent point away at Crystal Palace away last time out. On Monday we have to keep our lines tight and make it tough for Chelsea to play because we know how good they are and we want to frustrate them. That is the way we want to go about it.

In order to not let Chelsea gain confidence in the game, you have to get stuck into them early and let them know they are going to have a long, hard match. Basically, do anything to throw them off their game. The most important thing is that you need to work together as one. You have to decide whether to stand off and sit back, or push up high and be tight. If one player doesn’t do that, then that’s when you come unstuck and really start to struggle because their players will take advantage of it right away.

[ RELATED: Premier League, festive TV schedule ]

Chelsea haven’t got many weaknesses, obviously, but one area where I think we can really hurt them is if we are compact, sit back and then spring quick counter attacks and get in-behind their full backs Branislav Ivanovic and Cesar Azpilicueta. They look to push on, so if we can exploit that area, we could get some joy on the flanks.

Our fans have been fantastic at the Britannia Stadium this year. We beat Arsenal the last two years at home, beat Chelsea last season, and they have really been our 12th man. They get rowdy and create an intimidating atmosphere and boy, they will be ready to welcome Chelsea so hopefully we can give them the perfect early Christmas present!

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

As you all know, the holiday period over here in England is insane! With Stoke, we have four games coming up in the next 10 days, it is a really tough time of the year. But you just have to take it one game at a time and the most important thing is rest and recovery plus getting the fish oils, fruit and keeping a healthy diet when everyone else is chowing down on Christmas dinner! It is tough, mentally, at this time of year to stay focused but I have friends flying over from Houston and we will still have a great time celebrating the holidays. They all understand I am focused to do as well as possible for Stoke at a crucial time of the season and they will all be at the game against Chelsea on Monday, so everyone is looking forward to that.

We had our Christmas party at Stoke last weekend after our game against Crystal Palace in London (the picture on the left is of myself, Bojan, Marc Muniesa and Wilson Palacios enjoying the time off) and I am really looking forward to the holidays over here and have been visiting some children at hospital last week with my teammates to help bring some festive cheer. I hope you and your families all have a great time and cherish the time you have together. So, a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to everyone out there, and hopefully over the next week Stoke will get plenty of wins to make it a good one for all of our fans!

Until next time, peace… and Happy Holidays!

MLS Saturday wrap: Quakes keep firing; Toronto, SKC falter

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MLS doesn’t have too many days like Saturday, with four away teams collecting wins on a seven-match docket.

The surprise is lessened a bit by the identity of the losing hosts: struggling Vancouver, Colorado, and Sporting KC: Wow, that last one is taking some getting used to, isn’t it?).

[ MORE: Where will Bale go? ]

In a league where only two of 24 teams are above .500 on the road (DC United and LAFC), it’s still saying something about a hot weekend in these United States of America (and Canada).

Columbus Crew 2-1 Montreal Impact

The Crew’s early advantage looked like business as usual by halftime, as Caleb Porter’s struggling men conceded in stoppage time, but David Accam netted right after the break to give Columbus a much-needed three points.

Toronto FC 1-3 Houston Dynamo

TFC opened the door for New England or Orlando City to climb into the top seven by going into an early hole and failing to rally. Michael Bradley and Jozy Altidore came off the bench, the latter scoring, but the Reds did little on Alejandro Pozuelo’s day off and the Dynamo get a big road win to move without touching distance of a playoff position.

This is not adequate defense.

Philadelphia Union 2-0 Chicago Fire

Marco Fabian scored a beauty and Anthony Fontana also netted as the Union assured themselves another week atop the Eastern Conference. Chicago remains winless away from home.

Sporting KC 0-2 FC Dallas

What in the world is going on? SKC could not find the net with more than one of their 17 shot attempts, and fell five points back of a playoff spot. Worse, the hosts allowed sixth-place Dallas to move five points clear of them.

Colorado Rapids 1-2 New York City FC

It didn’t take long for youngster Sebastian Anderson to go from hero to goat, as the soon-to-be 17-year-old gave the Rapids a sixth minute lead before taking a red card 27 minutes later. Heber and Alexandru Mitrita scored late in each half to drive NYCFC’s dreams of the top spot in the East. The visitors are now seven points back of first, but have four matches-in-hand on Philadelphia.

Real Salt Lake 1-1 Minnesota United

Darwin Quintero and Marcelo Silva traded goals in a fair result.

Vancouver Whitecaps 1-3 San Jose Earthquakes

Make it three-straight wins for the Quakes, who rode Cali Clasico momentum and overcame an early Doneil Henry goal through Vako, Chris Wondolowski, and the in-form Magnus Eriksson.

Kane scores from midfield to beat Juve

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Harry Kane lobbed Wojciech Szczesny from nearly 50 yards to send Tottenham Hotspur past Juventus early Sunday morning.

Maybe he wanted to embarrass a former North London Derby rival, or perhaps he just wanted to avoid penalties.

The goal was made more remarkable by Kane’s blast radius including two men marking him near the Juve part of the center circle.

[ MORE: Where will Bale go? ]

It was an entertaining International Champions Cup match on Sunday morning, with goalkeepers Hugo Lloris and Gianluigi Buffon plenty busy.

Tanguy Ndombele came off the bench to assist and impress for Spurs and Matthijs de Ligt making his Juve debut as a sub.

Cristiano Ronaldo and Gonzalo Higuain scored for Juve, and the latter probably should’ve won it with a dragged shot in the 83rd minute.

Spurs goals came courtesy of Erik Lamela, who tapped in a rebound of a bullet shot from 17-year-old Ryan Parrott, and Moura.

The Brazilian was fed into the box by a sweet Ndombele pass moments after the new Spurs midfielder subbed into the match.

Here is Ronaldo’s goal.

Bale leaving Real Madrid; Where to?

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Gareth Bale is not going to play for Real Madrid this season. The jersey he will pull onto his body remains a mystery.

Real manager Zinedine Zidane said that “it’d be better” for the club and player if he was sold tomorrow, claiming it’s nothing personal but that Bale is simply not in his plans.

[ MORE: Watford chasing Sarr ]

Bale’s agent Jonathan Barnett poured gasoline on those comments by blasting the French legend as “a disgrace,” saying the player and agent are “working on” an exit.

From Marca.com:

“Zidane is a disgrace,” Barnett told AFP. “He shows no respect for a player that has done so much for Real Madrid.”

Obviously it’s far from disgraceful for Zidane to publicly admit that a massive player and personality may no longer fit the bill, and Barnett’s harsh words are more than agent talk: He wants a higher fee than will come from Real saying, “He’s 10000000000% available.”

Barnett does represent Jesse Lingard and Luke Shaw, and there are so many reasons to think the Welshman could move to Manchester United. A return to Spurs is obviously romantic, but the club’s wage structure would be a concern to deeming this a fit.

Bale wasn’t fantastic last season, posting eight goals and three assists in under 1800 La Liga minutes and adding three goals and two assists in under 500 Champions League minutes (In fact, he was the 14th ranked player in UCL advanced stats according to Who Scored).

He is not far removed from monster campaigns with Real, and it’s no surprise that his production would drop off in a world without Cristiano Ronaldo around him (and vice versa, to a lesser degree).

There are a lot of reasons to wonder whether Mauricio Pochettino and Daniel Levy would consider what it takes to bring Bale to town. It would instantly and realistically elevate the discussion about whether Spurs could seriously rival Liverpool and Man City for a Premier League title while adding Champions League mettle as well.

The idea of Bale playing with Harry Kane the way he worked with Ronaldo and Karim Benzema is electric, though the prospective move took a hit by Zidane’s lack of love for Christian Eriksen.

Bayern Munich is another potential avenue for Bale, as is the Chinese Super League.

But we wonder if the 30-year-old would sign up for massive David Beckham wages at Inter Miami with a loan to a Champions League side for a season ahead of the Super Becks’ opening campaign in MLS. What better way to engender some fan interest amongst Floridians and Manchester United fans than a nice loan? We’re sure Zlatan brought some Red Devils’ eyes to LA, for what it’s worth. Spurs would work here, too, as would any side hopeful of expanding their American imprint.

Maybe Bale isn’t ready for that step. He’d surely prefer adding to his four Champions League titles and probably likes the idea of doing some bigger things for Wales, but there’s a lot of dough in America and really it’s not going to cost him his place with the Welsh side (though concerns about competition would be legit).

Russian fans clash with baton-wielding police at stadium

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MOSCOW (AP) Russian soccer fans have criticized what they consider heavy-handed policing after clashes at a league game.

Video footage posted online shows police in riot gear beating Spartak Moscow fans on the stadium concourse after a game Saturday with FC Rostov, including two who have fallen to the ground. Fans have alleged they were kept tightly packed in the corridor after the game and then attacked by police with batons.

[ VIDEO: Nketiah leads Arsenal win ]

The Russian Football Union has told the Sport-Express newspaper that it is calling for an investigation and that “this kind of situation should not be repeated at stadiums.”

The Russian Premier League says in a statement that it is satisfied police acted correctly and accused Spartak fans of trying to free fellow supporters arrested earlier over allegations of throwing pyrotechnics.

More AP sports: https://apnews.com/apf-sports and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports