Injury crisis for Manchester United as four key players to miss clash vs. Chelsea

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On Saturday red-hot Manchester United head to Premier League leaders Chelsea (Watch live, 12:30 p.m. ET on NBC and online via Live Extra) in a massive clash at Stamford Bridge.

Louis van Gaal’s side have hit form at the perfect time of the season (six-straight victories will help you do that…) and a win would move them into second place in the standings. However the Red Devils will be without four key players for the trip to Chelsea.

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Michael Carrick, Daley Blind, Marcos Rojo and Phil Jones will all miss out through injury to hand LVG a selection dilemma.

Carrick, Blind and Jones all started United’s 4-2 derby win over Manchester City last Sunday, while Rojo replaced Jones in the second half after the England international picked up a knock. During his post-match interview following the win over City, van Gaal was delighted he had a full squad to choose from but just a few days later he must now scramble to put together a makeshift defense.

“Carrick is injured, he cannot play,” van Gaal told MUTV. “But not only Michael Carrick – Daley Blind, Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo cannot play. It cannot be worse because it’s two players in the left central defensive positions, and Jonny Evans is still suspended. Daley Blind and Michael Carrick play in the holding position in midfield, so I have to change my line-up a lot against Chelsea.”

Van Gaal did confirm that Luke Shaw will return from injury, so it is looking likely that United will line up with Antonio Valencia at right back, Chris Smalling and Paddy McNair at center back and Shaw at left back.

Not ideal timing for the Red Devils as they aim to keep piling the pressure on Arsenal and Man City to finish second behind Chelsea. The only real blessing is that Diego Costa is out for Chelsea, but either Loic Remy or Didier Drogba will provide a stern test for United’s makeshift defense. Another injury update from United’s Dutch boss revealed that Robin van Persie has been training this week and could make the 18-man squad at Stamford Bridge.

Atleti escapes major punishment for fans’ Griezmann threats

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MADRID (AP) Atletico Madrid escaped major punishment Wednesday after its fans made threatening chants against former player Antoine Griezmann during last weekend’s La Liga match against Barcelona.

[ MORE: Lampard: Pulisic can reach “top level of world football” ]

The Spanish league had denounced the club after some fans chanted “Die Griezmann” in Sunday’s match, won by Barcelona at Wanda Metropolitano Stadium in Madrid.

The Spanish soccer federation said it would fine Atletico $333 because the game was disrupted, but it did not cite the chants against Griezmann. The fine was prompted mainly because fans threw objects — including an umbrella — onto the field.

The Spanish league had denounced the club to the federation’s anti-violence committee, saying about 2,000 fans from Atletico’s “ultras” section made the chants for about 20 seconds before the start of the second half, and again later in the game.

[ MORE: Ole gushes over “the best performance Rashford has had under me” ]

Griezmann left Atletico for Barcelona at the end of last season in a transfer worth more than $132 million.

The France forward was jeered nearly every time he touched the ball at the Metropolitano on Sunday. It was his first match at Atletico’s stadium since leaving the club.

Klopp to take first team to Club World Cup, leave youth for EFL Cup

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Jurgen Klopp has chosen his strongest possible Liverpool squad to take to the Club World Cup later this month, leaving a reserve- and youth-laden team behind to compete in the EFL Cup during the same period.

[ MORE: Lampard: Pulisic can reach “top level of world football” ]

Liverpool will head to Doha, Qatar, for the Club World Cup, where they’ll play their semifinal fixture against one of Monterrey (Mexico), Al-Saad (Qatar) or Hienghene Sport (New Caledonia) on Dec. 18. The day prior, on Dec. 17, the Reds will also play away to Aston Villa in the quarterfinals of the League Cup. With the club’s star-studded first team in Qatar, progression to the semifinals of the League Cup will be down to a team full of teenage prospects.

Only defender Joel Matip and midfielder Fabinho, both of whom are currently injured and unavailable, were left out of the Club World Cup squad.

[ MORE: Ole gushes over “the best performance Rashford has had under me” ]

Players suffering from illness or injury prior to Liverpool’s first Club World Cup game can be replaced in the squad up to 24 hours before kickoff.

Liverpool’s Club World Cup squad

Goalkeepers: Alisson, Adrian, Andy Lonergan

Defenders: Virgil Van Dijk, Dejan Lovren, Joe Gomez, Andrew Robertson, Trent Alexander-Arnold

Midfielders: Georginio Wijnaldum, James Milner, Naby Keita, Jordan Henderson, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Adam Lallana, Curtis Jones, Harvey Elliott, Neco Williams

Forwards: Firmino, Sadio Mane, Mohamed Salah, Xherdan Shaqiri, Rhian Brewster, Divock Origi

Hazard has muscle tear, could miss El Clasico

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MADRID (AP) Real Madrid midfielder Eden Hazard has a more serious right-leg injury than the bruise that was first diagnosed, and it could rule him out of El Clasico against Barcelona on Dec. 18.

[ MORE: Lampard: Pulisic can reach “top level of world football” ]

Madrid said Thursday that new tests found a micro-tear of a muscle that had gone undetected since the injury occurred on Nov. 26 in a 2-2 draw with Paris Saint-Germain.

Hazard joined Madrid from Chelsea this year on a club-record transfer of $113 million, plus add-ons. He missed the first three games of the season after injuring a thigh muscle in the preseason.

[ MORE: Ole gushes over “the best performance Rashford has had under me” ]

Madrid said it will also likely be without left back Marcelo for Saturday’s home game against Espanyol because of a muscle injury.

Madrid is in second place in the Spanish league behind Barcelona on goal difference.

Alli: “Arrogance, over-confidence” cost Spurs in Man Utd loss

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Tottenham Hotspur suffered their first loss of the Jose Mourinho era on Wednesday — a 2-1 defeat to Manchester United at Old Trafford — which suddenly resurgent star Dele Alli believes was down to his side’s “arrogance” and “over-confidence.”

[ MORE: Lampard: Pulisic can reach “top level of world football” ]

Speaking after Wednesday’s game, Alli, who scored a sensational solo goal (WATCH HERE) to bring Tottenham level in the first half, revealed that he foresaw and tried to combat those destructive feelings, as well as the mindset of Man United playing at home against another of the “top-six sides” — quotes from the Guardian:

“I tried to fight exactly that state of mind. I tried to tell them exactly the way United approach these matches at home — against Liverpool [1-1 draw], against Chelsea [4-0 win], always they start strong with people running, pressing, trying to lift the morale of the supporters.

“Normally they come from bad results against smaller teams so when they face the big teams people think it’s going to be more difficult for them. It’s not more difficult for them because the style changes and they feel comfortable against this style of play.

“In the second half, we knew what we were going to do with the result at 1-1. After one minute you concede a goal. We have to blame ourselves. I think United must obviously be happy with the points, and overall they deserved it.”

Two takeaways form Alli’s comments:

1. Alli appears to have taken a much larger role in leadership within the team, taking it upon himself to “try to tell [his teammates]” what to expect and how to approach a given game. Given his red-hot form of late (four goals in four games), Alli’s confidence has clearly been restored by Mourinho’s arrival.

2. Speaking of positive feelings restored, the fact that Spurs felt “arrogant” or “over-confident” this season is news itself, the surest sign that the season can be salvaged, and an indication that three wins from Mourinho’s first three games were more than the standard “new manager bump.”