Copa America Group A preview: Hosts Chile favorites vs. Mexico, Ecuador, Bolivia

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With just a few days to go until the 2015 Copa America kicks off in Chile, we will be looking at all three groups as 12 teams do battle on the west coast of South America to be crowned Champions of CONMEBOL.

[ RELATED: Latest Copa America news ]

Will defending champs Uruguay defend their trophy, or can Argentina, Brazil or Colombia wrestle the crown away from Edinson Cavani and Co.?

First up, here’s a look at Group A as host nation Chile meet Ecuador and Bolivia plus guest from CONCACAF, Mexico, for a place in the knockout stages.

Chile

The six previous times Chile have hosted the Copa America they have finished third four times, runners up in 1955 and came fourth in 1920. So, seventh time luck… Seriously though, Chile has a real chance of at least making the semifinals on home soil as Alexis Sanchez will lead the charge and Arturo Vidal, Matias Fernandez and Jorge Valdivia will run the midfield. With experience throughout and a great run to the quarterfinal of the World Cup last summer, Chile is on the verge of breaking into the world’s elite. Has the time to win their first-ever Copa America arrived? They should waltz through Group A and then… anything is possible.

Best Copa America finish: Runners up – 1955, 1956, 1979, 1987
Manager: Jorge Sampaoli  – In charge since 2012 and a lover of high-pressing. A real players coach who loves to spend the game on the edge of his technical box.
Star man: Alexis Sanchez – The fourth-highest scorer in Chile’s history is coming off the back of a wondrous first season in the PL for Arsenal. After scoring 28 goals and relentlessly battering opposition defenses all season, the hosts will hope he’s not burned out.

Ecuador

Despite qualifying for three of the last four World Cups, La Tricolor have struggled to compete in recent Copa America’s. They have failed to make the knockout rounds since 1997 and only have one win in their last four tournaments. Surely that terrible run has to turn around this year as they possess a squad packed with experience in Europe’s top leagues?

Best Copa America finish: Fourth place – 1959, 1993
Manager: Gustavo Quinteros – Appointed as boss earlier this year, Quinteros left Emelec after guiding them to two Ecuadorian championships in the past three seasons. Let’s see how he does.
Star man: Enner Valencia – West Ham’s striker burst onto the scene for the Hammers when he arrived last summer but has struggled to perform consistently in the PL. After scoring 11 goals in 19 games for Ecudaor, the pacey forward will look to make a name for himself this summer just like he did in Brazil in 2014.

source: AP
We will see some more epic celebrations from Herrera this summer?

Mexico

One of two CONCACAF nations competing in this tournament, Mexico have a decent recent history in the Copa America as they finished runners up in 1993 and 2001. Winning the cup won’t be a realistic aim this time around as Miguel Herrera has picked a youthful squad with one eye on the 2015 Gold Cup in July in the U.S. Expect El Tri to battle Ecuador for second spot in Group A.

Best Copa America finish: Runners up – 1993, 2001
Manager: Miguel Herrera – Expect plenty of passionate antics from Piojo in South America. He won the hearts of the soccer world last summer in Brazil. Can he win some silverware this summer against all the odds?
Star man: Rafael Marquez – At the age of 36 the Hellas Verona center back will skipper this young Mexican side and they will need all his experience to make the knockout stages,

Bolivia

The lowest-ranked team in the competition, not much is expected from El Verde. They last qualified for a World Cup in 1994 and although they’ve failed to make it out of the group stage of the last five Copa America tournaments they did stun everyone and finish as runners up in 1997 when they hosted the tournament. Using players mostly from their domestic league, Marcelo Moreno is their best hope of unlocking opposition defenses as the striker who plays his club soccer in China has 12 goals in 50 outings.

Best Copa America finish: Runners up – 1997
Manager: Mauricio Soria – A former goalkeeper for the Bolivian national team, Soria was in temporary charge in 2014 and has now taken the reins permanently.
Star man: Marcelo Moreno – Currently playing in China for Changchun Yata, Moreno has played for Shakhtar Donetsk, Wigan Athletic, Gremio and Werder Bremen among others during his nomadic career. The only man in Bolivia’s squad to boast more than three goals for his country, Moreno being in top form is key if they have any chance of advancing to the quarterfinals.

Schedule

June 11: Chile vs. Ecuador – Estadio Nacional, Santiago
June 12: Mexico vs. Bolivia – Estadio Sausalito, Vina del Mar
June 15: Ecuador vs. Bolivia – Estadio Elias Figueroa – Valparaiso
June 15: Chile vs. Mexico – Estadio Nacional, Santiago
June 19: Mexico vs. Ecuador – Estadio El Tienente, Rancagua
June 19: Chile vs. Bolivia –  Estadio Nacional, Santiago

Prediction

1st – Chile
2nd – Ecuador
3rd – Mexico
4th – Bolivia

Ljungberg hails ‘amazing’ teen Saka after game-changing performance

Photo by JOHN THYS/AFP via Getty Images
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Arsenal phenom Bukayo Saka‘s big day spurred the Gunners to a top seed in the Europa League knockout rounds.

Arsenal went behind on two deflected goals in the second half’s first 25 minutes, but Saka answered with a goal and an assist in three minutes to take a point from Belgium in a 2-2 draw at Standard Liege.

[ RECAP, VIDEO: Standard Liege 2-2 Arsenal ]

Saka was at the heart of it of all good things Arsenal, the 18-year-old handed plenty of responsibility. despite his tender age.

“He was amazing,” said interim manager Freddie Ljungberg. “He was a bit upset with me before the game that he had to play wing-back and full-back. He’s a tremendous talent.”

Saka had four key passes to go with his goal and assist, winning six of eight duels while producing two tackles and an interception.

Ljungberg said Arsenal hasn’t sent its young players on loan enough, though that hardly applies to Saka given he was 17 until September.

The injured Gunners used Konstantinos Mavropanos, Emile Smith-Rowe, Joe Willock, and Reiss Nelson in the Starting XI, and brought Gabriel Martinelli off the bench.

“I feel sorry for our young players,” he said. “A lot of them haven’t been on loan, they’ve not had that exposure to men’s football. Some of them made mistakes but they’ll learn from those mistakes and won’t do them again.”

Smith-Rowe was loaned to RB Leipzig last season and Nelson starred on loan at Hoffenheim. Mavropanos played first team football for Greek Super League side PAS Giannina in his late teens.

Arsenal joins Premier League sides Wolves and Manchester United in the knockout rounds, having lost the Europa League final to rivals Chelsea at the end of last season.

The Gunners beat West Ham on Monday and host Manchester City at 11:30 a.m. ET Sunday.

Arsenal uses thrilling comeback to win Europa League group

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Nothing Arsenal-related is allowed to be easy, it seems.

The Gunners used a goal and an assist from Bukayo Saka to come back from a two-goal deficit and draw Standard Liege 2-2 in Belgium on Thursday, winning its Europa League group when Vitoria came back to beat Eintracht Frankfurt on a wild afternoon of soccer.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

Arsenal trailed on second half goals from Samuel Bastien and Selim Amallah, but rallied behind Bukayo Saka and Alexandre Lacazette to score a second-straight win for interim boss Freddie Ljungberg.

Saka sent in a laser cross in the 78th minute and Lacazette did quite well to power it under the bar.

He’s loving this competition, having made a serious entrance earlier in the tournament versus Eintracht Frankfurt. The 18-year-old now has two goals and five assists across all competitions this season.

The Gunners needed just three more minutes to tie the score on a day they outshot the hosts 15-11.

Saka showed his nose for goal to tie the score five minutes later with a dribble to the top of the 18 and a sly finish to the keeper’s left.

This was all happening around the same time Vitoria scored twice in three minutes to take a 3-2 lead on Eintracht Frankfurt.

Standard Liege goes from the knockout rounds to nothing in a blink, while Eintracht goes from winning the group to second.

The field for the Europa League is looking fierce, with Inter Milan, Benfica, Ajax, Club Brugge, Olympiacos, Shakhtar Donetsk, Bayer Leverkusen, and Red Bull Salzburg joining the competition via transfer from the UEFA Champions League.

Arsenal joins Premier League sides Wolves and Manchester United in the knockout rounds, having lost the Europa League final to rivals Chelsea at the end of last season.

The Gunners beat West Ham on Monday and host Manchester City at 11:30 a.m. ET Sunday.

Prince-Wright’s Premier League picks

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Matchweek 17 is here in the Premier League as the games continue to come thick and fast during the festive season.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

If you, like me, love to dissect all the games and predict what the score will be and which team will win, I encourage you to get involved in the comments section below. Let’s have a bit of fun.

Okay, so I’ve consulted my crystal ball and here’s how we see things panning out. Listen carefully, because this is very specific.

While you can download the NBC Sports Predictor app (below) and play the Premier League Pick ‘Em game yourself to predict the scores and win the prizes.

DOWNLOAD NBC SPORTS PREDICTOR

With the first section labelled “basically, free money” for the picks I think are dead certs. The section labelled “don’t touch this” means if you’re betting I advise you to stay clear, while the “so you’re telling me there’s a chance” section are the long shots. If it is better odds you are after, those are the picks to go for.


BASICALLY, FREE MONEY

Chelsea 3-0 Bournemouth – (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, NBCSN) – [STREAM

Liverpool 3-1 Watford – (Saturday, 7:30 a.m. ET, NBCSN) – [STREAM] 

Crystal Palace 3-1 Brighton – (Monday, 2:45 p.m. ET, NBCSN) – [STREAM

Leicester 3-0 Norwich – (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, NBC Sports Gold) – [STREAM]


DON’T TOUCH THIS…

Southampton 1-1 West Ham – (Saturday, 12:30 p.m. ET, NBC) – [STREAM]

Sheffield United 2-1 Aston Villa – (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, NBC Sports Gold) – [STREAM

Man United 2-1 Everton – (Sunday, 9 a.m. ET, NBCSN) – [STREAM


“SO YOU’RE TELLING ME THERE’S A CHANCE…”

Arsenal 3-3 Man City – (Sunday, 11:30 a.m. ET, NBCSN) – [STREAM]

Wolves 1-2 Tottenham – (Sunday 9 a.m. ET, NBCSN) – [STREAM]

Burnley 1-2 Newcastle United – (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, NBC Sports Gold) – [STREAM

Premier League TV, streaming schedule

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Matchweek 17 of the Premier League season is here, as the busy festive season continues.

Get in there.

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The full TV schedule for the games this weekend are below, plus you can watch every single second of every single game live online via NBC Sports.com,the NBC Sports App and by purchasing the new “Premier League Pass” via NBC Sports Gold.

Gold also includes an extensive selection of shoulder programming such as Premier League News, Premier League Today, Sky Sports News, NBC Sports originals such as Premier League Download and much more.

[ STREAM: Premier League live here ] 

You can also watch Premier League “Goal Rush” for all the goals as they go in around the grounds. Goal Rush is available via NBC Sports.com and the NBC Sports App.

[ MORE: Premier League “Goal Rush” ] 

If you’re looking for full-event replays of Premier League games, you can find them here for the games streamed on NBCSports.com and here for the games on NBC Sports Gold.

Here’s your full TV schedule for the coming days.


FULL TV SCHEDULE

Saturday
7:30 a.m. ET: Liverpool v. Watford – NBCSN [STREAM]
10 a.m. ET: Chelsea v. Bournemouth – NBCSN [STREAM]
10 a.m. ET: Burnley v. Newcastle – NBC Sports Gold [STREAM]
10 a.m. ET: Leicester City v. Norwich City – NBC Sports Gold [STREAM]
10 a.m. ET: Sheffield United v. Aston Villa – NBC Sports Gold [STREAM]
12:30 p.m. ET: Southampton v. West Ham – NBC [STREAM]

Sunday
9 a.m. ET: Wolves v. Tottenham – NBCSN [STREAM]
9 a.m. ET: Man United v. Everton  – NBC Sports Gold[STREAM]
11:30 a.m. ET: Arsenal v. Man City – NBCSN [STREAM]

Monday
2:45 p.m. ET: Crystal Palace v. Brighton – NBCSN [STREAM]