While the United States, Canada and Mexico already know their Olympic journeys begin in October, part of the hopeful field starts up on Wednesday.
Central America (UNCAF) won’t start its journey until Aug. 11, as Panama, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Belize mix it up for three spots, but the Caribbean Zone starts up group play in just under 24 hours.
The result will certainly frustrate Nottingham Forest (27 points), who would have climbed four places into 12th and been five points clear of the relegation zone with 10 games left to play, had they held on (instead, 14th, three points clear). Wolves (28 points) take another baby step toward safety, now four points above the drop zone with nine games left.
Forest took the lead in the 38th minute, when Danilo dinked a through ball into the penalty area and found Johnson making a run wide of Jose Sa’s left-hand post. The ball bounced once before Johnson hammered it hard toward the far post, rippling the inside netting and taking the 21-year-old’s season tally to eight goals this season.
That’s four goals in eight games for Johnson, who scored 18 and had 10 assists in the EFL Championship a season ago. Any questions over whether his production would translate to the top tier, and the best leave in the world, have been answered.
Daniel Podence took Wolves’ rare sight of goal and made something out of nothing in the 83rd minute. After an unthreatening shot from outside the box was blocked, the ball fell to Podence on the left side of the penalty area. He cut inside and hooked the ball past Keylor Navas to make it 1-1.
Wolves no longer defend well enough to attack this poorly
Once again this season, Wolves have gone for the “defensively solid, but offensively deficient” approach, only this time their defensive record (42 goals conceded) is just as poor as the goal-scoring output (23 scored). The goal they conceded on Saturday saw too many white shirts standing and watching the ball inside their own penalty area.
Creating scoring chances is like pulling teeth for Julen Lopetegui’s side. Even their late equalizer came as a result of a blocked shot that turned into a through ball, rather than any kind of cohesive build-up.
Stars of the show
Nottingham Forest have another big week coming up, with a trip to Elland Road to face Leeds (26 points – 16th place) on Tuesday (2:45 pm ET) before heading to Villa Park to face Aston Villa (38 points – 11th place) on Saturday (10 am ET). Wolves, meanwhile, will host Chelsea at Molineux Stadium on Saturday (10 am ET).
Nottingham Forest vs Wolves final score: 1-1
How to watch Nottingham Forest vs Wolves live, stream link and start time
No side in the Premier League has scored fewer goals than Forest (or Wolves – 22 each), and only Bournemouth (54) have conceded more than Steve Cooper’s newly promoted side (49). All of which is to say, the Reds are in the thick of the relegation scrap based on merit. Injuries have certainly played their part, though, with as many as 14 players either confirmed out for the weekend, or an injury doubt. 21-year-old Brennan Johnson (7 goals, 2 assists) has been something of a revelation in his first PL season and Taiwo Awoniyi has four goals of his own, but no one else has more than two on the season (Morgan Gibbs-White and Emmanuel Dennis).
Once again this season, Wolves have gone for the “defensively solid, but offensively deficient” approach, only this time their defensive record (41 goals conceded) is just as poor as the goal-scoring output (22 scored). Like Forest, only two players (Daniel Podence and Ruben Neves) have scored more than two goals (Adama Traore) en route to 22 goals scored in 28 games.
Nottingham Forest team news, injuries, lineup options
OUT: Taiwo Awoniyi (groin), Scott McKenna (thigh), Willy Boly (thigh), Dean Henderson (thigh), Giulian Biancone (knee), Omar Richards (calf) | QUESTIONABLE: Brennan Johnson (groin), Chris Wood (thigh), Cheickou Kouyate (thigh), Andre Ayew (knee), Serge Aurier (knock), Wayne Hennessey (knee), Ryan Yates (shoulder)
✋ Five changes from #NFONEW. 🇧🇷 Danilo back in the XI. 🇳🇬 Taiwo back in the squad.
Graham Potter’s Chelsea were pinned back before the international break as they drew 2-2 at home against Everton after leading twice. However, they are unbeaten in their last five games in all competitions and have reached the UEFA Champions League quarterfinals. Things are looking a bit better for the Blues in their 3-4-3 formation and the pressure has eased on Potter slightly as players continue to return from injury. A win against Villa this weekend will keep their slim hopes of a top four finish alive but a top six finish is probably as good as it will get for them this season.
Unai Emery has done a phenomenal job at Villa with the Spanish coach leading them from a relegation scrap to a quest for European qualification within just a few months. Villa are resolute defensively and have a clear playing style as they love to catch opponents out on the counter and they did that brilliantly in their 3-0 win against Bournemouth last time out. With three wins in their last four, can Villa continue their surge and push for a top six finish?
How to watch Chelsea vs Aston Villa live, stream link and start time
Kick off: 12:30pm ET, Saturday TV Channel: USA Network Online: Stream via NBCSports.com
Key storylines & in-form players to watch
Chelsea have so many players stepping up in recent weeks but Joao Felix and Kai Havertz have really got going in attack. The duo are scoring goals, creating chances and Chelsea look much more confident when they get into the final third. Enzo Fernandez and Benoit Badiashile have both slotted in seamlessly following their January moves. Yes, Chelsea are still a long way back when it comes to the top four but they are they kind of team who can go on a long unbeaten run and they certainly have so many options with a massive squad of players all pushing to start in this new fluid 3-4-3 system.
Villa’s recent success has been built on solid defense and Emiliano Martinez in goal and Tyrone Mings at center back have been back to their best. Ollie Watkins leading the line always causes problems and midfield creators and wingers always seem to be ready to counter and cause a surprise. Emery has done a remarkable job at Villa and it will be a lot of fun to see how close they can get to a top six finish this season.
The victory keeps Crystal Palace (30 points) 12th in the table and puts them six points clear of the relegation zone with nine games left to play. Leicester (25 points) remain 17th, just a point above the bottom-three.
Crystal Palace had the first 20 shots of the game, before Leicester made their first attempt toward goal in the 46th minute. Wilfried Zaha, who had seven of the first 19 shots, was forced off with an apparent groin injury after the Palace talisman went down without contact just moments before halftime.
20 – Crystal Palace have already had 20 shots against Leicester, their most in a single Premier League match this season. It's the most first half shots a side has had in a Premier League game since December 2015 (Liverpool 20 vs Leicester). HodgsonBall. pic.twitter.com/M4p1lrByYt
Leicester’s first shot on target came in the 56th minute, and it resulted in the game’s opening goal. It was all Leicester early in the second half, after Brendan Rodgers brought Ricardo Pereira on to replace Kenny Tete and pushed Timothy Castagne forward to the right wing after the restart. Coincidentally, it was Pereira who got the goal off a through ball from Castagne.
The lead lasted just three minutes, though, as Eberechi Eze smashed a free kick off the underside of the crossbar and off the back side of goalkeeper Daniel Iversen for an unavoidable own goal.
Crystal Palace saved their best scoring chance of the game for the very end, as Jordan Ayew threaded a through ball to Jean-Philippe Mateta in the 93rd minute, sending the Frenchman in on goal with only Iversen to beat. He slotted the ball inside the near post to send Selhurst Park into raptures.
By the end of the weekend, Leicester could very well find themselves in the bottom-three of the Premier League table. 18th-place West Ham (24 points) will host last-place Southampton (23 points) in east London on Sunday, and a win for either side will see the Foxes drop into 18th with 10 games remaining.
With just two wins in their last 13 PL games, it is clear that Brendan Rodgers’ side is a legitimate relegation candidate. The Foxes will likely need 10-12 points between now and the end of the season, and it’s getting harder and harder to see them turning this sinking ship around.
Stars of the show
Crystal Palace will continue their relegation battle with a trip to Elland Road to face Leeds (26 points – 16th place) on Sunday (9 am ET). Leicester, on the other hand, be quite busy this week as they face Aston Villa (38 points – 11th place) on Tuesday (2:45 pm ET) and Bournemouth on Saturday (10 am ET).
Crystal Palace vs Leicester final score: 2-1
How to watch Crystal Palace vs Leicester live, stream link and start time
Hodgson came out of retirement to take over until the end of the season, at which point Vieira’s (still to-be-chosen) permanent replacement will take charge with another summer of squad turnover to come. Though they sit nearer to mid-table than the bottom-three heading into matchweek 29, the gap between Crystal Palace and 18th-place West Ham is only three points, meaning they could tumble as far as 17th with another defeat (pending results elsewhere). Wilfried Zaha’s six Premier League goals lead the way for Crystal Palace this season, but the Ivorian international hasn’t scored since Nov. 6 (11 appearances, all starts). Since Zaha’s last league goal, Palace have scored just seven goals in 15 games (1W-5D-7L).
Leicester’s winless run isn’t quite as long as Palace’s (only five games – 0W-1D-4L) since the Foxes inexplicably scored four goals in back-to-back victories over Aston Villa and Tottenham at the start of February. Since then, two goals in five games and three clean sheets against. In fairness, they have faced Manchester United, Arsenal, Chelsea and Brentford during the slide, which is perhaps the reason that Brendan Rodgers is still in the job through the recent international break. The other defeat, by the way? It was to last-place Southampton. James Maddison and Harvey Barnes are level on nine goals each, while forwards Patson Daka, Kelechi Iheanacho and Jamie Vardy have combined to score eight PL goals this season.
Crystal Palace team news, injuries, lineup options
OUT: Sam Johnstone (calf) | QUESTIONABLE: Vicente Guaita (hamstring), Joachim Andersen (calf), James McArthur (illness), Nathan Ferguson (undisclosed)
Can Borussia Dortmund keep its position in the catbird seat with a Klassiker win over reigning champions Bayern Munich at the Allianz Arena on Saturday?
Or will they former manager land a major blow for his new side, as Thomas Tuchel takes the reins of wounded Bayern. The 10-time defending champions fell out of first with a 2-1 loss to Bayer Leverkusen that sent Julian Nagelsmann packing (for North London?).
BVB is in pursuit of its first Meisterschale since the 2011-12 season, its eighth in history. It’s been all Bayern since then, as the Bavarians have claimed 10-consecutive league crowns.
Here’s the thing: If Bayern really had problems between its players and Nagelsmann, they weren’t totally manifesting themselves on the pitch. Bayern’s 72 goals are 17 more than anyone else in the Bundesliga and its 27 conceded are one better than second-place Union Berlin.
Here’s everything you need to know ahead of Bayern Munich vs Borussia Dortmund.
How to watch Bayern Munich vs Borussia Dortmund live, stream link and start time
Kick off: 12:30pm ET, Saturday TV Channel/Online:Stream via ESPN+
Updates: Scoreboard, stats, more at Scoreboard.nbcsports.com
Key storylines & star players
Bayern’s all about controlling the game, and it does so with aplomb thanks to Joshua Kimmich and Leon Goretzka. The side has pace for days and has also gotten monstrous amounts of creativity from Alphonso Davies and Jamal Musiala. There’s no Robert Lewandowski, but Bayern spreads the goals around through Musiala (11), Choupo-Moting (10), and Serge Gnabry (9). Manuel Neuer’s out, but the club’s quickly filled his space with Yann Sommer.
Dortmund slipped itself a couple of matches ago, a 2-2 draw in the Revierderby, but it bounded back with a 6-1 demolition of Koln. Bundesliga assist hero Raphael Guerreiro scored in that game while Sebastien Haller and Marco Reus both posted braces. Reus remains the heart of the club and has been a boon for Edin Terzic. A wild card is USMNT star Giovanni Reyna, who has posted terrific advanced stats in Bundesliga play but is still mainly just getting 15-20 minute cameos if he plays at all for BVB.
Bayern Munich team news, injuries, lineup options
OUT: Lucas Hernandez (ACL), Manuel Neuer (leg), Paul Wanner (adductor), Mathys Tel (muscular), Arijon Ibrahimovic (virus).