Who will win? Ranking the candidates for FIFA president

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With the FIFA presidential race taking center stage, candidates had until Monday to declare their bid to become FIFA president when the election takes place on Feb. 26, 2016.

[ MORE: Messi to leave Barca? ]

Embattled leader Sepp Blatter, 79, will step down from his 17-year spell in charge of world soccer’s governing body in February as FIFA is in turmoil as separate Swiss and U.S. investigations into corruption has unearthed millions of dollars of fraud and plenty more allegations of wrongdoing from senior officials, including Blatter, who are currently under investigation.

[ MORE: Mourinho planning escape route ]

The field for potential candidates will be trimmed between now and February but here’s a quick look at the eight candidates who have so far thrown their hats into the ring, with some having more complex situations than others.

Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim al-Khalifa

Current president of the Asian Football Federation, Sheikh Salman will get huge support from Asia. He is one of eight FIFA vice presidents and is a member of the Bahrain royal family. At the age of 49 he helped lead the movement to see the 2022 World Cup in Qatar played in the winter months. If Michel Platini cannot shake off allegations of corruption, Salman is the favorite to be voted in despite allegations of human rights issues against the Bahrain royal family.

Likelihood of winning: 8/10

Michel Platini

This seems like a straight race between Platini and Sheikh Salman but the former may not get to take part in the presidential race as he is still suspended by FIFA’s ethic committee amid allegations of corruption regarding a $1.9 million payment between himself and Sepp Blatter. The current president of UEFA is likely to get heavy support from UEFA if cleared of any wrongdoing after his 90-day suspension, but plenty of suspicions have been raised over his support for the 2022 World Cup taking place in Qatar. That said, the Frenchman is one of the greatest playmakers in soccer history and will get a lot of support.

Likelihood of winning: 8/10

Tokyo Sexwale

First up: what a name. Second, the South African could go far. Currently the leader of FIFA’s anti-racism program, Sexwale was imprisoned for over a decade on Robben Island alongside Nelson Mandela and made his money in mining after being released. He was on the organizing committee for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, but that bid is under investigation as disgraced former FIFA vice-president Jack Warner is alleged to have received a $10 million from the South Africa bid team. If Africa unites behind Sexwale, 62, he could get almost half the votes needed in one fell swoop.

Likelihood of winning: 7/10

Prince Ali bin al-Hussein

The only man who stood up against Blatter in the May elections earlier this year the Jordanian prince, who is from the ruling family, got 73 votes in the first round before bowing out. At the age of 39 he has promised major reforms, more attention to women’s soccer and term limits to senior positions at FIFA. He also spent four years on FIFA’s Executive Committee and has been in charge of the West Asian Football Federation.

Likelihood of winning: 6/10

Gianni Infantino

You know this guy from somewhere don’t you? Ah yes, the immaculately bold chap who conducts the UEFA Champions League draw. Bingo. Infantino, the general secretary of UEFA, has been put forward as UEFA’s candidate and with the lawyer rising within soccer’s governing body in Europe, if he gets full backing and Platini isn’t able to run, he could go very, very far. Vast experience in the soccer realm will help him, plus he speaks five language and is a recognizable face.

Likelihood of winning: 5/10

Infantino

David Nakhid

A former player for the Trinidad and Tobago national team, Nakhid, 51, studied at American University and has played in seven countries during his long playing career. He heavily criticized countryman Jack Warner who has since been indicted by the FBI and faces extradition to the U.S. on corruption charges during his time as vice-president of FIFA. Another outside shot but one who has connections across the globe.

Likelihood of winning: 3/10

Musa Bility

The president of the Liberian soccer association doesn’t have the support of Africa’s federation who have spoken out against him. He was once banned for six months for failing to handle confidential documents properly but if he gets the votes of Africa ahead of Sewale, could be a shock contender.

Likelihood of winning: 3/10

Jerome Champagne

A real outsider, Champagne was Sepp Blatter’s aide for many years but the Frenchman left FIFA in 2010. He tried to take on Blatter in the last presidential election but didn’t gain much support. Expect the 59-year-old to be one of the also rans.

Likelihood of winning: 2/10

WATCH: Hartford Athletic scores wild 90th-minute winner

Hartford Athletic goal
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It’s very rare in this age full of soccer on our screens that we catch a goal of unique ingenuity.

The USL Championship delivered the goods on Wednesday.

Hartford Athletic had blown a two-goal lead to Philadelphia Union II on Wednesday and was staring down a 2-2 draw when Danny Barrera swung into action.

[ REPORT: Spurs land Mourinho’s “top target” ]

Well, perhaps he lunged into action. Or flailed. On third thought, swung is good.

Heck, you pick the verb.

Barrera, 30, turned Philadelphia goalkeeper Mitchell Budler into a gift horse, reacting quickly to flick his back boot into the path of the keeper’s attempted outlet throw in the 90th minute.

The 81st-minute sub became the match-winning goalscorer off the play, which gives him two goals and seven assists on the season.

Hartford has 32 points and is a point off table-leading Tampa Bay Rowdies with one match to play. Second-place Louisville City is also on 32 points and Pittsburgh Riverhounds have 31.

Hartford may be able to look back at Barrera’s goal as the surprise three points that swung a title race in its favor.

Leeds – Manchester City: How to watch, start time, prediction, odds

Leeds - Manchester City
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Leeds – Manchester City: It’s been so far, so good for Marcelo Bielsa’s Leeds in their return to the Premier League, but a visit from Man City to Elland Road is a stiffer test (Watch live at 12:30 pm ET Saturday on NBC and online via NBCSports.com).

Leeds fell 4-3 to Liverpool on Opening Day but has since beaten Fulham and Sheffield United to sit top half of the table in this very young Premier League season.

[ MORE: How to watch PL in the USA ]  

Man City fell 5-2 to Leicester City at home last weekend after beating Wolves to start their PL season. A midweek clean sheet of Burnley shows that Pep Guardiola’s men aren’t dead, and the Catalan mastermind will relish the chance to match wits with a man he hails as a role model in Bielsa.

Guardiola once called Bielsa the best manager in the world.

“Winning titles helps to have a job next season but at the end of your life, what you remember is not the titles you have won, what you remember is the memories you have and whether the manager taught you a lot,” Guardiola once said when asked about Bielsa. “What we remember are the experiences and the memories, the players you have had, the managers you have had. Marcelo is at the top of the list. Absolutely at the top of the list.”


Team news for Leeds – Manchester City (INJURY REPORT)

Leeds will not have emerging star winger Jack Harrison, who is in his second season on loan to the club from Man City and ineligible to play against his parent club. Gaetano Berardi (knee), Adam Forshaw (groin), Pablo Hernandez (groin) are on the injured list.

Things are getting better for Manchester City, who got Aymeric Laporte and Bernardo Silva back in a midweek League Cup win over Burnley. Still out are Gabriel Jesus (undisclosed), Sergio Aguero (knee), Joao Cancelo (foot), Ilkay Gundogan (COVID-19), and Oleksandr Zinchenko (undisclosed).


What they’re saying

Leeds’ young goalkeeper Illan Meslier on keeping a clean sheet: “I’m happy because in the last game against Fulham I felt I could have saved the last two goals, but against Sheffield I saved two important chances and we arrived at half time at 0-0 which was important. It is just one game though, and we are focused on the next game now and then the one after that. For the spectators I think 4-3 games are better, but for the team and me it is better one-nil. We managed to do that on Sunday and win the game so it is all good.”

Man City boss Guardiola on new signing Ruben Dias: “We know Ruben Dias’s personality and I am sure he will be an incredible player for the next six or seven years. We’re very happy to have him. Our back four are now a young team. We start training tomorrow and get going as quick as possible.”


Odds and ends (full odds provided by our partner, PointsBet)

This line has probably become a lot tighter than it would’ve been in August since Leeds has burst onto the scene while Man City has been up-and-down (relatively speaking). Leeds is +675 to win at home and +440 to draw, while City is -290 to collect all three points.

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Leeds – Manchester City prediction

Leeds is a talented side and only getting better and deeper in terms of talent and experience. And Bielsa can plan for any opposition. But injured or not, City still has Kevin De Bruyne, Rodri, Raheem Sterling, and more. Man City 3-1.


How to watch Leeds – Manchester City stream and start time

Kickoff: 12:30 pm ET Saturday
TV Channel: NBC
Online: Stream via NBCSports.com

Manchester United – Tottenham: How to watch, start time, prediction, odds

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Manchester United – Tottenham: Jose Mourinho’s latest Premier League project waltzes into his previous stop when Tottenham Hotspur visits Manchester United at Old Trafford on Sunday (Watch live at 11:30 am ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

Both clubs boast midweek wins in the League Cup, though Tottenham’s Thursday visit from Europa League foes Maccabi Haifa have complicated Mourinho’s planning for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s United.

[ MORE: How to watch PL in the USA ]  

Tottenham may have a new striker in the fold, with reports claiming the North Londoners have loaned Mourinho’s No. 1 target, Carlos Vinicius, from Benfica.

Meanwhile, Solskjaer has grown frustrated of answering questions on United’s transfer activity with days to go in the window.


Team news for Manchester United – Tottenham (INJURY REPORT)

Same old, same old for United, which is still dealing with long-term injuries to Axel Tuanzebe (ankle) and Phil Jones (knee).

Tottenham is still waiting for Gareth Bale to regain full fitness after a knee injury, while Heung-min Son is unlikely to play Sunday but manager Jose Mourinho was unwilling to completely rule the South Korean out.


What they’re saying

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer on Man Utd’s transfer activity“I can’t give you any news. We are working with what we have got. We have a big squad. If there is any update, we will let you know. I don’t comment on other teams’ players. I can’t concern myself with other clubs. I know the club is working well and hard to have a strong squad as possible. Sometimes speculation is there and we can’t control that.”

Spurs’ boss Mourinho on midweek League Cup win over Chelsea“We were ready to fight, I told you. I told the players before the penalties that they were magnificent in the second half, we made Chelsea look ordinary. The team waited for the right moment…. I have to think about three games at the same time but the players only thought about this game, they were phenomenal. Phenomenal.”


Odds and ends (full odds provided by our partner, PointsBet)

Man United is -108 to win while visiting Spurs register a +290 odds to get all three points against Jose Mourinho’s former club. A draw nets the bettor +260.

PointsBet is our Official Sports Betting Partner and we may receive compensation if you place a bet on PointsBet for the first time after clicking our links


Manchester United – Tottenham prediction

Tottenham’s looked the superior team in all competitions so far, though United’s stars have yet to really fire on all cylinders aside from Bruno Fernandes. The variables for this weekend, however, favor United. Spurs will have played Sunday-Tuesday-Thursday while United played Saturday-Tuesday. If Old Trafford was full of screaming fans we might expect a little more advantage for a home side, too. Son’s absence looms large, though, and that will tilt the scales from a 2-2 draw to a 2-1 Man United win.


How to watch Manchester United – Tottenham stream and start time

Kickoff: 11:30 am ET Sunday
TV Channel: NBCSN
Online: Stream via NBCSports.com

Report: Tottenham lands Mourinho’s No. 1 striker target from Benfica

Carlos Vinicius to Tottenham
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If Gareth Bale doesn’t have “it” anymore, then Jose Mourinho’s gonna have other options.

Heck, even if he does.

Tottenham will soon announce the signing of Benfica striker Carlos Vinicius on a one-year loan and $50 million-plus option-to-buy after the season.

[ MORE: Champions League draw preview ]

Not to be confused with Real Madrid star Vinicius Junior, Carlos Vinicius is a 25-year-old Brazilian striker coming off a career-year in Portugal.

Vinicius scored 23 times with 13 assists in a breakout 2019-20 season, his 18 league goals tied for the Portuguese top flight lead with teammate Pizzi and Rio Ave’s Mehdi Taremi.

He’s also comfortable coming off the bench, scoring those six of his 18 league goals in substitute performances.

[ MORE: Mourinho on League Cup defeat of Chelsea ]

Football.London reporter Alasdair Gold says Vinicius was Jose Mourinho’s No. 1 summer target but the price tag was too high earlier in the window.

Vinicius used to belong to Napoli but twice went out on loan, one of those a 16-appearance, 2-goal campaign for Monaco in Ligue 1.

The player shares an agency with Cristiano Ronaldo, Ederson, Ruben Neves, Ruben Dias, and Matt Doherty.