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5 Germany players to watch against Italy at Euro 2016

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BORDEAUX, France (AP) Germany is facing Italy in a European Championship quarterfinal in Bordeaux on Saturday. Here are five Germany players to watch:

TONI KROOS

The driving force in Germany’s midfield, Kroos keeps the team pushing forward and dictates the pace of play.

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Already an integral part of the World Cup-winning side in Brazil in 2014, Kroos’ importance to Germany has arguably grown since his move from Bayern Munich to Real Madrid two years ago.

The 26-year-old has developed into a complete midfielder. He tracks back well and passes with precision.

Kroos has made 444 passes so far at Euro 2016 – more than any other player – and has a passing accuracy of 92.34 percent, according to the Opta statistics service.

“He controls the tempo for us, plays very clever passes, and has taken responsibility in difficult situations,” defender Jerome Boateng said of Kroos at the team’s tournament base at Evian-les-Bains. “He’s become more dangerous shooting on goal and we hope it continues like that.”

JEROME BOATENG

Quiet and softly spoken, Boateng likes to lead by example.

It’s a role that he has grown into for Germany and his club side Bayern Munich.

Boateng anchors the German defense expertly – it’s no coincidence the side is the only one yet to concede a goal in the tournament – while building attacks from deep.

After scoring his first goal for Germany in the 3-0 win over Slovakia in the round of 16, Boateng will be encouraged to roam forward.

Intelligent, precise and calm, Boateng has a keen eye for the runs of teammates, and he has a pass to match.

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THOMAS MUELLER

Mueller has a curious relationship with the European Championship.

In nine games over two tournaments he is yet to find the net for Germany, a statistic that contrasts his goal scoring feats at the World Cup, where he has scored 10 goals in 13 games over two events.

It’s not as if Mueller hasn’t had any opportunities. At Euro 2016, he’s missed a series of chances particularly in the games against Northern Ireland and Slovakia. So far in the tournament, Mueller has had 17 shots at goal.

Mueller arrived in France following his best season yet for Bayern Munich, scoring 32 goals and setting up 12 others, helping the side to a Bundesliga and German Cup double.

“As soon as a forward has chances it’s a good sign,” Germany coach Joachim Loew said before the Slovakia game.

MARIO GOMEZ

Gomez has had to overcome a lot to stake his claim for a place in Germany’s squad, never mind the starting 11.

Gomez missed Germany’s World Cup win in 2014 when he was left out of the squad after an injury-blighted season. After impressing for Besiktas in Turkey, he was recalled to the German side in November.

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He has started Germany’s last two games at Euro 2016, scoring in both and earning praise from Loew for creating space for the other attackers.

“The only thing that counts here for me is that we become European champions,” Gomez said this week.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s EURO 2016 coverage ]

MANUEL NEUER

Neuer is considered by many to be the best goalkeeper in the world, though he’ll be facing some competition in Italian veteran Gianluigi Buffon at the other end.

Neither goalkeeper has conceded a goal yet at the tournament, as Buffon was rested for Italy’s 1-0 defeat to Ireland in the group stage.

Neuer has needed to be at his best at times in Euro 2016, particularly in the opening game against Ukraine and then again against Slovakia when he denied Juraj Kucka an equalizer before the break.

To be fair, he hasn’t had much to do, but when he’s been called into action he almost always delivers. Lapses in concentration from inactivity appear a thing of the past.

“Over the last four or five years he has shown that he is an outstanding goalkeeper in every area,” Buffon said of Neuer on Friday.

LAFC’s Adama Diomande voluntarily enters MLS’s health program

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LOS ANGELES (AP) Los Angeles FC forward Adama Diomande has entered Major League Soccer’s substance abuse and behavioral health program.

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MLS announced Diomande’s voluntary decision Friday.

Diomande won’t play for LAFC at least until the program’s doctors complete their evaluation and he is cleared by program officials.

The 29-year-old Norwegian scorer has eight goals and seven assists in 25 appearances this season, including 15 starts. He has played a valuable complementary offensive role alongside MLS scoring leader Carlos Vela.

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Diomande is in his second MLS season after joining LAFC from Hull City. He also previously played under LAFC coach Bob Bradley in Norway.

LAFC (19-4-7) has clinched the Western Conference title, and it leads the overall MLS table by seven points despite a four-game winless streak.

Premier League Preview: Newcastle v. Brighton

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  • Early-season relegation battlers meet on Saturday
  • 18th-place Newcastle to host 16th-place Brighton
  • Brighton won at Newcastle, drew at home last season

Newcastle United and Brighton & Hove Albion, a pair of Premier League sides with just two wins from the first five weeks of the season between them, will meet at St. James’ Park on Saturday (Watch live, 12:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN and NBCSports.com) for what could prove to be a retrospective relegation six-pointer when May rolls around.

Each side replaced its manager — Steve Bruce for Rafa Benitez at Newcastle; Graham Potter for Chris Hughton at Bright — in the summer and neither of the new bosses has had a particularly enjoyable start to the 2019-20 campaign. Brighton won on the opening day of the season, but have taken just two points from the following four games. Newcastle lost their first two games, won their third, and have drawn and lost again since. It’s the kind of form that’ll see both sides stuck in the high-teens of the PL table if they don’t find their footing in the coming weeks.

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Things are particularly worrying for Newcastle, who didn’t they’d be without Benitez until the end of June and didn’t appoint Bruce until mid-July. Key players had already left the club and reinforcements for few and far between. Forward Joelinton joined for $50 million and is one of four players with a single goal scored thus far.

Last week was nearly fruitful for the Seagulls, until the conceded a stoppage-time equalizer and settle for a point at home against Burnley. Summer signing Neal Maupay bagged his second goal for Brighton earlier in the game, giving Potter a potential trump card over a handful of other relegation-threatened sides without a consistent goalscorer.

Injuries/suspensions

Newcastle: OUT – Matt Ritchie (ankle), Florian Lejeune (knee), Dwight Gayle (calf); QUESTIONABLE – DeAndre Yedlin (groin)

Brighton: OUT – Leandro Trossard (groin), Jose Izquierdo (knee), Ezequiel Schelotto (knee)


Projected lineups

Newcastle: Dubravka – Krafth, Schar, Lascelles, Dummett, Willems – Almiron, Hayden, Shelvey, Atsu – Joelinton

Brighton: Ryan – Duffy, Dunk, Webster – March, Stephens, Propper, Burn – Gross, Maupay, Murray


What they’re saying

Joelinton, on Andy Carroll: “It’s always great to have experienced players in the group, and he’s one of them. He can help the club, he can help the young players. Andy Carroll has scored a lot of goals in the Premier League, and it’s great to be playing alongside him. He’s a calm guy. I still haven’t spoken to him a lot because my English isn’t great! But every day he’s trying to help. He’ll help me before the games, he’ll give me positional advice and suggest what I’ve done both good and bad.”

Graham Potter, on the trip to Newcastle: “Newcastle away is a tough game just like all the others. We don’t target particular matches — it’s about what we need to do to get a positive result. They have an experienced manager who I came across last year and he’s someone I have a lot of respect for. They have good quality players and we know it can be a hostile environment, it’s a big club and we know we have to play well to get something.  Steve has a lot of games under his belt – he’s had a lot of success and he’ll understand the challenge that lies ahead.


Prediction

Newcastle haven’t scored multiple goals in a game yet this season, and they’ve conceded twice as many as they’ve scored (four). It’s hard to trust them to be anything resembling consistent from game to game. It wouldn’t be surprising if they battled to a boring 0-0 draw, or conceding three times before halftime. It’ll probably be closer to the former, a 1-1 stalemate.

AC Milan announces internal anti-racism task force

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MILAN (AP) AC Milan has announced it will establish an internal task force to address racism in Italian football.

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The club says the task force will be supported by “an external consultancy” and “develop a program of activities to increase awareness, monitor and address racist behavior on social media and in the stadium, and drive the adoption of global best practices on diversity and inclusion.”

The move comes after reports of racist chants directed at Milan midfielder Franck Kessie, who is black, during a match at Hellas Verona last weekend.

Milan says the anti-racism initiative will be launched during Saturday’s derby against Inter Milan.

[ MORE: Premier League TV, streaming schedule ]

Inter striker Romelu Lukaku was subjected to racist chants in a match at Cagliari this month.

Milan CEO Ivan Gazidis, who is South African, says: “Italian football needs to wake up and take a strong stance against racist behaviors. AC Milan will take a leadership position on this issue. . We believe that we have a moral obligation to do everything we can to address this issue.”

Slow start dooms Southampton again: ‘We lost the game in first half’

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Slow starts are, ironically, quickly becoming the story of Southampton’s Premier League season. It happened again on Friday, resulting in a 3-1 home defeat to Bournemouth in the Premier League‘s budding south coast rivalry

[ Premier League Previews: Leicester City v. Tottenham | Man City v. Watford ]

Through six games, Saints have conceded the first goal four times. In those four games, they have taken just one point. When scoring the game’s first goal, they have two wins and two clean sheets.

It would appear that Ralph Hasenhuttl‘s side is set up to play one way, and one way only. Speaking after Friday’s defeat, Hasenhuttl lamented his side’s slow start, conceding that the game was all but lost when they fell 2-0 behind in the 35 minutes — quotes from the BBC:

“The finish was not important anymore. If you lose 2-1 or 3-1 it does not make too much difference. We lost the game in the first half.

“In the second half, we were sharp. Had about 26 shots to six from Bournemouth but the most important stat is the goals. They scored three, we scored once.

“We weren’t aggressive enough and too easy in the first half. It is not easy to be 1-0 down after 10 minutes. We had a lot of blocked shots and misses near the post. It was a good performance in the second half but without a result.

“For the second goal was had a lot of players in our attacking box so it was not easy to defend.

“We showed a good reaction because we knew we needed to be brave. We changed our shape and were aggressive for the second ball. It gave us 64% possession and we had a lot of shots. Maybe we didn’t deserve to take something because of our first half.”

Southampton’s next chance to start a game quickly will come in an away bout with Tottenham Hotspur next Saturday.