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EURO 2016: Deschamps’ defensive dilemma could decide France vs. Iceland

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SAINT-DENIS, France (AP) France coach Didier Deschamps has a dilemma in defense for the European Championship quarterfinal against Iceland on Sunday.

With Adil Rami being suspended, he must pick either untested Samuel Umtiti or the out-of-form Eliaquim Mangala to partner Laurent Koscielny at center half.

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

Umtiti has never played for France, while Mangala did not feature in any pre-tournament warmup matches and he has looked low on confidence in training.

Before the competition started, Deschamps faced serious problems in central defense. He lost Real Madrid’s Raphael Varane, Chelsea’s Kurt Zouma and Barcelona’s Jeremy Mathieu to injury – while Liverpool’s Mamadou Sakho was suspended for a doping violation at the time Deschamps named his squad.

Varane and Sakho both played at the World Cup two years ago, thus robbing Deschamps of valuable experience at Euro 2016.

The 22-year-old Umtiti is soon expected to complete a move from Lyon to Barcelona. If selected, it will be a massive game for him against rugged Iceland.

[ MORE: EURO darlings Iceland thrive with odd-couple coaching duo ]

“They have two tall strikers who have a lot of presence, they are athletic and strong,” Deschamps told a news conference on Saturday. “I can’t make my players taller by adding a few centimeters. It’s a question of being strong in the challenges and paying close attention to the second ball.”

Deschamps initially left Umtiti out of his squad, penciling him in as a reserve and then only calling him up because of injuries.

Lyon finished bottom of its group in last season’s Champions League and Umtiti was criticized for a spate of poor performances.

Whilst not revealing who will start the game, Deschamps talked up Umtiti’s ability.

“If he’s joining (Barcelona) it’s not down to luck,” Deschamps said. “He passes well from the back; he’s strong in the challenge and has what it takes to play at the highest level.”

[ MORE: Germany outlast Italy in epically bad PK shootout to reach semis ]

The 25-year-old Mangala, who has played seven times for France, joined Manchester City from Porto for 31.9 million pounds ($42.3 million) two years ago.

But he has yet to hold down a regular place.

At 1.88 meters (6-foot-2) and weighing 84 kilograms (185 pounds), Mangala is taller and stronger than Umtiti – who is 1.80 meters (5-foot-11) and weighs nearly 10 kilograms (22 pounds) less.

Although that seems to make Mangala the better choice given Iceland’s physical threat, Deschamps appears to have limited faith in the player and has not selected him since October.

Whoever plays at Stade de France might seek reassurance from goalkeeper Hugo Lloris, the captain, and right back Bacary Sagna.

Both are very experienced.

“I have a lot of responsibility to show young players the way forward,” said the 29-year-old Lloris, who stands to win his 80th cap. “I have to get the right message across to them.”

[ MORE: Wales shock Belgium | Portugal downs Poland on PKs ]

Sagna, who has 61 caps, added that “communication will be the key to the match” considering France’s new-look back four.

France must also deal with the threat from Iceland midfielder Aron Gunnarsson‘s long throws.

“From 35 or 40 meters out it’s like a free kick for them,” Deschamps said. “We’ve been working on that this week.”

Should the game be decided by a penalty shootout, picking France’s five takers might give Deschamps another headache.

France has not been practicing penalty kicks.

“I’ve never done it,” Deschamps said. “For the simple reason that taking penalties, when you’re relaxed in training, is no comparison to what you are going to experience after 120 minutes, in front of a full stadium.”

Premier League social media wrap: Brighton, teqball, remembering Tiote

Premier League social media
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Premier League sides are fully back in the flow of training with scheduled matches coming within a fortnight.

[ STREAM: Every PL match live ]

So it’s no surprise that banter’s back, too.

That’s where we’ll start Friday, with Irish center back Shane Duffy making sure he’s keeping things light as Brighton and Hove Albion prepares to defend its Premier League place.

Duffy turned a sprinkler on his teammates at training, showing that, yes, your high school career has some things in common with Premier League footballers.

How about some skills as Manchester United gets ready for its return to the PL pitch?

Bruno Fernandes and Andreas Pereira tangled with Fred and Diogo Dalot in a match of Teqball.

You’ll have to watch to see who won.

There’s also a sad anniversary on this day.

It’s been three years since former Newcastle United wrecking ball Cheick Tiote passed away at age 30 after collapsing during a training session with Chinese side Beijing Enterprises, causing shock and grief around the Premier League.

His former teammates were remembering him on Friday, the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations winner was definitely beloved and will always be remembered for his incredible goal to cap off Newcastle’s 4-4 comeback draw with Arsenal.

We’ll start with Norwich City backstop Tim Krul, who spent time with Tiote at Newcastle.

Former Magpies wizard Yohan Cabaye pinned an old memorial to his Twitter wall.

 

Preview: Borussia Dortmund v. Hertha Berlin

Borussia Dortmund v. Hertha preview, how to watch
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Four Bundesliga teams are unbeaten in their last five matches and Hertha Berlin is the unlikeliest of the bunch.

They’ll tangle with Borussia Dortmund at the Westfalenstadion on Saturday in the latest challenge of the Bruno Labaddia era in Berlin.

[ BUNDESLIGA: Week 30 preview and predictions ]

Labbadia is Hertha’s third manager of the season and Hertha has played a scrappy brand of football that has punched and counter-punched under his tutelage. That doesn’t mean they’ve failed to find finish, as Liverpool loanee Marko Grujic and Brazilian youngster Matheus Cunha have been potent.

Borussia Dortmund is a bigger ask, though Hertha made RB Leipzig make mistakes in a 2-2 tie.

[ LIVE: Bundesliga scores, stats ]

Will it be able to get a result at the Westfalenstadion? Perhaps this is a bridge too far, because Dortmund’s shown an explosive offense and its defense has been strong far more often than not this season.

That said, Erling Haaland is just returning to fitness and has just one goal since the league’s restart from the coronavirus pause. Mats Hummels will miss with a yellow card suspension and Marco Reus still isn’t back.

Maybe American teen Giovanni Reyna will get prolonged run along with Jadon Sancho. We’ll see!

Borussia Dortmund v. Hertha Berlin, how to watch

  • TV Channels: FS2
  • Stream LiveVia Fox Soccer
  • Americans Abroad: Giovanni Reyna (Dortmund)
  • When: Saturday, June 6 – 12:30 p.m. ET: Dortmund v. Hertha

Sheffield United season restart preview

Sheffield United season restart preview
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With the 2019-20 Premier League season soon to restart, let’s focus on all 20 clubs and see where they stand ahead of the final nine matches of the season.

Sheffield United is next.

[ MORE: Remaining PL schedule in full ]

Let’s take a closer look at all things Blades when it comes to the season restart.


Outlook: Sheffield United has welcomed itself to the Premier League and put its feet up on the big boys’ tables while asking what’s for dinner. Blades sit seventh and will hope to continue a fairytale which has them on the precipice of the Europa League. Their fixture list in monstrous, especially at Bramall Lane, but Wilder’s proven capable of outwitting even the smartest of bosses for long periods of time. A name to remember is Simon Moore. The backup keeper and starter from Blades’ League One days could become vital should Manchester United defy expectation and pull Dean Henderson home from his loan upon its June 30 expiry.

[ MORE: Ranking every Southampton player in 2019-20 ]


Tactical analysis: Chris Wilder has flummoxed many a Premier League manager with his creative use of defenders in attack. United typically uses Jack O’Connell, John Egan and Chris Basham as a back-3 with Enda Stevens and George Baldock as the two wingbacks. Those players have accounted for six of United’s 18 PL assists this season. For more on the tactics, Wilder laid things out in entertaining fashion for Arlo White late last month.


Possible XI (3-5-2) 

—– Henderson* —–

— Basham — O’Connell — Egan —

— Baldock — Fleck —  Berge —– Norwood — Stevens—

—– McBurnie —– Mousset —–

The challenge here is fitting January signing Berge into the mix, as fellow central midfielders John Fleck, Oliver Norwood, and John Lundstram have been instrumental in this amazing season. Lundstram seems the most likely to cede his spot if someone will, which really says something about Berge’s immense talent. David McGoldrick and Billy Sharp have provided a lot up top, so McBurnie and Mousset will see plenty of time on the bench. And the biggest question of all is Henderson, who’s on loan from top seven rival Manchester United.

[ MORE: The 2 Robbies assess Sheffield United’s chances ]


[ STREAM: Every PL match live ]

Remaining schedule
Home: Spurs, Wolves, Chelsea, Everton
Away: Newcastle, Manchester United, Burnley, Leicester City, Southampton

Predicted finish: The Blades will get the chance to defend their home turf from not one, not two, not three, but four would-be European rivals (It’s a little generous to include Everton, but the talent is there). Throw in Leicester and Manchesteer United away, and there is a huge bridge to cross for Wilder’s men to keep their incredible season on the path toward unprecedented heights. It’s not just about keeping Spurs and Arsenal in the rear view mirror, as Blades meet the next four teams above their seventh-place footing.

Petersen’s header leads Freiburg past 10-man Gladbach

Freiburg v. Borussia Monchengladbach recap
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Nils Petersen’s second half goal led Freiburg to a huge 1-0 win over 10-man Borussia Monchengladbach at the Schwarzwald-Stadion on Friday.

Freiburg keeps its Europa League hopes alive by moving onto 41 points, one behind sixth and seventh.

Gladbach fails in a bid to go third and remains fourth with 56 points, ahead of Bayer Leverkusen on goal differential.

A second yellow card to Plea was a double curse to Gladbach, who went down a man and now will miss a star forward against Bayern Munich.

[ LIVE: Bundesliga scores, stats ]

Bayer’s Ramy Bensebaini utilized a slick backheel turn to nutmeg an opponent and send in a cross that was put out for a corner kick.

Freiburg keeper Alexander Schwolow made a tight-angle save on Alassane Plea just after the quarter-hour mark.

Gladbach saw a chance chalked off after two dangerous bids resulted in an offside deflection into the goal.

Florian Neuhaus came close to scoring again when Lars Stindl headed the penultimate move of a fine team play into the six, but he popped it over the frame.

[ BUNDESLIGA: Week 30 preview and predictions ]

Gladbach’s second half again settled into the Freiburg final third, but it was a home sub that paid dividends at the other end.

Petersen improved his club record for goals when he nodded Vincenzo Grifo’s free kick home in the 59th.

Stindl wasn’t too far from equalizing with a 17-yard shot at the hour mark, but Plea’s second yellow card damaged Gladbach’s hopes of a comeback.