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Sunderland confirm Sam Allardyce talks with England

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Big Sam is closing in on one of the biggest coaching jobs in the game.

Sunderland have confirmed that the English Football Association has held talks with their manager Sam Allardyce about becoming the next manager of the English national team.

[ MORE: No approach for Klinsmann ]

Allardyce, 61, is said to be the favored choice of the FA to replace Roy Hodgson after he stepped down following England’s dismal EURO 2016 campaign which saw them beaten by Iceland in the Round of 16.

Other bookies favorites to take charge of England are Eddie Howe, Steve Bruce, Jurgen Klinsmann and Arsene Wenger and multiple reports claim than the FA favor an Englishman taking the role

Sunderland released the following statement on Wednesday to address the situation:

The Football Association contacted Sunderland AFC to seek permission to speak with our manager as part of what was supposed to be a confidential discussion process with potential candidates for the position of England manager.

At Sam Allardyce’s request, we agreed to this.

Sam is very much key to our plans. After what was an extremely challenging season, we are keen to see a period of stability, both on and off the field, and we want him to remain as manager of our football club.

The ongoing speculation over Sam’s position is extremely damaging to Sunderland AFC, particularly at this crucial time of the season and we urge the FA to respect the disruption that this process is causing and bring about a swift resolution to the matter.

Allardyce interviewed for the position of England manager in 2006 but Steve McClaren was instead handed the job. He was overlooked when both Fabio Capello and Hodgson were subsequently appointed but now it seems as though his time has arrived to take charge of the Three Lions.

He is a manager who has received plenty of stick for his supposed route-one tactics and although his methods may be direct, Big Sam has overachieved everywhere he has been. Sure, his tactics may not be the most beautiful to watch but it gets results. Is there really much difference between the style of play of Leicester City last season and Allardyce’s teams?

SUNDERLAND, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 13: Sam Allardyce, manager of Sunderland thumbs up on arrival at the stadium prior to the Barclays Premier League match between Sunderland and Manchester United at the Stadium of Light on February 13, 2016 in Sunderland, England. (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)
(Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

Sir Alex Ferguson has backed Allardyce for the job and the former chief executive of Manchester United, and current vice-chairman of the FA, David Gill, is also a close friend of Allardyce.

Gill is part of the three-man committee along with chief executive Martin Glen and technical director Dan Ashworth who have been tasked with picking a new England manager.

At Bolton he got them promoted to the Premier League and took them to Europe. He brought West Ham United back to the top flight and stabilized them n the top-flight and most recently with Sunderland he arrived midway through the 2015-16 season and kept the Black Cats in the PL against all odds.

No man will tick all the boxes but Allardyce seems to tick the most from the criteria the FA is supposedly looking for. He commands a room when he walks in, has a direct way of doing things and you know where you stand with him. He is a proper bloke and a real soccer man.

He has always been forward thinking when it comes to using sports science — he was one of the first managers to use the ProZone technology — and his teams are always solid units which are defensively sound and play with passion.

After their EURO 2016 debacle, England could use some strict directions and an injection of passion from Big Sam.

Is he the best candidate?

Howe is deemed too young by many but will still be a fine choice to implement the FA’s long-term plan to give England a DNA which sees it play attractive, possession based soccer. Bruce is out of the same mold as Allardyce in that he’s old school and has always overachieved wherever has been.

Klinsmann is obviously a star name and helped to restructure German soccer and is currently doing the same with the U.S. setup. Wenger is a long shot but hasn’t ruled out speaking with the FA as the long-time Arsenal coach has just a year remaining.

Only time will tell if the FA select the right man for the job but Allardyce would certainly tackle the challenge head and use all of his experience to try and deliver a positive tournament result for England at the 2018 World Cup in Russia.

La Liga: Real Madrid disappoint in home draw with Valladolid

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A roundup of all of Saturday’s action in Spain’s top flight…

[ MORE: Liverpool bests wobbly Arsenal at Anfield | Player ratings ]

Real Madrid 1-1 Real Valladolid

With Barcelona losing on the season’s opening day, and now Real Madrid dropping points on Saturday to the side that finished 16th last season, the 2019 La Liga title race appears to be wide open.

Karim Benzema put Real Madrid 1-0 up after 82 minutes, and Los Blancos appeared to have avoided a disappointing start to their home campaign. However, Sergi Guardiola (no relation to Pep) had other ideas when he bagged an unlikely equalizer in the 88th minute.

Eden Hazard remained out with a thigh injury and the $113-million Belgian isn’t expected to make his Madrid debut until after the season’s international break which takes place the first full weekend of September. James Rodriguez made his return to Real Madrid after two seasons on loan to Bayern Munich, but the Colombian was subbed off after 57 minutes to be replaced by Vinicius Junior.

Elsewhere in La Liga

Celta Vigo 1-0 Valencia
Getafe 1-1 Athletic Bilbao
Osasuna 0-0 Eibar

Sunday’s La Liga schedule

Mallorca v. Real Sociedad — 11 a.m. ET
Alaves v. Espanyol — 11 a.m. ET
Leganes v. Atletico Madrid — 1 p.m. ET
Barcelona v. Real Betis — 3 p.m. ET

Serie A: Juventus edge past Parma; Napoli-Fiorentina thriller (video)

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A roundup of all of Saturday’s action in Italy’s top flight…

[ MORE: Liverpool bests wobbly Arsenal at Anfield | Player ratings ]

Parma 0-1 Juventus

Juventus’ quest to win a ninth straight Serie A title began with a win away to Parma on Saturday, but only just barely. Giorgio Chiellini scored the game’s only goal in the 21st minute, redirecting Alex Sandro’s half-volley past the goalkeeper after a corner kick wasn’t fully cleared. The victory sets Maurizio Sarri‘s side (Sarri wasn’t in charge of the team on Saturday as he continues to recover from pneumonia) on its way in a season that figures to feature multiple challengers to the throne, with Napoli and Inter Milan each strengthening their squads considerably in the summer. Sarri will also miss out on next weekend’s heavyweight clash between Juve and last season’s runners-up Napoli at Allianz Stadium.

Cristiano Ronaldo had a goal taken off the board after the video-assistant referee picked up on the narrowest of offside calls.

$85-million center back Matthijs de Ligt was named to the bench, where he remained for the entirety of 90 minutes, with veterans Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci preferred to the 20-year-old. Goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon joined De Ligt on the bench in his return to Juve after spending last season at Paris Saint-Germain.

Fiorentina 3-4 Napoli

Napoli’s 4-3 victory over Fiorentina was a truly wild ride. There is no other way to describe it.

Napoli went from a goal down inside the first 10 minutes, to 2-1 up just before halftime, level at 2-2 in the 52nd minute, 3-2 ahead just four minutes later, level at 3-3 in the 65th, and finally 4-3 ahead just two minutes later.

Dries Mertens (38th), Lorenzo Insigne (43rd and 67th) and Jose Callejon (56th) got the goals for Carlo Ancelotti’s side.

Hirving Lozano, who joined Napoli for $44 million on Friday, wasn’t yet available to make his debut but will only add another level of quality to what has proven to be an already impressive attacking unit.

Sunday’s Serie A schedule

Udinese v. AC Milan — 12 p.m. ET
Roma v. Genoa — 2:45 p.m. ET
Sampdoria v. Lazio — 2:45 p.m. ET
Cagliari v. Brescia — 2:45 p.m. ET
Verona v. Bologna — 2:45 p.m. ET
SPAL v. Atalanta — 2:45 p.m. ET
Torino v. Sassuolo — 2:45 p.m. ET

Messi to miss Barcelona’s next game; Suarez, Dembele also out

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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) Lionel Messi has been left out of Barcelona’s squad to face Real Betis in the Spanish league on Sunday.

[ MORE: Liverpool bests wobbly Arsenal at Anfield | Player ratings ]

Messi returned to training this week after recovering from a right calf injury picked up in preseason, but the Argentina star was not included in the list of players available for the team’s home opener at Camp Nou Stadium.

He missed the team’s 1-0 loss to Athletic Bilbao in the league opener last weekend.

Coach Ernesto Valverde is also without forwards Luiz Suarez and Ousmane Dembele because of injuries.

Klopp preens after Liverpool win: ‘Our identity is intensity’

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Liverpool and Arsenal entertained on Saturday, with the Reds earning a deserved 3-1 win and keeping the Gunners off-kilter for most of the day.

Jurgen Klopp‘s Reds pushed the tempo for much of the match and overcame some wobbly moments at the back to cruise to the win.

[ MORE: Liverpool-Arsenal recap | 3 things ]

They were tough, fiery, and deserved every bit of the win. And Klopp knows it, and knows that you know it. From the BBC:

“Our identity is intensity, and we showed that today. … We were a bit surprised by their system. We couldn’t know that they would play a diamond, but we switched things around and coped very well.

“The last 10 minutes I saw the possession – 53 to 47 or something like that – but over 80 minutes it must have been completely different. For 80 minutes we were completely in charge of the game. We are not Disneyland, we do not need to excite everyone in every second.”

This guy is an absolute beauty. Even those who despise him have to admit that we are lucky to have him.

Klopp’s men lapsed late and allowed a Lucas Torreira goal. The defense has been wobbly over the first three weeks of the season, and preseason was just as rough. Klopp would’ve loved a clean sheet for the first time since the first week of preseason, but he’s happy with the performance.

“I would have loved to have it, but things can happen. They’re a quality side, Arsenal. I didn’t see that many chances, but we were really in charge today and completely deserved the win.”

Liverpool is off to Burnley next, and then will enjoy the international break.