Jose Mourinho predicts “trouble” ahead for Man United

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Despite Manchester United being on a 16-game unbeaten run in the Premier League, Jose Mourinho is not a happy man.

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With severe fixture pile-up on the way, United’s manager is concerned about the “many, many problems” his side will face in the coming weeks as they play in the UEFA Europa League, FA Cup, EFL Cup final and the Premier League.

As the battle to finish in the PL’s top four intensifies, Mourinho is right to be worried.

Speaking at a press conference ahead of United’s Europa League Round of 32 first leg clash against St. Etienne on Thusday at old Trafford, Mourinho isn’t looking forward to playing four cup games in the next 10 days and said the congested fixture list will cause his team “many, many problems” between now and the end of the season.

“If we progress in the competitions, we will be in trouble,” Mourinho said. “We know our situation is really complicated. The Europa League is a competition where we play on Thursdays and that makes it even more difficult for us. With the accumulation of FA Cup, League Cup and match postponed it is really hard for us. If you progress in the competitions, we will be in trouble in April and May. But we cannot choose competitions so we play to win.”

Mourinho went on to state that “The Europa League is a not a competition we want to play” but he remains upbeat that his team will try and win everything they can.

United face St. Etienne on Thursday, Blackburn Rovers in the FA Cup on Sunday, then St. Etienne away next Thursday before the EFL Cup final against Southampton at Wembley Stadium next Sunday. If they make it through in the Europa League and FA Cup, they will then have a further four games in 12 days from Mar. 4 onwards.

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He has a point about the massive number of games, with United already playing 38 games this season. But with his large squad and more games meaning more success in the cup competitions, should Mourinho really be complaining?

Of course every manager wants more time to spend on the training ground bedding in his methods and getting his philosophy across to the players. That is especially the case with Mourinho being a manager in his first season at a new club and a top four finish in the Premier League is seen as the minimum requirement.

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But, if he wins the EFL Cup next weekend, gets to the quarters of the FA Cup and makes it into another round of the Europa League won’t everyone be happy? Probably not. Getting back into the UCL is what everyone craves at Old Trafford and that’s why Mourinho was brought in and given the money to sign Paul Pogba and Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

With four of the current top six in the PL to play in their final 13 games of the league season, Mourinho knows his side could well be jaded by the final month of the season.

As the battle to finish in the top four cranks up a few notches with just four points separating second-place Manchester City and sixth-place Manchester United, having all of these games is a massive headache for Mourinho.

Japan upsets ten-man Colombia in Group H opener

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On paper, the 61st-ranked team in the world beating the 16th-ranked team in the world is a massive upset. But considering the circumstances within the game, perhaps this wasn’t an upset after all.

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Two set pieces were the difference as Japan defeated ten-man Colombia, 2-1 on Tuesday morning in Saransk. Colombia played with ten men for nearly the entire match, after Carlos Sanchez was sent off for a handball in the box and a denial of a goal scoring opportunity.

The game took a massive turn in the third minute, as Colombia centerback Davinson Sanchez failed to control a pass and Yuya Osako found himself free on goal. His shot was parried away by Colombia goalkeeper David Ospina but Kagawa’s rebound shot was clearly blocked by Sanchez’s right arm. The referee, Damir Skomina immediately pointed to the penalty spot and went to the back pocket, sending Sanchez to the showers.

Kagawa stepped up and cooly sent Ospina the wrong way to put Japan on top.

Late in the first half, after both teams had chances on target, Colombia came back and evened the scoreline.

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Juan Fernando Quintero, starting in place of the recovering James Rodriguez, smartly took a free kick and fired it low, under the wall as it jumped. Japan goalkeeper Eiji Kawashima reacted late and although he arrived as the ball was crossing the line, he couldn’t keep it from going over, tying the game in the 39th minute.

Ultimately, despite its efforts, Colombia began to tire and on a corner kick, the Blue Samurai took back the lead and control of their destiny in Group H. A corner kick from Keisuke Honda was re-directed past Ospina by Osako, who jumped well over Santiago Arias, to give Japan a 2-1 lead in the 75th minute.

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Rodriguez was introduced in the 57th minute but try as he did, Colombia was unable to find the final pass in the box, and Japan held on for the unexpected victory.

With the win, Japan top Group H ahead of a meeting with Senegal, while Colombia will have to regroup to face Poland.

In a World Cup full of unexpected results, Tuesday brought yet another memorable win for an underdog.

New Zealand women footballers rebel against national coach

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Wellington, New Zealand (AP) Only weeks after New Zealand Football made headlines by signing a revolutionary equal pay deal with its female players, the organization is facing a mutiny by members of its women’s team against the national coach.

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New Zealand Football confirmed on Tuesday it had received a letter signed by a number of New Zealand players complaining about the methods and tactics employed by Austria-born coach Andreas Heraf.

The complaints follow the New Zealand team’s recent 3-1 loss at home to Japan. Heraf angered his players, and fans of the Football Ferns national team, by taking an entirely defensive game plan into the rare home international.

Heraf then further angered his players with comments defending his approach.

He said there was “a big difference in quality” between the New Zealand and Japanese players and that New Zealand “will never have that quality” to compete with top teams like Japan. He said the scoreline might have been 8-0 if New Zealand had not adopted a defensive approach.

One of New Zealand’s leading players, United States-based Abby Erceg, retired after playing 132 matches for New Zealand, citing Heraf’s approach in previous international matches.

She later told New Zealand media: “I couldn’t stand to wear that (national symbol) on my chest any more when his vision was to cower in a corner and not get beat by too much.”

New Zealand Football defended Heraf against the media and public criticism but admitted his comments were “strange” and “wrong” and did not accurately reflect his views. Heraf later apologized and said he had not expressed himself clearly.

But efforts to dampen the controversy have failed. New Zealand Football said in a statement it had “received a letter from the NZ Professional Footballers Association (NZPFA) last night with a number of complaints from the players of the Football Ferns.”

The mutiny comes only weeks after New Zealand gained international headlines for a deal which gives female pay parity with their male counterparts.

New Zealand Football signed the deal which provided female players with equal match payments, travel arrangements and prize money.

At the time, New Zealand women’s captain Ali Riley said the deal meant New Zealand would “be able to compete against the top teams, to be able to do well at a World Cup and the Olympics – this is what we needed.”

VIDEO: Colombia sees red, Japan takes early lead

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The first red card of the World Cup came just moments after fans took their seats in Saransk.

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After David Ospina blocked a breakaway opportunity from Yuya Osako in the third minute of the match, Japan star and former Manchester United midfielder Shinji Kagawa fired the rebound on goal. But his shot was blocked by the arm of Colombia midfielder Carlos Sanchez, which earned him a straight red card from referee Damir Skomina and an early trip to the locker room.

Kagawa then stepped up to the spot and calmly sent Ospina the wrong way to give Japan the shock early lead.

Colombia will play the rest of the match with ten men and no James Rodriguez, who was named to the bench for this match as he recovers from a reported calf injury.

Rodriguez out of Colombia starting XI

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Taking a page out of Egypt’s book, Colombia will be without its talismanic playmaker for its first match, Tuesday morning against Japan.

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Juan Fernando Quintero replaced James Rodriguez in Colombia’s starting Xi to take on Japan in Saransk as Colombia coach Jose Pekerman clearly hopes a few extra days of recovery for the injured Rodriguez will help him return to 100 percent fitness. Rodriguez is battling a reported calf injury.

Rodriguez scored six goals and had two assists in five games at the last World Cup in Brazil, helping guide Los Cafeteros to their first World Cup quarterfinals appearance.