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Premier League players to watch in the 2017 CONCACAF Gold Cup

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For Premier League fans, watching the 2017 CONCACAF Gold Cup might seem a bit like sitting through a high school production of West Side Story. While it’s clearly important to the participants and you might even recognize a few of the stars, only a handful of players are going to do anything on a bigger stage.

Yes, many of the countries in this year’s tournament have sent “B-Teams” to give their European-based stars a rest. And sure, two of the teams, Martinique and French Guiana, aren’t actually members of FIFA. But if you can look past that, the Gold Cup is more exciting than competitive soccer in July has any right to be.

There will be plenty of talented players looking to make a name for themselves with the World Cup less than a year away – seriously, this is your last chance to be the guy who knew about Kellyn Acosta before it was cool – but the Gold Cup also has something to offer Premier League fans. 

Here are three names to keep an eye on at CONCACAF’s big dance. 

Joel Campbell – Costa Rica (Arsenal)

It’s hard to believe Campbell is already six years into his time with Arsenal, having made just 23 Premier League appearances for the Gunners since joining the club in 2011.

During that time, he’s scored against Uruguay in the World Cup, Manchester United in the Champion’s League and the MLS All-Stars in…the MLS All-Star Game, without doing much to raise his stock in North London.

For Campbell, the Gold Cup should serve as something of an audition. With one year left on his Arsenal deal, he’s already been linked to several big clubs throughout Europe, including Olympiakos and Galatasaray. An impressive performance for Los Ticos could help Campbell raise a few more eyebrows abroad and give Arsenal a chance to increase its asking price for the 25-year-old forward.

Matt Miazga – USA (Chelsea)

This is basically cheating, since Miazga didn’t play a game for Chelsea during their run to the Premier League title in 2017. But the young American enjoyed a successful loan spell with Dutch club Vitesse last year and should factor for Chelsea during a preseason that could determine his future at Stamford Bridge.

Before he tries to impress Antonio Conte, Miazga will hope to win over Bruce Arena during his first call-up to the United States men’s national team in over a year. He’s one of the least experienced defenders on the Gold Cup roster, but some less-than-intimidating group stage opponents should give Miazga an opportunity to make his case for a trip to Russia in 2018.

Keep an eye on his relationship with some of the veteran center backs on this roster. If Miazga can thrive alongside Omar Gonzalez or Matt Besler, it might be tempting for Arena to use his aerial ability and considerable motor in bigger games down the road.

Scott Arfield – Canada (Burnley)

When Scott Arfield takes the field for Canada in the 2017 Gold Cup, it will be the culmination to one of international soccer’s strangest journeys.

The Clarets midfielder made 17 appearances for the Scottish U-21s (he was born just outside of Edinburgh) before waiting for a call to the senior team that never arrived.

So, he took advantage of a Canadian father to make his one-time international switch and delivered Canada – a team that hasn’t escaped the Gold Cup group stage since 2009 – one of the most experienced Premier League players in the whole tournament.

Arfield’s versatility will certainly be welcome on a Canadian side looking to bring talented youngsters like Cyle Larin and Alphonso Davies into the fold this summer. It might even be enough to escape from a group with Costa Rica and Honduras as favorites.

Report: Premier League prepare for June return

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The Premier League are supposedly preparing to return to action in June as the current season remains suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic.

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Multiple reports across the UK, including this one from the Daily Mirror, claim that the government has given the Premier League the green light to return to action from June, provided the situation has improved as expected by then.

Per the report, Premier League clubs have been told that they should prepare for games to be played from June 1 onwards behind closed doors and there is a ‘tentative agreement for the top flight to resume behind closed doors after the 20 clubs mapped out a plan with senior officials on a resumption of matches.’

The report adds that ‘in principle, with government health officials hopeful of a coronavirus peak in the UK in the next few weeks, they will sanction games under strict guidelines.’ 

Plans are in place for players to be isolated together and away from the public, as they could begin training in May so they can prepare for the current campaign resuming.

With the situation in the UK deteriorating over the last week and the country on lockdown, these tentative plans can of course change quickly.

Premier League players have had differing views on what should happen to the 2019-20 season and Luke Shaw is the latest to say games should not be played behind closed doors. But if teams play two games per week in empty stadiums or training grounds from June 1, there is the real possibility the season could be finished by the start of July and then FA Cup and Europe competitions could follow.

The overwhelming feeling from Premier League clubs, the league itself and many other individuals is that the 2019-20 season should be finished whenever it is safe to do so. Recent PL club meetings came to that agreement and that is the official stance.

However, the next big question is whether or not fans will be able to attend games for the rest of the season and this report seems to suggest that is totally off the table and if the current campaign is concluded, fans will not be present.

Luke Shaw: Scrap season and start again

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Man United and England defender Luke Shaw has said the 2019-20 season should be scrapped and started again if games cannot be completed.

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Shaw, 24, was speaking during a FIFA 20 competition which was streamed on Twitch to raise funds for UNICEF’s Combat Corona campaign.

“Scrap it and start again. Start it again, yeah,” Shaw said. “It’s got to be, you know. If we can’t carry it on, it’s got to be void.”

All 20 Premier League clubs remain committed to completing the 2019-20 season whenever ‘safe to do so’ but there’s no resumption date currently lined up.

One option is for games to played behind closed doors, when possible, but Shaw isn’t keen on that either.

“Fans are so important. You realise it even more (now),” Shaw said. “I think the sport is for fans really… I think if you don’t have fans, and you don’t play in front of fans, it just doesn’t feel right. Especially on matchday, the fans are always amazing and always help the team. Whether it’s home or even away, our fans are always brilliant and I feel like they’re always there with us.”

The view of Shaw differs slightly from other Premier League players who have discussed the current suspension due to the coronavirus pandemic but there is a general consensus that they want to move onto the next season as soon as possible. When it comes to Shaw, his views are very interesting as Man United had rallied to be three points off the top four and had plenty of momentum ahead of the final nine games of the current league campaign, as well as being in a great position in the latter stages of the Europa League and FA Cup.

Man City star Kevin de Bruyne wants to move on from the 2019-20 season as soon as possible as he doesn’t think the start of the 2020-21 campaign should be delayed and is concerned about players being injured if they are asked to resume the season quickly.

Other players are fine to wait to see what the Premier League plans but Tottenham forward Harry Kane has also expressed his desire to move on from the current campaign if games cannot be completed by the end of June.

It is intriguing to hear so many differing views from Premier League players on when the season should resume, if at all, but Kane, Shaw and De Bruyne are all saying something slightly different. Therein lies the problem. How will a consensus be reached between PL clubs with so many different ideas and opinions on what should happen next?

If you throw club affiliations and rivalries into the mix, why on earth would a Man United star want the current season to be deemed as ‘void’ when Liverpool are 25 points clear at the top of the table and just five points away from securing the Premier League title…

Son to complete military service in South Korea

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Tottenham have confirmed that forward Heung-min Son will complete his military service in South Korea this month and will return to London in May.

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Son, 27, previously became exempt from the mandatory 21-month military service as he captained South Korea to gold medal glory at the 2018 Asian Games but there is also a four-week stint he needs to complete in the army.

A new rule which arrived in 2018 means that men in South Korea must enlist in the military by the age of 28 and Son turns 28 on July 8.

Spurs released the following statement on Son’s situation, as he recently returned to South Korea as he continues his rehabilitation from a broken arm he suffered in the 3-2 win at Aston Villa in February.

“The Club can confirm that Heung-Min Son will commence his mandatory military service in South Korea this month. The forward arrived back in his home country at the end of March where he is currently in quarantine. Our medical staff are in regular contact as he concludes his recovery after fracturing his arm in our 3-2 win against Aston Villa on 16 February and continues to train.

“Sonny had surgery on his arm in South Korea before returning to the UK at the end of February to continue his rehabilitation, prior to the initial announcement of the professional game in England being suspended as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Premier League has since announced that the 2019/20 season will only return when it is ‘safe and appropriate to do so’ and is under constant review. Son will return to London following the conclusion of his military service in May.”

Pep Guardiola’s mother dies due to coronavirus

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The mother of Pep Guardiola, Dolors Sala Carrio, has died after being infected by the coronavirus. 

Carrio, 82, passed away in the Catalan town of Manresa, 40 miles north of Barcelona, as Manchester City announced they have been left ‘devastated’ by the news as their manager has lost his mother amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

“The Manchester City family are devastated to report the death today of Pep’s mother Dolors Sala Carrio in Manresa, Barcelona after contracting Corona Virus. She was 82-years-old. Everyone associated with the club sends their most heartfelt sympathy at this most distressing time to Pep, his family and all their friends.” 

Two weeks ago Guardiola donated over $1 million to hospitals in his home state of Catalonia in the battle against COVID-19 and has been a leading figure in calling for people to stay at home to help save lives and stop its spread.

“We miss football. We miss the life that we had a few days ago but now is the time to listen, to follow our scientists, doctors and nurses,” Guardiola said. “You are my football family and we are going to do everything possible to make you feel better. We’ll come back from this stronger, better, kinder … and a little bit fatter. Stay inside, stay safe.”

Spain and Italy have been the two nations in Europe most-impacted by the coronavirus pandemic, with both countries on lockdown for lengthy periods of time.