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Daley Blind: Manchester Derby in Houston not a friendly

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Daley Blind and Manchester United are enjoying the high life close to Tinseltown, but it’s all work and a little play for the Dutchman and his teammates at their Beverly Hills base for preseason.

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With the 2017-18 Premier League trophy on their mind and an eagerly anticipated return to the UEFA Champions League this season, that’s just the way they like it.

Keen to stress the importance of training sessions and matches in the Californian sun, Blind’s focus was clear as Man United prepare to face Manchester City on Thursday in Houston, Texas in what will be the first-ever Manchester Derby played on foreign soil.

Speaking exclusively to Pro Soccer Talk ahead of the historic match, the versatile Dutch international sees the International Champions Cup preseason friendly as a perfect way to put down a marker for the season.

“It will be a friendly, it will be preseason… but from the inside everyone feels like it is a derby and it will always be that way,” Blind said. “It is always special to play games like that. The derby always brings something extra and it will definitely be like that in Houston.”

[ MORE: Full 2017-18 PL preseason schedule

Having United and City lock horns in the Lone Star State, nearly 5,000 miles from Manchester, is quite something when you think about it, and Blind, 27, believes both teams are ready to soak in the occasion.

“It’s something different, that’s for sure. I think it’s great. No doubt there will be lots of people coming to watch the game and it will give a great experience to every player,” Blind said. “These are the games you want to play in with these teams. The derby always brings something extra, personally, and for everyone, so I think it will be a great game, experience and preparation for the season.”

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These preseason tours are all about preparation, with Jose Mourinho playing down the two wins against LA Galaxy (5-2) on Saturday and Real Salt Lake (2-1) on Monday as little more than training exercises.

But with Man City, Real Madrid and Barcelona coming up in the next 10 days for United before they head back to Europe and prepare for the Premier League season with the UEFA Super Cup final against Real Madrid on Aug. 8, getting the hard work in now counts.

Even if grabbing a coffee and hanging out in LA is easier than any other place in the world for Blind and his superstars teammates to evaporate into normality. At least for a few hours a day.

“We are here to prepare ourselves for the season. The training sessions and games are coming first, but of course it is nice to bond with the team and when you have an hour off we can go for a coffee or something. It’s not a big deal in LA because there are so many famous people here,” Blind laughed. “You can go for a quiet coffee and you can do it all the time, but when the time is there and we are allowed, it is nice to go and do something like that with a few teammates. The preseason and training sessions, and matches, are obviously coming first and that’s the most important thing.”

The Ajax product praised the facilities at UCLA and said this preseason was “a bit easier” than last summer when Mourinho and his team were troubled with bad weather on their tour of China and their preseason friendly with Man City in Beijing had to be canceled due to heavy rain.

Like his manager, he was also complimentary of Major League Soccer.

“The stadiums are full. The atmosphere is nice. The pitches are good and where we train as well. If you see the American teams, I think they are growing each year and it helps to have the highlights on TV in Europe,” Blind explained. “It is difficult to compare it to Europe. I have to say soccer here… right? Well, soccer is growing. I think.”

Confidence around United’s prospects this season are also growing with Blind hailing Romelu Lukaku‘s $96.5 million arrival from Everton after the Belgian striker scored his first goal for the club against RSL on Monday.

“He is a great signing, a great player and a great person as well, now that I have met him for a while,” Blind said. “He works very hard, he is very eager to score goals and very eager to help his teammates and create chances, so I am very happy he scored his first goal and I think there are many more to come.”

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With Lukaku off the mark and Mourinho failing to rule out a return to United for Zlatan Ibrahimovic as he continues to rehabilitate his injured knee at their training ground, Blind was asked if the thought of having Zlatan around again next season would give them a further lift.

“Yeah, of course. No doubt he would again be another big signing and last year he gave a big boost for the team,” Blind said. “He is still a great player and great person and he makes everything better.”

Blind’s own United career has continued to get better after he arrived in the summer of 2014 as one of the first signings of the Louis Van Gaal era. Many believed Blind may have found minutes hard to come by last season after LVG was replaced by Mourinho, but he played in 39 games in all competitions and appeared in the Europa League final win over his old club Ajax.

He is happy to stay at United for as long as possible and is willing to extend his current contract, which runs out in the summer of 2019.

“I have one more year left [on his contract] after this one and I am very happy at United. I play a lot of games and I am looking forward to the new season,” Blind said. “About my contract, I can’t really say anything. You have to ask the directors and the club, but of course, which player wouldn’t want to stay at United? I am very happy, that’s the only thing I can say.”

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Blind’s flexibility was key for United last season as he played at left back and center back and even central midfield as Mourinho utilized his utility status to the max.

‘Where is Blind’s best position?’ is often a question which comes up in the stadium and pubs when United play, so, what does he think?

“I just want to play and where the manager needs me I do my utmost best and give everything I have. I think the people know that I have a little bit of a preference to play left center back,” Blind revealed. “If I play left back all season, I would be happy there too, but for me it is just important that I am close to the team. I want to play. I want to start. That’s the thing I work hard for and that’s what makes me happy. For me it’s simple I want to play and be on the pitch and want to do everything for that.”

He also revealed the experiment of playing in a 3-4-3 formation is going well in preseason and is something which could be needed as teams make it hard for United to break them down. Yet one thing, above all else, is on his mind: trophies, and plenty of them.

Hungry for more silverware, Blind believes United can achieve anything they want next season. If they achieve what he hopes they can, it’s safe to say Mourinho will be taking United back to Beverly Hills and LA next summer. They could even be allowed a few more team coffee breaks…

“It was very exciting that we won three trophies last year, so we are very happy with that. The aim for this season is well is to win trophies and of course, we want to be first in the league,” Blind said. “We have to aim high because we have a big and strong squad. We will go for everything we want and we will play every game to win, and then we will see game by game.”

Premier League odds, Prince-Wright’s picks: Week 2

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EPL betting odds for the Premier League Week 2 have been released but we know the bookies don’t always get it right and there is plenty of cash to be made up there.

Here are the latest Prince-Wright’s Premier League score predictions as the Premier League 2020-21 season is here and the EPL betting odds all over the place with new signings galore, some teams having more of a preseason than others and injuries already having an impact early in the season.

[ MORE: How to watch PL in the USA ]   

The Premier League score predictions below encompass the 10 games during Week 2 of the new season, as Manchester City and Manchester United both begin their season after being given an extended break over the summer following their European exploits.

If you, like me, love to dissect all the games and predict what the score will be and which team will win, I encourage you to get involved in the comments section below. Let’s have a bit of fun with these Premier League games.

VIDEO: Premier League highlights ] 

Okay, so I’ve consulted my crystal ball and here’s how we see things panning out. Listen carefully, because this is very specific.

While you can download the NBC Sports Predictor app (below) and play the Premier League Pick ‘Em game yourself to predict the scores and win the prizes.

DOWNLOAD NBC SPORTS PREDICTOR

With the first section labelled “basically, free money” for the picks I think are dead certs. The section labelled “don’t touch this” means if you’re betting I advise you to stay clear, while the “so you’re telling me there’s a chance” section are the long shots. If it is better odds you are after, those are the picks to go for.

Check out our Premier League score predictions below, plus the betting odds provided by our partner, PointsBet.

PointsBet is our Official Sports Betting Partner and we may receive compensation if you place a bet on PointsBet for the first time after clicking our links.


PREMIER LEAGUE PREDICTIONS

BASICALLY, FREE MONEY

Manchester United 3-1 Crystal Palace – (Saturday, 12:30 p.m. ET, Peacock) – [STREAM

Arsenal 4-0 West Ham – (Saturday, 3 p.m. ET, NBCSN) – [STREAM

Everton 2-0 West Brom – (Saturday, 7:30 a.m. ET, Peacock) – [STREAM


DON’T TOUCH THIS…

Newcastle 2-1 Brighton – (Sunday, 9 a.m. ET, Peacock) – [STREAM

Leicester 2-1 Burnley – (Sunday, 2 p.m. ET, NBCSN) – [STREAM

Southampton 1-1 Tottenham – (Sunday, 7 a.m. ET, Peacock) – [STREAM

Wolves 2-3 Man City – (Monday, 3 p.m. ET, Peacock) – [STREAM


“SO YOU’RE TELLING ME THERE’S A CHANCE…”

Leeds United 2-2 Fulham – (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, Peacock) – [STREAM

Chelsea 3-3 Liverpool – (Sunday, 11:30 a.m. ET, Peacock) – [STREAM

Aston Villa 2-1 Sheffield United – (Monday, 1 p.m. ET, Peacock) – [STREAM


ODDS – full odds provided by our partner, PointsBet

Saturday, September 19: (-195) Everton v. West Brom (+540), Tie: +320
Saturday, September 19: (-160) Leeds v. Fulham (+450), Tie: +290
Saturday, September 19: (-325) Man United v. Crystal Palace (+850), Tie: +440
Saturday, September 19: (-195) Arsenal v. West Ham (+500), Tie: +340
Sunday, September 20: (+215) Southampton v. Tottenham (+130), Tie: +235
Sunday, September 20: (+160) Newcastle v. Brighton (+185), Tie: +210
Sunday, September 20: (+220) Chelsea v. Liverpool (+110), Tie: +270
Sunday, September 20: (-165) Leicester v. Burnley (+460), Tie: +290
Monday, September 21: (+170) Aston Villa v. Sheffield United (+170), Tie: +215
Monday, September 21: (+520) Wolves v. Man City (-195), Tie: +325

Thiago to Liverpool confirmed: How big of a deal is this?

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Thiago to Liverpool has finally been confirmed as the worst kept secret in the transfer world has reached its end game with a transfer deal which could rise to $36 million reached.

What does Thiago Alcantara signing for Liverpool actually mean though?

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First up, Liverpool have themselves a ‘baller with a capital B who was influential in Bayern winning the treble and sealing the UEFA Champions League trophy in the 2019-20 season.

Thiago, 29, has been instrumental at Bayern Munich and is the deep-lying playmaker Liverpool didn’t have. Speaking about his arrival at Anfield, his excitement is clear and so is one other thing: he’s a born winner.

“I think it’s an amazing feeling. I was waiting for this moment for a long time and I am very, very happy to be here,” Thiago said. “When the years are passing, you are trying to win as much as you can – and when you win, you want to win more. I think this club describes what I am as well; I want to achieve all of the goals, win as many trophies as possible. It also [has] this kind of family [feeling] that I need because we [like to] have a very close relationship with the club and I think I will feel this, I will have this feeling, with this club as well.”

Thiago is exactly the type of signing Liverpool needed to make to back up their hopes of being back-to-back Premier League champions. That sound you can hear is Pep Guardiola’s heart breaking, as the current Manchester City boss brought Thiago from Barcelona to Bayern Munich in 2013 and knows how key of a cog he can be in this well-oiled Liverpool machine.

The Spanish international is exactly the type of player the reigning Premier League champions needed to reach the next level. He gives them that Plan B they haven’t previously had. If Thiago had played for Liverpool against Atletico Madrid in the 2019-20 season, they would not have lost that game. He would have slowed things down, picked passes to rip apart Atleti’s watertight midfield and defense.

His skills are special and will complement the hard-working players Liverpool primarily have in their midfield. Jordan Henderson, Fabinho and Georginio Wijnaldum were a formidable trio but the latter may now leave for Barcelona and both Naby Keita and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain have struggled with injuries. Thiago gives this Liverpool midfield a new dimension and his arrival likely means Fabinho and Henderson will line up alongside him in a three-man central midfield.

He will have to settle in, though, and playing in England and for Klopp’s Liverpool is very different to what he was used to at Bayern Munich. That said, he oozes class and will be given the license to dictate the tempo of Liverpool’s play and sit in alongside Fabinho and spray passes and snap into tackles. In many ways, just like at Bayern, his role will be to allow the full backs to attack. His presence will allow Andy Robertson and Trent Alexander-Arnold to bomb on just as Alphonso Davies and Joshua Kimmich did at Bayern.

Simply put, he allows Liverpool to play a different way in comparison to their full-throttle, high-press style which isn’t always possible when teams sit back and defend deep. Now they have Thiago, Liverpool can do it all. If you sit back, Thiago can thread a ball through the eye of a needle to open up defenses. If you push up, one ball over the top will see Salah and Mane set free.

The son of a former World Cup winner with Brazil (Mazinho) who was born in Italy to Brazilian parents and made his name in Spain, Thiago Alcantara is a high quality player, professional and human. This signing is a big statement by Liverpool and for many, including myself, it means they are now the favorites to win the Premier League title this season ahead of Manchester City.

That is how big of a deal it is.

Transfer news: Sarr to Liverpool, Man United

Ismaila Sarr to Liverpool
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The latest transfer news sees Ismaila Sarr to Liverpool and Ismaila Sarr to Manchester United among the main reports.

[ MORE: How to watch PL in the USA ] 

So, the two bitter rivals are set to battle for Watford and Senegal winger Ismaila Sarr. Let’s roll!

Ismaila Sarr to Liverpool or Manchester United?

According to a report from the Daily Mail, Liverpool are willing to pay $46 million for Sarr. However, a report from The Independent states that Sarr is an alternative option if Manchester United can’t sign Jadon Sancho.

Would Ismaila Sarr to Liverpool or Ismaila Sarr to Manchester United make more sense?

Starting with Liverpool, they obviously have their star three forwards in Roberto Firmino, Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane. After that, Sarr is an upgrade on their current back-up options of Divock Origi, Takumi Minamino and Xherdan Shaqiri, plus youngsters Curtis Jones and Harvey Elliott.

Sarr is also close friends with his countryman and Liverpool star Mane, and the 22-year-old showed enough promise in his debut Premier League season (five goals, four assists in 22 PL starts) to suggest he can make the step up to playing for a top six team.

He only arrived at recently relegated Watford last summer from Rennes and is a target for plenty of the big boys. Sarr has end product to his game and scored twice in Watford’s shock 3-0 win against Liverpool.

As for Sarr to Manchester United, it is stated that “intermediaries are understood to have made initial enquiries” as they line up deals if they don’t sign top target Sancho this summer.

It is clear Sarr is to good to be playing in the second tier in England this season and after he adapted to life in the Premier League the Senegalese winger was always a threat.

Let’s see who wins this battle as Sarr would significantly upgrade the secondary options for both Liverpool and Manchester United.

Gonzalo Higuain to Inter Miami confirmed

Gonzalo Higuain to Inter Miami
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Gonzalo Higuain to Inter Miami is official.

The Argentine superstar is finally coming to MLS. After years of speculation about Higuain, 32, joining an MLS club, his move from Juventus to Inter Miami has been confirmed and he will be a Designated Player for the Floridian franchise.

[ MORE: How to watch PL in the USA ] 

Higuain has been handed the No. 9 jersey by the MLS side who are in their inaugural season, and David Beckham’s franchise finally have someone to finish off the chances they’ve been creating.

Now that Gonzalo Higuain to Inter Miami is official, here’s what the prolific center forward had to say.

“First of all, I want to thank Inter Miami for the effort it has made to sign me. I think it will be a beautiful experience in my life. It’s what I was looking for – a new experience, a new league and a beautiful city. I’m really happy to be here and that it’s official,” Higuain said. “My goal is to try to transmit all the experience I acquired in Europe and to help the team grow.”

“I feel good, I feel whole as a player. I’m motivated to try a new league and help the team grow. Individually, my goal is to demonstrate that I can contribute and continue playing great futbol here, and I hope I can achieve that because I have all the tools necessary to succeed. Inter Miami is a team in construction but there is already a good base to reach important goals.”

After adding Blaise Matuidi on a TAM deal last month, Inter Miami are making moves. Big time. They have yet to suffer a blowout defeat in their first season in MLS but they sit bottom of the Eastern Conference standings and have won just twice so far.

Scoring goals has been a problem for Diego Alonso’s side who have scored nine goals in their first 11 games of the 2020 season.

Scoring goals has never been a problem for Higuain. Well, except in the 2014 World Cup final…

Higuain is about as pure of a goalscorer as you can get and has proven that during a sensational 15-year career in Europe. He drifts into the perfect positions and has that knack of keeping his cool when it matters most. He scored 121 goals and added 56 assists in 264 appearances for Real Madrid before scoring 91 goals in 146 games for Napoli and 66 in 148 appearances for Juventus. Wedged in-between all of that were loan spells at Chelsea and AC Milan where he had limited success.

Still, Higuain to MLS is a big deal and defenders across the league will be wary of his clinical finishing. If the success his brother, Gonzalo, has had in MLS is anything to go by, this will be a lot of fun and will involve a lot of goals. Just what Inter Miami needed.