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Vincent Kompany talks third PL title, Belgium outlook and more

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Sports often extend beyond their respective playing field to reach a greater purpose, and that truth shone for a family that has been tied to Manchester City for many years.

[ MORE: Confident Fulham, USMNT defender Tim Ream speaks with PST ]

A large contingent of New York-based Citizen supporters gathered in Manhattan on Friday evening to honor the late Steve “Jepo” Jepson — a fanatical Man City fan who brought his passion for his boyhood club to the United States in 2007.

Jepo’s long battle with ALS — also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease — came to a devastating end in December 2017, but his family had the opportunity to receive a tremendous surprise on behalf of his favorite side.

Pauline’s wife, Pauline, and two sons, Ben and Sam, were greeted by many friendly Man City faces at Amity Hall on Friday night, however, there was one warm welcome that the family hadn’t anticipated.

Upon finding their way to a private section in the back of the bar, the Jepson family quickly found themselves pleasantly greeted with chants of “Here’s to you, Vincent Kompany. We love you more than will know.”

Those chants were then followed by the Man City captain himself, one Vincent Kompany.

Katie Cahalin/Manchester City

Pro Soccer Talk caught up with the Belgium defender prior to the event, and discussed the Citizens’ historic 2017/18 season, Kompany’s expectations for Belgium at the World Cup and much more.


PST’s Matt Reed: The club and yourself have been visiting the U.S. on a more regular basis over recent years. Can you just talk about the experiences you’ve had stateside and are you surprised at all by the following that club has in America?

Vincent Kompany: I think we’ve always had a very big, hardcore fanbase, but clearly it was mainly in the UK for many years. I think as people traveled we expanded in that way. But over the years, and I’ve been at the club for 10 years, every single year we come back to America there’s something about the team that seems to catch on with the fans in America. I don’t know what to expect out there, but I just hope to see another confirmation of how well we are doing and how we are connecting with the fans. It’s about creating loyalty.

MR: Man City has been able to participate in the International Champions Cup for several years now. Is the tournament as enjoyable for the players as it is for the supporters? 

VK: It’s a weird one because for us we’re in preseason, so we call it friendly games, but in recent years they haven’t been friendly games anymore. We played Tottenham Hotspur, I remember, and it was an intense game. We finished the game, and it felt like we had played a Premier League game. It was meant to be a preseason game, but then we played Real Madrid with 100,000 fans in the Colosseum. There’s another moment in you where you can allow yourself to not make the most of this environment. We play big games and when you fill big stadiums, that competitive drive comes back in and less and less I’d call them friendly games.

MR: Having been at the club for 10 years now, you’ve been involved in several title runs. This one was obviously significantly different than say 2011/12, where it came down to the final day. Taking it into account that City reached 100 points and all the other records your side broke, is this the best team you’ve ever played for?

VK: Yeah, it’s the best team I’ve ever played on. I think the big difference between the first time we won and now was that the first time was bigger for Man City’s recent history because it allowed everything else to happen after that. I think that the title now, in the history of football, is a very meaningful title. It takes it to another level, but nothing could have happened for us the way it did without winning that first title.

MR: There was a lot of stress put on Pep Guardiola when he first arrived in England, and after finishing third last season that sort of carried over to 2017/18. Do you think he’s been hard on himself for not capturing the Champions League, despite all the amazing things your club accomplished this year?

VK: No, unfortunately we’ve been hit by history in this case. We’ve always had difficult games at Anfield. They’ve always given us trouble no matter the situation. They [Liverpool] are just a team that have habitually given us trouble, and we went through a similar event in the FA Cup. We played Wigan, and if you know our history, Wigan is a team that usually kicks us out of the FA Cup. Unfortunately we drew Wigan in the FA Cup and Liverpool in the Champions League, and it just shows that we have to deal with these two fixtures in the future.

Question: This will be your second World Cup with Belgium. There’s going to be greater expectations this time around for your country. How are you guys feeling heading into the tournament?

VK: First of all, for me personally, I will be the player with the least stress. I will have zero percent stress. Everything that I have today is a bonus. I was written off so many times before and I just enjoy training and being there. I enjoy coming into games and training  sessions where I can feel that I’m as good, or better than, the players I’m playing against. For me, it’s already won. And at the same time, because I prepare so well, I don’t have worry too much about what’s going to happen on the pitch. Everything takes care of itself.

Question: Do you find yourself watching MLS on a regular basis? And are there any teams in particular you like to watch?

VK: Probably once a week I’ll see a game. I try to watch as many games of New York City as I can, but with the time difference sometimes it’ll be like 2 o’clock in the morning. I’ve seen a few games of LA FC as well because they have a Belgian player, Laurent Ciman. And yes, the level is improving so much.

USMNT to meet Canada, 2 others in 2021 Gold Cup group stage

2021 Gold Cup draw
Photo by Roy Miller/ISI Photos/Getty Images)
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The United States men’s national team learned its path to reclaiming the Gold Cup on Monday.

Gregg Berhalter’s Yanks will meet Canada and Martinique in the group stage, as well as one of the Gold Cup prelim winner that will come from the group of Haiti, St. Vincent and The Grenadines, Bermuda, or Barbados.

“It’s a good group,” Berhalter said. “Canada has a great generation coming through and the other opponents we’ll see who gets in the four spot but it’s definitely a good group.”

[ MORE: Latest USMNT and Americans abroad news ]

The 2021 Gold Cup will be held July 10 – Aug. 1 in the United States.

Mexico, who beat the U.S. 1-0 in the 2019 Gold Cup Final to take back the trophy from the U.S., will face El Salvador and Curacao plus the nation that survives the prelims between Cuba, French Guyana, Montserrat, and Trinidad and Tobago.

No team has repeated as Gold Cup champion since El Tri beat the United States in 2009 and 2011.

Mexico has won eight Gold Cups and the United States has claimed six. Canada is the only other nation to win the Gold Cup, doing so in 1999.

Tournament invitee Qatar will join Group D with Honduras, Panama, and Grenada.

Group A

Mexico
El Salvador
Curacao
Cuba, French Guyana, Montserrat, Trinidad and Tobago

Group B

United States
Canada
Martinique
Haiti, St. Vincent and The Grenadines, Bermuda, or Barbados

Group C

Costa Rica
Jamaica
Suriname
Guadeloupe, Bahamas, Guatemala, or Guyana

Group D

Honduras
Panama
Grenada
Qatar

UEFA Champions League qualifying: How to watch, start times, odds

Champions League qualifying
Photo by Raddad Jebarah/NurPhoto via Getty Images
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American defender Henry Wingo and manager Jesse Marsch face big weeks as the second legs of the UEFA Champions League qualifying playoffs take center stage Tuesday and Wednesday.

Wingo’s Molde drew Ferencvaros 3-3 in the first leg but those three away goals loom large as the American and his Norwegian club head to Hungary.

[ MORE: Champions League qualifying scores ]

Meanwhile, Marsch saw his Red Bull Salzburg come back from an early deficit in Israel to take a 2-1 advantage over Maccabi Tel-Aviv back to Austria.

Salzburg are very heavy favorites to win and advance to the Champions League group stage for another year.

Marsch has also been linked with an impending transfer for USMNT teen Brenden Aaronson, one of at least eight Americans to watch as the European transfer window reaches its conclusion next month.


How to watch the UEFA Champions League qualifying playoff round

Kickoff: 3 pm ET Tuesday and Wednesday
Stream: CBS All-Access (subscription required)


UEFA Champions League playoff round matches

All 12 legs will kickoff at 3 pm ET between Tuesday and Sept. 30.

First legs (Roundup)

Maccabi Tel-Aviv 1-2 Red Bull Salzburg
Slavia Prague 0-0 Midtjylland
Krasnodar 2-1 PAOK
Gent 1-2 Dynamo Kiev
Molde 3-3 Ferencvaros
Olympiakos 2-0 Omonia

Tuesday

Ferencvaros v Molde
Dynamo Kiev v Gent
Omonia v Olympiakos

Wednesday

Midtjylland v Slavia Prague
PAOK v Krasnodar
Red Bull Salzburg v Maccabi Tel-Aviv


UCL second leg odds (full odds provided by our partner, PointsBet)

Ferencvaros (+108) v Molde (+215) | Draw (+230)
Dynamo Kiev (-118) v Gent (+280) | Draw (+235)
Omonia (+325) v Olympiakos (-130) | Draw (+235)
Midtjylland (+170) v Slavia Prague (+155) | Draw (+195)
PAOK (+105) v Krasnodar (+220) | Draw (+235)
Red Bull Salzburg (-834) v Maccabi Tel-Aviv (+1300) | Draw (+600)

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

League Cup: How to watch, start times, odds, predictions

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The League Cup’s fourth round features two interesting tactical duels in that the tournament gives us rematches of a pair of Premier League matches from the weekend, right down to the locations.

Brighton will hope Manchester United’s Wednesday trip to the Amex Stadium isn’t as lucky as the Red Devils’ 3-2 triumph over the Seagulls, while Arsenal heads back to Anfield on Thursday with designs on a measure of revenge for Monday’s 3-1 loss in league play.

[ LIVE: Follow League Cup scores ]

While Arsenal, Liverpool, and Manchester United are built a bit deeper — easy, Red Devils fans — due to squad necessity for European competition, Graham Potter’s Seagulls don’t have it as simple as chopping and changing (though Brighton has looked plenty good with its depth so far in this tournament.

How will the tactician plot his overthrow of United? And will Mikel Arteta do anything different with Arsenal to help thwart the high line Liverpool used to limit Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang on Monday (if the Gabonese star even plays)?

[ MORE: JPW’s 3 things from Liverpool-Arsenal ]

Elsewhere, Jose Mourinho thinks that schedule congestion is going to cost Spurs on Tuesday against Chelsea as well as in the treatment room.

The Portuguese boss says he will not be able to give the League Cup the respect he’d like because of Thursday’s Europa League visit from Maccabi Haifa is a match the club needs to make the UEL group stage.

Mourinho lost Heung-min Son to injury in Sunday’s controversial draw against Newcastle and he’s worried about what’s next.

“I think Sonny was just the first [injury],” Mourinho said, via Football.London. “More will come. So he was the first, but more will come.”

Edouard Mendy and Ben Chilwell could make their first Chelsea starts in the match, which comes too soon for Christian Pulisic and Hakim Ziyech.

Three lower league remain and will be playing their fourth League Cup matches of the month compared to the PL’s three outings. Those who win this week will have a lot longer to wait for the quarterfinals, which won’t be held until December.


League Cup fourth round kickoff times and odds (full odds provided by our partner, PointsBet)

Tottenham (+420) v Chelsea (-180) | Draw (+360) — 2:45 pm ET Tuesday
Newport County (+560) v Newcastle (-230)  | Draw (+340)— 12:30 pm ET Weds
Burnley (+625) v Manchester City (-275) | Draw (+375) — 2 pm ET Weds
Brighton (+300) v Manchester United (-120) | Draw (+250)— 2:45 pm ET Weds
Everton (-145) v West Ham (+350) | Draw (+280)— 2:45 pm ET Weds
Brentford (+135) v Fulham (+185) | Draw (+225)— 12:30 pm ET Thursday
Aston Villa (-150) v Stoke City (+360) | Draw (+275)— 2 pm ET Thursday
Liverpool (-105) v Arsenal (+230) | Draw (+270)— 2:45 pm ET Thursday

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


League Cup fourth round predictions

Tottenham Hotspur 1-2 Chelsea
Newport County 1-3 Newcastle United
Burnley 0-3 Manchester City
Brighton 2-1 Manchester United
Everton 2-2 (EFC wins in penalties) West Ham United
Brentford 1-1 (Brentford wins in penalties) Fulham
Aston Villa 2-0 Stoke City
Liverpool 2-1 Arsenal


How to watch League Cup fourth round streams and start time

Kickoff: Tuesday through Thursday
Online: Select games on ESPN+
Updates: Follow League Cup scores via NBCSports.com

Arteta rues missed chances in Arsenal loss to Liverpool

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Mikel Arteta knows his Arsenal team has a long way to go to be as fearsome as reigning Premier League champions Liverpool.

He also knows the Gunners could’ve easily taken a point off the Reds in place of the 3-1 loss on the scoreboard after Monday’s match at Anfield.

[ MORE: JPW’s 3 things | Player ratings ]

“Really tough place to come for anybody in the world,” Arteta said. “They set incredible standards. They dominate every aspect of the game. … They’ve been together five years. We are at a different moment of our journey.”

Alexandre Lacazette gave Arsenal an early lead in the game and was stymied by Alisson Becker in a second-half bid to make it 2-2.

But the Reds had so many chances before substitute Diogo Jota salted away the points, out-attempting Arsenal 21-4 and holding 66 percent possession.

[ MORE: Klopp’s animated post-match reaction ]

“Taking the lead put us in a really strong position to believe we could get something out of the game but we conceded too early,” Arteta said. “We had some problems with the ball and we had the best chances in the game and when it comes to Anfield you’re not going to get 10 chances. When you get through 1-against-1 against the keeper you have to score if you want to get something out of the game.”

Lacazette won’t love reading that, but Arteta is right. And Alisson also stopped a Lacazette chip on a breakaway goal bid that wouldn’t have counted because the Frenchman was offside.

Arsenal lost its first Premier League match of the season after winning its first two. The two sides meet again at the same venue in League Cup fourth round action on Thursday.

Arsenal’s next PL match is home to Sheffield United on Sunday.