Claudio Ranieri is working his magic at Fulham

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LONDON — Claudio Ranieri is back in the Premier League and the much-loved Italian is already working his magic at Fulham.

Without a Premier League win since August, Fulham beat Southampton 3-2 at Craven Cottage on Saturday in Ranieri’s first game in charge.

Wearing a broad smile and applauding the home fans at the final whistle, it just feels right to have Ranieri back in England. In only a few days he lifted the mood at Fulham, who hadn’t won a game since August before edging past Saints in a topsy-turvy game.

And this game showed us not only the size of the task ahead for the former Chelsea and Leicester manager at Fulham, but also that Ranieri has already had an impact on his current squad after just 10 days in the job.

Speaking after the thrilling encounter, Ranieri wasn’t happy with the way his team defended but he has already seen something he likes: his players fighting until the end.

“For us it was an important match, Everyone is very pleased but it is a little step because it is not easy job for everybody. But I believe until the end,” Ranieri said. “I ask the players to fight until the end. We played a good match but we conceded too many chances to the opponent. We have to improve a lot. We have to work hard to improve tactically.”

Similarities will no doubt be drawn to the job Ranieri did at Leicester as he took them from relegation favorites to Premier League title winners in the incredible 2015-16 season.

The way Fulham took their chances when they arrived (three goals from five shots on target) and sat back and tried to hit Saints on the counter was reminiscent of a Ranieri side.

And while nobody is expecting Fulham to emulate Leicester this season, Ranieri knows he faces a huge battle to improve the Cottagers defensively.

Is improving Fulham’s defense (the leakiest in the top-flight this season with 33 goals against) the toughest task he’s had?

“Yes, yes, yes. All the team have to maintain the right position,” Ranieri said. “It is very, very important. In this case they run less and they are always in a good position and for the opponent it is more difficult.”

There’s no doubt that shoring up this Fulham side which was assembled to be free-flowing and attacking will take time, and Ranieri said it would take all season and probably next season to figure that out.

That said, the character they showed to fight back from 1-0 down and then being dragged back to 2-2 was certainly befitting of the fight we’ve seen from Ranieri’s teams in the past.

“Fantastic character. Fantastic fighting spirit. I ask just this. Never, never give up,” Ranieri said. “Work hard until the end and at the end we see the result. After the first goal I wanted to see our reaction, it was amazing. At 2-2 we again wanted to score a goal. I think it was a good match because Southampton also had the chance to score a goal and Sergio Rico made a fantastic save. That is not good because I want less chances for the opponent. Too many chances.”

Similar to his time at Leicester, Ranieri has two star attackers who will improve his chances of keeping Fulham up this season: Aleksandar Mitrovic and Andre Schurrle.

Mitrovic scored twice and Schurrle added the other, and Ranieri was full of praise for his powerful Serbian striker.

“For me Mitrovic is one of the best strikers in Europe, and when I say Europe I mean all of the world,” Ranieri said. “he is only 24 years old. He is a fantastic player and it is important to give the ball to him because he can play and give us a platform and he’s also a goalscorer when the ball arrives in the box. When he is very close to the goal it is important to give him a lot of chances to score.”

Praising Mitrovic and building up his confidence in this way is a shrewd move from Ranieri.

Mitrovic told Sky Sports after the game that the gameplan from the new manager is clear: get balls into the box.

“Two terrific goals for me. This is what the manager wants – the balls into the box,” Mitrovic said. “We have worked hard. There has been just 10 days with the manager and we need to continue like this.”

Scurrle added that Fulham have “worked a lot on tactical and shape and the way he [Ranieri] wants to play” and although they must improve “today was all about winning.”

Fulham got the win in Ranieri’s first game in charge, even if it wasn’t perfect, and next up he has games against the two Premier League teams he formerly managed: Chelsea and Leicester in the space of four days.

The Italian is a happy man to be back in the thick of things in the Premier League.

“The emotion was high. I make this job because I live for emotion,” Ranieri said. “For me to come back to Premier League is an emotion. For me to come back to Fulham is an emotion, because it is one of the most historical clubs. I’m at a good family club at Fulham and I am very, very pleased.”

The Premier League seems pleased to have the Italian back on the sidelines after a near two-year absence.

Three key questions for USMNT in March

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The United States men’s national team returns to competitive action with an interim coach at the wheel and a spot in the CONCACAF Nations League finals still uncertain.

The Yanks clobbered Grenada at home in their first CNL group match but could only manage a 1-1 draw with El Salvador thanks in no small part to a sloppy pitch and a red card. The USMNT was also down several first-choice players including Christian Pulisic and Giovanni Reyna.

[ MORE: How to watch Premier League in USA ]

The U.S. will be favored to advance and will hope to be in the catbird seat following Friday’s match with Grenada at Kirani James Athletic Stadium in St. George’s.

Grenada lost 3-1 to El Salvador away but drew Los Cuscatlecos at home and need to beat the visiting U.S. to qualify for Gold Cup.

But the USMNT’s aforementioned 1-1 draw with El Salvador looms large: Even if the Yanks were to falter in Grenada, they’ll be the Group D winner by beating Los Cuscatlecos on March 27 in Orlando.

Three key questions for USMNT in March

1. Center forwards still needed, but is there anyone ready for the task? The Nos. 1, 2, and 3 non-Reyna-related question for Gregg Berhalter when the World Cup ended was why he chose his center forwards, how he used them, and why they didn’t score goals. Haji Wright was the only CF to score at the World Cup and that was the first center forward goal in six USMNT matches. Jesus Ferreira scored four the previous game, but that was against Grenada and the FC Dallas star has three more goals in his 15 other caps. And Timothy Weah, a danger up top when called upon but often a wide man, is injured and will miss the international break.

So where will interim coach Anthony Hudson turn against Grenada and El Salvador?

World Cup cut Ricardo Pepi is back and so is Daryl Dike.

Meet the candidates and their forms:

  • Pepi, 20, is on loan at Dutch side Groningen from Augsburg. He started off hot with Groningen and has nine goals, though he’s scoreless in his last three matches.
  • Dike, 22, is fit and firing for West Bromwich Albion, where he’s scored four times in his last five Championship appearances, all starts.

This is one of those “prove it” camps, with Christian Pulisic and Giovanni Reyna among those helping to cue up chances for their center forwards. If you’re not gonna get the job done against Grenada and El Salvador, you’re missing the boat.

2. Who steps into the Tyler Adams role? Tyler Adams has unflinchingly been Leeds’ most consistent and steady player in a year of tumult, and he’s proven the same time and again in a USMNT shirt.

But he’s not here!

So there will be no “MMA” midfield of Weston McKennie, Yunus Musah, and Adams. The first two pieces are here from Leeds and Valencia, but it’ll be a third piece to complete the trio. Luca de la Torre of Celta Vigo and Alan Sonora of Juarez have been called into camp and Johnny Cardoso is the most defense-minded of the bunch if the team is to go “like-for-like.” Cardoso, 21, is starting for Internacional in Brazil, who trails only Gremio on the Gaucho table.

3. What’s the state of mind? Look, the “youth soccer” and “extremely childish” incident has made for plenty of discussion online, but the U.S. group seemed plenty bonded after Giovanni Reyna’s World Cup camp incidents had happened but were yet to be exposed by Gregg Berhalter at a “private” speech.

So, in theory, Reyna will arrive back into a USMNT camp in need of consistent effort and good attitude but as a member of the fold. The problem may be that the fold thought it left the World Cup with Berhalter either returning as head coach or with a search being conducted for a new coach.

It turns out, it’s only mostly the latter; Berhalter remains a candidate for the U.S. job and has been in Europe to see his “former” players. His assistant, Anthony Hudson, remains in charge of the first team on an interim basis and who can really know how much input Berhalter may currently have on the group.

All of that said, the USMNT is better than both of its opponents, regardless of venues, and should look superior to them even without Adams and Weah. Should is still pretty conditional, so let’s see what statement comes out of these two games in the favorites role, because it’s going to be quite a while before the Yanks are a clear underdog again.

Italy vs England: How to watch live, stream link, team news

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England will begin their EURO 2024 quest the same way they finished their heartbreaking EURO 2020 campaign: facing Italy, now two-time champions of Europe, on Thursday.

[ LIVE: EURO 2024 qualifying scores – Italy vs England ]

The two European giants faced off in the 2020 final (in the summer of 2021) at Wembley Stadium in London, and it was the Italians who triumphed in the penalty shootout after playing to a 1-1 draw after regular time and extra time.

Italy and England are joined in Group C by Ukraine, North Macedonia and Malta. The sides that finish 1st and 2nd in the group will qualify for next summer’s tournament in Germany.

[ MORE: USMNT upcoming schedule – Nations League, friendlies, Gold Cup ]

Here is everything you need for Italy vs England. 


How to watch Italy vs England live, stream link and start time

Kick off: 3:45pm ET, Thursday (March 23)
Stadium: Stadio Diego Armando Maradona, Napoli
TV: FS1


Italy squad

Goalkeepers – Gianluigi Donnarumma (Paris Saint-Germain), Alex Meret (Napoli), Claudio Carnesecchi (Cremonese), Wladimiro Falcone (Lecce)

Defenders – Leonardo Bonucci (Juventus), Matteo Darmian (Inter Milan), Francesco Acerbi (Inter Milan), Emerson Palmieri (West Ham), Giovanni Di Lorenzo (Napoli), Leonardo Spinazzola (Roma), Alessio Romagnoli (Lazio), Rafael Toloi (Atalanta), Giorgio Scalvini (Atalanta), Alessandro Buongiorno (Torino)

Midfielders – Marco Verratti (Paris Saint-Germain), Jorginho (Arsenal), Nicolo Barella (Inter Milan), Bryan Cristante (Roma), Lorenzo Pellegrini (Roma), Matteo Pessina (Monza), Sandro Tonali (AC Milan), Davide Frattesi (Sassuolo)

Forwards – Domenico Berardi (Sassuolo), Gianluca Scamacca (West Ham), Vincenzo Grifo (Freiburg), Wilfried Gnonto (Leeds), Simone Pafundi (Udinese), Mateo Retegui (Tigre)

England squad

Goalkeepers – Jordan Pickford (Everton), Fraser Forster (Tottenham), Aaron Ramsdale (Arsenal)

Defenders – Kyle Walker (Manchester City), John Stones (Manchester City), Harry Maguire (Manchester United), Eric Dier (Tottenham), Kieran Trippier (Newcastle), Luke Shaw (Manchester United), Ben Chilwell (Chelsea), Reece James (Chelsea), Marc Guehi (Crystal Palace)

Midfielders – Jordan Henderson (Liverpool), Declan Rice (West Ham), Kalvin Phillips (Manchester City), Jude Bellingham (Borussia Dortmund), Conor Gallagher (Chelsea)

Forwards – Harry Kane (Tottenham), Jack Grealish (Manchester City), Bukayo Saka (Arsenal), Phil Foden (Manchester City), James Maddison (Leicester), Ivan Toney (Brentford)

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The Anfield Wrap on Liverpool ahead of U.S. tour: ‘They are in a new phase’

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Liverpool are still in the hunt for a top four finish but Jurgen Klopp is now in charge of a big rebuilding process as the Reds are in ‘a new phase’ as they transition from the German’s first seven years in charge.

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That is the view of Neil Atkinson from The Anfield Wrap (TAW) and it will be intriguing to see how Klopp reshapes his playing philosophy, adds to his squad and how it all slots together over the next few years.

TAW are bringing their show to North America with their ‘TAW Live’ tour taking place from Wednesday, Mar. 22 to Monday, Mar. 27, with shows in Toronto, Detroit, Boston, New York, Philadelphia and Washington D.C.

TAW host Neil Atkinson joined Brad Thomas and Drew Dinsick on NBC Sports’ Soccer Pub to discuss what he thinks of topsy-turvy Liverpool this season and what their identity could become in the future.

Klopp has ‘never had to do this’ before

“I think this is the key question for the next phase of Jurgen Klopp,” Atkinson said. “He has never had to do this before. He’s done seven years at Mainz, seven years at Dortmund and he’s now done seven years at Liverpool. Jurgen has signed his new deal and is staying until 2026 and now what he’s got to do is transition this football team in a way he hasn’t had to do in the past.

“I think that is an interesting challenge. Sides get used to the way you play and players themselves can become a little bit stale and there is also you yourself and how you see the game and how you’re going to interact with the game as a manager. I don’t think he’s had to do this in any of his other jobs. He’s done unbelievable jobs everywhere he has been, including Liverpool, but this is a new phase.”

Transition has arrived for the Reds. But what will it look like?

“The key question for Liverpool is Liverpool are clearly in transition, that is clear and apparent. That happens to a lot of sides and some sides manage to change and stay at the top, Liverpool haven’t managed to succeed in that. Last season they were beginning that process and last season you saw a bit of transition from Liverpool but not as much as you’ve seen now and they haven’t managed to stay at the top and the Champions League this campaign.

“What is it moving to? Is it simply different players? Or is he looking to change his approach a little bit? Is he looking to add creativity to the side? What does that come at the expense of? I think that is a key question. On the whole I feel like talk of Liverpool’s overall demise is vastly overstated. I think it is a side that will right itself. There have been injury issues this year, I don’t think a number of the players and coaching staff have had their best season by any stretch of the imagination, but I think they will come back strong.”

Top four finish essential this season

“I’m of the view that as long as they can find a way to a top four finish then I feel they will summer strongly and they will be able to come out of the other side and we will really be able to see what the next phase of Jurgen Klopp’s blueprint is. I am absolutely certain he has a blueprint and has a way he wants this team to play and knows which players he wants to keep and move on. I think we will see that again in the summer and Liverpool come again. But it is important for Liverpool to come top four.”

New deadline looms for Manchester United bids

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A new deadline is looming for potential new owners of Manchester United, as our partners in the UK at Sky Sports say the deadline for second offers is Wednesday, March 22.

They add that up to eight bids are expected, while INEOS owner Sir Jim Ratcliffe has told The Wall Street Journal he won’t pay a ‘stupid price’ for the Red Devils.

The Glazer family continue to explore either the full or partial sale of the Premier League giants.

It has been widely reported by ESPN and Sky Sports that two bids, one from Ratcliffe and another led by Qatari Sheikh Jassim bin Hamad Al Thani, are the frontrunners as the Glazers look at all of their available options.

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Over the last few months the American family have been seeking potential investors in Manchester United and they have not been short of suitors.

Presentations have been taking place between potential new owners and investors and the Man United hierarchy over the last few weeks.

The latest updates

Two bids have now taken center stage as they arrived before the first, well-documented, deadline.

One is from INEOS owner Sir Jim Ratcliffe, who failed to buy Chelsea last year but was always said to prefer a bid for his boyhood club Manchester United.

“How do you decide the price of a painting? How do you decide the price of a house? It’s not related to how much it cost to build or how much it cost to paint. What you don’t want to do is pay stupid prices for things because then you regret it subsequently,” Ratcliffe told The Wall Street Journal.

Another bid is led by Qatari Sheikh Jassim bin Hamad Al Thani, who is seeking full control of the club and is the chairman of Qatar Islamic Bank as his father was the former prime minister of Qatar.

The Glazer family bought United in 2005 for $1.4 billion and it is believed they are now asking over $7.3 billion for a full sale of the club.

Statement from INEOS

Sir Jim Ratcliffe’s INEOS confirmed they have ‘submitted a bid for majority ownership of Manchester United’ and went into more detail on their plans.

“We would see our role as the long-term custodians of Manchester United on behalf of the fans and the wider community. We are ambitious and highly competitive and would want to invest in Manchester United to make them the number one club in the world once again.

“We also recognise that football governance in this country is at a crossroads. We would want to help lead this next chapter, deepening the culture of English football by making the club a beacon for a modern, progressive, fan-centred approach to ownership. We want a Manchester United anchored in its proud history and roots in the northwest of England, putting the Manchester back into Manchester United and clearly focusing on winning the Champions League.”

Statement from Qatari bid

The Qatari bid, led by Sheikh Jassim, promised that their offer is ‘completely debt free’ and they want United to become ‘the greatest football club in the world’ during their stewardship of the club.

“The bid will be completely debt free via Sheikh Jassim’s Nine Two Foundation, which will look to invest in the football teams, the training center, the stadium and wider infrastructure, the fan experience and the communities the club supports.

“The vision of the bid is for Manchester United Football Club to be renowned for footballing excellence, and regarded as the greatest football club in the world.”