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PL Preview: Cardiff City v. Manchester United

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  • Manchester United has lost its last three league away matches against promoted sides, as many as it had in its previous 36 games.
  • Cardiff City has won four of its last five Premier League home matches, as many as it had in its previous 22 games in league play.
  • Of the 31 players with at least five PL goals this season, Romelu Lukaku has scored the highest percentage of them away from home. His five strikes on the road out of six works out as 83 percent of his goals.

A new era begins as Ole Gunnar Solskjaer makes his Manchester United managerial debut in prime time on Saturday at his former club, Cardiff City (Watch live at 12:30 p.m. ET on NBC and online via NBCSports.com).

After a shocking start to the season that fell way below club expectations, Solskjaer now has the task of lifting sixth-place Manchester United back into the top four places, although he has to make up 11 points from here through the end of the season. Cardiff City meanwhile is coming off a wild 3-2 defeat to Watford but is sitting just two points above the drop zone. A point at home for the Bluebirds would be crucial for their Premier League survival.

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Solskjaer will be shorthanded for the match as Alexis Sanchez, Luke Shaw and Chris Smalling remain out, while Romelu Lukaku hasn’t trained all week. On the plus side, Anthony Martial, Diego Dalot and Victor Lindelof have all been declared fit.

For Cardiff, Neil Warnock‘s side is only missing Joe Bennett for the big match.

What they’re saying

Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer on adjusting to the new job: “The job now is to get to know the players, observe them, see the qualities that we’ve got,” he added. “Of course, I’ve seen more or less every game from Norway when I’ve had time from the other job [as Molde boss]. But, to get to know the players and think about what I can do to improve them, that’s my job.”

Cardiff City’s Neil Warnock on facing Man United: 

“So many players will be wanting to prove certain things. There are some talented, young players there, and people like Rashford, Lingard, Martial, Mata and Pogba all have things to prove. It will be a difficult game for us in the circumstances. They’ve got pace and power everywhere. We’ll be trying to give them a good game, but we’ll need everyone to be at their best to get a result. It would be lovely to be outside the bottom three for Christmas. We’re disappointed we haven’t got a few more points, but it’s not for the lack of trying – we’ve just got to keep going.

“Anything can happen, and I think we can get a result at home against anybody. We will give it a good shot tomorrow, and the fans will be right behind us. I’m sure we will give a good account of ourselves.”

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Prediction

Cardiff City’s four wins this season have all come at home, where they’ll be on Saturday against a banged-up Man United squad. There’s pace and some decent attackers in Junior Hoilett and Josh Murphy and they could cause Man United some troubles. Solskjaer’s side’s overall quality should help them overcome some of the defensive deficiencies but not all. Cardiff City 2-2 Manchester United

Goalkeeper goal seals knockout stage spot in UEFA Youth League

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Club Brugge goalkeeper Senne Lammens may just be 17 years old, but he just lived every goalkeeper’s dream: to score a dramatic equalizer in the dying seconds of a game to send the club through to a European competition’s knockout stage.

The young goalkeeper came forward on a corner in the 94th minute of a game against Real Madrid in the UEFA Youth League Wednesday morning in Belgium. With the visitors leading 2-1 and added time just about expired, Brugge needed to score an equalizer to secure passage to the knockout stage, lest they be left at the mercy of Galatasaray’s match against PSG.

Lammens delivered. The corner swung in to the top of the six-yard box and the youngster was on hand to head home a pinpoint effort inside the far post.

The header was quite literally the last act of the game, with stoppage time already creeping more than 60 seconds past the minimum three added minutes.

Lammens has shuttled back and forth between the youth squad and the senior squad this season serving occasionally as an emergency third goalkeeper behind Simon Mignolet and Ethan Horvath. Mostly, though, he’s been with the youth squad appearing in five of their six UEFA Youth League games, with three wins and a draw.

Report: Arsenal not interested in Ancelotti “profile”

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According to The Athletic reporter David Ornstein, Arsenal is not interested in a manager of Carlo Ancelotti’s “profile.”

The Italian was recently let go by Napoli after a disappointing first half of the season despite qualifying for the Champions League knockout stage.

Ancelotti has won a Premier League title, three Champions League titles, and a Scudetto during his career but apparently a manager with his resume does not interest the Gunners, who may be looking for a more youthful boss with a longer-term strategy and potentially stronger club or domestic ties.

At 60 years old, Ancelotti has been fired from posts at Real Madrid, Bayern Munich, and now Napoli over the last four years. Over those four seasons, he has just one league title, the 2016/17 Bundesliga crown he won with Bayern in runaway fashion, and has exceeded expectations in very limited capacities, instead seeing things turn sour at each job relatively quickly. This season at Napoli, the club sits seventh in the Serie A table, mired in a horrible seven-match winless run that has seen them tumble further from the Champions League places.

Ornstein’s report also touched on the timeline of a potential hire, with the club apparently still deciding on whether to see out the season with interim manager Freddie Ljungberg or make a mid-season appointment. He states that the club “want situation settled asap” but also prefer “right man over quick decision.” He does not identify who the number one target is, but suggests that if that person is available at this point in time, they will make the hire mid-season, otherwise there will be a waiting game.

Jorge Sampaoli resigns as Santos boss

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Brazilian club Santos confirmed Tuesday evening that manager Jorge Sampaoli has resigned as boss.

Sampaoli, who won the 2015 Copa America in charge of Chile but could not recreate that success with the Argentinian national team, signed on with Santos a year ago and guided them to a second-place finish in the Brazilian top flight, 16 points behind runaway champions Flamengo. His contract had another year, expiring in the winter of 2020, but with reports of offers from multiple clubs, he has stepped down.

The most widely reported destination is fellow Brazilian club Palmeiras, whom many believe Sampaoli has already entered talks with. He has also been linked with Argentinian club Racing, and his name has cropped up on occasion with the Arsenal vacancy, although that seems like a longshot. It was said in late October that Sampaoli had an offer from an unnamed La Liga club, but those rumors have cooled.

His reason for leaving Santos after just one successful season in charge is unconfirmed, but rumors are circulating that Sampaoli had incredibly ambitious transfer plans for the offseason, and when club president Jose Carlos Peres could not guarantee his support, the relationship became strained.

The 2019 season was mostly successful for Sampaoli at Santos, finishing second in the league table, but the secondary competitions were somewhat disappointing. They received a tough first-round draw in the Copa Sudamericana, falling to River Plate on away goals. They were also ousted from the Copa do Brasil in the Round of 16, falling 2-1 to an Atletico Minero side that finished 13th in the league table.

Tierney out months as Arsenal injuries pile up

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According to multiple reports, including Mark Mann-Bryans of PA Sport and Charles Watts of Goal.com, Arsenal full-back Kieran Tierney could be out up to three months after dislocating his shoulder in the 3-1 win over West Ham on Monday.

Tierney was withdrawn in the 29th minute after an awkward fall, using the bottom of his shirt as a makeshift sling. The club is still deciding on whether he will require surgery, according to Mann-Bryans, and that decision will ultimately determine the length of time he will miss. Still, even without surgery, it could leave him sidelined for a month or more.

The 22-year-old has struggled with injuries since joining the Gunners this past summer, missing the first seven games of the year with a hip injury. He has seen action in just five Premier League games thus far, and again could be sidelined for a significant spell. He could also end up missing Scotland’s critical playoff match against Israel in late March depending on his recovery timeline and fitness level.

Tierney’s injury is not the only one Arsenal is currently sweating. Granit Xhaka will miss the Europa League group stage finale against Standard Liege with a concussion, while Hector Bellerin is struggling with a hamstring problem. “Hector had a feeling in his hamstring during the warm-up [before West Ham] and we took the decision,” said interim manager Freddie Ljungberg after the win over the Hammers. “Not going to force anyone to play if they don’t feel 100%.”

Dani Ceballos is still sidelined with a hamstring injury suffered against Vitoria in October Europa League play and won’t return to training until later this month, while Rob Holding is a question mark this week after missing the West Ham game thanks to a bruised knee.

Arsenal, currently sitting ninth in the Premier League table and is scheduled to host Manchester City this coming Sunday following the trip to Belgium. They have upcoming games against Everton, Bournemouth, Chelsea, and Manchester United through the festive period.