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Euro 2020 qualifiers: Italy and Spain stay perfect, Eriksen shines for Denmark

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Christian Eriksen‘s future at Tottenham Hotspur may be in serious doubt, but his future with Denmark has never been more secure. The 27-year-old again proved vital for his country as he assisted the opener and scored a brace from the spot in a 6-0 storming of Gibraltar.

His assist came just six minutes into the match on a cross from deep down the right flank, sending it in for a finish off the head of Robert Skov. Eriksen then scored his first penalty past the half-hour mark to put Denmark 2-0 up on the road, and again stepped up to the spot for a second in the 50th minute. Thomas Delaney bagged Denmark’s fourth, Christian Gytkjaer added the fifth, and the Lech Poznan striker picked up his brace with 12 minutes to go.

Like Eriksen, Teemu Pukki remained white hot as Finland secured a massive 1-0 win at home over Greece, pushing them to second in Group J on 12 points. The goal, Pukki’s fourth of the qualifiers, came from the penalty spot in the 52nd minute after Dimitrios Kourbelis fouled Rangers midfielder Glen Kamara. The tally marks Pukki’s sixth goal in his last five matches for club and country, already on top of the Premier League goal chart with five.

Italy, meanwhile, moved to five wins through five matches atop Group J with a 3-1 win over Armenia. Andrea Belotti bagged a brace while Roma midfielder Lorenzo Pellegrini added the third in Yerevan. The victory came in comeback fashion as FC Sochi striker Alexander Karapetian opened the scoring 11 minutes in for the hosts on an impressive counter-attack, but he was sent off just before halftime for a second yellow card and Italy preserved its perfect record.

Sergio Ramos scored from the spot to help give Spain a slim 2-1 road victory over Romania. Spain put eight shots on frame in the first half to Romania’s one, but could only record the one penalty goal. A second would eventually be coming, and it did just two minutes after the break as Paco Alcacer finished off a wonderful team goal that featured an assist from Jordi Alba on a wonderful far-post run that caught the Romanian defense out of sorts and played Alcacer onside. On-loan Brighton striker Florin Andone pulled Romania one back with a half-hour to go but they couldn’t get past a bunkered-in Spain reduced to 10 men for the final 11 minutes after Real Sociedad defender Diego Llorente was sent off.

Manchester United defender Victor Lindelof was one of three goalscorers as Sweden hammered the Faroe Islands 4-0 on the road. All four goals came in the first half as the visitors coasted to build a three-point gap for a qualifying position behind Spain in Group F.

Newcastle defender Fabian Schar seemed to have given Switzerland a deserved 1-0 victory on the road at the Republic of Ireland, but a late 85th minute equalizer saw the scoreline level. The Magpies center-back marauded forward through the middle and contributed the finish to a wonderful bit of one-touch attacking with 15 minutes to go. Switzerland deserved to go in front despite the lack of Xherdan Shaqiri who made himself unavailable for selection as he fights for a place in the Liverpool squad. The home side would peg Switzerland back, however, as David McGoldrick delivered a header five minutes from time to share the spoils, moments after Glenn Whelan struck the bar.

Bosnia & Herzegovina poured it on late to top Lichtenstein 5-0. The hosts held 68% possession and popped off 28 shots to Lichtenstein’s eight, but could only muster an 11th minute effort from Amer Gojak for the majority of the match. It was 1-0 until the final 10 minutes when they poured four more on, with Edin Dzeko, Haris Duljevic, and Edin Visca all finding the back of the net plus a second for Gojak. The three points were vital as they pushed Bosnia & Herzegovina up to third in Group J, with a five point gap between them and second-placed Finland.

Norway topped Malta 2-0 at home as Bournemouth’s Josh King scored from the spot. 21-year-old Genk midfielder opened the scoring past the half-hour mark, and King delivered his penalty in first-half stoppage time as the home side cruised in Oslo. They jumped into third in Group F, but still sit two points back of Sweden.

Israel drew 1-1 with Macedonia at home, a disappointing result that sees their second-place spot in Group G suddenly in peril, with third-placed Austria and fourth-placed Slovenia now within striking distance as they both take the field tomorrow.

Serie A: Leaders Inter Milan open door for Juve by drawing Roma

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MILAN (AP) Italian league leader Inter Milan was held by Roma to 0-0 on Friday, giving second-placed Juventus a chance to return to the top.

[ MORE: Chelsea transfer ban reduced; can sign players in January ]

The home draw left Inter only two points ahead of Juventus, which can regain the lead when it visits third-placed Lazio on Saturday.The result also wasn’t good for Roma, which moved from fifth to fourth place in the standings but remained nine points off the lead after 15 matches.

Inter forward Lautaro Martinez had one of the game’s best chances when he got past a defender and entered the area in the 68th minute, but his shot was blocked at the last minute. He called for a handball by the defender but the referee let play continue.

[ MORE: Brendan Rodgers signs new contract at Leicester ]

Inter was coming off five straight wins in the league, with its last setback in all competitions last month against Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League. Its last league loss was against Juventus in October, nine matches ago.

Roma was seeking its third straight league win. It had won five of its last six matches since last month.

Inter visits Barcelona in the Champions League on Tuesday.

Premier League Preview: Man City v. Man United

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  • Man City (3rd) trail Liverpool by 11 points
  • Man United (6th) eight points out of 4th
  • Last meeting: Man United 0-2 Man City

For the first time in recent memory, Manchester City and Manchester United each find themselves failing to meet expectations — by their own respective standards, at least — as they prepare to meet at the Etihad Stadium in the 179th Manchester derby on Saturday (Watch live, 12:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN and NBCSports.com).

Man City, the two-time defending Premier League champions, are looking increasingly unlikely to retain their crown for a third straight season but look a surefire bet to finish in the top-four, which is a place for which Man United would bite your hand off as they currently trail leaders Liverpool by more points (22) than they have points of their own (21).

[ STREAM: Every PL match live

The struggles for United have been all about consistency as Ole Gunnar Solskjaer‘s side hasn’t won back-to-back games all season. The Red Devils haven’t won two in a row in the PL since March. On the bright side, United turned in one of their complete performances of the season on Wednesday, spoiling Jose Mourinho’s return to Old Trafford and beating Tottenham Hotspur 2-1. Marcus Rashford scored both goals and Solskjaer couldn’t rave enough about his 22-year-old forward after the game. From start to finish, United were the better team and looked in majority control, which isn’t something they’ve been able to say often in 2019.

As for City, they’ve simply been “not good enough” without ever actually being “bad” this season, given Liverpool’s scintillating form (14W-1D-0L thus far). Realistically, City likely need to pick up all 69 remaining points this season, and even then they might still come up short.

Injuries/suspensions

Man City: OUT – Sergio Aguero (thigh), Aymeric Laporte (knee), Leroy Sane (knee), Oleksandr Zinchenko (knee)

Man United: OUT – Anthony Martial (hamstring), Eric Bailly (knee), Marcos Rojo (undisclosed); QUESTIONABLE: Paul Pogba (ankle), Nemanja Matic (groin), Diogo Dalot (groin)


Projected lineups

Man City: Ederson — Walker, Otamendi, Fernandinho, Angeliño — Rodri, De Bruyne, Silva — Bernardo, Jesus, Sterling

Man United: De Gea — Wan-Bissaka, Lindelof, Maguire, Young — Fred, McTominay, James, Mata, Lingard — Rashford


What they’re saying

Pep Guardiola, on the derby: “It’s Man United. I respect what they’ve done for English football, European, and world football. United have huge history and their quality is always there but we must try to beat them. We play against a good team, try to follow the performances we’ve put in and try to win the game. You know my opinion on the title race.”

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, on his derby memories: “It took many years before I played a Manchester derby myself. Of course, Man City are a better team now than when I was playing. … Confidence is a strange thing in football; you can get performances and results like Wednesday night and it boosts it so much. And I know our boys will be up for it. 24 hours less recovery time [than City] shouldn’t matter, you go on adrenaline.”


Prediction

The win over Tottenham was impressive, no doubt about it, but City remain a challenge of an entirely different class, no matter what their points total says. If the title is well and truly gone for Guardiola’s side, then retaining superiority in Manchester will have to suffice. City 3-1 United.

Klinsmann gets first point as Hertha Berlin manager

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FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) Jurgen Klinsmann claimed his first point since returning to coaching as his Hertha Berlin team let slip a two-goal lead to draw with Frankfurt 2-2 in the Bundesliga on Friday.

[ MORE: Chelsea transfer ban reduced; can sign players in January ]

Hertha was clinging to a 2-1 lead in the 86th minute when Sebastian Rode hammered the ball in from a corner for Frankfurt to deny the Berlin team the win.

Hertha is in the relegation playoff spot in 16th and winless in its last six league games, while Frankfurt is 10th.

Dodi Lukebakio gave Hertha the lead with a shot through Frederik Ronnow’s legs. That goal was assisted by Marko Grujic, who later made it 2-0 with a header from a free kick.

However, Frankfurt almost immediately replied with a header of its own from Martin Hinteregger, the Austrian defender with five Bundesliga goals.

[ MORE: Brendan Rodgers signs new contract at Leicester ]

Frankfurt’s fans expressed their disapproval of the video assistant referee after it ruled out two goals for the hosts. There was a rare disallowed own goal when Hertha goalkeeper Thomas Kraft palmed a cross into his own net but was found to have been pushed while jumping.

Klinsmann took over Hertha last week on a temporary deal until the end of the season, after Ante Covic was fired with the team under threat of relegation. Klinsmann hadn’t coached since being fired in 2016 by the United States, and last worked at a club in 2009 at Bayern Munich.

Nigel Pearson appointed new Watford manager

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Nigel Pearson has been appointed new manager of Watford and been handed a very straightforward — but tall — task for the remainder of the season: avoid relegation from the Premier League.

[ MORE: Chelsea transfer ban reduced; can sign players in January ]

Pearson takes over from Quique Sanchez Flores — who only took over from Javi Gracia in September — who left his post at Vicarage Road with the Hornets sitting 20th out of 20 teams in the PL table, already seven points adrift from safety. Pearson’s contract runs through the end of the season.

The 56-year-old Pearson, who last managed in the PL with Leicester City in 2015, was most recently in charge of Belgian side OH Leuven before he was fired in February.

[ MORE: Brendan Rodgers signs new contract at Leicester ]

Pearson won’t take charge of Saturday’s game against Crystal Palace (Watch live, 10 a.m. ET, on NBC Sports Gold). Interim manager Hayden Mullins will see out the week’s preparations and manage the team before handing the reins to Pearson on Sunday.