Picking a 2019 Rugby World Cup team based on your PL club

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Okay, we know the balls are shaped slightly differently, but there is plenty of shared history between soccer and rugby and the 2019 Rugby World Cup kicks off this Friday across NBC Sports.

WATCH 2019 RUGBY WORLD CUP

Barring in mind you’ll be able to watch every single game live from the World Cup in Japan via NBC Sports Gold and across the NBC family of channels, now is a good time to brush up on your rugby knowledge.

Let’s make it as easy as we can for you.

Below we take a look at which of the 20 World Cup nations is most similar to one of the 20 PL clubs.

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If you’re looking to watch the World Cup but don’t know which team to support, this will help you out, as all you have to find the PL club you support and, hey presto, you have a team for the 2019 Rugby World Cup.


Argentina = Everton
A team which is usually the ‘best of the rest’ in world rugby. Yep, Toffees fans can sympathize with being just good enough to be included in the big conversations but never quite getting over the line. This year could be different, though. Argentina and England are expected to advance from their pool, as France aren’t as good as they’ve been in past World Cups. Opportunity knocks for Argentina.

Australia = Chelsea
Both have had success in the past but both are just on the outside looking in when it comes to the favorites. Australia, like Chelsea, have plenty of inexperienced players heading into this World Cup. Could be a good outside bet to cause a few shocks and will always be in the conversation at the business end of the tournament.

Canada = Brighton
Canada are in the midst of a rebuild after struggling at the 2015 World Cup. Brighton are in the midst of a rebuild after just staying up in the Premier League last season.

England = Liverpool
The second favorites, for many, to win the World Cup, there is a lot of excitement around this England side. Like Liverpool, historically they are always up there, but a new approach from the eccentric Eddie Jones has brought about good results. Like Jurgen Klopp, an exciting team has a charismatic leader. This could be the year for both of these teams…

Fiji = Aston Villa
Upstarts who have a fine heritage in the game, Fiji have arrived after big recent wins against France and Wales. Villa have returned to the big time and are expected to say, and this tournament provides Fiji with a perfect chance to secure their best-ever finish at a World Cup. Semi Radradra is to Fiji what Jack Grealish is to Aston Villa.

Georgia = Burnley
Placed in a tough pool, nobody expects anything from Georgia. They are the heavy underdogs and have never made the knockout rounds of a World Cup. Burnley know all about being the underdogs, and Georgia are a physical side who make it tough for opponents. Yep, this comparison works perfectly.

France = Leicester City
Much-changed France have been overlooked by many, but they have the young talent to succeed. Leicester have a plan and identity and even though this season may not be their year to break into the top four, there is potential for them to do it. France will be lucky to get to the semifinals, but if they do, they are very unpredictable under Jacques Brunel.

Ireland = Man United
They possess so many talented players and although they are currently ranked as the top team on the planet, Ireland a real Jekyll and Hyde team. Like Man United, they are well-supported and will be there or thereabouts, but many aren’t backing them to succeed. This time.

Italy = Southampton
Always around, and capable of causing upsets, both Italy and Southampton fly under the radar. Like Saints, this Italian side has a small core of key players and they cannot afford any injuries. If they make it out of the group stage it would be a big achievement, and if Saints finish in the top 10 that would be comparable.

Japan = Wolves
A team aiming to join the big boys, Japan and Wolves have a lot in common. Japan won three of their pool games in 2015 but agonizingly failed to make the quarterfinals. Hosts Japan will have a lot of expectation on them this time around, while Wolves’ expectations levels have also increased. Can they deliver?

Namibia = Bournemouth
One of the smallest nations at the World Cup, Namibia have defied the odds to reach seven-straight World Cups. How much longer can they keep doing that? Bournemouth are now regulars in the PL, as Eddie Howe has worked similar miracles. Both minnows don’t get the respect they deserve, but how long will their fairytales last? And can they finally step up to the next tier?

New Zealand = Man City
The undisputed favorites to win, both teams seem too strong for their opponents. Dynasties have been produced as a string of superstars are well-drilled and hungry for continued success. Like Man City, New Zealand are going for the three-peat after winning the 2011 and 2015 World Cups on home soil and then in England. The All Blacks are stacked.

Russia = Norwich City
The Russians only qualified due to Romania and Spain breaking rules, and they are expected to be battered in the World Cup. Like Norwich, nobody gives them a chance. But we all know how Norwich have fared so far. If Russia can secure one win in pool play this will be deemed a huge success.

Samoa = West Ham
They have the squad to prevail, but so many changes behind-the-scenes has led to chaos for Samoa. Sound familiar, West Ham fans? Both teams have the potential to disrupt the big boys but haven’t come close to doing so in recent years. Talented, but more structure needed.

Scotland = Newcastle
Capable of beating anyone, Scotland and Newcastle are very good when it all slots together. But that only happens rarely. Sleeping giants, they are even close geographically. For all of the passion of their fans, there has been little to shout about in recent times. Neither team has a Plan B.

South Africa = Tottenham
A contender, for sure, but can they put it all together to lift the trophy? Tottenham have struggled with that in recent years, and although South Africa won the World Cup in 1995 and 2007, those are their only two finals in history. Both teams a little too inconsistent right now.

Tonga = Crystal Palace
A team always punching above their weight and modest resources, Tonga can cause upsets, just like they did when beating France at the 2011 World Cup. Crystal Palace love to play the underdogs too, and are willing to dig deep in a solid, defensive system. Tealusa Veainu is the speedy star of this Tonga side, and just like Wilfried Zaha for Palace, they need him to shine in key moments.

Uruguay = Sheffield United
This Uruguay side have totally overhauled their team since the last World Cup in England, and that mirrors what Chris Wilder has done at Sheffield United. A totally new playing style has arrived for Uruguay, as they’ve ditched the defensive style for being fluid and exciting to watch. That slots in with the Blades’ identity where overlapping center backs are kings. A work in progress. Fun to watch.

USA = Watford
Well, rugby in the U.S. is clearly on the up. This is the best-ever team from the USA but they have been placed in a very tough pool alongside England, Argentina and France. Watford have the best-ever team right now, but have they also reached the proverbial glass ceiling? Capable of upsets, the U.S. will have to rack plenty of them up to make it to the last eight for the first time in their history. AJ MacGinty runs the show for the Eagles, just as Gerard Deulofeu keeps Watford moving forward.

Wales = Arsenal
Warren Gatland is leaving after this tournament, and like Arsene Wenger for Arsenal, he brought sustained success for Wales. But all good things come to and end. Unlike Wenger, Gatland will be hoping to go out on top and this Welsh side have the potential to do just that after their Six Nations’ success. They don’t have the biggest squad depth in some key areas (Arsenal fans will sympathize with that) but when their best lineup is out there, they can beat anybody.

USMNT’s Arriola likely will miss MLS season, six World Cup qualifiers

Paul Arriola
AP Photo/LM Otero
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WASHINGTON (AP) D.C. United midfielder Paul Arriola had major knee surgery Monday and likely will miss the entire Major League Soccer season and the United States’ first six qualifying matches for the 2022 World Cup

The operation was to reconstruct his right anterior cruciate ligament. The team said there was no additional cartilage damage.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

The 25-year-old midfielder injured his knee Feb. 15 during D.C. United’s preseason match against Orlando in Tampa, Florida.

Arriola has been a regular starter for the U.S. national team under coach Gregg Berhalter. Arriola has five goals in 33 international appearances.

After failing to reach the 2018 World Cup, the U.S. starts qualifying for the 2022 tournament this year. The Americans have two matches each in September, October and November, then complete qualifying with two games apiece in March and September 2021.

More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/apf-Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

State of play in CONCACAF Champions League

CONCACAF Champions League
AP Photo/Carlos Gonzalez
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Four of five Major League Soccer clubs alive in the CONCACAF Champions League Round of 16 are in fine shape to reach the quarterfinals after one leg.

The fifth has a tall hill to climb.

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LAFC trails Club Leon by two and did not collect an away goal in Mexico during first leg play last week.

“It’s 2-0, but we’re going to work hard,” said LAFC attacker Latif Blessing. “We’re going to prepare ourselves to win the next game. … We did good, but we want to win. It couldn’t happen that way but we’re going to prepare next game to win this game. We need to win.”

The second leg in L.A. is one of the last two matches of the round, kicking off at 10 p.m. ET Thursday just as Seattle Sounders square off with Olimpia.

The Honduran side managed a controversial comeback in the 2-2 draw with Jordan Morris-fueled Seattle last week, but the Sounders will be happy to have those two away goals and home field.

Montreal Impact has the same situation for Deportivo Saprissa’s visit at 8 p.m. ET Wednesday, while Atlanta United scored an away goal in a draw with Motagua and hosts the visitors from Honduras’ capital at 8 p.m. ET Tuesday.

That leaves us with NYCFC, who got a Heber hat trick amongst five away goals at Costa Rican side San Carlos in a 5-3 win. The second leg begins at 6 p.m. ET Wednesday at Red Bull Arena (yes, you read that correctly).

Elsewhere, Liga MX sides don’t have it much better. Cruz Azul leads Portmore 2-1 heading back to Mexico, while Club America scored an away goal in a draw with Comunicaciones.

Finally, Tigres UANL trails 2-1 after one leg with Alianza in El Salvador.

CCL second leg schedule
all times ET

Atlanta United v. Motagua (1-1) — 8 p.m. Tuesday
Cruz Azul v. Portmore United (2-1) — 10 p.m. Tuesday
NYCFC v. San Carlos (5-3) — 6 p.m. Wednesday
Montreal Impact v. Deportivo Saprissa (2-2) — 8 p.m. Wednesday
Tigres UANL v. Alianza (1-2) — 8 p.m. Wednesday
Club America v. Comunicaciones (1-1) — 10 p.m. Wednesday
Seattle Sounders v. Olimpia (2-2) — 10 p.m. Thursday
LAFC v Leon (0-2) — 10 p.m. Thursday

Eleven to go: Ranking obstacles on Liverpool’s unbeaten path

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Liverpool has won all five of its matches since the last time we evaluated its path to an unbeaten Premier League season.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

Those matches were ranked 14th, 12th, 11th, 10th, and 4th on our first rankings of obstacles to immortality, so very little of the heavy lifting has been conducted.

Let’s get something out of the way: If Liverpool is unable to overturn their first leg deficit against Atletico Madrid in the Champions League, you can probably etch that zero in the league loss column into stone.

That said, many expect the Reds to overcome that 1-0 disadvantage from Madrid, so here’s where we slot the difficulties moving forward.

Unranked — Crystal Palace at home (March 21) and Brighton away (April 18) — Both of these dates are very easy on the eyes, but will be moved if Liverpool is alive in the FA Cup.

9. Newcastle away, time TBD May 17 — We’re now calling this the easiest date left. Klopp’s men aren’t going to lose an unbeaten season at the altar just because Steve Bruce bunkers down. St. James’ Park is a hassle, but

8. Watford away, 12:30 p.m. ET Saturday Klopp probably feels like he’s already playing with house money in the FA Cup, so there’s no reason to think he’ll hand any priority at all to the following FA Cup meeting with Chelsea.

7. Bournemouth home, 7:30 a.m. ET March 7 Situated between Chelsea in the FA Cup and the home UCL second leg versus Atleti, it’s not easy…  but the Cherries have given us less reason to believe they’ll threaten the Reds than any other team besides Newcastle.

6. Aston Villa home, 11:30 a.m. ET April 12Dean Smith‘s desperate Villans will have Villa Park rocking before Liverpool’s possible UCL quarterfinals 2nd leg days later.

5. Burnley home, 7:30 a.m. ET April 25 — Taking place just before a possible UCL quarterfinal first leg, Burnley will try to trouble the Reds in a similar manner to West Ham.

4. Chelsea home, time TBD May 9 — Both the Blues and Reds could be coming off UCL semifinal second legs. Don’t forget that Chelsea took the Reds to the wire in the UEFA Super Cup despite it being very early in Frank Lampard‘s tenure.

3. Arsenal away, time TBD May 2 — Both sides may be days away from needing a result to qualify for the UCL or UEL final.

2. Everton away, 4 p.m. ET March 16 — This may as well be the only match left on the Toffees’ docket that matters more than another, as Carlo Ancelotti and his men know the message they could send regarding the building up of Everton.

Not only that, but Everton has nothing else left to circle, no other competitions, nothing.

1. Man City away, 11:30 a.m. ET April 5 — Taking place 3-4 days before the UEFA Champions League quarterfinals and on the heels of an international break, it’s the lone date on the calendar that Liverpool won’t be heavy favorites to win.

Champions League: Chelsea, Napoli aim to slow Lewandowski, Messi

UEFA Champions League preview
Photo by Power Sport Images/Getty Images
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Four of the most dangerous attacks in Europe begin their UEFA Champions League Round of 16 ties on Tuesday.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

For Chelsea that means trying to find a way to limit the damage of away goals when Bayern Munich visits Stamford Bridge.

Of course, that means trying to slow lethal Robert Lewandowski. The 31-year-old Polish striker has scored 38 times in 32 appearances this season.

Here’s Frank Lampard, via Football.London:

Form of his life means something special with Lewandowski because of how well he’s been consistently in Europe for the last, how many years, I don’t know,” Lampard said. “Everything about him, from a distance, from afar, is just top class. Having the opportunity to watch a lot of Bayern in build-up to this game, that shines through. Of course, he’s going to be a huge threat. He’s not the only threat but he is a spearhead.”

Lampard points to the Blues work without the ball and away from it that will determine whether they can limit Lewandowski and Bayern.

“We traveled to Ajax and had a fantastic game off the ball,” he said. “We’ve had games like that this year in the league as well. But the levels have to go up.”

The Blues won’t have Christian Pulisic, Callum Hudson-Odoi, and N’Golo Kante, while Ruben Loftus-Cheek is finally available after a long injury absence. Pedro may play.

[ MORE: JPW’s score predictions ]

Tuesday’s other first leg sees Napoli hosting Barcelona, which means Gennaro Gattuso trying to find a way to cool down Lionel Messi.

The world’s top player scored four goals at the weekend and had six assists in his three previous La Liga outings.

Another player who’s helped Barcelona reclaim the league lead will be critical to controlling the midfield against Napoli, and that’s Frenkie de Jong.

The 22-year-old has had fits and starts at Barca, especially this month. He admits that he’s had an odd time adjusting to Messi, the teammate, though it hasn’t been part of the problem. From FCBarcelona.com:

“When I began training with him it was strange, because when I was 12, still in secondary school, I used to watch a lot of football. He was already the best in the world. He won the Ballon d’Or back then, so I was a fan, or whatever you want to call it.”

Napoli boss Gattuso was a bit more effusive when addressing Messi, via Football.Espana:

“I have read whether to make a cage or not, but we need the collective game to combat someone like him, and it is not just him,” Gattuso said. “He is the best in the world, for how he has lived his entire career. He is always perfect, never a misplaced word, he is an example for everyone. He does things that I only see on the PlayStation. He has an incredible quality and for years he has been the best of all-time.”

Both matches kick off at 3 p.m. ET Tuesday.