PL Sunday preview: Bournemouth travel to Sheffield United; City host West Ham

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Sunday’s slate of Premier League fixtures promise to have a wide-range of action, as a pair of top-six sides host a pair of bottom dwellers.

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Sheffield United vs. Bournemouth  — 9:00 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

90 minutes against Bournemouth stands in the way from Sheffield United packing their bags and heading off to Dubai for a week-long winter break. 13 matches and a handful of wins also stands in the way from Sheffield United from qualifying for European competition next season.

The Blades, who are easily the healthiest side in the league, head into Sunday’s match with two thirds of a season for the ages: 36 points in 25 matches, one point behind fifth-place Tottenham – all on their first year back in the league.

Despite the European conversation around the Blades, the mythical 40-point mark remains the objective for Chris Wilder. Once there, they’ll take it one match at a time.

“Forty has always been a big number for a newly-promoted side,” he said leading up to Sunday’s bout. “After we get that it’ll always be about the next three points.”

Eddie Howe‘s Bournemouth, with two consecutive wins under their belts, could be in worse shape. The two-point cushion between (and the back-to-back wins) has been a morale boost for the side, which may be an x-factor on Sunday.

“I don’t think anything has necessarily changed,” Howe said. “We won the game against Brighton, it was a key game. It was a battling performance, a performance full of heart. Villa was a much-improved overall performance. The challenge now is to back it up.”

INJURIES: Sheffield United — OUT: None | Bournemouth — OUT: Danjuma (ankle), Brooks (ankle), Daniels (knee), Kelly (hamstring), Mepham (knee); SUSPENDED: Lerma (one match)

Manchester City vs. West Ham — 11:30 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

You can’t talk Manchester City without brining up their 22-point deficit to leaders Liverpool. You just can’t. Not even Pep Guardiola was able to circumvent the conversation leading up to Sunday’s game against a depleted West Ham. 

“We cannot deny the gap is big,” he said. “We didn’t expect to be 22 points behind but it’s the reality. We have to accept it and learn from it.”

The question then becomes: Can Manchester City, without Raheem Sterling and all of its flaws, finish the season second best? Leicester City are currently only two points behind, while Chelsea have much ground to make up 10 points back.

It’s far too early to know the answer, but matches like Sunday’s at the Etihad, against inferior opponents, can’t be taken for granted. Guardiola and company have fallen for that too many times this season. They can’t afford to do so again, surely.

As expected, West Ham, who are desperately trying to get out of the relegation threat, are ready to leave it all out on the field, even if the odds stack against them. They have no choice.

“The ones coming up at the moment look much harder, but it’s where we are at the end of the season that will really count,” Irons manager David Moyes said ahead of Sunday’s clash.

INJURIES: Manchester City — OUT: Sané (knee), Sterling (hamstring); SUSPENDED: Zinchenko (one match) | West Ham — OUT: Felipe Anderson (back), Yarmolenko (thigh), Wilshere (hernia)

Report: Christian Pulisic ‘in talks’ over move to Juventus

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A report from Italian outlet Calcio Mercato claims that USMNT star Christian Pulisic is ‘in talks’ over a move to Juventus.

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Pulisic, 24, was linked with a move away from Chelsea all summer long and has recently revealed how he felt disappointed when Thomas Tuchel (now the former Chelsea boss) left him out of the starting lineup for the UEFA Champions League semifinal second leg against Real Madrid in May 2021.

With Tuchel gone, Christian Pulisic could break back into the Chelsea starting lineup under new boss Graham Potter but it is widely expected that the American winger will leave the Premier League giants in the coming months with less than two years remaining on his current contract.


What is the latest?

Per the report, Juventus like Pulisic because he can play in several different positions in the attacking third of the pitch.

The report also claims that Juve have held initial talks with Pulisic’s agent about a contract and were told that Pulisic plans to leave Chelsea at the end of the 2022-23 season when he has just one year left on his contract as he wants a ‘new challenge’ in his career.

There is also a claim that Chelsea want $33.7 million for Pulisic and won’t budge on that transfer fee even if he has just one year left on his contract.

Pulisic looks like he needs a fresh start in his club career as Graham Potter will play a fluid 3-4-2-1 system and relies heavily on his wing backs to provide attacking impetus from out wide. That doesn’t suit Pulisic at all


Is Juventus a good fit?

Probably. His pace and dribbling skills would cause problem in any team and the way Juventus play under Max Allegri (if he’s still there when/if Pulisic arrives) relies heavily on getting the ball wide early and encouraging wingers to attack.

Along with that tactical approach, Pulisic would also get the chance to play alongside his close friend and USMNT teammate Weston McKennie. That could bring out the best in both of them.

It now seems a case of when, not if, Pulisic leaves Chelsea. And when he does, he will have plenty of offers to move to a team playing in the Champions League and considered a giant in their country. Given his ability on the ball, what he’s shown in flashes throughout his career and his presence as a superstar in the United States of America, teams across will line up to sign him.


UEFA Nations League: Schedule, how to watch, stream, TV, standings

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UEFA Nations League champions France will not go back-to-back, and Portugal is behind Spain in its bid to return to the throne room, highlighting the odds that a new Nations League winner will be crowned at the end of third edition of the tournament.

England and Wales are no longer top-tier sides after their relegations to UEFA Nations League B. England didn’t win a single one of their six group games (0W-3D-3L) as Gareth Southgate’s side finished bottom of Group 3.

France lost to Denmark and just remained in League A as Austria were relegated, with Croatia pipping the Danes to a place in the semifinal round.

[ MORE: European Nations League hub — Scores, stats ]

Group A4 is the opposite sort of fight, Belgium and the Netherlands have both played very well but the Dutch triumphed down the stretch (thanks to a 1-0 win as Virgil van Dijk scored the lone goal in Amsterdam) to advance to the semifinal round.

UEFA Nations Leagues B, C, and D also have drama built into the final days as Ukraine and Scotland are jockeying for promotion in B1; Russia’s punishment has left B2 promotion open to Israel, Iceland, and Albania. B4 sees Erling Haaland, Martin Odegaard, and Norway fighting to join League A for the next cycle.

There’s also drama as Kazakhstan and Georgia currently lead their League C groups, with Latvia and Estonia in League D’s best spots.


UEFA Nations League live: How to watch, stream links

When: June 1, 2022 – March 26, 2024
How to watch: Fox Sports Live, Fubo TV


UEFA Nations League A, Group 1

Croatia– 4-1-1, 13 pts [ADVANCED]
Denmark — 4-0-2, 12 pts
France — 1-2-3, 5 pts
Austria — 1-1-4, 4 pts [RELEGATED]

Next fixtures

Thursday
France 2-0 Austria
Croatia 2-1 Denmark

Sunday
Denmark 2-0 France
Austria 1-3 Croatia

UEFA Nations League A, Group 2

Portugal — 3-1-1, 10 pts
Spain — 2-2-0, 8 pts
Switzerland — 2-0-3, 6 pts
Czech Republic — 1-1-3, 4 pts

Next fixtures

Saturday
Czech Republic 0-4 Portugal
Spain 1-2 Switzerland

Tuesday
Portugal vs Spain
Switzerland vs Czech Republic

UEFA Nations League A, Group 3

Italy — 3-2-1, 11 pts [ADVANCED]
Hungary — 3-1-2, 10 pts
Germany — 1-4-1, 7 pts
England — 0-3-3, 3 pts [RELEGATED]

Next fixtures

Friday
Italy 1-0 England
Germany 0-1 Hungary

Monday
England 3-3 Germany
Hungary 0-2 Italy

UEFA Nations League A, Group 4

Netherlands — 5-1-0, 16 pts [ADVANCED]
Belgium — 3-1-2, 10 pts
Poland — 2-1-3, 7 pts
Wales — 0-1-5, 1 pt [RELEGATED]

Next fixtures

Thursday
Poland 0-2 Netherlands
Belgium 2-1 Wales

Sunday
Netherlands 1-0 Belgium
Wales 0-1 Poland

USMNT projected starting lineup vs Saudi Arabia

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The USMNT face Saudi Arabia in Murcia, Spain in their final warm-up game before the 2022 World Cup kicks off in November and there are plenty of question marks around their best starting lineup.

Especially at center back and up front.

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Following the shocking defeat to Japan (where a 2-0 scoreline in Japan’s favor heavily flattered the USMNT), Gregg Berhalter has plenty to think about as he juggles his roster around ahead of this final audition.

Yes, this final camp before the World Cup has seen the USMNT without six key players (Weah, Steffen, A. Robinson, Carter-Vickers, Richards and Musah) but the most concerning thing is that nobody took the opportunity given to them against Japan. Will anybody step up against Saudi Arabia and cement their spot in the roster, or even the starting lineup?

Below is our projected lineup, plus analysis on what Berhalter should do for the final 90 minutes he has with the team before they kick off their World Cup campaign against Wales on Nov. 21 in Qatar.


USMNT projected starting lineup vs Saudi Arabia (4-3-3)

—– Horvath —–

— Scally — Zimmerman — Palmer-Brown — Dest —

—- Adams —- McKennie —-

—- Reyna —-

— Aaronson — Pepi — Pulisic —


What should Berhalter do?

It’s clear that Gregg Berhalter will make plenty of changes as eight players (six outfield, two goalkeepers) didn’t have any minutes against Japan last time out. That said, he needs key players on this team to find some rhythm playing together less than two months before the World Cup kicks off. This starting lineup should be a mixture between giving players a final chance to impress and letting star players alongside each other as they look to build momentum ahead of the World Cup.

Goalkeepers

Matt Turner proved he’s the undisputed No. 1 as he excelled against Japan (perhaps the only player to leave that game with any credit) and although Zack Steffen is better with the ball at his feet, Turner appears to have the upper-hand. That leaves Ethan Horvath and Sean Johnson to battle it out for the final goalkeeping spot on the roster. Expect them both to get a chance in this game.

Defenders

In defense, Erik Palmer-Brown and Mark McKenzie should both get plenty of minutes to make their final claim for a spot on the roster but it may be a surprise to see them line up together. Perhaps they will have 45 minutes each alongside Zimmerman (a guaranteed starter at CB) to see who fares better as a duo?

At full back Joe Scally should get a run out at right back, while Sergino Dest will likely show off his versatility and play left back. The likes of Dest, and others, need the game time given they’re on the fringes of their starting lineup for their club teams. We now what DeAndre Yedlin can do and he is a leader on this team who is going to Qatar no matter what.

Midfielders

In midfield, I’d start Tyler Adams and Weston McKennie together again. They looked awful against Japan which was very surprising. This duo have to get some kind of partnership going and 60 minutes together here could see things click back into place for them. We know what Luca de la Torre and Kellyn Acosta offer, while Johnny Cardoso and Malik Tillman could both get another, longer, chance to push for a spot on the roster.

Forwards

Gio Reyna playing in a central role as a No. 10 should be something Berhalter prioritizes, while Christian Pulisic is fit and will start (according to Berhalter) so he should start on the left and Brenden Aaronson should start on the right. Getting Aaronson, Reyna and Pulisic used to playing together and interchanging is something that has to be done.

Up top, Berhalter has confirmed that Ricardo Pepi will get his chance to start and his physicality and speed should combine very well with the trio underneath him. Expect Josh Sargent to get a good chunk of minutes too, while Jesus Ferreira is the other option up top but maybe we could see Pulisic or Reyna playing up there as a false nine at some point of the game?

Ranking the 2022 World Cup kits

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With the 2022 World Cup fast approaching, plenty of World Cup kits are starting to be released and there are some intriguing looks.

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From Mexico’s snazzy away number to Germany going for a solid new look for their home kit and Puma rolling out a very specific and similar look for their national teams, just like they did for their club teams on their away kits, there is a lot to unpack here.

When November rolls around and the World Cup kicks off, which one of these jerseys will you be wearing with pride? And which one will you be wearing because it looks really cool?

Below is our rankings of the World Cup kits which have been released.


Ranking the 2022 World Cup kits

1. Mexico

This is a lovely away kit and will become a classic. Expect these beauties to fly off the shelves and be a jersey that neutrals love just as much as El Tri fans. The home kit is very decent too.


2. Portugal

Absolutely sensational work. The home kit is unique enough but still sticks to Portugal’s bold colors, while the away kit is a classic too.


3. Poland

Oh, wow. This is absolutely beautiful. The away shirt is majestic and the home shirt is classic but with some intriguing detail on the sleeves. Nicely done.


4. Japan

Well, this is another classic. Japan’s home kit is inspired by anime and the design is bold and recognizable. The away kit is fantastic too, especially the long-sleeved version.


5. France

The home and away kits are both lovely and the colors just work together. Well done.


6. Argentina

The home kit is classic. You can’t really mess up the blue and white stripes. Again, another lovely away kit. The purple is perfect and this just looks slick and silky. Much like Lionel Messi’s footwork.


7. Wales

These are beautiful. The right color red on the home shirt and just enough going on without overdoing it. The away shirt is also bold and the collar is lovely. Well done.


8. Brazil

Home kit looks like a classic and the away shirt is pretty decent too, but some people may not like the funky print on the shoulders.


9. England

The blue panels on the home kit are a bit meh but the away kit is a retro beauty.


10. Croatia

They kind of ruined a classic with the home kit. It’s still cool but only having the checkered design on part of the home shirt is weird. The away kit is majestic.


11. Saudi Arabia

Pretty nice designs here. They could have gone with the plain white for the home and plain green for the away, but the snazzy designs work. Especially for the away kit.


12. Netherlands

The home shirt looks kind of velvety? Not the usual bright orange, which will upset some. The blue away kit is sleek and the real winner here.


13. Senegal

This is the best of the Puma jerseys, as Senegal’s away kit is very distinctive and the green is lovely. This big panel on the middle of the kit is something we will get used to seeing a lot of during the World Cup.


14. Ghana

Again, another Puma away kit but this Ghana shirt has plenty of personality.


15. Germany

This is fine. Expect a bit better from Die Mannschaft and it feels like they should have an all white jersey for their home kit.


16. Qatar

The hosts have a simple, clean look. The away shirt has a nice golden pattern on it. Not bad.


17. USA

The home shirt has not been received well by fans, and some players, for being too boring. But the away shirt is pretty nice.


18. Morocco

A bit plain, but like the collar and sleeve trims and the circular pattern around the middle is very cool.


19. Spain

Eh, this could have been so much better. Spain’s home kit looks bland and the away kit is just too much with that pattern.


20. Australia

Not quite sure what to make of this. The same velvety style as the Netherlands home shirt on Australia’s home shirt. Just doesn’t work. The away kit is also just very bland.


21. Belgium

These home kits are just a little too plain and the flame pattern on the shoulder isn’t great and looks like a shirt I’d wear to my midweek bowling league. A missed opportunity. The same applies for the away kit. Belgium’s golden generation won’t look golden this World Cup.


22. Uruguay

Again, another Puma away kit which looks very similar. Uruguay’s iconic sky blue could have been used a lot better on this away shirt.


23. Serbia

Lovely gold in the design and makes the white away kit pop a little.


24. Switzerland

Just very bland. Not a lot going on and the panel in the middle is just a bit of an eyesore.