Alfie Mawson

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Americans Abroad: Holmes stars, Boyd bags stunner

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With club play now earnestly under way after the international break, players are looking to get into a groove before the winter break hits – or, in the case of the Premier League, the winter festive period.

Terrence Boyd scored the only goal of the group – an absolutely breath-taking volley – but others like Duane Holmes and Geoff Cameron stood out, while the likes of Christian Pulisic and Antonee Robinson had forgettable performances.

[ MORE: Last week’s USMNT roundup ]

There are still a host of U.S. internationals struggling with injuries, like Timothy Weah, Tyler Adams, and DeAndre Yedlin. The former pair do not have timetables on what has become somewhat of a lost six months thanks to injuries that have become more troublesome than initially anticipated.

Premier League

Christian Pulisic, Chelsea — The U.S. star came back to earth as Chelsea slumped to a 1-0 home loss to West Ham. Pulisic ripped off five shots in the match, but none of them were on target. The shots totaled 1.10 xG, meaning Pulisic likely should have scored. Still, he was electric in the build-up, completing four take-ons down the left wing and creating havoc for Ryan Fredericks on the wing. It was an off night in front of net, and a poor result for the Blues, but nothing major to worry about.

DeAndre Yedlin, Newcastle — DeAndre Yedlin missed Newcastle’s uphill battle against Manchester City with a hip injury, and low and behold, the Magpies mustered a 2-2 draw with the defending champions. Javier Manquillo played right wing-back in Yedlin’s place and split the defensive duties on that side of the ball with Federico Fernandez who fit in as part of the back three. Not a great thing for Yedlin, who could see his time decrease once he returns.

EFL Championship

Antonee Robinson, Wigan Athletic —  The 22-year-old started and played the full 90 minutes as Wigan fell 3-1 to Reading at home. He struggled, playing bunch of balls long down the left that didn’t pan out. Robinson has played all but 3 minutes of the Championship season.

Matt Miazga, Reading (loan from Chelsea) — Miazga started as part of a back three that was successful in a 3-1 win over Wigan. Miazga actually didn’t have a ton of defensive output in the game, starting as the right center-back. Reading dominated the match.

Eric Lichaj, Hull City — Lichaj started at right-back as Hull lost to Barnsley 3-1 at home.

Geoff Cameron, QPR — Cameron played in midfield for QPR who drew 1-1 on the road at Derby County. He actually advanced forward at times and created a chance with a pass into the box, while completing four of five tackles. The goal they conceded came on a free-kick.

Tim Ream, Fulham — Ream has begun to develop solid chemistry with fellow defenders Alfie Mawson, Joe Bryan, and Denis Odoi as Fulham topped Swansea City 2-1 on the road Friday for their fourth win in a row. He was 55/59 passing and won 4/5 duels in the air. It is truly incredible how much better Ream has looked in the two Championship seasons that have sandwiched his one awful year in the Premier League. Ream has played every minute of this season in league play.

Cameron Carter-Vickers, Stoke City (loan Tottenham Hotspur) — Carter-Vickers started at right-back and was solid as Stoke lost at home to Blackburn Rovers 2-1. He created a pair of chances moving forward and recovered 9 loose balls, the most on the team. Still, it’s not a good look that of Stoke’s only two wins in their last seven matches, CCV was out of the lineup for both.

Duane Holmes, Derby County — Holmes was fabulous as Derby County drew 1-1 with QPR at home. Serving both as defensive cover and an outlet forward, Holmes was 31/38 passing, completed all four of his attempted take-ons, and was 6/8 tackling. It was only down to poor finishing that Derby did not come away with the win, putting just two shots of their 13 on net. It is honestly criminal that the 25-year-old has just two international caps.

EFL League One

Lynden Gooch, Sunderland – Gooch has been injured since late October and missed his fourth league match as Sunderland fell to Burton Albion 2-1 on Tuesday.

Bundesliga

John Brooks, Wolfsburg – Brooks started as part of a back 3 and conceded three goals in a 3-2 loss to Werder Bremen. Brooks was solid on the ball and generally defended well as Bremen seemed to have more joy down the opposite flank through Davy Klassen and Milot Rashica.

Weston McKennie, Schalke —  McKennie started and went the full 90 minutes as Schalke topped Union Berlin 2-1 on a late Suat Serdar winner. He took four shots (one on target), completed 35/47 passes, completed 2 of 3 take-ons, committed four fouls, and was successful with 2 of 3 tackles. McKennie was yellow-carded in the dying minutes as well.

Zack Steffen and Alfredo Morales, Fortuna Dusseldorf — Steffan and Morales both started as Fortuna earned a big road point with a 1-1 draw at Hoffenheim. Steffan was quite good, facing 12 shots from Hoffenheim, saving five of the six on target. The lone goal came just six minutes in on a broken play in the box that wasn’t really his fault. Morales struggled moving the ball forward, completing just 19 passes and whiffing on all five of his individual take-ons, but he was good in the air and tackled well to help cover the back line.

Josh Sargent, Werder Bremen  Sargent was a 76th minute substitute as Werder Bremen topped Wolfsburg 3-2 on an 83rd minute winner from Milot Rashica.

Tyler Adams, RB Leipzig — Adams remains frustrated with his groin problem, sidelined again for RB Leipzig’s 3-2 win over Paderborn. No new timeline has been set for Adams, who’s missed several deadlines already thanks to this injury.

Fabian Johnson, Borussia Mönchengladbach — Johnson was left on the bench for the second straight game as Gladbach beat Freiburg 4-2. Johnson has missed significant time this season with a hamstring problem, and since returning to the squad in mid-November he has not seen the field in league action.

Timmy Chandler, Eintracht Frankfurt — Frankfurt’s league match this weekend is set for play on Monday against Mainz. Chandler has played just 12 minutes in their last six games.

Khiry Shelton, Paderborn – After five-straight league matches as an unused substitute, Shelton was not part of the squad as Paderborn fell to RB Leipzig 3-2.

2. Bundesliga

Julian Green, Greuther Furth – Green missed his second straight game with an MCL strain. He’s out for the foreseeable future.

Eredivisie

Sergino Dest, Ajax — Dest played 23 minutes of the blowout 5-2 win over Twente on Sunday morning, playing left-back for a change with mostly defensive work on his plate once seeing the field. It is the fourth straight game he’s been among the substitutes, seeing the field in three of those. 22-year-old Noussair Mazraoui seems to have taken the starting right-back job for the time being.

Haji Wright, VVV-Venlo — Wright started and struggled in a 1-0 loss at AZ Alkmaar. The 21-year-old wasn’t involved much down the left and when he was, struggled in one-on-one duels. VVV has lost a shocking 10 of its 14 games this season, including eight of its last nine.

Desevio Payne, FC Emmen — Payne is not in the squad for Sunday afternoon’s game against PSV.

Ligue 1

Timothy Weah, Lille — Weah was originally supposed to be back from his hamstring tear around this time, but it sounds like the club is targeting a return to training during the winter break, with Weah coming back to the field competitively when the team restarts game action in 2020.

Theoson Jordan-Siebatcheu, Rennes — Jordan-Siebatcheu came on for the final half-hour of Rennes’ match against St. Etienne with the game 1-1 and was on the field for Damien da Silva’s 93rd minute winner in an eventual 2-1 victory. The 23-year-old put three shots on net in the 30-minute performance, his longest in league play since mid-September.

Honorable Mentions:

Terrence Boyd, Hallescher FC – Terrence Boyd produced the Americans Abroad moment of the week when he delivered an absolute THUMPING volley to see Hallescher top Duisburg in the 3.Bundesliga. It was a spectacular goal.

Biggest flops of the Premier League season

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We’ll try not to be too harsh as our review of the Premier League season continues with the most disappointing performances of 2018-19.

[ SEASON REVIEW: Man City, Liverpool, Chelsea, Spurs, Arsenal ]

[ SEASON REVIEW: Man United, Wolves, Everton, Leicester, West Ham ]


— Fulham — You can’t pin it on any single manager, nor a single transfer flop. There was just something around Craven Cottage that didn’t allow the men to mesh on the big stage. Andre Schurrle petered out, Alfie Mawson stumbled when healthy, Jean-Michael Seri wasn’t as advertised, and Claudio Ranieri couldn’t summon any saviors after Slavisa Jokanovic also failed to find the right chemistry.

— Max Meyer, Crystal Palace — The 23-year-old just couldn’t quite adapt after being hailed by many including us as a remarkable free transfer from Schalke.

— Gonzalo Higuain, Chelsea — Part of this blame lives with us: The expectation that came with Maurizio Sarri‘s favored man arriving to make good on the failures of Alvaro Morata was too high; Higuain finished with five goals in 1100 minutes.

— Mohamed Elyounoussi, Southampton — Maybe his Premier League adjustment will come in Season Two, but zero goals and plenty of days outside the Saints’ 18 hardly make for good value.

Fred, Manchester United — Cost the Red Devils about $3.5 million per league appearance. Shoulder shrug emoji, as Pep Guardiola also reportedly viewed the Brazilian as a fix for his midfield.

— David De Gea, Manchester United — While not a new signing, the Red Devils’ perennial savior was not close to his standards in 2018-19. In fact, the Spaniard was basically league average and couldn’t bail out his defenders (which underscores Jose Mourinho’s assertion regarding their quality).

Premier League Preview: Fulham v. Liverpool

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  • Fulham manager Scott Parker could have forward Andre Schurrle (virus) available, but Alfie Mawson and Marcus Bettinelli (both knee) remain sidelined for Fulham.
  • Liverpool’s Jordan Henderson is ruled out after sustaining an ankle injury in midweek, although Naby Keita (minor injury) could return. 
  • The Reds are unbeaten in their last 11 PL matches against promoted sides (W10 D1), winning the last eight in a row. They have scored 31 goals and conceded just four in that run since a 2-0 loss at Hull City in February 2017.

Liverpool showed in midweek that they have the quality to make another deep run in the UEFA Champions League. Now, back in Premier League action, Liverpool will look to jump-start major pieces of their attack with a trip to Craven Cottage to face Fulham on Sunday (Watch live, 10:15 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com).

Mo Salah has scored 17 Premier League goals this season, but none in the past five games in all competitions. Likewise, outside of a brace last week against Burnley, Roberto Firmino hasn’t scored in six of seven games played since the start of February. Against Fulham’s struggling defense, those two found find their form in front of goal.

WATCH LIVE, ONLINE, HERE

It’s been a rough season meanwhile for Fulham, which looks incredibly likely to be relegated to the Championship. Fulham hasn’t won since January, is on its third manager of the year, and needs 12 points to survive another season in the Premier League. Against Liverpool, it might be a case of just hoping for a draw, or keeping the score close.

What they’re saying

Fulham coach Scott Parker on facing a title contender: “Hopefully we’ll have an influence on the title race. We’ve got some very good footballers at the club and we need to start getting the best out of them. They have a chance at the weekend in front of the cameras to prove how good they are. If we play the way we want to play, we can cause an upset and we can get points. I’ve seen an upturn daily in the players in the way they’re training. Their standards have gone up tenfold.

Liverpool coach Jurgen Klopp on the impact of beating Bayern: “Last year I think when we came through it was always about a sensational, free-flowing kind of football in a specific way: scoring from all areas, stuff like that. This was, from my point of view, the most mature performance we had so far in all European competitions since I am in and I like that a lot. It was really good. I said after the game, in a game like this it’s pretty rare that one team is shining completely and the other team has a bad hair day or whatever. It doesn’t happen a lot, so you have to work for each yard, for each inch, and that’s what the boys did. In the decisive moments you have to be there defensively and offensively. It was really good, I was really happy and it was not to expect in that way. People spoke about ‘Bayern was not really like Bayern usually is’ – I would say all the credit to my boys because we didn’t let them. That’s all we have to do in game like this.”

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Prediction

Liverpool can go top of the league with a win, and even coming off the emotional high of beating Bayern Munich, they should still have more than enough quality to defeat Fulham. Liverpool 3-0 Fulham

 

PL Sunday preview: Merseyside, west London derbies on tap

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A big weekend of Premier League derbies wraps up on Sunday, when Merseyside and west London showdowns take center stage with plenty of title and top-four implications.

[ MORE: Man City win, lose KDB | Man United come back, beat Southampton ]

Watford v. Leicester City — 7 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

Brendan Rodgers is set to make his return to the PL when he debuts as Leicester manager on Sunday. Rodgers, who was appointed the Foxes’ new boss earlier this week, was in attendance for his new side’s 2-1 victory over Brighton & Hove Albion on Tuesday — a result that snapped the six-game winless skid (five losses) that ultimately cost Claude Puel his job. It was Leicester’s first victory since New Year’s Day. Rodgers was hugely successful at Celtic — two league titles, two Scottish Cups and three League Cups in two-plus seasons — his first stop after being fired by Liverpool in October 2015.

Up first is a trip to eighth-place Watford, a side that went to Anfield and suffered a 5-0 hammering at the hands of Liverpool on Wednesday, just five days after hanging five goals of their own on Cardiff City. The Hornets, under first-year boss Javi Gracia, haven’t lost back-to-back games since the first week of December, a streak which included a 2-1 defeat to Leicester in these sides’ first meeting of 2018-19.

INJURIES: Watford —  OUT: None | Leicester — OUT: Marc Albrighton (hamstring), Daniel Amartey (ankle)


Fulham v. Chelsea — 9:05 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

Fulham’s first season back in the PL will almost certainly end with the west London club making an immediate return to the Championship, but that fact hardly suffices to explain the Cottagers’ struggles this season: following Claudio Ranieri‘s dismissal and the appointment of Scott Parker as interim manager, Fulham have now employed the same number of managers as they have won games (4). The deficit they must overcome to pull off the greatest escape the PL has ever seen? 10 points with 10 games left to play, beginning with a visit from nearby Chelsea on Sunday.

Speaking of managers coming under fire of late, Maurizio Sarri‘s situation at Chelsea is hardly any better these days. Not only have the fans turned on him, but the Blues have lost three of their last five league games while also falling flat in the League Cup final. That league form has seen them tumble to sixth in the PL table, now five points back of fourth-place Manchester United, though Chelsea now have a pair of games in hand. Sarri says Kepa Arrizabalaga will reclaim his place as first-choice goalkeeper in one of the next two games after refusing to be subbed off in that final defeat, giving way to Willy Caballero to keep the clean sheet in a 2-0 victory over Tottenham Hotspur on Wednesday.

INJURIES: Fulham —  OUT: Alfie Mawson (knee); QUESTIONABLE: Andre Schurrle (illness) | Chelsea — OUT: Danny Drinkwater (undisclosed)


Everton v. Liverpool — 11:15 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

Sure, Liverpool would be delighted to complete their second double over Everton in three seasons’ time, but the Reds will have their sights set much higher than Merseyside dominance on Sunday. Now two points back of Manchester City in the PL title race, Jurgen Klopp‘s side needs all three points from one of its toughest games each season to keep pace with the defending champions and remain on pace to lift England’s top-flight trophy at Anfield for the first time since 1990 (pre-PL era). Having only beaten the Toffees in the season’s first meeting via one of the stranger goals you’ll ever see, the trip to Goodison should prove more difficult than Everton’s ninth-place standing might indicate.

Everton have a bit more confidence now than they would have had this, the 233rd edition of the derby, been played earlier this week. After losing three straight, by a combined score of 6-1, Marco Silva‘s side bounced back with a 3-0 thrashing of Cardiff on Tuesday — a result that might have just bought the first-year Portuguese manager a bit of time. Of particular worry for Everton: star forward Richarlison, who paced the side with 10 goals until Gylfi Sigurdsson‘s brace against Cardiff pulled him one ahead, went without a goal for the entire month of February and has scored just one PL goal since Boxing Day.

INJURIES: Everton —  QUESTIONABLE: Leighton Baines (ribs) | Liverpool — OUT: Dejan Lovren (hamstring), Joe Gomez (ankle), Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (knee); QUESTIONABLE: Roberto Firmino (ankle)

PL Sunday preview: Man City, Spurs visit relegation favorites

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Title/top-four contenders v. relegation favorites — that’s the name of the game on Sunday, when a pair of Premier League giants visit the bottom two teams in the league table…

[ MORE: What we learned in the Premier League, Week 23 ]

Huddersfield v. Man City — 8:30 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

The good news for 20th-place Huddersfield Town: the Terriers’ eight-game losing streak came to an end last weekend. The (still) bad news: a 0-0 draw against one of the other two teams currently occupying a relegation spot, Cardiff City, didn’t very little to chip away at what is now a 10-point gap between themselves and safety. Steady worse news, depending on how you look at it: manager David Wagner stepped down on Monday, leaving the club with interim boss Mark Hudson in charge. The (far) worse news: second-place, and resurgent, Manchester City are set to visit John Smith’s Stadium on Sunday.

Liverpool ground out a 4-3 victory over Crystal Palace on Saturday to stretch the Reds’ lead back to seven points in the title race. Put simply, Sunday’s fixture is a must-win scenario for Pep Guardiola‘s side, no matter the opponent, but doubly — or, triply — so against a side like Huddersfield. After losing three out of four PL games in mid-December, the defending champions have regained a bit of form in their last three games, winning all three — including a season-saving victory over Liverpool — and conceding just two goals in the process. Sergio Aguero and Gabriel Jesus are back amongst the goals, having between them scored five of the eight during the current run.

INJURIES: Huddersfield —  OUT: Aaron Mooy (knee), Danny Williams (knee) | Man City — OUT: Benjamin Mendy (knee), Claudio Bravo (achilles); QUESTIONABLE: Vincent Kompany (undisclosed)


Fulham v. Tottenham Hotspur — 11 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

Tottenham’s latest spell without star striker Harry Kane (ankle) begins on Sunday, with a trip to Craven Cottage to take on relegation-threatened Fulham. Mauricio Pochettino‘s side will also be without Kane’s most logical replacement, Son Heung-min, as he is with the South Korea squad at the Asian Cup. Kane was lost for up to two months in last weekend’s narrow defeat to Manchester United, a result which saw Spurs fall five points back of City and their respective leads on Chelsea (one point) and Arsenal and Man United (then seven, but since reduced to four) eroded as well. Either Fernando Llorente will start up top, or Pochettino will opt for a striker-less formation and rely upon the fluidity and attacking versatility of Dele Alli, Christian Eriksen and Erik Lamela.

As for Fulham, the Cottagers wish their greatest concern was as simple as losing a forward or two. Instead, Claudio Ranieri‘s side sits 19th after 22 games, now seven points (and another 17 goals in the goal-differential column) adrift of safety following Newcastle United’s emphatic victory over fellow relegation battlers Cardiff on Saturday. With just one win in their last nine league games (two in their last 19; three all season), the west London club’s return to the PL appears to be a one-season wonder before an immediate drop back down to the Championship. Having conceded 49 goals in 22 games, Fulham are on pace to give up 87 goals. The last side to concede more 80 goals in a season was — you guessed it — Fulham (85), the last time they were relegated in 2013-14.

INJURIES: Fulham —  OUT: Alfie Mawson (knee), Aboubakar Kamara (disciplinary) | Tottenham — OUT: Harry Kane (ankle), Lucas Moura (knee), Moussa Sissoko (groin), Victor Wanyama (knee)