Christian Pulisic

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Premier League Preview: Newcastle United v. Chelsea

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Chelsea visits surprising Newcastle United in a marquee match Saturday at St. James’ Park (Watch Live at 12:30 p.m. ET on NBC and online via NBCSports.com).

The hosts have scrapped their way to 26 points, five points both clear of the drop zone and back of seventh place. A draw at Wolves last weekend snapped a three-match league losing streak.

Chelsea maintains a five-point gap over Manchester United in its bid to claim a Top Four place, with the Red Devils meeting unbeaten Liverpool this week. The Blues are seeking back-to-back league wins for the first time since Nov. 9.

WATCH LIVE, ONLINE, HERE

Newcastle has had a fair bit of success against the big boys this season, beating Manchester United and Spurs while drawing Man City.

Christian Pulisic stole the ball en route to Marcos Alonso‘s late goal in a 1-0 win when the two sides met at Stamford Bridge in October.

Pulisic, of course, is still out injured for Chelsea and Lampard says the American could return near the club’s February break. Newcastle has electric winger Allan Saint-Maximin back in the fold after more than a month on the sidelines. Matt Ritchie and Jonjo Shelvey are also available.


Injuries/suspensions

Newcastle United: OUT — Paul Dummett, Dwight Gayle, DeAndre Yedlin, Fabian Schar, Jetro Willems, Javi Manquillo. QUESTIONABLE — DeAndre Yedlin, Yoshinori Muto.

Chelsea: OUT — Ruben Loftus-Cheek, N’Golo Kante, Pulisic. QUESTIONABLE — Marcos Alonso.


Probable lineups

Newcastle United: Dubravka; Willems, Clark, Lascelles, Fernandez, Ritchie; Hayden, Shelvey; Saint-Maximin, Joelinton, Almiron.

Chelsea: Arrizabalaga, Azpilicueta, Zouma, Rudiger, James; Jorginho, Willian, Mount, Kovacic, Hudson-Odoi; Abraham.


What they’re saying

Newcastle boss Steve Bruce on his meeting with owner Mike Ashley: “It went very well. We showed what we are trying to do, and he was fully supportive. We have plates spinning and hope to add to the squad by the end of the month. We have said that the targets have to improve us. He has been fully supportive of the remit. He agrees we buy quality not quantity. That has to be the mantra.”

Chelsea’s Frank Lampard on Newcastle’s many injuries: “It is still an opportunity, but this is vital. Every game brings challenges, going to Newcastle, the emotion of the crowd and they are an organized side. We won’t take it lightly. We have to take every game head-on. We don’t underestimate there. Bournemouth were down to the bare bones and we lost, it can bring out a different feeling. They have done very well and I don’t look at the bare bones.


Prediction

St. James’ Park has been a tough place to play, but the Blues shake off any travel to collect a 2-1 win over the Magpies.

Premier League Storylines: Matchweek 23

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The January schedule is filling up, and teams are hoping to navigate the crowded fixture lists with injuries piling up through the winter months. With the FA Cup returning next week and managers hoping to limit minutes as much as possible, this weekend’s games will be critical.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

The race for the Champions League spots is heating up, and a number of teams can make serious moves this weekend.

Can Spurs gain ground against the tide? [ STREAM ]

  • Watford v. Tottenham Hotspur, Saturday (Watch live, 7:30 a.m. ET on NBCSN)

Tottenham doesn’t have Harry Kane. We know that. It’s time for Jose Mourinho to put up or shut up. Spurs haven’t scored in either of their last two Premier League games, and now Mourinho has had the time to figure things out. They now travel to Watford who is running on a high, having won each of their last three league games despite some discipline issues. The Hornets haven’t lost since December 4, which feels like an eternity ago.

Will Arsenal continue to improve under Mikel Arteta? [ STREAM ]

  • Arsenal v. Sheffield United, Saturday (Watch live, 10:00 a.m. ET on NBCSN)

The Gunners have shown real – but slow – improvement under Mikel Arteta. There are still serious flaws, however, and Sheffield United is a team that can take advantage if given the chance. This is a litmus test match for the Gunners, and a win could get them as many as three places in the table. They were held off the scoresheet against the Blades last time around, and could complete their first double over Arsenal since the 40’s. Oh yea, and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is out suspended, a massive loss for the Gunners up front.

Can Aston Villa pull themselves out of the relegation zone, and Brighton into it? [ STREAM ]

  • Brighton Hove & Albion v. Aston Villa, Saturday (Watch live, 10:00 a.m. ET on NBC Sports Gold)

Aston Villa was pummeled by six Man City goals last time out, and the feeling around Villa Park is one of trepidation. Still, the results are there to give fans some hope, and one this weekend would turn things around completely. Three points on the road at Brighton would draw them level with the Seagulls in the table and give them a huge boost in the crowded relegation battle. Jack Grealish has been a motor for Villa this season, but the critical component in a game like this is the defense, a back line that’s given up 43 goals in 22 matches. Will Brighton punish the Villains at the Amex?

Which Chelsea will show up on Tyneside? [ STREAM ]

  • Newcastle United v. Chelsea, Saturday (Watch live, 12:30 p.m. ET on NBC)

Chelsea has been extremely Jeckell & Hyde over the past month, with wins over Arsenal and Spurs but losses to Bournemouth and Southampton and a draw with Brighton. All told, it’s been two months since their last back-to-back wins. Newcastle, meanwhile, put together a draw against a scrappy Wolves side before punishing Rochdale in their FA Cup replay. Christian Pulisic is still injured, but the Blues remain one of the strongest attacking threats in the Premier League. A road loss, however, and the five-point gap to Manchester United could thin considerably.

Can Manchester United put in a shift against Liverpool? [ STREAM ]

  • Liverpool v. Manchester United, Sunday (Watch live, 11:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN)

What a test for Manchester United and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. Defensive problems at key moments have plagued Manchester United this season, and like Chelsea, inconsistencies have proven vital. This game is critical for Solskjaer in the top four race, because a loss risks them falling a significant eight points back of the Champions League places. Still, while the United defense doesn’t instill fear in Premier League opponents, they’ve pulled out solid shifts against good teams this season, like holding both Spurs and Manchester City to a single goal in early December.

Liverpool can afford a few missteps, and Jurgen Klopp has managed his players’ minutes to perfection this campaign. A 14-point lead at the top of the table and a game in hand over Man City means we could see more players rested, and that gives the Red Devils even more hope.

Bonus: Can Pep Guardiola win on his birthday? [ STREAM ]

  • Manchester City v. Crystal Palace, Saturday (Watch live, 10:00 p.m. ET on NBC Sports Gold)

No Man City manager has ever won on his birthday. Good luck, Pep!

Christian Pulisic issues injury update

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USMNT and Chelsea star Christian Pulisic is nursing an adductor injury after a hamstring and hip issue, and we haven’t seen him in action since New Year’s Day and may not seem him for another week or two.

[ MORE: Ranking Pulisic’s first 6 months ]

Pulisic, 21, has become a key figure in Frank Lampard‘s Chelsea side this season and with the Blues in the top four with a five point cushion at just over the halfway point, the Pennsylvanian native is eager to return and help the west London club kick on.

In an interview with ESPN, Pulisic revealed that he is still a few weeks away from returning as he’s set to miss Chelsea’s clash with Newcastle this Saturday, their London derby against Arsenal next Tuesday and their FA Cup trip to Hull City the following Saturday.

“It’s been almost a week, and I’m just kind of taking it day by day. I’m just rehabbing every day. I’m doing my best to be back in the next week, the next couple weeks,” Pulisic said. “I don’t think it should be too long, so I’m just working every day, doing everything I can to be back on the pitch.”

Asked about his battle to become a regular after plenty of time on the bench in September, Pulisic is soaking in everything he can at Chelsea and in the Premier League and he thanked experienced teammates like Cesar Azpilicueta and Jorginho for helping him through a tough period when he was out of the team.

“I’ve just been trying to learn every day, man. I mean, I’m still learning,” Pulisic explained. “It’s my first season now, kind of halfway through, so I’m just kind of learning to take it day by day, game by game and just focusing on the next opponent and just getting ready and healthy for the next game because it’s always right around the corner. It’s just a lot of competition, I think, in every game, within your team, and for every game, it’s just been great learning from some of my teammates. And yeah, just being here in London, I’m just kind of taking it all in.”

Pulisic was also asked about his first six months in England overall, and he is pretty happy to have battled back from adversity and is looking forward to finishing the season strong.

“You know, everyone says I’m going to go into the Premier League, it’s a big change, it’s tough. It’s a league where there’s definitely a lot of games, a lot of stuff going on, and it wasn’t easy for me at the beginning, of course,” Pulisic said. “I think I’m really proud of how I pushed through things and then I got my opportunity, and I felt I was playing very well recently, and I’m proud. It’s been great. I’ve been enjoying it so much. You know, the football culture here is amazing, and I’m really happy, and I’m so excited to finish off the season strong.”

Now that Pulisic is used to the physical grind of the Premier League it will be intriguing to see how the USMNT star finishes the campaign as Chelsea push hard in the PL, UEFA Champions League and FA Cup.

He then has the Nations League tournament with the U.S. this summer and his status as a leader in Gregg Berhalter’s squad means all eyes will be on him when he returns to his homeland.

All in all, a very decent first six months from Pulisic who is just ahead of schedule when it comes to these early days at Chelsea.

Borussia Dortmund promotes USMNT prospect Reyna to first team

Borussia Dortmund promotes Giovanni Reyna
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Giovanni Reyna may play a role in Borussia Dortmund’s Bundesliga title push.

Reyna has shown a lot to Dortmund in just over a half-year, as the Bundesliga outfit promoted the 17-year-old American playmaker to its senior team on Wednesday.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule

Reports that Reyna would join BVB circulated for almost a year before he signed on July 1, and he’s done exceptionally well in the academy.

BVB tracked Reyna for a long, long time, but we wonder whether they saw this move happening so quickly. Manager Lucien Favre praised Reyna for fitting into BVB’s system,.

From Bundesliga.com:

“He presented himself well in Marbella, that’s why we want to put him on a much higher level at training,” Dortmund sporting director Michael Zorc said. “We want to develop him to a full-fledged player of Borussia Dortmund.”

Reyna has eight goals and eight assists in 16 matches between the UEFA Youth League and the U-19 Bundesliga.

Dortmund is seven points back of leaders RB Leipzig, and is alive in the Champions League and German Cup. There will be plenty of chances to get some first team run, even at his age.

Reyna is the sixt#h teen in Dortmund’s senior squad, joining high-profile stars Jadon Sancho (19) and Erling Braut Haland (19) as well as Mateu Morey (19), Tobias Raschl (19), and Luca Unbehaun (18).

Giovanni is a New York City FC academy product and the son of USMNT legend and Man City player Claudio Reyna. His rise has arguably been more monitored than Christian Pulisic before him.

Americans Abroad: Saucedo, Holmes score; Sargent returns, records brace in friendly

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It was a weekend with a pair of must-see goals by Americans abroad, with Sebastian Saucedo and Duane Holmes as the protagonists.

In Germany, Josh Sargent scored a brace in Werder Bremen’s friendly after returning to action from a month-long injury. While over in England’s third-tier, Lynden Gooch assisted on Saturday, continuing his fine run of form,

Here is a list of several other USMNT affiliates making a name for themselves (or not) abroad this weekend.

Premier League

Christian Pulisic, Chelsea — The USMNT star, who is recovering from an abductor injury, is reportedly expected to miss “a few weeks” for Chelsea.

DeAndre Yedlin, Newcastle — Yedlin was not on the bench for Newcastle in their 1-1 draw with Wolverhampton Wanderers on Saturday. Is it time to worry about his playing time? Not yet.

Indiana Vassilev, Aston Villa – The 18-year-old dressed but didn’t play in Villa’s near-historic 6-1 loss to Manchester City.

EFL Championship

Duane Holmes, Derby County — Holmes played 90 minutes against Middlesbrough on Saturday, and scored a last-minute stunner, earning Derby County a valuable point.

Antonee Robinson, Wigan Athletic — Robinson started and played 90 minutes in Wigan’s 2-0 loss to Bristol City.

Matt Miazga, Reading (loan from Chelsea) — The 24-year-old spectated Reading’s 1-1 draw with Nottingham Forest from the bench on Saturday.

Eric Lichaj, Hull City — The Tiger’s captain started and played all game as Hull lost 1-0 to Fulham.

Geoff Cameron, QPR — The 34-year-old defender played 90 minutes in QPR’s 3-1 loss to Brentford.

Tim Ream, Fulham — Ream started and played 90 minutes in Fulham’s 1-0 win.

Ligue 1

Timothy Weah, Lille — Weah didn’t feature for Lille on Sunday; however, he did return to practice recently.

Theoson Jordan-Siebatcheu, Rennes — Jordon-Siebatcheu didn’t feature for Rennes on Friday.

Honorable Mentions

Sebastian Saucedo, Pumas — Debuting for Pumas, Sebastian “Bofo” Saucedo, 22, scored a curling, right-footed shot against Pachuca on Sunday. Take a look at the skill from the former Real Salt Lake winger:

Lynden Gooch, Sunderland — Gooch continues to impress for a surging Sunderland side. On Saturday, the 24-year-old registered an assist in the Black Cats’ 4-0 win over Wycombe Wanderers.