Veteran soccer journalist. Indiana University Class of 2012. BA in Journalism. Love my wife and dog.
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Europa League: Chelsea starts toughest stretch of season

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Maurizio Sarri’s seat at Chelsea has never been hotter, and according to multiple reports this week, his fate at Stamford Bridge rests on how Chelsea does in the UEFA Europa League.

After two days of the UEFA Champions League taking center stage, the Europa League returns with the round of 32, as Chelsea faces Malmo and Arsenal takes on BATE. Both Chelsea and Arsenal start on the road, with the return leg in one week’s time back at home in London.

[ MORE: Europa League scores ]

Chelsea is coming off a stunning 6-0 defeat to Manchester City. In Sarri’s pre-match press conference on Wednesday, he revealed there was a players-only meeting for hours as the players worked to solve the issues in the locker room that has led Chelsea to drop out of the top four in the Premier League. In addition, Sarri stated, unsurprisingly, that it was not easy to get on the field after such a thrashing last weekend.

‘It’s not easy to play tomorrow after a 6-0 but we have to play and we have to play well if we want to win,” Sarri said. “We know that it will be not very easy because we have to play against a very good team, they are compact, solid and usually have a very good defensive phase. We want to win and want to react immediately.”

Meanwhile Arsenal’s trip to Belarus was underscored by the fact that Unai Emery didn’t bring either Aaron Ramsey or Mesut Ozil, as the German international continues to fail to get into the gameday squad. Petr Cech is expected to start over Bernd Leno while Pierre-Emerick Aubemeyang and Granit Xhaka are back in the side after missing the club’s last match.

Interestingly, Arsenal will face over two legs one of their best midfield signings in the past 20 years, Alexander Hleb is 37-years old. 

Report: Sanchez, Martial, Lingard questionable v. Chelsea

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If Alexis Sanchez didn’t seem himself on Tuesday evening, there’s a bizarre explanation for that.

According to the Daily Mail in England, while Sanchez was warming up along the sideline in the first half, he unexpectedly collided with assistant referee Fabiano Preti and fell to the turf. Sanchez suffered some sort of leg injury, and although he played on it the rest of the game, he told the Manchester United training staff that he felt pain above one of his knees.

[ MORE: Premier League stats ]

It’s the latest in what’s been a rough 13 months for Sanchez ever since he joined Man United, where he’s battled through numerous injuries and poor form.

With Sanchez facing a fitness test, he joins the injured Anthony Martial and Jesse Lingard, who both limped out of Manchester United’s 2-0 defeat to Paris Saint-Germain at Old Trafford on Tuesday. The trio now will hope that they can make a comeback for this coming Monday’s highly-anticipated FA Cup match against Chelsea.

Champions League Preview: Can Man United overcome injury-hit PSG?

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It would have been nearly impossible to imagine this scenario two months ago, with Manchester United looking like the favorite heading into an UEFA Champions League matchup against Paris Saint-Germain.

And yet, that’s where we are. Since Man United and PSG were drawn together on December 17, Jose Mourinho was fired, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has helped the Red Devils play free and re-discover their talent. At the same time, Neymar hurt his foot again, Edinson Cavani is out with a hip injury, the team’s ownership won’t let Adrien Rabiot play due to a contract spat, the PSG have so many midfield injuries they’ve had to resort to starting Dani Alves in the middle.

[ MORE: UCL: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

It’s been nearly 60 days that has turned this tie on its head, and it’s leading into a first leg that is in Manchester United’s favor.

“It’s a fantastic game to look forward to and the Champions League is a fantastic tournament so it is a test for our whole team,” Solskjaer said at the pre-match press conference. “We’ve given ourselves the best possible opportunity because of the way we’ve come into this game. We’re confident and we’re looking like a team. If there was ever a time to go into big games, it’s now.”

Solskjaer later said that PSG not having Neymar and Cavani for this match made them more, “unpredictable,” but what’s truly unpredictable is Man United’s form the last two months. The Red Devils continue to win at will under Solskjaer, 10 out of their last 11, and though this is one of the hardest tests they face, the confidence levels are high.

One interesting little factor that will be new for Man United is the addition of the video assistant referee, which is being added to the Champions League from this round on. Not used in the Premier League just yet, only the players who experienced it at the World Cup will understand its impact on a game, if used.

Elsewhere, AS Roma, last year’s semifinalists, will be hosting FC Porto in a battle of two teams who have struggled in the last few weeks. Roma has just one win in its last four matches, while Porto has drawn two straight matches in the weaker Portuguese league.

Roma could be without goalkeeper Robin Olsen and midfielders Diego Perotti and Cengiz Under, while Porto’s Mexican international, Jose “Tecatito” Corona misses out due to suspension.

FC Cincinnati reveals inaugural MLS kit

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Featuring its trademark orange and blue, FC Cincinnati is now ready to take the field for its inaugural MLS season.

The club revealed on Monday evening in a ceremony event with proceeds going to charity its home and away kits for the 2019 MLS season. The home uniform features a blue jersey with accented orange stripes down the front, blue shorts with stripes and blue socks as well. The away kit is a clean, solid white uniform. Shorts and socks are not listed for the away kit, but it’s likely to be white shorts and white socks, making it one of the many all-white kits in MLS this season.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

As it’s Adidas designing the uniforms, there’s not a ton of unique aspects in the design, though the accented stripes are certainly different than Atlanta United and the Montreal Impact. The away kit is a bit disappointing though. However, as the team grows in its time in MLS and begins to create its narrative and story in the league, the designers will have more aspects to work with.

Take a look at some photos of the uniforms.

PL Sunday Preview: Man City hosts Chelsea in high-profile matchup

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There’s plenty on the line in Sunday’s high-profile matchup between Manchester City and Chelsea. Meanwhile, in the first match of the morning, surging Tottenham takes on Leicester City side that is winless in its last five.

[READ: Liverpool back on track with win over Bournemouth]

Man City v. Chelsea — 11:00 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

After a week in which Manchester City defeated Arsenal and Everton in somewhat comfortable fashion, Pep Guardiola‘s side faces a new, even tougher test.

It was only Huddersfield Town last week, but Chelsea looked back to its best once again in its 5-0 victory, with Gonzalo Higuain already looking like a terrific fit at the top of Chelsea’s attack. Higuain’s addition will take up a lot of Manchester City’s mental energy as they plan to face Chelsea, which could leave more space for Juninho to quarterback the Blues attack or for Eden Hazard and Willian to break down the wings on the counter attack.

Then again, this is Manchester City. Guardiola has his team firing on all cylinders. Kevin De Bruyne and Raheem Sterling are set to return to the starting lineup. Manchester City can set a new Premier League record if they score two goals; it will be their 15th consecutive home match with at least two goals scored.

Though this is the Premier League, this game could be played with some caution. Both teams face each other again later this month at Wembley Stadium in the Carabao Cup final.

INJURIES: Man City —  OUT: Benjamin Mendy (knee), Vincent Kompany (muscular) | Chelsea — OUT: None; PROBABLE: Callum Hudson-Odoi (Illness), Gary Cahill (back)

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

They won’t be on the field, but Harry Kane and Dele Alli gave Tottenham a huge boost this week by returning to training. That could be just what the team needs as it makes a mid-season push to stay in the top four, and potentially – who knows?! – try and win the Premier League title. Tottenham can win its fourth successive Premier League match and could come within two points of Man City before it plays Chelsea. Despite cup defeats in late January, Mauricio Pochettino‘s side has found a way to win in each of its last three league matches, all one-goal victories.

On the other side, Leicester City has dropped to 12th in the table as discontent for manager Claude Puel grows. Leicester hasn’t won a match since New Year’s Day, but they suffered a narrow loss to Manchester United and drew with Liverpool, perhaps showing some improvement, even without the result. Youri Tielemens appears to have improved the midfield, and Jamie Vardy has a great history facing Tottenham. He’s scored four goals with three assists in his last seven matches against Spurs.

INJURIES: Tottenham —  OUT: Dele Alli (hamstring), Harry Kane (ankle), Ben Davies (groin), Vincent Janssen (knee), Eric Dier (illness) | Leicester City — OUT: Mark Albrighton (hamstring), Daniel Amartey (ankle)