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Huge blow for West Ham as Arnautovic out injured

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West Ham United will be without their main man for the busy festive period.

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Marko Arnautovic suffered a hamstring injury against Cardiff City on Tuesday which will keep him out for at least a month, as the Hammers will have to do without their top goalscorer until January.

Arnautovic, 29, has been a revelation since arriving at the London Stadium from Stoke City in the summer of 2017. From January 2018 onwards he has often lined up as their lone striker, but the Austrian will now spend some time on the sidelines after suffering a few knocks in recent weeks.

“We know how important Marko is for our team,” Pellegrini said. “We have too many players injured in a month that we have to play seven games and then in January, six more games. But I always have the same answer – we have a squad and it is a chance for another player to demonstrate why they are here.”

In recent weeks Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez has grabbed his chance with both hands, as the Mexican star scored twice in the 3-0 win at Newcastle United last weekend. Lucas Perez also scored a brace in West Ham’s 3-1 home win against Cardiff City on Tuesday and if others continue to step up, plus Felipe Anderson continues to create chances galore, the Hammers should be just fine without Arnie.

West Ham are now up to 13th in the table after a slow start under Manuel Pellegrini and have an extremely favorable schedule over the festive season with games against Crystal Palace, Fulham, Watford, Southampton, Burnley and Brighton their next six games coming up.

By the time Arnautovic returns they could well be pushing for a spot in the top eight.

UEFA Nations League: England reach finals; Belgium capitulate

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A roundup of all of Sunday’s action in the UEFA Nations League…

[ MORE: USMNT injuries ahead of Italy friendly | Injuries for Italy, too ]

England 2-1 Croatia

The best rivalries in sports are the ones born out of contentious, high-stakes meetings on the field of play and the inevitable spill-over of words thereafter. Along those very lines, something of a rivalry is brewing between England and Croatia, and it’s all happened within a six-month period in 2018.

There was, of course, the two nations’ 2018 World Cup semifinal meeting in July, followed by the first of two rematches in the Nations League last month, and finally Sunday’s League A Group 4 finale. In between all of those on-field meetings, though, came the stoking of fires in the form of a verbal jab here and there.

Sunday’s clash at Wembley Stadium, which saw the Croats go ahead not long before the hour mark and appear destined for victory and the top spot in the group, only to watch their lead slip away in a late collapse, will only have added to the budding disdain between the two squads.

Andrej Kramaric put the visitors ahead int he 57th minute, but Jesse Lingard (78th) and Harry Kane (85th) brought the Three Lions back for a dramatic victory and pushed Gareth Southgate‘s to a first-place finish in the group. As such, England (7 points) joined Portugal in the final-four knockout stage.

Nearly as sweet for England, the result sends Croatia (4 points) bottom of the group, and they’ll be relegated to League B next time around.

Switzerland 5-2 Belgium

From 2-0 up, to an embarrassing 5-2 defeat, Sunday was certainly a day to forget — and an opportunity missed — for Belgium. A draw over victory against Switzerland would have seen the Red Devils finish top of League A Group 2, and they were in poll position for precisely that result after just 17 minutes, when they led 2-0 courtesy of Thorgan Hazard‘s early brace.

From that point forward, not a single thing went right for Roberto Martinez’s side as the home side score five unanswered goals from that point forward. It was 2-2 fewer than 15 minutes later — Ricardo Rodriguez and Haris Seferovic (penalty kick made it so — and Seferovic made it 3-2 just before halftime. There would be no galvanizing of the troops after the intermission, as Nico Elvedi scored his first international goal to make it 4-2 in the 62nd minute. Seferovic completed his hat trick, and the 5-2 scoreline, in the 84th.

In the end, it’s the Swiss who’ll join England and Portugal in the League A finals, by virtue of the second tiebreaker — goal differential in head-to-head matchups.

Elsewhere in UEFA Nations League

League B Group 3

Northern Ireland 1-2 Austria

League C Group 2

Hungary 2-0 Finland
Greece 0-1 Estonia

League D Group 2

San Marino 0-2 Belarus
Moldova 1-1 Luxembourg

Monday’s UEFA Nations League schedule

League A Group 1

Germany vs. Netherlands — 2:45 p.m. ET

League B Group 1

Czech Republic vs. Slovakia — 2:45 p.m. ET

League B Group 4

Denmark vs. Ireland — 2:45 p.m. ET

League C Group 3

Cyprus vs. Norway — 2:45 p.m. ET
Bulgaria vs. Slovakia — 2:45 p.m. ET

League D Group 1

Georgia vs. Kazakhstan — 12 p.m. ET
Andorra vs. Latvia — 12 p.m. ET

League D Group 4

Macedonia vs. Gibraltar — 2:45 p.m. ET
Liechtenstein vs. Armenia — 2:45 p.m. ET

West Ham playmaker Arnautovic admits he’s playing hurt

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West Ham playmaker Marko Arnautovic is in his second season with the Hammers, and while leading West Ham with five goals on the season, he’s definitely not 100%. Still, his team needs him – both club and country – and so he’ll keep suiting up even through the pain.

Arnautovic, on international duty with Austria, admitted to hometown media that he needs regular medical treatment to stay on the pitch this season.

“I can not say if I’ll get an injection on Thursday,” Arnautovic said. “In my knee, fluid accumulates again and again. Of course, there are people who say they should rest themselves and do nothing for a week, but it’s just difficult.”

Arnautovic would not elaborate on the type of injection he is receiving, but it’s likely a steroid or other anti-inflammatory injection to keep the swelling in his knee to a minimum. He also may be having his knee drained, a painful process that involves physically removing fluid buildup through a syringe.

The 29-year-old was originally injured in a 3-1 win over Everton in mid-September, the club’s first win of the season. He was withdrawn from that match in the 64th minute after scoring a goal and assisting another, and missed the subsequent Premier League match against Chelsea. He returned to play 83 minutes against Manchester United the next time out, and has missed only one match since, playing the full 90 minutes in the other three.

To keep his knee as healthy as possible, Arnautovic told Sky Sports earlier last month that he was avoiding training too much. “The knee is not the best but I am fit and I can play,” Arnautovic said. “I’m not training a lot at West Ham to try and my knee calm.”

“After a game I need some rest for about two or three days. By the middle of the week I am training normally with the team, training in full. And on the weekend I can play, that is the most important thing. Obviously you can’t do anything on this bone bruise.”

UEFA Nations League: Belgium tops Switzerland on Lukaku brace

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A roundup of all of Friday’s action in the 2018-19 UEFA Nations League…

[ MORE: PSG want Arsene Wenger for front-office role ]

Belgium 2-1 Switzerland

Romelu Lukaku scored the 44th and 45th goals of his Belgium career (he’s already the all-time leading scorer in his country’s history, at the age of 25, 15 goals ahead of second place) on Friday, which were all the Red Devils needed to top Switzerland in League A Group 2 play.

Manchester United’s star striker opened the scoring in the 58th minute before Mario Gavranovic drew the visitors level in the 76th. The 1-1 scoreline was short-lived, though, as Lukaku bagged the eventual winner in the 84th minute. The victory makes Belgium a perfect two-for-two in group play and sends them three points clear of the second-place Swiss.

Croatia 0-0 England

A rematch of the 2018 World Cup semifinals, this should have been a worthwhile clash in League A Group 4. Instead, it saw the two sides combine for just 14 shots (5 on target) and failed to produce a memorable moment in a game played behind closed doors. Spain sit top of the group, five points clear of both England and Croatia.

Austria 1-0 Northern Ireland

Marko Arnautovic broke a scoreless deadlock in the 71st minute to hand Austria its first victory and points in League B Group 3 play. With Bosnia & Herzegovina perfect after two games and sitting on six points, a draw would have done neither side much good on Friday.

Elsewhere in UEFA Nations League action

League C Group 2

Greece 1-0 Hungary
Estonia 0-1 Finland

League D Group 2

Moldova 2-0 San Marino
Belarus 1-0 Luxembourg

Saturday’s UEFA Nations League schedule (all games start at 2:45 p.m. ET, unless noted)

League A Group 1

Netherlands vs. Germany

League B Group 1

Slovakia vs. Czech Republic — 9 p.m. ET

League B Group 4

Ireland vs. Denmark

League C Group 3

Norway vs. Slovakia — 12 p.m. ET
Bulgaria vs. Cyprus

League D Group 1

Latvia vs. Kazakhstan — 12 p.m. ET
Georgia vs. Andorra — 12 p.m. ET

League D Group 4

Armenia vs. Gibraltar — 12 p.m. ET
Macedonia vs. Lichtenstein

Int’l friendlies: Germany, Iceland lose late; Ireland tops USMNT

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With the 2018 World Cup just a dozen days away from kicking off, 32 nations are will put more thought and care into the next two weeks’ worth of friendlies than at any other point during the four-year cycle.

[ MORE: England top Nigeria on goals scored by Kane, Cahill ]

A roundup of Saturday’s friendly action involving World Cup-bound sides, plus the U.S. men’s national team…

Austria 2-1 Germany

The defending world champions suffered defeat in their next-to-last tune-up before heading to Russia, 2-1 at the hands of neighboring Austria.

Mesut Ozil put the visitors ahead after 11 minutes, deftly curling a left-footed strike inside the far post from 15 yards out, but a pair of second-half goals, scored by Martin Hinteregger and Alessandro Schopf, overturned the deficit and kept Joachim Loew’s side winless in 2018 (two losses, one draw).

For of the Germans’ front-six (everyone but Ozil and Nils Petersen) had been subbed off before Schopf’s winner, as Loew made wholesale changes in order to keep starters fresh and the backups sharp.

Ireland 2-1 USA — FULL RECAP

After going ahead — completely against the run of play — through Bobby Wood’s close-range finish just before halftime, interim head coach Dave Sarachan’s Yanks through their lead away and were beaten by a 90th-minute winner scored by Alan Judge. Bill Hamid gaffe all but gifted the Irish their equalizer just before the half-hour mark, and Matt Miazga was badly beaten in the build-up to the winner.

Iceland 2-3 Norway

Much like Germany, Iceland made sweeping substitutions throughout the second half of Saturday’s friendly against Norway, and in the end it proved their undoing as the scoreline went from 1-1 to 3-2 during a 15-minute period late in the second half, thanks to some Premier League flavor.

Everton’s Gylfi Sigurdsson put Iceland ahead with his 19th international goal in the 70th minute, but Bournemouth’s Joshua King equalized 10 minute later and Crystal Palace’s Alexander Sorloth grabbed the winner in the 85th.

Elsewhere in int’l friendlies

England 2-1 Nigeria — FULL RECAP
Belgium 0-0 Portugal — MORE
Sweden 0-0 Denmark
Mexico vs. Scotland — 8 p.m. ET
Honduras vs. El Salvador — 8 p.m. ET