Chandler set to start in Honduras and commit to U.S.
Chandler set to start in Honduras and commit to U.S. avatar

Tomorrow afternoon the United States will take the first step of the final World Cup qualifying round, the Hex, when they play Honduras. Coach Jurgen Klinsmann has selected 24 players for the traveling party, but only 11 can start. Who will make the cut?

It’s always nice to start off with an easy one, so here we go. Tim Howard will be in goal. There have been some rumblings that Howard is slowing down, but I don’t buy it. Brad Guzan is playing well on a terrible Aston Villa side, but Howard is still the man.

Timmy Chandler has only played in friendlies for U.S., therefore was still eligible to play for Germany. (ISI Photos/Florian Eisele)

Timmy Chandler has only played in friendlies for U.S., therefore was still eligible to play for Germany. (ISI Photos/Florian Eisele)

Actually the back four is nearly as simple to pick as the keeper. With Steve Cherundolo nursing some knee issues, Timmy Chandler is the obvious replacement. Chandler is with the team and seems ready to make good on his pledge to commit to the U.S. Once he steps onto the pitch tomorrow, he’s an official Yank. Give Klinsmann credit for keeping Chandler in the picture, when the German-American fullback seemed unwilling to sign on with the the Americans.

Fabian Johnson has been a real find at left back for the U.S., and now that he has put a slight injury behind him he is in. Omar Gonzalez and Matt Besler are both in the squad, but this is no time for a changing of the guard. The captain, Carlos Bocanegra will start alongside Geoff Cameron. Cameron recently played attacking midfield for Stoke, and normally plays right fullback. So despite his recent status as a sure thing in the center of the U.S. defense, the former Dynamo man is not all that experienced in the heart of the defense.

Bradley definitely has shown his worth and should definitely start for U.S. (ISI PhotosRick Osentoski)

Bradley definitely has shown his worth and should definitely start for U.S. (ISI PhotosRick Osentoski)

So much for the easy stuff. Midfield will come down to formations, although Michael Bradley is a dead-cert, with Jermaine Jones a good bet as well. When the U.S. clinched qualification in Kansas City last fall against Guatemala, Klinsmann trotted out the 4-4-2. Eddie Johnson lined out as a wing midfielder, with Graham Zusi on the opposite flank and Michael Bradley and Danny Williams in the middle.

Williams hasn’t been starting, but he has been seeing time off the bench for Hoffenheim, so he should be ready. Look for Williams in his preferred role in front of the back four, with Bradley and Jones more advanced.

Herculez Gomez is proving to be a real threat in front of goal for the U.S. (Getty Images/John Todd)

Herculez Gomez is proving to be a real threat in front of goal for the U.S. (Getty Images/John Todd)

Clint Dempsey will start and so will Herculez Gomez, because Dempsey is Dempsey, and Gomez always starts. Gomez works his socks off for the national team and he is playing well in Mexico. The interesting choice will be whether or not Jozy Altidore plays from the start. He is banging in goals for AZ, and Klinsmann complimented his mature response to that racist nonsense in the Netherlands.

Still. on the road in Concacaf, a point is a point and three forwards might be too attack minded for the U.S. coach. If this the 11 Dempsey could line up at the top of a diamond midfield, with Gomez and Altidore up front. Dempsey is really more of a forward with the nats these days, but he can still fill this two way role.

Klinsmann could go more conservative and play a 4-5-1, with Gomez likely to land the thankless, lone striker job. He has the energy for it, but this is how I see it for tomorrow. Tim Howard, Tim Chandler, Geoff Cameron, Carlos Bocanegra, Fabian Johnson. Danny Williams, Jermaine Jones, Michael Bradley and Clint Dempsey. Herculez Gomez and Jozy Altidore.

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U.S. Roster Named For Honduras
U.S. Roster Named For Honduras avatar

Miami, Fl.

Jurgen Klinsmann named 24 players for the roster that will take on Honduras Wednesday afternoon in Honduras. Jose Torres is back, Matt Besler and Omar Gonzalez both make the roster, and Timmy Chandler seems fully committed to the U.S. If he appears for the U.S. in a competitive match, he will be unable to play for Germany, which will probably figure with Steve Cherundolo unavailable.

Should be interesting to see who the starting 11 are. (ISI Photos/John Todd)

Should be interesting to see who the starting 11 are. (ISI Photos/John Todd)

With sunny Miami, Florida serving as a suitable stand-in for Honduras, the select 24 gathered at Florida International University, for their lone practice before taking off for Central America this evening. With players jetting in from all over Europe, Mexico and the United States, the practice had the air of a re-union, before settling into a fairly spirited training session.

All but three of the roster were on the FIU pitch, although striker Herculez Gomez worked out on his own, as he recovered from yesterday’s game with Santos. The missing three were all European based and their absence was not unexpected. Clint Dempsey, Sacha Kljestan and Timmy Chandler were the late arrivals. All are expected to be available, although there are still some U.S. supporters who will need to see Chandler on the field, in a U.S. jersey, before they believe it.

Wednesday’s game will be played at 4:00 o’clock Eastern time, or 3:00 local time. With forecasts calling for temperatures in the mid 80’s and humidity an issue, the afternoon start could be a problem for both teams.

Honduras beat Canada comfortably during their World Cup Qualifying game.  (ISI Photos)

Honduras beat Canada comfortably during their World Cup Qualifying game. (ISI Photos)

U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann is not underrating his opponents, describing Honduras as “a very technical team, and also physical.” Klinsmann feels that Honduras, “grew over the last couple of years.” “They have a lot more confidence,” Klinsmann says. “Going to a World Cup gives you confidence, it’s definitely a team you have to respect.”

Although the U.S. attack was unimpressive at times in the semifinal qualifying round, striker Herculez Gomez believes the talent is there. “I think if you look, individually, on paper, at every one of our attackers you’ve got a wealth of riches.” Gomez feels that the group is, “still jelling.”

Michael Bradley responded to a question about playing without Landon Donovan by saying, “it’s not that strange.” The longtime face of U.S. soccer has been out of the national team picture for most of Jurgen Klinsmann’s tenure and while Bradley sounded supportive, he was also practical. “Life goes on here, we’re excited about the guys that are here, we’re confident in the group we have and,” Bradley summed up, “that’s life, that’s soccer.”

Bradley knows that this will be a tough one and they are not taking anything for granted(ISI Photos/John Todd)

Bradley knows that this will be a tough one and they are not taking anything for granted(ISI Photos/John Todd)

In Honduras, the two; life and soccer; are intertwined to the point that Wednesday has been declared a defacto national holiday.  The U.S. players are aware of the importance of the matches and the environment that they are headed into. Bradley, the young veteran who has seen just about everything in his career is under no illusions going into the Hex. “These 10 games,” Bradley says, “are the games that are going to push you to the limit.” Bradley explains further, “you have to the mentality that you are going to step on the field 10 different times and do your best to put your 10 best games out there.”

If the United States can reach that standard, Brazil 2014 should be their reward. Starting Wednesday in San Pedro Sula, they get their chance.

 

U.S. ROSTER BY POSITION (World Cup qualifying Caps/Goals)

GOALKEEPERS (3) : Brad Guzan (Aston Villa – 5/3 SO), Tim Howard (Everton – 22/9 SO), Sean Johnson (Chicago Fire – 0/0)

DEFENDERS (9) : Matt Besler (Sporting Kansas City – 0/0), Carlos Bocanegra (Racing Santander – 31/5), Geoff Cameron (Stoke City – 5/0), Edgar Castillo (Club Tijuana – 0/0), Timmy Chandler (Nuremberg – 0/0), Brad Evans (Seattle Sounders – 0/0), Omar Gonzalez (LA Galaxy – 0/0), Fabian Johnson (Hoffenheim – 3/0), Michael Parkhurst (Augsburg – 3/0)

MIDFIELDERS (8) : Michael Bradley (Roma – 19/5), Brad Davis (Houston Dynamo – 0/0), Maurice Edu (Bursaspor – 9/0), Jermaine Jones (Schalke 04 – 5/0), Sacha Kljestan (Anderlecht – 12/0), Jose Torres (Tigres – 9/0), Danny Williams (Hoffenheim – 4/0), Graham Zusi (Sporting Kansas City – 3/0)

FORWARDS (4 ): Jozy Altidore (AZ Alkmaar – 17/6), Clint Dempsey (Tottenham Hotspur – 26/10), Herculez Gomez (Santos – 6/2), Eddie Johnson (Seattle Sounders – 11/10)

 

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Free online course for CYS parents
Free online course for CYS parents avatar

Colorado Youth Soccer has partnered with Positive Coaching Alliance (a National Non Profit) and are offering parents a free 60 minute online class to learn skills for helping your child on and off the field.

Check out some of the topics covered in the course, and for more information on how to access, please visit the Colorado Youth Soccer website.

Give just an hour of your time, and you will learn:

  • Specific tips and techniques for talking to you children on game day,
  •  How to develop a productive parent – coach relationship,
  •  Tips from top sports psychologists for helping your child transfer their lessons learned through sports to become successful in life
  •  Lessons offered to PCA by its Advisory Board members such as Julie Foudy, Alexi Lalas, Kristine Lilly, Marcelo Balboa and Claudio Reyna as well as Phil Jackson, Doc Rivers, Summer Sanders and others
  • And much more to help better you and your child’s experience in sports.

 

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EPL Week 25 – Transfer Window, Injuries and More
EPL Week 25 – Transfer Window, Injuries and More avatar

Odemwingie turns up at QPR

Odemwingie will miss Sunday's tie against Tottenham due to his actions. (Getty Images)

Odemwingie will miss Sunday’s tie against Tottenham due to his actions. (Getty Images)

West Brom striker Peter Odemwingie has said he regrets trying to push through a transfer move to QPR on deadline day, but maintains his long-term future remains away from the club.

The Nigerian international turned up unannounced outside QPR’s stadium Loftus Road late on Thursday night, but was barred from entering.

West Brom accused the player of acting unprofessionally and insist that no fee was agreed nor permission given to Odemwingie to talk to QPR. They admitted that they had been in talks about the possibility of a transfer, but that they had “proven fruitless and no agreement has been reached”.

Speaking of the situation on Friday, Odemwingie told Sky Sports News: “I am a very emotional person who sometimes doesn’t think,”

“I will still leave the club. It is only a matter of time.”

 

Arsenal’s Gibbs to miss Champions League

Kieran Gibbs injury will definitely came at a bad time for Arsenal. (Getty Images)

Kieran Gibbs injury will definitely came at a bad time for Arsenal. (Getty Images)

Arsenal left-back Kieran Gibbs is set to miss both legs of the Champions League match up with Bayern Munich.

The 23-year-old injured his thigh midweek during Arsenal’s 2-2 draw at home to Liverpool and had initially been ruled out for a couple of weeks.

However, on Friday Wenger revealed the left-back could be out for as long as two months, leaving Arsenal short of options in that position with new signing Nacho Monreal ineligible to play in the Champions League having already represented Malaga in the competition.

It seems Arsenal will be forced to play the much criticized Andro Santos.

 

Ferguson concern with United’s field

Evra and Rooney leaving the pitch which was under much scrutiny. (Getty Images)

Evra and Rooney leaving the pitch which was under much scrutiny. (Getty Images)

Alex Ferguson has expressed his concern over the poor quality of Manchester United’s soccer field.

The United manager said the field had “collapsed” over Christmas, and after Wednesday lacklustre win over Southampton he described the state of the playing surface as “worrying”.

“We have to hope for better weather and a bit more sun,” said Ferguson.

“We’re changing the pitch in the summer but at the moment it’s not good.”

It is not the first time United have had problems with the hallow turf at the Theater of Dreams, about ten years ago the Red Devils resurfaced the field twice in one season.

 

Previews and Predictions

Week 24

Score

My Predicitions

TUESDAY
Aston Villa v Newcastle 1-2 1-1
QPR v Man City 0-0 1-2
Stoke v Wigan 2-2 1-0
Sunderland v Swansea 0-0 1-0
WEDNESDAY
Arsenal v Liverpool 2-2 3-1
Everton v West Brom 2-1 2-0
Norwich v Tottenham 1-1 1-1
Fulham v West Ham 3-1 1-0
Man Utd v Southampton 2-1 3-0
Reading v Chelsea 2-2 0-1

 

A correct result is worth ONE point, while a correct score earns THREE points.

Midweek I got FOUR correct results, including ONE perfect score giving me a combined tally of SIX points, which is a point better than I did last week.

 

The record score is 13 points in Week 14, lets see if I can get anywhere near that in Week 25.

Week 25

My Predicitions

SATURDAY
QPR v Norwich 1-0
Arsenal v Stoke 3-0
Everton v Aston Villa 2-0
Newcastle v Chelsea 1-1
Reading v Sunderland 2-3
West Ham v Swansea 0-0
Wigan v Southampton 2-1
Fulham v Man Utd 1-2
SUNDAY
West Brom v Tottenham 1-1
Man City v Liverpool 1-1

 

SATURDAY

Arsenal Vs Stoke

Arsenal will be happy to welcome back the much missed Arteta to the holding midfield roll. (Getty Images)

Arsenal will be happy to welcome back the much missed Arteta to the holding midfield roll. (Getty Images)

Arsenal showed real character midweek coming from two goals down to eventually earn a 2-2 draw at home to Liverpool.

The result could be turning point of Arsenals’ season, because had the Gunners lost they may have begun to question themselves, but instead they gained a point and in the end their style of play was vindicated.

However, the Gunners remain frail at the back and the sloppiness at which they conceded both goals will definitely be cause for concern for coach Arsenal Wenger.

Stoke have had a torrid few weeks, just over a month ago the Potters boasted the meanest defense in the EPL, but in the last month they have conceded 15 goals and only picked up two points out of a possible 15.

Arsenal’s Kieran Gibbs will miss out on the Stoke game after being ruled out for up two months, but new signing Nacho Migual should be available to replace him. Club captain Thomas Vermaelen is also a serious doubt, with Laurent Koscielny likely to take his place and partner Per Mertesacker at the back for the Gunners.

There is some good news for Arsenal as midfielder Mikel Arteta has recovered from calf injury that has kept him out of action since New Years Day.

Stoke have almost a full squad to chose from, but new signings Brek Shea and Jack Butland definitely will not take part. American Shea is still recovering from a foot operation and still to receive his work permit, while keeper Butland has been loaned back to Birmingham.

Arsenal are playing well and really must win this game if they are to keep up pursuit of finishing in a Champions League spot at the end of the season. They have three games against teams they should beat before they face neighbors Spurs in what looks like being a pivotal game.

Stoke are in a bit of a rut at the moment and the best I can see them doing against the Gunners is grinding out a 0-0 draw. But Arsenal have won their last 10 games at home to Stoke and look like a sure bet to score goals at the moment and that is why I backing them to win comfortably.

Prediction: 3-0

 

Everton Vs Aston Villa

Leighton Baines has been in outstanding form for Everton. (Getty Images)

Leighton Baines has been in outstanding form for Everton. (Getty Images)

Everton gained ground on their Champion League spot rivals by winning 2-1 against West Brom midweek when all those around them drew.

Left-back Leighton Baines was once again immense scoring both the Toffees’ goals, and Everton will be glad that they managed to hold on to both him and Marouane Felliani during the transfer window, as both players have been outstanding for them this season.

Aston Villa once again put in an underwhelming display losing 1-2 at home to Newcastle. Stuck in the relegation zone and without a win since mid-December, Villa increasingly look as if they will be relegated from England’s top division for the first time since 1987.

Everton full-backs Tony Hibbert and Seamus Coleman are both out for Saturday’s clash, meaning Silva Distin is likely to remain at right-back. Darren Gibson is also pushing for a starting place having returned from injury as a midweek substitute.

Aston Villa new signings Yacouba Sylla and Simon Dawkins look set for action on Saturday having been included in the matchday squad, though Midfielder Fabian Delph looks unlikely to play any part with a ankle injury.

Villa have done well against Everton over the years and are actually unbeaten against the Toffees in their last six trips to Goodison park. However, I will be very surprised if Villa managed to take a point back home with them on Saturday.

Prediction: 2-0

 

Newcastle Vs Chelsea

Demba Ba's returns to Newcastle for the first time after leaving them at the beginning January (Getty Images)

Demba Ba’s returns to Newcastle for the first time after leaving them at the beginning January (Getty Images)

Newcastle earned a much needed win after a barren run of games and the side’s new French foreign legion got off to a blistering start, combing well for both of Newcastle’s goals in their 1-2 win at Villa. The Magpies will hope that win can help kick start their season and move them away from the relegation zone.

Chelsea once again let a win slip through their fingers and Chelsea poor run of results certainly won’t help Rafa Benitez’s standing with the Blues faithful. The Blues were 2-0 and looked to be cruising before being pegged back by Reading with only three minutes remaining.

Newcastle are likely to give home debuts to new signings Moussa Sissoko and Yoan Gouffran.

Peter Czech is likely to return to the Chelsea line-up after recovering from a calf strain. However, David Luiz remains out with an ankle injury, while Eden Hazard won’t play any part after being suspended for thee games.

The game should be a feisty encounter and it will be interesting to see which Chelsea turns up. Will Rafa Benitez stick with the misfiring Torres or twist on ex-Newcastle forward Demba Ba. Either way, I predict a draw.

Predicition: 1-1

 

Fulham Vs Manchester United

United's front three just may just be too strong for Fulham. (Getty Images)

United’s front three just may just be too strong for Fulham. (Getty Images)

Fulham got their first win in 2013 midweek and will hope to push on in the second half of the season after a series of indifferent results.

Dimitar Berbatov was excellent for the Cottagers midweek, but a calf injury means he will play no part against his former club Manchester United. Which could be good news for Berbatov, as he won’t have to experience United torture Fulham firsthand again like he did a week ago in the FA Cup.

On that day United were excellent and Fulham terrible, but United did not play well in their last EPL game against Southampton and that may give the Londoners hope. However, United still won that game and have a habit of winning when they are not playing well.

Dimitar Berbatov, Steve Sidwell, Mahamadou Diarra, Kerim Frei and Kieran Richardson are all injured for Fulham, meaning new loan signing Urby Emanuelson could make his debut.

United have almost a full squad to choose from with Ashley Young (knee) the only injured player.

On paper this game looks like a United win, but Fulham have done well at home against United over the years and are sure to give them a tough game.

United have not played well recently but are still picking up points, and a win tomorrow would put them 10-points ahead of City who play Liverpool on Sunday.

These two played a week ago in the FA Cup and it was like men against boys with United winning 4-1, but I expect this to be a lot closer with United just edging it at the end.

Prediction: 1-2

 

SUNDAY 

West Brom Vs Tottenham

Holtby should see make his debut for Tottenham this weekend. (Getty images)

Holtby should see make his debut for Tottenham this weekend. (Getty images)

West Brom are still without a win in 2013 and I’m sure the whole “Odemwingie transfer that never was” fiasco has not really helped their cause.

It’s a shame really as the Baggies could really do with his help at this moment in time, but fortunately for them they still possess quality up top with Romelu Lukaku and Shane Long.

Tottenham on the other hand have only one striker, Jermaine Defoe. With Emmanuel Adebayor not due back for another month, it was strange that Tottenham did not try to bring someone in during the window, especially as Defoe is nursing an injury. But I guess Spurs are confidant enough that attacking players such as Clint Dempsey, Gareth Bale and new signing Lewis Hotlby can all chip in with goals.

West Brom Striker Peter Odemwingie is unlikey to be involved on Sunday, having been told not to return to training until next week. Though Youssouf Mulumbu could be in line for a shock return after DR Congo were eliminated from the African Cup of Nations.

Tottenham have no new injury concerns and seem likely to give new signing Lewis Holtby his first start.

Neither of these team are playing that well, and the goals have certainly dried up for Tottenham since the beginning of 2013. But they do have a good record against West Brom and are unbeaten in their last six games against the Baggies. But having said that, the last three of those games did end in a draw, and I predict the same for Sunday.

Prediction: 1-1

 

Manchester City Vs Liverpool

Aguero has looked dangerous but needs to start finishing his opportunities. (Getty Images)

Aguero has looked dangerous but needs to start finishing his opportunities. (Getty Images)

This tie is without doubt the biggest game of the weekend, and it could be pivotal to where both teams end up at the end of the season.

City have been immense in the last month winning four and drawing once, but a loss on Sunday could see them fall ten-points behind leaders Manchester United, which many feel would be an insurmountable lead.

Liverpool have slowly improved and moved into contention for a finish in a Champions League spot this season. However, a loss this weekend coupled with result elsewhere could all but effectively leave them playing for a spot in the Europa league or worse yet, mere pride.

City are hopeful that young defender Matija Nastasic will return after sitting out of the midweek 0-0 with QPR while nursing a knee injury, but captain Vincent Kompany is definitely out and may not return for another three weeks.

Liverpool have no injury worries, though new signing Philippe Coutinho will not feature on Sunday.

City have been grinding out results, and it’s surprising that a frontline of the quality of Sergio Aguero, Edin Dzeko and Carlos Tevez only has seven goals in nine games, but they have been winning and that is all that matters.

The key for Liverpool will as ever be Luis Suarez, the Uruguayan is their top scorer and everything good that Liverpool do comes through him. But since the signing of Daniel Sturridge Liverpool have moved Suarez to a deeper role, and while I think he has done a good job there, I think other teams will be happy with the change of position as the farther Suarez is from your goal the better.
Liverpool sat back and tried to hit Arsenal on the break with great success midweek and I expect them to do it again. City are playing well but just can’t score, so I’m going for an entertaining end to end game that will end in a draw.

Prediction: 1-1

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Sign up for CYS “C” course
Sign up for CYS “C” course avatar

Colorado Youth Soccer is hosting a “C” Course for any interested coaches!

The course will be held July 26-August 3 at the Westminster Sports Complex in Westminster, CO. Total cost is $700, which covers all course materials and instruction.

Check out the eligibility requirements below and make sure to register by June 21, 2013- it will fill up fast!

Register at Colorado Youth Soccer’s website: Click Here

ELIGIBILITY:

1. Applicant holds a National “D” License for a minimum of 12-months (no waiver application required).

-OR-

2. Applicant holds a NSCAA National Diploma for a minimum of 12-months (no waiver application required).

-OR-

3. Applicant has three-(3) years coaching experience, at any level, and three-(3) years playing experience with a Senior National Team and/or three-(3) years playing experience on a FIFA recognized professional team. Official proof of playing and coaching experience must be provided.

-OR-

4. Applicant holds a foreign license equivalent to a U.S. Soccer “C” License (e.g.:UEFA “C” License). A copy of the foreign license must be provided.

Please be advised that only the Office of the Coaching Education Program at US Soccer may grant waivers. State Directors of Coaching, National Staff Coaches or National Instructional Staff Coaches may not grant waivers regardless of the situation.

 

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The RMA Program: Impacting Indiana Soccer youth
The RMA Program: Impacting Indiana Soccer youth avatar

Man United assistant coach Rene Meulensteen is changing the way Indiana youngsters play soccer with a program perfected from years of experience developing young players such as Danny Welbeck and Tom Cleverley into champions.

According to an Indiana Soccer news article:

“The vision of Rene Meulensteen, first team assistant coach at Manchester United, is basic and straight forward; ‘the team with the most creative players and players who can dominate the 1vs1 situations all over the field will be the most successful team in the world.’ Rene’s vision and philosophy have been proven right many times over with the confidence Sir Alex Ferguson has in him by and the continued success of Manchester United.”

Want to learn more about this incredible program for budding soccer players and how to get involved? Visit the Indiana Soccer website for the full story.

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Brek Shea goes to EPL for $3.75m
Brek Shea goes to EPL for $3.75m avatar

FC Dallas waved bye bye Brek today, as the face, and hair, of the franchise completed his much anticipated move to Stoke City. Delighted Stoke fans were chanting USA – USA! as Shea left Stoke’s training ground today, and those supporters will have been pleased to hear that the American winger had no problem acquiring his work permit this afternoon in London.

Brek Shea will hope he can make a name for himself in the EPL(ISI Photos/Tony Quinn)

Brek Shea will hope he can make a name for himself in the EPL(ISI Photos/Tony Quinn)

Stoke manager Tony Pulis was enthusiastic in his evaluation of Shea’s talents yesterday in a statement released by the the club. Shea’s new manager said that, “Brek is a very, very exciting player, and one we believe could go on to become a very good player at the football club.” Pulis continued, “he has fantastic pace, a very good left foot and he is capable of scoring goals.”

It was those same attributes that brought Shea to the attention of U.S. national team coaches Bob Bradley and Jurgen Klinsmann. Bradley gave Shea his first full national team caps in 2010 and Klinsmann regularly selected Shea after he took the reins 2011.

Shea was a Generation adidas signing right out of high school, turning pro with Dallas after being selected in the first round of the 2008 MLS SuperDraft. Standing 6’3”, and sporting an array of eye catching hairstyles, Shea is never easy to overlook on the field. For a time though, there was something of a question of just where to look to find him. Dallas coach Schellas Hyndman played Shea variously on the wing, as a striker and even for a time as a center back.

Shea's move was not too much of a surprise. (Getty Images)

Shea’s move was not too much of a surprise. (Getty Images)

Shea’s physical gifts quickly put the versatile young player on the transfer rumor market, and after a breakout season in 2011, his move abroad became a matter of when, not if.  But as is often the case with young talents, Shea’s rise was not as smooth as envisioned.

As good as 2011 was for Shea, 2012 was that bad. Shea showed a petulant side, kicking a ball at an assistant referee, and on another occasion arguing with Hyndman, when the coach removed him from a game. Shea was suspended for three games for the first offense and was benched for two games for the latter. He was also part of the U23 U.S. team that failed to qualify for the 2012 London Olympics. Shea also fell out of the national team picture, although when he was recalled, he had a good moment when he played a role in setting up the only goal when the Americans beat Mexico for the first time ever in Mexico, last August.

Shea’s “annus horribilis” ended with foot surgery, but the new year is certainly starting on a better note with this move to the English Premiership. Stoke are often criticized for their playing style, generally described as, “robust.” Fellow American Geoff Cameron has adjusted nicely, slotting in as the Potters starting right fullback. Maurice Edu didn’t fare as well, seeing virtually no playing time, before securing a loan move to Turkey.

If Shea is healthy he could make a spot for himself in a Stoke lineup that is full of defensive midfield types, while not as deep in attacking wingers. Stoke fans aren’t the only interested parties in Shea’s move. The United States head into the last round of World Cup qualifiers next week, and wide play remains an issue for the Yanks. Klinsmann took another look at Josh Gatt versus Canada Tuesday night, and for all of his industry, Gatt remains raw.

In that same team statement Pulis said of Shea, “if you look at the clippings on the internet, then you will see what he is all about.” Assuming that Pulis doesn’t base his transfer policy solely on youtube clippings, Stoke and United States fans will hope Pulis was right when he said, “I believe he (Shea) has all the tools needed to be a success here.”

If Pulis is right, Shea may soon be racing past defenders not just for Stoke, but also for a U.S. team chasing a World Cup berth.

 

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Team Chicago Academy-Botafogo girls sweep college signings
Team Chicago Academy-Botafogo girls sweep college signings avatar

Screen Shot 2013-01-31 at 10.54.18 AM

 

 

 

 

For Jenna Romano the dream of playing collegiate soccer will come true Wednesday, Feb. 6, when she signs the National Letter of Intent: a binding agreement between a prospective student-athlete and a NCAA college institution for an athletic scholarship.

“If it wasn’t for this soccer scholarship I wouldn’t have been able to go this far financially and venture away from home for school. It is allowing me to achieve my academic goals,” said Romano, who plans to sign with Wake Forest University.

Screen Shot 2013-01-31 at 10.30.13 AMShe and 18 of her teammates from Team Chicago Academy-Botafogo, the recent U.S. Youth Soccer’s 2013 undefeated National League Champion, will join about 36,000  student athletes, in the signing-day festivities. They will be among roughly 3,300 young female soccer players who will sign NLI’s this year.

“It’s great to know all our hard work and pushing each other as a team over the years has really paid off,” said teammate Zoey Goralski, who will commit to UCLA.

These Chicago-area girls will seal the deal, coast to coast, with at least 18 different schools of Division I or Division II women’s soccer programs, some top-ranked – including four players going to the Big Ten, three to the ACC, two to the Big East, and one each going to the PAC-12, Big-12, and the SEC.

Chicago- area NCAA Division I women’s soccer programs stand to reap the biggest reward from this pool of female, high-school standouts. Hope D’Addario from Neuqua Valley High School and Meegan Johnston from Carmel Catholic High School will set foot on college turf at University of Illinois, while Ashley Handwork of Plainfield North High School will claim Marquette University.

“Team Chicago has produced one of the finest recruiting classes in the country for 2013,” said Nikki Izzo-Brown, head women’s soccer coach at West Virginia University.

Congratulations girls, and good luck with all of your future collegiate endeavors!

Team Chicago Academy-Botafogo at the 2012 National Championship tournament

Team Chicago Academy-Botafogo at the National Championship tournament this past summer

  • Rachele Armand of Waubonsie Valley H.S- University of Louisville
  • Bryce Banuelos of York H.S.-  West Virginia University
  • Jorie Clawson of  St. Charles North H.S.- Southern Illinois University Edwardsville
  • Hope D’Addario of Neuqua Valley H.S.- University of Illinois
  • Gianna Dal Pozzo of Neuqua Valley H.S.- University of Miami
  • Karla DiJohn of  Waubonsie Valley H.S.- Notre Dame College
  • Kiley Dunning of Metea  H.S., Indiana University- Purdue University, Fort Wayne
  • Megan Geldernick of  Metea H.S.- The Ohio State University
  • Zoey Goralski of Neuqua Valley H.S.- UCLA
  • Ashley Handwork of Plainfield North H.S.- Marquette University
  • Kaitlin Johnson of Rosary High School- Michigan State University
  • Meegan Johnston of Carmel Catholic H.S.- University of Illinois
  • Brooke Ksiazek of Neuqua Valley H.S.- Illinois State University
  • Kaela Leskovar of Plainfield North H.S.- Lee University
  • Dana Miller of Wheaton-Warrenville H.S.- Miami University of Ohio
  • Darby Moran of Hinsdale Central H.S.- University of Wisconsin-Parkside
  • Dani Pitaro of Glenbard South H.S.- DePaul University
  • Jenna Romano of  Waubonsie Valley H.S.- Wake Forest
  • Zoe Swift of Naperville North H.S.- University of Kentucky
  • Kendall Wilde of Waubonsie Valley H.S.- University of Illinois-Chicago

 

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Beckham joins PSG and donates salary to children’s charity
Beckham joins PSG and donates salary to children’s charity avatar

Beckham has left us all waiting until the last day in the transfer window. (Getty Images)

Beckham donates all his salary to a children’s charity. (Getty Images)

David Beckham has joined Paris Saint-Germain and will donate his salary to charity, after agreeing a five month deal with the Ligue 1 side that will see him remain there until the end of the season.

The former Galaxy player was officially unveiled to the world at a press conference at 11:30am (EST) on Thursday.

“I’m excited, it’s something we’ve been working and talking about for quite a while,” he said.

“Finally it’s happened. The wife and children will be staying in London. We’re all very excited.”

In an unprecedented move from any professional sportsperson, Beckham revealed he would be plying his trade for free with his club salary being donated to a children’s charity in Paris.

“I won’t receive any salary. My salary will go to a local children’s charity. That’s one of the things we are excited and proud to do. It’s something exciting and I’m not sure it’s been done before.”

He added: “It’s something the guys [PSG management] do, but obviously it’s a very good figure. That’s one thing we’re very excited about. To be able to give a huge sum to a children’s charity in Paris is very special.”

In November Beckham announced he would be leaving the Galaxy stating: “I wanted to experience one last challenge before the end of my playing career.”

Since then Beckham is reported to have received an array of offers from Europe, South America, North America, South Africa, Russia, China and the Middle East.

However, when he 37-year-old midfielder announced he was permanently relocating his family back to London, a move to Europe seemed to be on the cards.

PSG currently lead the way in Ligue 1 and face Valencia in the Champions League, where they accumulated more points than any other team during the group phase of the competition.

The Qatar Investment Authority purchased the club in 2011 and pledged transforms the side into one of Europe’s elite clubs. Since then PSG has spent over $315m on players, including Zlaten Imbrahimovic, Thiago Silva, and Luca Moura who all cost huge fees.

David Beckham will be hoping to continue his winning streak.(Getty Images)

David Beckham will be hoping to continue his winning streak.(Getty Images)

Beckham will be reunited with PSG coach Carlo Ancelloti and PSG director of football Leonardo in Paris, who both coached Beckham at AC Milan during a two controversial loan spell in 2009 and 2010. He received criticism from Galaxy fans and teammate Landon Donovan who questioned his commitment to the Galaxy after the loan spells caused him to miss a portion of the MLS season.

England’s most capped outfield player with 115 appearances, Beckham will be hoping to win a league title in his fourth country, having won six EPLs with Manchester United, one La Liga with Real Madrid, and two MLS Cups with the LA Galaxy.

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Altidore Shows Maturity in face of Racist Chants
Altidore Shows Maturity in face of Racist Chants avatar

The big USMNT news of the day was last night’s dire draw with Canada, but a look at the bigger picture tempers the sour mood just a bit. Most impressive was Jozy Altidore’s reaction to the disgraceful racist behavior directed toward him during AZ Alkmaar’s 5-0 Dutch Cup semifinal win over second division FC Den Bosch.

The 23 year old American striker kept his composure during the game, even discouraging the referee from abandoning the game. Altidore also made his opponents, and their knucklehead supporters pay, by earning and converting a penalty.

Altidore has flourished these past two seasons in the Eredivisie, setting career season highs in goals scored in each of his two terms in the Netherlands. Numerous teams in Europe’s top leagues have been rumored to be interested in signing Altidore; if those clubs were looking in on Altidore’s post game comments yesterday; they can only have come away impressed.

Altidore handle himself with class and dignity. (Getty Images)

Altidore handled himself with class and dignity. (Getty Images)

Altidore displayed maturity beyond his years, shaming the fools who elevate themselves over this talented and honorable man.

On a lesser note, there was some positive U.S. Soccer news out of Stoke. Geoff Cameron returned to the lineup after missing one game with a slight hamstring problem. Cameron had a solid game, one that was watched by the newest Potter, pending physical and work permit, Brek Shea.

Shea’s on again, off again move, from FC Dallas to Stoke, looks like it will go through now. Who knows if it will work out, but if Shea is healthy, maybe he can recapture the form that had everyone raving just a couple of years ago.

Hopefully Bradley has done enough to cement his place in the starting line up. (Getty Images)

Hopefully Bradley has done enough to cement his place in the starting line up. (Getty Images)

One potential bit of bad news for American players in Europe involves Michael Bradley’s Roma. If the rumors are to be believed, Roma coach, Zdenek Zeman, may be on his way out the door. Zeman brought Bradley in, and has played him consistently. Not to say that a new coach would drop Bradley, but every coach has their favorites.

All of which is to say that regardless of how bad the U.S. were against Canada, and make no mistake, they were awful, the game was still a friendly. The real games start next week in Honduras, where a similar effort to last night’s will provide a genuine cause for panic.

 

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FC Kansas City to hold open tryouts
FC Kansas City to hold open tryouts avatar

Think you have what it takes to play on the NWSL?

If so, you aren’t going to want to miss open tryouts for a chance to play with FC Kansas City. Take a look at the schedule of tryouts below and make sure to save the date!  For more information, check out the KSYSA Facebook page.

Open Tryouts

February 15, 2013

  • 9:00 AM-12:00 PM
  •  5:00 PM-7:00 PM

February 16, 2013

  • 9:00 AM- 12:00 PM

Invitational Combine

March 2, 2013

  • 9:00 AM-12:00 PM
  •  5:00 PM- 7:00 PM

March 3, 2013

  • 9:00 AM- 12:00 PM

 

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U.S. MNT Held By Canada
U.S. MNT Held By Canada avatar

With World Cup places on the line the United States delivered a tame performance tonight in Houston, in a 0-0 tie against a young Canadian side, that has lost their last two games by a combined 12-1 score. Coming into this game U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann laid down the gauntlet to his “fringe” players, to step up and earn a place in the U.S. team with the Hex on the horizon.

Kyle Beckerman was captain on the evening for the U.S. (Getty Images)

Kyle Beckerman was captain on the evening for the U.S. (Getty Images)

The coach’s challenge went largely unheeded, resulting in a desultory effort by a U.S. side that dominated possession, without ever really threatening the Canadian goal. Still, despite the Americans disappointing night, it is never wise to read too much into a friendly. The stakes were raised of course, by the proximity of the game with Honduras. February 6th is right around the corner and if, as Klinsmann has maintained, he plans on taking seven or eight players from this group for the World Cup qualifier, who will they be?

Sean Johnson went the full 90 in the U.S. goal, which would suggest that the Chicago Fire keeper will be the U.S. number three in San Pedro Sula. Johnson stood up well to an early blast from Canadian veteran Dwayne DeRosario, but had little else to do on the night.

Brad Davis (L) got a huge applause when he came off in the 62nd minute. (Getty Images)

Brad Davis (L) got a huge applause when he came off in the 64th minute. (Getty Images)

The center back pairing of Matt Besler and Omar Gonzalez were solid, if not overtaxed. Gonzalez was dangerous on set pieces and Besler hit a couple of good passes out of the back. None of the fullbacks stood out. With presumed starters Steve Cherundolo and Fabian Johnson struggling with injuries, the chance to impress was there, especially for starters Justin Morrow and Tony Beltran. While neither player flopped, they also failed to shine.

Klinsmann seemed short of ideas on how to breakdown a young Canadian team. (ISI Photos/Brad Shea

Klinsmann seemed short of ideas on how to breakdown a young Canadian team. (ISI Photos/Brad Shea

Second half substitute Benny Feilhaber has been out of the national team picture since the 2010 World Cup, and his incisive passing has been missed. He provided a reminder with a good show in the middle of the park last night in Houston. Fellow subs Alejandro Bedoya and Josh Gatt also showed well, although for all of Gatt’s industry, the end product was lacking,

Up front Eddie Johnson showed glimpses, while Chris Wondolowski worked hard to little effect. Wondo came close on one effort, but Juan Agudelo looked the more dangerous player and drew fouls in good positions.

Questions must also be asked of the United States coaching staff, that was seemingly bamboozled once again by a Canadian team that sat back in a defensive shell and waited to counter. Canada frustrated the U.S. with similar tactics in last June’s 0-0 stalemate, and the U.S. had no answers for that same strategy seven months later.

This was only a friendly featuring the U.S. “B” team, and this result will be forgotten if the Clint Dempsey, Tim Howard and the rest walk away with a point or three in Honduras on February 6th. The “B” team largely failed to make their case, now let’s see what the “A” team can do.

 

Lineups:

USA: 12-Sean Johnson; 3-Tony Beltran (21-Benny Feilhaber, 46), 5-Omar Gonzalez, 4-Matt Besler, 2-Justin Morrow; 6-Kyle Beckerman (capt.) (14-Alfredo Morales, 74), 7-Graham Zusi (18-Juan Agudelo, 64), 11-Brad Davis (17-Alejandro Bedoya, 64), 8-Brad Evans; 10-Chris Wondolowski (19-Joshua Gatt, 46), 9-Eddie Johnson (23-Will Bruin, 74)
Subs not used: 1-Bill Hamid

CAN: 22-Simon Thomas; 2-Nik Ledgerwood, 3-Ashtone Morgan, 4-Nana Attakora (13-Doneil Henry, 64), 5-Dejan Jakovic; 7-Terry Dunfield (16-Matthew Stinson, 51), 8-Kyle Bekker (17-Kyle Porter, 90), 9-Tosaint Rickets, 11-Russell Teibert (19-Evan James, 89); 12-Jonathan Beaulieu-Bourgault, 14-Dwayne De Rosario (capt.) (10-Frank Jonke, 81)
Subs not used: 6-Philippe Davies, 15-Emmanuel Gomez, 18-Roberto Stillo, 20-Mason Trafford, 21-Andres Fresenga

Stats Summary: USA / CAN
Shots: 11 / 2
Shots on Goal: 4 / 1
Saves: 1 / 4
Corner Kicks: 5 / 1
Fouls: 13 / 23
Offside: 2 / 1


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Missouri Girls Win Big and Advance to National Championships
Missouri Girls Win Big and Advance to National Championships avatar

Courtesy of MYSA

Courtesy of MYSA

Congratulations to the U18 Lou Fusz SC Wipke girls for nabbing a coveted spot to play in the 2013 U.S. Youth Soccer National Championships July 22-28 at Overland Park, KS.

The big win came on the last day of the Disney weekend where the girls played hard against the mighty Michigan Football Club 95 and were rewarded with a well deserved tie to secure a top two division spot. This will be the girls’ second trip to the National Championships in four years!

To read the full story on this outstanding game, please visit the MYSA website: Click Here

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EPL Week 24 – News, Previews and Predictions
EPL Week 24 – News, Previews and Predictions avatar

Beckham training with Arsenal

Arsene Wenger has confirmed David Beckham is training with the Arsenal team at their Hertfordshire training base. The former England captain is currently without a club having recently left the LA Galaxy after a five-year tenure.

“He called me,” Wenger said. “He has asked to come here and to work on his fitness. He has not done anything for a long, long time. [It's] purely for fitness. There’s no speculation about signing or anything.”

It is still unclear if or where Beckham will continue to play soccer. It was reported last month that the 37-year-old midfielder was considering 12 offers from clubs around the world, including Europe, South America, North America, South Africa, Russia, China and the Middle East.

 

Man City discuss Balotelli sale

Will he stay or will he go - no one seems to know? (Getty Images)

Will he stay or will he go – no one seems to know? (Getty Images)

Mario Balotelli could be on his way out of Manchester after it was revealed Milan and Juventus were in talks with Manchester City over the possibility of loaning the striker until the summer, ahead of a permanent move.

The champions want around €23m ($30.9m) for the 22-year-old and it is understood that Milan have made an initial offer close to €20m ($26.86m). But Juventus also entered the bidding giving Man City hope that their interest may push the price up.

Balotelli – who has scored one league goal in 14 appearances this term – has courted controversy throughout his time in England and has been heavily linked with a move away from the club since a training ground bust-up with Mancini at the start of January.

 

Eden Hazard charged with violent conduct

Many say the ballboy was rather theatrical - did he react any differently than Hazard would? (Getty Images)

Many say the ball boy was rather theatrical – however did he react any differently than Hazard would? (Getty Images)

Belgium international Eden Hazard has been charged with violent conduct after kicking out at a Swansea ball boy.

The Chelsea midfielder already faces a three-game suspension for the dismissal, however the FA feels that punishment is “clearly insufficient”.

Hazard was sent off in the League Cup semi-final second leg after an altercation with a Swansea ball boy.

The ball boy, 17-year-old Charlie Morgan, was lying on top of the ball having fallen over when Hazard kicked the ball from underneath him, apparently catching Morgan in the ribs in the process.

With the score 0-0, and needing two goals to force the game into extra-time, Chelsea felt that the Morgan and the rest of the Swansea ball boys were deliberately wasting time, and a tweet before the game from the Morgan suggest they may have a point.

The king of all ball boys is back making his final appearance #needed #for #timewasting — Charlie Morgan™ (@CHARLIEM0RGAN) January 23, 2013.

If Hazard is found guilty it is thought he will face a four-match ban – with one further fixture added to the standard three-game suspension.

You really can’t predict what will happen in a soccer game.

 

Zaha signs for Manchester United

Zaha's (R) agreed terms with Man U but won't join them until next season. (Getty Images)

Zaha’s (R) agreed terms with Man U but won’t join them until next season. (Getty Images)

Crystal Palace winger/forward Wilfred Zaha has signed a five-year deal with Manchester United but will be loaned back to Palace for the remainder of the season.

The 20-year-old said: “I am delighted to be joining Manchester United. However, my focus for the next five months will be solely at Crystal Palace.”

United will pay £10m ($15m) upfront, though additional fees could add an extra £5m ($7.5m) to the deal.

Zaha, who joined Crystal Palace at 12, has already played for the England senior national team, but is still eligible to represent the Ivory Coast as that game was a friendly.

“We like to sign players with potential,” United manager Sir Alex Ferguson said. “We develop players and that’s been proven many times. Hopefully the boy enjoys it here.”

 

Tottenham bring forward Holtby deal

Holtby will be hoping to make an instant impact when he arrives at Tottenham. (Getty images)

Holtby will be hoping to make an instant impact when he arrives at Tottenham. (Getty images)

Tottenham have reached an agreement to bring Schalke’s Germany international Lewis Holtby to White Hart Lane before Thursday’s deadline.

Holtby had been due to join Spurs at the end of the season, but it due to complete his £1.5m ($2.25) deal move this week.

A statement on the Spurs website said: “We are delighted to announce that we have reached agreement with Schalke for the immediate transfer of Lewis Holtby.”

Holtby, who has a German mother and an English father, has admitted that as a child he dreamed of playing for England, however once he was called up to the Germany Under-21 side he knew where his loyalties should lie and continued his journey to the senior team where he has already been capped three times.

 

Previews & Prediction

Week 23 Score My Predictions
Liverpool v Norwich 5-0 2-0
Man City v Fulham 2-0 3-0
Newcastle v Reading 1-2 1-1
Swansea v Stoke 3-1 2-1
West Ham v QPR 1-1 2-2
Wigan v Sunderland 2-3 2-1
West Brom v Aston Villa 2-2 3-0
SUNDAY
Chelsea v Arsenal 2-1 1-1
Tottenham v Man Utd 1-1 1-2
MONDAY
Southampton v Everton 0-0 0-1

A correct result is worth ONE point, while a correct score earns THREE points.

Last week I got FIVE correct results, with ZERO perfect scores giving me a total of 5 points, which is not the best score, but then again it isn’t the worst.

Lets see how I get on with Week 24’s midweek fixtures, there are some juicy games to look forward to this Tuesday and Wednesday with the Arsenal vs Liverpool the pick of the bunch.

Week 24

Prediction

TUESDAY
Aston Villa v Newcastle 1-1
QPR v Man City 1-2
Stoke v Wigan 1-0
Sunderland v Swansea 1-0
WEDNESDAY x-x
Arsenal v Liverpool 3-1
Everton v West Brom 2-0
Norwich v Tottenham 1-1
Fulham v West Ham 1-0
Man Utd v Southampton 3-0
Reading v Chelsea 0-1

 

Tuesday

QPR Vs Man City

David Silva (R) is on form and surely will cause QPR trouble. (Getty Images)

David Silva (R) is on form and surely will cause QPR trouble. (Getty Images)

QPR played their second string team in the FA Cup at the weekend and were made to pay losing 1-4 to minnow MK Dons. But the Hoops should call back their regular line-up for this game against the Champions.

QPR have done well since Harry Redknapp took over losing only three times in ten games. However, they remain rooted to the bottom of the table five points away from safety and will need to win games if they are going to make an amazing escape.

City are on a good run and keeping up the pressure on Leader Manchester, having won all seven of their games since losing at home to their neighbors.

Ex-City winger Shaun Wright-Phillips is a doubt to face his old side with an ankle injury, while Junior Hoilett is still struggling with a hamstring problem.

Manchester City Samir Nasri returns after illness, Mario Balotelli seems to be on his way to Milan, but City face real problems with their defense with captain Vincent Kompany ruled out with a calf injury, Matija Nastasic a doubt with a minor knee problem and Kolo Toure away at the African Cup of Nations.

This will probably be tight game and QPR will undoubtedly put up a fight, but City are looking somewhat back to their old-selves, and I think their extra class in the attacking areas will swing the game in their favor.

Prediciton: 1-2

 

Wednesday

Arsenal Vs Liverpool

Jack WIlshere will be Arsenal main threat and Liverpool will surely struggle to keep him at bay. (Getty Images)

Jack WIlshere will be Arsenal main threat and Liverpool will surely struggle to keep him at bay. (Getty Images)

The most glamorous of the midweek fixtures see sixth place Arsenal take on seventh place Liverpool.

Both teams had contrasting fortunes in the cup at the weekend, with Arsenal snatching a victory from the jaws of defeat against Brighton, while Liverpool went down to Oldham—The first time they have lost to a team two divisions below them since 1959.

Arsenal captain Thomas Vermaelen is available to face Liverpool after overcoming an ankle injury.

English trio of Kieran Gibbs, Jack Wilshere and Theo Walcott should be recalled to the starting line-up after dropping to the bench midweek for the FA Cup win at Brighton.

Fit-again trio Jose Reina, Jose Enrique and Glen Johnson return for Liverpool, who are likely to make wholesale changes to the team that lost to Oldham in the cup, with Steven Gerrard, Daniel Aggar, Leiva Lucas and Stuart Downing all likely to return to the starting line-up.

This game will probably determine the rest of Liverpool’s season; win and they are still in with a fighting chance of making the champions league; lose and their dreams of making it into Europe next season are all but over.

Liverpool have not beaten a side above them in the EPL this season, and I do not think it will happen against Arsenal. The Gunners had a mini blip with consecutive losses, but their second-half performance against Chelsea may just be the turning point in their season and I expect them to come out winners in this clash of the titans.

Prediction: 3-1

 

Everton Vs West Brom

Howard will be hoping to keep a clean sheet and lead his team to another victory. (ISI Photos/Kieran McManus)

Howard will be hoping to keep a clean sheet and lead his team to another victory. (ISI Photos/Kieran McManus)

Everton have slowed down a bit in recent weeks after a blistering start to the season, but the Toffees traditionally finish strong.

Everton’s problem has been scoring goals, they have bossed many of their games but let too many teams off the hook with their lack of cutting edge, and had they have won just two or three of the 11 games they have drawn this season, they would be sitting in a Champions League spot now.

West Brom also got out of the block fast, but their season already looks to have petered out and the Baggies look very inconsistent at the moment. The Peter Odemwingie situation will not help their cause either. QPR had a bid for the striker rejected by West Brom, but the player has since gone on twitter to vent his outrage at their decision and express his wish to fulfill his career by playing for a manager like Harry Redknapp.

Everton forward Kevin Mirallas is a major doubt after limping off at the weekend with a hamstring complaint. Seamus Coleman and Darron Gibson could also again miss out with thigh injuries, while the game will come too early for expected new signing Leroy Fer.

West Brom quartet Marc-Antoine Fortune (hamstring), Claudio Yacob (shoulder), Shane Long and Steven Reid (both leg) all look set to miss out, though Youssouf Mulumbu could return to the fray after DR Congo exited from the African Cup of Nation.

West Brom beat Everton 2-0 earlier in the season, but they have only won once in 13 trips to Goodison Park and I think their miserable run there will continue.

Prediction: 2-0

 

Norwich Vs Tottenham

Clint Dempsey has found himself isolated at times as a lone striker for Tottenham. (Getty Images)

Clint Dempsey has found himself isolated at times as a lone striker for Tottenham. (Getty Images)

Both of these teams lost to lower league teams in the cup at the weekend, and will want the opportunity to put in a good account of themselves and put those defeats behind them.

Tottenham are on a good run at the moment and are unbeaten in their last seven games. But the north Londoners do have severe troubles up top, top scorer Jermaine Defoe is struggling with injury, while their other striker Emmanuel Adebayor is away at the Africa Cup of Nations.

Spurs tried to play without a striker in the cup and it backfired. Playing as a ‘false nine’ is not easy, because it effectively means trying to play like Messi, which is a tad hard.

Tottenmham may opt to put Clint Dempsey up top, but he is more of an attacking midfielder whose skill is ghosting into the box late and scoring goals, and while he can certainly do a job for Spurs upfront it means sacrificing that part of his game.

Norwich are on a bit of a horrible run, drawing one and losing five of their last six EPL games. But the Canaries always put in a good shift at home, and seem to step up their game when the big boys are in town.

Norwich defender Sebastien Bassong is fit again after a calf injury and will return to face his former club.

On loan striker Harry Kane is ineligible against his parent club, while new signing Lee Camp will be in the squad.

Tottenham’s new arrival from Schalke, Lewis Holtby, will not be involved as he has yet to arrive from Germany, while Jermain Defoe may return upfront after sitting out the FA Cup defeat by Leeds with an injury.

On Paper this should be a walk over for Tottenham, but Norwich are difficult to beat at home, and with Tottenham lacking options upfront, I think this will end in a draw.

Predicition: 1-1

 

Manchester United Vs Southampton

Robin Van Persie was the star the last time these two teams met. (Getty Images)

Robin Van Persie
was the star the last time these two teams met. (Getty Images)

Manchester United were clawed back in the last minute during their last EPL game away to Tottenham. The Red Devils were not at their free flowing best and only recorded two attempts on target, but their defensive display will have impressed Ferguson.

United have been conceding goals for fun, but since the return of Nemanja Vidic they have look stronger at the back and recorded two shutouts.

Southampton were having quite a good season considering they were just promoted, so it was weird when they sacked their manager Nigel Adkins. The move is a bit of a risk, and new manager Mauricio Pochettino has not been given an easy start with Everton at home and then Manchester United away. But that is life in the EPL for you, there are no easy games.

Robin van Persie should return to the fold after sitting out of United’s win over Fulham in the cup at the weekend. Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand will also come back in, but winger Ashley Young (knee) and defender Jonny Evans (hamstring) remain sidelined.

Southampton could welcome club captain Adam Lallana back after missing almost two months with knee ligament damage, though Jose Fonte and Guly Do Prado (both knee) are absent, but new signing Vegard Forren is in line to make his debut.

United needed a van Persie hat-trick to rescue them from the jaws of defeat against Southampton earlier in the season, but I think this game will be a lot easier for the Red Devils.

Prediction: 3-0

 

Reading Vs Chelsea

Demba Ba's Chelsea have not had the results they expected. (Getty Images)

Demba Ba’s Chelsea have not had the results they expected. (Getty Images)

Reading are in form at the moment, winning three of their last four games in the EPL and will feel this is a good time to play Chelsea who have had an indifferent last few weeks.

Chelsea interim manager Rafa Benitez has been an unpopular figure with the fans since his appointment and a string of poor results in the last few weeks have not helped his cause.

Unlike most teams at the bottom, Reading do not have trouble in front of goal, they score lots of goals—but they concede even more. They are a tad naïve and play too gung-ho, which has lead to some thrilling games; 5-7 to Arsenal and 3-4 to Manchester United both spring to mind. But being involved in thrilling games doesn’t keep you in the EPL, and if Reading play the same way as they did in those games they will be taken apart by Chelsea.

However, I see this being a tight game with Chelsea just squeezing out a win.

Prediction: 0-1

 

 

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