Zoff: “Juve know how to defend”

Barcelona have been told that they will struggle to score at will when they face the Serie A leaders in the Champions League quarter-finals

Juventus great Dino Zoff has backed the Serie A champions to contain Barcelona’s fearsome ‘MSN’ forward line.

Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar were all on the scoresheet as Luis Enrique’s side produced a miraculous comeback to defeat Paris Saint-Germain 6-1 at Camp Nou last week and book their place in the Champions League quarter-finals.

They will meet Juve in the last eight in a repeat of the final of 2015, in which Barca triumphed 3-1 to clinch the treble in Luis Enrique’s first season in charge.

But while Zoff acknowledges the strength of Barca’s attacking trio, he believes a repeat of their goalscoring heroics against PSG would be impossible against Massimiliano Allegri’s side, footballbets.tips disagree with this, saying over 3.5 is a safe bet on this one.

“That could never happen with Juventus,” the former Italy goalkeeper, who won six league titles with Juve, told Catalunya Radio.

“The Bianconeri have character and great players. It simply wouldn’t be possible for them to do that.

“All the Juve players are dangerous. Paulo Dybala and Gonzalo Higuain are fantastic, but the real strength of the side lies in the defence.

“Messi, Neymar and Suarez are a trio who can create a lot of problems, but we’re Juve, and we know how to defend.”

Americans Abroad: Bobby Wood makes strong argument to be in U.S. XI

The striker netted his second goal in as many weeks against Monchengladbach and looks to be building a case for a starting spot against Honduras.

Maybe Bobby Wood just likes playing Borussia Monchengladbach.

Less than two weeks ago, Wood found the back of the net in the DFB-Pokal match against that side, albeit a consolation goal in stoppage time that just gave Hamburg a slightly nicer-looking 2-1 defeat which sent the team out of the cup.

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However, on Saturday Wood again notched a late goal against Gladbach. This time it couldn’t have been more important as it proved to be the difference in a 2-1 Hamburg win.

He does it for country and now he’s done it for club!

Bobby Wood scores the game-winner for Hamburg. #Bundesliga https://t.co/2Mmk2UUzM2

— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) March 12, 2017

Wood showed impressive resilience and composure on the play, getting back to his feet after badly losing out on an aerial challenge, then having the patience to wait for a desperate defender to slide past him and the keeper to commit before delivering the finish. If he didn’t, odds are the chance gets blocked.

The goal brings Wood up to five league goals and nine in all competitions this season. That Wood is finding his form now is good news for Hamburg, which remained in 16th place and in a relegation playoff spot with the win, but also the U.S. national team with the next set of qualifiers nearly at hand.

As an in-season and in-form striker, Wood is making a pretty strong argument to Bruce Arena that he should be in the XI against Honduras on March 24.


MIAZGA GETS ASSIST


Matt Miazga Mathias Pogba Vitesse Sparta Eredivisie 031017

Matt Miazga’s run of games continued at Eredivisie side Vitesse on Friday. The center back went 90 minutes for the fifth straight contest in Vitesse’s 5-0 win over Sparta Rotterdam. He also picked up an assist in the contest.

The assist came off a corner, with Miazga challenging for a header on a near-post run. He didn’t seem to get much of it, but it fell to fellow center back Guram Kashia, who finished off the chance.

Given the return of Geoff Cameron and the play of other center backs in the January camp, it seems unlikely this run of games will be enough to get Miazga back in the picture for the March qualifiers. But if he keeps it up, the center back may be in contention for a spot in the Gold Cup.


STANDOUTS LACKING AMONG FINAL AUDITIONS


With Arena set to name his roster for the qualifiers this week, many players who might be on the fringe had to be looking for strong performances to give the coach something to think about. Unfortunately, it wasn’t a great week for many of those options.

Julian Green was specifically named as a player Arena’s staff would be looking at this week. He returned to the starting lineup for Stuttgart, but went 58 minutes before being replaced. His substitute, Daniel Ginczek, ended up scoring Stuttgart’s equalizer in the 1-1 draw against Bochum.

Eric Lichaj, in the mix for a fullback spot for the national team, went 66 minutes for Nottingham Forest in their 1-0 loss to Burton and did not stand out.

Also in the English Championship, Tim Ream did stand out, in a way, but for all the wrong reasons. The center back took a penalty kick over 16-year-old Ryan Sessegnon with the teenager on a hat trick, and missed. Ream did later apologize, saying it wasn’t his decision, and Arena likely isn’t calling up Ream based on his spot-kick abilities.

In Mexico, it was more of a case of uncontrollable events for the likes of Paul Arriola, Michael Orozco and Jorge Villafana, as the referee strike cancelled all action in Liga MX over the weekend. That said, Arriola did score Wednesday night in the Copa MX to send Tijuana into the quarterfinals, and Villafana went 90 in Santos Laguna’s 3-1 win.

Boom! Here are the highlights of our 1-0 win vs. @ClubAmerica in the @CopaCoronaMx playoffs Rd of 16. We move on to the quarters. #GoXolos pic.twitter.com/bMAjvRv9vE

— @Xolos_En (@xolos_en) March 9, 2017


HYNDMAN IMPACTS OLD FIRM DERBY


Emerson Hyndman Rangers SPL 031317

Emerson Hyndman’s time at Rangers may end up just amounting to just a half season. However, he can say he influenced an Old Firm derby, thanks to his efforts in the latest one, a 1-1 draw between Celtic and Rangers.

With Celtic up 1-0 late, Hyndman hit a low shot toward the far post. Celtic goalkeeper Craig Gordon made the initial stop on Hyndman, but defender Clint Hill put the rebound home to equalize.

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“It was really exciting for me with it being my first one,” Hyndman told RangersTv.tv after the game. The boys were telling me about it before the game and the atmosphere was ridiculous, and to not be intimidated and to go and do my thing. It was a great experience, and all the boys put in a real shift.”

In terms of pure form, there’s no question Hyndman has been one of the best Americans in Europe over the past two months. Has it been enough to force him into Arena’s plans for March? We’ll find out this week.

Caixinha: Rangers are the biggest club in Scotland

Despite the club sitting a massive 33 points behind their arch-rivals in the league, Caixinha insists the Gers are the biggest club in the country

New Rangers boss Pedro Caixinha says he has taken over the biggest club in Scotland as he begins the challenge of restoring the club to its former glories.

Caixinha, most recently in charge of Al Gharafa in Qatar, has signed a three-year contract at Ibrox to replace Mark Warburton, who left in chaotic circumstances last month.

Celtic’s dominance of Scottish football has been unrivalled in the wake of Rangers being liquidated, reformed and forced to climb back up the divisions, starting from the fourth tier in 2012-13.    

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But in a dig at Brendan Rodgers’ side, Caixinha says it is Rangers who are the biggest team in the Old Firm rivalry.

“We are talking about a worldwide club,” he told Rangers TV.

“It is a massive club – the biggest club in Scotland. It is one club that is fighting to get on top again and we know we are going to get on the top. 

“That is what we are here for, and the challenge is to help the club, to rebuild that path, the history and the glory – it is the main reason that brought us to this challenge.”

Caixinha was pressed on his claim as he was unveiled to the media on Monday and responded by saying: “I give you two numbers – 144 years old and 54 league titles.

“That is more than enough. We trust the players we have right now. For us this is the best squad in Scotland and we just need to give them that confidence.”

Go behind the scenes with @RangersTV and @PedroCaixinha on his first day at the @RangersFC as he toured the training centre & met staff. pic.twitter.com/b7ZWhBH5GA

— RangersTV (@RangersTV) March 13, 2017

Caixinha watched Rangers’ battling 1-1 draw at Celtic from the stands on Sunday and revealed his short-term targets include finishing second in the Premiership and tasting Scottish Cup glory this season.

The 46-year-old added: “In a massive club like this, I would identify three points – the history, the trophies and the fans. 

“Regarding the goals, at all times we must focus on the trophies, and we are in the cup semi-final [against Celtic], so we need to think about winning that trophy.

“We need to think also about getting as close as possible to second positon in the league. We are now eight points below.

“You need to be ambitious, but you need to be realistic at the same time. We are being totally ambitious and realistic in saying that we would like to end up in the second position, and why not try to get a trophy in the Scottish Cup too?”

'We feel that we are getting closer' – Carrick sees Manchester United bridging Chelsea gap

The England international believes the Red Devils have bridged any gulf in class which separated the two teams during a 4-0 Blues win in October

Michael Carrick believes Manchester United have made huge progress in closing the gap to Chelsea despite being 17 points behind them in the Premier League.

Chelsea host injury-hit United in the FA Cup quarter-finals on Monday, five months on from their 4-0 top-flight victory over Jose Mourinho’s side.

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Carrick insists the occasion is not about a chance for revenge, but feels the gap has been vastly reduced since their last visit to Stamford Bridge.

“You can’t say we have got a score to settle,” Carrick told reporters ahead of a game which is expected to see United without Anthony Martial, Marcus Rashford and Wayne Rooney as well as the suspended Zlatan Ibrahimoivc.

Chelsea Manchester United

“There is plenty has happened over the years so it is just a new game and a chance for us to go further in the competition and they will say the same.

“We have lost only one in 28 games now since that Chelsea defeat so we have had a good run of form.

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“They have gone on a great run so you have got to respect what they have done. It is not easy in this league to go on such a run.

“We have gone on a good run ourselves but we have just had too many draws at home and that has killed us.

“We feel that we are getting closer but you have got to respect them, they are a good team, they are well drilled.”

Vintage Scholesy against Chelsea! #MUFC pic.twitter.com/i6HrnQUIbo

— Manchester United (@ManUtd) March 12, 2017

Carrick continued: “It is a massive game, a one-off game, so we are looking forward to it. We are in pretty good form ourselves and they are obviously having a great season so far in the Premier League.

“They have been able to field pretty much the same team all season which I think has helped them and they have not had European competition to worry about.

“But they still had to go out and get the results and they have done that so you have still got to respect them for that.”

Kurt Happy Zouma reveals Van Damme inspiration behind his unusual name

The Chelsea defender says his parents named him after a famous character from the movie ‘Kickboxer’, while his middle name is pretty self-explanatory

Chelsea defender Kurt Zouma has revealed that his parents took inspiration from a Jean-Claude Van Damme movie when deciding what to call him.

The Frenchman, whose middle name is Happy, appears to be have been cut from the same stone as the famous actor that has graced many a Hollywood movie down the years.

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Among those was the 1989 production ‘Kickboxer’, where the Belgian played the character Kurt Sloan.

Zouma is now a no-nonsense man mountain in his own right, with the 22-year-old a centre-half that few opponents relish tangling with.

Kurt Zouma Van Damme

He told the Football Association about his naming story: “My parents were watching a film and it starred Jean-Claude Van Damme.

“He was killing everyone in the movie and at the end of the movie, they saw that his name was Kurt.

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“They said, okay we’ll call this kid Kurt and we’ll put Happy [as his middle name] because he will always be happy.”

Zouma had to conjure up all of his powers of positivity during a recent spell on the sidelines.

Kurt Zouma

His character, and name, stood him good stead, with a return to competitive action made against Peterborough in January after almost a year nursing his way back from a cruciate knee ligament injury.

Zouma, who has Manchester United in his sights as the Premier League heavyweights prepare to meet in the quarter-finals of the FA Cup, added: “I had a bad injury so I needed to look after it.

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“You are waiting and waiting, but I was always laughing with the boys and my family, and you say this is the life.

“Playing FA Cup games was very good for me to help get my level back, and it’s a good competition because we want to win it.”