McKay and Raven fit to face County

Ross County striker Liam Boyce

BBC coverage

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Listen on BBC Radio Scotland; text commentary on the BBC Sport website

Ross County striker Alex Schalk begins a two-match ban for diving to win a penalty against Celtic.

Skipper Andrew Davis is also suspended, but Martin Woods returns from a ban. Jay McEveley is a doubt, while Tony Dingwall, Ian McShane, Paul Quinn remain sidelined for the hosts.

Inverness Caley Thistle duo Billy McKay and David Raven return from injuries.

Conte lauds Chelsea for passing Saints test

London (AFP) – Chelsea manager Antonio Conte said his side had taken “a big psychological step” after they defeated Southampton 4-2 to move seven points clear at the Premier League summit.

Chelsea’s recent 2-0 loss at Manchester United allowed closest rivals Tottenham Hotspur to trim their advantage to four points.

But they beat Tottenham 4-2 in the FA Cup semi-finals on Saturday before overcoming Southampton by the same scoreline on Tuesday to turn up the heat on Spurs, who visit Crystal Palace on Wednesday.

“I think we passed a big, big step,” Conte told reporters at Stamford Bridge.

“A big psychological step after the defeat against United. Because against United we lost three points and then you had to prepare (for) a semi-final against Tottenham.

“We reached the final in the FA Cup, which is a great incentive for us. But the other competition, the league, is totally open.

“But I think we are ready to fight until the end. Then we must be proud for our job, for what we are doing this season.”

Diego Costa was Chelsea’s match-winner against Southampton, scoring twice in the second half to take his Premier League tally to 51 goals in 85 appearances and end a seven-game scoring drought.

“It’s normal for the strikers that it is important to score. The goals are their life,” said Conte, whose side visit sixth-place Everton on Sunday.

“But, for me, I’ve always said I’ve been pleased with his commitment, his work for the team. He always worked for the team.

“Sometimes he was unlucky in different circumstances, but I was always confident about him. After the Tottenham game, I said I’m sure he’s keeping his goals for the final weeks of the season.

“Now he must continue. He’s very important for us. His confidence is very important for us. He scored two very beautiful goals, good combination and technique between him and his team-mates.”

Chelsea took a fifth-minute lead on a chilly evening in west London when Cesc Fabregas’s incisive pass found Costa, whose cut-back was swept home by Eden Hazard.

– Coup de grace –

Oriol Romeu, playing against his former club, levelled mid-way through the first half when he stabbed home Manolo Gabbiadini’s cross-shot after Chelsea were found wanting at a corner.

But Gary Cahill restored Chelsea’s lead in first-half stoppage time, bravely heading in N’Golo Kante’s deep cross, before Costa took centre-stage in the second half.

He made it 3-1 eight minutes in, nodding in Fabregas’s cross, and added a late coup de grace by drilling home after exchanging passes with Hazard and substitute Pedro.

Ryan Bertrand, another Chelsea old boy, claimed a consolation with a stoppage-time header.

Southampton had been beaten 3-0 by Manchester City in their previous game, 10 days prior, and have failed to record a league victory over any of the teams in the top six this season.

But manager Claude Puel, whose side remain ninth, drew encouragement from the moments of discomfort the visitors managed to cause Chelsea.

“It was a better performance than against Manchester City,” said the Frenchman, whose team lost to Manchester United in the League Cup final earlier this year.

“But we conceded the goals in bad moments — after five minutes, just before half-time, just after half-time. This made the difference.”

Conte explained he had given club captain John Terry a late substitute cameo to “thank” him, following the centre-back’s recent announcement that he will leave the club at the season’s end.

Conte was typically animated on the touchline, at one point kicking a medical bag sitting beside the dug-out after Chelsea left Gabbiadini unmarked at a second-half corner.

“In this moment I wanted to kick the ball and I took the bag as a ball,” the Italian explained.

“Sometimes, believe me, I want to play. I want to play, to kick the ball. But I know that if I kick the ball, the referee will probably send me off.”


Leagues: EPL – World Soccer Talk

Three-game ban for Birmingham's Robinson

Paul Robinson's clash with Villa skipper James Chester came in the celebrations which followed Gabby Agbonlahor's 68th-minute winning goal

Birmingham club captain Paul Robinson has been given a three-game Football Association ban for violent conduct in the local derby loss at Aston Villa.

The 38-year-old defender was seen to aim a kick at home skipper James Chester on Sunday in the aftermath of Gabby Agbonlahor’s 68th-minute winner.

The incident was not seen by the match officials but was caught on video.

New York Red Bulls vs. Chicago Fire | 2017 MLS Match Preview

Dax McCarty - Chicago Fire - gesturing

USA Today Sports

New York Red Bulls vs. Chicago Fire
2017 MLS Regular Season
Red Bull Arena – Harrison, NJ
Saturday, April 29 – 7:30 pm ET
WATCH: MLS Live

The Chicago Fire head to Red Bull Arena for the first time in 2017, and while that means Bastian Schweinsteiger will visit the Big Apple for the first time as an MLS player, the spotlight will be on another Fire central midfielder, Dax McCarty.

McCarty, who was surprisingly dealt to Chicago in the offseason after five-and-a-half years of service with the New York Red Bulls, was a fan favorite, captain and a key part of the Red Bulls’ runs to Supporters’ Shield titles in 2013 and 2015.

“I’m going to try to enjoy it,” McCarty said of his return at training on Tuesday. “Obviously the 90 minutes on the field are going to important and we’re going to try to win, but I’ll to try to enjoy everything before that.

“I don’t think I got a chance to say a proper goodbye to a lot of the guys on the team and I don’t think I got a chance to say a proper goodbye and thank you to the fans for the way that they treated me when I was in New York. So I’ll soak in the environment, I’ll soak in the moment, hopefully I don’t get too many boos, but we will certainly enjoy the moment. ”

As far as the current edition of the Red Bulls are concerned, the team seems to be back on track. They’ve won two straight and have played well in three straight, with the only real ding being their continued profligate finishing.

Chicago, meanwhile, finally got brought down off of cloud nine last weekend with their loss at Toronto FC. Still, it’s plain to see they’re a much better team now with  than they were at the start of the season. It’s just a difficult thing to go on the road and get a win in MLS.

New York Red Bulls

Will they eventually go back to the 4-2-2-2 and take a look? Sure. But for now, expect the Red Bulls to stick with the 4-2-3-1 that they swapped back to three weeks ago, as the familiar and comfortable formation seems to have propelled them on this recent run of good form and improving results. It was around this time last year that RBNY really got cooking, and it was for a similar reason.

Playmaker Sacha Kljestan has looked more comfortable and decisive in his play, which is a big key, and both wingers – Daniel Royer and Alex Muyl – have been more dangerous recently while flanking star center forward Bradley Wright-Phillips. It’s a formula that’s proved tough to beat, especially at Red Bull Arena where the hosts are unbeaten in 18 games (15 wins, 3 draws) with 12 shutouts. They’ve yet to concede a home goal in 2017.

  • Suspended: none
  • Int’l Duty: none
  • Injury Report: OUT: D – Gideon Baah (broken leg – out for season); OUT: M – Mike Grella (knee injury); DAY-TO-DAY D – Sal Zizzo (calf strain)

Projected Starting Lineup (4-2-3-1): Luis Robles – Connor Lade, Aurelien Collin, Aaron Long, Kemar Lawrence – Felipe, Tyler Adams – Alex Muyl, Sacha Kljestan, Daniel Royer – Bradley Wright-Phillips

Notes: Kljestan has created 212 chances since the start of the 2015 MLS season, the most of any player in the league. The next closest player has 176 (regular season only)… RBNY have won three of the last four home games against the Fire and have outscored them 13-9 along that run.

Chicago Fire

The Fire competed, but couldn’t quite keep up with TFC last week as the Reds finally started to look like the MLS Cup favorites they’ve been billed as. Schweinsteiger and Dax McCarty had their typical solid games, and David Accam got a goal off the bench, but the front line had trouble connecting and weren’t as opportunistic as they’d been in their previous three outings, all at home.

Exactly where Chicago stand in the current Eastern Conference hierarchy is difficult to suss out given a couple of outlier results – their 4-0 loss to Atlanta back in March, and their 3-0 win over New England in mid-April. What’s clear is that the central midfield is the strength of this team, and if they’re to build success for 2017 it’s going to come from that part of the pitch.

  • Suspended: none
  • Int’l Duty: none
  • Injury Report: OUT: M – John Goossens (right ankle surgery 3/4, out 5-6 months); QUESTIONABLE: M – Matt Polster (right hip flexor tightness)

Projected Starting Lineup (4-2-3-1): Jorge Bava – Michael Harrington, Johan Kappelhof, Joao Meira, Brandon Vincent – Dax McCarty, Juninho – Luis Solignac, Bastian Schweinsteiger, David Accam – Nemanja Nikolic

Notes: Chicago’s loss to Toronto last week means they have lost seven of their last eight MLS away games and only have one win in their last 45 league away games. They have conceded an average of 3.1 goals in their last eight away games… Chicago have lost 39 regular season games since the start of the 2015 season, the most of any team in MLS. Only one other team has lost 35 or more games (Philadelphia-35).

All-Time Series

Chicago have long dominated the series, but RBNY are 3-0-1 in their last four against the Fire dating back to the middle of 2015.

  • Overall: New York 16 wins (69 goals)… Chicago 26 wins (88 goals)… 11 ties
  • At New York: New York 12 wins (42 goals)… Chicago 11 wins (40 goals)… 3 ties

Referees

Referee: Hilario Grajeda
Assistant Referees: Kermit Quisenberry, Jeffrey Greeson
Fourth Official: Rubiel Vazquez

MLSsoccer.com News

David Moyes: Sunderland manager resists calls to quit after Middlesbrough defeat

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Sunderland manager David Moyes has resisted calls from fans to quit with his side facing relegation from the Premier League.

Fans chanted “We want Moyesy out” as the Black Cats lost 1-0[1] to fellow strugglers Middlesbrough.

Sunderland are 12 points adrift of safety with five games remaining, and could be relegated at the weekend.

Moyes charged over female reporter ‘slap’ comment

London (AFP) – Sunderland manager David Moyes has been charged after suggesting to a female reporter she might “get a slap”, England’s Football Association announced on Wednesday.

Moyes, 54, made the remark, for which he has apologised, to BBC reporter Vicki Sparks following Sunderland’s 0-0 draw with Burnley in the Premier League on March 18.

“David Moyes has been charged in relation to comments made after the game against Burnley on 18 March 2017,” the FA said in a statement.

“It is alleged the Sunderland manager’s remarks were improper and/or threatening and/or brought the game into disrepute.”

Moyes, the former Manchester United manager, has until Wednesday next week to respond to the charge.

Should he admit the charge or be found guilty, he is likely to be fined and could be asked to attend an education course.

Moyes made his remark at the end of a post-match interview, but the camera was still rolling and footage was published weeks later by a British newspaper.

Having taken exception to one of Sparks’s questions, Moyes said: “You were just getting a wee bit naughty at the end there, so just watch yourself. You still might get a slap, even though you’re a woman.

“Careful the next time you come in.”

Moyes later apologised in a phone call to Sparks, who did not make a complaint.

“In the heat of the moment, I made a mistake in my comments to a BBC reporter, which I profoundly regret. I was disappointed with myself for it,” Moyes said.

“I subsequently phoned the reporter and apologised, which she accepted. It’s not my character, it’s not my type, as most people know and once again I apologise for it.”

Sunderland are currently 12 points adrift of safety at the foot of the table and seemingly doomed to relegation.


Leagues: EPL – World Soccer Talk

Bolton face fresh winding-up petition

Dean Holdsworth and Ken Anderson

Bolton Wanderers have been issued a winding-up petition over an unpaid £5m loan, BBC Radio Manchester reports.

Finance company BluMarble lent Dean Holdsworth’s Sports Shield the money to complete a takeover[1] with chairman Ken Anderson’s Inner Circle Investments.

However, in March, Anderson bought former Bolton striker Holdsworth’s shares to become the majority owner[2] of the League One club.

Fantasy: Why defenders are a good bet this season

Aaron Long - New York Red Bulls - Fantasy

Reid, Jason, Mike and Blayne recap the first double-game week of the season and preview the Round 9 matches.


Round 9 is setting up to be a defender’s paradise in MLS Fantasy. Get ready for clean sheets as far as the eye can see. Just look at the match-ups. Many of the league’s stingiest backlines benefit from home cooking this weekend, which has been shown to make a huge difference for fantasy scores.

Sporting Kansas City — who have allowed only three goals all season? At home. FC Dallas, arguably the league’s best team? Also at home.

Orlando City, New York Red Bulls, Seattle Sounders, too. Even the LA Galaxy — who were dismantled last week by Seattle–have a potential bounce-back game at home against the struggling Philadelphia Union.

But how dependable are defenders in fantasy? Should you always go with three defenders or are there advantages to four- and five-man back lines? The conventional wisdom says to load up on goal-dangerous midfielders and forwards, but let’s take a look at the numbers and see what we can learn.

1. Defenders are frequent Dream Team selections

Each round, the game collects the highest-scoring players and assembles them into a Dream Team. Perhaps you’ve seen it.

Excluding the goalkeeper, each weekly Dream Team consists of 10 field players. Here’s how the Dream Teams break down, by position, after eight rounds.

Position Occurrences Round Ratio
Defender 36 8 45%
Midfielder 28 8 35%
Forward 16 8 20%

Granted, the Dream Team is constrained by formation (you can’t have four forwards, for example, but you can have up to five defenders). But, even so, defenders are very well-represented in terms of Dream Team appearances–they average between four and five places.

Perhaps there’s some evidence to support a defender-heavy strategy?

2. Defenders are among the highest scorers

The Dream Team numbers told us a story, but it’s not a complete picture. We need to know reliable our defenders are — can they bring in points on the regular? No one wants any one-point performances on his or her fantasy team.

Let’s take quick look at the top scorers in the game thus far. Notice anything interesting?

Player Position Price ($ in millions) % owned Points
Diego Valeri (POR) MID 10.5 41.8 71
David Villa (NYC) FWD 10.5 35.3 59
Jimmy Medranda (SKC) DEF 5.5 29.9 58
Romain Alessandrini (LA) MID 9.6 18.0 56
Anibal Godoy (SJ) MID 7.3 34.6 55
Justin Meram (CLB) MID 9.8 7.9 52
Erick Torres (HOU) FWD 8.6 18.2 52
Aaron Long (NY) DEF 5.4 19.9 52
Nicolas Lodeiro (SEA) MID 11.3 10.1 51
Kevin Molino (MIN) MID 10.0 6.1 51
Tim Melia (SKC) GKP 5.7 18.7 50
Matt Besler (SKC) DEF 6.3 6.8 50
Fanendo Adi (POR) FWD 9.6 24.0 49
Cyle Larin (ORL) FWD 9.5 17.9 48
Florian Jungwirth (SJ) DEF 5.7 6.4 48
Ike Opara (SKC) DEF 5.4 14.5 48
Sacha Kljestan (NY) MID 10.3 10.4 47
Seth Sinovic (SKC) DEF 5.3 7.3 47
Christian Ramirez (MIN) FWD 8.1 9.7 47
Miguel Almiron (ATL) MID 9.3 16.3 46
Nick Lima (SJ) DEF 4.6 24.6 45

That’s right, seven of the top 22 overall scorers are defenders. (And one goalkeeper — Tim Melia — also made the list.) And what’s more — the most expensive defender on that list, Matt Besler, is only $ 6.3, while many of the attacking players are $ 10 or more.

What that says to me is that you can find a lot of value in defenders, especially ones who rack up bonus points like Aaron Long and Florian Jungwirth. And since premier defenders can sometimes be $ 5 cheaper than an equivalent attacker, you can also get great value.

3. It’s possible to gamble on clean sheets — and win

Anyone who loaded up on double-game week (DGW) players in Round 8 was in luck after Wednesday’s match between San Jose and New England ended scoreless. Many of the managers who finished Round 8 in triple digits had multiple DGW defenders, knowing that just one clean sheet would make the gambit worthwhile.

Similarly, picking three or more defenders from a particular team is a great way to roll the dice and net yourself a huge haul.

Based on that, I’m going in on Sporting KC this weekend to give Real Salt Lake a donut. Barring any injuries, my five-man back line will be Jimmy Medranda, Besler, Seth Sinovic, Long, and Joevin Jones. (My goalkeeper is Melia.)

I love this approach because I have five high-potential guys, but I still have a lot of cash to spend on elite attackers. And I feel great about Sporting KC’s chances to keep it tight at the back and emerge with a clean sheet.

I may go back to a three- or four-man back line in the future, but the Round 9 matchups are just too good.

Now, I play the waiting game.

How many defenders are you starting this weekend? Any teams you think are a lock for a clean sheet? Let us know in the comments below.

MLSsoccer.com News

Gambling: Fans group urges Scottish football review of gambling links

Paul Goodwin,

Scottish football’s relationship with the gambling industry should be reviewed, according to a fans’ group.

It comes in the wake of Burnley midfielder Joey Barton’s ban [1]from football for 18 months after admitting a betting charge.

The Scottish Football Supporters Association says the sport may need to “adjust its moral compass”.