Sports Mole previews Saturday’s CONCACAF Nations League clash between Jamaica and Canada, including predictions, team news and possible lineups.
Making their first appearance at the knockout stage of the CONCACAF Nations League, Jamaica will host Canada in the opening leg of that quarter-final encounter on Friday at Independence Park.
The Reggae Boyz were unbeaten in their opening four matches at this tournament, topping Group B with 10 points, while the Canucks were one of the four pre-seeded teams in League A who qualified directly into the quarter-finals....Click Here To Continue Reading>>
To no surprise, Jamaica advanced beyond the group phase of this competition, though the road to the quarter-finals was not as smooth for them as one might have expected.
Heimir Hallgrimsson’s men took a while to get going in most of their group fixtures, as they were even or behind in three of four encounters at the half, scoring seven of their 10 goals in the final 45 minutes.
Their individual quality powered them through as they have now advanced beyond the group stage of a CONCACAF tournament in five of their last six opportunities, missing out at the 2022-23 Nations League by two points, playing to a draw in three of their four games that season after drawing first blood.
While they have come close to lifting a CONCACAF trophy, notably losing the Gold Cup final in 2015 and 2017, there is a belief that this generation is running out of time to win a continental tournament with most of their big players over 30 or in their late 20s.
Jamaica should be used to playing in knockout matches, having done so on five successive occasions at the Gold Cup, suffering only one quarter-final defeat (1-0 versus the USA in 2021) over that stretch.
In their 14 CONCACAF Nations League encounters played since this tournament debuted in 2019, the Reggae Boys have never lost, though they have yet to defeat an opponent from North America in this competition, playing Mexico to a 1-1 and 2-2 draw, respectively in 2022-23.
It has been well over a year since they were beaten at Independence Park, squandering a 1-0 lead against Mexico in January 2022, conceding twice in the final 10 minutes of that contest to lose 2-1.
Canada suffered through a tough 2023 summer, losing the previous Nations League final to the United States (2-0) before crashing out against them on penalties in the last eight of the Gold Cup and losing their inspirational manager John Herdman shortly afterwards to Toronto.
The debut of Mauro Biello as interim coach did not go well as the Canadians were beaten handily by Japan 4-1 last month, with the Canucks conceding eight efforts on target.
Since defeating Panama 2-0 in the semi-finals of the Nations League last June, Canada have captured just one of their previous six matches in all competitions, conceding 11 times over that span.
We saw our share of newcomers dawn the maple leaf at the Gold Cup this past summer, but Biello has gone with the A-Team for these upcoming knockout fixtures as Les Rouges seek their first quarter-final triumph at a CONCACAF tournament since 2021 (2-0 win over Costa Rica at the Gold Cup).
Although this team have not lost a match within 90 minutes when leading at the half since that epic collapse at the 2019 Gold Cup quarter-finals (3-2 defeat versus Haiti), the Canucks have only triumphed once in their previous three matches in which they were ahead in the second half or extra-time of a game (4-2 win over Cuba at the 2023 Gold Cup).
Since defeating Japan 2-1 in a November 2022 friendly, their final game before appearing at the World Cup in Qatar, the Canadians are winless in their last six matches in all competitions when conceding the opening goal
Les Rouges have gone unbeaten in three successive matches against the Reggae Boyz, without a goal conceded over that stretch, but they have not beaten them on Jamaican soil since April 1988 (4-0).
Jamaica CONCACAF Nations League form:
Jamaica form (all competitions):
Canada form (all competitions):
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From matchday three to four in the group phase, Hallgrimsson made wholesale changes to his Jamaican squad, with Greg Leigh, Di’Shon Bernard, Demarai Gray and Joel Latibeaudiere being the only players to maintain their place in the starting 11.
Michail Antonio will be the most notable absentee for the Reggae Boyz, with the West Ham striker beginning on the bench in the Hammers’ previous two matches in all competitions, while Trivante Stewart is their most inexperienced player chosen for this encounter with the Salernitana striker earning just two caps thus far with the national team.
Gray and Leon Bailey scored in their come-from-behind win over Haiti on matchday four, with Shamar Nicholson netting in between, his 11th for the senior squad putting him three behind Paul Hall for 10th all-time.
After missing the previous World Cup because of a broken leg, Maxime Crepeau has earned his first call-up for Canada in well over a year, while Luc de Fougerolles was the only one chosen to this squad without an international cap.
Samuel Piette can draw even with Lyndon Hooper for ninth in all-time caps as the CF Montreal man is currently on 68, Milan Borjan has 78 as a member of the Canucks, just three fewer than Dwayne De Rosario for fifth, while Sam Adekugbe (41), Alphonso Davies (42), Steven Vitoria (45) and Richie Laryea each need fewer than 10 appearances with the national team to reach 50.
Jonathan David has been in a slump for his club side, Lille without a goal since September 20 (2-0 win versus Olimpija at the Europa Conference League), but he is just three away from equalling the all-time goalscoring mark for Canada set by Cyle Larin at 22, while Junior Hoilett has 16 strikes, one fewer than Tosaint Ricketts in seventh and Lucas Cavallini can reach 20 which would put him above Dale Mitchell and John Catliff and all alone in fourth.Jamaica possible starting lineup:Blake; Brown, Lowe, Bernard, Leigh; Lautibeaudiere, Johnson, Decordova-Reid; Bailey, Nicholson, D. Gray
Canada possible starting lineup:Borjan; Johnston, Cornelius, Miller; Laryea, Eustaquio, Osorio, Davies; Kone; David, Larin
We say: Jamaica 1-1 Canada
The surfaces in Jamaica have been notoriously difficult to play on, which might be a break for both defensive units, who have each struggled.
These are two evenly matched sides, each with attacking quality, but we expect to see more of a cagey affair and given the two-leg format neither will want to expend too much energy, as the conditions in Jamaica may be relatively humid.
For data analysis of the most likely results, scorelines and more for this match please click here.
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Preview: Leicester City vs. Plymouth Argyle – prediction, team news, lineups
Sports Mole previews Saturday’s Championship clash between Leicester City and Plymouth Argyle, including predictions, team news and possible lineups.
After both sides netted stoppage-time winners in their last fixtures, Leicester City and Plymouth Argyle will battle to make it back-to-back victories when they clash at the King Power Stadium in the Championship on Saturday afternoon.
The Foxes still have a healthy cushion between themselves and third place following the success at West Bromwich Albion, whilst the Pilgrims eased their faint relegation concerns with three points against Stoke City. ...Click Here To Continue Reading>>
Heading into extra time at The Hawthorns a week ago, league leaders Leicester City were staring down the barrel of one win in their last five matches after West Brom’s Josh Maja scored a scrappy 89th-minute equaliser following Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall’s opener, however it would be the East Midlanders who would have the last laugh in the Black Country.
Carlos Corberan’s men ploughed forward in questionable numbers in pursuit of a winner and were punished for their lack of defensive care in the final stages, with playmaker Dewsbury-Hall turning the provider as the Foxes struck on the break, affording former England international Harry Winks a simple tap-in to send the away end into hysterics.
Victories for all of Kieran McKenna’s Ipswich Town, Daniel Farke’s Leeds United and Russell Martin’s Southampton made Leicester’s success in the West Midlands even more important, meaning the Foxes remain eight points clear of the third-placed Whites after 19 games of the second-tier campaign.
After back-to-back away games at Hillsborough and The Hawthorns yielded four points, Enzo Maresca’s side return to the King Power for the first time since their 2-0 success over Watford on November 25, when a late Jamie Vardy brace bailed out a sluggish display from the hosts.
The Foxes face four games against teams currently 15th or below in the table before a mouth-watering encounter with second-placed Ipswich on December 23, meaning those of a Leicester persuasion will be expecting to put 12 more points onto their impressive tally ahead of the trip to Portman Road.
Making a 100th appearance for his hometown club, midfielder Adam Randell was the hero of Home Park last time out as the 23-year-old scored a 97th-minute winner against Alex Neil’s out-of-form Stoke side, extending Argyle’s unbeaten home run to four matches.
The Green Army were facing the possibility of losing only their fourth home clash of the term when Tyrese Campbell netted for the Potters in the first half, however an equaliser from Sierra Leone’s Mustapha Bundu allowed local boy Randell the chance to snatch all three points for the hosts.
Steven Schumacher’s men currently occupy 16th position in the second-tier table after collecting a respectable tally of 22 points from their opening 19 matches, and although the Plymouth boss has been linked to the vacant managerial role at Sunderland following the departure of Tony Mowbray, the 39-year-old insists that he is at the “perfect place” to continue his development as a coach.
The clear reason why the Green Army have been unable to join the likes of the Black Cats in the chase of a top-six position is Argyle’s woeful away record, with Saturday’s visitors to the King Power failing to win any of their nine league outings, collecting just three points away from Home Park so far this season.
Since securing a permanent switch from Swansea City in the summer, Morgan Whittaker has scored eight goals in 19 Championship appearances for Plymouth this term, meaning the 22-year-old is one strike away from equalling the tally he managed during 25 League One games in 2022-23.
Leicester City Championship form:
Plymouth Argyle Championship form:
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After Kelechi Iheanacho was largely unimpressive during the narrow success at West Brom last time out, Vardy could be set for a spot in the starting XI, whilst summer arrival Thomas Cannon is waiting patiently for his opportunity in the Leicester attack.
Wilfred Ndidi produced a solid display alongside goalscorers Dewsbury-Hall and Winks in the Foxes’ engine room at The Hawthorns, meaning the Galatasary-linked midfielder will retain his place in the XI.
Marseca’s men will be without the services of influential defender Ricardo Pereira after he picked up his fifth yellow card of the term last weekend, with the versatile Hamza Choudhury a possible deputy at right-back.
Changes could be made on the flanks for Saturday’s hosts, with Abdul Fatawu pushing for a start alongside Vardy and Stephy Mavididi, at the expense of Kasey McAteer.
With Bundu finding the net against Stoke, Plymouth striker Ryan Hardie could find it slightly more difficult to force his way back into the starting XI following time out due to a hamstring injury.
Brendan Galloway started his first game since April at left-back as the Green Army saw off the Potters, however the 27-year-old could make way for Mickel Miller at the King Power.
Last weekend’s match-winner Randell could be rewarded with a starting spot in the East Midlands, with Schumacher potentially preferring the 23-year-old over more attack-minded players such as Luke Cundle and Finn Azaz.
Leicester City possible starting lineup:Hermansen; Choudhury, Faes, Vestergaard, Justin; Ndidi, Winks, Dewsbury-Hall; Fatawu, Mavididi, Vardy
Plymouth Argyle possible starting lineup:Cooper; Kesler-Hayden, Scarr, Gibson, Miller; Houghton, Cundle, Azaz; Mumba, Whittaker, Hardie
We say: Leicester City 2-0 Plymouth Argyle
Leicester will be delighted to be back at the King Power following two tricky Championship outings, where the home faithful will demand maximum points and a dominant display from the league leaders.
Plymouth are one of three sides in the Championship who are yet to taste success on the road this season, so we are expecting the Pilgrims to struggle in the East Midlands on Saturday. For data analysis of the most likely results, scorelines and more for this match please click here.
Our expert tipster partners at Sporita.com are predicting over 2.5 goals in this match. Click here to find out what else they are predicting for this game and for more of their tried-and-tested football tips.Over 2.5:data
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Arsenal considering Viktor Gyokeres signing, scouted him more than once
Arsenal have been closely monitoring Sporting Lisbon striker Viktor Gyokeres ahead of a possible approach, according to Portuguese publication Record (page 14).
The Sweden international had a good stint in the Championship with Coventry City last term. He registered 22 goals and 12 assists from 50 appearances.
He was linked with a potential switch to the Premier League over the summer, but Sporting eventually won the race to sign him for €20 million plus add-ons.
It is now reported that the Gunners have scouted him more than once this campaign and they are now considering the possibility of landing his signature.
However, Sporting are quite clear that they don’t want to lose him in January unless any club is willing to trigger the hefty €100m release clause in his contract.
Arsenal linked with surprise move for Gyokeres
The 25-year-old was linked with a Premier League switch last summer after Coventry missed out on top-flight promotion to Luton Town via the play-offs.
West Ham United were the most interested English club in the Swede, but he chose to make the move to Sporting, who are currently top of the Primeira Liga.
Gyokeres has been pivotal for the club with 15 goals and seven assists from just 17 appearances and we are not surprised that Arsenal are monitoring him.
The Gunners already hold an interest in his teammate Ousmane Diomande, but any deal could be delayed until the summer with Sporting unwilling to negotiate in January.
A move for Diomande seems justifiable with his huge potential as a 19-year-old centre-back, but we believe there are better strikers that Arsenal could pursue over Gyokeres.
Gyokeres would be a good acquisition for a mid-table Premier League side, but the Gunners should aim higher and recruit someone like Victor Osimhen if they want to win titles.
Stats from Transfermarkt.com
AC Milan ‘intensify efforts to sign Arsenal defender Jakub Kiwior’
AC Milan are reportedly set to step up their efforts to sign Arsenal’s Jakub Kiwior and are ready to open discussions over a possible move for the player in January....Click Here To Continue Reading>>
AC Milan are reportedly set to step up their efforts to sign defender Jakub Kiwior and are ready to open discussions with Arsenal over a possible move for the player in the January transfer window.
The 23-year-old arrived from Italian outfit Spezia in the last window but has not been able to nail down a regular starting role under Mikel Arteta during his time in North London.
Kiwior has made only five starts in all competitions over the last 11 months, with two of those coming in the Carabao Cup.
According to 90min, Kiwior is keen to play more regularly, and The Gunners are open to granting the defender a loan to move away from the Emirates Stadium in January.
The report adds that with the possibility of the defender becoming available in the New Year, AC Milan have emerged as one of the frontrunners to secure the 23-year-old’s services and are preparing to open discussion with Arsenal over a potential move.
It is understood that the Rossoneri are keen on a loan move for Kiwior, with the option to purchase him outright next summer.
The Serie A giants are also believed to be happy to agree with an obligation to buy the player next summer if it will help get the deal done.
AC Milan are expected to be active in the upcoming transfer market as they try to bolster their defensive line, with the likes of centre-backs Malick Thiaw and Pierre Kalulu currently sidelined through injury.
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