Do Liverpool hold the key in Hazard’s Chelsea departure with attempt to sign €80m Madrid star?

Liverpool could potentially play a key role in Eden Hazard leaving Chelsea at the end of the season as they are reportedly interested in signing Real Madrid playmaker James Rodriguez, so long as they qualify for next season’s Champions League.

The Colombian has been in and out of the Madrid side since joining for a whopping €80 million in 2014, but Los Blancos may well entertain offers for him this summer in a bid to fund a potential world-record transfer for Hazard.

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It’s no secret the Chelsea man is wanted by Real. Many have dubbed him a ‘Real Madrid sort of player’ and with the current state of the transfer market in mind this could be the first fee to reach over £100m.

Madrid have broken transfer records to land Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale and are unlikely to hesitate doing the same thing to bring Hazard to the Bernabeu this summer.

Chelsea are not a club renowned for selling their top players but have been making a name for themselves with the business they’ve been doing over the last few seasons in terms of selling stars they no longer need for big money. While Hazard certainly doesn’t fall into that category it shows if the right price is offered they could agree to sell him.

An offer of the sort of value that is being spoken about would no doubt be tempting for any club, no matter how good the player is and it would provide Chelsea with the purchasing power to sign a like-for-like replacement and potentially break even.

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Jurgen Klopp looks set to be preparing for the possibility of life after Philippe Coutinho, who is heavily tipped for a move to Barcelona in the coming months, so the potential purchase of Rodriguez would almost definitely have a knock-on effect across Europe.

One thing is for sure, if Real Madrid want Hazard they will do everything possible to get him. They’ve got a history of splashing huge amounts of cash on players and would no doubt be willing to spend whatever it takes to get their man, even if they were to keep hold of Rodriguez.

Will Rodriguez join Liverpool? Is Hazard on his way out of Chelsea?

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Copa America Preview and Prediction: USA vs Colombia

Competition: Copa America Centenario – USA vs. Colombia 

Venue: Levi’s Stadium, California – Saturday, June 4 – 21:30 ET (02:30 BST)

Match Odds: USA 13/8 – Draw 11/5 – Colombia 7/4

Match Preview

USA and Colombia kickstart the 2016 Copa America Centenario on Saturday night as they face off at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, California in the tournament’s opening game.

Both sides will have high hopes for this tournament. Colombia will look to continue to impress at international level, while the US Men’s National Team need to repay the passionate support of their fans with strong performances on home soil.

USA come into the game off the back of four-straight wins and it’s important they perform well in this tournament as the nation is desperate to see the national team continue to develop ahead of the 2018 World Cup.

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The big stage has always been the place to show off talent and how progression is going. Jurgen Klinsmann knows that and with USA hosting the tournament, the weight of expectation on a good group of players has been intensified.

A below-par showing may mean that there is time for a change at the helm and so a good start to the Copa America is needed.

Colombia stunned the footballing world with their displays at the World Cup two years ago. The rise of their captain, James Rodriguez was perhaps the most remarkable feat from that tournament and he was rewarded by earning a big-money move to Real Madrid.

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They come into this tournament off the back of three consecutive wins, ending a poor run which saw them win just one of seven prior to their recent turnaround.

Manager Jose Pekerman knows what his side are capable of. They struggled at last year’s Copa America in Chile, winning one game and scoring just one goal in four games before being eliminated on penalties by Argentina in the quarter-finals.

But they enter this tournament as one of the more favoured sides and will need to show the form they did two years ago in Brazil if they are to succeed.

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Colombia are missing notable strikers Radamel Falcao and Jackson Martinez from their squad, so they may be slightly short up front but they still have quality all over the pitch and are rightly favourites on paper.

This will be the 18th all-time meeting between the two nations. Colombia hold the advantage based on history, winning 11 of the previous clashes. USA have only won three games against the South American side, the most recent of which came in a friendly in 2005.

Team News

USA look set to go with a 4-3-3 setup as they have done successfully in recent friendly games. Clint Dempsey will spearhead the attack, with fellow MLS stars Gyasi Zardes and Graham Zusi fighting for spots out wide along with Bobby Wood. Jermaine Jones, Michael Bradley and Alejandro Bedoya look the most likely starters in midfield, though Kyle Beckerman may be considered due to his more defensive capabilities. Tim Howard is expected to start in goal.

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Colombia have tried various formations in recent friendlies but are likely to start with a 4-2-3-1 setup, with Carlos Bacca leading the attack. James Rodriguez will sit in behind him, with Juan Cuadrado and Edwin Cardona likely to play out wide. Arsenal goalkeeper David Ospina will start in goal.

Key Points

USA’s last five internationals: L/W/W/W/W

Colombia’s last five internationals: D/L/W/W/W

Key Stat: Colombia are undefeated in the last three matches between the two sides (W2 D1), conceding just one goal in that time.

Key Player: James Rodriguez – James was, in many people’s eyes, the best player at the 2014 World Cup. He has struggled at club level with Real Madrid this season but returning to his key role for his home nation could spell trouble for the USMNT. His vision, as well as the ability to pull off the spectacular at any moment, makes him almost impossible to stop when on form.

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Score Prediction

USA 1-2 Colombia – Opening games always provide excitement and USA will have the benefit of the home crowd in Santa Clara on Saturday. However, Colombia have key players in key areas which should see them edge this one by a single goal. Both will expect to trouble each other’s defences but ultimately, the Colombians have a stronger attacking force and that is likely to show.

USA can take positives despite Colombia defeat

Jurgen Klinsmann watched his USA side lose 2-1 late on against a talented Colombian side at Craven Cottage last night, but there were positives to be taken despite the defeat.

The first of the USMNT‘s final two games of 2014 ended with a loss. A late Teofilo Gutierrez header sent a Colombia-filled Craven Cottage into raptures as they finally broke the spirited USA resistance.

Jozy Altidore had given Klinsmann’s side an early lead from the penalty spot after Pablo Armero handled in the box, and they took their 1-0 lead into halftime.

However, the yellow surge of Colombian talent kept driving in the second-half and Carlos Bacca’s goal in the 60th minute turned the game on its head.

Colombia were lifted by the goal and their relentless pressure eventually paid off as Gutierrez guided his header past Brad Guzan in the 87th minute to seal the victory.

Klinsmann will be unhappy with the result, but the performance his players gave will leave him with plenty of positives to take:

Panoramic view of Craven Cottage ahead of kickoff between USA and Colombia on Friday.

Panoramic view of Craven Cottage ahead of kickoff between USA and Colombia on Friday.

1. Jermaine Jones was immense in the centre of defence

Jones was once again started at centre-back despite failing to convince in the previous friendlies against Ecuador and Honduras. But the New England Revolution powerhouse put in a dominant display against the no.3 ranked team in the World and was at the centre of everything the USA did defensively. Klinsmann’s experiment looks to have paid off and Jones could be given more and more time at the back as a result.

2. Jozy Altidore led by example with another goal

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Altidore took the captains armband for the game on Friday night and impressed as he led the line well and got on the scoresheet yet again. His goal came from the penalty spot but take nothing away from his performance as he worked tirelessly up top and proved once again that he should be getting opportunities at club level with Sunderland.

3. Kyle Beckerman bossed the midfield again

Playing against a player of the calibre of James Rodriguez would test even the best holding midfielder in the world, but Beckerman wasn’t phased and looked calm in the middle of the pitch. The Real Salt Lake veteran broke the play up on several occasions and his ability to remain calm at all times helped the team to escape pressure throughout. Another excellent display by the 32-year-old.

4. Rubio Rubin makes good start to life with USMNT

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The 18-year-old forward was handed a starting role against Colombia and didn’t look out of his depth on his international debut. He worked hard and looked more than capable of holding his own against experienced defenders. He had a great chance to make it 2-0 after the break but his header just flew past the right-hand post. His positioning to get the chance was encouraging though and Rubin looks set for a bright future.

5. Lee Nguyen can cut it at the top

Nguyen was brought on late in the second-half for his first USMNT appearance for seven years and he didn’t look out of his depth one bit. The New England Revolution playmaker found space in the final third when he came on and nearly set up a wonder goal with a lovely back-heel flick in a promising move late on. The MLS MVP candidate looks set for an increased number of minutes for Klinsmann’s side in upcoming games.

What did you make of the USA’s performance against Colombia on Friday?

Preview and Prediction: USA vs Colombia

The USMNT face up against Colombia on Friday in their penultimate fixture of what has been a very successful 2014 for US soccer.

Jurgen Klinsmann‘s side will face the World Cup quarter-finalists at Craven Cottage on Friday night before travelling to Dublin to face the Republic of Ireland on Tuesday.

Klinsmann has once again picked a squad with a mixture of experience and youth and he is looking to the older players to help the youngsters settle in.

“They have to help to get these youngsters to another level, it’s really their job and that’s what we ask them,” he said.

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“In a transition phase after a World Cup we need these older players. They have to show the youngsters what it takes to become consistent, not only on the field but off it as well.”

Two 1-1 draws against Ecuador and Honduras last time weren’t bad results but the test of playing the no.3 ranked side in the world will be a step up.

Colombia last played the USA in 2010, in a friendly at PPL Park that ended goalless but we’re expecting plenty of goalmouth action on Friday in what should be an exciting game.

Stars such as James Rodriguez, Juan Cuadrado, Jackson Martinez and Adrian Ramos will all be involved for Los Cafeteros and the USA will need to be at their best to get a result.

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It’s a friendly so in theory the result doesn’t matter, but this is a great chance to prove once again how far US soccer has come and Klinsmann will want his side to be competitive throughout.

The game against Ireland should see more of an experimental lineup but Friday’s game should see a strong starting XI take to the field.

Predicted USA starting XI: Guzan, Johnson, Jones, Besler, Beasley, Yedlin, Beckerman, Diskerud, Green, Nguyen, Altidore

Young attackers such as Jordan Morris, Rubio Rubin and Bobby Wood will hope to feature but they may be rested for the Ireland game.

Key Stat: 2,688 – The number of days between Lee Nguyen‘s last appearance for the USMNT – the second most for an outfield player.

Key player: Jermaine Jones – If Jones is deployed at centre-back once again as expected, he will be up against an incredibly talented Colombian forward line. His performance at the back could go a long way to deciding this one.

Prediction: USA 2-2 Colombia – An entertaining affair expected and the USA to impress by picking up a hard-fought draw.