I'm Mike Goodman, here to welcome you back to another work week with your Monday edition of the Golazo Starting XI newsletter. With club calendar back in full swing we've got lots to catch you up on, and a look ahead to some big teams in major cup action this week. Let's get to it.
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Serie A and Coppa Italia slate (all times U.S./Eastern):
- Serie A: Hellas Verona vs. Cremonese, Monday 12:30 p.m. (Paramount+)
- Serie A: Bologna vs. Atalanta, Saturday, Monday, 2:45 p.m. (Paramount+)
- Coppa Italia: Inter Milan vs. Parma, Tuesday 3 p.m. (Paramount+)
Notable games (all times U.S./Eastern):
- FA Cup: Oxford United vs. Arsenal, Monday, 3 p.m.
- EFL Cup: Manchester United vs. Charlton, Tuesday, 3 p.m.
⚽ The Forward Line
Pulisic is hurt ... again
After a week of truly unique United States men's national team drama, we're back to some regular old normal drama. USMNT's biggest star Christian Pulisic is hurt again with a knee injury. He has missed time through injury or illness a whopping 13 times since moving to Chelsea, according to transfermarkt.us. That adds up to an even 50 matches he's been unavailable for over a total time of 394 days and counting.
This time around, "it's going to be weeks," according to Chelsea manager Graham Potter. Somehow this injury has managed to derail Pulisic at a time when he both never looked closer to being a consistent starter at Chelsea and never seemed closer to being out the door. It throws both Pulisic's and Chelsea's future plans into chaos.
Pulisic was forced off in the 22nd minute of Chelsea's 1-0 loss to Manchester City on Thursday. It was the third match in a row that he'd started for Chelsea, and if you go back to before the World Cup, the fourth in the last five (and he came on at halftime in the one time he didn't start). Those three straight Premier League starts were the same number as he'd had over the entire season up to that point.
All that being said, it's not at all clear that either Pulisic or Chelsea were happy with his role on the club. And since it's January, transfer rumors are still bubbling up. Chelsea owner Todd Boehly has not been shy about splashing the cash, and while they started off this window charging in hot and heavy by possibly botching their pursuit for Argentina's World Cup winning midfielder Enzo Fernandez, they've also gotten in on the sweepstakes for Shakhtar Donetsk's young phenom Mykhailo Mudryk and Atletico Madrid's Joao Felix in recent days. Should they outbid Arsenal (or whoever else) for Mudryk or land Felix permanently, it seems possible that Pulisic would be on the way out to make room.
An injured Pulisic puts all of that in flux.
It's unquestionably true that Pulisic's time at Chelsea has been the high-water mark for American achievement in club soccer. He's been a meaningful contributor on a Champions League-winning side, and a rotation player at one of the richest, most competitive and most successful clubs in the world. But it's also true that his time there -- at best -- has often felt like a two steps forward, one step back situation. And now, once again, right when Pulisic looked like he was ready to leap forward, either for Chelsea or elsewhere, he's hit the part of the cycle that drags him back.
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Juventus surge up Serie A table
Juventus have spent the first half of the Serie A season in the headlines for all the wrong reasons. Whether it was crashing out of the Champions League at the group stage or their entire board resigning in a shocking late-night move that rocked Italian soccer, it's been all negative, all the time for Juventus.
And yet, despite it all, despite the mediocre start to their domestic campaign and calls for manager Max Allegri to get a quick ax in his first season back with the club, there they sit in second place in Serie A. They have 37 points, tied with AC Milan seven behind Napoli, with a +19 goal differential, the second best in the league behind Napoli's +26. It hasn't been pretty. In two matches since the Serie A restart, they've won 1-0 twice with a stoppage-time goal against Cremonese and an 86th minute winner against Udinese. But what matters is putting those points up on the board.
Let's get to some more links:
- LAFC's Welsh star Gareth Bale announces his retirement from international and club at age 33.
- Francesco Porzio broke down the race for the Scudetto.
- For more on Mudryk's possible landing destinations, check out Fabrizio Romano's Here We Go transfer notes.
- FFF boss Noel Le Graet is under fire for criticizing Zinedine Zidane.
- Brighton's CEO reveals what it's like to negotiate with Chelsea.
- House of Champions digs into Chelsea's growing crisis, and check out Barcelona's bounce-back win over Atleti.
- Not content with simply owning PSG, Qatar is looking to get into the Premier League as well, reports Ben Jacobs.
- Debinha shocks everybody to stay in the NWSL with Kansas City.
- Another reminder that the NWSL Draft is Thursday, Jan. 12 at 6 p.m. ET on Paramount+.
💰 The Back Line
Let's put together some picks for the next few days. All odds courtesy of Caesars Sportsbook.
- Bologna vs. Atalanta, Monday, 2:45 p.m. ET:
💰 THE PICK: Over 2.5 (-105) -- Surprisingly Atalanta, a team known for its high-flying attacking ways, displayed a stingy defense early on this season. Those days seem to be over. Their last three, and five of their last seven matches have all had three goals or more. Bologna, meanwhile, have conceded 26 goals this season in Serie A with only five teams conceding more (with four of those being the worst four teams in the league). Follow SportsLine's best bets here.
- Manchester United vs. Charlton, Tuesday, 3 p.m. ET:
💰 THE PICK: Manchester United to win, both teams to score (+150) -- It's booooooring to bet the heavy favorite. And United, in good form, and against League One midtable side Charlton, are certainly massive favorites at -900. So throw a garbage-time goal from Charlton in to make it interesting. Follow SportsLine's best bets here.