It doesn’t look too good, does it?
Bruce Arena confirmed it during his media availability Thursday, and we’ll write it here: he doesn’t expect Carles Gil to play when the Revolution take on Philadelphia in the Round of 16 Saturday night (10:30 p.m., ESPN2). And sure, given the way New England played without him in the first half against Toronto FC on Tuesday morning, that fact alone has many supporters looking to frantically press the panic button headed into the weekend.
Yup, you’re not alone with that.
However, no Gil in the lineup — nor does the lack of regular-season points at stake, given the phase of the competition — does not change the way Arena approaches the Union.
“You play every game to win,” Arena said Thursday. “Obviously in the closing minutes of the Toronto game, we wanted to make sure we walked off the field with a point. In this next game, obviously you want to try to win however it is, then penalty kicks after 90 minutes, but the approach is the same. Once you get to this point, you’ve got to see if you can move on in the tournament. We’re definitely going to play to win the game.
“(Gil’s injury) are things you don’t have control over. Every team has injuries, suspensions, what have you. If that happens, you just get on with it. We played against Toronto on Tuesday without Carles, and if we need to play on Saturday without him, then that’s the way you go on and do your business in sports. Unfortunately, I don’t have control of injuries and timeframes and coming back and all of that. So we’re just going to go back doing our business every day and if we can get him back, we get him back.”
The Revolution come into Sunday’s game with the second lowest goals allowed — one — in the group stage of the MLS IS BACK Tournament, with Columbus — which doesn’t play until Monday — conceding no goals in group play. The Union only scored four in Group A, and are coming off a 1-1 draw against Orlando City Monday night.
That being said, we’re not looking for the onion bag to ripple consistently Saturday night, especially given the fact New England — while it is creating chance after chance after chance — has had difficulty in finishing since the season began in February. The Revs have scored four goals this season, with two coming in the group stages.
No, if there’s a winner, it may come in penalties, which will come down to Revolution ‘keeper Matt Turner and Philadelphia ‘keeper Andre Blake.
The two sides have only gone to penalties once before, that being the 2016 US Open Cup fifth round matchup at Harvard. Blake was in goal for that one, and the Revs had thrown the washer, the dryer, and the kitchen sink at him en route to seven saves. But it was New England which advanced on that night.
Does something similar occur Saturday?
Philadelphia has not changed the way it plays from the last time the two sides met at Gillette a year ago. The Union under Jim Curtin are fast, dynamic, and play a rather direct style of football. We don’t expect creative play, which means the Revolution defending will need to be resolute.
Yet with no Haris Medjunanin any longer, the onus will fall to Jose Martinez or Warren Creavalle, who have each slipped into the No. 6 role at times, to control things in Curtin’s 4-4-2 diamond formation. Also expect Alejandro Bedoya out on the right to get the ball at his foot in an effort to make things happen.
19-year-old Brendon Aaronsen is a problem the Revs will need to contain, as well as be aware of Kacper Pryzbylko’s location, keeping their heads on a swivel to account for his presence near goal.
Also in MLS’ Round of 16:
Several tasty Round of 16 fixtures on tap, with two a day. Orlando City will take on Montreal, the surprise third-place team in Group C, at 8 p.m. (ESPN2) Saturday. Sunday sees Toronto FC taking on NYCFC at 8:30 p.m. (FS1), before Sporting Kansas City takes on Vancouver Whitecaps Sunday night (11 p.m., FS1). Should the Revs advance, Sunday night’s nightcap is a scouting mission as the winners meet in the quarterfinals (July 30, 8 p.m., ESPN).
On Monday, San Jose takes on Real Salt Lake (8:30 p.m., FS1), before Seattle takes on LAFC (11 p.m., FS1). On Tuesday, Columbus takes on Minnesota United (8 p.m., ESPN), before Portland takes on FC Cincinnati (10:30 p.m., ESPN).
Saturday is also a big day in Foxborough, as Revs II makes its long-awaited debut. The League One side will take on Union Omaha at 5 p.m. on ESPN+. That game is closed to the public.
In the USL Championship, high-flying Hartford Athletic hosts Union II at Dillon Stadium Saturday at 7 p.m. The Boys In Green will also be in action at midweek when they travel to Indianapolis to take on Indy Eleven at Lucas Oil Stadium.
In the Premier League, it all comes down to this Sunday, the final match day in the elongated 2019-20 season. Two teams will join Norwich City in relegation to the Championship — Leeds United and West Bromwich Albion have already secured promotion, with one of Brentford, Fulham, Cardiff City, or Swansea City joining them on August 4 — while four teams will book their places in Europe.
Let’s look at the top of the table first.
Liverpool and Manchester City have already secured their spots in the Champions League, with three teams — Manchester United, Chelsea, and Leicester City — all separated by a point. United and Leicester look to have the advantage, given both sit on +28 goal difference to Chelsea’s +13: should the Blues lose and Foxes draw with Manchester United, it would be Leicester going to the Champions League with the Red Devils, and Chelsea playing in the Europa.
Here’s the fixture list for these three (all games 11 a.m.):
Chelsea vs Wolves (USA)
Leicester City vs. Manchester United (NBC)
It honestly cannot get any tastier, can it?
I can see United and Leicester intentionally playing for the draw, especially should Wolves pull ahead of the Blues. However, should Chelsea pull ahead, you’ll see an uptick in attacking in United-Leicester. Whoever finishes fifth earns a spot in the Europa League.
Wolves aren’t secure in their European hopes, even though they are currently sixth, one point ahead of Tottenham. Spurs travels south of the River Thames to play at Crystal Palace (Peacock). But the same can be said of Spurs, which aren’t guaranteed of a spot in Europe even with a win and a Wolves win, as Arsenal could take that spot through the FA Cup — dodgy lasagna, anyone? — but a Spurs win or draw and a Wolves defeat will see the two flip-flop in the table (a draw thanks to superior goal difference), with Tottenham going to the Europa League, and Wolverhampton awaiting the FA Cup Final results.
At the bottom of the table, there is some excitement as three teams look to avoid the drop.
Norwich, as we already know, have been relegated. Bournemouth, at 19, looks to join them if they fail to beat Everton at Goodison Park (CNBC). However, a Cherries win over the Toffees, coupled with both a Watford loss to Arsenal AND an Aston Villa loss to West Ham will see Bournemouth survive, albeit miraculously.
Watford, which sacked Nigel Pearson earlier this week, goes to the Emirates to play a Gunners side that won’t celebrate St. Totteringham’s Day this year, and may even scale things back given they have the FA Cup Final against Chelsea a week away. A win over Arsenal and a Villa loss to West Ham will assure Watford’s survival; a draw and an Aston Villa loss will do the same thing.
And Aston Villa, it can’t scoreboard watch as its survival is not guaranteed. Expect the Villans to go after the Hammers and try to keep Watford at bay. However, a draw against West Ham (NBCSN) plus a Watford loss or draw keeps the current teams in the drop zone the way they are entering the weekend.
In addition to those games, Burnley hosts Brighton, Manchester City hosts Norwich, Newcastle hosts Liverpool, while Southampton hosts Sheffield United.
Also Sunday: Swansea plays Brentford, while Cardiff plays Fulham on Monday in the first leg of their respective Championship playoff matches. The reverse second leg fixtures will be midweek, Wednesday and Thursday, respectively.
The winners meet at Wembley on August 4 in the richest game in England, and the right to play in the English top flight next season, starting September 12.