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Gio Reyna returns, Zack Steffen loses his starting role

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With only a few months left until the 2022 FIFA World Cup, Americans abroad are gearing up to secure their spot on the roster.

In the Eredivise, Ricardo Pepi marked his debut for FC Groningen with an assist to inspire the 1-0 victory over SC Cambuur. After a difficult time in the Bundesliga, it seems the player is finally finding his rhythm. Gio Reyna also returned in full force for Dortmund, recording two assists and loads of necessary playing time before Qatar.

Here’s everything you missed about American figures abroad…

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Dutch Eredivisie"sc Cambuur Leeuwarden v FC Groningen"

Ricardo Pepi recovers from “tough time” at FC Augsburg. / ANP/GettyImages

USMNT figure Ricardo Pepi opened up about his recent time in Germany with FC Augsburg, revealing ‘it was quite a tough time’ after finding it difficult to adapt. 

The striker completed the move from Major League Soccer’s FC Dallas to Augsburg in January, breaking the club record with a transfer fee of $20m. But the American quickly experienced a downturn in form, going from 13 goals and three assists to the bench. 

“It was quite a tough time. A different country, a different culture and a different competition. It was honestly a lot at the same time,” Pepi told Voetbal International. “My feeling was that I could only adapt to the European way of playing football by playing a lot somewhere. That probably wasn’t going to happen in Germany yet.” 

The player has since been loaned to Eredivisie side FC Groningen to secure more playing time. And it seems the move propelled Pepi to his old ways, registering his first assist to inspire the 1-0 victory over SC Cambuur. 

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Jude Bellingham, Giovanni Reyna

Gio Reyna is back. / Alex Grimm/GettyImages

The American is back in full force for Dortmund. He made his first UEFA Champions League appearance of the season last week, registering two assists to inspire the 3-0 home victory over FC Copenhagen.

Reyna also played a part in Dortmund’s weekend match against RB Leipzig, coming off the bench to log 31 minutes. 

After coming back from injury, it looks like Reyna is gaining rhythm for the World Cup. 

Zack Steffen

Zack Steffen could lose his starting spot with Middlesbrough. / Michael Regan/GettyImages

The American goalkeeper has been cleared to return to the pitch for Middlesbrough this week, but it looks like head coach Chris Wilder has other plans. 

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After goalkeeper Liam Roberts’ impressive performances in Steffen’s absence, Wilder will have a difficult decision to make between the two.

“Zack will be available for Tuesday through Saturday as well,” Wilder told reporters Monday.

“What we’re trying to do here is build a good squad of depth and full of competition and performances don’t drop because 1-2 players come out. I think Liam has impressed because of the way he’s come in and delivered a strong performance on Monday night [against rivals Sunderland]. What he did was really tidy and composed.”

UEFA Champions League"Paris Saint-Germain v Juventus FC"

Weston McKennie featured for Juventus over the weekend. / ANP/GettyImages

Weston McKennie played 85 minutes in Juventus 2-2 draw with Salernitana.

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Reggie Cannon played 45 minutes in Boavista’s 2-1 win over Arouca.

Haji Wright played 90 minutes in Antalyaspor’s 1-0 loss to Kayserispor.



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BUNDESLIGA

Hasan Salihamidzic expects ‘different’ Bayern Munich after international break

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Sporting director Hasan Salihamidzic has insisted Bayern Munich will be a ‘different’ team after the international break.

The German champions have endured a surprisingly mediocre start to the new campaign domestically, winning just three of their seven league games and losing to Augsburg in their match prior to the break. This poor form means Bayern are currently five points adrift of table-toppers Union Berlin.

Speaking to Bild, Salihamidzic addressed this form, revealing that the club held discussions with Julian Nagelsmann to review the start of the season, but insisted that the manager has his full backing: “We talked to Julian about all aspects of our start to the season, including the positive ones, because there was not only the defeat in Augsburg, but also a lot of goals at the beginning and two wins without conceding a goal in the Champions League.

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“Julian is very clear. He and his team of coaches know exactly what to do. Above all, Julian knows that he has the full backing of FC Bayern, and that doesn’t need to be emphasised again and again.”

Salihamidzic also discussed potential reasons for why Bayern has struggled this season thus far, stating that the winter World Cup has some part to play: “For me, there is no question that in this extraordinarily demanding season with a world championship in the middle, only those teams have a chance of winning the title that find a rhythm as an entire squad group, that develop their rotation style and push themselves as a unit. Our players have quality, mentality and character, they want and will show that.

“We will appear differently after the international break. And I expect that too. Physical intensity, greed and the willingness to push yourself to the limit in every game are the prerequisites for success. We also need a much better, more focused exploitation of opportunities.”



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Thomas Muller suggests Bayern Munich’s struggles are hurting Germany national team

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Thomas Muller has hinted that Bayern Munich’s slow start to the season was a factor in Germany’s shock 1-0 defeat at home to Hungary on Friday evening.

Die Mannschaft fell to a 17th-minute Adam Szalai goal to knock Hansi Flick’s side out of contention to reach next summer’s Nations League finals.

Speaking after the loss in Leipzig, Muller suggested that players’ struggles at club level have been carried into the national setup.

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“The first half was very disappointing,” he said. “We made far too many mistakes and you could feel that many in their clubs are not going through the easiest phase. Without pressure we made mistakes and almost everyone was affected.”

Four of Germany’s starters on Friday – Muller, Joshua Kimmich, Serge Gnabry and Leroy Sane – hail from Bayern Munich, who have won just three of their opening seven Bundesliga games so far this season. Gnabry was hooked at half-time by Flick for West Ham defender Thilo Kehrer, while Muller came off for Wolfsburg striker Lukas Nmecha with five minutes remaining.

Centre-back Niklas Sule departed Bayern for Borussia Dortmund this summer, and while BVB sit second in the Bundesliga table, the 27-year-old has started just once for his new club and is understandably lacking in match sharpness.

Germany travel to England on Monday in each side’s final game before the World Cup.

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Bellingham’s preferred destination; Man Utd chasing Kane

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Jude Bellingham would prefer to join Real Madrid if he chooses to leave Borussia Dortmund next summer. Liverpool, Manchester United, Chelsea and Manchester City are all keen on the England midfielder. (El Chiringuito)

Liverpool tried to sign Bellingham in 2012 and offered £9,000 for the then-Birmingham midfielder, whose family rejected the chance to move. (The Athletic)

There is an option in Gerard Pique‘s contract allowing Barcelona to terminate it in 2023 if he plays fewer than 35% of the minutes available to him this season. The plan is to replace Pique with Athletic Club’s Inigo Martinez. (Mundo Deportivo)

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Ousmane Dembele‘s contract also has a €50m release clause which will become active next summer (L’Equipe)

Manchester United are the latest side to reach out to the representatives of Tottenham striker Harry Kane over a possible transfer next summer. (Fichajes)

Arsenal have made contact with Eintracht Frankfurt midfielder Jesper Lindstrom over a possible January transfer. The 22-year-old is expected to cost around £17m. (Bild)

Graham Potter is considering recalling winger Callum Hudson-Odoi from his loan with Bayer Leverkusen in January. The new Chelsea manager is a massive fan of the young winger and believes he can earn minutes at Stamford Bridge. (Bild)

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Barcelona have spoken to Rennes midfielder Lovro Majer about a possible transfer. The Croatia international has been hailed as ‘the new Luka Modric’. (Foot Mercato)

Tottenham remain interested in Inter centre-back Alessandro Bastoni, whose negotiations over a new contract have stalled. (InterLive)

Another Inter centre-back, Milan Skriniar, is being urged by Paris Saint-Germain to allow his contract to expire in the summer so he can join on a free transfer. (Tuttosport)

With his contract up in 2023, N’Golo Kante has been contacted by Juventus, AC Milan and Inter over a possible pre-contract agreement in January. (Tutto Juve)

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Manchester City have been scouting Benfica left-back Alejandro Grimaldo, whose contract expires at the end of the season. (Calciomercato)

There are no plans for Bayern Munich to sign a new striker in January, with club officials adamant that Julian Nagelsmann will figure out a way to get his new-look attack gelling soon. (Sky Germany)



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