THE SOCCER REPORT

Soccer Recap: Monterrey back at the top of Liga MX mountain, Zlatan returns to Milan

Soccer Recap: Monterrey back at the top of Liga MX mountain, Zlatan returns to Milan
Monterrey fans are celebrating the club's 5th Liga MX title, one month after seeing them play Club America in a friendly at BBVA Stadium in Houston.

As the calendar year comes to a close, European leagues have hit their midseason point while Mexican soccer crowned a new champion.

Liga MX Apertura 2019 Final

After a 2-1 Monterrey win in the first leg, a 2-1 win by Club America in the second leg sent the Liga MX final to extra time and penalties. It was in the penalty shootout that "Rayados" outlasted America, 4-2, to capture their fifth league title.

The win caps off a rollercoaster season where Monterrey fired their manager midseason, rehired former manager Antonio Mohamed (who has now won his third Liga MX title with as many teams as a Manager) and captured the final playoff spot to win the title. In the middle of their playoff run, Monterrey played Liverpool to a 2-1 defeat that could've easily gone their way in the FIFA Club World Cup.

The Clausura 2020 season kicks off on January 10.

English Premier League

The Premier League had the spotlight on them twice this week with the Boxing Day tradition gifting fans matches after Christmas. At the forefront of the PL talk was VAR (video assistant referee) decisions due to a number of goals being called back.

Top six: 1. Liverpool (55), 2. Leicester City (42), 3. Man City (41), 4. Chelsea (35), 5. Manchester Utd (31), 6. Tottenham (30)

Bottom three (relegation): 18. Aston Villa (18), 19. Watford (16), 20. Norwich City (13)

Scoring leader: 17 - Jamie Vardy (Leicester City)

Assists leader: 12 - Kevin De Bruyne (Man City)

Scottish Premier League

A second-half Nikola Katić goal gave Rangers a first win at Celtic Park in 9 years, making it a two points difference in the title race.

Top three: 1. Celtic (52), 2. Rangers (50), 3. Motherwell (37)

Bottom two (relegation): 11. Hamilton (18), 12. Hearts (13)

Scoring leader: 13 - Odsonne Edouard (Celtic)

Assists leader: 9 - James Forrest (Celtic)

Zlatan Ibrahimovic returns to A.C. Milan

One of the bigger news over the Christmas break was the announcement of Zlatan Ibrahimovic returning to Serie A with A.C. Milan. The Rossoneri are currently 11th in the standings, 14 points removed from fourth place and a Champions League spot that used to be a given for the seven time European champions.

MLS offseason

David Beckham's Miami expansion club announced the signing of Uruguayan manager Diego Alonso. The 44-year-old enjoyed success in Liga MX by guiding Pachuca to the Clausura 2016 title, the 2016-17 Concacaf Champions League title and a 3rd place finish at the 2017 FIFA Club World Cup. He guided Monterrey to Concacaf Champions League crown earlier this year before being fired midway through the Apertura 2019 season.

Houston Dynamo sign two players

The Houston Dynamo are reportedly about to announce the signings of former Dynamo Academy and youth U.S. National Team midfielder Marcelo Palomino and young European goalkeeper Marko Maric.

TV listings (All Times CT):

Wednesday, January 1

6:30 a.m. - [Premier League] Brighton vs. Chelsea (NBC Sports)

9:00 a.m. - [Premier League] Southampton vs. Tottenham (NBC Sports)

11:30 a.m. - [Premier League] Manchester City vs. Everton (NBC Sports)

2:00 p.m. - [Premier League] Arsenal vs. Manchester United (NBC Sports, Universo)

Thursday, January 2

2:00 p.m. - [Premier League] Liverpool vs. Sheffield United (NBC Sports, Universo)

Friday, January 3

12:00 p.m. - [La Liga] Valladolid vs. Leganes (beIN Sports)

2:00 p.m. - [La Liga] Sevilla vs. Athletic Bilbao (beIN Sports)

Saturday, January 4

6:30 a.m. - [FA Cup] Rochdale vs. Newcastle (ESPN+)

9:00 a.m. - [FA Cup] Fulham vs. Aston Villa (ESPN+)

9:00 a.m. - [La Liga] Getafe vs. Real Madrid (beIN Sports)

11:30 a.m. - [FA Cup] Wolves vs. Man United (ESPN+)

11:30 a.m. - [FA Cup] Leicester vs. Wigan (ESPN+)

11:30 a.m. - [FA Cup] Manchester City vs. Port Vale (ESPN+)

11:30 a.m. - [La Liga] Atletico Madrid vs. Levante (beIN Sports)

2:00 p.m. - [La Liga] Espanyol vs. Barcelona (beIN Sports)

Sunday, January 5

8:00 a.m. - [FA Cup] Middlesbrough vs. Tottenham (ESPN+)

8:00 a.m. - [FA Cup] Crystal Palace vs. Derby (ESPN+)

8:00 a.m. - [FA Cup] Chelsea vs. Nottingham Forest (ESPN+)

10:00 a.m. - [FA Cup] Liverpool vs. Everton (ESPN+)

12:15 p.m. - [FA Cup] Gillingham vs. West Ham (ESPN+)

1:30 p.m. - [Serie A] Roma vs. Torino (ESPNews, ESPN Deportes)

Monday, January 6

8:00 a.m. - [Serie A] AC Milan vs. Sampdoria (ESPN+)

8:00 a.m. - [Serie A] Juventus vs. Cagliari (ESPN+)

1:45 p.m. - [Serie A] Napoli vs. Inter (ESPN+)

2:00 p.m. - [FA Cup] Arsenal vs. Leeds United (ESPN+)

2:00 p.m. - [Coupe de France] Linas Montlhery vs. PSG (beIN Sports)

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The Astros rotation looks like a strength moving forward. Composite Getty Image.

The Houston Astros are coming off a much-needed series win over the White Sox, but have a quick turnaround as they host the Orioles on Friday night at Minute Maid Park.

The 'Stros dropped the first game of the series with Framber Valdez on the mound, but were able to rebound with Hunter Brown and Spencer Arrighetti starting the final two games.

Brown was brilliant once again, and Arrighetti bounced back after a disastrous start against the Tigers over the weekend. Despite all the injures to the Astros staff this season, their young pitchers are stepping up when they need them the most.

Brown has six consecutive quality starts and is beginning to show signs that he can be the top of the rotation pitcher the club always hoped he could develop into.

Arrighetti has stepped in and shown that he belongs in the big leagues, and has provided innings Houston desperately requires with so many pitchers on the injured list.

Speaking of which, with Justin Verlander on the IL, Double A prospect Jake Bloss will make the start for Houston on Friday night. Bloss has quickly progressed through the farm system, having been drafted just a year ago.

We'll see how he performs in his MLB debut, but the club seems to have a lot of quality pitching options moving forward, especially with Luis Garcia and Lance McCullers scheduled to return in late July and early August respectively.

And as we look at the Astros rotation moving forward, perhaps they will go back to a six-man rotation during certain stretches in the second half of the season.

Which could prove to be vital to the team's success. As good as Ronel Blanco has been, he's never pitched as many innings as he'll be asked to pitch this year. Same goes for Arrighetti. And let's face it, sending Verlander out to pitch on four days rest consistently at 41 years old doesn't sound like a wise decision. He's already been on the IL twice this year.

While some see Garcia and McCullers as wild cards to help the team this season, Astros GM Dana Brown doesn't see it that way. He told the Astros flagship station this week that he's counting on those guys to make big contributions when they return. And he's counting on their postseason experience should they get there.

Keep in mind, Garcia has a 3.61 career ERA and has been durable outside the Tommy John surgery. And McCullers has always been good, it's just the health that causes concern.

Garcia is also an example of how a player can skip Double A and Triple A and have success right away in the big leagues. Hopefully, Bloss can follow in his footsteps, since he's bypassing Triple A to make his first start.

So what's the short and long-term outlook for the Astros rotation? And should we expect Verlander to return in 2025?

Be sure to watch the video above as we address those questions and much more!

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