Winter: Move along. Nothing to see here. No coaching crisis, thank you.

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A very hot seat is still just a hot seat, so I’m at a loss to describe what Toronto FC head coach Aron Winter is sitting on. Maybe his chair’s become so hot that it’s cold? Like white hot, if that’s a real something. Once you reach 400 Kelvin, perhaps your nerves seer and you can’t feel a thing, like the constant boots in the derrière Reds supporters are using to coax their coach to the door.

Those kicks will come more often if Toronto can’t beat Montreal tomorrow. The teams drew 0-0 last week in Montreal and return to BMO Field for the second leg of their Canadian Championship semifinal. The winner will presumably face Vancouver, who won 2-0 at FC Edmonton (NASL) last week.

As Sportsnet’s John Molinaro notes, being asked about your job before every shift has to get old. For Winter, though, the answers remain the same:

Asked directly after Tuesday’s team practice if he felt his job was on the line based on winning Wednesday’s match against Montreal, Winter simply and confidently answered, “No.”

Does he remain confident that [Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment], the club’s owners, will remain patient with him and keep him as coach even if TFC loses to the Impact?

“Yes. Yes. But I don’t think we’ll lose tomorrow,” the Dutchman said.

Reflex one: What else is he supposed to say? Reflex two: Something less obstinate?

For all we know, though, Winter could be responding with complete sincerity. He may have had breakfast with President/CEO Richard Peddie and been assured his job was safe. “We know those defenders are bums, Aron,” my hypothetical Peddie says, assuring his man. “We have to do right by you before you can do right by us.”

Of course, it’s possible MLSE has done enough, hence the speculation about Winter’s job. The money side backs that up.

So does some of the circumstantial evidence. We’re hearing about a lot of behind the scenes fissures, whether it be rumors of eyes not meeting eyes between the various front office factions or the need for clear-the-air meetings between players and staff.

The latter happened on Monday, according to Molinaro’s reporting. Eric Avila – Toronto’s best player thus far, and somebody who’s becoming increasingly outspoken – confessed the team was drifting. They needed a pow wow to refocus:

Midfielder Eric Avila suggested that a clearing-the-air meeting on Monday between the players and coaching staff has the club back on the right track, and that everybody is on the same page.

“Before the season started we had some sort of identity of where we wanted to go and once the season started we lost it a little. The meeting helped us out in a way where we’re back on track (and know) who we are,” Avila stated.

Check out John’s work for more on the alchemy TFC’s turning to for their panacea. Tomorrow’s fun kicks off at 8:00 p.m. Eastern.

Spanish police dismantle match-fixing scheme in 3rd, 4th tiers

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MADRID (AP) Spanish police have dismantled a match-fixing scheme involving players and clubs in the country’s lower divisions.

Authorities said more than 20 people have been detained as part of the police operation launched on Monday, including players, although no names were immediately disclosed.

The matches under suspicion were in the third and fourth divisions this season and last season.

The match-fixing scheme reportedly involved Chinese betting sites.

The Spanish league said the operation was based on information collected by its analysts about suspicious activities.

UCL preview: Chelsea host Barcelona; Bayern vs. Besiktas

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  • Chelsea vs. Barcelona, at Stamford Bridge
  • Bayern Munich vs. Besiktas, at Allianz Arena
  • Champions League round of 16 resumes on Tuesday

[ UCL: Spurs fight back to draw Juventus | Liverpool thrash Porto in leg 1 ]

Chelsea, mired in some of their worst form since the disastrous 2015-16 season, welcome a Barcelona side enjoying one of the best six-month runs of results in the famed club’s entire history. The Blues have won just four of their last 12 games across all competitions, while the Blaugrana have lost once in 38 games.

On the plus side, Chelsea enter Tuesday’s colossal clash as winners of their last two games — back-to-back wins for the first time in 2018 — having outscored the likes of West Bromwich Albion and Hull City by a combined 7-0. Star striker Alvaro Morata returned to action against Hull after five weeks out with a back injury, thus Antonio Conte has something of a selection dilemma on his hands with the Spaniard perhaps only partially fit, and Olivier Giroud racking up a goal and three assists in the last two games, his first starts for the club.

Barcelona, meanwhile, have conceded just two goals in their last nine games (all competitions) and even managed to overturn their lone defeat, to Espanyol, and advance to the Copa del Rey semifinals (and eventually final). Despite losing Neymar in the summer, Barca mostly cruised through their Champions League group, only dropping points in draws away to Juventus and Olympiacos. Lionel Messi has, strangely, never scored a goal in his eight career appearances against Chelsea, a record which has been spoken about at length in the build-up to Tuesday — similarly to the goal-less record which plagued him against Juve goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon, whom he finally bested back in September.

[ MORE: Man City win big away to Basel | Real Madrid 3-1 PSG ]

In the other round-of-16 first-leg matchup on Tuesday, five-time (soon-to-be six) defending Bundesliga champions Bayern Munich host surprise winners of Group G, Besiktas, ahead of the likes of Monaco, RB Leipzig and Porto.

Since taking over on an interim basis (through the end of the season), Bayern boss Jupp Heynckes has won 21 of 22 games of which he’s been in charge, including four of six games during the group stage en route to finish second behind Paris Saint-Germain, while also racing out to a 19-point lead back home in Germany.

Aguero involved in clash with Wigan fan after FA Cupset

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MANCHESTER, England (AP) Sergio Aguero was involved in a confrontation with a Wigan fan as ugly scenes marred the end of the third-division side’s shock FA Cup win over Manchester City on Monday.

[ MORE: Wigan shock Man City, the world and themselves ]

Fans spilled on to the pitch at DW Stadium as the host celebrated its 1-0 fifth-round win against the runaway English Premier League leader.

Supporters from both clubs were involved in disturbances, while television pictures appeared to show a home supporter and striker Aguero involved in a physical exchange.

Aguero appeared to hit the supporter after the fan said something to the player, and Aguero had to be held back by his City teammates.

[ MORE: Money from Wembley replay “will support Rochdale for 2 or 3 years” ]

Advertising hoardings were also ripped out and thrown as a pitch invasion by Wigan fans got out of hand while the defeated City players were being escorted off the pitch.

Footage also appeared to show objects, including an advertising board, being thrown at police officers by fans in the City end.

Wigan shock themselves: “Not sure how it feels, hasn’t sunk in yet”

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Wigan Athletic didn’t just shock Manchester City with their FA Cup fifth-round slaying of the runaway Premier League leaders; nor did they merely shock the rest of the footballing world; they also shocked themselves into disbelief, according to defender Dan Burn.

[ MORE: Goodbye, quadruple! Wigan bounce 10-man City from FA Cup ]

Speaking following Monday’s triumph over Pep Guardiola‘s quadruple-chasing side at the DW Stadium, Burn admitted he himself didn’t know what to make of the night that would undoubtedly highlight and change his own professional career — quotes from the BBC:

“Not sure how it feels, hasn’t sunk in yet. It was a really tough game. The belief was always there. We’ve got Will Grigg, who does what he keeps doing.

“We pride ourselves on our clean sheets. We had a couple bad results before, so we wanted to prove ourselves, so a clean sheet against the best team in England is great.

“Once we scored, the fans really got behind us, just knew we needed to hang on. It was the longest 10 minutes of my life.”

[ MORE: Money from Wembley replay “will support Rochdale for 2 or 3 years” ]

Manager Paul Cook was able to articulate his happiness and pride only slightly better — “It feels great” — but offered the highest of praises to his players, whom “had to ride [their] luck at times” during the game, and gave everything they had to the cause, because that’s the only way you beat a team like Man City:

“It feels great. It’s such a severe test. They’re such a strong side and move the ball so well. We had to ride our luck at times and the sending off is always a big incident.

“Our lads deserve credit for their work and some of the blocks they made were outstanding, and to beat Man City you have to do that.”