Offshore drilling, UEFA Champions League: at Borussia Dortmund 2, Real Madrid 1

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Man of the Match: Marcel Schmelzer had spent his day pestering Ángel Di María into an uncharacteristically erratic performance before he got his chance to shine. In the 64th minute, with the score tied 1-1, a Dortmund cross was punched out of the Real Madrid area, the result ball sitting up perfectly for the BVB left back. Showing a composure we rarely see on a shot that’s usually launched into the stands, the German international kept his knee above the ball as he stroked the game-winning goal into the left half of Iker Casillas’s net, helping Borussia Dortmund upend the defending Spanish champions.

Packaged for takeaway:

  • Coming off the heals of their weekend loss to Schalke, this win was huge on a number of levels for Borussia Dortmund. Obviously, it’s an incredible way to rebound from derby disappointment, but it also puts to bed any concerns this team that has won consecutive Bundesliga titles might not be able to relay that success into Champions League. The win gave us our first glimpse of BVB’s true, Europe-contending potential.
  • Wednesday’s delivery system for that potential was their intensity. We’re used to Borussia Dortmund’s exhausting play in Germany, but we haven’t seen them put together that kind of performance in Champions League. Tonight, it happened, with every Real Madrid movement inside BVB’s half drawing an immediate reaction from Dortmund’s pressing defense.
  • That intensity helped create the first goal. A terrible pass by Pepe in the 36th minute was intercepted and transitioned to Robert Lewandowski, who took advantage of the Real Madrid defender’s positioning for an open shot on Iker Casillas. The game’s first goal beat the Spanish international just inside his right post.
  • BVB’s approach did burn them once, giving us a reminder of how the approach can be exploited by Europe’s best. In the 39th minute, Lukasz Piszczek – who had been so good to that point tracking Cristinao Ronaldo – allowed Real’s leading scorer to beat him onto a long ball over the defense from Mesut Özil. When Roman Weidenfeller misread the play and got caught in no man’s land, Ronaldo had an easy lob for the score.
  • Madrid’s moment of magic was a reminder that another team’s control can often play into their counterattacking hands, though Wednesday’s game was different. Dortmund didn’t control the game as much as they dictated it, which helps explain why Real struggled so much.
  • BVB played most of the match not the counter, conceding Real possession until they approached halfway. Then, Dortmund’s activity in the space above their high defensive line would invariably produce turnovers that funneled them into attack.
  • Where Real Madrid can normally rely on their counter to maintain a threat even when they’re outplayed, Borussia Dortmund’s tactics gave them few chances to transition.
  • Instead, it was Dortmund creating all the chances, with two nice saves from Iker Casillas in the 51st minute preventing the hosts from taking an early second half lead.
  • But Casillas, who also had a strong first half, started to falter, and in the 64th minute, one of his mistakes helped provide for the winning goal. On a cross from his left, Casillas came for an awkward punch, barely pushing the ball to the edge of the penalty area. Schmeltzer was there to collect for the game winner.
  • Though Real Madrid wasn’t at their best, this wasn’t a bad performance. Wednesday’s result was more about BVB being great (and Real not matching them) than any deficiency on Real’s part. Expect Los Merengues to have a new respect for Dortmund when the teams meeting at the Santiago Bernabeu in three weeks.
  • With the win, Borussia Dortmund moves first in Group D. Perhaps as important, they are five points up on Manchester City, who were upset in Amsterdam.

Premier League Preview: Chelsea vs. Watford

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  • Chelsea are without N'Golo Kante, Victor Moses (both hamstring) and Danny Drinkwater (calf) is still absent.
  • Watford remain without Younes Kaboul and Sebastian Prodl (both thigh), plus long-term absentees Craig Cathcart, Nathaniel Chalobah and Isaac Success (all knee).
  • Watford have not won against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge since 1986, but the Hornets have won 10 points of a possible 12 on the road. 
  • Chelsea have lost three of their first eight matches this season. No team has ever lost this many of their opening eight matches and still won the Premier League title.

Watford heads south for another London derby with Chelsea at Stamford Bridge on Saturday at 7:30 a.m. (Watch live on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

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The Hornets have had an amazing start to the season and currently occupy fourth place on 15 points, two points ahead of fifth-place Chelsea, which has lost two-straight Premier League games. The Blues have struggled without N’Golo Kante and Alvaro Morata and there have been reports of grumbles from the squad about dissatisfaction with Antonio Conte‘s training methods, but the Chelsea coach has brushed those rumors off.

Meanwhile Watford is coming off a confidence-boosting win last weekend against fellow Londoners Arsenal, and the club is looking to take down another big club for a second-straight week.

What they’re saying

Watford manager Marco Silva on his team’s start“I want everybody to be really calm. We did really in the first eight matches but it’s too early. We want to continue to work hard every day. Everything changes fast and you need to keep going and treat the next game as the most important. But of course I feel proud.”

Chelsea manager Antonio Conte on being under pressure: “‘Do I feel the pressure? Every manager feels pressure, but I try to give all of myself into my job, so I’m happy when I go home because I know in every moment I give all of myself for the fans, the players and the club. In football you know anything can happen, but the most important thing is to work.”

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Prediction

Chelsea has its back against the wall but the team’s overall quality should be enough to see them through with all three points against Watford. The Hornets luck runs out in Stamford Bridge as Chelsea hold on for a late win. Chelsea 2-1 Watford

Leicester City record massive earnings from UEFA Champions League

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Leicester City’s UEFA Champions League campaign may have ended without a trophy, but the Premier League side pipped the European champions in the bank account.

UEFA announced on Friday that Leicester City earned $96,167,125 during the Champions League run that ended in the quarterfinals, the farthest of any Premier League club. Real Madrid, the back-to-back champions, earned a slightly less $95,385,679. Much of the difference comes from TV rights deals in England, which pays out more to teams compared to the TV rights deal in Spain.

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Juventus, the Italian giant, earned the most of any club in last year’s Champions League, making a whopping $129,965,357, mostly thanks to the TV rights again.

Mourinho: Ibrahimovic could return in December

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Dare to Zlatan? It could be only a couple of months away.

That’s according to Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho, who said the veteran striker could return from his torn ACL before the end of the calendar year.

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“Zlatan is here, he’s working here and under our control,” Mourinho told reporters. “He’s working as you would expect so, so, so hard. But he’s not to be back in the next week or next couple of weeks. Do I believe he’ll be back in 2017? Yes, I do. But it’s just a feeling.”

The big Swede scored 28 goals for Man United last year in all competitions, proving that he’s still got it at the age of 36, but it’s going to be tough for him to find his old form coming off an ACL injury at such an old age. After suffering the injury last April, it’s been a long road to recovery for Ibrahimovic.

However, with the play of Romelu Lukaku up top, Ibrahimovic would only play from time to time, which could help in his recovery both from the knee injury and just the general recovery between games.

Manchester City quartet called up by Brazil for friendlies

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Brazilian National Team coach Tite has decided on calling up a full-strength squad for November’s upcoming friendly matches in Europe, including four Manchester City players in his 25-man squad.

Gabriel Jesus, Fernandinho, Danilo and Ederson all made the squad as Tite looks to develop more chemistry among his side ahead of the 2018 World Cup, which Brazil breezed into after Tite took over in 2016.

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Luckily for Manchester City and the other European-based players in the squad, Brazil’s friendly matches will be played in Western Europe. The Selecao first faces Japan in Lille, France on November 10 before taking on England at Wembley Stadium on November 14.

The call-ups may be a tough pill for Guardiola to swallow though. As of Friday, Manchester City has 17 games remaining in the calendar year, and surely he would prefer for some of his starters to get a two-week break in November to preserve some energy instead of play in friendly matches.