Champions League round-of-16 draw sets some dandies

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UEFA’s Champions League has redeemed itself after a group draw that put too many of the top teams together, leaving groups of lesser for us all to bemoan.

Not so, however, with today’s draw for the Round of 16, which includes several tantalizing matchups.

None are better than Real Madrid-Manchester United. Feel free to get a little dizzy at the prospects.

What could possibly be better? Old rivals Jose Mourinho and Sir Alex Ferguson, managers of the respective clubs. And there’s Wayne Rooney vs. old teammate Cristiano Ronaldo. Said Ferguson: “Well, it’s the tie of the round. It’s a great opportunity for our fans to see Cristiano again and also for me to meet up with José again – I’ll need to order some good wine!”

Other delicious matchups include Arsenal-Bayern Munich, and Barcelona-A.C. Milan.

Gunner boss Arsene Wenger could potentially save his job by beating the current Bundesliga leaders and gaining a quarterfinal spot in club soccer’s grandest competition.

Dortmund, so brilliant in continental play but a little less so in league action, gets an interesting matchup against Ukrainian Champions League darlings Shakhtar Donetsk.

Barcelona may be tempered in their enthusiasm for it all, given the medical crisis for manager Tito Vilanova.

The first legs are set for Feb. 12, 13, 19 or 20; the return legs are scheduled for March 5, 6, 19 or 20.

The complete draw is here:

  • Galatasaray AŞ (TUR) v FC Schalke 04 (GER)
  • Celtic FC (SCO) v Juventus (ITA)
  • Arsenal FC (ENG) v FC Bayern München (GER)
  • FC Shakhtar Donetsk (UKR) v Borussia Dortmund (GER)
  • AC Milan (ITA) v FC Barcelona (ESP)
  • Real Madrid CF (ESP) v Manchester United FC (ENG)
  • Valencia CF (ESP) v Paris Saint-Germain FC (FRA)
  • FC Porto (POR) v Málaga CF (ESP)

Rapids add longtime Bundesliga winger Aigner from 1860 Munich (highlights)

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The Colorado Rapids are hoping for an injection of offense from veteran Bundesliga right winger Stefan Aigner.

The soon-to-be 30-year-old has played 274 games between the first and second tiers of German soccer, with 25 goals and 25 assists in Bundesliga play and a further 31 and 25 in the second tier.

Most recently with 2.Bundesliga side 1860 Munich for a third time, he’s played most of his career between Munich and Eintracht Frankfurt.

[ MORE: BVB’s Merino to Newcastle ]

Aigner has the resume to succeed and perhaps star in MLS, especially if he wasn’t slowed too much by a knee injury last season (He returned and produced at the 2.Bundesliga level).

Here’s what Rapids interim general manager Padraig Smith said:

“We’re excited to add a player of Stefan’s caliber to our roster for the next three-and-a-half years,” said Smith. “As an organization we are committed to fielding a forward-thinking side and bringing in Stefan – a technical and versatile player who can excel in multiple attacking roles – will help us achieve that vision.”

UEFA Champions League wrap: Celtic held; U.S. GK Horvath busy

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It was a busy night in the UEFA Champions League, with clubs battling for berths in the playoff round where they could draw big names Liverpool, Napoli, Sevilla, Sporting CP or Hoffenheim.

[ MORE: How will USMNT line up? ] 


Club Brugge 3-3 Istanbul Basaksehir

American backstop Ethan Horvath was under siege at home, but his Club Brugge side overcame throwing away a 2-0 deficit to claim a 3-3 draw with İstanbul Başakşehir. The three road goals will give the Turkish visitors every reason to feel good about the Aug. 2 second leg.

Celtic 0-0 Rosenborg

Brendan Rodgers‘ Scottish champions outshot the visitors 12-8, but couldn’t find a way into the goal. Now the Bhoys will have to score in Norway to advance to the next round.

Nice 1-1 Ajax

Mario Balotelli‘s 32nd minute staked Nice to a halftime lead, but the UEFA Europa League finalists snared an away goal through Donny van de Beek to send Ajax back to Holland with a slim advantage.

UCL first legs

Tuesday
Qarabag 0-0 Sheriff
Slavia Prague 1-0 BATE Borisov
AEK Athens 0-2 CSKA Moscow
Steaua Bucharest 2-2 Plzen
Vardar 1-0 Copenhagen
Partizan Belgrade 1-3 Olympiacos

Wednesday
Astana 3-1 Legia Warsaw
Dynamo Kyiv 3-1 Young Boys
RB Salzburg 1-1 Rijeka
Hapoel Be’er Sheva 2-0 Ludogorets Razgrad
Viitorul 1-0 APOEL Nicosia
Maribor 1-0 FH

Terim steps down as Turkey manager after restaurant fight

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ANKARA, Turkey (AP) Turkey’s soccer federation says it has parted ways with national team manager Fatih Terim.

The announcement on Wednesday came weeks after Terim and his two sons-in-law were involved in a fight with a restaurant owner.

[ MORE: How will USMNT line up? ] 

The Turkish Football Federation statement said Terim, 63, and the federation agreed that “it would be healthier for both sides to part ways,” saying non-football related issues were harming both Terim and the federation.

It also thanked Terim, who has headed the national team since 2013, for his services.

Terim previously managed Galatasaray, Milan and Fiorentina. There was no word on who would replace him.

BVB mid Merino reportedly undergoing Newcastle medical

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It’s been a wild year for Mikel Merino, and now the Spaniard is close to playing for a legend from his home country.

Merino joined Borussia Dortmund from Osasuna last summer, and the 21-year-old had a hard time getting playing time under Thomas Tuchel.

[ MORE: Gold Cup Final preview ]

A defensive midfielder who also plays center back and a bit further up the pitch, Merino is set to join Rafa Benitez on loan at Newcastle United for the club’s return to the Premier League next month.

Merino was photographed in Newcastle on Wednesday, and would join a central midfield with Jonjo Shelvey and Isaac Hayden. Both players thrived in the Championship last season.

The Magpies turned Christian Atsu‘s loan permanent to start the summer, and then purchased Florian Lejeune, Jacob Murphy, and Javier Manquillo.