Copa Libertadores starts with golazo, wins by Barcelona, Emelec, Universidad de Chile

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Copa Libertadores started in earnest on Tuesday. Sure, there were 10 play-in ties that rounded out the group stage field, but today in Montevideo, South America’s Champions League began proper.

And there’s no better way to start a tournament than with a golazo. Here is Barcelona (Ecuador) attacking midfielder Damián Diaz giving his side an early lead against Uruguayan power Nacional:

[youtube http://youtu.be/dsTxpHlm5s8?t=7s]

If the video’s not working for you, you missed Diaz striding up to a ball left bouncing after an aerial duel just outside Nacional’s penalty area. Hitting a looper over Nacional’s Jorge Bava, Diaz puts home a nice 22-yard strike that ushers in this year’s group stage.

Barcelona added a second goal eight minutes later to take a surprise lead on their hosts, but second half goals from Sebastian ‘Loco’ Abreu and former Toluca star Ivan Alonso salvaged a draw for the Uruguayans.

There were two other matches on Copa Lib’s Tuesday calendar. Universidad de Chile from Sebastian Ubilla to cruise past Venezuela’s Deportivo Lara, 2-0. In Ecuador, Facundo Ferreyra’s own goal put Argentina’s Velez Sarsfield down at Emelec. When defender Fernando Tobio saw straight red 12 minutes later, Emelec had all they needed for a 1-0 victory.

Copa Lib continues on Wednesday with a blockbuster. Ronaldinho’s Atlético Mineiro hosting one of the most talented clubs on the continent. Fellow Campeonato side Sao Paulo will likely start a team that includes Luis Fabiano, Lucio, Paulo Henrique Ganso, Jadson, and Denilson.

Also on the schedule: Uruguayan titans Peñarol visiting Chile’s Deportes Iquique; Boca Juniors (unlikely to play the newly re-signed Juan Roman Riquelme) hosting Toluca; Fluminese making the long trip to Venezuela to face Caracas; and Peruvians Real Atlético Garcilaso hosting Carlos Valdes and Santa Fe.

AT THE HALF: Manchester derby scoreless after 45 minutes

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After 45 minutes, the final Manchester derby of the 2016-17 Premier League season — the one that’ll go a long, long way toward deciding which of the city’s sides will finish in the top-four — is scoreless, but not without incident.

WATCH LIVE ONLINE, HERE

The game’s best chances thus far fell Manchester City’s way, as Sergio Aguero missed a clear-cut chance after 10 minutes — Kevin De Bruyne whipped in the perfect ball to the back post, and Aguero put it wrong side of David De Gea‘s post.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Ander Herrera has, once again, be Manchester United’s danger man, combining well with Marcus Rashford and Henrikh Mkhitaryan, but Claudio Bravo made the one save he was forced into during the first half. One thing to keep an eye on during the final 45 minutes: Rashford picked up a knock very early on, and struggled to move around the field after that.

STREAM LIVE: The Manchester Derby

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The third Manchester Derby of the season is the first away from Old Trafford, as Manchester United visits Manchester City (Watch live, 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com) at the Etihad Stadium on Thursday.

There’s much on the line, as the sides sit just two points apart in the race for the Top Four. Man City would leapfrog third-place Liverpool with a win, while United could join the Reds on 66 points with a match-in-hand.

WATCH LIVE ONLINE, HERE

Sergio Aguero starts for Man City, with Gabriel Jesus on the bench.

On the other side, it’ll be a physical middle-third guarded by Ander Herrera, Michael Carrick, and Marouane Fellaini. Wayne Rooney and Jesse Lingard start on the bench.

LINEUPS

Manchester City: Bravo, Zabaleta, Kompany (C), Otamendi, Kolarov, Fernandinho, Yaya Toure, Sterling, De Bruyne, Sane, Aguero. Subs: Caballero, Sagna, Fernando, Navas, Clichy, Gabriel Jesus, A. Garcia

Manchester United: De Gea; Valencia, Bailly, Blind, Darmian; Herrera, Carrick, Fellaini, Mkhitaryan; Rashford, Martial. Subs: Romero, Shaw, Fosu-Mensah, Tuanzebe, Young, Lingard, Rooney.

Ex-Liverpool CEO shares biting story of Suarez transfer

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Ian Ayre’s got jokes.

The former Liverpool CEO lifted the lid on some transfer stories during a Merseyside lecture this week.

Of note, Ayre admitted that the club thought Dele Alli demanded too much given what he had produced when the Reds has the chance to sign him as a 16-year-old, and said that Liverpool could’ve landed Alexis Sanchez but the player wanted to live in London (“We couldn’t move the football club to London, unfortunately,” he quipped).

The best part relayed by Sky Sports had to do with Luis Suarez, and shows the relentless nature of the transfer market. Clearly Barcelona had interest in Suarez before the fiery striker bit Giorgio Chiellini at the World Cup, because, well…

“I remember the sporting director of Barcelona calling me during that game, immediately as Suarez bit the player, and he said to me ‘my friend, he’s bitten somebody, how can this be the price?’ I said ‘he’d already bitten somebody when you first bid!'”

We’re sure there’s a certain amount of storytelling in there, but undoubtedly some truth.

Given Barca paid a reported $84 million for the striker, the asking price couldn’t have started that much higher.

Men in Blazers podcast: Chelsea tops Spurs, Top Four predictions

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Rog and Davo return to discuss Chelsea’s FA Cup semifinal victory over Spurs, update their Top Four predictions (again), and dive into the depths of the relegation zone. Plus, the very important movement to change “Hudson Street” to “Ray Hudson Street.”

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