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Seattle Sounders up against it tonight in Champions League vs. Mexico’s Santos Laguna

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Even if we get past last year’s brutal 6-1 scorching Seattle took while being dismissed from CONCACAF Champions League last year inside the very same stadium, there is a brick wall of data that makes it impossible to like the MLS club’s chances in tonight’s semifinal second leg at Santos Laguna.

The big one, of course, is Major League Soccer’s terrible record against Mexican sides when playing south of the border: that mark stands at a telling 2-23-4 all-time.

Even those two wins were in group stages, the breakthrough results in 2011 when FC Dallas upended Pumas and Seattle took down Monterrey. Seattle did just eliminate a Mexican side in a home-and-away set, which was a first. (The Sounders prevailed over Tigres in the current tournament’s quarterfinals.)

So carrying a 1-0 deficit into tonight away leg inside Estadio Corona, things look grim for Seattle. Mauro Rosales says “it’s only one goal,” and he’s technically correct on that one. On the other hand, it’s also about stopping Santos and perennial MLS killer Herculez Gomez. The U.S. international supplied the solid game-winner last week in Seattle.

And then there is Santos’ impressive record at their very green home ground.

They have lost just once in their most recent 13 matches in Torreon. In Champions League contests inside  Estadio Corona, Los Guerreros are 4-0 with a plus-15 goal difference. (Santos has 16 goals, with just 3 against.)

All hope is not lost for Seattle in tonight’s 8 p.m. ET kickoff (Fox Soccer Channel). Santos did play a strong lineup in its weekend Liga MX match, a scoreless draw at Tijuana.

Still, roster depth is one of the primary reasons we get that 2-23-4 lopsidedness. Major League Soccer teams aren’t too far behind the Mexican sides in, say, roster spots 1-10. But the dropoff in talent down the roster, spots 11-20 or so, is significant. And some of  those will always get on the field in these “added” competitions.

Agent: “There’s no hatred” between Bale, Ronaldo

Gareth Bale & Cristiano Ronaldo, Real Madrid CF
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Gareth Bale doesn’t at all dislike Cristiano Ronaldo — or vice versa — despite what may seem a lukewarm on-field relationship between the two Real Madrid superstars, insists Jonathan Barnett, agent of Bale.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

Instead, Barnett insists that the two men with very different personalities have a healthy relationship, and competition, that pushes each Galactico to be the best player he can be.

Barnett, on Bale’s relationship with Ronaldo — quotes from the Guardian:

“They don’t go out eating every night together, but it’s fine. There’s no hatred there. Gareth is a quiet guy. They’re complete opposites. But I think Gareth can learn a little bit from Ronaldo as well, interacting maybe a little bit. But he wants his own life and he lives it. Gareth is a great footballer, he doesn’t want anything more. He has some very good endorsements but his whole life is to be the best footballer in the world. I don’t think he wants to be the best model in the world or the best underwear seller. That’s not him.”

That’s a hilarious closing quote from Barnett, but he knows exactly how some folks are going to interpret it: “Bale thinks Ronaldo loves himself too much.”

[ MORE: Giroud: “I must harden myself” to unseat Walcott ]

There’s nothing better for the ultimate success of a team than healthy, friendly competition between teammates who are spectacularly talented as Ronaldo and Bale. The former will only be around to perform at his current level for so much longer, but at what point does the latter officially take the torch and supplant Madrid’s biggest star, and how accepting will he be of passing that proverbial torch?

Olivier Giroud: “I must harden myself” to unseat Walcott

Olivier Giroud, France
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Is it just me, or does the press really only ever get noteworthy quotes from players during international breaks?

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

I suppose it’s not surprising, given Premier League players get away from the mean ole British press, go back to their respective homelands and speak with journalists they’ve likely known since their early playing days, thus feel more comfortable opening up about key issues.

Anyway, today we have Olivier Giroud essentially calling himself out for having lost the starting striker’s job at Arsenal because he’s been outplayed of late by Theo Walcott. As discussed before, this is bad news for Giroud because he’s now falling down the depth chart for France with next summer’s European Championship on the horizon.

[ MORE: Aguero admits he wants Guardiola link-up ]

Giroud, on losing his place at Arsenal — quotes from the Guardian:

“At Arsenal, I am in competition with Theo for the striker position. But he is doing well at the moment, so there is no reason to change.

“Whether it was at Tours, Montpellier or Arsenal, I have never experienced a situation like this, I have often played from the start. I need to take positives and to harden myself mentally. It is something new for me.

“I was in [Walcott’s] place in previous seasons at Arsenal. I imagine what he must have been thinking. But I feel that the coach believes in me.”

Giroud goes on to cast into doubt his own confidence, stating in very certain terms he needs “to believe more in [his] abilities.” Giroud’s always come across as a bit of an existentialist, but it’s always strange to hear players publicly call themselves out — particularly their confidence — as if that’s not going to increase the pressure currently weighing down on them.

[ MORE: Rodgers reportedly chosen to take over at Aston Villa ]

The next eight months are going to be monumentally important in Giroud’s career, as the 29-year-old attempts to prove he’s worth keeping around at Arsenal and deserving of a place in the national team squad for next summer’s EUROs, which are to be played in France.