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Champions League preview: Borussia Dortmund will not face the same Real Madrid

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Wednesday’s match at the Westfalenstadion marks the third of four times Borussia Dortmund and Real Madrid will meet this season – exactly four times more than the reigning Bundesliga and La Liga champions usually meet each year. Before meeting in group stage, the two clubs hadn’t played a competitive match since 2003, when a 1-1 draw in Dortmund allowed the Merengues to move past BVB and into the Champions League quarterfinals.

This latest meeting is the first leg of the teams’ UEFA Champions League semifinal, a match set to build on the two games the sides played in group stage. Taking four points from Real Madrid, BVB used the Spanish titans to establish their Champions League bonafides, putting last year’s disappointment behind them as they claimed first in the group.

Unfortunately for Jurgen Klopp’s team, a number of things have changed since the teams met last fall, none of which augur well for his young team’s chances:

Real Madrid rebuilt

Looking back on the fall, Real Madrid seemed like a team that needed a rest. Playing below expectations both domestically and in Europe, los Blancos were putting their boss’s job in jeopardy. José Mourinho needed to shake things up.

What followed were two months of The Special One challenging Madrid player power. Conflicts with Iker Casillas and Sergio Ramos saw the captain dropped and the defense’s leader temporarily lose time, with Mourinho throwing Real’s dressing room into upheaval. When the team was reformed, Diego Lopez was in goal, Raphael Varane was getting some of Pepe’s time in defense, and Real Madrid had a team capable of eliminating Manchester United in the quarters.

They’re much stronger now than when the teams last met: a 2-2 draw on Nov. 6 at the Bernabeu.

“The four goals we conceded against Dortmund in the group stage were all our mistakes,” Mourinho explained on Tuesday. “Should we concede again in these two games, I hope it would be because of fantastic and unstoppable goals, not ones created by our mistakes.”

Dortmund’s close call

BVB needed one of the biggest Champions League comebacks ever to make it to the semifinals, with two-second leg stoppage time goals allowing them to eliminate Málaga. Against an experienced coach employing a pragmatic approach, Dortmund nearly allowed themselves to be eliminated on home soil, and while those descriptions also apply to José Mourinho’s team, Málaga aren’t Real Madrid. They’re nowhere near their level.

There are two ways to interpret what happened in the quarterfinals:

  • One: BVB still have a lot to learn on their way to being European elite. Málaga’s performance illustrated just how far they have to go.
  • Two: The close call will serve as a type of end of innocence, educating Klopp’s side to the commitment required to navigate Champions League.

Option two seems much more likely. Borussia Dortmund have to know they can’t play as bad as they did against Málaga and expect to eliminate Real Madrid. Whether they truly realize the task at hand, however, is another question entirely.

source: Getty ImagesMario Gotze: Distraction

Borussia Dortmund tried to keep Götze’s impending move under wraps, but when German outlet Bild learned the news, BVB had to fess up. One day before their first leg against Madrid, the club was forced to confirm their best player would be leaving for a rival on July 1.

“On a scale of one to ten [news of Götze’s transfer on the eve of the game] would be a nine,” Klopp admitted on Tuesday. “The only way the timing could have been worse would have been if it came four hours before the match.”

There’s no way this isn’t a major distraction. Klopp’s conceding as much. The Götze affair can be overcome or put into perspective, but a team doesn’t learn about the departure of a key talent and just set that aside. You can’t just pretend that doesn’t exist.

For a squad of players who’ve never been this far in Champions League, this is another obstacle that could potentially derail them. Klopp:

Everyone should support the team tomorrow, no matter what – Real Madrid cannot capitalise on this. If someone does not understand how much heart has gone into getting this far, they should not come. Those who understand will support the team unconditionally. Our fans have reacted extremely well in extreme situations in the past. I think that will be the case again.

Now or never for Real

Mourinho was brought in to win the decima – Real Madrid’s 10th European title – and with it all but guaranteed he’ll move on after this season, it’s now or never for this group of players. They either claim the title and bring to fruition the hopes Florentino Perez fostered when he started spending four years ago, or they fall and light the fuse on a project that will be blown up.

All of which is to say the stakes are much higher now than they were in November. Then, Real Madrid knew they would get through group stage one way or another, and having taken two teams from second place group finishes to Champions League titles (Porto 2003-04, Internazionale 2009-10), José Mourinho knows early stage stumbles don’t have to derail a campaign.

He also knows when to have his team turn it up. With his time at Real Madrid to be defined by these next three Champions League matches, the Merengues will be at their best.

“When I joined this club, it was already very successful,” Mourinho explained, “but we were not among the top seeds. The club has been developed. Madrid are one of those clubs where finishing second counts for nothing – so we have to reach the final and win.”

Notes

  • Real Madrid come into the match off a 3-1 Saturday win over visiting Real Betis.
  • Dortmund led the entire way against visiting Mainz, a first minute goal from Marco Reus spurring BVB to a 2-0 win.
  • Neither team has any injury concerns that will affect their starting XIs, with the only absence likely to be on the Real Madrid side. Alvaro Arbeloa is suspended after picking up a late yellow card in the second leg against Galatasaray.
  • Robert Lewandowski extended his club record scoring streak on Saturday, recording a goal in his 12th straight Bundesliga match.
  • Cristiano Ronaldo comes into the game as the competition’s leading scorer with 11 goals in 10 games. His 50 all-competition goals mark the third straight year the Portuguese has hit the half-century mark.

Possible lineups

Borussia Dortmund (4-2-3-1): Roman Weindenfeller; Marcel Schmeltzer, Mats Hummels, Neven Subotic, Lukasz Pisczcek; Ilkay Gundogan, Sven Bender; Marco Reus, Mario Götze, Jakub Blaszczykowski.

Real Madrid (4-2-3-1): Diego Lopez; Fabio Coentrao, Raphael Varane, Sergio Ramos, Michael Essien; Xabi Alonso, Sami Khedira; Cristiano Ronaldo, Mesut Ozil, Angel Di Maria; Karim Benzema.

Transfer Rumor Roundup: Mustafi to Arsenal, Guzan to Boro, Tello to Saints

LILLE, FRANCE - JUNE 12:  Shkodran Mustafi of Germany runs with the ball during the UEFA EURO 2016 Group C match between Germany and Ukraine at Stade Pierre-Mauroy on June 12, 2016 in Lille, France.  (Photo by Alexander Hassenstein/Getty Images)
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Arsenal are said to have inquired about Valencia’s German international defender Shkodran Mustafi, 24.

After losing Per Mertesacker until 2017 with a serious knee injury, Arsene Wenger has already spoken about looking for an experienced option at center back.

[ MORE: Latest transfer news

However, it appears he may be looking for a more long-term approach with Mustafi set to cost around $26 million according to report in the Independent. That say that Spanish outlet Cadena Cope believe the German defender is up for sale.

With Laurent Koscielny on an extended break after appearing in the EURO 2016 final for France and Gabriel missing Arsenal’s tour of the USA with tonsillitis, Wenger will use young center backs Calum Chambers and Rob Holding against the MLS All-Stars on Thursday in San Jose, Calif. or maybe even Francis Coquelin as an emergency center back with Mathieu Debuchy and Nacho Monreal either side of him.

Mustafi started and scored against Ukraine in Germany’s 2-0 win in their EURO 2016 opener but only appeared again at the Euros as a second half sub in their semifinal defeat to France.


U.S. national team goalkeeper Brad Guzan is set to seal a move to Middlesbrough, according to the Guardian.

Per the report Guzan will leave Villa on a free transfer and will sign a two-year contract for Aitor Karanka’s side. Skyy Sports is also reporting that Guzan will have a medical on Teeside in the next 24 hours.

[ MORE: Fabregas sent off in fiery friendly ]

Guzan, 31, played for the U.S. at the Copa America Centenario this summer but given Aston Villa’s relegation to the Championship the Illinois native wants to stay in the Premier League.

If the move to ‘Boro does go through then he will be battling with Victor Valdes and Dimitrios Konstantopoulos for the starting spot.

Guzan has become the first-choice goalkeeper for Jurgen Klinsmann since the 2014 World Cup when Tim Howard decided to take a sabbatical. Last season he endured a nightmare campaign as they were relegated from the Premier League for the first-time in history.

Here’s hoping Guzan gets a chance to shine at the Riverside but with Valdes also signing on, it’s difficult to know who will be the first choice.


Southampton are chasing two Spanish players, according to the Sun.

Barcelona’s Christian Tello, 24, has spent the last two seasons on loan at Fiorentina and FC Porto but is now looking for a permanent home and Southampton will be hoping to add to their attack after losing Graziano Pelle and Sadio Mane this summer.

Tello could leave Barca for $13 million and although he’s scored 20 goals in 86 games for his hometown team, he has failed to break through and finally wants to become a regular elsewhere.

Jay Rodriguez and Charlie Austin are both back fit and among the goals during preseason but with their history of injuries perhaps Claude Puel will be looking to sign one more striker as Saints prepare for both the Premier League and the Europa League.

The report also states that midfield reinforcement is being looked at with Malaga’s Recio, 25, linked with a $7 million move to St Mary’s. Saints seem pretty set in that area of the pitch with Jordy Clasie, Oriol Romeu and Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg.


Arsenal insist they won’t spend big to compete with Premier League rivals

LONDON, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 28:  Arsene Wenger manager of Arsenal (R) and Ivan Gazidis, CEO of Arsenal (L) in discussion as they sit in the stands prior to the UEFA Champions League Group F match between Arsenal and Olympiacos at the Emirates Stadium on September 28, 2011 in London, England.  (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)
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Arsenal fans, I can already hear you venting.

The 2015-16 Premier League runners up have signed Granit Xhaka, Rob Holding and Tasumo Asano this summer but many fans and pundits believe Arsene Wenger‘s side is still short of a top class center back and a predatory striker.

[ MORE: Fabregas sent off in fiery friendly ]

Well, bad news. It doesn’t seem like major cash will be splashed this summer.

Speaking in California ahead of Arsenal’s game against the MLS All-Stars on Thursday, chief executive Ivan Gazidis revealed that the Gunners’ transfer policy is not going to change.

“We can’t afford to outgun competitors that have far more money. We have to be very careful, very selective,” Gazidis said. “We would not be successful if we simply went out into the transfer market and tried to outgun our competitors.

“We’re run in a self-sustaining way, and a way that we believe in, because we believe it gives us certainty for the future and enables us to plan our future with confidence. That means we can’t afford to make huge mistakes in the transfer market. We can’t afford to outgun competitors that have far more money to splurge on transfer fees than we do. So we have to be very careful, very selective about how we do things.”

Arsenal lost out on the Premier League title to Leicester City last season which infuriated their fans mostly because in a campaign where Manchester United, Manchester City and Chelsea all struggled they couldn’t seize their best chance in a decade to win the title.

[ MORE: Arsenal hunt for center back ]

Yes, the Gunners have spent big to bring in Mesut Ozil, Alexis Sanchez and Xhaka in recent years but compared to the spending of United, City, Chelsea and even Liverpool this summer, they are miles behind.

When all is said and done you have to admire the business Arsenal has become with the Emirates Stadium a beacon for their success. However, just as we saw last season during the second half of the campaign, fans will protest as they are desperate to do more than see their team finish in the top four every season and then bow out in the first knockout round of the UEFA Champions League.

Unless Arsenal’s prudent model of spending changes drastically, you really can’t see them challenging for the UCL title and being favorites to win the PL. It’s that simple.

Wenger gets a lot of abuse for apparently not spending the cash at his disposal but after comments like this from Gazidis it is clear that the club isn’t going to hand him vasts amounts of cash.

Report reveals world’s most valuable players under the age of 21

LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - APRIL 10:  Dele Alli of Tottenham Hotspur celebrates as he scores their first goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester United at White Hart Lane on April 10, 2016 in London, England.  (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)
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Watch out for these guys in the next few years.

The folks over at Soccerex have put together a handy list of the most valuable players under the age of 21.

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There’s no surprise that plenty of Premier League stars are in the 20 player list, with four of the top nine hailing from the PL.

Schalke 04 have three players inside the top eight as the Bundesliga side continue their impressive record at developing young stars.

[ MORE: Zlatan reveals MLS offer

Anthony Martial is the clear winner as the Manchester United and France forward is valued at over $10 million more than his nearest competitor. Plenty of other names on the list have been linked with moves to Premier League clubs this summer, while Dele Alli, Marcus Rashford and Kelecho Iheancho also feature among the most valuable youngsters in world soccer.

Below is the list in full, with many factors such as media perception, years remaining on contract, history of injuries and their clubs average selling value all calculated when coming to this valuation.


  1. Anthony Martial (Manchester United) – $52.1 million
  2. Leroy Sane (Schalke 04) – $41.1 million
  3. Renato Sanches (Bayern Munich) – $38.2 million
  4. Dele Alli (Tottenham Hotspur) – $37.8 million
  5. Kinglsey Coman (Bayern Munich) – $33.9 million
  6. Breel Embolo (Schalke 04) – $28.1 million
  7. Marcus Rashford (Manchester United) – $24.9 million
  8. Max Meyer (Schalke 04) – $23.9 million
  9. Kelechi Iheanacho (Manchester City) – $22.1 million
  10. Julian Weigl (Borussia Dortmund) – $21.98 million
  11. Gabriel Jesus (Palmeiras) – $21.97 million
  12. Youri Tielemans (Anderlecht) – $21.4 million
  13. Riechedly Bazoer (Ajax) – $21.2 million
  14. Niklas Sule (Hoffenheim) – $18.4 million
  15. Mahmoud Dahoud (Borussia Monchengladbach) – $16.6 million
  16. Giovani Lo Celso (Rosario Central) – $15.8 million
  17. Ruben Neves (FC Porto) – $15.6 million
  18. Ousmane Dembele (Borussia Dortmund) – $15.5 million
  19. Gabriel Barbosa (Santos) – $15.3 million
  20. Gianluigi Donnarumma (AC Milan) – $15.2 million

Bob Bradley linked with Hull City job in Premier League

PASADENA, CA - JUNE 25:  Bob Bradley coach of  United States during the 2011 CONCACAF Gold Cup Championship against Mexico at the Rose Bowl on June 25, 2011 in Pasadena, California.  (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
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Former U.S. national team head coach Bob Bradley has been installed as the bookies favorite to take over at Hull City in the Premier League.

ProSoccerTalk understands that there has yet to be any formal contact between Hull and Le Havre about Bradley’s services.

[ VIDEO: Pulisic scores for Dortmund ]

Bradley, 58, has yet to coach in England — if he is appointed he’d be the first-ever American to be in charge of a Premier League team — and in the past his name has been brought up surrounding vacant positions at Aston Villa, West Brom, Sunderland and Fulham.

A report from the Hull Daily Mail claims that Hull are looking across Europe for a new manager to replace Steve Bruce who stepped down last week after four years in charge at the KCOM Stadium. Roberto Martinez, current caretaker manager Mike Phelan and Steve McClaren are also said to be in the hunt.

This link with Bradley comes alongside reports of a potential American takeover at Hull but co-owner and current chairman Ehab Allam recently put talks over the sale of the club on hold until after the summer transfer window ends.

[ LONGFORM: Bradley – “That’s Football” ]

As for Bradley, the New Jersey native is the current manager of Le Havre in Ligue 2 in France but it is well known that Bradley has been waiting for a chance to manage in the top-flight of one of Europe’s elite leagues.

After assembling an impressive coaching resume around the globe since he left the U.S. setup in 2011, Bradley appears a good fit for the Tigers.

He worked wonders in a perilous situation in Egypt as he took the national team to the brink of the 2014 World Cup at a time of extreme turmoil in Egypt. He then went to Norway and on a tight budget took newly-promoted Stabaek to a comfortable ninth-place finish in his first season in charge and they then finished third and challenged powerhouse Rosenborg for the title in his second full season in Norway.

Bradley has since moved on to Le Havre in France’s second-tier and after arriving midway through the 2015-16 campaign they agonizingly missed out on the last promotion spot on the final day of last season with just one goal separating the Normandy club from gaining promotion to Ligue 1.

Fans of the U.S. national team have kept Bradley close to their hearts since U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati replaced him with Jurgen Klinsmann in the summer of 2011 and many would love to see him take charge of a Premier League outfit.

Bradley is unlikely to get many resources from Hull’s owners, the Allam family, as Bruce blamed his exit on a failure to add new players this summer. Owner Assem Allam has fallen seriously ill in recent months and has left his son Ehab in charge but he and Bruce butted heads which led to the English manager departing less than three weeks before the new Premier League campaign.

With the Allam family hailing from Egypt the links to Bradley seem to add up as the job he did when in charge of the Pharaohs from 2011-13 was nothing short of miraculous.

Let’s see what direction this moves in but Hull could certainly do a lot worse than hiring Bradley who has a strong background in getting the best out of teams with small resources and the players currently at Hull would certainly slot in nicely with his soccer philosophy.