Real Madrid’s starting lineup revealed…

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With tonight’s crunch game edging ever closer, lets talk about the team news.

Wait a minute…we don’t have to do that for Real Madrid?

That’s because eccentric/genius/legendary/crazy (delete as appropriate) head coach Jose Mourinho, took the unorthodox step of announcing almost all of Madrid’s starting lineup, the day before the game….

So here it is, thanks to Spanish newspaper Marca. Lopez in goal, a back four from right to left of Ramos, Pepe, Varane and Coentrao, two holding midfielders in Xabi and Khedira and an attacking trio of Özil, Ronaldo and Higuaín.

The only player Mourinho was unsure of was Angel Di María, who became a father yesterday and may miss the tie. But apart from that, Borussia Dortmund know exactly who they’re up against. Mind games from Mourinho? Perhaps. But the biggest notable omission is captain Iker Casillas in goal. After falling out of favor and then getting injured, Casillas finds himself on the bench for the biggest game of the season. And listen to this remarkable stat, out of 24 games away to German opposition, Real Madrid have won once, lost 17 and drawn six times. History is not on their side.

MORE: Preview, Dortmund will not face the same Real Madrid

Also, let’s not forget, Real and Dortmund have already squared off twice in the group stages of this seasons UCL. Dortmund beat Madrid 2-1 at the Westfalenstadion, and were leading by the same score line in the return game at the Santiago Bernabeu, until Mezut Ozil equalized in the last minute to grab a point for Madrid. So Dortmund are the favorites then, right? Not so much. This is a different Real team than they one they faced earlier in the season.

Even though Dortmund impressively won the ‘group of death’ ahead of Madrid, Manchester City and Ajax, they won’t go into this clash with the Spanish giants as the top dogs. The pedigree of Real’s attacking talents will be sending shivers down the spine of Dortmund’s manager, Jürgen Klopp, as we speak.

Yes, Robert Lewandowski and Mario Götze are also capable of similarly breathtaking moments of magic, but can they match Cristiano Ronaldo, Benzema, Higuaín, Ozil and Di María blow for blow? No. Expect to see a fired up Madrid come racing out of the traps in the heart of industrial Germany this afternoon.

And what with yesterday’s revelation that Dortmund’s star player, Götze, will be joining Bayern Munich in the summer, Dortmund’s players may be distracted tonight as fans mourn the loss of one of the clubs greatest young talents. The news of Götze’s imminent departure on the eve of their huge UCL semifinal didn’t please Dortmund. But Mourinho isn’t getting involved. “I don’t know Götze, and I don’t know the mentality or the culture of the Dortmund fans, and I don’t know what his teammates are thinking.”

Mourinho playing mind games, not a chance. Wait a minute…

Javier Mascherano leaving Barcelona after 8 seasons

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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) Barcelona says defender Javier Mascherano is leaving the club after eight seasons.

Barcelona says there will be a farewell ceremony on Wednesday with Mascherano, club president Josep Bartomeu and the rest of the squad.

[ MORE: Man City to buy $86m CB ]

The 33-year-old Argentina international will say goodbye to the fans before Thursday’s game against Espanyol at Camp Nou in the Copa del Rey. He is reportedly going to play in China.

Mascherano, who also played as a defensive midfielder, arrived in Barcelona in 2010 from Liverpool and helped the Catalan club win 18 titles. He has made 334 appearances with Barcelona, but recently hadn’t been playing much.

The club earlier this month signed Colombia international Yerry Mina to boost its defense.

More AP Spanish soccer coverage: https://apnews.com/tag/LaLiga

Man City reportedly agrees $86m price for Laporte

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Sky Sports reporter Guillem Balague is reporting that Manchester City is set to seal an $86 million purchase of center back Aymeric Laporte from Athletic Bilbao, and all that’s left is for City to agree to contract terms with the player.

[ MORE: MCFC into League Cup Final ]

The 23-year-old has been with the Basque outfit since 2012, making more than 200 appearances for Athletic. Balague issued a Tweet saying Man City opted for Laporte over $34 million Jonny Evans of West Brom.

Laporte is a smooth and technical passer at center back who shouldn’t have a problem with the physical nature of the Premier League either. He’s yet to break into the French national team, and is only the second French player to play for Bilbao.

Rumors have circulated for some time, though a Tuesday report was dismissed because Laporte was in advanced discussions with Man City during a previous transfer window when he changed his mind.

It’s more big money from City, a boon for Athletic Bilbao, and terrific competition for John Stones and any Man City center back not named Nicolas Otamendi (and Vincent Kompany when healthy).

Rapids hire Patel as director; Highest ranking female exec in MLS

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The Colorado Rapids have hired Ena Patel as their new director of player personnel. She becomes Major League Soccer highest ranking female executive, according to the Denver Post.

[ FOLLOW: PST’s MLS coverage ]

According to the Rapids, she’ll report to club GM Padraig Smith and “oversee player contracts, salary budget, regulatory compliance, and soccer operations protocols.”

The move comes about a month-and-a-half after Sporting KC hired Megan Cameron as an assistant director of player personnel, the first woman hired to an MLS team’s technical staff.

Patel’s resume is outlandishly strong, though this is her first foray into the sports world. Here are some words from Smith, from ColoradoRapids.com:

“Ena’s hiring is the final piece of the puzzle for us on the front office side,” Smith, the Rapids executive vice president and general manager, said in a statement released by the club. “Bringing in a sharp, legal mind who can oversee our contractual processes and complex league mechanisms is a really important part of ensuring that we’re fielding the best possible team. We can’t wait for her to get started.”

Guardiola happy to reach final, knows Man City to be judged by hardware

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Bristol City made its interesting late with a pair of goals, but Manchester City’s League Cup destiny was never in jeopardy in a 3-2 second leg win at Ashton Gate Stadium on Tuesday.

[ RECAP: Bristol City 2-3 (3-5 agg.) Man City ]

That sent the club into the Feb. 25 final with a 5-3 aggregate win, and it’s very difficult not to leap to the story line that is Pep Guardiola‘s chance at a first significant title in his reign at Man City.

The closest City came to hardware last season was being bounced by Arsenal in the FA Cup semifinal. This time, City is the favorite to win at least three of its four entered competitions: the Premier League, the League Cup, and the FA Cup.

But to hear Pep say it, for now the club is just happy to have earned one final berth. From the BBC:

“We are so happy to be there, to reach this final. We played an amazing game until 2-0 and then we lost control, these type of games never end until the end. This is a lesson for next weekend in Cardiff in the FA Cup and especially for the Champions League.

“It’s not for me, it’s for Manchester City, a club who are trying to reach another level. … I know that we will be judged by trophies we win but we are so happy. Nobody can take away what we have done, but Chelsea or Arsenal are strong teams.”

Guardiola was serious about not overlooking the Robins, as he rolled out a very similar lineup to the full-strength bunch that beat Newcastle United 3-1 at the weekend. That may have cost City late, but it had already built a 4-1 aggregate lead with two superior away goals.

Yes, Guardiola is a man who measures himself by the way his club plays but also by winning in that attractive fashion. Expect a determined club to stride into Wembley late next month.

Chelsea and Arsenal square off Wednesday at the Emirates Stadium for the right to match up with Man City, who won the tournament in 2014 and 2016. Even year dominance?