Newcastle United's coach Pardew reacts during their English Premier League soccer match against Sunderland in Newcastle

Is Alan Pardew’s time up at Newcastle?

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With rumors of a meeting between Newcastle owner Mike Ashley and Chelsea interim manager Rafa Benitez, could Magpie manager Alan Pardew be in line for the axe?

The whispers for Pardew’s termination began rippling through St. James’ Park a month ago when Fulham nearly nipped a point despite the Magpies firing 28 shots on goal. On that day, Pardew was handed a reprieve courtesy of a 93rd minute goal by the king of late match heroics, Papiss Demba Cisse.

Since then, however, Newcastle has gone winless in its last four matches causing whispers to morph into groans and – after last weekend’s 6-0 shellacking at the hands of Liverpool – groans into cries. Following the loss to Brendan Rodgers’ side, former Toon boss Kevin Keegan tried to nip the problem in the bud by stating that Pardew “had enough credit in the bank from last season,” to justify staying on.

That credit extends back to last year’s 6th place finish and following Saturday’s loss to Liverpool, Pardew noted that one loss shouldn’t condemn him to termination. After all, Pardew pointed out, it was just two matches prior when his side drew with Benfica while pressing hard for the win.

Those seeking an end to Pardew’s reign must also consider the effect of Demba Ba’s sale, which only transpired due to Chelsea’s triggering of the Senegalese striker’s release clause. Combine this loss with the rigors of competing in the travel-heavy Europa League and extended injury bouts for Steven Taylor, Ryan Taylor, Fabriccio Colocinni, Tim Krul, Cheik Tiote, Yohan Cabaye and Danny Simpson, and leniency seems more reasonable.

Detractors will argue, however, that all three aforementioned ailments must be counter-balanced by Newcastle’s notable transfer market activity, which brought in five fabulous players from Ligue 1: Toulouse’s Moussa Sissoko, Nancy’s Massadio Haidara, Bordeaux’s Yoan Gouffran, Montpellier’s Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa and Lille’s Mathieu Debuchy. It’s a fair point to make yet incorporating five new players half-way through a season is no easy feat, especially when those players are unable to communicate in English.

When discussing Pardew’s possible termination, it’s also important to note Newcastle’s termination policy. Last fall the 51 year old was handed an eight year contract extension, which caused some to raise eyebrows. Managing director Derek Llambais explained the rationale: “You can’t keep changing your manager if he has a bad run – it doesn’t make any sense at all.”

“You can have a bad run,” Llambais continued. “Sir Alex when he first went to Man United, the first four years was tough for them as a club but they stuck by him and now look where they are. We have to stick by our manager and we want to.”

If Llambais’ words are to be believed then Pardew’s job should be safe, so long as the club avoids relegation. To ensure that doesn’t happen, the manager will need to collect as many points as possible from his next three matches against West Ham, QPR and Arsenal. If, however, Newcastle goes down to the Championship all bets are off as life in the lower league would almost certainly qualify as more than a mere “bad run.”

Bayern’s Vidal says “ugly” Atletico not deserved UCL finalists

MADRID, SPAIN - APRIL 27: Juanfran of Atletico Madrid and Arturo Vidal of Bayern Munich argue during the UEFA Champions League semi final first leg match between Club Atletico de Madrid and FC Bayern Muenchen at Vincente Calderon on April 27, 2016 in Madrid, Spain.  (Photo by Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images)
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Bayern Munich midfielder Arturo Vidal has declared “ugly” Atletico Madrid unworthy finalists in the UEFA Champions League.

Bayern was eliminated in the Champions League semifinal by Atleti on Tuesday, with Diego Simeone’s Spanish side advancing on away goals.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s UCL coverage ]

However, Vidal believed Bayern were the better team in the second leg, saying Atletico played “ugly football” to get through.

Today ugly football – Atletico – played against the best football in the world. The only time they saw the ball was for the goal.

They are going to be dreaming about us right up to the final. They did not have the ball, they took on the best team in the world, they took their chances and got to the final.

The best does not always win in football, like today. They are not deserved finalists.

Bayern Munich controlled more than 70-percent of possession and had 33 shots compared to Atletico’s nine, but those stats mean little as Antoine Griezmann’s away goal was enough to send Atleti to the final.

[ MORE: Former England striker Joe Cole headed to NASL’s Tampa Bay Rowdies ]

Atletico may not play the most attractive football, but after eliminating Barcelona and Bayern Munich in consecutive legs, it’s hard to argue anyone deserves this more than Simeone’s men.

Europa League preview: Liverpool, Shakhtar look to overcome Spanish foes

VILLARREAL, SPAIN - APRIL 28:  Cedric Bakambu of Villarreal is watched by the Liverpool defence during the UEFA Europa League semi final first leg match between Villarreal CF and Liverpool at Estadio El Madrigal on April 28, 2016 in Villarreal, Spain.  (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)
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The second leg of the Europa League semifinals kick off tomorrow, with two La Liga sides looking to make it an all-Spanish final.

[ MORE: Premier League Playback ]

Villarreal holds a 1-0 lead over Liverpool, while Sevilla scored two away goals in their 2-2 draw at Shakhtar Donetsk.

Liverpool vs. Villarreal – 3:05 p.m. ET
Villarreal won first leg 1-0

Adrian Lopez’s late winner in the first leg has given Villarreal a slight lead, while the Spanish side did well not to concede an away goal. However, Liverpool have overcome deficits at Anfield before, including their memorable 4-3 victory over Borussia Dortmund in the quarterfinals. Emre Can is back fit for the Reds, as manager Jurgen Klopp will hope his fellow German can help the team to a cup final in his first year in charge.

[ RELATED: Liverpool preparing for another big Thursday night at Anfield ]

Sevilla vs. Shakhtar Donetsk – 3:05 p.m. ET
First leg ended 2-2 draw 

Sevilla are looking to become the first team to win three consecutive Europa League titles as the two-time defending champions face off against Shakhtar Donetsk. Sevilla are in the driver’s seat after scoring two away goals in Ukraine, and will feel confident of advancing to the final with a great home record at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan Stadium.

Men in Blazers podcast: Celebrating Leicester’s title with Arlo White

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In the latest Men in Blazers podcast, Rog and Davo celebrate Leicester City’s improbable Premier League title with Leicester’s own Arlo White.

All of the MiB content — pods, videos and stories can be seen here, but to really stay in touch, follow, subscribe, click here:

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European police say Russian mafia infiltrating soccer clubs

LISBON, PORTUGAL - NOVEMBER 04:  Sporting Lisbon fans celebrate after their team score a goal during the Portuguese Liga match between Sporting Lisbon and Uniao Leiria at the Alvalade XXI Stadium on November 4, 2005 in Lisbon, Portugal.  (Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images)
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LISBON, Portugal (AP) Portuguese and European police say they have broken up a cell of an important Russian mafia group that allegedly laundered money through European football clubs.

Europol, the European Union’s law enforcement agency, said in a statement Wednesday the group identified EU football clubs in financial distress and infiltrated them with benefactors who brought much-needed cash.

[ MORE: Man City bounced from UCL ]

Once they were in control, the mobsters allegedly laundered millions of euros (dollars) through player transfers, TV rights deals and betting.

Portuguese and European police on Tuesday raided third-division Portuguese club Uniao de Leiria and arrested three key members of the Russian gang. Three other Portuguese clubs’ premises were searched.

Europol said the operation helped identify serious crimes in Austria, Germany, and the United Kingdom, though it gave no details.