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MLS Preview: Montreal Impact at Toronto FC

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  • Toronto are 1-2-1 against Montreal since the Impact joined MLS
  • TFC have conceded just three goals in their last five games
  • Marco Di Vaio leads MLS with 10 goals, Montreal have scored just eight away from home all season.

On the eve of Independence Day in the USA, one heck of a battle is set to ensue north of the border in Canada.

There will be no love lost between Toronto FC and the Montreal Impact tonight, as the fierce rivals square off at BMO Field.

Montreal have had the upper-hand so far this season after winning their MLS encounter at the Olympic Stadium 2-1 early in the season, before rallying to beat Ryan Nelsen’s men 6-2 on aggregate in the Amway Canadian Championship semifinals.

Toronto will be without Kyle Bekker, Doneil Henry, Ashtone Morgan and Jonathan Osorio who are all on Gold Cup duty for the Canadian national team. Montreal have no such worries, although veteran defender Alessandro Nesta could have inadvertently announced his retirement from soccer at the end of this season ahead of the clash.

But TFC did have a boost earlier this week, as Scottish defender Steven Caldwell signed a new contract with Toronto after impressing during his short-term loan with the club. Caldwell, 32, has helped shore up TFC’s defense, who have conceded just three times in their last five games. During that stretch Toronto have a 1-2-2 record.

A win for the Reds tonight, watch on TSN in Canada from 7pm ET, would see them close the gap on Chicago to just three points but they have scored a measly nine goals at home all season, only D.C. United have scored fewer home goals in the whole of MLS.

Meanwhile Montreal are coming off the back of a wild defeat to the Colorado Rapids, as Tony Cascio’s dramatic late winner stunned the Eastern conference leaders. That 4-3 defeat to Colorado was down to defensive mistakes, according to head coach Marco Schällibaum. “My team had intensity, heart and a will to win,” he said. “But individual mistakes cost us the tie, and they’re a part of football. Maybe we wanted the win too much, but that’s my team: we absolutely wanted the three points.” Meanwhile Schällibaum was handed a one-game ban by the MLS Disciplinary Committee after his actions on the bench during the defeat.

No doubt Montreal will be favorites for the three points tonight, but after TFC dominated for large spells but couldn’t find the net against Real Salt Lake last time out, maybe their luck will change and a huge win in the 401 Derby.

OTHER NOTES: Since coming to MLS, the Impact have not won in Toronto, with two losses and a draw in three meetings in all competitions at BMO Field.

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.