DC United v New York Red Bulls - Eastern Conference Semifinals

MLS Preview: Montreal Impact at New York Red Bulls

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  • It’s Thierry Henry vs. Alessandro Nesta, surely a wonderful matchup to watch
  • Montreal is winless in three matches
  • The league’s leading scorer, Montreal’s Marco Di Vaio leads the visitors’ offense

In an alternate universe, maybe they value defensive giants of the game as much as offensive ones.

But here we are. In our world, guys like Thierry Henry (pictured) make more money and gobble up the opportunities to be the poster boys.

Meanwhile, a guy like Alessandro Nesta can carve out a brilliant defensive career but never get close to the level of worldwide acclaim.

Not that we should feel sorry for Nesta, the esteemed Italian center back who is capping his wonderful  career with a couple of seasons along Montreal’s back line. The guy has made tons of money and has a World Cup title, so he’s done pretty well.

Nor should we let it detract from what should be a dandy MLS matchup Saturday night at Red Bull Arena: Henry, the fabulous French attacker who can still change a game with one of his memorable offensive moments, will be in direct opposition to Nesta as New York hosts Montreal in Harrison, N.J. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. ET.

“Although they didn’t win in a while, they are a very difficult team to beat,” Henry said of Saturday’s visitors.

Not quite as difficult as earlier this year, when Marco Schallibaum’s highly organized side became one of the early surprises of MLS 2013. All that tight work, much by habitually underappreciated midfielder Patrice Bernier, can sometimes be undone by a back line that leans to the slow end.

Still, Montreal has done enough to hold its lead atop the East, currently with more points per game than any other club. One reason has been the steady Marco Di Vaio’s steady goal production. The Italian veteran is tied for the league lead with 11 goals. He has three over two seasons against the Red Bulls.

“He obviously has played at the highest level,” Red Bulls midfielder Tim Cahill said of Di Vaio. “The main thing, hes’ a footballer. He thinks well without the ball. That’s the key with him, when he doesn’t have the ball, the space he creates.”

The Red Bulls remain in the thick of things, although not exactly where such a star-strewn team should be. A slow start, some goalkeeping foibles and general inconsistency have kept Mike Petke’s team from stringing together victories this year; the only time the Red Bulls have won even two in a row came in the spring, when they claimed four on the run.

New York is coming off a 2-0 loss at Colorado.

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.