KANSAS CITY – MLS mavens sometimes enjoy using the All-Star game in its current format as a referendum on where the league stands, quality-wise.
It looks like this: If we gather the league’s tip-top talent, can they hang with a Premier League club or a top Scottish side or, as in this case, an above-average outfit from Italy’s tough Serie A?
Of course, there are about 40 reasons why the theory is flawed. From AS Roma’s side, start with fact that the team is just getting into the heart of its preseason training, nowhere near individual fitness and nothing that resembles a cohesive bunch in terms of understanding on the field. From the MLS side, does anyone seriously believe that one light, morning practice a day before the match can even begin to create an actual team from 11 individuals, even if they do represent a fairly fancy set of talented feet?
And there’s something else to consider: Roma is sure to have some heavy legs when the teams meet tonight at Sporting Park.
(MORE: MLS All-Star game preview)
Roma is building preseason fitness, just as other European teams are right now, whether it’s in the States, in the seclusion of the Alps, somewhere in Asia or down under or wherever. They aren’t building fitness for late July; the comprehensive plan is all about building a base for the long, grueling season ahead.
Bottom line: the Roma players’ legs are surely dead.
Roma practiced Tuesday at Sporting Park, then went through another full fitness workout at the Kansas City Chiefs’ indoor training complex. They were back at it Wednesday morning, with a full training session at Sporting Kansas City’s complex at Swope Park.
With Celtic (just about) booking their spot in the UEFA Champions League group stage on Tuesday, four more teams will join them.
[ LIVE: Champions League scores ]
Napoli, Olympiacos, Sevilla and Hapoel Be’er Sheva all have narrow leads heading into the second legs which sets things up rather nicely for the winner takes all second legs. Olympiacos and Be’er Sheva will be feeling particularly nervous after conceding at home in the first leg.
On Wednesday five more ties takes place across Europe with Liverpool looking to book their spot in the UCL group stage against Hoffenheim.
Below is the full schedule for Tuesday’s games, which kick off at 2:45 p.m. ET, while you can click on the link above to follow live commentary on all four matches.
Tuesday’s UEFA Champions League playoff second legs
Nice vs. Napoli (Napoli lead 2-0 on aggregate)
Astana 4-3 Celtic (Celtic advance 8-4 on aggregate)
Rijeka vs. Olympiacos (Olympiacos leads 2-1 on aggregate)
Sevilla vs. Istanbul Basaksehir (Sevilla leads 2-1 on aggregate)
Maribor vs. Hapoel Be’er Sheva (Hapoel Be’er Sheva lead 2-1 on aggregate)
Seven Premier League teams enter the League Cup second round on Tuesday with plenty of potential upsets lined up.
[ LIVE: Follow League Cup scores ]
All 13 PL clubs (six more are in action on Wednesday) face teams from the lower leagues with the likes of Crystal Palace, Leicester City, Bournemouth and Swansea City all on upset alert.
U.S. national team players to watch out for include Lynden Gooch who starts for Sunderland and Emerson Hyndman who is on the bench for Bournemouth.
Below is the schedule for the League Cup games on Tuesday with all games to kick off at 2:45 p.m. ET unless otherwise stated.
Crystal Palace vs. Ipswich Town – 2:30pm
Aston Villa vs. Wigan Athletic
Leeds United vs. Newport County
Middlesbrough vs. Scunthorpe United
Norwich City vs. Charlton Athletic
QPR vs. Brentford
Fulham vs. Bristol Rovers
Cardiff City vs. Burton Albion
Carlisle United vs. Sunderland
Doncaster vs. Hull City
Grimsby Town vs. Derby County
Brighton vs. Barnet
Accrington Stanley vs. West Brom
Sheffield United vs. Leicester City
Birmingham City vs. Bournemouth
Watford vs. Bristol City
MK Dons vs. Swansea City
Reading vs. Millwall – 3pm
Bolton vs. Sheffield Wednesday – 3pm
Celtic survived a scare in Kazakhstan to qualify for the group stage of the UEFA Champions League for the second season on the trot.
[ MORE: Champions League schedule ]
Brendan Rodgers‘ side beat FC Astana 5-0 in the first leg of their playoff last week at Celtic Park but the trip to Kazakhstan proved much trickier with Astana leading 4-1 late in the game which had pulled the score back to 6-4 on aggregate.
However, Scott Sinclair had scored a priceless away goal to make it 1-1 at half time and despite a late flurry of goals for the hosts Olivier Ntcham scored a deflected effort and Leigh Griffiths wrapped things up late on as Celtic lost 4-3 on the night but went through 8-4 on aggregate.
Last season the Scottish champions went out in the UCL group stage after being drawn with Manchester City, Barcelona and Borussia Monchengladbach and will be hoping for a kinder draw this time around.
The second round of the League Cup (known as the Carabao Cup in 2017-18 for sponsorship reasons) kicks off on Tuesday with 13 Premier League clubs in action.
[ MORE: League Cup scores live ]
All 13 have been drawn against lower-league opposition and those klaxons you can hear signify upset alerts.
Below is a look at how each Premier League club will get on as they enter the competition on Tuesday and Wednesday with a ranking on each game out of 10, with 10 being the most likely for an upset to occur.
Remember: the seven PL teams in European competition will enter the League Cup in the third round.
Upset alert ranking for PL clubs
Crystal Palace vs. Ipswich Town – 8/10
Brighton vs. Barnet – 4/10
Accrington Stanley vs. West Brom – 7/10
Sheffield United vs. Leicester City – 6/10
Birmingham City vs. Bournemouth – 7/10
Watford vs. Bristol City – 5/10
MK Dons vs. Swansea City – 5/10
Newcastle United vs. Nottingham Forest – 6/10
Southampton vs. Wolves – 7/10
Huddersfield Town vs. Rotherham United – 7/10
Cheltenham vs. West Ham United – 8/10
Stoke City vs. Rochdale – 6/10
Blackburn Rovers vs. Burnley – 6/10