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Metalist Kharkiv disqualified from Champions League after match-fixing

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After an investigation into alleged match-fixing, Ukrainian outfit Metalist Kharkiv have been thrown out of the UEFA Champions League.

The Ukrainian Premier League champions will not feature in Europe’s elite club competition for the 2103-14 season, after making it to the play-off round and one match away from the Champions League group stages.

“The UEFA Appeals Body carefully analyzed the statements and documents submitted by the club, as well as the statements and documents submitted by the UEFA Disciplinary Inspector and reached the following decision: FC Metalist Kharkiv are disqualified from the 2013/14 UEFA competitions.”

Their UCL play-off  first-leg match against Bundelisga side Schalke was set for next Wednesday, August 21. But now the UEFA Emergency Panel will hold a meeting later today to decide what will happen next.

What a mess.

This all started on August 6, when European soccer’s governing body announced they would be investigating match-fixing allegations against the club side from Eastern Ukraine, and now they’ve banished them from the most lucrative competition in world soccer.

But what will happen to the open spot now available?

The smart thing to do would be reinstating Greek side PAOK FC who lost to Kharkiv in the third-qualifying round. However, it’s likely that Metalist Kharkiv will be issuing an appeal to the European Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).

(MORE: UEFA bans Turkish sides Fenerbache and Besiktas)

Does that sound familiar? It should. Because Turkish side Fenerbache are going through that whole process right now as they aim to play in the Champions League group stages this season. The Istanbul based club has come under similar allegations from UEFA and was banned from European soccer, however they’ve appealed to CAS and their case will be heard on August 28.

But there lies the problem. Fenerbache were drawn against English side Arsenal in the UCL play-off round and will have already played the first-leg of their match before their case is heard by CAS. They will find out their fate on either the day of their second-leg match, or the day before they play the Gunners.

Like I said, all very messy.

However, you have to hand it to UEFA for giving out incredibly hefty bans for any kind of match-fixing or improper conduct. It will likely cost these clubs around $45-50 million and that will make them think twice about doing it again.

(MORE: Arsenal handed tough Champions League draw against Fenerbache)

That said, with two teams in the final stages of UEFA Champions League qualifying embroiled in match-fixing, it doesn’t do much to promote the image of European soccer.

UEFA is trying to clean things up but it could take some time. And it will certainly get cloudier as the weeks and months go by. Stand by, more news on this to come later today.

FOLLOW LIVE: 2016 MLS Cup Playoffs knockout round

Sporting Kansas City forward Dom Dwyer, center, is congratulated by teammates, including midfielder Roger Espinoza (27), following his goal during the first half of an MLS soccer match against the Houston Dynamo in Kansas City, Kan., Saturday, Aug. 1, 2015. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)
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The knockout round of the 2016 MLS Cup Playoffs concludes on Thursday, as four teams vie for the final two places — one in the Eastern Conference, one in the Western Conference — in the conference semifinals, which begin on Sunday.

[ FOLLOW LIVE: MLS Cup Playoffs knockout round ]

Up first, the East’s fourth-seeded D.C. United welcome the five-seed Montreal Impact to RFK Stadium for the two sides’ third meeting of the 2016 season. Each of the year’s first two clashes finished a 1-1 draw, in July and August. Didier Drogba is expected to be unavailable for the win-or-go-home tie. United finished the regular season with four wins in the last five games, while the Impact won just two of their last eight.

[ MORE: Preivewing Thursday night’s knockout-round games ]

In the nightcap, the West’s fourth-seeded Seattle Sounders will take on the five-side, Sporting Kansas City, at CenturyLink Field. Sporting were victorious in both regular-season meetings this year — 1-0 on opening day, and 3-0 in late-July, the day the Sounders essentially quit on Sigi Schmid. Since that blistering hot day in KC, the Soudners have lost just twice in 14 games (eight wins, four draws).

Thursday’s MLS Cup Playoffs schedule

D.C. United vs. Montreal Impact — 7:30 p.m. ET
Seattle Sounders vs. Sporting KC — 10 p.m. ET

Cristiano Ronaldo says Ashley Cole is the toughest player he faced

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Cristiano Ronaldo has faced the best defenders in the world during his time with Manchester United, Real Madrid and the Portuguese national team.

He has also caused fits for most of those defenders with goal after goal for club and country. But, there have been some players who have at least made it difficult for the all-time leading goal scorer in Real Madrid and Champions League history.

According to Ronaldo, former Chelsea and Arsenal defender Ashley Cole was the toughest player he has faced in his career.

[ MORE: VIDEO: Incredible Pelle goal in China ]

“Over the years I had some great battles with Ashley Cole, he does not give you a second to breathe,” Ronaldo told Coach Mag. “He was such a tenacious player when he was at his peak, quick, tough in the tackle. You knew it would never be an easy game.”

During his time with Manchester United, Ronaldo faced Cole on numerous occasions while Cole was with Arsenal and Chelsea. The two have also faced off in international competition between Ronaldo’s Portugal and Cole’s England.

It’s certainly high praise for Cole, who now plays in MLS for the LA Galaxy. At the age of 35, Cole has started 25 matches for the Galaxy this season, scoring one goal.

Phil Neville praises Juan Mata’s play to Manchester United

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Juan Mata has appeared in 116 matches for Manchester United since moving to Old Trafford in 2014. In that time, Mata has scored 29 goals and recorded 18 assists.

Despite his performance for the team, some thought Mata would be moved when Jose Mourinho came to town, including former United player and assistant coach Phil Neville.

Neville told Sky Sports, “I actually thought he would be the first out of the door when Jose came, but he’s actually becoming one of the most important players.”

Neville praised Mata’s contributions and versatility for United. “He is never injured, he provides a lot of assists, he plays in two or three different positions, and he scores important goals.”

Manchester United has lacked an identity under Mourinho and recently faltered in the Premier League as the team is winless in its last three matches.

[ MORE: Mourinho gets FA charge ]

Could Mata be the answer to some of United’s problems?

The Spaniard is a classic No. 10 with the ability to dictate his team’s attack and create scoring opportunities for his teammates. Mata can also put the ball in the back of the net as evidenced by his winner against Manchester City in the EFL Cup.

Mourinho has options in the center midfield with the likes of Paul Pogba, Ander Herrera and Michael Carrick in addition to Mata on the roster.

However, given the team’s Premier League struggles, it could be worth giving Mata a chance as the team’s No. 10.

David Moyes faces FA charges after being sent off during EFL Cup

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David Moyes and Sunderland have gotten off to one of the worst starts in Premier League history.

If they fail to earn a point against Arsenal this weekend, they will tie the 1995-96 Manchester City team for the worst start ever through 10 matches with two points.

It appears those frustrations carried over to the EFL Cup for Moyes. On Wednesday, the manager was forced to leave the dugout toward the end of Sunderland’s 1-0 loss to Southampton after he protested a no-call from referee Chris Kavanagh.

Moyes was charged by the FA for his protests, saying the manager “used abusive and/or insulting words towards a match official”.

It’s just another thing to add to Moyes’ plate as he looks to keep Sunderland’s hopes of safety alive in the Premier League.