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UEFA Champions League Draw Preview: Manchester City look to avoid ‘Group of Death’ for third straight year

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Manchester City could be headed for their third consecutive ‘Group of Death’ in the UEFA Champions League as the club’s seed in pot three means they could find themselves drawn with European champions Bayern Munich, Italian champions Juventus and big-spending Napoli.

The drawing is set to take place today in Monaco at 11:00 am ET and can be watched live on the official UEFA Champions League website.

Two seasons ago the Citizens were drawn into a ‘Group of Death’ that included Bayern Munich, Napoli and Villarreal. Last season it was déjà vu as the Roberto Mancini run squad were placed into a pool containing three domestic champions – Real Madrid, Borussia Dortmund and Ajax. On both occasions, City failed to advance to the knockout stage.

The past failures prompted Yaya Toure to claim that City’s European education needs to continue. After naming Munich, Dortmund, Barcelona and Madrid as major threats to claim this year’s UCL title, Toure discussed his side’s outlook. “Manchester United has a strong team. Us too, but we still need to learn in Europe,” he added. “But it is our third participation. I hope everything works out and we can get as far as possible.”

A more favorable draw for Manuel Pellegrini’s men would pair them with Porto or Benfica, the two less fearsome sides in pot one. Other potential pot one opponents for City are Barcelona and Madrid, as rules prevent the Citizens from being paired with United, Chelsea and Arsenal.

While no team can face another club from the same country in the group stage, the English clubs could still be drawn against Scottish champions Celtic, who came through UCL qualifying by overturning a 2-0 first leg deficit to defeat Shakhter Karagandy with three goals at Celtic Park on Wednesday night. The Glasgow side have been placed into pot four along with FC Copenhagen, Napoli, Anderlecht, Steaua Bucharest, Viktoria Plzen, Real Sociedad and Austria Vienna.

Pot two is an interesting collection of sides that includes potential title contenders Juventus and Paris Saint-Germain, seven time European/Champions League winners AC Milan, perennial European dark-horse Shakhtar Donetsk, a tricky Atletico Madrid and a trio of teams that could be ripe for the picking in Schalke, Marseille and CSKA Moscow.

Joining City, Dortmund and Ajax in pot three is Russian giant Zenit St Petersburg as well as Basel, Olympiacos, Galatasaray and Bayer Leverkusen.

Pot 1: FC Bayern Munich, Barcelona, Chelsea, Real Madrid, Manchester Utd, Arsenal, Porto, Benfica

Pot 2: Atletico Madrid, Shakhtar Donetsk, AC Milan, Schalke, Marseille, CSKA Moscow, PSG, Juventus

Pot 3: Zenit, Manchester City, Ajax, Borussia Dortmund, Basel, Olympiakos, Galatasaray, Bayer Leverkusen

Pot 4: FC Copenhagen, Napoli, Anderlecht, Celtic, Steaua Bucharest, Pizen, Real Sociedad, Austria Vienna

Viktoria Plzen set to sign midfielder Andreas Ivanschitz

Obafemi Martins, Oniel Fisher, Andreas Ivanschitz
Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press via AP)
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PRAGUE (AP) Czech champion Viktoria Plzen is close to signing Austrian midfielder Andreas Ivanschitz.

Plzen says Ivanschitz agreed terms for a contract lasting 1 + seasons and will sign it when the team returns from a training camp in Spain. Ivanschitz has already joined the squad at the Oliva Nova resort, the club says.

Ivanschitz helped the Seattle Sounders win their first MLS Cup in December.

[ NEW HOMES: Fonte | Berahino ]

No financial details were given.

The 33-year-old Ivanschitz also played for Rapid Vienna and Red Bull Salzburg in Austria, Mainz in the Bundesliga, Levante in Spain and Panathinaikos in Athens.

Ivanschitz played 69 games for Austria in 2003-14, scoring 12 goals.

FIFA allows Matip to represent Liverpool during AFCON

LONDON, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 29: Joel Matip of Liverpool heads to score his team's third goal during the Premier League match between Crystal Palace and Liverpool at Selhurst Park on October 29, 2016 in London, England.  (Photo by Christopher Lee/Getty Images)
Photo by Christopher Lee/Getty Images
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Joel Matip is going to get to play for Liverpool during AFCON after all.

The center back had turned down the chance to represent Cameroon at the Africa Cup of Nations, and Liverpool was forced to apply to FIFA for a waiver.

[ PL PREVIEW: Swansea vs. Liverpool ]

Matip suffered an ankle injury in December, adding to his desire to stay at Anfield. He declared himself internationally retired and was one of six Cameroon players who refused call-ups for AFCON.

He last played for the Reds on Dec. 11, and can be selected by Jurgen Klopp against Swansea City on Saturday.

Man United captain Rooney raises $1.5m from charity game

FILE - A Sunday, Jan. 15, 2017 file photo of Manchester United's Wayne Rooney leaving the field after the English Premier League soccer match between Manchester United and Liverpool at Old Trafford stadium in Manchester, England. Manchester United captain Wayne Rooney says he raised 1.2 million pounds ($1.5 million) for charity from a friendly game against former club Everton last year. (AP Photo/Dave Thompson)
AP Photo/Dave Thompson
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MANCHESTER, England (AP) Manchester United captain Wayne Rooney says he raised 1.2 million pounds ($1.5 million) from a friendly game against former club Everton last year.

That represents the profits, after operational costs, from August’s sellout match at Old Trafford and goes toward the Wayne Rooney Foundation’s target of raising 5 million pounds for children’s charities.

[ NEW HOMES: Fonte | Berahino ]

Rooney said: “I’d like to thank all the fans who came to the testimonial and made it such a special night. They’ve raised a huge amount of money for children who are disadvantaged and it will make a real difference to their lives.”

Rooney is one goal from breaking Manchester United’s scoring record, with the striker currently tied with Bobby Charlton on 249 goals.

Rooney joined United from Everton in 2004.

WATCH: Lewandowski’s juggling stoppage time winner

Bayern's Robert Lewandowski celebrates after scoring his side's first goal during the German soccer Bundesliga match between SC Freiburg and FC Bayern Munich in Freiburg, Germany, Friday, Jan. 20, 2017. (Patrick Seeger/dpa via AP)
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Robert Lewandowski picked up where he left off.

The Polish striker scored twice for Bayern Munich, once in stoppage time, as the Bavarians improved their Bundesliga lead to six points after toppling Freiburg 2-1 on Friday.

[ MORE: Bundesliga second half preview ]

And what a winner it was, Lewandowski taking a Douglas Costa cross with two juggling touches before hitting an offspeed bouncer inside the post.

It was the league’s first match following the winter/holiday break, giving Bayern a cushion before RB Leipzig takes the pitch against Eintracht Frankfurt in a Top Five tilt on Saturday.

Lewandowski moves closer to Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang on the goal scoring chart. His 13th and 14th goals have him two back of Borussia Dortmund’s striker, as Lewandowski pursues a third Golden Boot in four seasons.

Full Weekend Schedule
Freiburg 1-2 Bayern Munich — Friday
Augsburg vs. Hoffenheim — Saturday
Schalke vs. Ingolstadt — Saturday
Darmstadt vs. Borussia Monchengladbach — Saturday
Werder Bremen vs. Borussia Dortmund — Saturday
Wolfsburg vs. Hamburger SV — Saturday
RB Leipzig vs. Eintracht Frankfurt — Saturday
Bayer Leverkusen vs. Hertha Berlin — Sunday
Mainz vs. Koln — Sunday