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MLS Preview: Colorado Rapids vs. FC Dallas

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With much of Colorado under water from recent flooding, the Rapids issued a statement earlier today to tell fans their massive Western Conference matchup with Dallas will indeed take place.

Now that that’s taken care of, the home side can focus on fending off the first of many challengers for their 4th place position in the West – FC Dallas.

Including Saturday’s tie, Colorado finish their season with four matches against the teams directly below them – three happen to be in a row to close out the year).  If the Rapids are going to grab a playoff spot, they’re going to have to earn it.

Unlike the vital matchup with playoff implications in the Eastern Conference taking place tomorrow, these two teams come in red hot.  The Rapids have just one single loss in their last 11 matches, and have picked up 22 points during that stretch.

Edson Buddle has been vital in the recent going. After not featuring for much of the season’s first half, he’s played in 14 of their last 16 matches (11 starts) and has scored in each of the Rapids’ last three games. His 75th minute score last week was the game’s lone goal as the Rapids held on for a big 1-0 win on the road at the LA Galaxy.

Dallas have only recently turned things around from a miserable mid-season stretch, but they have two wins in their last three and seven points over that short stretch.

Last week’s 3-1 win over Vancouver was a huge boost to the Dallas squad, and head coach Schellas Hyndman acknowledged that fact. “These are the types of game that, if you look at your season and say, ‘Where did it turn?’ you might say this was the game” he said after the match.

Now, despite the poor form through the season’s dog days, FC Dallas sit just two points out of a playoff spot as the home stretch truly begins.

Argentinian midfielder Mauro Diaz has been a big part of the recent turnaround.  He joined the squad mid-July in the middle of their terrible slump.  Since joining, he’s played in five matches and has two goals and an assist, including one of each in the win over the Whitecaps after coming on in the 74th minute.  The youngster has been a big part of the club’s recent turnaround, and could be a key cog if the club were to squeeze its way into the playoff picture.

So which club will make serious strides towards a postseason berth? At this point in the season, with things so tight, only a single point will do either team no good, and only would serve to open the door for other winners around the league.  Can anyone grab the full spoils?

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.