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UEFA Champions League Group A preview

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Group A of the 2013-14 UEFA Champions League features one three-time winner, two domestic champions from the previous season and four teams that have all made it to the knockout round of the competition in the new millennium.

source:  Manchester United

How they qualified: Barclays Premier League champion, directly into group stage

Best finish: Winner (1968, 1999, 2008)

Home stadium: Old Trafford / Manchester, England

Coach: David Moyes

Outlook: United has a new look this year, as David Moyes replaced the legendary Sir Alex Ferguson as manager. The immense talent pool at the club remains the same, and its chances in the Champions League should not be affected, even though striker Wayne Rooney is in limbo with regard to his club career at the moment.

source:  Shakhtar Donetsk

How they qualified: Ukrainian Premier League champion, directly into group stage

Best finish: Quarterfinals (2011)

Home stadium: Donbass Arena / Donetsk, Ukraine

Coach: Mircea Lucescu

Outlook: Defeating Shakhtar is always a tricky proposition in European competitions. It is always one of the best coached teams in any competition, with legendary Romanian manager Mircea Lucescu at the helm since 2004. He led the team to winning the UEFA Cup in 2009. While Shakhtar will provide a real test for every team it faces, it will have trouble getting out of this group.

source:  Bayer Leverkusen

How they qualified: Bundesliga third place, directly into group stage

Best finish: Finalist (2002)

Home stadium: BayArena / Leverkusen, Germany

Coach: Sami Hyypiä

Outlook: In three league matches this young Bundesliga season, Leverkusen has jumped out to an impressive 3-0 record, scoring eight goals and conceding three. After being knocked out in the Round of 32 of the Europa League last year, the team is back in Europe’s premier club competition, looking to break a curse of being close to glory but never quite achieving it, having been runner-up in the Bundesliga five times and in the Champions League once.

source:  Real Sociedad

How they qualified: La Liga fourth place, defeated Olympique Lyonnais in playoff round

Best finish: Round of 16 (2004)

Home stadium: Anoeta / San Sebastián, Spain

Coach: Jagoba Arrasate

Outlook: Real Sociedad stomped Lyon 4-0 on aggregate in the playoff round to book its place in the group stage. After that performance, nobody will doubt that the club deserves to be here, but question marks remain for a side that has only been back in the Spanish top flight for the past three seasons. Two of those were mid-table finishes before last season’s fourth-place performance.

Group outlook

Manchester United is the clear favorite to take Group A, but the second- and third-place slots are anybody’s to grab. Donetsk is always a pest on the European stage, Leverkusen has had a hot start to its season and Real Sociedad showed in the playoffs that it can thrash teams of the highest caliber. United will be the only team happy with this draw, as it is all but assured a place in the knockout round.

Gerrard urges Liverpool to “try and bid for Van Dijk”

SOUTHAMPTON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 28:  Virgil van Dijk of Southampton celebrates as he scores their first goal during the Premier League match between Southampton and Tottenham Hotspur at St Mary's Stadium on December 28, 2016 in Southampton, England.  (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)
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Virgil Van Dijk‘s quick rise in the Premier League has caught the attention of many around England, and one of the division’s greats has high hopes the Dutchman will join his former side in the future.

[ MORE: Saints wallop Leicester in complete effort ]

Steven Gerrard has suggested that Liverpool come out and pursue Van Dijk, who joined Southampton back in 2015 from Scottish side Celtic.

Gerrard — who is set to take a coaching position with Liverpool’s academy — believes the budding star would be a strong fit for the Reds, however, the ex-midfielder realizes it’ll be a hard sell.

“Who I think we need, I would go and try and bid for Van Dijk from Southampton,” Gerrard told BT Sport. “But we’ve had enough of their players so that will probably go down like a lead balloon.”

The 25-year-old has made waves in England’s top flight after quickly proving to be one of the division’s top defenders and helping guide the Saints towards the top half of the table since his arrival.

Report: San Diego making push to become future MLS expansion site

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With the NFL no longer the biggest show in town, San Diego could be bringing another football to the city in the near future.

[ MORE: USMNT’s Hyndman provides assist in Rangers debut win ]

According to NBC 7 San Diego, FS Investors founder Mike Stone and former Qualcomm Vice Chairman Steve Altman are prepared to reveal their proposal on Monday that will bring a future MLS franchise to San Diego.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverage ]

The proposed move includes a stadium plan that will reside where the Chargers’ Qualcomm Stadium currently sits. With the NFL franchise now playing in Los Angeles, the San Diego Padres of Major League Baseball are the only remaining professional team in the area, out of the five major sports in the U.S.

NBC 7 is also reporting that a future San Diego team would share its facility with the San Diego State Aztecs football team.

MLS is currently up to 22 teams entering the 2017 season, while Los Angeles FC is also tabbed to enter the league next year. David Beckham’s Miami project is also considered to be the league’s 24th team, and MLS is likely to hold off on further announcements regarding expansion until later in 2017.

If San Diego were to be chosen as an expansion site, the club would become the fourth to call California home in the current state of MLS, joining the San Jose Earthquakes, Los Angeles Galaxy and LA FC (2018).

In addition to San Diego, several other cities are currently vying to enter MLS in the future, including St. Louis, Cincinnati, Sacramento and Charlotte.

Hull’s Ryan Mason hospitalized following collision with Gary Cahill

LONDON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 22: Ryan Mason of Hull City lies injured after the collision with Gary Cahill of Chelsea during the Premier League match between Chelsea and Hull City at Stamford Bridge on January 22, 2017 in London, England.  (Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)
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Ryan Mason has undergone surgery following a scary collision with Chelsea’s Gary Cahill on Sunday.

[ MORE: Chelsea goes eight points clear at top of PL ]

The Hull City midfielder was injured after knocking heads with Cahill during first half of the 2-0 defeat to the Blues. Nine minutes of first-half stoppage time were needed after Mason stayed down on the pitch at Stamford Bridge.

[ MORE: Xhaka’s red card makes him most sent-off player in Europe ]

It has been confirmed by the club that Mason suffered a skull fracture, while it is has also been speculated that the 25-year-old could have had bleeding on his brain.

Mason will remain hospitalized for the “next few days,” according to the Tigers.

“The Club can confirm that Ryan Mason sustained a skull fracture in our fixture at Chelsea this afternoon. He was taken to St Mary’s Hospital where he has undergone surgery.

“Ryan is in a stable condition and is expected to remain in hospital for the next few days.
“Everyone at the Club would like to express their sincere thanks for the excellent and swift care given to Ryan by both the Accident and Emergency department and Neurosurgery Unit at St Mary’s Hospital.

“A further update will be issued tomorrow.”

While Mason was forced off during the match due to the injury, Cahill managed to continue for Chelsea and scored the game’s second goal.

Watch: Scott Sinclair nets stunning curler in Celtic victory

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Celtic is enjoying another fine campaign in Scotland, and much of the team’s success can be attributed to the play of Scott Sinclair.

[ MORE: Burkina Faso, Cameroon progress at AFCON 2017 ]

The Englishman was at it again on Sunday during Celtic’s 3-0 Scottish Cup win over Albion Rovers when the 27-year-old curled an absolutely sublime effort into the top corner for the game’s opening goal.

The finish, Sinclair’s 13th of the season in all competitions, came after the winger picked up the ball on the left side of the Albion penalty area. Sinclair then proceeded to slot his dipping shot just under the bar and into the far post.

Celtic now moves on to the fifth round of this season’s tournament, joining the likes of Rangers and Aberdeen. In addition to the team’s success in the competition, the Bhoys have yet to lose a match in the Scottish Premier League this campaign (19 W, 1 D).