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.

VIDEO: Celtic’s 1st minute goal breaches PSG

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Celtic still have hope of advancing to the UEFA Europa League, but have a new feather in its cap regardless of whether they hold their table advantage on Anderlecht.

Moussa Dembele became the first UEFA Champions League player to score against Paris Saint-Germain, when he side-footed a first minute corner kick off PSG backstop Alphonse Aréola.

[ FOLLOW LIVE: Champions League scores ]

Neymar would score just eight minutes later to level the score at the Parc des Princes, but Celtic had its moment and PSG is no longer unbreached despite entering the match with 17 goals scored, conceding zero.

2017 CONCACAF Awards shortlist revealed

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The 2017 CONCACAF Awards shortlist is up, and fan voting counts.

Jozy Altidore, Clint Dempsey, and Christian Pulisic are among the nominees for Men’s Player of the Year. Philadelphia Union’s Jamaican backstop, Andre Blake, is also on the list along with Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez and others.

[ MORE: Big American Soccer Survey results ]

The Female Player of the Year is predictably American-heavy, with Alex Morgan, Carli Lloyd, Becky Sauerbrunn, Julie Ertz, Megan Rapinoe, Sam Mewis, and Tobin Heath competing with a trio of international players.

Tim Howard is the only American up for Male Goalkeeper of the Year, though Blake is again in the running. The female side has American backstops Adrianna Franch, Alyssa Naeher, Ashlyn Harris, Jane Campbell, and Nicole Barnhart.

The full ballot, including Best XI, coaches, referees, and goals, is up for your votes here.

UCL: Chelsea advances vs. 10-man Qarabag (video)

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  • Chelsea into knockout rounds
  • Willian draws two penalties, scores two more
  • Hazard, Fabregas score

Willian scored two goals from the run of play and drew a pair of penalties in Azerbaijan, as Chelsea beat 10-man Qarabag 4-0 on Wednesday.

His second goal was a fantastic thump from atop the arc, and further iced the result in the 85th minute.

[ MORE: Champions League standings ]

Qarabag hung tough for the first 20 minutes, but saw its odds of getting a point take a hit with a penalty and red card.

Rashad Sadygov made contact with Willian inside the 18, and Portuguese referee Manuel de Sousa awarded a penalty. That was understandable, but surprisingly he produced his red card to send Qarabag down a man.

Eden Hazard converted his low penalty, wrong footing keeper Ibrahim Sehic, and Chelsea took a 1-0 lead in the 21st minute.

Willian would score a goal of his own in the 36th, part of a terrific team goal with Hazard and Pedro.

The Blues were largely content to let Qarabag have the ball early in the second half, but resumed control around the hour mark and Sehic made an outstanding stop on Hazard before substitute Alvaro Morata dragged a shot wide of the far post.

Willian drew a second penalty in the 71st minute, as Maksim Medvedev tugged on the Brazilian’s jersey on a dribble into the 18. Yellow card for this foul.

Cesc Fabregas scored but two Chelsea players infringed on the 18 thanks to the shooter’s stuttering — and stopping — PK. He finished the second as well as the first. 3-0.

Willian added the fourth with a vicious strike five minutes from the end of scheduled play.

[ LIVE: Champions League scores ]

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

World Cup-bound Saudi Arabia fires coach Edgardo Bauza

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RIYADH, Saudi Arabia (AP) World Cup-bound Saudi Arabia has fired coach Edgardo Bauza nine days before the draw.

The Saudi Arabia Football Federation announced the Argentine coach’s exit after only five friendlies in charge. The team lost to Portugal and Bulgaria this month.

[ MORE: Big American Soccer Survey results ]

Bauza has been fired twice this year by teams in the World Cup lineup. He lost the Argentina job in April, after eight months in charge, when the two-time World Cup champions risked missing out on qualification.

In September, Bauza was appointed by Saudi Arabia to replace Bert van Marwijk, who was fired despite leading the team to its first World Cup since 2006.

Saudi Arabia joins Australia without a coach for the World Cup draw in Moscow on Dec. 1.