UEFA Champions League Group B preview

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Three strong teams were drawn into Group B of the 2013-14 UEFA Champions League, with only Danish champion Copenhagen set to struggle for relevance in a powerful quartet.

source:  Real Madrid

How they qualified: La Liga second place, directly into group stage

Best finish: Winner (1956, 1957, 1958, 1959, 1960, 1966, 1998, 2000, 2002)

Home stadium: Estadio Santiago Bernabéu / Madrid, Spain

Coach: Carlo Ancelotti

Outlook: This is Real Madrid’s 17th consecutive season in the Champions League, where it will look for a record 10th title. New manager Carlo Ancelotti joined from Paris Saint-Germain, where he led a similarly star-studded squad to the Ligue 1 title last year. However, two narrow victories against much weaker opponents in the opening La Liga matches show that there is work to be done for Real to realize its full potential.

source:  Juventus

How they qualified: Serie A champion, directly into group stage

Best finish: Winner (1985, 1996)

Home stadium: Juventus Stadium / Turin, Italy

Coach: Antonio Conte

Outlook: Buying Carlos Tévez and Fernando Llorente over the summer gives Juventus an attack to fear, with the ageless Andrea Pirlo pulling the strings in midfield. This is perhaps Juventus’ strongest squad in several years, which is saying a lot considering the comfortable nine-point margin by which it won the league last year. European glory is the next step for Antonio Conte’s men, who have won the last two Scudettos.

source:  Galatasaray

How they qualified: Süper Lig champion, directly into group stage

Best finish: Semifinals (1989)

Home stadium: Türk Telekom Arena / Istanbul, Turkey

Coach: Fatih Terim

Outlook: Galatasaray always manages to stay relevant in the European game despite playing in the generally inferior Turkish league. It’s an ambitious club that is willing to spend as much as the Western European powers to buy players such as Wesley Sneijder, Didier Drogba and Emmanuel Eboué, who have made Gala a force to be reckoned with in the past year.

source:  FC Copenhagen

How they qualified: Superliga champion, directly into group stage

Best finish: Round of 16 (2011)

Home stadium: Parken Stadium / Copenhagen, Denmark

Coach: Ståle Solbakken

Outlook: The real outlier in a fairly strong group, FC Copenhagen will struggle to stick with the other three teams in Group B. Despite not dropping out of the top three in Denmark’s highest division since the 1999-2000 season, Copenhagen has also never won a European competition, only advancing beyond the group stage a handful of times in its existence.

Group outlook

Juventus and Real Madrid will be favored to advance to the knockout rounds out of Group B, but Galatasaray could mount a serious threat in its first full year with Drogba and Sneijder. Third place is still the likeliest finishing spot for the Turkish champion, while Copenhagen could steal points from visiting teams in Denmark, but it will struggle to muster any sort of challenge abroad.

France veteran Malouda loses appeal in Gold Cup case

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LAUSANNE, Switzerland (AP) Former France winger Florent Malouda has lost his appeal against being ruled ineligible to play for French Guiana at the 2017 Gold Cup.

The Court of Arbitration for Sport says its judges dismissed Malouda’s appeal against North American soccer body CONCACAF.

French Guiana fielded Malouda in a 0-0 draw against Honduras last July despite being told he was not eligible. CONCACAF awarded a 3-0 win to Honduras and suspended Malouda.

The Gold Cup uses FIFA eligibility rules which bar players from transferring allegiance after playing a competitive game for one country.

Malouda played 80 times for France including a 2006 World Cup final loss against Italy.

The French Guiana soccer federation hoped Malouda, now aged 37, could play in the Gold Cup because it is not a FIFA member.

Report: Bobby Wood unlikely to come to MLS this summer

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A U.S. Men’s National Team forward will probably have to wait a bit longer to come to Major League Soccer if that is the path that he chooses.

Reports have recently surfaced linking Bobby Wood to MLS at the conclusion of the Bundesliga season, however, MLSSoccer.com is reporting that a move for the American likely won’t come in 2018.

Wood, who remains under contract for three more seasons at Hamburg, is currently fighting relegation in Germany with his club side.

Hamburg currently sits 17th in the German top flight, eight points buried in the relegation zone with four matches remaining.

The MLSSoccer.com report suggests that MLS clubs aren’t willing to compensate Wood at the current rate of his contract in Germany.

Currently, Wood is making “several million dollars” per season, and even if Hamburg is relegated in 2017/18 Wood’s contract wouldn’t decrease to a number that clubs are comfortable paying.

If Wood was to join MLS, he would be considered a Discovery signing as he is not currently on the MLS player allocation list. The Washington Post previously reported that an MLS club has Wood included on their Discovery list, although the team’s identity isn’t known.

Report: Fellaini eyes MLS, China after shooting down Man United terms

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Marouane Fellaini‘s time in Manchester looks to be numbered, and a move abroad could have the Belgian in line for one last payday during his career.

The Manchester United midfielder has rejected multiple offers to stay on at Old Trafford ahead of his contract expiring this summer, which would allow Fellaini to pursue other opportunities come June.

Fellaini is being linked to moves to Major League Soccer and the Chinese Super League, as the veteran aims to secure a sizable contract upon leaving the Red Devils after over five-and-a-half years with the club.

The Daily Mail is also reporting that Fellaini would be open to hearing options that could keep him in the Premier League, although it is unclear if there is any serious interest from English sides at this time.

Since the arrivals of Paul Pogba and Nemanja Matic, Fellaini has struggled to find playing time under manager Jose Mourinho.

This season, the Belgium international has appeared in just 14 PL matches and 19 in all competitions. Fellaini has scored four goals in that span.

Chicago Fire venue to be renamed SeatGeek Stadium

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The Chicago Fire won’t be moving into a new stadium 2019, however, their venue will have a new name donned on the side of it.

For years, the Eastern Conference side has played its home matches at Toyota Park in Bridgeview, Illinois, but starting next season the Fire’s home turf will be called SeatGeek Stadium as part of a rebrand.

SeatGeek is one of the largest online after-market ticket distributors, and was created back in 2009.

Toyota Park will undergo its transformation at the conclusion of the 2018 MLS season.

The venue is also home to the NWSL’s Chicago Red Stars.