UEFA Champions League Group F preview

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Group F of the 2013-14 UEFA Champions League is the only matchup of teams without a single league champion in the mix. Don’t confuse that for lack of quality, though, as this group includes a finalist from last year and three perennial domestic contenders.

source:  Arsenal

How they qualified: Barclays Premier League fourth place, defeated Fenerbahçe in playoff round

Best finish: Finalist (2006)

Home stadium: Emirates Stadium / London, England

Coach: Arsène Wenger

Outlook: Despite a lack of activity in the summer transfer market, Arsenal started its Champions League campaign well by dispatching Fenerbahçe with relative ease. Manager Arsène Wenger always knows how to coach his team into contention, and young talent such as Aaron Ramsey and Olivier Giroud will be hungry to impress on the continental stage.

source:  Marseille

How they qualified: Ligue 1 second place, directly into group stage

Best finish: Winner (1993)

Home stadium: Stade Vélodrome / Marseille, France

Coach: Élie Baup

Outlook: Although Marseille is used to living in PSG and Lyon’s shadow, it has at least managed to overcome the latter in terms of success in recent years. The locally owned club won’t be able to match PSG for money, but it will always put up a fight, egged on by some of the most passionate fans in France.

source:  Borussia Dortmund

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

Best finish: Winner (1997)

Home stadium: Westfalenstadion / Dortmund, Germany

Coach: Jürgen Klopp

Outlook: Last season, Jürgen Klopp led his team to an improbable all-German final in this competition, handily defeating Real Madrid 4-1 at home in the semifinal behind a four-goal game from Robert Lewandowski, who stayed with the club over the summer despite serious international interest.

source:  Napoli

How they qualified: Serie A second place, directly into group stage

Best finish: Second Round (1991)

Home stadium: Stadio San Paolo / Naples, Italy

Coach: Rafael Benítez

Outlook: Rafa Benítez took over as Napoli manager after winning the Europa League with Chelsea last season. Napoli has also shown a willingness to spend in the transfer market, bringing in Gonzalo Higuaín and Pepe Reina (on loan from Liverpool). The Neapolitans may not be expected to win much in this competition, but they could do some damage to any team that takes them lightly.

Group outlook

This is a group of overlooked, often-second-place teams hungry for attention on the European stage. It’s hard to say if there are any clear favorites, although Dortmund has to be in that conversation because of its ability to devastate teams. Arsenal has the talent to advance to the knockout round, but it has been one of the more inconsistent teams recently. Meanwhile, Marseille and Napoli are both good, but they just might not have the talent to turn heads in Europe yet.

Pep sticking with Bravo for final: “Locker room more important”

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Petr Cech and Ederson will watch from the bench as their clubs start the League Cup Final on Sunday.

Pep Guardiola announced that Manchester City will turn to Claudio Bravo between the sticks against Arsenal, which has already appointed David Ospina as its backstop for the final.

[ MORE: Europa League draw ]

And if you think Pep, having seen his side lose to Wigan Athletic in the FA Cup, should go back to Ederson for the final, he gets it.

“You can have an opinion, I am the manager. We are here for Claudio. He saved two lots of penalties. He deserves to play in the final. The locker room is more important than the final.”

The points aren’t completely independent, of course, but at this point the final is pretty darn important as Man City could see its trophy potential drop from 4-2 in little more than a week’s time.

Bravo has played just 45 minutes in the Premier League, against Liverpool in relief of Ederson, but has been the man for each of eight League and FA Cup matches.

City has just one clean sheet in that group, but won the seven matches apart from the 1-0 Wigan defeat. Two of those, against Wolves and Leicester, came in penalty kicks.

Arsenal gets AC Milan in Europa League Round of 16

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Arsenal’s path to the UEFA Champions League just got a whole lot tougher.

[ MORE: Arsenal loses 2nd leg, advances ]

Already eight points back of the Premier League’s Top Four, the Gunners have drawn Gennaro Gattuso’s AC Milan in the UEFA Europa League’s Round of 16.

The first leg is March 8 at the San Siro before moving to the Emirates a week later.

Milan is currently 7th in Serie A despite its big-spending summer, and faces a similar problem to the Gunners; Gattuso’s men need to make up eight points on Lazio and seven on fifth-place Inter Milan.

Elsewhere, Moscovian sides CSKA and Lokomotiv got no favors with trips to Lyon and Atletico Madrid, respectively.

Christian Pulisic and Borussia Dortmund will be pleased to see Red Bull Salzburg, while the latter’s sister club, RB Leipzig, was held apart from it by a draw with Zenit Saint-Petersbug.

Here’s the draw in full.

UEFA Europa League Round of 16
Lazio vs. Dynamo Kiev
RB Leipzig vs. Zenit St Petersburg
Atletico Madrid vs. Lokomotiv Moscow
CSKA Moscow vs. Lyon
Marseille vs. Athletic Bilbao
Sporting Lisbon vs. Viktoria Plzen
Borussia Dortmund vs. Red Bull Salzburg
AC Milan vs. Arsenal

CCL: Lodeiro from 45; Royer’s diving header — SEA, RBNY lead (video)

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After 45 minutes of their respective CONCACAF Champions League knockout-round quests, things are going unnervingly well for the Seattle Sounders and New York Red Bulls.

[ MORE: FC Dallas disappoint in CCL; Club America flying ]

If you’ve watched Major League Soccer teams try, try and try again — only to eventually fail in spectacular fashion — in CCL over the years, you might say things are going a little too well.

There’s still another 45 minutes to be played on Thursday — plus the return legs next week — but both the Sounders and Red Bulls hold 1-0 halftime leads, and the vitally important away goals which come with it. Nicolas Lodeiro’s 45-yard, first-time lob of the Santa Tecla (El Salvador) goalkeeper in the 15th minute has already been eternally etched into the memories of Sounders fans.

Just 15 minutes later, Daniel Royer perfectly executed the diving header and got on the end of Bradley Wright-Phillips’ curling ball into the box to Jesse Marsch’s side ahead of Honduran side CD Olimpia.

Villarreal DF Semedo charged with attempted murder

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MADRID (AP) A Spanish judge has charged Villarreal defender Ruben Semedo with attempted murder and ordered him to be temporarily detained without bail.

Court officials in Lliria say on Thursday the Portuguese player is also charged with assault, robbery, illegal detention, and illegal possession of firearms.

Semedo testified before a judge on Thursday, and left the court in handcuffs.

The 23-year-old Semedo was detained early Tuesday, accused of tying up, assaulting and threatening another man last week. Authorities say he and two other men allegedly held the victim captive while they robbed his apartment.

Semedo’s agents told Spanish media the player denies any wrongdoing.

Villarreal on Tuesday said it was investigating Semedo and would take appropriate disciplinary action.

Villarreal signed Semedo from Sporting Lisbon last summer for a reported fee of $17 million.