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UEFA Champions League Group H preview

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Group H of the 2013-14 UEFA Champions League has more European Cup wins than every other group combined. This is as close as it gets to a Group of Death in this edition of the competition.

source:  FC Barcelona

How they qualified: La Liga champion, directly into group stage

Best finish: Winner (1992, 2006, 2009, 2011)

Home stadium: Camp Nou / Barcelona, Spain

Coach: Gerardo Martino

Outlook: Even with a new manager and a squad of aging players, FC Barcelona still sets the standard in Europe. The team still plays free-flowing tiki-taka, and it will still make a deep run into this competition, despite likely being written off for the new conquerors of Europe from Germany.

source:  AC Milan

How they qualified: Serie A third place, defeated PSV Eindhoven in playoff round

Best finish: Winner (1963, 1969, 1989, 1990, 1994, 2003, 2007)

Home stadium: San Siro / Milan, Italy

Coach: Massimiliano Allegri

Outlook: In the last 14 years, only twice has AC Milan failed to reach the Champions League, and only twice in those 12 appearances has it failed to get past the group stage. Despite any struggles the club may have, it always finds a way to progress in Europe. Milan’s attacking power is one of the best on the continent, as it showed when it beat PSV handily in the second leg of its playoff, 3-0.

source:  Ajax

How they qualified: Eredivisie champion, directly into group stage

Best finish: Winner (1971, 1972, 1973, 1995)

Home stadium: Amsterdam ArenA / Amsterdam, Netherlands

Coach: Frank de Boer

Outlook: Ajax seems to get the short end of the draw quite often in Europe. Gone are the days of Dutch supremacy, the nation’s best soccer traits adopted and taken to the next level by possession-based teams all over the continent, leaving Ajax to compete for scraps in continental competitions. It’s not that the team isn’t talented — it’s just not talented enough to compete with Barcelona, Bayern Munich and Real Madrid.

source:  Celtic

How they qualified: Scottish Premiership champion, defeated Cliftonville in second qualifying round, Elfsborg in third qualifying round, Shakhter Karagandy in playoff round

Best finish: Winner (1967)

Home stadium: Celtic Park / Glasgow, Scotland

Coach: Neil Lennon

Outlook: If nothing else, Celtic always provides a great home atmosphere in Europe. This year, that’s about all fans have to look forward to from the Scottish champions, who squeaked by Kazakh team Shakhter Karagandy at the last hurdle before the group stage. The atmosphere on display that night was festive to say the least, and much of the same is expected when the giants in Group H go to Glasgow.

Group outlook

It seems to be a two-horse race for positioning in the knockout round in Group H, with Barcelona and Milan set to battle again in the Champions League after meeting in the Round of 16 last year and in the group stage the year prior. Ajax should take third place and advance to the Europa League, but Celtic will put up a fight for a prestigious European spot in Scotland.

WATCH: Carrasco levels Champions League final, finds partner for long kiss

MILAN, ITALY - MAY 28:  Yannick Carrasco of Atletico Madrid celebrates afte scorig the equalizing goal during the UEFA Champions League Final match between Real Madrid and Club Atletico de Madrid at Stadio Giuseppe Meazza on May 28, 2016 in Milan, Italy.  (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)
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Milan on a starry night sounds romantic. Add in a massive match-tying goal, and it was all too much for Yannick Carrasco.

The 22-year-old Belgian attacker got on the end of Juanfran‘s cross and beat Keylor Navas at the near post.

[ MORE: Griezmann’s PK miss ]

In celebration, Carrasco raced toward a pitch side suite and into the arms and lips of what we presume is his partner for a gift that must count as much as a few dozen roses (but probably smelled much worse).

WATCH: Griezmann misses Torres-won PK in huge Champions League moment

MILAN, ITALY - MAY 28: Antoine Griezmann of Atletico Madrid speaks to head coach Diego Simeone during the UEFA Champions League Final match between Real Madrid and Club Atletico de Madrid at Stadio Giuseppe Meazza on May 28, 2016 in Milan, Italy.  (Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images)
Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images
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Frankly, Antoine Griezmann embodied the Atletico Madrid attack in the first half, so it was no surprise when he stepped up to the penalty spot early in the second half.

Fernando Torres had won a penalty kick from Pepe after the Portuguese back stamped on his ankle in the 46th minute, and Greizmann got Real goalkeeper Keylor Navas going the wrong direction before cranking the ball off the bar.

[ MORE: Hull City snares last PL spot for 2016-17 ]

The miss looms large.

Argentine star Messi leaves Honduras match with back injury

ARLINGTON, TX - SEPTEMBER 08:  (L-R) Jose Juan Vazquez #23 of Mexico and Lionel Messi #10 of Argentina during a international friendly at AT&T Stadium on September 8, 2015 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
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BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (AP) Argentine soccer superstar Lionel Messi left the field with a back injury in the second half of a 1-0 victory over Honduras in a friendly Friday night.

The Argentine team captain and Barcelona star was hit on an apparently inconsequential play and immediately went to the locker room. He was replaced at the 62-minute mark by Sevilla midfielder Ever Banega and never returned to the field.

“Messi suffered a trauma to the left side of his lower back and rib cage,” the Argentine Football (Soccer) Association said in a statement, adding that doctors were looking at the injury.

[ MORE: Hull City snares last PL spot for 2016-17 ]

Messi is not a player who leaves the field with minor injuries like he did Friday at San Juan’s Bicentenario stadium.

“I would not dare to venture a diagnosis,” said a concerned Argentine manager, Gerardo Martino.

Gonzalo Higuain, who scored for Argentina, said it “was an important win and here’s hoping that what happened to Leo is nothing.”

Messi was scheduled to fly to Spain to resolve a tax issue and then rejoin the team in Santa Clara, California.

Hull City secures PL position next season

LONDON, ENGLAND - MAY 28: Ross Wallace of Sheffield Wednesday make a break during Sky Bet Championship Play Off Final match between Hull City and Sheffield Wednesday at Wembley Stadium on May 28, 2016 in London, England.  (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)
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Mohamed Diame was the hero on the day for Hull City, as the Tigers gain promotion to the Premier League next season.

The Senegalese attacker sent Sheffield Wednesday packing on Saturday afternoon at Wembley Stadium after hitting a scorching long-distance effort past goalkeeper Kieren Westwood in the second half.

After an initial back-and-forth spell of chances over the opening half hour-plus, Sheffield was drastically taken out of the match as Hull began to gain their composure on the ball.

Hull City will join Championship winners Burnley and Middlesbrough in the Premier League in 2016-17 after being promoted. Relegated clubs Newcastle, Norwich City and Aston Villa will take their place in England’s second flight.

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