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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.

Men in Blazers podcast: Jurgen Klopp pod special

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In the latest Men in Blazers podcast, Rog sits down with Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp to give you a taste of his new documentary on the eccentric German boss.

All of the MiB content — pods, videos and stories can be seen here, but to really stay in touch, follow, subscribe, click here:

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Klopp hails “unbelievable” player performance to send Liverpool to Europa League final

LIVERPOOL, UNITED KINGDOM - MAY 05:  Jurgen Klopp manager of Liverpool gives instructions to captain James Milner of Liverpool during the UEFA Europa League semi final second leg match between Liverpool and Villarreal CF at Anfield on May 5, 2016 in Liverpool, England.  (Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)
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Jurgen Klopp didn’t want any of the credit after Liverpool defeated Villarreal 3-0 at Anfield to send the Reds to Basel with a spot in the Europa League final.

“Wonderful night – a brilliant game from my side,” Klopp said to BT Sport after the game. “What power, what a performance, what attitude with the readiness, motivation, emotion in the game – everything.”

Liverpool held 60% of the possession and out-shot Villarreal 25-6, including 12-2 among shots on target.

“We go to Basel. We take 50,000, 60k, 70k Liverpudlians with us – maybe 100k – not in the stadium, but in the city,” Klopp said of the upcoming final. “Everybody is invited. It is a nice city by the way, close to my home! Let’s go there, create an atmosphere and do our best again. It is well deserved and I am really, really pleased for all the boys.”

Klopp, who hails from Stuttgart, Germany which is under a three hour drive from Basel, made the call to start Daniel Sturridge and Emre Can.

Sturridge was on the bench for the first leg against Villarreal when Liverpool was held scoreless and played the full 90 minutes in their loss to Swansea over the weekend. This time, he forced the opening own-goal and scored the second. Can, meanwhile, hasn’t played in a month due to an ankle injury, but he was a force in front of the Reds back line.

“The only thing we said at half time was that the first half an hour was a big emotion,” Klopp said after the game. “It was great but then the last 15 minutes of the first half we lost patience. We didn’t move them over the pitch as much and tried to go down the middle, but there was no space so we lost balls. We defended well though so nothing happened. The second half plan was to keep going with the emotional football plus using your brain little a bit more and in the end it was brilliant – wonderful goals. The whole night was unbelievable.”

“We have to create atmospheres like this in each Premier League game too.”

Barcelona’s Neymar left out of Brazil’s Copa America squad

RECIFE, BRAZIL - MARCH 25:  Neymar of Brazil reacts  during a match between Brazil and Uruguay as part of 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia Qualifiers at Arena Pernanbuco on March 25, 2016 in Recife, Brazil.  (Photo by Buda Mendes/Getty Images)
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RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — Barcelona star Neymar has been left off Brazil’s squad for the Copa America, which will be played in the United States next month.

Brazil’s coach Dunga accepted the Catalan club’s request to use the striker either at the Copa America or at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics in August – and the Olympics won.

Dunga’s squad, named on Thursday, includes seven players under the age of 23 – all of whom will be eligible for the Rio games.

Dunga says “We are bringing a competitive team for an important tournament.”

Brazil is in Group B with Ecuador, Haiti and Peru and starts its campaign on June 4 against the Ecuador in Pasadena, California.

The competition, which is celebrating its centenary, will take place for the first time outside of South America.

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Squad:

Goalkeepers: Alisson (Internacional), Diego Alves (Valencia) and Ederson (Benfica).

Defenders: Daniel Alves (Barcelona), Fabinho (Monaco), Filipe Luis (Atletico Madrid), Douglas Santos (Atletico Mineiro), Miranda (Inter Milan), Gil (Shandong Luneng), Marquinhos (Paris Saint Germain), Rodrigo Caio (Sao Paulo).

Midfielders: Luiz Gustavo (Wolfsburg), Elias (Corinthians), Casemiro (Real Madrid), Rafinha (Barcelona), Renato Augusto (Beijing Guoan), Philippe Coutinho (Liverpool), Lucas Lima (Santos) and Willian (Chelsea).

Forwards: Douglas Costa (Bayern Munich), Hulk (Zenit), Ricardo Oliveira (Santos) and Gabriel (Santos).

2-time defending champions Sevilla back in Europa League final behind Gameiro brace

SEVILLE, SPAIN - MAY 05:  Kevin Gameiro of Sevilla FC celebrates after scoring his team's second goal during the UEFA Europa League Semi Final second leg match between Sevilla and Shakhtar Donetsk at Estadio Ramon Sanchez-Pizjuan on May 05, 2016 in Seville, Spain.  (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)
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Sevilla is getting pretty good at this European competition thing.

The two-time defending Europa League champions are back in the finals after topping Ukranian giants Shakhtar Donetsk 3-1 in Seville thanks to a pair from Kevin Gameiro plus an insurance goal from Mariano.

With the aggregate even at 2-2 coming into the second leg, Gameiro got things started in the ninth minute all by himself when he pilfered the ball off Maksim Malyshev in the attacking half and stuck it home into the far post. Shakhtar hit back just before halftime when former Arsenal striker Eduardo finished off a wonderful through ball by Marlos that split the Sevilla defense, tying things at 1-1 and the aggregate at 3-3.

[ MORE: Liverpool into Europa League final after running Villarreal ragged ]

But with Shakhtar still trailing on away goals, Sevilla put things away straight after the break when Gameiro again proved vital. The 28-year-old Frenchman took a feed from Grzegorz Krychowiak and finished from a very tight angle. Mariano left no doubt when he struck a stunning curler that bent inside the left post and put Sevilla 3-1 up.

Sevilla has not failed in European play since they dropped out of the Europa League qualification round to Hannover 3-2 on aggregate in August 2011. They won the title in 2014 on penalties after drawing 0-0 with Benfica in Turin, and they took down Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk 3-2 in last year’s final from Warsaw.