LA Galaxy, Club Tijuana clash to ignite CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals

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When the final CONCACAF Champions League group games finished on Wednesday night, some pretty mouth-watering quarterfinal ties were set up between Liga MX and Major League Soccer teams.

LA Galaxy vs. Club Tijuana is the pick of the bunch.

Next March when CCL play resumes, the Xolos will make the short hop over the border to play LA, and the Galaxy will do the same, as close regional rivals in continental cup competition will square off in what’s sure to be an intense border clash.

With Tijuana’s plethora of American players — Edgar Castillo, Herculez Gomez, Paul Arriola, Joe Corona, Greg Garza and Alejandro Guido all represent the U.S. in the northern Mexican city — and the huge number of Tijuana fans based in southern California, there’s sure to be a raucous atmosphere at both games.

A game like this is exactly what the CCL needs to recapture fans imagination.

Small crowds, moans and groans about watching the competition on TV and long midweek trips to far flung corners of CONCACAF land has failed to ignite a desire in the hearts and minds of MLS fans. This showdown will go a long way to doing so, as since Tijuana were founded in 2007, they’ve tried to build a fanbase in LA, San Diego and other Californian cities and have been largely successful due to their dream run to the Copa Libertadores quarterfinals last season.

(MORE: CONCACAF Roundup – Houston eliminated, other MLS sides through)

Following LA’s capitulation against Isidro Metapan on Wednesday in their 4-0 loss, they dropped to sixth-seed for the last eight and now face a massive test with third-seed Tijuana. Head coach Bruce Arena will no doubt be disappointed that his sides damaging defeat now sees them with an incredibly tough path through the CCL knockout stages with Xolos up first and bragging rights in the local area also up for grabs.

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Joe Corona is just one of a large band of U.S. players plying their trade for Tijuana in Liga MX.

Fans across MLS an Mexico are already excited for the match up, as well as USMNT and former LA striker Herculez Gomez, and the fact that it won’t happen until March 11-12 in LA and then the return leg in Tijuana on March 18-19 means that a furor can be whipped up between the two nations press about the tie that’s sure to turn fiery.

A fiery U.S. vs. Mexican club team battle, especially in the current climate where the U.S. national team is dominating their Mexican counterparts in all facets, will add extra spice to the soccer fabric of both nations. Long may that continue. And the great news for fans of soccer in both countries is that LA vs. Tijuana isn’t the only MLS vs. Liga MX clash.

Below is a full list of the four quarterfinal match ups, with San Jose Earthquakes and Sporting Kansas City facing Liga MX opposition next March, facing Toluca and Cruz Azul respectively.

Over five months from now those three rivalries will ignite the CCL as the pride of both soccer nations will hang on the line.In the latter stages of CCL in recent years, Liga MX has dominated proceedings. Can MLS teams now replicate the success of the USMNT over Mexico and the CONCACAF region as a whole?

Fans across Mexico and the U.S. will enjoy watching the struggle for dominance play out, as next March’s CCL quarters spring up a delightful storyline that will only intensify between over the coming months.

Bring it on.

CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals – Ties to be played March 11/12 and March 18/19

Toluca vs. San Jose Earthquakes

Cruz Azul vs. Sporting Kansas City

Arabe Unido vs. Alajuelense

Club Tijuana vs. LA Galaxy

West Brom: Evans relegation release reportedly just $4m

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Jonny Evans has been fantastic for West Bromwich Albion this season, shepherding the Baggies back line while being involved in as many goals as any player not named Salomon Rondon or Jay Rodriguez.

[ MORE: High profile loan for Palace ]

So it would make sense for West Brom to hang onto the player at almost all costs given its status as a team in danger of the drop after its slow start under Tony Pulis has kept its lackluster pace under Alan Pardew.

Here’s the rub: Some big clubs would like to purchase Evans, who has 18 months left on his deal but reportedly no interest in signing a new deal the Hawthorns. Even worse? Monday’s story that a Baggies’ relegation would make his buyout clause just over $4 million.

Defenders who cost more last summer on the Premier League market include Jan Bednarek, Nathan Ake, Victor Lindelof, Harry Maguire, Michael Keane, Florian Lejeune, Mathias Jorgensen, Andrew Robertson, Bruno Martins Indi, and many others.

Heck, Evans’ buyout clause is the same price Derby County paid Liverpool for Andre Wisdom. And these fees are all pre-Virgil Van Dijk to Liverpool madness.

Considering only Swansea and Brighton have scored fewer league goals than the Baggies, who are just now committing to a two-striker approach under Pardew, does it make sense for West Brom to sell now?

Evans’ value at 18 months out will be more than it is at 12 months out even if the Baggies avoid relegation, but he’s possibly a lynch pin of the team. And the volatile value for attackers mean the $25-35 million he’d generate may not make for like-for-like value.

It’s not an easy decision, but desperate times call for similar measures. The Baggies have played in four nil-nils this season, and lost 1-0 to relegation rivals Southampton and Huddersfield Town away. Both of the reverse fixtures remain.

There are creative options here, too. Would Jurgen Klopp sanction a high(ish) profile attacker loan to WBA in order to pair Evans with Van Dijk? Same for Pep Guardiola at Man City?

Palace loan: Rakip joins Malmo hero Hodgson

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Erdal Rakip’s whirlwind season is heading to London.

The Swedish international sealed a permanent deal to Benfica this month, but is set for a loan at Crystal Palace.

[ MORE: Transfer rumor roundup ]

Rakip, 21, has made 120 appearances with 12 goals for Malmo in betrayal of his tender age, including a career-high nine goals in 2017 as the Swedish champs sealed a fourth title in five years.

Helping seal the deal was Hodgson’s status as Malmo legend, leading the club to five league titles and two Swedish cups. From CPFC.co.uk:

“It will be an honour playing for Roy. He is a legend in Malmö and everyone know who he is,” Erdal added. “Crystal Palace is a fantastic club with a lot of history that plays entertaining football, and was the best option for my development and my career at this stage.

Malmo has lost two big players in the past six months in Rakip and Orlando City midfielder Yoshimar Yotun.

Given Palace’s injuries, players like Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Yohan Cabaye were going to be taxed a lot by the run-in to safety. Rakip will help with that.

Premier League Preview: Swansea City vs. Liverpool

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  • Reds clobbered Swans on Boxing Day
  • Swans six points adrift
  • Reds go third with three-goal win
  • Liverpool leads all-time 23W-8D-11L

Liverpool looks to avoid a letdown when it visits Swansea City at the Liberty Stadium on Monday (Watch live at 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

Swansea City has managed a win over the Reds in each of the previous two seasons, but was simply crushed by Jurgen Klopp‘s men in a 5-0 defeat at Anfield last month.

WATCH ON NBCSN AND ONLINE HERE AT 3 P.M. ET

The hosts badly need to pick up points, though few expect them to do so on Monday. Skeptics, however, will note that Liverpool under Klopp has been giants against the top teams and often lackluster against the other sides.

What they’re saying

Swansea boss Carlos Carvalhal on springing an upset“I would prefer to be Goliath, I would rather be in his position. But during my career most of the time has been spent in the position of David, and we have been able to do some surprises as David. We have done it often, we are working to make more of them. I was kind of the Goliath when I was with Besiktas and Sporting Lisbon, but during those moments Goliath was a little ill.”

Liverpool’s Klopp on goalkeeper Loris KariusMy favourite solution, always, is that we do it with our boys. They step up, they deliver, they improve. The problem they have is that everyone is watching them (through a magnifying glass) and saying ‘still not good enough!’ I will only mention one name. Everyone talks about him with us and that is Butland. I only saw the game (against Manchester United). Fantastic goalkeeper but was he perfect? No. He wasn’t in that game. But everyone says ‘still better than our boys!'”

Prediction

It’s hard to see this going in Swans favor at all, though we’ll peg them to keep it close on the score board: 2-0 to Liverpool.

Transfer rumor roundup: Schurrle to Newcastle, Spurs

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A new name has emerged on the loan market, as Borussia Dortmund forward Andre Schurrle is reportedly being made available for the second half of the Premier League season.

[ WATCH: Full PL match replays ]

Newcastle United reportedly leads the pack for the former Chelsea scorer, who is struggling to get time at BVB thanks to a glut of fantastic wingers including Christian Pulisic.

Magpies boss Rafa Benitez has a good relationship with the Westfalenstadion set, having taken Mikel Merino off their hands in August. Newcastle currently uses Christian Atsu on the left wing and Matt Ritchie on the right, but Schurrle can play center forward and Benitez may prefer to use the 27-year-old in the middle of his trident.

But they’ll face competition, and HITC says BVB is willing to pay half of his wages on an 18-month deal to keep him reasonable for some clubs. This could be a boon for Spurs.

Newcastle and Stoke City have also been linked with Galatasaray midfielder Papa “Badou” Ndiaye, with the Magpies said to have bid just a bit higher than the Potters but still under Gala’s buyout clause.

And here’s a wild one, according to ESPN: Chelsea’s rumored pursuit of current Premier League scorers now includes Marko Arnautovic. The audacious Austrian attacker cost West Ham around $35 million when his head was turned from Stoke City in the summer.

He didn’t perform well but Slaven Bilic, but David Moyes has been able to get some fine performances from the powerful Arnautovic. Chelsea has previously been linked with West Ham teammate Andy Carroll, Burnley’s Ashley Barnes, and Stoke’s Peter Crouch as it attempts to find a center forward to ease the burden placed on Alvaro Morata in his first Premier League season.