Juventus v FC Copenhagen - UEFA Champions League

Arturo Vidal hat trick gives Juventus first win of Champions League, vaults team second in Group B

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It may have taken five matches, but after an Arturo Vidal hat trick at Juventus Stadium, the two-time defending Serie A champions have their first win of this year’s UEFA Champions League. With penalty kicks on each side of half time followed by a 63rd minute header, the Chilean international helped his team to a 3-1 win over visiting FC Copenhagen, his third, fourth, and fifth goals of the tournament vaulting Juve into second in Group B.

If they can protect that position in their final group stage match on Dec. 10, Juventus will be into the competition’s round of 16 despite sitting last through four rounds. That position meant last year’s quarterfinalists would be unable to advance if they lost to Wednesday to Copenhagen. Instead, in a controlling performance that saw the Old Lady outshoot their guests 20-7, Juventus leapt into second place, Galatasaray’s loss in Spain to a 10-man Real Madrid further helping the Italians’ round of 16 hopes.

Closing their group stage with a trip to Istanbul, Juventus need only a draw at Turk Telekom Arena on Dec. 10 to advance to the knockout round. Copenhagen, however, can not advance after tonight’s loss, their best case scenario being third place and a Europa League spot.

Though the teams shared possession for much of the first half, the bulk of the first period’s action took place in Copenhagen’s half, action that started in earnest with a sixth minute shot from Paul Pogba. From there, the opportunities FCK saw on the ball usually culminated with a speculative play into Juve’s end, plans which usually ended with the bianconeri on the ball. Over the first 45 minutes, Copenhagen never put a shot on Gianluigi Buffon despite holding 48 percent of possession.

Juventus wasn’t not so ineffectual. Stretching the Copenhagen defense by playing flank-to-flank, the hosts eventually broke through when a ball lobbed for Pogba in the left of the penalty area fell on the arm of FCK right back Lars Jacobsen. Referee Jonas Eriksson was given little choice but to point to the spot, where a blast into the left of goal from Vidal beat Johan Wiland for the Chilean’s third goal of the tournament.

Pogba nearly added a second in the 41st minute, his blast from just outside the left post going into the crown. Four minutes later, Juventus was walking into the dressing room up 1-0, a controlling half leaving the team 45 minutes from climbing out of Group B’s cellar.

Eleven minutes into the second half, however, Juventus were back where they started, their inability to defend a long throw leaving it 1-1. After an innocuous start to the half, a throw in deep down Copenhagen’s right presented trouble after a poor clearance from Vidal. When two Juve defenders failed to win an ensuing aerial battle with Ragnar Sigurdsson, Olaf Mellberg was allowed to clean up. His right-footed volley from near the penalty spot beat Buffon to level the score.

That even-footing lasted all of five minutes, with Mellberg doing his best to give the goal back at the other end. His two-armed takedown of Fernando Llorente inside Copenhagen’s penalty area drew another whistle from Eriksson, with Vidal scorching the left-side netting to give Juventus their second converted penalty of the night.

Within two minutes, the hat trick was complete, Vidal pushing his tournament total to five goals after a cross from Pogba found him unmarked attacking the right (far) post. His arcing header into the left of goal gave left Wiland flat-footed, a Copenhagen goalkeeper racing back across goal unable to stop his momentum in time to prevent Juve’s third goal.

Up two, Juventus clicked it into neutral, only giving up one more shot on target after Mellberg’s goal. Finally putting in the type of performance most expected in their first four games, Juve claimed the Group B place they were supposed to occupy all along. Though they’ve won once in five matches, that may be all they need to advance to the round of 16. A draw at Galatasaray in two weeks will clinch second place and put them into the knockout round.

Goals

Juventus: 29′ Arturo Vidal (p.k.), 61′ Vidal (p.k.), 63′ Vidal

Copenhagen: 56′ Olof Mellberg

Lineups

Juventus: Gianluigi Buffon; Martín Caceres; Leonardo Bonucci, Giorgio Chiellini; Simone Padoin (69′ Claudio Marchisio), Arturo Vidal (83′ Angelo Obinze Ogbonna), Andrea Pirlo, Paul Pogba, Kwadwo Asamoah; Carlos Tévez (81′ Mirko Vucinic), Fernando Llorente

Unused substitutes:  Marco Storari, Federico Peluso, Fabio Quagliarella, Paolo De Ceglie

Copenhagen: Johan Wiland; Lars Jacobsen, Olof Mellberg, Ragnar Sigurdsson, Pierre Bengtsson; Christian Bolaños (61′ Thomas Kristensen), Claudemir, Thomas Delaney (76′ Danny Amankwaa); Rurik Gisiason, Nicolai Jørgensen, Youssef Toutouh (81′ Marvin Pourie)

Unused subs: Christoffer Remmer, Jakob Busk Jensen, Georg Margreitter, César Santin

Klopp hopes for speedy solution in club, fans’ ticket-price dispute

Liverpool's fans wave flags during the English League Cup semifinal second leg soccer match between Liverpool and Stoke City at Anfield stadium in Liverpool, England, Tuesday, Jan. 26, 2016. (AP Photo/Jon Super)
AP Photo/Jon Super
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From his time at Borussia Dortmund, Jurgen Klopp is used to a much more positive, family-like, everyone-pulling-in-the-same-direction atmosphere at his club of employment, so the present goings-on at Liverpool understandably have the Reds’ first-year manager feeling more than a little uneasy.

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Saturday’s late 2-2 draw with Sunderland wasn’t the first time Liverpool fans have headed for the exit before the final whistle, leaving Klopp feeling all alone, but it was the first time the fans have departed from Anfield early in a pre-planned, organized manner (Klopp missed the game himself with appendicitis). The Anfield faithful didn’t walk out on 77 minutes due to their team’s poor performance — Liverpool were 2-0 ahead at the time — but in protest of steadily rising ticket prices, which were unveiled at $111 per game to sit in the 132-year-old stadium’s new main stand next season.

Klopp, coming from the Bundesliga, where a season ticket at clubs the size of Bayern Munich and Dortmund doesn’t cost much more than a single-game ticket at many Premier League grounds, understands the fans’ frustration. At the end of the day, though, he works for the club, which is why he just wants the whole thing settled quickly, for the sake of his squad — quotes from the BBC:

“It’s not what we want. What I know is everyone in the club has a big interest in finding a solution for this. We don’t want people to leave the stadium before the game is finished.”

An LFC TV appearance by Liverpool chief executive Ian Ayre, in which he was expected to answer fan-submitted questions, was consequently canceled on Monday due to the ongoing dispute.

West Ham want Payet to sign new contract for fear of losing him this summer

Dimitri Payet, West Ham United FC (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)
AP Photo/Frank Augstein
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Dimitri Payet is going to be a red-hot commodity during this summer’s transfer window, there’s no doubt about it.

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Given he’s currently contracted to one of the Premier League’s “smaller” clubs — in comparison to some of the giants which are bound to be interested — West Ham United, there’s a decent-to-good chance he could be wearing a different club’s shirt come August. Especially if the 28-year-old attacker shows up and shows out at this summer’s European Championship in his native France.

If I can foresee the interest in Payet, then so too can the executives at West Ham, which is why manager Slaven Bilic took to the press on Monday to convey his desire for Payet to consider signing a new, increased contract at his earliest convenience — quotes from the Guardian:

“We are moving, the club is moving, with the new stadium, with the revenue and everything. We have to move and the most important move is to keep your best players and to add some new players who are needed and Dimitri Payet is our best player — I have no problem whatsoever to say that. Of course, I would love to have him happy, long term, at the club.”

Of course West Ham want Payet to sign a new deal immediately — doing so would accomplish two things in the club’s eyes: 1) increase the likelihood he remains at the club next season, or 2) insure the club receives a higher transfer fee for the player if he leaves in the summer anyway. The more total money remaining on his West Ham contract, the more they can demand of a prospective buyer.

[ MORE: Ronaldo commits himself to Real Madrid through 2018 ]

From Payet’s side — unless he has absolutely zero desire to move to a club like Liverpool, Chelsea or Manchester United, where he’d likely be paid close to $200,000 per week — he’d be crazy to sign a new contract at this point. Not only would it make a move this summer more difficult, but a strong showing at EURO 2016 could be worth another $15,000 or $20,000 per week on a new contract with West Ham (his current contract is rumored to be close to $100,000 per week).

With as many as five seasons still remaining on his current contract (a one-year club option can be exercised at any point), and his stock perhaps at an all-time high, the next six months could hold Payet’s last chance to get really, really paid before he hits the downside of his career.

USWNT players’ union responds in USSF lawsuit

FILE - In this Sunday, July 5, 2015 file photo, the United States Women's National Team celebrates with the trophy after they beat Japan 5-2 in the FIFA Women's World Cup soccer championship in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. The U.S. Soccer Federation’s original lawsuit against the union for its champion women’s national team has been sealed after the governing body realized it had disclosed the home addresses and email accounts of many players, Thursday, Feb. 4, 2016.(AP Photo/Elaine Thompson, File)
AP Photo/Elaine Thompson
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(AP) — The union that represents the Women’s World Cup-winning American national team opposed an expedited schedule in the lawsuit filed against it by the U.S. Soccer Federation last week, insisting no collective bargaining agreement exists.

The federation sued in an attempt to establish it has a contract with the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team Players Association that runs through this year’s Olympics until Dec. 31. The union maintains the memorandum of understanding agreed to in March 2013 can be terminated at any time.

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The USSF filed a motion Friday in U.S. District Court in Chicago asking for an expedited schedule, and the submitted opposition papers Monday that claim “facts asserted in the motion are nowhere near accurate and are hotly disputed.”

The union also maintains the USSF knew about the disagreement since July but did nothing about it.

An initial status conference is set for April 4.

Lionel Messi to undergo tests for lingering kidney problems

FC Barcelona's Lionel Messi holds the ball during a quarterfinal, second leg, Copa del Rey soccer match against Athletic Bilbao at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona, Spain, Wednesday, Jan. 27, 2016. (AP Photo/Manu Fernandez)
AP Photo/Manu Fernandez
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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) Barcelona says Lionel Messi is to undergo medical tests to assess a recurrence of kidney problems.

[ MORE: Saturday’s La Liga roundup | Barca win on Sunday

Messi missed the Club World Cup semifinal in December due to a renal colic, an abdominal ailment often related to the presence of kidney stones within renal ducts.

Barcelona says in a statement Monday that the tests to be conducted by Tuesday at the latest, are “to assess the evolution of the kidney problem he suffered last December.”

[ MORE: Champions League returns next week — KO round matchups ]

The statement says Messi will resume training with the squad on Wednesday, when Barcelona travels to Valencia for the return leg of the Copa del Rey semifinals in which it carries a 7-0 lead.