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Newcastle launch bid for Grenier; Life goes on without Cabaye

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Newcastle United’s first match without midfield magician Yohan Cabaye wasn’t anywhere near the tremendous letdown some expected, especially considering how poorly the Magpies reacted to the news that he might head to Arsenal back in August. Newcastle was obliterated 4-0 by Manchester City on the season’s opening weekend amid worries that Cabaye would skip the Northeast.

The Magpies outchanced, outran and outplayed former manager Chris Hughton’s Norwich City side at Carrow Road but couldn’t finish in a 0-0 draw that saw them pick up point No. 37 on the year. And it wasn’t the sort of no-finish affair that would leave supporters questioning if the post-Cabaye era was going to resemble some bleak “Waterworld” landscape.

Hatem Ben Arfa created splendidly before the consequences of his apparent love for sandwiches arrived late in the game, while the goalposts did all they could to make sure Loic Remy and the Magpies were snakebit before Remy was sent off for a perceived headbutt on Bradley Johnson at the end of an altercation that saw both players see red and put Newcastle in a poor position ahead of Saturday’s home derby date with Sunderland.

So if Ben Arfa can get in better match shape, it stands to reason the Magpies will be just fine, with plenty of attacking options in Moussa Sissoko, Yoan Gouffran and Sammy Ameobi (the latter a bit of a head-scratching revelation on Tuesday. Why hadn’t he been featuring at all for Alan Pardew?).

But what will they do to lift their European dreams out of long shot territory? Surely they’d need more than grabbing out-of-form Dutch striker Luuk de Jong from the Bundesliga and hoping for the best, even if he was the next big Newcastle target just a summer ago.

Enter a bid from 23-year-old Lyon midfielder Clement Grenier, rumored for Arsenal but also a prospect for the Northeast club. Newcastle had flirted with signing Remy Cabella from Montpellier earlier in the window and the player wanted to come, but the higher-ups at his French club escalated their asking price to absurd heights for the in-demand youngster.

Lyon boss Remi Garde doesn’t want to lose his young playmaker, who has earned his first three senior caps for France this year and added six goals and four assists in Ligue 1 and Europe this year. In the past two seasons, Grenier’s started 47 matches, scored 13 goals and added 12 assists. The bidding price for  the midfielder is said to be between 10-12 million pounds.

It’s always an unknown whether a player’s game with translate, especially how long that will take, but Grenier does seem the sort to provide a lesser drop-off from Cabaye. Now will Mike Ashley, Joe Kinnear and Alan Pardew appear more attractive than Arsene Wenger? Ay, there’s the rub.

Bayern’s Vidal says “ugly” Atletico not deserved UCL finalists

MADRID, SPAIN - APRIL 27: Juanfran of Atletico Madrid and Arturo Vidal of Bayern Munich argue during the UEFA Champions League semi final first leg match between Club Atletico de Madrid and FC Bayern Muenchen at Vincente Calderon on April 27, 2016 in Madrid, Spain.  (Photo by Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images)
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Bayern Munich midfielder Arturo Vidal has declared “ugly” Atletico Madrid unworthy finalists in the UEFA Champions League.

Bayern was eliminated in the Champions League semifinal by Atleti on Tuesday, with Diego Simeone’s Spanish side advancing on away goals.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s UCL coverage ]

However, Vidal believed Bayern were the better team in the second leg, saying Atletico played “ugly football” to get through.

Today ugly football – Atletico – played against the best football in the world. The only time they saw the ball was for the goal.

They are going to be dreaming about us right up to the final. They did not have the ball, they took on the best team in the world, they took their chances and got to the final.

The best does not always win in football, like today. They are not deserved finalists.

Bayern Munich controlled more than 70-percent of possession and had 33 shots compared to Atletico’s nine, but those stats mean little as Antoine Griezmann’s away goal was enough to send Atleti to the final.

[ MORE: Former England striker Joe Cole headed to NASL’s Tampa Bay Rowdies ]

Atletico may not play the most attractive football, but after eliminating Barcelona and Bayern Munich in consecutive legs, it’s hard to argue anyone deserves this more than Simeone’s men.

Europa League preview: Liverpool, Shakhtar look to overcome Spanish foes

VILLARREAL, SPAIN - APRIL 28:  Cedric Bakambu of Villarreal is watched by the Liverpool defence during the UEFA Europa League semi final first leg match between Villarreal CF and Liverpool at Estadio El Madrigal on April 28, 2016 in Villarreal, Spain.  (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)
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The second leg of the Europa League semifinals kick off tomorrow, with two La Liga sides looking to make it an all-Spanish final.

[ MORE: Premier League Playback ]

Villarreal holds a 1-0 lead over Liverpool, while Sevilla scored two away goals in their 2-2 draw at Shakhtar Donetsk.

Liverpool vs. Villarreal – 3:05 p.m. ET
Villarreal won first leg 1-0

Adrian Lopez’s late winner in the first leg has given Villarreal a slight lead, while the Spanish side did well not to concede an away goal. However, Liverpool have overcome deficits at Anfield before, including their memorable 4-3 victory over Borussia Dortmund in the quarterfinals. Emre Can is back fit for the Reds, as manager Jurgen Klopp will hope his fellow German can help the team to a cup final in his first year in charge.

[ RELATED: Liverpool preparing for another big Thursday night at Anfield ]

Sevilla vs. Shakhtar Donetsk – 3:05 p.m. ET
First leg ended 2-2 draw 

Sevilla are looking to become the first team to win three consecutive Europa League titles as the two-time defending champions face off against Shakhtar Donetsk. Sevilla are in the driver’s seat after scoring two away goals in Ukraine, and will feel confident of advancing to the final with a great home record at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan Stadium.

Men in Blazers podcast: Celebrating Leicester’s title with Arlo White

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In the latest Men in Blazers podcast, Rog and Davo celebrate Leicester City’s improbable Premier League title with Leicester’s own Arlo White.

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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European police say Russian mafia infiltrating soccer clubs

LISBON, PORTUGAL - NOVEMBER 04:  Sporting Lisbon fans celebrate after their team score a goal during the Portuguese Liga match between Sporting Lisbon and Uniao Leiria at the Alvalade XXI Stadium on November 4, 2005 in Lisbon, Portugal.  (Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images)
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LISBON, Portugal (AP) Portuguese and European police say they have broken up a cell of an important Russian mafia group that allegedly laundered money through European football clubs.

Europol, the European Union’s law enforcement agency, said in a statement Wednesday the group identified EU football clubs in financial distress and infiltrated them with benefactors who brought much-needed cash.

[ MORE: Man City bounced from UCL ]

Once they were in control, the mobsters allegedly laundered millions of euros (dollars) through player transfers, TV rights deals and betting.

Portuguese and European police on Tuesday raided third-division Portuguese club Uniao de Leiria and arrested three key members of the Russian gang. Three other Portuguese clubs’ premises were searched.

Europol said the operation helped identify serious crimes in Austria, Germany, and the United Kingdom, though it gave no details.