Respectful Bayern saying all the right things ahead of Champions League visit to Arsenal

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As sublime as Bayern Munich has looked over the last two seasons, they’ve also had two notably close calls against English competition. In last season’s UEFA Champions League, the Gunners’ 2-0 win at the Allianz Arena in the second leg of the teams’ Round of 16 matchup meant the eventual champions had to rely on away goals to advance to the quarterfinals. This year, a Bayern team that had seemingly won its group almost gave up the top spot on the last day to Manchester City, who only needed one more goal in Munich to go through in first.

That’s why, amid all of the respectful things Bayern’s players and staff are saying ahead of tomorrow’s game at the Emirates, there may be a grain of truth. Whereas the typical pregame niceties always carry a note of obligation, Bayern’s recent experiences give them reason to be wary. They’re clearly the better team, but if they don’t play to their potential, they’re still capable of being beaten.

“Arsenal are stronger (than last year), they’re having a good season,” Arjen Robben told the Bundesliga website, the Dutch attacker returning to the city where his game-winning goal gave Bayern May’s Champions League title. “Both games will be tough for us and we have to try and win the first leg.”

Bayern boss Pep Guardiola, also familiar with second leg scares from Arsenal, echoed Robben’s caution. En route to his second Champions League title, Guardiola’s Barcelona met Arsenal in the 2010-11 Round of 16, with a controversial second leg red card to Robin Van Persie helping the Blaugrana hold off the Gunners at home. Barça would go onto to defeat Manchester United in the final.

“I expect players with a good mentality to win the game,” Guardiola said. “It’s the most prestigious competition in the world. Arsenal are a good team and I’m sure the fans will enjoy the game. We accept Bayern are favourites, but I’m used to that.”

For goalkeeper Manuel Neuer, who hails from the same city and school as Arsenal’s Mesut Özil, the German playmaker adds another dimension to the Gunners’ midfield.

“England’s been a new experience for him,” Neuer said. “He’s more physical now and adds quality to the Arsenal midfield. He’s a great passer of the ball and has been a great signing for them.”

Perhaps this is nothing more than Bayern going through the motions, but last year’s scare from Arsenal may give the Gunners confidence. If München wants to keep that confidence from becoming momentum, they’ll need a strong performance in North London.

Independiente and Flamengo meet for South American trophy

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SAO PAULO (AP) Independiente, relegated for the first time in its history in 2013, can complete a remarkable turnaround by winning the Copa Sudamericana at the Maracana Stadium on Wednesday.

[ MORE: LA FC selects Urena, four others in MLS Expansion Draft ]

The Argentine team will go into the second leg of the final holding a 2-1 lead over Brazilian club Flamengo from the first leg.

Independiente, which has won multiple titles in South American tournaments, will be counting on 18-year-old midfielder Ezequiel Barco, one of the best players in this year’s competition.

Flamengo is also seeking to restore some pride in Rio de Janeiro. The big-spending Brazilian club, playing in its first Copa Sudamericana final, finished its domestic championship in a disappointing sixth place.

The Rio team will be without Peru striker Paolo Guerrero, who is serving a one-year doping ban.

Instead, veteran midfielder Diego will be the key player as Flamengo looks to claim its first regional title since winning the now-defunct Copa Mercosur in 1999.

After Independiente won the first leg, the club posted on its social media channels a picture of its players celebrating at the Maracana in 1995 when the two teams played for the Supercopa.

If the Argentines lose 1-0 on Wednesday, there will be a penalty shootout to decide the winner.

Last year, Brazilian club Chapecoense was awarded the title before the final after 19 players, plus club directors and several members of staff, died in an air crash.

The Copa Sudamericana is the continent’s second most prestigious tournament after the Copa Libertadores.

Bundesliga wrap: Dortmund wins in Stoger’s managerial debut

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For the first time since late September, Borussia Dortmund has won a league match, while Leipzig’s slip up opens the door for Bayern Munich to extend its lead in Germany’s top flight.

[ MORE: Chelsea tops Huddersfield, level on points with Man United ]

Here’s a brief look at all of Tuesday’s Bundesliga action.

Mainz 0-2 Borussia Dortmund

10 points separates Dortmund from league leaders Bayern Munich, who also have a match in hand, but for the moment, the bleeding his stopped. BVB picked up a crucial win on Tuesday to end its domestic woes upon manager Peter Stoger’s debut. The side’s drought stretched over an eight-match winless period. Second-half goals from Sokratis and Shinji Kagawa moved Dortmund into the top four, while Mainz remains 15th in the league table.

 

Wolfsburg 1-1 Red Bull Leipzig

Meanwhile, RB Leipzig’s form continues to slide downward after the second-place side dropped points in its fourth straight match across all competitions. The road side’s fortunes were dampened early on when Paul Verhaegh converted from the penalty spot, however, Marcel Halstenberg did manage to pull a goal back for Leipzig in the 52nd minute. Leipzig’s misfortunes carried on in stoppage time though when Dayot Upamecano was sent off after picking up his second yellow card of the day.


The rest of Tuesday’s scores

Hamburg 1-2 Frankfurt
Freiburg 1-0 Borussia Monchengladbach

Inter beats 3rd-division Pordenone 5-4 on penalties in Cup

Albano Angilletta/ANSA via AP
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MILAN (AP) Inter Milan scraped into the Italian Cup quarterfinals after the Serie A leader was taken to penalties by third-division Pordenone on Tuesday.

[ MORE: Chelsea tops Huddersfield, moves level on points with Man United ]

Pordenone goalkeeper Simone Perilli pulled off several saves in regulation time to keep the game scoreless, and he almost proved to be the hero during the shootout, stopping two penalties.

But Inter prevailed 5-4, with Yuto Nagatomo tucking away the final spot kick.

Both sides hit the woodwork during the 120 minutes.

Inter coach Luciano Spalletti rang the changes, and only Milan Skriniar and Matias Vecino remained in the starting 11 from Saturday’s 0-0 draw at Juventus.

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However, he was forced by desperation to bring on Marcelo Brozovic at halftime as well as star forwards Ivan Perisic and Mauro Icardi.

Report: Cosmos coach Savarese to be named new Timbers manager

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In a time where NASL’s status moving forward is hanging in the balance, one of the league’s top managers is set to make the jump to Major League Soccer.

[ MORE: LA FC close to acquiring Red Bulls captain Sacha Kljestan ]

According to ESPN soccer analyst Taylor Twellman, New York Cosmos head coach Giovanni Savarese is set to be named the next Portland Timbers manager.

Savarese will take over for the recently departed Caleb Porter, who stepped down from his head coaching role with the Timbers in November.

The former professional player spent five seasons in MLS during his career, including stints with the New York/New Jersey MetroStars (now the Red Bulls), as well as the New England Revolution and the San Jose Earthquakes.

The 46-year-old has managed the Cosmos from 2013 to present, and guided the NASL side to three Soccer Bowl titles in that span.