What we learned from Paris Saint-Germain’s Champions League demolition of Bayer Leverkusen

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  • Bayer’s out of its depth at this level of the tournament

We’ve been harping on it over the last 48 hours, but there’s no way to understand the significance of this result without looking back on Bayer’s flops throughout the course of the tournament. Against a Manchester United team that’s proven to be a shadow of their former selves, Bayer lost 4-2 and 5-0 in group stage. Today, at home, with month to figure out how to stay in this tie, they went down in the third minute en route to a four-goal loss. When teams like Juventus, Napoli, Porto and Basel are in the Europa League while Bayer’s in the final 16, you see how fortunate Sami Hyypia’s team was to be drawn into an easy group.

[MORE: UEFA Champions League: Ibrahimovic brace helps PSG cruise 4-0 at Bayer Leverkusen]

  • Paris Saint-Germain deserves credit for seizing the opportunity

Leverkusen was weak, but that doesn’t mean PSG shouldn’t get some credit for their performance. On the contrary, we often see teams sleepwalk through games like this, lulled into a sense of security that keeps them from putting up a dominant result. Had the Parisians sat on Blaise Matuidi’s early opener, using their dominance of possession to bleed out the game’s next 87 minutes, they would have to start a full team in Paris to fully kill off the tie. Instead, up four goals, Laurent Blanc will be able to use his prodigious depth to rotate his squad, something that could prove valuable as league, cup, and European games pile up.

[MORE: FC Barcelona seizes control of Champions League series with 2-0 win over Manchester City]

  • Zlatan on fire, part of everything

Ibrahimovic’s second goal was nasty. We use the term unstoppable a lot, but that was one of the more apt goals for that description – a shot that may have been ever more powerful than his gasp-inducing goal earlier in the tournament against Anderlecht. A soccer ball is never going to be truly unstoppable, but that hasn’t stopped Ibrahimovic from trying.

That goal is the headline. The body of Tuesday’s story: Ibrahimovic was a part of everything PSG did. On the first goal, he played the ball in from the right to Marco Verratti ahead of Blaise Matuidi’s opener. He doubled his team’s lead with a hard hit penalty in the 39th, while his work along the left flank contributed to the buildup for PSG’s final goal. In the lead up to that final salvo, he had dropped back into midfield to help control play as the Parisians passed their way through the match’s final half hour. He is the star, leader, danger man and focal point – the main reason PSG are becoming one of Europe’s elites.

UEFA put a stat out before today’s match: In his last 27 games for club and country, Ibrahimovic had scored 33 goals. Today in Germany, he improved on that ratio. The man is one of the four or five best players on the planet, and if he keeps putting up performances like these, PSG has a chance to beat anybody.

[MORE: What we learned in Barcelona’s Champions League win over Manchester City]

Conte praises Hazard’s style, wouldn’t want him to be “more selfish”

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Antonio Conte made two bold decisions on Saturday afternoon as his Chelsea side prepared to take on Tottenham in their FA Cup semifinal.

[ MORE: Oriol Romeu shines with Saints as he prepares for Chelsea return ]

The Italian manager has been known for his innovation and risk-taking in the past, but many were critical of the 47-year-old when his team sheet came out ahead of the match.

Conte left key attacking duo Eden Hazard and Diego Costa on the bench, allowing out-of-favor striker Michy Batshuayi and Pedro to get the starting nod.

Although Hazard nor Costa saw the field for the opening hour, the former made his presence known when he was summoned by Conte in the second half.

Often times Hazard has been known as a facilitator, someone that can pick apart defenses with his tremendous foot skills and clever passing. But the Belgian international has also shown his capabilities of scoring on a regular basis as well, which has prompted great interest from other giant clubs around Europe.

When Conte was asked about Hazard and if his attacker should be more selfish, the Italian gave an emphatic “NO” as his response.

“No, no, no, absolutely not,” Conte said. “I don’t think that a player like Messi is a selfish player. The first target for every great champion is to play for the team and to put your talent into the team. If you do this, the team [increases] your talent.

“The best players in the world don’t exist without a team. For me, it’s sad to listen to this, that a player must ‘be more selfish’ to reach the top level. That’s very sad. It’s not my idea of football and I will never understand this. Never, never. In my team, I don’t want selfish players.

“I prefer to lose a game than to have a selfish player. For me, I don’t want this and I can’t accept this. I don’t want my club to buy me a selfish player one day. Never. No.”

Newcastle joins Brighton in promotion to Premier League

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Two sides have now booked their trips to England’s top flight after Newcastle United rattled off its 27th win of the season.

[ MORE: Oriol Romeu — The perfectly poised destroyer ]

The Magpies earned a decisive 4-1 victory over Preston North End on Monday afternoon at St. James’ Park as the second-place side ensured its finish inside the top two in the English Championship.

Newcastle joins already-promoted club Brighton & Hove Albion, who currently sit atop the Championship on 92 points.

Ayoze Perez paced the hosts with goals on both sides of halftime, while Christian Atsu and Matt Ritchie also converted for Newcastle.

U.S. Men’s National Team defender DeAndre Yedlin was on the bench for the Magpies but didn’t feature in Monday’s match.

The third and final team to be promoted from the Championship will be decided by the league’s annual promotion playoff, which is held at the end of the season and contested by four sides that finish third through sixth position.

As it stands, Reading, Sheffield Wednesday, Huddersfield Town and Fulham occupy the four playoff positions.

Marseille making Olivier Giroud top transfer target this summer

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Marseille did well to bring in one star this season but could the French side have another trick up its sleeve this summer?

Sky Sports is reporting that the Ligue 1 club is preparing to sign Arsenal striker Olivier Giroud over the summer and the sixth-place side is “willing to pay up to £20m (roughly $25 million).

Marseille made a splash this season when the club re-signed Dimitri Payet, who was playing with Premier League side West Ham at the time.

The team does boast several quality attacking options such as Payet and Bafetimbi Gomis, but Giroud could serve as an ideal target man in the Marseille attack.

Prior to joining the Gunners in 2012, Giroud starred for Montpellier and with a potential link-up in the attack with a creator like Payet, it could present a dangerous attacking threat to the rest of Ligue 1.

Giroud, 30, has scored 95 goals in all competitions since arriving in London with Arsenal.

Report: Chicharito talks heating up with Los Angeles FC

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We’ve seen MLS teams make major splashes in the past, and one of next year’s newcomers could be a really big draw if they can manage to seal the deal on a Mexican international.

[ MORE: Schweinsteiger shares thoughts on MLS and more in interview ]

According to Metro New York, Los Angeles FC is continuing its talks with Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez about a potential deal that would prove massive in terms of MLS spending.

While LAFC won’t debut in MLS until 2018, the club could potentially make the Mexico striker the highest-paid player in league history with an average salary of roughly $10 million.

The 28-year-old Hernandez currently plays in Germany with Bundesliga side Bayer Leverkusen, where he’s plied his trade since joining the club during the 2015/16 season.

Additionally, the former Manchester United man has dominated the international scene for El Tri, scoring 46 goals in 90 appearances for the CONCACAF nation.