Bayern Munich grabs control over Arsenal in Champions League matchup of UEFA heavyweights

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Bayern Munich took a big step forward in its Champions League defense, emerging from an eventful, pulsating night at the Emirates with a 2-0 win over an Arsenal team now on the fade in two major competitions.

A Bayern Munich team that, being so far ahead in the Bundesliga race, is destined to be judged by its ongoing Champions League defense, had to work hard to claim the margin in this Round-of-16 matchup of European heavies, one that now goes back to Bavaria for a final verdict.

[MORE: Three things we learned in Arsenal’s battling defeat to Bayern Munich]

Thomas Muller’s late goal on a skillful diving header doubled the lead provided by Toni Kroos earlier in the second half, as Arsenal needed just a few more minutes of defending to escape with something better (a 1-0 loss, that is) against all the offensive might of Bayern’s high-scoring side.

Two penalty kick failures (one by each team) and a red card, all before the break, went a long way to deciding this one, as Arsenal was forced to play a man down against the defending UEFA champs for more than 50 minutes.

A slightly controversial decision from the man in the middle will be the topic around North London as Italian referee Nicola Rizzoli ejected Gunners goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny after 38 minutes. Szczesny had brought down Bayern’s Arjen Robben near goal after the Bayern winger was put through on Kroos’ clever, chipped ball.

[MORE: Wenger: Robben ‘made a lot of’ Szczesny contact; penalty ‘killed the game’]

It was Kroos who finally broke through, putting the visitors in command with a sumptuous, well-placed right-footed shot in the 54th minute. The sequence started with more good work from the right side, which Bayern worded relentlessly, feeding the tireless  Robben and Philipp Lahm time against along that flank.

The game was alive from the start with both goalkeepers forced into quality saves within five minutes. The best was from Gunners ‘keeper Szczesny, whose flying, fingertip save on Kroos’ well-aimed effort from 20 yards was surely among the best stops of all the Round-of-16 matches.

The real talkers of the early minutes were still to come as Mezut Ozil went through in the 8th minute (although he was possibly offside). When Bayern center back Jerome Boateng failed to deal well enough with the German attacker’s quick cut-back inside Bayern’s 18, Rizzoli pointed to the penalty spot.

[MORE: What’s wrong with Champions League home teams? Four shutouts!]

Big Bayern goalkeeper Manuel Neuer stood his ground on Ozil’s tentative run-up and the Arsenal man saw his shot straight down the middle turned away by a fellow German international. Ozil, by the way, is the only player now to have missed two Champions League penalty kicks this year.

Rizzoli’s choice to eject Szczesny could have turned out worse yet for Arsenal but for David Alaba’s penalty shot for Bayern, which he aimed low and left, only to see it ping off the outside of Arsenal’s post.

Most of the second half was damage control for the home side; Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger set his side into a 4-4-1, with Ozil and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain wide – the hard-running “Ox” managed to be a bother here and there to Bayern’s back line, although he  didn’t dance through the German defense the way Robben did on the other side – in behind striker Yaya Sanogo.

Wenger had rattled the Champions League world with his lineup choice at striker, gambling with the French youngster Sanogo over far more experienced (and yet personally troubled, recently) Olivier Giroud.

[MORE: Late header from Diego Costa gives Atlético Madrid Champions League edge over Milan]

Giroud has been Wenger’s preferred striker choice all year; Sanogo had just one previous start for the Gunners.

It was actually a double gamble, of sorts. If Wenger was unhappy with Giroud, who has been OK, although hardly overwhelming during Arsenal’s fine seasons, the manager could have opted for German international Lukas Podolski, who has over 100 caps for his country.

LINEUPS

Arsenal: Szczesny; Sagna, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Gibbs; Flamini, Wilshere; Ozil, Cazorla, Oxlade-Chamberlain; Sanogo

Bayern: Neuer; Lahm, Boateng, Dante, Alaba; Martínez, Thiago; Robben, Kroos, Gotze; Mandzukić.

Premier League Preview: Southampton vs. Tottenham

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Southampton will host Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday (Watch live, 11 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com) with both sides hoping to pick up three points for very different reasons.

The Saints are currently in the midst of a fierce relegation battle through 23 matches, and sit in 18th place in the Premier League, while Spurs are hoping challenge for a top-four position.

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Mauricio Pellegrino‘s Southampton could get defender Maya Yoshida back in time for Sunday’s match, however, the side will be without Charlie Austin once more, who is currently nursing a hamstring injury.

Meanwhile, a number of key figures will miss the match for Tottenham, including goalkeeper Hugo Lloris and Harry Winks. Also, Danny Rose and Toby Alderweireld remain sidelined with injuries, although the latter is expected to be back soon.

What they’re saying

Mauricio Pellegrino on state of the Saints: “We are not happy with our position but in three or four weeks’ time everything can change. It’s part of our competition. I feel in our team the spirit is really good and everybody is conscious about what we need. I receive these messages from players every day, and we have to convert these feelings into stats.”

Mauricio Pochettino on potential January moves: “To be honest it will be difficult. At some point you always dream but not too much exciting [is happening]. If it happens, it happens. If not, then it doesn’t happen. We are happy with the squad.”

Prediction

Harry Kane is firing at an absurd rate recently, and Southampton’s current form is worrisome to say the least. With just four wins all season, it’s hard to imagine the Saints coming out in front in their clash. Southampton 0-3 Tottenham

La Liga: Las Palmas stuns nine-man Valencia, Atleti settles for draw

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A roundup of Saturday’s action in Spain’s top flight…

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s La Liga coverage ]

Las Palmas 2-1 Valencia

It’s never ideal when you finish a match with nine men, and that was the case on the day for third-place Valencia. Things were going according to plan for the visitors early on at the Gran Canaria when Santi Mina scored five minutes into the match.

However, goals from Jonathan Viera (22nd minute) and Jonathan Calleri (53rd minute) brought Las Palmas in front, and they wouldn’t relinquish the advantage.

Gabriel Paulista‘s second yellow card, which set up Las Palmas’ penalty kick in the second half was the first sending off for Valencia, while Ruben Vezo joined his teammate in the locker room with three minutes remaining in regulation.

The victory moves Las Palmas into 19th place in La Liga.

Atletico Madrid 1-1 Girona

Barcelona’s lead at the top of La Liga will likely grow courtesy of Atletico’s inability to apply pressure on the Blaugrana. Antoine Griezmann’s first-half strike wasn’t enough to cushion the Atleti lead, and in turn, Girona equalized with 17 minutes left in regulation when Portu scored off of a great take out of the air.

Espanyol 0-3 Sevilla

Franco Vasquez got things started for the visiting side after just 15 minutes, and before halftime Sevilla managed to double their lead through Pablo Sarabia. For good measure, the sixth-place side added a third goal in the 90th minute as Luis Muriel finished off a pass from Sarabia.


Elsewhere in La Liga

Villareal 2-1 Levante


Sunday’s La Liga matches

Alaves vs. Leganes — 6 a.m. ET
Real Madrid vs. Deportivo La Coruna — 10:15 a.m. ET
Real Sociedad vs. Celta Vigo — 12:30 p.m. ET
Real Betis vs. Barcelona — 2:45 p.m. ET

Blockbuster trade sends Kamara to Galaxy, Zardes to Columbus

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The MLS offseason has been in full force for some time now, and the blockbuster moves continue to take shape.

On Saturday, the Columbus Crew finalized a deal with the LA Galaxy to send striker Ola Kamara to the Western Conference side.

[ MORE: All of the picks from Friday’s MLS SuperDraft first & second rounds ]

In exchange for Kamara, the Galaxy have sent U.S. Men’s National Team attacker Gyasi Zardes and $400,000 in Targeted Allocation Money to the Crew. The amount of TAM could increase to $500,000 if Kamara scores 12 or more goals in 2018.

Since arriving on the MLS scene in 2016, the Norwegian had scored 34 regular season goals for the Crew, while adding five assists.

Meanwhile, Zardes has spent his entire professional career with the Galaxy up until this point, after having signed a Homegrown contract with the club over five years ago.

The USMNT winger has scored 34 goals in 131 regular season appearances since making his senior team debut for the Galaxy.

Sources: NYCFC’s Jack Harrison expected to join Stoke this winter

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One of New York City’s biggest soccer stars could be retracing his routes back to England this winter.

Several MLS league sources have confirmed to Pro Soccer Talk that New York City FC winger Jack Harrison is being tracked by Premier League outfit Stoke City, and that a bid has been placed for the 21-year-old “in the range of $5 million.” That amount could move upwards of $6 million if incentives are reached.

Additionally, league sources have revealed to PST that a deal is “likely to be reached between the two sides” before the end of the winter transfer window.

[ MORE: Sergio Aguero continues to display brilliance for Man City ]

PST reached out to NYCFC for comment, but the club wasn’t available for immediate response.

Harrison was born in Stoke-on-Trent, and came up through Manchester United’s academy system as a youth player, prior to coming to the United States at the age of 14.

PL sides have until Jan. 31 to complete signings of players, which gives Stoke roughly 10 days to get a signature from Harrison.

Goal USA’s Ives Galarcep was the first to report the story of Stoke’s interest in Harrison. The Goal report states that Stoke’s initial bid for Harrison of $3 million was rejected by NYCFC last week.

Harrison was selected by NYCFC in the first round of the 2016 MLS SuperDraft, after the team executed a trade with the Chicago Fire. The 21-year-old was the first-overall pick in that season’s draft out of Wake Forest University.

In his time with the Eastern Conference MLS club, the England-native has scored 14 goals in all competitions, while adding 13 assists for the Cityzens.

Harrison earned his first call up with the England Under-21 national team in 2017 in a match against Scotland, before also appearing in a fixture against Andorra.

The interest from Stoke is far from surprising given the intrigue regarding Harrison from foreign clubs in the past. Stoke is currently in the midst of a fierce relegation battle in England, with the Potters sitting 17th place in the PL on 23 points.

Over the past year, Brighton & Hove, Everton and Leicester City are just a few of the sides that have tracked Harrison’s progress, although it never appeared that NYCFC was close to a deal with any of the aforementioned PL clubs.

From an NYCFC perspective, the move isn’t completely out of left field when considering the moves that technical director Claudio Reyna and manager Patrick Vieira have sought after recently.

The club has added attacking talents such as Designated Player Jesus Medina, Jonathan Lewis and Ismael Tajouri within the last 12 months to help prepare for such a move. Additionally, the club signed Norwegian forward Jo Inge Berget on Friday, further bolstering the team’s attack.

Meanwhile, the Eastern Conference giants still boast an attack led by forward and captain David Villa, while being complimented by Maxi Moralez and a strong midfield.