It was another unpredictable weekend in the Barclays Premier League meaning choosing a Starting XI was anything but easy.
In goal, Norwich City’s John Ruddy gets the nod after the England international led his side to a crucial 1-0 victory over visitors Tottenham. In front of Ruddy is a three man defense consisting of Laurent Koscielny, John Terry and Patrice Evra.
Koscielny enjoyed a strong match against Bayern Munich in the Gunners mid-week loss and that effort was doubled on Saturday when the center-back held Sunderland to a single strike while heading home one of his own. The return of Terry from injury was a huge boost to Chelsea by scoring the match-winning goal against Everton and helping keep a clean sheet in a tightly fought match. Evra rounds out the group after the Frenchman improved on a lackluster season by going 90 strong in the 2-0 shutout of Crystal Palace.
A midfield four of Ashkan Dejagah, Jake Livermore, Robert Snodgrass and Jordan Henderson is a combination few would have anticipated impressing at the beginning of the season.
It was Dejagah’s opener for Fulham that gave the Cottagers a share of the points while Livermore was also on-target during Hull City’s 4-0 thrashing of Cardiff City. Snodgrass was an absolute menace in Norwich’s victory over Spurs on Sunday, getting in on multiple occasions and scoring the decisive goal. Liverpool’s Henderson proved a vital figure once again in the Reds attack, scoring twice to help his side defeat Swansea City 4-3.
Up front is a three man unit of Daniel Sturridge, Nikica Jelavic and Olivier Giroud after all three claimed braces in their side’s victories in the weekend.
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.
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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.
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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.
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.
In the latest Men in Blazers podcast, Rog and Davo celebrate Leicester City’s improbable Premier League title with Leicester’s own Arlo White.
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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.