Galatasaray v Chelsea - Champions League Round of 16 Previews

Chelsea players warned as tough UEFA Champions League trip to Galatasaray awaits

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LONDON — The biggest city in Turkey and sitting in both Europe and Asia, Istanbul is one of world soccer’s greatest meccas. Passionate fans, massive clubs and fascinating cultures all clash on the banks of the Bosphorus.

On Wednesday Chelsea travel to the Al Sami Yen Stadium to face Turkish giants Galatasaray in the last 16 of the UEFA Champions League as a hostile atmosphere awaits. Over 50,000 fanatical supporters will pack the recently constructed stadium that sits just outside the heart of Istanbul, with the Blues in for a real tough time.

Manager Jose Mourinho knows that more than most, as last season he took Real Madrid to Istanbul and came home with nothing. Real managed to turn the tie around at home in the second leg, but a trip to face Galatasaray isn’t something the ‘Special One’ is relishing.

“Last season my team [Real Madrid] was a team ready to win the Champions League and we were in trouble against them,” Mourinho said. “We won in Madrid but lost in Istanbul and we were in trouble. The crowd is difficult too. The 3,000 Everton fans who were at Chelsea on Saturday… they have 60,000 like this. The atmosphere is really strong, we have a difficult match to play.”

(MORE:Mourinho lauds Chelsea’s defensive solidity, as title charge will come from the back)

Aside from the intense atmosphere, Mourinho also pointed out the extremely talented squad Galatasaray manger Robeerto Mancini has at his disposal.

“They have a good team, a very experienced team,” Mourinho said. “All of their players have had a long-run in the high level of the Champions League and they have got wins. They have big players, Wesley Sneijeder, Dider Drogba and after that they have very experienced players like Emmanule Eboue and Felipe Melo, they are people that have played at some of the best clubs in the world. The Turkish guys are the best players they have, Yilmaz, Altintop, Inan.”

With Mourinho dishing out plenty of respect to Chelsea’s Turkish opponents, there is one man he will be excited yet focused to face once again. Galatasaray striker Didier Drogba was Mourinho’s main man during his first spell in charge at Chelsea, with the Ivorian striker spearheading many of the Blues’ title charges and left the West London club in 2012 after scoring the winning penalty kick in the UEFA Champions League final.

(MORE: Report – Drogba linked with MLS move, as two teams battle for his signature)

There is a banner hanging at one end of Chelsea’s Stamford Bridge stadium which reads, “Drogba, Chelsea legend.” Mourinho doesn’t argue with that, but insists he and his players must be professional when facing one of Chelsea’s greatest ever strikers.

“I played against him already. When I was at Inter we played Chelsea and when I was at Real last season we played against Galatasaray,” Mourinho said. “It’s a strange feeling, we know him well. During the game from us there will no friends, before the game we will be big friends and we have big respect for a real legend of this club and after the game the same. But during the game, we have a job to do.”

Many believe Mourinho’s main reason for heading back to Stamford Bridge is to build a team capable of winning the Champions League year after year, as the Portuguese boss aims to lift the one trophy which alluded him during his first spell in charge of the Blues. Mourinho has won the UCL with FC Porto and Inter Milan, but now with Chelsea he’s aiming to clinch Europe’s elite title for a third time.

But before dreaming about titles, his side must negotiate this tricky test against a side that’s already beaten Juventus at home this season in the UCL. Mourinho believes this last 16 matchup will go right to the wire.

“I think this is a tie that will go to the end. It will go  right to the end.”

Mourinho: “I prefer to forget the last three years” of Manchester United

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 26:  Chelsea Manager Jose Mourinho is asked for his autograph by fans prior to the Barclays Premier League match between Manchester United and Chelsea at Old Trafford on October 26, 2014 in Manchester, England.  (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)
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Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho has immediately begun courting the fans of his new club.

The 53-year-old Portuguese manager may’ve run rivals Chelsea on two occasions, but claims he’s always had empathy with United even when defeating the Old Trafford club.

[ MORE: United hires Mourinho | Things he must do ]

In an interview with Manchester United TV, Mourinho issues some high praise of the club while also managing a bit of classic “The Special One” ego in saying, “Giant clubs must be for the best managers.”

As for the disappointing trio of years between David Moyes and Louis Van Gaal, Mourinho says he’d rather consider his tenure in line with the run of Alex Ferguson.

From the BBC:

“I think we can look at our club in two perspectives – one is the past three years and another is the history. I prefer to forget the last three years. I prefer to focus on the giant club I have in my hands now. “

Mourinho has had some time to calculate the best way to endear himself to United supporters, and playing to their belief as the most historic club in the world sure pushes the right buttons.

Now comes the task of delivering titles in a climate more competitive than any other time in modern history.

Mourinho confirmed, hails “mystique and romance” of Manchester United

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Manchester United made the hiring of Jose Mourinho official on Friday, with vice chairman Ed Woodward calling him “the best in the game.”

Mourinho hasn’t accepted a job since being let go by Chelsea this winter, and United fired Louis Van Gaal after the manager led them to the FA Cup title on Saturday.

[ MORE: Ferdinand hails hiring “wounded animal” Mourinho ]

It is a three-year deal, which will certainly lead to snarky comments regarding Mourinho’s three-year stints around Europe, but the manager has won the league within two years at every stop since Porto.

His first of many quotes to come are in an announcement post on ManUtd.com:

“To become Manchester United manager is a special honour in the game. It is a club known and admired throughout the world. There is a mystique and a romance about it which no other club can match.

“I have always felt an affinity with Old Trafford; it has hosted some important memories for me in my career and I have always enjoyed a rapport with the United fans. I’m looking forward to being their manager and enjoying their magnificent support in the coming years.”

So after a Premier League season in which perhaps the most remarkable story in English football history was told, next season will have Jose Mourinho, Pep Guardiola, Jurgen Klopp and Antonio Conte guiding the massive ships of Manchester United, Manchester City, Liverpool and Chelsea through first full seasons.

Is it August yet?

MLS Preview: Conference leaders meet as Philly head west to Colorado

COMMERCE CITY, COLORADO - APRIL 02:  Dillon Powers #8 of Colorado Rapids controls the ball against the Toronto FC at Dick's Sporting Goods Park on April 2, 2016 in Commerce City, Colorado. The Rapids defeated Toronto FC 1-0.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
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The weekend is nearing, which means another full slate of ten matches across Major League Soccer.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverage ]

With Sporting KC and D.C. United kicking things off on Friday night, Saturday is jam-packed with eight matches before the league’s youngest clubs NYCFC and Orlando wrap up the action on Sunday.

Colorado Rapids vs. Philadelphia Union — Saturday, 9:00 p.m. ET

There’s not a misprint on the table, Colorado and Philadelphia are both at the top of their conferences. After sitting near the bottom of MLS for the past two seasons, Colorado has shocked everyone, currently leading the league in points (27) with the fewest goals conceded (9). On Saturday, the Rapids put their perfect 6-0 home record on the line when they host the Union, who currently lead the East by two points.

New York Red Bulls vs. Toronto FC — Saturday, 7:00 p.m. ET

Coming off of a massive 7-0 win in the Hudson River Derby against NYCFC, the Red Bulls will look to continue trending upwards when they host Toronto FC. Two of the preseason favorites to top the Eastern Conference, both sides are currently tied on points, although the Red Bulls have a game in hand. For Toronto, Sebastian Giovinco will be keen to prove Antonio Conte wrong after being left out of the Italy squad for EURO 2016 after the Italian boss talked down upon MLS.

[ MLS: Standings | Stats | Schedule ]

Montreal Impact vs. Los Angeles Galaxy — Saturday, 8:00 p.m. ET

Didier Drogba has scored in each of his last three starts, a streak he will look to keep alive against the Los Angeles Galaxy this weekend. While Drogba will be looking to score, Montreal must make sure their defense is in top form as the Galaxy have scored a league-high 25 goals through 11 matches.

Elsewhere around MLS

Sporting KC vs. D.C. United — Friday, 7:00 p.m. ET
Vancouver Whitecaps vs. Houston Dynamo — Saturday, 6:00 p.m. ET
Columbus Crew SC vs. Real Salt Lake — Saturday, 7:30 p.m. ET
New England Revolution vs. Seattle Sounders — Saturday, 7:30 p.m. ET
Chicago Fire vs. Portland Timbers — Saturday, 8:30 p.m. ET
San Jose Earthquakes vs. FC Dallas — Saturday, 10:30 p.m. ET
New York City FC vs. Orlando City SC — Sunday, 4:30 p.m. ET

Cantona claims ethnicity played role in Benzema, Ben Arfa France snubs

SHANGHAI, CHINA - APRIL 14:  Former Footballer Eric Cantona of France speaks during a press conference at the Shanghai Grand Theatre prior to the  Laureus World Sports Awards  on April 14, 2015 in Shanghai, China.  (Photo by Ian Walton/Getty Images for Laureus)
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Eric Cantona has made the headlines again, this time making some bold claims against France national team manager Didier Deschamps.

Cantona, a former Manchester United legend and French international, questioned whether Deschamps excluded Karim Benzema and Hatem Ben Arfa from the team due to their North African origins.

[ MORE: Skrtel set to leave Liverpool ]

Speaking to The Guardian, Cantona calls Benzema and Ben Arfa two of France’s best footballers, both of whom will not be playing for the national team this summer.

Benzema is a great player. Ben Arfa is a great player. But Deschamps, he has a really French name. Maybe he is the only one in France to have a truly French name. Nobody in his family mixed with anybody, you know.

So I’m not surprised he used the situation of Benzema not to take him. Especially after [French Prime Minister Manuel Valls] said he should not play for France. And Ben Arfa is maybe the best player in France today. But they have some origins. I am allowed to think about that.

One thing is for sure – Benzema and Ben Arfa are two of the best players in France and will not play the European Championship. And for sure, Benzema and Ben Arfa, their origins are north African. So, the debate is open.

Cantona’s view doesn’t hold much merit as Deschamps did not even have the option of selecting Benzema, the country’s active leading goalscorer. The Real Madrid striker is suspended by the federation, embroiled in a blackmail sex-tape scandal involving French teammate Mathieu Valbuena, who was also left off the EURO roster.

[ MORE: Three battles that could determine the Champions League final ]

France is an extremely diverse nation with a large North African population, Benzema of Algerian descent and Ben Arfa’s father a former Tunisian international. Both players were born in France and have received prior call-ups under Deschamps, with Cantona’s quite ridiculous comments likely to cause a stir before the EURO.