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Battling Arsenal bow out, as Bayern Munich reach UEFA Champions League quarters after 1-1 draw (3-1, agg.)

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Arsenal crashed out of the UEFA Champions League on Tuesday, as they drew 1-1 with Bayern Munich away at the Allianz Arena, but lost 3-1 on aggregate in the last 16 tie.

Bayern took the lead early in the second half as Bastian Schweinsteiger slotted home Franck Ribery’s cross from the left, as the Gunners fell further behind. But to their credit Arsene Wenger’s side had a real go at it, as German international Lukas Podolski leveled things up in the 57th minute to give the Gunners hope.

However as the second half wore on Bayern looked more likely to score, as Arsenal struggled to break down the reigning European champions. It was a brave performance in Bavaria from Arsenal but after a disastrous second half of the first leg in North London, the Gunners simply left themselves with too much to do. Late on Thomas Muller saw his penalty kick saved by Lukasz Fabiansk in the dying moments.

After holding Arsenal at bay Munich advance to the quarterfinals of the Champions League for the third-straight season, as the German powerhouse looks to be hell bent on defending their fifth European crown successfully.

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Early on Arsenal pressed high up the pitch to try and take the game to Bayern, but the home side had all of the early play as the Gunners tried to launch some counter attacks. One of those came from Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, who was scythed down by Bayern defender Dante who was handed a yellow card.

Bayern dominated possession but Arsenal held firm and looked solid at the back, however in the 19th minute a lighting quick attack on the left saw David Alaba set up Franck Ribery who chipped the ball to the back post but an onrushing Arjen Robben hit his volley into the ground and over the bar.

In the 26th minute Bayern thought they’d gone ahead as Javi Martinez volleyed home from a free kick, but Arsenal’s defense held their line well to leave four Munich attackers, including Martinez, in an offside position. The Gunners got it right that time, but a nervy night continued.

source: AP
Podolski’s strike leveled things up to give Arsenal hope, but that was as good as it got for the Gunners.

Around the half hour mark Arsenal burst into life as an enterprising run from Oxlade-Chamberlain brought a sustained spell of pressure for the Gunners. The Ox was brought down in the 31st minute and from the resulting free kick Podolski’s effort was deflected off target for a corner. From that set piece Olivier Giroud rose highest but his header was saved well by Manuel Neuer.

Despite that bright spell for the visitors, Bayern midfielder Alaba ran through several defenders in the 35th minute but the Austrian international dragged his shot wide. Moments later the best chance of the first half came as Robben was found 12-yards out but scuffed his shot into the ground after being closed down by several defenders, then Mario Mandzukić sent a header just over the bar as Bayern’s offense started to click. Just before the interval Mario Gotze controlled and volleyed goalwards but Fabianski saved well down low to thwart Bayern as the teams went in level at the break.

After the interval Arsenal took the game to Bayern, as Arsene Wenger made one half time switch by replacing record signing Mesut Ozil, who had an extremely disappointing first half, with Tomas Rosicky in central midfield.

That switch didn’t do much, as Bayern took the lead in the 55th minute and effectively killed off the tie when Schweinsteiger slotted home from six-yards out after good work on the left by Ribery as the Gunners looked to be down and out. But as they trailed 3-0 on aggregate, moments later Arsenal pulled a goal back instantly through Podolski. The German winger played a great one-two with Giroud, before looking to have hauled down Bayern defender Lahm but the referee waved play on as everyone stopped and Podoslki lashed the ball home to make it 1-1 on the night.

Podolski’s goal gave the Gunners hope and soon after a last ditch tackle stopped Giroud from slotting home and then Oxlade-Chamberlain had a long-range effort saved by Neuer as Arsenal went for broke to keep their Champions League dreams alive. Bayern tried to get back on the front foot and should have gone ahead on the 68th minute as Thiago played in Mandzukić to slot home from close range but the Croatian international was stopped by the brilliant Fabianski. In

Arsenal, try as they might, just couldn’t engineer another decent chance and Munich missed a stoppage time penalty kick after Laurent Koscielny was adjudged to have taken down Arjen Robben, but Fabianski saved Muller’s spot kick superbly. Regardless of that late drama, Munich saw the game out to advance to the final eight of Europe’s elite club competition.

LINEUPS

Bayern Munich: Neuer, Dante, Thiago, Ribéry (Müller, 85), Martínez, Mandzukić, Robben, Götze (Kroos, 58), Lahm, Alaba, Schweinsteiger

Goal: Schweinsteiger (55)

Arsenal: Fabianski, Sagna, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Vermaelen, Arteta (Gnabry, 77), Oxlade-Chamberlain (Flamini, 83), Cazorla, Ozil (Rosicky, 45), Podolski, Giroud

Goal: Podolski (57)

Chelsea’s Courtois says FA Cup or Champions League final a must

Thibaut Courtois, Chelsea FC
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Chelsea goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois is used to big matches, whether at Stamford Bridge, with the Belgian national team or during his loan to Atletico Madrid.

[ SPORTSWORLD: Courtois “standing tall” at Chelsea ]

If he doesn’t get one or two of those contests by the end of this season, a bad season will become an utter failure.

Courtois says it’s a long way to the Top Four, but Chelsea hasn’t given up on that hope. Regardless, he’s targeting wins over Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain in the FA Cup and UEFA Champions League, respectively.

From ChelseaFC.com:

“After that we play in the Champions League and FA Cup against two great sides and we have to try to win those games because the only way to save our season is to reach the final in one or both of them.”

Chelsea’s star has fallen this year, but this is still largely the team that won the Premier League last season. Courtois’ goals are not unreasonable.

LIVE – West Ham vs. Liverpool in FA Cup 4th round replay

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - JANUARY 30:  Nathaniel Clyne of Liverpool is watched by Dimitri Payet of West Ham United during the Emirates FA Cup Fourth Round match between Liverpool and West Ham United at Anfield on January 30, 2016 in Liverpool, England.  (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)
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Two Premier League teams clash in the FA Cup on Tuesday with a place in the last 16 on the line.

West Ham United welcome Liverpool to Upton Park (Follow live, 2:45 p.m. ET) following the 0-0 draw between the teams at Anfield 10 days ago.

[ LIVE: Follow West Ham-Liverpool here

Slaven Bilic‘s side will fancy their chances of getting past an injury-hit Liverpool squad and creating another famous FA Cup memory in their final season at the Boleyn Ground. With Dimitri Payet in contract negotiations about extending his stay at the Hammers, can the French playmaker lead them to a big win?

After missing Liverpool’s late collapse on Saturday during the 2-2 draw with Sunderland due to a bout of suspected appendicitis, manager Jurgen Klopp will return to the dugout. The German coach has already guided the Reds to one Wembley final during his debut season in charge as they face Manchester City in the League Cup final in less than three weeks time.

The winner of this clash will travel to second-tier Blackburn Rovers and they’ll be heavy favorites to reach the FA Cup quarterfinals.

Click on the link above to follow the game live, plus we will have a recap, reaction and analysis following the encounter in east London.

State of the USMNT: What is Klinsmann’s best XI for World Cup qualifiers?

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With the U.S. men’s national team ending their January camp with two narrow friendly wins over Iceland and Canada, head coach Jurgen Klinsmann and his staff will now be sitting back and thinking: “What did we learn? Who impressed? Who struggled?”

Or something like that.

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Each year the January camp provides domestic based players — mostly from Major League Soccer but a sprinkling of other guys too — with the chance to impress Klinsmann and his staff in close quarters for multiple weeks in California. Many current U.S. regulars earned their stripes in January’s gone by and have established themselves ever since.

This January was no different as the experienced core of players — Michael Bradley, Matt Besler and Jozy Altidore among them — showed their class and several promising players worked hard to get minutes in the friendlies.

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However, despite some glimmers of hope from youngsters such as Jordan Morris and Jerome Kiesewetter, what we learned about the USMNT heading into the two CONCACAF 2018 World Cup qualifiers in March is that the established players remain the best hope for success. Sure, the likes of John Brooks is impressing in the Bundesliga, Matt Miazga sealed a move to Chelsea and Lee Nguyen took his chance in January camp, but the old guard should remain in place through this next batch of World Cup qualifiers against Guatemala home and away on Mar. 25 and 29 and the Copa America Centenario this summer.

Question marks remain regarding some veterans, which could keep the situation a little more fluid than it should be.

One of those is Tim Howard with speculation of him moving away from Everton mounting plus a straight-up battle between Howard and Brad Guzan for the starting spot, while Clint Dempsey‘s status with the national team still seems to be somewhat clouded. Overall, though, the settled core of players who played together at the World Cup — plus or minus a few who have performed consistently over the last 18 months — should be kept together by Klinsmann. During last summer’s Gold Cup disappointment there was plenty of experimenting, especially in defense, but now is the time to settle things down and realize the following guys are the players you should count on going forward.

Below is my selection — feel free to select your own in the comments section — for the best XI available to Klinsmann, plus seven subs, assuming everyone is fit and available.

USMNT’s Best XI as of Feb. 9, 2016

—– Howard —–

— F. Johnson — Cameron — Besler — Ream —

—- Bradley —- Williams —-

—- Bedoya —- Dempsey —- Zardes —-

—– Altidore —–

Subs: Guzan, Brooks, Jones, Yedlin, Nagbe, Morris, Johannsson

Ahead of huge title clash, influential Leicester scout transfers to Arsenal

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 06:  Riyad Mahrez of Leicester City celebrates scoring his team's second goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Manchester City and Leicester City at the Etihad Stadium on February 6, 2016 in Manchester, England.  (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)
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Ben Wrigglesworth might not be a man you’ve heard a lot about, but he has been influential in helping Leicester City’s unlikely charge to the top of the Premier League.

Now, he’s been poached by Leicester’s main title rivals: Arsenal.

[ MORE: Spurs, Arsenal to battle for title?

Ahead of the monster clash between the Foxes and Gunners at the Emirates Stadium on Sunday (Watch live, 7 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via Live Extra) the man who unearthed the likes of Riyad Mahrez and N'Golo Kante has transferred to Arsenal and is now their First Team Video Scout.

Wrigglesworth, Leicester’s former Head of Technical Scouting, announced he would be leaving the Foxes via his Twitter page (see below) and he has now accepted a new role as part of Steve Rowley’s team at Arsenal.

It is believed he will not only help with the scouting of players but will also analyze Arsenal’s first team and the opposition.

[ MORE: Recapping Week 25 in the PL ]

Arsenal will unveil a new player performance center at their training HQ this summer and have recently purchased a soccer data company based in America, statDNA, to help them with scouting and player analysis.

With several Premier League teams now having huge player databases monitored by a team of talented individuals — often, like Wrigglesworth, with no pro playing experience — scouring the globe for the next bargain, the Moneyball vibe is strong.