Zero things we learned: Bayer’s problems make it impossible to evaluate PSG’s Champions League hopes

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After Champions League matches, we (PSTlike to come back with an analysis piece, something that often takes the form of a “things we learned” post. As today’s game in France developed, the idea of writing a “reasons why Paris Saint-Germain can compete for Champions League” post was floated, an idea that has one debilitating sticking point.

Bayer Leverkusen — PSG’s steamrolled opponent — was such a non-factor over the course of two legs, it’s impossible to say what dominating them means for a Champions League contender. The play of Sami Hyypia’s team was so ineffectual, almost any European title aspirant would have put up an equally lopsided result. Maybe another team would have scored fewer goals (PSG put up six over the course of 180 minutes), but the control would have been the same. Any side with aspirations for this year’s title would have dismantled Leverkusen.

Bayer didn’t belong at the stage of the tournament. They came through a weak group, one which saw Manchester United claim first place. Had Shakhtar Donetsk and Real Sociedad not gone through their own early-season adjustments, Hyypia’s team may have been coaxed into Europa League. Without strong opposition, it survived, becoming one of the two or three weakest teams in the Round of 16.

It’s a shame, too. Bayer should be much better. And at points this season, they were. Through the first months of the Bundesliga campaign, they managed to remain within arm’s length of Bayern Munich, their attacking trio of Stefan Keißling, Sidney Sam, and Son-Heung Min rivaling the production of their peers at Bayern and Borussia Dortmund.

Those days are long gone, though. Relative to PSG, Bayer is a team with huge deficiencies in midfield and defense – gaps that left them ill-equipped to match up with the French champions. Even with the talent Leverkusen has in attack, it’s impossible to point to any player in Hyypia’s XI and say “he would start for Laurent Blanc.” They’re overmatched; drastically so.

When trying to draw conclusions about PSG, that’s important to remember. It’s tempting to see a 6-1 aggregate and be impressed by Paris Saint-Germain — and to a certain extent, that’s the right response — but Bayer’s limitations force us to maintain perspective. Unless the Parisians get drawn against the winner of Manchester United-Olympiakos in the next round, the competition’s going to take a major step up in the quarterfinals.

That midfield solidity that allowed PSG to go toe-to-toe with Barcelona last season? Bayer never challenged it. The defense that might be improved thanks to the summer purchase of Marquinhos? PSG’s control left it untested. And that attack which sees Edison Cavani and Ezequiel Lavezzi leverage the creativity of Zlatan Ibrahimovic? It had it far too easy against Bayer’s defense.

Theoretically, PSG should be a tougher out this season. Not only does it have last season’s experience under their belts, but its league form portrays a control and maturity it was still growing into last year. The team no longer plays like as aspiring giant. Though they remain on the fringe, PSG’s already achieved a place among Europe’s elite.

But only one elite can raise the trophy in Lisbon, and to the extent that we can assess PSG’s chances, their 180 minutes against Bayer do not tell us very much. They were impressive, dominant, and flashed the potential the Parisians need to take the next step in their ascent. They also came up against a team that should have been in Europa League by now.

UCL team news: Big calls for all five Premier League clubs

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Three Premier League giants are in UEFA Champions League action on Tuesday and below is a roundup of the latest team news from Manchester City, Tottenham Hotspur and Liverpool.

[ MORE: Champions League schedule ]

Also, don’t forget Chelsea and Manchester United are both in UCL action on Wednesday as the five PL clubs all aim to remain unbeaten through the opening two weeks of group play.

[ MORE: Champions League standings ]   


Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola has revealed that left back Benjamin Mendy will have a late fitness test ahead of City’s clash with Ukrainian outfit Shakhtar Donetsk on Tuesday.

City will be looking to win their opening two UEFA Champions League group games for the first time in club history after they beat Feyenoord 4-0 away from home in their Group F opener.

Guardiola also revealed that Vincent Kompany and Ilkay Gundogan are back in training but neither play is fit enough to play at the Etihad Stadium on Tuesday.


Tottenham have plenty of absentees as Mauricio Pochettino‘s men are in Cyprus to face APOEL in Group H.

Dele Alli and Jan Vertonghen are both suspended, while Erik Lamela (hip), Mousa Dembele (ankle), Victor Wanyama (knee), Danny Rose (knee), Christian Eriksen (ill) are all out injured.

Pochettino’s men will be hoping to build on their impressive home win against Borussia Dortmund in their group stage opener and Harry Kane will be the main man for Spurs once again as he’s scored six goals in his last four appearances for the north London club.


Manchester United will be without midfielder Marouane Fellaini for their trip to CSKA Moscow in Group A.

Fellaini was injured after a nasty challenge from Shane Long at Southampton in United’s 1-0 win on Saturday and with Paul Pogba also out, Mourinho could turn to either Michael Carrick or Ander Herrera to step in.

The Red Devils boss will face no further action after his sending off at Saints on Saturday and he will be hoping his side can shake off any jet-lag to continue their unbeaten start to the season and make it eight wins from nine.


Liverpool are also in the Russian capital as they play Spartak Moscow in Group E.

Jurgen Klopp is without the suspended Joe Gomez, so Trent Alexander-Arnold is expected to slot in at right back, while the big piece of team news is that Loris Karius will start in goal over Simon Mignolet.

Sadio Mane is also likely to start after he served the final game of his three-match domestic ban during Liverpool’s 3-2 victory at Leicester City on Saturday.


Chelsea have a huge game in Group C as they travel to Atletico Madrid.

Antonio Conte could start captain Gary Cahill on the bench as David Luiz is available after suspension, while Eden Hazard started at Stoke City on Saturday and came through it unscathed.

Quotes from the Italian coach about his future may concern some Chelsea fans though.

Report: Man United eye $209 million Dybala

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Manchester United is ready to pay Juventus another huge transfer fee for a star player.

[ MORE: Conte heading back to Italy?

Paulo Dybala, 23, is ripping it up for the Turin club after his move from Palermo in 2015.

The Argentine playmaker has scored 12 goals in his opening eight games of this season after scoring 42 in his first 94 appearances in all competitions for Juve.

Reports have surfaced across the UK media stating that United are set to battle it out with Barcelona next summer for Dybala and are willing to pay over $209 million for the forward who is capable of playing centrally or out wide.

Dybala has 10 caps for Argentina but is yet to score for La Albiceleste.

Does Jose Mourinho really need another attacking midfielder/secondary forward?

Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Juan Mata, Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial, Jesse Lingard and Paul Pogba are all currently scrapping for three spots underneath Romelu Lukaku in Mourinho’s attack. Dybala is a class above most of those players with the diminutive attacker perhaps a long-term replacement for Mata who turns 30 in April.

Not only are his set pieces and crosses a deadly weapon (ask Gonzao Higuain at Juve) but consistently scoring close to 20 goals a season will make the biggest clubs in Europe stand up and take notice.

When I watch Dybala a see a more clinical Philippe Coutinho. Is he worth $209 million? Who knows anymore. The transfer market has gone bonkers but if Neymar is worth $265 million, Dybala’s output isn’t much less than the Brazilian forward.

Juve have said they won’t stand in his way if he wants to move on but United will have to pony up the big boy cash to snap up one of the hottest talents on the planet.

Gareth Barry’s historic longevity: Incredible stats, top goals

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Gareth Barry is expected to make Premier League history on Monday.

If Barry, 36, appears (he is expected to start) for West Bromwich Albion in their game against Arsenal (Watch live, 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com) at the Emirates Stadium he will make his 633rd appearance in the PL, breaking Ryan Giggs‘ record.

After making his PL debut in the 1997-98 campaign for Aston Villa, Barry has gone on to play for Manchester City, Everton and now West Brom who he signed for in the summer.

In a recent interview the left-footer said he could go on playing until the age of 40 but he only has a contract through the end of this season at the Hawthorns after turning down a new two-year deal at Everton.

The midfielder, a former England international, won an FA Cup and a Premier League title while at Man City and has played as a left back, center back and in central midfield. Steady, composed and dependable, Barry is the kind of seasoned pro who are worth their weight in gold.

In the video above you can watch Barry’s top five goals in the Premier League, while below are some incredible stats from his near 20-year career in England’s top-flight.

  • Most starts in Premier League history: 600
  • Most minutes played: 52,871
  • Most yellow cards: 119
  • Ranked 10th all-time in wins with 261
  • 17 current PL players were not born when Barry made his Premier League debut on May 3, 1998

Trio of USWNT players stay in locker room for national anthem

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USWNT players Megan Rapinoe, Sydney Leroux and Becky Sauerbrunn were among players from both the Seattle Reign and FC Kansas City who did not appear for the national anthem at a NWSL game on Sunday.

Rapinoe was the first USWNT player to kneel during the national anthem as she joined the protests led by NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick calling for racial equality and against police brutality.

With several NFL teams on Sunday taking a knee during the anthem and the Pitstburgh Steelers, Tennessee Titans and Seattle Seahawks staying in the locker room during the playing of the Star Spangled Banner, U.S. President Donald Trump has responded angrily to sports teams who decided to kneel during the national anthem.

Here’s more info from Sounder At Heart on SB Nation:

This time Megan Rapinoe is not alone. Several players from both teams joined her, staying in the locker room during the flag and anthem ceremony.

Elli Reed, Megan Rapinoe, Madalyn Schiffel, Lauren Barnes and Diana Matheson from the Reign did not take the field. Former Sounders/Reign player Sydney Leroux was among the FCKC starters who were not out for the ceremonies. Yael Averbuch, Becky Sauerbrunn, and Desiree Scott round out that group. Sauerbrunn is currently the United States captain. Leroux and Rapinoe are both regulars with the USWNT.

With U.S. Soccer bringing in a new bylaw earlier this year which states players must stand for the national anthem, could we see male and female U.S. stars following this option by not going out onto the pitch for the national anthem in upcoming international games?

All eyes will be on USWNT captain Sauerbrunn, plus midfielder Rapinoe and Leroux, during the anthem when Jill Ellis’ side play against South Korea on Oct. 19 and Oct. 22.

The actions of Bruce Arena’s USMNT side will also be heavily scrutinized ahead of their upcoming World Cup qualifiers against Panama and Trinidad & Tobago on Oct. 6 and Oct. 10 respectively.