Manduzic Bayern

Bundesliga Wrap: Bayern Munich could clinch title this month

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With their win over Bayer Leverkusen, combined with Dortmund’s loss to Gladbach, Bayern Munich now have a 23-point lead at the top of the Bundesliga table. That means the Bavarian giants could find themselves crowned champions before the month is even out.

And considering Saturday’s win marks Bayern’s 50th straight unbeaten game in the league, well…it might just be simpler to hand them the trophy right now.

Although that doesn’t mean the rest of the Bundesliga can’t throw up some surprises now and then:

Friday results

Augsburg 1-2 Schalke
The hosts got off to a fantastic start when Tobias Werner scored after just five minutes. But Schalke, mindful of losing out on third after fighting so hard to reach the Champions League places, came roaring back. Klaas-Jan Huntelaar had his side even before the break, and then put in the winner shortly after the restart.

Saturday results

Borussia Dortmund 1-2 Borussia Mönchengladbach
It’s Gladbach’s first win of 2014 and what a win to get – victory over their rivals, currently in second place. The Foals did do their best to throw away yet another lead, playing down a man for 25 minutes after Havard Nordtveit got sent off, and allowing a goal from Miloš Jojić. But in the end, goals from Raffael and Max Kruse – and an impressive performance from Patrick Herrmann – got Gladbach all three points.

Braunschweig 1-1 Wolfsburg
Bottom-side Braunschweig continue trying to pull their way up, point by point, and it continues making little difference. But the equalizer from Karim Bellarabi was better than letting Luis Gustavo’s goal go unanswered, even if Braunschweig remain dead last.

Hertha Berlin 0-3 Hannover
Hertha continue their slide down the table, letting Hannover run roughshod over them. Lars Stindl, Jan Schlaudraff and Szabolcs Huszti all scored for the visitors, who are now three in a row unbeaten.

Hoffenheim 2-4 Mainz
Sejad Salihović missed a penalty for Hoffenheim in the fifth minute, which rather set the tone for the rest of the match. The hosts bounced back and, thanks to goals from Eugen Polanski and Roberto Firmino, were up 2-0 by the 52nd minute. But Mainz took less than 25 minutes to turn things around. Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting starting things off, with Benedikt Saller scoring five minutes later. Shinji Okazaki followed up with a header before grabbing his second in stoppage time. Mainz are now fifth, and are closing in on Leverkusen for a Champions League spot.

Werder Bremen 1-1 Stuttgart 
The point keeps Stuttgart out of the danger zone, but only just – and if Hamburg or Freiburg win on Sunday, they may slip down into the bottom three. Stuttgart, too, managed to miss a penalty, attempted by Martin Harnik. They took the lead in the second half through a goal from Georg Niedermeier, but a direct free kick from Aaron Hunt ensured Werder Bremen got a share of the spoils.

Bayern Munich 2-1 Bayer Leverkusen
At least Leverkusen tried to make things interesting – but the stoppage time goal from Stefan Kießling proved too little, too late. Mario Mandžukić had headed home to close the first half, and a Bastian Schweinsteiger free kick doubled the hosts’ lead early in the second. Now Leverkusen are down in fourth, and could very well find themselves losing out on Champions League play next season.

Sunday fixtures

Hamburg vs. Nurnberg
Are Hamburg really set to go down for the first time in their history? If they can’t get a result against Nurnberg, just three points above them in the table, that just might be the case. But the visitors have lost their last two while Hamburg came back to draw Frankfurt last weekend, so the advantage might be to the hosts.

Frankfurt vs. Freiburg
Freiburg will be hoping to pull themselves out of the relegation zone with a win over Frankfurt, but their current form -without a win in their last six – suggests that’s unlikely to be the case. The hosts, meanwhile, have had a bit of an up-and-down season, but are certainly capable of beating weaker sides.

Barcelona, Neymar make it formal: Signed into 2021

BARCELONA, SPAIN - OCTOBER 19: Neymar of Barcelona holds off pressure from Raheem Sterling of Manchester City during the UEFA Champions League group C match between FC Barcelona and Manchester City FC at Camp Nou on October 19, 2016 in Barcelona, Spain.  (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)
Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images
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T’s are crossed and i’s dotted on Neymar’s new contract, keeping him at the club through the 2020-21 season.

Neymar, 24, will make his 100th La Liga appearance with his next step onto the pitch.

Lionel Messi’s deal runs through 2017-18, and Luis Suarez’s goes through 2018-19.

[ MORE: Guardiola on Aguero omission ]

He’s scored 59 goals in league play, and has 91 total when you include all 150 of his matches in a Barca kit.

Neymar is on a similar scoring rate to last season, when he netted 31 times. The Brazilian also has 49 international goals in 73 caps.

Guardiola seethes at reports Aguero unwanted at Man City

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 14: Sergio Aguero of Manchester City is congratulated by Josep Guardiola manager of Manchester City during the UEFA Champions League match between Manchester City FC and VfL Borussia Moenchengladbach at Etihad Stadium on September 14, 2016 in Manchester, England.  (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)
Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images
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Pep Guardiola is seething with reports that claim star striker Sergio Aguero is not in his plans for Manchester City’s future.

Aguero started on the bench for Wednesday’s UEFA Champions League loss at Barcelona, inspiring talk that the Argentine star wasn’t long for the Emirates Stadium.

[ MORE: Conte on Mourinho, Pogba ]

Guardiola says that’s garbage, and that he simply needed more midfielders for his attack. Next time, just ask.

From the BBC:

“It was a tactical decision. I wanted one more midfielder, I tried to keep the ball in the Camp Nou and when you have the ball, Lionel Messi, Neymar and Luis Suarez don’t.

“I spoke with Sergio and he was understanding, I thought in the last 30 minutes, with the Barcelona centre-halves tiring, he could help a lot from the bench. When Sergio decides to leave it will be his decision. Next time before you (the media) decide he is not in my plans you can call me.”

Still, not using Aguero is risky business.

The striker believes, rightly, that he’s among the most dangerous players in the world. Guardiola has said as much, too.

While few would put him in the class of Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo, it’s difficult to imagine either being sat for tactical reasons against one of the best teams in the world.

Chelsea: Conte expects warm reception for Mourinho; Terry is fit

LONDON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 26:  A fan wears a Chelsea scarf with the image of the club's former manager, Jose Mourinho before the Barclays Premier League match between Chelsea and Watford at Stamford Bridge on December 26, 2015 in London, England.  (Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)
Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images
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The managers are meeting the media ahead of this week’s Premier League matches, and many eyes are trained on one specific match-up.

Chelsea and Manchester United meet on Sunday, the first time Jose Mourinho will manage against his old side since his unceremonious exit last winger.

[ USWNT: Holiday has tumor removed ]

Mourinho, of course, led Chelsea to the 2014-15 title only to see a miserable start to the following campaign. He was hired at Manchester United this summer, but Conte thinks Mourinho’s Chelsea laurels have earned him some love from Stamford Bridge.

“I have great respect for Mourinho. He deserves a good reception. He was an important man for Chelsea and wrote part of the club’s story.”

Conte also touched on Paul Pogba‘s decision to head back to Old Trafford. Pogba is coming off a starring role in United’s 4-1 win over Fenerbahce, and Conte guided the French midfielder during their time at Juventus.

“It was Paul Pogba’s dream was to return to Manchester United. I wish him well, but only after this game.”

Conte said John Terry is available to return for Chelsea, and that could be invaluable against a big, strong forward like United’s Zlatan Ibrahimovic. With the Red Devils having played Thursday, Conte will like his chances a bit more than usual.

Canada vs. U.S. among top-notch CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals

VANCOUVER, CANADA - JUNE 20:  Gershon Koffie #28 of the Vancouver Whitecaps brings the ball up field against Dax McCarty #11 of the New York Red Bulls at B.C. Place on June 20, 2012 in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. (Photo by Jessica Haydahl/Getty Images)
Photo by Jessica Haydahl/Getty Images
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The bracket is set for the CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals, and ensures that at least one MLS vs. Liga MX semifinal will happen next Spring.

No. 1 seed New York Red Bulls will cross the continent to meet No. 8 Vancouver Whitecaps, with the winner moving on to face the victor of Mexico’s Tigres UANL vs. Pumas UNAM.

[ VIDEO: Previewing all 10 PL matches ]

The possibility of an all-Liga MX or all-MLS final still exists, with Pachuca and FC Dallas on opposite sides of the bracket. Arabe Unido gives Panama hope for its first CCL semifinalist, while Saprissa can be Costa Rica’s first semifinalist since 2011.

Of the remaining teams, only Pachuca has won a title in the CCL era (2008-present). Tigres lost in the 2016 final, the only other team to make it that far.

Full schedule
New York Red Bulls (1) vs. Vancouver Whitecaps (8)
Tigres UANL (4) vs. Pumas UNAM (5)
Arabe Unido (2) vs. FC Dallas (7)
Pachuca (3) vs. Saprissa (4)

The first legs will be played in late February, and the bright side to the intra-league quarters will be one MLS side waiting a round before facing a more in-form club playing a traditional season schedule (though that’s an overblown excuse at this point).

Some fans don’t care much for the tournament, while others — myself included — are extremely keen to see an MLS team win the CCL and represent North America in the Club World Cup, where it can get a high profile litmus test in a serious competition (Real Madrid beat Cruz Azul 4-0 in a 2014 semifinal).