Who’s in? Ranking the eight teams that have survived into UEFA Champions League’s quarterfinals

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The field for UEFA’s Champions League quarterfinals is set, with all eight group winners advancing to the tournament’s next round. Yet as the struggles of Manchester United show, not all quarterfinalists are created equal.

Eight-to-one, here’s a rundown of the last clubs standing in pursuit of this year’s European title, with last year’s winners still setting the pace in this year’s Champions League:

source: AP8. Manchester United

Path to quarterfinals: Won Group A ahead of Bayer Leverkusen; defeated Olympiakos 3-2 in the Round of 16.

League standing: Eighth place in the English Premier League.

Chances:

(Warning: If you’re a celebrating United fan, skip this part.)

Whether you judge by how they’ve played in Europe or the struggles they’ve had in England, the Red Devils are the last eight’s weakest link. Three goals from Robin van Persie gave Manchester United an impressive Wednesday result, but the team was also facing one of the least-talented teams in the Round of 16. That United cut things so close speaks to its chances of advancing past the quarterfinals.

(MORE: Van Persie treble hands Manchester United incredible Champions League comeback win over Olympiakos)

source: Getty Images

7. Atlético Madrid

Path to quarterfinals: Won Group G ahead of Zenit St. Petersburg; defeated AC Milan 5-1 in the Round of 16.

League standingSecond place in the Spanish Primera Division.

Chances: 

At their best, Atlético can compete with anybody, as its peak performances against Barcelona and Real Madrid have shown. As organized and hard-working as anybody in Europe, Atleti present the type of counter attacking and or set piece execution that could even trouble Bayern Munich. Unfortunately, that tenacious, almost impenetrable team that dominated the season’s first half has been more inconsistent this winter. Right now, they look mortal.

(MORE: Two from Diego Costa help Atlético Madrid cruise past Milan in Champions League, 4-1 (5-1, agg.))

source: AP6. Chelsea

Path to quarterfinals: Won Group E ahead of Schalke; defeated Galatasaray 3-1 in the Round of 16.

League standingFirst place in the English Premier League.

Chances: 

Between what its core showed in 2011-12 and the presence of José Mourinho, Chelsea has the components for another run. While it may not play with Atlético’s tenacity or have a scoring presence like Diego Costa, Chelsea is still a team others would avoid if given the choice to play AtletiAnd whereas Diego Simeone’s team has proven vulnerable this winter, Chelsea continues to make steady, incremental improvements (albeit with some stumbles).

(MORE: Chelsea cruise past Galatasaray, as Blues make UEFA Champions League quarterfinals with 2-0 win (3-1, Agg.))

source: Reuters5. Borussia Dortmund

Path to quarterfinals: Won Group F ahead of Arsenal; defeated Zenit St. Petersburg in the Round of 16.

League standingSecond in German Bundesliga.

Chances: 

Teams would still likely prefer a meeting Chelsea or Atlético than deal with the potential Roberto Lewandowski, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, and Marco Reus bring to a matchup. Last year’s run to the final proved what Jurgen Klopp’s team can do, with the Round of 16’s first game in St. Petersburg showing that form is never far away. Where as Chelsea can grind you down, BVB can play you off the park, if you’re not careful.

(MORE: Hulk goal, Zenit win can’t keep Borussia Dortmund from Champions League’s quarterfinals)

source: AP4. Barcelona

Path to quarterfinals: Won Group H ahead of Milan; defeated Manchester City 4-1 in the Round of 16.

League standingThird place in Spain’s Primera Division.

Chances: 

Their handling of the Citizens may have been the round’s most impressive result, but Barcelona have proved, particularly in league. Recent losses to Real Soceidad and Real Valladolid have made Gerardo Martino’s future the subject of tabloid speculation. And memories of Barcelona being worn down by the time they faced Bayern Munich in last year’s semis? They linger, with this year’s quad yet to prove its depth has improved over the thin team Guaridola took to titles.

(MORE: FC Barcelona edge out Manchester City 2-1, as Spaniards reach UEFA Champions League quarterfinal (4-1, agg.))

source: AP3. Paris Saint-Germain

Path to quarterfinals: Won Group C ahead of Olympiakos; defeated Bayer Leverkusen 6-1 in the Round of 16.

League standingFirst in France’s Ligue 1.

Chances: 

Depth is no problem for a team that went out of last year’s quarters on away goals to Barça. Since then, the team has added Edinson Cavani up top, Marquinhos at the back, and Yohan Cabaye in the middle. Zlatan Ibrahimovic, having become the first player in PSG history to eclipse 40 goals, appears as good as ever, while last year’s experience should serve as both motivation and validation if they draw another titan.

The only question is their coach. Laurent Blanc is a fine manager, but seeing what Carlo Ancelotti’s done this year with Real Madrid, you can’t help but wonder if almost any club would be worse off for having lost the Champions League-winner.

(MORE: Marquinhos, Lavezzi goals see PSG cruise into Champions League quarterfinals)

source: AP

2. Real Madrid

Path to quarterfinals: Won Group B ahead of Galatasaray; defeated Schalke 9-2 in the Round of 16.

League standingFirst in Spain’s Primera Division.

Chances: 

The Merengues are Europe’s clear number two. They’ve won seven of eight in Champions League, have climbed to the top of La Liga, and are in the Copa del Rey final. The only thing they can do to knock Bayern off its perch is beat them, a matchup we’ll hopefully be spared in the quarterfinals.

(MORE: Ronaldo brace, Jesé injury highlight Real Madrid’s Champions League victory over Schalke)

source: Getty Images

1. Bayern Munich

Path to quarterfinals: Beat everybody, all the time, at everything, ever. (First in Group D ahead of Manchester City; defeated Arsenal 3-1 in the Round of 16.)

League standingSee “Path.” (First in Germany.)

Chances: 

Champions League matches against Manchester City and Arsenal showed Bayern isn’t quite as imperious as their numbers imply, but given the low stakes of those matches, it’s safe to assume they’re close to untouchable. Real Madrid’s switch to a 4-3-3 formation could help the Merengues in a potential matchup, but there’s also the possibility that Pep Guardiola hasn’t shown his hand. Who knows what tricks Bayern’s boss has in store, should his team finally be tested?

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

Chelsea loans Miazga back to Vitesse for second-straight season

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Matt Miazga is back again in the Netherlands.

Chelsea announced Friday that it had loaned the American international to Vitesse for the second-consecutive year on a season-long loan. Miazga made 19 starts last season in all competitions and another 10 appearances for Vitesse off the bench, with one goal scored in the run to the KNVB Cup title, the club’s first in its history,

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Despite his rise through the U.S. youth ranks and success with the New York Red Bulls in 2015 before moving to Chelsea, Miazga only made his first U.S. Men’s National Team start at the 2017 Gold Cup, playing the full 90 in the USA’s 3-0 win over Nicaragua.

Miazga went straight from the Gold Cup back to Vitesse to join up for preseason training.

“I look back with pleasure on my first year at Vitesse,” the 22-year-old Miazga told Vitesse’s website. “I felt very welcome and we have all made historic success. That success will be expanded this coming season and I will continue to develop myself. That’s why I returned as soon as possible after winning the Gold Cup. We are going to compete for the second prize in the club’s history. ”

While it’s disappointing that Miazga won’t be able to challenge for a place at Chelsea next season, he could do worse than facing the challenge of the Eredivisie’s huge array of talented attackers, and after another year of seasoning, he could be ready to play in England, with or without Chelsea.

More importantly for him, with the World Cup coming up, even though he’s on the fringe of the World Cup roster right now, getting regular matches in the Eredivisie will help his cause more than playing for Chelsea’s reserves.

Pulisic: Dortmund can win the league

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Christian Pulisic isn’t short on confidence these days.

The rising star for the U.S. Men’s National Team is currently in preseason training with Borussia Dortmund, and he believes his side can push Bayern Munich for the title. Bayern has won five-straight league titles, but the last team other than Munich to win was Dortmund itself in 2012.

“We’ve got a big chance to win the league this coming season,” Pulisic said, via German publication Kicker.

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Pulisic has been firing on all cylinders so far in preseason. During Dortmund’s tour of China, Pulisic had three assists in a 3-1 win over AC Milan, and he also started and went the full 90 against Bochum on July 22 back in Germany.

The 18-year-old is coming off a breakout season for the Black and Yellows, scoring five goals with 13 assists over 43 games between the Bundesliga, German Cup and UEFA Champions League.

“Last season was a good step in my development,” Pulisic said, noting he wants to be “more dangerous” in the attack. “I want to build on that.”

Of course, Pulisic followed the U.S. Men’s National Team at the Gold Cup, taking the title for the sixth time. In less than a year’s time, Pulisic will likely be on the field, starting for the U.S. at the 2018 World Cup in Russia, with the hopes and dreams of many Americans on his shoulders.

“(It was) a good victory,” Pulisic said of the final.

Transfer Rumor Wrap: Bale’s agent laughs off speculation

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It appears Gareth Bale has no plans of following Alvaro Morata and James Rodriguez out of Real Madrid this summer.

“It’s a ridiculous, stupid story,” Bale’s agent Jonathan Barnett told the BBC, following reports that Real Madrid manager Zinedine Zidane wouldn’t promise Bale, Karim Benzema and Cristiano Ronaldo that they’d staying with the club this summer.

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Of course, these prompted counter reports that Manchester United could take advantage of possible instability at the Santiago Bernabeu and swoop in for Bale, but it seems that Bale is not for sale.

Bale played just 27 times for Real Madrid last season in all competitions, scoring nine goals with three assists while dealing with multiple injuries. His entire career at Real Madrid in fact has been plagued by injury, but ahead of a World Cup year with Wales still in contention for a spot in Russia, Bale will be extra motivated to stay fit this season.

Here’s some more transfer rumors from around the world:

(more…)

Neymar storms off after training dustup with teammate

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Neymar just won’t stay out of the headlines.

As his long-rumored “will he, won’t he go” transfer saga between Paris Saint-Germain and Barcelona continues, Neymar stormed out of training on Thursday after getting into a tussle with teammate Nelson Semedo.

A video from the Daily Mail shows Neymar pushing Semedo before walking off and removing his training bib.

Neymar has reportedly agreed to personal terms with PSG over a move to France, but PSG have yet to come up with the nearly $260 million it would cost to trigger Neymar’s release clause. The news of Neymar possibly leaving Barcelona came as a shock, as he’s been content since joining the club to play slightly in the shadow of teammates Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez.

If this fight is any indication, Neymar’s head could be turned and should PSG trigger the release clause, Neymar could be heading to Paris once Barcelona returns this weekend from its American sojourn.

In spite of all the transfer speculation, Neymar has dazzled for Barcelona on its tour of the U.S., scoring three goals in two games and delighting the thousands in attendance.