Robben Dante Ribery Bayern Munich

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.


(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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.)


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.))

Wenger expects “hunting lion” Sanchez to be fit for Norwich clash

Alexis Sanchez, Arsenal FC
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Alexis Sanchez is, by regular human standards, questionable for Arsenal’s Premier League clash with Norwich City on Sunday (Watch live at 11 a.m. ET on Live Extra), thanks to a tweak to his hamstring during Tuesday’s UEFA Champions League victory over Dinamo Zagreb.

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There’s just one problem with the above premise: Sanchez, according to manager Arsene Wenger, isn’t exactly human; he’s more like a lion, says Wenger — a hunting lion chasing after and feasting on its prey.

Wenger, on Sanchez’s ability to recover quickly and star for the Gunners — quotes from the Guardian:

“When he does something, he does it 100%. He finishes and you think: ‘He’s dead now.’ But then he recovers and gives 100% again. You always see signs of exhaustion but it’s not [that], because two days later, he’s fine.

“His style is very explosive, it’s a very committed style. Jamie Vardy is a bit similar. When they go, they go. They are like the lion. He has to catch the animal in the first 200 metres. If he doesn’t get there, he’s dead [on his feet] afterwards. They are these kind of killers. When they go, it is to kill and after, they have to stop.”

“I take information, especially from the medical people who know him and treat him everyday and after, we look at his overall recovery as well. When there are alarming signs, we want to make the right decision at the right moment but as long as the guys are confident, they score goals – it is always difficult to rest them.”

Sanchez’s production this season — 9 goals, 4 assists in 17 appearances – all competitions — is right on par with his spectacular debut in the PL last season. “What is also remarkable is that he goes to South America to play,” Wenger went on to say. “He comes back on Thursday night and on Saturday he can play without a problem, even if he’s jet-lagged.”

Expect Sanchez to feature on Sunday, and probably to score a goal or two, as well.

“Unprofessional” Grealish banished to U-21s after nightclub incident

Jack Grealish, Aston Villa FC
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2015 has been an eventful calendar year for Aston Villa midfielder Jack Grealish, to say the least.

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First, there was his emergence as a prominent first-team player for his boyhood club; followed by the Villans’ run to the FA Cup final in May; then came the England-versus-Ireland tug-of-war for his international services; a forgettable vacation to Spain for the 20-year-old; and another managerial change at Villa Park. After yet another off-field incident last weekend, in which Grealish was photographed in a nightclub hours after a 4-0 defeat to Everton, his new manager, Remi Garde, has labeled Grealish “unprofessional” and sent him away to train with the club’s U-21 side.

Garde, on Grealish’s actions and subsequent punishment — quotes from the Guardian:

“This is not professional. It is not what is expected from my players. That is why now Jack is training with the under-21 team for the moment. He won’t be included in the squad for Watford. At this stage he is not playing this weekend and he is training with the under-21 team. That is all I can say for the moment.”

“Sometimes players in every country ask to stay in the city we have played in and this is not a problem for me, it happens one or two times a season. The problem with Jack was not that he wasn’t on the bus. The problem was elsewhere.”

Villa, who will welcome 13th-place Watford to Villa Park on Saturday (Watch live at 10 a.m. ET on Live Extra), currently sit rock bottom in the Premier League (5 points from 13 games), five points away from climbing out of the relegation zone.

Europa League roundup: Spurs, Liverpool advance to KO stage

FC Girondins de Bordeaux
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A roundup of Thursday’s UEFA Europa League group stage action:

Qarabag 0-1 Tottenham Hotspur

Tottenham traveled 2,500 miles to Baku, where they knocked off the reigning Azerbaijani champions to remain top of Group J with one game left to play. Harry Kane scored the game’s only goal (10th of the season – all competitions), a close-range finish from Christian Eriksen‘s corner kick in the 78th minute. As things stand, Spurs need just a point in their group stage finale, a home date with Monaco, to finish top of the group and grab a seeded place in the draw for the round of 32.

Liverpool 2-1 Bordeaux

Liverpool went top of Group B with a 2-1 victory over last-place Bordeaux at Anfield, meaning a win in their final group game, away to Swiss side Sion in two weeks’ time, will clinch a seeded place in the draw for the knockout stage. Liverpool went down a goal just after the half-hour mark, but James Milner and Christian Benteke brought the Reds back with a goal each either side of halftime.

FC Krasnodar 1-0 Borussia Dortmund

Borussia Dortmund missed their chance to finish top of Group C when they lost 1-0 away to Russian side Krasnodar. Pavel Mamaev put the hosts ahead from the penalty spot in the 2nd minute, and they held on for 88 minutes to move level on points (10) with the German giants. With one game left to play, Krasnodar have the inside track on the top spot through the fourth tiebreaker, away goals scored between the two teams.

Elsewhere in Europa League action

Augsburg 2-3 Athletic Bilbao
Villarreal 1-0 Rapid Wien
Basel 2-2 Fiorentina
Lazio 3-1 Dnipro
Club Brugge 0-1 Napoli
Rosenborg 1-1 Saint-Etienne
Monaco 0-2 Anderlecht
Marseille 2-1 Groningen
Schalke 1-0 APOEL Nicosia
Lokomotiv Moscow 2-4 Porto
Braga 2-1 Liberec
Molde 0-2 Fenerbahce
Celtic 1-2 Ajax
Besiktas 2-0 Skenderbeu
Rubin Kazan 2-0 Sion
Dinamo Minsk 1-0 Viktoria Plzen
AZ Alkmaar 1-2 Partizan Belgrade
Belenenses 0-0 Lech Poznan
Sparta Prague 1-0 Astoris Tripolis
Legia Warsaw 1-0 Midtjylland
PAOK Thessaloniki 0-0 FK Qabala

FIFA donates 48 scandalous watches to non-profit organization

Sepp Blatter, FIFA president
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GENEVA (AP) FIFA’s unethical weakness for luxury watches earned a windfall for a soccer charity working in Brazil.

A total of 48 Swiss watches given to soccer officials at the 2014 World Cup have been recovered and donated to a non-profit organization, the FIFA ethics committee said on Thursday.

The Parmigiani watches – valued at more than $26,000 each – were handed out in Sao Paulo to members of FIFA’s often-discredited executive committee, presidents of national federations whose teams played at the 32-team tournament and officials from South American federations.

Michel D’Hooghe, the longest-serving FIFA executive committee member, told The Associated Press on Thursday the watch he got had been a “poisonous gift.”

The gifts were from the Confederation of Brazilian Football, whose then-president Jose Maria Marin has been indicted by the U.S. Department of Justice in a widening bribery case which has rocked FIFA and helped force President Sepp Blatter from office.

Marin, who was extradited to the U.S. from Switzerland this month and is under electronic surveillance at his Manhattan apartment, oversaw the gifts in clear breach of FIFA’s Code of Ethics. It allows only for gifts of “symbolic or trivial value.”

Still, gifting luxury watches has long been a tradition for FIFA officials and all who took the presents – or did not report them – risked sanctions under the code which was made stricter in 2012.

After ruling they were unauthorized gifts, FIFA ethics prosecutors decided against opening cases against officials who received a watch on the condition that they returned it.

“After contacting all potential recipients, 48 watches were returned to the investigatory chamber of the Ethics Committee,” the FIFA ethics committee said in a statement.

A total of nine watches could not be returned, with six officials or federations saying they never had it in their possession, committee spokesman Andreas Bantel told The Associated Press in a telephone interview.

One watch is still with an official who was arrested in Zurich on May 27 by Swiss federal police acting on a request by American prosecutors.

“He wanted to give it back but before he was able to, he was arrested,” Bantel said, declining to identify the man.

The CBF initially said 65 watches were distributed but the ethics investigation traced 57.

“We were very thorough in following up on this matter,” Bantel said.

FIFA earlier said the CBF obtained watches from its sponsor Parmigiani for $8,750 each. But an appraisal found they had a market value of 25,000 Swiss francs ($26,600).

A spokesman for the CBF, Fernando Torres, declined to comment on its role on Thursday stating that “this specific decision regards only FIFA.”

The watches will be given to an organization named streetfootballworld, “who will directly invest all resources generated through the sale of the watches into initiatives across Brazil that use football to drive social change.”

“The investigatory chamber of the ethics committee considers the matter to be closed,” it said.

D’Hooghe said he had no idea about the value of the “poisonous gift” which was within a bag featuring promotional material about Brazil.

“I had absolutely no interest in that watch,” D’Hooghe told The AP. “I found it in my bag and I did not know it was expensive. I gave it to a friend who visited the World Cup. I had to ask for it back.”

D’Hooghe, who was cleared by the ethics committee this year over a painting he received from a Russian friend during the 2018 World Cup bidding contest, said he now refuses any gifts.

“I don’t need any presents,” said the Belgian doctor, who was first elected to FIFA’s ruling panel 27 years ago. “I am an honorable man.”

AP Sports Writers Rob Harris in London and Samuel Petrequin in Paris contributed to this report