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Americans Abroad Preview: Guzan, Cameron square off as surging Premier League squads meet

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The Premier League continues to grind this weekend, and with it, so does its Americans.

The headliner this week happens to come from Aston Villa, as goalkeeper Brad Guzan looks to steer the Claret and Blue to their third straight victory.

In Sunday’s “primetime” slot on NBCSN at noon ET, Villa will take on a surging Stoke City looking to build on consecutive impressive wins over Chelsea and Norwich City. Guzan conceded just a single goal over those two matches.

On the other side of the pitch will be American defender Geoff Cameron, looking for their third win in four matches.  Stoke have just a single loss since February 1, and Cameron has been at the forefront.  The 28-year-old has gone 22 straight Premier League matches in which he’s played every minute for the Potters.

Elsewhere around the Premier League, Jozy Altidore looks to have a better showing than his poor second-half appearance last week. Sunderland travels to Norwich City in an outstanding opportunity to pick up points. Altidore has done little with his recent opportunities, but he may get another chance this weekend with Steven Fletcher out injured.

Tim Howard will stand tall in goal as Everton host Swansea City. The Toffees are looking for all the points they can get to hold off a stumbling Tottenham in the Premier League’s fifth position.

In the Championship, there’s some Americans playing important fixtures.

  • Reading will look to Danny Williams in the midfield as they sit just a point outside the playoff zone, taking on Jonathan Spector and Will Packwood‘s Birmingham City.
  • Tim Ream‘s Bolton travel to struggling Yeovil.
  • Oguchi Onyewu hopes Sheffield Wednesday can deal Doncaster a relegation blow.
  • Huddersfield Town recalled Duane Holmes from his short loan spell at Yeovil, and will take on Blackpool. It will be interesting to see if Holmes is involved.

Outside of England, Aron Johannsson‘s AZ Alkmaar found out they will play Benfica in the Europa League quarterfinals in today’s draw, but that’s not for another two weeks.  Tomorrow, AZ gets PEC Zwolle in a bigtime matchup in the Eredivisie with the two clubs are separated by just 3 points in the table.

Johannsson has done everything in his power to catch Jurgen Klinsmann’s eye, with three goals and two assists in his last five matches.  However, he was held off the scoresheet last week in a 2-1 loss to second-place Twente.

Juan Agudelo‘s FC Utrecht has the weekend off.

Kicker reported today that John Anthony Brooks could start for Hertha Berlin this weekend.  The 21-year-old defender has just six total minutes since the new year, but according to the report he could replace Georgian starter Levan Kobiashvili who has played the full 90 in the club’s last six matches.

US Soccer also revealed today that scouts will be in attendance to watch Bundesliga players Fabian Johnson (Hoffenheim) and Julian Green (Bayern Munich) along with Terrence Boyd (Rapid Wien) in Austria. Green’s Bayern has 5th placed Mainz 05 tomorrow at 10:30, and he hasn’t featured in the Bundesliga yet this year, but US Soccer sending a scout to watch could suggest he might play a part with Bayern holding a massive league lead.

With Belgium’s Jupiler Pro League into its playoffs, Sasha Kljestan‘s Anderlecht drew a two-leg tie with regular season champions Standard Liege.  Those playoffs don’t start until next Friday, with Anderlecht scheduled to play Saturday, so the club is off this weekend.

In Turkey, the race for 2nd place sees Jermaine Jones and Besiktas need a big showing against seventh-placed Akhisar Belediye.  Besiktas are just two points back of Galatasaray, who get basement dwellers Kayserispor.

There is Liga MX action tonight, with Puebla’s DaMarcus Beasley and Michael Orozco look to gain ground on Herculez Gomez and Joe Corona‘a Tijuana in the Clausura’s bottom half.  Jose Torres and Tigres host Queretaro tomorrow.

Bayern’s Vidal says “ugly” Atletico not deserved UCL finalists

MADRID, SPAIN - APRIL 27: Juanfran of Atletico Madrid and Arturo Vidal of Bayern Munich argue during the UEFA Champions League semi final first leg match between Club Atletico de Madrid and FC Bayern Muenchen at Vincente Calderon on April 27, 2016 in Madrid, Spain.  (Photo by Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images)
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Bayern Munich midfielder Arturo Vidal has declared “ugly” Atletico Madrid unworthy finalists in the UEFA Champions League.

Bayern was eliminated in the Champions League semifinal by Atleti on Tuesday, with Diego Simeone’s Spanish side advancing on away goals.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s UCL coverage ]

However, Vidal believed Bayern were the better team in the second leg, saying Atletico played “ugly football” to get through.

Today ugly football – Atletico – played against the best football in the world. The only time they saw the ball was for the goal.

They are going to be dreaming about us right up to the final. They did not have the ball, they took on the best team in the world, they took their chances and got to the final.

The best does not always win in football, like today. They are not deserved finalists.

Bayern Munich controlled more than 70-percent of possession and had 33 shots compared to Atletico’s nine, but those stats mean little as Antoine Griezmann’s away goal was enough to send Atleti to the final.

[ MORE: Former England striker Joe Cole headed to NASL’s Tampa Bay Rowdies ]

Atletico may not play the most attractive football, but after eliminating Barcelona and Bayern Munich in consecutive legs, it’s hard to argue anyone deserves this more than Simeone’s men.

Europa League preview: Liverpool, Shakhtar look to overcome Spanish foes

VILLARREAL, SPAIN - APRIL 28:  Cedric Bakambu of Villarreal is watched by the Liverpool defence during the UEFA Europa League semi final first leg match between Villarreal CF and Liverpool at Estadio El Madrigal on April 28, 2016 in Villarreal, Spain.  (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)
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The second leg of the Europa League semifinals kick off tomorrow, with two La Liga sides looking to make it an all-Spanish final.

[ MORE: Premier League Playback ]

Villarreal holds a 1-0 lead over Liverpool, while Sevilla scored two away goals in their 2-2 draw at Shakhtar Donetsk.

Liverpool vs. Villarreal – 3:05 p.m. ET
Villarreal won first leg 1-0

Adrian Lopez’s late winner in the first leg has given Villarreal a slight lead, while the Spanish side did well not to concede an away goal. However, Liverpool have overcome deficits at Anfield before, including their memorable 4-3 victory over Borussia Dortmund in the quarterfinals. Emre Can is back fit for the Reds, as manager Jurgen Klopp will hope his fellow German can help the team to a cup final in his first year in charge.

[ RELATED: Liverpool preparing for another big Thursday night at Anfield ]

Sevilla vs. Shakhtar Donetsk – 3:05 p.m. ET
First leg ended 2-2 draw 

Sevilla are looking to become the first team to win three consecutive Europa League titles as the two-time defending champions face off against Shakhtar Donetsk. Sevilla are in the driver’s seat after scoring two away goals in Ukraine, and will feel confident of advancing to the final with a great home record at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan Stadium.

Men in Blazers podcast: Celebrating Leicester’s title with Arlo White

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In the latest Men in Blazers podcast, Rog and Davo celebrate Leicester City’s improbable Premier League title with Leicester’s own Arlo White.

All of the MiB content — pods, videos and stories can be seen here, but to really stay in touch, follow, subscribe, click here:

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European police say Russian mafia infiltrating soccer clubs

LISBON, PORTUGAL - NOVEMBER 04:  Sporting Lisbon fans celebrate after their team score a goal during the Portuguese Liga match between Sporting Lisbon and Uniao Leiria at the Alvalade XXI Stadium on November 4, 2005 in Lisbon, Portugal.  (Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images)
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LISBON, Portugal (AP) Portuguese and European police say they have broken up a cell of an important Russian mafia group that allegedly laundered money through European football clubs.

Europol, the European Union’s law enforcement agency, said in a statement Wednesday the group identified EU football clubs in financial distress and infiltrated them with benefactors who brought much-needed cash.

[ MORE: Man City bounced from UCL ]

Once they were in control, the mobsters allegedly laundered millions of euros (dollars) through player transfers, TV rights deals and betting.

Portuguese and European police on Tuesday raided third-division Portuguese club Uniao de Leiria and arrested three key members of the Russian gang. Three other Portuguese clubs’ premises were searched.

Europol said the operation helped identify serious crimes in Austria, Germany, and the United Kingdom, though it gave no details.