How things stand at half time of UEFA Champions League quarterfinals

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We have reached the halfway point of the UEFA Champions League quarterfinals, and three of the four ties are still hanging in the balance with all to play for next week.

As things stand, the path to the final four is still not clear for some of Europe’s biggest teams.

LATEST UEFA CHAMPIONS LEAGUE NEWS, RIGHT HERE

Four massive matches are coming up on April 8 and 9, and now it is time to take stock after the first legs.

Tension, ecstasy and despair have been rife in the first four games of the quarters… crank that up plenty of notches, and you might have a chance of replicating the emotions inside all four stadiums during the second legs.

FC Barcelona vs. Atletico Madrid

What a tie we had at the Nou Camp in the first leg, as Atletico drove at the heart of Barcelona’s defense time and time again, and that’s without their injured talisman Diego Costa. His replacement, plain old Diego, scored a stunner to give the capital club the lead, and a second half equalizer from Neymar leaves the tie hanging in the balance. Diego Simeone’s Atleti are hungry to succeed in the UCL and make the last four. With the second leg at home against Barca at a fired up Vicente Calderon, the partisan crowd will play a huge factor. Barca’s galaxy of stars, led by Lionel Messi, haven’t figured out how to beat Atletico’s relentless high-pressure approach. They have to do that quickly. PST’s Richard Farley was waxing lyrical about the first game between these two. If you want to see two hugely contrasting styles of Spanish soccer clash, this is the match for you.

First Leg: FC Barcelona 1-1 Atletico Madrid

Second Leg: April 9, Vicente Calderon, Madrid

source: AP
A fiery encounter played out at Parc des Princes. Can Chelsea overturn PSG’s two-goal lead?

Paris Saint-Germain vs. Chelsea

Have PSG finally arrived on the big stage? The reigning French champions looked the real deal for vast swathes of their home victory against Chelsea in the first leg. Ezequiel Lavezzi opened the scoring and was a bright spark all evening, while Eden Hazard leveled and Chelsea looked solid until around the hour mark. Then an own goal by David Luiz and a late Javier Pastore strike, after a mazy run, handed the initiative to Les Parisiens in an absorbing clash at the Parc des Princes. Chelsea’s defending was sloppy and they now have to overturn a two-goal advantage at Stamford Bridge next Tuesday. Can Jose Mourinho’s men do it? They will likely face PSG without their talisman Zlatan Ibrahimovic who limped off injured with 20 minutes to go in the first leg.

First Leg: Paris Saint-Germain 3-1 Chelsea

Second Leg: April 8, Stamford Bridge, London

Manchester United vs. Bayern Munich

In a turbulent week for David Moyes, and seven days after his side were humiliated by crosstown rivals Manchester City at Old Trafford, a very different United team turned up to play Bayern. The Red Devils conceded possession to the reigning European champions, but hit them on the break time and time again. A Nemanja Vidic header was cancelled out by Bastian Schweinsteiger’s goal, as a pulsating class took place under the lights at Old Trafford. Bayern dominated played but United dug in superbly, as two late yellows for Bayern will see Javi Martinez and Schweinsteiger sit out the second leg. Not many people thought Man United would still be in with a chance of advancing to the semifinals by the time the return game had come around, but they are very much in this tie. A cracking evening in Bavaria between two old foes awaits. Plus, Moyesy has faith.

First Leg: Manchester United 1-1 Bayern Munich

Second Leg: April 9, Allianz Arena, Munich

 

source: AP
Real rout Dortmund, as revenge tasted sweet for the Madrid club.

Real Madrid vs. Borussia Dortmund

Before this game Dortmund’s head coach Jurgen Klopp proclaimed himself delighted just to get to the knockout stages and anything was a bonus. It seems as if the quarterfinals is as far as that bonus goes. Spanish giants Real Madrid smashed BVB 3-0 at the Santiago Bernabeu, with goals from Gareth Bale, Isco and Cristiano Ronaldo doing the damage. Last season Dortmund humiliated Real by winning 4-1 at home with four goals from Robert Lewandowski. Surely the big Polish striker can’t repeat that feat this season? Dortmund need a miracle, as Real’s juggernaut guided by Carlo Ancelotti, continues to plow through Europe’s elite with ease. Can the second leg deliver a game, or will Madrid simply run away with it?

First Leg: Real Madrid 3-0 Borussia Dortmund

Second Leg: April 8, Westfalenstadion, Dortmund

The next Pulisic? A 10-year-old American is heading to AS Roma

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With everything that has transpired since last week’s U.S. Men’s National Team debacle, American soccer fans can use a pick-me-up.

What better could there be than perhaps another young star-in-the-making? Dare I say, the next Christian Pulisic?

[ MORE: Bruce Arena is out as USMNT manager ]

Perhaps, but it’s way too early to say that.

His name is Alessandro Cupini, a 10-year-old from Kansas City, Missouri that is about to complete a dream that a soccer player of any age would be thrilled to achieve.

Less than two weeks ago, Cupini and his family announced that the Kansas City Fusion midfielder/striker would be accepting a spot in the AS Roma academy starting in the Spring 2018, after having trained with the club for the better part of two years off and on.

Pro Soccer Talk had the opportunity to speak with Cupini’s father, Eddie, ahead of his son’s big move to Italy.

“This is something that Alessandro has worked really hard for,” Eddie Cupini told PST. “There are times where I tell him that he needs to take a step back and be a normal kid, but he doesn’t have any of that. He’s an incredibly hard-working and driven kid that does more than most people regardless of his age.”

Alessandro — who recently turned 10 years old — isn’t the typically American youngster though, according to his father.

“There are times where I wish Alessandro would take a break and be a kid, but that’s just not in his desire,” Cupini said. “We built him a mini stadium downstairs where he trains basically every day after school. As soon as he gets home from school he’s doing work down there and always looking for other kids to come over to practice with.”

That’s where the comparisons to Pulisic can be worked into the conversation.

Pulisic followed a very similar path to the professional level when he left his hometown of Hershey, Pennsylvania at the age of 16 to sign with Borussia Dortmund. Now, he’s U.S. Soccer’s most promising star as the USMNT looks to rebuild.

“We’re very familiar with Christian’s story, and he’s certainly somebody that Alessandro looks up to,” Cupini said.

Cupini is already on the radar of U.S. Soccer and the Olympic Development Program (ODP), which helps identify young talent in the United States starting at the Under-12 level.

However, because of Cupini’s Italian heritage and his unique opportunity to move to Italy next year, Alessandro could potentially have the chance to represent either the USMNT or the Azzurri in the future.

“It’s a long ways away and we’re taking things slow in that regard,” Cupini said in regards to his son’s international plans. “We’d certainly be willing to explore our options, but I think it would be a real dream and his main goal to play for Italy.”

New Jersey-native and former Italy international Giuseppe Rossi made a similar career choice when it came down to choosing a national team. Despite living in the United States for much of his youth years, Rossi appeared for a number of Italy’s youth teams before holding a stint with the senior side from 2008 to 2014.

Prior to making the announcement that Roma would be where Cupini will ply his trade next year, the young American also had the opportunity to train with Italian academies Empoli and Atalanta.

“My father is from Rome, so for Alessandro to have the opportunity to play for his hometown club it was almost a no-brainer,” Cupini said. “We were very grateful to the other clubs for the chance Alessandro had to train with them, but Roma is a club that is very close to our family.

Leicester City 1-1 West Brom: Mahrez nets first goal of PL season

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The Foxes haven’t had the start to the season that Craig Shakespeare and Co. would have hoped for, but Monday’s performance was certainly a step in the right direction.

[ MORE: Mike Ashley puts Newcastle up for sale ]

Leicester City pulled out a 1-1 draw against West Bromwich Albion at the King Power Stadium, however, the Foxes remain in the bottom three of the Premier League.

Riyad Mahrez had plenty of chances on the day, and he rescued his side with 10 minutes remaining after powering home a strike into the far corner. The goal marks the Algerian’s first of the 2017/18 campaign.

Despite a frustrating opening hour, the visitors led on 63 minutes when Nacer Chadli curled home a brilliant free kick that left Leicester goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel stunned.

For the Belgium international, Chadli becomes West Brom’s seventh different goalscorer of the season.

Leicester nearly came out flying in the second stanza whenMahrez had an open chance in the center of the Baggies penalty area, however, the Algerian winger’s left-footed attempt was too high to hit the target.

[ MORE: Liverpool’s Lovren accuses Lukaku of deliberate stamp ]

Mahrez’s chance came just minutes after West Brom keeper Boaz Myhill was nearly sent off after the 34-year-old took out a streaking Jamie Vardy on the edge of the penalty box.

Monday’s result means both clubs have now gone six matches with a win in PL play.

Liverpool’s Lovren accuses Lukaku of deliberate stamp

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Saturday’s titanic clash between Liverpool and Manchester United ended in an uneventful draw, but that didn’t mean the match itself was short on drama.

[ MORE: Mike Ashley puts Newcastle up for sale ]

Reds defender Dejan Lovren wasn’t happy with Romelu Lukaku‘s action after the former made a tackle on the Man United striker during the first half of the 0-0 draw.

The Liverpool center back spoke ahead of Tuesday’s Champions League match against Maribor.

“I made a tackle there and I just felt he was over me and could just move away,” Lovren said in regards to the play in question. “To be honest, my point of view is that he did on purpose.”

Despite his claims of Lukaku’s malice, the FA has already come out and stated that they won’t take any action against the Belgium international.

“It is not my decision,” Lovren continued. “He seemed nervous during the game and maybe that’s why. Normally if you do it, you apologise.

“It happened and it’s over. Nobody can change it.”

Tab Ramos confirms interest in USMNT job

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The U.S. Men’s National Team scene is quite uncertain at this point, despite U.S. Soccer announcing an international friendly against European powerhouse Portugal on Monday.

Since Bruce Arena’s announcement on Friday that he would step down as USMNT manager, the million-dollar question has been: who’s next?

[ MORE: USMNT U-17s advance to WC quarterfinals with win over Paraguay ]

One name that continues to be floated around is Tab Ramos — current U.S. Under-20 MNT coach and national team assistant.

Ramos, a former national team midfielder in his own right, was in attendance at Sunday’s New York Red Bulls match and spoke with Metro New York.

“If you’d ask everyone here at the Red Bulls game if they’d be interested in the national team job they would say yes,” Ramos said on Sunday. “And I’m just another fan so I’d say yes as well.”

The 51-year-old played in two World Cups during his career on the pitch (1990, 1994), but Ramos is familiar with what it’s like trying to rebuild the pieces of a failed World Cup bid.

Ramos’ first international appearance with the USMNT came two years after the Americans had missed out on qualification into the 1986 World Cup.

“It was very hard back in the ’80s to get people to recognize that we play soccer. Sometimes it feels like a slap in the face that we have to go dig ourselves out,” he said.

“One thing I know about us is that we picked ourselves up, dusted ourselves us back in 1989. We’ll do it again.”