UCL Preview: Lewandowski returns, but Borussia Dortmund still long shots against Real Madrid

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Amid the eccentric duality that’s lead Jürgen Klopp to wear blue jeans to his job interview as well as incur a UEFA ban for exploding at a fourth official is a philosophical soul, one that’s kept his team’s Champions League plight in perspective. Down 3-0 after last week’s disappointment at the Santiago Bernabéu, the Borussia Dortmund boss has dispensed with cliché to take comfort in the obvious.

Yes, his team is on the verge of leaving the competition, a fate many other teams have met at the boots of Real Madrid. If, however, Dortmund plays to its potential on Tuesday, last year’s finalists can leave the pitch with validated, regardless of its second leg’s outcome.

“I don’t know how many miracles have been proclaimed before they happened. We don’t have any right to speak about that,” Klopp explained in Monday’s press conference, “but we have the right to give everything tomorrow and perform with will power.

“If we somehow get a result that takes us through, then great; if not, we want to say goodbye to the Champions League with a good performance.”

(MORE, Champions League: Real Madrid returns the favor, takes 3-0 lead on Borussia Dortmund)

Is it possible to charge into battle behind a white flag? Klopp’s trying to do so, though in the process, he’s showing the same charm that’s made him one of the more popular coaches in Europe. Perhaps victory it too remote to expect, but for professional athletes, pride is important. Klopp can’t bring himself to lie and tell his team they’ll win if they perform well. He can, however, remind them: Winning big games carry its own rewards.

Toward that end, Borussia Dortmund’s leading scorer, Robert Lewandowski, will be back, having served his one-match suspension for yellow card accumulation. Unless he replicates last year’s four-goal performance against El Real, it will likely be the Polish international’s final Champions League appearance for Dortmund, having already agreed to join Bayern Munich this summer.

Despite his return, BVB will still be shorthanded, with Sebastien Kehl’s suspension adding his name to a gruesome list of injury absences: Sven Bender (groin); Jakub Blaszczykowski (knee); Ilkay Gündogan (back), Marcus Schmelzer (thigh); Neven Subotic (knee). Lewandowski makes Dortmund a more dangerous team, but only marginally so.

(MORE: Three takeaways from Real Madrid’s three-goal romp past Borussia Dortmund)

And against a Real Madrid team that has rediscovered its form, Dortmund remains a decided underdog, with the Merengues 4-0 win on Saturday at Real Sociedad showing what the side is capable of without the rested Cristiano Ronaldo. Unfortunately, for Carlo Ancelotti, the Ballon d’Or winner was unable to complete Monday’s training session, leaving him a doubt for Tuesday’s second leg.

So Ancelotti will just have to rely on Gareth Bale, whose goal on Saturday brings his season total to 18. They’ll have to rely on 21-year-old creator Isco, who will likely get another start after a strong showing in leg one. He’ll rely on Karim Benzema, who scored last week at the Bernabéu, as well as Luka Modric, Ángel Di María and Xabi Alonso, who have proved a surprising well-balanced midfield since Ancelotti starting using them in January.

“There is no need to change the system or go for a more defensive approach,” Ancelotti explained on Monday. “They have 90 minutes to score three, four goals. We have 90 minutes to score one, which would make things very difficult for them. The earlier we score, the easier it will be for us.”

(MORE, Preview: Chelsea hoping to repeat history against PSG)

That’s the real danger for Dortmund, a team capable of scoring three. Between Real Madrid’s defensive problems and the talents of Lewandowski, Marco Reus, and Henrikh Mkhitaryan, replicating their opponents’ first leg output is possible. Whether they can keep their guests from snatching a crucial away goal — one that would force them to score five to advance — is another, more difficult question entirely.

LVG would only return to club football to get at Man Utd

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Leave it to The Daily Mirror to find that last bit of juice when it comes to Manchester United and former manager Louis Van Gaal.

Well, probably the last bit.

The Dutch manager said he does not expect to return to club football, unless one of the big boys in the Premier League offered him the chance to take a run at United. The Red Devils, of course, fired him shortly after an FA Cup title in order to hire Jose Mourinho.

[ MORE: WBA 1-2 Man Utd | Bournemouth 0-4 Liverpool ]

From The Mirror, quoting LVG at a Sunday night function in Rotterdam.

“I will probably not manage a club anymore,” Van Gaal said. “I would make one exception: If a big English club comes for me, than I would do it. Because then I can get the chance to get one over on Manchester United.’’

Could you see him getting a run at any of the Top Four contenders, even on a caretaker basis? Could Liverpool come calling if they tired of Jurgen Klopp one season, or might Arsenal or even Everton need a stopgap (should the Toffees spending come good)?

Suspended Villar says Spain in danger of missing World Cup

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The suspended president of the Spanish soccer federation, who is under investigation for corruption, tried Monday to stoke up fears that the country could be kicked out of the World Cup because of government interference.

Angel Maria Villar, who is free on bail, spoke at a news conference in Madrid and again denied any wrongdoing. He also blamed the government for meddling in the federation’s affairs by suspending him.

“This government is putting Spain’s participation in the World Cup at risk,” the 67-year-old Villar said in his first news conference since being arrested in July along with his son, Gorka Villar, and two other officials.

[ BLANC: I turned down USMNT talks ]

“The risk is serious,” Villar said. “The only party responsible for Spain not going to the World Cup will be the Spanish government.”

Villar spoke three days after FIFA said it was concerned about the independence of the Spanish soccer federation and that it would soon send a delegation to analyze the situation. FIFA made no mention of a possible suspension of the federation, which could keep Spain out of next year’s World Cup in Russia or even knock Real Madrid and Barcelona out of the Champions League.

Villar, who has spent time behind bars to impede the possible destruction of evidence, and the other three officials are being investigated for alleged improper management, misappropriation of funds, corruption and falsifying documents.

Villar resigned his vice presidencies of both FIFA and UEFA following his arrest. But he tried to stay on as the head of Spanish federation, a post he held for three decades.

His refusal to listen to pleas for him to step down led the Spanish government to suspend him from the post for one year pending the outcome of the investigation. Court documents allege that besides misappropriated funds, Villar is suspected of corrupting several regional federations by offering favors in exchange for votes.

Villar fired back at the government, saying his suspension had broken FIFA rules since it represented interference in the federation’s management.

“It’s easy to see that the source of concern was my arbitrary and unjustified removal from the presidency of the federation and for not respecting the presumption of innocence,” Villar said, adding that other teams are ready to take Spain’s place at the World Cup.

“Be careful. There are other powerful countries that didn’t qualify like Italy that are waiting to pounce and take our place,” Villar said.

Spain, which won the World Cup in 2010, is considered to be among the favorites for next year’s tournament.

Blanc: I turned down USMNT talks

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U.S. Soccer has not been inactive when it comes to the USMNT coaching search, despite its uncertainty with an impending presidential election.

Le Parisien has an interview with Laurent Blanc in which the ex-Bordeaux, France, and Paris Saint-Germain boss says he was approached by the United States Soccer Federation, but was not interested in the gig.

[ MORE: Making sense of the PL table ]

Blanc said an international job would have to touch his roots, and he’s most certainly not American. The tall 52-year-old had a glittering playing career with Saint-Etienne, Barcelona, Marseille, Inter Milan, and Manchester United amongst other stops.

More important, it shows that Sunil Gulati and his men have to some degree moved forward with keeping their imprint on the national team.

That’s a little worrying on any team: A hierarchy that may not be around much longer may be working to fill a position arguably more important than its own. It’d be nice to have them commit to not hiring anyone until after February’s election.

Premier League Preview: Everton vs. Swansea City

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  • Everton leads all-time 15W-9D-3L
  • BUT Swans unbeaten in 7 vs. Toffees
  • Toffees go ninth with win
  • Swans four back of safety

Everton hopes its up-turn in form can end three seasons of futility against visiting Swansea City when the two sides meet at Goodison Park on Monday (Watch live at 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

WATCH LIVE, ONLINE, HERE

Gylfi Sigurdsson gets a chance to face his former club for the first time, while longtime Swans man Ashley Williams may also feature for Sam Allardyce.

Swansea has no time to focus on the past, as Paul Clement‘s men sit deep in the drop zone. The last place Swans are four points shy of safety.

What they’re saying

Everton’s Ashley Williams on facing his former club (again)“The game is a little bit more important to me, I would be lying I said it wasn’t. You always want to play against your old teams and it’s a fixture you always look for.  I have been looking forward to this one and it will be nice to see old faces and old friends. It is a game we want to win and to keep a clean sheet in, especially at home, in order to keep our momentum going.”

Swansea City’s Roque Mesa on the match“This is a massive game for us. We need to pick up points because we are bottom and we need to improve our position. Everton have a new manager and their players have done very well under him – you can see their confidence has grown since he joined. But we did well against West Brom and picked up three points, which was very important. Then we faced Manchester City and they proved too good for us. They are the best team in the league, and unfortunately, we couldn’t match them on the night.”

Prediction

Swans need to move past that Man City loss and build on a 1-0 win over West Brom a few days previous. That may not be possible at Goodison, and the Welsh side would be thrilled to escape with a draw. It seems unlikely. Everton 2-1.