Toluca eliminates Alajuelense from CONCACAF Champions League, guarantees Mexico another title

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Though the second finalist won’t be determined until tomorrow, Toluca’s Tuesday night win over Alajuelense in  CONCACAF Champions League’s semifinals ensures recent history will repeat itself. While this year’s final won’t be another Monterrey-Santos Laguna affair, the Red Devils’ outset of the Costa Ricans means two Liga MX teams will contest CONCACAF’s title for the fourth time in five years, with no other federation having claimed the region’s crown since the competition changed format in 2008.

On Tuesday, up 1-0 after their victory in Costa Rica last week, Toluca got goals from Carlos Esquivel and Juan Manuel Salgueiro, recovering from the Erizos’ early challenge to post an easy 2-0 (3-0, aggregate) victory. The two-time confederation champions now await the winner of Tijuana-Cruz Azul, with Xolos having earned a 1-0 lead last week at Estadio Caliente.

Regardless of what happens on that side of the draw, Toluca’s win guarantees Mexico’s monopoly of Champions League will continue. For the ninth straight tournament — a time that extends back to the old Champions Cup — a Mexican team will be crowned champions. Were it not for Real Salt Lake’s appearance in the 2010-11 finals, each finalist since the tournament’s redesign would have been Mexican, with 16 of the competition’s 24 semifinalists having hailed from Mexico’s league.

Go back further, and the picture is only slightly more diverse. Since Major League Soccer came into existence in 1996, three different federations have claimed CONCACAF’s title, but only Mexico has held the crown since 2006. In 2005, Saprissa made it back-to-back titles for Costa Rica, with Alajuelense having won the previous year. Slightly before that, MLS claimed this only titles with D.C. United (1998) and LA Galaxy (2000) each winning one title.

Tomorrow, Cruz Azul will try to turn around its one-goal deficit against visiting Tijuana, but the story of Mexico’s dominance has already been written. In 2014, the league’s hegemony continues, with the league set to claim a 30th CONCACAF title.

AT HALF: Lukaku, Lingard have Man Utd up at West Brom (video)

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Romelu Lukaku didn’t celebrate much more than a fist pump following his match-opening goal against former teammates West Bromwich Albion.

[ MORE: Watch via NBCSports.com).

No one said anything about celebrating teammates’ goals, though.

Lukaku scored to give the Red Devils a 1-0 lead, then watched as Jesse Lingard‘s deflected lash left Ben Foster high and dry as United cruised into the break up two goals.

It’s 10th PL goal of the season for Lukaku, who has 15 in all competitions. For Lingard, it’s four and seven.

Here’s Lingard’s marker:

Celtic’s record unbeaten run ends at 69 matches

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Celtic’s unbeaten domestic run has ended at 69 matches, and it ended with a thud.

Tynecastle Park was the scene for a 4-0 thumping at the hands of Hearts, a defeat started by a 16-year-old’s first Scottish Premiership goal.

[ REPORT: Luiz done at Chelsea? ]

Harry Cochrane’s his name, and his 26th minute goal gave Hearts the lead, and it was 2-0 by halftime through Kyle Lafferty, the ex-Burnley and Norwich player.

David Milinkovic scored three minutes after halftime, as the wake-up call didn’t arrive at the break, and added a penalty kick late in the match.

Celtic has a two-point lead on second-place Aberdeen with a match-in-hand. Rangers sit five-points back.

Sixty-nine games! Remarkable in any league. Here’s what Rodgers had to say:

“But I also want to congratulate my players. To have gone through 69 games and this to be their first defeat; of course it’s a sore one when you are beaten like that but they can hold their heads up. They have been absolutely amazing over those 18 months.”

WATCH LIVE: West Brom vs. Manchester United

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The Hawthorns is the scene as Manchester United attempts to pull back into sole possession of second place on the Premier League table with a visit to West Bromwich Albion (Watch live at 9:15 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

WATCH LIVE, ONLINE, HERE

The Baggies have several regular starters on the bench, with Chris Brunt, Gareth Barry, and Gareth McAuley (Allllll the Gareths!) getting a rest.

United will hand starts to Jesse Lingard and Juan Mata, with Anthony Martial on the bench with Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

LINEUPS

West Bromwich Albion: Foster; Nyom, Hegazi, Evans, Gibbs, Krychowiak, Yacob, Livermore, Burke, McClean, Rondon. Subs: Myhill, Robson-Kanu, Brunt, Barry, Rodriguez, McAuley, Field.

Manchester United: De Gea; Valencia, Jones, Smalling, Young, Herrera, Matic, Mata, Lingard, Rashford, Lukaku. Subs: Romero, Lindelof, Rojo, Shaw, McTominay, Ibrahimovic, Martial.

Report: Luiz done at Chelsea, perhaps as soon as January

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A report out of England says Chelsea defender David Luiz could be out the door in January.

Luiz, 30, has a knee injury and has played in just one match for Chelsea since a Halloween loss to Roma in the Champions League, one that supposedly culminated in a blow-up between the defender and manager Antonio Conte.

He was sold once before by Chelsea, shipped to Paris Saint-Germain for $66 million in 2014 before returning to Stamford Bridge in 2016 for $45 million.

[ MAN CITY-SPURS: 3 things |  Studs and duds ]

Luiz has made just one appearance, a Nov. 22 match in Qarabag, since that Roma loss. He returned to the bench against Liverpool before being diagnosed with a knee injury.

The report says Juventus is a possible destination for Luiz, though the Champions League could be a problem for both sides. Luiz is Cup-tied to Chelsea, and Juventus remains in the UCL as well.

And Chelsea would need reinforcements at the back. It’s back three has operated with Andreas Christensen, Cesar Azpilicueta, and Gary Cahill. Other options are Antonio Rudiger and 20-year-old Jake Clarke-Salter, which would be fine were Chelsea not alive in four competitions (The League Cup quarterfinals have the Blues hosting Bournemouth on Wednesday).

The power seems a bit more in Luiz’s hands thanks to some of Conte’s sanctioned loans. Kurt Zouma has arguably been Stoke City’s most consistent performer in an under siege unit, one of 10 backs on season-long loans. The most sense is to find reconciliation, presuming the dust-up is real, and move on in the summer if necessary.