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UCL Preview: Manchester United, Bayern Munich look to improve on leg one

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Two years ago, an FC Basel went to the Allianz Arena with a 1-0 lead, having upset Bayern Munich in the first leg of the teams’ Round of 16 UEFA Champions League matchup. The Swiss champions had already played David in group stage, forcing previous year’s finalists Manchester United into Europa League. After knocking off Bayern a St. Jakob Park, another upset seemed less miraculous than an actual possibility. Perhaps Basel had quietly built a team that could compete with some of Europe’s elites.

That thought lasted expired by halftime at the Allianz, with Bayern eventually winning, 7-0. Mario Gomez scored four times. Arjen Robben added another two. By the time Jupp Heynckes’s team met Chelsea in the final, the Basel loss was an afterthought.

As if yesterday’s games weren’t caution enough, Bayern’s path to the 2012 final reminds us: There’s a reason they play two legs. Teams are naturally predisposed to playing better at home. While leg one may show two relatively evenly matched sides, that may also be one team’s best case scenario and another’s worst.

(MORE: Manchester United hold Bayern Munich, keep UEFA Champions League hopes alive)

Calling Manchester United’s 1-1 against Bayern Munich a best case scenario doesn’t sound too far off base. Nobody was expected the Red Devils to pull off an upset, which gave their draw against the Champions League’s holders a sense of accomplishment. While they had to spend most of their night on the edge of the their own penalty area, the Red Devils were arguably the more dangerous side last Tuesday, with opportunities missed by Danny Welbeck giving the team a chance to finish leg one on top.

Though that didn’t happen, but United did establish a reasonable way of limiting damage. The only problem now is that away goal. If Bayern wants to, they can pass the ball around the park on Wednesday, wait for the Red Devils take it of them, and settle for a 0-0 if United never comes out of their crouch. It would be unpopular, and the Allianz might whistle come the 75th minute, but it’s a option Bayern earned at Old Trafford. Having taken an away goal, FCB’s not obliged to score at home.

One-all is a risky scoreline, we could not win in Manchester,” Bayern head coach Pep Guardiola lamented on Tuesday. “But I am sure we will go through. We need a good performance and we want to win the game.”

(MORE: David Moyes hails Manchester United, looks ahead to Bayern Munich clash)

The fact that they don’t need to puts last week’s result in perspective. Though the draw been hailed as one of Manchester United’s best performances of the season, that’s relative praise. After giving up an away goal, the team finished last Tuesday worse than it started. United may have exceeded expectations, but that doesn’t mean it made progress toward the next round.

I expect us to play better than in the first leg – and I believe we can,” Moyes said. “To get through, we’ll have to. My focus is on getting through. The players are ready and focused. We’re relishing it.”

The Red Devils will still be without Robin van Persie (knee) and Juan Mata (cup tied). Although Bayern will be without Javi Martínez, Bastian Schweinsteiger (suspensions), and Thiago Alcántara (knee), they’ll still have Franck Ríbery. They’ll still have Mario Mandzukic, Thomas Müller, Arjen Robben, and most of the pieces that allowed them to clinch the Bundesliga with seven games to play. And even through the midfield is hit hard by injuries, Pep Guardiola will still have Philipp Lahm, Toni Kroos, and Mario Götze at his disposal.

(MORE, Champions League: Barcelona hope to tip the scales against Atlético Madrid)

On Wednesday, however, Manchester United is only one goal away. They’re a set piece, a penalty kick, a blown call away from one of the bigger upsets in recent memory.

While that’s still unlikely to happen, Manchester United’ given itself a shot.

Video: Ranieri gets emotional after seeing Leicester fans tribute

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Claudio Ranieri in on the verge of leading Leicester City to the most improbable feat in Premier League history.

[ MORE: Pochettino verbally agrees to return to Tottenham ]

While the Foxes have given the club’s supporters the greatest ride they’ve ever seen, the fans put together a tribute video describing what the 2015-16 season has meant to them.

[ MORE: Previewing every Premier League match for Week 36 ]

Fans of all ages put in their two cents regarding the team’s quirky manager, and the 64-year old Italian began to shed tears.

We likely won’t ever see a team like Leicester again, not only in the Premier League, but any sports league. The club’s assembly of players and Ranieri have coincided perfectly and the Foxes faithful are clearly grateful for what they’ve witnessed at the King Power Stadium this season.

Follow @MattReedFutbol

Premier League Preview: Newcastle vs. Crystal Palace

LONDON, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 28: Georginio Wijnaldum of Newcastle United and Joel Ward of Crystal Palace compete for the ball during the Barclays Premier League match between Crystal Palace and Newcastle United at Selhurst Park on November 28, 2015 in London, England.  (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)
Clive Rose/Getty Images
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  • Newcastle has won one of their previous 10 PL matches
  • Palace is unbeaten in five of last six
  • Benitez is 1-3-3 since taking over Magpies

Newcastle host Crystal Palace on Saturday at St. James’ Park (Watch live, 10 a.m. ET on USA and online via Live Extra) with the Magpies among the three sides battling to stay in the Premier League for the 2016-17 season.

WATCH LIVE ONLINE VIA LIVE EXTRA

Crystal Palace isn’t mathematically out of the woods in the relegation battle, but they’re more than likely to remain in the PL next season. Palace has been in decent form of late, securing a win over Watford and draws against Arsenal and Everton. Yohan Cabaye and Connor Wickham are among the dangerous attackers that Newcastle will need to be wary of, each scoring five PL goals on the season.

[ MORE: Arsenal can put a damper on Norwich’s season with a win Saturday ]

A 5-1 drubbing towards the end of November gave Palace bragging rights, but at this stage of the season Newcastle must forget what happened in the past. While draws against Manchester City and Liverpool were certainly encouraging, the Magpies need wins. Anything else simply won’t do, particularly with Sunderland and Norwich each holding a game in hand.

The two-headed monster of Georginio Wijnaldum and Aleksandar Mitrovic will be crucial if Newcastle is to pick up a vital three points at home for the sixth time this season.

What they’re saying…

Newcastle manager Rafa Benitez: “I don’t bet. Obviously, I agree we have to win. In my experience, it’s the players who make the difference, not the managers. I can prepare for the game, but to talk about mind games, I don’t take too much notice.”

Palace boss Alan Pardew: “I’ve always encouraged other coaches and managers to be involved, with comments from them. I asked a bit of advice at the weekend from a couple of people which was very sound. I expect, as I do on occasion, to get calls from some of the players I’ve coached to ring me. You have to keep your network big.”

Prediction

Newcastle needs this game, or at the very least a point. Given the team’s poor goal differential though, this isn’t something Rafa Benitez and company will want to leave up to fate. Palace has dropped plenty of points this season, leaving Newcastle in an opportune position to gain ground on the coveted 17th place. The Magpies will push hard and I think they’ll be able to pull this one out at home, 2-1.

Follow @MattReedFutbol

Sevilla’s Krohn-Dehli out 7 months after knee surgery

BILBAO, SPAIN - APRIL 07:  Michael Krohn-Dehli of Sevilla and Javier Eraso of Athletic Club Bilbao battle for the ball during the UEFA Europa League quarter final first leg match between Athletic Bilbao and Sevilla at San Mames Stadium on April 7, 2016 in Bilbao, Spain.  (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)
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SEVILLE, Spain (AP) Sevilla says midfielder Michael Krohn-Dehli will be sidelined for at least seven months after undergoing surgery on a broken left knee.

The Denmark midfielder suffered the gruesome injury on Thursday during the 2-2 draw at Shakhtar Donetsk in the Europa League semifinals.

He was carried off the pitch in the 73rd minute, less than 15 minutes after going on as a substitute.

The operation took place on Friday once the team had returned to Spain.

Sevilla, the two-time defending Europa League champion, will host the return leg of their semifinal next week.

The 32-year-old Krohn-Dehli joined Sevilla at the start of this season from fellow Spanish club Celta Vigo.

Men In Blazers: Music Pod Special

Men In Blazers
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You are in for a treat as this is a Men in Blazers Pod Special with Aaron Dessner of The National, Chris Baio of Vampire Weekend and Nathaniel Motte of 3OH!3.

The focus, obviously, is music.

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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