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Report: Aston Villa ownership will change hands if club stays up

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According to The Telegraph, Randy Lerner has reached an agreement to sell Aston Villa, provided the club stays in the Premier League. An unidentified American group fronted by “two billionaires” has agreed to pay $200 million for the Birmingham-based club, a possibility that heightens the importance of securing a 26th straight year in the first division.

With the club in 14th place, Villa will likely stay up, securing all the financial perks that go with the top-flight status in the process. With four straight losses, however, the club’s survival is back in doubt, with the potential owners set to pass on the purchase if the club falls into the second division.

From Matt Law’s reporting:

It is understood an American consortium, fronted by two billionaires, wants to buy Villa but will withdraw from the deal if the team drop into the Championship …

Survival in the top flight would guarantee Villa at least £40 million in television revenue and would mean the club remains attractive to sponsors.

Early indications suggest the consortium would be prepared to invest heavily in trying to significantly improve Villa’s playing staff. It is unclear whether a takeover would affect the future of manager Paul Lambert.

The move would be a welcome one for fans who’ve come to question the club’s direction under Lerner. With Lambert also the becoming subject of supporter skepticism, the manager’s performance is sure to fall under increased scrutiny. If he fails, he’ll cost supporters the new ownership they’ve come to covet.

With 34 points, Villa are four points above the drop, but with three teams between themselves and 18th place Fulham, Lambert’s team a series of misfortunes would have to fall in place to send Villa down. If it can avoid all of those pitfalls, the club will likely turn away from a transfer policy based on value buys and youth purchases in its attempts resume a regular place in the top half of the table.

That place disappeared when Martin O’Neill left the club in 2010, with the Northern Ireland manager’s departure coinciding with a pair down of what had become a bloated payroll. After three consecutive sixth place finishes, Villa took up residence in the league’s bottom half, with Gerard Houllier, Alex McLeish, and Paul Lambert having failed to right the team’s course.

With a solid home venue and a history that includes a European Cup, Villa has the potential to be the dominant club in England’s second-largest population center. To this point, however, Lerner has been unable to capture that potential.

With new ownership coming in, Villa fans have reason to hope a more ambitious approach will try to tap into that possibility. All the team has to do is stay up.

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.