Potential matchups: Intrigue inevitable for Real Madrid in Champions League final

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When Real Madrid renews its quest for a 10th European title on May 24, it won’t do so in the type of clash of detached powers matchup we often see in UEFA Champions League finals. After their 4-0 (5-0, agg.) defeat of defending champions Bayern Munich today at the Allianz Arena, the nine-time European champions are destined to face an opponent with an clear connection to the club. Either 2011-12 champions Chelsea, managed by recently deposed Merengues boss José Mourinho, or crosstown rivals Atlético Madrid will try to keep Real Madrid from its decima.

If Chelsea prevail tomorrow at Stamford Bridge, both finalists will have a head coach that’s recently bossed the opposition, with Carlo Ancelotti having preceded over operations in London from summer 2009 through May 2011. Still, most of the attention will be on Mourinho, who left Real Madrid at the end of last season. While both men won league titles at their former clubs, Mourinho reportedly left a divided dressing room and a club full of enemies in Spain. While the potential for Carlo Ancelotti win a third Champions League will earn its share of cyber inches, the potential for Real Madrid to rise at its former boss’s expense (or, for Mourinho to get one over on Real) could get as much coverage the decima itself.

If, however, Atlético prevails on Wednesday, next month’s match at Lisbon’s Estadio da Luz takes on a different type of intrigue – an inner-city Derby for the most prestigious honor in club soccer. Though it would mark the fifth time teams from the same federation made the final (and the second time the teams would be Spanish), an Atlético-Real matchup would represent the first time clubs from the same city would compete for the title. With Atleti having recently claimed a foothold in the once lopsided rivalry, the club’s first Champions League crown would leave them undisputed kings of the Spanish capital.

Regardless of Wednesday’s outcomes, the narratives are likely to boil over. It won’t be enough to marvel at the likes of Diego Costa, Eden Hazard, Arda Turan, and Óscar matching up against Real’s galacticos nuevos. One potential pairing would be about a miscast savior; the other would be about a fight for civic as was as European pride. All this, and the decima looms.

AT THE HALF: Manchester derby scoreless after 45 minutes

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After 45 minutes, the final Manchester derby of the 2016-17 Premier League season — the one that’ll go a long, long way toward deciding which of the city’s sides will finish in the top-four — is scoreless, but not without incident.

WATCH LIVE ONLINE, HERE

The game’s best chances thus far fell Manchester City’s way, as Sergio Aguero missed a clear-cut chance after 10 minutes — Kevin De Bruyne whipped in the perfect ball to the back post, and Aguero put it wrong side of David De Gea‘s post.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Ander Herrera has, once again, be Manchester United’s danger man, combining well with Marcus Rashford and Henrikh Mkhitaryan, but Claudio Bravo made the one save he was forced into during the first half. One thing to keep an eye on during the final 45 minutes: Rashford picked up a knock very early on, and struggled to move around the field after that.

STREAM LIVE: The Manchester Derby

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The third Manchester Derby of the season is the first away from Old Trafford, as Manchester United visits Manchester City (Watch live, 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com) at the Etihad Stadium on Thursday.

There’s much on the line, as the sides sit just two points apart in the race for the Top Four. Man City would leapfrog third-place Liverpool with a win, while United could join the Reds on 66 points with a match-in-hand.

WATCH LIVE ONLINE, HERE

Sergio Aguero starts for Man City, with Gabriel Jesus on the bench.

On the other side, it’ll be a physical middle-third guarded by Ander Herrera, Michael Carrick, and Marouane Fellaini. Wayne Rooney and Jesse Lingard start on the bench.

LINEUPS

Manchester City: Bravo, Zabaleta, Kompany (C), Otamendi, Kolarov, Fernandinho, Yaya Toure, Sterling, De Bruyne, Sane, Aguero. Subs: Caballero, Sagna, Fernando, Navas, Clichy, Gabriel Jesus, A. Garcia

Manchester United: De Gea; Valencia, Bailly, Blind, Darmian; Herrera, Carrick, Fellaini, Mkhitaryan; Rashford, Martial. Subs: Romero, Shaw, Fosu-Mensah, Tuanzebe, Young, Lingard, Rooney.

Ex-Liverpool CEO shares biting story of Suarez transfer

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Ian Ayre’s got jokes.

The former Liverpool CEO lifted the lid on some transfer stories during a Merseyside lecture this week.

Of note, Ayre admitted that the club thought Dele Alli demanded too much given what he had produced when the Reds has the chance to sign him as a 16-year-old, and said that Liverpool could’ve landed Alexis Sanchez but the player wanted to live in London (“We couldn’t move the football club to London, unfortunately,” he quipped).

The best part relayed by Sky Sports had to do with Luis Suarez, and shows the relentless nature of the transfer market. Clearly Barcelona had interest in Suarez before the fiery striker bit Giorgio Chiellini at the World Cup, because, well…

“I remember the sporting director of Barcelona calling me during that game, immediately as Suarez bit the player, and he said to me ‘my friend, he’s bitten somebody, how can this be the price?’ I said ‘he’d already bitten somebody when you first bid!'”

We’re sure there’s a certain amount of storytelling in there, but undoubtedly some truth.

Given Barca paid a reported $84 million for the striker, the asking price couldn’t have started that much higher.

Men in Blazers podcast: Chelsea tops Spurs, Top Four predictions

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Rog and Davo return to discuss Chelsea’s FA Cup semifinal victory over Spurs, update their Top Four predictions (again), and dive into the depths of the relegation zone. Plus, the very important movement to change “Hudson Street” to “Ray Hudson Street.”

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