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Europa League: 94th minute goal puts Sevilla through; Benfica holds on to reach final

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Europa League is still headed to Turin next month, but after today’s result at Juventus Stadium, the team which normally occupies the final’s venue will not be there. Failing to turn around the 2-1 loss it suffered last week in Lisbon, Serie A-leading Juventus was eliminated from the competition , the 0-0 road draw Benfica earned in Italy putting last year’s runners-up into their second straight final.

The Eagles will be joined in May 14th’s final by Sevilla, who nearly squandered the 2-0 lead it earned last week at the Sanchez Pizjuan. Down 3-0 at Valencia in stoppage time, the Rojiblancos got a 94th minute goal from Stephanie Mbia, leaving a fervent crowd at the Estadio Mestalla heartbroken as the 3-1 loss (3-3, agg.) put the visitors through on away goals.

For Sevilla, back-to-back UEFA Cup winners in 2006-2007, it is the club’s third tournament final appearance. Benfica, two-time European Cup winners, have appeared in two previous finals but have yet to claim a UEFA Cup or Europa League crown.

In Italy, a game dominated by the Old Lady saw the hosts hold 63 percent of the match’s possession, outshooting Portugal’s champions 19-4 in the process. Putting seven shots on target to Benfica’s one, Juventus took advantage of an Eagles side intent on preserving the one-goal lead they carried out of the Estadio da Luz.  Despite a penalty shout and a late Pablo Osvaldo goal that was waved off for offsides, Jorge Jesus’s team was able to preserve its clean sheet, playing the last minutes of the game with nine-men (Lazar Markovic red card; Ezequiel Garay injury).

In Valencia, whatever notion the visiting team had of keeping its hosts off mimicking Benfica’s road shutout evaporated in the 14th minute, with Algerian international Sofiane Feghouli scoring from the right of goal to pull Los Che within one. Twelve minutes later, a shot off the crossbar went off Sevilla goalkeeper Beto before crossing the goal line, leaving the sides even with 64 minutes to play.

Twenty minutes before time, Valencia appeared to have struck a decisive blow when Jeremy Mathieu finished from just outside the six-yard box. But the go ahead goal only served to prime 24 minutes of heightened expectations. Heading home from the middle of the area after a late corner, Mbia sent the crowd to murmurs, turning what had been a terrible night at the Mestalla into a semifinal triumph.

The result means Iberia will be invading Turin on May 14th, with Benfica looking to avenge last year’s final loss. Sevilla, meanwhile, will be looking to make Mbia’s goal into legend by winning its third title.

USMNT lineup vs Canada sees Jermaine Jones at CB, Morris and Altidore up front

at StubHub Center on January 31, 2016 in Carson, California.
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The United States takes on Canada for the second of two friendlies that test those involved in January camp. With Iceland already dispatched 3-2, Canada is next up, at 10:30 p.m. ET from the StubHub center in California.

Jurgen Klinsmann has chosen his lineup, and it’s not easily discernible.

The back line is the biggest head-scratcher, with three central defenders starting, and at least one of them out of position. Jermaine Jones, who performed well in a midfield distribution role against Iceland, has been moved back to the defensive line, partnering with Matt Besler. Steve Birnbaum, also a central defender who had ups and down against Iceland, is back in the lineup. There’s nowhere to fit a third central defender, so he will play out wide. Kellyn Acosta, a natural full-back, rounds out the back four.

In midfield, the personnel lends itself to a flat four, if only because there’s really no other way it can go. Again, a multitude of central defenders are deployed, with Michael Bradley, Lee Nguyen, and Mix Diskerud forming some kind of CM/CM/Winger combination (Nguyen is likely the odd man out wide), with Gyasi Zardes out wide on the other end.

Jozy Altidore returns up front, this time to partner with Jordan Morris, who makes his first USMNT appearance as a professional player.

Finally, San Jose Earthquakes goalkeeper David Bingham makes his USMNT debut between the sticks.

Jurgen Klopp says Daniel Sturridge is focused on getting healthy, not leaving Liverpool

during the Capital One Cup quarter final match between Southampton and Liverpool at St Mary's Stadium on December 2, 2015 in Southampton, England.
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Jurgen Klopp has made his frustrations with Daniel Sturridge‘s injury history very clear, but he still knows the England international is a crucial part of his squad, and he will be patient, no matter how frustrating it is.

Sturridge has been out since early December, and has made just five appearances all season due to a number of recurring injuries that have sapped him of his consistency for the last two years.

But with the 26-year-old back in training the last two days, the English media has speculated that Sturridge is looking to leave Liverpool, and that the club is trying to rid themselves of him as well. Klopp does not see it that way.

[ RELATED: Daniel Sturridge says he’s “good to go” ]

“I have no feeling that Daniel is thinking like this so stop thinking about it,” Klopp said in his pre-match press conference, speaking ahead of the match Saturday against Sunderland. “I spoke to him but not about this. I didn’t ask: ‘do you want to leave?’ “Why should I? He’s been back in training for two days. I don’t go over and say: ‘Daniel, I hear you want to leave? Is there truth in it?’ I don’t believe that it is like this.”

Klopp called the rumors a “non-story” and believes as soon as Sturridge is out on the field, the rumors will stop. He just has to get out on the field first.

“Since I was here I’ve had a normal relationship with Daniel Sturridge,” Klopp said. “The only problem is I have only had him 10 or 12 times on the training pitch – that is the truth. Now he is back we hope he can stay in team training and everything will be good. If everything is normal from now on then he is in the race.”

The German said that just having returned to training, Sturridge won’t be ready for Saturday’s game, but he could potentially be back to action for the FA Cup match against West Ham on Tuesday.

DFB takes legal action against Beckenbauer, FIFA, others

VIENNA, AUSTRIA - DECEMBER 16: Franz Beckenbauer attends the Energy For Life Christmas Ball For Children at Hofburg Vienna on December 16, 2014 in Vienna, Austria.  (Photo by Monika Fellner/Getty Images) *** Local Caption ***Franz Beckenbauer
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BERLIN (AP) — The German football federation has opened legal proceedings against Franz Beckenbauer, former members, and FIFA in a bid to limit potential damages arising from the 2006 World Cup corruption affair.

The DFB tells The Associated Press in a statement that it has “taken the necessary measures to prevent a possible limitation of claims” against former head of the German World Cup organizing committee Beckenbauer and his then vice-president Fedor Radmann, former DFB presidents Theo Zwanziger and Wolfgang Niersbach, former DFB general secretary Horst R. Schmidt, the executors of Robert Louis-Dreyfus’ estate, together with FIFA.

Central to the affair is a suspect 6.7 million euro payment made to FIFA by the DFB before the 2006 World Cup was awarded. The money was loaned to the German federation by Dreyfus.

Brazilian midfielder Fred has doping ban extended to club, out until June

VIENNA, AUSTRIA - AUGUST 19:  Fred of Donetsk goes for a header during the UEFA Champions League: Qualifying Round Play Off First Leg match between SK Rapid Vienna and FC Shakhtar Donetsk on August 19, 2015 in Vienna, Austria.  (Photo by Christian Hofer/Getty Images)
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Shakhtar Donetsk striker Fred, a regular for the Brazilian national team, has seen his CONMEBOL doping ban extended worldwide to all competitions.

A FIFA disciplinary committee announced that Fred’s suspension now covers “all types of matches, including domestic, international, friendly and official fixtures.”

The 22-year-old tested positive for the diuretic hydrochlorothiazide during last summer’s Copa America, and has not played for the Brazilian national team since, having been banned for a year by CONMEBOL. He had been playing for his Ukranian club while FIFA was reviewing the case, making 12 appearances in league play and scoring two goals. He also played six times in the Champions League without scoring a goal.

The one-year ban is back-dated to Fred’s last international squad appearance, when he was on the bench for the Copa America quarterfinals on June 27 of last summer. That date will allow Fred to be eligible for the Rio Olympics, which start August 5.