Formation change provides no salvation for Philadelphia against D.C. United

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Though 10 games, Philadelphia’s problem was painfully obvious, so painful that they were willing to trade away a player who was once a treasured prospect in search of a solution. Particularly from open play, the team just could not score goals. The Union where scraping together enough converted corners and opposition gifts to average a goal per game, but thanks to the inefficiencies of Jack McInerney (now traded), Conor Casey, and Andrew Wenger, the team came into the weekend winless in eight.

On Saturday, John Hackworth decided to change things up, not that reverting to last year’s 4-4-2 for a half helped. Losing Chris Rolfe in the penalty area in the sixth minute, Philadelphia gave up the only goal D.C. United would need to take a 1-0 out of PPL Park, the Union’s attack again proving inept as the team fell to is third straight loss.

For D.C. United, it was the type of controlled performance that’s defined the team’s unexpectedly strong start. Having now exceeded its 2013 win total (4 vs. 3), United’s used early goals against New York, Columbus, and Philadelphia to pull off what’s becoming a regular thing: score first; play smart, collect points. Perhaps Ben Olsen’s squad isn’t the most talented in the league, but they seem to be among the most prepared week in, week out. With the exception of last week’s loss in Portland, D.C. is proving potent when presented opportunities, stingy when asked to concede their own.

Today’s opportunity came early, with Philadelphia’s central defense and midfielders staying on their heals as a blocked shot fell to Rolfe:

For most teams, 84 minutes to overcome an early goal wouldn’t be debilitating. For Philadelphia, it was practically game over. The Union didn’t register a shot on target until the 64th minute, after it’s switched back to a 4-2-3-1. Though that sequence required a great read from Bill Hamid to get off his line to stop Wenger and Casey, it was the Union’s closest call. As shutouts go, this wasn’t one of Hamid’s more difficult ones.

So despite going with last year’s approach — a scheme that had a previously ball-on-the-ground team play 37 crosses — Philadelphia ended the day where it started; though along the way, the Union may have answered a question. If there was any doubt about whether the team’s preseason switch to a new formation was stifling scoring, throw it out the window. It’s quality, not quantity of forwards that’s killing them.

LIVE – Champions League playoff: Nice-Napoli headlines action

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With Celtic (just about) booking their spot in the UEFA Champions League group stage on Tuesday, four more teams will join them.

[ LIVE: Champions League scores ] 

Napoli, Olympiacos, Sevilla and Hapoel Be’er Sheva all have narrow leads heading into the second legs which sets things up rather nicely for the winner takes all second legs. Olympiacos and Be’er Sheva will be feeling particularly nervous after conceding at home in the first leg.

On Wednesday five more ties takes place across Europe with Liverpool looking to book their spot in the UCL group stage against Hoffenheim.

Below is the full schedule for Tuesday’s games, which kick off at 2:45 p.m. ET, while you can click on the link above to follow live commentary on all four matches.


Tuesday’s UEFA Champions League playoff second legs

Nice vs. Napoli (Napoli lead 2-0 on aggregate)
Astana 4-3 Celtic (Celtic advance 8-4 on aggregate)
Rijeka vs. Olympiacos (Olympiacos leads 2-1 on aggregate)
Sevilla vs. Istanbul Basaksehir (Sevilla leads 2-1 on aggregate)
Maribor vs. Hapoel Be’er Sheva (Hapoel Be’er Sheva lead 2-1 on aggregate)

LIVE – Premier League clubs enter League Cup

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Seven Premier League teams enter the League Cup second round on Tuesday with plenty of potential upsets lined up.

[ LIVE: Follow League Cup scores ]

All 13 PL clubs (six more are in action on Wednesday) face teams from the lower leagues with the likes of Crystal Palace, Leicester City, Bournemouth and Swansea City all on upset alert.

U.S. national team players to watch out for include Lynden Gooch who starts for Sunderland and Emerson Hyndman who is on the bench for Bournemouth.

Below is the schedule for the League Cup games on Tuesday with all games to kick off at 2:45 p.m. ET unless otherwise stated.


Tuesday
Crystal Palace vs. Ipswich Town – 2:30pm
Aston Villa vs. Wigan Athletic
Leeds United vs. Newport County
Middlesbrough vs. Scunthorpe United
Norwich City vs. Charlton Athletic
QPR vs. Brentford
Fulham vs. Bristol Rovers
Cardiff City vs. Burton Albion
Carlisle United vs. Sunderland
Doncaster vs. Hull City
Grimsby Town vs. Derby County
Brighton vs. Barnet
Accrington Stanley vs. West Brom
Sheffield United vs. Leicester City
Birmingham City vs. Bournemouth
Watford vs. Bristol City
MK Dons vs. Swansea City
Reading vs. Millwall – 3pm
Bolton vs. Sheffield Wednesday – 3pm

Celtic qualify for UEFA Champions League group stage

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Celtic survived a scare in Kazakhstan to qualify for the group stage of the UEFA Champions League for the second season on the trot.

[ MORE: Champions League schedule ]

Brendan Rodgers‘ side beat FC Astana 5-0 in the first leg of their playoff last week at Celtic Park but the trip to Kazakhstan proved much trickier with Astana leading 4-1 late in the game which had pulled the score back to 6-4 on aggregate.

However, Scott Sinclair had scored a priceless away goal to make it 1-1 at half time and despite a late flurry of goals for the hosts Olivier Ntcham scored a deflected effort and Leigh Griffiths wrapped things up late on as Celtic lost 4-3 on the night but went through 8-4 on aggregate.

Last season the Scottish champions went out in the UCL group stage after being drawn with Manchester City, Barcelona and Borussia Monchengladbach and will be hoping for a kinder draw this time around.

Premier League clubs on League Cup upset alert

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The second round of the League Cup (known as the Carabao Cup in 2017-18 for sponsorship reasons) kicks off on Tuesday with 13 Premier League clubs in action.

[ MORE: League Cup scores live ]

All 13 have been drawn against lower-league opposition and those klaxons you can hear signify upset alerts.

Below is a look at how each Premier League club will get on as they enter the competition on Tuesday and Wednesday with a ranking on each game out of 10, with 10 being the most likely for an upset to occur.

Remember: the seven PL teams in European competition will enter the League Cup in the third round.


Upset alert ranking for PL clubs

Tuesday
Crystal Palace vs. Ipswich Town – 8/10
Brighton vs. Barnet – 4/10
Accrington Stanley vs. West Brom – 7/10
Sheffield United vs. Leicester City – 6/10
Birmingham City vs. Bournemouth – 7/10
Watford vs. Bristol City – 5/10
MK Dons vs. Swansea City – 5/10

Wednesday
Newcastle United vs. Nottingham Forest – 6/10
Southampton vs. Wolves – 7/10
Huddersfield Town vs. Rotherham United – 7/10
Cheltenham vs. West Ham United – 8/10
Stoke City vs. Rochdale – 6/10
Blackburn Rovers vs. Burnley – 6/10