Group(s) of death: 2015 UEFA Champions League pots promise more drama

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Two Spanish powers are preparing to sort out the 2013/14 UEFA Champions League title on Saturday in Portugal, but plenty of eyes in Europe are peeking at what awaits the clubs for next year’s tournament.

The end of many European campaigns have group stage coefficients set for the 2014/15 season of UCL play, with the final to be played in one year’s time in Berlin, and there are some very scary potential groups thanks to the return of Liverpool and AS Roma as “outsiders.” There’s also the potential nightmare of new big spenders AS Monaco and their tiny coefficient keeping them in Pot IV.

We know 22 of the teams for next year’s UCL, and the location of their temporary pots for the group stage. While it’s far too early to confidently predict whether Arsenal, Porto, Zenit, Napoli and Leverkusen will hold up their ends of the bargain and advance to hold their respect spots, let’s cheat a little and look at the potential nightmare for next season.

Pot I
Real Madrid
FC Barcelona
Bayern Munich
Chelsea
Benfica
Atletico Madrid
*Arsenal
*FC Porto

Pot II
Schalke
Borussia Dortmund
Juventus
Paris Saint-Germain
Shakhtar Donetsk
Basel
*Zenit St. Petersburg
Manchester City

Pot III
*Bayer Leverkusen
Olympiakos
CSKA Moscow
Ajax
*Napoli
Liverpool
Sporting Lisbon
Galatasaray

Pot IV
Anderlecht
*Salzburg
Roma
*Steaua Bucarest
*Celtic
*BATE Borisov
*TBA
AS Monaco

The biggest names that could barnstorm into the group stage to make it even tastier are Besiktas, Lille and Dnipro.

Last year’s toughest groups included a nightmare Dortmund, Arsenal, Napoli and Marseille bunch, as well as Real Madrid, Galatasaray, Juventus and Copenhagen.

As it stands, next year could see a loaded group like Roma, Liverpool, PSG and Bayern Munich, or Monaco, Juventus, Galatasaray and Real Madrid. The new climate of big spenders plus the reintroduction of teams with lower coefficients thanks to absences from previous tournaments will make for spicier groups stages than ever before.

You’re now free to go back to thinking about this year’s dandy final with Atletico and Real!

Rashford’s childhood hero played for USMNT (Take one guess)

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But can he grow a beard?

Manchester United attacker Marcus Rashford is known for his darting runs and clever finishes, but he grew up begging to get between the sticks with a lot of love for an American.

“Howard was my idol. I used to have a little Tim Howard shirt.”

[ MORE: Dempsey still wants USMNT role ]

Rashford said he’d ask his youth coach to allow him to play goal so he could mimic his hero, who at the time was the Manchester United backstop and now USMNT legend.

The 20-year-old was nine when Howard left Old Trafford, but it hasn’t changed his enjoyment for tending goal. Rashford joked that he’s got to be the choice to replace David De Gea in case of a post-sub emergency.

Watch Live: Watford vs. West Ham United

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David Moyes‘ first match in charge of West Ham United sees a striker change at Vicarage Road against testy Watford (Watch live at 11 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

WATCH LIVE, ONLINE, HERE

Andy Carroll will be up top, and Andre Ayew is hurt to boot.

Marco Silva leads Watford’s hosts with Adrian Mariappa, Christian Kabasele, and Miguel Britos at the back of a 3-5-2.

LINEUPS

Watford: Gomes; Mariappa, Kabasele, Britos; Femenía, Cleverley, Doucouré, Zeegelaar; Hughes, Richarlison; Gray. Subs: Karnezis, Prödl, Holebas, Capoue, Pereyra, Carrillo, Okaka.

West Ham United: Hart, Zabaleta, Reid, Ogbonna, Cresswell, Noble, Kouyate, Obiang, Arnautovic, Lanzini, Carroll. Subs: Adrian, Masuaku, Rice, Fernandes, Quina, Sakho, Martinez.

Dempsey still happy to accept USMNT role (which is good)

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Clint Dempsey is tied with Landon Donovan for the most goals in USMNT history, and seems set to continue with the side in some capacity as he threatens to stand alone in American history.

[ MLS: Steve Bruce to Miami? ]

The 34-year-old striker spoke with Steve Zakuani on the Sounders’ web site (video below) and said he’s happy to accept continued call-ups should they arrive from USSF headquarters.

From SoundersFC.com:

“We’ll see what happens,” Dempsey said.” I mean, in terms of what I’ve been able to accomplish with the national team, I’m at peace with it. It’s not really about me. It’s about a group of guys that want to be moving forward.

“If there’s an opportunity that comes where you get to play a role and try to help and I’m feeling good and I’m playing well, then yeah, you’ll never say no. But you know, if the call never comes I’m still happy, still at peace, and focused on being here and trying to make the most of the time I have left.”

There are a number of players whose national team futures should be in question, but Dempsey is in a different class. No one has debated his motor or fuel, and his engine is still there (to complete the Springsteen-esque car comparisons, he remains one of the only things that qualifiers as chrome-wheeled, fuel-injected, and steppin’ out over the line).

If anything, he plays too close to the edge. That’s not something I see as one of the Yanks’ problems right now, so perhaps Dempsey needs to be viewed like Cuauhtemoc Blanco or Carlos Ruiz as a CONCACAF guy who’s around as long as he wants to be a part of it.

I mean, shoot, if Dempsey wants to keep passing the fire to Christian Pulisic and now Weston McKennie, there are far worse ambassadors for the program. He’s the most accomplished field player in recent history, and will be able to share so much when it comes to balancing club and country.

Heck, maybe he needs to be the late era Ryan Giggs of the 2018-2022 USMNT.

Beckham reportedly wants Steve Bruce in Miami

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He’s got the same initials as South Beach, you know?

Steve Bruce is being tipped to be the first manager of David Beckham’s Miami MLS outfit, according to The Sun.

[ MORE: Saturday’s PL roundup ]

It’s going to be some time before Bruce would have the opportunity. The 56-year-old former Manchester United star has Aston Villa in a Football League Championship promotion push, and Miami does not even have a start date for life on an MLS pitch.

Of course, managerial life tends to be short, so there’s no guarantee Bruce will have a job at any point during the build-up to Miami in MLS. And several expansion clubs have named their coach very early in the team building process (Jason Kreis and Bob Bradley amongst others).

Bruce on MLS’ parity-driven playing field, if not as one of the big spenders, would be intriguing to watch. He’s a terrific man motivator and has the connections to combine with Beckham to make something special happen in terms of personnel.