The most memorable moments of the 2013-2014 Champions League

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On Saturday, Atlético Madrid and Real Madrid will face off in the first Champions League final to feature two teams from the same city. But before the excitement in Lisbon kicks off, let’s review some of the most memorable moments of the 2013-2014 UEFA Champions League tournament.

Zlatan Ibrahimović puts four past Anderlecht
Ibra’s not going to the World Cup, so the least we can do is talk up his genius here. The world was reminded of the wonder that is Zlatan on October 24, when PSG paid a visit to Anderlecht. Ibrahimović’s first was a simple tap in. Five minutes later, he followed it up with a fantastic backheel, completely confusing the Anderlecht defender attempting to take the ball off him. Next came a powerful, swerving shot to the top corner, completing his hat-trick within 18 minutes. Edinson Cavani scored a fourth for the visitors, but that only seemed to irritate Ibra, who followed up by nodding the ball to his feet, only to volley into the back of the net.

Watch. Just watch.

A heated finish in the Group of Death
Borussia Dortmund, Arsenal and Napoli were all drawn into the same group, along with Marseille. Going into the final game, the standings were such that it was impossible to determine who would move on to the knockout round. Napoli had the lowest chance: they needed to beat Arsenal, and hope that Marseille could salvage a point. And, up until the 85th minute, it looked like the partenopei were about to make their dreams come true. They were up 1-0, while Dortmund were even in France. Then Kevin Großkreutz scored. Napoli needed two goals to progress. They managed a second, but couldn’t find a third. With all teams finishing on 12 points, and even on head-t0-head, Dortmund’s and Arsenal’s superior goal differences sent Napoli into Europa League.

Martin Demichelis becomes a scapegoat
Manchester City just can’t catch a break in the Champions League, can they? Even on points with Bayern Munich in the group stage, they fell into the second slot, setting up a meeting with Barcelona. But this season’s Barcelona side showed certain signs of weakness, and it seemed as though City could make it through to the next round.

Then Martin Demichelis happened. The Argentine, whose signing only Manuel Pellegrini could understand, lunged in with a horrific late challenge on Lionel Messi. Out came the red card, in went Messi’s resulting strike. City went on to lose 2-0 at the Etihad, then 2-1 in Barcelona, ending their quest for the quadruple.

(READ MORE: ATLETICO, REAL TAKE THEIR DERBY TO LISBON)

Olympiakos make things interesting against Manchester United
By the time the knockout stages rolled around, United’s domestic campaign was already in tatters. They’d been knocked out of the Capital One Cup by Sunderland, out of the FA Cup by Swansea City. Last year’s title winners looked to have no hope at repeating the feat, or, in fact, even qualifying for the Champions League. Unless, of course, they won it all.

And when they got drawn against Olympiakos, the idea that United could turn things around and make a miraculous run for the Champions League trophy didn’t seem all that far-fetched. Except Manchester United were dreadful in Greece. Olympiakos won 2-0 and while United managed to come back to progress to the next round, they were easily defeated by Bayern Munich.

That goal from that man
Javier Pastore’s been eclipsed at PSG, but for a few minutes back in April, he was a hero. With 90 minutes played, the hosts were up 2-1, and Chelsea fans were feeling rather confident. After all, they’d be taking an away goal back to Stamford Bridge, and the Blues could easily overcome the goal disadvantage. Then came Pastore. Thrown on with just five minutes left, the attacker turned the Chelsea defense inside out, snaking through the blue shirts to dink in PSG’s third.

Of course, this subheading could also be applied to the second leg. Chelsea desperately needed a second goal, so José Mourinho put on…Demba Ba. He silenced his skeptics with a goal in the 87th minute, stretching out his leg to slot the ball home. The Blues were on to the next round.

Unbeaten Atlético hold fast to make the final
It’s not often a team makes it to the final without losing a match – points can be lost in the group stages, or a side can lose one leg of a knockout game, only to win decisively in the other. The last time it happened was in 2008, when Manchester United lifted the trophy in Moscow. Now, it’s Atléti’s turn to shine. The first leg of their semi-final against Chelsea finished in predictable fashion for two sides that really commit to defending: a goalless draw. But those expecting to see more of the same at Stamford Bridge were sorely disappointed (or perhaps thrilled). It was Fernando Torres that scored first, but Mourinho’s game plan fell to pieces once Adrián scored. Atlético put in two more in the second half, setting up this infamous Madrid Derby in Lisbon.

Real Madrid dismantles Bayern Munich
Many believed that los merengues could hang with Bayern Munich, but few thought they’d beat the Bavarians so decisively. Real had edged a 1-0 victory in Madrid, making the game at the Allianz anyone’s for the taking. And Sergio Ramos seized the moment. The defender had his side up 2-0 by the 20th minute, taking advantage of Bayern’s poor defending on set pieces. Then Cristiano Ronaldo scored in, bagging his own brace to give Real the 5-0 aggregate victory.

Suddenly, la decima was again within Real Madrid’s grasp. But they’ll have to get past their city rivals to grab their tenth European Cup…

The saga continues on Saturday.

UEFA says Europa League trophy not damaged after being stolen

Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images
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NYON, Switzerland (AP) UEFA says the Europa League trophy was not damaged after being stolen in Mexico.

The silverware was at a promotional event in the central city of Leon when it was reported by authorities to have been taken from a vehicle.

The theft came ahead of the semifinals of Europe’s second-tier club competition.

UEFA says the “Europa League trophy was in Mexico for a partner event and got briefly stolen. It was quickly recovered and has suffered no damages.”

In the semifinal first legs next week, Arsenal plays Atletico Madrid and Marseille takes on Salzburg.

Serie A: Roma prep for Liverpool by beating SPAL; Benevento win at Milan

Elisabetta Baracchi/ANSA via AP
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A roundup of all of Saturday’s action in Italy’s top flight…

[ MORE: Man United reach FA Cup final | Premier League preview ]

SPAL 2013 0-3 Roma

A few hours after a reserves-heavy Liverpool side played last-place West Bromwich Albion to a 2-2 draw in the Premier League, Roma, the Reds’ UEFA Champions League semifinal foes beginning Tuesday, hammered 17th-place SPAL on the back of goals scored by Radja Nainggolan and Patrik Schick.

Roma shocked the world — and Barcelona — to reach the semifinals, but still have a battle on their hands to finish inside Serie A’s top-four and qualify for next season’s Champions League. Following Saturday’s victory, Eusebio Di Francesco’s side is three and four points clear of fourth- and fifth-place Lazio and Inter Milan, respectively, though both of the chasing sides play on Sunday.

AC Milan 0-1 Benevento

The 2017-18 season has treated AC Milan, who spent massively last summer, far worse than Roma. Following Sunday’s home defeat to first-year top-flight (and last-place) side Benevento, Gennaro Gattuso’s side sits sixth (final automatic Europa League place) and lead seventh-place Atalanta, who play on Sunday, by just two points.

Pietro Iemmello scored the game’s only goal in the 29th minute.

Elsewhere in Serie A

Sassuolo 1-0 Fiorentina

Sunday’s Serie A schedule

Cagliari vs. Bologna — 6:30 a.m. ET
Lazio vs. Sampdoria — 9 a.m. ET
Chievo vs. Inter Milan — 9 a.m. ET
Atalanta vs. Torino — 9 a.m. ET
Udinese vs. Crotone — 9 a.m. ET
Juventus vs. Napoli — 2:45 p.m. ET

Barcelona cruise past Sevilla, lift historic 4th straight Copa del Rey

AP Photo/Francisco Seco
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MADRID (AP) Barcelona became the first team in 85 years to win four straight Copa del Rey titles after blowing away Sevilla 5-0 in the final on Saturday.

Luis Suarez scored twice, and Lionel Messi, Andres Iniesta, and Philippe Coutinho also made the scoresheet for Barcelona’s record-extending 30th Copa triumph, and sixth in the last decade.

Sevilla was trying to win a sixth Copa and save a season which will end without any trophies and maybe not even a place in the Europa League next season.

The final took place at Atletico Madrid’s Wanda Metropolitano Stadium in the capital amid the ongoing political turmoil involving Catalonia’s bid for independence.

There were jeers by part of the Barcelona crowd when the national anthem was played, but the boos were largely subdued by the reaction of the numerous Sevilla fans in the crowd. Spain’s King Felipe VI smiled and saluted the fans after the anthem.

No other team had won four Copa titles in a row since Athletic Bilbao from 1930-33. The only other team to do it was Real Madrid from 1905-08.

Barcelona lost a chance to win the treble when it was eliminated by Roma in the quarterfinals of the Champions League, but it is three points away from winning the Spanish league.

PL Sunday preview: Man City’s title trot; Wenger’s farewell tour

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Manchester City will play as the confirmed champions of the Premier League, though they won’t celebrate as such for a couple more weeks, on Sunday. Meanwhile, the only manager Arsenal have known for more than two decades begins saying goodbye

[ MORE: Man United come back to beat Spurs, reach FA Cup final ]

Arsenal vs. West Ham United — 8:30 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

So begins the Arsene Wenger farewell tour, and with a London derby at that. Wenger announced on Friday that he’ll leave Arsenal at the end of the current season, which has little to no chance of seeing the Gunners finish in the PL’s top-five, let alone the top-four. Sunday’s clash with West Ham will be the first of Wenger’s three remaining games at the Emirates Stadium, including the Europa League semifinal against Atletico Madrid on Thursday. Unfortunately for Wenger, three of his final five PL games (four of seven in all competitions) will be played away from home, where his side has lost five straight in league play.

Speaking of lost and wayward seasons, 14th-place West Ham are almost mathematically clear of relegation (there’s currently three places and six points between themselves and 18th-place Southampton). It’s hardly the future they imagined upon moving to the London Stadium at the start of last season. Andy Carroll scored the late equalizer in the Hammers’ 1-1 draw with Stoke City on Monday, which rescued perhaps a perfectly timed point with all five remaining games to be played against sides currently in the top-nine (Arsenal, Man City, Leicester, Man United and Everton).

INJURIES: Arsenal — OUT: Henrikh Mkhitaryan (knee), Santi Cazorla (achilles); QUESTIONABLE: Jack Wilshere (ankle) | West Ham — OUT: James Collins (hamstring), Sam Byram (ankle), Winston Reid (knee), Michail Antonio (hamstring), Pedro Obiang (knee)


Stoke City vs. Burnley — 8:30 a.m. ET, on NBC Sports Gold

Here’s what’s at stake at the bet365 Stadium on Sunday:

Stoke sit two places and five points adrift of safety from relegation, with four games left to play (17th-place Swansea City have a game in hand, to boot). After 10 seasons in the PL, it’s looking more and more likely that Paul Lambert (with a tip of the cap to Mark Hughes earlier in the season) will take the Potters back to the Championship for the first time since they won promotion in 2008.

Burnley trail Arsenal by just two points (though the Clarets have played one more game than the Gunners) in the race for sixth place. A sixth-place finish would be the club’s highest top-flight finish since 1966 (3rd).

INJURIES: Stoke — QUESTIONABLE: Eric-Maxim Choupo-Moting (groin) | Burnley — OUT: Steven Defour (knee), Scott Arfield (calf), Robbie Brady (knee), Jonathan Walters (fitness); QUESTIONABLE: Ben Mee (knock), Georges-Kevin Nkoudou (hamstring)


Manchester City vs. Swansea City — 11:30 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

While Man City won’t lift the PL trophy until their May 6 clash with Huddersfield Town, Sunday’s visit from Swansea will be Pep Guardiola‘s side’s first outing since clinching the title courtesy of Man United’s defeat to West Bromwich Albion last weekend. Guardiola’s focus has turned to breaking the all-time PL points record (95 — they currently have 87 with five games still to play).

“In the past, I won the league at Bayern and at Barca with five, six or seven games (left) but the next games were not good,” he said this week. “We have to think about how many points we can get, it can be a good argument. What we need to do is already done, the points record is not the most important thing, but maybe it can help us to be focused. It would be uncomfortable to finish in a bad way, there always has to be a target and maybe scoring the most goals and winning the most points will be a good focus.”

INJURIES: Man City — OUT: Sergio Aguero (knee), Benjamin Mendy (knee); QUESTIONABLE: John Stones (thigh) | Swansea — OUT: Wilfried Bony (knee), Leroy Fer (achilles), Renato Sanches (hamstring)