World Cup Preview Group C: Colombia favorites while Cote d’Ivoire, Greece, Japan go for second

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Group C may be the easiest at the 2014 World Cup. Its seeded team is unproven. There is no second power. The group’s European team is one of the weakest UEFA has sent to Brazil. While the group features four quality teams, nations like the United States and the Netherlands would be rightfully envious of Japan and Greece’s draws.

The upshot is a competitive group that provides a wide range of potentials, styles, experience, and stars, and with three teams taking suspected back lines into the tournament, we’ll likely see goals. Combine that with a parity among the group’s bottom three, and you have a prescription for drama.

Here’s a quick look at Group C, which begins play on June 14 (click on country name for full preview)

Colombia: Even without the injured Radamel Falcao, the cafeteros are the group’s best team. James Rodríguez and Teófilo Gutiérrez will still be dangerous going forward, while Fredy Guarin will provide quality in the middle. Defense is a question mark, but this group may prove forgiving.

Greece: For better or worse, the 2004 European Champions will play to type. Solid at the back, Greece will rely on the opportunities opponents give them going forward. It may sound like a limited plan, but it’s one that got them out of their group at Euro 2012.

Cote d’Ivoire: The big names in attack are enticing, but the back five is worrisome. With Yaya Touré, Salomon Kalou, Gervinho, Wilfried Bony and Didier Drogba, Les Elephants have more name talents than they can start in attack, but the midfield will have to be strong to prevent the back line from being exploited.

Japan: Goal scoring is an issue, and the lact of quality at the back could prevent the Asian champions from making another knockout round. Through the middle, however, Japan is the best team in this group. With three games in 11 days, their fitness and style could also prove advantageous.

Who’s going through: Colombia and one of Japan or Cote d’Ivoire. In this space, we’ll go with Japan, thinking they’re likely to control the ball in that head-to-head matchup on June 14.

Who’s going home: Greece and Cote d’Ivoire, but each team is capable of going through. Given the defenses Greece will face in this group, Fernando Santos’s side will get their chances. If Cote d’Ivoire’s fitness holds up, their defense may not get exploited.

Marquee match: That Japan-Cote d’Ivoire match on June 14 will be the group’s most important. A winner in Recife will be able to tolerate, if not straight out play for, draws against Colombia and Greece. A loser may need to win their last two.

Top players to watch:

5. Shinji Kagawa, Japan

4. James Rodriguez, Colombia

3. Keisuke Honda, Japan

2. Didier Drogba, Cote d’Ivoire

1. Yaya Toure, Cote d’Ivoire

Europa League Preview: Everton, Milan look to make group stage

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Everton look to make it back into the Europa League group stage for the first time since the 2014-2015 season and it has a two-goal advantage heading into the second leg of its tie.

Ronald Koeman and co. travel to Croatia to face Hadjuk Split Thursday having won the first leg at Goodison Park, 2-0. Everton is coming off a hard-fought draw on Monday with Manchester City and will be on short rest heading into the match.

Elsewhere in Europa League action, AC Milan take its 6-0 aggregate lead to Skopje, Macedonia as the legendary club looks to return to the group stage of a European competition for the first time since 2013-2014.

Here’s a look at all of Thursday’s Europa League matches, with the current aggregate scores:

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League Cup wrap: Southampton, Newcastle knocked out by Championship sides

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Last season, Southampton made it to the EFL Cup final. This year, it’s a different story.

The Saints were bounced by Wolverhampton Wanderers, 2-0 at home on Wednesday in the second round of the cup. Joining Southampton of Premier League sides going home early was Newcastle, which lost 3-2 after extra time at home against Nottingham Forest.

Four other Premier League sides did advance to the third round, as Stoke City, Huddersfield Town, West Ham United and Burnley all won their fixtures.

Here’s a look at the rest of Wednesday’s EFL Cup action:

Blackburn 0-2 Burnley

Cheltenham 0-2 West Ham

Huddersfield 2-1 Rotherham

Newcastle 2-3 Nottingham Forest

Southampton 0-2 Wolverhampton

Stoke City 4-0 Rochdale

Breaking down who each Premier League team could face in the UCL Group Stage

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The UEFA Champions League group stage lineup is complete, with five Premier League clubs making the list.

On Wednesday, Liverpool joined Chelsea, Tottenham, Manchester City and Manchester United in the group stage after beating Hoffenheim, 6-3 on aggregate in the playoff qualification round.

Thursday’s Champions League draw (2 p.m. ET) will place clubs into groups of four, where they’ll play three matches at home and away.

Here’s a look at the four coefficient pots and who each Premier League club could face:

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Follow Live – Texas Derby, Cascadia Cup headline busy night of MLS action

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Welcome to MLS Rivalry Week.

The surging Houston Dynamo could move to first place in the Western Conference with a win over rivals FC Dallas while the current first-place side, the Seattle Sounders travel north and across the border to face Vancouver Whitecaps FC.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverage ]

The Dynamo have made an impressive turnaround under coach Wilmer Cabrera and he’ll have the trio of Ricardo Clark, Alberth Elis and star forward Erick Torres available to face Dallas after missing the Dynamo’s match at Vancouver last weekend, which ended 2-1 in favor of the Whitecaps.

FC Dallas are in its worst form of the season, winless in its last four games, but the team will be extra motivated to beat its rivals.

El Capitan is on the line after draws between FC Dallas and the Dynamo in two matches earlier this season.

Meanwhile up in Vancouver, the Whitecaps host a Sounders squad that pulled out a last-gasp victory last weekend over Minnesota United. While the team is in great form on the road recently (two wins and two draws), the top story heading into the game is the unexpected absence of Joevin Jones, who left the Sounders for his home in Trinidad and Tobago ahead of the upcoming international break.

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On the other side, Fredy Montero faces his former club and carries an interesting record into Wednesday’s match. Of his 35 MLS goals, 11 have been scored against Cascadia Cup competition.

Here’s a look at Wednesday’s action:

Full schedule

Columbus Crew vs. LA Galaxy – 7:30 p.m. ET

D.C. United vs. Atlanta United – 7:30 p.m.ET

FC Dallas vs. Houston Dynamo – 8 p.m. ET

Toronto FC vs. Philadelphia Union – 8 p.m. ET

Real Salt Lake vs. San Jose Earthquakes – 10 p.m. ET

Vancouver Whitecaps vs. Seattle Sounders – 10 p.m. ET

Portland Timbers vs. Colorado Rapids – 10:30 p.m. ET