Rodríguez looks to Spain in lieu of “physical” Premier League

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James Rodríguez may have his long-term sights set on Real Madrid, but in the wake of a World Cup performance that has the 22-year-old on track for the Golden Ball, a number of options are sure to open up for one of Brazil 2014’s top performers. Though Monaco paid a premium to get the Colombian from Porto a year ago (just under $60 million), France’s runners-up could be in a position to reap a surprisingly quick profit on their investment after the festivities in Brazil are done.

Premier League teams looking to drive the biding may be left disappointed, though. According to the Colombian star, a move to England wouldn’t make sense, at this point in his career. Whereas the technical quality and time on the ball you see in Spain’s Primera Division suits his game, the physicality of England’s top-level doesn’t.

From Rodríguez, via reporting by The Guardian:

“I’ve said in the past that I’d like to play in Spain one day, because it is a league that is good technically, and where you get a lot of touches on the ball, which is my style,” he said. “The Premier League is maybe a bit physical at this stage. But I am a Monaco player and I’m not thinking about anything like that at the moment. I am now just concentrating on Brazil, which is going to be a wonderful experience for us.”

If Premier League teams are out, that really only leaves two possible destinations for Rodríguez – two clubs that can afford to give Monaco a decent return while staying within the guidelines of UEFA’s Financial Fair Play (sorry, Paris Saint-Germain). Bayern Munich can afford to pay a huge transfer fee, but they’ve typically been less audacious with their biggest purchases (think Mario Gomez, Javi Martínez). If you throw out England’s big spenders, Spain’s big two are the only logical destinations for Rodríguez.

All of which brings us back to Real Madrid. Though it would be dazzling to see Rodríguez play within Barcelona’s scheme, it James may just be a Real Madrid guy. For a lot of players, you’re either one or the other. Besides, it’s not like the Merengues play anything close to boring soccer.

Regardless, a move’s unlikely to happen this year. Barcelona may be spending big elsewhere. Real Madrid may have other players on their mind, too. A sale or two, and Real and Barça could have more flexibility, but given FFP restrictions, it may take another year before Spain’s big two can carve out room for Rodríguez.

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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EFL Cup Rewind: 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.

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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