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UEFA Champions League Roundup: Arsenal held; Athletic takes 1-1 draw out of Naples

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Playing in Istanbul is never easy, part of the reason Arsène Wenger may take solace in his team’s result, but when Besiktas’s Demba Ba gave Arsenal scares at the beginning and end of the first half, a harsher reality set in for the talented Gunners: Tuesday’s game, the first of their two-legged, Champions League playoff, had to be able survival.

Limited to three shots on target, and out-shot 14-10 overall, Arsenal managed to survive, with the Gunners’ best chance coming through Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain in the 89th minute. Thanks to a save from Tolga Zengin (and some help from the post), the teams ended their first leg 0-0, leaving the sides as they started when they resume next week at the Emirates.

That’s not to say nothing’s changed. With two yellow cards, Aaron Ramsey earned himself a one game ban, with Slaven Bilic potentially joining him in the stands next Wednesday. The Beskitas head coach was sent from his bench late at Vodafone Arena, with the nature of the dismissal set to dictate whether the former Croatia boss will be on the sidelines in North London.

Whether he will or not, Bilic has to relish his team’s position. While it would have been ideal to see Ba convert one of his chances, Besiktas is still in a position to take advantage of the away goals rule. Though they’ll be heavy underdogs, a score draw next week will send Turkey’s third place finishers into the group stage.

Napoli 1-1 Athletic

Iker Munain’s goal just before half time sent Los Leones into halftime up one, with a Napoli team that held 56 percent possession throughout the opening leg spending the rest of the night in pursuit. In the 68th minute, that pursuit came good, with Gonzalo Higuaín pulling Rafa Benítez’s team even, but leaving the San Paulo on even footing, Napoli must now overcome an away goal at an Athletic side that’s never lost at home against Italian opposition.

Red Bull Salzburg 2-1 Malmö

A match dominated by Salzburg tuned sour after miscommunication at the back in the 90th minute allowed a looping ball for Emil Forsberg to give the Swedes a crucial away goal. Though Salzburg ended the night with 27 shots while holding 57 percent of the ball, goals from Franz Schiemer and Jonatan Soriano could only craft a tenuous lead. The Austrians will go north knowing a 1-0 loss will send them to Europa.

Steaua Bucharest 1-0 Ludogorets

A game of few chances saw the Romanians salvage their home leg in the 88th minute when Alexandru Chipciu, who had missed a spot kick earlier, scored from close range. The goal also made up for the yellow card the forward drew in the first half, a booking that will keep him out of the second leg in Bulgaria.

Copenhagen 2-3 Bayer Leverkusen

A 5th goal from Stefan Kießling drew a quick response from the Danes, who converted on set pieces in the ninth (Zanka) and 13th (Daniel Amartey) minutes. Finishing an explosive first half, Bayer got goals from Karim Bellarabi and Heung-Min Son, allowing the visitors to take a one-goal lead into intermission. With neither team proving as clinical in the second half, the Germans take that edge back the BayArena, with Stale Solbakken’s team given the unenviable test of overcoming a one-goal deficit and three away goals.

Transfer rumor roundup: Icardi’s Italian stay, Atleti still seek Costa

MILAN, ITALY - MAY 07:  Mauro Icardi (L) of FC Internazionale Milano celebrates after scoring the opening goal with team mate Stevan Jovetic during the Serie A match between FC Internazionale Milano and Empoli FC  at Stadio Giuseppe Meazza on May 7, 2016 in Milan, Italy.  (Photo by Valerio Pennicino/Getty Images)
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Gonzalo Higuain and Mauro Icardi both spent some time as potential Arsenal players in the summer rumor mills, but will the former’s move to Juventus keep the latter from the Emirates Stadium?

As we wait for official confirmation that Juventus has purchased Higuain from Napoli for $103 million, it seems Napoli is aiming to replace him with Icardi. Football Italia says Inter has rejected an offer of $22 million plus Manolo Gabbiadini that would send Icardi to Naples.

[ MORE: Messi back, blonde at Barca ]

Gabbiadini has 20 goals in 60 matches for Napoli, but Icardi is among the hottest properties in the world. The 23-year-old Argentine is signed through 2019, and the fee is obviously going to be quite high, but Napoli is ready to spend money that others may not.


Many players have been rumored for the “fourth chair” behind Lionel Messi, Neymar, and Luis Suarez in the Barcelona attack orchestra, but could the issue be settled with a reserve from Atletico Madrid?

Luciano Vietto, 22, is being linked with a $24 million move from the Vicente Calderon to the Camp Nou. AS says personal terms are the only obstacle remaining, and Vietto would have a lot to prove in Barcelona. After belting 20 goals for Valencia in 2014-15, Vietto found the net just thrice in 28 matches last season.


Atleti could use that money, according to Marca, as Diego Simeone’s bunch reportedly believes it can pry Diego Costa from Chelsea. The Brazilian-born Spanish international has massive success at Atleti before moving to North London, and Simeone has not quit on the idea of bringing him back “home”.


Also, we’re just going to leave this right here, with the lone add-on that Aaron Schoenfeld is tearing it up for Maccabi’s rival.

Messi returns ahead of schedule, sporting golden hair (photo)

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - JUNE 26: Lionel Messi #10 of Argentina looks on against Chile during the Copa America Centenario Championship match at MetLife Stadium on June 26, 2016 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. Chile defeated Argentina 4-2 in penalty kicks. (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)
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Lionel Messi is back with Barcelona a week earlier than expected, as the Camp Nou set prepares to defend another La Liga title.

That means Messi will be on the roster for the International Champions Cup, as Barcelona is slated to play Celtic, Leicester City, and Liverpool.

[ MORE: Manchester Derby in China on Monday ]

That’s not the only surprise from the 29-year-old, who has pulled an Aaron Ramsey and dramatically altered his ‘do.

Glad to have him back on our screens a bit earlier than planned, and — although I’m far from a style icon — I’ll be just as glad when the blonde grows/washes out of his head.

Ronaldo seeking new contract, says he’ll miss UEFA Super Cup

FUNCHAL, MADEIRA, PORTUGAL - JULY 22: Dionisio Pestana, Cristiano Ronaldo and Miguel Albuquerque (President of the Regional Government of Madeira) during the opening of the new 'Pestana CR7 Funchal' Hotel owned by Cristiano Ronaldo on July 22, 2016 in Funchal, Madeira, Portugal. (Photo by Octavio Passos/Getty Images)
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Cristiano Ronaldo’s long summer has earned him an extended vacation, but the knee injury he suffered in the EURO 2016 Final would’ve kept him from this season’s first big club match anyway.

The 31-year-old star will not be available for the Aug. 9 UEFA Super Cup match between Real Madrid and Sevilla, saying he’ll be back in the mix just one day later.

[ MORE: Discussing Yedlin’s future ]

Ronaldo also said he’s going to speak with the club about extending his contract, which runs through the 2017-18 season. He’s very been vocal about his desire to finish his career at the Bernabeu, and will put pen to paper in order to prove it.

From Sky Sports:

“I spoke to the president on the phone and when I get to Madrid, we will talk about it.

“Obviously it’s something I want, I have mentioned it many times, and the club also wants it. But we only spoke briefly, and there will be more concrete things to come.”

No surprises here, though it would’ve been nice to have Ronaldo on our screens for the match-up between his Champions League winners and the Europa League champions.

Guardiola, Mourinho prepare for derby in China, shake off personal rivalry

MADRID, SPAIN - APRIL 16: Barcelona manager (L) Josep Guardiola shakes hands with head coach Jose Mourinho of Real Madrid before the start of the La Liga match between Real Madrid and Barcelona at Estadio Santiago Bernabeu on April 16, 2011 in Madrid, Spain.  (Photo by Denis Doyle/Getty Images)
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Preseason matches rarely have legitimate hype, let alone live up to it.

Yet Monday will see Manchester United and Manchester City tangle outside of England for the first time in history, and there are a lot of fans looking forward to the early morning match in China.

[ MORE: Discussing Yedlin’s future ]

A lot of that has to do with it being the first match-up between Pep Guardiola and Jose Mourinho as bosses of City and United, to the extent where journalists asked whether the longtime rivals would shake hands (admittedly a weird question, as if to say, “Are you a grown-up?”).

They essentially issued the same answer, and here are Mourinho’s comments, from ManUtd.com:

“Of course I will shake his hand – why wouldn’t I? I don’t understand the question to him or to me. We were opponents for three years [in Spain] but we are professionals. I don’t see why I wouldn’t shake his hand.”

Both managers also talked, understandably, about fitness and health being their No. 1 goal of the match, and there are concerns about the pitch in China due to heavy rains.

Guardiola also gave insight into Vincent Kompany‘s continued struggles with recovery from the injury that hampered him for much of last season, refusing to give a timetable for the captain’s return.