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Pogba vs. Pogba and other subplots of PL teams in Europe

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Paul Pogba could face his older brother when the UEFA Europa League begins its Round of 32 on Feb. 16.

That’s one of many subplots, including a chorus of “Give us a break!” from Arsenal supporters, as five Premier League teams are alive in European competition.

[ MORE: Full UCL draw | Europa draw ]

Arsenal

Well, darn. That has to be the take from Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger, who has rightly lauded his team’s performance and chances in the UCL this season.

Last season it was Barcelona. Prior to that? Monaco, Bayern again, Bayern a third time, AC Milan, Barcelona. The last time the Gunners won a round in the UCL was the 2009-10 tourney, when they blasted Porto before falling to Barcelona.

Arsenal split with Bayern in last season’s group stage, winning 2-0 at home and losing 5-1 at Allianz Arena.

Manchester City

Given that unseeded City could’ve faced Atletico Madrid, Borussia Dortmund, or Juventus, Pep Guardiola will likely be okay with Monaco.

After a disappointing season in the Europa League last season, Monaco will hope to repeat 2014-15’s feat of knocking off a Premier League side in the Round of 16 (Arsenal). Les Rouges et Blancs then took Juventus to the limit over two legs, with just one goal scored between the sides.

Despite hamstring and head injuries, Radamel Falcao has been humming for Monaco. The same Colombian striker who managed very little production for Chelsea and Manchester City has netted 14 times in 16 matches this season.

Leicester City

Nasri has three goals for Sevilla (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images).

The Foxes get tournament-tested Sevilla, although Europa League threepeat mastermind Unai Emery is now with Paris Saint-Germain.

There are a lot of familiar names in the Sevilla side, with Samir Nasri, Steven N’Zonzi, Mariano, and Vitolo.

Still, with names of its own in Riyad Mahrez, Islam Slimani, and Jamie Vardy, Leicester has a decent shot to break down the Spanish challenge. And the duo of Wes Morgan and Robert Huth has broken down 1-forward formations a time or two.

Tottenham Hotspur

Spurs will like their chances of heading to the next round, with current Belgian fifth place side Gent.

De Buffalo’s did advance to the UEFA Champions League Round of 16 last season, finishing ahead of Valencia and Lyon before bowing out to Wolfsburg.

Florida-born winger Kenny Saief is one of Gent’s best threats, the Israeli national team man nabbing five goals and three assists this season.

Manchester United

Jose Mourinho’s men have a fairly simple path to the next round of European competition, duking it out with offensively-challenged Ligue 1 side Saint-Etienne.

While ASSE is led by a clever boss in Christophe Galtier, the side is eighth in France and has trouble manufacturing goals (17 in 17 domestically; 11 in 10 in Europe). Their leading scorer in France, Robert Beric, has a grand total of three goals.

A fun subplot sees United midfielder Paul Pogba potentially going head-to-head, literally, with his older brother: ASSE centerback Florentin Pogba. Florentin hasn’t been a fixture in Ligue 1, but went 90 minutes in five of six UEL group stage matches.

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Premier League Preview: Chelsea vs. Watford

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  • Chelsea are without N'Golo Kante, Victor Moses (both hamstring) and Danny Drinkwater (calf) is still absent.
  • Watford remain without Younes Kaboul and Sebastian Prodl (both thigh), plus long-term absentees Craig Cathcart, Nathaniel Chalobah and Isaac Success (all knee).
  • Watford have not won against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge since 1986, but the Hornets have won 10 points of a possible 12 on the road. 
  • Chelsea have lost three of their first eight matches this season. No team has ever lost this many of their opening eight matches and still won the Premier League title.

Watford heads south for another London derby with Chelsea at Stamford Bridge on Saturday at 7:30 a.m. (Watch live on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

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The Hornets have had an amazing start to the season and currently occupy fourth place on 15 points, two points ahead of fifth-place Chelsea, which has lost two-straight Premier League games. The Blues have struggled without N’Golo Kante and Alvaro Morata and there have been reports of grumbles from the squad about dissatisfaction with Antonio Conte‘s training methods, but the Chelsea coach has brushed those rumors off.

Meanwhile Watford is coming off a confidence-boosting win last weekend against fellow Londoners Arsenal, and the club is looking to take down another big club for a second-straight week.

What they’re saying

Watford manager Marco Silva on his team’s start“I want everybody to be really calm. We did really in the first eight matches but it’s too early. We want to continue to work hard every day. Everything changes fast and you need to keep going and treat the next game as the most important. But of course I feel proud.”

Chelsea manager Antonio Conte on being under pressure: “‘Do I feel the pressure? Every manager feels pressure, but I try to give all of myself into my job, so I’m happy when I go home because I know in every moment I give all of myself for the fans, the players and the club. In football you know anything can happen, but the most important thing is to work.”

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Prediction

Chelsea has its back against the wall but the team’s overall quality should be enough to see them through with all three points against Watford. The Hornets luck runs out in Stamford Bridge as Chelsea hold on for a late win. Chelsea 2-1 Watford

Leicester City record massive earnings from UEFA Champions League

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Leicester City’s UEFA Champions League campaign may have ended without a trophy, but the Premier League side pipped the European champions in the bank account.

UEFA announced on Friday that Leicester City earned $96,167,125 during the Champions League run that ended in the quarterfinals, the farthest of any Premier League club. Real Madrid, the back-to-back champions, earned a slightly less $95,385,679. Much of the difference comes from TV rights deals in England, which pays out more to teams compared to the TV rights deal in Spain.

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Juventus, the Italian giant, earned the most of any club in last year’s Champions League, making a whopping $129,965,357, mostly thanks to the TV rights again.

Mourinho: Ibrahimovic could return in December

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Dare to Zlatan? It could be only a couple of months away.

That’s according to Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho, who said the veteran striker could return from his torn ACL before the end of the calendar year.

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“Zlatan is here, he’s working here and under our control,” Mourinho told reporters. “He’s working as you would expect so, so, so hard. But he’s not to be back in the next week or next couple of weeks. Do I believe he’ll be back in 2017? Yes, I do. But it’s just a feeling.”

The big Swede scored 28 goals for Man United last year in all competitions, proving that he’s still got it at the age of 36, but it’s going to be tough for him to find his old form coming off an ACL injury at such an old age. After suffering the injury last April, it’s been a long road to recovery for Ibrahimovic.

However, with the play of Romelu Lukaku up top, Ibrahimovic would only play from time to time, which could help in his recovery both from the knee injury and just the general recovery between games.

Manchester City quartet called up by Brazil for friendlies

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Brazilian National Team coach Tite has decided on calling up a full-strength squad for November’s upcoming friendly matches in Europe, including four Manchester City players in his 25-man squad.

Gabriel Jesus, Fernandinho, Danilo and Ederson all made the squad as Tite looks to develop more chemistry among his side ahead of the 2018 World Cup, which Brazil breezed into after Tite took over in 2016.

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Luckily for Manchester City and the other European-based players in the squad, Brazil’s friendly matches will be played in Western Europe. The Selecao first faces Japan in Lille, France on November 10 before taking on England at Wembley Stadium on November 14.

The call-ups may be a tough pill for Guardiola to swallow though. As of Friday, Manchester City has 17 games remaining in the calendar year, and surely he would prefer for some of his starters to get a two-week break in November to preserve some energy instead of play in friendly matches.