Photo by Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images

UCL Tuesday preview: PSG hosts MSN, Pulisic to Portugal

Leave a comment

The UEFA Champions League’s Round of 16 takes its first steps on Tuesday in Paris and Lisbon, with two big name group winners on the road.

Christian Pulisic and Borussia Dortmund are in Portugal to face Benfica at the Estadio da Luz, which is rarely kind to visitors, while the power trio of Messi, Suarez, and Neymar will hit the Parc des Princes to dance with Paris Saint-Germain.

[ RECAP: Bournemouth 0-2 Man City ]

The second legs will both be held on Wednesday, March 8.

Benfica vs. Borussia Dortmund

How they got here: Benfica finished second to Napoli in Group B, and Dortmund edged Real Madrid for the Group F crown.

History: Last met in 1963, when BVB won over two legs in the European Cup. Benfica won the home leg 2-1, so history is on their side (This is a joke).

The plot: Thomas Tuchel’s side has disappointed in the Bundesliga, but BVB has shone brightly in the UCL. He’ll be favored to lead the club past Benfica, though the Águias are anything but a pushover.

The subplot: Globally? Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s chances of sticking around BVB will improve if he can accomplish his UCL goals. Locally? USMNT hotshot Christian Pulisic gets his latest chance to shine on the global stage. The 18-year-old has two assists in six UCL matches this season.


BARCELONA, SPAIN - APRIL 21: Neymar of Barcelona takes on Marco Verratti of PSG during the UEFA Champions League Quarter Final second leg match between FC Barcelona and Paris Saint-Germain at Camp Nou on April 21, 2015 in Barcelona, Spain. (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)
(Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)

Paris Saint-Germain vs. Barcelona

How they got here: PSG finishes second in Group A, behind Arsenal, while Barcelona won a tricky Group C with Manchester City, Borussia Monchengladbach, and Celtic.

History: These giants have met up in two recent editions of the UEFA Champions League. Barcelona eliminated PSG on road goals in 2012-13, while Barcelona won three of four when the sides met in the group stage and knockout rounds of the 2014-15 tournament.

The plot: Unai Emery has a major test in old La Liga nemesis Barcelona. The PSG manager was hired by Sevilla for his tournament successes in the Europa League, but the departure of Zlatan Ibrahimovic has the French giants in Ligue 1’s second place and that puts a bit more pressure on getting past Barcelona.

Speaking of Barca, the Spanish champions have played two more matches but are still a point back of Real Madrid for the La Liga lead. Pressure on both sides of this tie.

The subplot: Uruguay superstars Edinson Cavani (PSG) and Luis Suarez (Barca) pose problems for defenses, and only one can head to the quarterfinals.

Honduras holds Costa Rica 1-1

AP Photo/Moises Castillo
Leave a comment

Honduras did the United States a favor by taking a point from visiting Costa Rica in Tuesday’s CONCACAF World Cup qualifier in San Pedro Sula.

Anthony Lozano pushed a 35th minute chance past an indecisive Keylor Navas, as Los Catrachos set the stage for a hopeful three points.

[ STREAM: T&T-Mexico, Panama-USMNT ]

Vancouver Whitecaps center back Kendall Waston’s haphazard defending helped allow the goal, but he scored off a late Costa Rica corner kick to ensure Costa Rica will finish the international break in second place.

With four points, Honduras moves ahead of Trinidad and Tobago and the United States before both sides play Tuesday.

Costa Rica beat the U.S. 4-0 in 2016, while the Yanks battered Honduras 6-0 on Friday.

WATCH: Video Assistant calls back Griezmann goal

Leave a comment

France and Spain used the Video Assistant Referee program on Tuesday in a friendly, and the French likely rue that decision.

Antoine Griezmann had an incorrectly allowed goal reverse for offside, while Gerard Deulofeu saw an initially ruled offside goal allowed upon review in Spain’s 2-0 win over France.

[ MORE: Bolivia stuns Messi-less Argentina ]

Here’s an example, as Griezmann’s barely offside goal was overturned in less than a minute (Both calls took less than a minute to decide):

At the risk of sounding like a caveman, I really don’t like these razor thin offside calls being subject to review.

When you consider the improbability of timing the moment of contact with the ball — how many times have you seen a freeze frame conveniently used to make a case? — it just seems to mess with the spirit of sport.

What do you think?

Bolivia stuns Messi-less Argentina in World Cup qualifying

AP Photo/Victor R. Caivano
Leave a comment

Argentina took steps backward Tuesday in its pursuit of a 2018 World Cup berth, on and off the field.

It started as Lionel Messi was suspended four matches for verbally abusing a referee in Argentina’s Friday win over Chile.

Then La Albiceleste made another move in reverse with a shocking 2-0 loss to Bolivia in La Paz. Argentina started Sergio Aguero, Paulo Dybala, and Ezequiel Lavezzi on the bench in what many presumed to be an easy win.

[ MORE: Three keys for USA v Panama ] 

Juan Carlos Arce and Marcelo Martins scored as ninth-place La Verde picked up its third win of qualifying with a win over powerful Argentina.

The bad news kept coming for Argentina (and Everton), as Ramiro Funes Mori left the match in the 36th minute with injury.

Bolivia will finish the international break at least 10 points back of the playoff spot, while Argentina could finish as low as that fifth-place spot.

STREAM: CONCACAF tripleheader concludes with USMNT

AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell
Leave a comment

CONCACAF’s bottom three sides in the Hex standings look to make the table incredibly tight as World Cup qualifying finds three-straight matches on the docket beginning at 5 p.m. EDT.

Honduras vs. Costa Rica

Los Catrachos were creamed 6-0 by the U.S. on Friday, and return home hoping a wounded Costa Rica remains vulnerable. Honduras is dead last on goal differential, but three points would be huge and put them level with Los Ticos. Costa Rica won its first two matches before falling to Mexico on Friday.

Trinidad and Tobago vs. Mexico

El Tri has two wins and a draw from their first three Hex matches, and will be without Rafa Marquez on Tuesday. A win guarantees Mexico the top spot heading into the next round of matches in June. The Soca Warriors surprised some with their 1-0 win over visiting Panama on Tuesday. Mexico is a different class.

Panama vs. USMNT

Despite its miserable start, the U.S. can find itself as high as second with a win and help from Honduras. The injuries remain plenty for the Yanks, who are without Fabian Johnson, Bobby Wood, Sebastian Lletget, and John Brooks. Panama has allowed just a single goal through three Hex matches, but also has only managed one.