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Way early UEFA Champions League predictions

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Now that the UEFA Champions League has drawn its ties for the 2016-17 quarterfinal, who has the edge in each match-up.

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Barcelona vs. Juventus

Juventus has allowed just two goals in eight UCL matches this year, an even better mark than its sparkling 19 goals conceded in 28 Serie A matches.

Barcelona is surely going to test that number, likely to find a way to at least double Juve’s European concession.

Yet the Old Lady will have a chance to flex its offensive prowess through Gonzalo Higuain, Paulo Dybala, and Miralem Pjanic. With Sami Khedira posted atop a sterling back line, Juve has the recipe to hold off Barca.

The Blaugranas, however, have Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez, and Neymar and an incisive pair of midfield metronomes in Andres Iniesta and Ivan Rakitic.

Prediction: Barca, 3-2.

Monaco vs. Borussia Dortmund

What’s the over/under for goals on this one? 8? 10? More?

Monaco brings its high-flying attack and BVB replies with… its high-flying attack. For every argument one side would like to make, there’s an answer on the other side.

The prowess of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, one of the top strikers in the world? Meet a trio of very different attackers in resurgent Radamel Falcao, young Kylian Mbappe, and under-the-radar vice captain Valere Germain.

The difference as we see it will be how Monaco’s marauding wing backs/fullbacks Benjamin Mendy and Djibil Sidibe operate given the threats provided to their defensive positions by Christian Pulisic, Ousmane Dembele, and Marco Reus.

Prediction: Monaco, 7-5.

Leicester City vs. Atletico Madrid

Pontus Kaamark of Leicester City (lef) takes on Juninho of Atletico Madrid during the 1997 UEFA Cup (Graham Chadwick /Allsport).

Both sides probably fit quite neatly into their respective leagues’ “Never rule out” category, for different reasons.

With Leicester, it’s a club which has achieved the unthinkable: Defeating all comers in what was probably the most surprising championship of all-time.

In terms of Atletico, there’s a defensive wizard in Diego Simeone who has twice been to the precipice of Champions League glory despite finishing better than third in La Liga exactly once this century.

We imagine Leicester will find a way through the Atleti back line at least once, but Antoine Griezmann and company represent a step up in class from Sevilla (Yes we realize Sevilla has a five-point table edge on Atleti).

Prediction: Atletico, 4-1.

Real Madrid vs. Bayern Munich

Carlo Ancelotti has Bayern Munich on the verge of its fourth-straight semifinal, with a club that controversially dismissed him standing in the way.

That club also is the most successful side in European Cup history, even if the first six of their 11 titles came when the tournament was limited to one club per league.

Tactically, it’s very difficult to imagine where the advantage lies for these super powers. There are even unique emotional “advantages” on both sides, with Real’s Gareth Bale aiming to play a final in his home country of Wales and Bayern looking to buoy both Ancelotti and the final season for hero Philipp Lahm.

Your guess is as good as ours, but we’re going with Ancelotti’s bunch… on a hunch.

Prediction: Bayern, 4-2.

Bonus: Onwards

Semifinals
Bayern Munich defeats Atletico Madrid
Barcelona tops Monaco

Final
Bayern Munich outlasts Barcelona

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.

Everton announce lifetime ban for fan involved in altercation with Lyon player

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On a night when UEFA unveiled a new campaign for respect, there wasn’t enough of it shown both on and off the field.

Everton has followed up on UEFA opening up disciplinary proceedings against them by banning a fan from Everton matches after the fan was seen to punch at an Olympique Lyon player in the second half of Lyon’s 2-1 win at Goodison Park.

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“Club Officials have reviewed the footage of an incident that occurred in the 64th minute of the game against Olympique Lyonnais where supporters towards the front of the lower Gwladys Street End became involved in a confrontation between players,” Everton said in a statement. “We have identified one individual whom action will now be taken against. This will include a ban from attending future Everton fixtures and the Club registering a formal complaint with Merseyside Police.”

The video below shows a fan – amazingly, holding onto a small boy in one arm – throwing some punches at Lyon players after a fracas on the field.

The punch and ban is yet another dark moment for Everton, which has just one point from its first three Europa League matches and sits in 16th place in the Premier League with eight points from eight games.