Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)

Europa League preview: Man Utd away to Anderlecht in QF leg 1

Leave a comment

The UEFA Cup and Europa League trophies have virtually taken up permanent residence in Spain for the past 13 years.

It’s down to Celta Vigo to continue the tradition.

The side from the northwest corner of Spain is the country’s only representative in the Europa League quarterfinals, which start Thursday.

Celta has matched its best ever run in European competition, repeating its exploits from 2001 when a team containing Alexander Mostovoi, Valeri Karpin and Gustavo Lopez lost to Barcelona in the UEFA Cup quarterfinals. To go one better, Celta must beat Genk – one of two Belgian clubs to get this far.

Since the 2003-04 season, Spain has won Europe’s second-tier competition eight times: Valencia (UEFA Cup in 2004), Sevilla (UEFA Cup in 2006 and ’07, Europa League in 2014, ’15 and ’16) and Atletico Madrid (Europa League in 2010 and ’12).

Celta has never won a major trophy in its 94-year history.


Here’s a look at the quarterfinals:

The Europa League has taken on increased importance to Manchester United because the English team is struggling to qualify for the Champions League via a top-four finish in the Premier League.

So expect Man United manager Jose Mourinho to field a full-strength lineup including Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Paul Pogba, even though a big league game against Chelsea is looming large on Sunday.

Wayne Rooney didn’t travel with the squad, with Mourinho saying Wednesday that the striker “has bad feelings with his ankle” and wasn’t happy with his condition. Rooney has featured once in seven games since early March, and that was as a late substitute.

United — a three-time European champion — has never won the UEFA Cup-Europa League, unlike Anderlecht, the 1983 champion. The Belgian team was also runner-up in 1984 but hasn’t been beyond the quarterfinals since then.


Ajax coach Peter Bosz looks to have an enviable problem on his hands ahead of the match between two former winners of the competition: Whether to play in-form Bertrand Traore as his striker or bring back fit-again Danish teenager Kasper Dolberg.

Dolberg was one of the stars of the Dutch league early in the season but has been sidelined in recent weeks by an injury he picked up in the last 16 of the Europa League. Traore, who is on loan to the Amsterdam club from Chelsea, has run into form in Dolberg’s absence, scoring twice in Ajax’s 5-1 win at NEC Nijmegen on Saturday.

Schalke striker Klaas Jan Huntelaar is likely to be watching from the bench on his return to the club where he made his breakthrough. Huntelaar has lost his starting place to Guido Burgstaller, signed during the recent transfer window when the 33-year-old striker was out with a knee injury.

Huntelaar’s contract with Schalke is running out and he told Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf this week that he will be leaving at the end of the season.

Both teams won the competition when it was called the UEFA Cup: Ajax in 1992 and Schalke in 1997.


Celta is likely to have Swedish striker John Guidetti and Chilean midfielder Marcelo Diaz back for the game.

Both players have had knee injuries but practiced with the rest of the squad this week and are expected to be available.

Celta has lost two of its last three home games, including 2-0 to Eibar in the Spanish league on Sunday.


Security has been raised ahead of the game because French authorities fear the match could be used for political expression by Turkish fans, only a few days before a controversial referendum in their country.

About 15,000 Turkish fans are expected to travel to Lyon and local authorities have also banned supporters from entering the stadium with jerseys, scarves, flags and banners other than those of the teams and the countries they represent.

“A stadium is not a place for political expression,” Lyon prefect’s office said in a statement.

Lagging well behind leader Monaco in the French league, Lyon has been impressive in the Europa League, scoring 16 goals in four knockout games.

The seven-time French champions’ last hope of winning a trophy this season could be boosted by the likely absence of Besiktas winger Ricardo Quaresma, who picked up a leg injury over the weekend and is doubtful for the game.

CCL: Toronto wins; Wild Herediano comeback

AP Photo/David Zalubowski
Leave a comment

On a single-digit Tuesday that severely limited the attendance at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park, where the Colorado Rapids and Toronto FC dueled in the first leg of the CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals.

Jonathan Osorio’s second half goal put the Reds in front and Sebastian Giovinco had a goal and an assist and the visitors take a 2-0 decision back to Ontario.

The best chance of a preseason quality first half saw Dominique Badji flub the best chance of the stage into the feet of Alex Bono.

Toronto took the lead, nabbing the away goal through Osorio’s header of a Sebastian Giovinco cross. And the Atomic Ant got on the board with a goal of his own off an Auro assist with 17 minutes to play.

[ MORE: Georgia teen heading to Schalke ]

Tuesday’s other first leg saw Herediano and Tigres play to a 2-2 draw in Costa Rica, with the Liga MX visitors taking a pair of away goals but shocked by a pair of stoppage time concessions.

Francisco Meza scored in the 15th minute and Lucas Zelarayan seemingly put it to bed with 15 minutes to play.

But Yendrick Ruiz converted a 90th minute penalty kick before ex-DC United forward Jairo Arrieta did this ahead of the Feb. 22 second leg in Mexico.

Another American heads to Schalke: Zyen Jones

@KingZyen
Leave a comment

Schalkamerica?

Bundesliga mainstays Schalke have added yet another American, this one 17-year-old Zyen Jones of Atlanta United. Jones is a forward with the U.S. U-17 national team.

Like Josh Sargent, who signed his deal with Werder Bremen on Tuesday, he’ll head overseas and sign a pro contract on Aug. 25, his 18th birthday.

[ MORE: Chelsea-Barca recap | JPW’s 3 things ]

Jones will join several potential USMNT teammates in Gelsenkirchen, including injured senior team midfielder Weston McKennie and youngster Nick Taitague (19). Forward Haji Wright is on loan at Sandhausen.

Report: Simon Dawkins making move to Minnesota

Photo by Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images
Leave a comment

The Loons are taking a flier on Simon Dawkins.

The London-born Jamaican international hasn’t done a ton since returning to MLS from Derby County, and turned 30 over the offseason, and Paul Tenorio says the player is on his way to Minnesota United.

[ MORE: Chelsea-Barca recap | JPW’s 3 things ]

Dawkins scored 14 goals between 2011-12 with San Jose, but scored just five times in his return to California and was blanked in 14 appearances last season. He registered just 10 shots in those matches.

The left winger would join an attack with Christian Ramirez, Kevin Molino, Ethan Finlay, and a pair of Generations Adidas forwards: Abu Danladi (2017 SuperDraft) and Mason Toye (2018).

Champions League Weds. preview: Sevilla-Man Utd, Shakhtar-Roma

Martin Rickett/PA via AP
Leave a comment

Jose Mourinho says Manchester United is one round away from having legitimate hopes of winning the UEFA Champions League.

[ MORE: Chelsea-Barca recap | JPW’s 3 things ]

That makes the Round of 16 tie against Sevilla — beginning Wednesday in Spain — a bit of a dream qualifier for the Red Devils.

“I normally say that Champions League dreams start around the quarter-finals and not yet in the last 16,” Mourinho said on ManUtd.com. “Last 16 still looks a long way to go. When a team reaches the quarter-finals, I think it’s the moment where even the teams that are not favourites – which is our case – they start realising that anything is possible.

The injury-hit side got a bit of a boost on Tuesday in Sevilla, where Paul Pogba, Antonio Valencia, Marcus Rashford and Ander Herrera all trained ahead of the first leg.

As for the hosts, manager Vincenzo Montella admitted that he hopes Pogba won’t play, and joked that he’d prefer to tie up and “padlock” Alexis Sanchez in a bid to defend against the Chilean star.

The final Round of 16 tie to start will be Roma’s pairing with Shakhtar Donetsk, with the first leg taking place in Ukraine.

Shakhtar hasn’t played in some time, but the great equalizer is the bitter cold at Donbass Arena, where the temperature is set to be between 21 and 28 degrees Fahrenheit come kickoff.

Don’t worry, Roma fans, Daniele De Rossi is busy breathing fire into any teammates angling for excuses:

“The cold weather could affect things a little because we’re not used to it but at the end of the day it comes down to how well you perform out there. We must be mentally ready from the get-go because the cold might hit us in the opening minutes.

“If it was that much of a factor, these teams would win the Champions League every year. You don’t go through because of the weather.”