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Predictions for Champions League semifinals

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With the UEFA Champions League semifinals kicking off on Tuesday, now is a good time to take a closer look at both encounters to see who will meet in the final in Cardiff on June 3.

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There’s a Madrid derby to look forward to, while Juve and Monaco clash with plenty of talented young attackers set to square off.

The final four of the UCL should be lots of fun.


Real Madrid vs. Atletico Madrid
First leg: At Santiago Bernabeu, Madrid – May 2, 2:45 p.m. ET
Second leg: At Vicente Calderon, Madrid – May 10, 2:45 p.m. ET

For the fourth season in a row these two teams meet in the UCL knockout rounds. After beating their crosstown rivals in two of the last three UCL finals, Real Madrid will be feeling confident of once again ruling the Spanish capital. Yet this promises to be a cagey affair as Diego Simeone’s side dig deep to thwart Zinedine Zidane’s stars. If feels like this could well be Antoine Griezmann’s moment to shine on the biggest stage of all and it also feels like Simeone’s final chance to win the UCL win Atletico before bigger projects perhaps call him, and several of his star players, elsewhere.

When these two teams last met in La Liga at the Bernabeu last month it was a 1-1 draw and that result would be huge for Atleti to take back to the Vicente Calderon with them as they look to send off their famous stadium in style before moving into their brand new home next season. With Gareth Bale out injured for the favorites to win the La Liga title, it could be over to Alvaro Morata to provide the goals for Real but Cristiano Ronaldo and Karem Benzema, as always, will take on most of the goalscoring burden. The midfield duo of Luka Modric and Toni Kroos will have some battle against Gabi, Jimenez and Koke in midfield and this tie could well need extra time to see who goes through to the final. Real’s extra firepower could just prove the difference. Real Madrid to advance 2-1 on aggregate.


Monaco vs. Juventus
First leg: At Stade Louis II, Monaco – May 3, 2:45 p.m. ET
Second leg: At Juventus Stadium, Turin – May 9, 2:45 p.m. ET

How do you stop Monaco’s supercharged offense? That’s the same question everyone has been asking in France and Europe this season and, so far, nobody has come up with an answer. If anybody can, Juvetnus can as the Turin outfit haven’t conceded a UCL goal in 531 minutes. Led by Gianluigi Buffon in goal and the dependable Georgio Chielleni at the heart of their defense, the Italian champions will be the favorites to reach the final but will also be incredibly wary of Kylian Mbappe, Radamel Falcao plus the likes of Silva, Lemar and Carrillo as the supporting cast. Wherever you look, Monaco has goals as they’ve scored six over two games against both Man City and Borussia Dortmund so far in the knockout stages. They are being criminally underestimated.

That said, this is Juve. They just beat Barcelona 3-0 on aggregate in the quarterfinals and are the masters of putting together a defensive masterplan and executing it to perfection. Max Allegri’s men also have some star attackers of their own with Paulo Dybala improving by the week and Gonzalo Higuain the prototypical predator. Expect these two games to deliver plenty of drama, and goals, but the experience of the Italian champs should seem them through. Just. Juventus to advance 3-2 on aggregate.  

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.

Russia glad to welcome Blatter, Platini as World Cup guests

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MOSCOW (AP) President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov says Russia “would be glad” to see banned former soccer leaders Sepp Blatter and Michel Platini in Russia next year at the World Cup.

Though banned from soccer duty for six and four years, respectively, Blatter and Platini were the presidents of FIFA and UEFA when Russia won the 2018 hosting contest seven years ago.

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FIFA ethics rules allow Blatter and Platini to attend games but not engage in official soccer business.

Blatter publicly accepted Putin’s World Cup invitation in March 2016, before his ban for financial wrongdoing with Platini was upheld on appeal.

Peskov says Friday, “Putin has a long and, you may say, friendly relationship with Blatter. He knows Platini well, too.”

Rapinoe, Morgan, Ertz lift US past South Korea, 3-1

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NEW ORLEANS (AP) Alex Morgan scored in a fourth straight game, Julie Ertz scored for the fourth time in five games, and the United States women beat South Korea 3-1 on Thursday night.

Megan Rapinoe added her 34th international goal and her 42nd assist.

Having assisted on Ertz’s diving header in the first half, Rapinoe scored on a penalty kick she drew in the 49th minute when pounced on a loose ball about 12 yards in front of the goal and was tripped by Ji Sohyun.

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Han Chaerin scored her first international goal in her South Korea debut to make it 2-1 just before the end of the first half.

U.S. forward Mallory Pugh had to leave the game late in the first half with a right hamstring injury. There was no immediate word on the severity of her injury after she was helped off the field by trainers.

Meanwhile, Carli Lloyd returned from a nine-week absence because of ankle injury, entering the game as a substitute in the 77th minute.

Midfielder Andi Sullivan started for the U.S. about 11 months after having reconstructive knee surgery. Her third minute shot narrowly missed the far post from about 18 yards. She was substituted out, as planned, at halftime.

South Korea began the game in a defensive posture and the U.S. maintained a decisive edge in possession, forcing Kang Gaae to make several sprawling saves before breaking though on Ertz goal in the 24th minute

Ertz dove in front of two defenders to redirect Rapinoe’s hard, low corner kick between the legs of Kang as the goal keeper tried to respond at the near post.

Morgan scored in the 40th minute, using her right foot to settle Kelley O’Hara’s bouncing pass from the end line, then pivoting and whipping her left foot through the ball from point-blank range. The goal was the 28-year-old Morgan’s 78th for the national squad.

Han scored against the run of play with a hard shot from about 25 yards that sailed beyond U.S. goal keeper Alyssa Naher’s reach before dipping under the cross bar.

Lloyd’s introduction drew an enthusiastic response from nearly 10,000 spectators in the Superdome. The two-time FIFA World Player of the Year missed a pair of U.S. exhibition wins over New Zealand last month because of an Aug. 13 ankle sprain in a National Women’s Soccer League match.

Forward Tobin Heath, who has an ankle injury, and defender Taylor Smith, who has an injured shoulder, were not in the lineup and are not expected to play in a second friendly scheduled between South Korea and the U.S. on Sunday in Cary, North Carolina.

Both women were hurt in the NWSL championship match.

UEFA charge Roma after racist chanting witnessed

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AS Roma and its fans could face severe penalties after alleged racist chants were hurled in the direction of Chelsea’s Antonio Rudiger.

It appears via broadcast footage from Chelsea’s 3-3 UEFA Champions League draw with Roma at Stamford Bridge this week that after shepherding a ball out of play, Rudiger was subjected to monkey noises and other racist abuse from the away end where the AS Roma fans were congregated.

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In the past, UEFA has ordered either partial or full closures of stadiums and announced fines to the clubs, though it doesn’t seem to have stamped out the problem of racist chanting in Europe.

Hopefully, UEFA will investigate this fully and ban the individuals who allegedly committed the chants.

Rudiger signed for Chelsea this past summer for a reported $44.8 million.