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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.

[ LIVE: Champions League scores ]

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.  

Multiple reports: Watford set to hire Gracia as manager

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Watford looks set to appoint Javi Gracia to its managerial position, hours after firing Marco Silva and blaming Everton for the manager.

[ MORE: Watford fires Silva, blames Everton ]

Gracia led Malaga to eighth and ninth place finishes in La Liga between 2014-16 before spending last season at Rubin Kazan.

Gracia, 47, has led promotion campaigns in Spain and has plenty of experience with perceived smaller clubs battling the drop zone.

Watford will hope the Hornets don’t reach that point, still five points clear of the drop after flirting with the Top Seven for the first quarter of the Premier League season.

Latest: Sunday medicals for Mkhitaryan, Sanchez

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Henrikh Mkhitaryan has agreed to join Arsenal from Manchester United, clearing the path for Alexis Sanchez to join the Old Trafford set.

[ MORE: 2 Robbies on the deal ]

The BBC is reporting that both players will undergo medicals at their proposed new clubs on Sunday ahead of a straight swap deal.

Sanchez, 29, has scored 80 goals for Arsenal since arriving before the 2014-15 campaign, including 30 last season.

Mkhitaryan turns 30 this summer, and has struggled at Manchester United since posting five assists in his first three matches of the season.

[ MORE: Watford sacks Silva ]

He was, however, a combination of Sanchez and Mesut Ozil in his final season at Borussia Dortmund, scoring 23 goals with 32 assists.

This could be win-win, as Mkhitaryan at his best is a like-for-like replacement for Mesut Ozil should the German leave in the summer and Sanchez is a more proven PL commodity (though his attitude should be a major question for the United room).

Watford fires Silva, blames Everton

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Watford has fired Marco Silva as manager, and it’s blaming Everton.

The Hornets are 1W-2D-8L in their last 11 Premier League matches after Saturday’s 2-0 loss at Leicester City, and have won just three in the league since the Toffees sacked Ronald Koeman on Oct. 23.

[ REPORT: Stoke to add hometown Harrison from NYCFC ]

Watford sat fifth in the table at that point, and has dropped to 10th. That’s five points clear of the drop zone and eight points back of eighth.

Silva was chased hard by Everton, and Watford rejected all advances for the Portuguese boss. The Toffees ended up hiring Sam Allardyce in a move which has also gone south.

Here’s the guts of Watford’s released statement:

The Club is convinced the appointment of Silva was the right one and had it not been for the unwarranted approach by a Premier League rival for his services we would have continued to prosper under his leadership.

The catalyst for this decision is that unwarranted approach, something which the Board believes has seen a significant deterioration in both focus and results to the point where the long-term future of Watford FC has been jeopardised.

Watford will appoint its ninth manager since the start of the 2012-13 season. It faces Southampton in the FA Cup on Saturday before a midweek league visit to fellow relegation struggler Stoke City on Jan. 31.

Silva is the eighth manager fired since the beginning of the Premier League season, joining Frank De Boer, Craig Shakespeare, Ronald Koeman, Slaven Bilic, Tony Pulis, Paul Clement, and Mark Hughes.

Liga MX wrap: Pachuca earns first win, Leon stays unbeaten

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All of Saturday’s action from around Mexico’s top flight…

Pachuca 3-1 Lobos BUAP

A strong first-half push from the hosts was all Pachuca needed on Saturday night to earn their first victory of the 2018 Clausura season. Angel Sagal brought the home side in front after just 10 minutes off of a near-post header, before Pachuca’s lead soon doubled 14 minutes later from the penalty spot when strike Franco Jara converted on the dead-ball attempt.

Just prior to halftime, Pachuca was out to a 3-0 advantage when 20-year-old outside back Erick Aguirre tallied his first goal for the club.

Last-place side Lobos got on the board three minutes into the second stanza via a finish from Heriberto Olvera, however, it wasn’t enough to provide anything more than a consolation for the visiting side.

Necaxa 1-3 Chivas Guadalajara

Mexican international Alan Pulido made it a dream start for the visitors from Guadalajara at the Estadio Victoria, however, that lead was cancelled out in first-half stoppage time after Carlos Gonzalez leveled the match up at 1-1.

The difference proved to be with 25 minutes left to play, when a goalkeeping error by Marcelo Barovero allowed Chivas to regain possession inside the Necaxa penalty area, before Ronaldo Cisneros tapped home the winner.

Then, a third goal came just prior to the end of regulation when Edwin Hernandez killed the game off for Matias Almeyda’s men, who also earned their first victory of the Clausura season.

Rest of Saturday’s Liga MX action

Cruz Azul 0-0 Club Leon
Queretaro 0-0 Tigres UANL
Monterrey 0-0 Club Tijuana

Sunday’s matches

UNAM vs. Club America — 1 p.m. ET
Santos Laguna vs. Morelia — 7 p.m. ET