One team is confirmed as a Champions League finalist, so now it’s time to find out who will join Juventus in Cardiff.
Real Madrid seems to be the easy choice as they hold a 3-0 lead heading across town to the Vicente Calderon at 2:45 p.m. ET. It is the final time the stadium will host the Madrid derby before Atletico moves to Estadio La Peineta in the summer.
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That three-goal lead for Madrid is monstrous, given both Madrid’s world-beating attacking threat and Atletico’s struggles to score this season, especially in European competition. The club has scored more than two goals in a Champions League match only once this campaign, a wild 4-2 win over Bayer Leverkusen away from home.
The real difficulty for Atletico will be looking to attack for three goals while not giving up any at the other end. After being shut out on the road, just one away goal for Real would mean the hosts would then need five goals to advance. A clean sheet is a must.
“If they score the tie is even more difficult,” said Atletico midfielder Saul Niguez, “but a goal in the first half would give us a lot of strength and could make them nervous.”
History, though, has not been kind to Atletico. Real Madrid has eliminated them from the Champions League in the last three seasons. Two were in the final, but the one that featured a game at the Vicente Calderon saw a 0-0 first-leg draw. Juventus is looking for an opponent, and while history is likely to repeat itself, a comeback for the ages would be quite the way to send out the old, storied stadium.
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.
Henrikh Mkhitaryan has agreed to join Arsenal from Manchester United, clearing the path for Alexis Sanchez to join the Old Trafford set.
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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 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.
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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.
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
UNAM vs. Club America — 1 p.m. ET
Santos Laguna vs. Morelia — 7 p.m. ET