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Marcelo trying to repeat his idol’s success at Real Madrid

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MADRID (AP) Marcelo was still in his teens when he arrived at Real Madrid with the difficult task of replacing one of his boyhood idols, Roberto Carlos.

It didn’t take long for him to rise to the challenge.

On Saturday, Marcelo will have a chance to emulate Roberto Carlos’ feat of winning three Champions League titles.

“It’s priceless to be playing again in a Champion League final,” said Marcelo, who will face Juventus on Saturday in Cardiff. “I couldn’t be happier.”

Nearly 11 years after joining Madrid from Brazilian club Fluminense as an 18-year-old promising youngster, Marcelo has become a defensive star just like Roberto Carlos, who won his Champions League titles in 1998, 2000 and 2002.

One of the team’s captains, Marcelo will be trying to win his third European title in four seasons. He scored a goal in extra time when Madrid defeated crosstown rival Atletico Madrid in the 2014 final, and converted a penalty kick in last year’s decisive shootout, also against Atletico.

Marcelo and Roberto Carlos are the foreign players with the most ever appearances for Real Madrid. Marcelo will be playing in his 408th match on Saturday, while Roberto Carlos ended his 11-year stint at the club with 527.

Roberto Carlos left Madrid shortly after Marcelo arrived, but the two remained friends and stayed in contact since then. Roberto Carlos works for the club and still lives in the Spanish capital.

“To come to a place where your idol is playing and have him welcome you so warmly, knowing that you play in his position, that’s rare in soccer,” Marcelo said. “I came here to be his successor and he treated me and my family as if we were his own. He gave us his number and told us to call him if we needed anything.”

Earlier this year, Marcelo surpassed Roberto Carlos as the foreign-born player with most Spanish league wins with Madrid.

The 44-year-old Roberto Carlos has repeatedly praised his successor, calling him the world’s best full back.

The former great thrived with a very different style compared to Marcelo, relying mostly on his physical strength and incredible long-range shots.

The 29-year-old Marcelo has excelled with his skillful footwork and precise crosses, looking more like a playmaker than a defensive player.

Marcelo was one of the team’s leaders in assists this season, and his performances were good enough to earn him a place in Brazil’s national team under coach Tite.

Marcelo won a bronze medal with Brazil at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, but was left out of the 2010 World Cup squad coached by Dunga. He was a starter in Brazil’s 7-1 loss to Germany in the semifinals of the 2014 World Cup.

Roberto Carlos won the 2002 World Cup under coach Luiz Felipe Scolari.

Marcelo will be facing another Brazilian on Saturday, right back Dani Alves, who has thrived since joining Juventus from Barcelona last season. The Brazil teammates will be on the same side of the field and are expected to be constantly going against each other.

“I know that Dani Alves is a very good player and I always enjoying playing against him,” Marcelo said. “It’s going to be a great match.”

VIDEO: Thirsty goalkeeper concedes bizarre goal

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Rule number one for a goalkeeper: always pay attention to the action if you’re going to take a swig from your water bottle in the net.

Duisburg goalkeeper Mark Flekken didn’t pay attention and he will see this clip played over and over again as he conceded a bizarre goal in the German second tier against Ingolstadt.

Take a look at the video below to see the unbelievable scenes as the commentary team sum it up best with  their stunned reaction.


Mourinho on Conte feud, facing Chelsea again

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Jose Mourinho will meet Chelsea once again on Sunday as the Manchester United manager welcomes his former club to Old Trafford (Watch live, 9:05 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

Mourinho, 55, has been involved in a public spat with Antonio Conte in recent months but the Portuguese refused to dredge up any more abuse for the current Chelsea manager ahead of this crucial top four clash.

The duo traded insults earlier this year as Mourinho suggested Conte and other managerial rivals “acted like clowns” on the sidelines, while Conte said Mourinho perhaps had “demenza senile” and Mourinho hit back with a quip about Conte’s four-month ban for not reporting alleged match-fixing in Italy. The spat ended when Conte said Mourinho was a “little man” and “fake” and said he would not forget the comments.

“The real meaning [of this game] is two of the best teams in England, two of the biggest clubs, are playing a match,” Mourinho said when asked about Conte.

Mourinho has lost three of the four games he’s played against Chelsea since he became United’s manager and in the first defeat, a 4-0 hammering in the league in October 2016, he reacted angrily to overzealous celebrations from Conte on the sidelines.

Speaking to the media about Chelsea, Mourinho played down any sentimental feelings he has for the club he led to three Premier League titles over two spells in charge.

“To play against Chelsea will mean less and less and less with the years,” Mourinho said. “So of course I left already a couple of years ago, and next season [it will be] three years ago, so step by step that feeling of: ‘I was the Chelsea manager’ or ‘I was their manager’ for them I think disappears. I have a good relation with the [Chelsea] board.

“I don’t forget how nice they were to me in a difficult period with the departure of my father. They show me in that moment they feel me as a friend that did his best for the club and always respects the club. So the board know the relation with me is always good. With the players, I don’t have any problem, any regret, any stone on my shoes, no problem at all. And the fans are fans. With many of them in the street I feel that empathy and that relation that normally should be a connection and feeling forever. When I play at Stamford Bridge some reactions from the fans are just reactions.”

Mourinho is still admired and thanked by the vast majority of Chelsea’s fanbase but there is always going to be a small contingent who hurl abuse at Mourinho simply because he isn’t their manager anymore.

Since he was fired as their boss in December 2015, the “Special One” has been complimentary of his time at Chelsea but when he managed United in 2016 at Stamford Bridge, he wasn’t subjected to chants of “you’re not special anymore!” from the home fans, to which he held up three fingers to signify how many league titles he delivered.

Mourinho isn’t talking about his spat with Conte ahead of this game, but let’s see how things play out on Sunday. If Chelsea stroll into Old Trafford and win to throw United’s top four hopes into doubt, Mourinho will likely come out swinging.

Watch Live: Leicester City v. Stoke City

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Leicester City host Stoke City on Saturday (Watch live, 7:30 a.m. ET on CNBC and online via NBCSports.com) at the King Power Stadium.

WATCH LIVE ONLINE, HERE

Leicester currently sit in eighth place in the Premier League table and have one eye on finishing in the top six, while Stoke are second from bottom in the table but are just six points from the top 10.

In team news Leicester start Riyad Mahrez with Demarai Gray and Marc Albrighton in an attacking lineup, while Stoke bring in USMNT man Geoff Cameron in midfield with Stafyldis and Martins Indi coming into defense.

LINEUPS

Leicester City: Schmeichel, Simpson, Maguire, Morgan, Chilwell, Ndidi, James, Mahrez, Albrighton, Gray, Vardy. Subs: Jakupovic, Dragovic, Fuchs, Iborra, Silva, Diabate, Iheanacho.

Stoke City: Butland; Bauer, Martins Indi, Zouma, Stafyldis; Cameron, Badou, Allen; Shaqiri, Choupo-Moting; Diouf. Subs: Grant, Pieters, Jese, Johnson, Adam, Ramadan, Campbell

“This game belongs to the players” Wenger downplays Guardiola success

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Arsene Wenger has stressed that Pep Guardiola has not changed the game of soccer over the last decade or so, maintaining that the players are the ones who make a team truly great.

Asked if Guardiola has “raised the bar” of managing in his time at the top, Wenger said, “No, because you look at Barcelona and they are still the best team in Europe. You have to accept that the modern game has changed with the recruitment of the best players in a short number of clubs.”

[ MORE: EFL Cup final preview ]

“We, as managers, can maybe impart our philosophy but this game belongs to the players because the importance of the players has become bigger than ever before.”

In fact, Wenger showed a twinge of jealousy at all the attention Guardiola is getting with the team blowing out the rest of the Premier League this season, referencing trophies in the recent past Arsenal has hoisted. “We are maybe underdogs but we have to believe in our quality. The history, the fact we have done it before, shows why not do it again?”

“At the end of the day, you have to be cool,” Wenger said, “because Manchester City is dominating the league in the head of everybody and so maybe we are more underdogs than in the FA Cup semi-final [last season when Arsenal beat Man City].”