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UEFA Champions League Weds. preview

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Manchester United and Chelsea had little trouble in their UEFA Champions League group stage bows, but the three Premier League clubs in action Wednesday face much stiffer competition.

[ MORE: Champions League Tues. wrap ]

Two of the three begin their group stages at home, with a third traveling to Rotterdam for a De Kuip test at Feyenoord.

Tottenham Hotspur vs. Borussia Dortmund

With apologies to Group C, Spurs drew the stiffest test in Europe with Group G’s tandem of Real Madrid and Borussia Dortmund (in addition to APOEL Nicosia). The group kicks off at Wembley Stadium with a visit from USMNT teen Christian Pulisic and Borussia Dortmund, a side which has yet to concede a goal in Bundesliga play and sits atop the table.

Midfield general Nuri Sahin has been wonderful for BVB this early campaign, and ex-Barca back Marc Bartra joins Greece national team standout Sokratis Papastathopoulos in a stingy defense. Harry Kane, Christian Eriksen and Dele Alli have their work cut out for them, and so does the back line. Here’s BVB boss Peter Bosz:

It could come down to which Christian is able to work more magic: Pulisic or Eriksen. Pulisic posted a goal and three assists in his first UCL go-round last season, while Eriksen managed just a single assist as Spurs bowed out of the UCL at the group stage. We’ll give Spurs an emotional edge on Wednesday, hopefully ending their Wembley “hoodoo” or at least managing a point. 2-2.

Liverpool vs. Sevilla

Knocked out of the UCL by Leicester City last season, Sevilla is best known for its quintet of Europa League crowns. The last of those came at the expense of the Reds, as Daniel Sturridge‘s 35th minute opener in Basel was canceled out by three second half goals. Coke scored two and Kevin Gameiro the other, but both of those players are gone.

Sevilla signed ex-Man City men Jesus Navas and Nolito this summer, and has a variety of weapons including Wissam Ben Yedder, Steven N’Zonzi, and Luis Muriel. Expect Liverpool to have a heck of a time defending, but also to find some success in the final third. Would Reds fans take 2-2 in what will be the second most difficult game in the group (aside from the return leg)?

Feyenoord vs. Manchester City

The Dutch champions entertain Man City while in the throes of a 4-0 start to the Eredivisie season. Feyenoord lost just four league matches last season and led the table wire-to-wire, the first managerial title for former Arsenal and Barcelona player Giovanni van Bronckhorst.

The club’s most familiar names are former Watford man Steven Berghuis, midfielder Tonny Vilhena, and Danish national team striker Nicolai Jorgensen. Ultimately, this could be a tight win for City. If Pep Guardiola‘s team really wants to make a statement, it’ll be a big win.

Elsewhere
Maribor vs. Spartak Moscow
RB Leipzig vs. Monaco
Porto vs. Besiktas
Real Madrid vs. APOEL Nicosia
Shakhtar Donetsk vs. Napoli

Barry Bennell jailed 30 years for abusing young players

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LIVERPOOL, England (AP) A former English youth soccer coach was jailed Monday for 30 years for abusing 12 young footballers after the judge called him the “devil incarnate.”

Barry Bennell, a former coach at Crewe and scout for Manchester City, was convicted at Liverpool Crown Court of 50 child sexual offenses committed between 1979 and 1991.

“Your behavior towards these boys in grooming and seducing them before subjecting them to, in some cases, the most most serious, degrading and humiliating abuse was sheer evil,” Judge Clement Goldstone told the 64-year-old Bennell.

Bennell looked at the floor and nodded as the judge sentenced him. Some members of the public began to applaud as he was sent down, but were stopped by the judge.

Goldstone said Bennell had appeared to his victims as a God.

“In reality, you were the devil incarnate,” the judge added. “You stole their childhoods and their innocence to satisfy your own perversion.”

Goldstone said Bennell’s abuse had destroyed the enthusiasm his victims had for playing football and had led to them suffering problems including suicidal thoughts, alcoholism and depression.

Bennell has already served three jail terms, totaling 15 years, for similar offenses involving 16 other victims in England and the United States.

LIVE, FA Cup: Wigan host Manchester City

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All conquering Manchester City head to third-tier Wigan Athletic on Monday (Kick off, 2:55 p.m. ET) to keep their quest of a legendary quadruple alive.

[ LIVE: Follow Wigan v Man City here

Pep Guardiola‘s men are 16 points clear atop the Premier League summit, while they are virtually through to the last eight of the UEFA Champions League and are in the League Cup final against Arsenal at Wembley on Sunday.

Can anyone stop them?

Wigan stand in their way with the Latics promotion favorites from the third tier who have already beaten Premier League teams Bournemouth and West Ham United to reach the last 16.

The winner will host Southampton in the quarterfinal for a place in the semifinal at Wembley Stadium, and City’s fan will be feeling a little nervous heading into this game.

Why? They played Wigan in the FA Cup final in 2013 and lost 1-0 after a last-gasp header from Ben Watson sealed one of the greatest upsets of all time to hand the Latics their first-ever major trophy. Wigan also beat City in the FA Cup quarterfinals in 2015, the last time they met in this competition.

Surely Guardiola’s boys won’t be on the end of another upset this time, especially with this starting lineup…

Click on the link above to follow the action live, while we will have analysis and reaction from the final FA Cup fifth round clash right here at Pro Soccer Talk.

Italy VAR chief: Incidents to be shown on stadium screens

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Decisions which have been changed on video review could soon be shown on the giant screens in Italian stadiums, offering soccer fans more clarity.

[ MORE: Juve, Napoli keep winning

The video assistant referee system was introduced in Italy at the start of the season and has been criticized for leaving supporters in the stadiums blind sometimes as to what is happening on the pitch or why a decision has been changed.

The head of the project in Italy, Roberto Rosetti, told Radio Anch’io Sport on Monday: “Probably in a few months’ time we’ll be able to see on big screens in the stadiums images of the decisions that have been changed and why they have been changed.”

Rosetti admits they need to “improve on the uniformity of both interpretation and intervention” but says the positive effect of the VAR can clearly be seen by “the drastic reduction in bookings for protests and anti-sporting behavior.”

Spurs “have the capacity” to win the Champions League

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We know. They just drew 2-2 away at Rochdale in the fifth round of the FA Cup. We know.

[ MORE: Dele Alli and the diving debate

But Tottenham Hotspur’s last 2-2 draw was much more impressive as they went to Juventus and outplayed the reigning Italian champions in the first leg of their UEFA Champions League Round of 16 tie.

Heading into the second leg at Wembley on Mar. 7, it appears that new signing Lucas Moura, who scored their opening goal against Rochdale on Sunday, is a fan of what he’s seen in his short time at Tottenham.

Speaking to reporters after his first goal for Spurs on his full debut, Moura has high hopes for his time in North London.

“I am 25 years old but I think I gained a lot of experience with PSG and I think I can help Tottenham. I think we have a lot of quality and a great structure and can arrive at the end of the season with a trophy. The Champions League is the most difficult cup but I think we have the capacity to win it if we always think in positives and always work hard,” Moura said, via the Guardian.

“We did a big game against Juventus away. It was a good result in Italy and I am sure we can do a good game with our fans and continue. It’s always important to win. Every player wants to win trophies, to make history and I am here to make history with my new friends, my new team-mates. I believe that because we have a lot of quality, a great structure – I am really impressed – and I think we can dream with the Champions League.”

Does Moura have a point? Aside from a weakened side struggling away at Rochdale on a freshly laid pitch, they’ve been superb in recent months.

And given the current form of Harry Kane and the entire Spurs team there won’t be a single club who says “you know what, let’s take Spurs” if they make it through to the last eight of the UCL.

The high-pressing style of Mauricio Pochettino saw them bully Juve away from home and all of a sudden it seems like the rest of Europe has woken up and realized just how good they are.

If injuries are kind to Spurs and Moura continues to show flashes of brilliance since his arrival from PSG in January, the Brazilian could well be on to something. Tottenham are by no means favorites to win the Champions League, but their recent results against Manchester United, Arsenal and Liverpool prove they are a force to be reckoned with.

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