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League Cup semifinal preview: Manchester City vs. Bristol City

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Manchester City looks for a berth in the first Cup final of the English calendar as they host Championship side Bristol City in the first leg of the EFL Cup semifinals at 2:45 p.m. ET from the Etihad.

It remains to be seen how seriously Pep Guardiola will take this match given recent injuries that have sapped his squad of its depth through the festive schedule. However, the Manchester City boss has suggested he will name a strong side, telling fans that trophies of any kind will satisfy his craving.

While Gabriel Jesus and Phil Foden are unquestionably ruled out with long-term injuries for the hosts, the most interesting situation to watch will be that of Kevin De Bruyne. The Belgian was stretchered off in an air cast on New Year’s Eve after a heavy challenge by Jason Puncheon, but made a miraculous recovery to start just two days later against Watford. That decision was questioned as de Bruyne was withdrawn after 79 minutes at the Etihad in obvious discomfort. It will be interesting to see if Guardiola again risks his Player of the Year candidate or if he gets a rest 12-day rest until their next Premier League match against Liverpool on Sunday.

Bristol City, meanwhile, has taken down four Premier League sides in their stunning EFL Cup run, knocking Watford, Stoke City, Crystal Palace, and Manchester United all out of the competition. They will be without young midfielder Callum O’Dowda who played the full 90 minutes in four of their five EFL Cup matches, but went down with a serious ankle injury in late November.

The visitors currently sit fourth in the Championship table, but have lost two league games in a row, a worrying sign after losing just one match since late October. They were blasted by Aston Villa on the road by a cringe-worthy 5-0 scoreline last time out. Nevertheless, they have thus far not been intimidated by Premier League opposition in the Cup, taking an attacking mentality to all their Cup matches to date.

What they’re saying

Pep Guardiola on fixture congestion: “We are going to try to win the game, take the best result possible, then go to Bristol away with the best result – that’s the only way I know. The important thing is to be involved in all competitions and we are there as well as other teams. Chelsea are in the same position, they’re in them all.”

Bristol City manager Lee Johnson on playing Man City: “The players have been exceptional so far,” said Bristol City boss Lee Johnson. The effort they’ve demonstrated to beat four Premier League teams en route has been phenomenal. Now they find themselves in the semi-finals of a major cup competition and facing the best team in the country right now. The concentration levels it will take to ensure we don’t get infiltrated in our back-line will be huge. In saying that, I do believe in the qualities in our squad and the challenge is to make sure we play our game.”

UEFA Champions League semifinal predictions

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With the semifinals of the UEFA Champions League to kick off over the next few days, let’s take a look at both games and predict which teams will make it to the final in Kiev on May 26.

[ MORE: Champions League scores

Liverpool or Roma? Real Madrid or Bayern Munich?

Here’s the lowdown as two eagerly anticipated games take center stage across Europe.


Liverpool vs. AS Roma
First leg: Apr. 24, 2:45 p.m. ET at Anfield
Second leg: May 2, 2:45 p.m. ET at Stadio Olimpico

This should be one heck of a tie with defending optional for both teams but both have very different ways of playing. Jurgen Klopp will unleash the fluid trio of Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino on an often brittle Roma defense but the Italian giants have a giant in their own up top in the shape of Edin Dzeko. How Virgil Van Dijk and Liverpool’s defense deal with the threat of Dzeko will likely decide the outcome of this game. Liverpool will look to feed off the famous Anfield atmosphere to wrack up a big first leg lead before they head to Roma for Leg 2, and I fancy Salah to blow his old team away in the first leg. Liverpool to advance 4-2 on aggregate.

Bayern Munich vs. Real Madrid
First leg: Apr. 25, 2:45 p.m. ET at Allianz Arena
Second leg: May 1, 2:45 p.m. ET at Santiago Bernabeu

A proper heavyweight clash as Bayern and Real do battle knowing that whoever wins will be the favorites in the final. Cristiano Ronaldo is in the form of his life (again) after a slow start to this season and Zinedine Zidane’s side made hard work of it against Juventus in the last round but are on course for a third-straight UCL trophy. As for Bayern, they have been in imperious form and you feel like Robert Lewandowski can get the better of Real’s center backs. Expect this to be a tight game with extremely high quality from both teams. Real being at home in the second leg is a big advantage. Real Madrid to advance 3-2 on aggregate. 

Cologne’s Hector extends contract despite likely relegation

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COLOGNE, Germany (AP) Germany defender Jonas Hector has shunned reported interest from Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund by extending his contract with Cologne – despite the club’s almost certain relegation from the Bundesliga.

Cologne, eight points from safety with three games remaining, says its 27-year-old captain has signed a two-year extension to 2023 instead of using a release clause in his contract.

Hector, who has been at the club since 2010, says, “It wouldn’t have been a problem to switch to another club after this season but it didn’t feel right for me. I belong to Cologne and want to tackle the new season with the team and the fans behind us.”

Cologne sporting director Armin Veh says Hector’s decision is, “a great signal for the team, the club and our fans.”

Klopp talks politics: “Brexit makes no sense”

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Jurgen Klopp isn’t a fan of Brexit and he doesn’t care who knows it.

Liverpool’s German manager has spoken in the past about his disdain towards the vote by British citizens to leave the European Union, with Brexit officially planned for March 2019.

Klopp sat down with the Guardian to chat about a whole host of topics but it was his political views which will get the headlines ahead of Liverpool’s huge UEFA Champions League semifinal first leg against AS Roma at Anfield on Tuesday.

The man who has Liverpool on the cusp of reaching a major European final and comfortably in the top four of the Premier League also admitted that he has a “helping syndrome” and wants to help out everyone and he cares about them greatly.

It is worth letting the words speak for themselves when it comes to Klopp’s comments on Brexit as it is clearly something else he cares a lot about.

Take it away, Jurgen…

“When Mr [David] Cameron had the idea [of a referendum] you thought: ‘This is not something people should decide in a moment.’ We are all influenced by the way only some of the argument is given, and once the decision is taken nobody gives you a real opportunity to change it again. The choice was either you stay in Europe, which is not perfect, or you go out into something nobody has any idea how it will work.

“So you give people the chance to make this big decision. And then it’s a 51-49 [51.9%-48.1%] vote and you’re thinking: ‘Wow, 49% are not happy with the decision that’s going to change the country.’ For the 51%, I’m sure they realized pretty early after the vote: ‘What have we done?’ The two leaders of the leave campaign then stepped aside. It was a pure sign they were surprised themselves by the vote. OK, that can happen. But then, come on, let’s sit together again. Let’s think about it again and let’s vote again with the right information – not with the information you’ve got around the Brexit campaign. They were obviously not right, not all of them. It makes no sense at all.”

“The EU is not perfect but it was the best idea we had. History has always shown that when we stay together we can sort out problems. When we split then we start fighting. There was not one time in history where division creates success. So, for me, Brexit still makes no sense.”

VIDEO: Napoli fans celebrate Juventus win

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It is safe to say Napoli’s fans were pretty happy with the 1-0 win their team secured at Juventus on Sunday.

Kalidou Koulibaly powered home a header in stoppage as Napoli moved just one point behind Juventus, who sit top of the Serie A table, with four games to go. The title race is well and truly on in Italy.

The scenes across Naples after the game were incredible and when the players arrived back at the airport at around 3 a.m. local time they were greeted by thousands of adoring fans.

Take a look at the video below. Wow.