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Emery makes PSG roar in Ligue 1, silent in Champions League

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PARIS (AP) A 6-1 humiliation from Barcelona plus the loss of the French title were not enough to end Unai Emery’s tenure as Paris Saint-Germain coach last year.

PSG president Nasser Al-Khelaifi decided to keep Emery, probably thinking that spending 400 million euros on new forwards would help solve the team’s defensive weaknesses. And bring the Champions League trophy he craves so much to the French capital.

[ MORE: PSG squabbling after first leg ]

The big investment has brought instant dividends in the French league. After 25 matches, PSG enjoys a 12-point lead over defending champion Monaco going into the home game against promoted Strasbourg on Saturday.

Neymar, Edinson Cavani, and Kylian Mbappe have been formidable, and only a couple of teams threaten PSG’s hegemony. Emery does not have to scratch his head too much to find the appropriate tactics to dominate the local league.

The Champions League is a different story.

A year after the Barcelona fiasco, Emery – a respected tactician who guided Sevilla to three Europa League titles – had the chance to redeem himself at PSG against Champions League-holder Real Madrid in their last-16 first leg match this week.

He took bold risks, but his moves backfired as Neymar, Cavani, and Mbappe were silenced. They left Madrid 3-1 losers, on the verge of another early elimination from Europe’s top competition.

The fact that Madrid was not particularly impressive makes PSG’s loss even harder to take, and other tactical choices might have produced a different result. Emery’s decisions to leave captain Thiago Silva on the bench, to start Presnel Kimpembe at center half, and to omit Lassana Diarra or Thiago Motta in midfield to make room for Giovani Lo Celso turned into big question marks.

Kimpembe did well until the 83rd minute when his poor pass led to Cristiano Ronaldo’s second goal of the evening.

The biggest gamble was likely on Lo Celso as holding midfielder in a position that did not suit him, for a game that everybody expected to be played at a very high pace.

The talented Argentine was often caught out of position and gave away a penalty for a silly foul on Toni Kroos. Emery failed to deal with Lo Celso’s struggles properly and left him on the pitch for an 85-minute ordeal. Surprisingly, Emery praised Lo Celso for his “great match,” preferring to blame the referee for the loss.

“The team played well,” Emery said. “They showed character.”

Emery also left observers puzzled by his decision to replace Cavani with Thomas Meunier just after the hour mark. Cavani, the French league’s top striker, delivered a mediocre performance but, in his defense, had been set up just once by Neymar.

The Brazil star, who was bought by PSG for 222 million euros precisely to be a factor in the Champions League, played second fiddle to Ronaldo throughout the match. Neymar had a hand in Adrien Rabiot’s opening goal with a backheel assist, but his flashes of brilliance were not enough. Neymar’s striking partner Mbappe was disappointing too, failing to convert three good chances.

“We always say the same things, we always do the same things and, in the end, we are always floored in the same way,” Rabiot said. “The problem is that it’s easy to put eight goals against Dijon, or four, in the league. It’s in matches like this that you have to be decisive.”

Miazga: “We’re all ready to make an impression” with USMNT

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Last October, for reasons unknown, Matt Miazga didn’t make the U.S. Men’s National Team squad for its final two World Cup qualifiers.

Five months later, he’s risen to the top of the centerback depth chart.

[MORE: Digging into the USMNT roster]

The hulking centerback spoke on Tuesday as the USMNT started off its training camp in Cary, N.C., noting that the youth-laden squad wanted to make an impression to stay in the picture moving forward. With four years until the next World Cup and still more than a year until competitive matches, there is still plenty of shuffling and expanding of the player pool to do before then.

Have a listen to Miazga and enjoy the sights and sounds of the USMNT training camp ahead of its friendly match against Paraguay.


Banker Gaetano Micciche elected Serie A president

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MILAN (AP) Bank boss Gaetano Micciche has been elected president of Serie A.

Micciche, the president of Banca IMI, was chosen unanimously on Monday by the Italian league’s 20 clubs.

He succeeds Maurizio Beretta, who left the position nearly a year ago.

[ MORE: Serie A scores, schedule ]

The league has been under emergency leadership, first by former Italian football federation president Carlo Tavecchio then by Italian Olympic Committee president Giovanni Malago.

Malago recommended Micciche for the position.

The federation remains under emergency leadership following Tavecchio’s resignation in the wake of Italy’s failure to qualify for the World Cup.

Report: Liverpool to resist all offers for Salah

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Liverpool has a message for any club looking to sign Mohamed Salah this summer: Not gonna happen.

The Merseyside club has reportedly said it will “not sell Salah under any circumstances this summer” as the Reds look to hold off the likes of Real Madrid and Barcelona, according to The Telegraph. Salah’s four-goal tally against Watford on Saturday took his goal total to an incredible 28 in 32 Premier League games, with another seven goals in cup competitions.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

Liverpool famously kept Barcelona – and Arsenal – off Luis Suarez after the Uruguayan striker wanted to leave in 2013, but Liverpool was only able to stop Barcelona from signing Philippe Coutinho for six months.

As things stand, Liverpool are qualified for the 2018-2019 UEFA Champions League with the club sitting in a top four Premier League place, and keeping Salah is absolutely vital if the Reds want to make a deep run in the competition and compete for a Premier League title. It remains to be seen though if Salah is happy to stay at Liverpool or if a big-money offer from Spain or France can tempt him otherwise to set himself and his family financially for life.

Report: Sarachan’s contract with USMNT extended through June

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U.S. Soccer will wait until after the World Cup to decide on a new head coach for the U.S. Men’s National Team.

The Washington Post reported on Monday that U.S. Soccer had extended interim coach Dave Sarachan’s contract through June, after his original deal was set to expire this month. Sarachan has led the U.S. since the resignation of Bruce Arena last October. Sarachan was Arena’s long-time top assistant coach with the LA Galaxy and USMNT before taking the reigns.

[READ: Manneh added to USMNT squad]

Sarachan has led the U.S. to a pair of draws with Portugal and Bosnia and Herzegovina, with two U.S. starting lineups stocked with youngsters as the preparation for the 2022 World Cup gets underway.

Sarachan and the U.S. are currently holding a training camp in Cary, N.C. ahead of a friendly match next Tuesday against Paraguay. Sarachan will also coach the U.S. against Bolivia, Ireland and France before departing.

By extending Sarachan through June, it makes it more likely that U.S. Soccer will either look abroad for its next coach or pick a coach who is currently a free agent – like Caleb Porter – or already within the system – like Tab Ramos. It’s possible, but unlikely, that U.S. Soccer could sway Peter Vermes, Oscar Pareja or Gregg Berhalter to leave their clubs halfway through the season for the national team job, and it’s equally unlikely that U.S. Soccer would hold the position open until the next MLS offseason.