Edin Dzeko

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Angry Di Francesco extremely quotable after Roma loss

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AS Roma manager Eusebio Di Francesco absolutely roasted his charges after i Lupi tossed aside a Cenzig Under-inspired lead to fall 2-1 at Shakhtar Donetsk in the first leg of their UEFA Champions League Round of 16 tie on Wednesday.

Di Francesco had praise for Edin Dzeko, who assisted Under’s goal, as well as goalkeeper Alisson, but was mostly enraged by his side.

[ MORE: Recap + Fred’s vicious free kick ]

Rather than construct a narrative, we’re going to point out our five favorite selections from Di Francesco’s post-match talk.

4) “The difference was that in the first half we tried to hurt them while in the second we were looking to hold on – to what? I don’t know.”

— “To what? I don’t know” is hilarious. Di Francesco’s side has posted some serious wins this season, including killing off Chelsea 3-0 at home and coming back from 2-0 to draw the Blues at Stamford Bridge. He doesn’t preach sitting back.

3) “There were far too many schoolboy errors – even by players with a wealth of international experience.”

— Schoolboy errors!

2) “I saw two completely different teams out there today. There were lots of players I should have taken off after we conceded the first goal.”

— Again, one mistake by a number of players on Facundo Ferreyra is enough for Di Francesco. He’s not just happy to be here.

1) “I can’t imagine we’d get arrogant just because we’re winning an important game. It’s not as if Roma are used to reaching the final every year.”

— When you’re willing to essentially rip an entire club’s history — Roma’s been to just two UCL quarterfinals since losing the final to Liverpool in 1984 — you’re putting your footprints in new cement.

Fred’s vicious free kick leads Shakhtar over Roma

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Facundo Ferreyra and Fred scored second half goals to lead Shakhtar Donetsk past AS Roma 2-1 at the Donbass Arena in Wednesday’s first leg of the clubs’ UEFA Champions League Round of 16 tie.

Cendig Under scored his fifth goal in four matches as AS Roma did manage an away goal before the March 13 second leg in Rome.

Fred has been linked with a summer move to Man City, and the banger of a free kick showed part of the reason the Brazilian is in demand.

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

Roma is bidding to make its first UEFA Champions League quarterfinal since 2007-08 when they went out at the hands of Manchester United, while Shakhtar last made the quarters only to be dismissed by Barcelona in 2010-11.

Ukrainian backstop Andriy Pyatov had an early save on Edin Dzeko off a cross from Aleksandar Kolarov, two minutes after Kolarov mailed a free kick over the bar.

Kolarov and Dzeko remained big parts of the story line, though Pyatov and the Shakhtar defense stood tall.

Dzeko would wind up assisting the opener, and it was the in form Under who’d bury his chance.

Not soon after the break, though, Yaroslav Rakitskiy cued up Ferreyra for the equalizer.

And Fred but the hosts ahead with this outstanding free kick, what they’d call a “bar down bingo” in hockey.

UEFA Champions League last 16 score picks

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This is it. After a two-month hiatus, the UEFA Champions League is back and the action returns this week.

[ MORE: Champions League schedule

The Round of 16 games will be spread over the next month with five Premier League teams — Manchester City, Manchester United, Chelsea, Tottenham Hotspur and Liverpool — still in the competition.

Below is a look at each of the eight matchups with a score prediction, as Europe’s elite teams lock horns.


Basel vs. Manchester City (first leg, Feb. 13; second leg, Mar. 3)
No disrespect to the Swiss champs, but this is the easiest draw Man City could have got. Pep Guardiola‘s men are in imperious form and could have this tie wrapped up after the first leg in Switzerland. Kevin De Bruyne, Sergio Aguero and Raheem Sterling will be too much for Basel to handle, but City have to watch as Basel stunned Man United in the group stages. Score pick: Man City to advance 5-1 on aggregate


Juventus vs. Tottenham Hotspur (first leg, Feb. 13; second leg, Mar. 3)
What a tie this promises to be. Spurs’ high-press against Juve’s solid defense with a fondness for counters with Gonzalo Higuain finishing off chances. Tottenham will look to take Juve level to Wembley for the second leg but with Harry Kane in fine form, he could cause Juve’s ageing defense some issues. Spurs’ best chance of success may be to ease off their high-pressing and allow Juve to come onto them before picking holes on the counter. Score pick: Tottenham to advance 3-2 on aggregate


FC Porto vs. Liverpool (first leg, Feb. 14; second leg, Mar. 4)
This Liverpool side seem set up for success in Europe and with the addition of Virgil Van Dijk in defense, his battle with Vincent Aboubakar should be epic. We all know about Liverpool’s incredible attacking talents and that should see them over the line. Jurgen Klopp won’t take Porto lightly, but the second leg being at Anfield is a huge bonus. Score pick: Liverpool to advance 4-2 on aggregate 


Real Madrid vs. PSG (first leg, Feb. 14; second leg, Mar. 4)
What a game. When Real Madrid finished second in their group (behind Spurs) PSG are one of the teams they would have feared most. With Neymar and Cavani ripping it up, Real’s usual method of all-out attack may not work against PSG. The two-time reigning European champs have all their eggs in one basket under Zinedine Zidane with their La Liga form struggling. This could well be the end of an era. Score pick: PSG to advance 3-2 on aggregate


Chelsea vs. Barcelona (first leg, Feb. 20; second leg, Mar. 14)
My goodness, these two clashing bring up some epic UCL memories. When Chelsea fluffed their lines by not winning their group, this was the worst-case scenario. Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Co. will relish heading to an injury-hit Chelsea in the first leg as Antonio Conte‘s men battle poor form in the league. The La Liga leaders have struggled themselves a little lately, but they always seem to deliver in the big games. Score pick: Barcelona to advance 4-2 on aggregate

 


Bayern Munich vs. Besiktas (first leg, Feb. 20; second leg, Mar. 14)
A kind draw for Bayern considering they finished second in their group behind PSG. Besiktas should not be underestimated and having the second leg at home will be a big bonus. That said, surviving the trip to Munich in the first leg with anything less than a one-goal deficit would be massive. Having sold Cenk Tosun to Everton, Besiktas have lost their top scorer this season but have plenty of experience. Score pick: Bayern to advance 3-2 on aggregate


Sevilla vs. Manchester United (first leg, Feb. 21; second leg, Mar. 13)
Tricky test for United against a Sevilla side who caused Liverpool problems with their incredible comeback from three goals down. Jose Mourinho’s men will play for the draw on the road, then look to finish the job at Old Trafford. Sevilla aren’t the force they have been in previous seasons but they will not be a walkover. United have handled business carefully in Europe this season and Romelu Lukaku will be key in this game, plus Alexis Sanchez being able to play is a huge bonus. Maybe the defeat at Newcastle last weekend was the wake-up call United needed. Score pick: Man United to advance 2-1 on aggregate 


Shakhtar Donetsk vs. AS Roma (first leg, Feb. 21; second leg, Mar. 13)
One of just two teams to beat Manchester City this season, Shakhtar will be eager to hit their stride in the first leg with Fred, Bernard, Marlos and Facundo Ferreyra the danger men. The Ukrainian champs have had a nice rest with no official games since December with the Ukrainian Premier League starting up against this weekend, but that can sometimes leave them a little rusty. Roma kept hold of Edin Dzeko in January, which was massive, and you have to fancy them taking Shakhtar back to the Italian capital in the second leg. Score pick: Roma to advance 3-2 on aggregate


One player for each of the Premier League’s Top Six

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The Premier League’s transfer window is going to close within the next two weeks, and each of the big boys feels a need to find help in at least one position on the field.

[ MORE: Transfer rumor roundup ]

Manchester City: Yes, it’s laughable that City would require another piece; They’ll be fine either way. But injuries to Fabian Delph and Benjamin Mendy and lack of faith in Danilo does mean that left back would be a spot of interest for Pep Guardiola. This is not shot at young Oleksandar Zinchenko, but City wants at least a treble. This is why City is being linked with Fred, who can play at left back as well as his traditional center mid. It makes sense.

Manchester United: Yeah, yeah, Alexis Sanchez, we know. But with Michael Carrick retiring and Ander Herrera‘s surprising lack of consistent starting time, perhaps Jose Mourinho is aiming for more presence in the center of the park. It betrays things in terms of age, but Lassana Diarra is a free agent and could provide the competition United craves at an easy-to-digest budgetary addition.

Chelsea: Adding Ross Barkley was a nice pick-up, but depth behind Alvaro Morata is clearly a desire for Antonio Conte considering the names which have been linked with Stamford Bridge: Andy Carroll, Ashley Barnes, Edin Dzeko, Peter Crouch. West Ham might like a Carroll-for-Batshuayi swap, and the big Englishman would be a huge get for the Blues should he stay healthy. We wonder if newly available loan target Andre Schurrle has any love left for Chelsea

Liverpool: Here’s a name you probably expected in the City portion of this post: Johnny Evans. The ex-Manchester United defender may be on the move from West Brom, and pairing him with Virgil Van Dijk would give Jurgen Klopp‘s 4-4-2 perhaps the toughest center back pairing in England. Obviously pushing the Naby Keita transfer earlier would be way more effective for Klopp’s project, but it is extremely unlikely to happen in January. So we stick with Evans. Bold statement: With Evans, Liverpool could post the most points in the PL the rest of the way. With Evans and Keita, they’ll be a favorite to rival Man City next season.

Tottenham Hotspur: This club is very, very good and two deep at nearly every position. Heck, Victor Wanyama can’t even get on the field. That’s why it makes sense that the club’s been linked with unfinished project Malcom as well as Schurrle, who Bordeaux said today will not be moving in January. So while that’s the name we’d choose, we’ll instead nod to Cagliari youngster and Golden Boy nominee Nicolo Barella, whose name continues to pop up as a target of several top clubs in the Premier League.

Arsenal: Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang would be nice, and forward is being magnified as a position at the Emirates Stadium thanks largely to a slow period for the very good Alexandre Lacazette. But his numbers are going to increase with (probably, almost certainly) Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Mesut Ozil as twin playmakers, the former who will be motivated to prove his Manchester United critics wrong (See his amazing final Bundesliga season for hope, Gunners fans).

So we’ll seek Arsenal help closer to the back, where they need center back experience thanks to the predictable slide of Per Mertesacker and the unpredictable dip in form of Laurent Koscielny. Man, Evans is a good shout here, but we’ll go off the board completely and speculate that Ajax teen center back Matthijs de Ligt is a very Arsene Wenger type player. In other words: instantly effective or not, how Wenger would it be to add a teenage CB? In a window in which he’s (maybe) sated those who want both a playmaker (Mkhitaryan) and striker (Aubameyang), that seems pretty possible.

Transfer Rumor Roundup: Chelsea still pursuing Roma duo, and more

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Chelsea is looking to make a big transfer splash as it searches for potential replacements for Michy Batshuayi and David Luiz.

According to multiple reports, Chelsea is attempting a double signing from AS Roma, forward Edin Dzeko and midfielder Emerson Palmieri. The Brazilian left-back is rated by Roma at $30.5 million but he could join Chelsea on loan. However the interest in Dzeko is much newer, and it’s unclear whether Roma would allow Dzeko to leave, especially in the middle of the season.

[READ: MLS SuperDraft 2018 Live Tracker]

With Roma preparing to face Inter Milan this weekend, talks between the two clubs have been put on hold until next week.

Dzeko’s agent confirmed that Conte is interested in the Bosnia and Herzegovina international but stated Dzeko’s desire is to remain at Roma.

After failing to beat out Sergio Aguero in the starting lineup for Manchester City, it would be interesting to see Dzeko give the Premier League another go, although he’d likely play second-fiddle again, this time to Alvaro Morata.

Here are some more transfer rumors from around Europe and the Premier League:

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