Joe Prince-Wright

LONDON, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 20:  Francis Coquelin of Arsenal challenges Thiago Alcantara of Bayern Munich during the UEFA Champions League Group F match between Arsenal FC and FC Bayern Munchen at Emirates Stadium on October 20, 2015 in London, United Kingdom.  (Photo by Paul Gilham/Getty Images)
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LIVE: UCL last 16 – Bayern Munich v Arsenal; Real Madrid v Napoli

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Two huge games take place in the UEFA Champions League on Wednesday at 2:45 p.m. ET.

Arsenal head to Bayern Munich for the first leg of their Round of 16 clash, with the two teams familiar foes after recent battles.

[ LIVE: Champions League scores

Arsene Wenger and Arsenal badly need to advance past the reigning German champs as Wenger’s future, plus the futures of Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil, perhaps depend on a deep run in the UCL this season.

The Gunners have crashed out at this stage in each of the last six seasons.

With Wenger’s contract up in the summer he has yet to announce if he will stay on for another season or two, as the Gunners fight for a top four finish and remain in the UCL and FA Cup. This is a pivotal week for how the rest of Arsenal’s season will pan out, especially with the battle for a top four finish intensifying.

As for Bayern, well, they’re hardly setting the world alight in the Bundesliga but Carlo Ancelotti’s side do lead the way. Bayern have knocked Arsenal out at this stage of the tournament in 2013 and 2014, while the last time these teams met they hammered Arsenal 5-1 in a UCL group game in Bavaria in November 2015.

In the other Round of 16 first leg, reigning European champions Real Madrid will look to put the tie to bed at the Santiago Bernabeu. They host Serie A side Napoli, with the Italians confident of causing an upset following a run of 18 games unbeaten which stretches back to October.

Still, with Cristiano Ronaldo fit to lead Real, the home fans will hope Zinedine Zidane’s boys can rack up a big win to reach the UCL quarterfinals for an seventh-straight season. Not having Gareth Bale fit is a blow for the La Liga leaders but they are still the heavy favorites against a Napoli side who sit third in Serie A.

Click on the link above to follow live commentary on both games, while we will have reaction and analysis on all of the UCL knockout games here at Pro Soccer Talk.


Wednesday’s UCL Round of 16, first legs

Bayern Munich vs. Arsenal – 2:45 p.m. ET
Real Madrid vs. Napoli – 2:45 p.m. ET

Madrid police talk to Maradona after altercation at hotel

Diego Armando Maradona
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MADRID (AP) Police say they were called to investigate an altercation involving Diego Maradona and a woman at a hotel in Madrid.

[ LIVE: Stream every PL game live

Authorities said officers were dispatched Wednesday after a call from the hotel, but found no evidence of any disturbance after talking to Maradona and the woman.

Authorities said they couldn’t confirm if the woman was a hotel guest or Maradona’s girlfriend.

Spanish media on Tuesday released a video of Maradona threatening a reporter who tried to talk to him at the hotel in Madrid.

Maradona is in the Spanish capital to watch former club Napoli play Real Madrid in the Champions League.

Bob Bradley opens up: “I am an American coach”

Swansea manager Bob Bradley watches the action during their English Premier League soccer match against West Ham United at the Liberty Stadium, Swansea, Wales, Monday, Dec. 26, 2016. (Simon Galloway/PA via AP)
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For anyone who said it wasn’t a big deal for Bob Bradley to become the first-ever American to coach in the Premier League, they were wrong.

Even Bob himself admits he was wrong about it.

[ LONGFORM: Bradley – “That’s Football” ]

After just 85 days in charge of Swansea City, the former head coach of the U.S. men’s national team was fired with the Swans staying in the relegation zone after gaining eight points from his 11 games in charge.

In a typically revealing piece with the Players’ Tribune, Bradley opens up about his philosophy and the challenges he faced when coaching in the Premier League at Swansea.

[ JPW: American stigma: Bradley unfairly vilified ]  

One of the main challenges was the fact that he was American.

Something we wrote about here at PST in the column above.

[ MORE: Bradley releases statement via PST on Swans firing ]

Below is a snippet from the excellent piece which you can read in full, here.

When I arrived home that night I received a message from the chairman: “Would you meet me at the academy?” When I got that message, I knew exactly what was happening.

As they say in the Premier League, I got the sack.

I failed. Failed to put my stamp on the team at Swansea. To give it a real identity. A real personality. I never managed to find the right balance between attack and defense. I couldn’t find the answers for this group to play with the commitment and passion that so many of my other teams possessed. We never found consistency or confidence.

Who will finish in the top four of the Premier League?

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This is without doubt the hot topic in the Premier League right now.

Who will finish in the top four this season?

[ PLAYBACK: Predicting final PL table ]

It will be a tight battle until the end of the season to see if any of Manchester City, Tottenham, Arsenal, Liverpool or Manchester United can hunt current leaders Chelsea down. With Antonio Conte‘s men having an eight-point lead at the top with 13 games to go, their place in the top four seems all but assured.

As for the rest, it’s utter bedlam.

Two powerhouses will not qualify for the UEFA Champions League next season and with Man City, Man United and Arsenal all having four games against the to six in their run-ins, this will get very interesting in the coming weeks.

[ LIVE: Stream every PL game live ]

In the latest edition of PST Extra Jenna Corrado and I discuss the favorites to finish in the top four and the two teams who could miss out.

Click play on the video above to get your PST Extra fix.

Jose Mourinho predicts “trouble” ahead for Man United

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Despite Manchester United being on a 16-game unbeaten run in the Premier League, Jose Mourinho is not a happy man.

[ MORE: Costa to sign new deal? ]

With severe fixture pile-up on the way, United’s manager is concerned about the “many, many problems” his side will face in the coming weeks as they play in the UEFA Europa League, FA Cup, EFL Cup final and the Premier League.

As the battle to finish in the PL’s top four intensifies, Mourinho is right to be worried.

Speaking at a press conference ahead of United’s Europa League Round of 32 first leg clash against St. Etienne on Thusday at old Trafford, Mourinho isn’t looking forward to playing four cup games in the next 10 days and said the congested fixture list will cause his team “many, many problems” between now and the end of the season.

“If we progress in the competitions, we will be in trouble,” Mourinho said. “We know our situation is really complicated. The Europa League is a competition where we play on Thursdays and that makes it even more difficult for us. With the accumulation of FA Cup, League Cup and match postponed it is really hard for us. If you progress in the competitions, we will be in trouble in April and May. But we cannot choose competitions so we play to win.”

Mourinho went on to state that “The Europa League is a not a competition we want to play” but he remains upbeat that his team will try and win everything they can.

United face St. Etienne on Thursday, Blackburn Rovers in the FA Cup on Sunday, then St. Etienne away next Thursday before the EFL Cup final against Southampton at Wembley Stadium next Sunday. If they make it through in the Europa League and FA Cup, they will then have a further four games in 12 days from Mar. 4 onwards.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights

He has a point about the massive number of games, with United already playing 38 games this season. But with his large squad and more games meaning more success in the cup competitions, should Mourinho really be complaining?

Of course every manager wants more time to spend on the training ground bedding in his methods and getting his philosophy across to the players. That is especially the case with Mourinho being a manager in his first season at a new club and a top four finish in the Premier League is seen as the minimum requirement.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule

But, if he wins the EFL Cup next weekend, gets to the quarters of the FA Cup and makes it into another round of the Europa League won’t everyone be happy? Probably not. Getting back into the UCL is what everyone craves at Old Trafford and that’s why Mourinho was brought in and given the money to sign Paul Pogba and Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

With four of the current top six in the PL to play in their final 13 games of the league season, Mourinho knows his side could well be jaded by the final month of the season.

As the battle to finish in the top four cranks up a few notches with just four points separating second-place Manchester City and sixth-place Manchester United, having all of these games is a massive headache for Mourinho.