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FIFA probe: Al-Khelaifi confirms his presence in Switzerland

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PARIS (AP) Paris Saint-Germain president Nasser Al-Khelaifi says he will go to Switzerland next Wednesday to answer questions from Swiss prosecutors investigating the suspected bribery of a top FIFA executive for World Cup broadcasting rights.

Criminal proceedings against Al-Khelaifi, who is also CEO of Qatar-owned BeIN Media Group, former FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke, and an unnamed businessman working in sports rights were announced by the office of Switzerland’s attorney general last week.

The case involves the award of broadcast rights for the next four World Cups from 2018 through 2030.

Al-Khelaifi is alleged to have offered advantages to Valcke – FIFA’s CEO-like secretary general from 2007 until his firing in January 2016 – for the award of media rights in certain countries for the 2026 and 2030 World Cup.

Speaking Wednesday night on Canal Plus television, after PSG’s 4-0 win away to Anderlecht in the Champions League, Al-Khelaifi confirmed his trip to Switzerland.

“I have an appointment on the 25th. I will go there to speak with them, the Swiss (authorities),” said Khelaifi, who attended Wednesday’s match in Belgium. “That’s all.”

The proceeding against Al-Khelaifi is one of the first direct links to Qatar in sweeping investigations by federal law enforcement authorities in Switzerland, the United States, and France concerning FIFA, international soccer, and the 2018-2022 World Cup bidding contests.

Last week, the Paris offices of BeIN Sports were searched. Properties were searched in Greece, Italy, and Spain while Valcke was questioned in Switzerland.

UCL wrap: Barcelona, PSG roll; Dzeko scores stunner (video)

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There were a few more zeroes on the board in Wednesday’s UEFA Champions League action, but that doesn’t mean the day failed to entertain by any stretch of the imagination.

[ MORE: Landon Donovan, USSF prez? ]

Chelsea and Roma staged a slugfest at Stamford Bridge, while PSG and Barcelona saw its stars shining, and Jose Mourinho orchestrated another away defensive masterclass for Manchester United.

Chelsea 3-3 RomaRECAP

There’s a lot to say about this one. Chelsea goes up 2-0 through solid goals from David Luiz and Eden Hazard, but finds itself down and needs another Hazard goal to rescue a point.

But this goal, one of two from Edin Dzeko, is why we watch this wonderful sport. Aleksandar Kolarov also scored and had an assist as ex-Man City men came to play at Stamford Bridge.

Benfica 0-1 Manchester UnitedRECAP

The perfect road match, more or less, though United scored its lone goal thanks to goalkeeper error. Marcus Rashford took the free kick that was carried across the goal line, and United completed more than 500 passes to double Benfica’s output at the Estadio da Luz.

Barcelona 3-1 Olympiacos

It’s not much of a surprise to see Barca triumph at home over Greek opposition. An own goal joined Lucas Digne and this historic Lionel Messi marker to build a 3-0 lead at the Camp Nou.

Anderlecht 0-4 Paris Saint-Germain

In case you think PSG cannot make a run this year, consider its list of goal scorers on Wednesday: Kylian Mbappe, Angel Di Maria, Neymar, and Edinson Cavani.

Elsewhere
Qarabag 0-0 Atletico Madrid
Juventus 2-1 Sporting Lisbon
CSKA Moscow 0-2 Basel
Bayern Munich 3-0 Celtic

Cavani on Neymar: “We do not need to be friends”

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Paris Saint-Germain has been rocked by rumblings of locker room discontent ever since Edinson Cavani and Neymar were involved in an on-field spat regarding who would take a penalty in a 2-0 win against Lyon.

The two have done their best to quiet the noise, but the populous understandably continues to dissect their words piece by piece. Ahead of their Champions League game against Anderlecht in Group B play on Wednesday, Cavani was again asked about the situation, and again put his best foot forward to dispel any internal issues, but may have only ignited them further.

“The penalty business, it is in the past,” Cavani told reporters in the pre-game press conference. “These things happen in football. The important thing now is to find a solution together and to operate as a team. Ultimately, this is what enables you to achieve great things.”

“We need to be a competitive team, we do not need to all be friends or like a family. The most important thing is that everybody is professional on the pitch and gives 100 percent. Outside of that, everybody has their own life, their own way of being and their own way of thinking.”

Players talk all the time about being a “family” or being close-knit, but here Cavani attempts to ease any fears of locker room discontent by proclaiming the team is anything but family or friends. An interesting choice of words for sure.

In other interviews, Cavani has claimed the penalty business was resolved in-house, and that it will stay in-house.

Follow Live: Chelsea, Manchester United in Champions League action

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Two more Premier League teams, both with high aspirations, steam towards the halfway point of group stage action in the 2017/18 Champions League.

[ LIVE: Champions League scores ]

Manchester United hits the road to Portugal to take on Benfica. The Red Devils with a win would move to a perfect nine points out of nine through the midway point of group stage play, almost assuring themselves of a place in the knockout round.

Chelsea could do the same, although their predicament looks slightly more bleak as injuries have ravaged the squad and given Antonio Conte pause as to how he will proceed. The Blues are in poor form after losing the last-placed Crystal Palace in league play over the weekend, and as they host Roma at Stanford Bridge, questions remain as to how Conte can replace the injured N'Golo Kante and Victor Moses.

[ MORE: How will Chelsea lineup after injuries? ]

Elsewhere, Paris Saint-Germain heads to Belgium to take on Anderlecht, while Bayern Munich hosts Brendan Rodgers and Celtic. Atletico Madrid has an early kick on the road at Azerbaijan giants Qarabag. Barcelona hosts Greek side Olympiakos looking to extend their lead atop Group D, while Juventus hopes to keep pace as they host Portugal’s Sporting CP.

[ MORE: Champions League standings ] 

All games kick at 2:45 p.m. ET unless otherwise noted.


Wednesday’s UCL games

Group A
Benfica vs. Manchester United
CSKA Moscow vs. FC Basel

Group B
Anderlecht vs. Paris Saint-Germain
Bayern Munich vs. Celtic

Group C
Qarabag vs. Atletico Madrid (12:00 p.m. ET)
Chelsea vs. AS Roma

Group D
Barcelona vs. Olympiakos
Juventus vs. Sporting CP

Ligue 1 roundup: PSG grab late win to open early 6-point lead

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PARIS (AP) On a frustrating day for the world’s two most expensive players, and with the club’s top scorer rested, it was unheralded defender Thomas Meunier who got Paris Saint-Germain’s goals in a 2-1 win at Dijon on Saturday.

Neymar and Kylian Mbappe cost PSG a combined $478 million when they joined in the offseason. They had an off day, although Mbappe made some amends by setting up Meunier’s winner in the second minute of injury time.

It was the attack-minded right back’s fourth goal in four games, including one for Belgium last weekend in a World Cup qualifier.

“I always try and follow things up, that’s my style,” Meunier said. “I love bringing something to the attack.”

The win moved French league leader PSG six points clear of defending champion Monaco, which lost at Lyon 3-2 on Friday.

PSG was without Edinson Cavani — left out after playing for Uruguay in World Cup qualifying this week — but carved out enough chances to win easily.

PSG was coasting to victory until the 87th minute, when Dijon launched a hopeful ball up the field, forcing PSG center half Marquinhos to hack clear. The looping ball fell to forward Benjamin Jeannot some 35 yards out and he hit a tremendous left-footed volley over the head of goalkeeper Alphonse Areola.

Then Mbappe’s cross fell to Meunier on the edge of the area, and his low shot squeezed through the legs of defender Oussama Haddadi and over the line.

“We fought hard the whole game and showed that we could stand up to PSG,” Dijon goalkeeper Baptiste Reynet said. “We got back into the game in an incredible way, so it’s a pity to concede that goal the way we did. We lost a bit of concentration.”

Dijon played with a high energy and harried PSG all over the pitch, forcing mistakes.

PSG’s frustration showed when Neymar was shown a yellow card for a cheap foul on Dijon defender Cedric Varrault.

Reynet made a stunning reflex save to push away Mbappe’s low volley and saved again moments later from Neymar’s strike, but could not recover in time to stop Meunier’s low shot slipping under his body in the 70th.

Saint-Etienne scored three late goals to beat Metz 3-1 and move up to third place, while Caen dropped down to eighth spot after losing 2-0 at home to Angers.

Guingamp moved up to ninth with a 2-0 home win over Rennes, but Lille’s struggles continued as it conceded an injury-time goal in a 2-2 home draw with Troyes.

Striker Andy Delort’s first-half goal sealed mid-table Toulouse a 1-0 home win against Amiens.


PARIS (AP) Montpellier continued its habit of troubling the leading teams by beating Nice 2-0 in the French league on Sunday.

Montpellier is unbeaten so far against the top three from last season. It has drawn against defending champion Monaco and runner-up Paris Saint-Germain and comfortably beaten Nice in successive games.

Benin attacking midfielder Stephane Sessegnon and Belgium forward Isaac Mbenza scored in the second half with their first goals of the campaign.

Sessegnon was once considered among the biggest talents in the French league when he joined Paris Saint-Germain in 2008, but his career never really took off despite several years in the English Premier League with Sunderland and West Bromwich Albion.

The 33-year-old Sessegnon showed a glimpse of his ability, however, with a ferocious strike from 25 meters (yards) that flew into the top right corner in the 55th minute.

The win moved Montpellier up to mid-table, while Nice drops down to a miserable 14th place after its fifth defeat so far.

Nice offered little threat, with Mario Balotelli well contained by the home defense. When the former Inter Milan and Manchester City striker did get a chance in the first half, he was thwarted by goalkeeper Benjamin Lecomte’s sprawling save.

Nantes is resolute, well organized, opportunist and tough to beat under coach Claudio Ranieri.

Sound familiar? So was unheralded Leicester when Ranieri guided it to the Premier League title in 2015-16 in one of the greatest upsets in soccer history.

Ranieri has little hope of winning the French title this season, however, faced with the attacking power of Paris Saint-Germain.

After losing the first two league games, Ranieri’s side is unbeaten in seven and sits comfortably in fourth place following Sunday’s 1-1 draw at Bordeaux.