Messi, Falcao score as Barcelona beats Atlético

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Three early chances asked you to believe this game could be different. An early header that found woodwork. A narrow miss wide after blowing past Gerard Pique and Carles Puyol. Then the goal, a turnover by Lionel Messi leading to Radamel Falcao’s opener. If the world’s best No. 9 was going to get chances every 10 minutes, Barcelona would surely fall at Camp Nou.

That didn’t happen. Finally putting his side ahead in the 31st minute, Falcao’s 17th goal of the season served as a wakeup call. Five minutes later, a golazo from Adriano pulled the league leaders even. Sergio Busquets gave them the lead before half, a position Barcelona never relinquished. The Catalans went on to a 4-1 victory, completing their best 16-game start to a Primera Division season (46 points).

In many ways, it was typical Barcelona. From the opening kickoff they dominated possession, with their high defensive line tempting (and eventually, conceding) a goal. For one of the few times this season, Tito Vilanova had a full complement of defenders at his disposal (Jordi Alba starting with Pique, Puyol, and Adriano). Going forward it took them time to break down a well-organized Atlético defense, though once they did, their dominance of possession helped see out the match.

The one thing that wasn’t typical was Messi. At least, for 45 minutes, the world’s best player wasn’t his normal sel. Stripped of the ball by Diego Costa just inside Atlético’s half ahead of the first goal, Messi was arguably a weakness over the first half. Without his mistake, Victor Valdes might have carried a clean sheet into intermission.

Messi got some redemption early in the second half. In the 57th minute, a ball played to him just outside the Atlético area allowed him to dribble onto his left and beat Thibault Courtois from 19 yards out. Falcao may have taken the first 45 minutes, but Messi wasn’t going to allow their duel to reach full time without being heard. In the 88th minute, when Messi stripped Diego Godin before chipping Courtois, the world’s best player had the final word.

But despite running his league goal total to 25 on the season, this wasn’t vintage Messi. Controlling a 4-on-3 counter in the second half, Messi uncharacteristically overhit a ball for Alexei Sanchez coming in from the left, Courtois about to diffuse the opportunity with an easy scoop of the errant pass. On a typical day, Messi generates a chance on that break, be it for himself or others.

In that sense, Sunday’s result was as informative for what it wasn’t as what it was. Though a extremely entertaining first half faded into Barcelona’s typical siege, Spain’s leaders weren’t at their best. Yet against the second-best team in their league — a team whose form would have them competing for any other title in the world — Barça cruised. At the final whistle, they had a nine-point league lead on Atlético. The gap between them and Real Madrid’s 13.

Perhaps it’s right the match was overshadowed by the Messi-Falcao matchup. Though it featured the two best teams in Spain, the gap between the sides is too great to consider them peers. Messi, for so long considered the best player in the world, is much closer to Falcao in quality than Barcelona is to Atlético Madrid, a fact that speaks to the qualities of both Falcao and the team that beat him.

Barcelona v. Bayern Munich: How to watch, team news, start time, odds

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Barcelona – Bayern Munich is a massive UEFA Champions League quarterfinal on Friday (start time, 3pm ET) and here is everything you need to know ahead of the clash in Lisbon, Portugal.

Many believe the 2019-20 Champions League winner will be one of these two teams, as they face the winner of Manchester City v. Lyon in the semifinal.

[ LIVE: Champions League scores

Barcelona and Lionel Messi have the disappointment of losing their La Liga title in recent weeks to spur them on in the Champions League, while Bayern Munich swept all before them in Germany this season with Robert Lewandowski scoring 53 goals in 44 games in all competitions.

After just a few months in charge, Barca boss Quique Setien likely needs to win the Champions League to keep his job as Messi is firing in attack but Barca are still suspect at the back. As for Bayern Munich coach Hansi Flick, who has masterminded a masterful turnaround since taking charge last November, he and the Bayern hierarchy will see this as the Bavarians’ best chance to win the Champions League since they last did so in 2013.

[ MORE: Key battles in UCL quarterfinals ]

Below you will find all of the details you need on Barcelona – Bayern Munich in what is set to be the game of the Champions League season so far as both teams love to attack.


How to watch, stream Champions League: Barcelona – Bayern Munich

Dates: August 12, 3pm ET kick off
Location: Lisbon, Portugal
How to watch: CBS Sports
Live updates: UCL here at NBCSports.com & Europa League here at NBCSports.com


Team news

Barcelona will likely be without the injured Ousmane Dembele who hasn’t featured since having surgery on his hamstring in February, but could be part of the squad.

Bayern are without Benjamin Pavard who has an ankle injury, but apart from that they have a fully fit squad to choose from as Alphonso Davies sat out of training with a slight adductor problem but is expected to be fit.


What they’re saying

Antoine Griezmann on Barcelona’s mindset: “We are looking forward to it, we have worked well tactically and we are ready to play the game. We know it will be difficult, but we know what we have to do to qualify for the semifinals. It will be a very good match. We hope to take advantage of the quality we have. We are in a good moment and we can play a good game. We have to be together, up front and at the back, and try to have the ball as much as possible.”

Hansi Flick on the style of play he wants from Bayern: “Defensively to win the ball – and offensively, purposefully and consistently to score goals. The intensity of our actions is crucial. We also want to play attractive possession football. The most important thing is that we see ourselves as a team and that everyone knows what their task is. Every player has to get involved and be able to rely on his neighbor on the pitch. This is extremely important to us.”


Odds – Full matchweek odds

It is not often that Barcelona (+235) are the underdogs but they are here, and that shows you how good Bayern Munich (+115) have been in recent months. Bayern will be wary of Messi but with Lewandowski banging in goals for fun and a stable midfield and defensive unit behind him, the Bavarian giants are the favorites for a reason. The tie at +255 provides value and this should be a goal-fest.


Prediction

If this turns into a straight shootout, you would probably fancy Barcelona to advance with Luis Suarez, Messi and Antoine Griezmann in attack. But Bayern will keep it tight, look to slow play down and then launch counters which Lewandowski can finish. I think this game will be stretched and become the attacking feast all neutrals are hoping for, but the Germans are just a more ruthless and solid team right now. Barcelona 1-3 Bayern Munich.

Champions League, Europa League: How to watch, odds, start time, predictions

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The UEFA Champions League and Europa League action has resumed and I’m going to reveal my predictions for this next round as well as the latest odds for Europe’s top two continental tournaments.

[ LIVE: Champions League scores

With Manchester City still in the Champions League and Manchester United still in the Europa League, there is a lot on the line for the two Premier League clubs in the next week.

Just because the Premier League season is over, that doesn’t mean the action is over. Far from it. Both Manchester clubs are the bookmakers favorites to seal their respective European glory.

[ LIVE: Europa League scores ]

In the next few days the Europa League semifinals and Champions League quarterfinals will take place as the mini tournaments take place in Germany and Portugal.

Man City beat Real Madrid 4-2 on aggregate, while Chelsea lost Bayern 7-1 on aggregate as they crashed out of the Champions League. Man United beat Copenhagen in extra time and will face Sevilla in the semifinals and are the lone Premier League club after Wolves were knocked out by Sevilla.

Lisbon, Portugal will host the Champions League games from the quarterfinal stage onwards, while the Europa League games will be hosted around Germany.

Below is a look at my predictions, the odds for the games this week and how to watch and follow all of the fixtures in the USA.


How to watch, stream Champions League and Europa League

Dates: August 5-23
Location: Quarterfinals onwards in Lisbon/Germany
How to watch: CBS Sports
Live updates: UCL here at NBCSports.com & Europa League here at NBCSports.com


JPW’s Champions League predictions

Quarterfinals (August 12-15)
Wednesday, August 12: Atalanta 2-3 PSG
Thursday, August 13: RB Leipzig 1-2 Atletico Madrid
Friday, August 14: Barcelona 1-3 Bayern Munich
Saturday, August 15: Manchester City 3-1 Lyon


JPW’s Europa League predictions

Semifinals (August 16-17)
Sunday, August 16: Sevilla 1-2 Manchester United
Monday, August 17: Inter Milan 2-0 Shakhtar Donetsk


Champions League betting odds

Quarterfinals (August 12-15)

(+210) Atalanta v. PSG (+117). Tie: +275
(+225) RB Leipzig v. Atletico Madrid (+135). Tie: +220
(+235) Barcelona v. Bayern Munich (+115). Tie: +255
(-305) Manchester City v. Lyon (+750). Tie: +450

Outright winner
Manchester City (+220)
Bayern Munich (+325)
Paris Saint-Germain (+500)
Atletico Madrid (+800)
Barcelona (+800)
Atalanta (+1000)
RB Leipzig (+1700)
Lyon (+3500)


Europa League betting odds

Quarterfinals (August 10-11)
(+195) Sevilla v. Manchester United (+150). Tie: +215
(-132) Inter Milan v. Shakhtar Donetsk (+350). Tie: +280

Outright winner
Inter Milan (+160)
Manchester United (+190)
Sevilla (+280)
Shakhtar Donetsk (+800)

Transfer news: Dembele to Man United; Promes to Arsenal

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In the latest transfer news Ousmane Dembele has been linked with a move to Manchester United, while Quincy Promes to Arsenal is an intriguing report.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

First up, let’s start in Manchester as it appears that Ousmane Dembele to Manchester United could be the back-up option if Borussia Dortmund continue to dig their heels in on Jadon Sancho.

Dortmund’s sporting director Michael Zorc has said that Sancho, 20, will be staying with the Bundesliga giants this season as they didn’t receive a bid for the England international before the Aug. 10 deadline they set clubs. Zorc also revealed that Dortmund have extended Sancho’s contract to 2023, so Dortmund aren’t in a rush to sell him.

Man United are still said to be keen on Sancho, who would cost over $140 million, but a back-up option is in the works as the Red Devils baulk at paying a huge fee up front for Sancho.

Ousmane Dembele, 23, has struggled for form and fitness since arriving at Barcelona from Dortmund and it appears the French forward is available.

Per the report from ESPN, ‘informal talks’ have been held about a season-long loan deal for Dembele with an option to buy. This would make a lot of sense for Man United and Barcelona. United get a hungry, and talented winger, who is eager to play for a permanent move and if it works out it will be a lot cheaper than signing Sancho.

Barcelona get to save some face and move Dembele on, as Antoine Griezmann, Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez are their undisputed front three. Dembele has the talent and he ripped it up at Dortmund before arriving as Neymar’s replacement. He hasn’t played since November and has since had surgery on a hamstring injury, so if the French forward can stay fit then he would be a great short-term option for Man United until Dortmund soften their stance on Sancho.

Imagine Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial and Mason Greenwood up top, with Dembele coming off the bench to give one of them a rest.

Switching to north London, Quincy Promes has been linked with a move to Arsenal from Ajax.

Promes, 28, has long been linked with a move to the Premier League and the Dutch winger has added end product to his skill in recent seasons for club and country.

According to The Sun, Arsenal are willing to pay $32.5 million for Promes as the former Feyenoord, Spartak Moscow and Sevilla winger will give them extra cutting edge in attack. He joined Ajax last summer from Sevilla and was a big hit in his first season in Amsterdam.

With Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang yet to sign a new contract, plus the future of Alexandre Lacazette uncertain, Arsenal may only have Eddie Nketiah and Nicolas Pepe to rely on for goals next season.

Promes has always been a tricky, direct winger but he scored 16 goals and added seven assists in 28 games before the Dutch top-flight was canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Arteta is said to want to add extra experience to his Arsenal side which is stacked with talented youngsters such as Nketiah, Bukayo Saka and Gabriel Martinelli the future of the club.

Update on Declan Rice to Chelsea for $65 million

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Declan Rice to Chelsea is a transfer report which keeps rumbling on.

The latest Declan Rice to Chelsea rumors state that the Blues have bid $65 million for the West Ham and England midfielder.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights

Rice, 21, dazzled for the Hammers this season as David Moyes arrived in December to take charge and steered them away from relegation trouble with Rice scoring goals, creating and dominating midfield.

The holding midfielder, who can also play at center back, was a big part of that success and West Ham aren’t keen to sell their prized asset to their London rivals.

Our partners at Sky Sports in the UK have the following update on the current situation.


West Ham have dismissed reports they have received a £50m bid from Chelsea for Declan Rice.

Rice is not for sale according to West Ham, and any £50m bid would be laughed off with the club hopeful the midfielder will stay for many years.

Rice will return to the club on Monday for pre-season training with the rest of his team-mates.


So, that is that then. Right?

Rice is a Chelsea fan and came through their academy with the likes of current first team stars Mason Mount before being released at the age of 14. He is close with plenty of the young players at Chelsea and has never hidden his love for the Blues.

Reports all summer have suggested that Chelsea boss Frank Lampard wants Rice to be his main man in central defense and even though his best position is in central midfield, you could see him developing into a fine ball-playing center back in the future.

If West Ham don’t want to sell Rice, who has a contract until 2024 and the club have the option to extend it by another year, they don’t have to.

Moyes is keen to build his entire team around Rice. However, Chelsea will clearly pull on the emotional heartstrings of Rice being a boyhood Blues fan and if he wants to take his career to the next level, leaving West Ham for Chelsea (just like Frank Lampard did all of those years ago) would clearly do that.

Chelsea badly need defensive reinforcement and stability and if they can offload plenty of their current defenders, bringing in Rice would be a smart move.