ProSoccerTalk’s weekly MLS rankings

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Round 15 was abbreviated in Major League Soccer due to the international matches, so movement in this weeks rankings was light:

19. Chivas USA – The Carolina Railhawks eliminated MLS champion Los Angeles last week, so it’s up to the Goats to protect So Cal honor when the teams meet Wednesday night in Cary, N.C.

18. D.C. United – A nice U.S. Open Cup run would help bring something positive to a season gone badly sideways; United hosts Philadelphia tonight in the tournament. Meanwhile, the next three league matches are at RFK Stadium, so it’s now or never in terms of dragging this thing out of a ditch.

17. Toronto FC – The front office has a big decision to make on Robert Earnshaw, who scored a bunch early but hasn’t been as productive lately. The Welshman’s loan spell is just about up.

16. Chicago Fire – Mike Magee (pictured) was the start of the show in a big two-goal rally, guiding the team to a 2-2 draw with Portland. That trade is looking more and more like the deal of the year, isn’t it?

15. San Jose Earthquakes – The timing on Frank Yallop’s dismissal is a head-scratcher. Richard Farley goes a little deeper here to explain the events that conspired ahead of Major League Soccer’s second coaching dismissal this year.

14. Vancouver Whitecaps – The Whitecaps could not capitalize on last week’s huge road win (over New York), and are now winless in 12 Cascadia Cup matches. The Whitecaps fell Saturday in Seattle, 3-2. Further, center back Andy O’Brien fell to injury.

13. Columbus – Any chance of a collecting a point in Philadelphia last week melted away in six of the worst minutes ever seen for the men in yellow, as the Union slotted three past Andy Gruenebaum and rolled on to the win at PPL Park.

12. Philadelphia Union – The strangest thing about last week’s 3-0 win over Columbus was this: MLS leading scorer Jack McInerney didn’t get any of the goals! He had a great chance late, but went wide with only Columbus’ goalkeeper to beat.

11. New England Revolution –  Bobby Shuttleworth and the Revs defense has not conceded a goal in 395 minutes. A 0-0 draw at home with D.C. United isn’t the best result, but it does keep Jay Heaps’ team unbeaten in five straight.

10. Colorado Rapids – Getting healthier every week, Oscar Pareja’s team hosts San Jose this weekend after a week off in MLS action.

9. LA Galaxy – Goalkeeper Carlo Cuducini was benched and Landon Donovan called out his team after another bad loss on the road, this one 3-1 to Real Salt Lake. That followed last week’s humbling by a 5-0 loss in New England.

8. New York Red Bulls – Harvard’s Soldiers Field is the venue as New York faces MLS rival New England in a U.S. Open Cup match on Wednesday. Thierry Henry is back from his Colombian vacation, but the match is on FieldTurf, so who knows if the Red Bull’s star striker will appear?

7. Seattle Sounders – Missing three important starters (Eddie Johnson and Brad Evans for U.S. duty, plus the injured Osvaldo Alonso), the Sounders still rallied for a dramatic 3-2 win over Vancouver. Sigi Schmid’s team is now 5-0 when crowds top 50,000 at CenturyLink.

6. Real Salt Lake – If you haven’t heard of Olmes Garcia, get ahead of the curve. The kid really has something.  Jason Kreis’ team faces Charleston in a U.S. Open Cup match Wednesday, then has the weekend off.

5. Houston Dynamo – Dominic Kinnear’s team has been great on the road lately, 2-0-2 since mid-April. They’ll need more of the same Wednesday in North Texas, facing FC Dallas in a U.S. Open Cup version of the Texas derby.

4. Sporting Kansas City – Orlando City eliminated Colorado in one of the big U.S. Open Cup upsets last week. But that was in Florida, and things will surely look different Wednesday when the USL Pro side reaches Sporting Park on the outskirts of Kansas City.

3. Montreal Impact – The tables are finally turned for L’Impact, who get the benefit of extra rest while this weekend’s opponent, Columbus, plays a mid-week domestic cup match. It was other way around for Marco Schallibaum’s busy team in late May.

2. Portland Timbers – Ben Zemanski nailed a fantastic second-half goal, and the Timbers needed it as Chicago rallied for two in Bridgeview. Still, a 2-2 draw at Toyota Park keeps Caleb Porter’s team unbeaten in 12 matches.

1. FC Dallas – Big decisions are ahead for the league leaders, who face rival Houston in a Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup match on Wednesday – in a competition that means a lot to the club as it is named after the grandfather of Dallas soccer and a man loved by manager Schellas Hyndman. Three nights later, the Red Stripes are at Portland in a big Western Conference contest.

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

Champions League odds
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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 and Wolves among the favorites to win the Europa League, there is a lot on the line for Premier League clubs in the coming weeks.

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 and Champions League quarterfinals will take place as the mini tournaments begin.

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 and Wolves are both in the quarterfinals and favored to go far.

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

Quarterfinals (August 10-11)
Monday, August 10: Inter Milan 2-1 Bayer Leverkusen
Monday, August 10: Manchester United 3-1 Copenhagen
Tuesday, August 11: Wolves 1-2 Sevilla
Tuesday, August 11: Shakhtar Donetsk 1-2 Basel


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)
(+112) Inter Milan v. Bayer Leverkusen (+240). Tie: +250
(-385) Manchester United v. Copenhagen (+1000). Tie: +480
(+235) Wolves v. Sevilla (+120). Tie: +230
(-106) Shakhtar Donetsk v. Basel (+290). Tie: +255

Outright winner
Manchester United (+180)
Inter Milan (+325)
Sevilla (+500)
Bayer Leverkusen (+650)
Wolves (+700)
Shakhtar Donetsk (+1100)
Basel (+2500)
Copenhagen (+6000)

Barcelona reach 13th straight Champions League quarterfinal

Barcelona - Napoli
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Barcelona – Napoli saw Lionel Messi and Co., book the eighth and final place in the UEFA Champions League quarterfinals, by way of a 3-1 victory on the night (4-2 on aggregate) on Saturday.

[ MORE: Champions League predictions ]

It was, as it so often tends to be, Messi who shone brightest and stole the spotlight en route to Barca’s 13th straight Champions League quarterfinal appearance.

[ LIVE: Champions League schedule ]

Barca entered Saturday with the slimmest of advantages, knowing that a scoreless draw would see them through to the quarterfinals after grabbing a vital away goal in the first goal. Lyon knew that no matter what, they needed to score at least once or they would be out. That threat was reinforced, and strengthened, when Clement Lenglet headed the Blaugrana ahead in the 10th minute.

Messi slipped, Messi got back up, Messi slipped again, Messi got back up again, Messi rifled the ball inside the far post to score a(nother) fantastic solo goal and make it 2-0 (3-1) in the 23rd minute. It was only slightly more complicated than that for him (WATCH HERE). Messi put the ball in the back of the net again just a few minutes later, but the goal was taken off the board by way of a somewhat suspect handball decision upon video review.

Nonethless, that was just about that after Luis Suarez converted from the penalty spot early in first-half stoppage time. Messi won the penalty by sneaking around Kalidou Koulibaly and winning the ball in the blink of an eye, forcing the Senegalese center back to foul him on the edge of the box lest Messi walk in on goal for a virtual tap-in.

Lorenzo Insigne converted a penalty kick of his own a couple minutes later before the interval, but the threat level never peaked higher than a 2-out-of-10 for Barca.

Barca will face Bayern Munichin a sensationally mouth-watering, single-leg quarterfinal matchup next Friday.

3 things learned: Bayern Munich v. Chelsea

Bayern Munich - Chelsea
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Bayern Munich – Chelsea, leg no. 2, looked eerily similar to leg no. 1, played back in late February, with the lone exception being the lack of fans inside the Allianz Arena for Thursday’s dead rubber.

[ MORE: Champions League predictions ]

The eight-time Bundesliga champions were simply too good — and too healthy, by comparison — for Frank Lampard and the Blues to put up a reasonable fight from 3-0 down after the first leg. It was an unceremonious end to Lampard’s first season in charge at Chelsea, but a foregone conclusion before they boarded the plane back in London.

[ LIVE: Champions League schedule ]

With their 4-1 victory on the night (7-1 on aggregate), Bayern will face Barcelona in a sensationally mouth-watering quarterfinal matchup next Friday.

Here’s a look at what we learned from the Allianz Arena, as the I’s were dotted and the T’s were crossed in Bayern Munich – Chelsea.


NO DRAMA NECESSARY, BAYERN TAKE CARE OF BUSINESS EARLY

Credit to Bayern for their ruthless efficiency and disinterest in letting the tie descend into drama and tension. Robert Lewandowski scored early (10th minute) and Ivan Perisic did the same in the 24th, bringing the aggregate score to 5-0 with 65 minutes left to play. With so many key players out injured, Chelsea had virtually zero chance of pulling off the impossible comeback prior to kickoff, and Hans-Dieter Flick’s side made sure to keep it that way from the opening whistle. Corentin Tolisso put the tie further out of reach late in the second half (76th), and Lewandowski duplicated his side’s three-goal advantage from the first leg not much later.


CHELSEA’S ISSUES STILL AT THE BACK

For all of the development of young players that Frank Lampard was able to realize this season — and for all of the big-money signings either already confirmed or heavily reported to be imminent this summer — Chelsea still have serious questions to answer with regard to their defense. The below highlight is but one small example in a season full of defensive blunders at missed assignments (you’ll find another one below in the next section). Cesar Azpilicueta remains solid, but he’ll turn 31 this month and probably only has another year or two left to function at the UCL level. Reece James and Fikayo Tomori still have some way to go in their development to be UCL-caliber players. The likes of Kurt Zouma, Antonio Rudiger and Andreas Christensen have all proven, time and again, they’re simply not at that level and probably never will be. All of that is to say, Chelsea need to execute a full-on rebuild of their defense this summer, or it might not matter how many goals they can score every game next season.


BAYERN’S END-OF-SEASON FORM IS TERRIFYING

Pop quiz: When was the last time Bayern simply didn’t win a game, let alone lost one? The answer: Feb. 9 (19 games ago). And their last defeat? Dec. 7 (28 games). They won all nine of their Bundesliga games following the season’s restart, plus another two in the DFB-Pokal and now the second leg against Chelsea in the UCL. Of course, things will suddenly become far more tricky when 1) the likes of Barcelona and Man City factor into the equation in the quarterfinals and the semifinals, and 2) each round is decided over a single leg rather than the traditional home-and-away format of the Champions League. And still, Bayern have the look of serious Champions League contenders, if not favorites, based on their scintillating form dating back to the start of the calendar year.

VIDEO: Messi shreds Napoli to score fantastic solo goal

Lionel Messi goal video
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Lionel Messi has done, once again, as Lionel Messi is known to do: he has scored another fantastic Lionel Messi goal (video below) in the UEFA Champions League round of 16.

[ MORE: Andrea Pirlo named Juventus manager | Sarri sacked ]

One, two, three, four, five defenders in his way? So what, says Messi.

One or two decent attempts to tackle the ball away — and perhaps even succeeding on at least one occasion? Again, so what?

He’ll have the ball back, continue on his merry way and tuck the ball just inside the far post, all while falling down, getting back up and falling down again. The goal put Barcelona 2-0 ahead on the night (3-1 on aggregate). Prior to this post being published, he scored again, but the goal was taken away for a perceived handball upon video review.

Surely we’ve discovered a superhuman soccer league we can send him to by now, just to level the playing field a bit more for the actual humans walking planet Earth.

Anyway, here’s the latest head-shaking, smirk-inducing Messi goal video you came to see.