ProSoccerTalk’s weekly MLS rankings

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The top four teams all lost; our weekly re-ordering of Major League Soccer teams, following 22 rounds of play:

19. D.C. United – A 2-1 loss at home combined with Toronto’s win cements United’s spot at the bottom for a while. But! … They did get a stadium deal done last week, and in the big picture that will be among the most meaningful bits of MLS news for 2013.

18. Toronto FC – A dramatic, late win over Columbus – the Reds still trailed in the 87th minute but rallied to take all three points – won’t help in a fruitless playoff bid, but was something to remember for 2013, at least. In fact, it was the first time TFC had won a league match inside its home ground in more than a year. Ain’t that something?

17. Chivas USA – The good feeling from last week’s streak-snapping win disappeared in a loss at Seattle, although the Goats didn’t look too bad in the 2-1 setback at CenturyLink Field.

16. Columbus – Having lost five of six, and considering the emotional blow of coming so close to a road win and then emerging without a single point in Toronto, you really have to wonder if the Crew can rally past all this and still make a playoff push?

15. San Jose Earthquakes – There was a wee bit of controversy with one of the goals, but a 2-1 win over Portland helped the Earthquakes creep up a little further in the table. They are just five points out of a playoff position at this point.

14. Houston Dynamo – A goal from a forward! The first since early May as Cam Weaver struck in a 1-1 draw at home with Chicago. Then again, draws at home won’t get it done for the two-time MLS runner-up; Dominic Kinnear’s team would not make the playoffs today.

13. Chicago Fire – Mike Magee’s 13th goal kept him tied for the league lead in scoring, and provided the important second-half equalizer in a 1-1 draw in Houston.

12. FC Dallas – Now that 22-year-old playmaker Mauro Diaz is in place, you have to wonder how long David Ferreira, struggling mightily now, will hold his place?

11. New England Revolution – We hear so much about the young Galaxy attackers, but what about 18-year-old Diego Fagundez, who has seven goals and four assists in 2013? That’s exceptional.

(MORE: MLS Round 22 week in review)

10. LA Galaxy – How badly does this team need Landon Donovan, Omar Gonzalez and Robbie Keane back in the lineup? The champs are just 4-5-1 since May, including last week’s 2-0 loss at Colorado.

9. Seattle Sounders – Is there some life left in Mauro Rosales, who had a big part in the team’s 2-1 win over Chivas USA? Eddie Johnson returns from Gold Cup duty this week.

8. Colorado Rapids – If you see any MLS rookie review that does not prominently include Clint Irwin, Dillon Powers and Deshorn Brown, dismiss it quickly and move on. Because those three young Rapids keep getting it done. They did again in a big 2-0 win over the LA Galaxy, which had dominated the teams’ series recently.

7. New York Red Bulls – The last 10 minutes of Saturday’s 4-3 win over Real Salt Lake must have been the most eventful this year throughout the league.

6. Philadelphia Union – Aided by a man-advantage for much of the match, Philly emerged with a 1-0 win at Vancouver. The Union is a highly respectable 4-4-3 on the road … and that is how teams make the playoffs.

5. Vancouver Whitecaps – What was Jun Marques Davidson thinking when he head-butted Philly’s Keon Daniel just 8 minutes into Saturday’s contest? Yes, Daniel was a bit naughty himself, but Davidson’s decision to pull a “Zidane” (pictured above) left his team a man down for more than 80 minutes.

4. Montreal Impact – The team’s home contest with Kansas City was as physical as you would expect. Blake Smith’s dramatic 96th minute goal sealed the deal for the Impact.

3. Real Salt Lake – Alvaro Saborio’s hat trick, just the fourth in MLS this year, will get a bit lost amid the disappointment of losing a late lead in the 4-3 setback at Red Bull Arena.

2. Sporting Kansas City – Sporting Park is the site of all things All-Star related this week as AS Roma comes calling for Wednesday’s big event. Only thing that would have made the week better around KC: if they had not conceded that 96th minute goal at Montreal last weekend (in a 1-0 loss).

1. Portland Timbers – Good for the Timbers, who refused to use a dodgy penalty decision as an excuse in a 2-1 loss at San Jose. Clearly, it wasn’t the best we’ve seen this year from Caleb Porter’s team, which seemed to miss midfield glue man Diego Chara.

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.