Where They Stand: Groups E through H after two rounds of UEFA Champions League

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In a competition where early progress is measured by snaring or avoiding unexpected results, it’s easy to pick out the day’s big winners: See which teams won on the road. It all extends from the idea that if you take care of business at home, scrape together a few points away, you’re likely through to the second round.

But that doesn’t mean all road wins are created equal. When Chelsea’s routing Steaua and Barcelona’s squeaking by Celtic, they’re snaring points other teams in their groups could claim. Schalke’s result at Basel? That one’s more meaningful, as those two clubs are likely to compete for second place in Group E.

And Atlético Madrid’s 2-1 win at FC Porto? That was the day’s most important result. Atleti took four points from the most-difficult fixture on their group stage slate, firmly grasping control of their Group G destiny.

At the other end of the spectrum, Napoli’s may have had the day’s most disappointing performance, with a previously unbeaten Partenopei providing little resistance in North London, but the most influential outcome happened in Basel. Yes, Porto suffered a huge loss, but they still have a viable rout to the knockout round (second place can be a beautiful thing). For Basel, however, a home loss to the team they’re likely to battle for second in their group practically gives back the points they took at Stamford Bridge.

[MORE: Champions League Tuesday Roundup: Atlético, Arsenal thrive, Chelsea rebound.]

Here’s where Groups E through H stand after Tuesday’s Champions League action:

* – To each of these standings we’ve added a column labeled +/-: a crude attempt to track how many points a team has dropped at home (minus) or picked up on the road (plus). It’s a very crude attempt to gauge the extent to which teams are holding serve.

Group E
Team GP W D L GF GA GD Home Away PTS +/-*
FC Schalke 04 2 2 0 0 4 0 4 1-0-0 1-0-0 6 +3
Chelsea 2 1 0 1 5 2 3 0-0-1 1-0-0 3 +0
Basel 2 1 0 1 2 2 0 0-0-1 1-0-0 3 +0
Steaua Bucharest 2 0 0 2 0 7 -7 0-0-1 0-0-1 0 -3

The long-term effect of Schalke’s win, if you assume Chelsea will take points from the Miners and Basel over the next three rounds, sees the Swiss champions needing to win in Gelsenkirchen on the last day of group play. Schalke’s going to take points in Romania, maybe one or three against Chelsea, while Basel’s should take advantage of their home-and-home withe Romanian champions to make up group. Sure, upsets can happen, but this is what the cards say right now.

Given Basel’s already won in London, winning in Gelsenkirchen certainly possible, but when it comes Schalke, who knows what kind of team Jens Keller will have come December 11. If evil Schalke show, Basel could go through. If good Schalke stays, they’ll certainly be capable of claiming the draw they’ll need to get through.

The other factor to consider after Tuesday’s action: The unexpected weakness of Steaua. They were safe bets to finish bottom of this group when it was drawn, but with minus-seven goal difference after two games, they’ve have been unexpectedly poor. How many points Schalke and Basel drop to Steaua could also end up deciding who goes through.

[MORE: Full-time snapshot: Chelsea’s first Mourinho-esque performance; Barcelona ball hogs.]

Group F
Team GP W D L GF GA GD Home Away PTS +/-*
Arsenal 2 2 0 0 4 1 3 1-0-0 1-0-0 6 +3
Borussia Dortmund 2 1 0 1 4 2 2 1-0-0 0-0-1 3 +0
Napoli 2 1 0 1 2 3 -1 1-0-0 0-0-1 3 +0
Marseille 2 0 0 2 1 5 -4 0-0-1 0-0-1 0 -3

Tuesday’s was a big win for the Gunners, but ultimately, they merely held serve. They should take a lot of confidence from the match, and Napoli should wonder why they were so much worse than their hosts, but in terms of group dynamics, Arsenal’s 2-0 win doesn’t change much.

Nor does Borussia Dortmund’s 3-0 win over Marseille, another example of the home team holding serve. But as is the case with Steaua in Group E, Marseille’s developed into the team from which you must take full points. Drawing or losing to l’OM, even on the road, could find you in Europa League, particularly considering Arsenal’s already claimed full points at Stade Velodrome.

[MORE: Dominance then control see Arsenal cruise past Napoli.]

Group G
Team GP W D L GF GA GD Home Away PTS +/-*
Atlético Madrid 2 2 0 0 5 2 3 1-0-0 1-0-0 6 +3
Porto 2 1 0 1 2 2 0 0-0-1 1-0-0 3 +0
Austria Wien 2 0 1 1 0 1 -1 0-0-1 0-1-0 1 -2
Zenit St. Petersburg 2 0 1 1 1 3 -2 0-1-0 0-0-1 1 -2

Porto was this group’s “seeded” team (drawn from the first pot), but with Tuesday’s win, Atlético has established itself as the clear favorites. Claiming three points from their toughest group game, the Colchoneros are in the best position possible after two rounds. The only way their state could be better is if Porto had drawn in round one, something that was out of their control.

From Porto’s point of view, Atlético’s rise makes today’s loss easier to take. Having already claimed road points, the Dragons can look at Zenit’s home draw and still consider themselves ahead of the game. If they hold serve at home against Zenit and Austria Wien, they may not need a result in Madrid or St. Petersburg to reach the Round of 16.

As for Zenit, one of the teams that was expected to compete for the knockout round, today’s result was a huge setback. It was the easiest match on their schedule, and they dropped points, meaning they’ll likely need to make them up at the Dragão or when Atlético visits if they’re to avoid Europa League.

Group H
Team GP W D L GF GA GD Home Away PTS +/-*
Barcelona 2 2 0 0 5 0 5 1-0-0 1-0-0 6 +3
Milan 2 1 1 0 3 1 2 1-0-0 0-1-0 4 +1
Ajax 2 0 1 1 1 5 -4 0-1-0 0-0-1 1 -2
Celtic 2 0 0 2 0 3 -3 0-0-1 0-0-1 0 -3

Milan has not looked good, but thanks to their late match dramatics, they’re still ahead of the game. Particularly given a home-and-home with Barcelona on the horizon, keeping Ajax from getting full points was huge. Had Ajax held their 1-0 lead then taken four or six points from Celtic over the next two rounds, Milan might need help to get back to the knockout round.

Now, thanks to that point, one of Ajax or Celtic will likely need to sweep their home-and-home to put a scare into the Italians. Without that, the worst Milan can be after round four will be one point behind Ajax (if Ajax earn four points). Should Milan beat the Dutch champions in round six, they’d make up that ground.

FIFA extends men’s age limit for Tokyo Olympics due to virus

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GENEVA (AP) FIFA has extended the age limit for the men’s soccer tournament at the rescheduled Tokyo Olympics due to the coronavirus pandemic.

[ MORE: UEFA threatens Belgian league with European expulsion ]

The amended Olympic rule on Friday retains the “players born on or after Jan. 1, 1997” standard for the Tokyo Games following a one-year postponement agreed last week by the International Olympic Committee and Japanese authorities.

It means players eligible for the intended under-23 tournament in 2020 can still play in Japan at age 24 next year. Men’s soccer kicks off ahead of the July 23, 2021 opening ceremony in Tokyo.

FIFA also postponed two women’s age-group World Cups due this year in Central America and India, and confirmed no international games for men and women will be played in the early June dates protected for national team call-ups.

Soccer’s world body said “health must always be the first priority and the main criteria in any decision-making process, especially in these challenging times.”

The Olympic decision was made by a FIFA panel of soccer officials worldwide, created to address the soccer shutdown during the health crisis.

The 16 men’s teams at the Tokyo Olympics next year can also select three over-age players in their rosters. A stellar lineup includes Argentina, Brazil, France, Germany and Spain.

Two women’s World Cup tournaments — the Under-20s hosted by Panama and Costa Rica in August and September, and the Under-17s in India in November — are postponed. No new dates were announced.

[ MORE: Report: Serie A could resume training May 2, games late in month ]

Until the COVID-19 outbreak, national team games scheduled in June included the 2020 European Championship, World Cup qualifying games in South America and Asia, and qualifiers for the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations.

After Euro 2020 was postponed for one year, UEFA hoped to schedule playoff games in June to confirm the last four places in a 24-nation lineup. Those playoffs were postponed indefinitely this week.

World Cup qualifiers for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar now face uncertain scheduling in a congested calendar in Europe, South America and Asia.

FIFA said on Friday it would “organize bilateral discussions” with continental governing bodies “to finalize a revised match schedule pending health and safety developments.”

FIFA plans to direct hundreds of millions of dollars from its cash reserves to support a global emergency fund, and has agreed to appoint one official from each of the six soccer continents to coordinate the work.

Arsenal want season completed ‘to maintain integrity’ of PL

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Arsenal remain in support of finishing the 2019-20 season in order to “to maintain the integrity” of the competition, despite Friday’s unanimous vote that the Premier League cannot resume at the start of May as previously hoped due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

[ MORE: UEFA threatens Belgian league with European expulsion ]

The Gunners, who currently sit ninth in the PL table with 10 games left to play (one more than the majority of clubs around them), were five points back of fifth-place Manchester United for qualification to next season’s UEFA Champions League thanks to Manchester City’s two-year European ban.

In a statement released on Friday, Arsenal reiterated their stance that the current season should be played to completion rather than called to completion at things stand or abandoned altogether.

We are in full support of the objective for all remaining domestic league and cup matches from the 2019-20 season to be played, in order to maintain the integrity of each competition.

We also fully agree with the principle that any return to action will only be with the full backing of government and when medical guidance allows.

The restart date is under constant review as the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic develops and we continue to work together with all stakeholders through this very challenging time

Premier League rivalries: The Merseyside derby

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While the Merseyside derby has been dominated by one side of late, that has not detracted from the spectacle of the most historic matchup in English top flight history.

Uninterrupted in top flight play since 1962/63, the two sides are situated less than a mile apart, with the proximity feeding an already intense matchup.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

Despite the incredibly close geographic proximity, the derby is sometimes known as the “Friendly Derby” as there are often families with split allegiances. Still, the matchup has the most red cards in Premier League history with 21, including 17 of those in the especially heated timeframe between 1997 and 2008.

Unfortunately for Everton, the rivalry has become one-sided over the past decade, with the Toffees failing to win since October of 2010. Liverpool has won 11 of the 21 games, with the other 10 ending in a draw. That has somewhat deescalated the vicious nature of the matchup, especially since Liverpool has gone on to become one of the most formidable sides in Europe over the past few years while Everton continues to challenge for a top-half place in the league.

Still, the 228 all-time matches between the clubs continues to fuel one of the great matchups in the English domestic landscape, and sooner or later this rivalry will regain its venom to bring the bite back to this matchup.

Bayern Munich signs coach Flick as permanent boss

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Bayern Munich has locked down interim head coach Hansi Flick as permanent boss, signing the 55-year-old on through the summer of 2023, the club announced on Friday.

Flick took over on an interim basis for Niko Kovac when the Croatian was let go in early November with the club fourth in the Bundesliga table. He impressed during his time as interim manager, leading the club back to the top of the table thanks in large part to a current 11-match league unbeaten run that features 10 wins and a draw.

That streak includes a 0-0 draw with then-second placed RB Leipzig that kept Bayern atop the table, plus a dominant 5-0 win over then-fifth placed Schalke. Successive 2-1 defeats to Borussia Monchengladbach and Bayer Leverkusen are the only real blemishes on his record in charge so far, coming way back in late November and early December.

“I’m looking forward to taking on the upcoming tasks along with my staff and the team,” Flick said in the official team release. “The talks with Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, Oliver Kahn and Hasan Salihamidžić were very good and in a spirit of good faith. We’ve determined the direction for the upcoming years. I’m sure we can achieve a lot together.”

Flick has also kept the club’s pristine Champions League record alive this season, with wins over Red Star Belgrade, Tottenham, and Chelsea by a combined 12-1 scoreline. The 3-0 first-leg win over Chelsea in the Round of 16 has the club primed to reach the quarterfinal round should the competition eventually resume.

Speaking to Flick’s adaptability, he also kept the club rolling in the recent absence of in-form striker Robert Lewandowski, working 6-0 and 2-0 wins over Hoffenheim and Augsburg without his lead frontman who began a long absence with a broken tibia.

“Bayern are very satisfied with Hansi Flick’s work,” said Bayern’s chief executive Karl-Heinz Rummenigge in the release. “The team has had a very good development under him, plays attractive football which is reflected in results. We are the only club still competing in all three competitions.”

Sporting director Hasan Salihamidzic added, “Hansi and I know in which direction we want to develop the team. We believe that Hansi is also the right head coach for the current time.”