The MLS coaching carousel is about to get cray-cray-crazy!

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This will be the most fascinating MLS off-season yet in terms of managerial shakeup and shake-out. Some positions are already open – although it is difficult to tell exactly how many, which is part of the ongoing fun.

Either way, others will almost certainly come open.

Let’s get this managerial wheel a’spinnin’ and see where it lands:

It’s hard to know how many coaching seats are open already because Columbus and San Jose are under interim direction. (Well, as San Jose manager Mark Watson cleverly observed about his profession, they are pretty much all “interim” managers, aren’t they?)

Watson took a struggling team at Buck Shaw Stadium, 3-6-6 at the time, and took it right to the edge of the playoffs. The side was 10-5-3 under Watson, some of that surely about getting some important players healthy. So, get a new manager now? Or does Watson get a year before the Earthquakes 3.0 (my words, not the club’s) move into their spanking new ground in 2015?

It wouldn’t be surprising if the Earthquakes wait a year. It seems less likely that Columbus will retain interim manager Brian Bliss, not in his current role, at least. New ownership is sure to look for a signature hire, as this is Anthony Precourt’s first big opportunity to make a decisive, aggressive move, to show where he wants to take the club.

Besides, it looks like the club has already interviewed Guillermo Barros Schelotto (pictured above). That’s according to a story in The Columbus Dispatch, and when it comes to Crew Stadium legends, Schelotto’s name is at the top of every Columbus fan’s list. It certainly should be.

FC Dallas, looking to replace Schellas Hyndman, seems intent on taking its time. But with important roster choices ahead (most MLS contracts expire Dec. 1, and the club has options on which to decide for several players), and with other player personnel elements to work through, wouldn’t it makes sense to get it done sooner rather than later?

source: Getty ImagesBy the way, I spoke to FC Dallas departing manager over the weekend. I always believed that he could manage as long as he liked in Dallas, owing to his special relationship with the Hunt Family. Not only did Hyndman know, love and respect domestic soccer pioneer Lamar Hunt for years, he coached Clark Hunt in college. Hyndman didn’t tell me that he was forced out … but listening to him discuss the situation, he sure didn’t sound like a man who was resigning on his own or retiring.

In Chicago, it seems fair to wonder if Frank Klopas’ job depends on him making the playoffs. You have to squint really hard to find much to like about his time as a technical director or a manager (having put himself in that position mid-stream in 2011, after ownership dismissed a man that Klopas (pictured, right) presumably helped to hire, Carlos de los Cobos).

The team, frankly, didn’t respond well to Arne Friedrich’s season-long injury. Questionable personnel decisions (Sherjill MacDondald, anyone?) and the inability to get more out of Chris Rolfe won’t help Klopas make a case.

John Hackworth at Philadelphia? Yeah, he’s still got a pretty young team, but the team’s grinding style cannot be called a selling point for the PPL Park faithful who continue to show up in a dodgy neighborhood for soccer that can get pretty hard on the eyes. Plus, playoff soccer has drifted steadily from view since early summer.

The Washington Post’s Steven Goff recently reported that Ben Olsen would keep his job at RFK Stadium, although it’s still fair to wonder how fans of the Black and Red feel about such a thing? It seems dreadfully hard to sell it to the supporters considering a season that will go down, statistically speaking at very least, as one of the worst campaigns every witnessed in Major League Soccer. (It’s even harder to fathom how roster architect Dave Kasper will remain in employment, but there it is.)

source: Getty ImagesWho knows what will happen with Ryan Nelsen at Toronto? It seems unfair to fire the guy, who put an early end to his playing career to take over at BMO Field upon Kevin Payne’s request. Well, Payne is no longer in charge, so …

Rumors have persisted that perhaps former Earthquakes boss Frank Yallop (pictured, left) could be in position for this one (at TFC). Remember, the man in charge at BMO Field, Tim Leiweke, once helped hired Yallop at Los Angeles. Of course, Yallop has long been mentioned as Rennie’s possible successor at Vancouver if the Whitecaps make that anticipated change.

Speaking of a potential Cascadia Comeupance, the Sounders have made the playoffs, having sneaked in with the back-up lights on. But Sigi Schmid surely has to advance through one series, at very, very least, to keep the Washington wolves at safe distance.

Chivas USA is always a wildcard. Jose Luis Real could stick around. Or they could hire, I dunno, Diego Maradona! Or that character from the kid’s cartoon Go, Diego, Go for all we know. Or Guus Hiddink! Seriously, who knows what wackiness or pleasant surprises could fall from the Chivas tree of unpredictability?

And we’ll finish this odd (and yet fascinating) trot around the league here: the coaching carousel will spin that much faster if Real Salt Lake manager Jason Kreis takes the NYCFC position. That would open up a great position at Real Salt Lake, a team blessed with young talent and an owner who doesn’t mind spending prudently.

Championship playoff final: How to watch, start time, odds, prediction

Fulham - Brentford
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Fulham – Brentford: Which West London Derby combatant will lay claim to a place in the Premier League at the end of Tuesday’s Football League Championship promotion playoff final at Wembley Stadium?

We can hardly wait to find out, as the 20th berth in the 2020-21 Premier League season and 22nd spot in the Championship will be decided after the richest game on earth.

[ MORE: Predictions, Odds for Europe ]

Kickoff is at 2:45 pm ET Tuesday at Wembley Stadium.


Key players

Fulham leading scorer Aleksandar Mitrovic’s 26 goals were the joint-most in the Championship and more than three times as many as Tom Cairney, second amongst the Cottagers. He’s healthy for the first time after missing the semis with a hamstring injury.

Brentford’s Ollie Watkins scored the same amount of goals as Mitrovic, tying for the league lead, and he’s joined by Said Benrahma’s 17 goals (fifth in the league) and Bryan Mbeumo (eighth). The latter have combined for 16 assists, too. The Bees can sting.

Their seasons

Brentford won a even-straight league games to surge into the mix for automatic promotion but lost their last two, meeting Fulham on 81 points.

As for the Cottagers, Fulham finished the season on a seven-match unbeaten run which included five wins

Their playoffs

Brentford overcame a 1-0 first-leg deficit to oust Swansea City in the semifinal, while Fulham’s first leg win was enough to outlast Cardiff City’s strong second leg in their semi.

Odds and ends

Brentford beat Fulham twice, 1-0 at Griffin Park and 2-0 at Craven Cottage.

The Bees are favored to win the match at +108 odds, while Fulham carries +265 odds of a win.

Prediction

Mitrovic’s availability is huge for a Fulham side hoping to break down the league’s second-stingiest defense. Brentford feels like it’s the superior side but Fulham has been here and Cairney even scored the goal to beat Aston Villa in the 2017-18 playoff final. That experience is an X-factor, but we’ll still call Brentford 2-1 winners.

How to watch Fulham – Brentford

Kickoff: 2:45 pm ET Tuesday
Stream: ESPN+

How will Premier League clubs fare in Europe this month?

Champions League news
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Nearly five months is a long time to wait between rounds of a tournament, let alone legs.

Welcome to the 2019-20 UEFA Champions and Europa Leagues, where the competition continues this week after a long, pandemic-inspired delay.

[ MORE: Predictions, Odds for Europa ]

Who is best set up, aligned, prepared, and built for success?

There are certainly different questions to all parts of that question. Let’s dive into it.


Chelsea

Status: Down 3-0 to Bayern Munich after first leg at home
Next match: 3 pm ET Saturday at Allianz Arena

It’s not happening. We don’t like sounding definitive, especially with Christian Pulisic involved, but Bayern Munich conceding four times in a 3-goal loss at home seems bonkers even after a couple of weeks without game action.

The Blues are capable of scoring against anyone, yes, but this would be a bigger turnaround than even Liverpool versus Barcelona.

Longest of long shots.


Wolves

Status: Level 1-1 with Olympiacos after first leg away
Next match: 3 pm ET Thursday at the Molineux

Should Wolves get past Greek powers Olympiacos, they’ll face either Sevilla or Roma in a real scrap to meet the semifinals.

Wolves feel capable of beating anyone in the field, but this path is far from easy. Still, both Wolves and Manchester United can feel grateful to be in the top half of the bracket, with Inter Milan, Wolfsburg, and Shakhtar Donetsk in a dangerous bottom half.

On a round-to-round basis you wouldn’t vote against Wolves. Over a month, though, they feel less likely than the Manchester sides.


[ MORE: Big moves for Arsenal? ]

 

Wolves news
PIRAEUS, GREECE – MARCH 12: Mady Camara of Olympiacos FC is challenged by Joao Moutinho of Wolverhampton Wanderers (Photo by UEFA – Handout/UEFA via Getty Images)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Manchester City

Status: Leads 2-1 over Real Madrid after first leg away
Next match: 3 pm ET Friday at the Etihad Stadium

We know Pep Guardiola and his array of weapons are capable of beating anyone in the world, and Sergio Ramos’ suspension from the first leg is wonderful for City. Ramos is having one of those “Ballon d’Or if defenders could win it” seasons.

Having two away goals from the Bernabeu is even better. The bottom half of the UCL bracket, however, is a gauntlet and nothing like the top half. City would love to see Lyon hold off Juventus, but a win over either brings either Napoli, Barcelona, Bayern or — miraculously — Chelsea in the semifinals.

It’s a huge ask but this is a huge team.


Manchester United

Status: Leads 5-0 over LASK Linz after first leg away
Next match: 3 pm ET Wednesday at Old Trafford

United would have to self-destruct in order to miss out on the Europa League quarterfinals, where they’ll be favored whether they meet either Istanbul Basaksehir or Copenhagen. The semifinals will be even tougher, as Olympiacos, Wolves, Sevilla, or Roma.

The question here is Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, who has shown some tactical acumen but also failed the Red Devils in the FA Cup semi against Chelsea. United really should be able to out-perform anyone left, even Inter Milan, but will Solskjaer outduel Antonio Conte or even Sevilla’s Julen Lopetegui?

Predictions, odds for Champions League, Europa League knockouts

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The UEFA Champions League and Europa League resume this week 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 and Chelsea 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.

[ LIVE: Europa League scores ]

In the next few days the Europa League and Champions League Round of 16 second legs will take place before mini tournaments begin.

Man City lead Real Madrid 2-1 from their first leg in Spain, while Chelsea trail Bayern 3-0 as they head to Germany for the return game. Man United are all but in the quarterfinals, while Wolves are favored to make the Europa quarters too.

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 all of the fixtures in the USA.


JPW’s Champions League predictions

Round of 16 (August 7-8)
Friday, August 7: Manchester City 1-1 Real Madrid (2-1)
Friday, August 7: Juventus 2-1 Lyon (0-1)
Saturday, August 8: Barcelona 3-1 Napoli (1-1)
Saturday, August 8: Bayern Munich 2-1 Chelsea (3-0)

JPW’s Europa League predictions

Round of 16 (August 5-6)
Copenhagen 1-2 Istanbul Basaksehir
Wolves 2-0 Olympiakos
Bayer Leverkusen 2-1 Rangers
Shakhtar Donetsk 1-3 Wolfsburg
Basel 1-2 Eintracht Frankfurt
Manchester United 3-1 LASK
Inter Milan 3-0 Getafe
Sevilla 1-3 Roma


Champions League betting odds

Round of 16 (August 7-8)
(-139) Manchester City v. Real Madrid (+320). Tie: +340
(-230) Juventus v. Lyon (+650). Tie: +340
(-150) Barcelona v. Napoli (+400). Tie: +300
(-250) Bayern Munich v. Chelsea (+650). Tie: +410

Quarterfinals (August 12-13)
(+200) Atalanta v. Paris Saint-Germain (+120). Tie: +285
(+225) RB Leipzig v. Atletico Madrid (+133). Tie: 220

Outright winner
Manchester City (+350)
Bayern Munich (+365)
Paris Saint-Germain (+450)
Atletico Madrid (+700)
Atalanta (+950)
Barcelona (+1100)
RB Leipzig (+1500)
Juventus (+1700)


Europa League betting odds

Round of 16 (August 5-6)
(+155) Copenhagen v. Istanbul Basaksehir (+180). Tie: +235
(-134) Wolves v. Olympiakos (+390). Tie: +260
(-162) Bayer Leverkusen v. Rangers (+410). Tie: +310
(+135) Shakhtar Donetsk v. Wolfsburg (+185). Tie: +265
(+155) Basel v. Eintracht Frankfurt (+155). Tie: +275
(-455) Manchester United v. LASK (+1200). Tie: +550
(-143) Inter Milan v. Getafe (+385). Tie: +285
(+110) Sevilla v. Roma (+270). Tie: +230

Outright winner
Manchester United (+160)
Inter Milan (+500)
Bayer Leverkusen (+700)
Wolves (+800)
Sevilla (+900)


How to watch, stream Champions League and Europa League

Dates: August 5-23
Location: Round of 16 at home venues; Quarterfinals onwards in Lisbon/Germany
How to watch: CBS Sports
Live updates: Here at NBCSports.com

Reports: Arsenal offers huge deal to Aubameyang, chases Partey, Coutinho

Arsenal transfer news
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Thinking about the resurgence of several big name Premier League sides makes the 2020-21 season tantalizing idea. Could Arsenal become a title fighter?

Manchester City, statistically-speaking, was already the most productive team in the league and Liverpool’s team an absolute monster of intensity that seemed to will good fortune on their rare bad days.

Manchester United was second only to City in Project Restart while Chelsea produced as many chances as any team now named City and now has better finishers. Tottenham improved as well — health can be a tactic in that it helps as much as any manager.

[ MORE: Predictions, Odds for Europa ]

What about Arsenal, though?

The Gunners now have a shiny trophy for Mikel Arteta’s resume after the former midfielder led the club to a record 14th FA Cup.

Arsenal is said to be offering Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang a contract that pays nearly $327,000 per week in a bid to convince the superstar that another year of the Europa League is fine.

A report from Football.London says that Arteta believes Aubameyang and a trio of other moves could help him replicate the 4-3-3 often implemented by former club Man City.

The report says that Arsenal is ready to recruit Willian, Thomas Partey, and Philippe Coutinho to supplement what’s already at the Emirates.

Arsenal is in a tricky situation because of how much promising young talent there is, but Arteta will have learned a thing or too from how Pep Guardiola convinced Phil Foden to buy into a longer development. And winning cures plenty.

Who would fit in the 4-3-3? Arsenal has a tremendous 1-2 punch in goal between Bernd Leno and Emiliano Martinez, and piles of questions at the back. William Saliba finally arrives from Saint-Etienne and Pablo Mari will return, too, while Arteta used Shkrodan Mustafi, David Luiz, Kieran Tierney, Hector Bellerin, Rob Holding, Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Sead Kolasinac, Calum Chambers, and Cedric Soares this season.

The middle part becomes a lot easier with Partey joining Granit Xhaka and Co.