Wenger, Arsenal intent on avoiding Champions League repeat against Bayern Munich

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Last year’s 2-0 win in Munich was only a silver lining. Although the result has since been held up as an example of Arsenal’s potential, it only came after the Gunners had lost to Bayern Munich, 3-1 at home. Thanks to the away goals rule, the moral victory in Germany couldn’t carry Arsenal into the quarterfinals.

With margins so thin, it’s impossible to avoid what ifs. What if Arsenal had played better in the first leg? What if they had been more conservative, willing to play a long game rather than pursue a result at home? What if Arsenal hadn’t dug such a big hole at home?

“We were too nervous at the beginning of the game [against Bayern last season],” Arsenal manager Arsène Wenger said, reflecting on last year’s Round of 16 result (as relayed by The Guardian). “We also wanted to level it too much at 2–1 and we conceded the third through a counter.”

We saw it again today when Barcelona faced Manchester City. Down a goal and a man, the Citizens should have closed up shop and played for another 11-man day. Though they came close to equalizers through David Silva and Edin Dzeko, City ultimately gave up a second crucial away goal, Daniel Alves’s let tally building on Lionel Messi’s penalty conversion after Martín Demichelis’s red card.

“We have spoken about the importance of staying in the game,” Jack Wilshere said. “We have got to be a bit more intelligent this year …”

Against a Bayern team that’s only lost once all season, that’s easier said than done. Though Arsenal may look at last year’s 2-0 in Munich and draw confidence, others see is as an aberration. To them, Bayern’s 3-1 win at the Emirates was a better reflection of the teams’ talents, with the defending European champions again expected to move past Arsenal and into the competition’s quarterfinals.

“It’ll be down to our defending on Wednesday,” Wenger said, hoping to improve on last year’s lopsided leg at the Emirates. “Their main force is going forward. They have five or six players who can create a chance at any moment.”

Salah returns to Egypt starting lineup

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A familiar name returned to the starting lineup for Egypt on Tuesday afternoon.

Egypt named star Mohamed Salah in its starting XI, after resting Salah in Egypt’s 1-0 defeat to Uguruay on June 15. Salah has been recovering from an injured shoulder that he suffered during the UEFA Champions League final in late May.

Salah makes his World Cup debut now against the host nation, Russia, at 2:00 p.m.

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Senegal hold off late charge, defeat Poland on controversial goal

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Two matches, two upsets.

For the second time on Tuesday, an underdog took down a favorite as Senegal defeated Poland, 2-1, with the game-winning goal decided in controversial fashion.

In the 60th minute, M’baye Niang was waved onto the field by the referee while the ball was still in play in the middle of the field, and Niang raced on to the end of a Gregorz Krychowiak backpass that stunned the Poland defense. Niang arrived at the pass a second quicker than goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny, allowing the Senegal winger to score into an empty net.

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The VAR checked the goal but it was allowed, as it was a subjective decision of the referee to allow Niang back on the field following an injury, and not a clear and obvious error.

Senegal took the lead in the first half on the counter attack. With Poland slow in transition, Sadio Mane found Idrissa Gueye in space at the top of the box. After two touches, Gueye fired a strike to the far post in the 37th minute that took a wicked deflection off Poland defender Thiago Cionek and left Szczesny helpless.

Poland struggled all game against the pace and physicality of Senegal and the Lions of Teranga were very smart in controlling possession and switching the field, forcing the Poland squad to tire quickly.

Krychowiak did breathe some life into the game with a header goal off a free kick in the 86th minute, but despite some poor clock management from Senegal, its defense was able to hold off Poland’s last-ditch chance to tie the game, going level with Japan on three points at the top of Group H.

Report: Blatter to attend Portugal vs. Morocco as guest of Putin

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Former FIFA president Sepp Blatter is still in the middle of an eight-year ban from the organization he once ran.

But that doesn’t mean he’s going to miss out on some of the World Cup action, live in Russia.

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BBC journalist Richard Conway reported early Tuesday that Blatter is set to watch Portugal vs. Morocco in Moscow as a guest of Russian president Vladimir Putin. The 82-year-old would normally not be able to sit in the presidential box due to his FIFA ban, though he likely could attend matches with a regular ticket like the vast majority of soccer fans.

Just four years ago, Blatter was president during the 2014 World Cup, one that was marred by corruption scandals in addition to the corruption scandals surrounding the World Cup bidding process for the 2018 and 2022 tournaments.

His reign of power at FIFA finally came to an end on June 2, 2015, when he resigned following an embarrassing month for FIFA in which many of its members were arrested in a joint-raid between the Swiss authorities and the FBI.

Blatter was eventually handed an eight-year ban from FIFA’s ethics committee for an “unauthorized payment” of $2 million from Blatter to Michel Platini, the former France star and FIFA vice president who was also handed an eight-year suspension.

Transfer Rumor Roundup: Fekir negotiations back on; Chelsea waiting on transfer targets; and more

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Could Liverpool get its star attacking midfield target after all?

That’s what seems to be the case, as the agent for Lyon and France midfielder Nabil Fekir told French TV channel LCI Monday evening that negotiations aren’t over between Liverpool and Lyon.

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“He didn’t sign because um… it is not over! This is not the end of the story,” Fekir’s agent, Jean-Pierre Bernes reportedly said.

It was just two weeks ago when Lyon president Jean-Michael Aulas stated that Fekir, Lyon’s captain, would remain with the club for the upcoming season, after negotiations with Liverpool fell through. According to the Liverpool Echo, the Reds wanted a second opinion on a previous knee injury, and had balked at the $70 million price tag.

But now it appears Liverpool and Aulas could still be in conversations to try and find a mutually accepted fee.

At the same time, stirring up transfer drama is in Bernes interest, as it could drive other teams into the race to sign Fekir and raise his transfer fee, meaning more money to him, Fekir (if he gets a cut) and Lyon. Watch this space for more to come during and after the World Cup.

Here’s some more transfer rumors from across the Premier League and Europe:

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