Can Manchester City oust struggling Barcelona in UEFA Champions League?

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First up, let’s just say it hasn’t been a great weekend for Manchester City or FC Barcelona.

Both teams lost to opponents they should’ve really wiped the floor with, as they head into a UEFA Champions League showdown at the Nou Camp on Wednesday low on confidence and struggling for form.

Although City lost shockingly at home to Wigan Athletic in the FA Cup quarterfinal on Sunday, Barcelona’s defeat to La Liga basement boys Real Valladolid on Saturday was arguably more damaging.

Barca’s new coach Gerardo “Tata” Martino has come under increasing scrutiny in recent months as the Blaugrana have stuttered their way through the domestic campaign. Like David Moyes has found at Manchester United, Martino has found it difficult to kick start and rebuild a global soccer dynasty. Under Pep Guardiola and then Tito Vilanova, that’s what Barca had become. After their defeat to Valladolid they are now four points behind leaders Real Madrid, while if City win their three games in hand over Chelsea they go joint-top of the PL.

(MORE: How things stand in Champions League after first legs of knockout games)

This season — especially lately in the league as they’ve lost two of their last three games — there seems to be a little something missing from Barca’s play. Sure they went to the Etihad and won 2-0, giving themselves an extremely healthy cushion ahead of Wednesday’s second leg. However it wasn’t as if Barca outclassed City, rather that City handed victory to the Catalan club on a plate after a second half implosion that saw the Spanish side gratefully accept a penalty kick opener and a red card to City’s Martin Demichelis.

source: AP
Demichelis’ tackles which earned him a red card and gave Barca a PK which Messi converted. But did City deserve a 2-0 defeat in the first leg?

The rhetoric emanating from Barcelona before this game has been all about how City will now be facing a fully-fit Lionel Messi, as the Argentine star was apparently nowhere near 100 percent when the sides squared off at the Etihad in February. Well, that’s just fine. But what about Barca’s somewhat shaky defense coming up against a fully-fit Sergio Aguero?

In the first leg Barcelona didn’t have to deal with Messi’s good friend and predatory striker partner for the Argentine national team, Aguero. With the 26-year-old forward raring to make up for last time after suffering an ill-timed hamstring injury, expect City to come flying out of the traps at the Nou Camp with their diminutive top scorer — who has 26 goals to his name in 27 games — leading the line.

All the pressure is on Barca to kill off any City comeback effortlessly and put on a show. But as we’ve seen in recent seasons at the Nou Camp, they’ve failed to break down the likes of Inter Milan and Chelsea who came to defend. But this time they will be facing a team hell bent on attacking and trying to make up for their two-goal deficit as quickly as possible. Will that play into Barca’s hands, who knows? With makeshift center back Javier Mascherano easily overpowered by Edin Dzeko and Alvaro Negredo, plus Aguero likely to run a few rings around Baca’s other central defender Gerard Pique, I fancy City’s chances to go and score a few in Barcelona… but can they keep a clean sheet at the other end?

City do not deserve to be two goals down from the first leg, but will Barcelona make them pay for one mishap in the second half of the opening match that spun the tie on its head? Or does Barcelona’s poor form heading into the much-anticipated encounter really mean anything at all?

On Wednesday we will find out. But it’s sure to be an intriguing game between two teams searching for form, one with nothing to lose, the other with everything to lose.

I know which position I’d rather be in. He who dares, wins.

VIDEO: Toivonen chips Neuer; Germany on brink of elimination

Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images
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Germany, the defending world champions, have their backs firmly pressed against the wall, less than an hour away from elimination, in just their second game of Group F play at the 2018 World Cup. As of this moment, they’re set to be eliminated with one game still to play.

Click here for live and on demand coverage of the World Cup online and via the NBC Sports App.

After losing to Mexico in the opener, Joachim Loew’s side now trails Sweden in game no. 2, just shy of 45 minutes on the clock. As of right now, Mexico and Sweden (six points each) would go through to the knockout rounds, and Germany and South Korea (zero points) would go home.

Die Mannschaft were utterly dominant for the game’s first 30 minutes, holding more than 75 percent of possession, until Ola Toivonen, who scored all of two goals for Ligue 1 side Toulouse this season, got in behind the German backline and dinked the ball over the head of Manuel Neuer for the game’s opening goal.

Report: Player “coup” has Sampaoli on the outs at Argentina

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The Argentina men’s national team has been a mess for some time, with Lionel Messi retiring the last time controversy reared its ugly ahead, but this is something else.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

Reports out of Argentina say manager Jorge Sampaoli has lost the team, who is now making decisions on their own ahead of their World Cup group stage finale against Nigeria.

Argentina drew Iceland in its opener before being embarrassed in a 3-0 defeat to Croatia in the second match, one in which Sampaoli’s lineup choice, tactics, and in-match decisions were skewered in the media.

Sergio Aguero was among the players to bristle at talk of the coach after the game.

This just hours after Sampaoli’s lineup to face Nigeria was “leaked” via training ground photos on Saturday.

More to come…

MLS weekend preview: Busy Saturday following the World Cup

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You won’t have to wait too long after the final World Cup game of Saturday to get more soccer.

Major League Soccer is back with a busy night of fixtures.

[ RECAP: Mexico 2-1 South Korea ]

Here are some 1-2 liners to get prepared for what’s in store.

Philadelphia Union vs. Vancouver Whitecaps — 5 p.m. ET

Carl Robinson’s rising visitors will hope the inconsistent side of the Union hits the field in Pennsylvania.

New York Red Bulls vs. FC Dallas — 6 p.m. ET

Dallas’ seven-match unbeaten run includes four-straight wins, but RBNY has not lost at home since late April.

Orlando City vs. Montreal Impact — 7:30 p.m. ET

Orlando has not gained a point of its last available 18, while Montreal is slowly finding form.

Sporting KC vs. Houston Dynamo — 8:30 p.m. ET

The Western leaders host a Houston side with a tough 1-3-3 mark away from home.

Colorado Rapids vs. Minnesota United — 9 p.m. ET

Two-win Colorado has been much better at home than away, and the Loons can’t afford to give the Rapids win No. 3 if they want to stay in the playoff picture.

Real Salt Lake vs. San Jose Earthquakes — 10 p.m. ET

Real has won six of seven at Rio Tinto, and San Jose has just two wins this season (So, MLS rules dictate this will go in the Quakes’ win column).

Seattle Sounders vs. Chicago Fire — 10 p.m. ET

The Sounders’ awful season gets a Chicago with points in five of six.

LAFC vs. Columbus Crew — 10:30 p.m. ET

Traveling across the country without Carlos Vela and beating a very solid Crew side is asking a lot of Bob Bradley‘s expansion side.


Atlanta United vs. Portland Timbers — 4:30 p.m. ET Sunday

Gio Savarese has manufactured some fine away performances for Portland, but this is a long flight and a tall ask in a possible MLS Cup Final preview.

NYCFC vs. Toronto FC — 5 p.m. ET Sunday

TFC has yet to climb back into the East’s Top Six, but will like its chances to make a statement against Patrick Vieira-less NYCFC on the postage stamp pitch at Yankee Stadium.

WATCH: Spurs’ Son scores sensational consolation goal for South Korea

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South Korea has not had a good World Cup, but the Taegeuk Warriors have a fine goal for their tournament highlight reel.

[ RECAP: Mexico 2-1 South Korea ]

Tottenham Hotspur star Heung-Min Son was frustrated by Mexico’s stifling defense for most of the day, but El Tri had little hope of stopping his stoppage time stunner.

Son took a lay-off and then used a pick into his yard of space to rip into a shot in the third minute of extra time.

South Korea must hope for Germany to beat Sweden, then for Mexico to beat Sweden while it beats Germany and builds goals for tiebreakers.

As unlikely as that is, at least Son had this moment.