UCL Preview: Chelsea hoping to repeat history against PSG

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The last time Chelsea returned home down 3-1 in Champions League, Edinson Cavani was there. So was Ezequiel Lavezzi. Likely starters for Paris Saint-Germain on Tuesday, the two South American attackers were with Napoli when the partenopei visited London two years ago. Favored to reach the quarterfinals, Walter Mazzarri’s team fell 4-1, becoming the first knockout round victim in Chelsea’s path to the club’s first European title.

Even with PSG superstar Zlatan Ibrahimovic out injured, however, Chelsea faces a more daunting challenge on Tuesday. Cavani and Lavezzi will be there, but so will Thiago Silva, one of the best defenders in the world. A midfield three of Thiago Motta, Blaise Matuidi, and Marco Verratti offer more resistance than Napoli did, while last year’s 2-2, away goals exit at the hands of Barcelona speaks to the experience the Parisians bring into this battle. Laurent Blanc’s team is more than a plucky, hipster’s darling. They’re a threat to win this competition.

“There are players who have already won the Champions League and have a lot of experience …,” Matuidi told UEFA.com. “[T]hese aspects give us reason to believe we can make it into the semifinals.”

(MORE: Paris Saint-Germain crush Chelsea in absorbing Champions League clash)

That belief doesn’t change the fact a 2-0 loss would still send the Parisians packing, but carrying a worrisome list of absences into the match, Chelsea has more than the first leg result to overcome. Ramires, one of the likely starters in José Mourinho’s defensive midfield, is suspended after picking up a yellow card in Paris. He joins Nemanja Matic in the stands, with the winter acquisition ineligible after his time with Benfica. Samuel Eto’o’s hamstring means he’s unlikely to start, while fellow striker option André Schürrle may miss Tuesday’s game with a bad ankle.

In some respects, however, those are all ancillary parts. The core that’s pushed Chelsea into Europe’s final eight will all be present on Tuesday. That means the back five — goalkeeper Petr Cech behind defenders Branislav Ivanovic, Gary Cahill, John Terry, and Cesar Azpilicueta — will start, as will the band of three midfielders that have fueled Chelsea’s attack all season: Eden Hazard, Oscar, and Willian. They’re the foundation. The rest is scaffolding.

(MORE: Zlatan Ibrahimovic out of PSG’s Champions League clash vs. Chelsea)

But that foundation wasn’t enough in Paris. Though Chelsea scored a potentially vital away goal, they were also outplayed by  Blanc’s side, with goals by Lavezzi and Javier Pastore bookending an own goal from David Luiz. Down within four minutes, Chelsea never led, giving the French champions taking a huge step toward a much-coveted semifinal appearance.

“We need to go into the game with the right spirit and the right motivation to qualify,” Blanc explained. “I don’t know what the probability of us going through is, but these percentages are not important – we have a match to play against a very good side and we know what went on in the first leg and we need to learn our lessons from that.”

The main lesson: Paris Saint-Germain are probably the better team. Though Mourinho teams have overcome these types of disadvantages in the past, it was always an upset when they did so. Up two goals at kickoff, the Parisians are favorites to go through.

(MORE, Preview: Lewandowski returns, but Borussia Dortmund still long shots against Real Madrid)

“If Paris are knocked out tomorrow, it will be a big disappointment for them,” Mourinho said, “If we are knocked out then it is something that a lot of people are expecting. We have to enjoy the risk of the situation.

“At 9:30 p.m. [UK time] we can be out, and we know that. But at 7:45 p.m., we have chances to be in the semifinal … we have to be ready, with smiles on our faces, to go out and see what happens … at 7:45 p.m. we believe we can do it.”

Report: Toronto to send Giovinco to Tigres for Valencia, cash

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An Mexican site reports that Tigres UANL is ready to send Enner Valencia and cash to Toronto FC to land Sebastian Giovinco.

Normally that’s seem a bit wild for TFC to send their perennial MLS MVP candidate packing, but the club has been hesitant to meet Giovinco’s terms on a new contract.

[ MORE: PL Manager Power Rankings ]

And Valencia is nearly three years younger and a bit bigger than Giovinco.

Valencia scored in bunches for Tigres after arriving from West Ham, scoring nine goals with an assist in 16 Apertura matches including three multi-goal games. He then saw his numbers dip to two goals and three assists in 11 Clausura appearances.

Giovinco, meanwhile, has six goals and six assists in 15 matches between MLS and the CONCACAF Champions League.

It would be a significant risk for TFC, though the idea of pairing up Enner Valencia and Jozy Altidore is a physical nightmare for MLS defenses.

Whoops! Unai Emery puts up Arsenal message on web site

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Arsenal’s next manager is very close to being officially Unai Emery.

That is unless, the Gunners’ brass has its mind changed by his sloppy web savvy.

[ MORE: Brighton nabs World Cup defender ]

Emery — or his people, or hackers — mistakenly put up a graphic featuring the Spanish coach, the Arsenal logo, and the phrase “Proud to be a part of the Arsenal family” before taking it down in short order.

Emery is expected to take over for Arsene Wenger at the Emirates Stadium this summer. Something tells us we’ll have an announcement on Wednesday or even later tonight…

State TV: Ghana president orders arrest of FIFA executive

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ACCRA, Ghana (AP) Ghana President Nana Akufo-Addo on Monday ordered police to arrest football federation head Kwesi Nyantakyi, a member of the powerful FIFA Council, over allegations of fraud.

Akufo-Addo’s order was announced by the state-run Ghana Broadcasting Corporation.

[ MORE: Brighton nabs World Cup defender ]

Abu Jinapor, deputy chief of staff at the president’s office, said the order for Nyantakyi to be arrested and investigated related to an undercover documentary that purports to show the football official asking businessmen for money in return for access to the president and other senior government officials.

“It was a clear case of defrauding by false pretense,” Jinapor said, adding that Akufo-Addo’s order came after he watched excerpts from the documentary, which has not yet been broadcast.

Nyantakyi is president of the Ghana Football Association, a vice president of the Confederation of African Football, and has been a member of the ruling FIFA Council since 2016. He was the FIFA official chosen to oversee the football competition at the 2012 London Olympics.

Ghanaian media reported that Nyantakyi was not in Ghana at the time of the president’s order but was returning home.

Nyantakyi has been accused of improper behavior before when a British media investigation just before the 2014 World Cup claimed he had been willing to allow the Ghana national team to play in games that could be fixed by others. He denied the allegation.

Premier League managerial power rankings

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There’s a new sheriff at West Ham United, and it’s no small-time boss.

Former Premier League champion manager Manuel Pellegrini is taking over the London side, which had us wondering how high he’d move up the acclaim ladder upon hiring (as of post time).

[ MORE: Brighton nabs World Cup defender ]

With the 20th spot still open — will it be Fulham or Aston Villa — the Arsenal and Everton jobs vacant for now, and both Neil Warnock and Nuno Espirito Santo yet to manage their clubs in the top flight, we rank the power status of the 15 other active Premier League bosses.

15. Javi Gracia, Watford — Manager don’t usually last long at Vicarage Road, and Gracia doesn’t have a record for sticking around clubs for too long himself.

14. Mark Hughes, Southampton — Saints stayed in the Premier League, and Hughes deserves credit for pushing the buttons on a talented squad.

13. Claude Puel, Leicester City — A disappointing finish to his season keeps Leicester outside the Europa League, and so he has a bit more to prove after an impressive reclamation job at the King Power Stadium.

12. David Wagner, Huddersfield Town — Keeping Town in the Premier League was impressive, but we’re not sure how much we learned about the long-term prognosis of Jurgen Klopp‘s best pal.

11. Chris Hughton, Brighton and Hove Albion — He’d led several clubs to Premier League promotion, and coaxed fine seasons out of what appeared to be a subpar defense at season’s open.

10. Eddie Howe, Bournemouth — One of the brightest young managerial minds, can he take the next step on the South Coast?

9. Roy Hodgson, Crystal Palace — What he did upon inheriting and then overseeing one of the worst starts in Premier League history was nothing short of brilliant. Clearly he hasn’t stopped learning unlike many other PL “retreads.”

8. Manuel Pellegrini, West Ham — What will a few years outside the Premier League, if anything, have done to the one-time Man City leader. Don’t forget: The season City won the PL season, he coaxed 20-plus goal campaigns in all competitions from Sergio Aguero, Edin Dzeko, Alvaro Negredo, and Yaya Toure.

7. Antonio Conte, Chelsea — Tactically and experience-wise, he’s so much higher on the list. Regardless of the mess at Chelsea, better was needed this season.

6. Sean Dyche, Burnley — Guiding tiny Burnley to the Europa League is as impressive a feat as any outside of what Guardiola did this year and Claudio Ranieri did at Leicester City.

— BONUS — 6b. Unai Emery, if hired at Arsenal —

5. Rafa Benitez, Newcastle United — Considering his resume, it shouldn’t be as surprising that he kept United up despite his owner refusing to green-light a real answer at center forward. Worked career years out of Mo Diame and Jonjo Shelvey.

4. Jurgen Klopp, Liverpool — The Champions League final says something, especially in a year he sold Philippe Coutinho, but his team still lacks the consistency of the three men in front of him.

3. Mauricio Pochettino, Tottenham Hotspur — Spurs have smartly spent and kept their stars around, but their financial outlay arguably should not have them consistently finishing ahead of Liverpool and Arsenal.

2. Jose Mourinho, Manchester United — Still a defensive marvel, still a genius, still somewhat hilarious… but we all know who No. 1 is…

  1. Pep Guardiola, Manchester City