Johnson, Dempsey goals give U.S. 2-1 win over Turkey

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If Tuesday’s performance was the warm up, Sunday’s at Red Bull Arena saw the U.S. ease its 2014 World Cup preparation out of neutral. Overcoming a slow start with Fabian Johnson’s first half opener, a U.S. team that waited until late to defeat Azerbaijan earlier this week avoided similar problems against Turkey. Adding a second half goal from Clint Dempsey, Jurgen Klinsmann’s side produced a 2-1 win over the world’s 39th-ranked team, taking another step in its buildup for Brazil.

Turkey produced the match’s first good chance in the 13th minute when Nuri Sahin went off Tim Howard’s left post. Twelve minutes later, however, a ranging give-and-go between Johnson and Michael Bradley saw the U.S. defender burst past the Turkey back line for the game’s first goal. Just after halftime, a failed Turkey clearance on a ball from Timothy Chandler allowed captain Clint Dempsey to double the lead from two yards out.

A giveaway from 90th minute by Chandler led to a Geoff Cameron hand ball after Mustafa Pektemek was allowed to go in alone on goal. Selcuk Inan’s conversion into the left side netting heightened the stoppage time tension, but the Turks only goal proved consolation for their 2-1 loss.

(MORE: Three things that could matter for the U.S., come Brazil)

The United States concludes its send-off series Saturday, June 7, against World Cup-qualified Nigeria in Jacksonville. Nine days later, the team begins the 2014 World Cup in Natal against Ghana.

Twelve minutes of relatively even play at the beginning of the match gave way to a Turkey chance after Geoff Cameron conceded a foul deep on the U.S.’s right. After the restart was cleared, play moving from Turkey’s left to the middle of the box found Nuri Sahin near the penalty spot. With the U.S. defense slow to respond, the Borussia Dortmund midfielder put his shot off the outside of the right post, giving the hosts an early reprieve.

In the 21st minute, after a spell of play left the U.S. on the verge of conceding, a turnover created by Michael Bradley nearly produced the opener. Winning a ball just inside Turkey’s half, Bradley created a 3-on-2 in transition against the visitors’ defense. A pass played wide to Altidore and back to Bradley saw the U.S. barely miss goal when a defender’s lunge caught a ball headed toward Kivrak’s far post.

Four minutes later, after gaining their first hold on the match, the U.S. was in front. Starting his team’s movement from 40 yards out, right back Fabian Johnson found Bradley just above the arc and continued his run into the penalty area. A lob over the defense allowed the new Borussia Moechengladbach player to one-time his shot into the left side of goal, giving the U.S. a 1-0 lead.

With its play higher up the field proving more effective, the U.S. played out the rest of the half with few of the defensive worries that speckled the match’s first 20 minutes. Even after the goal, the half’s best chance fell to the U.S., with Clint Dempsey sent on a breakaway toward Kivrak’s goal. Tackled at the edge of the penalty area by Ozan Tufan, the U.S. captain was left appealing for a penalty as play went back the other way.

In the 52nd minute, however, Turkey gave Dempsey his goal. On a ball sent in from the left from Timothy Chandler, a failed clearance from Hakan Balta left the ball just outside goal for the U.S. captain. Getting his right foot to it before Kivrak could get down for the ball, Dempsey unwrapped his gift to give the U.S. a 2-0 lead.

After securing its lead, the U.S. settled into a substitute routine that started at halftime, with Brad Guzan, John Brooks, and Kyle Beckerman brought on for the game’s final 45 minutes. Julian Green and DeAndre Yedlin would come on just after the hour-mark, with Jurgen Klinsmann selecting Mix Diskerud for this final sb in the 69th minute.

Along the way, Turkey nearly pulled a goal back in the 61st minute only to see Brad Guzan shut down a 1-on-1. Other half chances through the problematic left side of the U.S.’s defense were thwarted, with the visitors never adopting the intensity of a team pursuing a meaningful result. Even after a Chandler was caught on the ball 30 yards out, a giveaway that produced the game’s final goal, Turkey fail to summon the desperation needed to find its equalizing goal

The reason for that is obvious enough. For Turkey, the game didn’t mean much. For the U.S., however the performance was all about progress, and while the team may not be ready for June 16 right now, it still showed improvement from Tuesday night. Against a much more talented team, the U.S. produced a slightly more convincing result.

The attack did little after being handed a second goal, but in terms to the U.S. trajectory toward Brazil, Sunday represented a move in the right direction. Particularly at the back, a number of questions went unanswered, but seven days from now against Nigeria, the team gets its next chance to offer a response.

Lineups

United States: Howard (Guzan 46′); Johnson (Yedlin 64′), Cameron, Besler (Brooks 46′), Chandler; Zusi (Diskerud 69′), Jones (Beckerman 46′), Bradley, Davis (Green 64′); Altidore, Dempsey

Goals: Johnson 26′, Dempsey 52′

Turkey: Kivrak, Balta (Demirok 83′), Dogan (Ozek 46′), Gonul, Inan, Erdinç (Kisa 80′), Sahin (Çalhanoğlu 70′), Ozyakup (Adin 66′), Tufan, Erkin, Camdal (Pektemek 64′)

Goal: Inan 90′

Champions League, Europa League: How to watch, odds, start time, predictions

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The UEFA Champions League and Europa League action has resumed 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 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. Both Manchester clubs are the bookmakers favorites to seal their respective European glory.

[ LIVE: Europa League scores ]

In the next few days the Europa League and Champions League quarterfinals will take place as the mini tournaments begin.

Man City beat Real Madrid 4-2 on aggregate, while Chelsea lost Bayern 7-1 on aggregate as they crashed out of the Champions League. Man United and Wolves are both in the quarterfinals and favored to go far.

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 and follow all of the fixtures in the USA.


How to watch, stream Champions League and Europa League

Dates: August 5-23
Location: Quarterfinals onwards in Lisbon/Germany
How to watch: CBS Sports
Live updates: UCL here at NBCSports.com & Europa League here at NBCSports.com


JPW’s Champions League predictions

Quarterfinals (August 12-15)
Wednesday, August 12: Atalanta 2-3 PSG
Thursday, August 13: RB Leipzig 1-2 Atletico Madrid
Friday, August 14: Barcelona 1-3 Bayern Munich
Saturday, August 15: Manchester City 3-1 Lyon


JPW’s Europa League predictions

Quarterfinals (August 10-11)
Monday, August 10: Inter Milan 2-1 Bayer Leverkusen
Monday, August 10: Manchester United 3-1 Copenhagen
Tuesday, August 11: Wolves 1-2 Sevilla
Tuesday, August 11: Shakhtar Donetsk 1-2 Basel


Champions League betting odds

Quarterfinals (August 12-15)

(+210) Atalanta v. PSG (+117). Tie: +275
(+225) RB Leipzig v. Atletico Madrid (+135). Tie: +220
(+235) Barcelona v. Bayern Munich (+115). Tie: +255
(-305) Manchester City v. Lyon (+750). Tie: +450

Outright winner
Manchester City (+220)
Bayern Munich (+325)
Paris Saint-Germain (+500)
Atletico Madrid (+800)
Barcelona (+800)
Atalanta (+1000)
RB Leipzig (+1700)
Lyon (+3500)


Europa League betting odds

Quarterfinals (August 10-11)
(+112) Inter Milan v. Bayer Leverkusen (+240). Tie: +250
(-385) Manchester United v. Copenhagen (+1000). Tie: +480
(+235) Wolves v. Sevilla (+120). Tie: +230
(-106) Shakhtar Donetsk v. Basel (+290). Tie: +255

Outright winner
Manchester United (+180)
Inter Milan (+325)
Sevilla (+500)
Bayer Leverkusen (+650)
Wolves (+700)
Shakhtar Donetsk (+1100)
Basel (+2500)
Copenhagen (+6000)

Barcelona reach 13th straight Champions League quarterfinal

Barcelona - Napoli
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Barcelona – Napoli saw Lionel Messi and Co., book the eighth and final place in the UEFA Champions League quarterfinals, by way of a 3-1 victory on the night (4-2 on aggregate) on Saturday.

[ MORE: Champions League predictions ]

It was, as it so often tends to be, Messi who shone brightest and stole the spotlight en route to Barca’s 13th straight Champions League quarterfinal appearance.

[ LIVE: Champions League schedule ]

Barca entered Saturday with the slimmest of advantages, knowing that a scoreless draw would see them through to the quarterfinals after grabbing a vital away goal in the first goal. Lyon knew that no matter what, they needed to score at least once or they would be out. That threat was reinforced, and strengthened, when Clement Lenglet headed the Blaugrana ahead in the 10th minute.

Messi slipped, Messi got back up, Messi slipped again, Messi got back up again, Messi rifled the ball inside the far post to score a(nother) fantastic solo goal and make it 2-0 (3-1) in the 23rd minute. It was only slightly more complicated than that for him (WATCH HERE). Messi put the ball in the back of the net again just a few minutes later, but the goal was taken off the board by way of a somewhat suspect handball decision upon video review.

Nonethless, that was just about that after Luis Suarez converted from the penalty spot early in first-half stoppage time. Messi won the penalty by sneaking around Kalidou Koulibaly and winning the ball in the blink of an eye, forcing the Senegalese center back to foul him on the edge of the box lest Messi walk in on goal for a virtual tap-in.

Lorenzo Insigne converted a penalty kick of his own a couple minutes later before the interval, but the threat level never peaked higher than a 2-out-of-10 for Barca.

Barca will face Bayern Munichin a sensationally mouth-watering, single-leg quarterfinal matchup next Friday.

3 things learned: Bayern Munich v. Chelsea

Bayern Munich - Chelsea
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Bayern Munich – Chelsea, leg no. 2, looked eerily similar to leg no. 1, played back in late February, with the lone exception being the lack of fans inside the Allianz Arena for Thursday’s dead rubber.

[ MORE: Champions League predictions ]

The eight-time Bundesliga champions were simply too good — and too healthy, by comparison — for Frank Lampard and the Blues to put up a reasonable fight from 3-0 down after the first leg. It was an unceremonious end to Lampard’s first season in charge at Chelsea, but a foregone conclusion before they boarded the plane back in London.

[ LIVE: Champions League schedule ]

With their 4-1 victory on the night (7-1 on aggregate), Bayern will face Barcelona in a sensationally mouth-watering quarterfinal matchup next Friday.

Here’s a look at what we learned from the Allianz Arena, as the I’s were dotted and the T’s were crossed in Bayern Munich – Chelsea.


NO DRAMA NECESSARY, BAYERN TAKE CARE OF BUSINESS EARLY

Credit to Bayern for their ruthless efficiency and disinterest in letting the tie descend into drama and tension. Robert Lewandowski scored early (10th minute) and Ivan Perisic did the same in the 24th, bringing the aggregate score to 5-0 with 65 minutes left to play. With so many key players out injured, Chelsea had virtually zero chance of pulling off the impossible comeback prior to kickoff, and Hans-Dieter Flick’s side made sure to keep it that way from the opening whistle. Corentin Tolisso put the tie further out of reach late in the second half (76th), and Lewandowski duplicated his side’s three-goal advantage from the first leg not much later.


CHELSEA’S ISSUES STILL AT THE BACK

For all of the development of young players that Frank Lampard was able to realize this season — and for all of the big-money signings either already confirmed or heavily reported to be imminent this summer — Chelsea still have serious questions to answer with regard to their defense. The below highlight is but one small example in a season full of defensive blunders at missed assignments (you’ll find another one below in the next section). Cesar Azpilicueta remains solid, but he’ll turn 31 this month and probably only has another year or two left to function at the UCL level. Reece James and Fikayo Tomori still have some way to go in their development to be UCL-caliber players. The likes of Kurt Zouma, Antonio Rudiger and Andreas Christensen have all proven, time and again, they’re simply not at that level and probably never will be. All of that is to say, Chelsea need to execute a full-on rebuild of their defense this summer, or it might not matter how many goals they can score every game next season.


BAYERN’S END-OF-SEASON FORM IS TERRIFYING

Pop quiz: When was the last time Bayern simply didn’t win a game, let alone lost one? The answer: Feb. 9 (19 games ago). And their last defeat? Dec. 7 (28 games). They won all nine of their Bundesliga games following the season’s restart, plus another two in the DFB-Pokal and now the second leg against Chelsea in the UCL. Of course, things will suddenly become far more tricky when 1) the likes of Barcelona and Man City factor into the equation in the quarterfinals and the semifinals, and 2) each round is decided over a single leg rather than the traditional home-and-away format of the Champions League. And still, Bayern have the look of serious Champions League contenders, if not favorites, based on their scintillating form dating back to the start of the calendar year.

VIDEO: Messi shreds Napoli to score fantastic solo goal

Lionel Messi goal video
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Lionel Messi has done, once again, as Lionel Messi is known to do: he has scored another fantastic Lionel Messi goal (video below) in the UEFA Champions League round of 16.

[ MORE: Andrea Pirlo named Juventus manager | Sarri sacked ]

One, two, three, four, five defenders in his way? So what, says Messi.

One or two decent attempts to tackle the ball away — and perhaps even succeeding on at least one occasion? Again, so what?

He’ll have the ball back, continue on his merry way and tuck the ball just inside the far post, all while falling down, getting back up and falling down again. The goal put Barcelona 2-0 ahead on the night (3-1 on aggregate). Prior to this post being published, he scored again, but the goal was taken away for a perceived handball upon video review.

Surely we’ve discovered a superhuman soccer league we can send him to by now, just to level the playing field a bit more for the actual humans walking planet Earth.

Anyway, here’s the latest head-shaking, smirk-inducing Messi goal video you came to see.