UEFA Champions League group stage: PST staff’s preview and predictions

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As the group stage of the UEFA Champions League competition begins today, there’s plenty to discuss in almost Seussical fashion. There are dull groups, (relatively) tough groups, fun groups and rough groups.

But, oddly enough considering the fair amount of contrarians among us, the picks as to who emerges from the groups and into the knockout rounds are pretty chalky. Let’s see who’s been pegged to win their groups and move onward.

[ RELATED: How will the four PL teams fair in the Champions League?

Five PST staffers voted: Joe Prince-Wright, Mike Prindiville, Kyle Bonn, Kyle Lynch and Nicholas Mendola.

Group A
source: APClubs: Atletico Madrid, Juventus, Olympiacos, Malmo
Predicted group winner: Atletico Madrid (4), Juventus (1)
Also advancing: Juventus (4), Atletico Madrid (1)

Comments: Not much of a chance given to the best clubs in Greece and Sweden here, but it’s hard to debate Diego Simeone’s UCL success last season and Juventus’ work all-time (not to mention what Simeone did to strengthen a team that lost a lot after the season in Diego Costa and Toby Alderweireld). Nick Mendola’s the lone Juve group-winning vote.

Group B
Clubs: Real Madrid, Basel, Liverpool, Ludogorets
Predicted group winner: Real Madrid (4), Liverpool (1)
Also advancing: Liverpool (4), Real Madrid (1)

Comments: While everyone has the same two teams emerging, Kyle Bonn has the Reds adapting quickly to the Champions League and snaring the group. Surprisingly, no one pegged Basel to move past their Spanish and English competition.

Group C
Clubs: Benfica, Zenit St. Petersburg, Bayer Leverkusen, Monaco
Predicted group winner: Bayer Leverkusen (3), Benfica (2)
Also advancing: Benfica (2), Zenit (2), Bayer Leverkusen (1)

Comments: A pretty even if underwhelming group, Monaco’s sale of Radamel Falcao and James Rodriguez makes this group far less fun than it could’ve been. The German receive the edge to claim the spoils, while Nick is the lone predictor to claim Benfica won’t advance, favoring the Russians to surprise the Portuguese power.

source: AP
They have Spiderman. Are you picking against them? Webs, people.

Group D
Clubs: Arsenal, Borussia Dortmund, Galatasaray, Anderlecht
Predicted group winner: Borussia Dortmund (3), Arsenal (2)
Also advancing: Arsenal (3), Borussia Dortmund (2)

Comments: While our group was torn as to how they’ll advance, no one’s giving much of a chance to the Turks and Belgians.

This means Arsenal would have played a part in the failure of the two biggest clubs in Turkey.

Group E
Clubs: Bayern Munich, Manchester City, CSKA Moscow, Roma
Predicted group winner: Bayern Munich (4), Manchester City (1)
Also advancing: AS Roma (3), Manchester City (1), Bayern Munich (1)

Comments: No one thinks AS Roma will win the group, but the majority thinks they’ll make a big enough splash to advance. Mike Prindiville pegs Manchester City to win the group — meaning Pep Guardiola won’t be shaking his hand — while Kyle Bonn is the only other staffer to peg them to get out of the group.

Group F
Clubs: Barcelona, Paris Saint-Germain, Ajax, APOEL Nicosia
Predicted group winner: Barcelona (3), PSG (2)
Also advancing: PSG (3), Barcelona (2)

Comments: Poor Ajax supporters, who watch as their club sells important assets like Daley Blind and Siem de Jong and now seethe as no one gives them a chance against the French and Spanish giants. There’s some debate as to who wins Group F, but not who comes out with dreams of Berlin in June.

source: APGroup G
Clubs: Chelsea, Schalke, Sporting Lisbon, Maribor
Predicted group winner: Chelsea (5)
Also advancing: Schalke (4), Sporting Lisbon (1)

Comments: Not a soul is picking against Jose Mourinho’s Blues, though JPW is betting that Sporting Lisbon can outlast Bundesliga competition and make it to the knockout rounds.

Group H
Clubs: Porto, Shakhtar Donetsk, Athletic Bilbao, BATE Borisov
Predicted group winner: Porto (3), Athletic Bilbao (2)
Also advancing: Athletic Bilbao (3), Porto (2)

Comments: Perhaps its the horrible conditions in Ukraine right now, but no one was prepared to peg Shakhtar ahead of Iberian Peninsula competition. I’ll admit to being tempted, but the tumult is too much.

Champions League qualifying: How to watch, start times, odds

UEFA Champions League qualifying
Photo by Raddad Jebarah/NurPhoto via Getty Images
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The 12 clubs remaining in the race for the final UEFA Champions League group stage slots will be pared down to six in the next eight days.

There are American connections to two of the six ties.

Former USMNT midfielder Jesse Marsch manages Austria’s Red Bull Salzburg toward the next round, while Molde right back Henry Wingo came up with the Seattle Sounders.

VIDEO: Premier League highlights ] 

Salzburg are significant favorites to advance over two legs, odds accentuated by Maccabi Tel-Aviv’s seven players absent due to positive COVID-19 tests.

Marsch had previously said he did not want to go to Israel due to COVID-19 concerns, calling it “dangerous,” but has accepted the task at hand.

From Austrian publication Kronen Zeitung:

“The moment UEFA said we were going to play in Tel Aviv, it wasn’t a problem for me. Maccabi has a great team. We are not naive. We understand that we have to fight tomorrow.”

At 3:10 in some sportsbooks, Marsch’s men are the only club favored to win the first leg away. Salzburg is led by Dominik Szoboszlai and Patson Daka, who’ve helped the team thrive despite the sales of several stars including Erling Haaland and Takumi Minamino.

Molde has a much tougher test with Hungarian side Ferencvaros, who knocked off Celtic. That tie could go either way, while Slavia Prague and Olympiakos are respectively noticeable favorites to beat Midtjylland and Omonia Nicosia.

Dynamo Kiev will be expected to outlast Gent over two legs, while it would be a minor upset if PAOK takes down Krasnodar.


How to watch the UEFA Champions League qualifying playoff round

Kickoff: 3 pm ET Tuesday and Wednesday
Stream: CBS All-Access (subscription required)


UEFA Champions League playoff round matches

All 12 legs will kickoff at 3 pm ET between Tuesday and Sept. 30.

Tuesday

Maccabi Tel-Aviv 1-2 Red Bull Salzburg
Slavia Prague 0-0 Midtjylland
Krasnodar 2-1 PAOK

Wednesday

Gent v Dynamo Kiev
Molde v Ferencvaros
Olympiakos v Omonia

Sept. 29

Ferencvaros v Molde
Dynamo Kiev v Gent
Omonia v Olympiakos

Sept. 30

Midtjylland v Slavia Prague
PAOK v Krasnodar
Red Bull Salzburg v Maccabi Tel-Aviv

League Cup: How to watch, start times, as Premier League powers enter

League Cup
Photo by David Price/Arsenal FC via Getty Images
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Fifteen Premier League teams eye dates in the fourth round when the League Cup returns for another September midweek.

The congested nature of the season will see some PL sides play three matches in as many weeks, though the European qualifying teams are just entering the fray this week.

[ LIVE: Follow League Cup scores ]

That includes Europa League sides Arsenal and Leicester City, who will stage the lone all-PL scrap of the round come Wednesday at the King Power Stadium.

Tuesday was going to see Tottenham Hotspur visit a club sponsored by Spurs striker Harry Kane, but Leyton Orient is in the news after positive COVID-19 tests have threatened to forfeit Spurs into the next round.

VIDEO: Premier League highlights ] 

Manchester United will hope to snap out of its season-opening funk when it begins its tourney Tuesday at Luton Town, while Chelsea hosts Barnsley on Wednesday.

Liverpool is off to Lincoln City on Thursday, kicking off its League Cup at the same time Manchester City welcomes Bournemouth.

Because of the aforementioned congested September in the tournament, the fourth round draw has already been held and those fixtures are at bottom of the page.


League Cup third round draw

All times ET

Tuesday
Leyton Orient v Tottenham Hotspur — Postponed
West Brom 2-2 Brentford – (Brentford win on penalty kicks)
Newport County 3-1 Watford 
West Ham United 5-1 Hull City
Luton Town 0-3 Manchester United 

Wednesday
Preston North End v Brighton — 2 pm
Millwall v Burnley — 2 pm
Fulham v Sheffield Wednesday — 2 pm
Stoke City v Gillingham — 2 pm
Chelsea v Barnsley — 2:45 pm
Leicester City v Arsenal — 2:45 pm
Fleetwood Town v Everton — 2:45 pm
Morecambe v Newcastle United — 2:45 pm

Thursday
Bristol City v Aston Villa — 2 pm
Lincoln City v Liverpool — 2:45 pm
Manchester City v Bournemouth — 2:45 pm


League Cup fourth round draw

Lincoln City/Liverpool v Leicester City/Arsenal
Millwall/Burnley v Manchester City/Bournemouth
West Brom/Brentford v Fulham/Sheffield Wednesday
Fleetwood Town/Everton v West Ham United/Hull City
Bristol City/Aston Villa v Stoke City/Gillingham
Leyton Orient/Tottenham v Chelsea/Barnsley
Newport County/Watford v Morecambe/Newcastle United
Preston North End/Brighton v Luton Town/Manchester United


How to watch League Cup third round streams and start time

Kickoff: Tuesday through Thursday
Online: Select games on ESPN+
Updates: Follow League Cup scores via NBCSports.com

Premier League player Power Rankings

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Premier League player Power Rankings are here!

Our second player Power Rankings of the 2020-21 season have arrived, as all 20 teams have played and we are coming off the highest scoring matchweek in Premier League history with 44 goals scored across the 10 games.

Simply put: it was incredibly tough to put 20 players in this list based on the crazy results across the Premier League.

[ MORE: How to watch PL in the USA

Stars from Liverpool, Tottenham, Arsenal and Everton dominate our second player Power Rankings and there are plenty of new signings who have impressed early in the season.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights

Remember: this is a list of the top 20 performing players right now in the Premier League. If they didn’t play in the last matchweek, they aren’t going to be in this list!

Let us know in the comments section below if you agree with the selections.


1. Sadio Mane (Liverpool)
2. James Rodriguez (Everton)
3. Kevin de Bruyne (Man City)
4. Harry Kane (Tottenham)
5. Heung-min Son (Tottenham)
6. Fabinho (Liverpool)
7. Tariq Lamptey (Brighton)
8. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (Arsenal)
9. Raul Jimenez (Wolves)
10. Wilfried Zaha (Crystal Palace)
11. Gabriel (Arsenal)
12. Dani Ceballos (Arsenal)
13. Mohamed Salah (Liverpool)
14. Vicente Guaita (Crystal Palace)
15. Dominic Calvert-Lewin (Everton)
16. Patrick Bamford (Leeds)
17. Timothy Castagne (Leicester)
18. Wilfried Zaha (Crystal Palace)
19. Andy Robertson (Liverpool)
20. Kalvin Phillips (Leeds)

Semedo completes $47 million move to Wolves

Semedo to Wolves
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“Nelson Semedo to Wolves for $47 million” is a statement most Wolverhampton Wanderers fans will be scratching their heads at.

But it has happened.

[ MORE: How to watch PL in the USA

Semedo, 26, has joined Wolves from Barcelona in a deal which could rise to $47 million if certain add ons are met (top four, being successful in Europe etc.).

The Portuguese international right back had a tough few seasons at Barcelona which culminated in Alphonso Davies ripping him to shreds in Bayern Munich’s 8-2 demolition of Barcelona in the UEFA Champions League quarterfinals in August.

Semedo is happy to have a fresh start and adds to the extremely strong Portuguese contingent at Wolves. If he can replicate his form at Benfica, then Wolves have got themselves one of the best right backs in Europe.

“I chose Wolves because it’s a very good team that plays very good football,” Semedo said. “Last year they did a very good season and it’s a very important team in England, in also Europe. I hope this year we can do very good things.”

This summer Portuguese coach Nuno Espirito Santo has brought in new Portuguese Vitinha (on loan), Semedo and Fabio Silva to strengthen his central midfield, right back and forward options.

Add that trio to Rui Patricio, Ruben Vinagre, Roderick, Ruben Neves, Joao Moutinho, Ruben Neves and Daniel Podence and Wolves could have 10 of their 11 starters from Portugal. If they hadn’t just sold Diogo Jota to Liverpool they could have had all 11. No wonder Wolves’ new third kit is in the same color and design as the Portugal home kit. (Look at the photo above!)

Semedo will be better suited to being a right wing-back in Wolves’ 3-5-2 system and he is the replacement for Matt Doherty who joined Tottenham this summer. Semedo is very good going forward but isn’t a right back in the sense that he doesn’t excel defensively.

At Wolves he will have the cover of the three center backs next to him, so this should work out well.

We also can’t overlook the fact that super agent Jorge Mendes is Semedo’s agent and is also a senior adviser at Wolves as their Chinese ownership group has close links with Mendes. Hence a huge number of his best clients arriving to play for his first-ever client, Nuno.

This influence is having a huge impact on the players that Wolves can attract and despite Semedo’s shaky displays in a Barcelona side in disarray, overall this should be a very good signing for them.