CL Tuesday preview: struggling Liverpool in Spain, Juventus scrambling for a result

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The Champions League has returned for another round of group stage play, with some interesting storylines gracing our midweek headlines.

With group stage play halfway complete, most groups are still there for the taking while a few look to be just about covered.

Real Madrid vs. Liverpool

Most notably, Brendan Rodgers’ struggling Reds hit the road to the Spanish capital running out of time to get a result in group stage play.

Madrid torched Liverpool’s porous back line for a trio of goals in a comprehensive 3-0 win in England, and unless the manager can turn things around in a hurry, this one likely could go the same way. Unfortunately for the Reds, they’re in a bad spot. Tied with the other two teams in the group on three points, if they fall in Madrid they’ll be guaranteed to be out of a knockout stage position with just two games to play.

Daniel Sturridge is still unlikely to play leaving the Liverpool attack still thin, with all Liverpool strikers owning just one league goal all season combined. Meanwhile, Carlo Ancelotti is a solid shout for Manager of the Year this season after being fed an entirely new bevy of attacking players and still getting them to fire on all cylinders.

Juventus vs. Olympiacos

The Italians have it all to do as they take on the surprising group A leaders at home in Turin. Juventus is in charge of the Serie A table, but they’ve failed to score in their last two Champions League matches and fell at Olympiacos last time out. This time, things will favor the Italians as Olympiacos is clearly a different team on the road than in the friendly confines.

source: APBorussia Dortmund vs. Galatasaray

The Germans have a crisis to handle in domestic play, but they are still in a solid position when it comes to European play.  Three wins out of three have them top in Group D, but it remains to be seen whether their horrific start to the Bundesliga season will affect their concentration in other competitions. Jurgen Klopp has overseen

They’ll be missing German international Mats Hummels who sustained a sprained ankle in their match with Bayern Munich last weekend. Klopp will also likely be without Nuri Sahin, Marcel Schmelzer, and Jacob Blazczykowski, while Cesare Prandelli’s squad is almost completely healthy.

Arsenal vs. Anderlecht

Arsenal have a chance to solidify their knockout stage position and create a clear divide in Group D when they host Anderlecht. A win would at the least keep them five points ahead of the third place side, and potentially could put them eight points clear. Jack Wilshere has been ruled out, but the team is starting to return to full fitness as Theo Walcott has made his return and could feature. Steven Defour will miss out for Anderlecht. Thankfully, Arsene Wenger won’t have to worry about his zipper keeping him from focusing.

Benfica vs. Monaco

A topsy-turvey Group C will hope for a better match than the last two times these two teams faced off.  A listless 0-0 draw graced State Louis in France to give the Portuguese side its first point of the group stage, and they’ll look to get back into the thick of things at home in the reverse fixture. Don’t hope for too much in this one though, as Monaco have yet to concede in the group stage and have only scored one goal themselves.

Atletico Madrid vs. Malmo

The other Champions League game in Spain this matchday, Atletico have a great chance to overtake Olympiacos as the Group A leaders. Both teams will have injury boosts, with Tiago back from a hamstring problem while the Norwegians have goalkeeper Robin Olsen back after being substituted in their last league game.

Basel vs Ludogorets

The Group B underdogs will be looking to feast on a potential Liverpool slip in Madrid and leap into a knockout stage position as they face off in Switzerland. Ludogorets won the reverse fixture two weeks ago 1-0 at home, and while the Swiss are firing in the league, they will be without Ivorian midfielder Serey Die after his sending off in the last match.

Brazilian player Taison banned in Ukraine for response to racism

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KYIV, Ukraine (AP) Brazilian player Taison has been banned for one game for his reaction to racist abuse in a Ukrainian league game.

The Shakhtar Donetsk midfielder showed his middle finger to Dynamo Kyiv fans who had abused him with monkey chants and kicked the ball into the stands during a game Nov. 10. Taison was shown a red card.

[ MORE: Mou says Spurs can win the PL next season ]

The Ukrainian Football Association ordered Taison to serve a one-game ban plus a suspended two-game ban.

Dynamo has been fined 500,000 hryvnyas ($20,000) and ordered to play one game behind closed doors. Another one-game sanction is suspended.

World players’ union FIFPro says “sanctioning a victim of racial abuse is beyond comprehension and it plays into the hands of those who promote this kind of disgraceful behavior.”

More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

Top Premier League storylines: Week 13

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Yes, Jose Mourinho is back in the Premier League and, sure, both Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Manuel Pellegrini are in managerial hot seats, but is there any match more intriguing than Man City and Chelsea squaring off with the knowledge that a bad outcome could see them double digits out of first?

[ STREAM: Every PL match live ] 

Below we take a look at the key storylines to keep an eye on across the PL this weekend.


The Jose Mourinho Era begins against a familiar foe

  • West Ham v. Tottenham Hotspur — Saturday, 7:30 a.m. ET, on NBCSN

Manuel Pellegrini and Jose Mourinho have matched wits many times, which could help the former in his bid to get ready for a rankled Spurs side to kickstart the Premier League weekend.

Mourinho has only matched up with six managers more than Pellegrini in his career, and boasts a 7W-3D-4L record. Can he quickly get Spurs put together for a visit to a desperate Irons side.


Chelsea, Man City put slim title hopes on the line

  • Manchester City v. Chelsea — Saturday, 12:30 p.m. ET, on NBC

Both Pep Guardiola‘s City and Frank Lampard‘s Chelsea have lost to Liverpool, meaning their chances to directly affect the Reds’ title hopes are limited. Matches like this one are the ones that get the Reds salivating, in fact, knowing that only one team can snare three points.

City enters the day nine points back of first and a point behind Chelsea and Leicester City. The Top Four race sure looks clear cut right now — the chasing pack is eight points behind fourth — but failure to win on Saturday will likely leave either side double-digit points back of first.


Knock off the Red Devils? Wilder things have happened

  • Sheffield United v. Manchester United — Sunday, 11:30 p.m. ET, on NBCSN

Sheffield United boss Chris Wilder has the newly-promoted side in fifth place on the table, one point better than his celebrated visitors. The Blades will sit no worse than five points back of the Top Four if they can beat Ole Gunnar Solksjaer’s Red Devils, adding another big name to a season of results which already includes a defeat of Arsenal and draws against Chelsea and Spurs. United is still without Paul Pogba and now will also miss Scott McTominay. Another upset brewing?


Reds hope to get back to business as usual in title fight

  • Crystal Palace v. Liverpool — Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, on NBC Sports Gold

A week removed from a glitzy show against Man City, Jurgen Klopp‘s Reds now visit a Palace side who is probably getting sick of facing the Premier League’s best. Roy Hodgson‘s table rise has been stunted by a four-match winless run that includes 2-0 losses to Man City, Leicester City, and Chelsea to go with a 2-2 draw against Arsenal.

A Liverpool win will boost it clearer of Man City and/or Chelsea, as the Reds seek a double-digit lead on the field (Second-place Leicester City is away to Brighton and Hove Albion).


Arsenal looks to right wobbly league ship versus slumping Saints

  • Arsenal v. Southampton — Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, on NBCSN

Unai Emery‘s Gunners may be doing fine in the Europa League, but they’ve taken just two points from 12 since an Oct. 6 defeat of Bourrnemouth at the Emirates Stadium. Saints only win since mid-September in any competition is a 4-0 demolition of rivals Portsmouth. If Arsenal cannot get right here, well…

The 2 Robbies break down Tottenham’s big switch from Poch to Mou

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Maybe you saw the firing of Mauricio Pochettino coming, and maybe you even though Jose Mourinho could be in the running to take his place, but the whole thing happening in rapid fire fashion calls for something different.

Call it an emergency podcast for The 2 Robbies.

[ MORE: Ederson back in training ]

Robbie Mustoe and Robbie Earle respond to the shocking and divisive news coming from North London earlier this week.

Tottenham Hotspur sacked Pochettino and quickly replaced him with The Special One. This episode also includes some of Jose’s first words as the new Spurs Head Coach.

Follow them on Twitter @The2Robbies

Click here for The 2 Robbies archive ]

Pochettino leaves emotional whiteboard message to Spurs

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Mauricio Pochettino and his backroom staff have left Tottenham Hotspur, but not without fond words for the North London set.

Pochettino’s backroom staff was also dismissed, with assistant Jesus Perez and coaches Miguel D’Agostino and Antoni Jimenez leaving to make room for Jose Mourinho’s crew.

[ MORE: Mou says Spurs can win the PL next season ]

And Perez wanted to make sure that the world knew the final words Pochettino left for his players, something that has Tottenham supporters even more emotional.

It also surely plays as a political piece which will increase the villain status of Spurs chairman Daniel Levy, who’s been under fire for not helping Pochettino by selling players who did not want to be in North London.

Even Mourinho heaped praise on his predecessor.

“Mauricio, for the work he did, this club will be always his home,” Mourinho said. “He can come when he wants. When he misses the players, when he misses the people he work with. The door is always open for him. He will find happiness again. He will find a great club again. He will have a great future.”

Get your tissues, Spurs fans.