Three things we learned from Barcelona’s win at Manchester City

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MANCHESTER — On Tuesday at the Etihad Stadium an intriguing last 16 clash in the UEFA Champions League played out as Barcelona beat Manchester City 2-1 in the first leg.

[ RELATED: Timeline – Aguero v Messi ]

Luis Suarez struck twice early on to set Barca on their way but an improved second half display from City saw Sergio Aguero pull one back as they go to the Nou Camp in two weeks still in the tie, but knowing they need at least a 2-0 win to advance to the quarterfinals for the first time. A huge ask for Manuel Pellegrini’s side.

[ RELATED: Pellegrini’s gamble backfires ]

Here’s three things we learned from the Anglo-Spanish encounter in Manchester.

SUAREZ LOVES PLAYING IN, OR AGAINST, ENGLAND

You just knew he would take center stage on his first game back in England. You just knew it. Luis Suarez scored twice in the opening 31 minutes to put Barcelona 2-0 up and the Uruguayan ace frightened the life out of Martin Demichelis and Vincent Kompany for the entire match. Suarez got a little lucky on the first goal, as the ball rebounded off Kompany and straight back into his path, but there was nothing lucky about the instinctive hammer blow from his left foot. Then, he waited patiently on the penalty spot for his second goal as Jordi Alba pulled back a perfect ball for the onrushing Suarez to tap home in the six-yard box.

If fans in England had forgotten just how good Suarez was after his move to the Nou Camp from Liverpool in the summer, this was an incredible reminder of his predatory finishing. Joe Hart must be sick of the sight of Suarez. He scored twice vs. Hart (that was just the four times in his last 135 minutes vs. City’s goalkeeper) and England in the 2014 World Cup in Sao Paulo. Once again “El Pistolero” was the sharpest shooter in town at the Etihad Stadium on Tuesday.

4-4-2 SYSTEM EXPOSES CITY

Manuel Pellegrini’s decision to go with the 4-4-2 system instead of the usual fluid 4-5-1/4-3-3 failed. Miserably. City’s two holding midfielder James Milner and in particular Fernando, were statues as Barcelona’s fluid attacks were allowed to build up around them. Eventually Pellegrini brought on Fernandinho and shifted out Milner to the wing, where he is much bigger threat, but it took too long. Having David Silva and Samir Nasri as traditional wingers was a flawed plan from the start, as the system almost became a 4-2-4 with neither Silva or Nasri listing “tracking back” as one of their strengths on their resume.

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Kompany and City’s defense struggled to contain Barca in the first half.

Dzeko wasted a glorious chance at the start of the second half as he headed straight at Marc-Andre ter Stegen from six-yards out with the entire goal at his mercy. City had chances in the second half to halve the deficit, but only because Barcelona were content to sit back and protect their 2-0 goal lead. In the first half City’s tactics were exposed horribly by Barca’s incredible front three of Neymar, Suarez and Messi. In the end City got their reward for a much improved second half display as Aguero scored to give them hope for the second leg but Pellegrini’s gamble to play two up top from the start has dug the Citizens into a hole they may not get out of.

KOMPANY’S RUSTINESS REMAINS

Kompany has struggled since returning from injury in January. There’s no two ways about it. City’s powerful central defender and captain looks to have lost his sharpness and you can no longer put it down to rustiness. For the first goal, yes he was a tad unlucky that the ball bounced off his back, but he had never truly sorted his feet out and was playing with one eye over his shoulder all game as Messi, Suarez and Neymar buzzed in-between Kompany and Demichelis. The Belgian skipper will regain his sharpness — City hope so, yet after seven games back since his Jan. 18 return it is still missing — but was his less than impressive display against Barca’s star attackers a sign of things to come? He is just 28, which means he has at least four years left at the elite level as a center back. But have various hamstring and thigh injuries taken their toll on City’s once seemingly indestructible skipper?

Report: Edinson Cavani set to join Inter Miami next summer

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Edinson Cavani is reportedly set to make a big splash in Florida.

According to Uruguayan journalist Alvaro Izquierdo, Cavani, 32, is set to join David Beckham’s Inter Miami next summer. The club will make their MLS debut next season.

The specifics of the supposed move are not know, but per the report from Izquierdo, Cavani will join Miami on a free transfer after his contract with PSG expires in June. Since joining in 2013, El Matador has been irreplaceable for the French giants, scoring over 160 goals and becoming the club’s all-time leading goalscorer. This season, Cavani is off to a perfect start -scoring in the first two games of the Ligue 1 season.

[ MORE: All of PST’s MLS coverage ]

The striker is one of the first superstars linked to Miami, but the general vibe given off by owners Jorge Mas and Beckham is that the club will look to spend big – similar to Atlanta United, LAFC and LA Galaxy.

Miami has signed three players so far ahead of their 2020 MLS debut – Christian Makoun, Julian Carranza, and Matias Pellegrini all currently makeup the squad.

‘But hey this is MLS’: Wayne Rooney slams MLS’ travel arrangements

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Wayne Rooney is not a fan of MLS’ travel arrangements.

D.C. United lost 1-0 to the Vancouver Whitecaps on Saturday in Canada, and had to fly back to the nation’s capital before prepping for a midweek showdown with visiting New York Red Bulls. To the 33-year-old Englishmen the trip should’ve taken six hours, not half a day.

MLS is notoriously known for the lack of charter flights it offers its teams, a mere four per season is the reported amount each team is allocated. Traveling on commercial flights has caused routine delays for a slew of team’s this season, with certain teams arriving only hours before the first whistle in some cases.

Players, however, will reportedly push for better travel in the upcoming CBA negotiations. Not only for Rooney, but for the majority of professional athletes around the world, flying charter is customary.

Upon his arrival to D.C. in 2018, Rooney turned down first-class flights offered by the Black-and-Red, among other fine accommodations. “If you are going to be part of the team, you have to be part of the team,” Rooney said on his decision to reject first-class flights and private hotel rooms. “All in and do the same things. I don’t want special treatment — I wanted to be treated the same as the players. I’m part of this team.”

Rooney, despite being on his way out of D.C. to join Derby County in January, is certainly a part of the team.

He is also now a part of the complex fight for better travel in MLS.

Vela scores 24th, LAFC clinches playoff berth

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SANDY, Utah (AP) – Carlos Vela scored his MLS-leading 24th goal of the season, Tyler Miller had four saves and Los Angeles FC beat Real Salt Lake 2-0 on Saturday night to clinch a playoff berth.

LAFC played a man down after defender Walker Zimmerman, who was shown a yellow card for time wasting in the 17th minute, was given a red for unsporting behavior in the 48th., Real Salt Lake’s Aaron Herrera, who blocked two would-be goals in the first half, was shown a straight red for denial of a goal scoring opportunity on Vela, who then converted from the spot to make it 1-0 in the 64th minute.

Vela, whose 15 assists are tied with Diego Valeri of the Portland Timbers for the league lead, broke the MLS record for combined goals and assists. Sebastian Giovinco’s had 22 goals and 16 assists for Toronto FC in 2015.

Miller has eight shutouts this season for LAFC (18-3-4), who have won four consecutive games and seven of their last eight dating to June 28.

Adama Diomande side-netted a rising right-footer to cap the scoring in the 82nd minute.

Salt Lake (12-10-4) had its six-game unbeaten streak, including three straight wins, snapped and allowed multiple goals for the first time since a 4-0 loss to the New York Red Bulls on June 1.

Lampard: ‘We need more personality’

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Frank Lampard‘s baptism of fire as Chelsea boss continued on Sunday, as the Blue coughed up a 1-0 lead and were lucky to draw at home against Leicester City.

[ MORE: Pulisic watch. How did he do?

After being hammered at Manchester United in their opening PL game last weekend, then losing to Liverpool on penalty kicks in the Super Cup final in Istanbul on Wednesday, Chelsea started superbly against Leicester but only led 1-0 thanks to academy graduate Mason Mount scoring his first goal for the club.

Speaking to our partners Sky Sports after the game, Lampard revealed he was not happy at all with the second half display and urged his young side to show more personality on the pitch.

“It was a really good start, fantastic, and we could’ve been two or three goals up. We were quick, bright, energetic, then we allowed Leicester back in the game and in the second half I was not very happy, we offered them too many chances on the counter attack,” Lampard said. “We can only look at ourselves. In all our matches I have been delighted in big passages of having the ball but we didn’t have enough angles or options to keep the ball moving. We have to have more personality, we saw that in midweek, but today we didn’t have that.”

The most disappointing thing for Lampard will be the way Leicester grabbed hold of the game in the second half.

Brendan Rodgers‘ side launched counter after counter as Jorginho and N’Golo Kante were overrun in midfield by James Maddison and Youri Tielemans, and both Maddison and Jamie Vardy should have won the games for the Foxes.

“You can attack, but still be in positions to not allow the counter-attack,” Lampard added. “I’m not here to play great attacking football and then concede counter-attack goals. We need to show more than we did. I was under no illusions that there would be moments like this. We have to work on the pitch on the things we can improve.”

Lampard is spot on with his assessment, but how does he change things?

The most obvious thing is that he needs his team to be more consistent. They’ve started their last three games fast but failed to make the most of big chances and have been made to pay for that with some sloppy passing in midfield.

It is still early days for Lampard in his first season as a PL boss, while many of his youngsters are also finding their feet in the top-flight. Chelsea’s fans will stay patient but the fact that have yet to grab a win shows there is plenty of work to do but the Blues have shown flashes of brilliance, usually at the start of games.

Having a consistent lineup is one thing, but Lampard now needs his players to be brave, show their personality and stand tall for the cause as he ushers in his new era. Too many of them went missing in the second half against Leicester at Stamford Bridge, which will be more than a little concerning for the Chelsea legend.