CONCACAF Champions League Final preview: Should big underdogs Montreal play with fire at Azteca?

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The eyes of Major League Soccer fans are on the Montreal Impact. And with nearly 60,000 tickets sold for the second leg of the CONCACAF Champions League final against Club America next week, many are hoping the underdog Impact can just return from Wednesday’s 9 p.m. ET first leg in a spot to keep possible an MLS coronation.

A CONCACAF Champions League title has eluded the league since the tournament was renamed in 2008, and an MLS side hasn’t won the dang thing since 2000. In fact, Montreal is just the fifth CCL finalist in league history (MLS is 2-2).

[ MORE: UEFA Champions League preview ]

So here come the Impact, holder of a pair of the tournament’s Top Five attendance records and the right to square off with mighty Club America in a two-legged affair beginning Wednesday at Estadio Azteca.

Yes it’s that Club America, the Mexican squadron which has never lost a CCL final and boasts the second-most titles in history (Their five one shy of Cruz Azul’s six). A club led by stars Oribe Peralta and Pablo Aguilar, and a bevy of players to wear the national team colors of Mexico and Paraguay amongst others (including recent USMNT call-up Ventura Alvarado).

They’ll take on the Impact, an international collection of MLS talent itself which includes just a quartet of Canadians, all of them young Homegrown Players, but holds the nation’s club soccer history in its hands. A 50-person traveling party hit Mexico last week, with eight security guards following the Impact around the country. Road fans do have the luxury of $3 tickets, but also the fierce atmosphere of Azteca.

source: APAnd, oh yeah, clear underdog status. Here’s what Montreal head coach Frank Klopas said to impactmontreal.com.

“We know we are the underdog, but we’ve been the underdog since the beginning of the tournament and we are still here. In your career, whether as a coach or a player, you may not get another chance like this, so it’s important that we enjoy the experience as much as possible.”

And how about Canada? The Northern neighbors only have one shot at the CCL every year, as bogus competition rules state that the MLS Cup or Supporters Shield berths do not apply to clubs from Canada. Of course, the three MLS sides from the Great White North also have automatic semifinal berths in their qualifying tournament, the Canadian Championships, so complaints shouldn’t be too loud.

Make no mistake about it, this Impact team is the underdog here. Club America is a two-goal favorite tonight in Mexico, and the odds are nearly the same for a 1-0 Impact win (28:1) as a 5-0 America win (22:1). At least for tonight, this is Rocky and Ivan Drago if the Italian Stallion’s trophy case included a pair of Canadian Championships instead of 10-straight heavyweight title defenses and a won rematch against Clubber Lang.

So how can Montreal do it? That’s the million dollar question for Frank Klopas, but it obviously starts with defending an America attack that was paced by Dario Benedetto (below right) in the semifinal, with the 24-year-old Argentine scoring four goals. Watch America’s display here, as they erased a first-leg deficit to Club Herediano in style.

source: Getty ImagesThe Impact’s best bet may be to somewhat follow the blueprint that led them past Pachuca, a pair of scoring draws including two in the road first leg; Playing with fire could be part of the philosophy.

The problem is America can defend quite well itself, and their back liners do well in possession. After Pablo Aguilar — not to be confused with teammate Paul Aguilar, who also starts in the back — watch out for midfielder Rubens Sambueza.

The 31-year-old Argentine is a complete threat, and will keep Piatti on his toes and, often enough, on the turf. Here’s where having Cup-tied Eric Alexander would be a boon for the Impact, not to mention injured Justin Mapp, but Jack McInerney, Marco Donadel and Piatti will have to do the trick.

With the beloved Canadiens aiming to sweep the Ottawa Senators after a 7 p.m. ET puckdrop in Ontario, how amped up will Quebec be if the Habs complete the task and the Impact can pick up a win or a scoring draw in Mexico? Let’s hope we find out.

La Liga roundup: Celta spoil Hazard’s return in Real Madrid draw

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Real Madrid’s draw against relegation-battling Celta Vigo highlights La Liga’s Sunday action.

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Real Madrid 2-2 Celta Vigo 

Celta’s Santi Mina scored in 85th minute to give a depleted Celta Vigo a precious point at the Santiago Bernabeu, spoiling Eden Hazard‘s return to Real Madrid’s lineup after a notable absence.

Madrid’s eighth draw of the season moves champions Barcelona just one point behind Zinedine Zidane’s side.

Returning from ankle injury that kept his out of action for three months, Hazard returned to the pitch in fine style, leading all players on the field in chances created with three and earning a penalty that Sergio Ramos converted to put Real Madrid ahead.

Hazard – and all of his flair – left the field in the 70th minute, granting Vinicius Junior the final 20 minutes of the match.

Ramos’ sixth goal of the season builded on Toni Kroos’ left-footed strike early in the latter half of the match. Real Madrid, more or less, were cruising against Celta, who had a goal to their name following Fyodor Smolov’s early opener.

Celta, who had arrived in Madrid in 18th place and had lost their last seven at the host’s home, were destined to do the unthinkable. Denis Suarez and Mina – both utilized as substitutes – paired up for the equalizer with five minutes to go, spoiling Hazard’s return.

Elsewhere in La Liga

Sevilla 2-2 Espanyol

Leganes 0-0 Real Betis 

Athletic Bilbao 0-1 Osasuna

Teammates appear to stop Marega leaving after racist slurs

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LIBSON, Portugal — FC Porto striker Moussa Marega, who tried to walk off the field after being the target of racist slurs from fans, faced apparent attempts Sunday by his own teammates and opposition players to prevent him from leaving.

Marega, who is black and from Mali, was visibly angered by monkey noises targeting him after he scored Porto’s second goal in a 2-1 win at Guimarães in the Portuguese football league.

But when Marega started to walk off the field, several players from both Porto and Guimarães appeared to argue with him. Porto coach Sérgio Conceição also went on the field and spoke with Marega.

It took Marega several minutes to leave the field when he was substituted.

Marega held his thumbs down at the crowd as he went into the tunnel to the changing rooms. The crowd responded with loud jeers.

The attitude of the other players has drawn criticism on social media.

“We are indignant with what has happened. Moussa was insulted from warmups (before kickoff),” Conceição said after the match.

“We are a family. One’s nationality, color, or height does not matter. We are human beings. We deserve respect and what happened was despicable.”

Marega received a yellow card following his goal in the 61st minute when he appeared to respond to the slurs by pointing at his skin and by picking up a seat that had been thrown on the pitch.

Timothy Weah returns to action with Lille after lengthy| absence

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Timothy Weah was back in action in Lille’s 2-1 loss to Marseille on Sunday after a 183-day absence.

The American attacker played the final 10 minutes of the defeat after being inactive since Lille’s second match of the season back in August 17 in which he suffered a “very bad hamstring tear“.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

Weah arrived at Lille in June on a $12 million deal from Paris Saint-Germain, placing high expectations on the 19-year-old son of Ballon d’OR winner George Weah.

Since, however, the U.S. men’s national team player has had little activity with the French side, accumulating less than 100 minutes over a three-game stretch.

Lille manager Christophe Galtier will likely ease Weah’s way into the a starting role moving forward – which is largely contingent on his performances at practice and in official play.

Lille, who’ve accumulated 40 points in 25 matches, are currently fourth in Ligue 1.

WATCH: Ashley Young opens his Inter Milan account with volley

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The first English goalscorer in Serie A this decade is 34-year-old Ashley Young.

Inter Milan’s newly-integrated wingback opened his Serie A account in proper fashion – scoring with a first-time right-footed volley strike against a strong Lazio side.

Why did Manchester United let Young walk away from Old Trafford during the winter transfer window? Surely, Young will answer that in detail when the time is right. At this moment, he’s too busy scoring goals – stellar ones, too – as we can see for ourselves above.

Young arrived at Inter in January on a reported $2-million deal for the remainder of the season, with an option to extend for another season.