2015 Copa America preview, picks, schedule: South American giants collide in Chile

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The 2015 Copa America tournament is here, as Chile is bracing itself to welcome some of the best players on the planet.

Argentina and Brazil are the heavy favorites to win the tournament but with the likes of Chile, Colombia and Uruguay around there are sure to be plenty of surprises along the way.

[ GROUP PREVIEWS: A | B | C ]

So, with three weeks of tournament play taking place in Chile here is everything you need to know.

The contenders

Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay are the favorites to win it all but you cannot rule out upstarts Colombia and host nation Chile. Defending champions Uruguay stunned host nation Argentina to win the last Copa America tournament back in 2011 and we will get another shock in Chile? Perennial giants Brazil and Argentine will fancy their chances and Brazil has won four of the last six tournaments as they’ve beaten Argentina twice in the last three finals. Expect a good old fashion slugfest between these bitter rivals at some point during the knockout stages.

The hosts

As for Chile, their run to the World Cup last 16 excited many last summer but there’s a feeling that Alexis Sanchez, Arturo Vidal and Co. are in their prime and ready to deliver a big performance on home soil. The Chileans have never won the Copa America but with a favorable group they have been given every chance to succeed under their passionate coach Jorge Sampaoli. Chile’s games in Santiago will be sellouts and their fans will create a carnival atmosphere if they do well. Plus, it is always good for the tournament if the host nation makes a deep run.

CONCACAF reps

Two countries flying the CONCACAF this summer, as Mexico and Jamaica test themselves against the best South America has to offer. For Miguel Herrera and El Tri, they have a young squad after prioritizing the Gold Cup which takes place in the U.S. in July. As for Jamaica, they proved to be stubborn opponents during CONCACAF World Cup qualifying and the Reggae Boyz may surprise a few people as head coach Winfried Schafer leads them into their first-ever appearance in the Copa America tournament. Mexico could easily make it out of Group A but Jamaica is in a stacked Group B alongside Uruguay, Argentina and Paraguay. Good luck with that…

Top storylines

  • Can Uruguay compete without Luis Suarez? – His nine-game international ban for biting goes on, huge blow for the defending champs. Can Cavani lead them to glory?
  • Can the pretenders rise to the occasion? – We have mentioned hosts Chile, but can Colombia win their second title after triumphing in 2001? With James and a rejuvenated Falcao, this could be their best chance.
  • Lionel Messi aims for first trophy with Argentina – Fun fact (not for Lionel): Messi has never won a major tournament with Argentina. The World Cup runners-up will fancy their chances of winning in Chile. If they do, Messi will have to be at his best.
  • Time to see how far Brazil have really progressed – 12 months on from that 7-1 shellacking by Germany in the World Cup semifinals, Brazil has a new manager and plenty of new players. Dunga has enjoyed 10-straight wins since taking over and the Selecao have only conceded twice since September 2014. Just how good are his new defensive-minded side? We are about to find out.

Superstars on show

Earlier this week at PST we ranked the top 20 players who will feature at Copa America. Needless to say, the list oozes quality as some of the best players on the planet will look horns. As we mentioned above, Suarez is banned so it will be a shame he won’t spearhead Uruguay’s title defense. Anyway here’s a ranking of the top 20 players and to give you a little taster of just how strong the field at this tournament is, look at the top five below. Just look at it…

1. Lionel Messi
2. Neymar
3. Alexis Sanchez
4. Sergio Aguero
5. Edinson Cavani

Schedule (Games broadcast on beIN Sports in the U.S.)

Thursday 11 June

Group A – Chile v Ecuador, 7:30 p.m. ET

Friday 12 June

Group A – Mexico v Bolivia, 7:30 p.m. ET

Saturday 13 June

Group B – Uruguay v Jamaica, 3 p.m. ET

Group B – Argentina v Paraguay, 5:30 p.m. ET

Sunday 14 June

Group C – Colombia v Venezuela, 3 p.m. ET

Group C – Brazil v Peru, 5:30 p.m. ET

Monday 15 June

Group A – Ecuador v Bolivia, 5 p.m. ET

Group A – Chile v Mexico, 7:30 p.m. ET

Tuesday 16 June

Group B – Paraguay v Jamaica, 5 p.m. ET

Group B – Argentina v Uruguay, 7:30 p.m. ET

Wednesday 17 June

Group C – Brazil v Colombia, 7 p.m. ET

Thursday 18 June

Group C – Peru v Venezuela, 7:30 p.m. ET

Friday 19 June

Group A – Mexico v Ecuador, 5 p.m. ET

Group A – Chile v Bolivia, 7:30 p.m. ET

Saturday 20 June

Group B – Uruguay v Paraguay, 3 p.m. ET

Group B – Argentina v Jamaica, 5:30 p.m. ET

Sunday 21 June

Group C – Colombia v Peru, 3 p.m. ET

Group C – Brazil v Venezuela, 5:30 p.m. ET

Wednesday 24 June

Quarterfinal – A1 v B3/C3, 7:30 p.m. ET

Thursday 25 June

Quarterfinal – A2 v C2, 7:30 p.m. ET

Friday 26 June

Quarterfinal – B1 v A3/C3, 7:30 p.m. ET

Saturday 27 June

Quarterfinal – C1 v B2, 5:30 p.m. ET

Monday 29 June

Semifinal – Winner QF1 v Winner QF2, 7:30 p.m. ET

Tuesday 30 June

Semifinal – Winner QF3 v Winner QF4, 7:30 p.m. ET

Friday 3 July

Third-place playoff – 7:30 p.m. ET

Saturday 4 July

Final – 4 p.m. ET

Predictions

At PST a handful of us have put our necks on the line to predict the final group standings and the path through the knockout stages.

Here’s how we think the tournament will pan out…

Joe Prince-Wright

Group A

  1. Chile
  2. Ecuador
  3. Mexico
  4. Bolivia

Group B

  1. Argentina
  2. Uruguay
  3. Jamaica
  4. Paraguay

Group C

  1. Brazil
  2. Colombia
  3. Peru
  4. Venezuela

Quarterfinals

Chile over Jamaica
Colombia over Ecuador
Argentina over Mexico
Brazil over Uruguay

Semifinals

Chile over Colombia
Argentina over Brazil

Third-Place

Brazil over Colombia

Final

Chile over Argentina

Kyle Bonn

Group A

  1. Chile
  2. Mexico
  3. Ecuador
  4. Bolivia

Group B

  1. Argentina
  2. Uruguay
  3. Jamaica
  4. Paraguay

Group C

  1. Colombia
  2. Brazil
  3. Peru
  4. Venezuela

Quarterfinals

Chile over Peru
Brazil over Mexico
Argentina over Ecuador
Uruguay over Colombia

Semifinals

Brazil over Chile
Argentina over Uruguay

Third-Place

Uruguay over Chile

Final

Argentina over Brazil

Kyle Lynch

Group A

  1. Chile
  2. Ecuador
  3. Mexico
  4. Bolivia

Group B

  1. Argentina
  2. Uruguay
  3. Paraguay
  4. Jamaica

Group C

  1. Colombia
  2. Brazil
  3. Peru
  4. Venezuela

Quarterfinals

Chile over Paraguay
Brazil over Ecuador
Argentina over Mexico
Colombia over Uruguay

Semifinals

Chile over Brazil
Argentina over Colombia

Third-Place

Brazil over Colombia

Final

Argentina over Chile

Nicholas Mendola

Group A

  1. Chile
  2. Mexico
  3. Ecuador
  4. Bolivia

Group B

  1. Argentina
  2. Uruguay
  3. Paraguay
  4. Jamaica

Group C

  1. Brazil
  2. Colombia
  3. Peru
  4. Venezuela

Quarterfinals

Chile over Paraguay
Colombia over Mexico
Argentina over Ecuador
Brazil over Uruguay

Semifinals

Colombia over Chile
Brazil over Argentina

Third-Place

Chile over Argentina

Final

Colombia over Brazil

Champions League preview: Spurs host Leipzig, Valencia visits Atalanta

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Two more UEFA Champions League Round of 16 ties kickoff Wednesday, including one being labeled as the biggest in a club’s existence.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ] 

That would be Serie A side Atalanta, which hosts Valencia at 3 p.m. at Gewiss Stadium.

Atalanta had played in two consecutive Europa Leagues, but this is their first move into the Champions League. To make the knockout rounds is exceptional, and club president Antonio Percassi is fired up.

“We must be honest, this is the most important game in the history of this club,” Percassi told Sky Sport Italia. “It doesn’t seem real. It’s exciting just thinking that tomorrow we’ll be in a Champions League Round of 16. It’s wonderful for our fans too. … This is going to be a unique experience that will stay with us for the rest of our lives.”

Atalanta finished second in its group to Manchester City, and is fourth in Serie A. Valencia won its group.

There’s a Premier League side in action on Wednesday, too, as Spurs begin life without Heung-Min Son.

Jose Mourinho spun a tale about how badly Tottenham will need its fans against RB Leipzig, comparing the home-field advantage to an emergency rescue crew of sorts.

Leipzig is led by Julian Nagelsmann, who was once referred to as “Baby Mourinho” by his players.

The 32-year-old was quick to distance himself from the story.

“Tomorrow it is Leipzig against Tottenham, not Mourinho v. Baby Mourinho,” he said. “I have great respect for Mourinho. He has won lots of titles with big clubs, the Champions League twice. He has made his mark on European football at some big European clubs. I think it his 59th knockout game in the CL and it is my first so there is obviously respect there.”

Liverpool’s Robertson not a fan of Atletico Madrid theatrics

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Liverpool fullback Andy Robertson was not impressed with Atletico Madrid’s display as his side fell 1-0 in the first leg of the UEFA Champions League’s Round of 16 tie on Tuesday.

The Reds fell behind on a fourth-minute Saul Niguez goal and couldn’t get a shot on target despite 73 percent possession in Spain.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ] 

Atleti executed its plan to near-perfection, slowing restarts and taking advantage of counterattacking opportunities to assuage the constant pressure of Liverpool.

At times it was reminiscent of early-century Italian national team play, and both neutrals and Liverpool knew what they were in for once Atleti took the lead.

“We gave them the best possible start to get the fans behind them and then they can start falling over and things like that, trying to get under our skin a bit which I think we handled quite well to be honest,” Robertson told BT Sport. “We know we are better than (how they played). We put in a decent performance and we can be better than that. Luckily we have got a second leg to put it right.”

Given the performance and the reputation, you’d still fancy the Reds to “put it right” at Anfield. Jurgen Klopp thinks Atleti will feel plenty of pressure at Anfield, and he will certainly feel the officiating will be more to his liking.

Liverpool’s Klopp: ‘Our people will be ready’ for second leg at Anfield

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Jurgen Klopp didn’t have any issue with Diego Simeone’s defense-first Atletico Madrid in the first leg of their UEFA Champions League Round of 16 tie on Tuesday.

The Spanish side flummoxed Liverpool’s attack and the Reds didn’t manage a shot on target despite eight attempts and 73 percent possession at the Wanda Metropolitano.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ] 

What Klopp didn’t appreciate was the referee’s work, though, implying that Polish official Szymon Marciniak was overwhelmed by the occasion. Marciniak has worked UCL matches for six seasons, twice overseeing quarterfinal ties.

Klopp was shown a yellow card in the second half, and the Liverpool boss felt Sadio Mane was harassed by Atleti. Klopp removed yellow-carrying Mane at halftime.

“He was targeted obviously,” Klopp said after the game. “The only thing they wanted was to make sure he got a yellow card. The score is 1-0, that’s all but you need to be really strong as a ref in this atmosphere. So many things happened, after 30 minutes already three players were on the ground. The first yellow card was a striker from us. I’m not sure they even got a yellow card, which is funny.”

Atleti’s Angel Correa was shown a yellow, while Klopp, Mane, and Joe Gomez were cautioned for Liverpool.

The Liverpool boss found himself laughing a few times, especially when he was asked about Simeone’s touchline personality.

Klopp said before the game that if the German was a four in intensity, then Simeone was a 12. Simeone followed suit by constantly urging the crowd to get behind the home side on Tuesday.

That didn’t bother Klopp, but he issued a public relations officer’s dream in reacting to it.

“Wow, wow,” he laughed. “That’s energy. I don’t think I have to do it that much (at Anfield). Our people will be ready. Welcome to Anfield. It’s not over yet.”

Klopp finished his remarks by saying of Jordan Henderson‘s removal from the game with a hamstring injury, “I hope it was a precaution, but I’m not 100 percent sure”

Haaland wins first leg after Borussia Dortmund-PSG comes to life late

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Erling Haaland scored twice in a mid-second half flurry as Borussia Dortmund beat Paris Saint-Germain 2-1 in the first leg of their UEFA Champions League Round of 16 tie on Tuesday.

The hosts also got an assist from teenager Giovanni Reyna, who became the youngest American to appear in a Champions League match.

Haaland now has 39 goals in 29 appearances between Red Bull Salzburg and BVB, 11 of those for his new German employer.

Neymar scored off a Kylian Mbappe goal for PSG, who brings an away goal back to the Parc des Princes for a March 11 second leg.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ] 

Neymar had an early free kick, missing just wide of the far post.

Jadon Sancho troubled the keeper twice in the first half hour, first with a cross that Mats Hummels headed over goal. Then, Keylor Navas picked another Sancho offering out of the air.

Sancho kept serving, and Erling Haaland couldn’t turn a promising cross on target.

Dortmund walked into halftime with a scoreless match but a 7-2 edge in shot attempts. Neither of PSG’s shots were on target.

[ MORE: Premier League stats ] 

Borussia Dortmund boss Lucien Favre put in American teen Giovani Reyna in the 67th minute.

Two minutes later, it was 1-0 to the hosts through Haaland’s close-range goal.

Neymar replied from close range himself after a powerful, clever dribble from Kylian Mbappe led to a pass through the box.

But Haaland got his second in the 77th minute with a scorching shot that serves as the first senior assist of Reyna’s senior career with Dortmund (Watch it here).