Europa League roundup: Southampton crash out in Europe; Dortmund hang 7, advance

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A roundup of all the day’s action from around Europe as the final round of UEFA Europa League qualifying concluded on Thursday:

Midtjylland 1-0 (2-1 agg.) Southampton

The 2014-15 season, it is not, for Southampton Football Club. The saving grace for Saints, who are winless in three to start the 2015-16 Premier League campaign, was the hope of European football at St Mary’s Stadium this season. They put even that in jeopardy last Thursday with a 1-1 first-leg draw at home to Midtjylland, the reigning Danish champions.

Fast forward seven days, and Saints are out of Europe (maybe for another 12 years, who knows) following a 1-0 away defeat in Herning, Denmark. Morten Rasmussen — better known simply as “Duncan” — scored the game’s only goal on a quick turn and strike in the 28th minute. With Southampton and West Ham United each crashing out in the qualifying stages, only Tottenham Hotspur and Liverpool will represent the Premier League in the Europa League’s group stage. Any number of Chelsea, Manchester City, Arsenal or Manchester United could join them in the knockout rounds should they finish third in their Champions League group.

Borussia Dortmund 7-2 (11-5 agg.) Odds BK

Last week’s 4-3 victory over Odd Ballklubb was thrilling in its own right, if only for Borussia Dortmund’s comeback from 3-0 down after 22 minutes. Thursday’s 7-2 thrashing of the Norwegian side was thrilling as well, if only because it’s not everyday (or week, or month) that we see somebody put a touchdown and an extra point on the board.

Marco Reus bagged a hat trick (27th, 31st and 57th minutes) to go along with Shinji Kagawa’s brace (40th and 90th) and individual tallies scored by Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Ilkay Gundogan. For what it’s worth, Odds were level on aggregate (though behind based on away goals) from the 19th minute to the 25th minute, when Mkhitaryan restored order. It’s those small victories that keep you going.

UEFA will hold the draw for the Europa League group stage in Monaco on Friday (8 am ET).

Elsewhere in Europa League qualifying action (Italicized teams advance)

Athletic Bilbao 0-1 (3-3 – away goals) Zilina
Jablonec 0-1 (0-1) Ajax
Saint-Etienne 1-0 (2-1) Milsami
Kairat 2-1 (2-2 – away goals) Bourdeaux
Fenerbahce 3-0 (4-0) Atromitos
Red Bull Salzburg 2-0 (2-2; 2-3 – PK shootout) Dinamo Minsk
Panathinaikos 2-2 (2-2 – away goals) Gabala FC
AZ Alkmaar 2-0 (4-3) Astra Giurgiu
Legia Warsaw 3-2 (4-2) FC Zorya
Standard Liege 3-1 (3-3 – away goals) Molde
Brondby 1-1 (1-6) PAOK
Hajduk Split 0-1 (0-2) Liberec
HJK 0-0 (1-5) Krasnodar
Thun 3-3 (4-6) Sparta Prague
Rosenborg 0-1 (3-1) Steaua Bucarest
Qarabag 3-0 (4-0) BSC Young Boys
Rubin Kazan 1-0 (2-1) Rabotnicki
Vojvodina 0-2 (0-5) Viktoria Plzen
Videoton 0-1 (0-4) Lech Poznan

Smalling considering full-time Roma switch: “Long may it continue”

Chris Smalling
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Manchester United loanee Chris Smalling is talking up life in Rome amidst a possible Serie A Team of the Season campaign.

Smalling had a disappointing 2018/19 season at Old Trafford, so it’s not a surprise that Solskjaer thought he could do better than the 30-year-old.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

Instead, Smalling’s numbers are close to that of record-signing Harry Maguire in a Serie A league with slightly more scoring. Smalling ranks in Italy’s top ten for interceptions (2.2), clearances (4.5) and blocks (1.2).

Roma boss Paulo Fonseca wants the player to stay, as i Lupi are fifth in Serie A and Smalling when has played nearly every minute when healthy. Smalling told our friends Sky Sports that he has “an interesting decision to make.”

“Some of the other players said if you really hit the ground running, the love that you can have in this city is unbelievable. That’s really what I’ve felt and so have my family. Long may it continue.”

His age makes it tricky, but the advanced stats show that Smalling has been a very effective Premier League center back for four of his last six seasons.

Smalling may want to leave if Solskjaer isn’t prepared to hand him regular football, which would be a given in Rome. Now what’s the price tag?

According to WhoScored’s player comparison tool:

Chris Smalling
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Watch Live: Liverpool v. West Ham

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Liverpool v West Ham takes center stage at Anfield on Monday (Watch live, 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com) as the Reds aim to reclaim their 22-point lead at the top of the Premier League table.

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Jurgen Klopp‘s side remain unbeaten this season and with five more wins needed to guarantee the Premier League title, the finishing line is in sight. They are aiming for an 18th consecutive Premier League win which would equal Man City’s record for the most victories on the trot in top-flight history.

As for David Moyes and the Hammers, they are scrapping for their lives at the other end of the table and their daunting run of fixtures makes them one of the favorites for relegation.

Last season the Hammers did draw at home against Liverpool in the PL which was a key factor in the Reds not winning the title last time out but West Ham look extremely far from the team they were last season.

Liverpool v West Ham is first against 18th and all signs point to a big win for the home side as their unbeaten season continues with 25 victories from 26 games so far.

In team news Liverpool are without captain Jordan Henderson who has suffered a hamstring injury and will be out for the next three weeks.

Naby Keita comes in for Henderson in midfield as the rest of the Liverpool team is what you expect.

West Ham are without the injured Ryan Fredericks who suffered a shoulder injury in the 2-0 defeat at Man City on Wednesday.

Teenager Jeremy Ngakia comes in to replace Fredericks, while Felipe Anderson also comes into the lineup.

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Kids under 12 banned from heading in UK

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LONDON (AP) Children up to the age of 12 will be banned from heading a soccer ball in practice sessions in England, Northern Ireland and Scotland as authorities look to address the potential long-term impact on health of head injuries.

[ MORE: US Soccer bans heading ]

The governing bodies of the three regions announced the new heading guidelines on Monday, months after a Scottish study found former professional players there were less likely to die of common causes such as heart disease and cancer compared with the general population but more likely to die with dementia.

The guidelines say there will be a “graduated approach” to heading in practice for kids from 12-15, while the heading will be restricted to one practice session per week for kids 16 and 17.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule

There will be no change in terms of heading in matches, taking into consideration the extremely limited number of headers which actually occur in youth matches.

The Scottish study did not state that heading a ball was the cause of the increased prevalence of neurodegenerative conditions among soccer players, but the decision to update the guidelines was taken to “mitigate against any potential risks”, the English Football Association said in a statement.

“This guidance is a responsible development to our grassroots coaching,” FA chief executive Mark Bullingham said, “without impacting the enjoyment that children of all ages take from playing the game.”

The associations said the guidance had been produced in parallel with the UEFA medical committee, which is seeking to produce Europe-wide guidance later this year.

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

Champions League score predictions: Round of 16

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The 2019-20 UEFA Champions League is finally back as the Round of 16 kicks off this week and two of the four Premier League clubs are in action.

[ LIVE: Champions League scores

Man City and Chelsea face Real Madrid and Bayern Munich respectively and both know they face tough tasks to advance to the Champions League quarterfinals as they do battle with two European heavyweights.

Glory in the Champions League is now the main focus for Pep Guardiola and Man City following their two-season European ban from UEFA which they are appealing. Frank Lampard‘s young Chelsea side host the Bundesliga leaders and hugely experienced Bayern, with the German giants the favorites to advance.

[ MORE: Which Premier League team(s) will reach last eight? ]

The Premier League sides are up against it but both teams are extremely capable of scoring goals for fun but it is at the other end of the pitch where they struggle as both Real Madrid and Bayern Munich will be hoping their star attackers shine on the big stage once again.

In the other two last 16 clashes this week Napoli host Barcelona as Lionel Messi warmed up very nicely with four goals against Eibar, while Cristiano Ronaldo’s Juventus head to Lyon for the first leg as the Italian giants are expected to advance with ease.

Both Messi and Ronaldo badly want another Champions League title to their name but Lyon and Napoli are more than capable of picking up big first leg wins at home.

Below we predict the scores for the UCL round of 16 games taking place over the next two days. Feel free to make your own predictions in the comments section below, too.


Tuesday
Napoli 1-1 Barcelona
Chelsea 1-2 Bayern Munich

Wednesday
Lyon 1-3 Juventus
Real Madrid 2-3 Man City