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CONCACAF Champions League preview: The MLS vs. Liga MX showdown


Which league is “better” — Major League Soccer or Liga MX?

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It’s the question we’ve been agonizing over since the dawn of time literally only three or four years now. MLS has closed the gap a bit more every year this decade, but Liga MX retains the upper hand in just about every measurable category — money, TV ratings, tenure, top-to-bottom quality of players and, most importantly, a decided advantage in head-to-head clashes between the leagues.

Nevertheless, MLS gets its latest chance to measure itself against its southern neighbors each of the next two weeks, as the quarterfinals of the 2015-16 CONCACAF Champions League couldn’t have been drawn up anymore perfectly — four MLS sides set to do battle with four from Liga MX.

Queretaro vs. D.C. United — Tuesday, 8 p.m. ET

Of the four MLS sides, D.C. United were handed by far the most favorable draw — Queretaro are toiling away in the bottom third of Liga MX (7 points from 7 games, five places out of the playoff picture) — but unfortunately, if you’re an MLS backer, look perhaps the least capable of making the most of it.

Having undergone a number of important changes during the offseason (Perry Kitchen, Chris Pontius, Jairo Arrieta and Conor Doyle out; Lamar Neagle (who is cup-tied to Seattle), Marcelo Sarvas, Luciano Acosta and Patrick Nyarko in), head coach Ben Olsen will need at least a few weeks to work out his best 11 early in the season. The Black and Gold will also be without star goalkeeper Bill Hamid (knee surgery) until the summer months.

How they got here: Queretaro — won Group C, which featured San Francisco (Panama) and Verdes (Belize) | D.C. United — won Group H, which featured Arabe Unido (Panama) and Montego Bay United (Jamaica)

[ MORE: Yaya Toure prefers MLS to China in summer move from Man City ]

Seattle Sounders vs. Club America — Tuesday, 10 p.m. ET

Speaking of an MLS side going through something of a rebuild (this will become a theme — remember, MLS sides’ greatest disadvantage in CCL is that they begin the knockout stage in the midst of preseason), up next are the Seattle Sounders, who have tasked with the dubious challenge of dethroning the reigning CCL champions, Club America. Making matters worse, they’ll have to do so without China-bound Obafemi Martins, their talisman for the last two seasons and scorer and 32 goals during that time. Thanks to Martins’ departure, the pressure on Jordan Morris is so very real from the moment his professional career begins Tuesday night.

Also gone from are Neagle, Marco Pappa, Gonzalo Pineda, Leo Gonzalez and Andy Rose from a Sounders side that finished fourth in the Western Conference and was knocked out of the playoffs by FC Dallas in the conference semifinals. The America side they’ll face twice over the next nine days is downright frightening, yet still seems a couple notches from top gear at present, at least during early days of the Liga MX season. Still on the books and terrifying opposition defenses are Oribe Peralta, Rubens Sambueza and last year’s CCL ringer, Dario Benedetto.

How they got here: Seattle Sounders — won Group F, which featured Olimpia (Honduras) and Vancouver Whitecaps | Club America — won group E, which featured Motagua (Honduras) and Walter Ferretti (Nicaragua)

[ MORE: Is MLS an option for John Terry once he leaves Chelsea? ]

Tigres vs. Real Salt Lake — Wednesday, 8 p.m. ET

No MLS side has been closer to winning CCL in its current format than Real Salt Lake, who lost the second leg of the 2011 final at home to fall just short of becoming the first MLS team to get over the proverbial hump. The biggest offseason improvement for Jeff Cassar’s side comes in the form of former RSL and now-European veteran striker Yura Movsisyan, who’ll be asked to lead an offensive resurgence after the Claret and Cobalt scored just 38 goals in 34 regular season games in 2015. The core of the side remains mostly intact, though, as Javier Morales, Kyle Beckerman, Jamison Olave and Nick Rimando are back for one last go at CCL glory.

Unfortunately for them, arguably the best player currently plying his trade in CONCACAF stands between them and another semifinals appearance. Andre-Pierre Gignac, who moved from Marseille to Tigres last summer, took Liga MX by storm in his first half-season in Mexico, bagging 11 goals during the regular season and another four during the playoffs en route to the 2015 Apertura title. Gignac only turned 30 a couple months ago and looks likely to make Tigres a nearly unstoppable force for the duration of his stay.

How they got here: Tigres — won Group B, which featured Herediano (Costa Rica) and Isidro Metapan (El Salvador) | Real Salt Lake — won Group G, which featured Municipal (Guatemala) and Santa Tecla (El Salvador)

[ MORE: Needless MLS transfer saga resolved as Nocerino ends up in Orlando ]

LA Galaxy vs. Santos Laguna — Wednesday, 10 p.m. ET

No MLS side had a bigger (or better?) offseason than the LA Galaxy, who critically parted ways with longtime servants Omar Gonzalez and Juninho before restocking the ranks with their triple swoop for Nigel de Jong, Ashley Cole and Jelle Van Damme. Jeff Larentowicz and Mike Magee, a pair of MLS veterans, also arrived via free agency and will provide the kind of quality depth that was sometimes missing in 2015. How quickly the three foreign acquisitions are integrated into their new squad will go a long way toward deciding the Galaxy’s CCL fate.

Perhaps the biggest storyline surrounding the Galaxy this season, though, is the $6.3-million question: what exactly will they get from Steven Gerrard, who was downright awful and detrimental to the side after arriving in August of last season? With De Jong brought in to play the destroyer role just ahead of the backline, Gerrard will be allowed to venture forward and affect games in the typical ways we’re used to seeing him do, but for how much longer will his soon-to-be 36-year-old legs hold up to that task in a physically demanding league like MLS, not to mention the travel and the turf and all those other unexpected challenges? Surely he’ll be better this season than last, but by how much will shape the Galaxy’s 2016 campaign a great deal.

How they got here: LA Galaxy — won Group D, which featured Central (Trinidad and Tobago) and Comunicaciones (Guatemala) | Santos Laguna — won Group A, which featured Saprissa (Costa Rica) and W Conection (Trinidad and Tobago)

Liverpool – Arsenal: How to watch, start time, odds, predicted lineup

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Liverpool – Arsenal: Two heavyweights clash at Anfield on Monday (Watch live at 3pm ET online via Peacock) as both team have a perfect record with two wins from two so far.

[ MORE: How to watch PL in the USA ]  

Reigning champions Liverpool have perhaps been more impressive as they’ve beaten upstarts Leeds United and then Chelsea, while Arsenal eased past Fulham but struggled past West Ham.

[ MORE: ProSoccerTalk unfiltered, Week 2 ]

When it comes to Jurgen Klopp and Mikel Arteta, their playing philosophy as managers could not be more different as Arsenal beat Liverpool on penalties at Wembley to win the Community Shield last month.

Here’s everything you need to know ahead of a massive early-season clash as Arsenal look to put down a marker.

Team news: Liverpool – Arsenal (INJURY REPORT)

Liverpool will be hoping center back Joe Gomez will be fit after he missed the win at Chelsea last weekend, while this game will come too soon for fellow defender Joel Matip. Judging by the early reports, Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson should also be fit to start.

Arsenal could have Kieran Tierney back fit for this game, which would be a big boost. Pablo Mari, Calum Chamberls, Gabriel Martinelli and Shkodran Mustafi all remain out injured.

Predicted lineup

Liverpool (4-3-3): Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Fabinho, Van Dijk, Robertson; Wijnaldum, Thiago, Henderson; Salah, Firmino, Mane

Arsenal (3-4-3): Leno; Holding, Gabriel, Tierney; Bellerin, Ceballos, Xhaka, Maitland-Niles; Willian, Lacazette, Aubameyang

Odds and ends (full odds provided by our partner, PointsBet)

Understandably Liverpool are the heavy favorites (-210) given their long unbeaten home record at Anfield. That said Arsenal (+520) do seem a high price after they beat Liverpool during ‘Project Restart’ and also in the Community Shield final. The draw at +360 is intriguing and the value perhaps lies there.

PointsBet is our Official Sports Betting Partner and we may receive compensation if you place a bet on PointsBet for the first time after clicking our links

Liverpool – Arsenal prediction

Arsenal have a lot more grit under Arteta and they ware capable of bending but not breaking. This is a huge test for them, though, and Gabriel against the fluid front three of Salah, Firmino and Mane will be his biggest test yet. Arsenal have the attackers to make the most of any more slack defending from Liverpool but I expect Klopp’s side to have just too much in midfield and attack. Liverpool 2-1 Arsenal.

How to watch Liverpool – Arsenal stream and start time

Kickoff: 3pm ET Monday
TV Channel: Peacock
Online: Stream via NBCSports.com

Fulham – Aston Villa: How to watch, start time, team news, prediction, odds

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Fulham – Aston Villa: How early is too early to call a game “must-win” in the Premier League? Perhaps we will find out on Monday (Watch live at 12:45 pm ET, online via Peacock), when bottom-of-the-table Fulham host Aston Villa at Craven Cottage.


Scott Parker’s side has had a torrid start to life back in the PL — not at all dissimilar to the way their last stint ended — and find themselves with zero points and seven goals conceded after their first two games. Losing 3-0 to Arsenal on the opening day of the season wasn’t altogether surprising, but following that defeat with four more goals conceded to Leeds United last weekend will undoubtedly have done a number on the Cottagers’ confidence.

Villa, on the other hand, have played just once and secured a 1-0 victory over Sheffield United earlier this week. A win on Monday would see Dean Smith’s side start the season with back-to-back PL victories for the first time since the 1999-2000 season.

[ MORE: How to watch PL in the USA ]  

Here is everything you need to know ahead of Fulham – Aston Villa this Monday with team news, odds, stream link and more.

Team news: Fulham – Aston Villa (INJURY REPORT)

Fulham – No injuries or suspensions

Aston Villa – OUT: Bjorn Engels (thigh), Tom Heaton (knee), Wesley (knee), Ahmed Elmohamady (thigh)

What they’re saying: Fulham – Aston Villa

Scott Parker, on a “must-win” game: “I don’t see it as drastic as a must-win. We want to win. I know it’s either high or low in a drastic world, but we need to stay level and take realism of where we are in the campaign and where we are as a team. We will try everything we can to take some points and be up to the challenge. I don’t think we’re the only team at this present moment in time who have let in some goals in the first two games. It’s not ideal, of course not. Villa at home on Monday is a game we’re going to try to get three points.”

Dean Smith, on needing another signing: “We’re always looking in the market, we’re probably one short in the squad at the moment so we’ll keep looking at that. I think there’s seven days left until the window shuts internationally, another seven days domestically. Our sporting director at the moment has got his finger on the pulse, hopefully we might get one more in and maybe a couple more out.”

Odds and ends (full odds provided by our partner, PointsBet)

This one is just about a coin flip with Fulham (+185) ever so slight underdogs to Villa (+150). In a game that could go either way like this one, the draw (+225) might just be the safe middle ground.

PointsBet is our Official Sports Betting Partner and we may receive compensation if you place a bet on PointsBet for the first time after clicking our links

Prediction: Fulham – Aston Villa

There’s not much to separate these two sides right now, and there likely won’t be much ground between them come the season’s final table. There should be a few goals, but that’ll be more down to poor defending than excellent attacking quality from either side. Fulham 2-2 Villa.

How to watch Fulham – Aston Villa stream and start time

Kickoff: 12:45 pm ET Monday
Online: Stream via Peacock

Serie A: Lozano scores twice for Napoli; 10-man Juve drop points to Roma

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A roundup of all of Sunday’s action in Serie A, where Cristiano Ronaldo scored twice to save a point for Juventus and Hirving Lozano also scored twice in Napoli’s 6-0 victory…

[ MORE: Suarez plays just 20 minutes, scores two goals in Atleti debut (video) ]

Roma 2-2 Juventus

Juventus overturned a pair of deficits to salvage a point from their trip to Rome, but Andrea Pirlo might just feel his side should have taken more from the game if not for Adrien Rabiot’s red card in the 62nd minute.

Jordan Veretout fired Roma ahead from the penalty spot in the 31st minute, but Cristiano Ronaldo matched him with a spot kick of his own in the 44th. Veretout made it 2-1 less than a minute into the second half, with thanks to an assist from Henrikh Mkhitaryan.

Rabiot got his second yellow card of the game 15 minutes later, but it didn’t stop Ronalado from scoring his second equalizer in the 69th minute.

Regardless of the country, league or club, we’re seeing some of Europe’s greatest powerhouses struggle through uncharacteristically slow starts to the 2020-21 season. The safe assumption is that the cream will inevitably rise to the top after working out the early kinks, but it might just open the door for an unlikely title challenger or two as well.

[ MORE: Saturday in Serie A: Inter win 7-goal thriller in 89th minute ]

Napoli 6-0 Genoa

Napoli went top of the table (after two games) by way of Sunday’s beatdown of Genoa.

Mexican superstar Hirving Lozano opened the scoring in the 10th minute and added his second goal on the game in the 65th. In between his two tallies, Piota Zielinski (46th) and Dries Mertens (57th) also scored.

Eljif Elmas (69th) and Matteo Politano (72nd) each scored not much later to complete the scoring and the rout.

Crotone 0-2 AC Milan

Franck Kessie converted from the penalty spot in first-half stoppage time and Brahim Diaz added an insurance goal five minutes into the second half to give AC Milan their second 2-0 victory in a row to start the season. All appears to be going too well for the Rossoneri right now.

Other Serie A results

Spezia 1-4 Sassuolo
Hellas Verona 1-0 Udinese

Transfer news: Arsenal’s latest Aouar bid; mystery Fati bid for $175 million

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Today’s Premier League transfer news includes Arsenal’s latest bid for Houssem Aouar, Barcelona rejected an astronomical bid for 17-year-old Ansu Fati, and Antonio Rudiger moving across London to West Ham for the season…

[ MORE: Transfer news: Rice in, Jorginho out at Chelsea; Skriniar to Spurs ]

Arsenal increase bid for Aouar, but is it enough?

Arsenal are reportedly prepared to increase their bid for Aouar, but only to $57 million, which remains $12 million short of Lyon’s valuation for the 22-year-old midfielder. The Gunners’ latest offer is said to include more than $11 million in add-ons, but Lyon are likely to reject that bid as well as they seek the full amount paid in full.

Barcelona reject mystery $175-million Ansu Fati transfer bid

First things first, let’s start the plainly obvious: $175 million is a lot of money for any player, let alone a 17-year-old who still has so much development left to come. Even Fati, who has been nothing short of a revelation thus far, can still fall short of expectations. With Lionel Messi seemingly headed for the exit door (for free) next summer, how exactly do Barca plan to rebuild their first-team squad? Sure, they’d enjoy themselves a great deal if a La Masia product like Fati is the focal point of their rebirth, but they still desperately need to put a competent team around him. Automatically rejecting a (reported) bid of $175 million seems a bit crazy, but so is everything else at Barcelona these days. According to some reports, Man United are said to be the club which made the mega-bid for Fati.

[ MORE: Suarez plays just 20 minutes, scores two goals in Atleti debut (video) ]

Rudiger to West Ham on loan

Antonio Rudiger might be a first-choice option at center back for Chelsea boss Frank Lampard, and he might not be as well. West Ham are taking the approach that the 27-year-old German won’t be getting the first-team action he requires, thus they wish to work out a loan deal for the 2020-21 season.

Torreira in limbo at Arsenal

Lucas Torreira’s time at Arsenal is (logically speaking) finished, but the Gunners are reportedly having a hard time finding a landing spot for the 24-year-old Uruguayan midfielder. Torino were interested for a time, but they no longer see Torreira as a viable option. Atletico Madrid are interested in a loan deal, but Arsenal don’t want to do that. Perhaps Torreria, plus cash, might tempt the La Liga side to finally part ways with Thomas Partey.