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Major League Soccer’s Week 3 preview: Surprising strugglers, Cali Clasico and more

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Every team has a bad week and, given the unpredictable nature of Major League Soccer, most teams will experience back-to-back clunkers at some point in a season.

But three? Three usually leads to panic (at least a little).

Several teams with promising offseasons are scratching their heads after two weeks of MLS 2016. As Week 3 takes hold on Friday, which ones might have to worry if their struggles trend into a third week?

[ MORE: Man Utd-Liverpool recap | 3 things | Europa roundup ]

New York Red Bulls, Columbus Crew, Seattle Sounders and Vancouver Whitecaps are all 0-2. All could remain winless after the weekend, though it’d be shocking if the first two fail to get at least a point from their matches.

Two of those teams square off, headlining our Week 3 preview.

Seattle Sounders vs. Vancouver Whitecaps — 10 p.m. ET Saturday

Washington will be the venue for this pair of Cascadia Cup rivals, both hoping to halt tough runs to start the season. While the ‘Caps lost to 3-2 Montreal and 2-1 to Sporting KC, Seattle has scored just one goal in season-opening losses to KC and Real Salt Lake.

It’s been a bit of baptism by fire for Jordan Morris, who is shouldering more responsibility than expected after the departure of Obafemi Martins. He’s looked lively, but has yet to dent the score sheet.

As for Vancouver, they sent mercurial attacker Darren Mattocks packing this week and will hope that’s a bit of addition by subtraction. Both teams know a rivalry win could trigger the good vibes they so badly want to reclaim. The visiting team in this series went 3-0 last year. We’ll be watching to see if that improbable trend continues, or if Carl Robinson will be further vexed by his charges.

Prediction: 2-2.

Los Angeles Galaxy vs. San Jose Earthquakes — 10:30 p.m. ET Saturday

Get multiple screens ready, or at least your recording device, as the California Clasico takes its first strides in 2016. L.A. is smarting after a shocking road defeat to Colorado that set them back to 1-1, while Dominic Kinnear’s Quakes are feeling good with a 2-0 start to the season.

On paper, the Quakes will like their chances after beating the same Rapids team that topped the Galaxy last weekend, but not only does this match carry rivalry stakes, L.A.’s massive star and veteran qualities should have them raring to get back on the home — or any — pitch.

Prediction: Galaxy 2-1

Sporting Kansas City's Matt Besler, left, vies for the ball with Toronto FC's Jozy Altidore as Sporting KC's Jimmy Medranda, right, chases during the first half of an MLS soccer match in Toronto on Saturday, Aug. 8, 2015. (Frank Gunn /The Canadian Press via AP) MANDATORY CREDIT
(Frank Gunn /The Canadian Press via AP)

Sporting KC vs. Toronto FC7 p.m. ET Sunday

Through two weeks, this bad boy looks like an MLS Cup final preview. KC has beaten a pair of decent opponents in Seattle and Vancouver, while TFC cruised past New York Red Bulls before picking up a point at Yankee Stadium.

Both of those came without Jozy Altidore, and Toronto may have to live life without the big USMNT striker again this week (though he’s expected to be named to the U.S. roster for this month’s World Cup qualifiers).

TFC is again dealing with stadium expansion, and this is match three of an eight-match road swing to start the season. This one would have tough night written all over it in the past, but their veteran additions — especially goalkeeper Clint Irwin — could hold sway here.

Prediction: 1-1.

The rest
New York City 2-1 Orlando City
Chicago Fire 0-2 Columbus Crew
New York Red Bulls 2-0 Houston Dynamo
FC Dallas 2-2 Montreal Impact
Portland Timbers 1-0 Real Salt Lake
Philadelphia Union 1-1 New England Revolution
DC United 3-1 Colorado Rapids

Barcelona ends contract with company accused of fake posts

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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) Barcelona has ended its contract with a company that made negative comments on social media about people within the club.

Barcelona president Josep Bartomeu said Tuesday the decision was made after the club found out that one of its service providers used an account to make “inadequate” comments about people in the club. He did not name the company nor give any detail about the comments.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ] 

Bartomeu reiterated the club’s denial of accusations it hired a company to make negative comments about its own players and opponents on social media in order to boost the image of senior club officials.

The Cadena Ser radio network said Monday a company used fake social media accounts to discredit opposition figures and some of Barcelona’s players when they expressed views that went against the club. Cadena Ser said some of the figures included star players Lionel Messi and Gerard Pique as well as former coach Pep Guardiola.

Bartomeu said other companies will continue to monitor social media on behalf of the club.

“It’s the responsibility of the club to know what is said on social media around the world,” he said. “But the club has never contracted services to discredit anyone, and we will do whatever is needed to defend ourselves from such accusations.”

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

Premier League Preview: Man City v. West Ham

Premier League Preview: Man City v. West Ham
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Manchester City takes the pitch at the Etihad Stadium for the first time since UEFA hammered it with a two-year Champions League ban when it hosts West Ham United on Wednesday (Watch Live at 3 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

Manager Pep Guardiola has reportedly stated his commitment to the club ahead of the match, which was rescheduled from last weekend after Storm Ciara hit England.

WATCH LIVE, ONLINE, HERE

Second-place City opens the day 25 points back of leaders Liverpool, while West Ham is one point behind 17th place.

The Irons have not won a Premier League match since New Year’s Day, David Moyes‘ first match in charge.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ] 


Injuries/suspensions

Man City: OUT —  Oleksandr Zinchenko, Raheem Sterling, Leroy Sane. QUESTIONABLE — Aymeric Laporte, Benjamin Mendy

West Ham: OUT — Jack Wilshere, Andriy Yarmolenko. QUESTIONABLE — Felipe Anderson


Probable lineups

Man City: Ederson; Cancelo, Otamendi, Fernandinho, Walker, Rodri, Gundogan, De Bruyne, D. Silva, Aguero, Mahrez.

West Ham: Fabianski; Cresswell, Ogbonna, Diop, Zabaleta, Rice, Soucek, Noble, Snodgrass, Haller, Antonio.


What they’re saying

West Ham’s David Moyes on the relegation fight: “I’m more than confident we will climb the table. I think the players here are more than capable. I think we have got a good group. I think they are all fully aware of the situation we’re in and the improvement we need to make to make sure we’re not in the bottom three, and I’m sure come the end we will do.”


Prediction

A blowout. While West Ham has the urgency to get out of the drop zone, City will be pouring its full focus into finding form for next week’s Champions League tie with Real Madrid. City, 4-1.

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.