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Europa League Roundup: Liverpool draws at Dortmund, while Sevilla, Villarreal, and Shakhtar all win

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With the first leg of the Champions League quarterfinals finishing up earlier in the week, the Europa Leg took the field Thursday as European play ramped up. Every single team playing got at least one goal, with plenty of late scoring.

Three of the four games saw a winner, with two of those three winners coming on the road. Here is a roundup of the action:

Borussia Dortmund 1-1 Liverpool

Both teams had big moments just before the 20th minute. Dortmund nearly struck first when Marcel Schmelzer got around Simon Mignolet and cut back to Henrikh Mkhitaryan in the center of the box with the goal open, but Mamadou Sakho made a goal-saving block in traffic on Mkhitaryan’s shot. Liverpool then found a chance of their own on a set-piece after a Marco Reus foul, as Dejan Lovren tried to bounce a header over Roman Weidenfeller, but the goalkeeper was smart to it, earning a foul as Lovren looked to head back in the rebound.

Dortmund’s relentless press gave Liverpool plenty of problems in their own half, and Mkhitaryan was a monster in front of the box, but it was Liverpool that struck first against the run of play. Adam Lallana found Divock Origi in space up front, and one-on-one with Lukasz Piszczek, the 20-year-old turned and fired past Weidenfeller for a 35th minute lead. Weidenfeller had to make another save – off his face – on the last kick of the first half as Origi sprung free on another counter.

Just 2 minutes back after the break Mats Hummels equalized for the home side off a corner. Coutinho continued to cause the Germans problems, forcing a pair of saves, the first a quality low save after good Liverpool combination play. Dortmund poured attackers forward in the final 15 minutes, but were unable to find a way through a packed box and past Simon Mignolet. Liverpool remains unbeaten in the Europa League this season.

Athletic Bilbao 1-2 Sevilla

A pair of goals soon after halftime provided much of the action, but the winner came late as Vicente Iborra tapped home in the 83rd minute for a huge away win. Artiz Aduriz scored just two minutes after the break with a header from the far post across the face of goal putting Athletic ahead, but Sevilla leveled it back up nine minutes later through Thimothee Kolodzieczak who finished expertly into the top corner after Ever Banega sucked the Athletic goalkeeper out of net.

Iborra finished off a wonderful move from Kevin Gameiro, who tap-danced across the top of the box before threading a ball through three defenders to a streaking Iborra who ended up one-on-one Athletic goalkeeper Iago Herrerin. The win is the first of the entire season for Sevilla on the road in any competition outside of the Spanish Cup.

Villarreal 2-1 Sparta Prague

The home side dominated for much of the game, scoring three minutes through Cedric Bakambu in and should have had a few more, but the Czechs came back to even it up deep into first-half injury time as Jakub Brabec used his head to redirect a corner into the back of the net.

Roberto Soldado was a force up front, and Bakambu picked up his brace just past the hour mark on a layoff from Denis Suarez which Bakambu buried into the top corner. It’s the third brace in Europa League play this season from Bakambu, the first time that’s happened in four years.

Braga 1-2 Shakhtar Donetsk

The heavy favorites put themselves in good position after away goals from Yaroslav Rakitskiy and Facundo Ferreyra sent them through. The Ukranians weathered 20 shots from Braga – six on target – until the final few minutes when they conceded a header from Eduardo to give the home side a lifeline in the quarterfinal.

Transfer news: Havertz to Chelsea; Ramsey available

Havertz to Chelsea
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In the latest transfer news Kai Havertz to Chelsea looks to finally be moving towards an end game, while Aaron Ramsey is free to leave Juventus.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

Starting in west London, Kai Havertz to Chelsea could be confirmed as RMC Sport report that the Blues have agreed a five-year contract with the Bayer Leverkusen and Germany star.

Per the report, Chelsea will now negotiate the $117 million transfer fee with Leverkusen and want to pay in plenty of instalments.

Havertz, 21, scored for Leverkusen in their 2-1 UEFA Europa League quarterfinal defeat against Inter Milan on Monday and that looks like being his final game for Bayer. Kai Havertz to Chelsea can now move to the next stage as the Bundesliga club had previously said they wanted to finish their season before discussing a move.

Our partners at Sky Sports have also stated that Havertz has made it clear he wants to sign for Chelsea and join the ‘project’ that Frank Lampard is building, with Timo Werner and Hakim Ziyech already signed up to bolster their attack.

With Havertz edging closer to a move to Chelsea, surely Lampard will now switch his attention to defensive reinforcements. Chelsea chairman Bruce Buck has said Lampard’s first season at Chelsea was ‘very successful’ but without defensive reinforcements this summer, Chelsea will do very well to improve on their fourth-place Premier League finish in 2019-20.

Havertz, Ziyech and Werner will boost their attack and finish off the many chances Christian Pulisic and Co. created, and as long as new defenders are coming in, Chelsea will continue to move in the right direction.

Aaron Ramsey
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Switching our attention to Turin, it has been reported that Aaron Ramsey is free to leave Juventus.

New Juve boss Andrea Pirlo has reportedly made Ramsey, 29, available for transfer along with the likes of Sami Khedira, Blaise Matuidi (who seems to be heading to Inter Miami in MLS), Gonzalo Higuain, Daniele Rugani and Mattia De Sciglio.

Ramsey only arrived at Juve last summer after 11 years at Arsenal but the Welshman has struggled for minutes and is one of Juve’s highest earners on close to $330,000 per week.

It is believed several Premier League clubs are interested in signing Ramsey but with the central midfielder having a four-year contract at Juve, it seems likely he will only leave the Serie A champions on loan rather than a permanent basis.

Ramsey left Arsenal with class and is still lauded by their fans, and if Mikel Arteta can’t seal another loan deal for Dani Ceballos then maybe a loan move for Ramsey would make sense? Stranger things have happened and a player of Ramsey’s quality, if he is available on loan, would mean plenty of clubs in the Premier League and across Europe would want to sign him. As long as he can stay fit, the timing of his runs from midfield and his quality on the ball is exactly what Arsenal need. He would have to up his tenacity under Arteta but he could do that.

Champions League, Europa League: How to watch, odds, start time, predictions

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The UEFA Champions League and Europa League action has resumed and I’m going to reveal my predictions for this next round as well as the latest odds for Europe’s top two continental tournaments.

[ LIVE: Champions League scores

With Manchester City still in the Champions League and Manchester United and Wolves among the favorites to win the Europa League, there is a lot on the line for Premier League clubs in the coming weeks.

Just because the Premier League season is over, that doesn’t mean the action is over. Far from it. Both Manchester clubs are the bookmakers favorites to seal their respective European glory.

[ LIVE: Europa League scores ]

In the next few days the Europa League and Champions League quarterfinals will take place as the mini tournaments begin.

Man City beat Real Madrid 4-2 on aggregate, while Chelsea lost Bayern 7-1 on aggregate as they crashed out of the Champions League. Man United and Wolves are both in the quarterfinals and favored to go far.

Lisbon, Portugal will host the Champions League games from the quarterfinal stage onwards, while the Europa League games will be hosted around Germany.

Below is a look at my predictions, the odds for the games this week and how to watch and follow all of the fixtures in the USA.


How to watch, stream Champions League and Europa League

Dates: August 5-23
Location: Quarterfinals onwards in Lisbon/Germany
How to watch: CBS Sports
Live updates: UCL here at NBCSports.com & Europa League here at NBCSports.com


JPW’s Champions League predictions

Quarterfinals (August 12-15)
Wednesday, August 12: Atalanta 2-3 PSG
Thursday, August 13: RB Leipzig 1-2 Atletico Madrid
Friday, August 14: Barcelona 1-3 Bayern Munich
Saturday, August 15: Manchester City 3-1 Lyon


JPW’s Europa League predictions

Quarterfinals (August 10-11)
Monday, August 10: Inter Milan 2-1 Bayer Leverkusen
Monday, August 10: Manchester United 3-1 Copenhagen
Tuesday, August 11: Wolves 1-2 Sevilla
Tuesday, August 11: Shakhtar Donetsk 1-2 Basel


Champions League betting odds

Quarterfinals (August 12-15)

(+210) Atalanta v. PSG (+117). Tie: +275
(+225) RB Leipzig v. Atletico Madrid (+135). Tie: +220
(+235) Barcelona v. Bayern Munich (+115). Tie: +255
(-305) Manchester City v. Lyon (+750). Tie: +450

Outright winner
Manchester City (+220)
Bayern Munich (+325)
Paris Saint-Germain (+500)
Atletico Madrid (+800)
Barcelona (+800)
Atalanta (+1000)
RB Leipzig (+1700)
Lyon (+3500)


Europa League betting odds

Quarterfinals (August 10-11)
(+112) Inter Milan v. Bayer Leverkusen (+240). Tie: +250
(-385) Manchester United v. Copenhagen (+1000). Tie: +480
(+235) Wolves v. Sevilla (+120). Tie: +230
(-106) Shakhtar Donetsk v. Basel (+290). Tie: +255

Outright winner
Manchester United (+180)
Inter Milan (+325)
Sevilla (+500)
Bayer Leverkusen (+650)
Wolves (+700)
Shakhtar Donetsk (+1100)
Basel (+2500)
Copenhagen (+6000)

Chelsea hail ‘successful’ season. Was it?

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Chelsea have labelled their 2019-20 season as being a ‘very successful’ one.

But was it?

All in all, I’d give them a 7/10. Slightly better than we expected, and that’s about that. So often it was a case of one step forward, one back for this young squad.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights

Bruce Buck, the chairman at Chelsea, was very pleased with Frank Lampard’s first season in charge of the Blues and believe there is a bright future for the west London club.

“In the round we think it was a very successful season,” Buck said. “I think obviously we would have been a little bit happier if we had won the FA Cup. But I’m sure the manager and the players were gutted not to lift the trophy. Frank Lampard is a very positive force for Chelsea. He’s Chelsea through and through and that continues to show through. He carries a lot of credibility. It’s an exciting time for Chelsea.”

It sounds like Buck is overcooking this a little, but you’d expect him to. He is Chelsea’s chairman and there have been plenty of strides made forward this season in trying circumstances with a top four finish, reaching an FA Cup final and making the Round of 16 in the UEFA Champions League.

Below is a look at the key takeaways from Chelsea’s 2019-20 season.


Frank Lampard overachieved

Frank Lampard had a transfer ban to deal with until January, and even though it was lifted no new players were bought. Instead, Chelsea prioritized signing Hakim Ziyech and Timo Werner for 2020-21 and both deals look like being bargains long-term. Chelsea are now backing Lampard in the transfer market based on his fast start as boss. As for Lampard as a coach, tactically his team are exciting to watch and pour forward in numbers. Defensively he leaves a lot to be desired. Some of the huge individual mistakes his team made were no fault of his own but his playing philosophy means Chelsea will continue to take risks and unless they upgrade their defense significantly, they will continue to concede plenty of goals. We saw how Bayern Munich ruthlessly exposed their defensive unit and those results will be a reminder to Lampard of just how far they have to go.

This was Lampard’s first season as a coach in the Premier League and a fourth-place finish is successful, but with Tottenham, Arsenal and Leicester set to come back even stronger next season, Chelsea will have a battle to replicate this finish and perhaps were a little lucky that their London rivals struggled so much early on in 2019-20. The way Chelsea faded towards the end of the campaign will also be an issue for Lampard to address and his reaction after the defeat at Sheffield United was telling. The Chelsea legend has said his side are a work in progress so many times and he knows where their weaknesses lie. Is he the man, long-term, to improve this young squad? We will soon find out what Lampard learned from his first season in charge in the Premier League.


Young players: Ups and downs expected

Part of that regression late in the season was due to Chelsea having such a young squad. Tammy Abraham, Mason Mount and Fikayo Tomori all started regularly early in the season and were full of confidence after impressive loan spells in the Championship in 2018-19. By mid-December that confidence and zest vanished and even though Mount rallied late in the season, all three struggled for form after fast starts to the campaign. Christian Pulisic struggled to start with but then found his feet, although injuries hit him hard, as the streaky season for the USMNT star summed up the form of most of Chelsea’s youngsters. As to be expected, they are progressing and next season most of them will be better suited to the PL and be more consistent throughout the 38-game season. Tomori, Abraham, Callum Hudson-Odoi and maybe even Mount could find themselves on the outside looking in though, as Lampard has brought in more experience in attack and is looking for new defenders. Lampard may move away from most of the young players he was forced to used.


Big upgrades needed defensively

Nothing new here, but the major flaws of this Chelsea team have been apparent since Antonio Conte’s second season in charge. Defensive mistakes cost Chelsea dear this season. Kepa Arrizabalaga was lacking in confidence in goal and that spread through the entire defensive unit. Lampard has to sign two new center backs, a left back and a new goalkeeper if Chelsea are going to become genuine title contenders in the next few seasons. Chelsea need to spend big, defensively, if they’re going to do any better than fourth place. It really is as simple as that.


Fourth place just about right

All in all, like I said, 7/10 feels like a fair assessment of this Chelsea side. They’re in transition and aren’t the finished article and to seal a top four spot with a squad littered with young players, plus N’Golo Kante not as his best due to injuries and after losing Eden Hazard, that was an overachievement. In the end it was a toss of a coin between Chelsea, Leicester and Man United to see who didn’t finish in the top four and Chelsea making felt just about right given some of their big wins, and performances, during the season. Lampard and his players should be congratulated on an above average season but that’s it. Nothing more. Nothing less. The hard work for Chelsea has only just started.

German health officials block soccer clubs’ plans for fans

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BERLIN (AP) Bundesliga fans in the stands in September? Not yet.

[ MORE: Bundesliga schedule  ]

German health officials have blocked professional soccer clubs’ plans to allow fans at Bundesliga games when the new season begins in September.

“Thousands of fans in the stadiums – that doesn’t fit with the current situation with infections. Now it’s about not taking any unnecessary risks,” national health minister Jens Spahn said on Twitter of the coronavirus pandemic on Monday.

The 36 clubs in Germany’s top two divisions had been planning on having limited numbers of socially distanced and seated supporters at games, and had produced a proposal last week that included prohibiting away fans, restrictions in standing areas of stadiums, and a ban on sales of alcohol. They mooted personalized tickets to help with contact tracing, though those plans have been criticized by fans.

“The league’s concept is good in theory,” Spahn said. “But what’s decisive is what happens every day in practice.”

In a follow-up tweet, Spahn added, “We feel that we have to stay alert. Having spectators in the stands would be the wrong signal in the current situation.”

Germany’s 16 state health ministers met on Monday and agreed that having fans in stadiums for league games was not a priority.

Germany has registered 217,835 coronavirus infections, and a relatively low number of deaths at 9,203 compared to neighboring France, Spain and Italy, but there has been some concern over a recent increase in the daily rate of new infections.

Last week, Germany recorded its highest daily tally of new infections in three months. The national disease control center, the Robert Koch Institute, said 1,045 cases were recorded last Wednesday – the first time since May 7 that it has counted more than 1,000 cases in a day.

Berlin health senator Dilek Kalayci said on Monday the ministers came to a unanimous position that stadiums should remain closed to Bundesliga fans based on the current pandemic situation.

“In terms of health policy, we are currently not in favor of opening the stadiums until Oct. 31, at least. Then you can discuss the situation again,” Kalayci said.

Bavarian governor Markus Soder had been one of those most vocally in favor of the Bundesliga resuming without fans after its two-month break last season, but he said allowing fans to attend games when the new season begins on Sept. 18 would send the wrong signal.

“It would send a devastating signal to the public, both in terms of what it means for medical capacities and in relation to cultural events,” Soder said.

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

Ciaran Fahey on Twitter: https://twitter.com/cfaheyAP