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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.

Leicester City’s Rodgers: ‘Good news’ on Vardy injury

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Brendan Rodgers says there’s good news when it comes to the injury suffered by Jamie Vardy in Leicester City’s 4-1 blowout of West Ham United on Wednesday.

Vardy hurt his glute in the win, temporarily returning to the match after treatment from the trainer but ultimately subbing off before halftime.

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“It wasn’t his hamstring, so that’s good news for us,” Rodgers said, via The Leicester Mercury.

“He just felt a twinge in his glute, so we just have to wait and see on that in the next day or so. Thankfully his hamstring is okay and he just felt some pain in his glute, so we will have to assess that over the next few days.”

Vardy has a Premier League-best 17 goals, one more than Man City’s Sergio Aguero.

He was replaced by Kelechi Iheanacho, who assisted one of Ayoze Perez’s two goals on the day. Perez’s seven goals are second on Leicester, while James Maddison‘s six are third.

Iheanacho has six goals and three assists in 485 minutes and there’s reason to believe he can feast off Leicester’s playmaking if Vardy needs a match or two to heal.

Whether he can fill Vardy’s shoes in the long-term is a big question, especially as Leicester aims to return for the Champions League.

Transfer rumor roundup: Willian Jose to Spurs, Bournemouth after Croatian CB

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London could get itself another Willian.

Willian Jose, 28, was left out of Real Sociedad’s squad at his request on Wednesday, with the club Tweeting that he’d prefer not to play until his situation is resolved.

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Jose Mourinho said he would not comment on another team’s players, but Willian Jose could help Spurs bridge the gap to Harry Kane‘s return.

Willian Jose has been a double-digit scorer for Real Sociedad in La Liga for the previous three seasons, and is well on his way to another 10-goal campaign. He’s got eight goals in 20 matches this season.

Bournemouth needs defensive help, and is reportedly rivaling Newcastle United and Blackburn Rovers for Portuguese giant Toni Borevkovic.

The 22-year-old Croatian has one goal in just over 3000 minutes with the side since arriving from domestic side NK Rudes.

He’s averaging 1.3 interceptions, .9 tackles, and 3.3 clearances per game in league play.

Rio Ave sits seventh in Portugal’s top flight and is managed by former Premier League boss Carlos Carvalhal.

Dropped points in Top Four race point to wild February

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Regardless of whether Wolves end Liverpool’s unbeaten Premier League season on Thursday, there will be five teams within seven points of fourth place heading into Matchweek 25.

Chelsea has 40, a comfortable-enough six-point lead on Manchester United, Spurs, and Wolves (who meet Liverpool at 3 p.m. ET Thursday on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com). Sheffield United has 33 points.

February, specifically the next three matchweeks, will see the teams inside that group learn a lot more about their fates, and give Chelsea and Sheffield United big opportunities to cement their places in the Top Four and Seven, respectively.

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In the case of the latter, it’s because the Blades are the only team in the bunch who don’t face a Top Four six-pointer; Chris Wilder‘s men will meet Crystal Palace, Bournemouth, and Brighton, while the others will be beating up each other.

Chelsea’s path is fraught, but a big opportunity. The Blues travel to Leicester City before hosting both Manchester United and Spurs. Nine points there would effectively Top Four-proof Frank Lampard‘s side.

By the way, how’s this for a hot take? If any of Chelsea, Man Utd, or Spurs find their center forward or playmaker help in the window, they’ll have a leg up on their Top Four rivals. And, really, is that extra few million pounds worth the spoils of the Champions League? Yup.

Bruno Fernandes is not (yet) with United, and the Red Devils face Wolves and Chelsea in their next two matches. Spurs have City and Chelsea. Tumult is probable!

A draw with Newcastle and loss at Watford dampened Wolves’ hopes of riding into fourth. Beginning with Thursday’s visit from Liverpool, however, Nuno Espirito Santo‘s men face three of the Top Seven and then a visit from Norwich City. It’s not over.

And don’t entirely rule out Leicester City from dropping into the fray; The Foxes host Chelsea and Man City, and visit Wolves.

One more nod, however improbable: Arsenal sits 10 points back of fourth but meets Burnley, Newcastle, and Everton over those three match weeks. A perfect run could have the Gunners thinking big (Man City is after that, alas).

Matchday 25
Leicester City v. Chelsea
Crystal Palace v. Sheffield United
Manchester United v. Wolves
Spurs v. Man City

Matchday 25
Sheffield United v. Bournemouth
Wolves v. Leicester City
Chelsea v. Manchester United
Aston Villa v. Tottenham Hotspur

Matchday 27
Chelsea v. Tottenham Hotspur
Leicester City v. Man City
Wolves v. Norwich City
Sheffield United v. Brighton
Manchester United v. Watford

Spurs play Wolves the next week, too!

Mourinho: Spurs don’t have attacking depth, but do have ‘family’

Mourinho on Spurs win
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In this “whole new Jose Mourinho” world, the key word is family.

Mourinho said it six times in his post-match presser after Tottenham Hotspur scrapped to a 2-1 defeat of Norwich City on Wednesday in London.

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Spurs had an early lead disappear when Ryan Sessegnon gave away a penalty to Max Aarons, and Teemu Pukki converted it for a 70th-minute deadlock.

Heung-Min Son scored nine minutes later. It was a win that is good for the whole family.

From Football.London:

“It was fantastic what happened after the 1-1, which happens in a difficult moment for us where I look to the bench and I don’t have attacking players to change the game the team is a little bit fatigued, especially Lucas, Son and of course Lamela. I took him off because he was in trouble and he is a player who is coming from very important and long injury, so very difficult.

“How can we change the game? With the family spirit, the family character and desire.”

Mourinho also praised Giovani Lo Celso‘s work on the wing for attack-short Spurs as “a good experience for the family,” and Paulo Gazzaniga‘s support for returned goalkeeper Hugo Lloris as “a good member of the family and he is such a special friend of Hugo.”

I mean, I’m getting the warm and fuzzies.

Clearly, Mourinho is stressing unity and there’s a bit of bunker mentality involved, as the manager mentioned some dicey calls not going their way against Watford, Liverpool, and now Norwich.