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Deschamps warns France to up its game against English

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PARIS (AP) France coach Didier Deschamps warned his players they are fighting for their places in the friendly against England on Tuesday.

The match follows France’s 2-1 loss at Sweden on Friday in a World Cup qualifier. The loss, gifted to Sweden in the last seconds, dropped France to second place in Europe Group A and allowed the Netherlands – the next opponent in qualifying – to close within three points.

Deschamps guided France to the European Championship final last year with a settled side, but results since then have been inconsistent, and he thinks some players must raise their game.

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“No one has any guarantees,” Deschamps said at a news conference on Monday. “It can happen that you’re not in good form for one or two games. But there are quality alternatives available.”

Although Olivier Giroud maintained his fine form with another goal against Sweden, the rest of the forward line – Dimitri Payet, Antoine Griezmann and Moussa Sissoko – was poor.

Deschamps may be tempted to try something new against England, a game he says has more importance given the result in Sweden.

“I won’t say that I’m not taking that game into consideration. It was a cruel defeat and it’s important to finish the season on a high note,” he said. “Whoever starts needs to play as well as they can. Will it change things for August (against the Netherlands)? I’ll think about and analyze it afterward. A team can always be modified.”

Deschamps wants a marked improvement in defense against an England team led by striker Harry Kane, who is brimming with confidence after 29 Premier League goals. Kane grabbed a last-gasp equalizer in a 2-2 draw at Scotland in a qualifier on Saturday.

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“The highest level isn’t just about attacking well it’s about defending as well,” Deschamps said. “We will face an England team with a lot of attacking potential.”

Poor marking allowed Sweden to equalize, and goalkeeper Hugo Lloris – normally reliable – handed the Swedes victory by rushing out of his area and haphazardly passing to a Sweden player who then lobbed him.

Deschamps said the best thing for Lloris is to face England, to prevent him dwelling on his blunder.

“Hugo will be captain. Obviously I’ve discussed things with him,” Deschamps said. “If he’d seen things differently, I might have changed my decision. But we both thought it was the best thing for him to do, it was clear.”

Teammates have rallied around Lloris.

“When you’re playing in his position, you always pay dearly for a mistake,” center half Raphael Varane said. “The team has total confidence in him. We know that he will save us again in the future.”

England manager Gareth Southgate will rest his No. 1 Joe Hart, giving backups Tom Heaton and Jack Butland a chance to impress.

Heaton will start and Butland will play the second half, Southgate said on Monday.

Heaton helped Burnley to stay in the Premier League.

Butland recently returned from injury to play in Stoke’s last five Premier League games, keeping three clean sheets.

“We’ve got to maintain the squad environment (where) people feel involved,” Southgate said. “In the past, one or two goalkeepers have sort of given up international football because they’ve not had that chance.”

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.

Liverpool’s Klopp: ‘Our people will be ready’ for second leg at Anfield

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Jurgen Klopp didn’t have any issue with Diego Simeone’s defense-first Atletico Madrid in the first leg of their UEFA Champions League Round of 16 tie on Tuesday.

The Spanish side flummoxed Liverpool’s attack and the Reds didn’t manage a shot on target despite eight attempts and 73 percent possession at the Wanda Metropolitano.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ] 

What Klopp didn’t appreciate was the referee’s work, though, implying that Polish official Szymon Marciniak was overwhelmed by the occasion. Marciniak has worked UCL matches for six seasons, twice overseeing quarterfinal ties.

Klopp was shown a yellow card in the second half, and the Liverpool boss felt Sadio Mane was harassed by Atleti. Klopp removed yellow-carrying Mane at halftime.

“He was targeted obviously,” Klopp said after the game. “The only thing they wanted was to make sure he got a yellow card. The score is 1-0, that’s all but you need to be really strong as a ref in this atmosphere. So many things happened, after 30 minutes already three players were on the ground. The first yellow card was a striker from us. I’m not sure they even got a yellow card, which is funny.”

Atleti’s Angel Correa was shown a yellow, while Klopp, Mane, and Joe Gomez were cautioned for Liverpool.

The Liverpool boss found himself laughing a few times, especially when he was asked about Simeone’s touchline personality.

Klopp said before the game that if the German was a four in intensity, then Simeone was a 12. Simeone followed suit by constantly urging the crowd to get behind the home side on Tuesday.

That didn’t bother Klopp, but he issued a public relations officer’s dream in reacting to it.

“Wow, wow,” he laughed. “That’s energy. I don’t think I have to do it that much (at Anfield). Our people will be ready. Welcome to Anfield. It’s not over yet.”

Klopp finished his remarks by saying of Jordan Henderson‘s removal from the game with a hamstring injury, “I hope it was a precaution, but I’m not 100 percent sure”

Haaland wins first leg after Borussia Dortmund-PSG comes to life late

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Erling Haaland scored twice in a mid-second half flurry as Borussia Dortmund beat Paris Saint-Germain 2-1 in the first leg of their UEFA Champions League Round of 16 tie on Tuesday.

The hosts also got an assist from teenager Giovanni Reyna, who became the youngest American to appear in a Champions League match.

Haaland now has 39 goals in 29 appearances between Red Bull Salzburg and BVB, 11 of those for his new German employer.

Neymar scored off a Kylian Mbappe goal for PSG, who brings an away goal back to the Parc des Princes for a March 11 second leg.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ] 

Neymar had an early free kick, missing just wide of the far post.

Jadon Sancho troubled the keeper twice in the first half hour, first with a cross that Mats Hummels headed over goal. Then, Keylor Navas picked another Sancho offering out of the air.

Sancho kept serving, and Erling Haaland couldn’t turn a promising cross on target.

Dortmund walked into halftime with a scoreless match but a 7-2 edge in shot attempts. Neither of PSG’s shots were on target.

[ MORE: Premier League stats ] 

Borussia Dortmund boss Lucien Favre put in American teen Giovani Reyna in the 67th minute.

Two minutes later, it was 1-0 to the hosts through Haaland’s close-range goal.

Neymar replied from close range himself after a powerful, clever dribble from Kylian Mbappe led to a pass through the box.

But Haaland got his second in the 77th minute with a scorching shot that serves as the first senior assist of Reyna’s senior career with Dortmund (Watch it here).