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UCL Playoff Preview: Klopp, Liverpool set for Champions League return

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In his second full season at Anfield, Jurgen Klopp has his Liverpool side back in the UEFA Champions League, but only just.

By way of finishing in fourth place in the Premier League last season, Klopp’s side have to qualify for the group stage and standing in its way is one of Germany’s top young managers and his inspiring story, Julian Nagelsman.

The 30-year-old manager guided Hoffenheim, which survived a relegation playoff in 2016, to fourth place a year later and qualification into Europe for the first time in club history.

Here’a a look at this week’s Champions League playoff matchups.


Hoffenheim vs. Liverpool — Tuesday, (2:45 p.m. ET)

Thee ongoing transfer saga surrounding Philippe Coutinho has taken most of the team’s media coverage, but there’s plenty on the line on Tuesday in Hoffenheim.

Jurgen Klopp has to regroup his defense following the wild 3-3 draw against Watford last Saturday, but Jordan Henderson and former Hoffenheim star Roberto Firmino are raring to go.

Even though these two teams haven’t met recently, Liverpool does have some history recently, having won each of its last six ties on German soil.

Nice vs. Napoli — Wednesday, (2:45 p.m. ET)

Nice, featuring the likes of Mario Balotelli, Wesley Sneijder and Dante and coached by veteran manager Lucien Favre, surprised many by taking down Ajax in the third qualifying round. But now the French club face a Champions League regular in Napoli,

It’s a chance for Balotelli to show he’s still got it against former Azzurri teammate Lorenzo Insigne and the Italian side, whom he played against plenty while at Inter Milan and AC Milan.

Napoli is looking to make the group stage for the fourth time and second straight year, while Nice is in Europe for the first time since 1960 after a dream season in Ligue 1 last year.

Rest of CL qualification schedule (All times at 2:45 p.m. unless noted)

Tuesday

Qarabağ vs. FC Copenhagen – 12 p.m.
Apoel vs. Slavia Prague
Sporting CP vs. Steaua București
BSC Young Boys vs. CSKA Moscow

Wednesday

Hapoel Be’er Sheva vs. NK Maribor
Olympiakos vs. Rijeka
Istanbul Başakşehir vs. Sevilla
Celtic vs. Astana

Griezmann: Playing for Barcelona is ‘not the easiest’

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Over the summer, Barcelona shelled a whopping $135 million to land Antoine Griezmann from Atletico Madrid.

It was a match made in heaven; the rest was supposed to be history.

Only that hasn’t been the case for the Frenchman in Barcelona.

Despite scoring a brace in his debut at the Camp Nou, Griezmann’s impact and influence on the field has quickly dwindled. In 11 league appearances with the Catalan giants, the 28-year-old has scored four goals and added three assists, signs that the World Cup winner is, in fact, struggling with his new team.

Speaking to Telefoot, Griezmann revealed that playing for Barcelona is not an easy thing to do, but that with hard work, his fortunes will turn around for the best:

“It is hard, I knew it would be, it is not the easiest place. This is a new team, a new club, new tactics, a new position. I have to work, try to understand my team-mates, after they will understand me too and it will work just like that… Critics will always be there. But I am good, I am proud of where I am. Only work pays off. I have to take confidence and it will all come just like that.”

This season, Barcelona manager Ernesto Valverde has frequently deployed the Frenchman as a left winger, with the hope that he will link up with Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez. The positives form such an ideology have yet to be reaped, however. Griezmann is scoring a goal every 224 minutes, a career worst.

The 28-year-old, too, has played in a central role on a couple of occasions, specifically during the absences of Messi and Suarez, but it hasn’t worked out for a player that has made a career from roaming that part of the field.

The building clamor at the Camp Nou is borderline justifiable – mainly because it’s now evident that Griezmann is wrestling with adapting to the expectations and systems in place in Barcelona.

But the high-flying attacker has proven he’s worth the price time and time again, and now he’s on the record saying that he’ll do everything in his power to do so with his new club.

Real Monarchs beat Louisville City to win first ever USL Cup

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Real Monarchs scored three unanswered goals as they routed Louisville City 3-1 at Lynn Stadium to win their first ever USL Cup title.

Noah Powder’s goal in the 66th minute sealed the deal for the visitor’s, adding to the goals scored by defenders Erik Holt and Konrad Plewa in the first half.

Surprisingly enough, it was Lou City who got off to a superb start on Sunday night, though.

Only six minutes after the initial whistle, Lou City’s leading goalscorer, Magnus Rasmussen, scored the game’s first goal, breaking a record for the fastest goal in a USL Cup final.

The defeat brings an end to Lou City’s historic run of consecutive USL Cup-winning seasons.

On July 1, former Real Salt Lake defender, Jamison Olave, took over as the Monarchs interim coach following Martin Vasquez’s unexpected resignation.

Man arrested after English soccer player reports homophobia

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TRANMERE, England — A footballer in England’s third tier reported being subjected to homophobic abuse from the stands, leading to police making one arrest.

Wycombe goalkeeper Ryan Allsop told the referee of the abuse at halftime of the League One soccer game at Tranmere as his team won 2-0.

Tranmere says it is very disappointed to learn of a homophobic comment made.

In a statement, Merseyside Police condemned abhorrent incidents.

Police Chief Inspector Jason Crellin added that “hate crime has no place in our communities, and not least at a showcase sporting event attended and watched by many people.”

Brazil beat Mexico to win U-17 World Cup (video)

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Brazil became Under-17 world champions for a fourth time in dramatic fashion as Lazaro Vinicius Marques’ scored a 93rd-minute winner to edge Mexico 2-1 at Estadio Bezerrão on Sunday.

Brazil’s comeback started in the 84th minute when Kaio Jorge converted from the penalty spot, following VAR’s decision which ruled contact on the tournament’s Golden Ball winner, Gabriel Veron, inside the 18-yard box.

With Brazilian legends Ronaldo and Cafu in attendance, the host’s had the better of chances throughout the first 45 minutes. Without any luck, however, Brazil were unable to get the ball past Eduardo Garcia, instead hitting the bar on several occasions.

Then in the 66th minute, Mexico – winners of the tournament in 2005 and in 2011 – stunned the home crowd when Bronze Ball winner Eugenio Pizzoto’s cross into the box was headed into the back of the net by Bryan Alonso Gonzalez Olivan, breaking the deadlock between two sides that had met in the same game back in 2005.

What was going to be a stunning, underdog victory for El Tri, turned into a heartbreaking night for Marco “Chima” Ruiz and company.

Brazil, on the other hand, are now only one championship away from tying Nigeria’s record of five championships.