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League Cup semifinal preview: Manchester City vs. Bristol City

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Manchester City looks for a berth in the first Cup final of the English calendar as they host Championship side Bristol City in the first leg of the EFL Cup semifinals at 2:45 p.m. ET from the Etihad.

It remains to be seen how seriously Pep Guardiola will take this match given recent injuries that have sapped his squad of its depth through the festive schedule. However, the Manchester City boss has suggested he will name a strong side, telling fans that trophies of any kind will satisfy his craving.

While Gabriel Jesus and Phil Foden are unquestionably ruled out with long-term injuries for the hosts, the most interesting situation to watch will be that of Kevin De Bruyne. The Belgian was stretchered off in an air cast on New Year’s Eve after a heavy challenge by Jason Puncheon, but made a miraculous recovery to start just two days later against Watford. That decision was questioned as de Bruyne was withdrawn after 79 minutes at the Etihad in obvious discomfort. It will be interesting to see if Guardiola again risks his Player of the Year candidate or if he gets a rest 12-day rest until their next Premier League match against Liverpool on Sunday.

Bristol City, meanwhile, has taken down four Premier League sides in their stunning EFL Cup run, knocking Watford, Stoke City, Crystal Palace, and Manchester United all out of the competition. They will be without young midfielder Callum O’Dowda who played the full 90 minutes in four of their five EFL Cup matches, but went down with a serious ankle injury in late November.

The visitors currently sit fourth in the Championship table, but have lost two league games in a row, a worrying sign after losing just one match since late October. They were blasted by Aston Villa on the road by a cringe-worthy 5-0 scoreline last time out. Nevertheless, they have thus far not been intimidated by Premier League opposition in the Cup, taking an attacking mentality to all their Cup matches to date.

What they’re saying

Pep Guardiola on fixture congestion: “We are going to try to win the game, take the best result possible, then go to Bristol away with the best result – that’s the only way I know. The important thing is to be involved in all competitions and we are there as well as other teams. Chelsea are in the same position, they’re in them all.”

Bristol City manager Lee Johnson on playing Man City: “The players have been exceptional so far,” said Bristol City boss Lee Johnson. The effort they’ve demonstrated to beat four Premier League teams en route has been phenomenal. Now they find themselves in the semi-finals of a major cup competition and facing the best team in the country right now. The concentration levels it will take to ensure we don’t get infiltrated in our back-line will be huge. In saying that, I do believe in the qualities in our squad and the challenge is to make sure we play our game.”

Liga MX wrap: Xolos beats Chivas as Apertura begins

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Liga MX’s Apertura season is off and running with all 18 clubs partaking in a match this weekend.

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Club Tijuana 2-1 Chivas Guadalajara

Scoreless at the half, the weekend’s marquee match sprang to life in the final 45. Juan Martin Lucero gave TJ a 54th minute lead before Jose Van Rankin knotted it up five minutes later.

Lucero assisted Jose Rivero’s 75th minute winner, which was helped in its status when Michael Perez took a red card in the 80th.

Cruz Azul 3-0 Puebla

Elias Hernandez scored a goal and added an assist, and Milton Caraglio put one of his five shots on goal into the net. Andres Renteria also scored in the win.

Tigres 2-0 Leon

Andre-Pierre Gignac scored, and Lucas Zelarayan marked a goal and an assist in the win.

Elsewhere
Necaxa 2-1 Club America
Toluca 2-0 Morelia
Santos Laguna 2-1 Lobos BUAP
Pachuca 0-1 Monterrey
Veracruz 0-2 Pumas UNAM
Atlas 0-0 Queretaro

Report: Colorado acquires USMNT mid Acosta for Badji

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The West’s first place team is switching it up in a big way.

FC Dallas is sending Homegrown Player and USMNT midfielder Kellyn Acosta to Western foes Colorado Rapids in exchange for striker Dominique Badji, according to a report by The Dallas Morning News.

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Acosta, 22, has 17 caps and a goal for the U.S., and is primarily a defensive midfielder. He’s also played right and left back.

He’s appeared 139 times for Dallas, scoring 13 times with nine assists, but had fallen out with head coach Oscar Pareja. He’s also struggled mightily on the field, according to WhoScored.

Badji, 25, has seven goals and three assists in 16 matches for the Rapids this season, building on an eight-goal, five-assist campaign last season.

FCD has gotten six goals out of forward Maxi Urruti, and there’s been little production from anyone else. Cristian Colman is out with an ankle injury and managed just a pair of goals in 399 minutes.

The risk of trading Acosta is mitigated by the continued speculation that he may test the waters of European soccer. Badji’s a quality player, but Colorado may’ve gotten a bargain in its push to escape the dregs of the West.

Quintero, Loons pick LAFC apart in five-star win (video)

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Minnesota United throttled LAFC on Sunday, using a Christian Ramirez brace to batter the hot expansion team 5-1 in Minnesota.

Darwin Quintero had a goal and two assists for the Loons, who took advantage of LAFC’s decision not to start dominant forward Adama Diomande and center back Walker Zimmerman.

[ MORE: Marketing Pulisic with BVB ]

Quintero ripped off seven shots, putting five on goal. He now has 10 goals and five assists since joining the Loons after scoring two and eight in 29 matches for Club America last year.

Miguel Ibarra recorded a goal and an assist, while Rasmus Schuller also scored. LAFC’s goal came courtesy Benny Feilhaber.

Minnesota’s Bobby Shuttleworth and LA’s Tyler Miller each made six saves in their goals.

LAFC fails in a bid to make up points on Western Conference first seed FC Dallas, while the Loons now can eye a playoff spot in the West.

Already-thin Liverpool center back corps loses Matip to quad injury

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Liverpool’s 3-1 loss to Borussia Dortmund featured an injury to a position with very little depth.

The Reds lost Joel Matip to what Jurgen Klopp said could possibly be a “small tear” in one of his quads.

[ MORE: Marketing Pulisic with BVB ]

If Matip, 26, needs any significant time to heal up, he’ll put a major question mark into Liverpool’s opening day center back pairing.

Virgil Van Dijk, who scored against BVB on Sunday, already won’t have Dejan Lovren as a partner thanks to a post-World Cup vacation.

That leaves Joe Gomez and Ragnar Klavan as options next to Van Dijk.

Matches at Crystal Palace and home to Brighton and Hove Albion follow the Aug. 12 visit from West Ham.