Getty Images

UEFA Champions League last 16 score picks

Leave a comment

This is it. After a two-month hiatus, the UEFA Champions League is back and the action returns this week.

[ MORE: Champions League schedule

The Round of 16 games will be spread over the next month with five Premier League teams — Manchester City, Manchester United, Chelsea, Tottenham Hotspur and Liverpool — still in the competition.

Below is a look at each of the eight matchups with a score prediction, as Europe’s elite teams lock horns.


Basel vs. Manchester City (first leg, Feb. 13; second leg, Mar. 3)
No disrespect to the Swiss champs, but this is the easiest draw Man City could have got. Pep Guardiola‘s men are in imperious form and could have this tie wrapped up after the first leg in Switzerland. Kevin De Bruyne, Sergio Aguero and Raheem Sterling will be too much for Basel to handle, but City have to watch as Basel stunned Man United in the group stages. Score pick: Man City to advance 5-1 on aggregate


Juventus vs. Tottenham Hotspur (first leg, Feb. 13; second leg, Mar. 3)
What a tie this promises to be. Spurs’ high-press against Juve’s solid defense with a fondness for counters with Gonzalo Higuain finishing off chances. Tottenham will look to take Juve level to Wembley for the second leg but with Harry Kane in fine form, he could cause Juve’s ageing defense some issues. Spurs’ best chance of success may be to ease off their high-pressing and allow Juve to come onto them before picking holes on the counter. Score pick: Tottenham to advance 3-2 on aggregate


FC Porto vs. Liverpool (first leg, Feb. 14; second leg, Mar. 4)
This Liverpool side seem set up for success in Europe and with the addition of Virgil Van Dijk in defense, his battle with Vincent Aboubakar should be epic. We all know about Liverpool’s incredible attacking talents and that should see them over the line. Jurgen Klopp won’t take Porto lightly, but the second leg being at Anfield is a huge bonus. Score pick: Liverpool to advance 4-2 on aggregate 


Real Madrid vs. PSG (first leg, Feb. 14; second leg, Mar. 4)
What a game. When Real Madrid finished second in their group (behind Spurs) PSG are one of the teams they would have feared most. With Neymar and Cavani ripping it up, Real’s usual method of all-out attack may not work against PSG. The two-time reigning European champs have all their eggs in one basket under Zinedine Zidane with their La Liga form struggling. This could well be the end of an era. Score pick: PSG to advance 3-2 on aggregate


Chelsea vs. Barcelona (first leg, Feb. 20; second leg, Mar. 14)
My goodness, these two clashing bring up some epic UCL memories. When Chelsea fluffed their lines by not winning their group, this was the worst-case scenario. Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Co. will relish heading to an injury-hit Chelsea in the first leg as Antonio Conte‘s men battle poor form in the league. The La Liga leaders have struggled themselves a little lately, but they always seem to deliver in the big games. Score pick: Barcelona to advance 4-2 on aggregate

 


Bayern Munich vs. Besiktas (first leg, Feb. 20; second leg, Mar. 14)
A kind draw for Bayern considering they finished second in their group behind PSG. Besiktas should not be underestimated and having the second leg at home will be a big bonus. That said, surviving the trip to Munich in the first leg with anything less than a one-goal deficit would be massive. Having sold Cenk Tosun to Everton, Besiktas have lost their top scorer this season but have plenty of experience. Score pick: Bayern to advance 3-2 on aggregate


Sevilla vs. Manchester United (first leg, Feb. 21; second leg, Mar. 13)
Tricky test for United against a Sevilla side who caused Liverpool problems with their incredible comeback from three goals down. Jose Mourinho’s men will play for the draw on the road, then look to finish the job at Old Trafford. Sevilla aren’t the force they have been in previous seasons but they will not be a walkover. United have handled business carefully in Europe this season and Romelu Lukaku will be key in this game, plus Alexis Sanchez being able to play is a huge bonus. Maybe the defeat at Newcastle last weekend was the wake-up call United needed. Score pick: Man United to advance 2-1 on aggregate 


Shakhtar Donetsk vs. AS Roma (first leg, Feb. 21; second leg, Mar. 13)
One of just two teams to beat Manchester City this season, Shakhtar will be eager to hit their stride in the first leg with Fred, Bernard, Marlos and Facundo Ferreyra the danger men. The Ukrainian champs have had a nice rest with no official games since December with the Ukrainian Premier League starting up against this weekend, but that can sometimes leave them a little rusty. Roma kept hold of Edin Dzeko in January, which was massive, and you have to fancy them taking Shakhtar back to the Italian capital in the second leg. Score pick: Roma to advance 3-2 on aggregate


Spurs defender Kieran Trippier officially joins Atletico Madrid

Getty Images
Leave a comment

A transfer that only became legitimately rumored one day ago has come to fruition as Tottenham right-back Kieran Trippier completed a move to Atletico Madrid, the two clubs confirmed.

The move is for a reported transfer fee of about $25 million plus add-ons and sees Trippier become Atletico Madrid’s first English player in over 90 years.

The 28-year-old signed a team-friendly three-year deal with Atleti, keeping him tied to the Spanish side through the summere of 2022. Trippier will hope to replace the retired Juanfran, and will no doubt benefit from the coaching of Diego Simeone, but it will be interesting to see a player with some defensive deficiencies look to earn a place in the starting lineup of such a defensively stout team.

Trippier leaves Tottenham after a four-year spell where he made 114 appearances for the club across all competitions after joining from Burnley in 2015. However, he began to lose his consistent starting place at Spurs over the past year after a dip in form this past season. While he started the Champions League final, Juan Foyth began to take Trippier’s place as the third center-back in Mauricio Pochettino‘s three-at-the-back system, and both Serge Aurier and Kyle Walker-Peters began to challenge for the traditional right-back role.

There is a lot of risk for the England international in this move. With such a short contract, he could be shopped by Atletico Madrid if he does not lock down a first-team place in his first year, with clubs often looking to cash in on players with two years left on their deal before market value dips. He also will need playing time to earn his place on the England national team, having played a starting role for the country at the 2018 World Cup but with plenty of competition at his place. Trent Alexander-Arnold, Kyle Walker, and the versatile Joe Gomez all made the England squad over Trippier for the recent Nations League semifinals and finals.

FOLLOW LIVE – Tunisia and Nigeria in AFCON third place game

Getty Images
Leave a comment

The appetizer to the main course takes place today as Tunisia and Nigeria meet in the third place match of the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations.

Both sides fell in the semifinals on last-minute goals, with Tunisia dropping to Senegal on an extra-time own-goal while Nigeria was pipped by a Riyad Mahrez 95th minute winner.

[ LIVE: Africa Cup of Nations scores ]

While this match is obviously a chance for both sides to finish the tournament on a high note, also notable is the race for the Golden Boot. Odion Ighalo is in the lead with four goals and could look to tack on to that total with Mahrez, Adam Ounes, and Sadio Mane all on three goals and playing in the final.

Nigeria boss Gernot Rohr will want to save face after a disappointing tournament, and while he received the dreaded vote of confidence from the Nigerian federation, he still will want something tangible to take home. The Super Eagles came into the tournament as the third-highest FIFA ranked African nation, but after a shaky group stage performance and a pair of narrow one-goal knockout stage wins before the loss to Algeria, the need for a quality outing is great.

Five of the six previous matches between these two teams have ended in draws, so something has to give this time in Cairo.

Guardiola to Leroy Sane: only “happy” players will see the field

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Leroy Sane has been the subject of some uncertainty this summer, and it might be getting to Pep Guardiola.

After Sane came off the bench and helped Man City pummel West Ham 4-1 in the preseason Premier League Asia Trophy, Guardiola was asked about his future with the club after reports this summer that Bayern Munich was interested in snatching him away from the Etihad.

“The club made him an offer last year,” Guardiola said. “So, I have said many times, we only want people happy to be here. We are going to help him to be the best, we know his potential and what level he is. He has a special quality that is difficult to find around the world. He knows, they all know, all the forwards, all the midfielders, how difficult it is to play, it’s difficult because of the quality we have.”

“But, at the same time I spoke to the club ten times and I want people here to be happy, if they don’t want, they go. The desire to have him be with us is always there.”

Sane was spectacular at times last season as Manchester City won the Premier League title, but he played a shrinking role as the end of the campaign pressed on, forced to come off the bench as a substitute four times after February and left as an unused substitute five other times down the stretch as well. Sane played just two full 90 minute appearances in Premier League play in the 2019 calendar year.

With that in mind, it has proven difficult to convince Sane to sign a new contract at Manchester City, with his current deal set to expire in two years. That caught Bayern Munich’s attention, and the German side has been persistent in hoping to attract the 23-year-old to Allianz Arena.

Once Guardiola made his comments about happy players, he was asked bluntly if he thinks Sane will be with the team at the start of the season. He did not want to go into the situation further, saying, “I have already answered that question really well.”

Argentina women’s team players critical of coaches after roster changes

Getty Images
Leave a comment

The Argentine national team is facing controversy after making a host of changes to its roster for the 2019 Pan American games despite a solid showing in the World Cup earlier this summer.

Most notably, 29-year-old Estefania Banini, who captained the side at the World Cup, was left off the roster. She lashed out on social media, claiming on Instagram that she was left off after making internal comments critical of the coaching staff and trying to improve the team’s ability to compete.

“No rest, not injured, permission from my club, I have enough to be in the national team,” she wrote. “From 5 years old I trained to defend the blue and white, fighting for my place equally without discrimination. The coaching staff decided to leave me out…because we have our differences, they decide to put an end to my dream of defending the shirt.”

Banini goes on to explain that she wants coaches “with enough experience we can learn from” and who can help grow the game in their country. She said what they don’t want is something they experienced at the World Cup – “being told ‘just defend because we don’t want to concede 11’ when going out to play.”

Other players left off the roster for the Pan American games are Ruth Bravo and Lorena Benitez, both of whom were starters at the World Cup less than a month ago. Bravo, along with Belen Potassa, posted similarly critical comments on their own social media accounts after being left off the roster, with much of the content word-for-word to what Banini wrote.

Argentina performed well in the group stage of the World Cup, nearly advancing in the final seconds of the group stage before a 3-3 draw with Scotland saw them fall just short of passing Japan into a qualifying spot. They managed a 0-0 draw with Japan in the opening match and fell to England by a close 1-0 scoreline.

Banini has been outspoken in the past, criticizing the Argentinian federation back in 2014 for not supporting the women’s game enough. With her most recent comments potentially costing her a place in the team, some of her teammates had her back. Soledad Jaimes and Florencia Bonsegundo, also both starters in the World Cup, resigned their places on the Pan American Games roster in solidarity with their teammates, believing them to be unfairly treated.

“While 18 teammates pack their bags for the Pan American Games, I decided to withdraw from the roster,” Bonsegundo wrote in her own Instagram post. “Today I have to take a step forward for this struggle that we all started and that few have the courage to do. I understand that in this way I am protecting you more [the fans] because I know that in a future with properly trained players, Argentina may be at the level of the world powers! I’m still dreaming of a country with greater equality, without discrimination and where the voice of women is taken into account with the same weight as that of a man”

Argentina was drawn into a group with Panama, Costa Rica, and Peru for the Pan American games, with their first match set for July 28.