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International preview: What is to come over the next week

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With the 2018 World Cup less than three months away, countries are taking these last moments to see players within their selection pool and make tweaks to the squad and tactics.

This week’s international window has already kicked off with the likes of South Africa, Liechtenstein, and Andorra taking the opportunity to see the field, and World Cup countries take the field tomorrow – two, to be exact. And they play each other.

Denmark and Panama meet in a rare friendly between countries set to take part in the summer festivities, with the match taking place in Bronby at 3pm ET. The two countries chose to play knowing they cannot possibly meet in Russia 2018 until at least the quarterfinals, with their respective Groups C and G split apart across the knockout rounds.

The hosts are fantastic from set-pieces and focus their attack around Tottenham star Christian Eriksen. Panama’s midfield rock Gabriel Gomez will likely be tasked with keeping Eriksen quiet, something the Republic of Ireland was unable to do last time Denmark took the field as Eriksen bagged a hat-trick. Defender Andreas Christensen is headed towards the World Cup in fantastic form with Chelsea, having earned a starting spot with the Blues. With some injuries at the back, Christensen has also played out wide along the back line before as well, something to keep watch for.

On Friday, the heavyweights begin to see the field as Uruguay hosts Czech Republic. The South American nation received a friendly draw in World Cup Group A, but brought in a solid European side to match wits with after the Czechs finished third in their qualifying group. Japan also takes to the pitch on Friday, playing Mali on a neutral field in Belgium. The Japanese will need to be at the top of their game come summer, matched into Group H against Colombia, Poland, and Senegal.

England and Argentina have both scheduled games against European sides that disappointed by failing to make the 2018 tournament. On Friday, England travels to Amsterdam to take on a Netherlands squad in turmoil, while Argentina travels to the Etihad to meet Italy.

Russia and Brazil meet in Moscow on Friday, with over 50,000 tickets already reportedly sold for the match at Luzhniki Stadium. The hosts will then get another stiff test as they take on France four days later on Tuesday. If Russia’s squad has lots of work to do before hosting the World Cup, we’ll know in a week.

The main event on Friday will be Germany and Spain meeting in Dusseldorf in a matchup of the last two World Cup winners. Germany will be without Manuel Neuer and Marco Reus, but still fields one of the deepest squads in the entire world. The Germans don’t then get the week off, having to meet Brazil on Tuesday. If Jogi Low’s side comes out of those matches on top, they could cement their status as favorites headed into the summer.

France has a stiff test as well, meeting Colombia on Friday. Like Denmark and Panama, the two countries reside in Groups C and H, meaning they could not rematch in the World Cup until at least the quarterfinals. The French then go to take on Russia next week.

FULL SCHEDULE:

Thursday
Denmark vs. Panama
Slovakia vs. UAE
China vs. Wales
Algeria vs. Tanzania
Malta vs. Luxembourg

Friday
Germany vs. Spain
Italy vs. Argentina
Russia vs. Brazil
Netherlands vs. England
France vs. Colombia
Portugal vs. Egypt
Uruguay vs. Czech Republic
Mexico vs. Ireland
Poland vs. Nigeria
Austria vs. Slovenia
Peru vs. Croatia
Austria vs. Slovenia
Greece vs. Switzerland
Norway vs. Australia
Mali vs. Japan

Saturday
Sweden vs. Chile

Sunday
Kuwait vs. Cameroon
Nicaragua vs. Cuba

Monday
Portugal vs. Netherlands
Bulgaria vs. Kazakhstan

Tuesday
Russia vs. France
Germany vs. Brazil
England vs. Italy
Spain vs. Argentina
United States vs. Paraguay
Tunisia vs. Costa Rica
Colombia vs. Australia
Belgium vs. Saudi Arabia
Egypt vs. Greece
Denmark vs. Chile
Japan vs. Ukraine

VIDEO: The 2019-20 Premier League season in review

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From Jurgen Klopp and Liverpool claiming their first Premier League title, to Manchester United’s resurrection and return to the UEFA Champions League, to Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal firing Mauricio Pochettino and Unai Emery and hiring Jose Mourinho and Mikel Arteta, to the suspension of the entire operation for three months, the 2019-20 Premier League season was, in a word, unforgettable.

[ MORE: Should Messi leave Barcelona? Will he? | How does Barca rebuild? ]

The NBC Sports video production team put together the above video review of the 2019-20 Premier League season, so grab some popcorn, carve 39 minutes out of your day and relive the historic, unprecedented 2019-20 Premier League season before it all starts again in less than a month.

[ MORE: Three things learned as Bayern Munich hammer Barcelona 8-2 ]

The best part of one season ending is the next one is only ever right around the corner. The 2020-21 Premier League season is set to kick off on Saturday, Sept. 21.

Will Liverpool repeat? Will Man City reign again? Will Man United challenge for the title? Can any of the London clubs catch up to them? Only time will tell.

Barcelona must rebuild, but where (and when) do they begin?

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Barcelona – Bayern Munich fallout: The world at large is clamoring downright demanding a full-on blowup and rebuild of the Barcelona squad following Friday’s 8-2 embarrassment at the hands of Bayern.

[ PART 1: Should Lionel Messi leave Barcelona? Will he? ]

It’s a fair request, not only for the UEFA Champions League quarterfinal defeat, but also for the last handful of years in which Barca became a shell of its former self and relinquished its claim to the title of best club in the world.

The Barcelona rubble is strewn everywhere, from the Estadio de Luz in Lisbon, the site of Friday’s demolition job, to the shores of Catalonia. The process of picking it all up and piecing it back together — or, perhaps, clearing out and building anew — will be a long and arduous one, but one that must be undertaken.

[ MORE: Three things learned as Bayern Munich hammer Barcelona 8-2 ]

In part 1 of our in-depth look at Barcelona’s path forward, we tackled the tricky question of whether or not Lionel Messi should — and will — leave the club for the betterment of his final few years in the game. Read part 1 first, because the entire discussion begins — and maybe even ends — with Messi.

Which players do they keep?

We’ll start with “who to keep” because the list will be much shorter than what comes next.

In no particular order: Lionel Messi (if he wants to stay), Ansu Fati, Frenkie de Jong, Marc-Andre ter Stegen, Clement Lenglet, Sergi Roberto, Miralem Pjanic (because he’s not even arrived at the club yet)

Everyone else currently at the club — whether due to their age, subpar performances or cumbersome contracts — is potentially on the chopping block.

De Jong has been something of a disappointment in his first season at the club, but there is more than enough reasonable doubt to believe the rest of the squad’s failures have given him no platform upon which to build his own Barca career. It stands to reason that, should they put a functional team around him, De Jong could still live up to the expectations with which he arrived from Ajax.

Fati has the look of a future best-player-in-the-world, though he’s only 17 so there’s still a long way to go before realizing that destiny. It would be a terrible crime against football for Barca to waste his talent and potential by failing to put a proper team around him.

Ter Stegen (28), Lenglet (25) and Roberto (28) are all young enough to bridge the gap between the current team and whatever the Blaugrana look like 24 or 36 months down the road. You can’t just get rid of everyone, after all. Even that’s not exactly a ringing endorsement of those players, is it?

Difficult decisions need to be made

For age concerns: Luis Suarez, Gerard Pique, Jordi Alba, Sergio Busquets

For financial reasons: Antoine Griezmann, Ousmane Dembele

The question Barca must answer with regard to the likes of Griezmann and Dembele is this: how much of a loss are they willing to take? That means not only on the exorbitant transfer fees they paid to sign them, but also the money still left on their contracts that they’re willing to eat just to get rid of them and move on. Between the two of them, Barca owe $1.3 million per week for the next two years, at which point Dembele’s deal expires and they will only be on the hook for Griezmann’s $1.05 million-per-week wages for another two years. Are you beginning to understand why this rebuild will be anything but easy or fast?

As for the aging veterans of the squad, they’ve all been fantastic and productive servants for varying periods of time, but they are 33, 33, 31 and 32, respectively, but their collective wages add up to more than $1 million per week. That’s a massive burden for a club that was already facing financial troubles prior to the effects of COVID-19. By the time Barcelona can reasonably be expected to compete for Champions League trophies again, none of these players will be under the age of 35.

Of the six individuals listed above, at least three — if not four — of them need to leave as soon as possible. Take your pick of which four it is.

Who needs to go?

Everyone else. Otherwise, a Barcelona – Bayern Munich repeat is inevitable.

That includes Arthur, who’s already leaving for Juventus this summer but they should get rid of him again just for good measure. Nelson Semedo can also go, if for no other reason than he will never be the same after Alphonso Davies danced around him on Friday.

Arturo Vidal and Ivan Rakitic are 33 and 32 years old, respectively, and have no business being part of the next team Barca trot out in September. Samuel Umtiti could probably stay for another year or two and hold down a starting center back spot at a La Liga-average level, but what’s the point of simply delaying the inevitable?

There’s no two ways about it: Barcelona’s recruitment over the last five or six years has been criminally bad.

Given the club’s global popularity and the allure they still have to many players around the world — rightly or wrongly at this point — a Barcelona rebuild certainly sounds like a fun video-game challenge, but rest assured it will be anything but fun for those tasked with the challenge in real life.

Manchester City – Lyon: How to watch, start time, prediction, odds

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Manchester City – Lyon: The stakes are a bit higher when Lyon begins its latest quest to fluster Manchester City.

Lyon meets Man City in the Champions League quarterfinals less than 22 months after taking four of six points off City in the 2018-19 UCL group stage.

[ MORE: Matuidi moves to MLS ]

City star Kevin De Bruyne missed both of those matches, and was the difference in the Real Madrid tie after a quiet group stage. He’ll have to make things happen without Sergio Aguero.

Lyon’s Houssem Aouar will be the focus of Guardiola’s attention and perhaps affection, the playmaker potentially leaving the Ligue 1 side after the tournament.

Lisbon is the scene for both clubs’ bids at a second UCL semifinal berth this century.


How to watch, stream Champions League: Barcelona – Bayern Munich

Dates: Saturday August 14, 3pm ET kick off
Location: Lisbon, Portugal
How to watch: CBS Sports
Live updates: UCL here at NBCSports.com & Europa League here at NBCSports.com


What they’re saying

Bernardo Silva on Man City’s readiness: “Everyone is fit and super motivated. We couldn’t be better to be honest. Beating Madrid gives you a boost in terms of confidence. You don’t need motivation for these games; It’s the quarter-final of Champions League. We are fighting for a huge thing. Everyone is focused to do their best and help the team.”

Lyon’s Bruno Guimaraes on the City test: “We have a very high level opponent ahead of us, but we, too are a good team. After all, if we want to progress in this Final 8, we have to beat opponents like Manchester City, even though they are a very strong club and play great football. We can bring ourselves to their level, we have already done so in the past.”


Odds and ends (Full quarterfinal round odds)

Lyon beat City 2-1 at the Etihad on Sept. 19, 2018 before drawing 2-2 at the Parc Olympique Lyonnais two months later. Ivorian international Maxwell Cornet scored three of Lyon’s four goals.

DraftKings has Man City has the favorites to win the whole tournament, so it’s no surprise to see the Premier League giants with minus-305 odds. Lyon are +750 underdogs.


Prediction

Lyon can play at a frantic pace and will hope to keep City’s possession game off-kilter. But if Pep Guardiola’s men falter it seems unlikely to be over these 90 minutes. De Bruyne stars in a 2-0 win.

Key battles for UEFA Champions League quarterfinals

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The UEFA Champions League quarterfinals take center stage this week and we’re going to select one key battle which should determine the outcome of all four games.

[ LIVE: Champions League scores ] 

With Manchester City the favorites against Lyon, a massive clash between Barcelona and Bayern Munich, plus an intriguing tie between RB Leipzig v. Atletico Madrid, the final few games in the 2019-20 Champions League campaign will be so tight to call.

[ MORE: Man City beat Real Madrid ]

In the next few days the Champions League quarterfinals will excite as the mini tournament in Portugal begins.

Man City beat Real Madrid 4-2 on aggregate to reach the last eight and Pep Guardiola’s boys will be confident but wary after Lyon dumped out Juventus in the Round of 16.

Lisbon, Portugal will host the Champions League games from the quarterfinal stage onwards, and there will be one heck of a show over the next few days.

Below is a look at the key battles, as well as how to watch and follow all of the Champions League quarterfinal fixtures in the USA.


How to watch, stream Champions League quarterfinals

Dates: August 5-23
Location: Quarterfinals onwards in Lisbon
How to watch: CBS Sports
Live updates: UCL here at NBCSports.com & Europa League here at NBCSports.com


Team news

Guardiola has gone quite conservative and safe — at least for his typically attacking nature — in the center of midfield; one could also describe the trio of Fernandinho, Rodrigo and Ilkay Gundogan as industrious. Kevin De Bruyne has been pushed out to the wing, opposite Raheem Sterling, with Gabriel Jesus up top. Sergio Aguero (knee) remains out of the team altogether.


Key battles

Manchester City – Lyon: Aymeric Laporte v. Memphis Depay

Everyone is tipping Man City to beat Lyon easily, but that’s what everyone said about Lyon against Juventus. Memphis Depay is a real threat up top and Lyon usually do very well against Man City. Pep Guardiola needs Aymeric Laporte to be at his very best and it is likely he and Fernandinho will again line up together at center back. Laporte will line up on the left and Memphis will start on the right side of Lyon’s central strikers, so this will be a battle to look out for. Laporte has class but his pace is sometimes questioned and if City leave him exposed on the break, Memphis can take advantage of those situations.

Atalanta – PSG: Marten de Roon v. Ander Herrera

Yes, that Marten de Roon from Middlesbrough. The Dutch midfielder has been a sensation at Atalanta and does most of the dirty work for Gomez, Zapata et al. to score boat loads of goals. His battle in the engine room against Ander Herrera will be crucial. Marco Verratti is out injured and that is a big blow, especially with Kylian Mbappe and Angel di Maria out too for PSG. Neymar and Icardi will be looking for the midfield to give them the ball as much as possible and if that happens, PSG could run riot. That said, if De Roon can win that battle with Herrera, Atalanta’s attackers can cause PSG’s defense big problems. Whoever wins the midfield battle will win this game. It should be tight and full of goals. Enjoy.

RB Leipzig – Atletico Madrid: Dayot Upamecano v.Diego Costa

This should be an epic head-to-head. Costa loves the one-on-one scraps and Upamecano is among the finest center backs in Europe right now. The young Frenchman doesn’t get bullied often but Costa will have a good go. Costa has hardly been prolific in his second spell at Atletico but he so often sets the tone for their scrappy displays under Diego Simeone. Leipzig like to play a back three at times and that could leave space for Costa to run at Upamecano. This will be intriguing. Watch out for Costa to put down his marker early on with elbows and everything else flying at Upamecano.

Barcelona – Bayern Munich: Lionel Messi v. David Alaba

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Okay, so, we know how Jerome Boateng v. Lionel Messi went before. Somewhere, somebody is still using that gif of Boateng tangling his own legs like spaghetti as Messi bamboozled him to score at the Nou Camp. So it’s probably best if versatile Austrian star David Alaba goes up against Messi. It’s likely that Alaba will play at the back but he should basically mark Messi, and when (or if, because this is Messi) he gets the ball back he has the quality to start attacks. Bayern and Barcelona both score plenty of goals but defensively they have to improve if they’re going to win the Champions League this season.