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UCL Weds: Just watch the fireworks

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With apologies to Cristiano Ronaldo’s amazing goal and a standout day for Franck Ribery and Bayern Munich, Tuesday’s UEFA Champions League fixtures feel a bit like the buildup to Wednesday’s ffering.

[ RECAPS: Juve-Real | Sevilla-Bayern ]

That’s because Premier League powers Manchester City and Liverpool begin their UCL quarterfinal at 2:45 p.m. ET, the same time Lionel Messi’s Barcelona tangles with Daniele De Rossi and AS Roma.

Liverpool vs. Man City

The first leg at Anfield will be memorably loud at the jump, as Liverpool supporters feel their status as the only club to trip up City in a meaningful match this season is just the tip of the iceberg.

The Reds fell 5-0 in the first meeting of the season, and did nearly give away the farm after building a 4-1 lead at Anfield on Jan. 14, but there are only a select few sides with the attacking firepower to put a scare into Man City, and Jurgen Klopp‘s trident of Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino, and Sadio Mane is one of them.

[ MORE: How will Liverpool, Man City line up? ]

Another perceived advantage for the Reds is Man City’s surprising history at Anfield; Liverpool has only lost once to City in 37 years. Kevin De Bruyne is not worried.

“In the end, people talk about these things but I’ve only been here two and a half years,” De Bruyne said. “This is only the second time I’ll play here. It’s different, but at the end of the day, it’s just a game and now we play two games home and away and we have to try to manage tomorrow, get a lead if possible, if not we can finish it next week.”

Joel Matip is out for the rest of Liverpool’s season, but the Reds defense won’t have to contend with Sergio Aguero (at least not Wednesday).

Barcelona vs. AS Roma

There’s no questions visiting i Lupi is the supreme underdog of the round, and their chances of sneaking up on Barcelona are slim to none.

Ernesto Valverde has a chance to lead Barca to the UCL title in his first season in charge, and said Roma “are no surprise package. If you look at their matches in the group stages, they played really well.”

Roma boss Eusebio Di Francesco is still playing with house money after winning a group with Chelsea and Atletico Madrid. He may not have Radja Nainngolan at his disposal, but there’s plenty of steel around starting with De Rossi.

“We’re going up against a team that forces you onto the back foot. You can see it in the statistics and in their approach. Every footballer, though, has to have as part of their temperament the ability to handle the pressure of these situations, particularly if you play for an important club. You have to be prepared to take risks, to believe in better. The mentality that ‘what will be will be’ is dangerous though; our objective is to prepare as much as possible so that we can make it a competitive match.”

Carlos Vela scored a celestial goal. We are blessed to have seen it

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Carlos Vela is making all other spectacular individual MLS seasons look run of the mill.

I mean, look at the gumption on this guy.

[ VIDEO: Rooney sent off, Kamara scores golazo ]

The Cancun-born playmaker left the San Jose Earthquakes back line on the beach with a soft shoe routine to give LAFC its third goal in a 4-0 win on Thursday

Vela, 30, now has 25 goals and 11 assists in 25 league matches for LAFC this season. He added two goals and an assist in Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup play.

But this one, yeah, this one takes the cake.

First, there’s Vela’s non-chalant dummy before picking up the pass.

Then, there’s Florian Jungwirth’s body language during and after his being cooked with a nutmeg. That’s an entire mood.

Next, Vela dribbles around the keeper and allows a slide tackler so glide past him before finishing with aplomb, the magic touch his going near post as if to say, “Can I beat this guy a second time, or do I have to use the easier route?”

Diego Rossi also had a goal and an assist, while Mark-Anthony Kaye continued his strong season with an assist to ex-Fiorentina prospect Joshua Perez. It’s a first MLS goal for the California-born Perez, now 21.

WATCH: Rooney sees red for forearm shiver, Kamara scores golazo

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Midweek MLS provided plenty to talk about on Wednesday, with two red cards and a golazo in one match alone.

The two main talking points from the New York Red Bulls’ 2-1 win over DC United weren’t really part of what led the victors to three points.

[ MORE: Europa League preview ]

How? Well, one of the world’s marquee names earned a red card via VAR and a returning star scores an absolute stunner, that’s how.

Here’s Ola Kamara’s debut marker for the Black-and-Red, adding to a record which included 49 goals in 97 matches between Columbus and the LA Galaxy before moving to the Chinese Super League for a wildly disappointing time with Shenzhen FC.

All of that is forgotten.

As for the Rooney incident, the Red Bulls already led 1-0 when DC’s star striker went forearm shiver on Cristian Casseres Jr.

It’s the second red of the season for Rooney, who is set for Derby County in January.

Amro Tarek was later sent off for the Red Bulls, who moved ahead of DC in the standings. Kaku and Daniel Royer had RBNY’s goals.

Newcastle takeover could be back on if in holiday relegation battle

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How much do Newcastle United supporters dislike their owner Mike Ashley right now?

Enough that this report is likely to condemn many to hoping their favorite club in the world is in the Bottom 3 come Christmas.

[ MORE: Europa League preview ]

The Chronicle’s Mark Douglas speculates that Ashley will lower his asking price for the club if it is in a relegation fight come December — something that looks certain after the Steve Bruce-led Magpies got bossed around by promoted Norwich City.

Nothing But Newcastle transcribed Douglas’ chatter from his podcast, in which he says,

“It wouldn’t surprise me if we hear more in December because there are still people sniffing around that football club and if the team are in the bottom three, there’ll be people thinking they can get a bargain out of Mike Ashley again. … He will probably more open to listening to lower offers in January and December which is what happened last December. He was basically saying ‘take it off my hands, you now have to take the risk’'”

This is notable for two reasons. First: the social experiment of wondering how many fans could see themselves rooting for their team to take a major and perilous back step just to see the back of a man they perceive is at the root of their failures (and that perception is widespread in this case).

But second, we can see if this rumor comes true because it’s difficult to imagine Newcastle as comfortably mid table by Christmas.

Fan protests and anger are nothing new, but here’s an effort to show how wobbly Ashley’s reputation is on Tyneside: Fans have taken to selling a black and white striped shirt with player name and number but no sponsor just so they can have a Newcastle jersey that doesn’t put money into Ashley’s pockets. And this is after he broke the club’s transfer record twice in one year.

If we’ve learned anything from the past few seasons, though, it’s that boycotts and anger will spur Ashley into insisting that he’s willing to sell and just conveniently enough it will be before the January transfer window. He “won’t be able to buy any players” with the takeover in play, and talks will hit a wall come late January, when they’ll loan a couple young players from Top Six sides.

Yes he spent significant money on Joelinton, Allen Saint-Maximin, and others this summer, but one decent window doesn’t make a culture. Count us amongst the skeptical, for now.

Messi back in training, could be fit for Betis

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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) Lionel Messi was back in full training again on Wednesday and may be fit to face Real Betis in the Spanish league on Sunday.

Messi had been training separately from the squad since injuring his right calf in the preseason.

He missed the team’s 1-0 loss to Athletic Bilbao in the league opener on Friday.

Barcelona has not said how long it expects Messi to be sidelined.

[ MORE: Europa League preview ]

Coach Ernesto Valverde is also dealing with injuries to forwards Luiz Suarez and Ousmane Dembele.

Dembele is certain to miss Sunday’s match at the Camp Nou because of a left thigh injury that should keep him out for about five weeks.

Suarez also isn’t likely to play this weekend because of a muscle injury sustained before halftime of Friday’s game in Bilbao.

Two-time defending champion Barcelona hadn’t loss a league opener in 10 seasons.

More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/apf-Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports