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Saturday int’l friendly previews: Denmark vs. Mexico, Hungary vs. Australia

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World Cup squads continue to warm up with just a week to go before the big dance, and there is another full slate of games on Saturday.

France hosts the United States as Didier Deschamps’ squad faces its final test before departing to Russia, while the USMNT has its last of a three-game international break that’s seen a number of young faces get invaluable playing time. Check out the full preview of France vs. United States here.

Elsewhere in the world…

Denmark vs. Mexico

Both these teams have aspirations of reaching the knockout stage, so this should be quite a good test for both teams as to where they stand heading into the tournament. Denmark will need to beat Peru in group stage play, a team that plays a relatively similar style to Mexico. El Tri, meanwhile, has two European sides in its group in the form of Germany and Sweden.

More is riding on this match for Denmark, as they have truly struggled to score of late. In their last five matches, they’ve scored three goals, including a pair of 0-0 draws their last two times out. With nobody else to support Christian Eriksen, it’s been relatively simple for opposing teams to lock down the creative force. Can Age Haride figure out how to give his talisman some help?

Mexico, meanwhile, is incredible defensive form. El Tri has conceded just a single goal over five matches in the 2018 calendar year. It hasn’t been terribly pretty up front, but it’s not exactly cause for alarm just yet.

Hungary vs. Australia

Australia downed a struggling Czech Republic 4-0 last time out, and the Socceroos would head into the World Cup with a serious barrel of confidence if they can achieve a similar result against Hungary. 27-year-old Matthew Leckie scored a pair in that win, and the Hertha winger will prove an important piece to any potential Australia success.

It’s the opposite across the field, where Hungary comes into their final tuneup with just three wins to eight losses in 12 matches since the start of the 2017 calendar year. They’ve dropped game to Kazakhstan and Scotland so far in 2018, most recently playing to a 1-1 draw against lowly Belarus. Manager Georges Leekens has yet to pick up a win since taking over in November, and things aren’t looking up for the National Eleven.

Sweden vs. Peru

Peru is one of the more intriguing sides in the entire 2018 World Cup, and a win over fellow participant Sweden would be a stellar sendoff to the big dance. With captain Paolo Guerrera back in action and needing minutes, look for him to at least make an appearance for the South American side.

[ MORE: 2018 World Cup dark horses ]

Sweden, however, has won just once since topping Italy in their UEFA qualification playoff match. A drab scroeless draw with Denmark did little to quiet the doubters heading into the World Cup, and staring down a tough group with Mexico, Germany, and South Korea, a win over Peru would go a long way towards renewing confidence in the side.

Serbia vs. Bolivia

The Serbian squad desperately needs playing time together, and these 90 minutes will be as important as any. Manager Mladen Krstajic has brought in a number of talented players who haven’t spent much time on the pitch together, and while there’s plenty of excitement surrounding striker Aleksandr Mitrovic, midfielder Sergej Milinkovic-Savic, and winger Adem Ljajic, the trio have very little game time together in the past few years due to the banishment of the latter pair under previous management.

[ MORE: Serbia World Cup preview ]

SMS in particular has just three caps to his name despite a heaping of potential, and has played just 45 minutes of national team time in 2018. Look for him to see his first full 90 minutes since his international debut in early November.

Tunisia vs. Spain

With Germany sputtering to a 2-1 win over Saudi Arabia today, Spain will want to bounce back from a shaky 90 minutes of their own as they visit Tunisia. A first-choice Spain squad drew 1-1 with Switzerland in their last match on Sunday, where they held 65% and popped off 18 shots but managed just a single goal. The top teams aren’t exactly convincing in the last few weeks, but that could be down to experimentation more than anything else.

Israel vs. Argentina

Argentina’s last two years have been a roller coaster ride, there’s no debating. In their last four matches alone, they’ve demolished Haiti 4-0 and passed Italy 2-0, but also lost to Nigeria 4-2 and were stomped by Spain 6-1. A comprehensive and convincing win over Israel would be a good way to enter World Cup play, but there’s no skirting around the fact that Argentina is more of a wild card in the 2018 tournament than they have been in quite some time. Will manager Jorge Sampaoli haul out a strong starting eleven against Israel, or will he rest the starters and put health above all else? He has a lot to sort out, that’s for sure.

UCL, Live: Chelsea v. Bayern; Napoli v. Barcelona

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The 2019-20 UEFA Champions League is back and the Round of 16 games continue this week as Chelsea host Bayern Munich and Barcelona head to Napoli in what should be two epic battles.

[ LIVE: Champions League scores

This is arguably the biggest test yet for Frank Lampard‘s Chelsea youngsters as they face the German giants Bayern who are in imperious form in Europe and have Robert Lewandowski leading their charge. What Chelsea lack in experience they make up for in talent and despite some attacking injuries, Lampard will be keen to take the game to Bayern at Stamford Bridge. Given Chelsea’s defensive flaws so far this season, their best form of defense is attack.

Lampard knows Chelsea must lock down Lewandowski and his battle with Antonio Rudiger is one, among many, we are really looking forward to.

[ MORE: Which Premier League team(s) will reach last eight? ]

Elsewhere, Barcelona warmed up for their big trip to Napoli in fine style as Lionel Messi scored four times in a thumping win against Eibar in La Liga on Saturday. Messi, 32, will be Barca’s main men in the cauldron that is the Estadio San Paolo and despite their patchy form in Serie A, Gennaro Gatusso’s Napoli are a dangerous proposition in the Champions League. Especially at home in Naples.

Below is the full schedule for the two UCL last 16 first leg games on Tuesday, with bothgames kicking off at 3 p.m. ET. You can follow the action live by clicking on the link above.


Tuesday Champions League action

Chelsea v. Bayern Munich
Napoli v. Barcelona

Premier League player Power Rankings

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Our latest Premier League player Power Rankings are here and there are new faces pushing their way into the upper echelons.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule

Stars from Premier League giants Liverpool, Man United, Arsenal, Man City and Wolves dominate our power rankings after some impressive performances and there are plenty of new entries and plenty of players from the same teams.

[ MORE: Club Power Rankings

Remember: this is a list of the top 20 performing players right now in the Premier League. If they didn’t play in the last matchweek, they aren’t getting in this list!

Let us know in the comments section below if you agree with the selections.


1. Anthony Martial (Man United) – New entry
2. Diogo Jota (Wolves) – New entry
3. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (Arsenal) – Up 16
4. Olivier Giroud (Chelsea) – New entry
5. Kevin De Bruyne (Man City) – Up 6
6. Richarlison (Everton) – Up 1
7. Dwight McNeil (Burnley) – New entry
8. Sadio Mane (Liverpool) – Up 2
9. Moussa Djenepo (Southampton) – New entry
10. Bukayo Saka (Arsenal) – Down 5
11. Raul Jimenez (Wolves) – New entry
12. Bruno Fernandes (Man United) – Up 4
13. Dani Ceballos (Arsenal) – Down 9
14. Mohamed Salah (Liverpool) – Even
15. Martin Dubravka (Newcastle) – New entry
16. Roberto Firmino (Liverpool) – Down 4
17. Harry Maguire (Man United) – Down 9
18. Aaron Wan-Bissaka (Man United) – Down 12
19. Stuart Armstrong (Southampton) – New entry
20. Nicolas Pepe (Arsenal) – Down 7

Key battles: Chelsea v. Bayern; Real Madrid v. Man City

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Two Premier League teams play in the UEFA Champions League Round of 16 this week as Chelsea host Bayern Munich and Man City head to Real Madrid in the first legs.

Which battles will determine the outcome of these games?

[ MORE: Predicting the UCL last 16 encounters ]

Below we take a look at three crucial head-to-head clashes which will be pivotal in deciding which teams will reach the quarterfinals.


Chelsea v. Bayern Munich

Antonio Rudiger v. Robert Lewandowski: The former has become a real threat from set pieces for Chelsea but his main role will be to stop the most lethal striker in Europe this season in Lewandowski’s. Bayern’s target man is ageing like a fine French win and has 40 goals to his name in all competitions for club and country. Chelsea’s defense has struggled at times this season and Lewa must be licking his chops in anticipation as he tries to win his first-ever Champions League title.

Jorginho v. Thiago Alcantara: Two pass-masters in central midfield will be a joy to watch. Jorginho has a more defensive role to play with N’Golo Kante out and the Italian will look to deliver perfectly weighted passes to get Chelsea’s attack going. As for Thiago, his vision works really well alongside some of Bayern’s more defensive midfielders and he is so assured in possession. The Spanish international has class on the ball and he and Jorginho are very similar. What a battle this should be.

Reece James v. Alphonso Davies: This is a battle we should all look forward to. Canadian star Davies has been a revelation at left back for Bayern and is encouraged to steam ahead and join in attacks whenever he can. James does exactly the same for Chelsea and has made the position his own in his debut season in the Premier League. These two players will be around at the top level and playing in the Champions League for a very long time and you can expect incisive runs up and down as they go head-to-head.

Real Madrid v. Man City

Casemiro v. Kevin De Bruyne: This will be one heck of a job for Real’s Brazilian destroyer. Of course, Casemiro can play too but his main role will be to shut down Kevin de Bruyne who has been in imperious form for Man City in recent weeks. When KDB is fit and firing on all cylinders he is almost unstoppable and he is a player who continues to be linked with a move to Real this summer amid the uncertainty over Man City’s two-season European ban.

Sergio Ramos v. Sergio Aguero: The master of the dark arts against the master of finishing will be fascinating viewing. The Sergio’s will put on a show and Aguero will fancy his chances of wriggling past Ramos and being the hero. That said, how many times have we written off Ramos in the past? The Real Madrid and Spain skipper seems to always find a way of coming out on top but he will be stretched to his limits as his Real defense try to put out fires all over the place with Aguero, KDB and Raheem Sterling or Gabriel Jesus popping up.

Karim Benzema v. Aymeric Laporte: The latter has been influential since his return from injury and his absence is the main reason Man City are so far behind Liverpool in the Premier League title race. Benzema’s physicality could cause Laporte some issues and like Ramos, he is underrated for a player who has been pivotal in winning four Champions League titles with Real Madrid. Laporte is good on the ball and Benzema’s clever turns and flicks means this battle will be more about brains than brawn.

Lyon-Juventus gets green light despite virus concerns

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LYON, France (AP) French club Lyon says its sold-out Champions League home game against Juventus will go ahead as planned on Wednesday despite the coronavirus outbreak in nearby Italy.

Lyon said in a statement on Tuesday it received the go-ahead from French authorities for the match to take place “in its initial configuration.”

Up to 3,000 Juventus fans coming from different regions of Italy are expected to attend Groupama Stadium for the last-16, first-leg match.

The fast-spreading virus from China has led to the postponement of Serie A games in northern Italy, where a cluster of the COVID-19 disease has caused seven deaths and towns to be locked down.

Health Minister Olivier Veran told RTL radio on Tuesday that France is not considering closing its border with Italy, nor banning big gatherings of people because it would not make sense.

Asked specifically about the Lyon-Juventus match, Veran said: “Should we ban gatherings? Should we stop the (Paris) Fashion Week? Should we stop matches? Should we close universities? The answer is no.”

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