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Champions League wrap: PAOK, PSV have big away days

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Liverpool still has hope of joining Pot 2 in this season’s UEFA Champions League, as big time underdogs PAOK Salonika picked up a valuable away goal and 1-1 draw at Benfica in the first leg of their UCL playoff round tie.

[ WATCH: Lichaj assists for Hull ]

The Reds will provide the possibility of a horror group if Benfica wins, which was widely expected, moving Liverpool from Pot 2 to 3 and leaving open the possibility of a group like Barcelona, Borussia Dortmund, Liverpool, and Inter Milan.

The second legs are Aug. 29, while three more ties begin Wednesday.

Here’s what happened Tuesday in Belarus, Portugal, and Serbia.

Benfica 1-1 PAOK Salonika

PAOK is the bookies’ biggest underdog in the round, and Pizzi’s first half stoppage time penalty had things looking like business as usual in Portugal.

But Egyptian winger Amr Warda found Sebastian Varela’s shot off the cross bar and deposited the rebound to give PAOK the upper hand heading back to Greece.

BATE Borisov 2-3 PSV Eindhoven

Goals for each side inside of the final three minutes at Borisov Arena in Belarus provided a thrilling ending, but may take a lot of the luster off the second leg in the Netherlands.

PSV led 2-1 on goals from Gaston Pereiro and El Tri star Hirving Lozano, when 37-year-old Alexander Hleb — yes, the former Arsenal and Barcelona man — scored an 88th minute equalizer. A minute later, Donyell Malin scored to put the Dutch side back on top.

Red Star Belgrade 0-0 Red Bull Salzburg

The Austrian visitors had a lot of the ball, but shots were even as the tie leaves Serbia without a goal.

Report: Van Bronckhorst to take NYCFC job as Man City pre-test

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Giovanni van Bronckorst is going to get a sort of Man City dress rehearsal in Major League Soccer.

On the heels of a September report that Van Bronckhorst was being eased into City Football Group with an “all-access pass” to Pep Guardiola, The Daily Mirror has issued a new one.

[ MORE: 1-on-1 with Claudio Reyna ]

Van Bronckhorst has been familiarizing himself with all of City Football Group’s clubs, the report says, and will take hold of New York City FC under old friend Claudio Reyna with a view to a bigger job within the company.

Sources in Holland insist that Van Bronkhorst would be unlikely to accept the New York job if there was no plan for him to eventually move into a more prominent role inside the CFG.

He has Champions League experience and has a number of close friends inside the group, including former Rangers team-mate Claudio Reyna, who is New York’s director of football.

The idea is that Van Bronckhorst is of very similar mind to Pep Guardiola, and that Man City wants to keep the same style of football once the Catalan genius decides to leave Manchester.

Here’s the only odd note of that report, assuming that Van Bronckhorst brings the A-game that saw him win the Eredivisie and two KNVB Cups with Feyenoord: This appointment seemingly presumes that Mikel Arteta is not considered first choice to replace Guardiola when he leaves town (although perhaps Arteta has told the club he’ll be looking for a first chair job before Pep skips town, or has been told he needs first chair experience to ).

Guardiola is contracted through 2022, and it’s reasonable to think he could leave early if the side wins its first Champions League or comes back to claim the Premier League’s first league three-peat since Manchester United turned the trick in 2009.

Berhalter trims USMNT roster to 23, awaits Pulisic update

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Here we go!

Gregg Berhalter has taken the axe to his training camp roster and announced the 23 men who will hopefully lead the USMNT into the CONCACAF Nations League semifinals.

[ MORE: Liverpool’s title to lose ]

The Yanks need to beat Canada in Orlando on Friday and then Cuba in the Cayman Islands four days later, having lost to the Canucks 2-0 in Toronto and blasted Cuba in Washington, D.C.

Christian Pulisic remains a question mark with a hip injury and is not currently listed amongst the 23, with the USSF saying in a press release:

After originally being named to the roster last week, the availability of attacker Christian Pulisic remains uncertain after he suffered a hip injury during Chelsea’s match against Crystal Palace on Saturday. He continues to be evaluated and a decision on whether he will join the U.S. camp in Orlando is expected soon.

Doesn’t sound great, to be honest, if only because his name’s not on the list. Why not just name 24? Surely, because there are rules!

The USSF also announced that Michael Bradley suffered an ankle injury playing for Toronto FC in the MLS Cup Final and is unavailable for duty.

Berhalter sent Corey Baird and Chase Gasper home, electing to call-up MLS Cup winners Jordan Morris and Cristian Roldan.

Here is the full roster, again without Pulisic

Goalkeepers: Brad Guzan (Atlanta United, Sean Johnson (New York City FC), Matt Turner (New England Revolution)

Defenders: John Brooks (Wolfsburg), Reggie Cannon (FC Dallas), Sergiño Dest (Ajax), Nick Lima (San Jose Earthquakes), Aaron Long (New York Red Bulls), Daniel Lovitz (Montreal Impact), Tim Ream (Fulham/ENG), DeAndre Yedlin (Newcastle United, Walker Zimmerman (LAFC)

Midfielders: Sebastian Lletget (LA Galaxy), Weston McKennie (Schalke), Alfredo Morales (Fortuna Düsseldorf), Cristian Roldan (Seattle Sounders FC), Jackson Yueill (San Jose Earthquakes), Wil Trapp (Columbus Crew)

Forwards: Paul Arriola (D.C. United), Tyler Boyd (Besiktas), Jordan Morris (Seattle Sounders), Josh Sargent (Werder Bremen), Gyasi Zardes (Columbus Crew)

Mancini says he wants Balotelli back with Italy on merits

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FLORENCE, Italy (AP) — Italy coach Roberto Mancini says he prefers to recall Mario Balotelli for his qualities as a player, not as a message against racism.

Balotelli has not been called up by Mancini in more than a year but Italian soccer federation president Gabriele Gravina has said naming him in the squad would send a strong message after the Brescia forward was racially abused recently.

Mancini said Monday that “if Balotelli gets another chance, it will be because he deserves it from a technical point of view.”

Balotelli was included in Mancini’s first two squads but again was omitted from upcoming European qualifiers against Bosnia-Herzegovina and Armenia.

Balotelli has long said his goal is to rejoin the national team for next year’s European Championship.

The 29-year-old striker has scored two goals in seven matches this season.

Cardiff City parts ways with Neil Warnock

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Cardiff City has fired manager Neil Warnock with the 70-year-old boss in his fourth season with the club.

The Bluebirds sit 14th in the Championship table, on a six-match run that features just a single win.

Warnock’s tenure at Cardiff City featured promotion from the Championship in 2017/18 via a second-place finish in the league table. It wouldn’t last long, as they were relegated the next year, finishing 18th, two points back of Brighton Hove & Albion in safety.

“I am leaving my beloved Bluebirds after over three years of which have been some of the best days in my long football career,” Warnock said, with the club officially stating the decision came via mutual consent. “It is a shared belief that this is the right time for a new voice as we believe this squad of players is more than capable of getting success.”

“On behalf of Cardiff City Football Club, I thank Neil for his invaluable contribution to the future of this great Club,” said Cardiff City FC Chairman Mehmet Dalman in a club statement. “He not only gained promotion in his first season but played a pivotal role in uniting the fans and the club. I am personally upset by his departure and wish him the very best for the future.”

At 70 years old and completing his 17th managerial stint with 15 different clubs, it is possible that Warnock’s managerial career is complete. The Sheffield-born former Barnsley player, who turns 71 in less than a month, has taken charge of 112 Premier League games and overseen a record eight promotion campaigns in his career to date.

At Cardiff, Warnock took charge of 144 matches total, with 59 wins. He was in the position for the death of Emiliano Sala, which he called “by far the most difficult week of my career.”