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Tim Weah can’t escape famous name on back of PSG, USA jersey

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WHIPPANY, N.J. (AP) Tim Weah knows he can’t escape the name on the back on his jersey.

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The 18-year-old midfielder is the son of George Weah, the 1995 FIFA Player of the Year and current president of Liberia.

“I use that to my advantage,” Tim Weah said at training with the U.S. national team this week ahead of Friday’s exhibition against Brazil. “With whatever I do, there’s always going to be hate, there’s always going to be people who are going to say, `He’s not as good as his dad.”‘

Weah made his U.S. debut in March, just weeks after making his first senior appearance for Paris Saint-Germain, one of his dad’s former teams. Tim Weah in May became the fourth-youngest American to score, got his first competitive goal for PSG in the French Cup last month, and then scored his first Ligue 1 goal in the season opener against Caen.

His hair newly trimmed, Weah reported to camp as the youngest on the 25-man roster, already viewed as a possible part of a new-look U.S. national team for 2022 World Cup qualifying. He’s trying to join a forming core that includes midfielders Christian Pulisic and Tyler Adams (both 19), midfielder Weston McKennie and defender Cameron Carter-Vickers (both 20) and defender Matt Miazga (23).

“You still have the next step. You can’t jump three places,” cautioned interim U.S. coach Dave Sarachan. “I think Tim’s certainly coming in with confidence, and he now knows me, my staff, this team, what’s expected. But he’s still very young, and so we can’t expect him to be a seasoned guy today.”

Weah is with a PSG team coming off its fifth league title in six seasons, on a roster that includes stars Neymar, Kylian Mbappe, Edinson Cavani and Angel Di Maria. He had the chance to accept a loan for the 2018-19 season but stayed at PSG under new coach Thomas Tuchel, who in early 2016 gave Pulisic his debut with Borussia Dortmund’s senior team.

“Watching Dortmund, seeing Christian play so many games at his age, really made me believe in his coaching tactics and techniques,” Weah said. “He’s really pushing us young guys to make our mark and get out there and do our thing, and that’s what makes him happy the most. And I love him as a coach and I love him as a person. He’s just really pushed me to be a better player, and I can’t wait to see where the season takes us.”

Weah is the rare player who would rather learn in training than seek increased playing time elsewhere.

“I don’t really want to rush anything. I’m only 18 – I’m still 18 and I have a long way to go, and right now is just me being an apprentice,” he said. “Maybe next year, who knows, I’ll take my talents on loan somewhere else and see what that really does for me, but right now I’m content with what I have and I’m content at PSG.”

George Weah endorses that mindset.

“He tells me, `Just wait your turn,”‘ Tim Weah said. “You’re playing with stars. It’s not going to happen immediately.”

Weah’s first league goal was the result of unusual drudgery. With PSG ahead by two goals in the 89th minute, he chased down a back pass to defender Alexander Djiku, who played the ball back to goalkeeper Brice Samba. Weah kept tracking back and when Samba took a touch and failed to clear the ball, Weah pounced and kicked the ball in with his left foot from 2 yards before the keeper could get a second touch.

“I stayed persistent,” Weah said. “I ran after the goalkeeper. And I think that’s the thing that we’ve got to look at, is me not giving up on the play. And I feel like hard work really does pay off, as that goal shows.”

Born in Brooklyn at a time his dad commuted from Europe to New York between games, Weah grew up in the New York area and Florida, then moved to France to join PSG’s academy at age 14. He believes he is part of the group that can reboot the U.S. team, which failed to qualify for the World Cup after seven straight appearances.

“We can only go forward. We’re still young, super young,” Weah said. “We have something big here, and it’s just developing in the right way, us getting used to each other and gaining maturity and I think that’s the most important thing. And once we have that, we’ll beat any team and I feel we can even do that now. But it’s just a matter of time before things start clicking together and we start getting the job done.”

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Champions League preview: Spurs host Leipzig, Valencia visits Atalanta

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Two more UEFA Champions League Round of 16 ties kickoff Wednesday, including one being labeled as the biggest in a club’s existence.

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That would be Serie A side Atalanta, which hosts Valencia at 3 p.m. at Gewiss Stadium.

Atalanta had played in two consecutive Europa Leagues, but this is their first move into the Champions League. To make the knockout rounds is exceptional, and club president Antonio Percassi is fired up.

“We must be honest, this is the most important game in the history of this club,” Percassi told Sky Sport Italia. “It doesn’t seem real. It’s exciting just thinking that tomorrow we’ll be in a Champions League Round of 16. It’s wonderful for our fans too. … This is going to be a unique experience that will stay with us for the rest of our lives.”

Atalanta finished second in its group to Manchester City, and is fourth in Serie A. Valencia won its group.

There’s a Premier League side in action on Wednesday, too, as Spurs begin life without Heung-Min Son.

Jose Mourinho spun a tale about how badly Tottenham will need its fans against RB Leipzig, comparing the home-field advantage to an emergency rescue crew of sorts.

Leipzig is led by Julian Nagelsmann, who was once referred to as “Baby Mourinho” by his players.

The 32-year-old was quick to distance himself from the story.

“Tomorrow it is Leipzig against Tottenham, not Mourinho v. Baby Mourinho,” he said. “I have great respect for Mourinho. He has won lots of titles with big clubs, the Champions League twice. He has made his mark on European football at some big European clubs. I think it his 59th knockout game in the CL and it is my first so there is obviously respect there.”

Liverpool’s Robertson not a fan of Atletico Madrid theatrics

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Liverpool fullback Andy Robertson was not impressed with Atletico Madrid’s display as his side fell 1-0 in the first leg of the UEFA Champions League’s Round of 16 tie on Tuesday.

The Reds fell behind on a fourth-minute Saul Niguez goal and couldn’t get a shot on target despite 73 percent possession in Spain.

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Atleti executed its plan to near-perfection, slowing restarts and taking advantage of counterattacking opportunities to assuage the constant pressure of Liverpool.

At times it was reminiscent of early-century Italian national team play, and both neutrals and Liverpool knew what they were in for once Atleti took the lead.

“We gave them the best possible start to get the fans behind them and then they can start falling over and things like that, trying to get under our skin a bit which I think we handled quite well to be honest,” Robertson told BT Sport. “We know we are better than (how they played). We put in a decent performance and we can be better than that. Luckily we have got a second leg to put it right.”

Given the performance and the reputation, you’d still fancy the Reds to “put it right” at Anfield. Jurgen Klopp thinks Atleti will feel plenty of pressure at Anfield, and he will certainly feel the officiating will be more to his liking.

Liverpool’s Klopp: ‘Our people will be ready’ for second leg at Anfield

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Jurgen Klopp didn’t have any issue with Diego Simeone’s defense-first Atletico Madrid in the first leg of their UEFA Champions League Round of 16 tie on Tuesday.

The Spanish side flummoxed Liverpool’s attack and the Reds didn’t manage a shot on target despite eight attempts and 73 percent possession at the Wanda Metropolitano.

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What Klopp didn’t appreciate was the referee’s work, though, implying that Polish official Szymon Marciniak was overwhelmed by the occasion. Marciniak has worked UCL matches for six seasons, twice overseeing quarterfinal ties.

Klopp was shown a yellow card in the second half, and the Liverpool boss felt Sadio Mane was harassed by Atleti. Klopp removed yellow-carrying Mane at halftime.

“He was targeted obviously,” Klopp said after the game. “The only thing they wanted was to make sure he got a yellow card. The score is 1-0, that’s all but you need to be really strong as a ref in this atmosphere. So many things happened, after 30 minutes already three players were on the ground. The first yellow card was a striker from us. I’m not sure they even got a yellow card, which is funny.”

Atleti’s Angel Correa was shown a yellow, while Klopp, Mane, and Joe Gomez were cautioned for Liverpool.

The Liverpool boss found himself laughing a few times, especially when he was asked about Simeone’s touchline personality.

Klopp said before the game that if the German was a four in intensity, then Simeone was a 12. Simeone followed suit by constantly urging the crowd to get behind the home side on Tuesday.

That didn’t bother Klopp, but he issued a public relations officer’s dream in reacting to it.

“Wow, wow,” he laughed. “That’s energy. I don’t think I have to do it that much (at Anfield). Our people will be ready. Welcome to Anfield. It’s not over yet.”

Klopp finished his remarks by saying of Jordan Henderson‘s removal from the game with a hamstring injury, “I hope it was a precaution, but I’m not 100 percent sure”

Haaland wins first leg after Borussia Dortmund-PSG comes to life late

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Erling Haaland scored twice in a mid-second half flurry as Borussia Dortmund beat Paris Saint-Germain 2-1 in the first leg of their UEFA Champions League Round of 16 tie on Tuesday.

The hosts also got an assist from teenager Giovanni Reyna, who became the youngest American to appear in a Champions League match.

Haaland now has 39 goals in 29 appearances between Red Bull Salzburg and BVB, 11 of those for his new German employer.

Neymar scored off a Kylian Mbappe goal for PSG, who brings an away goal back to the Parc des Princes for a March 11 second leg.

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Neymar had an early free kick, missing just wide of the far post.

Jadon Sancho troubled the keeper twice in the first half hour, first with a cross that Mats Hummels headed over goal. Then, Keylor Navas picked another Sancho offering out of the air.

Sancho kept serving, and Erling Haaland couldn’t turn a promising cross on target.

Dortmund walked into halftime with a scoreless match but a 7-2 edge in shot attempts. Neither of PSG’s shots were on target.

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Borussia Dortmund boss Lucien Favre put in American teen Giovani Reyna in the 67th minute.

Two minutes later, it was 1-0 to the hosts through Haaland’s close-range goal.

Neymar replied from close range himself after a powerful, clever dribble from Kylian Mbappe led to a pass through the box.

But Haaland got his second in the 77th minute with a scorching shot that serves as the first senior assist of Reyna’s senior career with Dortmund (Watch it here).