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CL Preview: Liverpool, Spurs have tough tests

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Premier League teams were given tough draws in the 2018/19 Champions League group stages, and that gets under way on Tuesday as Tottenham travels to Italy to take on Internazionale, while Liverpool hosts French giants Paris Saint-Germain to Anfield.

Spurs has a mountain to climb, heading into the trip on the heels of two straight Premier League defeats that saw them squander a lead at Watford and soundly beaten at home by Liverpool. Mauricio Pochettino has the task of getting Harry Kane back on track, without a goal in either of those losses.

[ PREDICTIONS: PST gives CL group stage picks ]

In addition, Tottenham has a number of significant injuries to work around. Goalkeeper Hugo Lloris has been missing since late August with a thigh strain, leaving Michel Vorm in net for the pair of league losses. Midfielder Dele Alli is also confirmed to be out after picking up a hamstring strain on international duty with England. Spurs released a video on social media showing the team departing for Italy, and neither Lloris or Alli – highly visible team stars – were not present in the video. 19-year-old Alfie Whiteman was present in the video, meaning he will likely be the backup.

Inter also comes into this match with early-season struggles, owning just one win and one draw over four matches to start the Serie A season, including a road loss at newly-promoted Parma.

Meanwhile, Liverpool welcomes PSG to England in a marquee Champions League matchup. The defending French champions have a full bill of health Merseyside, and have high hopes for their Champions League campaign after failing to progress past the Round of 16 in each of the last two seasons. “With the players they have and the manager they have, they all brought it together to go as far as possible in the Champions League and we are aware of that,” Klopp said ahead of the match.

The Reds are preparing to start Daniel Sturridge at striker, with a trio of forwards all set to miss the match. Roberto Firmino was injured in the win over Tottenham this weekend after Jan Vertonghen‘s finger went into his eye. Klopp described his fitness as “close” but it is assumed the Brazilian will miss out. Divock Origi and Dominic Solanke were both injured in a U-23 match, so they will be sidelined.

For PSG, American international Timothy Weah did not make the matchday squad, while goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon is suspended from his antics in last year’s semifinal. Marco Verratti will also sit out after being sent off in the Round of 16 loss to Real Madrid last season. Only Dani Alves and Layvin Kurzawa, who have yet to make their debuts this season, are out injured. Thiago Silva was injured late in the home win over St. Etienne over the weekend, but is expected to return in time.

Elsewhere, Barcelona hosts Dutch side PSV Eindhoven. The visitors are no slouch, having begun the Eredivisie season at the top of the table after five wins out of five, blasting ADO Den Haag and Willem II by a combined 13-1 in their most recent two games. Mexican international Hirving “Chucky” Lozano has already scored six goals this season, while Argentinian Gaston Pereiro and Steven Bergwijn each have five, although the latter’s status is questionable due to a groin problem.

Barcelona will be looking to avenge last season’s early (and stunning) Round of 16 exit, and are at full strength with Sergio Busquets and Philippe Coutinho set to return after being rested over the weekend.

AS Monaco hosts Atletico Madrid in an intriguing first leg. The Spanish side has won just once in its first four La Liga matches, with just three goals in that span. The French side has also struggled to start the season, sitting 15th in the Ligue 1 table with one win and five points in five matches. Monaco could be missing World Cup stars Alexsandr Golovin and Danijel Subašić who have yet to debut this season after struggling to regain match fitness following long summer adventures on international duty.

Christian Pulisic is set for his 100th match in yellow as Borussia Dortmund visits Belgian side Club Brugge. The American has made just one Bundesliga appearance for Dortmund this season thanks to a slight leg injury suffered in the opener against RB Leipzig, but could return on Tuesday according to ESPN. Club Brugge has not won in any of its last 10 Champions League matches, losing nine and drawing just one.

Napoli enters the European competition on a high as they visit Red Star Belgrade. The Italians, having finished second last year in the Serie A table, have wins over Lazio, AC Milan and Fiorentina to start the season, although they did inexplicably fall apart in a 3-0 loss to Sampdoria earlier this month. The hosts have had success of their own of late, into their first Champions League group stage since 1992 thanks to a come-from-behind win over Red Bull Salzburg in the playoff round. Former Le Havre youth product El Fardou Ben Mohammed scored twice in three minutes to complete the comeback, giving Belgrade the spot in the group stage on away goals after a 2-2 draw.

In addition, FC Porto visits German club Schalke, who has suffered a dreadful start to the Bundesliga season with three losses in three. Turkish side Galatasaray also hosts last year’s Russian Premier League winners Lokomotiv Moscow, who are into the Champions League group stage for the first time since the 2002/03 competition when they were also matched up against Tuesday’s opponent.

Red Bulls handle Atlético Pantoja to start CCL campaign (video)

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The New York Red Bulls didn’t need to leave it late (like DaMarcus Beasley and Houston), nor did the MLS side forget how to play (like Toronto FC).

[ MORE: Nashville gets its MLS logo ]

RBNY scooped up a 2-0 first leg defeat of Dominican Republic side Atlético Pantoja in CONCACAF Champions League play in Santo Domingo on Wednesday.

Daniel Royer inspired a first half Pantoja own goal, but it was Kaku’s looping assist to Royer that stole the show with an insurance marker in the 67th minute.

Academy product and former Wake Forest midfielder Omir Fernandez, 20, made his senior debut off the bench in the 75th minute.

Nashville SC to keep its name, unveils logo for MLS 2020

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Nashville SC will remain Nashville SC when it moves into Major League Soccer next season, the USL club announced on Wednesday.

Nashville SC’s logo is an N wearing headphones — I apologize if I’m wrong here, but that’s what I see — as the Music City becomes a welcome addition to the United States’ top flight.

[ MORE: Europa League preview ]

Stunningly The fans wanted to keep the name of the club they’ve been supporting for a few years, and former Liverpool executive Ian Ayre announced that the club will keep a color from its crest as well.

“Gold is our primary club color, and we need to own that color in the sport. As we grow as a team we want to be recognizable by our color, our name and our values as a club.”

What do you think? It certainly could’ve been worse! We look forward to the building up of a regional rivalry with FC Cincinnati, Atlanta United, Sporting KC, and maybe one day Saint Louis FC.

Sarri, Emery face 2nd leg challenges at home

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Sevilla clinched the first Round of 16 spot with a Europa League win over Lazio on Wednesday, and the other 15 berths will be settled by late Thursday.

[ MORE: PL Power Rankings ]

That includes home second legs with varying degrees of difficult for a pair of London sides from the Premier League.

Maurizio Sarri looks like he’ll need to win the Europa League in order to get Chelsea back into the Champions League, and Chelsea needs to bounce back from another poor showing while also preparing for a hardware tilt; The FA Cup loss to Manchester United was three days before Thursday’s match with Malmo, which is three days before the League Cup final against Man City.

Chelsea holds a 2-1 lead after one leg. From ChelseaFC.com:

“We have to solve a big problem because we stayed in the other half for 75 minutes out of 90, and we were not able to score. They played only 15 or 16 balls into our box and they scored two goals. We have to solve this problem. It is probably a problem of aggression, determination in both boxes.”

Arsenal has an even bigger fish to fry than recent form, down 1-0 after one leg in Belarus.

Unai Emery is hoping the North London faithful can be the difference.

“It is also very important to play in our stadium with our supporters, and we need their support for this match and I hope there is a big atmosphere for us. Together, with their support, I know our players can play and give their all. The supporters want to watch our team play with the best performance possible.

“For this reason, I think we need good feedback between the supporters and us. … We need to listen to them supporting us and the players must give them the best performance in our stadium.”

The full schedule is below.

Thursday’s Europa League second legs
All times ET

12:55 p.m. ET
Arsenal v. BATE Borisov (BATE leads 1-0)
Eintracht Frankfurt v. Shakhtar Donetsk (2-2)
Villarreal v. Sporting Lisbon (Villareal leads 1-0)
Dinamo Zagreb v. Viktoria Plzen (Plzen leads 2-1)
Zenit Saint-Petersburg v. Fenerbahce (Fener leads 1-0)
Red Bull Salzburg v. Club Brugge (Brugge leads 2-1)
Valencia v. Celtic (Valencia leads 2-0)
Napoli v. FC Zurich (Napoli leads 3-1)

3 p.m. ET
Chelsea v. Malmo (Chelsea leads 2-1)
Benfica v. Galatasaray (Benfica leads 2-1)
Rennes v. Real Betis (3-3)
Inter Milan v. Rapid Vienna (Inter leads 1-0)
Dynamo Kiev v. Olympiakos (2-2)
Bayer Leverkusen v. Krasnodar (0-0)
Racing Genk v. Prague (0-0)

Juve: ‘No use crying over spilt milk’ after ‘ugly’ first leg loss

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Max Allegri and Juventus look set to fall short of a UEFA Champions League title again, and this time are staring down an exit before the quarterfinals.

[ MORE: Match recap ]

The club has two things going for it after a 2-0 first leg loss to Atletico Madrid in Spain: The 90 minutes or more of the second leg, and Cristiano Ronaldo.

The player has already made his feelings known by setting the second leg stage with a very Patrick Roy (for you hockey fans out there) title rip.

Allegri is a bit more diplomatic, ripping Juve’s “ugly” second half at the Wanda Metropolitano but also demanding the club move past it immediately. From Football-Italia.net:

“Now we have the chance to turn this around, we must have faith, we’ll have some players back and there’s no point crying over spilt milk. We knew it was going to be tough, that Atletico Madrid force you to play badly, with a slow tempo. We moved the ball quicker in the first half, but not in the second.

“We got the approach wrong in the second half. It’s that simple. These things can happen, there will be great disappointment after this 2-0, but we can turn it around. It won’t be easy, we need a great second leg, but it can be done and we must have faith.”

And there’s Ronaldo, Dybala, and a number of world class players on his side. An inspired, spiteful Ronaldo is one thing, but take into account the man clearly carries his legacy on his hip pocket and the Portuguese hero is going to be flying come March 12 in Turin.