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Champions League preview: Liverpool, Spurs face giants

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The Champions League could have 15 of 16 knockout round berths decided by the conclusion of Wednesday’s matches, though Tottenham Hotspur is certainly hoping that’s not the case.

Spurs host Inter Milan in a must-win match at Wembley Stadium, having lost at the San Siro on the second match day. Spurs are three points behind Inter in Group B, six behind Barcelona, and the first tiebreaker is head-to-head results.

[ MORE: Leicester advances in League Cup ]

Mauricio Pochettino is striking all the right notes as Spurs hope to build on a masterful victory over Chelsea on Saturday. From Spurs’ official site:

“The most important thing is to try to replicate the same performance and attitude that we had against Chelsea. We have no excuse not to behave or perform in the same way and with the same attitude.

“We know very well that it’s not easy to play every single game in your best way but with the right attitude, everything is possible. It should be a good example to keep going, to be consistent and it’s clear that playing that way we can achieve the things we want.”

Liverpool cannot be eliminated on Wednesday, but Jurgen Klopp‘s men can advance to the knockout rounds with a defeat of Paris Saint-Germain.

Yet a win is doubly important at the Parc des Princes; Not only would it mean that PSG cannot catch the Reds in Group C, it would open the door to equal footing with Manchester United the next match week.

The Red Devils head to Anfield on Dec. 16, four days after their final group stage match, but Manchester United knows it’s on to the next round and could only win Group H with a win and an unlikely Juventus loss to Young Boys in Switzerland.

Liverpool will have something big to play for in its midweek match against Napoli. It’ll either be for Group H, or the second spot in the group. But the former is obviously preferable to the latter, and Klopp may prioritize the league to being a seeded team for the knockout rounds.

Then again, there’s little need for motivation. This is the Champions League, in Paris, against star-studded PSG. Here is Klopp:

“We are here, we didn’t ever think negatively about it, we were looking forward to the game in Paris. We don’t play here very often and it’s a big task. It’s just really exciting and the more difficult it is, the more I enjoy the preparation because you have to think about pretty much everything: how to defend this and that, how to avoid this and that, and how to play football yourself because that’s the most important thing.

“It is a thing Paris is not used to that much in the league because they are so dominant – we have to make sure that they are not that dominant against us. When we have our possession we [have to] do something smart with that. That’s all in two training sessions, actually one, today. The weather was not too good in Liverpool but the boys were 100 per cent focused for 60, 70 minutes on the pitch, fully concentrated and hopefully you can see that tomorrow night.”

Full Wednesday slate

Lokomotiv Moscow vs. Galatasaray — 12:55 p.m. ET
Atletico Madrid vs. AS Monaco — 12:55 p.m. ET
Borussia Dortmund vs. Club Brugge — 3 p.m. ET
PSG vs. Liverpool — 3 p.m. ET
Napoli vs. Red Star Belgrade — 3 p.m. ET
PSV Eindhoven vs. Barcelona — 3 p.m. ET
Tottenham Hotspur vs. Inter Milan — 3 p.m. ET
Porto vs. Schalke — 3 p.m. ET

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