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Europa League preview: Scottish powers, AC Milan in focus

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Let’s be real: There are few top teams still working for their Europa League lives — and we’ll get to them — but there’s much more intrigue regarding the eight new teams set to join the competition after finishing third in their group at the Champions League.

[ MORE: Who can PL clubs draw in UCL? ]

Here are the new boys:

Club Brugge
Inter Milan
Napoli
Galatasaray
Benfica
Shakhtar Donetsk
Viktoria Plzen
Valencia

If we’re being honest, all but two have a legit chance to make a run to the final given the right draw (Club Brugge and Viktoria Plzen seem just a bridge too far here).

And, more importantly, we’ve got the chance for a Sarri Ball reunion special between Chelsea and Napoli, and a Milan Derby (should AC Milan handle its business on Thursday).

Next, here are the teams who’ve already clinched their spots in the UEL:

Bayer Leverkusen
Zurich
Red Bull Salzburg
Zenit Saint Petersburg
Dinamo Zagreb
Fenerbahce
Arsenal
Sporting Lisbon
Real Betis
Eintracht Frankfurt
Lazio
Dynamo Kyiv
Chelsea

And, finally, here are the matches that carry the most interest, aside from already-clinched Chelsea heading to MOL Vidi and Arsenal hosting last-place Qarabag:

Group B: Celtic vs. Red Bull Salzburg; RB Leipzig vs. Rosenborg

RBL has the tiebreaker should it beat Rosenborg, who hasn’t won, and Celtic fail to gain a point from RBS, who hasn’t lost. Will Brendan Rodgers be able to rally his men to a draw or better at home against the team that beat it 3-1 in Austria?

Group F: Olympiacos vs. AC Milan

Gennaro Gattuso’s Milan has a three-point edge on the Greeks for the group’s second spot in the knockout rounds, and took the home leg 3-1. That away goal means 2-0 would do the job for Olympiacos, but any one goal win wouldn’t be enough for the hosts.

Group G: Villarreal vs. Spartak Moscow; Rapid Vienna vs. Rangers

This group is nuts, with all four teams alive for the knockout rounds. Villarreal, however, can make it simple by drawing or beating Spartak. Steven Gerrard‘s Glasgow Rangers also have a straight-forward angle, needing to topple Rapid Vienna.

Watford chasing Rennes, Senegal star Sarr

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Watford may capture one of the rising stars of the game.

Ismaila Sarr would cost the Hornets a club transfer record fee, and Sky Sports says that Watford and Rennes are about $10 million apart.

The Ligue 1 side reportedly wants $34 million for the Senegal national team right wing.

[ VIDEO: Nketiah leads Arsenal win ]

Sarr, 21, scored a goal and an assist in Senegal’s run to the Africa Cup of Nations final, playing opposite Sadio Mane of Liverpool.

He posted 13 goals with 14 assists last season between Ligue 1, the French Cup, and the Europa League. He was the lone Rennes player to score against Arsenal in the UEL Round of 16.

Watford has held onto Abdoulaye Doucoure and Dodi Lukebakio this offseason. Lukebakio is also a 21-year-old right wing, and had a sensational loan season with Fortuna Dusseldorf in 2019-20.

Nketiah leads Arsenal past Fiorentina (video)

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Eddie Nketiah scored twice as Arsenal beat Fiorentina 3-0 in Charlotte on Saturday.

Joe Willock also scored for the Gunners, which beat Colorado Rapids and Bayern Munich in their first two matches of the preseason and meet Real Madrid in Maryland on Tuesday.

[ MORE: Guardiola hails KDB ]

Fiorentina took 18 of the match’s 30 shots, though Arsenal had nearly 60 percent of the ball.

Nketiah, 20, scored against Burnley in last season’s Premier League finale and then late against Bayern Munich earlier this week.

He was deft in a high-pressure spot for this one.

Premier League friendlies: Watford beats Bayer, Man Utd over Inter

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Arsenal and Fiorentina are set to kickoff in Charlotte tonight, with the Gunners the last of a bevy of Premier League sides to engage in preseason friendlies this muggy Saturday.

[ MORE: Guardiola hails KDB ]


Girona 1-2 Bournemouth

Juanpe’s late header pushed La Liga’s hosts past Eddie Howe and his 10-man Cherries, playing down after VAR deemed Jack Simpson‘s foul worthy of a sending off. Ryan Fraser scored Bournemouth’s goal, assisted by Jordon Ibe.

Northampton Town 0-4 Sheffield United

Oliver Norwood converted two penalties in an easy win for Chris Wilder in his return to a club he played for and managed.

Fulham 2-1 Brighton and Hove Albion

Pascal Gross scored with an early free kick — a Megan Rapinoe special — but Tom Cairney scored twice after halftime for the Championship side.

Cheltenham Town 1-2 Leicester City

The Foxes collected a second win over a lower league side this week, with Jamie Vardy and Marc Albrighton on the board.

Newcastle United 1-0 West Ham United (Shanghai)

New manager Steve Bruce watched from the crowd as the Magpies made amends for a 4-0 loss to Wolves by blanking West Ham. Jamie Sterry‘s cross for Yoshinori Muto was delightful, and the Japanese striker’s finish was well-taken.

Port Vale 1-3 Burnley; Crewe Alexandra 0-1 Burnley

Chris Wood, Matej Vydra and Robbie Brady scored as the Clarets overcame an early Nick Pope goal to beat Port Vale, but the Premier League side couldn’t do much in a simultaneous friendly at Crewe.

Inter Milan 0-1 Manchester United (Singapore)

Substitute forward Mason Greenwood, just 17, scored the late goal in a match United controlled, outshooting Inter 21-8.

Preston North End 1-3 Southampton

Brace-bagging Danny Ings doesn’t usually have a problem with finish, so passing the ball directly to him is not something we’d recommend to goalkeepers. Jake Vokins also scored for Saints at Deepdale.

Watford 2-1 Bayer Leverkusen (Austria)

Will Hughes and Andre Gray scored as the Hornets collected a win over Champions League competition.

Man City (0-0, 2-3 pens) Wolves (Shanghai)

Rui Patricio was very good over 90 minutes, and stopped City’s first two penalty attempts as Wolves continue to perplex the PL champions.

WATCH: Marco Fabian smashes set piece goal

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Marco Fabian sent a missile toward goal, and perhaps it’s good the goalkeeper didn’t get to the hand-breaking shot.

Philadelphia took a 1-0 lead over Chicago on Saturday in Chester, Pennsylvania, thanks to the Mexican midfielder.

[ REPORT: Man Utd locks up De Gea ]

It was a pretty set piece from Jim Curtin’s men, a backwards played free kick was laid off to Fabian for his audacious rip.

Fabian hasn’t had a wonderful 2019 season, but his fourth goal of the season will give Union supporters hope that he’ll pick up his form and make the already East-leading side all the more dangerous.