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Champions League Preview: Can Man United overcome injury-hit PSG?

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It would have been nearly impossible to imagine this scenario two months ago, with Manchester United looking like the favorite heading into an UEFA Champions League matchup against Paris Saint-Germain.

And yet, that’s where we are. Since Man United and PSG were drawn together on December 17, Jose Mourinho was fired, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has helped the Red Devils play free and re-discover their talent. At the same time, Neymar hurt his foot again, Edinson Cavani is out with a hip injury, the team’s ownership won’t let Adrien Rabiot play due to a contract spat, the PSG have so many midfield injuries they’ve had to resort to starting Dani Alves in the middle.

[ MORE: UCL: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

It’s been nearly 60 days that has turned this tie on its head, and it’s leading into a first leg that is in Manchester United’s favor.

“It’s a fantastic game to look forward to and the Champions League is a fantastic tournament so it is a test for our whole team,” Solskjaer said at the pre-match press conference. “We’ve given ourselves the best possible opportunity because of the way we’ve come into this game. We’re confident and we’re looking like a team. If there was ever a time to go into big games, it’s now.”

Solskjaer later said that PSG not having Neymar and Cavani for this match made them more, “unpredictable,” but what’s truly unpredictable is Man United’s form the last two months. The Red Devils continue to win at will under Solskjaer, 10 out of their last 11, and though this is one of the hardest tests they face, the confidence levels are high.

One interesting little factor that will be new for Man United is the addition of the video assistant referee, which is being added to the Champions League from this round on. Not used in the Premier League just yet, only the players who experienced it at the World Cup will understand its impact on a game, if used.

Elsewhere, AS Roma, last year’s semifinalists, will be hosting FC Porto in a battle of two teams who have struggled in the last few weeks. Roma has just one win in its last four matches, while Porto has drawn two straight matches in the weaker Portuguese league.

Roma could be without goalkeeper Robin Olsen and midfielders Diego Perotti and Cengiz Under, while Porto’s Mexican international, Jose “Tecatito” Corona misses out due to suspension.

Americans Adams, McKennie have big Bundesliga days

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USMNT youngsters Tyler Adams and Weston McKennie put in elite but very different performances for their Bundesliga clubs on Saturday.

Adams continues to take RB Leipzig by storm, the Major League Soccer export easily adjusting to an upgrade in league through the Red Bull system.

[ MORE: Brighton beats Derby County ]

The New York Red Bulls Academy product, 20, has started four matches for his new Bundesliga side, and RBL has won all four by a combined score of 11-1.

Adams picked up his first Bundesliga assist on Saturday in creating Youssef Poulsen’s 12th goal of the season in RBL’s 3-1 win at Stuttgart.

He covered the third-most ground in the game, at 12.65 kilometers, registering a game-high 39 sprints. His 109 runs were 19 more than anyone else, and he won 13 tackles. And while some of those big numbers are typical for that position on the pitch, there’s no denying his impact on a Champions League side.

Meanwhile, fellow American midfielder McKennie had a different task on Saturday, going 90 minutes and starting at right back as 10-man Schalke gutted out a 0-0 draw with Freiburg.

McKennie, 20, covered the fourth-most ground of anyone in the game at 11.56 km, winning a game-high 13 tackles and putting a pair of shots on goal.

Notably, he completed 34 of 35 passes.

McKennie is a half-year younger than Adams, but the similarities are there.

FIFA transfer reforms target $400M for lower-tier clubs

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ZURICH (AP) — FIFA believes it can direct up to $400 million each year toward clubs worldwide entitled to a share of transfer fees paid for their former players.

FIFA says a key part of intended transfer market reforms will “ensure clubs are adequately rewarded for training players.”

[ MORE: Lingard, Martial injured ]

Since current transfer rules were updated in 2001, clubs have been due training compensation and solidarity payments from transfers paid in the careers of players they helped nurture.

FIFA acknowledges the “overly complicated and burdensome” system of calculating payments is understood by too few clubs.

A clearing house will aim to process transfer payments more efficiently.

FIFA research suggests tens of millions of dollars were paid to clubs last year instead of their entitlement of at least $350 million.

More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/apf-Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

Brighton outlasts Derby despite Ashley Cole goal (video)

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Despite a late scare, dominant Brighton and Hove Albion put an end to Frank Lampard‘s run in the FA Cup with a 2-1 defeat of Derby County at the Amex Stadium on Saturday.

Anthony Knockaert and Jurgen Locadia scored in the final dozen minutes of the first half for the Seagulls, who will learn their quarterfinal foe on Monday.

[ MORE: Lingard, Martial injured ]

Substitute Ashley Cole scored in the 80th minute for the Rams, who were heavily outshot in the match.

It was Cole’s first goal in England since 2012, when he bagged a Premier League marker for Chelsea against Stoke City.

Locadia was injured just before the Seagulls conceded, and looked to be in considerable pain with an ankle injury.

American attacker Duane Holmes started up top for Derby but was subbed after 45 minutes. The 24-year-old Columbus-born man has become a regular starter under Lampard.

Sir Alex Ferguson to manage Man Utd in anniversary match

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The 20th Anniversary of Manchester United’s treble, to the day, will see Sir Alex Ferguson managing the club.

This, of course, is for a single night only, as the Red Devils celebrate their 1999 treble with a testimonial of sorts against Bayern Munich, who it beat 2-1 to win the Champions League on May 26, 1999.

[ MORE: Lingard, Martial injured ]

“I’m really looking forward to what will be a special day at Old Trafford. It will be great to catch up with some familiar faces and a great opportunity to support the work of Manchester United Foundation,” Ferguson said.

Players for the game are not confirmed but imagine the possibilities: Peter Schmeichel was across the field from Oliver Kahn. Lothar Matthaus had to deal with Dwight Yorke and Andy Cole. David Beckham, Ryan Giggs, Nicky Butt, and the Neville brothers started or were in the 18.

Keep in mind that Solskjaer scored the winner for Ferguson’s United that day at the Camp Nou, as the Red Devils scored twice in stoppage time for a remarkable comeback win.