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UEFA Champions League last 16 predictions

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This is it. The UEFA Champions League kicks back off this week as the knockout rounds are here.

 [ MORE: Champions League schedule ]

With all four Premier League teams competing in the last 16, three of them (Man City, Liverpool, Tottenham) face Bundesliga opponents over two legs in the coming weeks, while Manchester United square off with Paris Saint-Germain.

Huge clashes between Ajax and Real Madrid, plus Atletico Madrid v. Juventus, Roma v. Porto and Barcelona against Lyon make up a mouthwatering first knockout round.

Below is a prediction of how each of the eight last 16 clashes will go, as Liverpool, Man City, Man United and Spurs all eye deep runs in the competition.


AS Roma v. FC Porto
First leg: Feb. 12 at Stadio Olimpico
Second leg: Mar. 6 at Dragao
Score prediction – Roma will have too much going forward for Porto and their experience will count here. 4-2 aggregate win to Roma.


Manchester United v. Paris Saint Germain
First leg: Feb. 12 at Old Trafford
Second leg: Mar. 6 at Parc des Princes
Score prediction – Injuries to PSG’s key players is a huge help for United. 3-3 draw on aggregate, United to go through on away goals.


Tottenham Hotspur v. Borussia Dortmund
First leg: Feb. 13, at Wembley
Second leg: Mar. 5 at Signal Iduna Park
Score prediction – Not having Harry Kane and Dele Alli for the first leg hurts, but Spurs will fancy their chances with the duo back for the second leg. Tottenham to win 5-4 on aggregate.


Ajax v. Real Madrid
First leg: Feb. 13, at Johan Cruyff Arena
Second leg: Mar. 5 at Santiago Bernabeu
Score prediction – Given their wobbles all season long, Ajax will aim to end Real’s dominance in the UCL. I just can’t see it happening. 4-1 win on aggregate to Real Madrid.


Liverpool v. Bayern Munich
First leg: Feb. 19 at Anfield
Second leg: Mar. 13 at Allianz Arena
Score prediction – Such a tough tie for Jurgen Klopp‘s men against an improving, and experienced, Bayern. Everyone expects Liverpool to win, but this is so close to call. 4-4 on aggregate, Bayern to win on penalties.


Lyon v. Barcelona
First leg: Feb. 19 at Groupama Stadium
Second leg: Mar. 13 at Nou Camp
Score prediction – Over the past few years Lyon’s youngsters have punched above their weight, but Barcelona look hungry. Messi and Co. will take care of business. 6-2 aggregate win for Barca.


Schalke v. Manchester City
First leg: Feb. 20 at Veltins-Arena
Second leg: Mar. 12 at Etihad Stadium
Score prediction – A tricky test for Pep Guardiola‘s men who are the heavy favorites. Schalke sit in midtable in the Bundesliga and their full attention will be on these games. City’s attack will have too much for them. 5-3 win on aggregate to Man City.


Atletico Madrid v. Juventus
First leg: Feb. 20 at Wanda Metropolitano
Second leg: Mar. 12 at Allianz Stadium
Score prediction – What a tie this promises to be. Two teams used to making deep runs in this competition and Ronaldo returning to try and haunt Atletico again. Diego Simeone’s men have stumbled a few times this season. Juve will get the job done at home in the second leg. 3-2 to Juventus on aggregate.

First Leagues Cup will be an all-Liga MX affair

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Given Major League Soccer’s record against Liga MX sides when both teams are bringing their best players to the party, it’s no surprise that the former has been left out of the Leagues Cup Final.

Instead, Cruz Azul and Tigres UANL will meet on Sept. 18 for the first ever crown in the history of the competition pitting teams from Mexico, Canada, and the United States top flights.

[ MORE: Predicting the USMNT September call-ups ]

Choosing not to play Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Jonathan Dos Santos, and Carlos Pavon amongst others, the LA Galaxy fell 2-1 to Cruz Azul in Carson, California, getting an Emil Cuello goal but allowing the below delightful winner from Orbelin Pineda just after halftime.

The Galaxy were in the midst of a nasty four-match fortnight, and opted for this match — a tournament semifinal against a league which has bossed its league — to rest their men. Not a choice we love, but a fair choice given the Galaxy’s mere 4-point advantage on 7th place in the West.

Tigres needed penalties to get past Club America in an absolutely bonkers semifinal.

The match was level at 2 after regulation, with two own goals, a penalty, and a 90th minute red card doled out to Tigres’ Roger Martinez.

The second Tigres own goal, which came before the club outlasted America 5-3 in penalties, came deep in stoppage.

USWNT lawsuit goes to trial May 5

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LOS ANGELES (AP) A judge has set a May 5 trial date for the gender discrimination lawsuit filed by the women’s national team against U.S. Soccer.

District Judge R. Gary Klausner assigned the date at a hearing Monday in Los Angeles, which came less than a week after mediation between the two sides broke down.

[ MORE: Predicting the USMNT September call-ups ]

The players sued U.S. Soccer in March, alleging institutionalized gender discrimination that includes inequitable compensation when compared with their counterparts on the men’s national team.

The federation claims that compensation for each team is the result of separate collective bargaining agreements, and that the pay structures are different as a result.

The sides had agreed to mediate the dispute after this summer’s World Cup in France. The U.S. beat the Netherlands in July for its second straight title, and fourth overall.

The players and U.S. Soccer had requested a trial date after the Tokyo Olympics, which start July 25.

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

Report: Zappacosta off to Roma as Chelsea trusts youth

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Tuesday was a great day to be Reece James.

Not that it hasn’t been a good summer altogether with Frank Lampard in charge of Chelsea.

[ MORE: Predicting the USMNT September call-ups ]

Lampard sanctioned the loan of Zappacosta to AS Roma, which puts James firmly in line for first team reps at Stamford Bridge.

The 19-year-old James has earned his place after two seasons on loan at Wigan Athletic, and Cesar Azpilicueta will either need rest or time at center back at some point.

As for Zappacosta, he was a curiosity buy who was serviceable during his time at Stamford Bridge. At Roma, though, he’ll… also be second choice to club captain Alessandro Florenzi.

Lampard is definitely giving the Blues’ youth a chance to shine during this transfer ban, and this may well be the best opportunity of James’ career.

Predicting the USMNT September call-ups

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The United States men’s national team has just a pair of friendlies remaining before its next CONCACAF competition, the Nations’ League.

Gregg Berhalter’s USMNT will meet Uruguay and Mexico in September, and the looming CNL — you know Berhalter wants some sort of crown given the Gold Cup Final loss to El Tri — certainly hints at a strong XI even with players like Christian Pulisic (Chelsea), Tyler Boyd (Besitkas) and Zack Steffen (Fortuna Dusseldorf, on loan from Man City) settling into new digs.

[ MORE: Klopp “couldn’t afford” Coutinho ]

Before we dare to name a 23-man outfit for these matches, we should note that there’s no guarantee every big team will want to release their players in September. But this projection will act under the assumption that his best healthy men will accept invitations or that, at least, Berhalter will invite his best healthy men.

The MLS playoff push may actually force his hand in that Berhalter may respect teams in said playoff race due (though MLS does not have every team playing over the break).

We’ll assume for this exercise that DeAndre Yedlin (Newcastle) and Tyler Adams (RB Leipzig) don’t miraculously come fit.

Now for the Big Berhalter Questions (BBQs):

  1. Since Gyasi Zardes has scored three goals and an assist in his last six MLS games and there’s no chance Berhalter ignores him, who will not get a look: Tim Weah (Lille), Tyler Boyd (Besiktas) or … wait, it’s gonna be Boyd.
  2. Wil Trapp has been poor in a USMNT jersey, but has three assists in his last six MLS matches so will he…. book his place, too.

Finally, I’m not going to say that this 23-man roster will be correct, but it will be fun.

Goalkeepers (3)

Zack Steffen (Fortuna Dusseldorf)
Sean Johnson (New York City FC)
Kasey Keller (Millwall)
Pick the guy who you think I should pick here and pretend you like it better than:
David Bingham (LA Galaxy)

Defenders (8)

John Brooks (Wolfsburg)
Matt Miazga (Reading)
Aaron Long (West Ham New York Red Bulls)
Walker Zimmerman (LAFC)
Tim Ream (Fulham)
Sergino Dest (Ajax)
Reggie Cannon (FC Dallas)

Midfielders (6)

Christian Pulisic (Chelsea)
Weston McKennie (Schalke)
Michael Bradley (Toronto FC)
Julian Green (Greuther Fuerth)
Paxtom Pomykal (FC Dallas)
Sebastian Lletget (LA Galaxy)

Forwards (6)

Josh Sargent (Werder Bremen)
Jozy Altidore (Toronto FC)
Timothy Weah (Lille)
Jordan Morris (Seattle Sounders)
Paul Arriola (DC United)
Gyasi Zardes (Columbus Crew)