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Champions League preview: Juve seek comeback v. Atleti; Man City v. Schalke

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While Manchester City securing progression through to the UEFA Champions League quarterfinals on Tuesday appears a foregone conclusion, things are less certain ahead of the second leg between Juventus and Atletico Madrid — but only slightly.

[ MORE: Guardiola: Man City still ‘teenagers’ among UCL contenders ]

With a 3-2 advantage — not to mention three away goals — nothing short of an epic collapse could stop Man City from finishing off a hapless Schalke side that suddenly finds itself flirting with relegation from the Bundesliga. League form is as poor as could be — two points from their last seven games — and they currently sit 14th, just four points and two places clear of the relegation playoffs. To make matters worse, Domenico Tedesco’s side wasted its best performance in months in the first leg against City, going from 2-1 up to a 3-2 defeat at the hands of 10-man City.

Meanwhile, the reigning Premier League champions are in the midst of their best string of results all season: 10 wins from their last 11 league games, and just the one defeat in their last 18 games across all competitions. The record-setting champions from a year ago have returned with a vengeance, though Pep Guardiola was quick to remind his side this week that they’ve accomplished very little when it comes to European competition.

No matter the size of the advantage, Guardiola isn’t taking Schalke likely: “Many things can happen in 90 minutes in this type of competition. In the first leg we were quite lucky, playing for 20 to 25 minutes with ten men when 2-1 down. In normal circumstances we could have been out of this competition, so we were lucky. I don’t feel the pressure to win it. Pressure is to do a good job, to compete better in quarter-finals and semi-finals, and to improve on past mistakes. This is a competition that punishes your mistakes a lot because of the quality of the opponents.”

[ MORE: With “batteries recharged,” Zidane “couldn’t say no” to Real return ]

Of all the ever-present UCL combatants come this point in the competition, Atleti must be considered best suited to see out a 2-0 advantage away from home. They are Diego Simeone’s meticulously drilled side, after all. It’s a virtual mountain for Cristiano Ronaldo and Co., to climb, yet it still feels unwise to count out the competition’s all-time leading goalscorer (121 goals in 159 career appearances) and a five-time winner, including each of the last three years.

On the other hand, this has been Ronaldo’s most fruitless UCL campaign since 2006 — nearly completely devoid of goals, having found the back of the net just once in six games. Prior to moving to Juve last summer, he had scored double-digit UCL goals in seven straight seasons. Should the Portuguese superstar muster the requisite heroics to drag the seven-time (soon-to-be eight) defending Serie A champions through to the next round, he’ll be well on his way to justifying the club’s $123-million investment toward winning this very trophy.

Simeone, predictably, is relishing the challenge: “We have to take advantage of any space that we get as we know we’ll be afforded much less than in the first leg. Juve are a very strong side, with very experienced players that are good not just in attack but also in defense. We will have to be very careful. The first leg is one thing, the return is totally different. There are small details which can be very difficult to explain and can make the difference; this is why football is fantastic.”

Season over: Hudson-Odoi suffers suspected achillies tear

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One incident on Monday showed why some players are so desperate to change clubs when given the chance. They may never get it again.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Callum Hudson-Odoi said on his Instagram post Monday evening that he had suffered a ruptured achillies tendon. If confirmed by the club, it’s usually a nine-month recovery process, with some players needing a full year to return to full fitness. Considering the timing of this, towards the end of the season, it means that Hudson-Odoi may miss an entire season of top-flight soccer, as well as possibly miss out on a chance to move to Bayern Munich this summer.

The injury is a huge blow to the 18-year-old, who had forced his way into the Chelsea side after strong performances in the UEFA Europa League, and now he’s making regular Premier League starts at the tender age of 18. Hudson-Odoi had started four-straight Premier League games including Monday, but now he faces a long layoff.

In Hudson-Odoi’s favor is his youth. While it can be a career-ending injury, hopefully Hudson-Odoi could retain his electric pace once he recovers and can return to the starting lineup for Chelsea.

But it’s a big disappointment to the young Englishman, who surely would have played for England youth national teams this summer and could have potentially made a big-money move abroad.

Prince-Wright’s Premier League picks

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Four midweek Premier League games will be pivotal in shaping the title race, top four battle, race for seventh and the relegation picture.

Tuesday and Wednesday will be a lot of fun.

[ STREAM: Every PL game live ]

If you, like me, love to dissect all the games and predict what the score will be and which team will win, I encourage you to get involved in the comments section below. Let’s have a bit of fun.

Okay, so I’ve consulted my crystal ball and here’s how we see things panning out. Listen carefully, because this is very specific.

While you can download the NBC Sports Predictor app (below) and play the Premier League Pick ‘Em game yourself to predict the scores and win the prizes.

DOWNLOAD NBC SPORTS PREDICTOR

With the first section labelled “basically, free money” for the picks I think are dead certs. The section labelled “don’t touch this” means if you’re betting I advise you to stay clear, while the “so you’re telling me there’s a chance” section are the long shots. If it is better odds you are after, those are the picks to go for.


BASICALLY, FREE MONEY

Tottenham 3-1 Brighton – (Tuesday, 2:45 p.m. ET, NBCSN) – [STREAM]

Watford 3-1 Southampton – (Tuesday, 2:45 p.m. ET, NBC Sports Gold) – [STREAM


DON’T TOUCH THIS…

Man United 1-2 Man City – (Wednesday, 3 p.m. ET, NBCSN) – [STREAM


“SO YOU’RE TELLING ME THERE’S A CHANCE…”

Wolves 2-1 Arsenal – (Wednesday, 2:45 p.m. ET, NBC Sports Gold) – [STREAM

Relevant Sports sues USSF over proposed Ecuador match in Florida

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NEW YORK (AP) A promoter has sued the U.S. Soccer Federation, asking a court to order the governing body to sanction an Ecuador league match in Florida.

Relevent Sports filed suit Monday in New York Supreme Court in Manhattan, alleging the USSF illegally refused to approve its application to have Ecuador’s Barcelona and Guayaquil clubs play on May 5 at Miami Gardens.

The lawsuit quotes USSF policy as stating the governing body’s secretary general “shall grant such sanction unless it is decided by clear and convincing evidence that holding or sponsoring the international soccer competition would be detrimental to the best interest of the sport.”

The USSF did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment.

Relevent attempted to stage the first Spanish La Liga match in the U.S., between Barcelona and Girona at Miami Gardens on Jan. 26. That effort fell through following opposition from the governing body of Spanish soccer, the Real Federacion Espanola de Futbol, and the players’ union, the Asociacion de Futbolistas Espanoles.

Midweek Premier League TV, streaming schedule

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Four Premier League games are coming your way, and all four have huge implications in the title race, top four battle, race for seventh place and the scrap against relegation.

Bring it on.

MORE: Sign up for NBC Sports Gold ] 

The full TV schedule for the midweek games are below, plus you can watch every single second of every single game live online via NBC Sports.com,the NBC Sports App and by purchasing the new “Premier League Pass” via NBC Sports Gold.

Gold also includes an extensive selection of shoulder programming such as Premier League News, Premier League Today and NBC Sports originals such as Premier League Download and much more.

[ STREAM: Premier League live here ] 

You can also watch Premier League “Goal Rush” for all the goals as they go in around the grounds. Goal Rush is available via NBC Sports.com and the NBC Sports App.

[ MORE: Premier League “Goal Rush” ] 

If you’re looking for full-event replays of Premier League games, you can find them here for the games streamed on NBCSports.com and here for the games on NBC Sports Gold.

Here’s your full TV schedule for the next few days.


FULL TV SCHEDULE

Tuesday
2:45 p.m. ET: Tottenham v. Brighton – NBCSN [STREAM]
2:45 p.m. ET: Watford v. Southampton – NBC Sports Gold [STREAM]

Wednesday
2:45 p.m. ET: Wolves v. Arsenal – NBC Sports Gold [STREAM]
3 p.m. ET: Man United v. Man City – NBCSN [STREAM]