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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.”

Premier League weekend friendlies: Man Utd-Inter, PL Asia Trophy

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This weekend in Premier League preseason friendlies sees Liverpool taking on a pair of top European foes, while four PL foes trade blows in Shanghai.

Man City and Wolves move on from significant defeats of Newcastle and West Ham, who in turn will face each other on Saturday.

You can watch Saturday’s Premier League Asia Trophy matches between Wolves and Man City, and Newcastle versus West Ham here on NBC Sports Live.

Meanwhile, Manchester United will tangle with Romelu Lukaku-chasing Inter Milan on Saturday (and, no, the Belgian striker won’t be in uniform).

There’s also a sneaky good match-up of Watford and Bayer Leverkusen in Austria on Saturday, while Sunday’s light docket has Spurs facing Matthijs de Ligt and Juventus in Singapore.

Friday
Borussia Dortmund v. Liverpool (Notre Dame, Indiana)

Saturday
Girona v. Bournemouth
Arsenal
v. Fiorentina (Charlotte)
Fulham v. Brighton and Hove Albion
Cheltenham Town v. Leicester City
Crewe Alexandra v. Burnley
Port Vale v. Burnley
Bromley v. Crystal Palace
Man City 
v. Wolves (Shanghai)
Inter Milan v. Manchester United (Singapore)
Newcastle United v. West Ham (Shanghai)
Northampton Town v. Sheffield United
Preston North End v. Southampton
Watford 
v. Bayer Leverkusen (Austria)

Sunday
Shrewsbury Town v. Aston Villa
Liverpool 
v. Sevilla (Boston)
Juventus v. Spurs (Singapore)

PL friendly wrap: Pukki leads Norwich past Schalke

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London sides went 0-2, while three other Premier League sides won ahead of Friday night’s friendly between Liverpool and Borussia Dortmund in Indiana.

[ MORE: Algeria wins AFCON ]

The wins included defeats of Schalke and Monaco, while Brighton and Hove Albion topped lower league Crawley Town.

Schalke 1-2 Norwich City

Teemu Pukki had a goal and an assist, giving hope that the Championship goal collector can bring his game to the Premier League.

Pukki’s 13th minute goal was assisted by Man City loanee Patrick Roberts, and the Finn later assisted Moritz Leitner‘s winner.

Rabbi Matondo scored Schalke’s only goal, and American midfielder Weston McKennie was neither with the starters nor the bench.

Everton 1-0 Monaco

Seamus Coleman scored and Maarten Stekelenburg stopped a penalty as the Toffees handled their Ligue 1 opposition in Switzerland.

Kawasaki Frontale 1-0 ChelseaRECAP

Leandro Damaio scored the lone goal as Chelsea had plenty of chances to win in Christian Pulisic‘s debut. The American came off the bench for the final 25 minutes in Japan.

Nottingham Forest 1-0 Crystal Palace

Albert Adomah scored the lone goal in a win for the Championship side.

Brighton and Hove Albion 1-0 Crawley Town

New signing Taylor Richards‘ late penalty kick was enough for the Seagulls to get a result at home. The Man City midfielder arrived on Thursday.

Liverpool v. Borussia Dortmund (Notre Dame, Indiana) — 8 p.m. ET

Algeria wins Africa Cup of Nations

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In the words of a Missouri-born rapper, you only get one shot. In Algeria’s case in the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations, that was true and it was all the Desert Foxes needed to claim their first AFCON title since 1990 with a 1-0 defeat of Senegal on Friday at Cairo International Stadium in Cairo.

Baghdad Bounedjah’s wildly-deflected second minute shot was enough to give Algeria its second AFCON crown.

Senegal out shot Algeria 11-1 on the day, but Sadio Mane and Co. couldn’t find their way over the goal line.

One-time Man City and Southampton player Djamel Belmadi has now managed an AFCON winner and a Gulf Cup of Nations champion (Qatar, 2014).

[ MORE: Ballon d’Or w/o Messi, Ronaldo? ]

Bounedjah’s wild rip after a cut-in from the left bounded into the air and looped into the far corner. Senegal goalkeeper Amigo Gomis made it look more odd with his befuddlement (Scramble, my guy!).

Referee Neant Alioum’s ruling of a penalty to Senegal after Ismaila Sarr’s rip hit the arm of Adlene Guedioura was overturned when review showed the Algeria midfielder’s arm was at his side.

We mean, was this going to be the goal that won Africa’s most important tournament? Yep.

Ajax seals El Tri’s young star Alvarez for $17M

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Ajax has developed a ton of youngsters, and now has a pair of CONCACAF starlets in the fold for 2019-20.

A day after selling Matthijs de Ligt to Juventus for a reported $84 million, the Dutch side has delivered on reports that it wanted Edson Alvarez.

That puts the 21-year-old Mexican defender/defensive midfielder in the Eredivisie side with 18-year-old Dutch-American defender Sergino Dest.

While Dest has yet to break into the full USMNT, playing in the U-20 World Cup this summer, Alvarez already has 28 caps and five goals for El Tri.

He’ll bring a relative wealth of experience from Club America, and Ajax could use him to help offset the sale of Frenkie de Jong to Barcelona. While Alvarez has played a lot of center back in Liga MX, he’s been used at defensive midfielder by Tata Martino with the national team.

The reported fee is $17 million, according to Goal.