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How do Champions League, Europa draws affect Premier League title, Top Four?

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Did the UEFA Champions League quarterfinal draw go a long way toward clinching Liverpool’s first Premier League title?

In a world without Manchester City as its main rival for the throne, you’d have to say probably.

[ MORE: Analyzing the draw ]

Liverpool’s drawing of Porto takes the trickiest part of its league run-in and makes it a lot more palatable. Instead of drawing one of five extra challenging clubs to sandwich around a home league date with Chelsea, the Reds will get arguably their best possible challenger.

And while you could say that Man City would prefer Spurs over at least four of their six other possible draws, beating the same team thrice in eight days while chasing your first Champions League title is… not easy.

Here’s how it all looks now for the Top Six:

First impressions:

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will be tested. Wow. If Manchester United can weather April, then maybe OGS should get a 10-year deal. The margins are so thin in the race for the Top Four, and United is a weekend FA Cup win away from this being their April: at Wolves, FA Cup semi, home Barca, home West Ham, away to Barca, at Everton, home Man City, home Chelsea. At least a lot are at home?

Spurs and Man City’s European and Premier League ambitions run through each other. Pochettino and Pep matching tactical wits three times over 8 days in two competitions is a fascinating managerial match-up, but could hit both teams hard. Who do you fancy? We know City won’t sacrifice one league for the other.

Chelsea and Arsenal favorites for 3rd and 4th? While Arsenal will hate its draw of Napoli in the Europa League, both UEL contenders will look at their schedules with some favor. Chelsea is especially happy that its draw of Slavia Prague, who it will not overlook, allows it some flexibility with the Liverpool league fixture sandwiched in between.

Liverpool should probably win the league. While there’s no guarantee that Man City will drop points, the Reds really shouldn’t. The drawing of Porto allows the Reds their best opportunity to focus on Chelsea in the league. Should Jurgen Klopp negotiate a home clean sheet win over Porto in the first leg, even better for their title odds.

Here’s how I think they finish:

  1. Liverpool (95 points)
  2. Man City (94)
  3. Chelsea (82)
  4. Tottenham Hotspur (82)
  5. Arsenal (80)
  6. Manchester United (76)

Juve, Chelsea announce Sarri agreement

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The white smoke coming out of Italy isn’t a new pope, it’s Maurizio Sarri setting up shop in Turin.

Juventus and Chelsea confirmed the long-anticipated news: Sarri is returning to Serie A and will manage The Old Lady’s quest for a UEFA Champions League crown.

[ MORE: Pogba says he could leave Man Utd ]

Chelsea executive Marina Granovskaia says an agreement was reached and that the Blues wanted to allow Sarri the chance to be closer to home. From ChelseaFC.com:

“He also believed it important to be nearer his family, and for the well-being of his elderly parents he felt he needed to live closer to them at this point.”

If it took Sarri some time to understand the personality of Eden Hazard, just wait until he gets a load of Cristiano Ronaldo.

Sky Sports says the move will net Chelsea around $6 million, and that Gianfranco Zola will also leave Stamford Bridge. Frank Lampard has been widely expected to get a shot at the Chelsea gig, though Derby County is trying to lock him down with a new deal.

Just how different will Manchester United look next year?

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It’s Sunday morning, Paul Pogba wants to leave Manchester United, and the USWNT doesn’t play its World Cup match until Noon: Let’s deal in theoreticals by starting with a fact.

This season is going to be a major challenge for one Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

The Manchester United boss will seemingly be pulling together a significant amount of new parts into a team which is coming off a sixth place finish in the Premier League, with four of the five teams ahead of him having maintained their managers and most if not all key pieces.

Oh, and he’ll have to fashion this team based out of parts willing to buy into the club’s mystique and ignore the lack of UEFA Champions League play (which is seemingly why Paul Pogba is ready to skip town).

Big paychecks will help, but there’s no way to quickly meld these pieces into one unit. That’s especially true if the biggest piece of their 2018-19 puzzle, Pogba, isn’t in the middle of the park (or pushed a bit forward).

Juan Mata, Ander Herrera, and Antonio Valencia are out of contract, and Romelu Lukaku has been as mentioned as any striker on the market (He has three goals in four days for Belgium, albeit against Kazakhstan and Scotland).

Pogba’s potential departure puts a lot of weight on Ed Woodward to spend money well (One could make an argument for United needing 60-80 percent of those names).

Subtracting them and adding no one, United’s best XI is something like David De Gea, Diogo Dalot, Eric Bailly, Victor Lindelof, Luke Shaw, Scott McTominay, Nemanja Matic, Anthony Martial, Andreas Pereira, Jesse Lingard, and Marcus Rashford.

As an aside, the expectations and pressure heaped on Rashford by the “he’s better than Lukaku, play him now centrally” media crowd is going to be a burden if 21-year-old has to bear the center forward burden alone. My goodness are their Old Trafford subplots in excess or what?

Now, of course, there are seven weeks to go in the transfer window and there’s no guarantee Pogba and Lukaku will leave town. In fact, you may want to place your confidence on Pogba opening the season unhappy but at Old Trafford. Either way, the center of the park is going to get a remarkable makeover, and both center back and goalkeeper will get upgrades, too.

To the fixes:

— United is expected to spend big on Crystal Palace right back Aaron Wan-Bissaka, who was sensational last season with the Eagles. They reportedly have sent a $51 million offer to Roy Hodgson‘s squad.

— They’ve been linked with desire for Issa Diop, though West Ham has hopes of $75 million for the center back who made JPW’s Top Ten of the season.

Wilfred Ndidi is “flattered” by links to United, but is focused on Nigeria’s Africa Cup of Nations line. Should the Red Devils want to buy the 22-year-old, he’s likely in the same price range as the above names.

— Don’t forget Monaco’s Youri Tielemans, who feels like a PL player from his outstanding time at Leicester City last season. He’d merit another $50 million or so.

It’s worth noting that all would get more European football than at their current home with a bump in wages plus an new iconic shirt. Don’t sleep on that.

You’re probably talking a $240-250 million outlay there, should United land them.

Without going further, nor mentioning Swansea’s young Daniel James and Sheffield United loanee Dean Henderson, you can see a thread here: United could be showing us how a Premier League Best XI without any Top Six players would fare in the top flight.

Of course, United has also been linked with big buys from outside of the Premier League and many of these are older than Ndidi, Diop, Tielemans, and AWB.

But taking those four young players and assuming a focal point/back bone strengthening holding mid would likely join part-time players and full-time leaders Nemanja Matic and Chris Smalling (and maybe Juan Mata).

Now of course there are rumors of experienced leaders Ivan Rakitic of Barcelona and there could be a return from Real, PSG, or Juve. And this whole post looks even worse when United swaps Pogba for Neymar straight-up.

Here’s another question in the myriad facing Solskjaer and Woodward: Is the Europa League a better route to the Champions League than the idea of beating out two of Spurs, Arsenal, Chelsea, Man City, and Liverpool (And noting that Spurs, City, and Liverpool will be heavily expected to finish 1-2-3 in some permutation and Chelsea has a leg up on the field assuming Eden Hazard is their lone significant departure).

Manchester United w/ above transfers (Age when season starts)

De Gea (28)

Wan-Bissaka (21) — Lindelof (25) — Diop (22) — Shaw (24)

Ndidi (22) — Matic (30)

Tielemans (22)

Lingard (26) — Rashford (21) — Martial (23)

What a time to be alive. Rashford better deliver!

Watch Live: 2019 Women’s World Cup – Day 10

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Ten months ago, the United States women’s national team beat Chile 3-0 and 4-0 in a pair of friendlies, but the expectations were ratcheted up when the ladies began their 2019 World Cup with a 13-0 demolition of Thailand.

The Yanks and Chile tangle Sunday at Noon ET in the business end of a Women’s World Cup Group F doubleheader, with Sweden and Thailand opening play at 9 a.m. ET.

You can watch every single game from the tournament live online in Spanish via Telemundo Deportes and via the NBC Sports App. All you have to do is click on the links below.

[ LIVE: Watch every single 2019 Women’s World Cup game ]

Here is your full schedule for Friday, June 14 at the Women’s World Cup.


2019 Women’s World Cup schedule

Group F: Sweden v. Thailand – 9 a.m. ET – STREAM LIVE
Group F: USWNT v. Chile – Noon ET – STREAM LIVE

Pogba: “Could be a good time” for transfer from Man Utd

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Somewhere, Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer just want this all to be over and done (and presumably we don’t mean his tenure as Red Devils boss).

With Romelu Lukaku expected to leave town, Paul Pogba may soon be on his way as well. The speculation linking the World Cup winner to a summer exit has been given a boost by Pogba’s own words as he considers a move to either Juventus, Real Madrid, or – perhaps – Paris Saint-Germain.

Pogba was speaking at a promotional event in China when he was asked about his future. And the media-aware player certainly knew the microphones were hot. From Sky Sports:

“After this season and everything that happened this season, with my season being my best season as well, I think for me it could be a good time to have a new challenge somewhere else. I am thinking of this.”

Certainly some United fans will be hoping for a bit of addition by subtraction to go along with the many additions that would come from selling or swapping Pogba.

Real and PSG would have to give up something big to get Pogba considering how much they’ve already spent on players in recent seasons and that’s this summer in Real’s case. And you’d have to think a Pogba move would have “player(s) included” written all over the invitation.

Will United move the 26-year-old in the next seven weeks? He knows what he’s doing, and it’s imperative his bosses do, too.

I’m sticking with my illogical gut feeling for the past 2-3 months: A sensational Pogba for Neymar swap deal.