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Predictions for Champions League, Europa quarterfinals

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Things are getting very serious in the latter stages of European competition.

[ LIVE: Champions League scores

This week the first legs of the UEFA Champions League and Europa League quarterfinals take place, with six Premier League teams in action.

Tottenham host Man City, Man United host Barcelona and Liverpool travel to Porto in the UCL. In the Europa League, Arsenal host Napoli and Chelsea travel to Slavia Prague.

 [ LIVE: Europa League scores

Below is a look at each quarterfinal tie and a prediction on how they will end up.


UEFA Champions League quarterfinal predictions

Ajax v. Juventus
First leg: Apr. 10, Johan Cruyff ArenA, Amsterdam
Second leg: Apr. 16, Allianz Stadium, Turin
Prediction: With Ronaldo struggling to be fit for the first leg, Ajax will have to make the most of being at home. Dusan Tadic will cause Juve problems, but the second leg being in Turin and Ronaldo back fit will be just enough for the Italian giants. 3-2 to Juventus on aggregate.

Liverpool v. FC Porto
First leg: Apr. 9, Anfield, Liverpool
Second leg: Apr. 17, Estadio Dragao, Porto
Prediction: This tie could be wrapped up after the first leg. Liverpool thumped Porto 5-0 away from home in the last 16 last season, and although Porto have improved, expect a comfortable Liverpool win. 4-1 to Liverpool on aggregate.

Manchester United v. Barcelona
First leg: Apr. 10, Old Trafford, Manchester
Second leg: Apr. 16, Nou Camp, Barcelona
Prediction: A tough task for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, but you feel like United could keep things tight in the first leg. Having to switch the ties around due to Man City’s involvement in the last eight hurt them, with a second leg at Old Trafford more favorable for United. Like Chelsea did against Barcelona in the past, if they can defend and hit them on the counter, and hope that Lionel Messi has an off day, they have a chance. This will be closer than most people think. 3-2 to Barcelona on aggregate.

Tottenham v. Manchester City
First leg: Apr. 9, Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, London
Second leg: Apr. 17, Etihad Stadium, Manchester
Prediction: The first leg at Spurs’ new stadium will be tough for Man City to handle, especially after a tense FA Cup semifinal win, and it will be tight. The second leg at the Etihad will decide this, and you have to fancy Man City will advance. 4-3 to Man City on aggregate.


Arsenal v. Napoli
First leg: Apr. 11, Emirates Stadium
Second leg: Apr. 18, Stadio San Paolo
Prediction: The Gunners did not want to draw Napoli, with Carlo Ancelotti’s men the favorites to win this tournament alongside Chelsea. Arsenal will need at least a one-goal lead to take to Italy with them. Too much to ask for, and it won’t be easy in the semifinals with either Valencia or Villarreal awaiting the winners. 4-2 to Napoli on aggregate.

Benfica v. Eintracht Frankfurt
First leg: Apr. 11, Estadio da Luz
Second leg: Apr. 18, Commerzbank-Arena
Prediction: An intriguing clash between two teams littered with talented youngsters. Frankfurt have been the darlings of this tournament and look set to qualify for the Champions League next season with a top four Bundesliga finish. Their fairytale will continue. 3-1 to Frankfurt on aggregate.

Slavia Prague v. Chelsea
First leg: Apr. 11, Eden Arena
Second leg: Apr. 18, Stamford Bridge
Prediction: Chelsea will fancy their chances of finishing this tie in the first leg in the Czech Republic. Sarri’s side have used the Europa League as a release from their poor PL form this season, and the likes of Giroud and Hudson-Odoi should put on a show. Having the second leg at home is perfect, and Chelsea now either Benfica or Frankfurt await in the semis. 5-2 to Chelsea on aggregate.

Villarreal v. Valencia
First leg: Apr. 11, Estadio de la Ceramica
Second leg: Apr. 18, Mestalla
Prediction: An all-Spanish quarterfinal will be an intriguing tactical encounter, and Valencia are the favorites due to their current position in the top six of La Liga and Villarreal struggling towards the bottom. With the second leg at the Mestalla, Valencia will prevail. 3-1 to Valencia on aggregate.

Bologna draws 3-3 at Lazio to secure Serie A safety

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ROME (AP) Bologna secured Serie A football for another season after drawing at Lazio 3-3 in a thriller on Monday.

Bologna moved four points clear of the relegation zone with one match remaining.

Lazio was still celebrating winning the Italian Cup midweek and Joaquin Correa fired the capital side in front in the 13th minute.

[ MORE: Players to watch at U-20 World Cup ]

However, two goals in the space of a minute from Andrea Poli and Mattia Destro saw Bologna take the lead early in the second half.

Bastos curled in a stunning effort to level for Lazio in the 59th but Riccardo Orsolini restored Bologna’s lead shortly after.

Substitute Sergej Milinkovic-Savic secured a draw for Lazio with a sensational free kick 10 minutes from time.

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

Choosing a USMNT XI for the Gold Cup

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Noting that most positions on the international stage are up for grabs based on form, there are special opportunities on the wing, right back, and center back when it comes to the USMNT at the Gold Cup this summer.

That’s because of two related things, one fact and one close to it:

[ MORE: Players to watch at U-20 World Cup ]

  1. DeAndre Yedlin and John Brooks are missing from the lineup due to injury. Brooks is easily the Yanks’ No. 1 center back, and Yedlin is a right back when Tyler Adams is unavailable and good enough that Gregg Berhalter tries to shoehorn him in at right wing when Adams is manning that spot.
  2. Mexico’s the overwhelming favorite to win the tournament with more in-form club players in Europe than the U.S., including would-be Premier League Best XI forward Raul Jimenez of Wolves. And who’s going to have to deal with Raul? You guessed it, the big American center backs.

Presuming Berhalter is still wed to Adams as the part-fullback, part distributing midfielder role, that has our lineup for important Gold Cup matches with few sure things.

Zack Steffen (if healthy)

Adams — XXXXX — XXXXX — XXXXX

McKennie — Bradley

XXXXX — Pulisic — XXXXX

Altidore

Now you may not like that I’ve assumed Bradley and Altidore’s places here, but there’s little doubt both are still quite capable against CONCACAF competition and also have the experience in this exact competition and against Mexico. Surely both are motivated for a bit of redemption as well.

Friendlies against Jamaica and Venezuela will give Berhalter a chance to try out players like Tyler Boyd, Marlon Fossey, and Miles Robinson should they impress amongst a 40-player field (although the Jamaica match on June 5 in Washington, D.C. is a day before the final rosters are due for the Gold Cup).

Now what we are trying to solve here is who is the best bet to help the Yanks win the dang thing.

Defenders: Aaron Long, Matt Miazga, and Tim Ream are the favorites to start at the two center back spots and left back, but Daniel Lovitz will try to push Ream after a rough season at Fulham. Both Walker Zimmerman and Omar Gonzalez are in good form, and you can bet Berhalter will give Cameron Carter-Vickers a chance to earn some time. A flat back four role gives Antonee Robinson hope in place of Ream, and if Adams moves into the midfield, Nick Lima did alright in his right back role in January.

Midfielders/Wingers: The spots around Pulisic should be filled by those who can keep the width of the field but also serve somewhat as enforcers for the No. 10. Sebastian Lletget gives them a good shot on one side, and Paul Arriola provides a similar spot. While Joe Gyau, Josh Sargent, Duane Holmes, and Djordje Mihailovic can hope to challenge, the MLS vets with experience outside the country are good bets to get the gigs.

Zack Steffen (if healthy)

Adams — Miazga — Long — Ream

McKennie — Bradley

Arriola — Pulisic — Lletget

Altidore

Does that get the job done against Mexico? Probably not, but it’ll give Tata Martino’s men a hassle.

Report: Man City could use Gabriel Jesus to get Rodri

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At the root of this report is a question to which we don’t know the answer: How highly does Pep Guardiola rate Gabriel Jesus?

A report from Spanish outlet AS says Guardiola could use his young striker to lure Atletico Madrid into a swap deal, landing Manchester City their stirring defensive midfielder Rodri.

[ MORE: Players to watch at U-20 World Cup ]

Rodri is a nearly year older than 22-year-old Jesus, and is more instrumental to his current club. One of Atletico Madrid’s top talents, his $78 million release clause is an obvious route for City.

If Guardiola doesn’t see Jesus as a huge part of the club’s future, however, the manager may be able to go nearly like-for-like money-wise.

Jesus scored nearly every other game for City in all competitions, nabbing 21 goals in 47 matches, and has 13 goals in 27 caps for Brazil. Those are good numbers, especially with still-electric Sergio Aguero turning 31 this summer.

At his relatively tender age, Jesus has appeared 100 times for Man City and his 45 goals are made more impressive by less than 5600 total minutes in those matches.

Giving up on him to complete his midfield is a tough one. We think it’s more likely Guardiola pays the release clause… unless the manager simply doesn’t rate the player.

Players to watch at the U-20 World Cup

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The U-20 World Cup begins this week in Poland, and there are a bevy of future stars to watch, as well as several who will make their names during the tournament.

We’ll focus on the former. While England’s failure to qualify somewhat limits the Premier League starlets on show, there are still plenty from the English top flight.


Tim Weah, United States (PSG) — After a loan at Celtic and time with the full USMNT, how much can he dominate back in his age group?

Alban Lafont, France (Fiorentina) — At age 20, he’s already the starter between the sticks for his Serie A mainstays.

Diego Lainez, Mexico (Real Betis) — Eighteen with 12 league appearances for Real Betis, Lainez is a massive part of El Tri‘s future and carries four caps to his name.

Ruben Vinagre, Portugal (Wolves) — Wolves were promoted, and Vinagre actually made eight more appearances (17) than he made in the Championship.

Ezequiel Barco, Argentina (Atlanta United) — His sophomore season for the Five Stripes has been better than his debut campaign, though that’s not saying a ton given the hype.

Evan N’Dicka, France (Eintracht Frankfurt) — Plenty of playing time in the Bundesliga at the age of 19 for this towering center back.

Paxton Pomykal, United States (FC Dallas) — Looking good in MLS. How much should that translate on this stage?

Andriy Lunin, Ukraine (Real Madrid) — Won’t be wearing the white of Madrid in meaningful action any time soon, but made four appearances on loan for Leganes as a 20-year-old.

Sebastian Soto, United States (Hannover 96) — Not the American-born Bundesliga starlet we expected had we created this list months ago, but Soto has made his Bundesliga debut, so there’s a lot to like while Josh Sargent works with the full USMNT.

Dan Zagadou, France (Borussia Dortmund) — The left- and center back has 25 first team appearances for BVB at 19.

Diogo Dalot, Portugal (Manchester United) — Red Devils supporters know about this fella, who was purchased under the watch of Jose Mourinho last summer.

Mickael Cuisance, France (Borussia Monchengladbach) — Took a step back after his blockbuster ‘Gladbach breakthrough in 2017-18, but will be a key piece for the favorites.

Moussa Sylla, France (Monaco) — The winger is already a factor for AS Monaco, even if they struggled this season.

Bonus: Erling Håland, Denmark (Red Bull Salzburg); Ronald Araujo, Uruguay (Barcelona); Tom Dele-Bashiru, Nigeira (Manchester City).