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Transfer Rumors: Arsenal wants defenders, Fernandes odds slashed

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Arsenal is one of the most active Premier League clubs in the current transfer market, if the reports on Tuesday morning are to be believed, as the Gunners look to bolster the back line after conceding 51 goals in the Premier League last season.

According to widespread reports on Tuesday morning, Arsenal is after Celtic left-back Kieran Tierney and is hoping to secure a deal worth around $23 million. Both The Guardian and The Telegraph report that Arsenal has already seen a $19 million bid rejected by Celtic and could continue haggling given the club’s high wage bill and tight expenses this summer. However, The Telegraph report states there “is optimism” among the Arsenal negotiation team that the 22-year-old will be moving to The Emirates soon.

Tierney made 20 league appearances for Celtic last season as they won the Scottish Premiership title on their way to a historic “treble-treble” after securing the domestic triple for the third consecutive season. He was a member of the first-choice starting eleven, only seeing his playing time reduced by a hip injury that forced him out for nearly three months through the winter. Otherwise, he racked up over 1,600 league minutes and regained his starting spot after returning from injury in late February.


Another Gunners defensive target has been identified in 27-year-old Italian center-back Armando Izzo. The Italian international, who earned his first and only cap back in March with a substitute appearance against Lichtenstein, currently plays for Torino whom he only joined last summer in a $10 million deal with Genoa. He had a stellar first season with Torino, appearing in all but one league match and completed the full 90 minutes in all but the first and last league games of the campaign, scoring four goals along the way.

Izzo has four years left on the five-year deal he signed last summer, and was asked about speculation on Monday, telling reporters that he is happy at Torino but adding, “Everyone likes to be courted. I don’t like just being called a good player. I’m worth more.”

Most of the reports on Izzo at this point are in the tabloids, with The Mirror saying he could cost around $28 million, a healthy turnaround for Torino after just one season. Everton is also said to be in the hunt and could give Arsenal a run, potentially upping the required bid. Italian journalist Gianluca di Marzio has also connected the Gunners to Izzo, saying that Izzo’s agent met with Torino president Urbano Cairo, although di Marzio’s report stated that at this point Cairo is not anticipating a sale, instead hoping to lure Izzo back with an improved contract.


Odds have been slashed on Bruno Fernandes to Liverpool after a string of recent bets, with the Reds now heavy favorites to sign the Portuguese international. Some bookmakers in England have slashed odds to as little as 1/9 with reports that Manchester United are not keen on Sporting CP’s price tag of $89 million.

Still, according to the Liverpool Echo, it’s unlikely that the Reds will be spending that kind of money this summer, with Jurgen Klopp not feeling it necessary to fill that large of gaps in the squad.

Following the 24-year-old’s excellent club season that saw him score 20 goals in 33 league matches, Fernandes then went to join up with the Portuguese national team where he played a significant role in helping the team secure the inaugural Nations League crown.


According to a report by the BBC, Brighton & Hove Albion is close to a move for Genk winger Leandro Tossard. The 24-year-old made 24 league appearances last season, scoring 11 goals and assisting four more. He struggled with hamstring problems that saw him struggle down the stretch of the season, but he scored six goals in the first eight games of the campaign to bolster his numbers.

The report does not give a specific total value of the deal, but does say that the cost of signing Tossard will not eclipse the club record of $21.6 million needed to sign Alireza Jahanbakhsh last summer. The deal will make Tossard Brighton’s second signing of the summer after securing Matt Clarke from Portsmouth.


Chelsea has just a week to decide whether to sign Mateo Kovacic on a permanent deal or send him back to Real Madrid, and there is no indication yet what that decision will be.

Because the 25-year-old is already registered with the club after spending last season on loan, the transfer ban does not affect his ability to sign with the club permanently. With Frank Lampard expected to be named manager within the next 48 hours, a decision on Kovacic is likely to be one of the new boss’s first actions. Kovacic made 32 Premier League appearances under Maurizio Sarri, but with the Italian having departed the club after just one season, it’s unclear how Lampard will view the Croatian.

It does not appear there is a clause in his loan to make the signing permanent, but reports indicate that Real Madrid does not see Kovacic as a first-team player and therefore would be willing to negotiate a deal in the range of $56 million. However, once Kovacic’s loan expires, his registration with the Chelsea squad is nullified and his ability to sign with the Blues disappears as the transfer ban takes effect.


Aaron Wan-Bissaka‘s potential Manchester United deal has dominated the headlines over the past few days, and it seems there’s still work to do on that front.

According to the Evening Standard, the two sides are nearing a deal worth around $76 million, which would be a record transfer value for a British defender.

However, according to BBC reporter Simon Stone, the “talks continue” and no fee has yet to be agreed upon. That idea was corroborated by Press Association reporter Simon Peach who said both sides are motivated to complete a deal before the upcoming start of pre-season but nothing is secured just yet. Peach noted that the massive growth in financial power of the Premier League means that even smaller top-flight clubs in England have “financial muscle” and it’s harder for top clubs to “bully” them than it was even two years ago.

Champions League, Europa League: How to watch, odds, start time, predictions

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The UEFA Champions League and Europa League action has resumed and I’m going to reveal my predictions for this next round as well as the latest odds for Europe’s top two continental tournaments.

[ LIVE: Champions League scores

With Manchester City still in the Champions League and Manchester United and Wolves among the favorites to win the Europa League, there is a lot on the line for Premier League clubs in the coming weeks.

Just because the Premier League season is over, that doesn’t mean the action is over. Far from it. Both Manchester clubs are the bookmakers favorites to seal their respective European glory.

[ LIVE: Europa League scores ]

In the next few days the Europa League and Champions League quarterfinals will take place as the mini tournaments begin.

Man City beat Real Madrid 4-2 on aggregate, while Chelsea lost Bayern 7-1 on aggregate as they crashed out of the Champions League. Man United and Wolves are both in the quarterfinals and favored to go far.

Lisbon, Portugal will host the Champions League games from the quarterfinal stage onwards, while the Europa League games will be hosted around Germany.

Below is a look at my predictions, the odds for the games this week and how to watch and follow all of the fixtures in the USA.


How to watch, stream Champions League and Europa League

Dates: August 5-23
Location: Quarterfinals onwards in Lisbon/Germany
How to watch: CBS Sports
Live updates: UCL here at NBCSports.com & Europa League here at NBCSports.com


JPW’s Champions League predictions

Quarterfinals (August 12-15)
Wednesday, August 12: Atalanta 2-3 PSG
Thursday, August 13: RB Leipzig 1-2 Atletico Madrid
Friday, August 14: Barcelona 1-3 Bayern Munich
Saturday, August 15: Manchester City 3-1 Lyon


JPW’s Europa League predictions

Quarterfinals (August 10-11)
Monday, August 10: Inter Milan 2-1 Bayer Leverkusen
Monday, August 10: Manchester United 3-1 Copenhagen
Tuesday, August 11: Wolves 1-2 Sevilla
Tuesday, August 11: Shakhtar Donetsk 1-2 Basel


Champions League betting odds

Quarterfinals (August 12-15)

(+210) Atalanta v. PSG (+117). Tie: +275
(+225) RB Leipzig v. Atletico Madrid (+135). Tie: +220
(+235) Barcelona v. Bayern Munich (+115). Tie: +255
(-305) Manchester City v. Lyon (+750). Tie: +450

Outright winner
Manchester City (+220)
Bayern Munich (+325)
Paris Saint-Germain (+500)
Atletico Madrid (+800)
Barcelona (+800)
Atalanta (+1000)
RB Leipzig (+1700)
Lyon (+3500)


Europa League betting odds

Quarterfinals (August 10-11)
(+112) Inter Milan v. Bayer Leverkusen (+240). Tie: +250
(-385) Manchester United v. Copenhagen (+1000). Tie: +480
(+235) Wolves v. Sevilla (+120). Tie: +230
(-106) Shakhtar Donetsk v. Basel (+290). Tie: +255

Outright winner
Manchester United (+180)
Inter Milan (+325)
Sevilla (+500)
Bayer Leverkusen (+650)
Wolves (+700)
Shakhtar Donetsk (+1100)
Basel (+2500)
Copenhagen (+6000)

Barcelona reach 13th straight Champions League quarterfinal

Barcelona - Napoli
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Barcelona – Napoli saw Lionel Messi and Co., book the eighth and final place in the UEFA Champions League quarterfinals, by way of a 3-1 victory on the night (4-2 on aggregate) on Saturday.

[ MORE: Champions League predictions ]

It was, as it so often tends to be, Messi who shone brightest and stole the spotlight en route to Barca’s 13th straight Champions League quarterfinal appearance.

[ LIVE: Champions League schedule ]

Barca entered Saturday with the slimmest of advantages, knowing that a scoreless draw would see them through to the quarterfinals after grabbing a vital away goal in the first goal. Lyon knew that no matter what, they needed to score at least once or they would be out. That threat was reinforced, and strengthened, when Clement Lenglet headed the Blaugrana ahead in the 10th minute.

Messi slipped, Messi got back up, Messi slipped again, Messi got back up again, Messi rifled the ball inside the far post to score a(nother) fantastic solo goal and make it 2-0 (3-1) in the 23rd minute. It was only slightly more complicated than that for him (WATCH HERE). Messi put the ball in the back of the net again just a few minutes later, but the goal was taken off the board by way of a somewhat suspect handball decision upon video review.

Nonethless, that was just about that after Luis Suarez converted from the penalty spot early in first-half stoppage time. Messi won the penalty by sneaking around Kalidou Koulibaly and winning the ball in the blink of an eye, forcing the Senegalese center back to foul him on the edge of the box lest Messi walk in on goal for a virtual tap-in.

Lorenzo Insigne converted a penalty kick of his own a couple minutes later before the interval, but the threat level never peaked higher than a 2-out-of-10 for Barca.

Barca will face Bayern Munichin a sensationally mouth-watering, single-leg quarterfinal matchup next Friday.

3 things learned: Bayern Munich v. Chelsea

Bayern Munich - Chelsea
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Bayern Munich – Chelsea, leg no. 2, looked eerily similar to leg no. 1, played back in late February, with the lone exception being the lack of fans inside the Allianz Arena for Thursday’s dead rubber.

[ MORE: Champions League predictions ]

The eight-time Bundesliga champions were simply too good — and too healthy, by comparison — for Frank Lampard and the Blues to put up a reasonable fight from 3-0 down after the first leg. It was an unceremonious end to Lampard’s first season in charge at Chelsea, but a foregone conclusion before they boarded the plane back in London.

[ LIVE: Champions League schedule ]

With their 4-1 victory on the night (7-1 on aggregate), Bayern will face Barcelona in a sensationally mouth-watering quarterfinal matchup next Friday.

Here’s a look at what we learned from the Allianz Arena, as the I’s were dotted and the T’s were crossed in Bayern Munich – Chelsea.


NO DRAMA NECESSARY, BAYERN TAKE CARE OF BUSINESS EARLY

Credit to Bayern for their ruthless efficiency and disinterest in letting the tie descend into drama and tension. Robert Lewandowski scored early (10th minute) and Ivan Perisic did the same in the 24th, bringing the aggregate score to 5-0 with 65 minutes left to play. With so many key players out injured, Chelsea had virtually zero chance of pulling off the impossible comeback prior to kickoff, and Hans-Dieter Flick’s side made sure to keep it that way from the opening whistle. Corentin Tolisso put the tie further out of reach late in the second half (76th), and Lewandowski duplicated his side’s three-goal advantage from the first leg not much later.


CHELSEA’S ISSUES STILL AT THE BACK

For all of the development of young players that Frank Lampard was able to realize this season — and for all of the big-money signings either already confirmed or heavily reported to be imminent this summer — Chelsea still have serious questions to answer with regard to their defense. The below highlight is but one small example in a season full of defensive blunders at missed assignments (you’ll find another one below in the next section). Cesar Azpilicueta remains solid, but he’ll turn 31 this month and probably only has another year or two left to function at the UCL level. Reece James and Fikayo Tomori still have some way to go in their development to be UCL-caliber players. The likes of Kurt Zouma, Antonio Rudiger and Andreas Christensen have all proven, time and again, they’re simply not at that level and probably never will be. All of that is to say, Chelsea need to execute a full-on rebuild of their defense this summer, or it might not matter how many goals they can score every game next season.


BAYERN’S END-OF-SEASON FORM IS TERRIFYING

Pop quiz: When was the last time Bayern simply didn’t win a game, let alone lost one? The answer: Feb. 9 (19 games ago). And their last defeat? Dec. 7 (28 games). They won all nine of their Bundesliga games following the season’s restart, plus another two in the DFB-Pokal and now the second leg against Chelsea in the UCL. Of course, things will suddenly become far more tricky when 1) the likes of Barcelona and Man City factor into the equation in the quarterfinals and the semifinals, and 2) each round is decided over a single leg rather than the traditional home-and-away format of the Champions League. And still, Bayern have the look of serious Champions League contenders, if not favorites, based on their scintillating form dating back to the start of the calendar year.

VIDEO: Messi shreds Napoli to score fantastic solo goal

Lionel Messi goal video
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Lionel Messi has done, once again, as Lionel Messi is known to do: he has scored another fantastic Lionel Messi goal (video below) in the UEFA Champions League round of 16.

[ MORE: Andrea Pirlo named Juventus manager | Sarri sacked ]

One, two, three, four, five defenders in his way? So what, says Messi.

One or two decent attempts to tackle the ball away — and perhaps even succeeding on at least one occasion? Again, so what?

He’ll have the ball back, continue on his merry way and tuck the ball just inside the far post, all while falling down, getting back up and falling down again. The goal put Barcelona 2-0 ahead on the night (3-1 on aggregate). Prior to this post being published, he scored again, but the goal was taken away for a perceived handball upon video review.

Surely we’ve discovered a superhuman soccer league we can send him to by now, just to level the playing field a bit more for the actual humans walking planet Earth.

Anyway, here’s the latest head-shaking, smirk-inducing Messi goal video you came to see.