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Bundesliga season preview: Bayern aims for No. 30

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Bayern Munich’s got another fight on its hands when it comes to the Bundesliga.

Sounds insane, we know; The eight-time defending league champions have seen five teams finish runner-up in Germany’s top flight, and shook off a quality challenge from Borussia Dortmund — the last team to win the league — last season to claim its 29th title.

Niko Kovac is back in the fold, as are the top stars of the team, but it’s still going to be feel a bit different with Franck Ribery, Arjen Robben, and Mats Hummels leaving town and a pair of World Cup winners — Lucas Hernandez and Benjamin Pavard — arriving at the Allianz Arena.

Robert Lewandowski is still there, as is Joshua Kimmich, and most of the club’s top minute eaters from last season’s title run. Serge Gnabry, Leon Goretzka, and Kinglsey Coman will play even bigger roles, the club has quality young hotshots like Canadian teen Alphonso Davies, and Thiago Alcantara will be the straw that stirs the drink for young and old alike.

But BVB.

Dortmund has only lost Christian Pulisic, who’s headed “back” to Chelsea, and has again claimed an impressive summer haul (even if we knew a lot of the names prior to the end of the season).

Hummels is back, and Paco Alcacer’s loan has been made permanent. Oddly enough, those two moves might be the least impactful of the handful, with Bayer Leverkusen’s Julian Brandt and Gladbach’s Thorgan Hazard true difference makers in the midfield and Nico Schulz (Hoffenheim) a true hope for the back line.

Dortmund also added U.S. youth wunderkind Giovanni Reyna, though it’ll take time for the 16-year-old to run through the ranks.

The bookies think BVB is the only club with a prayer of claiming the title in place of Bayern, as reflected by 3/10 odds to the holders and 4/1 to the runners-up.

Tyler Adams and RB Leipzig are 33/1 odds, but that feels a little too much considering the additions of Ademola Lookman and Christopher Nkunku to go with Chelsea loanee Ethan Ampadu and Red Bull Salzburg star Hannes Wolf.

Bayer is a distant fourth, and has to hope that Kerem Demirbay’s move from Hoffenheim helps offset the loss of Brandt to BVB.

From Bayer on-down there’s a lot of uncertainty, as seemingly everyone lost a star of three. Eintracht Frankfurt sold Luka Jovic and Sebastien Haller and is hoping Dejan Jovelijc turns out to be their next big capture from Serbia. Hoffenheim sold Demirbay, Schulz and Joelinton (Newcastle) and is yet to really address the goals aside from lower league scorer Sargis Adamyan.

Gladbach sold Hazard and is betting on a breakthrough from Schalke purchase and former next big thing Breel Embolo. Speaking of Schalke, they could be in trouble again and will need a big show from U.S. international Weston McKennie.

All of this stands to claim the following: Though surprises are possible, the league is downright unpredictable heading into the season aside from spots 1, 2, and maybe 3.

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Americans Abroad: John Brooks will lead Wolfsburg’s back line, the aformentioned McKennie is going to be terribly important to Schalke’s hopes, and Tyler Adams returns for a first full season at RB Leipzig.

Josh Sargent is hopeful to make himself a league mainstay with Werder Bremen, and

Timothy Chandler’s still on the books at Eintracht Frankfurt, Fabian Johnson remains at ‘Gladbach, and Alfredo Morales is still at Fortuna Dusseldorf along with Man City loanee and USMNT goalkeeper Zack Steffen.

German born U.S. U-20 defender Lennard Maloney has been promoted with FC Union Berlin, while former NYCFC striker Khiry Shelton is with fellow new boys Paderborn.

And there’s an MLS connection to join Adams, Davies and Shelton: Augsburg has added FC Dallas playmaker Carlos Gruezo.

The new boys: Union Berlin has bought enough talent to rise up the table a bit, while Paderborn and Koln have more questions than Union but still some guile in their ranks. Koln in particular might have the best shot to stay up on pedigree alone.

UEFA Champions League Wednesday preview: Man City, Spurs debut

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Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur begin their UEFA Champions League campaigns on very different results and with very different vibes.

City is coming off a stunning 3-2 loss to injury-hit Norwich City, and is set up in Ukraine to face Shakhtar Donetsk for the third-straight season, a side which beat Pep Guardiola once in four tries between 2017/18 and 2018/19 in the UCL.

[ MORE: UCL Tues. wrap ]

But on Wednesday, Guardiola’s men are going to carry a similar feel to one of his old Barcelona teams, as Pep seemingly will have Fernandinho pull a Javier Mascherano and drop into the back line.

Yes, Fernandinho and Nicolas Otamendi are Manchester City’s hopes at center back, now that John Stones has joined Aymeric Laporte on the shelf.

“For me as a manager it’s an incredible challenge,” said Pep Guardiola. “But I believe a lot, people don’t know the spirit and resolve to solve this problem. The players going to come back with Dinho, Eric Garcia, Taylor Harwood-Bellis. … It’s happened, but what we are not going to do is complain. We have to have 11 players on the pitch and I like it, to find a solution. For the players as well to find an incredible step forward.”

Spurs, meanwhile, will simply be trying to build on any momentum gained by a 4-0 demolition of Crystal Palace at the weekend, a win which came after manager Mauricio Pochettino begged his side to “re-focus” after a relatively poor start to the season.

Now a bit more relaxed, Spurs head to Greece as the clear favorites against stingy Olympiacos. These are, after all, the finalists of last season’s tournament.

Pochettino won’t be sleeping on the challenge, from The London Evening Standard:

“They have good players and if we are not focused and don’t take our best game we are going to suffer. But last season we played in the final of Champions League, so it’s normal people think before the game, Tottenham is one step above Olympiacos but in the end you need to show it on the pitch.”

Spurs are one of two early kickoffs on Tuesday.

Full UCL Wednesday schedule

12:55 p.m. ET
Club Brugge v. Galatasaray
Olympiacos v. Tottenham Hotspur

3 p.m. ET
Bayer Leverkusen v. Lokomotiv Moscow
Paris Saint-Germain v. Real Madrid
Atletico Madrid v. Juventus
Dinamo Zagreb v. Atalanta
Bayern Munich v. Red Star Belgrade
Shakhtar Donetsk v. Manchester City

American coach Marsch speaks after landmark Champions League day

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Jesse Marsch made his UEFA Champions League debut on Tuesday, a historic first for not just the Wisconsin native but also his country.

Marsch, 45, oversaw Red Bull Salzburg’s 6-2 demolition of Genk, becoming the first American to win a UCL match as manager.

[ MORE: Champions League Tues. wrap ]

“We knew we were going into the match full of confidence,” he said, via the Salzburg site. “We knew too that we could put in a performance of this quality. I wasn’t pleased with a few situations, such as conceding for 3-1. That shows our incredible mentality though as it prompted us to give a few more percent and immediately score two goals.”

The ex-New York Red Bulls manager and RB Leipzig assistant manager got another three goals from incredible 19-year-old striker Erling Braut Haland, who nows has 17 goals in nine matches this season.

“It is an absolute joy to work with this team. We have a lot of players who just know how to battle, and that rubs off on the others. You can see that on the pitch on nights like tonight.”

There will be tougher nights ahead for Marsch, who is in a group with Liverpool and Napoli, but Tuesday was a fine start for the tactician. And it was a banner moment for American coaches abroad, who’ve been led by past and present USMNT coaches Bob Bradley and Gregg Berhalter.

Maybe one day that’ll be Marsch’s title… but it seems like he may have some loftier ground to cover on his path through world soccer.

Klopp: Liverpool made wrong decisions; Penalty also incorrect

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Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp is going to bat for his left back after Andrew Robertson gave away what became the decisive penalty in a 2-0 loss to Napoli in UEFA Champions League action on Tuesday.

“I don’t think it’s a penalty,” Klopp said. “What can I say, for me, it is clear and obvious no penalty. He jumps before any contact, we can’t change that.”

[ RECAP: Napoli 2-0 Liverpool ]

For what it’s worth: It sure seemed like both a foul on Robertson and a comical embellishment from Callejon, but we digress.

Liverpool just didn’t have it on the day, like when Sadio Mane played a terrible pass to Mohamed Salah on what could’ve been an easy 1-0 lead.

In the moments they did have it, there was Napoli goalkeeper Alex Meret making a splendid save.

“We played a lot of good football but didn’t finish it off. We controlled moments but had not enough chances in the end. We made decisions that were not right and have to accept the result. It was very often the final ball that was not right.”

Also, forgive Klopp if he has stopped enjoying the beautiful country of Italy.

Lampard, Azpilicueta back Barkley after penalty drama

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Chelsea captain Cesar Azpilicueta claims that Willian was encouraging Ross Barkley in the run-up to the latter’s ill-fated penalty attempt in a 1-0 loss to Valencia at Stamford Bridge on Tuesday in the UEFA Champions League.

“Ross  is one of the best penalty takers in the team and one who takes them. He had the confidence and he was unlucky hitting the bar. They were encouraging him to have the confidence to score. There was high expectation. They were trying to get him into the best condition. Hopefully next time it goes in.”

[ MORE: Recap, 3 things ]

That is genuinely amusing from cheeky and likable “Dave.” Let’s take a look at the encouragement, shall we?

Barkley is literally, repeatedly motioning and even saying, “Nah, I got this. I’ll be fine.”

Chelsea boss Frank Lampard says Barkley was the penalty taker for the game, and doesn’t see the drama in it.

“Ross is a penalty taker and is when he starts games. He took it and missed it. It is a great story to say there is contention between players. If he scores it is not a story. But he took it and missed. That is it. The disappointment to all of us is that we didn’t get chance to win the game. There is no issue in the dressing room.”

Chelsea was the superior team over 90 minutes, but that can mean so little in a tournament where winning at home can be vital to the chances of advancement.