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Mexicans Abroad: Jimenez assists twice, Vela breaks MLS record

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He didn’t score, but Raul Jimenez was the X-factor on Sunday, assisting Adama Traore twice in Wolves’ memorable 2-0 win over defending champions Manchester City. In eight games this season, the 28-year-old has tallied two goals and two assists.

MLS has a new single season goalscoring champion, and he is Mexican. Carlos Vela topped of his season with a hat-trick performance against the Colorado Rapids, putting his season totals at 34 goals and 15 assists in 31 games played. Historic.

Outside of Jimenez’s stellar contributions and Vela’s historic day, however, things weren’t as positive for Mexicans abroad this weekend.

In Italy, despite making a great first impression, Hirving “Chucky” Lozano is far two, three steps away from living up to his price tag. That said, it’s likely the speedy winger is still assimilating to Carlo Ancelotti’s system and Serie A’s pragmatism.

In Spain, the only true “winner” was Nestor Araujo, who recorded three clearances, one blocked shot and two interceptions in Celta Vigo’s 1-0 victory over Athletic Bilbao.

Here is a list of several other Mexico national team affiliates making a name for themselves (or not) outside of Mexico this weekend.

Premier League

Raul Jimenez, Wolverhampton Wanderers — Jimenez hasn’t scored a league goal since September, but he doesn’t need to score goals to help Wolves, his latest performances shows. Spearheading two counter-attacks, the striker assisted Adama Traore twice in Wolverhampton Wanderers masterclass win over Pep Guardiola‘s Manchester City.

Serie A

Hirving “Chucky” Lozano, Napoli — Lozano had a first this weekend, but it didn’t involve putting Napoli ahead of Torino. The 24-year-old, instead, earned his first yellow card with Napoli in 61 minutes of play.

La Liga

Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez, Sevilla — Chicharito‘s goal count in Europa League with Sevilla is at two goals now, but for some reason, it’s not enough to earn him a La Liga start with Sevilla. On Sunday, El Tri’s all-time scorer played 25 minutes and recorded a short off target in Sevilla’s 4-0 loss to Barcelona.

Hector Herrera, Atletico Madrid — Herrera can now describe what it’s like to come off the bench in a La Liga match. The 29-year-old replaced Alvaro Morata and played 18 minutes in Atletico’s 0-0 draw with Real Valladolid.

Andres Guardado, Diego Lainez, Real Betis — The talk surrounding the 19-year-old was that it’d be best for him to look elsewhere for playing time. But over the past weeks, Lainez has started to gain minutes here in there. On Friday, he played a minute, coming on for Guardado in Betis’ 1-1 draw with Eibar.

Nestor Araujo, Celta Vigo — Celta Vigo, flirting with the relegation zone, were in desperate need for a win. With Araujo starting and playing all 90 minutes, the home side won 1-0 over Athletic Bilbao, a top-seven side.

Eredivisie

Erick Gutierrez, PSV Eindhoven — Like Lozano, Gutierrez, with time, is winning the hearts of PSV fans with undeniable effort on the pitch. The midfielder started and played 85 minutes in the Dutch giants’ 4-1 victory over VVV-Venlo.

Edson Alvarez, Ajax — After a good shift against Valencia in Champions League play, Alvarez played a minute in Ajax’s 2-0 win. after nine game, Ajax and PSV are tied with 23 points.

Primeira Liga

Jesus “Tecatito” Corona, FC Porto — Porto and Corona didn’t play this weekend.

Jupiler Pro League

Omar Govea, Zulte Waregem — Govea started on the bench but ended up playing 42 minutes in Zulte’s 6-0 win on Saturday.

Elsewhere around the globe:

Carlos Vela, LAFC – Vela was critiqued for making a move to MLS at prime age. in retrospect, though, it was the best choice the now 30-year-old could have made. On Sunday, the winger finished the 2019 regular season with a hat-trick and as the league’s Golden Boot winner.

Hector Moreno, Al Gharafa   Moreno earned a yellow card in Al Gharafa’s 3-3 draw on Thursday.

Carlos Fierro, San Jose Earthquakes – Dressed but didn’t play in the Quakes’ 3-1 loss to the Portland Timbers. The offseason has officially started for the 25-year-old.

Uriel Antuna, Jonathan Dos Santos, LA Galaxy – Dos Santos and Antuna started and played all 90 minutes in Galaxy’s game loss against the Houston Dynamo. The Galaxy, however, move on to MLS Cup playoffs and face Minnesota United in the first round.

Rankings the comeback potential of Champions League sides

UEFA Champions League
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Maybe Group H of the UEFA Champions League was very soft.

Chelsea and Valencia are in massive holes after 90 minutes of the Round of 16, and third-place Ajax is a 2-0 hole in its Europa League tie.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

The other six teams’ disadvantages after one leg range from tricky to barely existent.

Let’s rate which teams have the best chances to climb back and earn a spot in the quarterfinals.

8. Chelsea (down 3-0 to Bayern Munich after home leg)

Robert Lewandowski’s injury hurts the Bavarians, but not three goals worth of hurt. And Serge Gnabry has been the one sounding death knells for London clubs.

7. Valencia (down 4-1 to Atalanta after away leg)

The away goal combined with the Serie A side’s relative inexperience in the competition gives Valencia a bit more hope than Chelsea.

6. Napoli (level at 1 with Barcelona after home leg)

On the plus side, Gennaro Gattuso’s men are level. That said, they allowed an away goal to Barca and have to go to the Camp Nou against a side yearning to make better UCL memories.

5. Real Madrid (down 2-1 to Man City after home leg)

Who knows what Pep Guardiola will launch at the Etihad Stadium, but giving him two away goals and a lead opens up his playbook? As for Zinedine Zidane, it was all so one dimensional at the Bernabeu. What’s he have cooking?

4. Tottenham Hotspur (down 1-0 to RB Leipzig after home leg)

Spurs have better UEL experience than their second leg hosts, though the striker problems looms over Jose Mourinho’s plans.

3. Liverpool (down 1-0 to Atletico Madrid after away leg)

It’s easy to imagine the Reds’ rebounding, and even Atleti will doubt its potential to keep Liverpool off the scoreboard at Anfield.

2. Paris Saint-Germain (down 2-1 to Borussia Dortmund after away leg)

Dortmund’s allowed plenty of goals this season, and PSG’s attack is stacked.

1. Juventus (down 1-0 to Lyon after away leg)

It’s difficult to imagine Juve playing as poor as they did Wednesday when they head back to Turin. The Old Lady knew something was wrong in warm-ups. They’ll address it, but can they keep Lyon off the board?

 

Europa League preview: Arsenal, Wolves, Man Utd look to advance

Europa League
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Fifteen places remain up for grabs in the Europa League’s Round of 16 after Steven Gerrard’s Rangers handled Braga in Wednesday’s lone second leg.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

Notable names Porto, Benfica, and Ajax enter their second legs with hills to climb, while the three Premier League teams have varying degrees of advantage.

Manchester United v. Club Brugge

United enters the second leg at Old Trafford with an away goal advantage after the 1-1 draw in Belgium.

Luke Shaw says the Red Devils are driven by a desire to play for silverware, and the UEL joins the FA Cup as their lone opportunities to claim trophies this year.

“It is a massive ambition for me,” said Shaw, via The Manchester Evening News. “I was there for the Europa League final, and the feeling, even though I wasn’t on the pitch, was a feeling I have not felt and I wanted more of. I wasn’t involved and that is what is pushing me on even more to get into this final, and others. We should be in finals and we should be in all competitions until the end. We are very confident at the moment.”

Arsenal v. Olympiacos

The Gunners claimed a 1-0 result in Greece, and know a draw will be enough to bring Mikel Arteta‘s men to the Round of 16.

The manager was asked what’s different about his Gunners, now back in contention to qualify for Europe via the Premier League table.

“I think the team is progressing well, the club is in a better place,” Arteta said, via Football.London. “We are getting much more unity on the sections of the club and as well a great energy back from the fans every time we play at the Emirates and away from the Emirates. There are a lot of positive things but there are still things to improve individually, collectively and as a club and we are in that process at the moment.”

Espanyol v. Wolves

Wolves rang up a four-goal advantage at the Molineux, and that may give Nuno Espirito Santo a chance to use his depth for a rare time this season.

The boss has counted on players like Conor Coady, Rui Patricio, and Raul Jimenez in all tournaments, and he admits that it’s worn on the squad.

“I wouldn’t say we’ve not suffered,” said Espirito Santo via Wolves’ site. “It’s been tough with a tight schedule, very demanding on the players and I think the credit is on them – the way they compete, the way they prepare themselves to compete, but it’s tough, very tough. … The credit is for the players, it’s for the staff, but the players buying, believing and working very hard, is what makes things go well.”

Look out for Diogo Jota if he plays; The Wolves star has five goals in his past two matches.

Thursday’s second legs

12:55 p.m. ET kickoffs
Istanbul Basaksehir (1-3) v. Sporting Lisbon
Gent (0-1) v. Roma
Malmo (1-2) v. Wolfsburg
LASK (1-1) v. AZ Alkmaar
Porto (1-2) v. Bayer Leverkusen
Espanyol (0-4) v. Wolves
Basel (3-0) v. APOEL Nicosia

3 p.m. ET
Manchester United (1-1) v. Club Brugge
Celtic (1-1) v. Copenhagen
Benfica (1-2) v. Shakhtar Donetsk
Red Bull Salzburg (1-4) v. Eintracht Frankfurt
Inter Milan (2-0) v. Ludogorets Razgrad
Ajax (0-2) v. Getafe
Sevilla (1-1) v. CFR Cluj
Arsenal (1-0) v. Olympiacos

Juventus ‘could tell something wasn’t switched on’ in Lyon

Juventus
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Juventus’ obsession with winning another European Cup has the club on edge after a 1-0 first leg loss to Lyon on Wednesday in the first leg of the Round of 16.

Stalwart defender Leonardo Bonucci, defender Danilo, and manager Maurizio Sarri were less than pleased with the performance.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

Bonucci was spotted yelling at substitute midfielder Blaise Matuidi in warm-ups, and that was a prelude to a poor performance from most of the team.

“I didn’t tell Matuidi off, I told him the team includes those who are on the bench and we must all be ready to contribute,” Bonucci said, via Football-Italia. “I could tell something wasn’t switched on with the XI starters either. We’ve got to sort this out, as these are the things that make the difference.”

Sarri, the system man, is quite upset with his players after what he said was a lightning-fast training session on Tuesday.

“I don’t know why, I cannot get the players to understand the importance of moving the ball quickly,” said the flummoxed ex-Chelsea man. “This is fundamental, we’ll keep working on it and sooner or later this concept will get into their heads.”

Sarri was happier with the ball movement in the second half, and will expect Juve to do the same in its home second leg.

Danilo had a decent day in the loss. He didn’t sugar coat the performance.

“We cannot just gift the first half to the opposition in such an important tournament. We are aware that we did that and need to work harder,” Danilo said.

Guardiola ‘so proud’ of Man City comeback; KDB, Jesus react to tactics

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Pep Guardiola was grinning widely after his tactical moves set up Manchester City in a 2-1 comeback win over Real Madrid at the Bernabeu.

“I’m so proud,” Guardiola said. “This is the first step. It’s not over. We can enjoy the moment.”

Why wouldn’t he be smiling? Guardiola became the first manager to win Champions League games at the Bernabeu with two different teams, and did it during one of the most controversial periods in club history.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

What was different? Well, Guardiola played Kevin De Bruyne as a sort of second striker and took center forward Gabriel Jesus and deployed him as a left-sided midfielder.

“In the four years we are here with Pep, sometimes there are some surprises,” De Bruyne said. “Even the players don’t really know before the game starts what we need to do. Some were good. We had some lesser moments but in a quality game like this you’re gonna struggle but we fought really well together.”

Jesus had it even weirder, playing as a sort of left midfielder or even wingback with plenty of responsibility going back and forward.

The Brazilian said he has some experience playing wide, but — again — you have to be ready for the full Pep Guardiola experience.

“I can remember my time in the Palmeiras academy and I play like a winger and then become a striker,” he said. “But I go to the pitch to help my team-mates. It doesn’t matter if I have to run back or forwards. I have to help my team-mates. We are learning a lot. We have to play different positions sometimes.”

Guardiola knows the second leg is going to be tough, as Real will put everything into attack.

“When we were better, we conceded a goal,” Guardiola said, via the BBC. “When they were better, we scored a goal. That’s football. I remember the quarterfinal a few seasons ago at Anfield when we played incredibly well and they scored all their shots on target.”

Real will be without center back Sergio Ramos, who was sent off late, while Man City could be missing its best center back. Aymeric Laporte subbed off in the first half.