Pepe drives Arteta to first Arsenal win
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Pepe, Arsenal impress in dispatching haggard Man Utd

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Arsenal gave Mikel Arteta his first win and it came against an age-old rival.

The Gunners controlled Manchester United 2-0 at the Emirates Stadium on Wednesday, riding an eye-opening show from Nicolas Pepe in the process.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Pepe and Sokratis Papastathopoulos scored the goals as Arsenal moves 10th on 27 points. The Gunners are nine points back of the Top Four.

United whiffs in a bid to move within a win of fourth-place Chelsea, and remains fifth with 31 points.


Three things we learned

1. Arteta overwhelms injury-hit United midfield: The Red Devils midfield isn’t a league-winner at full strength, and not having Paul Pogba and Scott McTominay is a problem. The depth behind them is just not there, or too green. Nemanja Matic and Fred were easy starters, but Jesse Lingard‘s rough time continues and Andreas Pereira has been inconsistent.

Mikel Arteta knew this and was able to start Mesut Ozil, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Alexandre Lacazette, and Nicolas Pepe. It was less of a risk than usual because of the opposition. It became even less so given another fine showing from Granit Xhaka.

United should go shopping even if Pogba plans on staying, given Matic’s age. Both Matic and Fred were decent in a poor effort for United. Maybe Juan Mata was the play, as his cameo was okay.

2. Pepe embraces rare start, demanding more: Nicolas Pepe has been much more effective for Arsenal as a Premier League starter than a sub, and his first league start since Dec. 15 was right on the money. His first half: Goal, 25-of-25 passes, hit post, whipped-in corner that became 2nd goal, three dribbles, two aerials won, one tackle. 2-0 Arsenal. He was still subbed off in the 62nd minute, so, okay. He must be the worst training player on Earth, or hide everyone’s car keys.

To borrow Pep Guardiola‘s favorite phrase modifier, he was so, so good. And there’s room for more, as he’s a shade off when it comes to following his instincts in the final third. That’s something Mikel Arteta will have seen fine-tuned with Raheem Sterling and Gabriel Jesus at Manchester City.

3. Rashford runs out of steam: If we’re going to relentlessly praise Marcus Rashford‘s arrival, and deservedly so, we need to note when United’s key piece doesn’t quite have it. It’s understandable given the minutes and magnitude of contribution asked, but he won just one of nine first half duels. He didn’t get a shot on target during the frame and passed at less than 70 percent.

Man of the Match: Pepe only played the first hour, so we’ll give a nod to beleaguered goal scorer Sokratis Papastathopoulos. The ex-Borussia Dortmund man was the standout performer of a back four which seems to have a simplified plan under Arteta.


A bad Ainsley Maitland-Niles giveaway threatened to open up Arsenal, but Jesse Lingard didn’t handle the opportunity well.

Pepe put Arsenal ahead when Sead Kolasinac‘s cutback was deflected into his path. A clever adjustment later and the ball was in the back of the goal.

Aubameyang couldn’t side volley a Pepe cross home moments later.

The Gunners were all over the Red Devils, and Pepe slipped Lacazette into the box for the Frenchman to torch Harry Maguire but fire wide.

Pepe then curled an 18-yard shot off the far post.

The Gunners got a deserved second in the 43rd as De Gea saved Lacazette’s flick of Pepe’s corner, but Sokratis was at the ready to punch in the rebound.

Harry Maguire headed a free kick to Bernd Leno on the final play of the first half.

[ MORE: Premier League stats ] 

United’s second half was improved at the outset, with Fred stinging Leno’s palms with a shot in the 55th but still no real threat on goal.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer removed Daniel James and Jesse Lingard for Mason Greenwood and Andreas Pereira in the 58th minute.

Matic set up Pereira for a shot in the 59th, but the Brazilian smashed into the outside of the goal.

Leno beat Rashford to Juan Mata’s cross in stoppage time to keep the clean sheet.

Barcelona v. Bayern Munich: How to watch, team news, start time, odds

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Barcelona – Bayern Munich is a massive UEFA Champions League quarterfinal on Friday (start time, 3pm ET) and here is everything you need to know ahead of the clash in Lisbon, Portugal.

Many believe the 2019-20 Champions League winner will be one of these two teams, as they face the winner of Manchester City v. Lyon in the semifinal.

[ LIVE: Champions League scores

Barcelona and Lionel Messi have the disappointment of losing their La Liga title in recent weeks to spur them on in the Champions League, while Bayern Munich swept all before them in Germany this season with Robert Lewandowski scoring 53 goals in 44 games in all competitions.

After just a few months in charge, Barca boss Quique Setien likely needs to win the Champions League to keep his job as Messi is firing in attack but Barca are still suspect at the back. As for Bayern Munich coach Hansi Flick, who has masterminded a masterful turnaround since taking charge last November, he and the Bayern hierarchy will see this as the Bavarians’ best chance to win the Champions League since they last did so in 2013.

[ MORE: Key battles in UCL quarterfinals ]

Below you will find all of the details you need on Barcelona – Bayern Munich in what is set to be the game of the Champions League season so far as both teams love to attack.


How to watch, stream Champions League: Barcelona – Bayern Munich

Dates: August 12, 3pm ET kick off
Location: Lisbon, Portugal
How to watch: CBS Sports
Live updates: UCL here at NBCSports.com & Europa League here at NBCSports.com


Team news

Barcelona have Ousmane Dembele on the bench. The Frenchman hasn’t featured in nine months and had surgery on his hamstring in February, but he could be a great option off the bench. The rest of the lineup is as expected with De Jong and Vidal charged with supporting Messi and Suarez up top.

Bayern are without Benjamin Pavard who has an ankle injury, while Alphonso Davies shook off a slight adductor problem to start and experienced duo Thiago Alcantara and Ivan Perisic start for Bayern.


What they’re saying

Antoine Griezmann on Barcelona’s mindset: “We are looking forward to it, we have worked well tactically and we are ready to play the game. We know it will be difficult, but we know what we have to do to qualify for the semifinals. It will be a very good match. We hope to take advantage of the quality we have. We are in a good moment and we can play a good game. We have to be together, up front and at the back, and try to have the ball as much as possible.”

Hansi Flick on the style of play he wants from Bayern: “Defensively to win the ball – and offensively, purposefully and consistently to score goals. The intensity of our actions is crucial. We also want to play attractive possession football. The most important thing is that we see ourselves as a team and that everyone knows what their task is. Every player has to get involved and be able to rely on his neighbor on the pitch. This is extremely important to us.”


Odds – Full matchweek odds

It is not often that Barcelona (+235) are the underdogs but they are here, and that shows you how good Bayern Munich (+115) have been in recent months. Bayern will be wary of Messi but with Lewandowski banging in goals for fun and a stable midfield and defensive unit behind him, the Bavarian giants are the favorites for a reason. The tie at +255 provides value and this should be a goal-fest.


Prediction

If this turns into a straight shootout, you would probably fancy Barcelona to advance with Luis Suarez, Messi and Antoine Griezmann in attack. But Bayern will keep it tight, look to slow play down and then launch counters which Lewandowski can finish. I think this game will be stretched and become the attacking feast all neutrals are hoping for, but the Germans are just a more ruthless and solid team right now. Barcelona 1-3 Bayern Munich.

Alexander-Arnold wins Premier League’s Young Player of the Year

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Trent Alexander-Arnold is a sensation and the 21-year-old right back has been named the Premier League Young Player of the Year for the 2019-20 season.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights

Alexander-Arnold has been a revelation since bursting onto the scene at the end of the 2016-17 campaign and his marauding runs from right back, stunning long-range passes and wonderful free kicks were a key part in Liverpool winning the Premier League title.

He set a new record for Premier League assists for a defender, as he racked up 13 throughout the season and was so often a difference maker in tight wins for the Reds. The local lad has well and truly done good with a Champions League, World Club Cup and Premier League trophies in his first few seasons as a pro.

The England international beat Christian Pulisic, Mason Mount, Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial, Mason Greenwood, Jack Grealish and Dean Henderson to the award and there can be no arguments with this decision.

Here’s a look at just a few of TAA’s highlights from 2019-20.

The big question now around Alexander-Arnold is this: how far can he go?

He is much more than just an outlet for Liverpool at right back. He somehow dictates so many of their attacks from the right back position, which is no mean feat, and given that Jurgen Klopp plays a 4-3-3 formation he is also expected to dig in and do plenty of defensive work. Somehow he does that, as well as surging forward and providing an attacking outlet.

Alexander-Arnold could easily move into midfield or play as a forward and it would not be surprising to see Klopp bring in a new right back when one of Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane eventually move on, then he could move TAA into the attack.

A defender who does his job at the back but contributes in attack, consistently and with quality, is so hard to find.

Alexander-Arnold is a modern day full back and his form this season suggested he can become one of the best right backs in the game. If he isn’t the best already.

Who else is close to him in the world game? Think about it. Keep thinking. Yep. You can’t think of anybody better than him, can you? Joshua Kimmich? Dani Carvajal? Aaron Wan-Bissaka? Kimmich and TAA are close but Kimmich doesn’t offer what TAA does in attack, even though he is also capable of playing much further forward and in midfield.

The early years of Alexander-Arnold’s career has proven he is versatile and can become a more attacking player, but he’s done such a great job at right back, is it worth the hassle in moving him from that position? Whatever happens and wherever you put him he will provide quality deliveries, assists and clever runs.

Europa League semifinals: How to watch, start time, prediction

Europa League semifinals
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Man United – Sevilla and Inter Milan – Shakhtar Donetsk are a pair of highly intriguing Europa League semifinals, featuring four clubs from four different leagues, set for Sunday and Monday, respectively (start time, 3pm ET each day).

United reached the final four by narrowly escaping the upset threat of Copenhagen in extra-time; Sevilla broke Wolverhampton Wanderers’ hearts with a late winner in the quarterfinals; Inter held on to an early lead to beat Bayer Leverkusen; and Shakhtar, interestingly enough, have perhaps the most momentum following a 4-1 drubbing of Basel.

[ LIVE: Europa League scores ]

Reminder: from the quarterfinals onward, this year’s Europa League features single-leg ties, meaning the winners on the night will book their place in the final.

Ahead of this week’s semifinals, below is a look at how to watch Man United – Sevilla and Inter Milan – Shakhtar Donetsk in the USA, the betting odds, predictions and much more.


What they’re saying ahead of Europa League semifinals

Man United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer: “Let’s see if we’ve developed throughout the season because we’ve had two semifinals before. We want to go to the next step. Semifinals, that’s a good effort, decent, but it’s not good enough. It’s not good enough for Man United still. … Let’s make sure that hurt that we felt in both the other cups that we’ve gone out, that can be our maybe marginal difference. The difference that we want it more than them.”

Sevilla manager Julen Lopetegui: “We are going to play against Manchester United in the next match — they’re the biggest team in the world but we’re going to be prepared for them. We’re focused on the next game, against a top, historic side, one of the best in the history of the sport who are in great form. We will give our best as we always do. To play against them will be really tough, but we’ll go into it believing we can beat them.”


Europa League semifinals odds

Man United – Sevilla – Full Europa League, Champions League odds

United are slight betting favorites at +150 and Sevilla checking in at +195. That’s about as tight as odds can get. Given how close this one is expected to be, +215 to tie is perhaps the most intriguing prospect.

Odds for Inter – Shakhtar

There’s certainly a great deal of value to be had with Shakhtar set as hefty underdogs at +350. Inter are the heavy favorites at -132, representing very little betting value unless you’re absolutely certain they’re a lock to win it.


Prediction for Man United – Sevilla

United have conceded just two goals in the Europa League dating back to the start of the calendar year (five games), which creates a thoroughly difficult challenge for Sevilla, who have scored just three goals in four games during the same period. This should be a low-scoring affair and United do just enough to come out on top, 1-0.

Prediction for Inter – Shakhtar

Upset special, anyone? Shakhtar have largely flown under the radar and received very little attention during their run to the semifinals, but they have plenty of firepower to hang with Inter in this one. One thing is a near-certainty: there will be goals. It ends 2-2 and goes to penalty kicks, where Inter only just survive.


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

Report: McKennie’s transfer from Schalke to Hertha falls apart

Weston McKennie transfer
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Weston McKennie transfer update: The lifecycle on the American midfielder’s proposed move from Schalke to Hertha Berlin was short and sweet, and is now no longer.

[ TRANSFER NEWS: Sancho staying at Dortmund; Chilwell to Man Utd, Chelsea ]

According to a report from Bild, the move has fallen apart and a number of stumbling blocks are to blame.

Firstly, the transfer fee Schalke wanted for the 21-year-old was reportedly too high for Hertha to stomach. They are said to be seeking roughly $48 million. McKennie would also be due a fairly significant pay increase upon completing a transfer.

Then came the issue of convincing McKennie that a move to Hertha would be beneficial for his career. He is said to have had major questions about Hertha’s viability as contenders for European qualification — they finished 10th this season, two places and two points above Schalke. The fact that Schalke are outside of Germany’s European places is undoubtedly a driving force in any and all Weston McKennie transfer rumors set to be spread this summer.

[ MORE: Arsenal sign Willian on free transfer from Chelsea ]

According to the report, McKennie prefers a move to the Premier League. While he is unlikely to meet the standard of the PL’s top-six sides and therefore would appear to go against his logic regarding the move to Hertha, McKennie’s willingness to forego a place in Europe highlights the draw that many young players feel toward playing in England.

McKennie has previously been linked with moves to Southampton, Everton and Newcastle United.