Guardiola Zidane UEFA Champions League
Getty Images

How will Premier League clubs fare in UCL last 16?

Leave a comment

The next few weeks sees the UEFA Champions League last 16 stage arrive and I’ve been thinking a lot about how the four Premier League teams will fare.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

Will the new winter break make a big difference? Have all four teams been handed favorable ties? What will the key matchups be over the two legs?

 [ LIVE: Champions League scores ]

Chelsea, Liverpool (reigning champs), Man City and Tottenham made it a clean sweep of all four Premier League teams in the knockout rounds but all four have very different tests awaiting them.

Below is an in-depth look and prediction for how the four Premier League teams will get on in their UCL last 16 clashes.


Tottenham Hotspur v. RB Leipzig
First leg: Feb. 19 @ Tottenham Hotspur Stadium
Second leg: Mar. 10 @ Red Bull Arena
Key battle: Heung min-Son v. Dayot Upamecano
Favorites: Spurs are the slight favorites but both clubs have been stuttering in league play. Mourinho is setting Spurs up to be rapid on the counter with Bergwijn, Son and Lucas Moura but that is exactly how Leipzig play with Werner the livewire on the break. This will be a very evenly-matched clash and could go to penalty kicks.

Getty Images

Chelsea v. Bayern Munich
First leg: Feb. 25 @ Stamford Bridge
Second leg: Mar. 18 @ Allianz Arena
Key battle: Antonio Rudiger v. Robert Lewandowski
Favorites: Bayern are probably the favorites given the experience of their team compared to Chelsea’s youngster and Lewandowski could have a field day against this leaky Blues defense. Christian Pulisic‘s fitness will be key as he has the x-factor Chelsea have missed in recent weeks. Chelsea will hope to still be level, at least, when they head to Bavaria.

Getty Images

Real Madrid v. Manchester City
First leg: Feb. 26 @ Estadio Bernabeu
Second leg: Mar. 17 @ Etihad Stadium
Key battle: Eden Hazard v. Kyle Walker
Favorites: This will probably be about 9-9 on aggregate because both teams love to attack but both have issues in defense. Zidane has turned Real into a more efficient team this season and that has flown under the radar given their superstar attackers. We know Pep Guardiola‘s side are struggling at the back but will not throw away their playing principles and Man City are the slight favorites due to Aguero and De Bruyne. This is too close to call, especially if Real get off to a flier in the first leg. The pressure is on Man City because Pep knows he needs to deliver the UCL title.

Getty Images

Atletico Madrid v. Liverpool
First leg: Feb. 18 @ Wanda Metropolitano
Second leg: Mar. 11 @ Anfield
Key battle: Thomas Partey v. Jordan Henderson
Favorites: Liverpool, the reigning European and World champs, are the favorites but this isn’t a clash Jurgen Klopp‘s side will relish. Atletico are perhaps the only team who will out-work Liverpool but Diego Simeone’s side have been blunted after the departure of Antoine Griezmann and are the underdogs. That is a role they relish. Atleti’s midfield will provide their backline with a strong shield and Oblak will be tough to beat. But this is Liverpool and all season long Jurgen Klopp’s side have found a way to win.

Getty Images

Fernandes scores first goal, says Ronaldo backed Manchester United move

Bruno Fernandes Ronaldo
Photo by Martin Rickett/PA Images via Getty Images)
Leave a comment

It’s probably not a surprise that a young Portuguese player would fancy Manchester United given the heroics of Cristiano Ronaldo at Old Trafford early his career.

Bruno Fernandes admits that those images danced through his head well before he signed with the Red Devils in January.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

It’s also not a shock that United would turn to their former player for a take on the playmaker before buying him from Sporting Lisbon.

Fernandes says he’s grateful that CR7 endorsed BF18. From Sky Sports:

“I know some people asked Cristiano what he thought of me and what I was like as a player and a person,” Fernandes said. “I know he spoke highly of me and gave me a good reference, so I sent him a message after to thank him for his kind words.”

Fernandes has 19 caps and two goals for Portugal, while Ronaldo has a few more with 164 and 99.

He now has a goal and an assist in four appearances for United. Ronaldo finished with 118 goals and 69 assists in 292 appearances for the Red Devils.

Here’s the finish:

Eden Hazard suffers fracture ahead of Man City in UCL, El Clasico

Photo by JOSE JORDAN/AFP via Getty Images
Leave a comment

Eden Hazard is set to miss the Real Madrid’s UEFA Champions League first leg against Man City with a broken fibula.

Hazard had only returned to the lineup for two matches following a three-month absence with an ankle injury.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

The 29-year-old has made just 15 appearances for Real since arriving in a big-money move from Chelsea, scoring once with five assists.

He has never appeared in less than 30 league matches over the course of his career, five times missing one or zero matches.

Of course, all of his absences show that Real is very comfortable playing and winning without Hazard. Zinedine Zidane’s men lost Sunday to drop behind Barcelona in La Liga, but that was just its second loss of the league season.

Real will be taxed in depth like its rivals, with Wednesday’s visit from Man City followed by an El Clasico at the Bernabeu on March 1. Barcelona hosts Napoli on Tuesday.

Whether you like the playmaker or despise him, there must be some sense of sympathy for his latest ailments (even if Man City and Barca fans will likely offer a Jerry Seinfeld-esque, “That’s a shame”).

Watch Live: Manchester United, Wolves host bottom three battlers

Manchester United Watford live stream link
Photo by Leila Coker/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images
Leave a comment

A pair of Premier League basement dwellers face stiff tests in their bids to win another season in the top flight.

Manchester United hosts Watford on NBCSN while Wolves welcome Norwich City on CNBC as both home sides aim to improve the health of their top four hopes in 9 a.m. ET kickoffs.

[ WATCH: Man Utd-Watford | Wolves-Norwich ]

Lineups notes from both matches:

LINEUPS

Manchester United

Watford


Wolves

Norwich City

Three Serie A matches suspended due to virus deaths in Italy

coronavirus
Photo by Nicolò Campo/LightRocket via Getty Images
1 Comment

ROME (AP) Three Serie A soccer matches scheduled for Sunday in the northern regions of Lombardy and Veneto were suspended late Saturday after the deaths of two people infected with the virus from China.

On orders from the Italian government, the games called off were: Inter Milan vs. Sampdoria, Atalanta vs. Sassuolo and Hellas Verona vs. Cagliari.

Three other matches in Genoa, Turin and Rome on Sunday are going ahead as scheduled.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

A dozen towns in northern Italy effectively went into lockdown on Saturday after the deaths of two people infected with the coronavirus from China, and a growing cluster of cases with no direct links to the origin of the outbreak abroad.

“The government is working on urgent measures to decisively confront and contain the cases of coronavirus contagion,” read a letter from Sports Minister Vincenzo Spadafora to Italian Olympic Committee president Giovanni Malago shortly before midnight local time on Saturday. “Those measures also include the sports world in order to prevent risks and to better take care of the health of those involved in the events and competition.

“Following measures taken by the cabinet for protective reasons and maximum precaution, on orders of the government I’m asking you to suspend all sports events of every level and discipline planned for the Lombardy and Veneto regions on Sunday.”

The secondary contagions prompted local authorities in the Lombardy and Veneto regions to close schools, businesses and restaurants and to cancel sporting events and Masses.

The mayor of Milan, Italy’s business capital and the regional capital of Lombardy, shuttered public offices.

A 78-year-old man infected with the virus died in Veneto. A postmortem on a 77-year-old woman in Lombardy came back positive, though it wasn’t clear if illness from the virus caused her death.

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

Andrew Dampf on Twitter: https://twitter.com/AndrewDampf