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

Belarusian Premier League roundup: BATE Borisov pick up win, end early-season drought

Getty Images
Leave a comment

The Belarusian Premier League – the only active European top-flight league at the moment – continued on Saturday despite the coronavirus pandemic.

FC Rukh 0-1 BATE Borisov

With an early goal from midfielder Stanislav Dragun, BATE Borisov, Belarus’ most successful team (15 league titles) and a regular face in European competition, earned their first win of the season. Kirill Alshevsky, who took over at the helm prior to the season, had started his spell on a two-game losing streak.

BATE, despite not winning the possession battle decisively, generated twice as many shots on target as the visitors, registering a total of 11 shots throughout 90 minutes at Borisov Arena.

A winner of 13 straight Belarusian Premier League titles – spanning from 2006 to 2018 – pressure began looming over BATE after starting the 2020 campaign with back-to-back lackluster results. BATE, who lost to Arsenal in Europa League’s Round of 32 in April 2019, were outscored 5-2 in the first, two games of the league.

Dinamo Minsk, the second most successful Belarusian side, also picked up their first three points on Friday, following a slower-than-usual start to the season. Meanwhile, defending champion Dinamo Brest fell 2-1 to Slavia-Mozyr, dropping to eighth on the table.

Elsewhere in Belarusian Premier League 

Shakhtyor 0-0 Nerman

Dinamo Brest 1-2 Slavia-Mozyr

NWSL extends league-wide training moratorium through May

Getty Images
Leave a comment

The NWSL is extending its league-wide training moratorium another month amid the coronavirus pandemic, the league announced on Saturday.

All NWSL teams will be unable to partake in team trainings until at least May 5, extending its previous training moratorium that was set to expire on Sunday, April 5. The 2020 season – which was set to start on April 18 – is expected to start by the end of June, according to NWSL commissioner Lisa Baird.

“We’ve been just communicating with our players and we’re targeting for the end of June for our season to start,” Baird told The Equalizer. “I say that with conviction and hope, but … we’re gonna adhere to the public health guidelines that are in place at the time and I don’t think that we can predict what they are. But our strategy is in place.”

Earlier this week, Major League Soccer and United Soccer League extended their training moratorium through April 24 and April 19, respectively.

Report: England manager Gareth Southgate agrees to 30 percent pay cut

Getty Images
Leave a comment

England manager Gareth Southgate has agreed to a 30 percent pay cut amid the coronavirus pandemic, our partners at Sky Sports reported on Saturday.

[ MORE: What PL clubs are doing to help during coronavirus ] 

Southgate’s move, which is reportedly expected to be confirmed by the Football Association (FA) next week, comes hours after the Professional Footballers’ Association (PFA) released a statement on behalf of the Premier League players responding to proposed pay cuts.

A FA spokesperson told Sky Sports the following: “The financial implications of the coronavirus are not yet known however, as a not-for-profit organization, we want to ensure that we take the appropriate course of action to support the wider organization and our employees.

“We will make a further announcement on our next steps in due course.”

On Friday, Bournemouth’s Eddie Howe – and a handful of technical staff personnel – became the first Premier League manager to take a voluntary pay cut. Howe’s “significant, voluntary” pay cuts were done in light of the club furloughing non-playing employees throughout the organization, joining Tottenham, Norwich, Newcastle and Liverpool.

Spanish league and players still far apart on salary cuts

Getty Images
1 Comment

MADRID (AP) The Spanish league and players are still far apart on the size of the salary cuts they need to take to help reduce the financial impact caused by the coronavirus outbreak, with the footballers saying the organization wants them to carry nearly half the total losses.

The league and the players’ association have been in talks to try to find ways to mitigate losses that could reach nearly 1 billion euros ($1.08 billion) if the season cannot be restarted because of the pandemic.

The players have said they are willing to reduce their salaries, but not as much as the league or the clubs want.

“After analyzing the current circumstances of the sector and given the distance in conversations with the players’ association, it is necessary to adopt measures in view of the serious economic crisis that COVID-19 is causing in the Spanish soccer industry,” the league said in a statement.

It also added that government furloughs are “an exceptional mechanism to avoid and mitigate the negative impact that COVID-19 is having on the sector, and thus guarantee its subsequent recovery.”

According to media reports, the league expects losses of 957 million euros ($1.03 billion) if the season is canceled, with 303 million euros ($327 million) lost if it resumes with games in empty stadiums and 156 million euros ($168 million) of deficits if it continues with fans.

The players said the total cuts in salaries requested by the league would account for 451 million euros ($487 million) if the top flight cannot restart.

The reduction in salaries being discussed reportedly varies depending on the clubs, and also on whether they are playing in the Champions League or the Europa League.

Team captains met with the players’ association late Friday to discuss their options after the league earlier in the day called for all clubs to put the footballers on government furloughs to reduce labor costs while the stoppage of play continued. The furloughs help the clubs and guarantee players their jobs once the crisis is over.

The league said it is responsible for preserving an industry that represents 1.37 percent of the nation’s gross domestic product and employs about 185,000 people.

Atlético Madrid and Barcelona were among the clubs to resort to the furloughs in recent days. Both reached an agreement with players to reduce their salaries by 70 percent, and guaranteed the wages of other employees were unaffected.

There are nearly 125,000 cases of the new coronavirus in Spain, which on Saturday surpassed Italy as the country with the second-most infections behind the United States. The death toll in the nation stands at 11,744.

The government is expected to extend lockdown measures until April 26, likely keeping the Spanish league suspended until then.

The league has said the season won’t resume until authorities deem it safe for everyone’s health. It said it will recommend a “minimum of 15 days” of practice before the games can restart, though it suggested recently the training period may begin with restrictions before the lockdown is removed.

More AP sports: https://apnews.com/apf-sports and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

Tales Azzoni on Twitter: http://twitter.com/tazzoni