Champions League favorites ranked from eight to one

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Eight teams remain in the UEFA Champions League’s rapid-fire return, with one-legged ties promising high drama in Portugal.

The quarterfinals begin Wednesday, the bracket distinctly split into one deadly half and another with upset potential.

Because of this set-up, there’s a massive challenge in divining the true favorites to win the Aug. 23 in Lisbon.

[ MORE: JPW’s European predictions ]

If you were assembling a bottom-up power rankings in terms of the talent and toughness assembled by the eight remaining clubs, it might look something like this:

Longshots: Atalanta, Lyon
Puncher’s chance: Atletico Madrid, RB Leipzig
History-weighted powers: Man City, Paris Saint-Germain
Favorites: Barcelona, Bayern Munich

Here’s the rub: Three of the four biggest favorites will have to get through each other to get to the final, including the two top dogs. Barcelona and Bayern Munich will scrap Friday, and Man City’s slight advantage in facing Lyon is mitigated by one day’s less rest for a Bayern-Barca winner.

[ MORE: Man Utd – Copenhagen preview ]

Man City is the bookies’ favorites to win the whole thing. Do we see it that way? Spoiler alert: Nope.

And, by the way, despite changes to both outfits this is a Lyon that took four of six points from City in the 2018-19 UCL group stage. We don’t see an upset at that stage but it’s a way to note that anything is, indeed, possible.


8. Lyon

Seventh-place in Ligue 1 this season, Rudi Garcia’s men already have the beating of Cristiano Ronaldo and Juventus on their resume. Moussa Dembele, Houssem Aouar, and Memphis Depay are all exciting attacking talents, but the bracket’s demands to take down Man City, then either Bayern and Barcelona just to get to the final sinks them to eighth.

7. RB Leipzig

Julian Nagelsmann is building a reputation as a man who can outwit anyone in a one-off — see two draws with Bayern in Bundesliga play this season — so it’s fitting that he’ll go tete-a-tete with Simeone in the next round. The absence of Timo Werner, who’s off to Chelsea, is a huge problem given the occasion(s). Asking three wins seems a lot, though there will be plenty of Americans pulling for Tyler Adams’ team.

Bayern Munich v. RB Leipzig recap and video highlights
09 February 2020, Bavaria, Munich: American midfielder Tyler Adams duels with Bayern’s Robert Lewandowski. (Photo by Matthias Balk/picture alliance via Getty Images)

6. Atalanta

The Bergamo-based side will have the support of many neutrals. For one thing, Atalanta is on a historic run for their club before taking into account their city’s status as one of the early epicenters of the coronavirus. For another, they are super fun. Gian Piero Gasperini’s men scored 98 goals in Serie A, 19 more than next-best Lazio, and lost the second-fewest games in Italy. They’ve lost once since January 25, a final day defeat to Inter Milan. Five players have scored double-digit goals in all comps this season.

5. Atletico Madrid

Ask Liverpool: Diego Simeone and Jan Oblak in knockout round football is reason to doubt anyone. Still, there’s an argument to be made that Atleti has punched well above its weight this season, even relative to El Cholo’s standards.

4. Barcelona

Lionel Messi means the club should be even higher on this list, and Antoine Griezmann and Luis Suarez are plenty battle-hardened in this spot. But Barca has made a mess of their last few ventures into the latter rounds of this tournament, and those ghosts combined with having to beat Bayern and perhaps Man City in consecutive weeks is brutal with several u’s.

Messi new contract
SEVILLA, SPAIN – JUNE 19: He’s good (Photo by David S. Bustamante/Soccrates/Getty Images)

3. Paris Saint-Germain

There’s a good argument to be made that PSG might hold the top spot on this list. Thomas Tuchel’s men are better rested and have a more straight-forward path to Lisbon, plus the Ligue 1 champs have played and won two Cup finals in the past three weeks. There are two reasons we’re keeping them below Man City and Bayern. One is the UCL-challenged history that has us as well as surely them seeing ghosts, and the other is the uncertain status of Kylian Mbappe. He’s in the squad, but at what percent?

2. Manchester City

The reason to consider putting City above Bayern is the men in charge. Hansi Flick has done oh-so-well at Bayern but is certainly not Pep Guardiola in terms of big-game acumen or reputation. But City’s defense has proven suspect, with John Stones falling off a cliff and Nicolas Otamendi not at the levels of previous seasons. Relying on Fernandinho, Aymeric Laporte, and Eric Garcia to shut down three top attacks in two weeks is a big ask, and left back is also a huge concern with the talented wingers set to test City.

1. Bayern Munich

No weaknesses aside from potentially having to beat Barcelona and Man City inside of six days. Boasting one of the only double-double men in Europe’s top leagues in Serge Gnabry, a played who doesn’t get mentioned as often as history-chasing Robert Lewandowski and history-making Thomas Muller. A midfield duo of Leon Goretzka and Joshua Kimmich which is just plain stupid. Speed and composure to spare with Manuel Neuer at the back. The German keeper may no longer be the undoubted 1 or 2 in the world, but he’s still a monster.

La Liga: Real Madrid steal late win against 10-man Betis

Real Madrid - La Liga
Photo by Fran Santiago/Getty Images
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A roundup of all of Saturday’s results in La Liga, where Real Madrid were quite fortunate to come out with three points…

[ MORE: Transfer news: Rice in, Jorginho out at Chelsea; Skriniar to Spurs ]

Real Betis 2-3 Real Madrid

Opposition own goal? Check. Opposition red card? Check. Late-game penalty kick? Also check. The defending La Liga champions needed all of that in a span of 35 minutes, and a bit more, to escape their trip to Betis with three points.

Things started off well for Zinedine Zidane’s side Federico Valverde put Los Blancos ahead after 14 minutes, with a little help from Karim Benzema. The 1-0 scoreline didn’t survive until halftime, though, and neither did the 1-1. Aissa Mandi and William Carvalho each scored two minutes apart for Betis just before the break.

Real Madrid got back to level terms three minutes after the restart, thanks to an own goal from Emerson. 20 minutes later, Emerson was shown a straight red card for denial of a goal-scoring opportunity. Things went from bad to worse for Betis in the 82nd minute, when Marc Bartra was deemed to have handled the ball inside the box following video review. Sergio Ramos stepped up and sealed the win with a delicate chip down the middle.

Full-blown crisis averted, for now, after drawing with Real Sociedad on the opening day of the season.

Valencia 1-1 Huesca

This season looks set to be a hugely difficult one for Valencia as the club endures untold financial hardship and looks to sell off as much of the first-team squad as possible in an attempt to balance the books.

Saturday’s draw with newly promoted Huesca was simply the latest chapter, of which there will be many, of struggle for Javi Gracia’s side.

Other La Liga results

Alaves 0-0 Getafe
Elche 0-3 Real Sociedad

Sunday’s La Liga schedule

Osasuna v Levante — 6 am ET
Eibar v Athletic Bilbao — 8 am ET
Atletico Madrid v Granada – 10 am ET
Cadiz v Sevilla — 12:30 pm ET
Real Valladolid v Celta Vigo — 12:30 pm ET
Barcelona v Villarreal — 3 pm ET

Fulham – Aston Villa: How to watch, start time, team news, prediction, odds

Fulham - Aston Villa
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Fulham – Aston Villa: How early is too early to call a game “must-win” in the Premier League? Perhaps we will find out on Monday (Watch live at 12:45 pm ET, online via Peacock), when bottom-of-the-table Fulham host Aston Villa at Craven Cottage.

FULHAM – ASTON VILLA STREAM LIVE

Scott Parker’s side has had a torrid start to life back in the PL — not at all dissimilar to the way their last stint ended — and find themselves with zero points and seven goals conceded after their first two games. Losing 3-0 to Arsenal on the opening day of the season wasn’t altogether surprising, but following that defeat with four more goals conceded to Leeds United last weekend will undoubtedly have done a number on the Cottagers’ confidence.

Villa, on the other hand, have played just once and secured a 1-0 victory over Sheffield United earlier this week. A win on Monday would see Dean Smith’s side start the season with back-to-back PL victories for the first time since the 1999-2000 season.

[ MORE: How to watch PL in the USA ]  

Here is everything you need to know ahead of Fulham – Aston Villa this Monday with team news, odds, stream link and more.


Team news: Fulham – Aston Villa (INJURY REPORT)

Fulham – No injuries or suspensions

Aston Villa – OUT: Bjorn Engels (thigh), Tom Heaton (knee), Wesley (knee), Ahmed Elmohamady (thigh)


What they’re saying: Fulham – Aston Villa

Scott Parker, on a “must-win” game: “I don’t see it as drastic as a must-win. We want to win. I know it’s either high or low in a drastic world, but we need to stay level and take realism of where we are in the campaign and where we are as a team. We will try everything we can to take some points and be up to the challenge. I don’t think we’re the only team at this present moment in time who have let in some goals in the first two games. It’s not ideal, of course not. Villa at home on Monday is a game we’re going to try to get three points.”

Dean Smith, on needing another signing: “We’re always looking in the market, we’re probably one short in the squad at the moment so we’ll keep looking at that. I think there’s seven days left until the window shuts internationally, another seven days domestically. Our sporting director at the moment has got his finger on the pulse, hopefully we might get one more in and maybe a couple more out.”


Odds and ends (full odds provided by our partner, PointsBet)

This one is just about a coin flip with Fulham (+185) ever so slight underdogs to Villa (+150). In a game that could go either way like this one, the draw (+225) might just be the safe middle ground.

PointsBet is our Official Sports Betting Partner and we may receive compensation if you place a bet on PointsBet for the first time after clicking our links


Prediction: Fulham – Aston Villa

There’s not much to separate these two sides right now, and there likely won’t be much ground between them come the season’s final table. There should be a few goals, but that’ll be more down to poor defending than excellent attacking quality from either side. Fulham 2-2 Villa.


How to watch Fulham – Aston Villa stream and start time

Kickoff: 12:45 pm ET Monday
Online: Stream via Peacock

Ings secures Saints’ first points in win at Burnley

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Burnley – Southampton saw an early Danny Ings goal lift Saints to their first three points of the 2020-21 Premier League season and a 1-0 victory at Turf Moor on Saturday.

[ MORE: How to watch PL in the USA ]

Burnley had their chances to get back in the game, but a painfully close offside call and a stellar save in the span of 90 second-half seconds left the Clarets with a familiar empty feeling once again.


3 things we learned: Burnley – Southampton

1. Ings a one-season wonder? Yeah, no: For years, the narrative surrounding Ings was “when healthy, the man scores goals.” Now, it’s just “the man scores goals.” Last season: 22 goals in 38 appearances. This season, through three games: three goals. It’s also no coincidence that Ings has proven more and more productive since Che Adams claimed his regular starting spot alongside the talisman. Their partnership has unlocked the best of one another and should continue to do so for some time to come.

2. However, when Ings doesn’t score…: On the other hand, Saints managed all of zero shots on target after Ings’ fifth-minute goal, which was also their first of the game. The free-flowing attacking move that resulted in Ings’ goal was very much the exception, not the rule, as Ralph Hasenhuttl’s side did very little with their nearly 50-50 share of possession. If the wingers in Hassenhuttl’s fairly rigid 4-4-2 aren’t torching defenders one-on-one in space, there’s not much doing in the way of chance creation.

3. Burnley crying out for reinforcements (re-post from Sunday): Sean Dyche had some rather critical thoughts about Burnley’s ongoing inability — or, perhaps, refusal — to move in a more timely manner to sign new players and improve the squad. Until such a change occurs, Dyche’s words are probably worth revisiting regularly.


Saints were quick off the mark and went ahead after just five minutes. Ings got on the end of Adams’ cut-back ball toward the penalty spot with his first touch, and lifted the ball over the last defender. Kyle-Walker Peters’ clever through ball for Adams was worthy of a secondary assist, as the right back played a crucial role in Saints’ incisive build-up.

Burnley had the ball in the back of the net and thought they had drawn level in the 56th minute, but Chris Wood was denied his goal by the assistant referee’s flag. Wood was indeed inches offside as he made his run in behind before lifting the ball over goalkeeper Alex McCarthy and putting it into an empty net.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

McCarthy was called into emergency action moments later as Burnley ramped up their pressure on Saints’ goal. Charlie Taylor unleashed a swerving strike from the edge oft he box and it appeared headed for McCarthy’s lower right-hand corner, but the Saints ‘keeper made a spectacular save at full-stretch and pushed the ball around the post.

Ings had a second goal ruled out for offside — this one much more so than Woods’ earlier transgression — in second-half stoppage time.

The victory sees Saints move off the bottom of the table with their first points now in hand, while Burnley sink into 17th with zero points from two games played.

Follow @AndyEdMLS

Transfer news: Rice in, Jorginho out at Chelsea; Skriniar to Spurs

Declan Rice Chelsea
Photo by Arfa Griffiths/West Ham United FC via Getty Images
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Today’s Premier League transfer news includes Chelsea chasing Declan Rice and sending Jorginho to Arsenal, Tottenham Hotspur in talks for Milan Skriniar, and Houssem Aouar to Arsenal…

[ MORE: “Not the bad guy”: Koeman hits back on Luis Suarez exit at Barcelona ]

Jorginho to Arsenal, making way for Rice to Chelsea

Chelsea have not yet given up in their pursuit of West Ham United midfielder Declan Rice, but manager Frank Lampard is reportedly hoping the deal can be done ahead of the Oct. 5 transfer deadline. He does, however, recognize he currently presides of a slightly bloated squad and will likely have to move a player on to bring someone else in. The obviously solution to make way for Declan Rice? Jorginho, who features in a similar position and role, remains a high priority for Arsenal.

Spurs to solidify defense with Skriniar

Tottenham undeniably strengthened their attacking corps both in the January transfer (Steven Bergwijn) window as well as this summer (Gareth Bale), but there remains plenty of rebuilding to be done along the backline, even following the arrival of Sergio Reguilon. Above all else, Jose Mourinho’s side desperately requires a no. 1 center back to organize and command the defense. Milan Skriniar is 25 years old, hugely experienced for a club the size of Inter Milan, widely regarded as one of the best defenders available in the transfer market, and he’s reportedly the apple of someone’s eye at Spurs. The issue, as always with chairman Daniel Levy, is money. Inter want $70 million, which Spurs highly unlikely to fork over.

[ MORE: Instant classic: Man United beat unlucky Brighton amid late drama ]

Arsenal want Aourar, but Lyon want (a lot) more money

Aouar to Arsenal feels almost inevitable at this point, with the Gunners seemingly set to benefit from Manchester City and Juventus’ inaction toward signing the 22-year-old French midfielder. Their initial bid was rejected by Lyon, but their does appear to be some room to negotiate between the sides’ initial positions. Lyon began with a $69-million valuation, while Arsenal’s bid was reportedly just shy of $45 million. Aouar has reportedly already agreed contract terms with Arsenal, and the move hinges upon the two clubs agreeing a fee.

Brewster to Sheffield United; Villa, Brighton also interested

Rhian Brewster remains a highly rated future prospect for Liverpool, but the 20-year-old has reached the point in his development where he requires first-team PL action in order to become a first-team PL player. He won’t get such an opportunity at Liverpool — not this season, at least — thus he is prepared to leave the club, with the likes of Sheffield United, Aston Villa and Brighton & Hove Albion all reportedly interested. Whether or not he will go out on loan or leave permanently remains up in the air.