Messi versus Premier League
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How has Messi fared against Premier League opposition?

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Amongst the biggest fallacies in the endless “Messi v. Ronaldo” debate has come from critics of the Argentine, claiming that Messi’s one-club, one-league success somehow gives Ronaldo an edge for scoring goals in Italy and England, too.

While those are certainly feathers in Ronaldo’s cap — and, really, we’re talking about two of best to ever do it anywhere, so chill — Messi’s Barcelona has also participated in a rarely-discussed competition called the UEFA Champions League.

[ MORE: Barca’s Messi update | NYCFC in future? ]

Some of you may have heard of it.

With Messi being rumored as a possible new Manchester City player and with outside nods given to Manchester United and Chelsea as suitors, we thought we’d take a look at how the game’s greatest player has fared against his potential Premier League rivals.

The answer? Aside from one night at Anfield, really good. Messi’s scoring record against Premier League sides is 26 goals and six assists, with Barcelona holding a 18W-9D-7L record in those outings (all in the Champions League).

Care to narrow it down to when he hit the peak of his powers? It’s not pretty for the giants of England, as Messi has 25 goals and 6 assists in 23 matches since the calendar turned to 2010 and he claimed his first of 10 seasons with at least 41 goals. This past season was the first time he failed to hit 40 since then, but his 31 came with 26 assists and after he missed the first month of the season. Whoops.

Now he won’t necessarily have a historically-epic line-up of talent around him like his first decade at Barca, but he’ll have plenty of firepower should a move go through to any of the PL big boys.

Messi versus Chelsea

His first four appearances against Chelsea came before he turned 20, and he was held scoreless. Since then, he has 3 goals and 3 assists in six matches. All but one of those markers — an assist in 2009 — have come in his last three outings against the Blues.

Here’s how Marcos Alonso and Antonio Conte explained a recent Chelsea loss to Barcelona:

“They have Lionel Messi and I think they were the better team even though we competed well in both games,” Alonso said.

“Tonight (and) in the two legs, Lionel Messi made the difference,” Conte said. “We are talking about the best player in the world.”

Debut: Aged 18 at Stamford Bridge, Feb. 22, 2006
Last meeting: 2 goals, 1 assist at Camp Nou in 2017-18 Round of 16
Individual record: 3 goals, 3 assists
Barcelona record: 2W-6D-2L

Messi celebrates after scoring the opening goal against Chelsea at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona, Spain, Wednesday, March 14, 2018. (AP Photo/Manu Fernandez)

Messi versus Arsenal

Mikel Arteta might just want to play the subs or park the proverbial bus, because Messi is an absolute Arsenal assassin. The Argentine has multiple goals in three of his six career outings against the Gunners, including all four goals in a 4-1 win at the Camp Nou in the second leg of the 2009-10 quarterfinals.

Messi was matter-of-fact after a 2-0 win at the Emirates in 2016:

“Arsenal did very well in the first half, with some help, but we knew they wouldn’t be able to keep that pace up all the way. In the second half, we had more space and that’s how we got the first goal. At the Camp Nou, we‘ll go out to win, as we do at every ground.”

They did.

Debut: Aged 22 at the Emirates Stadium, March 31, 2010
Last meeting: 1 goal at Camp Nou in 2015-16 Round of 16
Individual record: 9 goals, 1 assist
Barcelona record: 4W-1D-1L

Messi versus Man City

His potential employers would be thrilled to stop him from individually ruining their European dreams. Man City has played Barca close in five of six meetings during the Messi era, and he’s been the difference. Messi’s only loss to Barca came with a goal and after his 3-goal, 1-assist first meeting of that 2016-17 group stage.

Debut: Aged 26 at the Etihad Stadium, Feb. 18, 2014
Last meeting: 1 goal in 3-1 loss at the Etihad in 2016-17 group stage
Individual record: 6 goals, 2 assists
Barcelona record: 5W-1L

Messi versus Manchester United

Red Devils fans dont’ need this section, as Messi scored in the 2008-09 and 2010-11 Champions League Finals won by the Blaugranas. He was blanked as a teenager in the 2007-08 semifinals but returned the favor in the 2018-19 quarterfinals when Barca won 4-0 on aggregate over two legs, Messi scoring a brace in the second leg.

Debut: Aged 22 at the Emirates Stadium, March 31, 2010
Last meeting: 2 goals in 3-0 win at Camp Nou in 2018-19 quarters
Individual record: 4 goals
Barcelona record: 4W-1L-1D

Messi versus Manchester United
Messi celebrates after David Villa scores at the UEFA Champions League final versus Manchester United FC at Wembley Stadium on May 28, 2011 in London, England. (Photo by Jasper Juinen/Getty Images)

Messi versus Liverpool

Individually there’s a lot to like for Liverpool fans here, though it’s plenty misleading considering the teenager was nowhere near his top powers when he was held goalless in the 2006-07 Round of 16 and the Reds went through on away goals.

There’s nothing misleading about the 2018-18 semifinals, as Messi scored twice in a 3-0 first leg win but was about the only player to show up as Liverpool won a historic 4-0 second leg at Anfield en route to a sixth UCL crown. Even in that famous loss, however, Messi was above a mortal’s average.

Debut: Aged 19 at the Camp Nou, Feb. 21, 2007
Last meeting: 4-0 loss at Anfield in the 2018-19 semifinals
Individual record: 2 goals
Barcelona record: 2W-2L

Messi versus Tottenham Hotspur

Spurs fans waited a long time to get their first match-up with Messi and the Argentine responded with a masterclass, hitting the post twice and scoring twice in a 4-2 win that’s emblematic of why he’s ready to go.

Debut: Aged 31 at Wembley Stadium, Oct. 3, 2018
Last meeting: 1-1 draw at Camp Nou in 2018-19 group stage
Individual record: 2 goals
Barcelona record: 1W-1D

(From WhoScored.com)Messi versus Tottenham

Champions League qualifying: How to watch, start times, odds

UEFA Champions League qualifying
Photo by Raddad Jebarah/NurPhoto via Getty Images
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The 12 clubs remaining in the race for the final UEFA Champions League group stage slots will be pared down to six in the next eight days.

There are American connections to two of the six ties.

Former USMNT midfielder Jesse Marsch manages Austria’s Red Bull Salzburg toward the next round, while Molde right back Henry Wingo came up with the Seattle Sounders.

VIDEO: Premier League highlights ] 

Salzburg are significant favorites to advance over two legs, odds accentuated by Maccabi Tel-Aviv’s seven players absent due to positive COVID-19 tests.

Marsch had previously said he did not want to go to Israel due to COVID-19 concerns, calling it “dangerous,” but has accepted the task at hand.

From Austrian publication Kronen Zeitung:

“The moment UEFA said we were going to play in Tel Aviv, it wasn’t a problem for me. Maccabi has a great team. We are not naive. We understand that we have to fight tomorrow.”

At 3:10 in some sportsbooks, Marsch’s men are the only club favored to win the first leg away. Salzburg is led by Dominik Szoboszlai and Patson Daka, who’ve helped the team thrive despite the sales of several stars including Erling Haaland and Takumi Minamino.

Molde has a much tougher test with Hungarian side Ferencvaros, who knocked off Celtic. That tie could go either way, while Slavia Prague and Olympiakos are respectively noticeable favorites to beat Midtjylland and Omonia Nicosia.

Dynamo Kiev will be expected to outlast Gent over two legs, while it would be a minor upset if PAOK takes down Krasnodar.


How to watch the UEFA Champions League qualifying playoff round

Kickoff: 3 pm ET Tuesday and Wednesday
Stream: CBS All-Access (subscription required)


UEFA Champions League playoff round matches

All 12 legs will kickoff at 3 pm ET between Tuesday and Sept. 30.

Tuesday

Maccabi Tel-Aviv v. Red Bull Salzburg
Slavia Prague v Midtjylland
Krasnodar v PAOK

Wednesday

Gent v Dynamo Kiev
Molde v Ferencvaros
Olympiakos v Omonia

Sept. 29

Ferencvaros v Molde
Dynamo Kiev v Gent
Omonia v Olympiakos

Sept. 30

Midtjylland v Slavia Prague
PAOK v Krasnodar
Red Bull Salzburg v Maccabi Tel-Aviv

Edouard Mendy to Chelsea: What does it mean for Kepa, Blues’ defense?

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Edouard Mendy to Chelsea: What does it mean for Kepa Arrizabalaga and how much does it improve the Chelsea defense?

[ MORE: How to watch PL in the USA ]   

Frank Lampard has confirmed that goalkeeper Edouard Mendy, 28, has arrived from Rennes in a $28 million deal and the Senegalese international will provide ‘competition’ to Kepa.

“Competition is a regular thing. We have brought Mendy in for that competition. It’s in everyone’s hands to get into the squad,” Lampard said. “I think it is the hardest position, because of the individual nature of it. I have to be sympathetic to that point. Last year I changed a few times, it’s a different thought process. We are always striving for the best performance.”

Is anyone buying that?

A couple of high-profile mistakes in Chelsea’s opening two games of the Premier League season has highlighted Kepa’s poor form and Chelsea have moved fast to bring in Mendy.

What does this mean for Kepa Arrizabalaga?

As the ProSoccerTalk lads discuss in the video above, this is probably the end, or at the very least the beginning of the end, for Kepa at Chelsea. Kepa has never really settled at Chelsea and over the last two seasons he hasn’t backed up being the most expensive goalkeeper in the world.

That transfer fee was a little false, as Chelsea were backed into a corner after losing Thibaut Courtois to Real Madrid and paid Kepa’s release clause of $91.1 million to Athletic Bilbao. But they still paid it and even if the fee was half of that, eyebrows would have been raised. Kepa, 25, has failed to command his box, looked nervous with the ball at his feet and shots from outside the box have also given him plenty of problems. Not a great combo for a goalkeeper.

Chelsea may look to loan him out but there’s no doubt that after being dropped for veteran Willy Caballero at the end of last season, the writing was on the wall and Kepa is on borrowed time at Stamford Bridge.

Does Edouard Mendy to Chelsea improve their defense right away?

Not right away, but it will help. His impressive ability to come for crosses and his towering six-foot six-inch frame should provide some stability and confidence from the defenders around him but the way Chelsea play suggests their defensive issues will remain.

Frank Lampard loves to attack and it’s fun to watch. Well, unless you’re a goalkeeper or defender for the Blues. Mendy is one part of the jigsaw and so too is Thiago Silva who will add a calm head and his experience to a youthful defense, and Ben Chilwell at left back will also improve their defensive outlook.

Lampard loves to attack, though, and we must admit that without N’Golo Kante in front of a oft-changed back four, things will be tough. Mendy’s arrival should help settle things down and help Chelsea improve at the back but Lampard needs his center backs to stand tall in the coming weeks and months.

League Cup: How to watch, start times, as Premier League powers enter

League Cup
Photo by David Price/Arsenal FC via Getty Images
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Fifteen Premier League teams eye dates in the fourth round when the League Cup returns for another September midweek.

The congested nature of the season will see some PL sides play three matches in as many weeks, though the European qualifying teams are just entering the fray this week.

[ LIVE: Follow League Cup scores ]

That includes Europa League sides Arsenal and Leicester City, who will stage the lone all-PL scrap of the round come Wednesday at the King Power Stadium.

Tuesday was going to see Tottenham Hotspur visit a club sponsored by Spurs striker Harry Kane, but Leyton Orient is in the news after positive COVID-19 tests have threatened to forfeit Spurs into the next round.

VIDEO: Premier League highlights ] 

Manchester United will hope to snap out of its season-opening funk when it begins its tourney Tuesday at Luton Town, while Chelsea hosts Barnsley on Wednesday.

Liverpool is off to Lincoln City on Thursday, kicking off its League Cup at the same time Manchester City welcomes Bournemouth.

Because of the aforementioned congested September in the tournament, the fourth round draw has already been held and those fixtures are at bottom of the page.


League Cup third round draw

All times ET

Tuesday
Leyton Orient v Tottenham Hotspur — Postponed
West Brom v Brentford — 2 pm
Newport County v Watford — 2pm
West Ham United v Hull City — 2:30 pm
Luton Town v Manchester United — 3:15 pm

Wednesday
Preston North End v Brighton — 2 pm
Millwall v Burnley — 2 pm
Fulham v Sheffield Wednesday — 2 pm
Stoke City v Gillingham — 2 pm
Chelsea v Barnsley — 2:45 pm
Leicester City v Arsenal — 2:45 pm
Fleetwood Town v Everton — 2:45 pm
Morecambe v Newcastle United — 2:45 pm

Thursday
Bristol City v Aston Villa — 2 pm
Lincoln City v Liverpool — 2:45 pm
Manchester City v Bournemouth — 2:45 pm


League Cup fourth round draw

Lincoln City/Liverpool v Leicester City/Arsenal
Millwall/Burnley v Manchester City/Bournemouth
West Brom/Brentford v Fulham/Sheffield Wednesday
Fleetwood Town/Everton v West Ham United/Hull City
Bristol City/Aston Villa v Stoke City/Gillingham
Leyton Orient/Tottenham v Chelsea/Barnsley
Newport County/Watford v Morecambe/Newcastle United
Preston North End/Brighton v Luton Town/Manchester United


How to watch League Cup third round streams and start time

Kickoff: Tuesday through Thursday
Online: Select games on ESPN+
Updates: Follow League Cup scores via NBCSports.com

Transfer news: Dembele to Man United; Sancho deal off

Dembele to Manchester United
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In the latest transfer news there is an Ousmane Dembele to Manchester United report, while Jadon Sancho to Manchester United is said to be off. Again.

[ MORE: How to watch PL in the USA ]  

Let’s dive into the latest transfer news from around the Premier League, with a big focus on the Red Devils as they try to add key pieces late in the window.

Ousmane Dembele to Manchester United a good alternative to Sancho?

According to the Daily Record, Ousmane Dembele to Manchester United could happen in the final weeks of the window. Ronald Koeman has said Dembele, 23, is one of many players who are surplus to requirements at Barcelona. Per the report, Man United want a season-long loan deal for Dembele while Barcelona want a loan with an obligation to buy clause. They value Dembele at $117 million.

Look, the best thing Barcelona can do here is loan Dembele out and hope he stays fit and has a fine season at Man United so they want to buy him, or another club will buy him, or he could even return to Barca rejuvenated and able to be a key figure in their attack. Dembele’s last few seasons have been ravaged by injury and it is clear that Antoine Griezmann, Lionel Messi and

For Man United, a loan move is a no-brainer. As they continue to chase Jadon Sancho but are more likely to make their move for the English winger next summer (more on that shortly), having a French international winger for a season to plug the gap is smart. If Dembele is up for the challenge of moving to Manchester United and rebuilding his career, he would provide plenty of competition to Mason Greenwood out wide and is a big upgrade on Jesse Lingard, Daniel James and Juan Mata as their other wide attackers.

Jadon Sancho to Manchester United off

It appears that Jadon Sancho to Manchester United will not happen unless the Red Devils panic massively in the latter stages of the transfer window and up their bid.

Sancho, 20, has been the top target for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer but the England international hasn’t forced through a move from Borussia Dortmund and our colleagues at Sky Sports in the UK state the German club are ‘bemused’ by the way United’s executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward has approached the deal as they’ve failed to get anywhere near Sancho’s valuation.

Speaking to Sport 1, Borussia Dortmund director Sebastian Kehl had the following to say about Sancho’s situation.

“We agreed that we had to show a certain attitude. And €80m are simply not enough for such a player,” Kehl said. “We owed that to the club and the fans. I don’t want to give him up either. Without Jadon this team is worse.”

Kehl went on to admit that Sancho could leave one day but for now he’s happy at Dortmund and vice versa. Is that the end of the summer-long Sancho saga? If it wasn’t over, it pretty much is now.

There’s no doubt that Sancho will end up in the Premier League, and probably at Manchester United, in the future but this deal always seemed like a long-shot considering the current financial situation amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Man United need a new winger to strengthen their already stacked attack and Solskjaer is better off focusing on a short-term solution and then lining up the deal for Sancho to happen over the next few transfer windows.

That said, United’s inability to get deals over the line (Sergio Reguilon, Gareth Bale and Jadon Sancho to name just a few) is starting to wear thing on most of their fans and unless they secure wins galore early in the season, it could be a tough few months for Solskjaer and Co.