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Liverpool owner Henry reflects on history, takes shots at Suarez, Coutinho

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Terrific AP reporter Rob Harris sat down for a chat with Liverpool owner John Henry, and the American businessman didn’t hesitate to unleash some prime quotes.

Liverpool, of course, is preparing for the weekend’s UEFA Champions League Final against Real Madrid, and feeling its oats a bit.

[ MORE: Ronaldinho marrying 2 women ]

Henry is no exception, saying of departed Reds stars Luis Suarez and Philippe Coutinho, “They’ll be watching this weekend and could have been playing.”

And his shots didn’t stop with the Barcelona stars. He extended it to all of La Liga. From the AP:

“You don’t want to be in the position where players want to go somewhere else, even if it is a great club like Barcelona,” Henry said. “It’s hard to understand why players would want to go to a league where the competition is so weak. They must play 30 or so meaningless matches per year waiting for Champions League matches.”

Henry also talks about his takeover, selling Fernando Torres, and how Anfield pushes Liverpool past the competition. Read the whole interview here.

Atletico Madrid 1-0 Arsenal: Costa downs Gunners again, Atleti into Europa League final

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Diego Costa is yet again the scourge of Arsenal, even after having departed the Premier League.

The former Chelsea man bagged the game’s only goal as Atletico Madrid beat Arsenal 1-0 at the Estadio Metropolitano to send the Spanish side through to the Europa League final in Lyon on a 2-1 aggregate score. On the other end, the vaunted Atletico Madrid defense completely stumped Arsenal, leaving them with little to show for their 90 minutes of running in Spain.

Atletico had the best early chance six minutes in as Diego Costa shrugged off Nacho Monreal and shot from a tight angle, but David Ospina got down low to make the save. The Gunners were forced to make a chance moments later as captain Laurent Koscielny went down in a heap with a non-contact injury, holding his ankle and screaming in pain. He was stretchered off and replaced by Calum Chambers, and it was eventually confirmed that he suffered a torn Achilles.

The injury sucked much of the early life out of the game, and it devolved into a physical midfield battle. The rest of the first half was cagey, with Atletico understanding that they only needed to keep the scoreline clean to advance. Meanwhile, the Gunners held nearly 60% of the first-half possession, but produced precious little in front of the Atletico net. Alexandre Lacazette had a half-chance for Arsenal after 25 minutes, but couldn’t pull the trigger.

Down the other end, Atletico had a few small chances. Antoine Griezmann missed by inches on what would have been a stunning strike seven minutes before the half-time whistle. Then, just moments before the half-time whistle, the game snagged its first moment of glory. Atletico goalkeeper Jan Oblak launched the ball deep down the field, and after a few ping-pong touches, Diego Costa burst forward past Hector Bellerin and grabbed a breakaway opportunity, finishing past Ospina to put Atletico 1-0 up in first-half added time.

Things opened up in the second half with Arsenal still needing a goal, now to force extra time. Their best chances of the second half came on the hour mark as a cross from Mesut Ozil was just out of reach of a stretching Lacazette. Then moments later Granit Xhaka forced a fantastic save by Oblak on a low shot towards the bottom-right corner. Substitute Henrikh Mkhitaryan volleyed towards the net two minutes after coming on but ripped it just inches over the bar.

Costa continued to prove dangerous through the final portion of the game, finding himself on the end of a number of late chances to put the game away. As the game waned, the Gunners had less and less to offer and appeared to be both exhausted and out of ideas. It was all Atletico in the final few minutes, with Fernando Torres coming close and forcing an Ospina save.

Europa League preview: Torres, Wenger aim to keep fairytale endings alive

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For all the talk — some of it authored by yours truly — about the romance of Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger saying goodbye to the club in a French-hosted UEFA Europa League Final against French opposition, UEL semifinal opponents Atletico Madrid have an alluring argument of their own.

Atleti hosts Arsenal after a 1-1 first leg, bringing an away goal home in its bid to reach the May 16 final in Lyon.

[ MORE: Roma-Liverpool recap | Reds react ]

Fernando Torres is going to leave Atleti this summer, perhaps for the Chicago Fire, but admits he wishes he could play there forever.

Torres, 34, even says his first move away from the club, to Liverpool, was for the benefit of Atleti.

“I always will want what’s best for the team and always put Atletico Madrid before me,” he said in an interview with beIN LaLiga. “Twice,I have given up what I want most, which is to play here. I understand that it is good for the club, and I would do it a third and a fourth time.”

Torres went 90 minutes in Atleti’s 1-0 win over Alaves at the weekend, with regular strikers Kevin Gameiro, who scored off the bench, and Antoine Griezmann kept out of the Starting XI. Diego Simeone also rested Saul Niguez, Jan Oblak, and Jose Gimenez.

Arsenal will be also fresh after using a much-changed side against Manchester United this weekend.

Manager Arsene Wenger was quizzed about his intentions for the future, including a possible job in Spain. He didn’t bite.

“I believe a man has to give his best as long as he is somewhere, with all his commitment and energy. I would like one day to know I worked with all my energy until the last day. I would like to look back and think I finished this love affair well.”

Wenger also complimented Griezmann, his fellow Frenchman, praising him for trying to succeed outside of his home country.

“He is a player I rate. He moved out of France at a young age, he made it away from home. He has an exceptional career and he looks like he loves the game, which I like in a player that is talented.”

The other side of the draw has Marseille in Austria holding a 2-0 lead on Red Bull Salzburg.

Both matches kickoff at 3:05 p.m. ET.

Twenty-Three thoughts from Week 9 in MLS

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Major League Soccer is well into its season, and we return to the Twenty-Three as we also try to ease the gut-punching pain of Toronto FC’s loss in the CONCACAF Champions League Final.

[ MORE: Real Madrid-Bayern preview ]

Apparently, they haven’t overcome it, either…

Atlanta United
Beat Montreal, 4-1

Miguel Almiron is a special, special talent; The 24-year-old is building off his incredible debut season by blowing up the league to the tune of six goals and five assists in eight outings. Feel fortunate he’s amongst our time zones for a while.

Chicago Fire
Drew at Toronto, 2-2

Bastian Schweinsteiger had a penalty kick saved by Alex Bono, but a found a way past the Syracuse backstop as the Fire rebounded from a 2-0 deficit at BMO Field to keep their CONCACAF Champions League wounds exposed to the elements.

What’s troubling about Chicago’s inconsistent start is just one clean sheet through seven matches; Yes, scoring is up, but Veljko Paunovic needs to sort out his back line even if Fernando Torres winds up coming to Illinois.

Colorado Rapids
Lost to Orlando City, 2-1

The Rapids have been hurt by having five of their first seven matches on the road, but don’t let that be an excuse for poor passing. Colorado has to do better with the ball, connecting on a paltry 73.8 percent of their passes. That happens when you’re chasing games and goals (and away from home, no doubt), but still… find a way.

No one wants to see the Rapids on their schedule, their 22 yellow cards tied for a league high and 15.1 fouls per game also pacing the field. Colorado only has two players with multiple goals (Dominique Badji has five and Joe Mason two).

Columbus Crew
Beat San Jose, 2-1

Only KC and NYCFC have had more of the ball than Gregg Berhalter’s men, and now they are back to turning that 55 percent possession into goals. The Crew have four goals in two matches after scoring just once on a three-match losing streak.

FC Dallas
Lost at NYCFC, 3-1

Oscar Pareja’s men fall from the rank of the unbeaten in just their second away match of the season. FCD has been remarkably good at winning 50-50 battles, and would’ve fared better than a two-goal loss had they not wasted a handful of very good chances.

DC United
Lost at Philadelphia, 3-2

Only Vancouver is averaging fewer shots per game than DC’s 8.7, and the Black-and-Red was out shot a stunning 23-4. You’re not going to hit that 50 percent success rate too often, and to burn it in a 3-2 loss is almost funny.

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Houston Dynamo
Lost at Minnesota, 2-1

We knew Houston’s attack would go as Romell Quioto, Alberth Elis, and Mauro Manotas went, but we’re positive the trio was expecting a bit more help than its received so far. They’ve combined for nine goals and six assists, the rest of the team has six and four.

[ MORE: MLS Things — The Archive ]

LAFC
Beat Seattle, 1-0

Just three teams are averaging better than two points per game, and Bob Bradley‘s LAFC is among the trio following a stoppage time win at their shiny new home. We should’ve known they’d win…. they never lost at home.

LA Galaxy
Lost to New York Red Bulls, 3-2

Sigi Schmid’s men are woefully inconsistent, and Zlatan Ibrahimovic just may lose his mind soon (and certainly deserves some of the blame this week).

But if he’s going to keep making otherworldly passes like this, we’re going to keep watching. Look closely at how he reacts to hitting this bit of gorgeousness… he knew. He knew.

Minnesota United
Beat Houston, 2-1

Rasmus Schuller. The 26-year-old Finnish midfielder leads the league in tackles per game with six, and rebounded from his worst match of the season to post nine in a 2-1 win over Houston that moved the Loons into seventh. Schuller’s also second in the league in fouls committed (2.9) and has been dribbled past a good amount, but credit plenty of that to activity.

Montreal Impact
Lost at Atlanta, 4-1

The Impact have allowed 16 goals in four-straight losses, quite a change from the vibes after Remi Garde won consecutive 1-0 decisions over Toronto and Seattle (no easy wins!). Despite the score line this weekend, the Impact led late before falling apart. Troubling times. Spare a thought for Victor Cabrera, who has a league-best 5.1 interceptions a game and probably would appreciate not having to make so many.

New England Revolution
Beat Sporting KC, 1-0

Brad Friedel is defying all doubters in his first senior managerial gig, with one loss in seven outings following an opening day setback. The latest, a 1-0 win over Sporting KC, is among the more impressive.

New York City FC
Beat FC Dallas, 3-1

Atlanta might be on pace for the East’s top spot, but did the Five Stripes have an international legend score his 400th goal this weekend, huh? David Villa, everybody.

New York Red Bulls
Won at LA Galaxy, 3-2

Of the players who really matter to Jesse Marsch’s unit, only Bradley Wright-Phillips (33) is older than 25. RBNY keeps pumping out solid performances from players who made their names in the academy (Kyle Duncan, now on IR), in college ball (Florian Valot of Rider, then grown in USL), or both (Sean Davis and Alex Muyl). Model.

What’s another fine sign of Marsch’s brilliance? New York has five goals off set piece plays, a league-best figure. Here’s a worrying number though: While the Red Bulls are playing the fourth-fewest long balls per game, and they are connecting on a league-worst 70.4 passing.

Orlando City
Won at Colorado, 2-1

Winners of five-straight, Jason Kreis’ Lions have gotten to know each other. Maybe no one more than Yoshimar Yotun; The Peruvian has a goal or an assist in four of the five wins. Left back Mohamed El-Munir has also been a revelation. The Libyan national teamer is in the mix for a sneaky early season MLS Best XI.

Portland Timbers
BYE

Those ready to heap judgment on Gio Savarese’s tenure as Timbers boss have been dismayed by a pair of wins. We know home cooking matters in MLS, and he’s won both of those so far. Points in four of five, too.

Philadelphia
Beat DC United, 3-2

Ending a run of one goal in five games is good, and the three-goal performance was fit for their second win of the season. Philly isn’t getting star turns from anyone, though Alejandro Bedoya is perhaps quietly having a decent season.

Real Salt Lake
Lost at Vancouver, 2-0

Mike Petke’s men seem a perfectly average MLS side; They’ve won their last three at home, and dropped their last three on the road. But the clean sheet loss means RSL has scored just over a goal per game in a league which is feasting on goalkeepers.

San Jose Earthquakes
Lost at Columbus, 2-1

Consecutive road losses mean Mikael Stahre’s men remain winless since Opening Day. It’s hard to get a read on them, but this stretch against Portland, Minnesota, and Vancouver will tell us a lot.

Seattle Sounders
Lost at LAFC, 1-0

The Sounders have scored in two games despite Nicolas Lodeiro averaging a hardly real 4.2 key passes per game. Those are the only two matches in which they’ve gotten points. They’ve done it without Jordan Morris in the past, but it’s not happening this year. Then again, a lot of Sounders are hurt and there’s a “lost year” vibe coming from much rave green right now.

Sporting KC
Lost at New England, 1-0

The seven-match unbeaten run ends on the road against what is (probably) a pretty decent side, and there’s no shame in that. Our own resident SKC expert says keep an eye on Khiry Shelton. From everything I’ve seen from Urena, this is a lofty and wonderful comparison for the forward.

Toronto FC
Lost CONCACAF Champions League final in PKs
Drew Chicago, 2-2

The MLS Cup Final hangover is a thing, as both TFC and Seattle are worst in the league at .67 points per game. This was a bad week for TFC, who built leads in two very different settings and couldn’t seal the deal. Toronto came back from a quick deficit in the CCL final only to lose in penalty kicks, and then went ahead 2-0 against visiting Chicago before tossing that advantage aside in a draw.

Vancouver Whitecaps
Beat RSL, 2-0

The Caps rebounded from a three-match losing skid punctuated by a 6-0 beatdown against KC to win against the Utah set, but watch this three-match run for a possible hot streak. If Vancouver can topple Minnesota, Houston, and San Jose (only the Loons match is away), it can build some breathing room for the tougher stretches.

Swansea City 0-1 Chelsea: Rain Dogs

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  • Fabregas nabs 50th PL goal
  • Swans put one shot on target
  • Chelsea stays alive for 4th
  • Swans one point above drop

Hosts Swansea City didn’t quit, but a Cesc Fabregas first half goal was enough to keep the relegation waters muddled with Chelsea’s 1-0 win at the Liberty Stadium on Saturday.

On a rainy day with players slipping and the ball was sliding, Swansea just couldn’t get the ball to bound the right way against the favored and visiting Blues.

Chelsea is now six points back of third place Liverpool, with a match-in-hand and another against the Reds. The Blues are two points behind fourth place Spurs, who’ve played one less than Chelsea.

Swansea is a single point ahead of Southampton and three ahead of Stoke City. Swans play both teams, are two points behind Huddersfield Town and West Ham United.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

An Andy King giveaway cued Chelsea up for a fourth minute goal, with Fabregas sweeping a shot around a flying Lukasz Fabianski.

The ensuing play was very feisty, with Andre Ayew picking up a yellow card after a series of shoves and hard tackles between the two sides.

Alfie Mawson flicked a ball over his own goal from very tight, the Liberty Stadium crowd gasping as it leapt the bar.

Swans showed good fight in the next stanza, winning several balls high up the pitch.

Staying in the match allowed Swans their chance to counterpunch on a slippery, rain-drenched pitch. Andre Ayew saw his header deflected over for a goal kick that should’ve been a corner in the 51st.

Emerson carried a dribble close to 60 yards but could neither find a good angle on goal nor an avenue to slip Eden Hazard through as the score remained 1-0.

Swans’ Jordan Ayew looped a header over goal moments before Chelsea’s Victor Moses nearly turned an effort inside the post at the other end.

Andre Ayew swung a shot just around the far post in the 77th, as Swansea really looked good money to level the score.

Things turned nasty in stoppage time, with Jordan Ayew running shoulder first through Gary Cahill‘s back.

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings ]

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