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UEFA Champions League group stage predictions

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To have our crew predict it, the UEFA Champions League group stage should prove to be fairly straight-forward.

[ MORE: UCL score predictions, Wk 1 ]

Our three consulted staffers at Pro Soccer Talk have predicted 18 teams for the 16 spots in the group stage, including a healthy three seeded spots for Premier League sides.

GROUP A

Joe Prince-Wright: PSG, Real Madrid, Galatasaray, Club Brugge
Nick Mendola: PSG, Real Madrid, Galatasaray, Club Brugge
Kyle Bonn: Real Madrid, PSG, Galatasaray, Club Brugge

Zinedine Zidane to bring the UCL magic touch back to Spain? One of our three think so, while JPW and Nick both figure Mbappe and Neymar will be too much for the group.

GROUP B

Joe Prince-Wright: Bayern Munich, Spurs, Olympiacos, Red Star
Nick Mendola: Bayern Munich, Spurs, Olympiacos, Red Star  
Kyle Bonn: Bayern Munich, Spurs, Red Star, Olympiacos

There’s a gulf in class between the top two and bottom two, but be careful with overlooking Olympiacos; The Greek club was very difficult to break down in qualifying.

GROUP C

Joe Prince-Wright: Man City, Atalanta, Shakhtar Donetsk, Dinamo Zagreb
Nick Mendola: Man City, Atalanta, Shakhtar Donetsk, Dinamo Zagreb
Kyle Bonn:  Man City, Atalanta, Shakhtar Donetsk, Dinamo Zagreb

The only team in the world averaging more shots per game than Manchester City this early season is Atalanta. Colombian attackers Duvan Zapata and Luis Muriel have combined for six of the side’s seven Serie A goals this season.

GROUP D

Joe Prince-Wright: Atletico Madrid, Juventus, Bayer Leverkusen, Lokomotiv Moscow
Nick Mendola: Juventus, Atletico Madrid, Lokomotiv Moscow, Bayer Leverkusen
Kyle Bonn: Juventus, Atletico Madrid, Bayer Leverkusen, Lokomotiv Moscow

While it’s certainly more complex than Joao Felix against the previous Portuguese generation’s Joao Felix, Atletico Madrid will hope its young wizard has the goods to break down Cristiano Ronaldo’s Juve.

GROUP E

Joe Prince-Wright: Liverpool, Napoli, Red Bull Salzburg, Genk
Nick Mendola: Liverpool, Napoli, Red Bull Salzburg, Genk
Kyle Bonn: Liverpool, Napoli, Red Bull Salzburg, Genk

The order of this group isn’t as interesting as the performances, as American eyes will be watching how Salzburg manager Jesse Marsch manages to get on versus two of Europe’s best.

GROUP F

Joe Prince-Wright: Barcelona, Inter Milan, Borussia Dortmund, Slavia Prague
Nick Mendola: Barcelona, Inter Milan, Borussia Dortmund, Slavia Prague
Kyle Bonn: Barcelona, Borussia Dortmund, Inter Milan, Slavia Prague

Is Inter Milan’s renaissance for real? Nick and JPW thinks so, while Kyle Bonn thinks Lucien Favre’s BVB will keep humming past the Serie A giants.

GROUP G

Joe Prince-Wright: Lyon, RB Leipzig, Benfica, Zenit Saint-Petersburg
Nick Mendola: RB Leipzig, Lyon, Zenit Saint-Petersburg, Benfica
Kyle Bonn: Lyon, RB Leipzig, Benfica, Zenit Saint-Petersburg

Anything could happen here, and only Nick believes Timo Werner and RBL can outlast Memphis Depay, Moussa Dembele, and Lyon to win a seeded place in the knockout rounds.

GROUP H

Joe Prince-Wright: Chelsea, Ajax, Lille, Valencia
Nick Mendola: Chelsea, Valencia, Lille, Ajax
Kyle Bonn: Chelsea, Lille, Ajax, Valencia

Massive names with equal-sized questions. In other years, this would look like a group of death, but Lille earned its place via now-sold Nicolas Pepe and Ajax sold a good part of a golden academy generation to Barcelona, Juventus, and others. Chelsea, oddly enough, may be counting its blessings.

EURO 2020 qualifying: Germany, Netherlands seize control of Group C

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A roundup of all of Monday’s action in qualification for the 2020 European Championship…

[ MORE: How will USMNT line up against Uruguay? ]

Northern Ireland 0-2 Germany

Germany bounced back from its home defeat to the Netherlands on Friday and now sits atop Group C. Northern Ireland held the top spot in the group from the outset of qualifying, but the Germans finally drew level on games played (5) on Monday and subsequently leapfrogged them to reach the summit (12 points each).

Marcel Halstenberg (RB Leipzig) put Germany ahead in the 48th minute with a stunning side-volley from a seemingly impossible angle, followed by Serge Gnabry‘s deft five-hole finish to beat Bailey Peacock-Farrell in the 92nd.

Estonia 0-4 Netherlands

The Ryan Babel Renaissance rumbles on, with the 32-year-old bagging a brace in the Netherland’s 4-0 thrashing of Estonia. Since returning to the Dutch side in 2017, Babel has scored five goals after going nearly a decade without an international goal (May 2008 to November 2017).

The former Liverpool (now Galatasaray) winger got the first two goals on Monday, in the 17th and 48th minutes. Memphis Depay put the game to bed in the 76th, followed by the exclamation point from Georginio Wijnaldum in the 87th.

The Dutch (9 points) sit third in Group C three points back of both Germany and Northern Ireland (with a game in hand on each) after winning twice during this international window. Prior to this round of games, they were one or two bad results from failing to qualify for a third straight major tournament.

Scotland 0-4 Belgium

Belgium (18 points) now sits just one win from booking its place at EURO 2020, thanks to a 4-0 rout in Scotland. Having conceded just one goal (to second-place Russia) in their six games thus far, Roberto Martinez’s side has asserted itself as the class of Group I.

Romelu Lukaku made it 1-0 in the 9th minute, followed by defenders Thomas Vermaelen in the 24th and Toby Aldeweireld in the 32nd, and Kevin De Bruyne in the 82nd.

Eden Hazard missed out on this round of international fixtures due to the thigh injury which has prevented him from making his Real Madrid debut.

Elsewhere in EURO 2020 qualifying

Group E

Hungary 1-2 Slovakia
Azerbaijan 1-1 Croatia

Group G

Poland 0-0 Austria
Slovenia 3-2 Israel
Latvia 0-2 North Macedonia

Group I

Russia ____ Kazakhstan
San Marino ___ Cyprus

Reports: Napoli agree record fee for Hirving Lozano

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Mexico’s most expensive player ever will soon be Hirving “Chucky” Lozano.

According to multiple reports, PSV Eindhoven and Napoli have agreed to a $46 million transfer fee for the Mexican international. According to Sky Sport 24‘s Francesco Modugno, the 24-year-old will travel to Rome on Tuesday and complete his medical on Wednesday morning, ending the Serie A club’s summer-long pursuit.

Lozano will reportedly sign a five-year deal with Gli Azzurri worth $4 million per year plus bonuses.

Over the course of the past few months, Napoli were also linked with Arsenal’s Nicolas Pepe and Real Madrid’s James Rodriguez. In the end, Carlo Ancelotti, who is planning to give Juventus a run for their money this season, is adding the speedy winger to his attacking corps that features the likes of Lorenzo Insigne and Arkadiusz Milik.

Despite coming off injured in the 50th minute against ADO Den Haagg in his last PSV appearance, it is believed it won’t influence Lozano’s medical. He will break the transfer record for a Mexican player set by Raul Jimenez in his summer move to Wolverhampton Wanderers from Benfica worth $43 million.

Having sold Memphis Depay for nearly $39 million in 2015 to Manchester United, Lozano’s departure would set a new record for the Dutch giants as well.

Reports: Hirving Lozano set for Napoli medical

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According to reports from both Italy and the Netherlands, PSV Eindhoven attacker Hirving “Chucky” Lozano is nearing a long-awaited move to Napoli and could complete the move as soon as the middle of next week.

Both Dutch publication Votebal International and Italian outlet Tuttomercadoweb are reporting that Lozano’s entourage just has the final details of a $47 million move to iron out. A medical could be conducted as soon as next Monday or Tuesday, with only his image rights and “administrative issues” with his former club Pachuca now standing in the way of the move.

VI reports Lozano will sign a five-year deal keeping him tied to Napoli through the summer of 2024. The transaction would be a record for both sides, breaking Napoli’s transfer record of $44 million for Gonzalo Higuain from Real Madrid in 2013 and also smashing PSV’s record sale of Memphis Depay to Manchester United for $38 million.

Napoli has been the frontrunner for Lozano’s signature all summer, with the Italian side looking to move for the 23-year-old Mexican international. He has recovered from a knee injury suffered late last season that kept him out of international action over the summer, back in action for PSV in the early going as the club capitulated to FC Basel in Champions League qualifying. He has yet to record a goal or assist in five appearances across all competitions this young season, yet to complete a full 90 minutes as well.

The Mexican was spectacular last season, bagging 21 goals and 12 assists across all competitions, with 17 and 11 coming in Eredivisie play plus another two and one in Champions League action. He continued that form in international competition, scoring a goal and assist in World Cup play last summer and looking unplayable at times in the world’s most prominent competition.