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UEFA Champions League
UEFA Champions League

Last-16 games to be hosted by home teams in Champions League

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GENEVA (AP) The remaining four games of the Champions League’s round of 16 can be hosted by the home team, UEFA announced Thursday, instead of playing them in neutral Portugal.

The competition was halted in March because of the coronavirus and is set to conclude with a mini-tournament at an empty stadium in Lisbon next month, starting with the quarterfinals.

However, Barcelona, Bayern Munich, Juventus and Manchester City will be allowed to host the second leg of their last-16 matches at home.

[ MORE: New Premier League TV schedule ]

UEFA confirmed Thursday it had clearance from public authorities in Spain, Germany, Italy and England to let the teams play at home on Aug. 7 and 8. Few or no fans will be allowed in the stadiums.

UEFA also said no tickets will be sold to fans for mini-tournament in Lisbon.

“In light of the current situation, the UEFA executive committee felt it prudent to conclude that UEFA matches should take place behind closed doors until further notice,” the governing body said.

In the Europa League, six clubs including Manchester United can also host their outstanding second-leg games in the round of 16 ahead of a mini-tournament in Germany.

Starting on Aug. 12, the Champions League quarterfinals will be played on four straight nights in single-leg knockout games at the home stadiums of Benfica and Sporting Lisbon.

The semifinals are on Aug. 18 and 19, and Benfica’s Stadium of Light hosts the final on Aug. 23.

In the remaining round-of-16 games, Bayern is the clearest favorite to advance having won 3-0 at Chelsea in the first leg in February.

Man City leads 2-1 over Real Madrid, Juventus trails 1-0 against Lyon, and Barcelona resumes at 1-1 against Napoli.

Atalanta, Atlético Madrid, Leipzig and Paris Saint-Germain already advanced to the quarterfinals in March.

[ MORE: Solskjaer hopeful of new long-term Pogba deal ]

The quarterfinals and semifinals pairings will be drawn Friday at UEFA headquarters.

The final was postponed from May 30 at the Ataturk Olympic Stadium in Istanbul. It will host the 2021 final.

In the Europa League, six second-leg games will now be hosted on Aug. 5 and 6 by Man United, Bayer Leverkusen, Shakhtar Donetsk, Wolverhampton, Basel and Copenhagen.

The first-leg games were played in March with four in empty stadiums. Only İstanbul Başakşehir and Rangers had fans in the stands for games against Copenhagen and Bayer Leverkusen, respectively.

The two remaining pairings – Inter Milan-Getafe and Sevilla-Roma – could not be played in Italy or Spain in March as those countries were hit hard by the spreading coronavirus. Those pairings will be settled in single knockout games in neutral Germany, also on Aug. 5 and 6.

The quarterfinals are scheduled for Aug. 10-11 in Cologne, Duisburg, Düsseldorf and Gelsenkirchen. The semifinals are Aug. 16-17.

The final is Friday, Aug. 21 in Cologne, replacing the postponed May 27 final in Gdansk, Poland.

AP Sports Writer

Bayern Munich wins record 20th German Cup (video)

Bayern Munich wins German Cup
Photo by M. Donato/FC Bayern via Getty Images
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Bayern Munich was hardly bothered in securing a record 20th German Cup via a 4-2 defeat of Bayer Leverkusen in Berlin on Saturday.

The team with the second-most German Cups is Werder Bremen, who has won six times. Bayern has won 10 times this century including the last two.

The Bundesliga champions scored twice in the first half-hour and twice held three-goal leads in what was Bayer’s first German Cup final since a 2009 loss to Bremen.

[ MORE: Latest Bundesliga news ]

David Alaba and Serge Gnabry scored the early goals and Robert Lewandowski scored twice to round out the victor’s scoring.

The first goal of the Polish star’s brace came from a long pass from Manuel Neuer and a shot flubbed by Bayer keeper Lucas Hradecky.

Sven Bender and Kai Havertz scored for Bayer, the latter goal coming deep in stoppage time.

Here’s Alaba’s terrific quickly-taken free kick goal to open the scoring.

Sane seals move from Man City to Bayern Munich

Leroy Sane to Bayern Munich
Photo by M. Donato/FC Bayern via Getty Images
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We already knew Manchester City’s going to look different next year with David Silva amongst those set to leave the Etihad Stadium, but we now have confirmation that a younger playmaker is following through on rumors he was headed out the door.

Bayern Munich announced the purchase of Leroy Sane on Saturday, one of the top architects of City’s incredible 2017-18 season going home the Bundesliga. Reports speculate that Bayern will pay around $56 million for Sane.

“Leroy has been part of one of the most special periods in this club’s history and he leaves with the best wishes of everyone here at Manchester City,” said Pep Guardiola.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ] 

The rumors of Sane to Bayern extend well over a year, and the German champions are happy to get their man after reports the player turned down a City contract offer as recently as mid-June. There was an apology from the German powers to Man City after photos of the player taking a medical in Bayern kit were put online.

Make no mistake: Bayern badly wanted Sane.

“His speed, his technical quality and his scoring threat make him an absolute top player,” said future Bayern chairman Oliver Kahn. “He also fits very well into our team as a person and as a character.”

The winger turned 24 in January and has double-digit goals and assists in each of his last two full Premier League campaigns. He followed up 10 goals and 15 assists in 2017-18 with 10 and 11 last season.

Bayern has wanted Sane for some time, but the union might’ve become even more appealing to the playmaker when the German giants appointed Hansi Flick as manager.


“FC Bayern is a great club with big goals and these goals suit me as well. I’m looking forward to the new challenge and can’t wait to train with the team. I know Hansi Flick from the U21 national team, we had a very good relationship there. I want to win as many trophies as possible with FC Bayern, and the Champions League is the top priority.”

The Bavarians already have Champions League-winning quality and the idea of Serge Gnabry on one wing and Sane on the other is exciting.

As for City, it will be interesting to see what they do this summer presuming at least one year of ther two-year European ban is upheld.

The club will still be playing for the Premier League, FA Cup, and League Cup. They could also still be playing for the Community Shield and European Super Cup should they win the FA Cup and Champions League

So it’s not like they won’t need depth but do they rate some of their younger players and we don’t know who might ask to leave given the prospect of no UCL. We know Phil Foden is ready to take the next step, but who else will be coming through the door? Will in-prime players arrive to play for Pep without the prospect of the UCL for at least year? Or will it be older guys looking for a PL crown?

‘On his way’ or ‘unfounded?’ Thiago to Liverpool reports duel

Thiago Alcantara to Liverpool
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Thiago Alcantara is telling teammates he’s on his way to Liverpool.

The Bayern Munich man, 29, is confident of sealing a move to the Premier League champions, according to The Express. His contract runs through this summer.

Hansi Flick wants the center midfielder to stay at the Allianz Arena but contract talks between Bayern and Thiago had broken down and reports Friday linked him with Liverpool. He’d be expected to cost better than $40 million.

[ MORE: Premier League stats ]

There are stronger words this morning, with Bayern said to have “lost all hope” of keeping Thiago.

Yet the Liverpool Echo, an outlet with cozy connections to the Anfield set, says there’s nothing brewing and called the reports “unfounded.”

The 37-times capped Spaniard is set to start Saturday’s German Cup Final versus Bayer Leverkusen, and has won either La Liga (Barcelona) or the Bundesliga every year but one since the 2010-11 campaign.

Thiago would be a bit older than Liverpool’s usual buys but would present terrific experience, technique, and depth for a Reds midfield which will again contend for the Premier League and the Champions League in 2020-21.

But Bayern will certainly be looking to offset their summer shopping, which has started with Leroy Sane, by selling some older players. And Thiago is, right down to age, very close to like-for-like with Georginio Wijnaldum.

Rolfes, Bayer Leverkusen set to meet Bayern in German Cup Final

German Cup Final preview
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Simon Rolfes’ decorated playing career saw him earn 26 caps with Germany, play 288 times in the Bundesliga, and finish runner-up in both Germany top flight and the German Cup.

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Now the sporting director at Bayer Leverkusen, the club he led to the 2009 German Cup Final, Rolfes will hope he’s put together a championship side when Kai Havertz, Leon Bailey, and Bayer meet Bayern Munich in Saturday’s final (2 p.m. ET).

ProSoccerTalk caught up with the former Bayer and Werder Bremen playmaker before the final.

PST: What would a first German Cup in 27 years mean for Leverkusen and also to you as a former player?

Simon Rolfes
Rolfes celebrates after scoring in the 2009 German Cup semi final v. FSV Mainz, on April 21, 2009 (JUERGEN SCHWARZ/DDP/AFP via Getty Images).

Simon Rolfes: It would mean a lot to us. People here in Leverkusen have been waiting for a trophy for a long time. I feel that the organization is ready for a title. We have been working a lot to improve and develop this outstanding club, and the tradition is there. Right now we have a team that has shown its skills on the highest level several times.

PST: What are your top memories of the 2009 German Cup run? Beating Bayern? Scoring in the semifinal? The atmosphere of the final against your former club?

SR: That semifinal against Bayern was very emotional. And then the final in the huge stadium with the crowds was very impressive. I really felt the intensity and the importance of that game. I said to myself that I want to get back to a final soon again. It took some time in the end, and I am in a different role, but here we are now, reaching out for that cup.

PST: That (2009) team was crazy and had some very young talent in Toni Kroos and Arturo Vidal. Are there similarities between that team and the one from today?

SR: I am not one who likes to make comparisons. Each team is unique and has its own personality. But as we did in 2009, we now have a brilliant and talented squad, capable of creating big moments at any time. We’ve showed that throughout the season.

PST: Do you think this Cup final experience can help the club in its pursuit of the Europa League next month?

SR: That’s really hard to predict. It might also depend on the outcome of this game. Anyway, though, all teams will need to adapt to totally new situations in these unprecedented times. We’ll have a full month between the German Cup and the Europa League.

You need to adjust plans for rest as well as for preparation due to earlier or later endings of your domestic season. Whoever hits the right planning will be in a good position to win that Europa League trophy next month.

PST: What’s next for Bayer? What should we be on the look out for?

SR: We don’t see this final berth as a historic moment, at least not in a way of it being a unique and one-off situation. We are ambitious and eager to create more of those title chances in the future. We will continue building up a highly talented and hungry squad for these kind of opportunities. And we are ready to be judged based on the outcome of the games.

How to watch Bayer Leverkusen v. Bayern Munich

What: German Cup Final – Bayer Leverkusen v. Bayern Munich
When: 2 p.m. ET Saturday
TV Channel: ESPN2