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Champions League Preview: Tottenham, Dortmund battle in Wembley

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Wednesday’s UEFA Champions League matchup between Tottenham and Borussia Dortmund will be a battle between which team can overcome injuries to star attacking players.

The glamour of the game has been slightly diminished, as Tottenham will be without Harry Kane and Dele Alli while Dortmund are without Marco Reus and Paco Alcacer. Tottenham will then once more lean on Christian Eriksen and Heung-Min Son, while Christian Pulisic is likely to start for Dortmund, with Thomas Delaney providing the engine in midfield.

[READ: PSG stun Man United in UCL]

One reason for some hope in this match in Tottenham circles is the recent struggles of Dortmund’s defense. The club has allowed six goals in its last two games, including coughing up a 3-0 lead over the weekend against Hoffenheim. While Fernando Llorente could be contained, it may be up to Son to use his creativity and dribbling ability to break through the Dortmund backline, or have Eriksen find him breaking the lines.

Of course, one of the players to watch is Pulisic, who is in England for the first time since completing his record-setting $73 million transfer to Chelsea. The U.S. Men’s National Team star has often started in Champions League and cup matches, even over Jaden Sancho, though it’s possible that Sancho could start in coach Lucien Favre’s 4-3-3 back in his homeland.

[ MORE: UCL: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

With Pulisic, even though he’s not been at his best, he injects speed and a dynamism that will challenge Eric Dier in midfield and whoever suits up at outside back for Tottenham, especially if Jan Vertonghen deputizes at left back.

Elsewhere, Real Madrid flies north to face Ajax, with stars Frenkie de Jong and Matthijs de Ligt hoping to make a big impression at the Johan Cruyff ArenA. Ajax, however, is coming off two defeats in its last three games, including a 1-0 loss last weekend to Heracles, while Real Madrid has won four of its last five as it surges up the table.

Vinicius Jr. has been a revelation the past few months and now he gets a chance to show off his speed and dribbling ability in the Champions League, and Real Madrid is coming off a huge confidence-boosting win at Atletico Madrid, where the side’s defense held strong against an Atleti side looking for a season-defining win.

Praise for Pulisic; Gold Cup to delay Chelsea debut?

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Christian Pulisic is getting ready to head to London this week, as his Borussia Dortmund side play against Tottenham Hotspur on Wednesday in the first leg of their UEFA Champions League last 16 clash.

[ MORE: UCL last 16 picks

All eyes will be on the USMNT star, officially a Chelsea player but on loan at Dortmund for the rest of the 2018-19 campaign, as the hype around his Premier League arrival continues to grow.

Pulisic, 20, could play a key role for Dortmund against Spurs as Marco Reus is out injured for the game at Wembley, while multiple outlets in the UK are focusing on the fact that he will likely be called up to play for Gregg Berhalter’s USMNT squad for the Gold Cup this summer.

With the U.S. expected to go far in the competition, Pulisic could miss the start of Chelsea’s preseason as they’re scheduled to play a game in Japan in mid-July, just a few days after the Gold Cup final.

Pro Soccer Talk understands that Chelsea will go on a tour of Asia this summer, with the game in Japan the first leg of their preseason.

Pulisic will likely be given a 21-day break after the Gold Cup final, meaning he will not be able to train with Chelsea until a week before the 2019-20 PL season begins. That said, Pulisic hasn’t played a lot for Dortmund this season so even if he features, as expected, for the USMNT this summer, he could make a good impression by turning up early for Chelsea’s preseason.

As for the British perception of Pulisic right now, BBC and BT Sport host Gary Lineker  told football.london that he likes Pulisic but prefers Sancho.

“I’ve seen quite a bit of him and I think he’s got a lot of talent,” Lineker said. “He’s not been an out-and-out regular in their side. I prefer Jadon Sancho to be perfectly honest from what I’ve seen, which is quite a lot as I do watch a hell of a lot of football from all leagues like a geek! He is talented, there’s no question about that.”

“It’s good to see a young American talent because if he does become a superstar that will be a real lift for the game over the other side of the pond. He’s got a lot of talent and it will be interesting to see how he does at Chelsea. He’s got a real chance, but if I could pick one of them I would definitely go with Sancho.”

Pulisic isn’t one for focusing on what others think about him, and when asked about the game against Spurs and impressing fans in England he said it is a “it’s a chance to show them what I’m about.”

If Pulisic helps Dortmund knock Spurs out of the Champions League, he will already be a fans favorite at Chelsea before he has even kicked a ball for the Blues.

“Sounds good,” Pulisic said. “I don’t look at that stuff all that much. I’m just trying to focus here and trying to enjoy the rest of my time here.”

Chelsea rejects $25m Bayern bid for Hudson-Odoi

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Sky Sports is reporting that Bayern Munich came back with an improved offer for Chelsea teenager Callum Hudson-Odoi, only to be rebuffed by the Blues.

[ REPORT: Barca agrees with De Jong ]

Chelsea is thinking it can get a lot more than the second offer of approximately $25 million for Hudson-Odoi, and is holding out for $51 million.

German writer Raphael Honigstein compares it to the Jadon Sancho effect, as the former Man City youngster is a Player of the Year candidate in the Bundesliga following his move to Borussia Dortmund.

But the 18-year-old Sancho moved to BVB for $9 million, though City is said to have the right of first refusal if the Dortmund side accepts a bid for him. Sancho has seven goals and 10 assists this season, and has significantly cut into Christian Pulisic’s playing time.

Hudson-Odoi, also 18, has one goal in six matches for the Blues’ first team, whereas Sancho had not appeared for Pep Guardiola‘s first unit.

This is a bit bonkers, and Chelsea should cash in on Sanchomania by getting good money for Hudson-Odoi (and a similar first refusal clause).

Dortmund beats Schalke 2-1 in Ruhr derby, Bayern keeps pace

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BERLIN (AP) Borussia Dortmund kept its nine-point advantage over Bayern Munich with a 2-1 Ruhr derby win at Schalke in the Bundesliga on Saturday.

[ RECAP: Chelsea 2-0 Man City ]

Jadon Sancho sealed the unbeaten visitors’ 11th win from 14 games with a fine finish in the 74th minute, restoring Dortmund’s lead after Daniel Caligiuri equalized from the penalty spot. Thomas Delaney had given Dortmund an early lead.

Bayern, which is chasing an unprecedented seventh consecutive title, kept pace and moved second with a 3-0 win over promoted Nuremberg in their Bavarian Derby in Munich.

Also, Freiburg defeated Leipzig 3-0 at home, Bayer Leverkusen earned a 1-0 win at home over Augsburg, and Wolfsburg and Hoffenheim drew 2-2.

Hertha Berlin was hosting Eintracht Frankfurt later Saturday.

STANDINGS

Team GP W D L GF GA GD Home Away PTS
 Borussia Dortmund 14 11 3 0 39 14 25 6-1-0 5-2-0 36
 Bayern Munich 14 8 3 3 28 18 10 3-3-1 5-0-2 27
 Mönchengladbach 13 8 2 3 30 16 14 6-0-0 2-2-3 26
 RB Leipzig 14 7 4 3 24 13 11 5-2-0 2-2-3 25
 Eintracht Frankfurt 14 7 2 5 30 17 13 3-1-2 4-1-3 23
 Hertha BSC Berlin 14 6 5 3 22 20 2 4-2-1 2-3-2 23
 1899 Hoffenheim 14 6 4 4 30 21 9 3-2-2 3-2-2 22
 Werder Bremen 14 6 3 5 24 23 1 3-2-3 3-1-2 21
 VfL Wolfsburg 14 5 4 5 20 20 0 2-3-3 3-1-2 19
 FSV Mainz 05 13 5 3 5 12 14 -2 3-2-2 2-1-3 18
 Bayer Leverkusen 14 5 3 6 20 25 -5 3-1-3 2-2-3 18
 SC Freiburg 14 4 5 5 19 22 -3 3-3-2 1-2-3 17
 FC Schalke 04 14 4 2 8 15 20 -5 3-0-4 1-2-4 14
 FC Augsburg 14 3 4 7 20 23 -3 1-3-2 2-1-5 13
 VfB Stuttgart 13 3 2 8 9 26 -17 2-1-3 1-1-5 11
 1. FC Nürnberg 14 2 5 7 14 33 -19 2-3-2 0-2-5 11
 Hannover 96 13 2 3 8 15 28 -13 2-1-3 0-2-5 9
 Fortuna Düsseldorf 14 2 3 9 14 32 -18 2-0-5 0-3-4 9

More AP Bundesliga coverage: https://apnews.com/tag/Bundesliga and https://twitter.com/AP- Sports

Report: Chelsea interested in Pulisic move

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According to a report by the Daily Mail, Christian Pulisic could make a move to Stamford Bridge in the coming months, potentially as soon as this winter.

All the ingredients for a move seem to be in play for a move in January. Pulisic has lost time at Borussia Dortmund to teenage England international Jadon Sancho, and has been the subject of transfer rumors for years. Pulisic’s contract runs through the summer of 2020, so Dortmund will be looking to make a decision on his future soon to avoid devaluation of his market value. With the rise of Sancho, Dortmund could be looking to sell Pulisic now before he reaches the final year of his contract.

The Mail report suggests that Pulisic has held talks with Dortmund over a new contract, but those talks have stalled of late, potentially pushing the German club even harder to sell.

Chelsea could also be motivated to make a deal soon, with the possibility of a transfer ban due to rules violations involving the transfers of young players.

The report mentions a price of $90 million, but that could drop as Dortmund loses leverage over Pulisic’s contract situation. A move to Chelsea would see the American play opposite Eden Hazard, and compete for time with the likes of Willian and Pedro.