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UEFA Champions League Weds. preview: Salah time and Lyon’s opportunity

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Liverpool’s going to need to score on Wednesday at the Allianz Arena, preferably before penalty kicks, and the Reds have just the guy to do that.

Mohamed Salah is on a five-match dry spell in terms of goals, but the Egyptian star has done plenty of playmaking in the interim.

[ MORE: Man City clobbers Schalke ]

He’ll be getting plenty of attention from Bayern Munich, because Liverpool can advance to the UEFA Champions League quarterfinals via a win or scoring draw.

Still, there’s no question he could use production on a big stage like this, as he continues to draw comparisons to some of the game’s greats. While Salah has been sensational in the Premier League, scoring 17 goals with seven assists in 30 games, he’s simply been pretty good in the UCL (three goals, no assists, in seven games).

He’s completing 69 percent of his passes in the UCL compared to 76 in the PL, and 2.1 dribbles per game compared to one. With plenty of respect to Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino, and an acknowledgment that the standard UCL match brings more attention than the standard PL game, that’s not going to cut it.

As for Wednesday’s other second leg, Lyon has a chance to spring a monumental upset of Barcelona and turn the whole competition on its ear.

Barca and Lyon played a scoreless draw in France, meaning a score draw can do the trick for the Ligue 1 visitors on Wednesday.

Lyon president Jean-Michel Aulas has maybe the pick of the quote litter, when it comes to the challenge faced by his club.

“It will be terribly difficult. The stadium will be full with one of the best teams in the world. We have a great desire to show that a French team can go further. It would be historic. It would be an unpretentious feat, but in line with what we want to do. This team plays brilliantly against top opposition.

“It’s a pleasure to come here, but there’s also the risk of leaving with less pleasure than when we arrived. Don’t be overwhelmed, but at the same time realize that this is a great opportunity. The squad believes in itself.”

Who goes through from the 0-0 match-ups?

Transfer Rumor Roundup: Walker to City close, Inter wants Szczesny

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With the start of preseason getting closer, teams are hoping to do their business in time to get new players a full bill of health and fitness before the new season. With that in mind, the transfer action truly begins to heat up with clubs under the crunch of time.

With Manchester City heading to the United States for a preseason tour of America, they’re looking to do deals before the trip begins to have everyone on board. Kyle Walker has been heavily linked with City, and it looks like Daniel Levy’s steadfasness will pay off yet again for the London side.

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According to a report in the Daily Mail, Tottenham will wriggle nearly $62 million from City for Walker’s services. Levy knows that Pep Guardiola is desperate for top-tier full-backs after seeing his full bank of players in that position struggle mightily. Now, Levy may successfully extract a small fortune for his England international, and with plenty of time to re-invest on his replacement. The report suggests the deal could be done in time for Walker to face Spurs in their friendly on July 29th in Nashville.


Sticking to full-backs, Juventus may be looking to replace both its standout performers on the flanks last season. Dani Alves seems set to move on, while Alex Sandro has been heavily linked to Chelsea.

Hoping to pull in top-level replacements in a position that proves to be quite top-heavy throughout the world, Juventus has turned to Southampton’s Cedric Soares. The 25-year-old has enjoyed a bright Confederations Cup on duty with Portugal, and may have turned heads in Italy as a result.

The report from Italian publication Tuttosport linking Cedric to the Old Lady states that, while Juventus will first look to pry Danilo from Real Madrid, Cedric could be a cheaper option with his price tag under $22 million. The article also mentions Valencia’s Joao Cancelo as an option for Juventus at the right-back spot.


Alexandre Lacazette is a top striker option on the market this summer, and while it feels like his domino is waiting to fall after Kylian Mbappe’s, there could be a wrinkle involved with the Lyon frontman.

Atletico Madrid was heavily linked to Lacazette as a replacement for Antoine Griezmann before their transfer ban was handed down. Now, with Griezmann staying, those links cooled as Atleti is unable to register new players until the January transfer window. Yet, there may still be a chance for the Spanish side to land yet another French striker.

According to loose-lipped Lyon president Jean-Michel Aulas, Atletico Madrid submitted a large offer for Lacazette, and the Spanish side is still a heavy player in the story. Should Atleti’s bid be accepted, Lacazette would likely stay at Lyon for the first half of the season and complete his transfer to Spain in the winter transfer window. Aulas said Atletico’s offer was in the area of $75 million, including bonuses. That’s some stiff competition for Arsenal or any other big-name club hoping to secure Lacazette’s signature.

Aulas also confirmed he met with Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger on June 13th during the match between England and France. Just yesterday, there were reports that Arsenal was preparing a large bid for the Frenchman.


In the same interview, Aulas also confirmed that Chelsea youngster Bertrand Traore is close to a move to Lyon. Aulas said that the 21-year-old is currently in Lyon to finalize the move, although the fee had yet to be finalized, only saying that it was “considerable.”

Traore, a Burkina Faso international, was an AJ Auxerre youth product before joining Chelsea’s youth ranks in 2013. The young attacker spent last season on loan at Dutch club Ajax where he made 39 appearances across all competitions, scoring 13 goals and assisting six.


Arsenal goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny has benefitted greatly from his two-year loan spell at AS Roma. Despite his future looking bleak with the Gunners, Szczesny is a wanted man in Italy.

Linked with a bid from Juventus earlier this month, Szczesny has now been heavily connected to his former Roma manager Luciano Spaletti who has recently taken charge at Inter Milan. Spaletti already has one of the best pure shot-stoppers in Europe in Samir Handanovic, but according to reports in Italy, Spaletti wants Handanovic to improve with the ball at his feet, something which he praised Szczesny for earlier this week.

Spaletti, hoping to diffuse interest in Szczesny, told Sky Sports Italia on Thursday, “We already have Samir Handanovic, who is very experienced and strong. I’ve already worked with him and I know his quality. For the moment we’ve got him. Obviously Szczesny is a modern player, because he can use his feet and in modern football you need that to start moves from the back.”

Now, reports in Italy say Spaletti has asked Handanovic to undergo targeted training hoping to improve his ability with the ball at his feet. Should he refuse, the club would look to sell the Serbian in favor of Szczesny, a move which could also potentially net the club some cash.


With Romelu Lukaku rumors seeing renewed fervor after the player enjoyed a pickup game on a field branded with Chelsea logos, the Everton striker has taken to social media to vent his frustration.

Lukaku has told reporters multiple times that returning to Everton is not really an option, and that he has an agreement with a club already, but otherwise, the Chelsea links are all fans have to go off at this time.

Lyon president: Lacazette future murky after Atleti decision

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Lyon president Jean-Michael Aulas says Alexandre Lacazette could stay at Lyon for another season after a planned move to Atletico Madrid fell flat.

Lacazette was ready to move to Atleti if the club’s transfer ban was reduced, but the Court of Arbitration for Sport refused to alter its punishment.

[ MORE: UCL Final Preview ]

Now Aulas says anything could happen, from a longer stay in France to a move to a different club. And with Atleti’s ban ending in January 2018, there’s a chance for a midseason move (“A solution might be that he stays with us until the sanction is over,” Aulas said).

From AS.com:

Speaking to L’Equipe, Aulas sais that “Real Madrid have their sanction reduced, but that wasn’t the case for Atletico. It is both good and bad news because economically it was a very important transfer and the TAs sanction changes everything. Lacazette did not want to celebrate the move too early because he knows that anything can happen in football but he made the decision on his future with his heart. This setback challenges the agreement but he could continue playing here for one more season.”

Arsenal have often been linked with Lacazette, and Manchester United could see him as a replacement and/or partner for Zlatan Ibrahimovic. The plot has certainly thickened at the Parc Olympique Lyonnais.

Arsenal insult French club with low bid for midfielder

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It’s possible that with Arsene Wenger relatively quiet in the last few years transfer-wise, he may have forgotten a bit of etiquette.

The Arsenal manager has ruffled a few feathers in his home country of France after a bid for Lyon attacking midfielder Clement Grenier was so low it was deemed “disrespectful” by Lyon chairman Jean-Michel Aulas.

According to French paper Le Parisien (the hard copy, story hasn’t appeared online as of yet), Wenger bid £6 million ($9.1 million), about one-third of what Aulas has valued the 22-year-old at.

Grenier has just one year left on his deal, and has already stated Arsenal are in the mix.  He stated he will not renew with Lyon, so they would be wise to cash in for him now.  Instead however, the report states Aulas has been steadfast in his belief that Grenier will be returning to Stade de Gerland.

The kid rose to the club’s challenge in the final few weeks, and guided Lyon through a tough patch and into the third and final Ligue 1 qualifying spot for the Champions League.  His free kicks are Juninho-esque, and a calculated risk-taker when it comes to passing.  Oddly enough, Grenier would have made a switch to Nice last summer had Yoann Gourcuff not blown out his knee in the beginning of the season.

Arsenal apparently also submitted a bid for fellow Lyon player Maxime Gonalons, but that too was turned down.