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Champions League predictions: EPL teams with best Round of 16 chances

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AP

Champions League predictions: EPL teams with best Round of 16 chances

The European Cup rebranded as the UEFA Champions League in the same season as the Premier League's inception, but English teams haven't exactly dominated Europe's top club competition during that time. 

Liverpool (twice), Manchester United (twice) and Chelsea are the only English clubs who have won the Champions League since 1992-93, and the Premier League's five European titles during that time match that of Serie A and trail La Liga -- though two clubs (Real Madrid and Barcelona) did all of the winning in Spain's case. 

Yet it's possible the Premier League, for just the second time in the competition's history, will produce a finalist for the third consecutive year. The prohibitive Champions League favorites (Liverpool) and reigning finalists (Tottenham Hotspur) hail from the Premier League, as does a club looking to add to its unprecedentedly stuffed trophy case (Manchester City) and another who wants to lift the trophy again (Chelsea). 

Which of these teams has the best chance of advancing from the Round of 16? Let's rank them from the most to least likely. 

Liverpool

The Reds are in impeccable form. Their first team hasn't lost since Napoli beat them 2-0 in the first match of the Champions League group stage, and Liverpool have only allowed three goals in 10 matches across all competitions in 2020. They didn't mow through the group stage the same way they've crushed all opposition in the Premier League, but they have a favorable matchup in the Round of 16. 

Atlético Madrid are fourth in La Liga, but this is not Diego Simeone's strongest squad. They're still stingy in their own half -- the Rojiblancos have allowed the second-fewest goals in Spain's top flight (17) and the fewest expected goals (18.1, per StatsBomb) -- but Atléti have only scored 25 goals in 24 league matches and they managed just eight in six group-stage matches. Antoine Griezmann's departure still looms. 

Liverpool might settle for a draw in Tuesday's first leg, but it's hard to envision Atléti winning at Anfield on March 11. They only have won five times away from the Estadio Metropolitano, while Liverpool haven't lost in a very long time. You can't ever count out Simeone, but Liverpool should advance with ease. 

Prediction (aggregate): Liverpool 4, Atlético Madrid 1

Manchester City

Don't let the gap atop the Premier League or their pending Champions League ban fool you: Manchester City mostly remain a juggernaut, even if they don't have the results to show for it. City steamrolled their last four opponents before the winter break, posting at least 2.0 expected goals in each match.

Yet City were leaky at the back and only won two of those matches, and they are vulnerable heading into the Round of 16. There might not be a goalkeeper with the ball at his feet than Ederson, but the Brazillian has had trouble keeping balls out of his own net this season. The Sky Blues already have allowed more goals in the Premier League this season than they did in each of their last two title-winning campaigns.

Real Madrid, the Sky Blues' Round of 16 opponents, haven't had bad luck turn into losses this season as they lead La Liga. These aren't your Grandparents' Galacaticos, with manager Zinedine Zidane relying on a good mix of young talent and established veteran stars. City have them beat on star power and Real Madrid should never be confused for plucky underdogs, but this is a tough matchup for Pep Guardiola and Co.

Expect City to be well-prepared to finally get over the quarter-final hump after narrowly edging the Spanish giants over two legs. 

Prediction (aggregate): Manchester City 3, Real Madrid 3 (City advance on away goals)

Chelsea

Chelsea and Round of 16 opponent Bayern Munich are trending in opposite directions. The Blues have beaten two second-division sides in the FA Cup and only Burnley in the Premier League since the start of 2020, while Die Roten have scored at least four goals in five of their last six matches in all competitions. Chelsea also have an injury crisis on their hands and a London Derby on Saturday before hosting the Bundesliga leaders, making this an extremely tough tie.

The two clubs have a rich Champions League history with one another, including Chelsea's shocking win in the 2012 Champions League final in Munich. The Blues need to get healthy before entertaining the idea of a similar upset, but getting Tammy Abraham and N'Golo Kante back against the Bavarians would provide a huge boost.

Health up front can only go so far, however, considering Chelsea's goalkeeping struggles. Both Kepa and backup Willy Callbaero have allowed more goals than expected based on the chances they've faced this season. That doesn't exactly inspire confidence against the likes of Robert Lewandowski and Serge Gnabry, who have combined to score more goals in all competitions (50) than Chelsea's seven leading goal-scorers.

Bayern should get through with ease.

Prediction: Bayern Munich 5, Chelsea 2

[RELATED: Check out more Premier League coverage from Sky Sports]

Tottenham Hotspur

Who'd have thought Tottenham would be this fun under José Mourinho? Not me. Spurs have scored at least two goals in nine of 14 Premier League matches with Mourinho at the helm, keeping only three clean sheets in all competitions and needing two replays just to stay alive in the FA Cup.

Mourinho might have no choice to return to his notoriously stodgy ways against RB Leipzig, however, given that South Korean star Son Heung-min broke his arm over the weekend and Mourinho said he doesn't expect the attacker to return this season. Spurs already are missing Harry Kane, and Mourinho was on the record as saying none of his attacking options could fll Kane's boots as No. 9 before Son's injury.

RB Leipzig would've been a difficult matchup if Tottenham were fully healthy, but Spurs simply don't have enough firepower up top to keep up with the Bundesliga title-chasers' prolific attack. Mourinho's only hope is to revise and renew the deal with the devil Tottenham made last season to miraculously advance to the Champions League final.

Prediction: RB Leipzig 6, Tottenham Hotspur 1

Earthquakes' Thompson wants focus on coronavirus, not sports right now

Earthquakes' Thompson wants focus on coronavirus, not sports right now

Earthquakes right back Tommy Thompson had an early read on the coronavirus pandemic. But even seeing the entire 11-million population of Wuhan, China on complete lockdown, he didn’t know how or if it would translate to North America or beyond.

“We were all just confused by it,” Thompson told NBC Sports California of discussions with his teammates. “There wasn’t any real indication from the league or management that this would have the potential to cause our league to come to a standstill.”

The Quakes had completed a full training camp, and already played their first two matches when MLS suspended the season in mid-March.

“It’s been bizarre,” Thompson said. “My heart goes out to everyone affected by coronavirus, and at this point, everyone has been affected some way or another.”

Recently as two weeks ago, the MLS had targeted a return for May 10, which might already seem outdated, and distant from life priorities. Thompson says the best approach might be to avoid the highs and lows of over-speculating.

“It’s important for us to focus on the virus and fattening the curve,” Thompson said. “After that, sports will come. Life will return back to normal. It’s important to look forward to that time, but you can’t get too caught up in getting excited or disappointed.”             

In the mean time, the Sacramento native has been keeping busy with two new-found activities: Cooking, and launching his YouTube channel.

He recently uploaded more than 50 soccer trick and instructional videos, specifically aimed at keeping a young audience entertained and developing their skills.

[RELATED: Premier League extends coronavirus stoppage]

“I wanted to challenge kids of the United States to do different skills that I used to work on in the garage of my home,” Thompson said. “I thought now would be the perfect time to communicate that it’s still possible to practice.”

Thompson has seen rewarding growth, from literally zero, to tens of thousands of views in a week.

“It shows that kids need this right now,” Thompson said. “And it makes me excited to see that they’re staying productive by watching, and doing these drills at home.”

Premier League extends coronavirus pause, proposes 30 percent wage cut

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AP

Premier League extends coronavirus pause, proposes 30 percent wage cut

The Premier League is pushing back its restart date indefinitely amid the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, it announced in a statement Friday.

After bringing together the league’s top officials on a video conference, it was decided that the original hopes to begin playing again at the beginning of May were premature.

“It was acknowledged that the Premier League will not resume at the beginning of May,” the statement read. “And that the 2019/20 season will only return when it is safe and appropriate to do so. The restart date is under constant review with all stakeholders, as the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic develops and we work together through this very challenging time.

“The Premier League is working closely with the whole of professional football in this country, as well as with the Government, public agencies and other relevant stakeholders to ensure the game achieves a collaborative solution.”

[RELATED: Best PL storylines we would've watched if season continued]

Players also are facing a wage reduction of up to 30 percent as the league deals with the fallout from the coronavirus outbreak.

Until health officials declare that social distancing regulations can be lifted, don’t expect to see much in the way of live sports.