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Champions League matchday 2: Will Messi get to face Ronaldo when Barca visits Juve?

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The Champions League is back, and back with a bang, after the draw for the 2020-21 group stage concluded on Oct. 1 in Geneva. The top line? A head-to-head between Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi as Juventus and Barcelona were paired together in Group G, in a game that could also see fans inside the stadium after UEFA confirmed grounds can be up to 30% full for fixtures if local regulations permit.

The standout pairing of the group stage also boasts an American subplot, with U.S. teammates Weston McKennie and Sergino Dest facing off against each other.

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Matchday 2 gives us the first of two blockbuster group stage matches between Juventus and Barcelona, though it’s unclear as yet whether Ronaldo will suit up given his recent positive tests for the coronavirus.

Elsewhere, you’ve got Atletico Madrid looking to rebound from a heavy defeat to Bayern Munich in Group A, Manchester City and Pep Guardiola hoping to break their slump at Marseille in Group C, Ajax traveling to Atalanta in a Group D match with plenty of knockout-round implications, and a chance for Chelsea to end their own scoreless streak in a trip to Krasnodar in Group E. Dortmund and Real Madrid, two of the stronger teams in this year’s competition, are also hoping to shrug off shock defeats to Lazio and Shakhtar Donetsk in Matchday 1 and get into the wins column.

Editor’s note: This has been updated since the group stage draw concluded on Oct. 1 in Geneva. Expanded group stage analysis of Matchday 2 is by Tom Hamilton.

Jump to groups:
– Tuesday’s matches: A | B | C | D
– Wednesday’s matches: E | F | G | H

LOKOMOTIV MOSCOW vs. BAYERN MUNICH
Tuesday, 1:55 p.m. ET/5:55 p.m. GMT

Reigning champions Bayern Munich travel to Moscow off the back of a storming 5-0 win over Eintracht Frankfurt at the weekend. Robert Lewandowski scored yet another hat-trick to make it 10 goals in five league games for the season, while Leroy Sane and youngster Jamal Musiala also scored. Having won their opening Champions League group match against Atletico Madrid 4-0 last week, Bayern are rumbling along nicely but will be without left-back Alphonso Davies, who picked up an ankle injury on Saturday.

Lokomotiv drew 2-2 at RB Salzburg in their first Group A match and lost at home 2-1 to Rotor on Saturday, with Grzegorz Krychowiak sent off. It was a poor result given that Rotor are firmly at the wrong end of the Russian Premier League table; Lokomotiv won’t have it easy against Bayern on Tuesday night. Expect a comprehensive win for the German side.

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1:31

Steve Nicol praises Bayern Munich star Robert Lewandowski after his hat trick vs. Eintracht Frankfurt.

ATLETICO MADRID vs. FC SALZBURG
Tuesday, 4 p.m. ET/8 p.m. GMT

After they were hammered in the opening round 4-0 at Bayern, the only way is up for Diego Simeone’s men. They will come into this buoyed by their 2-0 win over Real Betis on Saturday in which Marcos Llorente and Luis Suarez scored, but they will likely be without Diego Costa and Saul Niguez for Tuesday.

Salzburg are tearing it up in the Austrian Bundesliga and won 2-0 on the road at Austria Wien on Saturday courtesy of goals from Mergim Berisha and Patson Daka. They are without long-term absentee Antoine Bernede and will do well to claim anything from an Atletico team that can pick apart most opponents.


SHAKHTAR DONETSK vs. INTER MILAN
Tuesday, 1:55 p.m. ET/5:55 p.m. GMT

Shakhtar pulled off the biggest shock of Matchday 1 when they won 3-2 at Real Madrid with Tete and Manor Solomon both scoring alongside a Raphael Varane own goal. It was a remarkable performance from Luis Castro’s side, but they stuttered at home to Vorskla in a 1-1 draw at the weekend despite playing against 10 men for 37 minutes.

Antonio Conte’s Inter drew 2-2 with Borussia Monchengladbach in their Champions League Group B opener but got back on track away at Genoa on Saturday with Romelu Lukaku and Danilo D’Ambrosio scoring in their 2-0 win. They have Ashley Young, Milan Skriniar and Alexis Sanchez all out. This has “tense draw” written all over it.

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0:58

Ale Moreno says Real Madrid’s “fighting spirit” was the difference in their 3-1 win over Barcelona in El Clasico.

BORUSSIA MONCHENGLADBACH vs. REAL MADRID
Tuesday, 4 p.m. ET/8 p.m. GMT

Borussia continue to play their way into form this season, winning 3-2 at Mainz with Lars Stindl, Jonas Hofmann and Matthias Ginter all scoring. They sit fifth in the Bundesliga and are still without Denis Zakaria for Tuesday’s match against an unpredictable Real Madrid.

Real won 3-1 at Barcelona on Saturday in the first Clasico of the season with Federico Valverde, Sergio Ramos and Luka Modric all scoring. But their big team news sees Eden Hazard return to the squad while there are question marks over who plays at right-back with Dani Carvajal, Alvaro Odriozola and Nacho all injured. Ferland Mendy could deputise there, or they may opt for Lucas Vazquez, who played well at right-back after coming off the bench on Saturday.

It promises to be a cagey affair in Germany, but Ramos & Co. have enough class to rebound given that they can’t afford to lose any more ground after Matchday 1’s shock defeat.


FC PORTO vs. OLYMPIAKOS
Tuesday, 4 p.m. ET/8 p.m. GMT

Porto lost 3-1 at Manchester City last week, but managed to get a key 1-0 win across the line against Gil Vicente on Saturday thanks to Evanilson‘s goal, having been reduced to 10 men for the final 16 minutes when Zaidu Sanusi was red-carded.

Olympiakos got their Champions League campaign off to a superb start, beating Marseille 1-0 thanks to Ahmed Mahgoub’s injury-time winner. They had the weekend off so will be fit and firing for their trip to Lisbon. We’re rooting for a shocking away win in this one.

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2:08

Don Hutchison wonders if signing Harry Kane can fix Manchester City’s problems.

MARSEILLE vs. MAN CITY
Tuesday, 4 p.m. ET/8 p.m. GMT

Andre Villas-Boas’ Marseille side won 1-0 at Lorient on Saturday thanks to Leonardo Balerdi‘s goal and have a fully-fit squad for when they welcome Pep Guardiola’s side on Tuesday evening.

Manchester City’s stuttering start to the 2020-21 season (by their high standards, at least) continued when they drew 1-1 at West Ham on Saturday, with substitute Phil Foden scoring the equaliser. Guardiola is under increasing pressure to make a decision on where his future lies with his contract up in eight months’ time, and his side will travel to France without Fernandinho (who was injured against Porto), Aymeric Laporte, Benjamin Mendy and Gabriel Jesus.

You wouldn’t bet against the visitors taking all three points, but Marseille have the nous to exploit what’s wrong with Man City at the moment.


ATALANTA vs. AJAX
Tuesday, 4 p.m. ET/8 p.m. GMT

Atalanta trounced Midtjylland 4-0 on Champions League Matchday 1, but that triumph is sandwiched between two heavy defeats in Serie A. They lost at home 3-1 to Sampdoria on Saturday, which followed their 4-1 defeat at Napoli the previous week. Gian Piero Gasperini’s side will look to get back to winning ways against Ajax but will not have it easy against the record-breakers.

Ajax won 13-0 at VVV-Venlo on Saturday, a record triumph in the Eredivisie with Lassina Traore scoring five and Jurgen Ekkelenkamp and Klaas-Jan Huntelaar both grabbing braces. Having lost 1-0 at home to Liverpool in the opening round, the Dutch giants know they’ll need a win on the road at Atalanta to keep their Champions League prospects alive. However, they will be without new signing Mohammed Kudus, who picked up a nasty injury last week.

– Was Ajax’s win the biggest in a top league?

All signs point to Atalanta emerging on top.

LIVERPOOL vs. FC MIDTJYLLAND
Tuesday, 4 p.m. ET/8 p.m. GMT

Jurgen Klopp’s men continue to find their way without talismanic defender Virgil van Dijk but will take heart from their 2-1 win over Sheffield United at Anfield on Saturday in which Roberto Firmino opened his account for the season and Diego Jota scored the winner. Goalkeeper Alisson returned at the weekend but the Reds will be without Joel Matip, Thiago Alcantara and Naby Keita this week.

Midtjylland will be massive underdogs for their trip to Anfield and will be without Jesper Hansen and Junior Brumado. But they won 3-2 at Brondby at the weekend with Anders Dreyer and the brilliant Pione Sisto both scoring, with their late winner coming courtesy of Marvin Schwabe’s 94th-minute own goal.

All in all, we’re picking a nervy but comprehensive home win for the Reds.


KRASNODAR vs. CHELSEA
Wednesday, 1:55 p.m. ET/5:55 p.m. GMT

Russian side Krasnodar earned a credible 1-1 draw at Rennes in their Group E opener, but are still mid-table in the Russian Premier League having lost at home 3-1 to Spartak Moscow on Saturday — a match that saw Alyaksandr Martynovich sent off.

Chelsea have gone two matches without a goal, having drawn 0-0 against Sevilla in the opening round and again at Manchester United on Saturday. But apart from absentees Kepa Arrizabalaga and Billy Gilmour, they have a fully-fit squad so expect to see more of their summer signings adjust to life under Frank Lampard.

This should be a game that gets them into the win column for the first time in this nascent Champions League 2020-21 campaign.

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1:38

Steve Nicol is baffled Chelsea weren’t awarded a penalty in a scoreless draw against Manchester United.

SEVILLA vs. STADE RENNES
Wednesday, 4 p.m. ET/8 p.m. GMT

Sevilla’s point at Stamford Bridge on Matchday 1 could prove essential in the eventual shakedown of the group but they will need to pick themselves up after a surprise 1-0 defeat at home to Eibar at the weekend. And they’ll be without defender Jules Kounde — who’s on Manchester City’s radar — due to COVID-19.

Rennes would have hoped for better than a 1-1 draw in their opening Champions League game, and they slumped to a 2-1 defeat at home to Angers on Friday, so they’ll have to dust themselves down for the trip to Spain on Wednesday. They are still without Faitout Maouassa and M’Baye Niang.

Expect Sevilla to claim all three points given their wealth of experience in Europe.


CLUB BRUGGE vs. LAZIO
Wednesday, 4 p.m. ET/8 p.m. GMT

Club Brugge’s impressive 2-1 win on the road against Zenit in Round 1 was tempered by their 2-1 defeat at Leuven on Saturday. Noa Lang‘s first-half penalty was not enough to see them home, and they’ll have to improve against a Lazio side who will be buoyed by their 3-1 win over Borussia Dortmund in the opening round in Europe and their 2-1 win at Bologna on Saturday, where Luis Alberto and Ciro Immobile scored.

Lazio will be without Stefan Radu, Silvio Proto and Senad Lulic while Club Brugge have Simon Mignolet doubtful due to COVID-19 test results. All signs point to an away win.

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1:00

Steve Nicol believes Borussia Dortmund’s Erling Haaland’s maturity is “unusual” for a player his age.

BORUSSIA DORTMUND vs. ZENIT ST. PETERSBURG
Wednesday, 4 p.m. ET/8 p.m. GMT

Dortmund took the Revierderby bragging rights on Saturday in a 3-0 win over Schalke, with Manuel Akanji, Erling Haaland and Mats Hummels all scoring. But they are without Emre Can for Wednesday’s match due to Covid-19 while Marcel Schmelzer and Dan-Axel Zagadou are also absent. They desperately need a win after losing in Rome to Lazio last week.

For Zenit, they too urgently need to get their campaign back on track after their surprise opening-round defeat to Club Brugge and their 2-1 defeat at the weekend to Rubin Kazan would not have helped. Douglas Santos is banned for Wednesday’s match while Malcom is still out injured.

Given that both teams need the points, we’re picking Dortmund in a breezy, end-to-end affair.


FERENCVAROS vs. DYNAMO KIEV
Wednesday, 4 p.m. ET/8 p.m. GMT

The Hungarian side Ferencvaros felt the full force of Barcelona in the opening week as they lost 5-1 at Camp Nou. But they dusted themselves down for Saturday’s match against Ujpest where they won 2-0 thanks to goals from Tokmac Nguen and Somalia, with Abraham Frimpong seeing red.

Dynamo Kiev lost at home to Juventus 2-0 in the first round of matches and narrowly edged past Oleksandriya 1-0 on Saturday with Mykola Shaparenko getting sent off. We expect Kiev to prove too good for their hosts.

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1:09

Ale Moreno praises the performance of Sergino Dest in his first-ever El Clasico despite Barcelona’s 3-1 defeat.

JUVENTUS vs. BARCELONA
Wednesday, 4 p.m. ET/8 p.m. GMT

This is the match of the round, with everyone keeping fingers crossed we will see Cristiano Ronaldo coming up against Lionel Messi. Ronaldo’s availability is dependent upon medical clearance following his positive COVID-19 test result last week — he needs to return a negative result 24 hours before kick-off on Wednesday night to be allowed to play. Without Ronaldo, Juventus laboured to a 1-1 draw at home to Verona on Sunday with Dejan Kulusevski‘s goal securing the point.

Andrea Pirlo was less than impressed with his side, saying the result should serve as a “slap in the face.” They are likely to also be without veteran Giorgio Chiellini, Matthijs de Ligt and Alex Sandro.

Barcelona fell to fierce rivals Real Madrid on Saturday at Camp Nou and will be desperate to make amends for that Clasico defeat on the road at Juventus. Messi’s fit but they are without Samuel Umtiti and Coutinho, while Marc-Andre ter Stegen is also likely to be absent. Gerard Pique also misses out through suspension but they have Jordi Alba available again after his recovery from injury.

This one could genuinely go either way, but maybe Barca will be appropriately steeled following the weekend letdown to take points from their trip to Turin.


ISTANBUL BASAKSEHIR vs. PARIS SAINT-GERMAIN
Wednesday, 1:55 p.m. ET/5:55 p.m. GMT

The Turkish side lost at RB Leipzig 2-0 in the opening round thanks to Angelino‘s double, but bounced back in style against Antalyaspor at the weekend, winning 5-1 with Edin Visca‘s double helping them to a comfortable victory. Okechukwu Azubuike is a doubt for Wednesday’s clash against the Ligue 1 champions.

PSG have a growing injury list with Idrissa Gueye, Leandro Paredes, Marco Verratti, Mauro Icardi, Thilo Kehrer and Juan Bernat all injured and they’ll still be smarting from their defeat to Manchester United in Round 1. But their 4-0 win over Dijon on Saturday would have helped with Moise Kean and Kylian Mbappe both scoring twice.

You’d be hard pushed to pick PSG to labour again, but they’re not the force they were at the tail-end of last season’s Champions League campaign — at least not yet.

MAN UNITED vs. RB LEIPZIG
Wednesday, 4 p.m. ET/8 p.m. GMT

United’s mixed start to the season continued at the weekend as they drew 0-0 at Old Trafford with Chelsea, but while their Premier League form is underwhelming they had a perfect start in the Champions League thanks to their 2-1 win at PSG last week. They are without Eric Bailly and Jesse Lingard for Wednesday’s game, while Donny van de Beek continues to see his involvement limited to a few minutes off the bench.

Leipzig have enjoyed a great start to the 2020-21 campaign. They are undefeated in the Bundesliga and won 2-1 against Hertha Berlin at the weekend, with Dayot Upamecano and Marcel Sabitzer both scoring. They also made a perfect start to their Champions League campaign, beating Istanbul Basaksehir, and will hope for more of the same at Old Trafford on Wednesday but will likely be without Tyler Adams, Nordi Mukiele, Marcel Halstenberg, Konrad Laimer and Lukas Klostermann.

United need to be robust at home, but Leipzig are undoubtedly the form team heading into Wednesday’s game.

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Toronto FC hoping to make MLS Cup run having spent much of 2020 far from home

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On a recent Thursday in Hartford, Conn., Toronto FC goalkeeper Quentin Westberg pondered the dichotomy of wanting to reach MLS Cup on Dec. 12, but also desiring to see his family again. Meanwhile, Jim Liston, the team’s director of sports science, was planning a trip to Lowe’s to buy 15 garbage cans so players could have an ice bath after training. As for manager Greg Vanney, he was fretting about his team’s health and the lack of practice time their schedule was affording.

Such is the life of a team as it attempts to not only navigate its way through the COVID-19 pandemic, but has been forced to do it away from home.

Due to travel restrictions between the U.S. and Canada, TFC — like the league’s other two Canadian teams, Montreal Impact and Vancouver Whitecaps — set up a “home” base in the U.S. for the remainder of the season; Toronto were stationed in Hartford. (Vancouver Whitecaps took roost in Portland, ground-sharing with Timbers, while Montreal Impact split use of New York Red Bulls’ facilities in Harrison, N.J.) This was on top of nearly every team spending nearly a month inside a bubble back in July at the MLS is Back Tournament outside Orlando, Florida.

The Reds spent about seven weeks back in Toronto as they played a series of matches against Canadian teams. In mid-September, the remainder of the regular season — and the temporary move to Hartford — beckoned. The vagabond nature of the campaign is what led Liston to joke that he was willing to discuss “whatever five seasons” the team has been through so far. But for Vanney and the players, the campaign has required a special kind of focus.

“A lot of what we’ve done here, and what we try to preach here is just control the controllables, and don’t get too drawn into the things you can’t,” Vanney told ESPN. “Roll with it, and make the best out of whatever the situation is.”

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Toronto has largely succeeded in spite of its odyssey. While there was disappointment at missing out on the Supporters’ Shield to the Philadelphia Union, TFC went 7-3-2 during its Hartford sojourn and finished with the second-best record in the league. But the challenges have still been immense. Simply being out of one’s home environment is difficult enough, but the time spent away from family and loved ones weighs heavy on the psyche, even as Vanney has given players the occasional trip back to Toronto — under quarantine — to reconnect with loved ones.

“It’s just very different, very challenging and emotionally exhausting,” Westberg said of his experience while based in Hartford.

Westberg has arguably had it tougher than most. The TFC goalkeeper is married with four children, including a baby girl who was born in June. For that reason, Westberg and his wife, Ania, made the decision at the end of September that it would be better for her and their kids to head back to his native France so they could be surrounded by family. Westberg called it “the least bad decision,” but there are difficulties nonetheless.

“I’m a very even person, and this year has challenged me a lot,” he said. “I’m still pretty even, but I keep a lot to myself and for sure there’s some difficult days, seeing your family [struggle] from your absence.”

The inability to be home has affected the players and staff in other ways. In Toronto, there are ways of disengaging from the game. Being with friends, loved ones or even in familiar surroundings can be the best medicine in terms of forgetting a bad game or training session. But in Hartford, at the team’s hotel, that escape is nearly impossible even as players try to distract themselves by reading or taking online classes.

“You don’t really unplug,” Westberg said. “You FaceTime family, or this or that, but it’s too short. You’re 100 percent focused on your soccer, and your whole day basically relies on being ready for whatever soccer activity that you have next, whether it’s practice or game. It’s good for your physique, it’s optimal for the way you eat and the way you [train]. But mentally, you’re not as fresh as your body.”

That isn’t to say there are only negatives to the separation. There is also an us-against-the-world mentality that Toronto has adopted, given that their players and personnel are experiencing the season in a way that is vastly different than most other teams. The team staff has done what it can to make their surroundings a home away from home, whether it’s personalizing the locker rooms at Rentschler Field or having hotel staff brand the surroundings in TFC colors. The hotel went so far as to bring in a barista who could consistently give the players their coffee fix. Supporters groups have even sent down banners in a bid to convey the fact that the players are remembered.

The care that TFC takes for players has extended to families back home, with the club supplying meals to loved ones three times a week.

On the logistical side, Liston made sure that one of the gyms used at MLS is Back was brought to TFC’s hotel in Hartford, and he remarked that the food at the hotel is “arguably the best we’ve ever had on the road.”

There have also been efforts to create new routines. Assistant coach Jason Bent, aka DJ Soops, has been in charge of the pregame music selection for the past 18 months — no easy feat for a squad that has a considerable international presence. In Hartford, Bent has set aside Thursday nights to spin music in one area of the hotel. He’ll even go live on Instagram or Twitch for those who prefer to relax in their rooms.

“[We] opened it to players and staff and basically anyone that’s part of our bubble to come relax, listen to music and just enjoy each other’s company,” Bent said. “I enjoy making people happy so if it’s helping everyone even in the slightest, I have no problem arranging the set and spinning.”

For Vanney, the pandemic and operating outside of the team’s home market has meant any number of challenges. He said the team has used three different training facilities in Hartford, with varying field conditions. He recognizes that the trips home are vital for the mental health of his players and staff, but any breaks also mean less time spent on the practice field. The compressed schedule, which at times involved games every three or four days, has had an impact as well. Even the best-laid plans in terms of squad rotation were impacted as minor injuries began popping up.

“We end up with a lot of guys in different positions because they need special kinds of treatment or care to help them get fit and back to health,” Vanney said. “So it ends up being a lot of different things kind of going on all at once, and that’s been the challenge of it.”

Recovery from matches has been complicated by the fact that TFC doesn’t have access to the same level of facilities that it does at home — hence Liston’s emergency trip to Lowe’s to fashion impromptu ice baths for the players. Then there are the different ways the players occupy themselves on the road as compared to home, especially amid the pandemic.

“There’s really no life outside of the hotel,” Liston said. “[At home], you may go walk the dog in the afternoon or go for a walk with your wife or friend or girlfriend or family and you’re out and about. The recommendation [here] is to kind of stay put. So you’ve got a really active population and pro athletes, who we’re asking them to be sedentary the rest of the time, kind of stay in the hotel from a COVID and safety standpoint. That’s not optimal for recovery either.”

There are also the creature comforts of home that are no longer available on the road, which can impact sleep.

“Sleep is the number one tool for recovery, and that’s definitely been a challenge,” Liston said. “We do well-being questionnaires and the scores on quality of sleep, and hours of sleep, just drop.”

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2:00

Tom Barlow and Brian White seal Toronto’s fate in a 2-1 win for New York Red Bulls. Watch MLS on ESPN+.

Another change has been same-day travel, which has drawn mixed reactions from the TFC players and staff. Vanney and Westberg are generally in favor, saying it reminds them of when they each played in France. Flying back the same night also means a training day isn’t lost. Liston has a different perspective in that he prefers arriving the day before, and then leaving the same day.

“I think [same-day travel] makes for a really long day,” he said. “And there’s definitely a negative impact on performance, taking three bus rides and a plane ride before your game. You’re getting home — it can be 12:30, but it could also be 1:30 in the morning, and that’s where you know our well-being scores and sleep hours and quality just disappear. When you have so many games in succession, you can’t make up the sleep.”

With the playoffs set to begin for TFC on Nov. 24, the end is in sight, even as it makes for a complex — and even conflicting — set of emotions.

“This is the tricky part. I miss them a lot,” Westberg said of his family. “But in a way I want to see them as [late] as possible in December, because obviously, there’s this idea that we want to do well in the playoffs and we want to keep going. TFC has a history of setting high standards and high expectations. It’s a heavy load to carry but also an exciting one.”

Win or lose, it’s a season they’ll never forget.

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Bettman: NHL is mulling temporary realignment

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The NHL is considering a temporary realignment of its teams for the 2020-21 season due to COVID-19 travel restrictions, according to commissioner Gary Bettman.

Bettman said Tuesday that restrictions on travel across the Canadian border, as well as “limitations in terms of quarantining when you go from certain states to other states” within the United States, could mean the NHL creates a more regionalized alignment for its upcoming season.

“As it relates to the travel issue, which is obviously the great unknown, we may have to temporarily realign to deal with geography, because having some of our teams travel from Florida to California may not make sense. It may be that we’re better off — particularly if we’re playing a reduced schedule, which we’re contemplating — keeping it geographically centric and more divisional-based; and realigning, again on a temporary basis, to deal with the travel issues,” Bettman said during a 2020 Paley International Council Summit panel with fellow commissioners Adam Silver of the NBA and Rob Manfred of MLB.

The NHL board of governors has a meeting scheduled for Thursday which will provide a progress report and possible recommendations for a season format, based on talks between the league and the NHL Players’ Association. The target date for starting next season remains Jan. 1.

Bettman said the league is considering a few scheduling options for the 2020-21 season. Something that’s off the table: playing the entire season in the kind of bubbles the NHL had in Toronto and Edmonton, Alberta, to complete last season. But Bettman said teams opening in their own arenas is a possibility, along with a modified bubble.

“We are exploring the possibility of playing in our own buildings without fans [or] fans where you can, which is going to be an arena-by-arena issue. But we’re also exploring the possibility of a hub. You’ll come in. You’ll play for 10 to 12 days. You’ll play a bunch of games without traveling. You’ll go back, go home for a week, be with your family. We’ll have our testing protocols and all the other things you need,” he said.

Bettman also indicated that the NHL is exploring “a hybrid, where some teams are in a bubble, some teams play at home and you move in and out.”

The NBA’s board of governors unanimously approved a deal with the players’ union that sets the stage for a season that will open on Dec. 22 and with a reduced schedule of 72 games. Silver said that the commissioners are in communication on COVID-19-related issues, especially the NBA and the NHL, since the two leagues’ teams share arenas and, in some cases, team owners.

Silver said he senses that the NBA will have fans in many of its buildings this season.

“We’re probably going to start one way, where we’re maybe a little bit more conservative than many of the jurisdictions allow,” he said. “What we’ve said to our teams is that we’ll continue to work with public health authorities. Arena issues are different than outdoor stadium issues. There will be certain standards for air filtration and air circulation. There may be a different standard for a suite than there will be for fans spaced in seats.”

Silver said there will be standardized protocols that are consistent from arena to arena, such as proximity between players and fans: “In certain cases, for seats near the floor, we’re going to be putting in testing programs, where fans will certify that they’ve been tested — some within 48 hours, some within day of game.” While Silver supported a continued expansion of the NBA postseason through its play-in tournament, Bettman said that he’s not in favor of expanded playoffs or “playing with the fundamentals of the game.” The NHL had 24 teams in its postseason last summer.

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The Battleground States Where We’ve Seen Some Movement In The Polls

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With apologies to The Raconteurs, the presidential race continues to be “steady as she goes,” with little sign of tightening despite a plethora of new polls. FiveThirtyEight’s presidential forecast gives Joe Biden an 89 in 100 shot at winning the election, while President Trump has just an 11 in 100 chance. This makes Biden the favorite, but still leaves open a narrow path to victory for Trump, for whom a reelection win would be surprising — but not utterly shocking.

At the same time, we also have fewer polls from live-caller surveys, which have historically been more accurate and have shown slightly better numbers for Biden, than polls that use other methodologies, such as polls conducted primarily online or through automated telephone calls. Nevertheless, while the overall picture has shifted only a little in recent days, a few battleground states have seen at least some movement in their polls, which has slightly altered the odds Biden or Trump wins in each of those places.

What election stories need to get more coverage | FiveThirtyEight Politics Podcast

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