THE SOCCER REPORT

Chelsea-Bayern, Napoli-Barcelona, Lyon-Juve, Real Madrid-Man City on UCL menu, El Clasico on Sunday

Finale Istanbul is the Official Match Ball for the 2019/20 UEFA Champions League knockout stages. Photo: adidas

Plenty of big name clubs will highlight this week's action in the UEFA Champions League, Real Madrid and FC Barcelona face off in the sport's premier rivalry and the 25th season of Major League Soccer gets underway. In the Serie A, matches were postponed over the weekend due to the outbreak of the coronavirus in Italy.

Here is the week in soccer:

International Club competitions

UEFA Champions League

Round of 16 - First Leg

  • Atletico Madrid 1-0 Liverpool
  • Dortmund 2-1 PSG
  • Atalanta 4-1 Valencia
  • Tottenham 0-1 RB Leipzig

Concacaf Champions League

Round of 16 - First Leg

  • Portmore United 1-2 Cruz Azul
  • Motagua 1-1 Atlanta United
  • Leon 2-0 LAFC
  • Deportivo Saprissa 2-2 Montreal Impact
  • Alianza 2-1 Tigres UANL
  • Communicaciones 1-1 Club America
  • AD San Carlos 3-5 NYCFC
  • Olimpia 2-2 Seattle Sounders FC

English Premier League

Top six: 1. Liverpool (79), 2. Man City (57), 3. Leicester City (50), 4. Chelsea (44), 5. Manchester United (41), 6. Tottenham (40)

Bottom three (relegation): 18. West Ham (24), 19. Watford (24), 20. Norwich City (18)

Scoring leader: 17 - Jamie Vardy (Leicester City) / Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (Arsenal)

Assists leader: 16 - Kevin De Bruyne (Man City)

Spanish La Liga

Top six: 1. FC Barcelona (55), 2. Real Madrid (53), 3. Atletico Madrid (43), 4. Sevilla (43), 5. Getafe (42), 6. Real Sociedad (40)

Bottom three: 18. Mallorca (22), 19. Leganes (19), 20. Espanyol (19)

Scoring leader: 18 - Lionel Messi (FC Barcelona)

Assists leader: 12 - Lionel Messi (FC Barcelona)

German Bundesliga

Top six: 1. Bayern Munich (49), 2. RB Leipzig (48), 3. Dortmund (45), 4. Monchengladbach (43), 5. Bayer Leverkusen (43), 6. Schalke 04 (36)

Bottom three: 16. Fortuna (20), 17. Werder Bremen (17), 18. Paderborn (16)

Scoring leader: 25 - Robert Lewandowski (Bayern Munich)

Assists leader: 14 - Jadon Sancho (Dortmund) / Thomas Muller (Bayern Munich)

Italian Serie A

Top six: 1. Juventus (60), 2. Lazio (59), 3. Inter Milan (54), 4. Atalanta (45), 5. Roma (42), 6. Napoli (36)

Bottom three: 18. Genoa (22), 19. Brescia (16), 20. SPAL (15)

Scoring leader: 27 - Ciro Immobile (Lazio)

Assists leader: 11 - Luis Alberto (Lazio)

French Ligue 1

Top four: 1. PSG (65), 2. Marseille (52), 3. Rennes (44), 4. Lille (43)

Bottom three: 18. Nimes (27), 19. Amiens (22), 20. Toulouse (13)

Scoring leader: 16 - Kylian Mbappe (PSG) / Wissam Ben Yedder (Monaco)

Assists leader: 14 - Angel Di Maria (PSG)

Liga MX

Clausura 2020

Top eight: 1. Club America (16), 2. Leon (15), 3. Pumas UNAM (14), 4. Cruz Azul (13), 5. Queretaro (12), 6. Atletico San Luis (12), 7. Juarez (11), 8. Santos Laguna (11)

Scoring leader: 5 - Angel Mena (Leon) / Ariel Nahuelpan (Queretaro) / Jonathan Rodriguez (Cruz Azul)

Assists leader: 5 - Pablo Barrera (Pumas)

TV listings (All Times CT):

For full info on soccer TV listings and streaming services in the United States, visit worldsoccertalk.com

Tuesday, February 25

2:00 p.m. - [UEFA Champions League] Chelsea vs. Bayern Munich (TNT, Galavision)

2:00 p.m. - [UEFA Champions League] Napoli vs. FC Barcelona (UniMas / TUDN, B/R Live)

6:30 p.m. - [Copa Sudamericana] River Plate vs. Deportivo Cali (beIN Sports)

7:00 p.m. - [Concacaf Champions League] Atlanta United vs. Motagua (FS1, TUDN)

9:00 p.m. - [Concacaf Champions League] Cruz Azul vs. Portmore United (FS2, TUDN)

Wednesday, February 26

2:00 p.m. - [UEFA Champions League] Real Madrid vs. Manchester City (TNT, UniMas, TUDN)

2:00 p.m. - [UEFA Champions League] Lyon vs. Juventus (Galavision, B/R Live)

5:00 p.m. - [Concacaf Champions League] NYCFC vs. AD San Carlos (FS2, TUDN)

7:00 p.m. - [Concacaf Champions League] Montreal lmpact vs. Deportivo Saprissa (FS2)

7:00 p.m. - [Concacaf Champions League] Tigres UANL vs. Alianza (TUDN)

Thursday, February 27

12:00 p.m. - [UEFA Europa League] Espanyol vs. Wolves (UniMas, B/R Live)

2:00 p.m. - [UEFA Europa League] Manchester United vs. Brugge (UniMas, B/R Live)

2:00 p.m. - [UEFA Europa League] Arsenal vs. Olympiakos (TUDN, B/R Live)

9:00 p.m. - [Concacaf Champions League] LAFC vs. Club Leon (FS1, TUDN)

9:00 p.m. - [Concacaf Champions League] Seattle Sounders FC vs. Olimpia (FS2)

Friday, February 28

1:30 p.m. - [Bundesliga] Dusseldorf vs. Hertha Berlin (FS2, FOX Deportes)

2:00 p.m. - [Premier League] Norwich vs. Leicester City (NBC Sports)

2:00 p.m. - [La Liga] Real Sociedad vs. Valladolid (beIN Sports)

9:00 p.m. - [Liga MX] Monarcas Morelia vs. Cruz Azul (TUDN)

9:00 p.m. - [Liga MX] Club Tijuana vs. Puebla (FOX Deportes)

Saturday, February 29

6:30 a.m. - [Premier League] Brighton vs. Crystal Palace (NBC Sports)

8:30 a.m. - [Bundesliga] Hoffenheim vs. Bayern Munich, (FS1, UniMas, TUDN)

8:30 a.m. - [Bundesliga] Dortmund vs. Freiburg (FS2, FOX Deportes)

9:00 a.m. - [Premier League] Bournemouth vs. Chelsea (NBC Sports)

9:00 a.m. - [La Liga] Valencia vs. Real Betis (beIN Sports)

11:30 a.m. - [Premier League] Watford vs. Liverpool (NBC Sports)

2:30 p.m. - [MLS] Houston Dynamo vs. LA Galaxy (Univision)

5:00 p.m. - [Liga MX] Pachuca vs. Queretaro (TUDN, ESPN Deportes)

7:00 p.m. - [Liga MX] America vs. Necaxa (Univision)

9:00 p.m. - [Liga MX] Tigres UANL vs. Pumas UNAM (Univision)

Sunday, March 1

8:00 a.m. - [Premier League] Everton vs. Man United(NBC Sports)

8:00 a.m. - [Premier League] Tottenham vs. Wovles (NBC Sports Gold)

10:30 a.m. - [English League Cup Final] Manchester City vs. Aston Villa (NBC Sports)

2:00 p.m. - [La Liga] Real Madrid vs. FC Barcelona (beIN Sports)

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Every little bit helps. Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

In early August, 2019 AL Rookie of the Year Yordan Alvarez was nearing a return to the Astros lineup, and Astros manager Dusty Baker faced a decision.

Josh Reddick or Kyle Tucker.

At that time, the answer wasn't clear. Statistically, Reddick was outperforming Tucker, Reddick had a more diverse batted ball profile that made him less predictable than Tucker, and Reddick provided more value defensively than Tucker. Aside from Tucker's lofty prospect billing, there really wasn't an objective reason for Tucker to play over Reddick.

Just shy of two months down the line, if faced with the same decision, the answer would clearly be Tucker, and it's not close. So what changed?

Image via: AT&T SportsNet/Screenshot.

On the left is an at-bat early in the season when the Dodgers came to Houston. The right hand side photo is from last week when the Diamondbacks came to town. As you can see, Tucker closed off his stance. It's crazy to think that this minute of a change can lead to such crazy results, but that's what happened.

Here is a swing against Diamondbacks starter Zac Gallen on August 6th. The offset camera angle makes Tucker's stance look a little more closed off than it really is, as this is the portion early in the year where he hadn't yet closed his stance off. Gallen throws an 83 MPH breaking ball on the outside part of the dish. It really isn't a great pitch, as it backs up on him a little bit and he hangs it, but Tucker blows out his front side, rendering him unable to do anything with that pitch other than foul it off and live to fight another day.

Now, here's an at bat against Gallen after Tucker adjusted his stance. This pitch is more center cut and hung even worse, but Tucker does something he was unable to do early in the year: drive it the other way. His closed off stance keeps his front hip from blowing out completely, and he stays on the ball and drives it down the line for a double. Notice how the ball is backspun down the line with true ball flight, not slicing, that shows just how well he drove it.

August 20th, the last game of the Seattle series before the Astros headed to Colorado, was the first time Tucker's stance was clearly closed off. Entering that game, Tucker was batting .192/.234/.329. He ended the season batting .268/.325/.512. That is quite the turnaround.

On August 6th, the day of that first swing against Gallen, Tucker had a hard hit % of 38.5%, a contact rate of 75.6%, a K% of 29.3%, and a BB% of 7.3%.

Tucker finished with a hard hit % of 44.5%. That 6% increase is the difference between the 45th percentile amongst hitters and the 78th percentile. Wow. Tucker also ended the year with a 79.5% contact percentage, a 4% increase. That significant increase helped him cut down on his strikeouts, as he ended the year with a 21.2% K%. His BB% stayed the same, as he ended at 7.1%, but three strikeouts for every walk is way better than four strikeouts for every walk.

All in all, the stance change gave Tucker more plate coverage. He still has the fast hands and instincts to react to pitches on the inner third, but instead of hooking them foul like he did, he's been keeping them fair. On top of that, Tucker now has plate coverage on the outer third of the plate, making him a more dangerous and consistent hitter. With one small change, Tucker went from a platoon bat, at best, to well above average amongst nearly every indicator of success.

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