BREAKING: Real Madrid, Juventus crash out of UEFA Champions League

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BREAKING: Manchester City’s two-year UEFA ban has officially been overturned by the Court of Arbitration for Sport

Manchester City will be in the Champions League next season after their two-year ban from UEFA competitions was overturned by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).

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Liverpool vs Atletico Madrid – player ratings: Who shined and who flopped?

Bloomgist Sports  rates the players as Jürgen Klopp loses his first European knockout tie as Liverpool manager.

Liverpool’s starting XI pose for the photographers ahead of Wednesday’s match at Anfield  CREDIT: GETTY IMAGES

By Richard Tanner AT ANFIELD

Liverpool (4-3-3)

Adrian
Has looked vulnerable in recent games and had hearts in mouths when he parried a shot by Felix but recovered to stop Correas scoring from loose ball. Poor clearance led to Atletico’s first goal. 5/10

Trent Alexander-Arnold
Back to somewhere near his best after falling below his high standards in recent games. Pressed forward and delivered a series of dangerous crosses and set-pieces.7/10

Joe Gomez
Another player who needed a return to his best form and did so with an assured display alongside Van Dijk. 6/10

Virgil van Dijk
Early scare when Costa got through but otherwise a towering performance from the Dutchman. Some of his long passes were sublime. 7/10

Virgil van Dijk (right) and his defence were breached twice against a dogged Atlético side CREDIT: GETTY IMAGES

Andrew Robertson
Not quite as dangerous as Alexander-Arnold but still put in a decent shift and almost got the second when his header struck the bar from Salah’s deflected shot. 7/10

Jordan Henderson
The captain returned as the midfield anchor man in place of Fabinho and underlined how much he has been missed by driving Liverpool on. 8/10

Georginio Wijnaldum
Reprised his heroics in last season’s great comeback against Barcelona by levelling the tie on aggregate with a well-taken header just before half-time. 7/10

Georginio Wijnaldum is congratulated by team-mate Andrew Robertson after scoring the first-half goal CREDIT: GETTY IMAGES

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain
Justified keeping his place with a display full of attacking verve. Supplied the cross for Wijnaldum’s goal and twice hasd shots saved by Oblak. 8/10

Mohamed Salah
Hard-working display from the Egyptian who linked well with Oxlade-Chamberlain and Alexander-Arnold on Liverpool’s right flank. Had plenty of shots but couldn’t find the net, try as he did. 7/10

Roberto Firmino
The Brazilian playmaker finally broke his home goal duck this season with the extra-time goal that put Liverpool ahead in the first period of extra-time. 6/10 

Roberto Firmino scored his first home goal of the season in three minutes into extra time CREDIT: ACTION IMAGES

Sadio Mané
Usual lively show by the Senegal international who kept Trippier on his toes all night. Denied a goal by a great save by Oblak early in the second half and went close with an overhead kick. 7/10

Atlético Madrid (4-4-2)

Jan Oblak
Had a busy night on his 50th Champions League appearance. Could do nothing about either of Liverpool’s goals but masde countless saves keep his side in it. 7/10

Jan Oblak, the Serbia international goalkeeper, made numerous saves to keep Atlético Madrid in the match CREDIT: GETTY IMAGES

Kieran Trippier
Former Tottenham man was back on English territory for the first time since last summer’s ,mpove and no doubt grateful that Correa double up to help him deal with Mane’s constant threat. 7/10

Stefan Savic
Difficult to believe he looked so unsure in his season at Manchester City because he has turned into an uncompromising rock at the heart of Atletico’s defence. 7/10

Felipe
Glanced an early header just wide but had his work cut out alongside Savic to keep Liverpool at bay. Never afraid to hoof it clear. 7/10

Renan Lodi
Had his hands full trying to contain the impish Salah. Lost him a couple of times but got away with it. 6/10

Ángel Correa
Had to sacrifice his attacking instincts to drop back and help Trippier try to shackle Mane but denied a goal by Adrian in second half. 7/10

Koke (centre) speaks with team-mates Felipe (left) and Ángel Correa CREDIT: GETTY IMAGES

Thomas Partey
Used the ball well on the odd occasion he had it – but spent most of the game, like his fellow midfielders, on the back foot running and covering. 7/10

Saúl Ñíguez
Scorer of the first leg but spent the second leg helping out his defence and trying to disrupt Liverpool’s rhythm. 7/10

Koke
Usual no-nonsense solid midfield display from the the Spaniard. Tackled hard, covered well and passed the ball with economy. 7/10

Joao Felix
Not the sort of game for the Portuguese playmaker to flourish in. Only contribution was a shot saved by Adrian and a tendency to to go down easily and waste some time much to the annoyance of the Liverpool players. 5/10

Diego Costa, the Atlético Madrid forward, won few new friends at Anfield CREDIT: GETTY IMAGES

Diego Costa
The former Chelsea man was the usual villain of the piece. Shot into the side netting after just 15 seconds and subbed early int he second half – venting his frustration by kicking a water bottle. 5/10

‘It was so dramatic’: Chelsea’s Champions League win over Bayern revisited

Players from both sides recall the dramatic events that ended with Didier Drogba’s winning penalty in the shootout.

Chelsea celebrate their Champions League final victory over Bayern Munich. Photograph: Darren Walsh/Chelsea FC via Getty Images

When Chelsea take on Bayern Munich in the Champions League last 16, first leg on Tuesday it will recall their meeting in the 2012 finalthe most glorious night in their history.

It had not been an easy season for Chelsea, who had made Roberto Di Matteo caretaker manager after sacking André Villas-Boas in February, and few gave them a chance of winning their first European Cup, even after they beat Barcelona in a remarkable semi‑final. As they approached the game with Bayern the pain of losing the 2008 final to Manchester United on penalties weighed heavily.

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Mikel John Obi, Chelsea midfielder: We didn’t want something like that to happen again and we even spoke about it the day before the game. For some of us it was the last opportunity. People like Didier Drogba, Petr Cech, Frank Lampard.

Paulo Ferreira, Unused Chelsea substitute: Some of the players had gone close in semi-finals and finals. As you start getting old, you start thinking you will probably not have another opportunity.

The game was held at the Allianz Arena, Bayern’s ground, and they were strong favourites. Chelsea prepared for the mental challenge.

Mikel: We didn’t know Roberto Di Matteo and the club had gone to interview our brothers, sisters, parents, whoever it was that is very close to us. The videos were played in the meeting the night before the game. My younger brother was on my video. I couldn’t believe it when I saw him. We knew that would help to give us more spirit in the game. Those messages from our families were ringing in everyone’s ears.

The two teams walk out before kick-off. Photograph: Chris Brunskill Ltd/Corbis via Getty Images

Ferreira: Playing in someone else’s stadium, you felt they had a little bit of an advantage. But they also had extra pressure. Sometimes playing at home is not an advantage. We had it when Greece beat Portugal in Lisbon in the Euro 2004 final. And Portugal won Euro 2016 against France in Paris. Sometimes it can be good. Sometimes not.

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Mikel: The whole stadium was red and white. The atmosphere was unbelievable. Their fans were trying to intimidate us. We could see some of the Chelsea fans behind the goal but you couldn’t really hear them. All you could hear was the Bayern fans. But we’ve played under big pressure before. There was nothing to be afraid of.

Philipp Lahm, Bayern Munich defender: Our whole home city could have had a huge celebration. Everything was ready for the party. I don’t remember there being any special pressure on us. We had a feeling of security.

Chelsea’s lineup contained a surprise: Ryan Bertrand on the left wing. The youngster had never played a European game. Di Matteo told him at the team’s base, the Mandarin Oriental hotel, on the day of the game.

Ryan Bertrand, Chelsea midfielder: It was on the rooftop of the hotel in the afternoon. He called me over and said: “You’re starting tonight. Are you ready?” I was like: “Yes, easy, no problem.” I didn’t want to give him any sense of: “Ohhh, he’s not.” I hadn’t seen any papers. The story was out there in the morning but I was not aware. Maybe they cleared the papers out of the hotel so I didn’t see anything. It wasn’t like today with news on Instagram.

Bertrand’s task was helping Ashley Cole to contain Arjen Robben, Bayern’s dangerous winger.

Ferreira: Ryan was ready. That’s why he had the trust from Roberto. He handled the pressure really well.

Bertrand I wasn’t nervous. I’d been on loan at Nottingham Forest and I had Billy Davies as my manager and he always used to scream: “Play the game and not the occasion.” That was in my head.

The Allianz Arena. Photograph: Peter Kneffel/EPA

John Terry was suspended following his red card in Chelsea’s semi‑final win over Barcelona. Ramires, Raul Meireles and Branislav Ivanovic were also out.

Ferreira Gary Cahill and David Luiz had injuries and I was ready to play at centre-half in case either of them didn’t make it but they did. I even did the warm-up with the starting XI. But as David Luiz said, it’s about motivation, adrenaline. You go through any pain you might have. We knew Bayern would probably have more possession. But in these finals it is all about the details, about concentration.

Lampard captained the side and Terry sat behind the bench.

Ferreira Even I was quite active on the bench. I remember talking with José Bosingwa, trying to help him with his body position. He was up against Franck Ribéry. You are not just sitting on the bench to watch the game. You want to help.


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Bayern bossed the game. They had 21 shots to Chelsea’s six but Mario Gómez’s finishing was poor. Cech was inspired in goal for Chelsea and Bayern had a goal disallowed for offside but Thomas Müller finally gave them the lead in the 83rd minute.

Lahm Thomas’s goal was a huge relief. I didn’t think we were going to let victory slip out of our hands. Then again we had lost a few matches during the season after we’d been leading and playing better.

Ferreira After they scored maybe they felt: “Chelsea will have to take some risks and we might get a second goal.” They had a chance to go 2-0 up.

Mikel John Terry was not on the pitch so Lamps was pushing everyone. Drogba, too. We were all pushing each other. Lamps came to me and said: “John boy, we have to keep going. We can’t lose here.” We still had that belief.

In the 88th minute Chelsea won their only corner. David Luiz ran up to contest it and as he passed Bastian Schweinsteiger he said: “And now goal.” Juan Mata swung it in and Drogba scored with a bullet header.

Lahm It was a perfect corner and a perfect header. You’d need about 50 attempts to swing a corner right in front of the goal like that and for the striker to head it that hard and with such precision. There’s nothing you can do to prevent amazing efforts like that.

Didier Drogba heads home. Photograph: Matthew Ashton/Corbis via Getty Images

Ferreira The header was unbelievable. On the bench we just exploded.

Mikel I thought: “That’s it, we’re definitely winning.”

It was 1-1 after normal time. Then, in the third minute of extra time Drogba fouled Ribéry to concede a penalty.

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Ferreira You do everything to help the team, even if you’re a striker. But Drogba dropped so much he gave away a penalty against Barcelona in the semi-final and against Bayern he did it again. Fortunately for us they both missed.

Barcelona’s Lionel Messi hit the bar while Robben was foiled by Cech – after some gamesmanship from Mikel.

Mikel I went straight to Robben and I said: “Watch, I’m telling you, you’re going to miss it.” He wasn’t looking at me. We know each other from our days at Chelsea together. And I said to him: “You’re going to miss it. Watch and see. You’re definitely going to miss it.” He didn’t say anything to me. He hit it and he missed. I was like: “Wow. I guessed right.”

Lahm I wouldn’t take that sort of intimidation. If a player says: “And now goal,” that’s something positive. But “You’re going to miss” is below the belt; it contradicts the values of fair play.

Philipp Lahm (left) battles for the ball with Ryan Bertrand (right). Photograph: Adrian Dennis/AFP/Getty Images

Ferreira: That’s psychological. But Petr knew Robben. When the player knows a goalkeeper, knows which your best side is, you never know. If they score at that time we probably wouldn’t make it.

Mikel In the week leading up to the game something was telling me: “We will win.” We’d had so many years where we’d had disappointment. The semi-final against Barcelona in 2009 where everyone thought we were robbed at home and 2008 as well when we lost on penalties to United.

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Ferreira I have this story about my housekeeper. She is Portuguese and I remember just before we went to Germany, she said: “Paulo, I shouldn’t say this but you guys are going to win.” I was asking and asking why and finally she told me. And it was unbelievable. She said: “When did Paulo become a professional? 18, almost turning 19. What is Paulo’s shirt number? 19. When is the final? 19 May. I’m not saying anything else.” When Müller scored, I’m thinking: “She told me this and now we concede, come on …” But then when Didier scores I said: “Oh. Wait a minute …” Then Robben misses and I felt: “We will win this final.”

It went to penalties. Di Matteo had almost brought Ferreira on for Mata.

Ferreira There were five minutes left and Mata was completely dead. I was supposed to play in midfield. In five minutes anything can happen. But I just remember looking at Robbie and saying: “I’m not a penalty taker, Mata is.” We stopped and went back. We lost the semi-final to Liverpool in 2007 on penalties. We made a circle with José [Mourinho] and he was asking: “Who’s taking the first one?” Then he looked at me and said: “Paulo, you will be last – even Carlo Cudicini will be in front of you.” But in the end Mata missed and I wanted to kill him at the end of the game. I was saying: “I lost the chance to play a few minutes because I was thinking about you.”

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Bayern were on top after Mata’s miss. But then Cech denied Ivica Olic and Schweinsteiger.

Ferreira Petr had that need of having a night where he could save penalties. We’d come to finals before and lost on penalties. He was fantastic.

Mikel The penalties were nerve-racking. When I saw one of my teammates going forward, some of them I watched and some I couldn’t because I was so nervous.

Chelsea’s Petr Cech saves the penalty of Ivica Olic. Photograph: Alex Livesey/Getty Images

Drogba stepped up to take the decisive kick and sent Manuel Neuer the wrong way.

Mikel Drogba was not on the field to take his penalty in 2008 against United as he’d been sent off. Seeing Drogba go up to take the fifth penalty, I knew it was over.

Ferreira Everyone knew. He was not just a top player but he was very focused. You see how many steps he took. Short steps. He was so confident.

Mikel When Drogba scored that penalty, oh my God. I didn’t even know where to run. I was just lost, over the moon. Everyone had written us off. We were like: “Wow. How did we do that?”

Chelsea react to Didier Drogba’s winning penalty. Photograph: Tom Jenkins/The Guardian

Lahm What that match left behind was a pretty intense feeling. I just knew that we weren’t going to stay lying face down on the ground. Losing to Chelsea was bitter but it served a purpose: it made us into the team we became.

Bayern won the Champions League the following season but 2012 belonged to Chelsea. Their victory ensured Tottenham would play in the Europa League despite finishing fourth in the Premier League. There were cigars in the dressing room and wild celebrations back at the hotel.

Bertrand Cigars are associated with winning. So they were out in abundance. Did we know how to smoke them? Not at that stage. We were just choking on them.

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Mikel The after-party was something else. No one could sleep. I had to come out of my room because I couldn’t sleep and there was the party going on, people throwing people into the pool. Roman Abramovich was there. There was a few drinks going on. Did anyone throw Roman in? No chance. Who is going to dare to do that?

Ferreira Didier went to the top floor where the swimming pool was. We threw Gary Cahill fully dressed in the pool.

Mikel A few players slept in their suits on the roof terrace. I don’t know who they were but I think Drogba was among them because I saw him with his suit on in the morning.

Terry gave mini replicas of the trophy to his teammates.

Mikel John, in his position as the captain, had made the replicas. Also, Drogba made some rings for the players, NBA-style ones. We’ve all got rings – 2012 Champions League winner. That’s something that you appreciate for ever. To be the first club in London to have won it, that was the biggest history ever.

Champions League last 16 draw: analysis and predictions

PSG may have got it right at last, Frank Lampard returns to Munich – and it’s now or never for Cristiano Ronaldo and Juve.

N’Golo Kanté of Chelsea, Tottenham Hotspur’s Harry Kane, João Felix of Atlético Madrid and Real Madrid’s Luka Modric. Photograph: Getty Images

Borussia Dortmund v Paris Saint-Germain

Could this, finally, be Paris Saint-Germain’s year? Although their domestic form has been indifferent (they lead Ligue 1 by just seven points), the 3-0 evisceration of Real Madrid in their opening group match suggested the balance of the midfield – with Idrissa Gana Gueye joining Marquinhos and Marco Verratti – may at last be right. The big question is whether that cohesiveness can be maintained as Neymar returns. The PSG manager, Thomas Tuchel, has the advantage of knowing numerous Dortmund players from his time at the club. The form of Lucien Favre’s side, meanwhile, remains oddly patchy although the fact they ousted Inter in the group stage suggests they shouldn’t be underestimated.
Prediction: PSG

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Real Madrid v Manchester City

Real Madrid paid a heavy price for finishing as runners-up in their group, although the sense is that both sides may look rather different come February. Madrid have slowly improved after a difficult start to the season, following the familiar pattern of Zinedine Zidane sides, but the reconstruction of their midfield will be severely tested by a City side who, with Liverpool 14 points clear of them in the Premier League, will presumably devote their attentions fully to Europe. Their recent stutter has been rooted in two issues: problems at the back and a lack of attacking ruthlessness, but they may melt away when Aymeric Laporte and Sergio Agüero return. City, anyway, should be a far stiffer test than they were against Madrid in the 2016 semi-final.
Prediction: Manchester City


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Atalanta v Valencia

These were the sides every other club probably wanted to face in the last 16 and, if there is any romance left in European football, it is represented by Atalanta. They squeaked through with an enormous amount of luck, with just seven points from their six group games. Nonetheless, the hard pressing practised by Gian Piero Gasperini’s side can unsettle any opponent, while Valencia have been far from convincing this season. They progressed largely because of slightly fortuitous 1-0 away wins against Chelsea and Ajax and while they have won four of their last six league games, and drawn with Real Madrid in that run, there is a reason they still lie seventh in the Spanish table.
Prediction: Atalanta

Atalanta’s Timothy Castagne celebrates his against Shakhtar. Photograph: Sergei Supinsky/AFP via Getty Images

Atlético Madrid v Liverpool

What was most impressive about Liverpool’s qualification was the way, having gone 2-0 up against Salzburg in their final group game, they were able to hold vibrant opponents at arm’s length. It’s a side of their game that hasn’t been much in evidence as they have surged clear at the top of the Premier League, but a useful attribute to have in two-legged ties. Atlético are in the middle of a major rebuild, the foremost result of which appears to have been a lack of fluency: they have drawn eight of their 17 league games so far this season. An inability to finish sides off, though, is less of a drawback in knockout football than in the league.
Prediction: Liverpool

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Chelsea v Bayern Munich

In 2012, Chelsea went to Munich for the Champions League final and pulled off a major shock, beating Bayern on penalties. Frank Lampard may not enjoy this trip quite as much. Chelsea were extremely fortunate to draw against Ajax (4-4) and Valencia (2-2) in the group stage, two games in which their defensive limitations were badly exposed. And as Tottenham found, Bayern, only the seventh side ever to win all six group games, have in Robert Lewandowski and Serge Gnabry two in-form forwards ideally suited to take advantage. That said, Bayern remain fifth in the Bundesliga and it’s far from clear whether the interim manager, Hansi Flick, will still be in charge come February.
Prediction: Bayern

Serge Gnabry completes his hat-trick against Tottenham. Photograph: Daniel Leal-Olivas/AFP via Getty Images

Lyon v Juventus

Perhaps no side in the last 16 is under such pressure as Juventus. Their decision to sign Cristiano Ronaldo in summer 2018, based on the belief his goals were the final ingredient that would bring them a third European crown, represented a huge financial gamble. A quarter-final exit to Ajax last season represented a major disappointment. Ronaldo will be 35 by the time this year’s last-16 tie comes round. The clock is ticking. And Juve have not been at their best domestically since Maurizio Sarri replaced Max Allegri, currently standing level on points at the top of Serie A with Inter. They still, though, should have far too much for Lyon who are eighth in France and have, in Rudi Garcia, a coach who has not been accepted by the fanbase because of his previous association with Lyon’s great rivals Saint-Étienne.
Prediction: Juventus

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Tottenham v RB Leipzig

ottenham represent a dangerous wild card this season. Five wins out of seven under José Mourinho suggest a corner has been turned since the departure of Mauricio Pochettino, but the defence is still extremely vulnerable, as was seen in the way Bayern picked them apart. There must be doubts as well as to whether Mourinho’s happy-and-relaxed shtick will endure another two months and what impact a more familiar grumpy José may have on players who at the moment seem enthused by their new boss. Either way, this represents a great clash of approaches: Julian Nagelsmann is at the forefront of the modern breed of hard-pressing young managers and, while Tottenham were used to that style under Pochettino, Mourinho’s instincts are to a more reactive approach.
Prediction: Tottenham

On Premier League


Napoli v Barcelona

Barcelona are top of the league in Spain and finished top of their Champions League group for a 13th time, yet the feeling around them is one of vague dissatisfaction. Lionel Messi – who, if not in the form of his life, is in the form of this minimalist phase of his career – papers over a lot of cracks, and they remain, as they have been for four or five years, vulnerable to sides who counterattack at pace. Napoli, though, now under the management of Gennaro Gattuso, are in a full-blown crisis of their own, with numerous players in open revolt against the president Aurelio De Laurentiis following his attempts to send them to a punitive training camp.
Prediction: Barcelona

José Mourinho apologises to Eric Dier after first-half substitution

Mourinho apologised to Dier for first-half substitution

  • Tottenham manager replaced Dier in tactical switch at 2-0 down
  • ‘He is an intelligent boy with a good understanding of the team’
José Mourinho apologises to Eric Dier after first-half substitution
José Mourinho apologises to Eric Dier after first-half substitution

José Mourinho felt compelled to apologise to Eric Dier after substituting him after just 29 minutes of Tottenham’s 4-2 Champions League win over Olympiakos, which ensured the club’s qualification for the last 16 of the competition.

Spurs were awful in the first-half – they trailed 2-0 after 19 minutes – and Mourinho said he had swapped Dier for the more attacking midfielder Christian Eriksen for the balance of the team. He already had one deep-sitting midfielder on the pitch in Harry Winks.

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Dele Alli gave Spurs a lifeline with a goal in first-half stoppage-time before Harry Kane and Serge Aurier put them in front after the interval. Kane rounded off the scoring with his second of the evening – his 20th goal in 24 Champions League appearances.

“The most difficult moment of the game for me was not when Olympiakos scored the first or second goal but when I made the change in the first-half,” Mourinho said. “Hurt the player but hurt myself. It’s important the player understands and I was lucky that my choice was a very intelligent boy who has a good understanding of what the team is. It was not about his performance.

“We were losing 2-0 in a very difficult moment and one positional midfield player was more than enough. I apologise to Eric, in spite of the fact he knows I did it for the team and not with the intention to hurt him.”


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Spurs took control of the game with Kane’s equaliser for 2‑2 – after the quick-thinking of a ballboy. He returned the ball swiftly for a throw-in to allow the team to break upfield.

“To do that you have to be a very good ballboy,” Mourinho said. “I was a very good ballboy between 10 and 15 or 16 years old. The kid understands the game, reads the game. He’s not there just to look at the stands, the lights or the stars. He’s there to watch the game. I tried to invite him to the dressing room at the end but he disappeared.”

Spurs vs Ajax – Champions League semi-final first leg player ratings: who was impressive and who fail?

It is advantage to the Dutchmen following Ajax’s flying start in north London on Tuesday night, but which players impressed as Tottenham Hotspur lost the Champions League semi-final first leg and who let themselves down?

Kieran Trippier was substituted and replaced by Juan Foyth CREDIT: ACTION IMAGES

Tottenham Hotspur (3-5-2)

Hugo Lloris

Helpless for the Van de Beek goal but did excellently with his legs to prevent the Ajax midfielder from scoring a quickfire second. 6/10

Toby Alderweireld

Failed to hit the target with a free header from Trippier’s free-kick. Helped to marshal Tadic as Spurs grew into the game later on. 6/10

Davinson Sanchez

A difficult evening in which he appeared to be targeted by his former club. His recovery speed was useful when Ajax countered. 5/10

Jan Vertonghen

Forced to leave the field in worrying circumstances. Was barely able to stand after an accidental collision with Alderweireld had left him bloodied and dazed. 5/10

Kieran Trippier

Played Van de Beek onside for the opening goal. Deliveries were inconsistent but crosses for Alderweireld and Llorente created two of Spurs’ best chances. 5/10

Danny Rose stretches for the ball midway through the first half CREDIT: EPA

Christian Eriksen

Never as influential as he would have wanted to be. Spoke volumes that some of his best moments were when he helped out defensively. 6/10

Victor Wanyama

Had plenty of work to do to plug the gaps in the midfield. Isolated early on and he struggled with the intensity of the Ajax pressing. 5/10

Dele Alli

Looked a different player after Sissoko’s arrival. Allowed to push further forward, he tested Onana with a fierce effort. 6/10

Danny Rose

Boisterous and tireless down the left, where Ziyech kept him busy. Forever willing but final pass or cross was generally snuffed out. 6/10

Lucas Moura

The home side’s most industrious and creative attacker. His scarpering runs caused problems for Ajax. Would have hoped for one clear chance. 7/10

Fernando Llorente

Should have hit the target with a first-half header from Trippier’s delivery. Had moments of joy against Blind, but not enough. 6/10

Substitutes: Gazzaniga, Foyth, Walker-Peters, Davies, Dier, Skipp, Sissoko


Ajax (4-2-3-1) 

Andre Onana

Commanding from crosses against a considerable aerial threat from the home side. Occasionally loose in his distribution. 6/10

Joel Veltman

Not afraid to tussle with Rose in the early exchanges, then produced timely tackle on Lucas. Booked for wrestling with Alli after losing possession. 5/10

Matthijs de Ligt impressed once again CREDIT: GETTY IMAGES

Matthijs de Ligt

Visibly and audibly the leader of the side, despite his tender years. More than willing to engage Llorente in a physical battle. 8/10

Daley Blind

Forward passing into midfield was a theme of Ajax’s early dominance. Perhaps fortunate to avoid a booking for a clumsy hit on Lucas. 7/10

Nicolas Tagliafico

Rightly booked for preventing a Spurs counter-attack with a late lunge on Eriksen. Scared Lloris with a fizzing low drive after the break. 6/10

Lasse Schone

Sloppier in possession than his team-mates. Always busy, though, and always bustling around Eriksen and Alli in the Spurs midfield. 6/10

Frenkie de Jong

Looks to be worth every penny of the £65 million Barcelona have spent on him. Repeatedly nicked the ball and always wanted possession. 8/10

Hakim Ziyech

Sleek and sharp in possession. Terrific pass picked out Van de Beek for the opening goal. More of a passenger as Spurs grew stronger. 7/10

Matthijs de Ligt impressed once again CREDIT: GETTY IMAGES

Donny van de Beek

Had the composure and the skill to sit Lloris down before finishing into the corner, then nearly scored a second a few minutes later. 8/10

David Neres

Provided the speed in behind the Spurs defence when the other attackers dropped deep. Struck the foot of the post after rapid counter. 7/10

Dusan Tadic

Generally menacing but not as productive as in previous rounds. Unable to hold the ball up on the occasions when Ajax were forced to go long. 6/10

Barcelona 3 – 0 Chelsea – Live commentary and scores

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Match Summary



The teams!


Preamble


Prediction: Barcelona 2-1 Chelsea


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Match report: Lionel Messi breaks his duck against Chelsea to earn draw for Barcelona

By Mike Ikenwa


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Match Summary




10 min: Messi dribbles with great purpose down the middle, then slips a pass right for Paulinho. A low fizzing cross towards the near post nearly confuses Christensen, but the defender sorts his feet out to trap and clear. For a micro-second, it looked as though Christensen might prod that into the bottom-right corner of his own net. But all’s OK.


9 min: Rudiger, deep on the left, flashes a stunning high crossfield pass to Moses, who tears down the right and earns a corner. All the big lads come up for it. And it’s Rudiger who wins a header, ten yards out. He’s not being challenged in particularly convincing fashion, and should really do better than the weak effort that dribbles wide left of goal.


7 min: Alba bodychecks Willian as the Chelsea man makes good down the inside-right channel. A free kick, 35 yards out. Chelseaload the box. Fabregas delivers in the dismal fashion, and first man Busquets heads it clear. A nice bright start, though, both teams showing in attack.


5 min: Hazard slips a pass down the right. Willian engages Jordi Alba in a foot race. The Barca man wins. That was some battle. Chelseacome again, though, Hazard gliding in from the right and unleashing a screamer towards the top left from the edge of the box. It’s a little high and wide, but not so far away. Ter Stegen was at full stretch, and wasn’t necessarily getting there had it been on target.


3 min: Suarez, Alba and Messi combine down the left. Suddenly Messi is sashaying into the Chelsea area. He dinks a cross into the centre, but there’s nobody in burgundy there. Alonso clears. Barca come back at Chelsea, Messi again dribbling down the left. Azpilicueta crunches the little master with a fine tackle in the area, and the home side clear once more.


2 min: Barca take the opportunity to knock the ball around the back awhile, getting a feel of the thing.


And we’re off! Chelsea get the ball rolling for the first quarter of this two-legged set-to! A huge roar greets the kick-off. Moses plays the ball down the right in the hope of setting Willian away, but the flag goes up for offside.


The teams are out! Chelsea are in their famous blue kit; Barca are forced into third-choice burgundy. A wonderful atmosphere at the Bridge, as you’d expect when two of European football’s behemoths take each other on. It’s the London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham versus Catalunya! We’ll be off in a minute, once pennants have been exchanged, hands have been shaken, and Zadok the Priest has been ritually disembowelled.


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Barcelona’s Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez warm up before the match. Photo: Eddie Keogh/Reuters


Pre-match team talk. Can Chelsea see off Barca tonight? It’s a big ask, but it’s perfectly possible.

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Chelsea vs Barcelona: four things the blues can do to beat Messi men


Remember this?


Chelsea-Barcelona: not entirely a modern rivalry. Here’s Paul Johnson to explain: “It’s not entirely a new fixture: they met in the 1966 Fairs Cup semi-final, 0-2, 2-0 and 0-5 play-off. The home leg included Charlie Cooke’s debut and two own goals from memory. The tie was also delayed by a week when Tommy Docherty arranged for Fulham Fire Brigade to flood the pitch so the match would be postponed and key players could recover from injury. Happy days.” Ah yes, the old Fairs Cup. Not a competition organised by Uefa, you see, so they don’t consider it an official part of the European records. Which is a bit of a rum do, all told, and kind of distorts the picture. I should have known better. Anyway, that’s a marvellous Tommy Docherty story. You have to love The Doc. In lieu of hot Champions League action, there is another marvellous example of his trying it on, at the expense of his old pal Bill Shankly, in the second story of this old Joy of Six.


Chelsea make seven changes to the side sent out against Hull City in the FA Cup last Friday. But that was a slightly random selection, given the Championship opposition, and with this game on the horizon. Perhaps it’s more instructive to compare tonight’s teamsheet to the XI named for the last big Premier League game, against West Bromwich Albion eight evenings ago. Just the two changes, then: Davide Zappacosta and Olivier Giroud dropping to the bench, making way for Marcos Alonso and Willian.

Barcelona meanwhile are operating an if-it-ain’t-broke policy. They strolled to a 2-0 win at Eibar on Saturday, so have named exactly the same starting XI.

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Chelsea’s Eden Hazard and Andreas Christensen warm up before the match. Photo: David Klein/Reuters


No Giroud or Morata! Hazard starts as a false-nine/trequartista type role.


The teams


Preamble


Chelsea will play host to Barcelona on today in what should be one of the most enthralling ties of the UEFA Champions League round of 16.

Both clubs have won the tournament in the last decade and are giants of their domestic competitions―the Blues are Premier League champions, while Barcelona lead La Liga after falling three points shy of the title last season.

The Blaugrana are favourites going into this tie, courtesy of better form, but anything could happen over the course of two matches. Here’s a look ahead to the first leg.

  • Date: Tuesday, February 20
  • Time: 7:45 p.m. GMT/2:45 p.m. ET
  • Venue: Stamford Bridge, London
  • TV Info: BT Sports 2 (UK), Fox Sports 1 (U.S.)

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Preview

Barcelona have lost just once in 2018—in the Copa del Rey against Espanyol—and hadn’t tasted defeat in any competition since August when they suffered a loss against rivals Real Madrid in the Spanish Super Cup.

The Catalans have slipped up recently, with draws against Getafe and Espanyol, but they still have a healthy lead in La Liga and enter the second half of the European campaign with high expectations.

Chelsea’s Premier League form has fallen off, with two losses in their last three matches, and the Blues trail Manchester City by an incredible 19 points already.

Injuries have plagued the side, although the team should see one key member return before the match against Barcelona, per Goal’s Nizaar Kinsella:

chelsea-vs-barcelona-17-18

The lack of an ace scorer has held Chelsea back since the turn of the year, as Alvaro Morata hasn’t found the net yet in 2018. Michy Batshuayi’s good form for Borussia Dortmund only makes things worse―fans are left to wonder what could have been for the Blues’ loanee―and the emphasis to score will likely fall on Eden Hazard once again against the Catalans.

Barcelona don’t concede a lot of goals―just 11 so far in La Liga―and keeping them from grabbing a vital away goal could prove tricky. Lionel Messi is again in the midst of a fine season, while Luis Suarez has rediscovered his shooting boots and Ousmane Dembele is back from injury.

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David Ramos/Getty Images

The Blaugrana have struggled with physical defences who limit space out wide in the attacking third, however, and Chelsea have the ability to do the same. Head coach Antonio Conte hasn’t been afraid to go to a three-man defence and could opt for a 3-5-2 or 3-4-3 yet again, dropping his wing-backs deep.

Whether Chelsea can compete with Barcelona in midfield using such a formation remains to be seen, but it could result in a fantastic first leg.


Prediction: Chelsea 1-1 Barcelona

Cristiano Ronaldo double sends Real Madrid to comeback win over PSG

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Ronaldo prepares to shoot ahead of Presnel Kimpembe. Photo: Francisco Seco/AP



8 min: Marcelo goes down hurt after a challenge by Dani Alves as the pair contested a bouncing ball. Alves immediately rushes to his compatriot’s assistance and waves at the referee to stop play. There was no foul, but Marcelo looks in serious distress. You can hear his screams of pain being picked up by the pitch-side microphones.


7 min: Real Madrid continue to press and press and press, not giving PSG’s players a second to settle on the ball. After Kroos forces a save from Alphonse Areola after hsooting through a thicket of bodies, PSG eventually get out of their own half and in behind the Madrid defence with a sortie down the left.


4 min: Real Madrid have started at an unbelievable lick here and have PSG in all sorts of trouble. Ronaldo lashes a volley across the face of goal after latching on to a through ball from Isco. Soon after, Marquinhos, PSG’s skipper for the night, almost diverts the ball into his own net.


2 min: You know those goal-line officials that idiot pundits who should know better claim don’t do anything? I’ll bet you any money the referee consulted one of those before making up his mind on that penalty decision. his whistle was halfway to his mouth before he decided against blowing it.


1 min: Ferocious early pressing from Real, who win a corner straight away. Toni Kroos plays it short to Isco, who returns the favour. The ball’s lumped into the box and Yuri Berchiche appears to foul Kroos. Real appeal for a penalty and the referee thinks long and hard about it. No spot-kick is forthcoming.


Real Madrid v PSG is go!


Out they march …


Not long now …

A gamble by Unai Emery …



Real Madrid v Paris Saint-Germain line-ups


Unai Emery speaks

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Unai Emery speaking to the press last night. Photo: REX/Shutterstock


Zinedine Zidane speaks …

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Zinedine Zidane addresses the press at yesterday’s pre-match briefing. Photo: Emilio Naranjo/EPA


Early team news …


Real Madrid v Paris Saint-Germain preview


Good evening and welcome

The Champions League last-16 games returns tonight. I’ll be focusing on the first leg between Real Madrid and PSG.

Kick-off is at 7.45pm but stay with me for all the pre-match build-up. Team news is expected at 6.45pm.

Basel vs Man City – UEFA Champions League Live commentary & results

Manchester City’s Ilkay Gündogan strikes twice against Basel in easy win

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Ilkay Gündogan (right) scored twice for Manchester City in their 4-0 win against Basel. Photo: Walter Bieri/EPA

Manchester City are surely coasting into the Champions League quarter-finals for only the second time in their history after this emphatic win.

Pep Guardiola will be keen to guard against complacency and that his team retains focus when the last-16 second leg is played in three weeks time. Yet this was a dream result for the manager as it will allow him to rest players, should he wish, for the return leg.


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Guardiola’s selection showed two changes from the win against Leicester on Saturday. Out went Oleksandr Zinchenko and Aymeric Laporte and in came Fabian Delph and Vincent Kompany, the captain making a first Champions League appearances since May 2016.

City faced the Swiss champions of the last eight seasons with Guardiola having warned how much harder this competition is to the Premier League and that a bad few minutes can mean elimination.

City started on the front foot and won three corners and an Ilkay Gündogan header that came after the first of these. Dimitri Oberlin had Basel’s opening chance and what an opportunity this was. The centre-forward raced behind City and, as Ederson charged out, should have chipped the goalkeeper but the effort was weak, allowing Nicolás Otamendi to clear

This was a warning for City to tighten up and eliminate the kind of amateurish defending that caused them to be knocked out at Monaco a year ago. When Oberlin again ran free, this time along the right, he drove into the area, collided with Otamendi and St Jakob Park roared for the penalty. Jonas Eriksson was unmoved which had Raphael Wicky complaining to the fourth official, Mehmet Culum.

Basel’s manager would have felt doubly aggrieved moments later as City took the lead. This was simple stuff: Kevin De Bruyne swung a corner in from the left and Gündogan beat Fabian Frei to head past Tomas Vaclik from a narrowing angle.

De Bruyne instigated the City second by rolling the ball along the left to Raheem Sterling. The winger crossed and Bernardo Silva beat Vaclik and Guardiola’s men were off to a flyer.

Imperative now was for City to keep playing while closing the holes they had thus far allowed. An effective way of doing this is to score again and so up stepped Sergio Agüero to beat Vaclik from outside the area: the Czech may have been wrong-footed but as with Gündogan’s strike he failed to move.

Vaclik’s next mistake was to mishandle after gathering and the ball squirmed out of play for a corner. Agüero’s goal had arrived after 23 minutes, which meant City’s ask was to be ultra-professional and keep their foot on Basel’s throat. De Bruyne again worried Vaclik’s goal with a skidding left-foot attempt.

As at the start of the first half Oberlin broke clear during the opening moments of the second period. This time Delph raced across from his left-back zone to nick the ball and the danger died.

Now, Mohamed Elyounoussi tested Ederson with Basel’s first shot, the Brazilian flinging himself impressively to his left to concede a corner.

This woke City up. Swift ball recycling between Delph, Kompany, Agüero and Otamendi took Guardiola’s side over halfway. After a Kyle Walker surge down the right play eventually switched to a central area and now City did have finish number four. This was classy from Gündogan – a neat step right to create space, a waft of his boot, and Vaclik was beaten again.

Oberlin went close with a header but, really, this was a demoralising task for the home side to try and save some face in front of their supporters. The pattern continued: City could attack at will, moving through the Swiss with the hypnotic pass-and-move play that has become familiar under Guardiola.

Guardiola was allowed the luxury of taking off Sterling and De Bruyne – on 57 and 63 minutes – and it was the former’s replacement, Leroy Sané who created City’s next chance.

The winger slipped down the left and found Gündogan, who missed a chance for a hat-trick by hitting feebly at Vaclik. In the final analysis, it mattered little.

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Manchester City’s Bernardo Silva attempts to control the ball. Photo: Andrew Boyers/Action Images via Reuters

Match Summary

  • Ilkay Gündogan: 14, Bernardo Silva: 18, Sergio Agüero: 23, Ilkay Gündogan: 53,
  • Possessions: 30% | 70%
  • Targets: 4-off/4-on | 2-off/6-on
  • Champions League | St Jakob-Park
  • Corners: 4 | 6
  • Fouls 7 | 5
  • Off sides 3 |
  • More on Bloomgist.com/tag/sports








A friendly handshake between managers Raphael Wicky and Pep Guardiola on the touchline … the swapping of pennants in the centre circle by captains Marek Suchy and Vincent Kompany … a blast of the whistle … and we’re off! The hosts get the game underway. The Champions League is back, and we’re at the business end of the tournament. The serious stuff begins now.


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Pep Guardiola at St Jakob-Park. Photo: Simon Hofmann/Getty Images


The teams are out! Basel are in their traditional RotBlau shirts, a striking combo said to have inspired Barcelona’s blaugrana clobber. Manchester City wear their famous sky-blue tops. There’s a wonderful atmosphere at St Jakob-Park, despite the freezing temperature. We’ll be off in a couple of minutes, once the Uefa-directed butchering of Zadok the Priest is out of the way.


Pep Guardiola speaks! “We have done well so far [in the Premier League and League Cup] but this is another competition and every game is tough because of the quality of the players and many, many, many other reasons. We are here with confidence to go through, but we know exactly what can happen if we are not at our level. Last season is last season: we played a really good team in Monaco, they reached the semis and won the league in France. We will try to get a good result!”


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4- Raheem Sterling is City’s top scorer in the Champions League with four goals in five games.

1 – This is the first meeting between City and Basle in any competition.

2 – City are aiming to reach the last eight of the competition for only the second time in the club’s history.

Three key stat

Formations

Usual 4-2-3-1 formation for City, while Basle go 3-4-3. with Lang and Riveros playing as wing backs.


Good evening and welcome

The Champions League returns tonight. It’s last-16 time. I’ll be focusing on the first leg of Basle’s tie against Manchester City.

City are expected to progress and Pep Guardiola can play a full strength side given how far ahead his side are in the Premier League.

Kick-off is at 7.45pm but stay with me for all the pre-match build-up. Team news is expected at 6.45pm.


Mike Ikenwa is on the seat to take you through tonight’s live updates of one of the most hottest matches of this night


Teams

  • Basel:
  • Man City:

Team lineups will be available once announced.


Teams

Basel

  • Tomas Vaclik
  • Michael Lang
  • Taulant Xhaka
  • Leo Lacroix
  • Marek Suchy
  • Blas Riveros
  • Mohamed Elyounoussi
  • Fabian Frei
  • Serey Die
  • Valentin Stocker
  • Dimitri Oberlin

substitutes

  • Mirko Salvi
  • Luca Zuffi
  • Ricky van Wolfswinkel
  • Albian Ajeti
  • Neftali Manzambi
  • Raoul Petretta
  • Kevin Bua

Man City

  • de Moraes Ederson
  • Kyle Walker
  • Vincent Kompany
  • Nicolas Otamendi
  • Fabian Delph
  • Kevin De Bruyne
  • Luis Fernandinho
  • Ilkay Gundogan
  • Mota Bernardo Silva
  • Sergio Aguero
  • Raheem Sterling

substitutes

  • Claudio Bravo
  • da Silva Danilo
  • John Stones
  • Aymeric Laporte
  • Leroy Sane
  • David Silva
  • Phil Foden

Preamble

Since breezing through the group stage, City’s quadruple chase has gathered pace.

Pep Guardiola’s side has pulled 16 points clear in the Premier League despite Gabriel Jesus sustaining a long-term knee injury on Dec. 31.

Sergio Aguero shouldered the burden as City’s only other senior striker, scoring 13 times in 10 games across the league and two domestic cups — including four at the weekend.

Basel also has a tighter domestic title chase, sitting in second place five points behind Young Boys, and is adapting following the sale of centre back Manuel Akanji to Borussia Dortmund in January.


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Who will qualify for the Champions League from the Premier League?

Who will qualify for the Champions League from the Premier League?

With only 12 Premier League games left to play our writers discuss which three teams will join Manchester City in next season’s Champions League and which two will miss out.

Who will qualify for the Champions League from the Premier League?
Clockwise from top left: Alexis Sánchez, Mohamed Salah, Antonio Conte, Harry Kane, Eden Hazard and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang are set to be central figures in the race for the top four. Composite: Jim Powell Photo: Getty Images and Reuters.

Manchester City look certain to win this season’s Premier League title but below them the battle for the three remaining Champions League places continue. On Saturday, Tottenham face Arsenal in the north London derby, a game that could go a long way towards deciding how the season ends for the two clubs.

Table as it stands

2. Manchester United (56 pts, goal difference +33)

3. Liverpool (51 pts, +28)

4. Chelsea (50 pts, +23)

5. Tottenham (49 pts, +27)

6. Arsenal (45 pts, +16)

Remaining fixtures between the five teams: Tottenham v Arsenal (10 Feb), Manchester United v Chelsea (25 Feb), Manchester United v Liverpool (10 March), Chelsea v Tottenham (1 Apr), Manchester United v Arsenal (28 April), Chelsea v Liverpool (5 May).

European games could impact race for top four

The race for the top four places could well be decided by how the teams do in this season’s edition. Chelsea face Barcelona in the last 16 and it is almost impossible to see them get through considering their current form but I expect Antonio Conte to sort out their domestic performances and stay in the top four. United will make it too, considering their point advantage and the fact that they play Chelsea, Liverpool and Arsenal at home in the run-in. Then it is down to Spurs or Liverpool for the fourth slot and Mauricio Pochettino’s team may well just nick it. They looked fresher than Liverpool last weekend and may also be eliminated by Juventus in the last 16 of the Champions League and therefore able to focus on the league and the FA Cup. Marcus Christenson

Verdict Manchester United (2nd), Tottenham (3rd), Chelsea (4th) to qualify.

Chelsea turmoil could play into Tottenham hands

Manchester United already boast a buffer of sorts from those at their back and their run-in seems relatively kind, the derby across the city aside. The real intrigue lies in Tottenham Hotspur’s ability to whip up momentum, unbeaten as they are since mid-December and with that intriguing clash at Stamford Bridge still to come. They may have more about them this time around to avoid their customary stutter in the run-in. Arsenal’s inconsistencies, particularly away from home, may hamper their challenge, and the identity of the fourth team may hinge upon Liverpool’s trip to Chelsea on the penultimate weekend. That has the makings of another nail-biter, conjuring memories of Jesper Gronkjaer’s winner in May 2003, but the sense of turmoil gripping the champions at present suggests only one winner. Dominic Fifield

Verdict United, Tottenham, Liverpool

Arsenal too far off pace despite new signings

Chelsea’s 2018 downturn has opened the competition for Champions League qualification when previously it had looked like a clamour for fourth place between several clubs. Tottenham can be the major beneficiaries unless Antonio Conte, or whoever is in charge at Stamford Bridge, arrests the decline quickly. Big January signings should bring fresh impetus to United and Arsenal although the latter have a lot of ground to make up even with, on paper, an easier run-in. That leaves Liverpool to repay Jürgen Klopp’s faith that, without Philippe Coutinho, he has sufficient strength and quality to maintain year-on-year progress. Andy Hunter

Verdict United, Liverpool, Tottenham

North London derby could shape top four

Right now, it is easy to fear that Chelsea and Arsenal will be the clubs to fall short. The momentum is against Chelsea at an inopportune time and, when behind-the-scenes squabbling spills out into the open, it can only be destabilising. Give players an excuse and they will take it. Arsenal’s trip to Wembley for Saturday’s derby against Tottenham has taken on seismic importance. Lose, and their top-four dream could die. The club’s away form has been unacceptable. Liverpool and Tottenham have the verve to put themselves on the right side of the cut-off while Manchester United would have to slip catastrophically. David Hytner

Verdict United, Liverpool, Tottenham

Tottenham could go past Liverpool

Chelsea’s alarming plunge in form suggests Conte’s side will be the ones to drop out of the top four of the current group by season close. Much depends on how the Italian’s future is resolved. If Chelsea fail to arrest the slide Tottenham Hotspur appear to be the most likely beneficiaries and a sneaking suspicion here says Pochettino’s side also may leapfrog Liverpool to finish third. There is no doubt that Manchester United will claim the second berth they occupy due to the addition of Alexis Sánchez and Jose Mourinho’s managerial nous. And sixth-placed Arsenal? Their perennial flakiness will cost them again. Jamie Jackson

Verdict United, Tottenham, Liverpool

Europa League the focus for Arsenal

The only real shade of doubt is that old favourite, the Battle For Fourth Place. United have a lot of points already. Liverpool surely have too much scurrying brilliance up front to take a dive now. Chelsea are busy going through one of their cyclical episodes. If Harry Kane plays two-thirds of the remaining league games Tottenham should have the Champions League spot their good husbandry deserves. New-model ageing galáctico Arsenal look more of a threat than they did two weeks ago, but winning the Europa League might be a more achievable goal. Barney Ronay

Verdict United, Liverpool, Tottenham

United could slip on way to second

Right now you would have to say Chelsea look most like missing out, because they are the ones losing games, putting in chaotic performances and looking as though a change of manager might be imminent. That said, Chelsea are also the club most likely to implement decisive change and perk up quickly, always assuming the hierarchy does not tire of these biannual crises. At the moment, however, Chelsea are in ongoing disarray and looking likely to be overtaken by Spurs, who are going well. So it is the two Manchester clubs, Liverpool and Spurs for my top four. City to be champions, obviously, though United are not necessarily nailed-on as runners-up. Paul Wilson

Verdict United, Liverpool, Tottenham


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Champions League semi-finals: All you need to expect

Champions League semi-finals: All you need to expect

We are just about 180 minutes away from confirming the finalists of this season’s UEFA Champions League. But barring any monumental collapses, we are almost sure the two teams that would qualify. Real Madrid threw down the gauntlet at Atletico Madrid as Juventus exploited the naivety of Monaco. These are six things we saw from those two matches:

Champions League semi-finals: All you need to expect
Gonzalo Higuain celebrates after scrong one of his goals

Higuain is a ‘fat’ goal scorer

Often derided on social media as being fat and lugging a big ass, Gonzalo Higuain answered in the most appropriate way on Wednesday by scoring the two goals away at Monaco to give the Italian champions a very comfortable first leg lead. The brace made it 31 goals for the season in all competitions. The Argentine can argue all he wants that he is not physically fat but he is definitely goals-fat.

Ronaldo is six steps away from the Ballon d’Or

If – and these are valid assumptions; Cristiano Ronaldo leads Real Madrid to a successful defence of the Champions League [getting through the second leg and the final] – something that has not been done since the tournament metamorphosed in 1992.  If he can also help Zinedine Zidane and Madrid to hold their nerves in their last four La Liga matches. Six successful matches and you are almost sure that next January, Ronaldo would win his fifth Ballon d’Or – equalling Lionel Messi’s record.

80% sure it would be a Real Madrid versus Juventus final

Can Diego Simeone inspire a comeback from 3-0? Yeah, possible, because anything is possible in football and this season we have already witnessed the minor miracle of Barcelona coming back from the dead against PSG. Would it happen is another question and you have to back Real to score at the Vicente Calderon if Atletico go all out in search of the needed goals. For Juventus, it should be assumed that it is done and dusted. Gianluigi Buffon has not conceded three goals in one match this season – Monaco indeed have to score three goals without conceding. Nah, almost impossible!

No refereeing controversies

Referees Martin Atkinson and Antonio Mateu showed good judgments throughout the first legs of the semi-final. In the 3-0 Real Madrid win over Atletico, Cristiano Ronaldo was supposedly in an offside position when the first cross was delivered by Sergio Ramos but he was not also interfering with play but when the second cross came in – he was onside.

Defensive base would always be a good foundation

The two semis witnessed shutouts from Real Madrid and Juventus – the basis of champions. Whilst many managers are throwing caution to the wind as they try to play beautiful football – the art of defending has supposedly been cast aside. But the two semifinal first leg winners showed that clean sheets would always be the foundation for comfortable victories.

Reactions as resilient Leicester knocked out of Champions League

Reactions as resilient Leicester City knocked out of Champions League by Atletico Madrid

Leicester’s superb debut Champions League campaign came to an end as Atletico Madrid sealed their progress to the last four with a draw at the King Power Stadium.

Reactions as resilient Leicester knocked out of Champions League
Saul Niguez’s header was only the second home goal Leicester have conceded in the Champions League this season

Leading 1-0 from the first leg in Spain, Atletico took control through Saul Niguez’s first-half header.

City took the game to Atletico after the break and gave themselves hope via Jamie Vardy’s close-range finish.

But the visitors held on to reach their third semi-final in four seasons.

Details soon…

Champions League round-up: Leicester made a dream start in first Champions League game

  •  Real Madrid score two late goals to beat Sporting Lisbon
  • CSKA Moscow grab point against Leverkusen after trailing by two goals

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Gonzalo Castro scores to give Borussia Dortmund a 5-0 lead over Legia Warsaw in their opening Champions League Group F match. Photograph: Kacper Pempel/Reuters


Borussia Dortmund achieved their biggest European win, hammering the Polish champions Legia Warsaw 6-0 away from home to get off to the perfect start in their Champions League Group F campaign.

Mario Götze led the rout, opening the scoring and also assisting on two goals on a miserable night for the Poles that was marred by crowd trouble with home fans involved in fighting.

Dortmund dominated from the outset with Götze finishing off a cross from the youngster Ousmane Dembélé after seven minutes.

Fans of the first Polish team in 20 years to reach the Champions League group stages, who packed the 28,000-seater stadium in Warsaw, quickly turned silent as Sokratis Papastathopoulos and Marc Bartra each scored in the next 10 minutes.

Dortmund visibly slowed the pace of their attacks in the second half but still effortlessly scored another three goals through Raphaël Guerreiro, Gonzalo Castro and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.

The easiest of wins enabled Dortmund to take an early lead in the group on goal difference ahead of Real Madrid who beat Sporting Lisbon.

In the stands a group of hooligans wearing balaclavas tried to break into the Dortmund sector from Legia’s side in the first half and ended up fighting and spraying gas at the security guards .

Juventus were held to a 0-0 draw by the three-time Europa League winners Sevilla in Italy, while Porto and Copenhagen also shared the spoils having drawn 1-1, with the former Cardiff City striker Andreas Cornelius scoring for the visitors.

Bayer Leverkusen, who led 2-0 after 15 minutes, could only draw 2-2 at home with CSKA Moscow in Tottenham’s group but Lyon had no such issues at home, recording a comfortable 3-0 success over Dinamo Zagreb.

Leicester City made a dream start in their first Champions League game by defeating Club Brugge 3-0 in Belgium. Marc Albrighton broke the deadlock for Leicester before two set pieces from Riyad Mahrez either side of half-time, one free-kick and the other a penalty, ensured the club’s historic night will be remembered fondly.

It was a landmark night for Tottenham Hotspur, too, as they broke an English club home attendance with 85,011 watching at Wembley, yet the majority were left disappointed as Monaco emerged with a 2-1 win. Bernardo Silva and the substitute Thomas Lemar had put the French side two goals up. Toby Alderweireld headed in an Erik Lamela corner prior to the break but Spurs were unable to muster a leveller.

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Sergio Agüero put his domestic suspension to one side to grab a hat-trick as Manchester City defeated Borussia Mönchengladbach 4-0 in their rearranged clash. Having seen the contest postponed on Tuesday night due to heavy rain in the north-west, Agüero opened the scoring with a near-post finish before converting a penalty to make it 2-0 prior to half-time.

The holders Real Madrid were two minutes from losing at home against Sporting Lisbon in their opening group game before staging a late comeback to win 2-1. Bruno César’s second-half goal looked to have given the Portuguese side a memorable triumph at the Bernabéu, yet the former Sporting forward Cristiano Ronaldo scored a late leveller before Álvaro Morata snatched a winner four minutes into stoppage time.


SOURCE: The Bloomgist/Guardian UK/SkySports