Category Archives: UEFA Champions League

Major League Cup

City did not offer €100m signing-on bonus to Lionel Messi -Guardiola

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Manchester City coach Pep Guardiola has said that the club did not offer FC Barcelona star Lionel Messi a €100m signing-on fee to leave the La Liga giants last summer.

Messi, 30, agreed fresh terms last week to extend his contract with the Catalan club until 2021, amidst a separate report in Spain claiming that City tried to lure the Argentinian to England with the €100m fee plus a €50m a-year salary.

When asked about the reputed offer, Guardiola summarily denied the rumours.

“It’s not true. Lionel Messi has signed a contract one week ago,” he said. “This was never going to happen; Messi started his career there and he’s going to finish it there. If he wanted to leave he wouldn’t have signed the contract.”

City will be playing against Shakhtar Donetsk in Kharkiv on Wednesday night in the final round of Champions League group fixtures although the Blues are already through as group winners. If they win Guardiola will be the club’s first manager to win all six group games.

“We are doing well but that doesn’t mean you will achieve the title,” he said. “In this competition one bad 45 minutes and you are out. That means you can win the title but go out if you are doing well. I’m not concerned if we are playing the best football.”

Guardiola also has an eye on Sunday’s showdown against Premier League and City rivals Manchester United, with team playmaker David Silva becoming a doubt through injury.

“David had a little bit of a problem in the last minutes [against West Ham United on Sunday],” he said. “We made a test after the game and I don’t know if he is able to play on Sunday so that’s why he stayed there, to recover in Manchester.”

Peter Bosz says Real Madrid wouldn’t want “terrible” Aubameyang

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Borussia Dortmund coach Peter Bosz joked that team star Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is a “terrible player” amidst links of the Gabon striker with a move to Real Madrid, their next opponents in the Champions League.

Aubameyang, 28, has long been linked with the defending European champions and have spoken of his desire to play for Los Blancos to fulfil a promise made to his Madrid-supporting grandfather in the past.

He will have an opportunity to impress the Spanish champions too, as Dortmund take on Zinedine Zidane’s men in the knowledge that it will be their last fixture in the Champions League this season — although they still require a win to guarantee themselves passage to the Europa League.

However, this comes amidst a poor run of form that has seen Dortmund drop from Bundesliga leaders to sixth and had their hopes to progress in the Champions League cut short, but Bosz remained jovial when quizzed on Aubameyang’s ability to play for Madrid in the future.

“He is a terrible player, very bad, not worth it for Real Madrid,” Bosz said in the pre-match conference against Real. “(but) It’s a joke. I’m telling you that so he stays with us. He is excellent and has the quality to play for Real Madrid but I hope he stays here.”

Bosz comes into the game under increasing pressure and scrutiny, with Dortmund’s only win in their last 11 games coming in their DFB-Pokal fixture against third-tier Magdeburg.

On the other hand, Zinedine Zidane — Bosz’s counterpart at Real — has also come in for criticism with the Spanish giants lagging at fourth in La Liga, eight points adrift of league leaders FC Barcelona just months after winning the Spanish title. Still, Bosz believes that Zidane does not have much cause for concern compared to himself.

“We are in a difficult phase, but must try to play a good match,” he said. “It is not just a game for points, but also for confidence. If Real is in a crisis, then what are we?”

Late Basel goal denies Manchester United 100% record

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A late goal from Basel’s Michael Lang saw Manchester United being denied a 100% record in the Champions League group stages as Jose Mourinho’s team fell 1-0 to the Swiss side.

The defeat came despite the United domination of the first half in their penultimate group game, with Marouane Fellaini and Marcos Rojo hitting the woodwork.

The first half also saw the Red Devils enjoyed 74% in possession and denying the hosts even a shot on target, but they could not translate that dominance to the scoresheet and soon were stretched out of shape from the start of the second half.

Basel, seven points off the top of their domestic league, wore down the United resistance in midfield, and the pace of Lang, Dimitri Oberlin and Mohamed Elyounoussi helped them grow in danger.

The home crowd increased in volume and chances for their team increased, with Geoffroy Serey Die bringing a good save out of Sergio Romero before Lang’s decisive blow by turning in Raoul Petretta’s cross at the back post.

“We played against a team that played with five defenders,” Mourinho said after the game. “We tried to play with three attacking players and that worked in the first half because they couldn’t handle us.”

“We didn’t score in the second half probably because of the fact that we know one point is enough.”

While anything better than a seven-goal defeat by CSKA Moscow in their final group game on 5 December would still guarantee United their place in the last 16, the team could still have used the rest that would come with the guarantee of their spot in the playoffs.

But being denied that, they would now have to deal with the Manchester derby five days after CSKA’s visit to Old Trafford in the final group game — indeed, Jose Mourinho could have done with a truly dead rubber against the Muscovites.

Defensively frail Liverpool squanders three-goal lead at Sevilla

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A second-half rally by Sevilla and defensive frailties saw Liverpool squander a three-goal lead against the Spanish team that culminated in a 3-3 draw.

While Sevilla, who won the Europa League trophy over the Reds in 2016 did not dealt the same amount of heartbreak this time around, Liverpool is reminded once more that their defensive frailties remains ever present despite their scintillating attacking form.

Jurgen Klopp’s team looked to be cruising into the knockout stage for the first time since 2009 in the first-half. The first came just after 88 minutes, and was flicked on by Georginio Wijnaldum into the path of the unmarked Roberto Firmino, who swept home for Liverpool’s second fastest goal in the competition.

Brazilian international Firmino then turned provider as he flicked on another corner for Mane to power home with his head for his first goal for the Reds since 27 August, and looked to have sealed the game after tapping home Sadio Mane’s parried shot to make it 3-0 on the half-hour.

But Sevilla did come back, beginning at the 51st minute with Alberto Moreno’s needlessly conceded free-kick against his former club, which Wissam Ben Yedder’s header made it 3-1.

Misery piled on the 25-year-old Moreno as he subsequently conceded a penalty by clipping Ben Yedder, which the French striker converted despite being ordered to retake a successful spot-kick because of encroachment.

Guido Pizarro then struck in the dying moments after the visitors failed to deal with a corner to leave Liverpool with work to do in their Champions League campaign, with Klopp claiming that his team stopped playing in what had been a remarkable Champions League tie.

“It feels like we lost the game,” the German manager said.“The description of the game is easy. Fantastic first half for us, the second half we made a mistake — we didn’t carry on playing football. It’s normal to try to control the game but a team like us has to control the game with the ball.”

“We didn’t play football any more. We became passive, they scored the first, then it was obvious the atmosphere changed immediately. That gave them a big boost. Until the second goal we were reactive. After the second goal it was an open game again but we couldn’t score off the counterattacks. We opened the door for them, didn’t close it, so they could score in the last minute. That’s the story of the game.”