Man City prove team dominance will always beat individuals

If Pep Guardiola was unsure of the task facing his Manchester City side prior to their Champions League semi-final clash with Paris Saint-Germain, he knew exactly what he’d got himself in for by the 15-minute mark of the first leg.

The French champions were absolutely electric for the first quarter of an hour, with Neymar in particular running the City defence and midfield ragged as he showcased his extensive repertoire of flicks and tricks.

Needless to say he was offered some ‘rough’ treatment from the City backline as they looked to curtail his fun, but it’s no use focusing all your efforts on Neymar when Kylian Mbappe and Angel Di Maria are pulling the strings the second your back is turned.

Guardiola will no doubt have been furious at the manner in which City conceded the opening goal of the game, as Ilkay Gundogan completely ignored his defensive duties in allowing Marquinhos a free run in the box before glancing Di Maria’s header home.

With little over 15 minutes on the clock it was already beginning to look like a damage limitations exercise for the visitors, and in all honesty if you’d offered Guardiola a 1-0 away defeat at that point he’d probably have snapped your hand off.

While City managed to create a couple of chances of their own in the opening 45 minutes, the two sides headed for the interval with only one outcome looking likely, and as Neymar emerged for the second half with a cheeky grin on his face you feared the worst for the visitors.

Well, so we thought anyway.

Guardiola’s side emerged for the second half looking like a totally different team and – aside from the occasional burst of pace from Mbappe – the architects of City’s downfall in the first half were nowhere to be seen.

Instead, City continued to surge forward creating wave after wave of pressure. While PSG may have more world-class individuals capable of moments of brilliance, City proved to be the world-class team of the two and they were ultimately rewarded.

Firsty, Kevin De Bruyne’s inswinging cross completely deceived the PSG back line and Keylor Navas before sailing into the top corner, before Riyad Mahrez’s free kick inexplicably slipped through the home side’s wall and into the back of the net.

One of the main reasons behind City’s second-half dominance was that they finally managed to get a foothold on the ball, and midfield lynchpin Rodri was key to their efforts.

The former Atletico Madrid man has come in for some criticism since his move to the Premier League, though he was exceptional in the Parc des Princes and his ability to keep hold of the ball and prevent PSG from mounting continuous waves of pressure was vital to City’s second-half display,

Who would’ve thought that not letting Neymar have the ball was the key to stopping him playing?

The Brazilian barely had a kick in the second 45, and his waning influence on the game caused a domino effect as the likes of Mbappe and Di Maria also struggled to impact proceedings. Again, who would’ve thought that stopping a team’s best player was the way to stopping them playing well?

Obviously there’s a lot more goes into it than us just sitting here saying ‘well stop Neymar playing then’, but the fact of the matter is City’s team game prevailed over PSG’s individuals.

Guardiola’s men were up against it in the French capital, but they showed they had the stomach for the fight and came out swinging, whereas PSG just didn’t fancy the battle, and that attitude looks like costing them their dream of European success.

Chelsea may regret lack of clinical edge against Real Madrid

If you had offered Chelsea a 1-1 draw in the first leg of their Champions League semi-final against Real Madrid before kick off, Thomas Tuchel would have no doubt taken it.

However, as things progressed on Tuesday night you could not help but get the feeling that the Blues may come to regret not better exploiting Los Blancos’ terrible start to the game.

In the first half, but particularly in the opening 20 minutes, Chelsea looked sensational. Zinedine Zidane – who has received more credit as a tactician during his second spell in charge – had set up Real to match their opponents.

Los Blancos lined up with a back three of Eder Militao, Nacho and Raphael Varane with Dani Carvajal and Marcelo acting as wing-backs. On paper, this made sense and it was a tactic that Zidane also employed in the round of 16 against Atalanta. In the second leg of that tie, Real shaped up similarly to how they did on Tuesday night, securing a 3-1 victory.

The scoreline did not tell the whole story though, with Real not playing that well. It was much more a case of Atalanta losing the game than Zidane’s charges winning it.

They looked similarly uncomfortable in a back three against Chelsea.

On both sides, their wing-backs were leaving back gaps that the midfield – whose lack of legs was painfully clear whenever the Blues broke forward – could not fill. Marcelo’s positioning was particularly bizarre. In possession, the Brazilian was popping up all over the place, occasionally tucking into an almost defensive midfield position. Other times he camped out on the shoulder of the last defender.

Regardless of what vibe he was feeling going forward, he consistently failed to track back. This was exposed most blatantly in the 10th minute. After Mason Mount had skipped past a pair of wild challenges, he floated a ball to Christian Pulisic at the back post who then laid in on a plate for Timo Werner. He then did what he does best: miss an absolute sitter.

During this entire exchange Marcelo was not even in view of the camera and it would not be the last time than Varane was left to deal with Chelsea’s frightening transitions unaided.

During this lightning opening 25 minutes, Chelsea scored through Pulisic and registered four further shots while Real had just one. This was not the only metric the Blues dominated either. They also competed more dribbles, tackles and had more possession with their waspish pressing helping to keep Toni Kroos’ and Luka Modric’s influence to a minimum.

Yet for all their good work, they went into the break level with their opponents due to their inability to defend a set piece.

After the break Real tweaked their shape and managed to get a foothold in the game. It is unlikely they will make the same mistakes in Wednesday’s second leg either, suggesting that Chelsea may come to rue that missed Werner chance and their failure to capitalise on their fiery start in eight days’ time.

How to watch on TV, live stream, team news & prediction

In a game that could have big implications in the race for European qualification in Serie A, Lazio host Milan on Monday night.

Both sides go into the contest off the back of poor results. The Rossoneri celebrated being one of the founding members of the doomed Super League by losing to Sassuolo 2-1 on Wednesday. Meanwhile, Lazio were battered 5-2 by Napoli.

Both will be desperate to get back to winning ways in Rome but which side is going to come out on top? Below is everything you need to know about this tasty looking fixture.

West Ham vs Chelsea preview: How to watch on TV, live stream, team news & prediction

A preview of West Ham’s huge top four clash with Chelsea in the Premier League this weekend at the London Stadium.

Daniel Feliciano


Apr 23, 2021

Leeds vs Manchester United preview: How to watch on TV, live stream, team news & prediction

All the team news and information before Manchester United’s trip to Leeds on Sunday in the Premier League.

Harry Symeou


Apr 22, 2021

Milan confirm Zlatan Ibrahimovic has signed new contract for next season

Milan striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic has signed a new deal at the Serie A giants which will keep him at the club until he’s at least 40 years of age

Ross Jackson


Apr 22, 2021

Arsenal vs Everton preview: How to watch on TV, live stream, team news and prediction

A preview of Arsenal’s Premier League clash against Everton at the Emirates Stadium on Friday night.

Daniel Feliciano


Apr 21, 2021

When is the match? Monday 26 April
What time is kick off? 19:45 (BST)
Where is it played? Stadio Olimpico
TV Channel? Premier Sports 1 (UK), ESPN (US)
Referee? Daniele Orsato
Paolo Silvio Mazzoleni

The most notable piece of selection news for Lazio is the return of Simone Inzaghi. Their popular manager has been away from the action after contracting coronavirus, but he will be back on the sidelines against Milan.

Meanwhile, Gonzalo Escalante remains out, as does defender Luiz Felipe. Ciro Immobile and Luis Alberto both picked up knocks during the Napoli humiliation and could be in contention.

With his side conceding eight in their last two games, Inzaghi will likely be tempted to rejig his back three, especially with Milan possessing so much attacking talent.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic might have signed a new contract recently, but he won’t be involved on Monday night due to injury.

Elsewhere, Theo Hernandez and Ismael Bennacer will face late fitness tests. Other than that, manager Stefano Pioli has no further concerns.

Lazio: Reina; Patric, Acerbi, Radu; Marusic, Milinkovic-Savic, Lucas, Pereira, Fares; Correa, Caicedo.

Milan: Donnarumma; Calabria, Kjaer, Tomori, Hernandez; Saelemaekers, Kessie, Meite, Calhanoglu; Rebic, Leao.

Napoli 5-2 Lazio (22/4) – Serie A
Lazio 5-3 Benevento (18/4) – Serie A
Hellas Verona 0-1 Lazio (11/4) – Serie A
Lazio 2-1 Spezia (3/4) – Serie A
Udinese 0-1 Lazio (21/03) – Serie A

Milan 1-2 Sassuolo (21/4) – Serie A
Milan 2-1 Genoa (18/4) – Serie A
Parma 1-3 Milan (10/4) – Serie A
Milan 1-1 Sampdoria (3/4) – Serie A
Fiorentina 2-3 Milan (21/3) – Serie A

Lazio are in dire need of a win to keep their slim hopes of a top four finish alive. Meanwhile, Milan’s Champions League spot is anything but secure, making three points vital for them as well.

Neither manager will be happy with us for predicting a draw in this one. On paper the two teams are just too close to call.

However, do not let the prospect of a tie put you off tuning in. Just like when the pair met back in December, we are expecting goals – particularly as Lazio have conceded so many in recent times.

Prediction: Lazio 2-2 Milan

Player ratings as Barça keep pace with La Liga leaders

Two goals from Lionel Messi helped Barcelona survive a brief scare to ease past Getafe on Thursday night and keep pace with the leaders in La Liga.

A beautiful goal from Messi, converting Sergio Busquets’ awesome pass, put Barça ahead but they were soon pegged back when Marc Cucurella’s cross cannoned off Clement Lenglet into his own net.

Sofian Chakla scored the next comedy own goal, passing the ball back to goalkeeper David Soria who had come charging out of his net unnecessarily – think Kieran Trippier and Hugo Lloris against Chelsea in 2019.

A hectic first half got worse for the visitors when Messi got his second, converting from the acutest of angles having originally been denied by the post.

Ronald Araujo gifted Getafe a route back into the game by catching Enes Unal in the box. The striker converted the penalty to bring the score back to 3-2, but Araujo atoned for his error with a glancing header from Messi’s corner to reestablish his side’s two-goal lead. The win was rounded off by Antoine Griezmann, who was fouled and scored the resulting penalty in injury time.

The win lifts Barcelona back above Sevilla into third in the La Liga title race, five points behind leaders Atletico Madrid with a game in hand.

So. Player ratings. Shall we?

Marc-Andre ter Stegen (GK) – 5/10 – Had no saves to make and couldn’t do anything about either goal, being wrongfooted for the own goal and sent the wrong way for the penalty.

Oscar Mingueza (CB) – 6/10 – Isn’t part of the most secure Barça backline right now, even though it’s a lot better than it was at the start of the season, but got some harsh treatment when he was subbed off by manager Ronald Koeman. Didn’t make the mistakes for the goals but incurred the Dutchman’s wrath and was brought off for Samuel Umtiti. Harsh.

Gerard Pique (CB) – 7/10 – Won five aerials during his 45-minute cameo. Was the cool head needed at the back before being substituted.

Clement Lenglet (CB) – 4/10 – Endured a horrible opening period, getting booked before scoring an own goal. Failed to improve and was brought off at half time.

Sergi Roberto (RWB) – 5/10 – Reverted between playing on the right of a midfield three and wide on the wing. Pretty quiet before being brought off at half time.

Jordi Alba (LWB) – 6 /10 – Not one of the Spaniard’s must productive outings but Alba linked up well with Messi at times and was always available in advanced areas on the left.

Frenkie de Jong (CM) – 7/10 – As smooth and efficient as ever. Dropped into the back three when changes were made in defence.

Sergio Busquets (CM) – 8/10 – Provided a brilliant side-pass to send Messi through on goal for the game’s opener. Is enjoying a nice renaissance and this was another tidy performance.

Pedri (CM) – 5/10 – Just looked absolutely knackered throughout. Could have done with a rest and a lot of his play seemed to suffer as a result of his fatigue.

Antoine Griezmann (ST) – 7/10 – Really busy on the ball, completing five dribbles. Pressed well from the front too, making a couple of tackles. Didn’t get any shots away but linked play nicely. Tucked away his late penalty nicely.

Lionel Messi (ST) – 9/10 – A trademark performance from the diminutive forward, scoring two pearlers in the first half, also striking the woodwork. Picked up the assist for Araujo’s header. His brace also took him to 25 league goals for each of the last 12 seasons. Bit crazy, that.

Ronald Araujo – 6/10 – A bad challenge from Araujo gifted Getafe a path back into the game. Was booked for the foul but made up for it late on with his side’s fourth goal.

Ilaix Moriba – 5/10

Trincao – 5/10

Samuel Umtiti – 5/10

Florentino Perez interview on Super League plans

Florentino Perez admitted that he was ‘disappointed’ the Super League has failed in his first interview since the implosion of the project.

The Real Madrid president had been appointed president of the newly-created Super League on Sunday, and gloated about the new European competition in an interview late on Monday. But, as soon as the Super League looked to be gathering some momentum, fans, players, pundits and managers made their feelings regarding the project heard.

Fan protests in particular are said to have led to the six English clubs – Man Utd, Liverpool, Man City, Tottenham, Chelsea and Arsenal – pulling out of the competition on Tuesday, while Atletico Madrid, and Inter followed suit on Wednesday.

Now with just Real Madrid, Barcelona, Juventus and AC Milan left, Florentino Perez seemingly admitted that the Super League was a non-starter for now in an interview with El Laguero, starting off the discussion by insisting he was just the president of Real Madrid:

“President of Real Madrid and of the Super League? No, no…president of Real Madrid is fine.”

Here’s the key points made throughout the rest of the interview.

“We were working last night until 1am. We have been working many years on this project. Have not explained it very well, perhaps.

“I am a bit sad, disappointed. We have been working three years on this project, on fighting the current financial situation in Spanish football. It is easy to understand – you cannot touch La Liga, so you look for more money midweek and the Champions League format is obsolete.”

“I have never seen aggression greater on the part of the president of UEFA and other presidents of Liga, it was orchestrated, it surprised it all. Never seen anything like it – insults, threats, as if we had killed someone, killed football.

“There was a campaign, totally manipulated, that we were going to finish the national leagues. That we were ending football, it was terrible. But we were working for football to survive.”

“The problems is they killed us the very next day, with terrible aggression. We have made some mistakes for sure. But they knew what we were going to do, and were waiting for us. Those who do not want to lose their privileges.”

“There was someone in the English six clubs who did not have much interest. That started to affect the others, there was fear. One of the English clubs was never really convinced.”

“The English clubs tried to do something, but they were being told they were killing football. But there is no other solution, than the Super League. Or somebody invents something else.

“They are leaving due to UEFA putting on a show, which surprised me. I don’t want to get into it with the UEFA president, but he needs to be able to talk. It was like we had thrown an atomic bomb. They did not let us explain, as they did not want anything to change.”

“We are just working on saving football, after this pandemic. Madrid income falling from 900m to 600m this year. We have worked very hard on something that would satisfy everyone – and we did expect such a response.”

“It cannot be that in England, the six lose money, and 14 make money. In Spain the top three lose money, and the others make money. It cannot continue – at the moment the rich are those who are losing money.”

“This is a pyramid, and the money runs down, there would be money for everyone. If Nadal plays Federer, everyone watches, if Nadal plays the number 80 in the world, nobody watches.”

“There are games that nobody watches – the truth is I struggle to watch them. In Spain, in England, in Italy.”

“A big guy wears a big suit, a small guy wears a small suit. Everyone has to be comfortable with the suit they wear. And the reality comes from the TV viewer figures. This is not capricious, I am just trying to help.”

“Juventus and Milan have not left. Barca are thinking about it. Maybe we can change it a bit – that the top four in England enter, the top four in Spain. The important thing is that the big teams play each other, so the kids will watch football.”

“Somebody has to give us another format, to earn more money. As without earning more money, this will all die.

“The contracts are signed by serious people, businessmen who know this world. We agreed last night to wait and to try and explain better, and we are open to other ideas.”

“The English PM said things, then the fans…people wanted to damage us. But when all this passes, and we see the reality, let’s see what happens. These clubs are going to lose millions of euros, and cannot do that, apart from those in England.”

“The founder clubs believed in this project. It is not dead. We will keep working.”

Chelsea 0-0 Brighton: Match report

With the footballing world burning around them, Chelsea and Brighton played out a forgettable 0-0 draw on Tuesday night.

Set against the backdrop of the implosion of the Super League, the Blues looked a long way off being one of the best teams in Europe. They never really got going with Brighton having the better chances over the 90 minutes.

The most dramatic moment of the contest came more than an hour before kick off when a protest against the proposed breakaway competition prevented the Chelsea team bus entering the ground.

This led to kick off being delayed by 15 minutes, and the game got off to a slow start when it did eventually get underway. Kai Havertz spurned a decent opportunity with 20 minutes played in the only real action of the first half. Prior to the game, manager Thomas Tuchel conceded that off-field events had affected his players’ preparations and it showed.

Things did not get much better after the break either. First Kurt Zouma was nearly punished for dawdling on the ball when Neal Maupay picked his pocket before laying it off to Adam Lallana, who fired narrowly wide.

Soon after Chelsea had another narrow escape when Danny Welbeck hit the bar seconds after an error by Jorginho. Brighton’s lack of cutting edge showed once more before the end with Lallana firing straight at Kepa Arrizabalaga from the edge of the box after a neat turn.

These dropped points could prove damaging for Chelsea come the end of the season with the race for the Champions League places relevant again, following the imminent collapse of the Super League.

While Chelsea remain fourth for now they are level on points with fifth-placed West Ham, who they play on Saturday, while Liverpool, Tottenham and Everton are also breathing down their necks.

Jurgen Klopp won’t quit Liverpool over Super League plans

Jurgen Klopp insists he won’t walk out on Liverpool as a result of the Super League fiasco, saying the ‘tough times’ mean he feels more responsible for the club than ever before.

Klopp’s Anfield future was uncertain anyway after a difficult season for the club. There have been suggestions that a lack of support from the board had left him disillusioned, with the lure of the Germany job tempting him to consider his options.

So when Liverpool announced on Monday that they will join up for a European Super League next season – an idea Klopp is vehemently against in principle – fresh questions were raised.

Speaking after his side’s 1-1 draw with Leeds, however, Klopp said: “I’m here as a football coach and a manager, and I will do that as long as people let me do that.

“I won’t resign because of this. If times get tougher, that makes me more likely to stay here. I feel responsible for the team, the club, and the relationship we have with the fans. “It’s a tough time, but I will try to help to sort it somehow.”

Speaking ahead of the game, Klopp had hit out at the plans which will see Liverpool join five clubs from England and three each from Spain and Italy as founding members of the Super League, which is set to rival the Champions League next season.

“The most important part of a football club is the supporters and the team. Nothing can get between that. I heard that there were banners being put down, but I didn’t understand that because the players didn’t do anything wrong. We want to qualify for the Champions League next year.

“We have to stick together. We have to show that nobody has to walk alone in these moments. There are things we have to sort obviously, but that has nothing to do with the football and nothing to do with the relationship between the supporters and the team.

“In tough times, you have to stick together. That doesn’t mean you have to agree on everything, but the boys didn’t do anything wrong.”

Twitter reacts to The Super League announcement

In an unprecedented moment for European football, 12 top clubs from across the continent – including the Premier League’s big six – have announced the formation of a new midweek competition to rival UEFA’s Champions League.

Milan, Arsenal, Atlético Madrid, Chelsea, Barcelona, Inter, Juventus, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United, Real Madrid and Tottenham Hotspur have all joined as so-called founding clubs, with Los Blancos president Florentino Perez, Juve chairman Andrea Agnelli and Man Utd co-chairman Joel Glazer evidently big players in the shake-up.

Three more clubs are expected to join The Super League, which will start ‘as soon as practicable’.

The announcement and earlier revelations about the potential proposals have sent shockwaves through the football world and been met with profound outrage on social media, with many pointing to the greed of football clubs in the modern era to the detriment of fans.

Others unsurprisingly focused on the fact that north London rivals Arsenal and Tottenham probably shouldn’t be considered among Europe’s top clubs at present…

Nothing about The Super League was safe from serious scrutiny, will some tweeters pointing out that the competition’s logo is a bit…naff.

An official statement even had the audacity to go into the financial benefits of the newly-founded competition, saying the Super League ‘will provide significantly greater economic growth and support for European football via a long-term commitment to uncapped solidarity payments which will grow in line with league revenues’.

The new league would comprise 20 teams: 15 founding members who cannot be relegated, and five teams who qualify annually. It wouldn’t replace the Premier League or other domestic competitions, however – it would run alongside, similarly to how the Champions League currently works.

A statement revealed the competition would start in August, with clubs participating in two groups of ten, playing home and away fixtures, with the top three in each group automatically qualifying for the quarter finals.

Teams finishing fourth and fifth will then compete in a two-legged play-off for the remaining quarter-final positions. A two-leg knockout format will be used to reach the final at the end of May, which will be staged as a single fixture at a neutral venue.

The best of Twitter from Thursday’s Europa League

Just 24 hours on from the confirmation there would be two English sides in the final four of the Champions League, there’ll now also be two English sides in the semi-finals of the Europa League.

Both Manchester United and Arsenal progressed through to the next round of Europe’s secondary competition following impressive wins over Granada and Slavia Prague respectively.

Before the games had even kicked off the drama had begun as Slavia refused to take the knee – in the same week their teammate Ondrej Kudela was banned for ten matches for racially abusing Glen Kamara. You can probably tell what Arsenal’s Alexandre Lacazette thought of the decision…

Manchester United already had one foot in the semi-final as they kicked off at Old Trafford following their 2-0 win in Spain last week, and it took just six minutes for any Granada hope of an emphatic comeback to be extinguished.

Over in Prague, Emile Smith Rowe’s early disallowed goal for a marginal offside decision will have had Arsenal fans all over the world looking at each other with fear in their eyes, as if to say, ‘oh no, it’s not one of those nights is it’.

They shouldn’t have had any such worries, as Nicolas Pepe opened the scoring just minutes after Smith Rowe had been denied.

Right, exactly the start Arsenal needed, but the tie was still hanging in the balance and it was going to take a really rigid, disciplined display to ensure their semi-final place was in the bag.

Arsenal’s frontline had other ideas…

If the gunners were anticipating a second-half fightback from the home side as they desperately tried to claw their way back into the contest, then they were in for a big surprise.

Slavia offered very little going forward – despite needing four goals if they were to progress – and Arsenal took complete control of the game before Lacazette put the cherry on top of a professional display out on in Prague.

With United polishing off their tie after a late own goal put them 4-0 ahead on aggregate, thoughts soon turned to the semi-final ties and beyond…

The best of Twitter from Wednesday’s Champions League action

And so this season’s Champions league quarter-finals come to an end.

Two English sides emerged to the last four of this season’s competition after Manchester City joined Chelsea in the semi-final following an impressive 2-1 win over Borussia Dortmund, but it wasn’t to be for Liverpool as they couldn’t find a way past Real Madrid and were dumped out 3-1 on aggregate.

The first action of the night came out in Dortmund. Many people had Pep Guardiola’s side down as certain semi-finalist following their 2-1 win at the Etihad Stadium last week, though a young Englishman had other ideas as he fired the home side into an early lead.

While Bellingham was flourishing over in Dortmund, Liverpool’s frontline weren’t having a quite so prosperous an evening.

The Reds carved out their fair share of opportunities to open the scoring at home to Real Madrid and afford themselves a foothold in the tie, but they just couldn’t seem to find a way through.

While Liverpool were struggling to break Real Madrid down, City weren’t having too comfortable an evening either as Dortmund camped in their own half in a bid to preserve their slender lead.

The home side proved to disciplined and resolute, but it only takes one weak link for the chain to fall apart…

With Riyad Mahrez converting the resulting penalty, City edged ahead on aggregate and so Dortmund began to flood forward in search of an illusive goal to take the tie into extra time.

However, another special English talent decided he was going to make his mark on the game after Bellingham had done likewise earlier on.

Over at Anfield, the clock was ticking closer and closer to 90 minutes and it really didn’t look like happening for the home side.

Still, at least they were absolutely busting a gut and giving it their all in a bid to give themselves one last hope of progression through to the last four.

Well, some of them were…