Lionel Messi ‘Best in history’ Messi lauded by Barcelona colleagues Coutinho & Busquets Iain Strachan 19:14 25/2/2018 FacebookTwitterRedditcopy Comments(0) Getty Images Lionel Messi Barcelona Luis Suárez Philippe Coutinho Ousmane Dembélé Barcelona v Girona Girona Primera División The Argentine produced a typically dominant performance during a La Liga mauling of Girona, drawing gushing praise from his Camp Nou team-mates Philippe Coutinho and Sergio Busquets hailed the performance of the “amazing” Lionel Messi in Barcelona’s crushing 6-1 La Liga victory over Girona.The Argentina international set up Luis Suarez for an equaliser after Girona had taken a third-minute lead, and netted twice himself, the second an inventive free-kick steered under the opposition’s defensive wall at Camp Nou.Coutinho, a January arrival from Liverpool, also supplied an assist for Suarez before getting on the scoresheet, and the Brazilian is already revelling in a productive relationship with his superstar team-mates. Article continues below Editors’ Picks Williams case shows Solskjaer isn’t holding Man Utd’s youngsters back – he’s protecting them Goalkeeper crisis! Walker to the rescue but City sweating on Ederson injury ahead of Liverpool clash Out of his depth! Emery on borrowed time after another abysmal Arsenal display Diving, tactical fouls & the emerging war of words between Guardiola & Klopp “Leo is amazing,” he told Movistar.”He fooled everyone with his goal. It’s incredible how good he is. Each game we understand each other better, with him, with Suarez, he’s very important for us. “Bit by bit I’m learning and I have a lot of work to do.”Holding midfielder Busquets echoed the sentiments of Coutinho, saying of Messi’s contribution: “He always makes the difference and that’s what makes him the best player in the world and in the history of football.”Ousmane Dembele could not find the back of the net himself but did tee up Suarez for the Uruguayan to complete his hat-trick, and Coutinho expects the young France international to hit his stride soon. “Barcelona play unique football,” he said.”Dembele is a great player, I’m sure that with time and work we will learn. We want to do the best we can.”
Real Madrid Ronaldo still Real’s shining superstar with Bale now a fading light Ben Hayward Last updated 1 year ago 22:39 10/3/2018 FacebookTwitterRedditcopy Comments(13) Getty Real Madrid Eibar v Real Madrid Eibar Primera División Gareth Bale Cristiano Ronaldo Opinion The Portuguese scored both goals to give Los Blancos a hard-fought win at Eibar, in what was another disappointing afternoon for the Welsh winger Cristiano Ronaldo’s rise continues. The 33-year-old was on target twice to give Real Madrid all three points at Eibar on Saturday. But, alongside him in attack, these are trying times for Gareth Bale.The Portuguese made the difference again. His fantastic form in 2018 is quite a contrast to his struggles in front of goal in the Primera Division earlier on in the season. In the first half of the campaign, he netted only four times. But now, in early March and despite the occasional rest, he has already added 14 more.Three goals against Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League – two at the Santiago Bernabeu and one at the Parc des Princes on Tuesday – also helped Zinedine Zidane’s side secure their place in the last eight of Europe’s premier club competition. Cristiano is well and truly back to doing what he does best. Article continues below Editors’ Picks Williams case shows Solskjaer isn’t holding Man Utd’s youngsters back – he’s protecting them Goalkeeper crisis! Walker to the rescue but City sweating on Ederson injury ahead of Liverpool clash Out of his depth! Emery on borrowed time after another abysmal Arsenal display Diving, tactical fouls & the emerging war of words between Guardiola & Klopp But amid Ronaldo’s rise, Bale’s star is fading at Real. The Welsh winger was willing at Eibar on Saturday, but struggled to make an impact in the tight spaces of a small playing surface at Ipurua.It was one of those afternoons for the 28-year-old. Whatever he tried did not really seem to come off. His movement was sometimes slow, while he cut an isolated figure and there appeared to be a lack of communication with his team-mates too. He also missed the target with a header from close range.Bale did not start either of the games against PSG in the last 16 of the Champions League and is clearly falling down the pecking order at Madrid. And, although he is still being used by Zidane in some fixtures, it is a much more secondary role for the former Tottenham man these days.A three-time Champions League winner since his €100 million move from White Hart Lane in the summer of 2013, Bale has been hampered by injuries during his time in Spain and his impressive early-season sparkle has also gone in recent weeks.”He is in a team where there are many players and sometimes he hasn’t played,” Zidane said on Friday. “He is fundamental for us and he will be until the end of the season, just like the others. There is nothing more.“I have to pick a team every three days and that is what I am doing. It is not a problem for him because we talk. He knows where he is and that all of the players are important. You [the media] want to look for a problem, but there is no problem. Gareth is important, but there are other important players.”That message, however, is very similar to how Zidane used to speak of James Rodriguez, who was ultimately sent away to Bayern Munich on a two-year loan after finding his opportunities limited under the French coach.It is also quite different to Zidane’s initial message on arrival as coach at Real, when he would not reveal his preferences in terms of team selection, but said: “The idea is to play with the three (Ronaldo, Bale and Karim Benzema) in attack.”That is no longer the case, with Zidane also opting for 4-4-2 in recent times and Bale, despite finishing the game on Saturday wide left – the position where he made his name at Spurs – was unable to shine once again.So, while Ronaldo remains as important as ever with his goals for Los Blancos, the Welshman’s influence continues to fade at Real Madrid.
Red Bull Salzburg 0 Borussia Dortmund 0 (2-1 agg): Stoger’s men suffer shock exit Ben Spratt Last updated 1 year ago 05:59 16/3/2018 Bongarts Another disappointing display ended Borussia Dortmund’s Europa League hopes as they were knocked out by Red Bull Salzburg. Red Bull Salzburg comfortably held Borussia Dortmund to a goalless draw in their last-16 second leg clash to dump Peter Stoger’s men out of the Europa League 2-1 on aggregate.The Austrian side, unbeaten since August, secured a shock 2-1 lead in Germany last week through Valon Berisha’s double, but goalkeepers Alexander Walke and Roman Burki were equally tested in this return stalemate despite Dortmund’s need for at least two goals – a tally they never came close to achieving.Stoger’s gameplan made it easy for the hosts, Dortmund’s attempts to play the game entirely in Salzburg’s half opening up space for the energetic Hwang Hee-chan to run free. Article continues below Editors’ Picks Williams case shows Solskjaer isn’t holding Man Utd’s youngsters back – he’s protecting them Goalkeeper crisis! Walker to the rescue but City sweating on Ederson injury ahead of Liverpool clash Out of his depth! Emery on borrowed time after another abysmal Arsenal display Diving, tactical fouls & the emerging war of words between Guardiola & Klopp Burki twice denied the 22-year-old forward and then produced a wonderful stop to thwart Xaver Schlager as the visitors somehow reached the break level on the night and still in with a chance of progression.Their improvement after the restart was minimal, though, Dortmund managing to keep Salzburg at bay but doing little to muster the requisite attacking response.Dortmund’s season is far from over as they remain well placed to seal Champions League qualification, but this shock exit for one of the tournament favourites will come as a blow to Stoger’s hopes of staying in the dugout beyond the end of the campaign.Das war‘s. Der BVB scheidet im Achtelfinale der @EuropaLeague aus. #FCSBVB 0-0 pic.twitter.com/fq92Syt0g9— Borussia Dortmund (@BVB) March 15, 2018Dortmund made a particularly laboured start and might have fallen further behind in the tie within just six minutes as poor defending allowed Hwang in, Burki blocking his clipped finish.The visitors assumed complete control of possession but another error at the back then let Hwang run clear once more, the South Korea international this time pushed wide and drilling hard and low for Burki to save again.And Burki continued to single-handedly keep Dortmund in the contest, diving to his right to brilliantly tip Schlager’s curler around the post.A spectacular punch from Berisha’s teasing cross-cum-shot was next for Burki to deal with, Dortmund’s aimless possession only inviting snappy Salzburg tackles as the opening 45 minutes passed without event for Walke in the home goal.1 – This is only the second time this season that #BVB have had just one shot in the first half (the other game was the DFB Cup game at FC Bayern). Harmless.— OptaFranz (@OptaFranz) March 15, 2018Powerful efforts from half-time substitute Maximilian Philipp and Marcel Schmelzer worked Walke after the restart, before the goalkeeper was forced into action again when the latter stooped to head on target.Walke came up with a more difficult stop to keep a stumbling Alexander Isak out, then parrying from Philipp and watching on as Stefan Lainer stepped in front of a goal-bound strike.Salzburg did grow a little nervy but were never troubled, the scale of the task in the closing stages too much for Dortmund as Walke earned a clean sheet.And the hosts could have themselves stolen victory at the last as Munas Dabbur cracked the crossbar after Fredrik Gulbrandsen led a breakaway. read more
UEFA Champions League Italy just a stop on road to Kiev for Madrid & Barca Ben Hayward Last updated 1 year ago 20:47 16/3/2018 FacebookTwitterRedditcopy Comments(26) Getty UEFA Champions League Real Madrid Barcelona Opinion The two Clasico rivals were kept apart in Friday’s draw and will be expected to advance to the last four after the two were paired with Serie A sides The road to Kiev passes through Italy for Real Madrid and Barcelona. The two Spanish sides have won the Champions League three times apiece since 2009 and both will be considered favourites to advance to the semi-finals this time around after drawing Juventus and Roma, respectively.Real are 12-time European champions and have claimed the famous trophy in three of the last four years, including back-to-back successes under Zinedine Zidane over the past two seasons.Barca, meanwhile, have won the competition on five occasions and last lifted the coveted cup when they completed a treble in 2015, having also achieved a triple triumph in 2009 and then followed up with another victory in 2011. Article continues below Editors’ Picks Williams case shows Solskjaer isn’t holding Man Utd’s youngsters back – he’s protecting them Goalkeeper crisis! Walker to the rescue but City sweating on Ederson injury ahead of Liverpool clash Out of his depth! Emery on borrowed time after another abysmal Arsenal display Diving, tactical fouls & the emerging war of words between Guardiola & Klopp Both of the Clasico rivals were handed tough draws in the last 16. Real, having finished second in their group, were paired with Paris Saint-Germain, while Barca faced Chelsea. In the end, however, the two teams prevailed with relative ease.On Friday, Real were drawn against Juventus in a repeat of last season’s final (which Los Blancos won 4-1 in Cardiff), while Barca face Roma for a place in the Champions League semi-finals. Both sides will be happy with the lot.Juventus, in theory, is a tough draw for Real. The Italian champions are one of Europe’s great teams, but this is an Old Lady that really is getting on, an ageing team that somehow found a way past Tottenham in the second round despite only being the better team for around 20 minutes of the entire tie.”Honestly, I feel Tottenham were superior for much of the tie,” Real legend Emilio Butragueno said after the draw. “But Juve showed their character to qualify. That says a lot about the winning mentality they have, like ours.”It did. Juve found a way to win, just like Madrid. And although historically Real have had difficulty against the Italian giants in the European Cup, Zidane’s side would appear to be in better shape following their recent return to form.“Real are concentrating on the Champions League,” former Juve midfielder Pavel Nedved said. “We will have more difficulty in that we are fighting on three fronts. It will be very tough but we’re ready to face this part of the season.”Meanwhile, Barca probably have the best draw of all in Roma. The Italian side edged out Shakhtar Donetsk in the last 16 and are way off the pace in Serie A title race this season, so even reaching this stage is a bonus.”We will face the best team in Europe,” Roma legend Francesco Totti said. “Barcelona will also be concerned at facing us. Roma has a very important and tough task ahead.”Perhaps. But it could have been much worse for both Barca and Real. The Primera Division pair managed to avoid Manchster City, Bayern Munich and Liverpool in Friday’s draw, while neither really wanted an all-Spanish tie against Sevilla.So, Italy should really be just another stop for the two Liga clubs on the road to Kiev and perhaps, a first Champions League Clasico since 2011.