Allegri allays Higuain injury fears ahead of key fixtures

The Argentina international was withdrawn early on during the Bianconeri’s derby win over Torino, but his manager insists his problem is not serious

Juventus star Gonzalo Higuain was substituted just 15 minutes into a 1-0 win over Torino on Sunday, but did not suffer a serious injury, according to coach Massimiliano Allegri.

Higuain was replaced by Federico Bernardeschi early in the Derby della Mole at Stadio Olimpico Grande Torino, an apparent ankle problem prompting fears over the future availability of the Argentina striker.

Bernardeschi was also withdrawn in injury time, but Allegri does not expect either player to spend a significant period of time on the sidelines.

“Starting Wednesday we’ll regroup with everyone available, but in any event the team is feeling well and they showed it today.”

Juve host Atalanta in successive Serie A and Coppa Italia matches before visiting Lazio in the league, as they build towards the second leg of their Champions League round-of-16 tie against Tottenham on 7 March.

Spurs rallied from falling 2-0 down within nine minutes at Juventus Stadium on Tuesday to earn a 2-2 draw, leaving the Scudetto holders with a tough task to progress to the quarter-finals when they visit Wembley next month.


Hazard: Real Madrid & PSG? I’ll change clubs when I want to

The Chelsea star insists he is happy at Stamford Bridge but did not rule out a potential exit in the future

Eden Hazard has responded to reports linking him with an exit from Chelsea, insisting he will make the decision over if and when he’ll change clubs.

The 27-year-old winger has long been linked with a switch to Real Madrid, while Ligue 1 big-spenders PSG have also been mooted as a potential destination for the Belgian.

Goal reported in January that Manchester City would also be an interested party in signing Hazard, with the club ready to break the £100 million barrier.

Although Hazard insists he is happy with life at Chelsea, he suggested there could well be a time that he decides it’s time to leave and seek a new challenge.

When asked about a potential move he told Telefoot: “In football anything can happen. But in football nothing can happen too.

“Every year they talk about Real or PSG. And when I want to change clubs, I will. But at the moment I’m good where I am.

“I still have two year left on my contract. I feel very good over here.

“The fans love me, my family enjoys life over here. We will see.”

Hazard has been one of the shining lights in a below-par season for the club, when compared to their title-winning exploits from the 2016-17 season.

The former Lille star has scored six goals in his last six games in all competitions, including two in a 3-0 win over West Brom last time out in the Premier League.

And Blues head coach Antonio Conte took the decision to rest Hazard in Chelsea’s 4-0 victory over Hull City in the FA Cup on Friday, with Chelsea facing Barcelona in Tuesday’s crunch Champions League clash.


Aubameyang can thrive in Arsenal’s creative system – Riedle

he former Dortmund striker believes Arsenal’s record signing will be given the supply to score heavily by the Gunners’ ‘high-class’ creators

Marquee January signing Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is perfectly suited to flourish at the head of Arsenal’s attack, according to Karl-Heinz Riedle.

Riedle, who enjoyed stints with Werder Bremen, Lazio, Liverpool and Borussia Dortmund in the ’80s and ’90s, believes the the £56 million man will be well serviced by the likes of Mesut Ozil and Henrikh Mkhitaryan at the Emirates.

“He’s proved over the last few years that he is a very good player,” Riedle told Goal as part of Enterprise’s UEFA Europa League trophy surprise in Dortmund.

“Arsenal have the high-class individuals who will help him to score. So I am sure that he will do well in London.

The Gabon international wasn’t able to score against Tottenham in the north London derby, but was on target in his Premier League debut against Everton a week earlier.

“It makes an impression to the fans and the club if you make a debut like he did against Everton,” said Riedle. “But it is important to continue playing that way. When he came to Dortmund he had some problems at first but developed into a world-class player. I don’t think he is going to fail in England.”

Riedle, who also played for Liverpool between 1997 and 1999, says the Reds have the attacking power to make stronger pushes for titles in England and Europe in the coming years, too.

“It is unbelievable the kind of quality Liverpool have in attack. [Mohamed] Salah is a sensational player who nobody thought would play the way he’s playing at Liverpool right now. [Roberto] Firmino and [Sadio] Mane are also great players. There is so much potential in Liverpool’s squad.”

And that potential, Riedle says, is being led by the perfect manager.

“I think Jurgen Klopp is doing a great job at Liverpool and the fans seem to love him. He fits perfectly at the club. The team is playing great football this year even though the championship is already decided. But for the future the Premier League and Champions league should definitely be targets for the club and Klopp.”


What Ronaldo told Neymar during Real Madrid 3-1 win over PSG

The detail of a brief conversation between Real Madrid superstar, Cristiano Ronaldo and PSG’s world record signing, Neymar, during their Champions League round 16 clash on Wednesday has been revealed.

During the high tempo match, Neymar was seen around Ronaldo after the Brazilian fired a weak shot towards Real Madrid goalkeeper and both players held hands.

Ronaldo told the former Barcelona ace, in Portuguese, “Continue tentando,” which is translated in English as “keep trying,” rubbing his (Neymar’s) head as both players continued their match.

While Neymar wowed the Bernabeu crowd with some classic dribbling, Ronaldo scored twice to give Real Madrid the advantage going into the second leg on March 6.

Neymar is heavily linked to a possible return to Spain as a replacement for Ronaldo at the Santiago Bernabeu.

MADRID, SPAIN – FEBRUARY 14: Cristiano Ronaldo of Real Madrid and Neymar of PSG embrace at half time during the UEFA Champions League Round of 16 First Leg match between Real Madrid and Paris Saint-Germain at Bernabeu on February 14, 2018 in Madrid, Spain. (Photo by Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images)

‘Ronaldo scores with his knee or his belly’ – Heynckes notes Real Madrid fortune against PSG

European experience, the influence of the home crowd and a little luck helped Zinedine Zidane’s side to a notable scalp, says Bayern’s ex-Blancos boss

Jupp Heynckes felt Paris Saint-Germain were the better team against Real Madrid but paid the price for a lack of Champions League pedigree.

Late goals from Cristiano Ronaldo – who earlier equalised from the penalty spot– and Marcelo gave Zinedine Zidane’s side a 3-1 lead from the Santiago Bernabeu leg of the eagerly awaited last-16 tie.

Bayern Munich head coach Heynckes was among the keen midweek observers and, speaking at a news conference ahead of Saturday’s Bundesliga match against Wolfsburg, the former Madrid boss praised PSG’s approach.

Asked whether the match proved Ronaldo to be superior to PSG superstar Neymar, Heynckes replied: “I think that’s a bit superficial. It’s interesting to hear sometimes when you watch TV and listen to experts who summarise games. Usually they talk about the winner.

“My opinion is different. I thought Paris played well for 83 minutes. I think they had a very good tactical plan and were the better team

“However, they were unable to extend that performance for a further 10 minutes.

“Of course, Ronaldo has extraordinary skills. Sometimes he is a bit lucky and scores with his knee or belly or what have you.”

Heynckes, whose side return to Champions League action against Besiktas next week, feels the influence of Madrid’s tradition of success on such occasions, when weighted against PSG’s relative inexperience, should not be underplayed.

“It was a victory based on willpower but, of course, that’s nothing new in front of the Bernabeu crowd,” he added.

“They always believe in winning and that’s what happened in this game.

“Paris, I think, were punished for their lack of experience and lack of tradition in the Champions League. Madrid just have that. That was the difference in the end”


‘Don’t say bull****’ – Angry Mourinho fires back at Pogba ‘lies’ amid Man Utd rift reports

The French midfielder has been benched and hauled off by the Red Devils in recent fixtures, but his manager maintains there is no tension in the camp

Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho has hit back at the “lies” being spread regarding a breakdown in his relationship with Paul Pogba.

Having been brought back to Old Trafford in a record-breaking £89 million deal, big things are expected of the France international.

Mourinho’s decision to bench Pogba and haul him off in two of United’s last three fixtures has sparked talk of unrest, with it suggested that a divide in the camp has formed between star midfielder and manager.

The Portuguese coach has, however, told reporters when quizzed on rumours of a rift: “When you say ‘a lot of speculation’ you should say a lot of lies. Because I accept and Paul accepts that he has not been playing well in the last few matches. But that’s all.

“It is my problem, it is the player’s problem. A big lie that our relationship is not good, a big lie that we don’t communicate, a big lie that we don’t agree with his positions and his involvement in the dynamic of the team

“So, be objective and say what we all know: in the last couple of matches he didn’t play well. Period. End of story. Now, it’s my problem and Paul’s problem to deal with it and try to improve his performance level.”

It has been argued that part of the problem for Pogba at present is the confusion regarding his favoured position and how United can bring the best out of him.

That debate is another to have irked Mourinho, with the angry Red Devils boss adding: “I would like you to tell me which position Pogba played in against Newcastle.

“Anyone of you want to tell me? OK, midfield, but did we play with one number six and two number eights, or two sixes and one 10?

“We played with one six and two eights. We played with [Nemanja] Matic as a six, [Jesse] Lingard on the right side of Matic and Pogba on the left side.

“Do you know which is Pogba’s preferred system? Four-three-three. Do you know Pogba’s favourite position in a 4-3-3? Eight on the left, so it’s easy and honest and objective to say Paul didn’t play well against Newcastle, but don’t let people read things that are not true.

Amid the questioning of his form and apparent issues with Mourinho, it has also been suggested that Pogba could look to find a route out of Old Trafford in the summer – with Real Madrid rumoured to be keen on the 24-year-old once again.

Mourinho added: “He had a big injury in the season, big injury, he almost went to surgery like [Ousmane] Dembele in Barcelona with a similar injury, the decision was not to do it and go to a conservative treatment, everyone [was] really happy.

“He had a red card against Arsenal, probably in his best match and the team’s best moment.

“He was out for a long, long time and in this moment he is not playing well, period. And the team needs him at a good level.

“When he is not a good level, the team is not as good. It happens with every team when the most crucial players are not performing.

“You don’t need to come with ‘we want to sell him’, you don’t need that.

“Some people go in that direction, some of them I know for many, many years and their surname is liar, and that’s not nice.

“He plays tomorrow [against Huddersfield].”

United are set to face the Terriers in the FA Cup fifth round, with a testing schedule then seeing them take in meetings with Sevilla, Chelsea, Crystal Palace and Liverpool.

NEWCASTLE UPON TYNE, ENGLAND – FEBRUARY 11: Paul Pogba of Manchester United during the Premier League match between Newcastle United and Manchester United at St. James Park on February 11, 2018 in Newcastle upon Tyne, England. (Photo by Robbie Jay Barratt – AMA/Getty Images)Po

Bye bye BBC? Zidane’s Madrid moving away from the deadly trio

The presence of the trident was not needed in Wednesday’s gripping late win over PSG, and the days of BBC dependence are long gone

Real Madrid’s last-gasp victory over Paris Saint-Germain was another sign that times have changed at the Santiago Bernabeu. The Merengues’ formerly all-conquering ‘BBC’ front line has lost its privileged place in the club’s eyes, and is no longer needed to deliver goals or wins even in Madrid’s biggest clashes.

Wednesday’s 3-1 triumph might just prove a turning point for Zinedine Zidane’s men, under heavy pressure having underachieved for much of the current domestic season. The result itself, obtained through two Cristiano Ronaldo strikes and a late third courtesy of Marcelo, is huge, but perhaps even more important for the Champions League holders was the manner of victory.

PSG have been in formidable form over the course of 2017-18, and looked more likely to snatch three points for large spells of the last-16 encounter. Madrid, however, pulled away in the final minutes with two hammer blows, courtesy of two switches ordered by Zidane on the sidelines. Most notably, at no point on Wednesday were all three members of the BBC on the pitch, with Gareth Bale left on the bench and only flung into the action as a substitute for Karim Benzema in the ultimately decisive last 20 minutes of the game.

Without that trio from the off, Zidane shuffled his tactics. Madrid lined up with a midfield diamond similar to the set-up that failed spectacularly against Barcelona in the Clasico meeting earlier this season, making room for Isco as the link between fellow playmakers Luka Modric and Toni Kroos and Ronaldo and Benzema in the final third.

Having seen Mateo Kovacic try and fail to mark Lionel Messi out of the game in December, the coach deemed it unnecessary to pay similar attention to PSG’s ace in the hole Neymar. His faith was vindicated by a storming performance from Nacho on the right, as the Brazilian gave Madrid plenty of frights but fell short of stamping his authority on the game in front of a hostile Bernabeu crowd.

Later, with PSG flagging after an intense start to the second half, the introductions of Bale and Marco Asensio gave the home team devastating pace out wide, which they used to full effect. Both of the side’s late goals originated in a burst to the byline and low cross from the latter, as full-back Yuri Berchiche was left panting and cursing his fresh, lightning-quick new adversary.

Ronaldo was logically lauded as the hero of the evening, with a first-half penalty and a neat, unorthodox finish with his knee to tap home an awkward deflection taking him to 101 Champions League goals in Madrid colours. Bale and Benzema, however, were only afforded marginal roles in the game, begging the question: Is this the end of the BBC?

At least publicly Zidane has never doubted his star-studded trio. “The BBC is non-negotiable for me,” the coach fired on one occasion, as the more excitable sectors of the Spanish press linked Bale and Benzema with imminent exits from the club. But actions speak louder than words. Leaving Bale on the bench, and bringing him on only when his colleague could give no more, shows that Madrid are no longer dependent on the trident’s unique talents to prosper in decisive moments.

That might not be good news for two-thirds of the attack – Cristiano, of course, is on another level entirely thanks to his almost unreal knack of finding the net in European competition – but it is testament to the strength of Zidane’s squad, on the mend after a horrific end to such a memorable 2017.

Even with all three members of the BBC fit and ready Zizou can just as easily turn to Asensio, or Isco, giving Madrid an unpredictability that ultimately proved too much for PSG on Wednesday.


Ronaldo makes Champions League history with 100th Real Madrid goal

The striker converted a penalty to hit the century mark with Los Blancos in the competition, the first player to do so

Cristiano Ronaldo has reached the century mark in goals scored in the Champions League with Real Madrid, becoming the first player ever to accomplish that feat with a single team.

Ronaldo stepped up in the final minutes of the first half to convert a penalty against Paris Saint-Germain after Tony Kroos was pulled down in the area.

That leveled the score at 1-1 in the Champions League last-16 first leg match at the Santiago Bernabeu, canceling out Adrien Rabiot’s 33rd minute goal for the visitors.

And that spot-kick saw Ronaldo become the only player in history to score 100 goals with the same club in the Champions League, adding to the 15 he had scored with Manchester United prior to his arrival in the Spanish capital.

However, Ronaldo may not be alone in that feat for long.

Barcelona star and rival Lionel Messi stands at 97 goals in the Champions League, with Barca squaring off against Chelsea on Feb. 20 in the first leg of their last-16 tie.

The goal also continued another impressive streak for Ronaldo as he now has scored at least 10 goals in seven consecutive Champions League seasons.

No other player has reached that mark in more than two consecutive seasons.

The Madrid star added a second for Los Blancos to make it 2-1 in the 84th, running his Champions League tally to 101 with the Spanish giants, while an 87th minute strike from Marcelo handed the home side a commanding 3-1 lead, which they will carry to Paris for the second leg on March 6.

It’s also a reminder that while Ronaldo has struggled at times this season, he has remained a dominant figure in Europe’s premier competition. He has scored 11 times in seven Champions League games this campaign, compared to 11 goals in 18 La Liga matches.

Ronaldo & Real show why they’re champions to leave PSG project in peril

The champions came out on top at the Bernabeu and proved they can never be written off in this competition as their rivals flattered to deceive again

Real Madrid’s season is still alive. Zinedine Zidane’s side came from a goal down to beat Paris Saint-Germain in the first leg of the teams’ last-16 tie on Wednesday to show why they have such a special affinity with the Champions League.

Los Blancos have won the European Cup 12 times and six of those trophies arrived before PSG were founded in 1970. The next six have come in more recent times, including back-to-back victories in the past two seasons. And sometimes, history has an impact in these ties.

Despite Madrid’s poor form, which had seen them fall out of contention in La Liga and eliminated from the Copa del Rey, there was always the feeling they could produce when it mattered most – even against PSG’s formidable forward line that came into this game rated as the best in Europe.

“I am disconcerted by Real Madrid,” the club’s former player Jorge Valdano said in the lead-up to this match. “I will find it even more difficult to understand if they brush aside PSG, but it wouldn’t surprise me either.”

And ultimately, that is exactly what happened. In truth, it can always happen in the Champions League. Why? Because in these huge one-off games when their future is at stake, and in their competition of choice, Madrid’s players work harder. They give more.

It is for that reason that Madrid have won the Champions League three times over the past four seasons, but more often than not lacked the consistency to claim La Liga (one title since 2012) week in, week out over nine or 10 months.

Madrid were in trouble. Not just before the game, but also in it as PSG took the lead through Adrien Rabiot. Then, the match and probably the tie was there for the taking and there was a chance for Unai Emery’s side to make it 2-0.

Real were all over the place, but they soon settled and were able to get back into the game through a somewhat soft penalty. Cristiano Ronaldo stepped up to score it and it was his 100th goal for the club in the Champions League – an absolutely astonishing feat.

After that, it looked like it would finish all square as the second half became more and more cagey. A draw would not have been a particularly great result for Madrid, though, with a tough trip to Paris ahead on March 6. So, in the last few minutes, Zidane’s side went for it – and they received their reward.

Zidane was stubborn, first by picking the out-of-sorts Karim Benzema and then by leaving him on the pitch for so long. But he eventually opted for Gareth Bale plus the extra energy of Lucas Vazquez and Marco Asensio, and those substitutions made all the difference.

Ronaldo was in the right place at the right time to knee home a second goal he knew little about with seven minutes left, before Marcelo’s deflected shot made it 3-1 right before the end. It was not the perfect result, but given the circumstances of the night, it was a dream scenario for Real.

There was an element of luck about all three goals, while some of the decisions went their way on the night too (including the penalty and a Sergio Ramos handball the referee failed to spot).

But Madrid had earned that good fortune. PSG had appeared content to stick with what they had, failing again on the big occasion just as they had against Barcelona last season, throwing away the 4-0 lead they had earned exactly a year earlier on February 14, 2017.

“We have to be optimistic ahead of the second leg, and play again as we did today, when we created a lot of chances,” Emery said, putting a brave face on a defeat which could and should have been a better result for side.

It will be a long way back now, however, even at the Parc des Princes, and perhaps Sergio Ramos summed it up best. “You can never take Real Madrid as dead,” he said.

In the Champions League, that has been proven over and again and, as PSG’s project looks on the brink, Los Blancos seem set for the quarter-finals. And despite the pre-match form guide, nobody should really be surprised at all.

Basel vs Man City

The Swiss champions, currently second in their domestic league, face their sternest challenge of the season so far

Manchester City begin their Champions League knock-out journey fresh in the knowledge that they have a 16-point gap between themselves and cross-town rivals United in the Premier League.

As such, Pep Guardiola can afford to field his strongest side against one of the lesser lights left in Europe’s top club competition in FC Basel.

The Catalan coach will be further buoyed by Sergio Aguero’s four-goal performance against Leicester at the weekend, with Gabriel Jesus still unavailable through injury.

Basel, currently second in the Swiss Super League, five points behind Young Boys, bounced back from a home defeat to Lugano with an away win at FC Thun on Saturday and will look to bring the game to visiting City at St. Jakob Park.

Squads & Team News

Position FC Basel players
Goalkeepers Vaclik, Salvi, Vailati, Antonio
Defenders Lacroix, Lang, Suchy, Balanta, Riveros, Petretta, Pacheco
Midfielders Frei, Zuffi, Campo, Okafor, Stocker, Die, Elyounoussi, Manzambi, Bua, Xhaka, Calla
Forwards Van Wolfswinkel, Oberlin, Ajeti, Pululu

Raphael Wicky looks likely to be without defensive midfielder Luca Zuffi as the Switzerland international struggles with injury, while goalkeeper Germano Vailati remains a long-term absentee.

Potential Basel starting XI: Vaclik; Lang, Suchy, Balanta, Petretta; Xhaka, Die; Stocker, Elyounoussi, Bua; Van Wolfswinkel

Position Manchester City players
Goalkeepers Bravo, Ederson
Defenders Walker, Danilo, Kompany, Stones, Laporte, Mendy, Adarabioyo, Otamendi
Midfielders Sterling, Gundogan, De Bruyne, Delph, Sane, B. Silva, D. Silva, Fernandinho, Zinchenko, Yaya Toure, Foden, Diaz
Forwards Aguero, Jesus, Nmecha

Gabriel Jesus (knee), Benjamin Mendy (knee) and Leroy Sane (ankle) will all miss Tuesday’s clash.

David Silva is also a doubt after missing Saturday’s match with Leicester due to a hip issue.

The return of John Stones gives Pep a selection headache at the centre of defence, while Phil Foden offers the coach an additional option in midfield.

Potential Manchester City starting XI: Ederson; Walker, Laporte, Otamendi, Danilo; De Bruyne, Fernandinho, Gundogan; B. Silva, Aguero, Sterling

A surprising draw away to Burnley at the beginning of February remains the only recent hiccup in Man City’s seemingly unstoppable charge to the Premier League title, with 16 points now separating Guardiola’s charges from second-placed Manchester United.

City’s Champions League campaign has been going much the same way, with a defeat in Ukraine to Shakhtar Donetsk still the only black mark on an otherwise flawless European season so far.

Injuries to Gabriel Jesus and Leroy Sane have been well covered by Sergio Aguero and Bernardo Silva, with the former having scored four goals in City’s 5-1 rout of Leicester at the weekend to give Basel real food for thought as they prepare to face the English champions-elect.

Given their opponents’ routine dominance of possession in games, Basel will likely opt for a sole striker rather than two up top, with exciting youngsters Dimitri Oberlin and Albian Ajeti almost certain to make way for the more experienced Ricky van Wolfswinkel to spearhead the attack.

Old heads Marek Suchy and Serey Die will undoubtedly be looked at to provide calm amongst a fairly young squad, while Taulant Xhaka, brother of Arsenal’s Granit, will be aiming to give a good account of himself against one of the strongest midfields in recent memory.