Champions

Maurizio Sarri: Champions League given “too much importance”

Maurizio Sarri believes the Champions League is overhyped. The Chelsea boss concedes Europe’s top-tier competition remains the world’s premier club tournament, but insists its importance is overstated. Chelsea must win the Europa League or secure a top-four Premier League finish to qualify for next term’s Champions League. Sarri’s Chelsea will face Eintracht Frankfurt in the last four of the Europa League (Steven Paston/PA) Exclusion from the continent’s top table hampers recruitment and hits revenue, leaving Sarri’s employers possibly unimpressed with his Champions League views. “I think the media give the Champions League too much importance,” said Sarri, whose future at Chelsea remains far from stable. “Of course it’s the most ...

Result: Holders Leinster beat Toulouse to set up Champions Cup final with Saracens

Next month’s Heineken Champions Cup will be an Anglo-Irish affair after defending champions Leinster impressively dispatched Toulouse 30-12 at the Aviva Stadium. Fit-again captain Jonathan Sexton was back in command as Leo Cullen’s men set up an intriguing decider with unbeaten Saracens at St James’ Park on Saturday May 11. James Lowe‘s sixth try in eight European appearances, combined with a Luke McGrath maul effort and Sexton’s assured kicking, had them 17-6 ahead at half-time. FULL-TIME!!!!! WE’RE BACK IN THE FINAL!!!!!! #LEIvTOU #JoinTheRoar pic.twitter.com/BpTaUMHbsd — Leinster Rugby (@leinsterrugby) April 21, 2019 Thomas Ramos’ penalty brace kept Toulouse in the contest, with both sides coping well during first-half sin-binnings for Richie Gr...

Valverde: ‘People say we are champions already – we’re not’

Barcelona are nine points clear with five games to go. Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde warned his side still have work to do to defend their LaLiga title despite boasting a nine-point lead with five games to go. Barca ground out a hard-fought 2-1 win over Real Sociedad on Saturday night, turning to the unlikely scoring duo of Clement Lenglet and Jordi Alba to see off their battling visitors. The three points move treble-chasing Barca another significant step closer to the crown as they responded to Atletico Madrid’s 1-0 win at Eibar earlier in the day. “Today was always going to be a very important game and we have nine points left until we’re champions, but it’s very difficult to win,” Valverde said in comments reported by Marca. “I know that people sa...

Result: Billy Vunipola brushes off boos to lead Saracens to Champions Cup final

Billy Vunipola was on the score sheet as Saracens reached their third European final in four seasons after beating Heineken Champions Cup opponents Munster 32-16. Saracens’ England number eight delivered an official man-of-the-match display, but he was booed most times he touched the ball at Coventry’s Ricoh Arena. Vunipola received formal warnings from his club and Rugby Football Union in the past week after he posted on social media that “man was made for woman to procreate that was the goal no?” Billy Vunipola helped Saracens to victory over Munster and a place in the Heineken Champions Cup final (David Davies/PA) He also liked a social media post from controversial Australia star Israel Folau that stated “hell awaits” for homosexuals. A few rainbow flags – symbol of the lesbian, gay, b...

Wilfried Zaha confirms he wants to leave Crystal Palace for Champions League club

Wilfried Zaha has admitted he wants to leave Crystal Palace in search of Champions League football. The 26-year-old only signed a new five-year contract last summer, becoming Palace’s highest-paid player. But now the Ivory Coast forward has put a host of interested clubs on notice by targeting top-level European football as one of his chief career aims. Wilfried Zaha signed a five-year contract at Selhurst Park last year (Nigel French/PA) “I have to experience the Champions League. I just need the opportunity, that’s it, and I’ll do the rest,” Zaha told the Daily Mail. “It gives me goosebumps seeing the crowds, amazing stadiums. “When I’m seeing players I think, ‘What would I do in that predicament?’ “I feel I can get to that stage, with the confidence I have and belief in my ability. I sh...

Rafael Benitez hints at Newcastle exit with desire to return to Champions League

Rafael Benitez plans to work until he is 70 and is desperate for another tilt at the Champions League. As the 59-year-old waits for answers from the Newcastle hierarchy over a contract extension both are keen to agree, but which seems no closer to being signed, he is keen to compete for the game’s biggest prizes once again. Whether that comes at St James’ Park, where his stay of more than three years is set to end on June 30, remains to be seen with managing director Lee Charnley insisting – as the club’s latest accounts were published on Thursday – that it would continue to live within its means. Asked how long he planned to carry on, Benitez said: “Yesterday I was talking with a friend – 11 years. Eleven years as a manager, that’s fine. You can see Roy Hodgs...

Fantasy Football: How do you compare to past champions?

There can be no better measure of a fantasy footballer’s pedigree than to see how they compare against those who have won the competition outright. The list of former Fantasy Premier League champions is an exclusive one, made up of just a handful of FPL managers. But how are they getting on this season and how many are you currently ahead of in the overall table? (Steven Paston/PA) Only two of the past 11 winners currently sit inside the top one per cent of FPL managers this season, with 2012-13 champion Matthew Martyniak the best of the bunch in 5,232nd (out of more than six million registered players). And while a former champion, Martyniak’s triple-captaincy pick fell foul of injury in GW32 – Sergio Aguero looked good for big points against Fulham and Cardiff, but came off a...

Champions League Team of the Week – Lionel Messi, Son Heung-min, Raheem Sterling

Sports Mole selects its star-studded Champions League team of the week from the quarter-final second legs, including Lionel Messi, Son Heung-min and Raheem Sterling. The Champions League knockout stages rarely disappoint, and the quarter-finals of the 2018-19 campaign were no different with shocks, drama and goals galore. Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur played out an all-Premier League classic at the Etihad Stadium which saw Spurs eventually progress on away goals, despite losing 4-3 on a night where VAR had a decisive role in an incredibly topsy-turvy affair. Ajax also upset the odds to continue their dream Champions League run, beating Juventus 2-1 in Turin to set up a semi-final showdown with Spurs. Barcelona are the new favourites to lift the trophy having eased to a 3-0 second-l...

Matthijs de Ligt race ‘intensifies after Champions League heroics’

Barcelona are reportedly no longer so confident that they will sign Matthijs de Ligt from Ajax as five other clubs are also showing a serious interest. Matthijs de Ligt‘s stock has reportedly continued to rise after playing a huge part in Ajax‘s run to the semi-finals of the Champions League. The 19-year-old produced a captain’s display in Tuesday’s 2-1 win against Juventus, scoring the winning goal at the Allianz Stadium to see his side through 3-2 on aggregate. Barcelona are rumoured to have been close to wrapping up a deal for the Ajax skipper, but AS suggests that his future is no closer to being resolved as five other clubs could still make an approach. On top of the interest from Barcelona, De Ligt is also said to be wanted by Paris Saint-Germain, Manchester C...

A look back at England’s previous sides to read the Champions League last four

Tottenham’s thrilling away-goals win over Manchester City made England the first nation to provide seven different Champions League semi-finalists. Spurs had previously achieved the feat in the European Cup in 1961-62 and including the competition’s traditional identity, the total of English semi-finalists stands in double figures. Here, Press Association Sport looks at the 10 English clubs to reach Europe’s elite four. Sir Alex Ferguson won the Champions League twice with United (Owen Humphreys/PA) First semi-final: 1956-57Total semi-finals: 12 The first English club to enter the competition, in its second season, United began with back-to-back semi-final exits – the second of which, in 1958, was overshadowed by the Munich air disaster. They cathartically won the competition 10 years late...

Bernardo Silva shifts focus to title race after Champions League exit

Bernardo Silva put on a brave face and tried to switch focus back to the title race following Manchester City‘s Champions League heartache. City saw their hopes of conquering Europe and winning an unprecedented quadruple this season end in a dramatic quarter-final clash against Tottenham at the Etihad Stadium on Wednesday. City thought they had snatched a 5-3 victory, which would have taken them through 5-4 on aggregate, through Raheem Sterling in injury time but his strike was ruled out by VAR. Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola reacts after Raheem Sterling’s late goal is ruled out (Martin Rickett/PA) Instead Spurs went through to a last-four clash with Ajax, despite a 4-3 loss on the night, courtesy of the away goals rule in a 4-4 aggregate draw. “We are very disappo...

Liverpool vs. Barcelona: How they compare ahead of Champions League semi-finals

Liverpool will face Barcelona in the semi-finals of the Champions League after beating Porto. Here, Press Association Sport looks ahead to the clash with the Catalan giants. Key Players Lionel Messi will be looking to torment another English side in the semis (Nick Potts/PA) You have probably heard of Lionel Messi. We can leave the debate about whether he is the greatest player to ever play the game for another time, but the Barcelona forward is certainly in the conversation. His double against Manchester United in the quarter-finals took him to 24 Champions League goals against English opposition – twice as many as any other player, so we can only wish the Liverpool defence the best of luck. The problem for opponents is that the Argentinian forms only part of an intimidating Barca attack,...

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