Lampard hails Pulisic impact as Chelsea sink Ajax

Chelsea’s Christian Pulisic was left out of the squad entirely when they beat Lille in the Champions League earlier this month, but the 21-year-old’s career sprang to life against Ajax Amsterdam on Wednesday.

The forward joined Chelsea from Borussia Dortmund for a fee of around 64 million euros ($71 million) in the close season to become the most expensive American player in history but has struggled for minutes, making only three Premier League starts.

Pulisic gave manager Frank Lampard a timely reminder of his talent by setting up fellow substitute Michy Batshuayi to score the winner against last year’s semifinalists Ajax at the Johan Cruijff Arena. Boosted Odds are available on NaijaBet for tonight’s Europa League games

“Sometimes the toughest part of management is leaving out players that really want to play week-in, week-out. You rely on them being positive and coming on to make an impact,” Lampard said.

“You have to give Christian huge credit because he looked so lively and the assist is just as important as the finish.”

Continue reading “Lampard hails Pulisic impact as Chelsea sink Ajax”

Guardiola backs Sterling to keep improving to becomes great

Pep Guardiola says hat-trick hero Raheem Sterling can still improve further and it will be up to the Manchester City forward as to whether he fulfils his potential and becomes a great of the game.

Sterling, 24, had a hand in all five goals, including an 11-minute hat-trick, as City romped to a 5-1 Champions League victory over Italian side Atalanta on Tuesday, to take his tally to 12 goals in 13 appearances this season.

His link-up play with Sergio Aguero and Phil Foden was at times breathtaking, leading to former Manchester United defender Rio Ferdinand to suggest on BT Sport after the game he was now among the top five players in the world.

“How much better he can become depends on him,” Guardiola told reporters. “I think he has that desire to get better. I say all credit is for him. He’s a guy whose physicality is incredible. Place bet on Live Events 24/7 on NaijaBet

“The day after a game, he could play another. He can play both sides, he’s fast, defensively he helps us a lot, he’s an extraordinary player.”

Continue reading “Guardiola backs Sterling to keep improving to becomes great”

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Coutinho expected to make spark UCL returns for Bayern

As Bayern Munich launch their Champions League campaign against Red Star Belgrade on Wednesday night, Bavarian hopes of reclaiming European club football’s top prize rest to a large extent on the shoulders of Philippe Coutinho.

Following seven semifinal appearances in the last decade, the former Liverpool midfielder has been hailed as the man who can take Bayern the extra step in European football’s flagship competition this season.

Last season’s defeat to Liverpool in the last 16 sparked fears that Bayern’s Champions League aura was fading.

The departure of veteran stars such as Franck Ribery and Arjen Robben seemed to confirm the end of an era, but Coutinho’s arrival on loan from Barcelona has prompted fresh hope that Bayern can be restored as one of the continent’s most feared sides.

“There are always big expectations at Bayern and of course the Champions League is a goal,” said Coutinho at his unveiling in August. Play Now on NaijaBet

Many believe that the 27-year-old can inspire Bayern to their first Champions League title since 2013.

Continue reading “Coutinho expected to make spark UCL returns for Bayern”

Liverpool ‘s sizzling start leave title rivals breathless

Liverpool’s wonderful start to the Premier League season has left their title rivals breathless and the red-hot leaders are expected to maintain their perfect record against Newcastle on Saturday.

Jurgen Klopp’s side have seized the early initiative in the Premier League with four successive wins to open up a two-point lead over second placed Manchester City.

The European champions’ relentless tempo has overwhelmed Norwich, Southampton, Arsenal and Burnley, sending a message that they are determined to make amends for narrowly failing to pip City to the trophy last season.

Arsenal’s Dani Ceballos is new to English football after joining on loan from Real Madrid and the Spain midfielder admitted to being gob-smacked at the intensity Liverpool displayed in their 3-1 victory against the Gunners in August.

“I had never seen anything like it. I’ve not seen up until now a team that plays better, that presses better. That game had quite an impact on me,” Ceballos said. Place bet on Live Events 24/7 on NaijaBet

“They suck the air out of you. You spend so much time defending and when you want to catch your breath and get on the ball for a bit, they’ve taken it from you again.

“I think Jurgen Klopp now has the team he first had in mind when he started four years ago.”

Continue reading “Liverpool ‘s sizzling start leave title rivals breathless”

Messi- I would be thrilled if Neymar came back

Barcelona captain Lionel Messi would be “thrilled” if Neymar returned to the Catalan side but insisted they could still win trophies without the Brazilian.

In an interview with the Catalan newspaper Sport this week, Messi said the return of Neymar, who was at Barca from 2013 and 2017 when he left for Paris Saint-Germain, could only strengthen the Spanish champions.

“I would be thrilled if Neymar came back,” said the Argentine.

“I understand that not everyone agrees. That’s normal after everything that happened around Ney, the way in which he left, the way he abandoned us. Various Champions League Betting options are available on NaijaBet

“But when you look at the sporting angle, for me Neymar is one of the best players in the world and obviously would improve our chances of getting the results we want.”

Continue reading “Messi- I would be thrilled if Neymar came back”

Champions League clubs divided over reform

The battle over the future of the Champions League will resume on Monday and Tuesday when the European Club Association (ECA) meets in Geneva and the leadership faces rebellion from members.

ECA, led by Juventus chairman Andrea Agnelli, is closely involved in proposals to reshape Europe’s main club competition from 2024.

The proposals were presented by European football’s governing body Uefa in May although details had leaked earlier.

The reforms include the introduction of weekend fixtures, four groups of eight, and a tiered system with relegation and promotion that would see the top six teams in each group automatically qualify for the following year’s competition.

ECA, which boasts of “more than 230 members”, faced an outcry from many of those clubs and from national leagues which would be hit hard by the scheme. Various Champions League Odds are available on Site

“A semi-closed league with more matches… threatens to enormously impoverish the Spanish league,” said Javier Tebas of La Liga.

England’s Premier League issued a statement saying: “The domestic game should continue to be the priority for professional clubs.”

Opponents say the plan is designed to guarantee the income of a handful of big clubs.

“This reform would especially harm medium and small clubs,” said Wanja Greuel, the president of Young Boys of Berne, the reigning Swiss champions.

“It eliminates the access to the top flight of European competitions through domestic leagues. Fans will gradually lose interest in domestic leagues and those leagues would be further economically damaged.”

Last month Uefa announced it was cancelling a meeting with the ECA and the European Leagues, a wider body representing more than 900 European clubs, scheduled for 11 September.

Uefa President Aleksander Ceferin said he wanted to “collect feedback” from member federations.

Continue reading “Champions League clubs divided over reform”

Can rages at Sarri over Champions League snub

Former Liverpool midfielder Emre Can reacted with fury Wednesday after Juventus coach Maurizio Sarri left him off the club’s Champions League squad.

“I’m furious, I don’t understand, I’m totally shocked because I was promised something else these past few weeks,” said Can, who is preparing with the Germany squad for Euro 2020 qualifiers.

“The phone call (with Sarri) lasted less than a minute and there was no explanation,” said Can. “I want to play and will play in the Champions League.”

Can, who missed the cut for the 2018 World Cup, could line up for Germany against the Netherlands on Friday.

He joined Juventus in June 2018 after four years at Liverpool.

 

Liverpool to face Napoli in Champions League group stage

Holders Liverpool received a relatively kind draw for this season’s Champions League group stage but 13-times European champions Real Madrid were pitted against Kylian Mbappe and Paris St Germain.

Jurgen Klopp’s side, who beat Tottenham Hotspur 2-0 in June’s final to win their sixth European Cup, will face Serie A’s Napoli, Austria’s Salzburg and Belgian side Genk.

Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane will return to his homeland France for a clash with PSG in Group A which also features Club Brugge and Galatasaray.

The draw produced two fascinating groups which should deliver a real battle for qualification with Barcelona facing Borussia Dortmund, Inter Milan and Slavia Prague in Group F.

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Group D is also a mouth-watering prospect with Italian champions Juventus taking on Atletico Madrid, Bayer Leverkusen and Lokomotiv Moscow. Bet Now on NaijaBet.com

Last year’s runners-up Tottenham Hotspur face German champions Bayern Munich as well as Greek side Olympiakos and Serbia’s Red Star Belgrade in Group B.

Continue reading “Liverpool to face Napoli in Champions League group stage”

All you need to know about Champions League group stage draw

The 26 teams given direct entry to the group stage under the competition system introduced in 2018/19 are joined by the six winners of the play-off ties.

No team can play a club from their own association and, based on decisions taken by the UEFA Executive Committee, clubs from Russia and Ukraine must not be drawn in the same group.

In the case of associations with two or more representatives, clubs will be paired in order to split their matches between Tuesday and Wednesday.

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If a paired club is drawn, for example, in Groups A, B, C or D, the other paired club – once drawn – will automatically be assigned to one of Groups E, F, G or H.

Continue reading “All you need to know about Champions League group stage draw”

Ajax move closer to UCL group stage with a goalless draw in Cyprus

Ajax finished with 10 men on Tuesday but moved closer to the Champions League group stage with a 0-0 draw away to Apoel in Nicosia in a playoff round first-leg match.

The game was goalless but packed with incident.

Ajax, a four-time winner of the competition and a semifinalist last season, dominated possession and created a string of promising situations.

But the lively home attack, with 22-year-old Jordanian Musa Suleiman showing some eye-catching form, created the most dangerous chances.

Ajax conceded a string of free kicks in the second half and Noussair Mazraoui paid the price when a flailing tackle on Uros Matic earned him a second yellow card with 10 minutes to play. Various betting options are available on NaijaBet 

Veteran striker Klass Jan Huntelaar, who came on with 12 minutes left, had a clear opportunity to win the game in added time, but the 36-year-old’s tame chip was cleared.

Continue reading “Ajax move closer to UCL group stage with a goalless draw in Cyprus”

Lampard can only see positive Chelsea after Super Cup defeat

Coach Frank Lampard took great encouragement from Chelsea’s display in the Uefa Super Cup in Istanbul on Wednesday, despite the disappointment of losing on penalties to English rivals Liverpool.
“I think we can get better, there are things I still want us to improve on in terms of how we play slightly, but I am really happy with the performance,” said Lampard after Chelsea held the European champions to a 2-2 draw after extra time, only to lose 5-4 in the shootout.
Chelsea took the lead in Istanbul through Olivier Giroud, but Sadio Mane’s equaliser meant the match at the home of Besiktas went to extra time.
The Senegal star then put Liverpool in front in the 95th minute, only for a Jorginho penalty to restore parity again. Place bet on various today’s events on NaijaBet
The decisive moment came after nine successful spot-kicks when Tammy Abraham’s effort was saved by Adrian. Predict, Stake & Win Big
However, Chelsea were a match for Jurgen Klopp’s team for long spells and Lampard believed they were moving in the right direction after his first competitive game at the helm ended in a 4-0 defeat to Manchester United.

Continue reading “Lampard can only see positive Chelsea after Super Cup defeat”

Ajax sinks PAOK 5-3 on aggregate to make UCL playoffs

Ajax reached the Champions League playoffs on Tuesday after seeing off PAOK Thessaloniki 3-2 in a tense encounter in Amsterdam that saw last year’s semifinalists through 5-3 on aggregate.

A Dusan Tadic penalty in each half and Nicolas Tagliafico’s late header were enough to give Erik ten Hag’s side a chance to make the group stage and relive the dream of last season, when they seduced Europe with a thrilling run to the last four.

Serb Tadic, who had already missed once from the spot for Ajax, slotting home the equaliser two minutes before the break after Diego Biseswar had silenced the Johan Cruijff Arena with a fine strike for PAOK midway through the half.

Tagliafico left the Greeks needing to score twice to go through with 11 minutes to go when he met Ziyech’s corner with a powerful header, and shortly after Tadic ensured a playoff clash with Apoel Nicosia before September’s group stage, despite Biseswar’s stoppage time strike. Place bet on Live Events 24/7 on NaijaBet

Apoel will face the Dutch giants after overturning a 2-1 deficit from the first leg to win 2-0 at Qarabag thanks to goals from Tomas De Vincenti and Urosh Matich.

Continue reading “Ajax sinks PAOK 5-3 on aggregate to make UCL playoffs”

Tottenham must capitalise on the positives next season

The silence at the final whistle lasted only a moment in that end of the stadium before Tottenham’s fans stood up to applaud.

Their immediate reaction had been disappointment, that Spurs had not played anywhere near to their potential or punished a Liverpool team that had also been subdued and strangely out of sorts.

But as the white shirts at the Metropolitano dropped to the ground and the red ones rushed together in celebration, regret became recognition of the feat that had been achieved.

“It’s so painful but at the same time we need to be calm in the way that we talk and analyse things,” Pochettino said. “Because the season was fantastic and we need to feel proud.”

When Pochettino said his players should aim higher than the domestic cups, insisting they should cherish only winning the Premier League or Champions League, many scoffed, believing him guilty even of arrogance. Spurs have not won a trophy of any kind since 2008. Place Bet on Virtual Games 24/7 on NaijaBet

In that sense, the wait goes on after Liverpool’s 2-0 victory in Madrid but Pochettino’s determination that Tottenham challenge for the game’s biggest prizes has been vindicated.

His mission to harden the mentality has also taken a step closer to completion. Continue reading “Tottenham must capitalise on the positives next season”

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Mane focused on Champions League Final despite Real interest

Sadio Mane has said he is happy at Liverpool and will not let speculation that he is wanted by Real Madrid distract him ahead of Saturday’s Champions League final against Tottenham Hotspur.

Real are looking to strengthen their squad after reappointing Zinedine Zidane as manager and Mane is one of a number of players being linked with a move to Madrid, according to reports in Spain.

The Senegal international was joint top-scorer in the Premier League this season, alongside his teammate Mohamed Salah and Arsenal’s Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, and signed a new five-year contract with Liverpool in November.

“For me the most important thing is Liverpool and I’m happy here,” Mane told reporters. “I’m preparing for one of the biggest games for the club, the fans and the players as well, so let’s focus on this one first and win it. Bet Now on NaijaBet

“(Speculation) is part of football so we have to deal with it. It’s always a pleasure that this kind of team wants (you), but don’t forget Liverpool. They beat big teams.” Continue reading “Mane focused on Champions League Final despite Real interest”

Kane will play in Champions League final – Pochettino

Tottenham Hotspur’s Harry Kane has entered the final stages of recovery from an ankle injury and manager Mauricio Pochettino is optimistic the striker will be fit enough to play in the Champions League final in Madrid.

Kane sustained what appeared to be a season-ending ligament injury against Manchester City in the quarterfinals but Pochettino believes he now has a good chance of at least making the bench against Liverpool on 1 June.

“(Kane) is training and has entered the final stage of his recovery,” the Argentine told reporters in Spain on Thursday.

“We’re hoping he’ll be able to give us a hand, either from the start, from the bench, or if not, then by giving us moral support in the dressing room. But we’re optimistic he’ll be able to help us on the pitch.” Place bet on Live Matches 24/7 on NaijaBet

Pochettino said his team had defied expectations by reaching the final, which he expects to be an emotionally charged affair. Continue reading “Kane will play in Champions League final – Pochettino”

Kane hopes to be fit for Spurs’ UCL final in Madrid

Harry Kane says he is on course to be fit for Tottenham’s Champions League final clash with Liverpool after the England captain joined his team’s celebrations following their astonishing victory over Ajax.

Kane is recovering from an ankle ligament injury, but he was watching from the stands in the Johan Cruyff Arena as Tottenham recovered from 2-0 down to win 3-2 in the semifinal second leg on Wednesday.

The incredible comeback sent Tottenham through to their first Champions League final and Kane is confident he will be ready to feature when Mauricio Pochettino’s men face Liverpool in Madrid on June 1.

“We’ll see. So far so good, so if it carries on as it should I would hope to be. There’s still a few weeks to go,” Kane told BT Sport.

“Rehab is going well. I start straight line running this week which is why I was OK to run on at the end.

“We beat Man City and Ajax so I have to start training even harder to prove myself to the gaffer.” Place bet on Live Matches 24/7 on NaijaBet

Kane has been sidelined since sustaining his latest ankle injury in a challenge on Manchester City’s Fabian Delph in the quarterfinal first leg on April 9.

Continue reading “Kane hopes to be fit for Spurs’ UCL final in Madrid”

Barcelona need to be wary of history at Anfield – Valverde

Ernesto Valverde wanted to keep Barcelona’s feet on the ground after their 3-0 win over Liverpool so he hit his players where it hurt.

“Liverpool are a team that can make any opponent suffer,” he said in the press conference after the match.

“And of course last year we had a three-goal advantage in the quarterfinals. And we were knocked out.”

Valverde knows that loss to Roma still rankles with his players, barely a week passing without one of them referencing the game that defined their season last year and could yet shape this one too.

The tie looked over after a 4-1 thrashing at Camp Nou only for a 3-0 loss in Rome to complete one of the great Champions League comebacks and send the Italians into the semis.

That Real Madrid went on to win the tournament for a fourth time in five years rubbed salt into the wound. “It is a thorn in our side,” said Luis Suarez in September. Bet Now on NaijaBet

But it was not just that Barca had fallen short, for a third consecutive year. It was the way they had thrown it away. Continue reading “Barcelona need to be wary of history at Anfield – Valverde”

Messi warns after Barca masterpiece, Not over yet

Lionel Messi warned his Barcelona teammates that their place in the Champions League final is still not certain despite his two-goal salvo in a 3-0 semifinal first leg win over Liverpool on Wednesday.

“It would have been better to win 4-0 than 3-0 but it is a very good result,” said the Argentine star.

“It’s not definitive, we are going to go into a very complicated atmosphere, with a great history.”

Messi’s second goal was the 600th of his Barca career and he reached the landmark in stunning style, majestically curling a free-kick into the top corner. Place bet on Live matches 24/7 on NaijaBet

“It was beautiful when it went in but I was lucky that the ball lodged up there in the corner.” Continue reading “Messi warns after Barca masterpiece, Not over yet”

Suarez join Barcelona history book as Coutinho looks dispensable

Luis Suarez and Philippe Coutinho traded places as Liverpool’s talismanic figure before earning dream moves to Barcelona, but while the Uruguayan has become one of the Catalan side’s greatest strikers ever, the Brazilian is seen as an expensive flop.

The South American duo will be ready to face Liverpool together for the first time in Wednesday’s Champions League semifinal first leg at the Nou Camp, aiming to help Barca reach the final for the first time in four years.

Suarez was named PFA player of the year in the 2013/14 season for leading Liverpool’s charge to the brink of the Premier League title, before they were pipped at the post by Manchester City.

Liverpool took years to recover from him leaving for Barca in 2014 for a club record 75 million pounds, finishing sixth and eighth respectively in their next two seasons until Jurgen Klopp transformed their fortunes.

“When I was there, it was very different,” Suarez said in a recent interview with The Guardian. Place bet on Live Matches 24/7

“We were on the verge of the Premier League with a squad nowhere near as good. They didn’t spend as much as they’re doing now. Any player would like to go to Liverpool now. It was different then.” Continue reading “Suarez join Barcelona history book as Coutinho looks dispensable”

Chelsea move to fourth on the table after frustrating Burnley draw

Chelsea accused Burnley of time-wasting and playing “anti-football” after Blues boss Maurizio Sarri was sent off before a touchline skirmish marred their frustrating 2-2 draw on Monday.

Sarri’s side fell behind to Jeff Hendrick’s fine finish before N’Golo Kante equalised moments later.

In a frantic opening 24 minutes at Stamford Bridge, Gonzalo Higuain put Chelsea ahead, only for Burnley’s Ashley Barnes to punish more dismal defending from the Blues.

Without a win in their last two league games, Chelsea will take only slender comfort from climbing one point above fifth-placed Arsenal into fourth place, level on points with third-placed Tottenham.

Chelsea would have gone third with a victory, but instead they have now played a game more than top-four rivals Tottenham, Arsenal and Manchester United, who are three points behind in sixth.

It was a missed opportunity after defeats for Tottenham, Arsenal and United at the weekend and Chelsea were booed off at fulltime. Bet Now on NaijaBet

In a fitting coda to a damaging evening, Sarri was sent to the stands for protesting in the final seconds before several members of the Blues bench were involved in a tetchy touchline clash with their Burnley counterparts. Continue reading “Chelsea move to fourth on the table after frustrating Burnley draw”

Guardiola misery continues as City crash out of Champions League

Pep Guardiola bemoaned VAR’s failure to rule out Fernando Llorente’s decisive goal for Tottenham as Manchester City’s quadruple bid was shattered by a “cruel” Champions League quarterfinal exit on Wednesday.

Guardiola’s side were closing in on a place in the semifinals after staging a thrilling comeback to lead 4-2 in the second leg at the Etihad Stadium.

But Tottenham striker Llorente bundled home in the 73rd minute via a combination of his arm and hip, with VAR allowing the goal on review despite City’s appeals for handball.

Guardiola could be seen gesturing for handball while the VAR check was made, but his protest was in vain.

Adding to the City manager’s frustration, Raheem Sterling appeared to have scored what would have been the winner in the final seconds of stoppage-time, only for the goal to be ruled out by VAR for offside against Sergio Aguero. Place bet on Live events on NaijaBet24/7

“I support VAR but maybe from one angle Fernando Llorente’s goal is handball, maybe from the referee’s angle it is not,” Guardiola said.

“I watched the action and the people from above decided it (City’s disallowed goal) was offside. Continue reading “Guardiola misery continues as City crash out of Champions League”

Juventus win margin should have been bigger – Ajax

Ajax Amsterdam basked in widespread praise after their Champions League heroics but their young players believe the 2-1 away win over Juventus in the second leg of the quarterfinal should have been more emphatic.

“We could have scored a few more in the second half,” said midfielder Frenkie de Jong, one of the heroes of their triumph in Turin which was characterised by some sweeping passing play.

The 3-2 aggregate win ensured unlikely semifinal qualification for the Dutch club who have come all the way through the preliminary rounds of the competition.

“In the first half they had a bit more control,” De Jong said of Juventus’ early showing as Cristiano Ronaldo put his side ahead in the 28th minute but Donny van de Beek levelling six minutes later.

“Their 1-0 lead was not exactly undeserved but luckily for us we were able to get back to 1-1 quickly after that. Place bet on Live Matches 24/7

“But after the halftime break, we were so much better than them. We wasted a lot of good chances and we should have been much more in the lead,” the Barcelona-bound 21-year-old said.

Continue reading “Juventus win margin should have been bigger – Ajax”

Messi gets us out of trouble again – Valverde

Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde praised Lionel Messi for settling his side down after a nervy start against Manchester United and inspiring the Catalans to a 3-0 victory to reach the Champions League quarterfinals.

Marcus Rashford struck the crossbar for the visitors in the second minute at the Nou Camp but Messi scored twice in the space of five minutes later in the first half to put Barca at ease.

Philippe Coutinho’s stunning strike completed a dominant 4-0 aggregate victory.

“Messi always gets us out of trouble and we’re not going to apologise for having him,” Valverde told a news conference.

“Leo always turns up in the important games, not just in the big moments but throughout the whole game. He is always capable of scoring but he also drives the team’s attack.” Place bet on today’s Champions League games on NaijaBet

Valverde said his side were relieved to finally hurdle the quarterfinal barrier after three successive exits in the last eight, particularly after last season’s 3-0 second-leg defeat to AS Roma after winning the first leg 4-1. Continue reading “Messi gets us out of trouble again – Valverde”