Emery looking for ‘big’ performance

Unai Emery says his Arsenal side have to make sure that they secure a big result when they host BATE Borisov in the second leg of the Europa League last-32 tie.

The Spanish head coach admitted that the performance in the first leg in Belarus, which ended in a shock 1-0 defeat, was far from good enough and he expects to see a much improved showing on Thursday evening.

He told reporters: "For us, tomorrow is very important. We need a big result.

"We had chances to score (last week) and our efficiency we need to improve tomorrow. We must manage 90 minutes to get a good result for us. We need to be consistent in 90 minutes.

"We have big respect for BATE. We are not thinking about winning the competition, we are thinking about tomorrow night."

The Gunners, who will be without suspended striker alex Lacazette, are available at 5/1 to win 2-0 in 90 minutes on Thursday, with Arsenal 2/7 to reach the last-16 of the Europa League and 6/1 to go all the way and win the competition.

Meanwhile, Emery also spoke about playmaker Mesut Ozil, who has not featured since late January, sitting out the last three games in all competitions.

He added: "The key is in his hands and he is working very well this week.

"I ask him in our conversation for consistency, to be available for us for training – when you can train consistently you can help us with your best performance in the games.

"He needs to be available consistently for training, without the injuries, without the sickness. Without that we can see the best Mesut with us."

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Neymar admits to injury woes

Paris Saint-Germain star Neymar has revealed he cried for two days after suffering a broken metatarsal bone in his right foot last month.

The Brazilian forward, who has been a key figure for the Ligue 1 outfit since leaving Barcelona, has been ruled out of action until April with the injury.

This is the second time Neymar has had the same injury after suffered a metatarsal brake in February last year, which raised some questions on whether he would be able to feature at the 2018 World Cup in Russia.

Neymar has admitted it has been much tougher this time around to come to terms with the enforced break from football.

"This time I had a tough time getting over it," the 27-year-old told Brazilian TV channel Globo.

"I spent two days at home crying.

"The first time I hurt myself I said, 'I'll have an operation, it has to be fixed as quickly as possible'. I wasn't sad."

Neymar will miss PSG's Champions League last-16 tie against Manchester United, which the French side lead 2-0 after the first leg at Old Trafford, with the second encounter in Paris on 6th March.

PSG are 5/1 to win the Champions League this season.

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Heart issue sidelines Khedira

Juventus midfielder Sami Khedira is set for a spell out on the sidelines after he was diagnosed with an irregular heartbeat.

The Germany international is set to undergo treatment for atrial arrythmia and will miss Wednesday's Champions League encounter with La Liga outfit Atletico Madrid.

Atrial arrythmia causes dizziness, shortness of breath and tiredness due to an irregular and sometime fast heart rate.

Juventus are now looking to get to the root of the problem and hope to have former Real Madrid midfielder Khedira, who has only played 15 times this season, back when he is fit and well.

A statement from the club read: "Sami Khedira remained in Turin for medical examinations, from which emerged the opportunity to perform an electrophysiological study and eventual treatment of an atrial arrhythmia which appeared today [Tuesday]."

Juve are 19/10 to win, 2/1 to draw and 19/10 to lose against Atleti in their Champions League last 16 first leg.

The Old Lady, who continue to dominate in Serie A and sit 13 points clear of second-place Napoli, are currently 4/5 to go all the way and win the Champions League title this season.

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Sarri keen on long-term stay

Chelsea head coach Maurizio Sarri hopes to be given time to prove himself at Stamford Bridge, with his position in question after three defeats in their last five games.

The Blues have suffered crushing Premier League reverses at the hands of Bournemouth and Manchester City, while on Monday they were beaten 2-0 at home by Manchester United in the fifth round of the FA Cup.

That has prompted talk of Sarri being under pressure, but the Italian is focused on trying to guide his side through to the last-16 of the Europa League.

He told reporters: "I have to think I will be the manager of Chelsea for a very long time. Otherwise I cannot work.

"I am not sure, but I have to think this. I want to work with a long-term target.

"Of course, in this moment it's very difficult to think we're able to win three, four matches in a row. (But) as you know very well in football, everything can change in one day.

"I think we need first of all a good performance, a good result and, with more confidence, we are able to do anything."

Chelsea hold a 2-1 advantage in their tie with Malmo, with Ross Barkley and Olivier Giroud the goalscorers in the first leg in Sweden.

The Blues are 1/4 to win the second leg on Thursday in 90 minutes, with the hosts 5/1 to claim a 2-0 victory and 8/11 to keep a clean sheet.

Sarri also confirmed that both Pedro and Davide Zappacosta will miss the game due to illness, while goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga is sidelined by a hamstring problem.

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Klopp demands Reds improvement

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp claims his side should play better following their goalless stalemate against Bayern Munich on Tuesday night.

The Reds had a number of chances to take an advantage going into the Champions League last 16 second-leg in Munich but failed to capitalise at Anfield.

Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah both had opportunities in the first half but failed to find a way past goalkeeper Manuel Neuer.

Klopp was left frustrated with the result after the game and knows his side can be much more of the threat going forward than what they showed on Tuesday night.

He told BT Sport: "We made life more difficult with the last pass today – about 10 or 12 times a promising situation [fizzled out].

"We can play better. We should play better.

"In the first half we had the bigger chances. I can't remember any chances for either side in the second half.

"It wasn't a Champions League night from that point of view. From a result point of view, it's OK. It's not a dream result but it's a good one."

Liverpool are 13/5 to win, 13/5 to draw and 19/20 to lose the second leg in 90 minutes at the Allianz Arena.

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Toivonen set for derby comeback

Swedish striker Ola Toivonen is in contention to return for Melbourne Victory when they face Melbourne City in Saturday's derby.

Toivonen, who has scored 10 goals in his debut A-League campaign with Kevin Muscat's team, has been out for the past three weeks after taking a knock in training.

Muscat said the 64-cap Sweden international had returned to training on his own ahead of the meeting with Melbourne City.

"He's made good progress from last week," added the coach. "The view is for him to train with the team at the end of the week.

"He might wake up with pain one day and we'll have to alter the plan, but at this stage in time there's a decent chance he'll play."

Muscat, who has won two championships with Victory including the 2014-15 double, will take charge of the club for the 200th time on Saturday.

And he says at this stage of his career, winning is not enough – he wants to win in a certain way.

"I want to be known as a proactive coach," he added. "A manager that wants to attack, that's trying to win a game, not as a manager that's trying not to lose and might win.

Victory have only taken one point from their last two games, and have fallen nine points behind leaders Perth Glory.

But they are looking healthier at the moment, after Raul Baena returned from a hamstring problem and Georg Niedermeier made his first start since November in last weekend's 1-1 draw against Wellington.

Japanese superstar Keisuke Honda, who has been on the bench for the past two matches, will be in contention to start at Marvel Stadium against City.

The Victory are 21/20 to win their game against City, who are 5/2, with the draw 12/5.

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Knee injury ends Oar’s season

Australia international Tommy Oar will miss the rest of Central Coast Mariners' A-League season with a knee injury.

The midfielder faces a recovery time of up to three months after being hurt in the Gosford club's 1-1 draw with defending premiers Sydney FC at the weekend.

He hyperextended his knee when he landed awkwardly after challenging for a ball in the air, causing a posterior capsule ligament sprain.

The 27-year-old, who has previously had two stints with Brisbane Roar, doesn't need surgery, but will be sidelined for at least ten weeks.

He said: "I am really disappointed to not be able to play again this season. I know I'm in great hands with Dave McGinness and the medical team at the Mariners, so I am putting my full focus into getting myself healthy and fully fit for next season."

Oar, who has played 28 times for the Socceroos, joined Mike Mulvey's side in pre-season on a two-year deal following a spell in Cyprus with APOEL.

His absence is a blow for Central Coast, who are five points adrift of Brisbane at the foot of the A-League table.

Oar's final appearance of the campaign, when they held the Sky Blues away from home, was just the second time in the last seven games they've avoided defeat.

The Mariners have only won one game all season, and will need to pick up a second victory at Central Coast Stadium on Friday against Brisbane if they are to retain hopes of avoiding a second straight wooden spoon.

The Mariners are 7/5 to win their next game against Brisbane Roar, who are 17/10, with the draw 13/5.

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Antlers KO Jets’ ACL hopes

Newcastle Jets lost out on a place in the Asian Champions League when they lost 4-1 in Japan to Kashima Antlers.

Playmaker Serginho struck twice in the last 23 minutes in the play-off to see off last year's beaten A-League Grand finalists at Kashima Soccer Stadium.

Ronny Vargas netted for the Jets midway through the first half to bring them level, five minutes after Sho Ito scored for the hosts.

But Newcastle, playing for the third time in a week, were only on terms for nine minutes before Shuto Yamamoto netted for Kashima to give them an interval advantage.

Kashima could have won by a bigger margin, but New Zealand international keeper Glen Moss made some excellent saves for the Jets.

Roy O'Donovan was denied early on for the visitors when a fingertip save from keeper Kwoun Sun-Tae kept out his strike from distance.

Soon after Ito poked the ball home after Serginho's clever flick was tipped on to the post by Moss.

Vargas equalised with a deflected shot that wrong-footed Kwoun, after the Jets had strung together a good passing move.

Moss twice saved from Ito within a minute to keep Newcastle level, before Yamamoto netted when he arrived at the far post to head home as the visitors' defence failed to deal with a floated cross.

Kashima made it 3-1 on 67 minutes when Jets skipper Nigel Boogaard's clumsy challenge on Leo Silva gave away a penalty that Serginho converted.

The Brazilian grabbed his second goal in injury time, just after O'Donovan had snatched at the Jets' best chance of the second half.

The Jets are 7/4 to win their next A-League game against Adelaide United, who are 6/4, with the draw 23/10.

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Champions League: Lyon Keep Messi Frustrated in France

Olympique Lyonnais 0-0 Barcelona

FC Barcelona have long been considered the giants of European football. They are one of the winningest teams in Spanish football, are regular fixtures in the Champions League, have one of the biggest stars in Lionel Messi, they play at the famous Camp Nou in the picturesque heart of Catalonia.

However, they experienced nothing but frustration when they played at the Parc Olympique Lyonnais. Not a single person in Barcelona’s attack-heavy XI was able to crack past the Ligue 1 side’s defensive approach to this game.

One of our dear colleagues made the right call in spite of the more popular Lyon vs Barcelona predictions calling for a narrow Barca victory. However, not everyone had his guts to call this game as a bore draw.

Highlights of the game

I’m pretty sure that the majority of the 57,889 supporters at Parc Olympique Lyonnais were nervous when Barca’s starting XI was released. Messi is already a problem in itself and is an instrumental cog in the way Barcelona have succeeded in La Liga.

The fact that he is joined up front by Luis Suarez and Ousmane Dembele was enough to convince Bruno Genesio to pit two defensive midfielders as reinforcements to the backline. Tanguy NDombele and Houssem Aouar’s inclusion in the starting lineup is a testament to the supreme attacking talents of Barca.

And it seems like Genesio’s decision was the right one as the Blaugrana started the game in high gear. Dembele, who has become a revelation in the team’s Champions League campaign, tried a quick shot after beating the defence in the very first minute. However, his attempt flew wide of the right post.

The Argentine superstar was the next man to have a crack at the goal with a fifth-minute free-kick right at the edge of the 18-yard box. He tried a cheeky shot to the top-left corner, but that wasn’t any problem at all for Anthony Lopes and the Lyon defence.

From that point on, it was pretty clear to everyone that it would be a matter of Messi and friends vs the Lyonnais defence. Messi and Dembele were at the forefront as they tried to break past the crowded defence and get the all-important away goal.

Lyon players have shown strong defense during their Champions League last 16 match against Barcelona

Lyon players try to hinder Lionel Messi’s free kick during their Champions League match against Barcelona

Lyon didn’t just accept Barca’s attacks, though. Both Aouar and Martin Terrier unleashed blitzing shot attempts after Messi’s free kick, but both of those were stopped by Marc-Andre ter Stegen. Lyon’s Dembele put Terrier through at the end of the first half to set him up with a one-on-one with Ter Stegen. Unfortunately for him, his shot flew over the bar.

The reset had more of the same thing. Barcelona tried to catch Lyon off-guard by some skilful plays from Messi and Dembele. However, they just could not get past the Lyonnais backline as they crowded the penalty box to choke out the passing lanes and force them to take difficult shots.

Even the most neutral fans can see that Messi was starting to get frustrated with the game. While no Lyon shirt could ever hope to keep up with him, they have made the simple task of getting the ball to the back of the net a Sisyphean endeavour.

Luis Suarez, who was rendered ineffective by Les Gones for a good chunk of the match, managed to put in a strike in the 70th minute after Jordi Alba spotted him open in the middle of the box. However, he slipped and didn’t get to fire a perfect shot, resulting in him getting denied by the left post.

Philippe Coutinho and Jordi Alba also tried forcing a late goal, but it was too little, too late. The Parc Olympique Lyonnais enthusiastically applauded their men for a job well done. After all, keeping Barcelona goalless is a feat in itself, adding to the list of interesting Champions League 2019 results.

The question now lies as to whether they can score on the pitch of Camp Nou.

Key statistics

Ernesto Valverde’s Barcelona were extremely wasteful with the football. They had possession for almost 60% of the match, managing to produce 24 shot attempts. However, only five of those shots were on target while the rest were either miles off or blocked by the defence. This was especially true in the second half as Lyon barely managed to hold the ball at all.

This result also puts Barcelona on a worrying trend: the Blaugrana have drawn four of their last five matches and failed to score in both of their last away games.

It may be time to bring back the False Nine Messi for the second leg.

What’s next?

Ernesto Valverde is not amused with Barcelona's goalless draw with Lyon in recent Champions League match

Barcelona manager Ernesto Valverde looks upset following his side’s 0-0 draw with Lyon in the Champions League

Valverde himself admitted that Barcelona are now in dangerous territory after failing to secure an away goal in Lyon. The us Champions League 2019 markets are currently in an uproar as the possibility of Barcelona’s early exit looms ever closer.

They will have a chance to secure their progress to the quarter-final when they welcome Lyon in March, but they would have to better their form by then. They must dominate their coming fixtures against Sevilla, Girona, and Rayo Vallecano. Two El Clasico matches also await Barca when they play Real Madrid at the Santiago Bernabeu in the Copa del Rey and the league.

Lyon also have a tough match coming up against Monaco. But besides that, everything would be smooth sailing for them until March 14th.

 

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Champions League: All Square at Anfield

Liverpool 0-0 FC Bayern

It was billed as the tightest clash of the Champions League Round of 16, and so it turned out as Liverpool and Bayern played out a goalless draw at Anfield.

And that means the tie is finely balanced, with Liverpool just needing a scoring draw in Munich to go through to the final eight. I think that might just suit Jurgen Klopp.

The hosts’ manager said before the game that Liverpool fans would rather win the Premier League than the Champions League; maybe that was a bit of pre-match kidology. Meanwhile, Bayern coach Niko Kovac said Liverpool were the toughest draw his side could have had in the Round of 16 and he won’t have changed his mind after this 90 minutes.

With ten Champions League (or European Cup) titles between them, Liverpool and FC Bayern are elder statesmen of Europe’s premier competition and are both well in the reckoning in the Champions League 2019 betting markets. But only one of them will survive the return in Bavaria.

Highlights of the game

Virgil van Dijk’s absence through suspension meant Liverpool’s depleted defence was now without their main man, and Fabinho stepped in again. But the home side looked in some disarray in the early exchanges. Joel Matip almost scored an own goal, but lucky for him his miscued clearance ricocheted off Alisson’s face and out. That would have been one for the Champions League 2019 highlights package if the ball had flown into the net!

As expected, Liverpool looked more sure-footed up front, and after good work from Mo Salah and Naby Keita, Sadio Mane came close but pulled his shot just wide. But then Alisson almost gifted Bayern a goal when he came out to beat Robert Lewandowski to the ball, but he passed it to Kingsley Coman who fired into the side netting.

Salah came close when he got on the end of a superb ball from Trent Alexander-Arnold, and Mane had another fine chance after a Keita shot hit Niklas Sule and bounced at his feet. However, he fired wide when he should have scored.

All square at the break and Liverpool had recovered well from a shaky start. While Bayern started stronger, the Reds could and probably should have been ahead by half-time. And they had another great chance at the start of the second half after Manuel Neuer came to meet Andy Robertson; the wing-back’s cross reached Salah at the back post, but he poked the ball wide with the goal gaping.

Mats Hummels played a vital role during the first-leg Champions League tie against Liverpool

Bayern Munich’s Mats Hummels in action with Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah during the Champions League round of 16 first leg at Anfield

Serge Gnabry came close for the Bavarians but his shot went just over the bar with Alisson beaten. Liverpool went back on the front foot, and Mats Hummels did well to deny Mane. And as the pressure mounted and a Liverpool corner flew in, the ball pinged about in the box before Matip blazed over when the chance fell to him rather than a striker. And the crowd was on its feet on 85 minutes when Mane headed a Robertson cross towards the corner, but Neuer stretched to tip the ball around the post.

Key Statistics

The Reds are now 13 matches unbeaten at Anfield and 20 European home games unbeaten, while it was the first draw for Liverpool in 12 Champions League outings.

Klopp’s team won the shot count by 15 to nine but only had two on target, while the only player to test Alisson was his own defender Joel Matip!

Bayern won only one of eight clashes with Liverpool but haven’t scored in four attempts at Anfield. But then, what can you expect if you don’t have a shot on target? We can be pretty sure Alisson will have much more to do when Liverpool visit Germany.

What’s next?

Well then. After another epic night under the floodlights at Anfield, the drama continues with THE big game in the Premier League season. It’s Manchester United against Liverpool on Sunday, and we’ll be looking at that game soon to make our us tips.

It’s sure to be an absolute belter. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s Red revolution is in full flow again, after beating Chelsea in the FA Cup, and Klopp’s team will be determined to keep pace with Manchester City at the top of the league.

After winning away at Augsburg last Friday, Bayern are now hot on the heels of leaders BVB and have a home game against Hertha Berlin. Expect Kovac’s men to win that one.

 

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