Klopp aims to find Barca flaws

Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp says he will try to find some useful clues as to how his side can defeat Barcelona in the semi-finals of the Champions League.

The Reds roared through to the last four with a 4-1 win at FC Porto, with the Merseysiders claiming a 6-1 aggregate success to move one step closer to repeating their run to the final of the competition last season.

And Klopp is hoping that watching how others team have tried to tame Barca, who knocked out Manchester United in the quarter-finals, will be of some benefit to his players.

He told his post-match press briefing: "We are in the semi-final, we play against Barcelona, you can imagine I don't think too much about it, but I'm really happy about the fact that we play them.

"We will find things where we think we probably could use it or whatever. So many teams who tried it already and maybe we find something.

"I'm looking forward to it, it's brilliant. The news that there's a competition, a proper football game between Barcelona and Liverpool, I think that's really good news.

"I'm happy for all the people in the club that it's like this; second time in two years in the semi-final. That's a big statement.

"However you go there (to Barcelona), it's difficult. Everybody tries it and nobody did it (won there) in the last two years."

Liverpool are available at 5/2 to win the Champions League this season, with Barcelona priced at 6/4 and Ajax 9/2.

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Spurs belief impresses Pochettino

Tottenham Hotspur head coach Mauricio Pochettino hailed the character of his team after they reached the Champions League semi-finals at the expense of Manchester City.

Spurs were beaten 4-3 in the second leg of their quarter-final at the Etihad Stadium, but a 1-0 win in the first leg meant that they progressed on away goals, with a Fernando Llorente strike in Manchester eventually proving to be crucial.

And Pochettino was clearly emotional after watching his team in action and setting up a last-four showdown with Ajax, who have knocked out both Real Madrid and Juventus on their way to the semi-finals.

He told reporters: "I am more than happy, I am more than proud. To be in the semis was a dream, now we are there.

"(It is) one of the most important times in my career like a manager, of course, one of the best.

"Sport always gives you the possibility to beat teams that no-one believes or thinks we are capable of (beating).

"Football is not only about talent, but belief and to have the right mentality. This team has the personality, character and mentality to believe all is possible.

"With the quality, we can have this type of performance and achieve these big things. If not, it's impossible."

The second Champions League semi-final sees Liverpool take on Barcelona, with the Reds having won 4-1 at Porto to complete a 6-1 aggregate victory in their last-eight tie.

Liverpool are priced at 5/2 to win the Champions League, with Tottenham 9/2 and Barcelona 6/4.

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Ajax ready for English test

Matthijs de Ligt says Ajax are unconcerned whether they face Manchester City or Tottenham in the Champions League semi-finals.

The Eredivisie side stunned Juventus on Tuesday evening, coming from behind to win their last-eight second leg 2-1 in Turin.

Cristiano Ronaldo put the Italian's in front in the first half only for Donny van de Beek to level quickly after.

De Ligt, the teenage skipper at Ajax, headed home midway through the second half to ensure 2-1 win on the night and a deserved 3-2 passage overall.

The 19-year-old central defender says they have no preference ahead of Tottenham taking on Man City on Wednesday evening, with Mauricio Pochettino's team carrying a slender 1-0 lead into the second leg.

"At the moment I don't have any preference," he said. "We will see who is coming to the semi-final and then we have to show the same [as we did in Turin]."

De Ligt hailed Ajax's 'unbelievable' achievement after the Dutch club ended their 22-year wait for a Champions League semi-final appearance by adding Juventus to the scalp of European champions Real Madrid in the last-16, both wins coming via impressive successes on their travels.

"It's unbelievable what we achieved, we are a squad from the Netherlands and we show the world what we can do," he added.

"We showed it in the Bernabeu (against Madrid), we showed it against Bayern Munich (at the group stage) and now we showed it against Juventus.

"But we are never satisfied and the next game is also going to be important, we'll see what happens."

Ajax are 7/1 to win the Champions League this season, with Barcelona now 15/8 having eliminated Manchester United on Tuesday. Tottenham are 10/1 ahead of their trip to the Etihad Stadium.

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Allegri insists he’s staying

Massimiliano Allegri is adamant that he will still be at Juventus next season after watching his side exit the Champions League at the hands of Ajax on Tuesday.

The Dutch side came from behind to beat the Serie A leaders 2-1 in Turin and seal a 3-2 quarter-final aggregate triumph.

Allegri has led Juventus to four successive league and cup doubles and two Champions League finals, and they are almost certain to wrap up another domestic title this weekend.

Cristiano Ronaldo headed the Old Lady into a first-half lead but Ajax, who knocked the holders Real Madrid out in the last round, hit back to win the tie thanks to goals by Donny van de Beek and Matthijs de Ligt.

"I have already talked with the president. I will remain at Juve next season and we are already planning the next campaign," said Allegri.

"Ronaldo gave us a lot during the season and especially in the Champions League. Ajax are a great team, I cannot say much to my players.

"Ajax have several good players and play good football, they are no underdogs. How they can be after scoring five goals against Real Madrid?

"I would not say that this is our worst elimination. Juventus have always the same objective: winning everything. Sometimes you can reach the final, sometimes you can't."

Ajax can be backed at 7/1 to win the Champions League this season while Juventus are available at 1/2 to beat Fiorentina in their next Serie A match on Saturday.

Champions League: Dutch Masters Show Juve the Way

Juventus 1-2 (2-3 on agg.) Ajax

A Champions League clash of real pedigree, the Old Lady against youthful Dutch courage was always likely to provide a contrast of styles and approach.

And so it proved.

What followed in Turin was a quite compelling evening for fans of both sides and us followers alike.

But there could only be one winner.

That winner was Ajax. The sole side which reached the knockout round after coming through qualifying has produced yet more Champions League 2019 highlights and are in the semi-finals of Europe’s premier competition for the first time in 22 years.

Meanwhile, it’s more misery for Juventus who have lost a record seven European Cup finals, including all of their last five.

Highlights of the game

Ajax suffered an early blow when Noussair Mazraoui sustained a nasty-looking ankle injury and had to come off despite his heroic efforts to continue.

The Dutch side continued their pressing game and Donny van de Beek prodded over from close range under pressure. The play then went up the other end and Paulo Dybala’s powerful half-volley was saved by Andre Onana.

The deadlock was broken after 28 minutes, and Champions League 2019 betting odds everywhere on the planet would have had CR7 as the likely scorer.

From a Miralem Pjanic corner, Cristiano Ronaldo powered a header into the bottom right corner. He made it look easy.

The 34-year-old Portuguese international relishes playing in the Champions League knockout rounds. He has now notched 21 goals in his last 16 appearances in the competition’s latter stages, with an impressive 65 of his total of 126 strikes coming after the group phase.

That advantage lasted only six minutes, however, as van de Beek turned a wayward shot from Hakim Ziyech beyond Wojciech Szczesny.

Dybala failed to reappear for the second half after picking up an injury and was replaced by exciting young talent Moise Kean.

There were naturally some nerves among the home faithful. After a back heel from Serbian international Dusan Tadic – who has netted an impressive 32 goals in all competitions this term, including six in the Champions League (only bettered by Lionel Messi and Robert Lewandowski) – Lasse Schone’s strike was deflected wide.

Szczesny then produced two top-drawer saves to deny Ziyech and van de Beek as Ajax chased a second away goal.

When Pjanic superbly blocked what would have been a certain Tadic goal, Juve were on the ropes.

Finally, the Dutch club got the goal they deserved when another of their exciting crop of youngsters, teenage captain Matthijs de Ligt, outjumped two defenders to head the visitors in front from a Schone delivery.

Ajax end Cristiano Ronaldo's hopes of a fourth straight Champions League title

Juventus players looking dejected following their 1-2 loss against Ajax at the Allianz stadium

Suddenly, Juventus needed two goals in little over 20 minutes. But it was Ajax who were closest to another — only an offside flag ruling out a Ziyech curler.

Juventus’ night was summed up in stoppage time when they appealed for a penalty for a handball against Daley Blind and VAR correctly said no.

Could it have been different had Mario Mandzukic and Giorgio Chiellini been available? Possibly, but Ajax’s triumph was fully deserved and most of Europe will applaud their progress.

These are exciting times in the Dutch capital for this enterprising and energetic young side.

Key statistics

Ajax last made it to the Champions League final four in 1997 when their campaign was ended by Juve – the team which had also beaten them in the previous season’s final.

Fabrizio Ravanelli gave Juventus an early lead in that final, but Jari Litmanen levelled before the break for holders Ajax. Juve were 4-2 winners on penalties.

Before tonight, Ajax had won only two of their 13 European fixtures against Juventus (one was the 1973 final) and none since 1974.

Juventus had also been unbeaten in their last ten games against the Dutch club, winning five of the last seven.

Ronaldo has scored in each of his last seven Champions League quarter-final matches played (13 goals).

Szczesny also made his 50th appearance in UEFA club competition.

1X2 Draw @ 5.20 Manchester City Asian Handicap -1.50 @ 1.94 Total Goals 2-3 @ 2.10 Third Line text CLICK HEREDisclaimer: Odds are correct at time of publish.UEFA – Champions League

What’s next?

Juventus have the opportunity to clinch an eighth successive Serie A title when they meet Fiorentina on Easter Saturday. They then travel to Inter Milan for the Derby d’Italia a week later.

Ajax visit Groningen on Saturday with the race for the Eredivisie thrillingly poised. They then host Vitesse Arnhem in Amsterdam three days later followed by a trip to De Graafschap before the Champions League semi-finals, where Spurs or Manchester City await.

Between that tie, they will also meet Willem II in the Dutch Cup final on May 5.

 

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Ajax expect De Jong to feature

Ajax are confident that star midfielder Frenkie de Jong will recover from a slight hamstring strain to feature in the Champions League quarter-final second leg at Juventus.

Having held the Italian giants to a 1-1 draw in the first leg in Amsterdam, Ajax will hope to repeat their heroics of the last round, when they thrashed holders Real Madrid 4-1 at the Bernabeu to progress in style.

And head coach Erik ten Hag expects Barcelona-bound De Jong to be ready, despite having limped out of the weekend league game against Excelsior after just 22 minutes.

He told reporters: "We will see, we are positive he can play. We took him off for prevention, we hope he can play, but we will see if it is possible."

De Jong's agent, Ali Dursun, had earlier suggested that his client would be okay to feature in Turin, telling De Telegraaf: "Frenkie is fit. He will go to Turin and I think he will play.

"He is positive. We were all worried on Saturday, but the substitution was only precautionary. The pain has never been strong, the shock was bigger than the injury."

Ajax can be backed at 9/4 to reach the Champions League semi-finals and are 9/2 to win the game on Tuesday evening in normal time, with the Dutch outfit 22/1 to progress after extra-time.

Meanwhile, Juve head coach Massimiliano Allegri is preparing his side for a huge occasion and he expects the visitors to play their preferred brand of attacking football.

He added: "Our objective is to win the match and qualify for the semi-finals. I was convinced there would be goals in the first leg and I think the second leg will be very similar."

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Champions League: The Old Lady is Wary of Dutch Courage

Juventus vs Ajax

The Bianconeri’s assault on the 2019 Champions League continues in Turin on Tuesday night, but the Italian Champions will have to be at their best.

Juventus has been well fancied from the outset of the competition, while Ajax has emerged as a constant threat to the elite, and with the Dutch in fine free-scoring form this could be a humdinger!

A 1-1 draw in Amsterdam has given the Bianconeri an advantage for sure, and the Old Lady is now at odds of 1.31 to advance to the next round with our latest us odds offering 3.43 on the Dutch to advance. But David Neres’ equaliser, which cancelled out Cristiano Ronaldo’s opener in front of 50,000 fans at the Amsterdam Arena, has left this tie up for grabs.

Talking Points

Allegri’s striking options

Juventus has power and class running right through its team, with defensive rock Leonardo Bonucci marshalling the defence and world cup winner Blaise Matuidi controlling the middle of the park alongside Rodrigo Bentancur.

And up front, head coach Max Allegri has an array of options. Big Croatian striker.

Mario Mandzukic started alongside the returning Ronaldo in the first leg in the Netherlands, while the quicksilver Paulo Dybala climbed off the bench.

Young Moise Kean could be in for a start according to the coach, having been an unused substitute in Amsterdam. He has deputised well for Ronaldo during the talisman’s injury absence; and while there were eyebrows raised throughout Italy when Juventus went down to humble SPAL at the weekend in a 2-1 defeat, he was on target again.

The latest Champions League 2019 betting odds have Juventus as one of the most likely winners, alongside Manchester City and Barcelona, and when you look at the firepower at his disposal you can see why Allegri holds the cards.

Ajax Captain Matthijs de Ligt’s defensive partnership with Daley Blind will be tested to the full.

De Jong injury doubt

Ajax are aiming to disappoint Champions League 2019 betting odds and win against Juventus

David Neres scored an equaliser for Ajax in the first leg of their UCL match vs Juventus

Barcelona bound Frenkie de Jong has been the star of the show in Amsterdam this season, earning him a lucrative move to the Camp Nou. But head coach Erik ten Hag says he could be missing when he limped off after half an hour of Ajax’s 6-2 win over Excelsior at the weekend. If that rules the 21-year old out of the return clash with Juve, it will be a big blow to the underdogs’ hopes.

But, of course, the Dutch are not a one man team. With fine players such as wing back Nicolas Tagliafico, the classy centre back pairing and Dusan Tadic up front ten Hag’s men are more than comfortable among Europe’s elite. Tadic completed a brace against Excelsior and is in fine scoring form.

History

Both these teams have a rich history in European football, winning six Champions League (European Cup) titles between them.

Of course, Ajax players formed the core of the Holland team which brought Total Football to the world in the 1970s, when Ajax won three of their four European Cups. And as well as winning the competition twice the Bianconeri has appeared in nine finals, including two of the last four.

The Old Lady has won three of the last five games between Juve and Ajax, since 2004, with two draws, those being the last two meetings.

Former Liverpool hit man Dusan Tadic has six tournament goals, one more than Juve’s Ronaldo and Dybala. And, Juve’s loss to SPAL excepted, both sides come into the game in fine form.

Ajax hasn’t lost in its last 5 games, aside from the first leg draw with Juve, the Dutch have won four domestic games in some style, scoring 18 and conceding six goals.

Meanwhile Juventus hasn’t lost in any of its last 12 home matches, winning the last five in a row.

Betting Tip

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Juventus vs Ajax Over 2.50 goals @ 1.88
April 17 03:00 (GMT+8)

Allegri’s team will be acutely aware that Ajax took a first leg deficit to the Bernabeu and then destroyed Real Madrid in the Round of 16. That was undoubtedly one of the Champions League 2019 results of the tournament and, while Ajax is no longer a surprise package, the hosts will be keen to avoid Los Blancos’ fate.

I think we have a real treat in store here. Juventus’ world class pedigree makes them clear favourites but Ajax is playing with freedom and courage, and scoring for fun. If anyone can get past Bonucci and chums, Tadic can. But then the Bianconeri has an array of attacking options so I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see both team’s scoring.

A SHORT EXPLANATION ON HOW OUR (??) BETS ARE WORTH:
?? = €20 (Highly confident) ?? = €10 (CONFIDENT) ?? = €5 (SOMEWHAT CONFIDENT)

Disclaimer: Odds are correct at time of publish.

 

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Allegri wary of Ajax qualities

Massimiliano Allegri has warned his Juventus players not to take Ajax lightly when the two sides meet in the second leg of their Champions League quarter-final tie.

A 1-1 draw in the first leg in Amsterdam left the tie delicately poised for the return in Turin, with Allegri clearly impressed by a youthful Ajax outfit who ousted holders Real Madrid in the previous round.

He told reporters: "A team that is capable of eliminating Real Madrid and winning 4-1 at the Bernabeu – they are not simply a young, quality team.

"We knew that at home they would play a game like this. In Turin it will be different, but they have the personality to come to our stadium and play with their qualities.

"We have to be much better, because when you manage to escape from their pressure, you find a desert between you and the goal.

"That is something that happened in the first half, that happened in the second half, and that's where we have to be much better."

Allegri picked out Barcelona-bound midfielder Frenkie de Jong as the main man for Ajax, adding on UEFA.com: "De Jong is the real source of their game.

"We tried to control him with (Rodrigo) Bentancur in the early stages, but when he understood that, he moved deeper and the forwards had to work hard to cover him. He played very well."

Juventus are now priced at 4/11 to progress to the semi-finals, while they are 7/2 to win the Champions League for the first time since 1996 – when they defeated Ajax on penalties in the final.

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Champions League: Ronaldo Strikes in Return From Injury

Ajax 1-1 Juventus

The big question heading into the Champions League quarter-final first leg between Ajax and Juventus was the fitness of Cristiano Ronaldo.

The Portuguese superstar had been sidelined for the past few weeks due to a thigh injury, and despite the big Champions League 2019 news that he was included in the squad, it remained to be seen how sharp he’d be.

But Ronaldo pretty emphatically answered any doubts about his overall health. Not only did he start, but he also scored a crucial away goal as Juventus came away with a 1-1 draw.

As was written on the us preview of the first leg, the draw looked like the way to go. And after that stalemate, this quarter-final tie is very evenly poised heading into the second leg.

Highlights of the game

Juventus had the first real opportunity of the match after less than two minutes. Federico Bernardeschi worked his way toward the edge of the box to get a shot off, but his left-footed strike was slightly too high.

Ajax’s Hakim Ziyech responded with a trio of long-distance efforts of his own. His first shot rippled the side netting, to the dismay of the home fans who thought it had gone in. And his second attempt drew a comfortable save from Juve’s Wojciech Szczesny.

But his third effort was his best, as his curling shot was destined for the top corner. Szczesny was equal to it, though, and pushed it over the bar.

Donny van de Beek was the next Ajax player to come close. After some good work from Dusan Tadic, van de Beek found himself in a great position for a shot inside the box. But the young midfielder’s strike went agonizingly wide of the goal.

Cristiano Ronaldo finally got his first sniff of goal just before the half-hour mark. He got on the end of a corner kick, but his shot did not trouble Ajax’s Andre Onana.

Ronaldo was involved again in Juve’s next good chance as he headed a Blaise Matiudi cross toward Bernardeschi. But the Italian forward could not quite direct his shot on the turn on target.

And to the surprise of no one, it was eventually Ronaldo who opened the scoring just before half-time. After sending the ball wide to Joao Cancelo, Ronaldo charged his way into the penalty area to meet Cancelo’s cross with a brilliant diving header.

Ajax will definitely bring their A-game if they want to advance to the Champions League semi-final

Ajax’s David Neres celebrates after scoring his side’s opening goal in the first leg of their Champions League quarterfinal clash against Juventus

But Ajax weren’t down for too long. They hit back immediately after the break through a brilliant solo effort from David Neres. The young Brazilian dispossessed Cancelo on the left wing and cut inside into the penalty area, where he uncorked a brilliant curling strike to beat Szczesny.

Buoyed by Neres’ equaliser, Ajax went in search for a second goal. They almost got it through Nicolas Tagliafico, but the Argentinian full-back’s well-hit long-range strike went wide.

Juventus then had an opportunity to regain the lead. After Bernardeschi whipped a free-kick into the six-yard box, Juve made claims for a penalty when Rodrigo Bentancur went down after tangling with Tagliafico. But after a brief chat with the VAR official, the referee quickly waved away those claims.

Juventus had the best chance in the final half-hour to steal the win as substitute Douglas Costa hit the post after a strong solo run.

But in the end, Juve had to settle for the draw and the one away goal, which will benefit their Champions League 2019 odds to make it through to the semis.

Key statistics

Ajax dominated much of the play in the first leg at home, which was expected. They had 61 per cent possession and outshot Juve, 19-7. Ronaldo’s goal was the only shot Juve had on target all game.

Speaking of Ronaldo, he has extended his lead atop the all-time Champions League goalscoring charts with his 125th goal in the competition. He’s 17 goals ahead of Lionel Messi, who was unable to find the back of the net against Manchester United.

What’s next?

After reclaiming the lead in the Eredivisie, Ajax will have a relatively easy assignment up next as they host Excelsior, who are second from bottom in the league and have lost their last six matches in a row. Ajax thrashed Excelsior 7-1 in their first meeting this season, so they should still be able to win even if they rest their key players ahead of their trip to Turin.

Under 2.50 @ 1.96 1X2 Draw @ 3.25 Total Goals 2-3 @ 1.90 Third Line text CLICK HEREDisclaimer: Odds are correct at time of publish.La Liga

As for Juventus, they have the opportunity to clinch their eighth consecutive Serie A title this weekend if they get at least a point against SPAL. That should be a relatively simple task, which means they should also be able to rest their stars for the second leg.

 

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Fit-again Ronaldo to face Ajax

Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri has confirmed that Cristiano Ronaldo is fit enough to play in their Champions League quarter-final first leg at Ajax.

The 34-year-old picked up a thigh strain while on international duty with Portugal last month but has made a good recovery.

Former Real Madrid and Manchester United star Ronaldo, 10/11 to score at any time in the first leg against Ajax, grabbed a brilliant hat-trick against Atletico Madrid last month as Juve hit back to win the round of 16 tie 3-2 on aggregate.

Ajax recorded an incredible result of their own though, knocking holders Real Madrid out of the competition with a 5-3 aggregate success, and the Dutch side are 23/10 to win Wednesday's first leg.

Juve will be without defender Giorgio Chiellini and midfielder Emre Can but are 2/7 to qualify for the semi-finals and 7/2 to win the Champions League outright this season.

"Unless something happens, Ronaldo will play," Allegri said. "It's a pity not to have Chiellini and Emre Can, but the others are fine.

"Having Douglas Costa back is important, [Paulo] Dybala had a good training session on Tuesday morning. [Daniele] Rugani will play at centre-back, it's an important opportunity for him and we're happy.

"The team is in good shape. We had some important days in training so we can lay the foundations of qualification for the next round and then this weekend the opportunity to win the Scudetto on Ferrara against SPAL.

"Ajax knocked Real Madrid out, but also gave Bayern Munich problems in the group stage. It's the first game of two and we'll see what happens."