Mourinho rules out internationals

Jose Mourinho expects that he will return to management this summer, but he is ruling out taking a step into international football next.

The Portuguese was sacked by Manchester United in December following a poor start to the season by the Red Devils.

He says he already dismissed "three or four" job offers since he departed Old Trafford and is preparing himself for the next move of his career.

Having managed Porto, Chelsea, Inter Milan and Real Madrid before taking the reins at Man United for two and a half year, the two-time Champions League-winning boss says he knows exactly what type of job he'll be accepting next.

"I would like to be back in the summer in June for a new club and a new pre-season," he told BeIn Sports.

"I know exactly what I don't want. I know what I want, in terms of not the specific club but the nature of the job, the dimension of the job."

Mourinho was linked with a return to Madrid recently before Zinedine Zidane returned for a second stint at the Bernabeu, though he has since stated he didn't hold talks with the Spanish giants about a return.

Mourinho says he misses "nothing at all" but is "not on holiday or bored with nothing to do" before adding: "I am working, preparing myself for the next one."

His former Manchester United side are 20/1 to win the Champions League this season ahead of their quarter-final showdown with Barcelona. Man City meanwhile are 9/4 to give Pep Guardiola more European glory, with Juventus and Cristiano Ronaldo 10/3.

One move Mourinho says he won't be making is a step into international football, as he prefers the day-to-day nature of club football.

Asked whether he would be managing at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, he said: "I don't think so. I like daily football, daily work, many competitions. I like matches and I want to stay in football club level."

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Kovacic looking for fine finale

On-loan Chelsea midfielder Mateo Kovacic is confident that the Blues can enjoy a successful conclusion to what has been an inconsistent season so far.

The 24-year-old Croatia international has made 40 appearances for the Londoners since arriving on a season-long loan from Real Madrid, with Chelsea currently battling to secure a top-four finish in the Premier League.

They are also still involved in the Europa League, where they will face Slavia Prague in the quarter-finals, with head coach Maurizio Sarri still trying to fully implement his own preferred playing style.

Kovacic told Chelsea TV: "When players are used to playing (differently) and then come here and change everything, it's difficult.

"But he (Sarri) has his football in his mind and that's a great personality. He just wants to play his football and that's what we're trying to do and trying to win a trophy.

"In the end the most important thing is to win trophies and the players know it. The players are used to winning trophies and I'm sure we will have a great year this season."

Chelsea currently lie in sixth place in the Premier League standings, three points behind fourth-placed Arsenal and only one point further adrift of Tottenham, who occupy third place.

The Blues return to action following the international break with a trip to South Wales to take on Cardiff City on Sunday March 31st.

Earlier this season the meeting of the two sides at Stamford Bridge ended in a 4-1 win for the hosts, with Eden Hazard scoring a hat-trick.

Chelsea are available at 2/5 to win the game a week on Sunday and are 15/2 to do so by a 2-1 scoreline, with the Blues 2/1 to finish in the top four come the end of the season.

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Bale agent explains Zidane dispute

Gareth Bale's agent has explained the previous fall-out with manager Zinedine Zidane but expects the Wales star to have clear-the-air talks with the returning Real Madrid boss.

Zidane finds himself back at the Santiago Bernabeu after Santiago Solari's spell at the helm of Los Blancos was brought to an abrupt end this week.

The return of Zidane to the Spanish capital has been reported as bad news for Bale, who is thought to have had a frosty relationship previously with the former France international.

Bale's agent Jonathan Barnett has shed some light on the situation and is hoping any dispute can be settled that will see the Wales international remain with the La Liga giants.

"Gareth wanted to play one way and Zidane wanted to play another. That was the cause of it and over a period of time it got worse," he said.

"If you let Gareth play the way he wants to play, having a run of games in a row not in and out, he can be right up there with Cristiano Ronaldo. He still has a great talent.

"Gareth is very strong. He is a very strong-willed person and does not care what the press say. The jeering is not something that bothers him, he does not understand what he has to do.

"Look at his record, what he has won and how he has played. In years to come, these people who are booing him, their children will be looking at the goals he scored and will be saying, 'what a wonderful player'."

Real are 50/1 to win La Liga this season, while rivals Barcelona are 1/50 to claim the title.

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Jose: Zidane ‘perfect’ for Real

Jose Mourinho says Zinedine Zidane's return to Real Madrid is 'perfect' for the club and will give the Frenchman a chance to prove himself.

Mourinho meanwhile says he was not in the race to return to the Bernabeu himself, despite intense speculation before Zidane's appointment.

Zidane, who won three Champions League trophies and a Liga title in his two-and-a-half-year spell at the Bernabeu previously, is the right man for the job according to Mourinho.

"It seems perfect to me. With the fantastic things he has done in the last years – it seems perfect," he said.

"For Madrid it is perfect, and for him it is a great opportunity to demonstrate how good he is. And now with a new project, it is fantastic."

Real's hopes of a fourth successive Champions League crown were crushed by Ajax recently, the Eredivisie side running out convincing winners of their last-16 tie.

With Madrid currently third in La Liga and 12 points behind Barcelona, Santiago Solari was dismissed from his post.

He had only taken over at the end of October when former Spain boss Julen Lopetegui was shown the door a matter of months after being appointed by Real Madrid.

Mourinho has denied that he wanted to return to the club.

Asked if he was disappointed, Mourinho replied: "I never said I wanted it or not. I just told you Zidane to Madrid is perfect."

Real Madrid are 1/5 to beat Celta Vigo in the Bernabeu on Saturday. The visitors are 12/1 while the draw can be backed at 6/1.

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Willian supports focused Hazard

Chelsea forward Willian has backed colleague Eden Hazard to remain fully focused on the task in hand and not on a possible summer move to Real Madrid.

Hazard has been strongly linked with a move to the Spanish capital for some time, with the return of head coach Zinedine Zidane to the Bernabeu strengthening such talk.

However, ahead of a Europa League last-16 second leg at Dynamo Kyiv, Willian says he has heard nothing from Hazard to suggest that he has decided to move on.

The Brazilian told reporters: "No doubt, he's focused here. He's never said something about Real Madrid or stuff like this. He just wants to continue to play for Chelsea.

"First of all, I hope he stays with us, but in football you never know what can happen.

"Of course, Eden is a fantastic player, one of the best players in the world – one of the best players I've played with in my whole career. I just have to say I hope he stays with us, that's it."

The Blues hold a 3-0 lead from the first leg against Dynamo at Stamford Bridge last week, when Pedro, Willian and Callum Hudson-Odoi got on the scoresheet.

Chelsea can be backed at 10/11 to win the return leg in Ukraine on Thursday evening, with the visitors 11/2 to claim a 1-0 victory and 11/8 to keep a clean sheet.

The Londoners went all the way in the Europa League in 2013, when they defeated Benfica 2-1 in the final in Amsterdam.

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Giggs gives Bale backing

Ryan Giggs says that Gareth Bale remains crucial to Welsh hopes as they prepare to begin their Euro 2020 qualification campaign.

The Real Madrid player had a starring role as Wales surpassed expectations in reaching the sem-finals of the last European Championships in 2016.

However, he has had problems with his club side this season with Real appointing Zinedine Zidane for his second spell as manager.

Bale's long-term future in Spain remains uncertain but, with international football set to resume later this month, the Welsh manager expects Bale to perform as he always has for his country.

Giggs said: "I expect Gareth to turn up and do what he always does, give everyone a lift. When he plays for Wales he gives 100% and more often than not he performs well.

"You have to take the rough with the smooth. He always turns up and is always brilliant around the camp."

Giggs hopes that Bale will be fully fit for the internationals despite hurting his ankle in Real's Champions League defeat to Ajax and missing their La Liga game at Valladolid on Sunday.

Giggs named a 31-man squad, including Bale, for a friendly against Trinidad and Tobago on 20th March which is closely followed by the first game of Wales' Euro 2020 qualifying campaign, at home to Slovakia.

As well as Slovakia, Wales will also face Hungary, Azerbaijan and World Cup finalists Croatia in Group E with the top two qualifying for Euro 2020 which will, for the first time, be staged throughout Europe rather than having a host country.

The semi-finals and final will be played at Wembley Stadium.

Wales are 7/2 to qualify from Group E with Croatia 2/5 and Slovakia 9/1.

James Chester and Andy King are out of the Welsh squad due to injury while Rotherham's Will Vaulks is included for the first time.

Wales are 66/1 to win Euro 2020 with England 7/1 and France 4/1.

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Zidane back in charge of Real

Real Madrid have re-appointed Zinedine Zidane as their head coach, ten months after he brought an end to his first spell in charge at the Santiago Bernabeu.

The 46-year-old Frenchman was previously at the helm for Los Blancos between January 2016 and the summer of 2018.

Zidane returns in place of Santiago Solari, who took over at the end of October when former Spain boss Julen Lopetegui was shown the door a matter of months after being appointed by Real.

The World Cup winner has agreed a contract running until the summer of 2022, having previously led Real to three consecutive Champions League titles, as well as success in La Liga, the Spanish Super Cup, the Club World Cup and the European Super Cup.

His first task is to try and get Real back on track following recent exits from both the Champions League and the Copa del Rey, while Los Merengues currently lie down in third place in La Liga, some 12 points adrift of leaders Barcelona.

Zidane had earlier spent five seasons at the Bernabeu as a player, helping the club to win La Liga, the Spanish Super Cup, the European Super Cup, the Intercontinental Cup and the Champions League.

The playmaker netted the winning goal in the Champions League final of 2003, as Real defeated Bayer Leverkusen 2-1 at Hampden Park in Glasgow.

His first game back in charge of Real comes on Saturday, when Celta Vigo are the visitors to the Spanish capital.

Los Blancos are 2/9 to win the game and are 13/2 to do so by a 2-0 scoreline, with a 1-1 draw available at 11/1.

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Ronaldo eyeing a ‘special night’

Juventus superstar Cristiano Ronaldo says he and his team-mates have to believe they can turn around their Champions League last-16 tie with Atletico Madrid.

Los Rojiblancos scored twice in the final 12 minutes of the first leg in the Spanish capital to secure a 2-0 victory and give themselves a valuable cushion to take into the second leg in Turin on Tuesday evening.

However, Ronaldo – who knows Atleti only too well from his time with Real Madrid – believes that the tie is far from over and that he and his colleagues are ready to try and engineer a fightback.

He told his club's official website: "We have to believe we can make it, winning still is possible.

"The team is confident of playing a great game and I am too. We are ready to experience a special night.

"Everyone knows that they are a strong team, they defend very well, they don't take a lot of risks and they play on the counter-attack. But we are ready and we will do everything we can to beat them.

"The details will make the difference and we want to win and qualify for the quarter-finals.

"We didn't expect to lose the first leg 2-0, but anything can happen and we want to give a great response."

Either side of their loss in Madrid, Juve have won five league games in a row, although Ronaldo has failed to score on any of his last three appearances.

The Portuguese ace is 4/5 to score at any time on Tuesday evening, with Juve 10/3 to qualify for the quarter-finals and 28/1 to do so following a penalty shootout.

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Misery in Madrid: Ajax Took Down the Defending Champions League Winners!

Real Madrid 1-4 (3-5 on agg.) Ajax

The dignity of being a Champions League winner means that the defending champions will always be expected to make a deep run to defend their title. This statement rings truer if your club is a giant like Real Madrid.

While Los Blancos have had an underwhelming season thus far, their most passionate fans hoped that the team would at least gather around Santiago Solari and come away with a fourth consecutive European title.

They came to the second leg of their Round-of-16 tie against Ajax with an away-goal advantage, and many bookies tipped them to crawl past their Dutch opponents. However, Lucky Ajax turned the script and gave the Madridistas a week’s worth of games and Champions League 2019 highlights that they’d rather forget.

Highlights of the game

Madrid already looked more vulnerable in the back due to the absence of their captain, Sergio Ramos. While Nacho, Raphael Varane and Casemiro still look like a formidable defensive core, not a single soul in the Santiago Bernabeu thought that the team is better without No 4 commandeering the ball from Ajax.

Ramos’ decision to clear his bookings immediately bit Madrid in the rear when Ajax immediately notched the first of their four goals. A slow build-up from Ajax quickly accelerated to a blitz to Madrid’s final third. Casemiro was too far up the pitch, leaving the middle of the danger box open for Hakim Ziyech to receive Dusan Tadic’s pass and slot it past Thibaut Courtois.

Dusan Tadic has spearheaded Ajax in thrashing Real Madrid in their crucial Champions League match

Ajax star Dusan Tadic battles for the ball against Real Madrid’s Casemiro during their Champions League last 16 tie

The entire stadium began worrying about their chances as Ajax looked a lot dangerous moving forward. Toni Kroos had several chances after Ziyech’s 7th-minute goal, but both of those efforts weren’t enough to give Madrid the advantage.

Madrid’s misfortune doubled when Tadic was once again the architect for another great Ajax goal. The ball was glued to his feet as he cruised towards the goal without a Madrid shirt pressuring and dispossessing him. He set David Neres up in a beautiful spot, and the Brazilian managed to beat Courtois and convert the go-ahead strike.

The us Champions League markets are rattled by the development, and the Real Madrid vs Ajax odds began to quickly turn in favour of the guests. Junior Vinicius fired a long-range shot in the 23rd minute to stem the tide of poor form, but Andre Onana was there for the save.

Solari’s night then went from bad to worse when both Lucas and Junior Vinicius couldn’t carry on due to injuries. Gareth Bale, Madrid’s polarizing figure, and Marco Asensio came in as replacements. The Wales international had a chance to even up the aggregate score in the 42nd minute, but the left post denied him of a goal.

The second half looked more encouraging for Madrid as Los Blancos started the reset more positively. Marco Asensio had a shot at glory in the 49th minute, but his shot went wide of the left post. Karim Benzema also had a great individual effort 10 minutes later, but Lucky Ajax didn’t give him enough room as the shot went just wide of the right post.

A flurry of goals then followed starting from the 62nd minute onwards. Tadic, who has made his impact felt throughout the game. A brilliant tackle to dispossess Sergio Reguilon became a quick counter that ended with the Serbian forward firing home a brilliant shot to the top-left corner.

Marco Asensio gave the quiet Santiago Bernabeu crowd reasons to cheer when he finally denied Ajax of a clean sheet. His first-time shot inside the box got past Onana, and the stands jumped to life. They probably hoped that a comeback is in the cards.

Watford Asian Handicap +2.25 @ 2.01 Total Goals 4-6 @ 2.10 Over 3.50 @ 1.89CLICK HEREDisclaimer: Odds are correct at time of publish.Premier League

However, Lasse Schone killed off those hopes in the 72nd minute when he launched a beautiful free-kick close to the left corner. There was nothing Courtois could do as the ball curled beautifully towards the net. Nacho’s ejection deep in added time did nothing but adding insult to injury.

Nobody expected such a lopsided result to happen against Real Madrid, but the other half of Madrid probably celebrated in their rivals’ misery. The match was so surprising that Luis Suarez took to Twitter to express his love for his former club.

Key statistics

Ajax’s decision to have their Eredivisie game moved for this match was a smart decision, and the stats show just how well Ajax played. Real Madrid had more time with the ball at 56% and produced more goal attempts, but Ajax had a better on-target ratio (8 out of 16 shots were on target compared to Madrid’s 7-of-20).

Future Barcelona man Frenkie de Jong was also outstanding for Ajax. The man was told by his future club to take down Madrid in the Champions League, and he did just that. With his 91% pass succession and 00% aerial and tackling rates, the Bernabeu would have a lot to fear when he finally makes the jump to Catalan.

This match saw Madrid fall out of three major competitions. Barcelona knocked them out in the Copa del Rey and the La Liga title last week, and this loss prevented them from trying for a Champions League four-peat. To make matters worse, they are 1-8 when you combine the aggregate scores of these three games.

What’s next?

Real Madrid supporters are left frustrated with the club's disqualification in the Champions League

Real Madrid fans show support for the club during their Champions League battle against Ajax

Los Blancos are no longer the Galacticos, and it will be a tough pill to swallow for Madrid. With no real competitions left to compete for, they must pick up the pace and start a winning run in the league. Their games against Real Valladolid and Celta Vigo give them the opportunity.

Meanwhile, Ajax are on a four-game winning run in all competitions. It seems nothing can stop them now, and Fortuna Sittard and PEC Zwolle can only hope to chip on their mighty form. They will now wait for the rest of the knockout games to pan out before they find out who their opponents in the Last Eight are.

 

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Sensational Ajax stun Real

Ajax's teenage captain Matthijs de Ligt plans to build on Tuesday's amazing 4-1 victory in Madrid that knocked Real out of the Champions League.

Real Madrid had been fortunate to win the first leg in Amsterdam 2-1 but Santiago Solari's side had still been expected to ease into the quarter-finals of a competition they had won in each of the last three campaigns.

Real had reached the Champions League quarter-finals for eight seasons in a row, while Ajax had not been in the round of 16 since 2005/06.

Ajax also had to come through three rounds of qualifying just to reach the group stage of this season's competition but they completed a sensational 5-3 aggregate victory to send the Spanish giants crashing out.

"We will see how far we go but we are certainly not finished yet," de Ligt said afterwards. "We made it difficult for Bayern Munich [in the group stage] and now we've knocked Real Madrid out.

"It was no surprise to us. Real give a lot of room away and, if you are prepared to play football you know you can make it very difficult for them.

"We knew it would be difficult but that there would also be opportunities."

Meanwhile, delighted Ajax coach Erik ten Hag said the performance had been "as close to perfection as you can get".

Ajax, 25/1 to win the Champions League, are 11/8 to win the Eredivisie title this season.