PSG and Madrid wait on Mbappé and Kroos for decisive 2nd leg

PSG's Kylian Mbappe, left, attends a training session with his teammates at the Bernabeu stadium in Madrid, Spain, Tuesday, March 8, 2022. (AP)
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Updated 08 March 2022
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PSG and Madrid wait on Mbappé and Kroos for decisive 2nd leg

  • Kylian Mbappé is doubtful for PSG because of a left-foot injury, while Madrid is likely to be without Toni Kroos because of a muscle problem

MADRID: With some star power likely missing, Carlo Ancelotti and Mauricio Pochettino will have tinkering to do for the decisive encounter between their Real Madrid and Paris Saint-Germain sides in the Champions League round of 16 on Wednesday.

Kylian Mbappé is doubtful for PSG because of a left-foot injury, while Madrid is likely to be without Toni Kroos because of a muscle problem.

Madrid, which lost the first leg 1-0 thanks to Mbappé’s stoppage-time winner in Paris, is certain to be without Casemiro because of a suspension and may not also count on a fully fit Federico Valverde after a bout with the flu.

Setting up the midfield will be no easy task for Ancelotti, as Casemiro plays a key role in keeping the Spanish team balanced. The absence of Kroos would hurt the team more offensively than defensively, as the German veteran helps the team transition into attack. Kroos returned to training but a decision on whether he will play likely won’t be made until Wednesday.

“A player who is not at 100 percent can’t play in this type of game,” Ancelotti said on Tuesday. “If I think Kroos will be at 100 percent, he will play. If I think he will be at 95 percent, he won’t play.”

Young Frenchman Eduardo Camavinga will likely go into the midfield alongside Luka Modric and possibly Valverde, who missed the Liga game against Real Sociedad last weekend. The 19-year-old Camavinga played well in that match, scoring a superb opening goal in the 4-1 victory that increased Madrid’s lead in the league. He had Casemiro by his side, though, which will not be the case against PSG.

“Casemiro’s absence is certainly important for us,” Modric said. “We will have to give even more of ourselves to make up for his absence, especially defensively. But we have players who can replace him well, like Fede or Edu, and hopefully Toni will make it to the match as well.”

Madrid’s midfield issues will likely make it easier for Lionel Messi, who gets another good chance to finally come through with a big performance for PSG and live up to his status after joining from Barcelona. He will take over most of the spotlight if Mbappé can’t play after getting hurt in Monday’s training session.

Initial medical exams showed the injury wasn’t serious, but PSG said he was undergoing treatment and his fitness would be reassessed closer to the match.

Mbappé, who has been linked with a move to Madrid when his contract expires at the end of the season, has been in stellar form with 24 goals and 17 assists in all competitions.

He was suspended at the weekend when PSG lost at Nice 1-0 in the French league. Pochettino used former Madrid forward Ángel Di María along with Neymar in attack, and Di María is likely to play again if Mbappé can’t make it. The Argentine played under Ancelotti in the coach’s first stint with Madrid.

“We will prepare for the match as if Mbappé will play,” Ancelotti said. “But our preparation is not only to face Mbappé, it’s to face Neymar, Messi and all the other good PSG players.”

Pochettino is set to be without former Madrid defender Sergio Ramos and Spaniard Ander Herrera because of injuries, and Achraf Hakimi, another former Madrid player, was listed as doubtful. Ramos will make the trip to the Spanish capital despite not being available.

Ancelotti can’t count on suspended left back Ferland Mendy, with veteran Marcelo likely taking over for him.

Madrid eliminated PSG at this stage in 2018 en route to winning the title for the third year in a row, although the French club came out on top in the two previous knockout encounters between the teams.

Madrid is the record 13-time European champion, while PSG is seeking its first Champions League trophy.

A crowd of 60,000 — the biggest since the coronavirus pandemic started — is expected at Santiago Bernabéu Stadium, which remains below its full capacity because of renovation work.


UEFA fines Croatia for fan trouble at Euro 2024

Updated 5 sec ago
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UEFA fines Croatia for fan trouble at Euro 2024

The HNS published a statement on its website saying that it will have to pay a fine of $29,900
The Croatian federation was fined 87,875 euros

ZAGREB: UEFA have fined the Croatian Football Federation (HNS) for the incidents that occurred in the stands during Croatia’s 2-2 draw with Albania at Euro 2024, the national federation said on Saturday.
The HNS published a statement on its website saying that it will have to pay a fine of 28,000 euros ($29,900) due to the “lighting of flares and throwing of objects by some Croatian fans during the match played on June 19 in Hamburg.”
“The Croatian Football Federation thanks the Croatian fans for their excellent support and once again calls on them to refrain from lighting and throwing flares,” the statement said.
The HNS was also fined after Croatia’s first match in Group B, which they lost 3-0 to Spain.
The Croatian federation was fined 87,875 euros for fans throwing plastic cups onto the pitch and lighting flares.
Croatia are in danger of a group-stage exit from Euro 2024 after defeat to Spain and Wednesday’s thrilling 2-2 draw in which Albania’s Klaus Gjasula scored at both ends, including a dramatic injury-time equalizer.
Croatia, World Cup semifinalists in 2022, will now likely need to win their final Group B match against holders Italy on Monday to have any hope of reaching the knockout phase of a fifth straight major tournament.

Portugal breeze past Turkiye and into Euro 2024 knockout stage

Updated 22 June 2024
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Portugal breeze past Turkiye and into Euro 2024 knockout stage

  • Portugal looked every inch a team aiming to win their second European Championship
  • Cristiano Ronaldo will have at least two more tries to become the oldest goalscorer at a European Championship

DORTMUND: Portugal swept into the last 16 of Euro 2024 on Saturday after comfortably seeing off Turkiye 3-0 and guaranteeing first place in Group F.
Bernardo Silva’s fine finish in the 21st minute, a comical Samet Akaydin own goal shortly afterwards and Bruno Fernandes’s second-half tap-in gave Portugal a straightforward win in front of swathes of passionate Turkish fans in Dortmund.
Portugal looked every inch a team aiming to win their second European Championship after triumphing in 2016, their star-studded line-up easily dealing with Vincenzo Montella’s enthusiastic but limited Turkiye team.
Cristiano Ronaldo will have at least two more tries to become the oldest goalscorer at a European Championship as Martinez said on Friday that the 39-year-old is in the right shape to play every four days.
It was Ronaldo who unselfishly set up Fernandes for a simple goal in the 56th minute after springing through Turkiye’s offside trap, and he then had time to pose for a selfie with a child fan who invaded the pitch midway through the second half.
Martinez’s side, on a perfect six points, will face one of the four best third-place finishers in the next round and go into their final group game against Georgia without any pressure for a result.
The same cannot be said for Turkiye who need a draw against the Czech Republic on Wednesday to ensure second place.
Turkiye’s passionate support again flocked to the Westfalenstadion in huge numbers, with long tailbacks on the roads leading to the ground several hours before the 6:00 p.m. (1600 GMT) kick-off.
Some fans sat on the top of cars leading chants among the thousands of supporters who crawled toward their destination.
Once inside what was effectively a home crowd let out a deafening chorus of whistles and jeers when Portugal jogged out for their pre-match warm-up.
However, once the match got underway there was a clear gap in class between the two sides and Portugal went deservedly ahead through Silva as the Manchester City midfielder confidently smashed in Nuno Mendes’s deflected low cross.
Soon after, Akaydin gifted Portugal a two-goal lead with his sloppy backpass which turned into an own goal as Zeki Celik and goalkeeper Altay Bayindir tried in vain to prevent the ball crossing the line.
Those two goals and the dominance of the Portuguese players quietened down the partisan crowd and the result was sealed when Fernandes stroked home his former Manchester United teammate Ronaldo’s present of a pass.
The Portugal fans then turned up the volume to celebrate their country reaching the last 16.
And cheers then rang around the ground from both sets of supporters as a pint-sized fan ran onto the pitch midway through the second half, just as the game was stopped to allow Nelson Semedo to replace Joao Cancelo for Portugal.
The youngster was cool enough to grab an amused Ronaldo for a photo and then dashed off on a mazy run his hero would have been proud of, dropping his shoulder on security staff before eventually being carted away from the pitch.
Ronaldo was less amused when five much larger fans then made copycat bids for selfies, only to be showered with boos and refused a photo before annoyed stewards reached them.


Southgate and England team under fire after lackluster display at Euro 2024

Updated 22 June 2024
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Southgate and England team under fire after lackluster display at Euro 2024

  • After Thursday’s uninspiring 1-1 draw with Denmark, the coach acknowledged “we understand what that will mean for the next few days”
  • former England captain Gary Lineker said: “I can’t imagine anybody, who is English, that would have enjoyed England’s performance because it was lethargic, it was dour...”

GELSENKIRCHEN, Germany: Gareth Southgate said he knew it was coming. He was right.
Negativity surrounds the England team — despite leading their group after two games at Euro 2024 and likely to advance to the knockout phase.
After Thursday’s uninspiring 1-1 draw with Denmark, the coach acknowledged “we understand what that will mean for the next few days.”
Indeed, it has fueled concern among fans, English media and former players.
“We have to reflect the mood of the nation,” former England captain Gary Lineker said on his podcast, The Rest is Football. “I can’t imagine anybody, who is English, that would have enjoyed England’s performance because it was lethargic, it was dour...
“You can think of all sorts of words and expletives if you like,” he added, before using one himself.
Lineker’s political opinions have upset the UK government in the recent past — now he has delivered a brutal assessment of the England team.
His comments about England appear to have summed up the mood of many fans.
Southgate’s team were a pre-tournament favorite and beaten finalists at the last Euros.
BBC pundit Alan Shearer described the second half against Denmark as “awful.”
Southgate’s handling of a squad that includes Harry Kane, Jude Bellingham and Phil Foden has been brought into question.
“We have world class players so it’s the manager’s job to get the best out of those players,” said Shearer, a former England striker.
Southgate has transformed England’s fortunes since he was appointed in 2016 — leading the country to the semifinals of the World Cup in 2018.
England missed out on a first trophy since winning the 1966 World Cup when they lost on penalties to Italy in the final of the last Euros three years ago.
The 2022 World Cup was England’s worst performance under Southgate when they lost to defending champion France in the quarterfinals.
England were unconvincing in their opener — a 1-0 win over Serbia — and have a few days off before their final Group C game Tuesday against Slovenia.
So, what has gone wrong in Germany?
Expectation
It has been a longstanding complaint that too much is expected of England at international tournaments. Despite having the most popular league in the world — the Premier League — and some of the most successful clubs, England’s sole success on the international stage remains the World Cup it won in 1966. The last Euros was England’s best performance at any tournament since then when finishing runner-up.
Southgate
Ahead of the tournament, Southgate said this would likely be his last in charge of England if he failed to deliver a trophy.
“I’ve been here for almost eight years now and we’ve come close. So, I know that you can’t keep standing in front of the public and saying ‘please do a little more’, because at some point people will lose faith in your message,” he said before the Euros began.
No left side
The England team are looking unbalanced because they essentially have no left side. Luke Shaw is the only designated left back in the squad, but he is still not fully fit after a long-term injury, leaving Kieran Trippier — a right back — to play on the left. Foden is playing as a nominal left winger, but he prefers to drift inside. England are essentially attacking down the right or down the middle, hugely restricting their options and making the team easier to defend against.
Midfield dilemma
England’s longtime midfield issue has not gone away. In fact, it might be worse than ever. Southgate has admitted to doing an “experiment” by selecting right back Trent Alexander-Arnold as a central midfielder alongside Declan Rice. Alexander-Arnold was substituted early in both games. Quite apart from the oddness of Southgate experimenting in such a key position at a major tournament, he is also overlooking three midfielders who finished the English domestic season strongly — Kobbie Mainoo, Adam Wharton and Conor Gallagher.


Georgia get their 1st point but miss a win in 1-1 draw with Czech Republic at Euro 2024

Updated 22 June 2024
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Georgia get their 1st point but miss a win in 1-1 draw with Czech Republic at Euro 2024

  • Georgia took the lead with a Georges Mikautadze penalty given for handball by Czech defender Robin Hranec
  • The Czech team got back into the game when a header rebounded off the post and Patrik Schick scored with his chest

HAMBURG: Georgia earned their first-ever point at a major tournament in a 1-1 draw with the Czech Republic at Euro 2024 on Saturday. It was nearly a win.
Midfielder Saba Lobjanidze fired his shot narrowly over the bar with the last kick of the game as Georgia’s promising three-on-one counterattack came to nothing.
Lobjanidze — who plays for Atlanta United in the US state of Georgia — seemed to be in tears after the final whistle and was comforted by coach Willy Sagnol.
Earlier, video reviews were in the spotlight.
The Czech team dominated the opening stages and celebrated the opening goal in the 23rd minute when Adam Hlozek bundled the ball into the net at the far post off a long throw.
Replays, however, showed Hlozek’s shot had bounced back off goalkeeper Giorgi Mamardashvili and in off the Czech forward’s face and arm.
The situation was reversed when Georgia defender Guram Kashia shot straight at the goalkeeper just before halftime. Georgia’s fans rued the missed chance but celebrated when a video review found the ball had come off Czech defender Robin Hranac’s arm a couple of seconds earlier.
Georgia, the only team making their debut at Euro 2024, then took the lead with a Georges Mikautadze penalty given for handball by Czech defender Robin Hranec.
The Czech team got back into the game when a header rebounded off the post and Patrik Schick scored with his chest for his sixth career goal at the European Championships, ranking him joint-sixth on the all-time list.
Schick limped off soon after and applied ice to his calf, potentially a major concern for the Czech Republic given the Bayer Leverkusen striker’s importance to the team and his long record of previous injuries.
VAR didn’t intervene later in the game when the Czech team appealed for players being pushed by Georgian defenders in the penalty area, perhaps because the contact on both occasions was relatively slight.
The draw means that both teams almost certainly require a win in their last group games to qualify for the knockout stages.
Türkiye and Portugal are the other two teams in Group F. They play later Saturday.


Norris shrugs off McLaren fire to nab Spanish pole after ‘best ever lap’

Updated 22 June 2024
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Norris shrugs off McLaren fire to nab Spanish pole after ‘best ever lap’

  • Lewis Hamilton will start on the second row alongside his Mercedes teammate George Russell
  • Norris produced his one minute 11.383 seconds of magic after a “stressful” day when the McLaren hospitality unit caught fire before third practice

BARCELONA: Lando Norris brushed aside the drama of his McLaren team’s hospitality unit catching fire to produce “the best lap of my life” and deprive Max Verstappen of pole for the Spanish Grand Prix in qualifying on Saturday.
Lewis Hamilton will start on the second row alongside his Mercedes teammate George Russell.
Verstappen looked sure to set off for Sunday’s 10th round of the season from the front of the grid.
But in the last throw of the top-10 shoot-out Norris denied the Red Bull ace by a mere two hundredths of a second.
“Today was the perfect lap,” said Norris after only his second career pole.
“My best lap by a long way, I knew I had to do something perfect, it was probably my best lap ever.”
Norris produced his one minute 11.383 seconds of magic after a “stressful” day when the McLaren hospitality unit caught fire before third practice.
McLaren team boss Zak Brown told Sky Sports one staff member had to go to hospital but had been discharged, adding: “Happy to report everyone is fine.”
“I lost my shoes. It’s all been a bit messy,” said Norris.
“I like to listen to my music loud beforehand, but didn’t have that this time. But it’s not the end of the world. I’m not going to complain about it.”
Turning back to a vintage qualifying session, Norris, whose only other pole came in Russia in 2021, reflected: “It’s been a while since Sochi!
“Max seemed a bit stronger today, but we made some changes,” added the Briton who won his maiden Grand Prix in May in Miami.
“I’m super happy to be on pole, it’s going to be tough but we’re here to win!“
Verstappen, targeting a fourth straight world title, leads the championship by 56 points from Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc, who starts Sunday’s race in fifth, with Norris seven points back in third.
“I think the whole of qualifying was better than practice for me,” said Verstappen, who won his maiden Grand Prix in Barcelona in 2016 and is on a hat-trick after wins in Catalonia in 2022 and 2023.
“It all clicked much better. The other teams are catching up, we need to bring more performance to the car.”
Ferrari-bound Hamilton was happy to be toward the front of the grid as he out-qualified his teammate Russell for only the second time this year.
“It’s good to be back up here, great to see we are progressing,” he said.
“We are slowly climbing closer to the guys in front, it’s really on a knife edge.
“I’m really happy to be in P3 with that long straight to turn one.”
Joining Leclerc on the third row will be his Ferrari teammate and home favorite Carlos Sainz.
Next came the Alpine of Pierre Gasly, the second Red Bull of Sergio Perez, who has a three-place grid penalty from Canada, Esteban Ocon in the other Alpine and Oscar Piastri in the second McLaren.
After only a tenth of a second had covered the top four in final practice earlier the stage was set for an intriguing pole battle.
Complicating matters was a sizeable drop in temperature, with morning sunshine giving way to heavy cloud cover with the wind picking up.
The action on track though was anything but cool, as drivers scrambled to eke out every last ounce of performance for a Grand Prix won from pole in 24 of 33 races run at the circuit.
After clipping the McLaren of Norris at the end of final practice Leclerc tuned up for qualifying with a trip to the FIA’s headmaster’s study as the race stewards investigated the incident.
Leclerc was arguably fortunate to escape with only a reprimand rather than a grid penalty, announced just before qualifying got under way.
Hamilton grabbed the honors in the first qualifying run, jumping from 14th to first, with Verstappen leading the Mercedes duo after the second session.
Verstappen came alive when it counted most — after a quietish time in the three practice sessions he led Q3 after the first flurry of laps.
All the drivers pitted to prepare for one last attempt at depriving the Red Bull ace from Sunday’s pole, with Norris nailing it to end a trying day on a high.
This is the 10th round of the 24-race season and the first of a triple header with Austria and Silverstone coming up over the next two weekends.