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Ajax seek Old Glory, Man U wants Record



Ajax Amsterdam and Manchester United on Thursday night booked their places in the final of the Europa Cup.

Manchester progressed to the final after surviving a late scare by determined Celta while Ajax progressed on 5-4 aggregate despite losing 1-3 to French side, Lyon. Both sides are to meet in the final slated for Stockholm’s Friends Arena on May 24.

For Manchester United, they are aiming to become the fifth team after Ajax, Bayern Munich, Chelsea and Juventus to have won all three UEFA’s major club competitions – European Champions Clubs’ Cup, UEFA Cup/UEFA Europa League and European Cup Winners’ Cup.

In the case of Ajax, this is their 25th campaign in the competition. This is the first time in 21 years since the Nigerian duo of Finidi George and Nwankwo Kanu inspired the club to European Cup victory in 1996.

Apart from the Europa Cup victory, both Manchester and Ajax as bonus incentive will seek the Europa Cup as automatic entry into the UEFA Champions League next season.


This season is the third time in which the winners of the UEFA Europa League will gain automatic entry into the UEFA Champions League.

Both had met four times before in previous seasons. The first was in the 1976/77 UEFA Cup first round in which Manchester United overturned an away goal deficit and won 2-0 at home.

Next was the 2011/2012 UEFA Europa League round of 32 when each won the away clashes. Manchester United beat Ajax 2-0 in Amsterdam but surprisingly lost 1-2 at home.



Kunle Solaja is the author of landmark books on sports and journalism as well as being a multiple award-winning journalist and editor of long standing. He is easily Nigeria’s foremost soccer diarist and Africa's most capped FIFA World Cup journalist, having attended all FIFA World Cup finals from Italia ’90 to Qatar 2022. He was honoured at the Qatar 2022 World Cup by FIFA and AIPS.

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Another England club has fallen! Liverpool eliminated from Europa League



Europa League - Quarter Final - Second Leg - Atalanta v Liverpool - Stadio Atleti Azzurri, Bergamo, Italy, - April 18, 2024 Liverpool's Mohamed Salah shakes hands with manager Juergen Klopp after being substituted as Harvey Elliott and Darwin Nunez prepare to come on as substitutes REUTERS/Guglielmo Mangiapane

After Manchester City and Arsenal are eliminated from the Champions League, another English Premier League club has also been ousted from the second  tier Europa League.

Atalanta had stunned the Premier League club 3-0 in the first leg of their quarter-final last week at Anfield, levelling another huge blow to Liverpool’s dreams of a fairytale ending in manager Juergen Klopp’s final season.

“We gave ourselves a massive hurdle (in the first leg), but I liked the game a lot for a long time, the commitment, the desire, the power the boys showed was incredible,” Klopp told TNT Sports.

“It is mixed emotions. We would have wished that we could have gone to Dublin (for the final), but that hasn’t happened.

“We now have one competition left (Premier League) and we will throw ourselves into that completely.”


Atalanta progressed to the Europa League semi-finals despite losing 1-0 to Liverpool on Thursday as they triumphed 3-1 on aggregate to move one step closer to a first ever European final for the Serie A side.

Liverpool got off to a quick start in Italy as talisman Mohammed Salah scored from the penalty spot in the seventh minute, fuelling hope that a remarkable comeback was in the making.

But while Klopp’s men looked little like the shaky side who were steamrolled by Atalanta at Anfield, particularly in the first half, Gian Piero Gasperini’s team held on in what the manager had called the biggest game in the team’s history to earn a semi-final place against Olympique de Marseille.

“If you don’t win without danger, there’s no glory to your triumph,” Gasperini said.

“The fans always ask us for the shirt to be soaked in sweat, and that’s one thing we must have at a minimum.”


Salah had Liverpool’s best chance at a second goal when he was sent in one-on-one against goalkeeper Juan Musso, but he chipped the ball well wide.

Later in the first half, Salah almost set up Luis Diaz with a ball over the top into the area, but it hit the arm of Isak Hien. Liverpool screamed for a penalty to no avail, and Diaz was booked for dissent.

“Last week we were very poor and they had a good game,” Liverpool captain Virgil van Dijk told TNT Sports. “They deserved to go through because we made it far too difficult for ourselves.

“Tonight was a good game and we showed great fight. It was an improvement but the reality is we are out. We are disappointed to be out of the competition as we really wanted to win it.”

Liverpool, who won the League Cup earlier this season, now turn their attention back to the Premier League. They are level on 71 points with second-placed Arsenal and two points behind leaders Manchester City.


They play at Fulham on Sunday in a quick turnaround. “We won tonight and we kept a clean sheet, so there are so many more positives we can take. Yes, it is a bad feeling to be out so we have to get back up,” Van Dijk added.

“We have been through difficult moments all together, so showing maturity and togetherness is the key to this. We need everyone now for the last push in the league.”


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Football fans across Europe and the rest of the world will set their focus on the UEFA headquarters in Nyon, Switzerland where the draws for the continent’s club competitions will be conducted. That of the elite Champions League will be held from noon local time (same time in Nigeria), followed by the Europa League’s an hour later.

Expecting is high. Which “big” club face-off? And which less-fancied side take on a “giant”?

For the Champions League, the eight group winners will be seeded and host the second leg of their respective Round of 16 tie, while the 12 group winners in the Europa League group phase plus four best third-ranked teams in the Champions League group stage are the top teams in that second tier competition’s Round of 32 draw.

Seeded teams in the Champions League are:

  • Real Madrid, record 13-time winners of the competition, including being champions of the last three editions
  • Bayern München, five-time champions, the last time being in 2013
  • Barcelona, also five-time winners, 2015 being the last time
  • Juventus, twice winners (1985 and 1996)
  • FC Porto, champions in 1987 and 2004
  • Borussia Dortmund, who won it in 1997
  • Manchester City, semi-finalists in 2016 when Real Madrid triumphed 1-0 aggregate
  • Paris Saint-Germaine, who have never advanced beyond the Round of 16

In the unseeded hat will be the runners-up of the group stage:

  • Liverpool, winners on five occasions, the last being 2005
  • AFC Ajax, four-time champions, including three successive victories from 1971
  • Manchester United, champions in 1968, 1999 and 2008
  • Atlético Madrid, who were in the finals of 1974, 2014 and 2016, losing the last two to cross-town team Real Madrid
  • AS Roma, losing finalists to Liverpool in 1984
  • Tottenham Hotspur, twice quarterfinalists (2011 and 2013)
  • Olympique Lyonnais, quarterfinalists in 2005 and 2006
  • Schalke 04, quarterfinalists in 2008

By the rules, teams that featured in the same group or are of the same federation will avoid themselves in the Round of 16.

Possible opposition:

Liverpool’s opposition will come from Barcelona, Bayern München, Borussia Dortmund, Juventus, FC Porto or Real Madrid

Previous meetings
Barcelona P8 W3 D3 L2 F6 A6
Bayern P7 W2 D4 L1 F9 A7
Dortmund P5 W2 D2 L1 F8 A6
Juventus P6 W2 D1 L3 F4 A5
Porto P6 W3 D3 L0 F12 A2
Real Madrid P6 W3 D0 L3 F7 A7

AFC Ajax will challenge either Barcelona, Borussia Dortmund, Juventus, Manchester City, ParisSaint-Germaine, FC Porto or Real Madrid

Previous meetings
Barcelona P4 W1 D0 L3 F3 A10
Dortmund P4 W2 D0 L2 F4 A5
Juventus P12 W2 D4 L6 F9 A15
Manchester City P2 W1 D1 L0 F5 A3
PSG P2 W0 D1 L1 F2 A4
Porto P6 W1 D1 L4 F2 A6
Real Madrid P12 W4 D1 L7 F10 A24


Manchester United will go up against Barcelona, Bayern München, Borussia Dortmund, FC Porto, Real Madrid or ParisSaint-Germaine

Previous meetings
Barcelona P11 W3 D4 L4 F15 A20
Bayern P11 W2 D5 L4 F13 A16
Dortmund P6 W3 D1 L2 F13 A5
Porto P8 W3 D3 L2 F14 A11
Real Madrid P11 W2 D4 L5 F17 A22

PSG No previous meeting

Atlético Madrid may face either Bayern München, Juventus, FC Porto, Paris Saint-Germaine or Manchester City

Previous meetings
Bayern P6 W2 D1 L3 F4 A8
Juventus P7 W2 D1 L4 F7 A10
Porto P8 W3 D3 L2 F8 A9


PSG No previous meeting

Manchester City No previous meeting

AS Roma will square up against either Barcelona, Bayern München, Borussia Dortmund, Manchester City,FC Porto or Paris Saint-Germaine

Previous meetings
Barcelona P6 W2 D2 L2 F10 A12
Bayern P6 W1 D0 L5 F5 A17
Dortmund P2 W1 D0 L1 F1 A2
Manchester City P2 W0 D1 L1 F1 A3
Porto P4 W0 D2 L2 F1 A6

PSG No previous meeting


Tottenham Hotspur will be up against Bayern München, Borussia Dortmund, Juventus, FC Porto, Real Madrid orParis Saint-Germaine

Previous meetings
Bayern P4 W1 D1 L2 F4 A6
Dortmund P4 W2 D0 L2 F6 A7
Juventus P2 W0 D1 L1 F3 A4
Porto P2 W1 D1 L0 F3 A1
Real Madrid P6 W1 D2 L3 F4 A8

PSG No previous meeting

Olympique Lyonnais will take on either Barcelona, Bayern München, Juventus, FC Porto, Real Madrid or Borussia Dortmund

Previous meetings
Barcelona P6 W0 D2 L4 F7 A16
Bayern P8 W2 D2 L4 F9 A11
Juventus P4 W0 D1 L3 F2 A5
Porto P4 W0 D1 L3 F2 A8
Real Madrid P10 W3 D4 L3 F11 A14


Dortmund No previous meeting

Schalke 04 will encounter either Barcelona, Manchester City, Paris Saint-Germaine, Real Madrid or Juventus

Previous meetings
Barcelona P2 W0 D0 L2 F0 A2
Manchester City P3 W1 D0 L2 F2 A7
PSG P1 W1 D0 L0 F3 A1
Real Madrid P4 W1 D0 L3 F6 A11

Juventus No previous meeting

The first leg of these matches will hold next February 12, 13, 19 and 20, while the reverse fixtures come up on March 5, 6, 12 and 13.


The Champions League final will be stage at Estadio Metropolitano in Madrid on Saturday, June 1.

In the Europa League draw for the Round of 32, the seeded teams in former European champions Inter Milan, Benfica, Chelsea, Eintracht Frankfurt and Napoli.

Other top seeds are: Bayer Leverkusen, Red Bull Salzburg, Zenit Saint Petersburg, Dinamo Zagreb, Arsenal, Real Betis, Villarreal, Genk, Sevilla, Dynamo Kyiv and Valencia

The unseeded teams are: FC Zürich, Celtic, SK Slavia Prague, Fenerbahçe, Sporting CP, Olympiacos, Rapid Wien, Lazio, Malmö FF, FC Krasnodar, StadeRennais, FC BATE Borisov, Club Brugge, Galatasaray, Shakhtar Donetsk andFC Viktoria Plzeň

According to the rules, no club will be drawn against a team that played in their group or a side from their own national association.


But any other restrictions will be announced ahead of the draw.

Seeded group winners are away in the first legs on February 14, 2019, while Return matches hold on a week later.

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FIFA president, Gianni Infantino, is ready to use the harshest to the players participating in European Super League, should the competition come into being.


According to Spanish publication, Tribuna, the FIFA president is quoted as saying: “Either you are in or you are out,” saying further that the players of the breakaway teams would be excluded from the World Cup, European Championship and national leagues.  “This includes everything.


“People are still quite reasonable. I trust certainly the club owners and presidents to be able to have a discussion.”

“The idea is if you break away, you break away – you don’t keep one foot in and one foot out,” FIFA’s legal director, Alasdair Bell, added.


“That would be the general approach we would follow, but of course lawyers can debate this for a long time.”


The latest revelations by Der Spiegel and Football Leaks confirmed that the official representatives from Real Madrid, Barcelona, Manchester United, Bayern Munich, Juventus, Arsenal and Milan have all signed a document to establish a new competition, Super League.


Naturally, they have allacted behind the backs of the main football governing association, UEFA.


The plan of Super League is as follows: eleven clubs are considered to be ‘the founding fathers’; unable to be relegated. These are Real Madrid, Barcelona, Manchester United, Bayern Munich, Juventus, Chelsea, Arsenal, Paris Saint-Germain, Manchester City, Liverpool and Milan.


Another five clubs – Inter, AS Roma, Atletico Madrid, Borussia Dortmund and Olympique Marseille – would be ‘invited’ to participate in the 16-club new competition.


Infantino has also offered his counter idea: the Club World Cup. “The Club World Cup is the answer to any attempt to even think about any sort of breakaway leagues,” he said.


He believes that his plan, featuring at least 12 European clubs in a 24-team line-up and worth $3bn every four years, was a good alternative to a closed league.


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