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UEFA Champions League






Real Madrid highlight Day 2 of Matchday 4 in the UEFA Champions League. Caretaker coach Santiago Solari has steered the defending champions away from what appears to be a free fall in the last weeks of Julen Lopetegui, who got fired as manager following the 5-1 humiliation by Barcelona at Camp Nou.

In six matches before them at home and in the continent, Los Blancos won only one match in six straight fixtures – and that was against tonight’s opposition at Santiago Bernabeu. A 2-1 win over lightweight Plzeň is quite pedestrian considering Madrid’s pedigree.

Solari has produced 100% percent result since he took over temporarily – one victory in the Copa del Rey followed by another in LaLiga. With the lacklustre performance of Gareth Bale and Marco Asensio at the weekend against Real Valladolid, Isco may be an inclusion on the left of Solari’s three man attack. It is speculated that former Chelsea keeper Thibaut Courtois may make his Champions League debut for Madrid in place of Keylor Navas.


Madrid won the first leg at home 2-1 and lead Group G on superior goal difference over AS Roma, who are away to CSKA Moscow.

In Rome two weeks ago, Roma beat CSKA 3-0, and the Russian side will be striving at a positive result to step up to second place, at the least.

The teams have met five times in UEFA competitions with Roma winning three times and CSKA once.

Juventus will qualify from Group H for the Round of 16 if they avoid defeat at home to Manchester United who are on revenge mission at Turin. The Old Lady triumphed at Old Trafford 1-0 in the first leg.

Attention will be focused on Cristiano Ronaldo who is yet to score in his last five Champions League matches, including three in the shirts of Juventus. Since converting a 90th minute penalty against his present club for Real Madrid in April, the top class act has played 389 matches and attempted 15 shots without success in the continental competition.


United have only four points from a possible nine and may not advance beyond the group stage unless they produce results beginning from tonight’s match. Jose Mourinho’s side have failed to score in their last two Champions League fixtures.

Valencia breathe down on Manchester United being only two points behind the English club. The LaLiga team settled for a 1-1 result in the reverse fixture away to Young Boys, who are at the foot of the table with one point from three matches.

In Group E, Bayern München and AFC Ajax set the pace, and both sides will book their spots in the second round if they achieve a double over their respective opponents.

The Bavarians are occupying the unlikely third spot in the Bundesliga, which they have won a record 28 times, including successively in the last six seasons. The Germans will have to prove they remain a major force by achieving a double over  AEK Athens having won the first leg away 2-0.

Whichever of the top teams in this group that failed to win will still remain in the Round of 16 qualification range since Benfica, in No 3, are presently four points adrift of the top two. Benfica host AFC Ajax, who won the first leg 1-0.


Manchester City are ruthless at home, leading the charge in the English Premier League after winning nine matches and drawing the remaining two. But they need to translate that form to Europe.

In Group F, City have won two and lost one but held on to top spot with one point above Olympique Lyonnais.

Pep Guardiola’s squad are expected to deal with the challenge by Shakhtar Donetsk tonight, who lost the first leg 3-0.

Lyon, in second place in the group, squandered the opportunity to pick maximum points in their last group match as hosts Hoffenheim drew level 3-3 in added time. Another opportunity presents itself for Lyon tonight to go one gear up as they host the German side, who have garnered only two points from their first three group fixtures.



Group E: 

  • Bayern München v AEK Athens (first leg Bayern München 2-0)
  • Benfica v AFC Ajax (first leg AFC Ajax 1-0) (both 9pm)

Group F: 

  • Olympique Lyonnais v 1899 Hoffenheim (first leg 3-3)
  • Manchester City v Shakhtar Donetsk (first leg Manchester City 3-0) (9pm)

Group G: 

  • CSKA Moscow v AS Roma (first leg AS Roma 3-0) (6:55pm),
  • FC Viktoria Plzeň v Real Madrid (first leg Real Madrid 2-1) (9pm)


Group H: 

  • Valencia v Young Boys (first leg 1-1) (6:55pm)
  • Juventus v Manchester United (first leg Juventus 1-0) (9pm)

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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UEFA Champions League

Premier League left sweating on extra Champions League place after bad night for England



Champions League - Quarter Final - Second Leg - Bayern Munich v Arsenal - Allianz Arena, Munich, Germany - April 17, 2024 Bayern Munich's Joshua Kimmich scores their first goal past Arsenal's David Raya REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach

Tottenham Hotspur supporters would have had little sympathy for archrivals Arsenal after their Champions League quarter-final exit at the hands of Bayern Munich but they may not be laughing so hard come the end of the season.

Arsenal’s 3-2 aggregate defeat, combined with holders Manchester City’s penalty shoot-out loss to Real Madrid, did more than just rule out the possibility of an English club appearing in the Wembley showpiece on June 1.

Those defeats also gave Germany’s Bundesliga the edge over England’s Premier League in the race to secure an extra spot in next year’s expanded Champions League.

Until Wednesday’s wipe-out, England were fractionally behind Germany in UEFA’s co-efficient table, opens new tab — the system used to decide how many places a country is entitled to in Europe’s club competitions.

The top two nations in that table will be awarded five places, rather than four, in next season’s Champions League and with Italy secure in first place the battle between Germany and England was, until Wednesday, too close to call.


However, Germany now look favourites with Bayern Munich having joined Borussia Dortmund in the semi-finals. Dortmund edged out Atletico Madrid in a thriller on Tuesday.

Italy are on 18.428 with Germany on 17.642 while England are on 16.875 and that is before Bayer Leverkusen’s Europa League quarter-final second leg against Premier League West Ham United taking place later on Thursday.

Newly-crowned Bundesliga champions Leverkusen lead 2-0 from the first leg and unless West Ham can pull off a shock comeback at the London Stadium, Germany’s advantage over England will be strengthened further, especially with Liverpool facing a 3-0 deficit in their Europa League quarter-final with Atalanta.

All that has huge implications in the Premier League and the battle for fourth place between Tottenham and Aston Villa.

Villa’s superb win at Arsenal last weekend, combined with Tottenham’s thrashing at Newcastle United, left Villa three points clear of the north London club, who until recently might have thought fifth place would be enough to qualify for next season’s Champions League.


That now looks increasingly unlikely, and with a horror run-in that includes games against Arsenal, Manchester City, Liverpool and Chelsea, Tottenham’s hopes of playing among Europe’s elite next season are diminishing.

Tottenham could end up hoping that Aston Villa win the Europa Conference League as they might be the only English club left in Europe come Friday. They lead Lille 2-1 after the first leg of their quarter-final.

There is a similar battle for fourth spot taking place in the Bundesliga between Borussia Dortmund and RB Leipzig, although it now looks as though both could be playing in the Champions League.

UEFA’s coefficient is based on the results from the Champions League, Europa League and Europa Conference League with every win by a club from a nation worth two points and a draw one.

Bonus points are accrued by progressing through various stages of each competition with the total then divided by the number of teams from that nation in Europe.



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UEFA Champions League

Champions League exit not the end of Arsenal’s season, says Arteta



Arsenal’s players have been stung by their Champions League quarter-finals exit on Wednesday but manager Mikel Arteta said they still have something “beautiful” to play for in the last few weeks of the season as they chase the Premier League title.

Arsenal campaign in Europe’s elite club competition came to an end with a 1-0 defeat by Bayern Munich and follows their elimination from both domestic cup tournaments.

The north London club are still in the hunt for the league title, however, sitting second on 71 points, level with Liverpool and two behind leaders Manchester City.

With City in action in the FA Cup this weekend, Arsenal can return to the top of the table with a win at Wolverhampton Wanderers on Saturday.

“What (the players) need is that we stand right next to them, give them our support, our love, and I will have to pick it up because on Saturday we have a big, big, big game,” Arteta told reporters on Wednesday


“We’re still playing for the Premier League and I really want it. We have to show now that we are capable of turning this around.

“(The pain) is there and it’s not going to go away, certainly tonight, but I can guarantee you by tomorrow we are fully focused on Wolves and everybody’s lifted.

“What we still have to play for is beautiful.”

This was Arsenal’s first season in the Champions League since 2017, and their first quarter-final since 2010, and Arteta said small margins separated the clubs at this stage of the competition.

“Those margins sometimes are coming from something else, that maybe we don’t have yet,” he added.


“We have to learn it, when you look historically, all the clubs to get to certain stages, it took them seven, eight, some of them 10 years to do it


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UEFA Champions League

Silva penalty save down to pure luck, says Real keeper Lunin



Champions League - Quarter Final - Second Leg - Manchester City v Real Madrid - Etihad Stadium, Manchester, Britain - April 17, 2024 Real Madrid's Andriy Lunin saves a penalty taken by Manchester City's Bernardo Silva during the penalty shootout REUTERS/Molly Darlington TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY

Real Madrid goalkeeper Andriy Lunin was their penalty shootout hero as they beat Manchester City on Wednesday to reach the Champions League semi-finals but he said his save from Bernardo Silva’s spot-kick was down to pure luck.

Real midfielder Federico Valverde was named UEFA’s man-of-the-match, but Lunin had made a strong case to be handed the award after making two saves in their 4-3 shootout win after an inspired performance as they drew their quarter-final second leg 1-1.

Silva’s penalty was struck tamely straight down the middle of the goal but Lunin said that a decision taken before the shootout with Real’s coaches enabled him to make what turned out to be an easy save.

“I needed to take a risk with one of the kicks, we picked one (to stay in the middle) and thank goodness it worked out in our favour,” Lunin told Movistar Plus+ with a sigh of relief.

“It’s an away Champions League game and we went through a lot of suffering… but I’m very grateful to the team for everything they’ve fought for. I can’t imagine myself running like my team mates did today.”


The 25-year-old Ukraine keeper was forced to wait for his chance at Real, having been behind Belgium star Thibaut Courtois in the pecking order.

Before this season, he had made only nine Spanish league appearances for the club since signing from Zorya Luhansk in 2018.

He spent his first two seasons in Spain on loan at Leganes, Valladolid and Oviedo, but after Courtois tore his ACL earlier this season, he was given the chance to battle for a starting spot with Kepa Arrizabalaga, who had been signed on a season-long loan deal from Chelsea

Lunin eventually asserted himself as first choice and his performance on Wednesday will have gone a long way towards proving to fans and pundits that he deserved his chance.

“There are games that you have to suffer, that you have to overcome the challenges, that you can’t always play with the ball and be the best team on the pitch. Tonight was like that,” Lunin said.


“For me it has been a great experience. I’m exhausted, it’s the first time in my career that I play a game like this, 120 minutes, penalties, the pressure and the responsibility. It’s hard to explain the feeling.”


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