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Category: Champions League

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Marcelo and Dani Alves make Champions League final a battle of the full-backs | Sid Lowe

Real Madrid’s Marcelo and Dani Alves of Juventus have redefined their position while bringing plenty of trophies to their clubs in the past 10 years

“Three months ago some people wanted to strangle him,” Massimiliano Allegri said with a smile, but that night they just wanted to hug him. The story goes that when Dani Alves arrived at Juventus, Gigi Buffon took him to one side and asked him to teach them how to win the Champions League. He might not be able to do that exactly but Allegri was speaking just after Alves had taken them to Cardiff, delivering the pass for the first goal and volleying home the second in Monaco. He had already provided two assists in the first leg of the semi-final in Turin, one with a superb backheel. Juventus were in the final again, two years after they lost to Barcelona in Berlin– when Alves was on the other team.

On the other side this time, facing him, will be Marcelo, who after Real Madrid’s recent clásico defeat bemoaned: “It’s my fault.” His crime: not committing the foul that might have prevented Lionel Messi from winning it. Few noticed then that he had provided the late assist for James Rodríguez to equalise in the first place – but they did when six days later he scored late to tighten Madrid’s grip on the title. Five days before that, he had finally broken Bayern Munich, in the 109th minute of the Champions League quarter-final, weaving through, hurdling challenges and leaving Ronaldo an open goal to finish off the German champions.

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PSG have lost their identity in a humiliating Ligue 1 season

After winning the league by 31 points last season, Paris Saint-Germain have been overtaken by a club with a much smaller budget. It’s time for a new approach

By Adam White and Eric Devin for Get French Football News

Humiliating may sound like an extreme word for Paris Saint-Germain’s season but the last 10 months have verged on the disastrous for the club. This time last year they strolled to their fourth title in a row, finishing 31 points clear of Lyon and Monaco as they won their second consecutive French treble. It was easy, as it had been for some time, but they have stagnated this season. And now, with Monaco surpassing them as Ligue 1’s premier side, the club’s identity has to be called into question.

Since the QSI takeover in 2011, Paris Saint-Germain’s focus has been on one thing: Europe. Winning the Champions League and becoming one of the continent’s elite sides was the reason the club was purchased. With their overwhelming pool of resources, domestic dominance was assured sooner or later, but Europe has now become an obsession. Laurent Blanc was dispensed with last summer despite his clean sweep of French honours, after another lacklustre exit from the Champions League. After winning a trio of Europa League titles at Sevilla, Unai Emery was enlisted to bring PSG success abroad and maintain it at home. However, despite the €125m invested in playing staff and the swathes of quality already in situ, this season has not only proven to be one of regression but has put the whole “project” into question.

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Champions League still a financial and sporting lure for Premier League clubs | David Conn

The idea that participation in Europe’s top club competition is less important to England’s top flight because of TV money dissolves on analysis

There is an emerging school of thought that qualification for the European Champions League is no longer quite the financial and commercial boost that it used to be, given the galactic increase in Premier League TV money showering fortunes on all 20 clubs from 2016-19.

It is true the increase in the English top flight’s broadcasting deals, from £5.1bn in 2013-16 to £8.4bn in the present three-year cycle, is a dramatic windfall – inflated at home by BT’s serious designs on BSkyB’s 25-year subscriber stranglehold and internationally by increased coverage of the Premier League on channels all over the world. However, the idea Champions League participation is now less important dissolves on analysis because it misses several crucial elements – as well as the actual figures, which show it remains a lucrative earner for the top clubs.

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Champions League still a financial and sporting lure for Premier League clubs | David Conn

The idea that participation in Europe’s top club competition is less important to England’s top flight because of TV money dissolves on analysis

There is an emerging school of thought that qualification for the European Champions League is no longer quite the financial and commercial boost that it used to be, given the galactic increase in Premier League TV money showering fortunes on all 20 clubs from 2016-19.

It is true the increase in the English top flight’s broadcasting deals, from £5.1bn in 2013-16 to £8.4bn in the present three-year cycle, is a dramatic windfall – inflated at home by BT’s serious designs on BSkyB’s 25-year subscriber stranglehold and internationally by increased coverage of the Premier League on channels all over the world. However, the idea Champions League participation is now less important dissolves on analysis because it misses several crucial elements – as well as the actual figures, which show it remains a lucrative earner for the top clubs.

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Arsenal, Liverpool and Manchester City: what missing Champions League would mean

We examine why the three clubs’ Premier League fate has gone to the wire and what the impact on each would be if they finish outside the top four

P 37 Pts 72 GD +31

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Béla Guttmann and the barber’s trip that helped Benfica win the European Cup

The legendary coach’s signing of Eusébio followed a chance meeting in an unusual location and Benfica’s path to a second straight European Cup triumph in 1962 showed Guttmann was a man ahead of his time

Win a major sporting trophy once, and the naysayers will dismiss the success as random luck. Win it twice, and the same people are forced to eat their words. The 1961-62 season was when Benfica’s Béla Guttmann wrote his name in the pantheon of coaching greats.

A chance meeting in the unlikely venue of a barber’s shop, several months before the first European Cup victory, also with Benfica, had paved the way for further success. Guttmann bumped into José Carlos Bauer, a former Brazil international, who was coaching Ferroviária in his native country, and whom he rated as a shrewd judge of the game.

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Béla Guttmann and the barber’s trip that helped Benfica win the European Cup

The legendary coach’s signing of Eusébio followed a chance meeting in an unusual location and Benfica’s path to a second straight European Cup triumph in 1962 showed Guttmann was a man ahead of his time

Win a major sporting trophy once, and the naysayers will dismiss the success as random luck. Win it twice, and the same people are forced to eat their words. The 1961-62 season was when Benfica’s Béla Guttmann wrote his name in the pantheon of coaching greats.

A chance meeting in the unlikely venue of a barber’s shop, several months before the first European Cup victory, also with Benfica, had paved the way for further success. Guttmann bumped into José Carlos Bauer, a former Brazil international, who was coaching Ferroviária in his native country, and whom he rated as a shrewd judge of the game.

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Chelsea can challenge Europe’s elite clubs, says Cesc Fàbregas

• ‘We’ve won the title but that doesn’t mean the team cannot get better’
• Chelsea to spend £200m and give Antonio Conte and Eden Hazard new deals

Cesc Fàbregas expects Chelsea to challenge in the Champions League next season and help restore English clubs’ reputation in Europe’s elite competition, with the title winners ready to build on the success they have enjoyed under Antonio Conte this term.

The Premier League champions, who face Watford on Monday at a Stamford Bridge that is sure to be in celebratory mood, are ready to spend lavishly this summer as they prepare to return to the Champions League after a season’s absence. Conte is seeking reinforcements up and down the team’s spine, from Romelu Lukaku to Virgil van Dijk, Tiemoué Bakayoko to Alexis Sánchez, and will also be offered his own new lucrative contract to stay at the club.

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Chelsea can challenge Europe’s elite clubs, says Cesc Fàbregas

• ‘We’ve won the title but that doesn’t mean the team cannot get better’
• Chelsea to spend £200m and give Antonio Conte and Eden Hazard new deals

Cesc Fàbregas expects Chelsea to challenge in the Champions League next season and help restore English clubs’ reputation in Europe’s elite competition, with the title winners ready to build on the success they have enjoyed under Antonio Conte this term.

The Premier League champions, who face Watford on Monday at a Stamford Bridge that is sure to be in celebratory mood, are ready to spend lavishly this summer as they prepare to return to the Champions League after a season’s absence. Conte is seeking reinforcements up and down the team’s spine, from Romelu Lukaku to Virgil van Dijk, Tiemoué Bakayoko to Alexis Sánchez, and will also be offered his own new lucrative contract to stay at the club.

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End of an era for Atlético Madrid as curtain falls on Vicente Calderón

Atlético’s famous old stadium witnessed its last-ever European night in familiar company and with a familiar outcome, but with fans unbowed and in full voice

The first roll of thunder hit with two minutes left on the last-ever European night at the Vicente Calderón. The rain poured off the roof and through it too, swirling in the sky. Soaked, they sang through the storm. They sang high in the north stand, where Real Madrid’s supporters celebrated being in the final, and they sang everywhere else, where Atlético Madrid’s fans celebrated just being. On the touchline, Diego Simone frantically punched the air and conducted the crowd. Out, but not down. Not beaten, either. Not this time, the last time.

Before this game, a huge mosaic stretched along the open side of the stadium had declared: “Proud not to be like you [Real]”. After it, Simeone echoed those words. When he eventually appeared, he was beaming. “Why?” he was asked. “I’m happy, proud,” he said. The supporters had been too: for the fourth time in four years, Real had knocked them out of Europe, but the buildup to this game had been about identity, loyalty, emotion, something less tangible, not just results. “Tell me how it feels,” the Bernabéu banner had asked; Atlético had responded by telling them that they wouldn’t understand. They appeared determined to prove as much, the noise deafening.

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Real Madrid reach Champions League final despite defeat by Atlético

As expected, it will be Real Madrid who travel to Cardiff to play Juventus in yet another Champions League final, their third in four years, after an entertaining and occasionally wild 2-1 defeat at the Vicente Calderón sealed victory over two legs. Atlético Madrid will again wonder what might have been had they played with the same fearlessness at the Bernabéu. But then, elite football is all about seizing moments and Real now have the chance to become the first team to retain the Champions League incarnation of this competition.

It is a fine achievement its own right, not least when at times these Merengues can look like an Eton Mess of a team, as they did in the opening 20 minutes here. Atlético had begun with genuine fury, swarming through the back of midfield in numbers in an early surge that bought two goals and dragged the tie back to 3-2 on aggregate.

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Atlético Madrid v Real Madrid: Champions League semi-final – live!

7.21pm BST

Some pre-match reading. The Fiver’s been going for the best part of 20 years now – I know – but to be fair we’ve been pretty good at maintaining standards. It’s as unfunny as it ever was. Today’s edition saw tonight’s match projected through the prism of miserablism, on account of it not being 1980 any more. Enjoy, enjoy!

Related: The Fiver | Hankering after the golden age of Östers Idrottsförening

7.03pm BST

Atletico make two changes from the starting XI torn apart at the Bernabeu. Lucas Hernandez and Kevin Gameiro drop to the bench, allowing Jose Maria Gimenez and Fernando Torres to take their places.

Real make just the one swap from last week. Dani Carvajal is hamstrung, so in steps his replacement Danilo.

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Champions League: Dani Alves fires Juventus past Monaco into final

The great black and white blockade rolls on, although not without a minor scratch. Juventus were at least made to work a little by Monaco in Turin, emerging as 2-1 winners on the night and 4-1 winners overall in a Champions League semi-final they dominated like a cagey world champion boxer keeping a slick young challenger at bay. Accordingly Max Allegri’s team will now be in Cardiff to face Real or Atlético Madrid, a second Champions League final in three years.

They did at least concede a goal here, 689 minutes after the last one in this competition, Kylian Mbappé slipping the ball past Gianluigi Buffon with the game already buried. Yet to be really stretched in the knockout stages, Juventus will provide a mighty obstacle for whichever Spanish team joins them in the final.

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Juventus v Monaco: Champions League semi-final second leg – live

• Follow all the action from the second leg at Juventus Stadium
First leg report from the Stade Louis II: Monaco 0-2 Juventus
Monaco stay positive before mission impossible against Juventus
• Email paul.doyle@theguardian.com or tweet @Paul_Doyle

7.01pm BST

Two things jump out from the lineups: 1) Juve are even stronger this week than in the first leg, thanks to the return from suspension of Khedira; and 2) Monaco are quite different. With Benjamin Mendy still only fit enough for the bench, Leonado Jardim may have decided to switch to a back three. Or it may be a 4-4-2 with the little-used (this season) 32-year-old Andrea Raggi as a full-back rather than a central defender. That seems less likely, especially with Moutinho having been included instead of Lemar, but it’s hard to be sure at this point. And dropping Fabinho seems odd. What’s certain is Monaco are taking a risk as they try to make history. And that augurs well for the show. It’s on!

Juventus: Buffon; Barzagli, Bonucci, Chiellini; Alves, Khedira, Pjanic, Alex Sandro; Dybala, Mandzukic; Higuain.

1.41pm BST

Hello and welcome, especially to the fools and sadists. If you’re the former, you probably believe that this tie is still wide open and Monaco can overturn their 2-0 home defeat and advance triumphantly to the Champions League final. You are not discouraged by the way Monaco were schooled in the first leg by Juve’s wily defenders and dextrous attackers, nor by the fact that no French team has ever won away to Juve, no one at all has beaten Juve this season – in any competition – and no one has even managed to score against them in the Champions League since the group stages, Juve’s six successive clean sheets in the knockout rounds being a record. You sense, by contrast, that this swashbuckling young Monaco troupe are the very men to explode Juve’s invincibility and consign Giorgio Chiellini, Leonado Bonucci and Gianluigi Buffon to the bin marked Has-Been. You are a beautiful blue-sky thinker and you really must forward your bank details so that I can make a large deposit in your account.

It’s true that a French team has already been involved in a spectacular comeback this season, albeit unwillingly. But the fact is that a Monaco success today would be even more remarkable than Barcelona’s victory over Paris Saint-Germain earlier in the tournament, even if Barça had to come from four goals down rather than just two. Because Juve are better than PSG, far more solid and canny. The Italians will not be tactically dumb under Max Allegri and their players will never be overawed. Then again, everyone has off days. And even if Monaco do manage to score a couple, they are unlikely to stop Juve from netting at the other end. Chances are they’ll need to score at least four goals to progress. If that happens, this’ll be a match for the ages and we’ll all be thrilled we tuned in. Unless the win is the work of divers and bungling officials.

Related: Juventus set for Real in final after Gonzalo Higuaín double against Monaco

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Monaco stay positive before mission impossible against Juventus

• Leonardo Jardim’s side 2-0 down from Champions League semi-final first leg
• Monaco have never won in Italy but Juventus promise ‘aggressive’ game

Monaco were offered the oxygen of hope before their attempts at climbing what appeared to be an insurmountable obstacle in Turin.

Trailing by two away goals and with a mountain of history against them, the Ligue 1 leaders were exuding a relaxed confidence as they focused on their daunting task in Tuesday’s Champions League semi-final second leg.

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James Milner: I will feel sick if Liverpool fail to make Champions League

• Player denied Forster’s antics influenced penalty miss against Southampton
• Klopp’s team can qualify with maximum points from last two games

James Milner has said he will feel sick should Liverpool fail to qualify for the Champions League and denied Fraser Forster’s antics influenced his penalty miss against Southampton.

Liverpool remain in control of their European destiny after a goalless draw against Claude Puel’s side on Sunday was followed by Manchester United’s defeat at Arsenal later in the day. Jürgen Klopp’s team have spent only two weeks outside the top four since September and will secure a return to the European elite with maximum points from their remaining matches against West Ham United and Middlesbrough.

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Juventus are entirely dominant in Italy. When will their rivals step up? | Fede Manasse

Juventus are on course to win a sixth successive Serie A title and are again the last Italian team left in Europe, but other clubs are showing signs of revival

By Fede Manasse for The Gentleman Ultra, of the Guardian Sport Network

To the majority of football supporters, the Italian game is a fallen giant. Serie A is seen as a fading image of what was once the best league on the planet – an image that remains vivid only in the memories of older generations. Its keenest aficionados will disagree but, given that most people only experience Italian clubs through European competitions, can they really be blamed for holding such a gloomy view of Serie A?

This year has followed a familiar trend, with Juventus the only team to make it as far as the quarter-finals of the Champions League or Europa League. Napoli were beaten by Real Madrid home and away in the last-16 of the Champions League, while Roma did not even make it to the group stage after their defeat to Porto in the qualifiers. Instead, they dropped into the Europa League, where they lost to Lyon in the last-16. But at least they went further than Fiorentina, who were knocked out in the first knockout stage, and Inter and Sassuolo, who both finished bottom of their groups. Inter, champions of Europe just seven years ago, finished below Sparta Prague, Hapoel Be’er Sheva and Southampton.

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Juventus set for Real in final after Gonzalo Higuaín double against Monaco

This was ruthless, a systematic and shrewdly executed dismantling of one of the brightest, young attacking sides in Europe. And it showcased everything that is impressive about Juventus. After 21 years in which they have come close only to stumble at the last too often, Italy’s dominant club side can sense a third European Cup is close, even if Real Madrid await in Cardiff next month.

An authoritative display on the Côte d’Azur, with Monaco dismissed in an arena where they have recently proved untouchable, has merely fuelled confidence. This side’s time seems close.

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Monaco v Juventus: Champions League semi-final, first leg – live!

5.46pm BST

Hello. What a match we have in store today! If you’re not excited about this one, then you haven’t been paying attention. In the red corner we have Monaco, who for the sake of argument we’re going to bill as the most exciting young attacking team that Europe has seen since Ajax’s Class of ‘95; and in the black-and-white corner we have Juventus, who have some nifty attackers of their own but also the canniest and most tenacious defence in the whole world, backed by a goalkeeper who’s been thwarting ace strikers since the dawn of time. Truly, this is a tie that needs no hype. But what the hell, let’s give it socks.

Let’s give it stats, too. Monaco are goal-crazy: in France, they are scoring at a rate unmatched by any club since the Racing Paris side of 1960 and they have been similarly devastating on the continent, smashing four goals past the Premier League’s stingiest defence, Tottenham Hotspur, before outscoring some of Europe’s most devout attackers by hitting eight past Manchester City and six past Borussia Dortmund. That’s good going for a team that were on the brink of being eliminated by Fenerbahce in the preliminary round after losing 2-1 in Turkey. But they overturned that in the second leg thanks to a 3-1 win in which Radomel Falcao signalled his renaissance. Kylian Mbappé, meanwhile, had not even been born at that stage. But he made his first-team debut a week later – he really is a prodigy – and since then he has celebrated his 18th birthday and formed a beautiful and imaginatively destructive partnership with Falcao. In an era in which anyone who has performed more than 10 keepie-uppies has a popular YouTube reel entitled The New Messi, no one saw Mbappé coming. In fact, it’s a fine trick that Monaco have pulled, taking Europe almost entirely by surprise. Not only had no one heard of Mbappé and always believed that Leonardo Jardim was an essentially defensive coach, which he was, but few people outside France were familiar with swashbucklers such as Benjamin Mendy, Djibril Sidibé, Thomas Lemar and Tiemoué Bakayoko. The likes of Fabinho and Bernardo Silva were on some radars but not many. Now all are mainstream sensations. There’s talk of this team being picked apart by even richer predators once the summer comes, so this might be their one shot at glory. The Ligue 1 title is almost in the bag, will they become the first French club do the domestic-and-European double?

Related: Manchester United have £72m bid for Monaco’s Kylian Mbappé rejected

11.49pm BST

Paul will be here shortly. Here’s Martin Laurence with his look ahead to the match:

A game billed as the best attack in Europe against the best defence in Europe. The lower quality of Ligue 1 defences has helped Monaco score a remarkable 95 goals in 34 league games, but they put six past Manchester City in the last-16 stage and another six past Borussia Dortmund in the quarter-finals, so should not be underestimated.

No one is questioning Juventus’ credentials after they beat Barcelona with room to spare in the quarter-finals. They kept two clean sheets against Barcelona and have only conceded two goals in the competition all season. But, if anyone can ruin that record, then surely it’s neutrals’ favourites Monaco.

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Benjamin Mendy: one-time Sunderland target chases Champions League glory

The Monaco defender, who came close to moving under Roberto De Fanti’s 2013 recruitment drive, has developed into one of Europe’s best full-backs

Benjamin Mendy limped off during Monaco’s win over Toulouse on Saturday but probably felt he dodged a metaphorical bullet all the same. And not just because the injury is unlikely to prevent him from playing in Wednesday’s Champions League semi-final against Juventus.

But also because this weekend Mendy got a stark reminder that instead of closing in on the Ligue 1 title and preparing for a mouthwatering clash with Juventus in the last four of Europe’s showpiece competition, he might have been chewing over a pitiful relegation from the Premier League. If, that is, he had joined Sunderland, which he was about to do four years ago until a last-minute twist changed his destiny.

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