Champions League draw: Messi's PSG to face Man City, Man Utd eye Villarreal revenge

By Sports Desk August 26, 2021

Pep Guardiola and Lionel Messi will go up against each other in the Champions League after Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain were drawn into the same group.

Messi and Guardiola enjoyed a close relationship during their time together at Barcelona, but for the first time they will meet with neither of them representing the Catalans.

Six-time Ballon d'Or winner Messi left Barca at the end of June when his contract expired, and while he was expected to sign on with them again, the Blaugrana's hands were tied due to financial restrictions.

As such, Messi was swiftly snapped up by PSG despite previous links with City and a potential Guardiola reunion.

Another narrative could yet enter the conversation with respect to City versus PSG, as Juventus forward Cristiano Ronaldo – Messi's long-time rival – has been strongly with a move to the Etihad Stadium.

If Ronaldo does not leave Juve, he will go up against the holders Chelsea – who beat City in last season's final – in Group H.

There will be a repeat of the 2020-21 Europa League final in Group F as Manchester United have been offered the opportunity for revenge against Villarreal, who defeated Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's men in a remarkable penalty shoot-out in Belfast at the end of May.

Three of Spain's other representatives have tough groups to contend with: Barcelona were drawn with Bayern Munich, Benfica and Dynamo Kiev; Real Madrid will again face Inter and Shakhtar Donetsk as they did in 2020-21; and Atletico Madrid must go up against Liverpool, Porto and Milan.

Sevilla, on the other hand, are in the seemingly even Group G with Ligue 1 winners Lille, Salzburg and Wolfsburg, the latter of whom are back in the competition for only the third time.

First-time qualifiers Sheriff of Moldova joined Madrid, Inter and Shakhtar in Group D.

 

Group A: Manchester City, Paris Saint-Germain, RB Leipzig, Club Brugge

Group B: Atletico Madrid, Liverpool, Porto, Milan

Group C: Sporting CP, Borussia Dortmund, Ajax, Besiktas

Group D: Inter, Real Madrid, Shakhtar Donetsk, Sheriff

Group E: Bayern Munich, Barcelona, Benfica, Dynamo Kiev

Group F: Villarreal, Manchester United, Atalanta, Young Boys

Group G: Lille, Sevilla, Salzburg, Wolfsburg

Group H: Chelsea, Juventus, Zenit, Malmo

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    Gary Neville claims Harry Kane is playing as though someone pooped his party after the Tottenham star drew a fifth successive blank in the Premier League.

    The England skipper had not experienced such a league goals drought since August 2016, and his loss of form follows a turbulent period in his career when he looked set to leave Spurs.

    Kane appeared destined for a move to Manchester City, but that transfer did not materialise as the Premier League champions could not prise him from the north London club's clutches.

    He had five goal attempts in Sunday's 3-1 derby defeat to Arsenal but could not find a way past Aaron Ramsdale.

    "He doesn't look happy," Neville said.

    Pointing to Tottenham's 3-0 defeat to Chelsea in their previous game, Neville said: "Last week was a risk, I thought, shoving him out on the left wing. He was out on the left wing last week.

    "Today I thought he did play higher, to be fair, but the balls played up to him were just long punts in the first 20 minutes.

    "Harry doesn't look himself in terms of his body language. He looks like he's still carrying over the situation from over the summer.

    "He could still have had two or three goals today and a penalty, so there's still a contribution, but he's just not himself. Neither is Son [Heung-min].

    "Son and him look like they've had their balloons burst at a party as a kid. That's what it looks like."

    Neville said Spurs have "good senior pros" in their ranks, as he sought an explanation for why their form has nosedived since starting the league campaign with three straight wins.

    Rough losses to Crystal Palace, Chelsea and now Arsenal have seen them plummet from the top of the league and into mid-table.

    Nuno Espirito Santo may have a big job on his hands in turning Spurs back into a winning side, and Neville suspects some players are pining for a coach in the mould of former boss Mauricio Pochettino.

    "Those players to me look like they want a high-pressing, Pochettino-style coach that plays out from the back and gets the centre-backs on the six-yard line, rather than one that sits behind the ball and counter-attacks," former Manchester United captain Neville said on Sky Sports.

    With the derby defeat, Nuno became the first Spurs boss to lose as many as four times in his opening 10 fixtures since Glenn Hoddle in 2001.

    Kane attempted just four passes in the first half at Emirates Stadium and was successful with only five of his 11 passes across the 90 minutes.

    He has also failed to get a goal in back-to-back games against Arsenal for the first time in his Tottenham career.

    Former Spurs captain Ledley King said of his old team-mate: "He cares, but there's no doubt he's out of shape at the moment. He's out of form. He's a big part for the club so when he's not playing well we struggle."

  • Nuno takes responsibility for Tottenham capitulation in north London derby Nuno takes responsibility for Tottenham capitulation in north London derby

    Tottenham head coach Nuno Espirito Santo took responsibility for his side's damaging 3-1 defeat to Arsenal in the north London derby.

    Emile Smith Rowe, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Bukayo Saka dismantled Spurs in a thrilling first-half display from Arsenal at Emirates Stadium on Sunday.

    Son Heung-min pulled back a late consolation, but Spurs have now lost their last three league games by an aggregate score of 9-1. Tottenham are only the second team in Premier League history to win their first three games of a season and then lose the next three, after Everton in 1993-94, who went on to finish 17th.

    Nuno's team were top of the table at the end of August, but they will head into October below Arsenal in the standings for the first time in almost 12 months.

    "The performance was not good. The game plan was not good. The decisions were not good. So it was not a good day for us. Definitely not a good day," Nuno told Sky Sports.

    "I'm going to be honest. When you have a game plan, you have to make the right decisions in terms of who you want to put on the pitch to develop that game plan.

    "I take responsibility because the decisions were not right according to the game plan. I won't name individuals but the game plan was not right according to the players who were on the pitch.

    "We were not aggressive enough to control the dynamic of Arsenal in midfield. We suffered when we wanted to go in front and we allowed Arsenal to always come to us. By saying that, bad decisions."

    Nuno started with a three in midfield but took Dele Alli off at half-time. Alli completed the five passes he attempted in Arsenal's half, but only managed 24 touches in total as he failed to have a shot or create a chance, while Tanguy Ndombele was similarly ineffective going forward.

    Harry Kane struggled again, though his tally of five attempts more than doubled the total amount he had managed across his other four Premier League appearances so far this season.

    Kane was partly at fault for Arsenal's third goal, conceding possession and then failing to prevent Saka making progress in the area with an attempted slide tackle, though Spurs were aggrieved that referee Craig Pawson did not blow up for a foul on the England captain in the build-up to Aubameyang's strike.

    However, Nuno did not look to make any excuses.

    "I didn't see the images. The referee and VAR are there to judge. My head is more now focused on what I have to do now," the Spurs boss said.

    "We prepared the game, we had a good meeting, but then we were not able to do it. We were not strong enough."

    Asked if a breakdown in communication was the main problem, Nuno said: "That's another issue. I would not say they are not doing what I tell them to do. They were not able to do it. Credit to our opponent, they were better than us."

    Spurs have now conceded three goals in their last three league games for the first time since September 2003.

  • 'They are doing amazing' – Aubameyang hails Arsenal derby freedom fighters 'They are doing amazing' – Aubameyang hails Arsenal derby freedom fighters

    Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang said Arsenal's youngsters played with freedom after the Gunners cruised to a 3-1 derby victory over Tottenham.

    Emile Smith Rowe turned in a star display as he scored Arsenal's opener before teeing up Aubameyang to double their advantage at Emirates Stadium.

    In a blistering first-half display from Mikel Arteta's side, Bukayo Saka made it 3-0 after Arsenal capitalised on Harry Kane's error in the 34th minute.

    Son Heung-min netted a late consolation for sorry Spurs, who also hit the crossbar late on, though Nuno Espirito Santo's side were deservedly beaten as they suffered a third successive top-flight defeat. Tottenham are only the second team in Premier League history to win their first three games of a season and then lose the next three, after Everton in 1993-94.

    "It means everything. It means the world to us. We gave everything for them today. The fans give us everything. They push us. It's an amazing feeling, unbelievable," Arsenal captain Aubameyang told Sky Sports, as he spoke alongside Smith Rowe.

    Asked if he offered guidance to Arsenal's younger players, Aubameyang said: "These boys are great guys, they're doing well, and I'm happy that my kids will grow up [in London] and one day be maybe like [Smith Rowe].

    "It's quite easy when you have boys like this who always listen and are ready to learn. So I try to give them some advice.

    "The most important thing is they feel free as they play. This is what they did today. They are doing amazing."

    Smith Rowe created two chances and scored with his only shot in a scintillating performance. With his goal having been teed up by Saka, the duo have now assisted one another five times in the Premier League. Among players both aged 21 or younger, only Cristiano Ronaldo and Wayne Rooney (eight) have teed each other up more often in the competition's history.

    "I've always dreamt of this day, to score for Arsenal against Tottenham. To have my family here as well, it's just the best feeling ever," said Smith Rowe, before explaining Arteta's influence.

    "He just tells us to keep calm. We're young players in a massive game. He just encourages us so much and gives us so much confidence. Not just the manager, but the players in the team as well, they give us so much confidence."

    After heading into the last international break bottom of the table, having lost their opening three games by an aggregate score of 9-0, including a 5-0 thumping by Manchester City, Arsenal have now overtaken a Spurs side who were top at the end of August.

    It is the first time Arsenal have ended a day of Premier League action above Spurs since October 25, 2020.

    "We are doing a good run for a couple of games now," said Aubameyang.

    "After the game against Manchester City it was time to have a chat between us players and this is what we did. We want to go forward and win games.

    "This was important for us to make everything clear. We are doing well right now and the feeling is very good."

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