Griezmann sidelined with thigh injury

By Sports Desk July 12, 2020

Barcelona forward Antoine Griezmann has suffered a thigh muscle injury, the LaLiga club have confirmed.

The France international was replaced by Luis Suarez at half-time of Saturday's 1-0 victory away to Real Valladolid.

Medical tests on Sunday showed Griezmann has damaged the quadriceps in his right leg and is facing a spell out of action.

The 2018 World Cup winner, a €120million signing from Atletico Madrid last year, is likely to miss Thursday's league match against Osasuna at Camp Nou.

Griezmann has scored just nine goals in 35 league appearances during a difficult first season with Barca.

He was dropped from the starting line-up by coach Quique Setien for the 2-2 draws with Celta Vigo and Atleti last month but made a goalscoring return in the 4-1 win over Villarreal on July 5.

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    Chelsea must pull off one of the greatest second-leg comebacks if their Champions League hopes are not to be killed off by Bayern Munich on Saturday.

    There has been a spate of stunning salvage jobs in recent seasons that may give hope to Frank Lampard's side, who trail 3-0 from the first leg in London.

    Nevertheless, Bayern start as firm favourites to clinch a place in the quarter-finals heading into the clash at the Allianz Arena.

    Here is a look at games that may give Blues fans some hope as their team head to Germany.

    2019: Liverpool 4-0 Barcelona (4-3 on aggregate)

    Jurgen Klopp's Liverpool had been well beaten at Camp Nou, with the 3-0 scoreline flattering Barcelona but making the Catalans clear favourites to complete their semi-final task at Anfield.

    Liverpool were without injured forwards Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino for the second leg, yet two goals each from Divock Origi and Georginio Wijnaldum saw the hosts defy the odds in sensational style.

    Origi had the final word thanks to Trent Alexander-Arnold's quick thinking from a 79th-minute corner.

    It meant a Barcelona side boasting Lionel Messi and former Liverpool stars Philippe Coutinho and Luis Suarez were left devastated, while Klopp's men celebrated reaching the Madrid final.

    2019: Real Madrid 1-4 Ajax (5-3 on aggregate)

    Despite an impressive display in their 2-1 first-leg defeat, few thought Ajax could turn things around at the Santiago Bernabeu. Madrid's Sergio Ramos certainly did not - he earned a first-leg booking to avoid the risk of a quarter-final ban, earning an extra-game suspension from UEFA in the process.

    In the absence of their captain, Madrid capitulated against a fearless and thrilling Ajax. Hakim Ziyech and David Neres put the visitors 2-0 up after only 18 minutes and it was 3-0 just after the hour mark thanks to the inspired Dusan Tadic.

    Marco Asensio got a goal back, but Lasse Schone's free-kick beat Thibaut Courtois and sent Madrid crashing out. It was the first time Madrid had ever been knocked out after winning the first leg of a Champions League tie, while Ajax would themselves be stung by a comeback in the semi-finals.

    2019: Ajax 2-3 Tottenham (3-3 agg)

    Ajax looked certain finalists when they extended their 1-0 first-leg lead to 3-0 in Amsterdam with first-half goals from Matthijs de Ligt and Ziyech.

    Mauricio Pochettino's Spurs took inspiration from Liverpool's stunning fightback against Barcelona 24 hours earlier, though, and Lucas Moura stepped up to emerge as their hero.

    The Brazilian winger was thrust into a central attacking role and scored an improbable hat-trick in the second half, the vital third goal coming deep into stoppage time, as Spurs won on away goals.

    2018: Roma 3-0 Barcelona (4-4 agg)

    Barcelona were stunned in the Italian capital as Roma completed one of the most unlikely quarter-final turnarounds.

    Eusebio Di Francesco's side came back from a 4-1 first-leg deficit to progress to the last four on away goals after a thrilling 3-0 win in front of their home fans.

    Edin Dzeko, Daniele De Rossi and Kostas Manolas secured the 4-4 aggregate draw and sent the Stadio Olimpico into raptures, as Barca fell to pieces.

    2017: Barcelona 6-1 Paris Saint-Germain (6-5 agg)

    Before their humblings by Roma and Liverpool, Barcelona pulled off an astonishing Champions League comeback of their own, and the greatest so far in terms of the deficit overhauled.

    Trailing 4-0 from the first leg of their last-16 tie with PSG, Suarez and Messi scored either side of a Layvin Kurzawa own goal, only for Edinson Cavani to grab what was expected to be the decisive away goal for the visitors.

    However, two quickfire Neymar goals against his future club – the second a highly controversial penalty after an apparent Suarez dive – levelled the tie at 5-5.

    Then, in the fifth minute of stoppage time, Sergi Roberto struck to create a slice of Champions League history – no side had ever turned around a four-goal first-leg deficit before.

    2004: Deportivo La Coruna 4-0 Milan (5-4 agg)

    Deportivo were among Spain's major forces just after the turn of the century and one of their finest moments in Europe came in April 2004 when, despite being 4-1 down from the first leg of their Champions League quarter-final with Milan, they stunned the Rossoneri at the Riazor.

    Walter Pandiani, Juan Carlos Valeron and Albert Luque had Depor ahead on away goals before half-time, with veteran Fran Gonzalez scoring the fourth to make sure of their passage.

    Depor were eliminated by eventual winners Porto in the semi-finals, but this comeback stood as arguably the very best in Champions League history until Barca went one better.

    2000: Barcelona 5-1 Chelsea (aet, 6-4 agg)

    This is not one Chelsea will remember fondly.

    A 3-1 first-leg loss at Stamford Bridge – having trailed 3-0 – had Barca in danger of being on the wrong end of a major Champions League upset prior to Chelsea's Roman Abramovich era, but in the return match the Catalan giants showed their true class.

    Tore Andre Flo's 60th-minute goal was sending Chelsea through despite Rivaldo and Luis Figo scoring before the break, but Dani Garcia headed home seven minutes from the end of regulation to force extra time.

    Rivaldo atoned for an earlier missed penalty by converting from the spot after Celestine Babayaro was sent off and Patrick Kluivert finished the game off, crushing Chelsea's dreams.

  • Rumour Has It: Aubameyang set to sign new Arsenal deal Rumour Has It: Aubameyang set to sign new Arsenal deal

    Arsenal star Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang's future has dominated headlines.

    With Aubameyang due to become a free agent in 2021, Arsenal have been desperate to re-sign the Gabon international.

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    TOP STORY – AUBAMEYANG TO SIGN NEW DEAL

    Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is close to signing a new three-year contract with Arsenal, according to The Telegraph.

    Aubameyang's current deal is due to expire next year and the Arsenal star has been linked to LaLiga giants Barcelona, as well as Ligue 1 champions Paris Saint-Germain and Inter.

    But Aubameyang is set to sign a deal that will run until 2023, a two-year extension.

     

    ROUND-UP

    - Journalist Fabrizio Romano claims it is only a matter of time before Willian signs a contract with Arsenal until 2023. Chelsea midfielder Willian is free to talk to clubs as his deal at Stamford Bridge expires. The Gunners are also eyeing Thomas Partey but Atletico Madrid insist the midfielder will not leave unless his £45million (€50m) release clause is paid.

    Paul Pogba is happy at Manchester United and is ready to sign a new contract, reports Romano. Pogba has been previously linked to former club Juventus and LaLiga champions Real Madrid.

    - Staying at Old Trafford, and The Guardian claims United will listen to offers for Jesse Lingard as they try to prise Jadon Sancho from Borussia Dortmund. United and Dortmund are still negotiating a transfer for Sancho, according to widespread reports.

    Edinson Cavani could be poised to join Brazilian outfit Atletico Mineiro, reports Globo Esporte. The 33-year-old Uruguay international is a free agent after leaving PSG. Cavani has been linked to Portuguese giants Benfica, newly promoted Premier League team Leeds United, MLS outfit Inter Miami, Atletico and Inter.

    Everton are interested in signing Atletico's Thomas Lemar, says Le10Sport. Carlo Ancelotti's Everton are also hoping to bring United full-back Diego Dalot to Goodison Park, reports The Mirror.

    - According to The Athletic, Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg is set to join Tottenham from Southampton. Spurs will pay £19m for the former Bayern Munich midfielder.

    Liverpool will have to pay close to £20m for Norwich City left-back Jamal Lewis after the Premier League champions had a £10m offer rejected, says The Guardian.

    David Silva looks set to move to Lazio. According to Sky Sport Italia, the Manchester City midfielder – a free agent – will swap the Premier League for Serie A following the club's Champions League campaign.

  • Messi and Ronaldo return to Champions League duty carrying Barcelona and Juventus like never before Messi and Ronaldo return to Champions League duty carrying Barcelona and Juventus like never before

    Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo have been in fine fettle since football returned from its coronavirus-enforced break. The same cannot be said for Barcelona and Juventus.

    Juve won a ninth Serie A title in a row, of course, but a run of two wins in eight games to end the domestic season was not exactly sparkling form. They also lost the Coppa Italia final to Napoli.

    As for Barca, a two-point lead when LaLiga restarted became a five-point deficit to Real Madrid by the end, as Zinedine Zidane's side took back the title.

    Messi made it perfectly clear in a rather disgruntled outburst that, if they do not improve, they will not progress to the Champions League quarter-finals, having drawn 1-1 at Napoli in the first leg. It's worse for Juve; they must overcome a 1-0 deficit to Lyon if they are to make the last eight.

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    MAGIC MESSI

    Even with Luis Suarez's return, Messi was largely a lone bright spark in the Barca attack post-lockdown.

    With six goals and nine assists in 11 league appearances, he took his tally for the season to 40 goal involvements in 42 outings and broke former team-mate Xavi's record for assists in a single LaLiga campaign when he reached 21.

    Prior to lockdown, Messi was averaging one big chance created per game in the league, and that actually increased after the restart - he managed 14 in his 11 outings. His passing accuracy, too, was largely stable, dropping by just 0.3 per cent on average.

    Interestingly, his shooting became a little more wayward, his shot accuracy dipping to just 45.7 per cent from a seasonal average of 68.5. Likewise, his dribble success rate slipped to 59.3, having been at 66.2 prior to the shutdown.

    RELENTLESS RONALDO

    Ronaldo scored 21 in 22 Serie A appearances pre-lockdown, with three assists to boot. That form stayed largely consistent after the restart, with 10 goals and two assists in 11 games.

    Creating chances has been a limited part of Ronaldo's game in recent years but his numbers in that regard are solid, with three big chances created after lockdown and six before.

    His passing accuracy in all competitions went up (87.1 per cent compared to 84.2 pre-lockdown), while his shooting accuracy (53.6 from 54.8) and his dribble success rate (50 from 57.3) went down - just like Messi. Perhaps the long season began to creep up on them.

    TWO TEAMS IN TROUBLE

    There's no doubt Barca and Juve would find themselves in some difficulty if Messi and Ronaldo become suddenly unavailable. Their form just isn't strong enough.

    Pre-lockdown, Barca had played 38 games in all competitions, scoring 82 goals and conceding 41; afterwards, they played 11 league matches, scored 23 and conceded seven. That's consistent enough.

    The problem is more in the way they have been playing. Their average possession went up after lockdown to 70.1 from 64.9, but shooting accuracy fell a massive 13.2 per cent to 48.7 and their shot conversion rate dropped from 22.5 to 19.7. Teams were happier to give up the ball and sit back, confident they could keep Barca (largely) at bay.

    As for Juve, they scored 71 goals and let in 34 in 37 games before the pause, and while they scored 26 in 14 afterwards, they conceded a truly worrying 19.

    Like Barca, their shooting accuracy fell (45.8 from 49.1), as did their shot conversion rate (13.5 from 15.9). They also averaged 2.6 per cent less possession after lockdown - not a great look for Sarri-ball - and won just twice on the road (they won 10 away games before the break).

    Juve might have held on in the title race, but they, like Barca, have been getting worse since the season restarted. A strong challenge to win the Champions League will depend on some fairly substantial improvement - or a number of magical moments from their main men.

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