Manchester United to face Barcelona in Champions League quarter-finals

By Sports Desk March 15, 2019

Barcelona and Manchester United will face each other in the pick of the Champions League quarter-final contests.

United defied the odds in reaching the last eight, as they progressed past Paris Saint-Germain on away goals after a 3-3 aggregate draw despite losing the first leg at home 2-0.

If they are to get to the semi-finals they will certainly have done so the hard way, as they are due to face LaLiga champions Barcelona and Lionel Messi in the quarter-finals.

Ernesto Valverde's men trounced Lyon 5-1 on Wednesday – Messi starring with two goals and assists – to ease into the next round, having played out a goalless stalemate in France.

Whoever progresses from that repeat of the 2008-09 and 2010-11 finals will play either Liverpool or Porto, having defeated Bayern Munich and Roma, respectively in the round of 16.

Jurgen Klopp's Reds are among the favourites having gone all the way to the final last year before losing to Real Madrid.

Ajax impressively beat the defending champions 5-3, owing much of that to a virtuoso display from Dusan Tadic in the 4-1 win at the Santiago Bernabeu last week.

Their reward is another major challenge, as they prepare to go up against Juventus and Cristiano Ronaldo, who inspired their turnaround against Atletico Madrid – scoring a second-leg hat-trick to secure a 3-0 win as they battled back to progress 3-2.

The other tie is an all-English affair, with Manchester City and Tottenham set to tussle for the right to play against either Ajax or Juve in the last four.

 

Champions League quarter-final draw:

Ajax v Juventus
Liverpool v Porto
Tottenham v Manchester City
Barcelona v Manchester United

 

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    Gareth Bale's days at Real Madrid appear to be numbered after head coach Zinedine Zidane confirmed the club are working on a transfer for the forward.

    Zidane was billed a "disgrace" by Bale's agent Jonathan Barnett, who has previously confirmed the coach and player have a fraught relationship, with the Frenchman seemingly not valuing Bale's ability despite his contribution to three consecutive Champions League titles.

    It was Bale's double that sealed Madrid's last European crown a year ago, a stunning overhead kick contributing to a 3-1 defeat of Liverpool in Kiev that proved Zidane's last match in charge - soon after he announced his shock resignation.

    But Zidane is back and seemingly set on selling Bale, so what are the options available to the Wales international now the Madrid coach has clearly signalled he has no place for him?

     

    TOTTENHAM

    The romantic option, a return to Tottenham would enable Bale to play first-team football and slot back into a club where he became a global superstar. Finances would surely scupper a permanent move although Spurs have smashed their club record to buy Lyon midfielder Tanguy Ndombele and are reportedly considering doing so again to sign Giovani Lo Celso from Real Betis. An initial loan has been mooted but Madrid would still likely have to cover a large portion of Bale's massive wages - how desperate are they to move him on? Bale would certainly improve Mauricio Pochettino's forward options and a front three of Son Heung-min, Harry Kane and Bale looks incredibly strong on paper.


    MANCHESTER UNITED

    Bale has long been linked with United, but their failure to qualify for the Champions League does not make them an attractive option for top-level players right now although they remain among the world's biggest clubs. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has also indicated he is willing to put his faith in young players such as the talented teenager Mason Greenwood, who has impressed in pre-season to force his way into first-team contention at Old Trafford despite being just 17. Bale would be an upgrade on United's wing options but they seem to be going in a different direction with the arrivals of Dan James and Aaron Wan-Bissaka signalling a long-needed change in transfer policy. Madrid's reported interest in Paul Pogba could see Bale offered to United as part of a potential deal, though.


    PARIS SAINT-GERMAIN

    If PSG lose Neymar - the club confirmed recently he wants to leave - they will have room for another elite talent and Bale might just fit the bill. Whether moving to what is essentially a one-team league due to PSG's financial firepower is attractive to the Welshman is unclear, but teaming up with a thrilling talent like Kylian Mbappe could be persuasive. PSG are also one of a very small number of teams who could pay Bale the wages he has become accustomed to earning in Madrid and he has plenty of experience of winning the Champions League, which remains PSG's goal.


    CHINESE SUPER LEAGUE

    According to the bookmakers, Bale's most likely next destination is the Chinese Super League. Finances are again the key here, although CSL clubs have shown a reduced willingness over the last 12 months to pursue the most expensive players on the market due to a change in the league's regulations, which means they must pay considerable taxes on top of large transfer fees. Bale has been unable - or perhaps unwilling - to learn Spanish while in Madrid so it would be interesting to see how he would fare with the culture clash in China.


    STAY AT REAL MADRID

    Reports in Spain previously claimed Bale is happy to see out his contract at the Santiago Bernabeu, which still has three years to run. It would be a tempting option given no other clubs are likely to match his pay packet, while the lack of stability in the dugout could play in his favour. Zidane was Madrid's third permanent head coach last term and failed to inspire any significant improvement in the latter weeks of the 2018-19 campaign. Although the Frenchman has considerable credit from his trio of consecutive Champions League titles, it is not impossible to see Madrid starting the season poorly and president Florentino Perez opting for yet another change of head coach. Another man in charge could see Bale as an asset so the 30-year-old may choose to stay put for now.

  • Liverpool perfectly placed to win more trophies - Lovren Liverpool perfectly placed to win more trophies - Lovren

    Liverpool keeping a settled squad under Jurgen Klopp means they are set up to challenge for honours over the next few years, according to Dejan Lovren.

    The Reds won last season's Champions League – a year after losing in the final to Real Madrid – and finished just a point behind Manchester City in the race for the Premier League title.

    Centre-back Lovren believes the Reds' ability to hold on to their best players puts them in the perfect position to enjoy a period of sustained success, both domestically and in Europe.

    "There are quite a lot of players who stayed in this team, which is quite important," he told the club's official website.

    "If we keep this focus for the next couple of years we can reflect on last season and hopefully win many more trophies.

    "We are a team with special characteristics, with fantastic individual players who can change the game in a second."

    Jurgen Klopp's side face Sevilla in Boston on Sunday amid a heatwave that has hit much of the United States.

    Lovren, however, has backed his team-mates to cope with the challenging conditions.  

    "We adapt to everything," he added. "It's an important tour for us, playing against big teams.

    "It will be a challenge again to play in the heat and to adapt. There are no easy opponents. But it's about our character and we are used to it already."

    "It's always a pleasure to come to the States and see so many fans behind us. It's a privilege to be here."

  • Barcelona side is like 'cheat code in a video game', says Griezmann Barcelona side is like 'cheat code in a video game', says Griezmann

    Barcelona's side for the 2019-20 campaign is like a "cheat code in a video game", according to new signing Antoine Griezmann.

    The French World Cup winner joined the LaLiga giants this month after they triggered his €120million release clause with Atletico Madrid.

    He joins a team rich in attacking talent and is likely to line up alongside a combination of Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez, Ousmane Dembele and Philippe Coutinho in what promises to be a mouth-watering frontline in the forthcoming season.

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    "Barcelona are building a team like a cheat code in a video game," he told Marca.  

    "We have a good team, great players and then it's the boss that has to decide who plays.

    "We'll be ready to enjoy ourselves and make the fans and ourselves happy at all times."

    Griezmann was particularly fulsome in his praise of Messi and vowed to strive to reach the dizzying standards set by the Argentina superstar.

    "Yes, it will be amazing [to play alongside him]," he added. "I'm excited to see what he's like day to day, what he's like in training.

    "I want to catch him doing things in training that I will try to repeat or do in my own way and get to know him on and off the pitch.

    "I will be ready to do whatever it takes: for him, for the club and for the players."

    Atleti fans are aggrieved by Griezmann's switch to their rivals, which came a year after he had pledged his future to the club, but the 28-year-old insists he will always hold fond memories of his time with Diego Simeone's side.

    "I know that there will be whistles [when he returns to the Wanda Metrpolitano]," he added. "It's part of football. They really loved me and when someone leaves, it can hurt.

    "It was like that at Real Sociedad. My first visit back wasn't easy, but I will always have Sociedad and Atleti in my heart because they gave me so much."

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