Cristiano Ronaldo would have made Real Madrid favourites to overturn a first-leg deficit in their Champions League tie against Manchester City, according to Emmanuel Adebayor. 

Los Blancos lost 2-1 at the Santiago Bernabeu in the first leg of the last-16 clash at the back end of February, with the return meeting postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic. 

Madrid were outstanding when LaLiga resumed in June, though, winning 10 and drawing their final game en route to beating Barcelona to the title, their first since the 2016-17 season. 

Former City and Madrid striker Adebayor says Zinedine Zidane's side still have the players capable of turning the tie around but the presence of Ronaldo – who won the Champions League four times with the Spanish club before departing for Juventus in 2018 – would have significantly increased their chances. 

"If you had asked me that question two years ago, I would have said yes [Madrid can turn the tie around]," Adebayor told AS.  

"Madrid would have been favourites with Cristiano. Back then, they had Cristiano, who is a goal machine. He can make the difference at any moment and he would give the team 50 goals a season.  

"They lost the first leg at home and it's going to be very difficult without the fans, against Manchester City, the city, the weather but it's not impossible. 

"Madrid have players with a lot of experience like Marcelo, [Karim] Benzema, [Thibaut] Courtois and they are used to playing in big games like this one." 

Adebayor believes Madrid did not fully appreciate how difficult it would be to replace a player such as Ronaldo, who became the club's record goalscorer during nine prolific seasons. 

"Without Cristiano, Madrid know what they have lost, but maybe not what they could have won if he was still there," he added.  

"I think maybe they thought they would get another player like Ronaldo but players like him only come along once every 200 years." 

Karim Benzema has taken on much of the scoring burden and has surpassed 20 LaLiga goals in the past two seasons. 

Adebayor says the French striker is crucial to Madrid, saying: "When Ronaldo left, he had to take up the responsibility and I think he's done really well.  

"He's scored a lot of goals, important goals so he'll be a danger, no doubt about it." 

Adebayor's stint in the Spanish capital was a short one and game time was limited under Jose Mourinho. However, he has nothing but fond memories of the Portuguese coach, describing him as the best ever. 

"I love Mourinho, we had a great relationship and he was the one who brought me to Madrid, although it wasn't easy for him to find a place for me in the side," he said.  

"The only trophy I have ever won was at Madrid with him. Now he's at Tottenham and I wish him the best of luck. He is the best coach in the history of football." 

Sergio Ramos is the best defender in the world and can keep on playing until he is 40, according to former Real Madrid team-mate Rafael van der Vaart. 

Ramos was very influential in helping Madrid end Barcelona's run of success in LaLiga, scoring 11 goals as Zinedine Zidane's squad were crowned champions for the first time since 2017. 

The Spaniard was signed from Sevilla as a teenager in 2005 and was still young when he was joined at the club by Van der Vaart, who stayed at the Santiago Bernabeu for two seasons before joining Tottenham in 2010. 

However, having watched on as his old club secured the title once again, the Dutchman is impressed by how Ramos has matured and, considering his physical condition, sees no reason why the 34-year-old should be thinking of retiring anytime soon. 

"For me, he is the best defender in the world," Van der Vaart told Stats Perform News as part of the UEFA Europa League Trophy Tour. 

"When I was at Real Madrid, he was 21 or 22 and bursting with energy. He wanted to be everywhere. Free kicks, corner kicks, everywhere. 

"Now it is different, he has so much focus now. A focus on winning and he uses all his talents for that purpose. He's aware of his skills, strength and conditioning and that helped him being so important for his team in winning already so many titles. His body is unbelievable, he is a machine. 

"When I was watching a game the other day, I thought, 'how old is he? 34?' I believe he can still be playing for another six years, I've so much respect for him."

With LaLiga won, Madrid will now focus on potential European success as they return to Champions League action. 

They need to overturn a 2-1 first-leg deficit in their last-16 tie with Manchester City if they are to progress, with the remaining knockout rounds to be staged in Portugal, though Ramos will miss the match against Pep Guardiola's team at the Etihad Stadium due to suspension. 

However, Madrid have been outstanding since the season restarted in Spain midway through June, and Van der Vaart expects a "really interesting" return clash with City, who finished second in the Premier League. 

"Real Madrid have been very, very good after the coronavirus break," he said. "They have all been very focused [on the games]. Including a 10-game winning streak. 

"Karim Benzema and Ramos have been a key part of the team for me, and Zidane for bringing calmness to the team. 

"However, I watched Manchester City against Arsenal playing the semi-final of the FA Cup, as well as other games. They have so much individual talent, so they are always dangerous, for any team, including the magnificent Real Madrid. That's what we've seen in the first leg, so it is going to be a really interesting game." 

Van der Vaart was speaking as part of a Europa League Trophy Tour that has been collecting football boots from fans for Syrian refugees based in Jordan, a cause the former Netherlands international is passionate about. 

"It's great, I remember how incredibly happy I was as a little boy with my football boots. I even put my first pair on to bed and I dreamed of playing football. I hope that all children in the world may experience that kind of childlike joy. I'm so proud that I can help a little bit," Van der Vaart said. 

"We are collecting boots, which hopefully gives a bit more hope and fun for all children. So, I'm proud that I can help a little bit and be a part of it. 

"It's really important [to be able to go out and play]. Now there are so many things, but when I was little you would just go on the street and play. 

"In lockdown it was difficult, of course. You want to meet with friends, you want to go out and play games, but when I started playing it was just me and the ball."

Real Madrid star Karim Benzema had a simple answer when asked if he fancies a crack at mixed martial arts after his football career comes to an end: "No problem for me, I'm up for it!"

Benzema, 32, enjoyed a brilliant campaign for Madrid, scoring 21 goals and providing eight assists as Los Blancos beat Barcelona to the LaLiga title.

Such form suggests Benzema still has plenty of legs left in football yet, even though he may be approaching the twilight years of his career.

But there are other challenges that appeal to the French striker, including it seems having a go at the fight game.

Benzema took questions from several friends for a YouTube video, one of which came from French kickboxer Fouad Ezbiri, who he has trained with in the past.

Ezbiri asked if Benzema - a fan of fight sports - ever had plans to step in the ring at least once.

"Well Fouad my broski, in any case I hope you're doing good, and it's true that I love fighting sports," Benzema said. 

"I love training, as you say we already trained, after the soccer why not train with you for six months and if you think I can be ready for a fight, no problem for me, I'm up for it!"

Benzema also responded to a separate question about how much longer he feels he has left in football.

"I'm working a lot. I pay attention to everything I do, I take care of myself and I'm trying to get the best out of me as possible," Benzema added. 

"I know this is not the beginning of my career but in any case, for me, age does not mean anything and yeah we're going to do everything."

Benzema also revealed three major sporting influences of his, saying: "It depends there are many people who have inspired me but we'll take soccer for example. It's Ronaldo, the Brazilian, so he's the one who made me love football, simply. It's thanks to what he did but everyone knows it. 

"Then athletic, although I'm not a big fan of basketball, but I would say Michael Jordan for what he did, what he has been with the Chicago Bulls. And then another athlete I would say Mike Tyson, there you go Mike Tyson, because it's the power."

Real Madrid team-mate James Rodriguez pondered whether Benzema prefers scoring or assisting a team-mate.

"I'll answer you sincerely. Making assists or scoring goals are two different things but not that different and I like to do both," he said. 

"To choose, I choose to score. On the other hand if my partner is good and sure to score I'll pass him the ball and offer him the goal. So, I choose both my brother."

Memphis Depay has links to Manchester United and he might be able to help out his former club.

Depay spent two years at United but struggled before leaving for Ligue 1 outfit Lyon in 2017.

The Netherlands international has since flourished in France, and he could now play a role in United bringing Jadon Sancho to Manchester.

 

TOP STORY – DORTMUND WANT DEPAY AS SANCHO REPLACEMENT

Manchester United's bid to sign Borussia Dortmund star Jadon Sancho could hinge on Lyon captain Memphis Depay, according to The Sun.

Sancho has been tipped to leave Bundesliga side Dortmund for Premier League giants United in a blockbuster transfer this off-season.

Former United forward Depay has emerged as a possible replacement for Sancho at Dortmund and is reportedly the key to the Red Devils prising the England international to Old Trafford.

 

ROUND-UP

- Could Antonio Conte leave Inter after just one season? The Inter head coach took aim at the club after their final game of the Serie A season – a 2-0 win over Atalanta on Saturday to secure second spot behind Juventus. Conte claimed neither he nor his players were protected by the club amid criticism. Now, Sky Sport Italia, SportMediaset, La Gazzetta dello Sport, Tuttosport and Corriere dello Sport claim the damage is irreparable. With Conte facing an uncertain future, former Juve head coach Massimiliano Allegri and ex-Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino have emerged as possible replacements.

- Le10Sport reports Arsenal forward Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang wants Barcelona's Ousmane Dembele to join the Gunners. Dembele has been linked with a move away from the LaLiga giants, who are reportedly trying to raise transfer funds through sales. Aubameyang himself has been linked to Barca, as well as Paris Saint-Germain and United previously.

Milan are ready to sell Lucas Paqueta, claims Calciomercato. Linked to PSG previously, Serie A rivals Fiorentina are interested in the Brazilian attacker and an exchange involving Viola star defender Nikola Milenkovic could take place.

- According to the Telegraph, Sevilla defender Diego Carlos is at the top of Arsenal's transfer wish list. Premier League rivals Manchester City and Liverpool have also been credited with interest.

- AS Diario says Real Madrid have a clear plan of when they want to pursue their transfer targets amid the coronavirus pandemic. Reluctant to spend after winning LaLiga and in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis, Madrid are focusing on 2021 – PSG's Kylian Mbappe at the top of the list. Rennes sensation Eduardo Camavinga is also wanted next year, while Dortmund forward Erling Haaland is a 2022 target.

Wayne Rooney has suggested Alex Ferguson committed tactical suicide during Manchester United's two Champions League final losses to Barcelona.

Rooney became a European champion under Ferguson when United beat Chelsea on penalties in the 2008 final in Moscow but they fell at the last hurdle in their bid to retain the trophy the following season – running into Pep Guardiola's formidable Barca in Rome.

United had the chance to avenge that 2-0 loss in the Italian capital at Wembley in 2011 but, despite Rooney cancelling out Pedro's first-half opener, superb goals from Lionel Messi and David Villa saw the Blaugrana run out deserved 3-1 winners.

Rooney was discussing how best to approach crunch European nights in his Sunday Times column, previewing the forthcoming Champions League last-16 showdown between Manchester City and Real Madrid.

City hold a 2-1 advantage from the first leg at the Santiago Bernabeu but Rooney expects the pragmatic approach of three-time winner Zinedine Zidane to pose problems to Guardiola's current side – something that did not always come so easily to Ferguson.

"It's always hard for a club like Real to go into a game saying, 'We'll surrender the ball'," Rooney said

"It is the same for United. But we lost two Champions League finals going toe-to-toe with Guardiola's Barcelona, by trying to press high and get round them, which was suicidal.

"I remember Alex Ferguson saying, 'We're Man United and we're going to attack, it's in the culture of this football club' and thinking,' 'I'm not too sure about this'.

"I think all the players knew, deep down, it was the wrong approach, that we were abandoning the way that had brought us success in that 2008 semi-final — and sure enough both times we got outplayed.

"There is being true to the club, but then there's sitting back afterwards and thinking, 'We lost'.

"For me, it doesn't matter how you do it in these big Champions League games, as long as you win — look at how Liverpool ground it out in last year's final — and I think Zidane has the same mindset."

Rooney feels his old cross-city rivals are well placed to claim an elusive first Champions League crown, although doubts linger over a defence that has appeared suspect against elite opponents this season.

City have lost games against Liverpool, Manchester United, Chelsea, Arsenal and Tottenham across all competitions this season.

"Manchester City may never have a better chance to win the Champions League," he added. "Liverpool are out. In my opinion, Bayern Munich are not quite as good as in previous years, and City are 2-1 up against Real Madrid in the round of 16, going into a second leg at home.

"The Champions League is the competition that Pep Guardiola most wants to win and for City to take that next step as a club, this is the trophy they need.

"Friday's second leg at the Etihad is massive. Sergio Ramos is suspended, which is a huge loss to the Real defence, and I think City will score. Whether they are solid enough at the back themselves is my only question about Guardiola's side."

Mauricio Pochettino feels no regret over his decision to honour his Tottenham contract and shun Real Madrid in 2018, but did reveal frustration at a perceived lack of "support" from the Spurs board.

Pochettino spent five years with Spurs after joining from Southampton in 2014 and turned the team into Premier League top-four regulars and Champions League finalists.

But a difficult start to the 2019-20 season led to his dismissal in November last year, with Spurs bringing in Jose Mourinho as his replacement.

Pochettino previously had the opportunity to leave on his own terms in 2018, when Real Madrid attempted to hire him as Zinedine Zidane's successor, but he opted to stay put.

In the short term it proved a wise decision, as he went on to guide Spurs to their first ever Champions League final and Madrid sacked Julen Lopetegui and Santiago Solari in the same campaign, eventually persuading Zidane to return in March 2019.

But within a few months of Spurs' Champions League defeat to Liverpool, the club's outlook was much gloomier and Pochettino rued not being shown more support by chairman Daniel Levy and the board.

"I was happy at Tottenham and I signed a contract," Pochettino told El Pais when asked if he regretted not joining Madrid when the opportunity arose.

"And we [his staff and Spurs] finished very well, the relationship is impeccable. I always say, without false humility, that we too made mistakes that led to what happened, although we did expect a little more support or reassurance to reverse the situation.

"But the club line was going another way and there was wear; respite was needed from both sides.

"We work in a result-led environment where it seems that all the things that have a good result are the ones that continue. But, how do you measure what works or not?

"Only the one who wins or the one who exceeds expectations? After the Champions League final, four years in the top four, two years without signings ... a different management strategy was needed.

"Sometimes the vision of a coaching staff is not accepted by the club management. We knew what could happen.

"You need to fall, be down to then go up, but Tottenham made the decision to separate us after five and a half years. I understand that it is a long time."

Could Kasper Schmeichel follow in his father's footsteps?

Peter Schmeichel earned legendary status at Manchester United after winning five Premier League titles and the Champions League during his time at the club.

Now, Leicester City goalkeeper Kasper is being linked with a sensational move to the Theatre of Dreams.

 

TOP STORY – UNITED CONSIDER SCHMEICHEL MOVE

Manchester United are lining up a transfer swoop for Leicester City goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel to replace David de Gea, according to The Sun.

De Gea's position at United has come under threat following a slump in form for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's side, despite being contracted until 2023.

There have been calls for Dean Henderson, who has spent time on loan at Sheffield United, to return Old Trafford, however, Kasper – the son of Red Devils legend Peter – is reportedly seen as the perfect ready-made option.

 

ROUND-UP

Paris Saint-Germain are preparing a bid for Bayern Munich star Thiago Alcantara, says Le10Sport. Thiago has been tipped to join Premier League champions Liverpool, however, Ligue 1 holders PSG are believed to be in the mix for his signature.

- TF1 reports United have made contact with Monaco about a potential move for 19-year-old centre-back Benoit Badiashile, who has also been linked to Real Madrid and Bayer Leverkusen.

- According to Mundo Deportivo, Barcelona have ruled out a swap deal that would see Ivan Rakitic move to Juventus in exchange for Rodrigo Bentancur.

Milan have opened talks with Tottenham over the signing of right-back Serge Aurier, reports Sky Sport journalist Fabrizio Romano.

Juve are willing to offer Federico Bernardeschi and Cristian Romero to Serie A rivals Roma as part of a deal to sign Italian star Nicolo Zaniolo, claims SportMediaset. Zaniolo has also been linked to Madrid, Tottenham and former club Inter.

- Rennes sensation Eduardo Camavinga is willing to wait for a Madrid move until 2021-22, Marca claims. The 17-year-old has been heavily linked to the LaLiga champions as well as PSG.

Philippe Coutinho has reportedly been offered to two Premier League clubs, while Manchester City are eyeing Sergi Roberto.

Coutinho is expected to leave Barcelona on a permanent deal this close season.

A return to the Premier League has been mooted for the playmaker, and it could be getting closer.

 

TOP STORY – COUTINHO OFFERED TO TWO PREMIER LEAGUE CLUBS

Coutinho has been offered to both Arsenal and Tottenham, according to The Independent.

The report says Arsenal look the more likely to complete a deal for the Brazil international.

Coutinho has been on loan at Bayern Munich this season, having struggled since arriving at Barcelona from Liverpool in 2018.

 

ROUND-UP

- Manchester City are linked with a surprise deal. Sport reports the Premier League giants are interested in Barcelona's Sergi Roberto, who wants to remain at Camp Nou.

- Out of contract next year, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has been linked with a move from Arsenal. The Daily Mail reports Chelsea, who face Arsenal in the FA Cup final on Saturday, were sounded out about a move for the forward in January.

- Inter continue to be linked with a move for Tottenham midfielder Tanguy Ndombele. Gianluca Di Marzio reports the Serie A giants are offering star defender Milan Skriniar to Spurs in their bid to land Ndombele.

- After struggling at Manchester City, John Stones is reportedly set for a move. The Sun reports the defender is poised for a £20million move to West Ham, where he would reunite with former Everton manager David Moyes.

- Sami Khedira's time at Juventus could be over. CalcioMercato reports Juve are negotiating to terminate the midfielder's contract.

- Real Madrid left-back Sergio Reguilon, who has been on loan at Sevilla, is attracting plenty of interest. Sky Sports says Everton lead the race for Reguilon after submitting a bid of £18million (€20m).

Pep Guardiola regards Jurgen Klopp and his Liverpool side as the biggest challenge he has faced in his managerial career but says going up against Real Madrid made him a better coach.

Manchester City pipped the Reds to the 2018-19 Premier League title in a thrilling race last term but Guardiola's side finished a whopping 18 points adrift of their rivals this time around.

Klopp is a familiar foe on the touchline, with the German having been in charge of Borussia Dortmund during Guardiola's time at Bayern Munich.

Guardiola has faced many rivals as a coach, including legendary Clasico tussles with Jose Mourinho's Madrid during his stint as Barcelona boss.

But the Catalan cannot look beyond this Liverpool class under Klopp as the greatest obstacle he has come up against.

Speaking to DAZN, he said: "The toughest opponent I've faced in my career has been this Liverpool from the last year.

"They've dominated all the records. When you let yourself be dominated and confined in your area, you don't get out.

"When you dominate them, they run into space like nobody else.

"They are very fast going backwards. They are very strong strategically. Their players have great mental strength. [Klopp] is the rival who has made me think about how to beat him the most."

But Guardiola acknowledged the battles he had against Madrid bosses such as Manuel Pellegrini and Jose Mourinho improved his skills as a coach.

"I have always said that Real Madrid are a very strong team in my career, they helped me to become a better coach with tough matches and competitions with Jose Mourinho, Pellegrini and all the coaches they had," he added.

"If you ask me which has been the most difficult rival for me to face, it has been Liverpool. The first years when I arrived in England, Liverpool were a bit weaker than now and Real Madrid were stronger.

"Now, this Liverpool are the hardest I have come across in my coaching career."

Guardiola is set to come up against familiar foes Los Blancos next week when City face Madrid in the second leg of their delayed last-16 Champions League tie, which his side lead 2-1 from the first leg at the Santiago Bernabeu.

Madrid won three straight European titles under Zinedine Zidane before the Frenchman left his position at the end of the 2017-18 campaign.

He returned to the Madrid hot seat in March 2019 and led Los Blancos to the title in LaLiga this term.

Guardiola is a huge admirer of Zidane's, adding: "Although people may not believe me because he is from Real Madrid, I am very happy that things are going well because it is very good for football that things go well for people like him.

"When he has done what he has done, winning three Champions Leagues in a row, taking two LaLiga titles from Barca when they - in this decade - have dominated this competition like no other club, it shows his ability."

Barcelona are set to re-sign Ansu Fati until 2024, while Real Madrid are eyeing "the new Raphael Varane".

Fati, 17, has been linked with a stunning move to Manchester United after a breakthrough season at Barca.

But the teenage forward seems to be going nowhere.

 

TOP STORY – BARCA TO EXTEND FATI STAY UNTIL 2024

Barcelona are set to renew Fati's contract until 2024, according to the cover of Sport.

Out of contract in 2022, Fati has scored eight goals in 32 games this season, leading to links to Manchester United.

Sport also reports Barcelona are prepared to listen to offers for attacker Ousmane Dembele.

ROUND-UP

- Are Real Madrid looking to sign a new defender? AS reports the LaLiga giants are closely following Monaco defender Benoit Badiashile, who it compares to Madrid star Raphael Varane.

- Raul Jimenez could be set for a Wolves exit. RTP Sport says Jimenez is on his way to Manchester United and Wolves are on the verge of signing Sporting Braga striker Paulinho as his replacement.

- Barcelona may be preparing to strengthen their defence. Mundo Deportivo claims three defenders – Bayern Munich's David Alaba, Paris Saint-Germain's Juan Bernat and Manchester City's Eric Garcia – are within range for the LaLiga giants.

- Tanguy Ndombele continues to be linked with a move away from Tottenham. Sky Sport reports Inter have made contact with Spurs about the midfielder.

- Where to next for Willian? Coming out of contract at Chelsea at season's end, the attacker's future is uncertain. Sky Sports says Chelsea, Barcelona and Inter Miami have made contract offers to the Brazil international.

- A player looking likely to leave Stamford Bridge is Kepa Arrizabalaga. The Sun reports the goalkeeper fears he has played his last game for Chelsea.

- After Dejan Lovren's departure, Liverpool continue to be linked with defenders. COPE reports the Premier League champions have made an offer of £9.1million (€10m) for Real Betis defender Aissa Mandi.

Real Madrid have confirmed striker Mariano Diaz has tested positive for coronavirus just 10 days ahead of their Champions League clash with Manchester City.

The 26-year-old is "in perfect health" but is now self-isolating at home after being tested on Monday, the LaLiga champions said in a statement. 

The senior squad only resumed team training on Tuesday after having taken a short holiday following the end of the league season in Spain. 

Zinedine Zidane's side are due to face City at the Etihad Stadium on August 7 in the second leg of the last-16 tie, with Pep Guardiola's men leading 2-1 on aggregate. 

Mariano is unlikely to have been involved in the game, having only made seven appearances for Madrid this season.

The news comes just days after the United Kingdom imposed a 14-day quarantine on people arriving from Spain amid concerns about a spike in COVID-19 cases, which Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez described as "unjust".

Regions such as Catalonia and Aragon have seen a worrying increase in infections, leading to the UK government to advise against all non-essential travel to Spain, including the Balearic and Canary Islands.

Hugh Elliot, the UK's ambassador to Spain, told La Sexta that Madrid players and staff are exempt from the quarantine measures and would be "inside a bubble in order to reduce the risk" of transmission.

Real Madrid have confirmed striker Mariano Diaz has tested positive for coronavirus just 10 days ahead of their Champions League clash with Manchester City.

Pep Guardiola's unrivalled knowledge of Spanish football will be key to Manchester City holding off the threat of Real Madrid in the second leg of their Champions League last-16 tie, according to Bernardo Silva.

City are aiming to triumph in Europe's elite club competition for the first time, but must first get past Madrid, the 13-time winners, who they lead 2-1 after the first leg in February.

Guardiola coached Madrid's bitter rivals Barcelona between 2008-2012 and Silva is confident the former Spain midfielder's experience can help City overcome Zinedine Zidane's side on August 7.

"There's nobody like him to help us against a Spanish team, especially one he knows so well," he told Marca. "Having him as our coach and playing against Real Madrid is a good thing. He has always been a coach who knows how to play against Real Madrid the best."

Madrid go into the clash at the Etihad Stadium having claimed a first LaLiga title since 2017 and Silva knows City will have to be at their very best to progress to the quarter finals.

"Since the restart Real Madrid have won almost all their games and, as a result, are the LaLiga champions," he added. "This will only spur them on and they will be fully prepared for this game.

"We have to be in very good shape ourselves and play really well because, if not, we won't go through. We know that we're coming up against a big team and we need to show all our qualities in order beat them."

"We know that we are playing against a massive club, one of the best in the world, but we are going to try and I believe that we also have a strong team that is capable of winning again."

City missed out on a Champions League semi-final spot last season after an away goals defeat to Tottenham in the last eight; a failure Silva says the club were desperate to rectify in this campaign.

"I think that the Champions League is a very complicated competition, but this year we have already done one thing against Real Madrid that didn't happen against Tottenham, which is scoring away goals," he said.

"Scoring two goals away at Real Madrid was so important and I believe that that was one of the big lessons about the match against Tottenham.

"Also, you must manage the game better when you have an advantage in a knockout game, as these little details can count for everything.

"Therefore, we are going to try to better what we have achieved in the previous two years in the Champions League, a competition that neither me nor the club has won before and we really want to do that this year."

What does the future hold for Quique Setien at Camp Nou?

Setien replaced Ernesto Valverde in January, however, the ex-Real Betis head coach saw Barcelona dethroned as LaLiga champions by bitter rivals Real Madrid.

After leading Leeds United back to the Premier League, Marcelo Bielsa is reportedly wanted by countryman Lionel Messi.

 

TOP STORY – MESSI URGES BARCA TO SIGN BIELSA

Lionel Messi has called for Barcelona to replace Quique Setien with Leeds United boss Marcelo Bielsa, according to The Sun.

Bielsa guided Leeds to the Premier League for the first time since 2004, ending the club's 16-year exile from England's top flight.

Now, superstar captain Messi – who is reportedly unhappy with Setien at Camp Nou – wants the dethroned LaLiga giants to bring the former Argentina and Athletic Bilbao head coach to Barcelona.

 

ROUND-UP

- Leicester City star James Maddison has agreed a contract extension at King Power Stadium, according to The Sun. Maddison has reportedly committed himself to Leicester until 2025 following previous links to Manchester United.

- Mundo Deportivo claims Inter are eyeing Barcelona's Junior Firpo if they are unable to sign Emerson Palmieri from Chelsea.

Tottenham are leading the chase to sign forward Callum Wilson if Bournemouth are relegated from the Premier League, says The Sun.

- Calciomercato reports Milan and Napoli are considering moves for Salzburg sensation Dominik Szoboszlai. The 19-year-old has been linked to the likes of Chelsea, Paris Saint-Germain and Atletico Madrid.

Roma are considering a contract renewal for star Nicolo Zaniolo, according to Calciomercato. Zaniolo – who arrived from Inter in 2018 – has found his future in doubt amid talk of a falling out with head coach Paulo Fonseca and others. An Inter return has been touted, while Juventus are also reportedly interested.

- United are seriously targeting Lille defender Gabriel Magalhaes. Le10 Sport claims the Red Devils are making a last-minute attempt to sign Gabriel, who has been linked to Napoli among others.

- Kicker reports PSG are targeting Hertha Berlin attacker Matheus Cunha. Inter are also believed to be eyeing the Brazilian.

- Bayern Munich's Kingsley Coman is on a shortlist of players United are eyeing on loan should they miss out on Borussia Dortmund star Jadon Sancho, says Sky Sports News. Bayern, however, have no intention of parting with Coman. Liverpool and Real Madrid have also been credited with interest in Sancho.

Pep Guardiola does not believe Manchester City need to reflect on previous Champions League exits or their failed Premier League title defence as they prepare for Real Madrid.

City are aiming to triumph in Europe's elite club competition for the first time in 2019-20 but must first get past Madrid, the 13-time winners, who they lead 2-1 after their last-16 first leg.

Recent seasons have seen Guardiola's side thrashed by Liverpool and lose agonisingly to Tottenham in the knockout stages, despite dominating the Premier League.

This term, however, Liverpool streaked clear in the league, leaving City to reflect on an underwhelming domestic campaign in which they also ceded their FA Cup title.

It was put to Guardiola that his team would not be short of motivating factors as they look to finally deliver the European crown, but the Catalan manager insists such contemplation is unnecessary.

"What I want is to do a good game," Guardiola said. "It's absolutely a final. For us, for Madrid, it's a final.

"The plan will be to avoid making mistakes and to play a football game like we [can].

"I think what happened in the past is not going to make you play better. What happened in the past is the past. Sometimes it is what it is. Accept it.

"It's life. It's not perfect, it doesn't work perfect for all of us, in our private lives, in our professional lives either.

"The motivation is to go through, to prove to ourselves we can do a good game and beat Real Madrid. That is the only thing you are able to do.

"What happened in the past will not give you an advantage or something special for the future, for the game against Real Madrid.

"It's only if we play a good game in all departments, with all the issues we have to work on in these two weeks, that is going to give the opportunity to win the game and go through."

Asked if his players have the required hunger, Pep replied with a laugh: "If they don't have it, we will have a problem. We will not go through.

"This game is about the desire. It's Real Madrid. We know the quality they have in all departments. The players know the European leagues, they know.

"They were sitting there watching the last finals of the Champions League when Madrid was there. They know it. It's not necessary to tell them something special.

"We are going to talk a little bit about what we are going to do in this game. It's nothing special from what we've done this season. The tactics are not going to win this game, the tactics or something special.

"It's the energy that we have inside all of us, the club, all of us. That will give us more opportunity to go through - nothing more than this.

"I think with this kind of game, the special games, you know the desire of every single player to try to win."

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