Arsenal midfielder Granit Xhaka was furious after his side's 2-0 Premier League defeat against Newcastle United, saying Mikel Arteta's team "don't deserve" Champions League qualification after the damaging reverse.

A Ben White own goal gave the Magpies the lead in a must-win clash for the Gunners, before Bruno Guimaraes sealed Newcastle's victory late on, leaving Arsenal's top-four hopes hanging by a thread.

Arsenal are now two points behind Tottenham in the standings with one match remaining, where Spurs will need to lose to Norwich City to allow the Gunners a chance to sneak back into the top four, courtesy of their inferior goal difference.

The Gunners were comprehensively outclassed in the crucial encounter, producing just 0.40 expected goals compared to Newcastle's 1.38, and only controlling 33 per cent of the first-half possession.

Speaking to Sky Sports after the loss, Xhaka called it a "disaster performance", accusing his team-mates of not following Arteta's gameplan and asserting the team did not deserve European football after producing such a showing.

"So difficult to find right words after the game," he said. "We came here to show a different game, but from the first minute until the 90th minute we didn't deserve to be on the pitch today.

"I can't explain why we didn't do what the game-plan was. Not listening to the coach, [it] was a disaster performance.

"[If you] play like this you don't deserve Champions League, don't even deserve Europa league. Very hard to take it at the moment, I don't know why we are not doing what the coach is asking of us."

Xhaka went on to declare Arsenal had not shown the necessary fight at St James' Park and his told team-mates that if they didn't "have the balls", they should have stayed at home.

"I don't know if someone is not ready for this game, stay at home." he added. "Doesn't matter the age. You can be 30, 35, you can be 10, you can be 18 – [if you're] not ready, stay on the bench, stay at home, don't come here. 

"We need people to have the balls - sorry to say that - to come here to play, because we knew this game is maybe one of the most important games for us.

"A performance like this… [we cannot] accept it, very very sad for us. Sorry for the people that came over here to support us. I feel sorry for Arsenal supporters, this is the only thing I can say – to say sorry to them."

Arsenal play Everton at the Emirates Stadium in their final fixture of the Premier League season on Sunday.

Real Madrid boss Carlo Ancelotti emphasised how difficult it is to pick his starting XI after a tricky 1-1 draw against Cadiz on Sunday.

Mariano Diaz put Madrid ahead just five minutes into the contest from point-blank range, but the league champions struggled the rest of the way.

Cadiz's Sobrino equalised in the 37th minute and, according to expected goal data, the home side also had the four best chances of the second half.

For the game, Cadiz had 2.90 expected goals, compared to just 1.64 for Madrid.

With the LaLiga title secured, Carlo Ancelotti looked towards his side's Champions League final in his post-game comments to the media, commending the efforts of experienced defender Nacho and highlighting the difficulty of picking a line-up.

"A player like Nacho always makes you think twice when picking the line-up," he said.

"He's not the only one, as you have doubts over the line-up for every match here at Real Madrid. There is a full squad and not just 11 players."

When asked specifically about if in-form duo Federico Valverde and Rodrygo will start in the Paris showdown against Liverpool, Ancelotti played his cards close to his chest.

"Maybe they'll start or maybe they won't, but they will definitely play," he said.

"[Valverde] needs to make the most of his long shot, which he has been doing more in recent matches. I think it's good for him and us for him to try shooting more."

Following Wednesday's Coppa Italia final defeat to Inter, it was confirmed Juventus will finish the 2021-22 season without a trophy for the first time since 2011.

Last season under Andrea Pirlo, Juventus not winning Serie A was in itself shocking, but this season has only shown further regression.

Massimiliano Allegri returning to replace Pirlo after his single season in charge was viewed as a means to halt that slide, but Juve will not just likely finish 10 points off the Serie A title winners and without a trophy this term; the Bianconeri are set to finish with a double-digit deficit in a season where the champions will likely will not break the 85-point barrier.

How much the Turin club spend relative to the rest in Italian football must be brought into context. Granted, the financial impact of COVID-19 caused significant restructuring, but they are still the only club in Italy to have a gross annual payroll in excess of €150million and are joined by Inter as one of only two over €100m. Meanwhile, seven Juventus players make up the top 10 salaries in Serie A this season.

Given that comparatively gaudy expenditure, that represents a spectacular failure – especially in comparison to the likes of the notoriously thrifty Atalanta or this Milan project that has sought to maximise value on the pitch and cut unnecessary spending. The major issue with Juve over the past four seasons has been a dramatically diminishing return on investment, but how has it manifested on the pitch?

Juventus had this inevitable capacity to find a way to win games in Allegri's first stint, but they were still volatile. It would be misguided to look at this season in isolation when in a continuum. Cristiano Ronaldo's arrival for the 2018-19 season – which was viewed as the key signing to propel them to long-awaited Champions League glory – arguably accelerated the regression.

Real Madrid's midfield and Karim Benzema allowed Ronaldo to have a largely singular role as the end point to the team's actions in possession. At Juventus, a player who was largely a finisher and was not going to force defensive collapses between the lines by that point had to take on greater responsibility in the team's build-up. Despite the Portuguese star's stature in the game, he was effectively signed for a task on the pitch he was not capable of fulfilling.

Consider that in his last season at Madrid, Ronaldo was averaging 46.87 touches per 90, and 10.02 were in the opposition's penalty area. The next two seasons at Juventus saw a dramatic shift, where for touches per 90 he averages 54.5 and 56.26 respectively. Touches in the penalty area actually decreased, however, at 6.64 and 6.92 respectively per 90.

With Paulo Dybala as the team's attacking focal point, Miralem Pjanic had previously mitigated the deeply conservative nature of Juve's midfield, but with Ronaldo it became a bridge too far. Ronaldo might have sustained his goal involvements, but it came at the expense of the collective. The Bianconeri came no closer to winning the continental silverware he was brought to Turin to secure but, more importantly, declined domestically and were suddenly challenged for what had become a fait accompli that decade in Serie A.

Pjanic's departure at the end of 2019-20 further accelerates that regression, despite the arrivals of Arthur, Alvaro Morata, Federico Chiesa and Weston McKennie that off-season, as well as Adrien Rabiot, Mathijs de Ligt and Dejan Kulusevski the previous off-season.

Arguably, the additions of Rabiot, McKennie and Arthur have only further reinforced the rigidity of Juve's midfield over the years. Pjanic's final season saw him average 1.21 chances from open play per 90, along with 10.34 passes into the final third and 0.13 for expected assists at 92.66 touches. Not one Juventus midfielder since has been able to match all of those averages individually, and trying to replace them in an aggregate creates different requirements elsewhere.

 

Amid Dybala's increasingly marginalised status upon Ronaldo's arrival, it necessitated someone like Morata, whose fantastic movement and ability to incorporate the players around him is paired with erratic finishing in front of goal. It represents a sizeable trade-off. Still, Morata leads the Bianconeri for chances created (1.63) in open play per 90 in all competitions this season.

That provides some context for this season and Dusan Vlahovic's arrival, because he is almost the opposite to Morata – cold-blooded in front of goal, but much less flexible in build-up play and movement off the ball. Yet, while he creates fewer chances in open play (0.81) than Morata, the quality of his shots (0.13 xG per shot) is still lower than Morata's average of 0.16.

 

 

It all matters because, with the exception of Inter and Lazio, the Bianconeri still keep more of the ball than anyone else in Serie A. They both can and cannot afford for their midfield to be so palpably one-dimensional. While Juventus rank 19th across the top five leagues in Europe for touches per 90 (678.46) in all competitions, they rank 32nd for big chances created per 90 (1.56), and 50th for passes into the final third (53.02), calling into question the nature of their possession and how they actually generate their chances.

With that all in context, it can be difficult to definitively assess someone like Fabio Miretti or where he best suits in a system of play, because it is akin to developing an emotional attachment to a captor.

Yet Dybala's forthcoming departure from Turin at the end of this season is symbolic, let alone if he ends up somewhere else in Serie A.

His career trajectory over the past four years, coinciding with Juve's regression and eventual embarrassment of this season, represents how badly the club have managed squad composition and, to reference Jose Mourinho's famous quote, their Champions League dream that became an obsession. As such, they have lacked anything resembling a plan or clarity, and have been blindly led by ambition to this empty-handed season.

Liverpool forward Mohamed Salah did not mince his words when defending his place as he declared he is the best player in the world in his position.

The Egypt international is on track to win the Premier League Golden Boot, while also boasting the highest assist tally in the top flight, being directly involved in 35 goals from his 34 appearances.

Salah was recently named the Football Writers' Association Player of the Year in England, and has a chance to make history with this Liverpool team as they have won the EFL Cup, and are still in the hunt for the Premier League title, FA Cup and Champions League.

Speaking to beIN SPORTS, Salah was adamant that there is no forward in world football scaling his heights.

"If you compare me with any player in my position, not only in my team but in the world, you will find that I am the best," he said.

"I always focus on my work and do my best, and my numbers are the best proof of my words.

"I like to always create a new challenge for me, to work in a different way and to make a difference, and that is my duty."

Ahead of Liverpool's Champions League final against Real Madrid – which is a rematch from the 2018 final, when the Spaniards won 3-1 – Salah called it "revenge time".

"Yeah – when we lost in the final, it was a sad day for all of us," he said. "But, yes, I think it's revenge time."

Ilkay Gundogan will find other ways to keep himself occupied when Liverpool face Real Madrid in the Champions League final as he is still "angry" at Manchester City's exit.

City were eliminated at the semi-final stage last week with a remarkable 6-5 aggregate defeat to Madrid at the Santiago Bernabeu.

Last season's beaten finalists, who have yet to win UEFA's showpiece competition, were ahead 5-3 in the tie with less than a minute of normal time remaining in the Spanish capital before Rodrygo scored twice and Karim Benzema netted an extra-time penalty.

And while he openly admits to being obsessed with all things football, Gundogan has no intention of tuning in to watch City's conquerors Madrid take on Liverpool in Paris.

"If I think about the final in Paris then I get very angry," he told the Daily Mail. "Frustrated, disappointed. I'm definitely not going to watch it. 

"I will definitely try to do something else that day. Nothing is going to really help; the only thing that will is time. 

"It's becoming a little bit easier, even though you know – yet again – you've missed a big chance to lift a possible trophy."

He added: "Maybe there's not much we can tell ourselves that we did wrong but at the end of the day, we conceded two goals in two minutes. 

"We were not there when it was necessary and we were not focused enough. It was not enough. That is the blame we give ourselves."

Gundogan, a second-half substitute in the second leg against Madrid, has won eight major trophies with City – but European silverware continues to elude him and the club.

That could soon become nine trophies as City will be crowned Premier League champions for a fourth time in five years if they win their remaining three matches.

City have been pushed all the way by Liverpool, who they have battled it out with for domestic honours over the past few seasons, though the rivalry remains relatively peaceful.

That is a far cry from the days when matters would often boil over both before and after matches between title rivals Manchester United and Arsenal.

Gundogan, who also won the Bundesliga with Borussia Dortmund in 2011-12, insists football has moved on in recent years.

"Those kind of rivalries don't really exist anymore in modern football," he said. "For some people who are more old school you know, that might be bad. 

"The game is not like, I don't know, 20-30 years ago, with people on the pitch killing each other and intentionally trying to injure. 

"That's not how we want the game to be. I want fairness. I want respect. Just because there's a rivalry we don't need to kill each other on or off the pitch."

Real Madrid talisman Karim Benzema is "one of the most underrated players in history" according to UEFA President Aleksander Ceferin.

Benzema has produced several incredible displays to fire Real Madrid to their 17th European Cup/Champions League final, scoring hat-tricks in last-16 and quarter-final ties with Paris Saint-Germain and Chelsea, before netting three goals across a 6-5 aggregate win over Manchester City in the semi-finals.

The 34-year-old has been touted for the Ballon d'Or after scoring 43 goals and providing 14 assists in all competitions for Los Blancos this term, with Carlo Ancelotti's team also wrapping up the LaLiga title last week.

The France international has scored 10 goals in the Champions League knockout stages, the joint-most recorded by a player in a single campaign, along with Cristiano Ronaldo in 2016-17, also for Madrid.

Speaking to AS, Ceferin rejected suggestions Madrid had been fortunate in the competition this season, hailing the contributions of Benzema and midfielder Luka Modric and labelling the former "awesome".

"For me, one of the most underrated players in history is Benzema. He is an amazing player. And they have Luka Modric, who the older he gets, the better he plays," Ceferin said.

"Now [Benzema] is becoming more and more recognized. He has always been in someone's shadow. 

"It's amazing how this footballer can score goals. He finds a way, even when it seems impossible to score. He is an awesome player.

"We will have to ask them [Madrid] how it is possible. They are an experienced team. You could say that they have been a bit lucky in some matches, but you can only be lucky in one, not all."

After scoring an extra-time penalty to send Los Blancos to the May 28 final at City's expense, Benzema has scored seven Champions League goals against English teams this season, the most by a player in a single campaign in the competition's history.

He will have the opportunity to build on that record when Ancelotti's men face Liverpool in the final in Paris, and Ceferin believes the removal of the away goals rule has contributed to this Champions League season being one of the most exhilarating in recent history.

"That's the Champions League. The biggest football promotion and the best sports competition in the world," he added. "And when you watch these games… it's amazing. 

"I am happy that we have changed the away goals rule. When I told some of my team-mates that, they told me that there would be more penalty shoot-outs. 

"But it is not true and that is how it has been seen. The matches, in my opinion, are more interesting.

"The clubs in the Champions League are the best and playing away is almost the same as playing at home. I'm looking forward to the final."

UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin says the remaining Super League clubs Barcelona, Real Madrid and Juventus could yet face sanctions, also insisting they are free to form their own competition if they give up their places in the Champions League.

Madrid, Barcelona, and Juventus were the only three founding clubs not to renounce their backing for the widely derided Super League after the breakaway project's collapse in April 2021.

Last month, a Madrid court lifted precautionary measures preventing UEFA from punishing the trio, who have continued to voice their backing for a new competition – to be governed by its founding clubs – despite the withdrawals of the other nine founding members.

Speaking to AS, Ceferin hinted sanctions against the trio could be on the horizon and hit out at the "incredible arrogance" of the clubs.

Ceferin, who assumed his post in 2016 after succeeding Michel Platini, also said the clubs were free to do whatever they liked, but would not be allowed to participate in UEFA competitions if the venture was revived.  

"Of course it's possible [to sanction the clubs] but let's see what happens," he said. "The only 'hello' UEFA got from them came from the courts, as they tried to challenge us everywhere. 

"We never said that they couldn't play their own competition, because they can if they want. But it's funny that these were the clubs that first registered in the Champions League. 

"If they play other tournaments, they cannot play in our competitions. That is not a monopoly. They can create their own UEFA and do what they think is right. 

"I showed them a lot of respect in the past. I don't want to talk about the president of Juventus [Andrea Agnelli], but my relationship with him was very open and honest. 

"I never said this before, but I invited the president of Madrid, Florentino Perez, to Nyon before it all happened to talk about future competitions. He called off the meeting with a text message just 24 hours earlier because of 'a basketball-related event'. With [former Barca president Josep Maria] Bartomeu I never spoke.

"Everyone had a chance to speak, and we've never been pushy or arrogant. The announcement of that project was an act of incredible arrogance on their part, and that's probably why they don't want to communicate with UEFA. 

"But that has never influenced how we treat them in our tournaments. You can see it in their successes: Real Madrid will play in the Champions League final and Barca will play in the Women's Champions League. That is a clear sign that our competitions are healthy, fair and correct.

"Football must remain open to all, and we will not back down one millimetre to defend the European sporting model. What they want is theirs, and they are free to get together and do what they want."

Amid their refusal to back down on their support for the Super League, Real Madrid will appear in their 17th European Cup/Champions League final later this month after a remarkable 6-5 aggregate triumph over Manchester City in the semi-finals.

Meanwhile, although UEFA has faced criticism for proposed Champions League reforms which could allow two qualification places to be awarded based on historical performances, Ceferin said the demise of the Super League made clear that continental football must remain open to all.

"I was glad it happened because it was always up in the air," he added. "When it finally came out, we ended once and for all with this nonsense that football can be bought, that football is only for the elite, only for the rich. 

"That will never happen. People warned me that the same people killed basketball, but I told them, 'Basketball is not football. It will never be football.' Football is part of our history. It is part of our traditions."

Jurgen Klopp has questioned UEFA's allocation of tickets for the Champions League final, where Liverpool will face Real Madrid.

The game at the Stade de France on the outskirts of Paris will be played on May 28, and both participating clubs have been allocated fewer than 20,000 tickets each to sell to fans, despite the capacity of the stadium being 75,000.

Speaking at a media conference ahead of Liverpool's Premier League clash with Tottenham, Klopp was asked about the impact of the travelling Reds support this season, and he was keen to point out the ticket issue.

"When you see the ticket prices and all this kind of stuff, the amount of tickets you get only... did I read, is it right that we only get 20,000, they get 20,000, [but] 75,000 in? That makes 35,000, what? Where are these tickets?," he asked.

"I cannot be more appreciative, more thankful for what [the fans] are doing. Unbelievable... It is the only bad thing about the journey [fans struggling to obtain tickets]. I really hope they all can make it somehow and can create an incredible atmosphere.

"That is what I love about this game, really. The world will be red or white, but everybody will be either or, so that's really cool."

The game will be a repeat of the 2018 Champions League final, in which Madrid ran out 3-1 winners in Kyiv thanks to Gareth Bale's brace and a Karim Benzema goal.

Mohamed Salah was forced off injured following a crude Sergio Ramos challenge early in the contest, and the Egyptian has not held back in his assertions that the Reds want revenge this time around.

Salah posted: "We have a score to settle" on social media on Wednesday, before also saying when he received his Football Writers' Player of the Year award on Thursday: "We lost in the (2018) final, it was a sad day for all of us and I think it is revenge time."

Klopp was not quite as forthright, though he did pay tribute to Madrid's astonishing semi-final win against Manchester City, when Los Blancos came from 5-3 down on aggregate heading into the 90th minute of the second leg to win 6-5 after extra time at the Santiago Bernabeu.

"When we lost that final actually my favourite solution would have been to play the final the next year against Real Madrid, to be honest," Klopp admitted. "But we faced Tottenham [in 2019, winning 2-0], which was absolutely fine, in Madrid, so Madrid seems to be our destiny.

"It was strange and unlucky for City, but what Madrid did was outstanding. They got through against Paris Saint-Germain, against Chelsea, and against City, when we said before when we played Villarreal that if you knock out Bayern, you deserve to be in the semi-final, if you knock out these three [teams], you definitely deserve to be in the final.

"It will be great. That we were not happy that night, that's clear, but it was a while ago. I'm happy to go there and give it a try. Until then, we have a lot of games to play and you will ask a lot of questions about Real Madrid until then.

"What Carlo [Ancelotti] did there is absolutely incredible. If you go to a final the idea is you want to win it and that is what we'll work on the week before."

Rodrygo has been congratulated by Brazilian legend Pele for his role in Real Madrid's incredible 6-5 aggregate win over Manchester City in the Champions League semi-finals.

Having replaced Toni Kroos as a 68th-minute substitute shortly before Riyad Mahrez's goal put Madrid 5-3 down in the tie, Rodrygo scored an astonishing last-gasp brace to force a thrilling second leg to extra-time, where Karim Benzema's penalty sent Los Blancos to the final. 

The 21-year-old became the first ever player to score two 90th-minute goals in a Champions League knockout game, and just the second substitute to score a semi-final brace in the competition, after Georginio Wijnaldum for Liverpool against Barcelona in 2018-19.

After changing the course of the tie with two goals in a dramatic 91 seconds, Rodrygo, who has five caps for Brazil, received high praise from an iconic compatriot of his on social media. 

"I always knew the day to congratulate you would come, my friend," Pele wrote in an Instagram post, alongside a photo of himself and Rodrygo wearing the Selecao's famous yellow shirts.

"There is no other way for those who work hard and love what they do. You are enlightened and you will still bring us many joys, congratulations. I can't wait to watch the final!"

Rodrygo scored his first international goal in a 4-0 win over Paraguay in February, and has recorded eight goals and eight assists in a successful season with Madrid, for whom he has started 21 times in all competitions.

Madrid will face Liverpool in their 17th European Cup/Champions League final later this month. Los Blancos have now made the final at least six times more than any other club, and defeated the Reds on their last such appearance in 2018. 

 

Real Madrid midfielder Toni Kroos revealed Carlo Ancelotti sought advice from senior players when making tactical changes in the incredible Champions League semi-final win over Manchester City.

A late double from substitute Rodrygo – who became the first player in Champions League history to score twice in the 90th minute of a knockout match – saw Los Blancos force extra time in Madrid. Karim Benzema's penalty then secured a 6-5 aggregate triumph and kept alive Madrid's hopes of a 14th crown in the competition.

Madrid boss Ancelotti has now reached a fifth Champions League final, having done so in 2003, 2005 and 2007 with Milan, and in 2014 and 2022 across two spells with the Spanish champions, and his introduction of Rodrygo, who replaced Kroos after 68 minutes, proved vital.

Fellow substitute Eduardo Camavinga also produced an outstanding display from the bench as Madrid qualified for their 17th European Cup/Champions League final.

Kroos, 32, revealed he and other senior players were asked for input on Ancelotti's switches, saying the Italian's ability to communicate with his players makes him an elite coach.

"The coach himself had a few doubts about who he would bring on and who not to bring on," Kroos told DAZN. "We [the players] have all seen a few football games ourselves. That allows you to exchange ideas a bit.

"That describes him really well and why things always work well with the team. It's outstanding. In the end he decides, but of course he's interested in our opinion."

Since 2003-04, which saw the introduction of the Champions League's last-16 knockout stage, Madrid became the only team to lose a game in each of the first three knockout rounds and still make the competition's final (losing 1-0 to Paris Saint-Germain in the last-16, 3-2 to Chelsea in the quarter-finals, and 4-3 to City in the semi-finals).

After Los Blancos set up a repeat of their 2018 Champions League final against Liverpool, in which a Gareth Bale double won the Spanish outfit their 13th European title, Kroos said he was struggling to explain the team's remarkable ability to bounce back from falling behind.

"It's amazing, we were out 26 times during the knockout phase and fought back 26 times," he added.

"It's sometimes difficult to explain, even for me, what happened in the last few minutes. That's the belief, that's the stadium, the combination is magical."

Sensational comebacks are increasingly a staple of the modern Champions League, and this season they have belonged almost exclusively to Real Madrid.

Los Blancos trailed Manchester City 1-0 heading into the 90th minute at the Santiago Bernabeu on Wednesday, with Pep Guardiola's team leading 5-3 on aggregate.

Yet two goals in the space of 91 seconds from Rodrygo forced extra-time, and Carlo Ancelotti's team set up a meeting with Liverpool in Paris when Karim Benzema converted a penalty to claim a 3-1 win (6-5 on aggregate).

It was the third stunning turnaround Madrid have enjoyed in the knockout stages this campaign, following Benzema's hat-trick against Paris Saint-Germain in the last 16 and Rodrygo's goal against Chelsea to secure an aggregate win in the quarters last month.

Here's a few other incredible comebacks to jog your memory.

Real Madrid 3-1 PSG (3-2 agg), 2022

Madrid have done it the hard way this season, as they target a 14th European title. 

Not many fancied them to get through against PSG, especially when Kylian Mbappe, who had scored a stunning goal in the first leg in Paris in February, put Mauricio Pochettino's team ahead at the Santiago Bernabeu with a crisp finish.

Yet Gianluigi Donnarumma's slack play enabled Benzema to pounce and pull one back, with the striker then scoring twice in two minutes to turn the tie on its head and set Madrid en route to the final.

Barcelona 6-1 PSG (6-5 agg), 2017

Barcelona remain the perpetrators of the most remarkable of all Champions League comebacks, at least in terms of deficit overhauled.

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

However, two quick Neymar goals – 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.

Roma 3-0 Barcelona (4-4 agg, Roma won on away goals), 2018

The boot was on the other foot when Barcelona were dethroned in the Italian capital last year as Roma completed one of the most unlikely turnarounds in quarter-final history.

Eusebio Di Francesco's side came back from a 4-1 first-leg deficit to progress to the last eight 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 completely fell to pieces.

Liverpool 4 Barcelona 0 (4-3 agg), 2019

Fresh from netting a late winner at Newcastle United the weekend before, Divock Origi allowed the Liverpool faithful to dream by poaching his maiden Champions League goal in the seventh minute.

Jurgen Klopp needed Alisson to be on form as he saved from Messi and Suarez, before another unlikely hero emerged.

Andrew Robertson's injury forced James Milner to left-back and Georginio Wijnaldum into the fray at half-time. By the hour, the Dutch midfielder had Liverpool level thanks to two goals in 122 delirious seconds.

Origi had the final word thanks to Trent Alexander-Arnold's quick thinking from a 79th-minute corner, leaving Barcelona and Messi crestfallen once more. The Reds went on to beat Tottenham in an all-English final.

Real Madrid 1-4 Ajax (5-3 agg), 2019

Despite their impressive display in their 2-1 first-leg defeat, nobody really seemed to think Ajax could turn things around at the Santiago Bernabeu. Sergio Ramos certainly did not – he earned a 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 completely capitulated amid a fearless and thrilling Ajax – the type of which Liverpool might yet be faced with in the final.

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 they had ever been knocked out after winning the first leg of a Champions League tie.

PSG 1-3 Manchester United (3-3 agg, United won on away goals), 2019

It really had been quite the season for upsets in Europe's premier competition. A day on from Ajax's thrashing of Madrid, United made history at Parc des Princes.

No side had ever won a knockout tie after trailing 2-0 from a first leg at home, and with 10 senior players missing, including the banned Paul Pogba, United's chances looked slim.

Romelu Lukaku scored just two minutes in, though, and despite Juan Bernat's equaliser on the night, Lukaku struck again after a Gianluigi Buffon error to make it 2-1.

As the game crept towards second-half injury time, Diogo Dalot's shot struck Presnel Kimpembe's arm and the referee awarded a penalty after a lengthy VAR review. Marcus Rashford scored it, United progressed, and the clamour for Solskjaer to be given the permanent manager's job grew louder.

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

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 AC Milan, they stunned the Italians at home.

Walter Pandiani, Juan Carlos Valeron and Albert Luque had Depor ahead on away goals before half-time, with Fran Gonzalez – who played for them in the second division in the late 80s and is still their record appearance holder – fittingly scored 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.

Liverpool 3-3 AC Milan (AET, 3-2 on pens), 2005

That famous night in Istanbul. Liverpool found themselves on the end of a hiding at half-time in the 2005 Champions League final, as Paolo Maldini and a Hernan Crespo brace had the Serie A side 3-0 up.

But the second half proved to be one of the most iconic 45 minutes in Liverpool's history, with goals from Steven Gerrard, Vladimir Smicer and Xabi Alonso levelling the match up by the hour mark.

Milan then failed to hold their nerve in the penalty shootout, as Jerzy Dudek's leggy antics in the Liverpool goal helped the Pole outsmart both Andrea Pirlo and Andriy Shevchenko after Serginho blazed the first kick over, resulting in the Premier League side lifting their fifth European title.

Manchester United 2-1 Bayern Munich, 1999

Possibly the two most dramatic minutes in the history of European club football.

United were trailing 1-0 to Bayern Munich in the 1999 final at Camp Nou, with Mario Basler's skidding free-kick into the bottom-right corner looking set to be enough for the Bavarian giants to end a 23-year wait for glory in the continent's top-tier competition.

However, the United of Alex Ferguson's era could never be discounted until the final whistle, and substitute Teddy Sheringham swept Ryan Giggs' shot into the bottom corner to bring the scores level in the 91st minute.

Solskjaer, another late substitute and now the man in the United dug-out, avoided the need for extra time by stabbing Sheringham's header from a David Beckham corner into the roof of the net as United completed an historic treble in astonishing fashion.

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

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 1999-00 Champions League upset prior to the Roman Abramovich era, but in the return match the Catalans 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 scored seven minutes from the end of regulation to force extra time.

Rivaldo then converted a penalty after Celestine Babayaro was sent off and Patrick Kluivert wrapped things up, crushing Chelsea's dreams.

Mohamed Salah would rather face Real Madrid than Manchester City in the final of the Champions League in Paris as they target the quadruple after seeing off a spirited Villarreal performance in the last four.

Liverpool survived a huge scare in Spain to reach their 10th European Cup/Champions League final, with Fabinho, Luis Diaz, and Sadio Mane scoring second-half goals after Villarreal wiped out the Reds' first-leg lead in an unbelievable first half.

Liverpool have become the first team to reach the finals of the European Cup/Champions League, the FA Cup, and the League Cup in a single season, and trail City by just one point in an absorbing Premier League title race.

The Reds' incredible form has led to talk of Jurgen Klopp's team lifting four major trophies at the end of the campaign, with Salah hoping to complete the quadruple against Madrid having been substituted after suffering an injury in Liverpool's 2018 final loss to Los Blancos.

"Yeah, [it's a target] for sure," he told BT Sport. "Maybe not in the beginning of the season if I'm honest, because I always focus on the Champions League and the Premier League, but now we are close for everything, so why not? 

"I think after we beat City in the semi-final of the [FA] cup [Liverpool believed it was possible], but in the Champions League, from the beginning we were playing unbelievable games, we had a really tough group and we beat everybody, so I said from that time we could win the Champions League this year.

"I want to play Madrid, I have to be honest. City is a really tough team, we played against them a few times this season, but I think if you ask me personally, I would prefer Madrid.

"Because we lost in the final against them, I want to play against them, and hopefully win against them as well."

Salah assisted Fabinho's vital 62nd-minute goal in Spain, taking his tally to an incredible 45 goal contributions in all competitions this season (30 goals, 15 assists), and the Egypt international revealed he had set himself a target of 40 goals before the campaign began.

"I just give the team everything, we have to focus for the team because we fight for everything, we won one trophy already, we are in the final, we continue to fight for the Premier League and we are in a final against Chelsea [in the FA Cup]," he added.

"I just focus, and try to train hard. I know what I want at the end of the season, so hopefully I can get what I want. 

"Before the season starts, I know what I want from the season, individually and collectively. The collective is the most important, [but] I'm nearly there, I have a big expectation for myself. 

"Honestly, I never said this before but before the season started, I was like 'okay, I'll go for 40 goals this season, and 10 or 15 assists'. I need to focus on the goals now!"

Reds defender Virgil van Dijk, meanwhile, hailed winger Diaz for his impact after the January arrival changed the game as a half-time substitute, but refused to join Salah in stating a preferred final opponent.

"The way he goes one versus one, it doesn't really matter who he is facing, he just goes at you without any fear," Van Dijk said of Diaz. "And if he loses it, he wins it back and goes again. That is very difficult to defend.

"Any team that we face in the final of this competition will be a nightmare to play against. We know City but they know us too. We know how intense those games are. Real Madrid is Real Madrid. Such a big club and an in-form striker [Karim Benzema]."

Liverpool's Champions League final opponents will be revealed when Pep Guardiola's City travel to the Spanish capital on Wednesday, attempting to defend a 4-3 first-leg lead to set up an all-English final.

Liverpool overcame a spirited Villarreal performance to book their spot in the Champions League final with a 3-2 away win, netting three second-half goals after seeing their first-leg lead wiped out in Spain.

Boulaye Dia handed Unai Emery's men an early lead in front of a boisterous home crowd, before Francis Coquelin stunned the below-par visitors by wiping out their aggregate lead on the stroke of half-time.

But Liverpool grew into the game after their dismal start, and after Geronimo Rulli failed to make a routine stop from Fabinho's effort, half-time substitute Diaz headed home to send Jurgen Klopp's men to the final.

Sadio Mane raced clear to round Rulli and roll home a late third to make the result safe before Etienne Capoue was sent off late on, keeping the Reds on course to cap an incredible season by winning four major trophies.

After failing to record a single shot on target at Anfield, the Yellow Submarine needed just three minutes to open the scoring, Dia tapping home after Capoue turned Pervis Estupinan's delivery across goal.

Gerard Moreno saw a close-range header blocked as the visitors produced a dreadful first-half performance, and the Reds' advantage, which looked to be decisive prior to kick-off, was wiped out when Coquelin sparked wild scenes by heading Capoue's cross into the top-left corner.

Trent Alexander-Arnold struck the top of the crossbar with a deflected effort as Liverpool improved after the break, before Fabinho drilled a low shot through the legs of Rulli to restore the visitors' aggregate lead after 62 minutes.

Diaz went close to bending home a superb second moments later, but was on hand to nod home Alexander-Arnold's cross after 67 minutes and put the Reds back in full command of the tie.

The tie was settled once and for all when Mane took advantage of another Rulli error after 74 minutes, rounding the keeper well outside his area before rolling home to secure Liverpool's progress, with Capoue then dismissed for a second yellow card after fouling Curtis Jones.

UEFA has extended its ban on Russian teams competing in European competition until at least the end of next season and declared the country's bid to host Euro 2028 or Euro 2032 "ineligible".

Russia has been hit by a number of sporting sanctions in wake of the country invading neighbouring Ukraine in March, with clubs blocked from competing in the Champions League, Europa League and Europa Conference League.

That will remain the case next season, while Russia's audacious bid to host the European Championship finals in the next decade has also been blocked due to "bringing the bidding procedure or European football into disrepute".

European football governing body UEFA confirmed the latest measures on Monday and also announced that Russia's men's national team will not compete in the upcoming UEFA Nations League, meaning they will automatically finish bottom of Group 2 League B.

In the women's game, meanwhile, Russia's place in Group C at July's Euro 2022 finals will be taken by Portugal, the side they defeated in the play-offs.

Russia's women's side will also not partake in any of their remaining World Cup 2023 qualification matches. Group E will therefore continue as a group of five teams.

That is also the case for the men's Under-21s side, who will play no further part in qualifying for the next European Under-21 Championship.

Former Villarreal star Robert Pires believes Liverpool are "the best team in Europe", but insists the Yellow Submarine can overturn a 2-0 first-leg deficit to reach the Champions League final.

After a routine Liverpool win at Anfield last Wednesday, Villarreal will attempt to become just the second team to overturn a two-goal first-leg deficit in a Champions League semi-final (after Liverpool's 4-3 aggregate win over Barcelona in 2019).

Villarreal did not manage a single shot on target in their away reverse, but Pires' former club did win their only previous home game against Liverpool in European competition (a 1-0 win in 2015-16's Europa League semi-finals).

Although Pires said quadruple-chasing Liverpool are the best team on the continent, he does not think the result is a foregone conclusion on Tuesday.

"Of course Villarreal can go through," he said in comments reported by AS. "We know how complicated it is, we cannot deny that. We know the level of Liverpool and their quality, they are very good and very strong, but Villarreal has not said the last word.

"For me, Liverpool is the best in Europe at the moment and that makes it a great challenge. For this reason, Villarreal, which is a very solid team, suffered a lot in the first leg. But they came out alive, and knowing Emery and the quality of this team, I wouldn't be comfortable.

"To that they must add a bit of luck, we know that these comebacks must have that point of fortune to turn the tie around. I tell people that if the player feels that the fans are with you and push, anything is possible. 

"Hopefully Villarreal will reach the final in Paris. That is my wish, I would very much like it to be."

 

Villarreal have never lost a home match in the Champions League knockout stages, although they have drawn five of their seven such fixtures.

Before Pires joined the Yellow Submarine, for whom he made 131 total appearances across four seasons, he lined up as an opposition player for the club's only previous Champions League semi-final appearance, with Arsenal.

The Gunners reached the final with a 1-0 aggregate win after clinging onto a goalless draw in Spain, with Jens Lehmann saving Juan Roman Riquelme's late penalty, and Pires said his memories of that contest make him believe Villarreal will provide Liverpool with a stern test.

"This team is not eliminated, far from it," he added. "I played the other semi-final with Arsenal and we also had an advantage, so we hoped to get through without suffering. And the reality was very different.

"We suffered like dogs in that game. We came from eliminating Juventus and Madrid, we were very confident and secure, but we arrived here and had a really bad time. I don't know what happened to us, but it was the game in which we suffered the most of all. 

"That's why I think Villarreal can give Liverpool a cane. I know, I've lived it."

Villarreal are unbeaten in 12 home matches in all competitions, winning eight, and recorded an incredible 1-0 success against Bayern Munich in their last home Champions League outing.

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