Newcastle are cantering towards a return to the Champions League after a 4-1 win at Goodison Park made a demoralised Everton’s task of escaping relegation all the more difficult.

Callum Wilson’s seventh and eighth goals in six matches against the Toffees either side of Joelinton’s fourth in his last five helped lift Eddie Howe’s side eight points clear of fifth place, while leaving their hosts two points from safety after one win in their last 10.

Even when Dwight McNeil pulled one back with 10 minutes to go Jacob Murphy immediately responded as Everton’s defensive nightmares down their right side continued for a second game.

Monday’s trip to Leicester, immediately above Everton in 18th, now becomes a must-win game as with Manchester City one of their two remaining home fixtures, Sean Dyche’s side cannot rely on the power of Goodison to get them over the line to extend a 69-year stay in the top flight.

But Newcastle, having experienced their own period in the doldrums of the Championship, have no such worries as an appearance in Europe’s elite competition proper for the first time since 2003 edges ever closer having scored 10 goals in their last two matches.

The visitors showed they have the mettle for a fight as, after Sunday’s 6-1 procession against a hapless Tottenham, they outlasted the intensity and physicality Everton brought.

Having lost the early midfield battle they took control once Wilson, starting ahead of Alexander Isak, put them ahead in the 28th minute with his fifth goal in his last six games.

Dyche altered his team’s preparations, Everton arriving on a bus instead of their own cars, in order to allow fans to reinstate the blue pyrotechnic-heavy coach greeting which accompanied last season’s late escape from relegation.

Abdoulaye Doucoure’s return from suspension and Amadou Onana’s availability after injury allowed Dyche to select his first-choice midfield for the first time in four matches and the pre-kick-off fireworks behind the Gwladys Street and Bullens Road stands set the tone for the hosts.

Two Alex Iwobi crosses drifted agonisingly just over the heads of Calvert-Lewin and Doucoure either side of an Idrissa Gana Gueye free-kick which cleared the crossbar by a few inches.

Calvert-Lewin, however, remained isolated up front and Dyche could be seen waving midfielders forward in support with the striker himself beckoning players closer as another Jordan Pickford kick sailed towards him.

Doucoure’s energy was a vital cog in the link between midfield and attack and when he slid in Calvert-Lewin the forward chopped back onto his left foot only for Fabian Schar to block.

Newcastle managed to dampen Everton’s fire without managing to create a genuine chance of their own until they took the lead in the 28th minute.

Joelinton, whose personal experience had been torrid up to that point, broke down the left and cut inside Ben Godfrey – woefully exposed as a stand-in right-back due to the unavailability of Seamus Coleman (injured) and Mason Holgate (suspended) – to shoot at Pickford, whose save bounced kindly off James Tarkowski to Wilson.

The confidence of the league’s lowest scorers was momentarily affected as passes started to go astray but they recovered their purpose late on in the half with Michael Keane guiding Iwobi’s near-post corner wide before the pivotal moment went against them.

McNeil played through Calvert-Lewin and his dink over Nick Pope showed no sign of the rustiness expected of a player in only his second match back after almost three months out.

However, the Goodison roar was instantly quashed by the offside flag and not even VAR could overturn the marginal decision to save them.

Tarkowski blocked Joe Willock’s goalbound shot seconds after the interval but the response was for Calvert-Lewin to force a save out of Pope after Iwobi had escaped the clutches – literally – of Matt Targett on the counter-attack.

Willock’s volley was acrobatically tipped around the post by Pickford as Newcastle continued to carry the greater threat and the killer blows against the toiling hosts in a four-minute spell were delivered by the unmarked Joelinton’s close-range header and Wilson brilliantly curling a shot into the top corner.

The trickle of fans heading for the exits missed McNeil’s 80th-minute goal but Magpies substitute Murphy scoring his side’s fourth immediately saw the stands empty more rapidly and a VAR offside ruling denied Schar Newcastle’s fifth.

 UEFA and Pepsi have announced that GRAMMY® Award-winning and multi-platinum-selling singer, songwriter and producer, Burna Boy, will co-headline the highly anticipated 2023 UEFA Champions League Final Kick Off Show by Pepsi on June 10.

For the first time ever, fans will have the opportunity of a lifetime to be part of the biggest annual global sporting event for themselves.

The global chart-topping ‘Last Last’ and ‘It’s Plenty’ megastar will bring his signature soulful vibes of afrobeats to Istanbul’s Atatürk Olympic Stadium as millions of fans from across the globe tune in to watch the must-see performance only moments before the biggest game in club football gets underway. Burna Boy, fresh from a record-breaking year and the release of his sixth studio album, Love, Damini, will take to the Pepsi stage alongside another soon-to-be-announced global sensation.

Revealed on TikTok, Burna Boy has teamed up with Pepsi ambassadors and football royalty; world champion Leo Messi, reigning UCL champion Vini Jr and Euro-winning Lionesses star Leah Williamson; to encourage fans to showcase their best dance moves or ball skills by posting them to TikTok using the hashtag #PepsiKickOffShow. The best submissions will be hand-picked to show off their skills as part of the 2023 UEFA Champions League Final Kick Off Show by Pepsi performance.

"As a huge football fan myself, I know it doesn’t get any bigger than the UEFA Champions League! That's why I'm so excited to be performing on the Pepsi stage at this year's final,” Burna Boy said.

“Music and football are the ultimate combination, so you already know I'll be bringing the vibes and making magic in Istanbul. The world ain't ready for what we have in store!”

Gustavo Reyna, Pepsi’s Senior Director of Global Marketing, said they are excited to have Burna Boy on board for the spectacle.

“The UEFA Champions League Final is the stand-out date of the club football calendar, and Pepsi prides itself on marking the occasion with the very best entertainment spectacles,” Reyna said.

“The newly named ‘Kick Of Show by Pepsi’ is going to be huge this year; we’re so excited to welcome Burna Boy, one of the world’s most exciting artists, to the Pepsi x UEFA Champions League stage and we can’t wait to see which fans are selected to feature as part of this truly unmissable performance. Stay tuned to find out who is co-headlining alongside Burna Boy in the weeks to come!”

UEFA marketing director Guy-Laurent Epstein said they are excited about the entertainment package fans will be able to enjoy.

“The UEFA Champions League Final Kick Off Show is a significant part of our joint efforts with Pepsi, providing an incredible opportunity to reach new and younger audiences with some of the biggest names and rising stars in music,” he said.

“We're excited to showcase a line-up of talented artists at this season’s Final in Istanbul in what is sure to be an energetic and memorable performance.”

Now in its seventh year, the UEFA Champions League Final Kick Off Show by Pepsi - formerly known as the UEFA Champions League Opening Ceremony - will air in over 200 countries and territories globally, just minutes before the stand-out fixture of the club football season commences. By uniting the worlds of football and music through one unmissable entertainment moment that stops fans in their tracks and leaves them wanting more, the event is the perfect demonstration of Pepsi’s ‘Thirsty For More’ platform. The Kick-Off Show is just one of the many exciting moments that Pepsi and UEFA will bring football fans this season, including the announcement of another global superstar co-headliner to join the Kick Off Show, Tik Tok videos, fashion collaborations, product innovations and more!

Fans will be able to tune in to watch the performance via their local broadcaster and through the official UEFA YouTube and TikTok channels, while the @PepsiGlobal TikTok channel has all the information around how fans can win the chance of being part of the 2023 UEFA Champions League Kick Off Show by Pepsi.

Jude Bellingham believes "not many players can stop" in-form Borussia Dortmund team-mate Karim Adeyemi following his wonderful individual goal against Chelsea.

Dortmund edged their noses ahead on aggregate with a narrow 1-0 win in the first leg of their Champions League last-16 tie, in which Adeyemi's 63rd-minute strike proved decisive.

From a devastating counter-attack following a Chelsea corner, the Germany forward latched onto Raphael Guerreiro's pass and raced past Enzo Fernandez, before rounding Kepa Arrizabalaga to score.

And Bellingham - Dortmund's captain for the day - saluted Adeyemi, who has now scored in each of his last three appearances - one more goal than he managed in his first 20 games for the club since arriving from Salzburg last year.

"We are really confident when he gets the ball one on one. Not many players can stop him," the England midfielder told BT Sport. "He had a tough time coming here at the start - finding his feet - and now he's flying.

"We dominated the first half. They had chances, but we were in control for the majority of the first half. 

"In the second half, we took the foot off the gas, and they had more control. We showed how well we can defend and see out games."

Dortmund registered their first European victory over an English side in 11 attempts, while they have now won all seven of their matches in 2023.

"It's a case of new year, new luck. For me, it's that simple," Adeyemi told DAZN. "As a team, we talked a lot during the break, and it brought us closer together. 

"The only thing I was thinking [against Fernandez] was that I just need to get the ball past him. You just try to win your duels, the goalkeeper came out and there may have been a bit of luck, but I'm delighted with the goal.

"It was a tough start to the game for us, but then you could see that everyone was fighting for each other, and we knew something was possible here tonight. We're delighted to have won."

Carlo Ancelotti has described 2022 as one of his "most special years" after guiding Real Madrid to Champions League and LaLiga glory.

Los Blancos' victory over Liverpool in Paris in May saw Ancelotti become the first coach to win Europe's premier club competition on four occasions.

The 63-year-old, who has been linked with the vacant Brazil job, has reflected on a wonderful year and believes it ranks with the best in his career.

"This is a special year that came after a fairly troubled period," he told Il Foglio.

"It was thought that my career was coming to an end. It was a unique season because of how we won, especially in the Champions League.

"Spectacular comebacks, overturning all predictions with a thousand difficulties to overcome. I consider this 2022 among the most special years in my life. Yes, just 12 months to remember."

Despite suggestions he could replace Tite as Brazil boss, Ancelotti insisted his focus remains squarely on Madrid and steering them to yet another Champions League triumph.

"In fact, after the victory you never stop," he added. 

"You immediately think about the future. You lift the Champions League number 14 and they immediately tell you to think about the 15th. 

"It is in the history and tradition of this club. Real Madrid is a football club, I repeat, a football club. Economy and finance are almost in the background. The sport aspect is what matters most. 

"And yet, the budgets have remained in order despite the demanding restructuring of the Santiago Bernabeu and the difficulties of the pandemic years during which all of football has suffered."

Madrid, who sealed a 2-0 win over Valladolid on Friday in their first game since the World Cup, are next in action against fourth-tier Cacereno in the Copa del Rey on Tuesday.

Shakhtar Donetsk CEO Sergei Palkin believes a January move for Arsenal target Mykhaylo Mudryk is "50-50" after holding talks over his potential sale.

The Ukraine international has garnered interest from Europe's top clubs with his impressive Champions League displays, in which he has recorded three goals and two assists in six appearances.

Premier League leaders Arsenal have been closely linked to the 21-year-old, who recently stated he was a fan of head coach Mikel Arteta's style of play and followed their results.

Mudryk was reportedly close to a move away in the most recent transfer window with the likes of Brentford and Everton interested, though the winger ultimately stayed with the 13-time Ukrainian Premier League champions.

But his time with Shakhtar is looking increasingly close to ending with Palkin, who held talks with several clubs in London this week, stating a January transfer is definitely possible.

Asked if Mudryk will move in the upcoming window, Palkin told The Athletic: "To be honest, I do not know.

"At the moment, we are quite far from what we want and what clubs propose. It's not so far but it is not what we need.

"We have discussions. One club, another club, they negotiate. We are in the process. Will it close this month? I don't know.

"It is maybe 50-50 with regards to the winter transfer window. I don't want to talk about figures now. We are in discussions. We have interest from some English clubs and we are in the process."

Brentford failed to get a move over the line in the last window, and Mudryk's Champions League performances have now caught the attention of the elite clubs in the country.

Questioned on whether Manchester City were interested, Palkin replied: "Every day, I read about another English club.

"If you believe the newspapers, it is all of [the English clubs]. But to be honest, it is true as I have had contact from many clubs. A lot of them are involved in this process."

Christophe Galtier believes success in the Champions League should not define his ongoing project at Paris Saint-Germain.

PSG have been dominant force in France over the past decade, winning eight Ligue 1 titles while also capturing the Coupe de France and Coupe de la Ligue on six occasions.

But the coveted Champions League crown has continued to elude Parisian giants, who came closest to landing it when they lost 1-0 to Bayern Munich in the 2020 final.

PSG will face Bayern once more in the last 16 of this season's competition, but head coach Galtier thinks his future at the club should not depend on their performances in Europe.

"There are 10 teams that every season aim to win the Champions League, and only one achieves it," he told Marca. "And then, the other nine who have not succeeded, do we have to fire their coaches? No.

"It's very difficult to win the Champions League. I'm not looking to protect myself, but the big European clubs have this goal and don't change everything because they don't win it.

"There are several examples. Atletico [Madrid] reached the final twice and when they did not win, the club continued to believe in [Diego] Simeone and his sporting project. The same goes for Pep Guardiola. [Manchester City] haven't won yet, but the club still believes in their ideas.

"I think it would be a mistake to change PSG's sports project if the Champions League is not won. I think it's a process, obviously not a 10-year one, but what shouldn't be is that if we don't win this year, we change everything."

Despite being unbeaten in six matches, PSG only advanced to the knockout stages as group runners-up for a second successive season, as Benfica snatched top spot in Group H by virtue of scoring more away goals.

Galtier's side conceded seven goals - with only RB Leipzig (nine) and Eintracht Frankfurt (eight) shipping more against the teams that progressed to the last 16 - and the head coach insists they must tighten up to embark on a long run in the competition. 

"We have conceded too many in the Champions League," he added. "Obviously, there is a difference in level between the Champions League and our championship. But if we want to go far in the Champions League, we must improve our defensive level.

"Nothing is easy in the Champions League. In addition, no one in the analysis has taken into account the difficulty of the calendar this season. It is the first time in the history of football with such a compact and difficult calendar.

"Practically every week, there were Champions League games. I think that's why some teams that normally made it past the group stage haven't. We have played in three and a half months what we normally played in four or five months."

Any club looking to snatch Mykhaylo Mudryk will have to splash at least €100million, Shakhtar Donetsk's director of football Dario Srna has said.

The Ukraine international has courted the attention of Europe's elite with spectacular performances in the Champions League, where he scored three goals and contributed two assists in six appearances.

Earlier this week, Mudryk revealed he follows Arsenal closely, amid continued speculation the Premier League leaders are looking to launch a move for his services when the market reopens in the new year.

Mudryk's services will not come cheaply, though, with Srna arguing the transfers of Antony and Jadon Sancho to Manchester United, and Jack Grealish to Manchester City, have set the bar.

"If somebody wants to buy Mudryk, they must pay huge, huge, huge money. Otherwise, the president of the club (Rinat Akhmetov) will not sell him," he told The Athletic.

"All the clubs must respect the president, respect Shakhtar and in the end they must respect Mykhaylo Mudryk, who is one of the best players I have seen. The price is so big.

"The market is deciding the price, not me. Antony, Grealish, they are players of more than €100m and for me, Mudryk does not have less quality than them.

"This is the last two transfers in the past year, in more or less the same positions. Sancho from Borussia Dortmund also. We just want respect. The market is deciding the price, not me – it shows which kind of players cost this kind of money."

Shakhtar's chief executive Sergei Palkin confirmed Mudryk is attracting plenty of interest ahead of the January transfer window, claiming that new suitors emerge on a weekly basis.

"Every week, some club appears and starts to feel [where we are]. They're not coming and saying 'OK, take 50 million and give me Mudryk'. They understand the story behind him, and they understand that he is quite an expensive player," Palkin explained.

"But they start to feel our club, what our strategy is, what we should do. In any case, the time will arrive. Definitely, it will arrive and a big club will give us €100m.

"Mudryk is a talent in a process. What he is showing today, it’s just 60 per cent of what he can do in the future. And when you multiply this, you realise he costs much, much more. Therefore, we believe that in the future he can cost definitely around €100m."

Another Barcelona legend is heading for the Camp Nou exit door after Gerard Pique announced he is set to retire after this weekend's LaLiga clash with Almeria at the age of 35.

Widely considered one of the best defenders of his generation, Pique is also one of the most decorated with the World Cup, Champions League and European Championship among his envious list of honours, which also includes eight LaLiga titles.

The centre-half has racked up a whopping 615 appearances for Barcelona across all competitions, while his international cap tally with Spain also surpassed triple figures.

Pique has fallen down the Blaugrana pecking order in recent times and was booed by the home fans at Camp Nou during the 3-0 win over Villarreal last month, with head coach Xavi and former team-mate Andres Iniesta leaping to his defence.

But despite a somewhat sour ending to his lengthy association with Barca, Pique remains an integral figure in arguably the greatest period in the club's history. Here, we take a closer look at some of his career highlights.

The 2008-09 Treble

Though he progressed through Barcelona's youth ranks, Pique departed for Manchester United in 2004, only to return to the Blaugrana four years later.

One of the first signings of the Pep Guardiola era, he would form a wonderful partnership alongside veteran Carles Puyol in the heart of defence, while notably scoring during the memorable 6-2 rout of Real Madrid at Santiago Bernabeu.

Pique racked up 45 appearances across all competitions during his maiden season as Barca became the first Spanish side to win the treble after landing the LaLiga, Copa del Rey and Champions League titles.

World and European champion

Pique's solid displays at club level culminated in a senior international debut during Spain's 2-0 victory over England in February 2009.

He quickly established himself alongside Puyol as the reigning European champions' first-choice centre-half, and started all seven matches the following year as La Roja secured their first World Cup triumph in South Africa.

Then, partnered with Sergio Ramos, Pique played every minute in Poland and Ukraine two years later as Vicente Del Bosque's side completed a hat-trick of major international titles by successfully defending their European crown.

Having conceded just one goal in six games, he was one of three Spain players named in the UEFA Team of the Tournament.

The 2014-15 Treble

Pique endured his first trophyless season at Barca under Tata Martino in 2013-14 - the Blaugrana conceding the LaLiga title to Atletico Madrid following a 1-1 draw at Camp Nou on the final day of the campaign.

Nevertheless, the defender signed a new contract with the club who, under the new guidance of Luis Enrique, regained their domestic crown with a match to spare, before capturing the Copa del Rey with victory over Athletic Bilbao.

The Catalan Giants then put Juventus to the sword 3-1 in the Champions League showpiece to become the first team to win the treble twice; Pique among a handful of players involved in both sides.

Spain centurion

Spanish dominance on the international stage eventually came to an end following early World Cup exits in 2014 and 2018, as well as Euro 2016.

Nevertheless, Pique remained an integral part of the side and reached a significant milestone during the 2018 finals, earning his 100th cap as La Roja beat Iran 1-0.

The defender, who retired from international duty after defeat by Russia in the last 16, remains one of only 13 Spanish players to reach triple figures.

600 up for Barca

Despite taking his LaLiga title tally to eight, Pique's final few seasons at Barca have been blighted by injury, while he has also fallen down the pecking order under former team-mate Xavi.

However, the centre-half continued to clock up the career milestones, including his 600th Blaugrana appearance during the 4-0 win over Osasuna in March.

Pique became the fifth player - and first defender - to reach that mark for the club, after Lionel Messi (778), Xavi (767), Sergio Busquets (694) and Andres Iniesta (674).

Salzburg will have to do what no other Austrian side has done before at Milan to qualify for the Champions League knockout stages, while Jude Bellingham has his eyes on an achievement managed by only two players previously.

The Rossoneri need only a point from the game at San Siro and the historical facts suggest they will achieve their aim to make it out of Group E.

For Bellingham, he can put his name in the record books alongside former team-mate Erling Haaland and Kylian Mbappe by scoring for Borussia Dortmund at Copenhagen.

There is plenty to play for as the Champions League group stage wraps up on Wednesday, and Stats Perform has trawled through the data to shine a light on the most interesting angles.

Milan v Salzburg

With a win, Salzburg will advance to the knockout stages for the second consecutive season after never making it out of the group stage previously.

They will need to defy the odds on their trip to Milan, where the Italian side are undefeated in home fixtures against Austrian opponents in the competition (W4 D1), while averaging 3.8 goals per game.

Salzburg have never beaten Milan in their three previous Champions League meetings, but after losing the first two, they collected their first point with a 1-1 draw in this campaign's reverse fixture.

While Olivier Giroud became the oldest player in Champions League history to reach 20 goals (36 years old) during Milan's win at Dinamo Zagreb last time out, Salzburg boast the youngest starting XI in the competition with an average age of 22 years and 279 days.

Shakhtar Donetsk v RB Leipzig

Shakhtar have only won one game in the group stage, but sit three points behind second-placed. A win would see them through to the knockout stages for the third time in the past four seasons.

The reverse-fixture was a memorable one for Shakhtar and exciting young winger Mykhailo Mudryk, who showed why he is so in-demand with a goal and two assists in a 4-1 away win.

Unfortunately for the Ukrainian side, that was their only victory from their past 12 Champions League matches (D6 L5).

Meanwhile, Leipzig have found some form in the competition, with back-to-back victories against Celtic before making it three wins in a row when they beat Real Madrid 3-2.

Manchester City v Sevilla

City are eyeing an undefeated group stage when they host Sevilla, having only conceded one goal in total from their five games until this point.

English sides have given Sevilla trouble for years now, with their last Champions League win over a Premier League team coming back in 2007 against Arsenal. 

If Jorge Sampaoli's side are to stand any chance of a shock win, they will need to pay special attention to Jack Grealish, who has impressed in the group stage with 10 chances created from open play, the most in Pep Guardiola's squad.

Maccabi Haifa v Benfica

If Juventus can salvage even a draw in their clash with Paris Saint-Germain, then Benfica will be able to win Group H by defeating Maccabi Haifa.

It has been a special run of form for Benfica, who for the first time since 1990 have gone six Champions League games without a loss (W3 D3).

Maccabi will have their backs against the wall, as only Malmo have a worse winning percentage (17 per cent) than their 24 per cent among teams to have played at least 15 Champions League games.

Also working in Benfica's favour is manager Roger Schmidt's record in the competition. Between his time with Bayer Leverkusen (2014-2017) and Benfica in this campaign, his run of 13 games unbeaten is the most by any active manager qualified for this season's Champions League.

Other fixtures:

Juventus v Paris Saint-Germain

- Juventus are looking to avoid becoming the second Italian side to ever lose five matches in a Champions League group stage, after Roma in 2004-05.

- Paris Saint-Germain's Kylian Mbappe has six goals in the group stage. With one more he can tie Christopher Nkunku (last season) for the most by a French player in a single group stage, while with two more he can tie Zlatan Ibrahimovic's club-record of eight in 2013-14.

Copenhagen v Borussia Dortmund

60  - Despite Copenhagen still being without a win in Group G, they have kept a clean sheet in 60 per cent (nine-of-15) of their Champions League home games – the best ratio of any team with at least 10 appearances.

- With a goal, Bellingham can become just the third teenager to ever score in all three away games in a Champions League group stage, following Mbappe (2017-18) and Haaland (2019-20).

Chelsea v Dinamo Zagreb

10  - Chelsea are undefeated in their past 10 group stage games in the Champions League dating back to September 2019 (W6 D4). Over that period, they are averaging 2.3 goals per game.

10  - Along with City's Grealish, Chelsea's Mason Mount is the only other Premier League player from this Champions League campaign to tally at least 10 shots and 10 chances created.

Real Madrid v Celtic

20  - Since the beginning of last season's Champions League, no player has been involved in more open-play sequences that have resulted in a goal than Real Madrid's Vinicius Junior (20).

14  - Celtic's Matt O'Riley has attempted the most shots in the Champions League this season without scoring, with no goals from his 14 shots.

Yannick Carrasco missed a last-gasp penalty as Atletico Madrid crashed out of the Champions League following a 2-2 draw with Bayer Leverkusen, who were also eliminated.

Requiring victory to maintain any hopes of progressing from Group B, Diego Simeone's side twice came from behind as Carrasco and Rodrigo de Paul cancelled out efforts from Moussa Diaby and Callum Hudson-Odoi.

There was late drama at the Wanda Metropolitano, where Clement Turpin had initially blown the full-time whistle before VAR penalised Piero Hincapie for handball in the box.

However, Carrasco was denied by Lukas Hradecky as Atletico bowed out at the group stage for the first time in five years.

Paris Saint-Germain can "do great things" in the Champions League if the attacking trio of Kylian Mbappe, Lionel Messi and Neymar continue their rich vein of form, according to defender Achraf Hakimi.

With Neymar operating just behind Mbappe and Messi, all three were on target as Christophe Galtier's side soared through to the knockout stages with a dominant 7-2 victory over Maccabi Haifa at Parc des Princes.

Supported by a midfield trio of Fabian Ruiz, Renato Sanches and Vitinha, the front three embraced the opportunity to express themselves more freely with PSG netting seven goals in a Champions League game for only the third time.

"We played a good game, we fulfilled the objective of qualifying," Hakimi told RMC Sport 1. "We scored a lot of goals. The coach chose the system to try things.

"The coach likes to play with this midfield, we hope it's a good possibility for the team. If the front three stay like that, it's possible to do great things. We're glad they all scored."

Galtier added: "It would be pretentious to think that we have the best team in the world. There are high quality teams in this competition.

"But I have three extraordinary players up front. We had to find a system so that they could express themselves more freely.

"Everyone knows the technical quality of the three, but we also realise that, in this competition, defending more in density allows us to have transitions. It's very nice to see, they play for each other."

Although disappointed by the manner in which the second goal was conceded, Galtier was impressed by the overall performance of his players, who he is urging to secure top spot in Group H when they face Juventus next week.

"I regret the second goal. We lacked requirement and rigour at the beginning of the second half to avoid reviving the team," the head coach added.

"Apart from that, I'm happy with the game. Overall, the team has been fantastic. We played lively, alert football, with a lot of technical relationships and connections between the lines. I am satisfied.

"We are qualified; it's very good, it's the most important. The competition is not over, we have to go for first place against Juventus. PSG's ambition is to finish first. We remain focused on this objective."

Paris Saint-Germain will not win the Champions League because they are "terrible at defending," according to former Manchester United goalkeeper Peter Schmeichel.

Kylian Mbappe and Lionel Messi scored twice while Neymar was also on target in the thumping 7-2 victory over Maccabi Haifa at Parc des Princes. 

Despite progressing to the knockout stages with a match to spare, the Champions League trophy has remained elusive to PSG, who are yet to register a clean sheet in this season's competition after Abdoulaye Seck's brace for the visitors.

Schmeichel, who lifted the trophy with United in 1999, heaped praise on the attacking trio of Mbappe, Messi and Neymar after another devastating goalscoring display, but believes that defensive frailties will wreck any title ambitions.

"What was special about this game was the quality of the goals," he told CBS Sports Golazo. "You can't defend against that. These three guys up front, Mbappe, Neymar and Messi, when they play like that, there are no answers.

"I'm not sure when you talk about them winning the Champions League. I think the problem they have also showed today. When they're 3-0 up, all of a sudden, it's 4-2. They need to score a lot of goals to win games, and it's not always going to happen.

"I think they are terrible defending; that's also because of the three front players. When you are at the stadium, and you see how little they take part in defending.

"Everybody else, Bayern Munich, Manchester City, all those teams, it's 11 players attacking, it's 11 players defending. I think in modern-day football, that's what you need.

"That could be the problem in one game, one game against Man City, one game against Real Madrid, it's enough to get knocked out."

Kylian Mbappe and Lionel Messi scored twice as Paris Saint-Germain marched through to the Champions League knockout stages with a 7-2 win over Maccabi Haifa.

Neymar was also on target to help Christophe Galtier's side book their place in the last 16 with a match to spare.

Sean Goldberg's own goal and a late Carlos Soler strike completed a commanding victory at Parc des Princes, where PSG remain unbeaten after 90 minutes since their 2-1 defeat by Manchester City in the 2020-21 semi-finals.

A pair of Abdoulaye Seck headers proved academic for Maccabi, whose attention turns to the fight for the Europa League after their elimination from Group H was confirmed.

PSG broke the deadlock in the 19th minute as a persistent Mbappe poked the ball to Messi, who delightfully prodded beyond Josh Cohen with the outside of his boot from 12 yards.

Mbappe doubled the lead from a similar position 13 minutes later; the France forward brilliantly curling into the far corner after the ball ricocheted kindly for him, and Neymar made it 3-0 when he tucked away Messi's throughball following a devastating counter.

The visitors pulled one back when Seck headed in Omer Atzili’s free-kick, but the hosts quickly restored their three-goal cushion as Messi swept home a trademark 20-yard effort.

Seck grabbed his second by looping a header over Gianluigi Donnarumma five minutes after the restart, becoming the first defender to score twice against PSG since Julian Palmieri for Bastia in January 2015.

The hosts soon regained control, however, as Mbappe superbly curled past Cohen from Achraf Hakimi's deep cross, before Goldberg turned Neymar's centre beyond his own goalkeeper.

The crossbar denied Messi a hat-trick, but the Argentina star provided a neat lay-off for Soler to round off a dominant display six minutes from time.

Jurgen Klopp bemoaned injury problems for hampering Liverpool's consistency as the Reds manager confirmed Thiago Alcantara will miss Wednesday's visit to Ajax.

Liverpool have underwhelmed this season thus far, sitting eighth in the Premier League and 12 points behind leaders Arsenal after falling to a disappointing 1-0 defeat at Nottingham Forest.

However, despite a 4-1 hammering at Napoli on matchday one in the Champions League, the Reds could still progress to the knockout stages with a game to spare if they avoid defeat at Ajax.

Liverpool will head to Amsterdam without Thiago to call upon, though, as injury issues continue to frustrate Klopp.

"Thiago is still out, I don't know if he will be fit for the weekend. [Ibrahima] Konate is here and ready to play minutes, I would say," Klopp said.

"When you want it really clicking you need consistency in the line-up and we haven't had that.

"When you have [lots of injuries], players who should be rested have to play and players come back from injuries too early. That's tricky. That situation isn't sorted overnight.

"We've played really well a couple of times but it's not as if we have been without problems. We win a game then lose two players and another who can't play for more than 20 minutes. Tomorrow we have enough players with us."

Liverpool will welcome back Darwin Nunez for the trip to Ajax, though, as Klopp aims to progress to the Champions League stages with the Reds for a record sixth straight time.

Ajax must win to keep their hopes alive in the competition, but they have lost their last three Champions League matches against Liverpool, only enduring longer such runs against Juventus (four) and Real Madrid (seven).

Klopp's side battled past Alfred Schreuder's team in the reverse fixture, courtesy of a late Joel Matip winner, and the German acknowledged the difficult challenge that awaits at Johan Cruijff Arena.

"We played a good home game against Ajax. That's a bit like our season – we play really good then the opponent scores with their first chance," Klopp added.

"Ajax are a dangerous opponent and that's the team we play for. It would be great [to qualify early] but I can't sit here and tell you how I feel because we haven't done it.

"After our start in the group stage, people didn't think it was likely to happen. But now it can happen, and we have to close the group."

Virgil van Dijk urged Liverpool to remember "how good we are" as the Reds look to bounce back from a disappointing defeat at Nottingham Forest when they travel to Ajax on Wednesday.

Jurgen Klopp's side recorded back-to-back Premier League wins over West Ham and the in-form Manchester City, but fell to a surprise 1-0 defeat at strugglers Forest on Saturday.

The narrow loss, in which Liverpool spurned numerous chances, summarised what has been an underwhelming season thus far for the Reds, who are eighth in the league and 12 points behind leaders Arsenal.

However, Liverpool could still secure Champions League knockout football with a game to spare if they avoid defeat at Ajax, with Van Dijk issuing a reminder to his team-mates over their qualities.

"What the manager said after the game, we only had ourselves to blame, we had the chances to score and another day they will go in," the Netherlands international said. 

"It was a very intense and difficult week, with a fantastic win against City and a difficult one against West Ham. Then an away game, early kick-off against Forest, who were struggling before our game.

"We tried everything but we didn't win; we know our performances, in general, have to be as consistent as they were [in previous seasons], that's what we are trying to do.

"We are trying to sort it and do everything in our power, that's what we have to do, so that's our situation. We shouldn't forget how good we are, keep the confidence and try to be consistent again."

While Alfred Schreuder's side dropped five points in two matches either side of the last international break, they have returned to form in recent weeks to open a four-point lead at the Eredivisie summit.

Van Dijk acknowledged the tough task that awaits Liverpool, who have won their last three Champions League matches against Ajax, as his side prepare to visit Amsterdam.

"They don't have the best moment also, but I know how it can be here on a Champions League night and that is something we are prepared for," the centre-back added.

"We have to match them and do even more – it will be interesting. We're not coming here to defend or draw, we want to win the game, show our qualities and make sure we go through tomorrow.

"They will know how tough it will be, we have to be confident and enjoy the occasion. Everyone wants to be at this level."

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