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Little over a month after producing the greatest comeback in Champions League history, Barcelona need another special turnaround as they face Juventus in the second leg of their quarter-final on Wednesday.
Luis Enrique’s side were taken apart in the first leg in Turin, losing 3-0 to a Juve team inspired by Paulo Dybala, who scored twice.
In the last 16 they became the first team ever to overturn a 4-0 deficit when they beat Paris Saint-Germain 6-1 in the return at the Camp Nou, so fans are hoping for a similar “remuntada” this time.
“We are going to take as many risks as we need to the point that we could go out with eight strikers, as we have nothing to lose,” said Luis Enrique after Saturday’s 3-2 defeat of Real Sociedad.
The Barcelona coach also called for supporters “to have faith in these players who have won everything. This is a squad of champions.”
But he added: “The thing is that we are used to always eating beluga caviar. That can’t go on forever.”
Barca welcome back midfielder Sergio Busquets from suspension, while Juve are hopeful Dybala will be ready after he came off in the 2-0 weekend win at Pescara with a sprained ankle.
“We have four days and we need to be optimistic,” declared coach Massimiliano Allegri.
In contrast to their fierce rivals, Real Madrid are very much on course for a semi-final berth after their 2-1 win away to Bayern Munich last week.
The sides clash at the Santiago Bernabeu in Tuesday’s second leg with the Germans looking to become just the third side to overturn a first-leg home defeat to win a Champions League tie.
Bayern coach Carlo Ancelotti has fitness concerns with leading scorer Robert Lewandowski hopeful of returning from a shoulder injury.
Defenders Mats Hummels and Jerome Boateng are also fighting to be fit, while Javi Martinez is suspended.
“We go to Madrid well aware of the fact that nothing is impossible,” Thomas Mueller told Bundesliga.com.
“We’re annoyed any time we don’t win, but we have our own way of playing. No matter what problems or injuries we have to deal with, we’re always able to put a strong team out there on the pitch.”
Gareth Bale is struggling to shake off a calf problem for Real, who have lost just twice in 12 past home meetings with Bayern.
Borussia Dortmund go to Monaco still shaken by the events of last week, when the first leg between the clubs was postponed by 24 hours following the bomb attack on the German team’s bus en route to the game.
Dortmund went on to lose 3-2 to the French league leaders but morale was lifted as they got back to winning ways in the Bundesliga at the weekend, beating Eintracht Frankfurt 3-1.
After that game, the Dortmund players paid tribute to defender Marc Bartra by holding his number five shirt aloft as they celebrated in front of their fans.
Spanish international Bartra had earlier been released from hospital after having surgery on a broken wrist suffered in the attack.
“This gesture shows how important the things off the field are to us at this moment, and that Marc gets better soon and that we are all still here,” said Dortmund captain Marcel Schmelzer.
Monaco, looking to become the first French side in the Champions League semi-finals since Lyon seven years ago, are missing the banned Fabinho as well as Djibril Sidibe, who is recovering from appendicitis.
Leicester City have defensive concerns as they look to turn around a 1-0 deficit when they host last season’s runners-up Atletico Madrid.
Robert Huth is suspended and the Foxes are hoping Wes Morgan can return from a back injury as the English champions look to extend their run in Europe. Atletico have French striker Kevin Gameiro back from a groin injury.
Gonzalo Higuain aims to repay Juventus for splashing out 90 million euros ($99.74 million) to sign him from Napoli and make the Argentina striker the third most expensive player in world football.
The 28-year-old international, who was top scorer in Serie A last season, is third on the all-time transfer fee list behind Real Madrid’s Gareth Bale and Cristiano Ronaldo.
“I hope to repay the faith of the club’s directors and of course to demonstrate my value in the coming season with Juventus,” he said. “The efforts to bring me here were truly humbling and it is up to me to show my worth to my new fans.”
Higuain’s record-equalling 36 goals in the Italian top flight helped Napoli finish runners-up as Juve won a fifth straight title but his departure angered the club whose owner Aurelio De Laurentiis called it a “betrayal”.
“I chose this team above all because they are an excellent side with a very exciting project,” he told a news conference on Thursday. “I’m humbled by the efforts made by the club to bring me here and I’m looking forward to a successful season.”
The Turin-based club triggered the release clause for Higuain, who still had two more years to run on his contract. He joined Napoli in 2013 after spending six years at Real Madrid.
Higuain said he decided to join Juventus because their activity in the transfer market, with the arrival of other big name signings such as Miralem Pjanic, Dani Alves, Marko Pjaca and Medhi Benatia, showed a determination to succeed.
“The ambition shown over the summer was an important factor for me. Combined with the desire of the players already here, this was an offer I could not refuse,” he was quoted as saying on the club’s website (www.juventus.com).
“The depth of this squad is one of its greatest strengths and the competition for places all over the field is a massive advantage for us.”
His decision to join Juve caused anguish among Napoli fans, who gathered in Naples city centre on Saturday to tear up his picture and set fire to replicas of his number nine shirt.
“I spent three great years at Napoli and I can only thank them for their support, but this is a choice that I have made for personal reasons,” Higuain said.
“I can understand they are extremely disappointed and upset with me, but this is a choice that I have made and I am happy about it.”
Juventus have signed Argentina striker Gonzalo Higuain from Napoli for 90 million euros (75.25 million pounds), the third highest transfer fee ever paid.
“I can confirm that the contract has been deposited with the League and the deal has been done,” Napoli spokesman Nicola Lombardi told Reuters on Tuesday, adding that the fee will be paid in two installments.
The Turin-based club triggered the release clause for the 28-year-old, who still had two years to run on his contract, Napoli added later on Tuesday in a statement.
Higuain’s transfer fee is the third highest paid, after Gareth Bale moved to Real Madrid from Tottenham Hotspur for 100 million euros in 2013 and Cristiano Ronaldo joined the Spaniards from Manchester United for 94 million euros in 2009.
Last season Higuain scored a record 36 Serie A goals in 35 games for Napoli, who finished runners-up as Juventus won a fifth consecutive title. He joined Napoli in 2013 after spending six years at Real.
The news that he was poised to join Juventus caused anguish among Napoli fans, who gathered in Naples city centre on Saturday to tear up pictures of the Argentine and set fire to replicas of his number nine shirt.
Euro 2016 was meant to be Paul Pogba’s tournament, putting the seal on what could be a world record setting transfer away from Juventus.
But Antoine Griezmann’s match-winning performances against Germany and Iceland have made him the darling of the host nation.
Pogba was expected to light up his maiden European Championship with the silky skills and long-range goals that have become his trademark at the Italian champions.
But he has not produced the goods even though talk of a big money transfer to Manchester United or Real Madrid is mounting.
The world’s most highly-rated midfielder was mediocre in France’s first four games. Pogba nevertheless remains one of the most exciting players around and former France striker Thierry Henry believes the best is yet to come.
“Forget about France, I think he can be one of the best midfielders in history. He has the quality to do that,” Henry told Sky Sports last week.
Pogba has shown only glimpses of the brilliant skills Juventus fans see each week.
Ahead of Euro 2016, Pogba featured on the front covers of magazines the world over, pledging to “become a legend” and “revolutionise midfield” when France seek to repeat their triumph of winning the 1998 World Cup on home soil.
With the transfer saga being played out in the background, France swept Romania and Albania aside then drew with Switzerland on their way to winning their group. But Pogba seemed absent.
Coach Didier Deschamps punished Pogba for a mediocre display and some unnecessary showboating in the 2-1 defeat of Romania by leaving him on the bench for their second group game against Albania.
In Marseille, Pogba replaced Anthony Martial for the second half when France were rescued by last-gasp goals from Griezmann and Dmitri Payet on their way to a 2-0 win.
Pogba made an arm gesture toward the media tribune celebrating a goal that some speculated was an irreverent gesture.
Pundits and fans debated whether Pogba had told his detractors, in no uncertain terms, where to go.
Deschamps gave him the benefit of the doubt. But former England striker Gary Lineker weighed in on Twitter asking: “Is Pogba the world’s most overrated player?”
It brought a thorny response the Pogba’s agent Mino Raiola, whose portfolio includes Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Mario Balotelli among other top stars.
“When somebody gets paid to give their opinion, that doesn’t mean they know what they are talking about,” Raiola said.
“This is what has happened with Lineker.”
But few could disgree that over France’s opening games, Pogba was ineffective.
Worse, only two minutes into the knockout phase, a clumsy Pogba tackle in the area handed the Irish a penalty. Robbie Brady converted for a second-minute lead, before Les Bleus restored order with Griezmann’s second-half double.
France breathed a sigh of relief as they went through to the quarter-finals and, finally, Pogba came to the fore.
When his bullet header from Griezmann’s corner flew into the Iceland net to give France a 2-0 lead in an eventual 5-2 victory that sealed their semi-final clash with Germany, Pogba was mobbed by teammates.
And although Griezmann stole the show again with a brace of goals in Thursday’s 2-0 win over World Cup holders Germany, it took some fancy footwork from Pogba, and for Manuel Neuer to push his cross into the path of Griezmann, for the little forward to score.
Before the match Henry added: “He needs to make sure he concentrates on what he can do well.”
Ahead of Sunday’s final at the Stade de France, Les Bleus’ fans will be hoping the same.
Juventus won Serie A for the fifth season in a row without kicking a ball on Monday after Napoli, the only team that could have caught them, were sunk 1-0 by a late Radja Nainggolan goal at AS Roma.
Juventus, who have led the table since beating Napoli 1-0 in February, were left with an unassailable 12-point lead with three games each left to play as they clinched a record 32nd league title.
The match, played at a half-empty Stadio Olimpico on a sunny bank holiday afternoon, was an anti-climatic end to a season which had at one stage promised to be one of the most exciting Italian title races for years.
During the first half of the season, the lead had changed almost weekly with AS Roma, Napoli, Inter Milan and Fiorentina all taking turns at the top.
But, as their rivals faltered, Juventus, who beat Fiorentina 2-1 on Sunday, put together an astonishing run in which they took 73 of a possible 75 points to snare the title with games to spare.
The clash of Serie A’s two highest-scoring sides was threatening to peter out into a tame goalless draw until Nainggolan slotted the ball home in the 89th minute following a move started with a delicate pass from Roma substitute Francesco Totti.
The 39-year-old Roma stalwart, in his 24th season at the club and no longer able to command a place in the starting lineup, has made a recent habit of coming on in the last few minutes and having a major impact on games.
Roma had more possession but Napoli, whose top-scorer Gonzalo Higuain returned after a three-match ban, carved out the better chances and Jose Callejon had a first-half goal ruled out by a hairline offside decision.
Higuain, who has scored 30 goals this season, nearly gave Napoli a first-half lead with a delightful piece of control only to see his shot saved by Wojciech Szczesny.
A Napoli goal looked imminent in the second half as Dries Mertens curled a shot agonisingly wide and Antonio Ruediger saved Roma by sliding in to take the ball off Marek Hamsik’s foot just before an almost certain score.
Instead, Nainggolan slotted the ball past Pepe Reina after Mohamed Salah managed to find the Belgian despite being surrounded by Napoli defenders.
Napoli, who would qualify directly for the Champions League group stage if they finish second, are now only two points clear
of Roma, who are in third place, good for a berth in the final qualifying round.
AS Roma stalwart Francesco Totti came off the bench with four minutes left and scored twice to give his Champions League-chasing side a dramatic 3-2 win over Torino in Serie A on Wednesday.
The 39-year-old’s performance, the latest twist in a career spanning an extraordinary 24 seasons at Roma, overshadowed leaders Juventus who moved closed to their seemingly inevitable fifth successive title with a 3-0 win over 10-man Lazio.
Totti, whose lack of playing time since January has reportedly caused friction with coach Luciano Spalletti, needed just 22 seconds to equalise with his first touch, volleying in at the far post after Miralem Pjanic’s cross was touched on.
The irrepressible playmaker jumped over two advertising hoardings, barely managing to clear them, as he went to celebrate the goal with the Curva Sud, who had jeered Spalletti and applauded Totti at the start of the game.
Totti was back for more three minutes later, stepping up to convert a penalty after Nikola Maksimovi was harshly ruled to have handled to keep Roma firmly in third place, the Champions League playoff spot.
Totti had begun the match on the bench and watched helplessly as Andrea Belotti put Torino in front from a penalty, Konstantinos Manolas headed Roma level and Josef Martinez put the visitors back in front.
Juventus had no such problems as they notched their 23rd win in their last 24 league games to stay nine points clear of Napoli, who had briefly reduced the deficit with a 6-0 demolition of Bologna on Tuesday.
Mario Mandzukic gave Juventus a halftime lead and the game was effectively over after Lazio had Gil Patric sent off for a second bookable offence three minutes after the break.
Paulo Dybala converted a penalty after Leonardo Bonucci went tumbling in the area, a decision which provoked angry Lazio protests, and the Argentine finished off a typically incisive break just after the hour to complete the win.
Juventus have 82 points from 34 games, with Napoli on 73 and Roma on 68.
Roberto Mancini’s Inter saw their Champions League hopes all but extinguished in a 1-0 defeat at Genoa where Sebastian De Maio scored the winner with 13 minutes left.
Bottom three Frosinone, Palermo and Verona all moved closer to Serie B after a dramatic evening at the basement end of the table.
Daniel Ciofani gave Frosinone a fifth minute lead at Chievo but they then had Arlind Ajeti and Raman Chibsah sent off as they crashed to a 5-1 defeat.
Palermo also got off to a flying start when Franco Vazquez converted a second-minute penalty at home to Atalanta.
However, Marco Boriello and Gabriel Paletta replied for the visitors and the Sicilians, where Davide Ballardini is in his second stint of the season as coach, needed a late equaliser from Aljaz Struna for a point.
Verona were left seven points adrift at the bottom and almost certain to go down after they were beaten 1-0 at Empoli by a second-half goal from Massimo Maccarone.
Juventus moved nine points clear in Serie A by beating Palermo 4-0 at home on Sunday while Francesco Totti bagged a dramatic late equaliser as AS Roma drew 3-3 at Atalanta.
With second-placed Napoli losing 2-0 at Inter Milan onSaturday, Juve tightened their grip at the top and took a major step towards a record fifth consecutive Italian title with goals by Sami Khedira, Paul Pogba, Juan Cuadrado and Simone Padoin.
Juventus moved up to 79 points with five games to play, Napoli have 70 and Roma are third on 65.
“Yesterday’s game made it look like the challenge for the Scudetto was over,” Juve coach Massimiliano Allegri told reporters. “But it’s not true.
“I won’t calculate our odds of winning, we just need to get more points.”
Khedira controlled Pogba’s lofted ball with his chest before flicking it past Palermo keeper Stefano Sorrentino in the 10th minute.
Pogba added a second in the 70th minute, finishing at the back post after the visitors failed to deal with a corner, before Cuadrado’s superb individual effort and Padoin’s late finish underlined the home side’s dominance.
“You never know in football,” Cuadrado was quoted as saying on the Juventus website (www.juventus.com). “Look at how Barcelona’s lead in La Liga has been trimmed of late.”
Barca have squandered a nine-point lead at the top of La Liga and are now level on points with Atletico Madrid.
Davide Ballardini had returned to the Palermo hotseat on Tuesday, their eighth managerial change of the season, but was unable to prompt a change in fortunes for the relegation-threatened outfit, who dropped to 19th place on 28 points.
Totti’s future at Roma is unresolved after a testing season and a strained relationship with coach Luciano Spalletti, but the 39-year-old demonstrated his enduring class with an 85th-minute equaliser in a thrilling six-goal draw at Atalanta.
Roma went 2-0 up inside the first half an hour after goals from Lucas Digne and Radja Nainggolan, before Marco D’Alessandro halved the deficit in the 33rd minute.
Roma old boy Marco Borriello came back to haunt his former club with his first goal for Atalanta as his excellent header evaded Wojciech Szczesny, and he fired the home side ahead in the 50th minute.
Totti had the final say as he hammered home Alessandro Florenzi’s cut back for the 301st goal of his glittering career.
Spalletti was sent to the stands in the dying minutes of the draw, which left his side four points clear of fourth-placed Inter Milan in the race for the final Champions League qualifying berth.
“We often lose our heads,” Spalletti said. “Totti’s goal doesn’t change anything for me. If he wants to be a player, he’ll be a player. The team still won nine games without him.”
After the match, Spalletti released a statement refuting reports in the Italian media that he and Totti had a physical confrontation in the tunnel following the game.
“I was very surprised by what I read, as I was sent off, I didn’t join my players in the tunnel,” Spalletti told the Roma website (www.asroma.com).
“I categorically deny that there was a dispute or, worse still, a physical confrontation with any of my players. I never put my hands on my players.”
Fifth-placed Fiorentina beat Sassuolo 3-1 and remain seven points clear of AC Milan, who won 1-0 at Sampdoria in Christian Brocchi’s first match in charge thanks to Carlos Bacca’s 71st-minute strike.
Juventus keeper Gianluigi Buffon set a record for the longest run without conceding a goal as the Serie A leaders won 4-1 at neighbours Torino on Sunday.
Napoli’s Gonzalo Higuain continued his prolific season by scoring twice, the second a majestic effort, to help earn a 3-1 win over Genoa which kept them three points off the top.
The Argentine has scored 29 goals in his side’s 30 league matches this season to lead the scoring charts by 15.
Juve’s Buffon overtook Sebastiano Rossi’s previous record of not conceding in 929 minutes for AC Milan, set in the 1993-94 season, in the fourth minute of Turin’s Derby della Mole.
Having kept 10 successive clean sheets, Buffon was finally beaten early in the second half when Andrea Belotti converted a penalty for Torino to end his run at 974 minutes.
Juventus were already 2-0 ahead by then thanks to a free kick by Paul Pogba and an individual goal by Sami Khedira, who collected the ball near the halfway line and ran through the heart of the Torino midfield before scoring.
Torino were denied an equaliser when Maxi Lopez had a goal ruled out by a hairline offside decision and Juve took full advantage as Alvaro Morata, who replaced the injured Paulo Dybala in the first half, added two more.
Khedira was sent off late in the game although it was not immediately clear what the German had done wrong.
Juventus, knocked out of the Champions League by Bayern Munich on Wednesday after squandering a two-goal lead, moved on to 70 points after the 19th win in their last 20 league games, with Napoli on 67.
“He deserved the record, he is an extraordinary goalkeeper and an extraordinary lad,” Juve coach Massimiliano Allegri said of Buffon.
Asked about Torino’s disallowed goal, he added: “I didn’t talk about the referee when we suffered in the Champions League and I won’t do so now.”
Juventus looked as if they might have a chance to go six points clear when Tomas Rincon gave Genoa a shock lead after 10 minutes at Napoli, the Venezuelan firing an unstoppable effort just under the bar.
Second-placed Napoli penned Genoa back into their penalty area and finally broke through six minutes into the second half when Higuain latched on to Elseid Hysaj’s pass and slotted the ball past Perrin.
Napoli enjoyed let-offs as Alessio Cerci twice caught them out on the break before Higuain brought the house down with a superb effort which came from nowhere.
Marek Hamsik threaded the ball through the packed Genoa midfield and Higuain, despite being marked by three defenders, managed to collect the ball, turn and curl his shot in off the far post.
Substitute Omar El Kaddouri added a third in stoppage time.
Fiorentina’s hopes of qualifying for the Champions League took a knock when they were held 0-0 at Frosinone, leaving them in fourth place with 55 points, five behind third-placed AS Roma.
AC Milan, who are sixth, and Lazio, in eighth, played out a 1-1 draw at San Siro which reflected their indifferent seasons. Marco Parolo headed Lazio ahead after nine minutes and Carlos Bacca replied for Milan six minutes later.
Carpi, playing in Serie A for the first time, moved out of the relegation zone when Kevin Lasagna’s free kick gave them a 2-1 win at bottom side Verona.
The win took them ahead of Palermo on goal difference, with the two sides level on the head-to-head record.
Sampdoria are four points clear of the danger zone after a 1-0 home defeat by Chievo, with Riccardo Meggiorini scoring the only goal midway through the first half for the Flying Donkeys who also missed a penalty.
Massimiliano Allegri is regarded as one of Europe’s most tactically astute coaches but a rare miscalculation from the Juventus boss contributed to their Champions League downfall against Bayern Munich on Wednesday.
Juventus were almost perfect for the first hour as they led 2-0 in the round of 16 second leg tie and gave Pep Guardiola’s Bayern a footballing lesson in their own Allianz arena. But two substitutions by Allegri handed the initiative to Bayern who hit back with two late goals to level at 2-2 and then scored twice more in extra-time to win 4-2 and 6-4 on aggregate after an extraordinary, see-saw tie.
First, Sami Khedira, who had been a rock in midfield, was replaced with the less experienced Stefano Sturaro.Almost immediately, Allegri took off forward Alvaro Morata, who had created Juve’s second goal with a magnificent 60-metre run that left the Bayern midfield in his wake, and brought on Mario Mandzukic.
Until that moment, Juve’s performance was a near replica of their previous visit to Germany, where they won 3-0 at Borussia Dortmund at the same stage of the competition last year.
Allegri set up an impenetrable barrier in defence, forcing Bayern to pass the ball sideways for most of the first hour, and picked off Bayern with level counterattacks. But they lost their attacking edge after the changes, with Mandzukic devoting most of his energy to provoking Bayern defenders and Sturaro looking uncomfortable in midfield.
In just 28 minutes after those changes, the Juventus defence, which has not conceded a goal in their last 10 Serie A matches, was breached four times to leave Italy without a team in the last eight.
One of the few moves they managed to string together after the changes broke down when Sturaro slipped and lost the ball.
Allegri admitted the course of the game had altered drastically, but omitted to say whether this was down to his substitutions.
“Nobody expected us to play like this against Bayern in Munich,” he said. “We lost but we can be proud of our performance here. “We were leading 2-0 and had the chance to make it three. We played well and showed our qualities.”
The coach was also let down by Juve’s apparent lack of strength in depth.
Forward Paulo Dybala, midfielder Claudio Marchisio and defender Giorgio Chiellini were all injured and the remaining options, while perfectly adequate for Serie A, were not up to the task of challenging Europe’s elite.
Allegri, however, has a habit of proving his critics wrong and is likely to bounce back. He was given a hostile reception by Juventus fans when he replaced Antonio Conte at the start of last season, but quickly proved them wrong by winning the Serie A and Coppa Italia and reaching the Champions League final.
Earlier this season, he was criticised for initially leaving Dybala on the bench.
Allegri insisted that the 22-year-old Argentine needed time, and has again been proved right as he has since gone on to score 14 goals and quickly turned into the most exciting player in Serie A.
Bayern Munich staged a sensational comeback, scoring twice in extra time after battling back from two goals down to beat Juventus 4-2 on Wednesday and march into the Champions League last eight with a 6-4 aggregate victory.
Thiago Alcantara drilled in after 108 minutes and Kingsley Coman curled in their fourth goal as Bayern, who needed a 90th-minute equaliser from Thomas Mueller to force extra time, finished stronger to keep up their treble hopes.
In a reverse of the first leg when Juve came back from a two-goal deficit to draw 2-2, Bayern dug deep to score twice in the second half.
“This was a game that affects your heart rate,” said Bayern CEO Karl-Heinz Rummenigge.
“It was a very emotional game, a case of deja-vu but with a different outcome from the first leg. But it must be said that Juve are a bit unlucky to go out like that.”
It was a bitter defeat for last season’s runners-up Juve, who ran out of steam in extra time to leave domestic titles as their only potential silverware this season.
“It was a crazy game. Juve played well at the back and we let in two goals. That should never have happened,” said Bayern scorer Mueller. “Mentally it became a different game. But we said we can make it and we kept our cool.”
It was the Bianconeri who drew first blood with Frenchman Pogba capitalising on a David Alaba mistake to beat Manuel Neuer.
Bayern, who had not let in a first-half goal in their previous seven games in the competition were rattled and keeper Neuer almost gifted Juve another after sending the ball straight to Alvaro Morata, whose looping effort was ruled offside.
Spaniard Morata, however, made a 40-metre run past four Bayern players to send Cuadrado through for their second goal.
Bayern showed the first signs of life just before the break when Mueller’s effort was saved and the ball rolled narrowly wide from a Robert Lewandowski deflection.
Poland striker Lewandowski then launched the comeback, heading in at the far post for his eighth goal of the campaign in the 73rd minute, triggering a dramatic finale in which Mueller scored in almost identical fashion.
Substitute Thiago put Bayern ahead in extra time and Coman, on loan at Bayern from Juve, completed a memorable comeback as coach Pep Guardiola maintained his hopes of a Champions League title in his last season in Munich.
“Football results depend on chances,” said Juve keeper Buffon.
“They attacked a lot in the second half and they took advantage of their chances. This is a defeat that should make us understand that we are better than last season. We are going out with our heads held high.”
Bayern Munich are confident they have overcome a mini-crisis just in time for their Champions League round of 16 second leg against Juventus on Wednesday as they chase a treble of titles this season.
After conceding two second-half goals to draw 2-2 in Turin last month, Bayern’s near flawless season stuttered again after managing just one point from their previous two league games.
They returned to form, however, on Saturday when they crushed Werder Bremen 5-0.
“I think we showed that we are in a very good form. I would say that we are looking towards Wednesday with optimism,” Bayern CEO Karl-Heinz Rummenigge said.
Bayern, chasing a record fourth consecutive Bundesliga title as well as the German Cup in what is coach Pep Guardiola’s last season in charge, are in the driving seat, having scored twice in Italy and Juve need a win or a draw with three goals or more to advance.
Bayern have a perfect home record in the competition this season, having beaten Dinamo Zagreb, Arsenal and Olympiakos with an aggregate score of 14-1.
Until their shock 2-1 loss to Mainz 05 two weeks ago, Bayern had won 17 consecutive home games dating back to May, 2015.
With Mario Goetze making his comeback on Saturday after almost five months out and winger Franck Ribery getting much needed match practise after his own long injury break, Bayern will have more depth than in the first game in Turin.
But Guardiola warned qualification will not be easy against the Italians, last season’s Champions League finalists, and also on course for a treble.
“We are playing against one of the best teams in Europe,” the Spaniard said.
“They have not conceded a goal in their last 10 league games so expect a very complicated and uncomfortable game.”
Juventus are in equally scintillating form, unbeaten in the league since October and having won 18 of their 19 league games since then.
Remarkably the Bianconeri have let in only one goal in their 12 Serie A matches this year and kept an unprecedented 10th successive clean sheet in the 1-0 win over Sassuolo Calcio last week.
“It will be a tremendous battle and we go to Munich full of enthusiasm and determination to reach the next round,” defender Leonardo Bonucci said.
“We are fully aware of how strong Bayern are, but they also possess a few weak points which we will look to exploit.”
It is those weaknesses that Juve coach Massimiliano Allegri will want to exploit with his team looking for their first win in Munich since 2004.
“When we play Bayern, we know we’re going to have to run hard for 90 minutes,” Allegri said.
“But it is our intention to go there looking for the win that would seal our passage.”
Juventus are hoping influential defender Giorgio Chiellini will return from injury in time for Wednesday’s last-16 Champions League clash against German champions Bayern Munich, manager Massimilliano Allegri said on Thursday.
The Italy international will miss Friday’s Serie A encounter with Sassuolo with a calf muscle injury which he suffered during a Feb. 28 victory over Inter Milan, his first game after recovering from a muscle tear.
“Apart from (Martin) Caceres and Chiellini, whom the doctors will try to make recover for Bayern, everyone is available (for Friday),” Allegri told a news conference.
Juventus are aiming to win their fifth successive Serie A title, something they last did in the 1930s.
They top the table courtesy of an 18-game unbeaten league run, which includes 17 victories, and the last time they lost in the league was against Friday’s opponents Sassuolo on Oct. 28, but Allegri is taking nothing for granted.
“We’re into the descent but the descent can be more dangerous than the ascent… because you can slip up on the descent,” he said.
Juventus ended a remarkable Inter Milan comeback by winning their Italian Cup tie 5-3 on penalties on Wednesday after their semi-final ended 3-3 on aggregate, setting up a final against AC Milan.
Inter, beaten 3-0 in the first leg in Turin, rallied brilliantly to win the return match by the same score with two goals from Marcelo Brozovic and another by Ivan Perisic.
Inter’s Rodrigo Palacio had the only miss of the shootout, the forward’s effort bouncing back off the bar. Leonardo Bonucci’s kick sent Juve through to the final.
“That was the worst performance we’ve had since I’ve been at Juventus,” Bonucci told Rai Sport. “We got the approach wrong and made things easier for Inter.
“We made life difficult for ourselves and were fortunate that it went it penalties.”
A weakened Juve were lethargic and unadventurous and the visitors were punished for their complacency as Inter dominated the second leg.
Goalkeeper Neto, standing in for Gianluigi Buffon, handed Inter their opening goal when his clearance was charged down by Gary Medel.
The Chilean midfielder, nicknamed ‘Pit Bull’, appeared to barge Hernanes off the ball before playing in Brozovic, who finished emphatically in the 17th minute.
Adam Ljalic almost reduced Inter’s deficit further when he struck the bar but the hosts finally made it 2-0 on the night in the 49th minute when Eder’s cross from the right was finished by Perisic.
Neto was again at fault for the third goal in the 82nd minute as he let Brozovic’s penalty go under his body after Daniele Rugani had brought down Perisic.
“It was a wonderful game,” Inter coach Roberto Mancini told the Italian media, “I compliment the players for how they managed it.
“I am sad for them, they deserved to go to the final.”*
Milan, who defeated third tier Alessandria 6-0 in their semi-final on Tuesday, will now meet Juve in the final for the first time since 1990.
Leonardo Bonucci and Alvaro Morata were on target as Juventus defeated Inter Milan 2-0 in the ‘derby of Italy’ to open a four-point lead at the top of Serie A on Sunday.
Bonucci scored for the hosts from close range in the 47th minute after Inter’s Danilo D’Ambrosio made a horrid mistake by heading Paulo Dybala’s free kick across his own goal.
Substitute Morata added the second goal from the penalty spot after being tripped by Joao Miranda with six minutes to go.
Juve now have 61 points from 27 matches, four more than second-placed Napoli who travel to Fiorentina on Monday, and remain on course for a record fifth consecutive ‘Scudetto’.
“We absolutely had to win,” Bonucci told Italian television. “Two consecutive draws would have been too many, we had to win to send out a message.
“We haven’t put pressure on Napoli, we are the leaders so
we only care about our own results.”
Roberto Mancini’s inconsistent Inter are fifth on 48 points, four behind fourth-placed Fiorentina and five adrift of AS Roma who are third.
After defeating title rivals Napoli 1-0 on Feb. 13, Juve’s club record 15-game winning streak was halted by last weekend’s draw with Bologna.
Massimiliano Allegri’s men dominated the opening stages on Sunday with Dybala, Mario Mandzukic and former Inter midfielder Hernanes going close in the first 45 minutes.
The visitors adopted a defensive approach and fell behind after Bonucci’s far-post finish. Morata then made it 2-0, two minutes after coming on to the field.
“We now have one less obstacle on our road to the title,” said Allegri. “The more games we win, the less we will still have to do.”
The sides meet again in Milan on Wednesday in the second leg of the Italian Cup semi-final, with the league leaders holding a 3-0 advantage.
Not much has thwarted the predatory instincts of Bayern Munich’s Thomas Mueller and Robert Lewandowski this season but even that dynamic duo will have their work cut out to pierce the rock-solid Juventus defence on Tuesday.
Mueller and Lewandowski have scored a remarkable 56 goals between them in all competitions this season but in Tuesday’s Champions League last-16 round they will be up against a Juve rearguard which has kept nine successive clean sheets.
It is one of many reasons why the tie at the Juventus Stadium is likely to be a titanic duel between the champions and leaders of Italy’s Serie A and Germany’s Bundesliga, even though Juve could lose top spot should Napoli beat AC Milan on Monday.
Both are unbeaten in all competitions since early December and both have exactly the same record in their last 10 matches — nine wins and one draw.
Bayern’s last reverse, one of only two all season for Pep Guardiola’s outfit, was against Borussia Moenchengladbach on Dec. 5 while Juventus have not been beaten since they lost 1-0 at Sevilla in the Champions League on Dec. 8.
There will also be a return to savour for Bayern midfielder Arturo Vidal, back at the club he helped to four Serie A titles in a row, while Juve striker Mario Mandzukic is also in line to face his former team mates.
“We know that Bayern are one of the three best teams in the world, but we’re playing at home and Juventus Stadium will give us a real boost,” said Juventus defender Andrea Barzagli.
“Every team has its weaknesses and it’s our job to find them.”
Vidal has already promised he will not celebrate if he scores and told Gazzetta dello Sport that he was relishing the prospect of facing Paul Pogba in midfield.
The teams last met in the quarter-finals of the same competition three seasons ago, when Bayern won both legs 2-0. Since that second leg, Juventus have played 16 European home games without defeat.
Overall, Juventus and Bayern have met eight times with only two wins for Juventus — the last in 2005.
Former Bayern forward Miroslav Klose summed up the difficulties facing the Bavarians.
“I know from my own experience that it’s very, very hard to score against Juve,” said Klose who now plays in Serie A with Lazio.
“They’re very compact and their defence is very organised even when they lose possession but they also have great quality in the centre and up front.
“You don’t want to go a goal down against them, that just makes it even harder.”
He added: “Bayern might make it difficult for Juve in their own half with aggressive pressing. They have to disrupt their build-up play and be quick on the break. This is Juve’s weakness if you can call it one after so many wins.”
Serie A title rivals Napoli and Juventus extended their winning runs on Sunday but something must give next weekend when the pair meet in Turin in a much-anticipated showdown.
In what increasingly looks like a two-horse title race, Napoli beat Carpi 1-0 for a club-record eighth consecutive league win, while Juve extended their own record winning streak to 14 games with a 2-0 victory over struggling Frosinone.
Ahead of the meeting in Turin on Saturday, Napoli lead the table on 56 points, with Juventus hot on their heels on 54, eight points clear of third-place Fiorentina.
“It’ll be an excellent game,” Juve coach Massimiliano Allegri told Mediaset Premium. “It certainly won’t decide the Scudetto, but we’ll be ready.”
Juve are eyeing a fifth straight title, having fought their way back into the race after being 11 points off the pace on Oct. 31 and taking one point from their first three matches.
By contrast, Napoli are aiming for a first championship in 26 years since a Diego Maradona-inspired team triumphed in 1990.
“I can only compliment (Napoli coach) Maurizio Sarri, because he’s having a great campaign,” Allegri added. “It has been many years since Napoli were top of the table like this.”
Maradona’s Argentine compatriot Gonazalo Higuain, whose 24 goals this season have been instrumental in Napoli’s form, is not getting carried away ahead of the high-profile clash.
“It’s not the most important game of the year,” he told Mediaset Premium, “it’s just another match in this competition. We’ve got to stay calm.”
Napoli midfielder Marek Hamsik added: “We’ll be up for a great game. It’s a knockout match. We’re going for the win.”
“I want to go there to play,” Sarri was quoted as saying by La Gazzetta dello Sport. “They will be stronger than us but we have to have the nerve to go to the stadium and play football.”
Napoli maintained their two-point advantage at the top of Serie with a 2-0 victory at Lazio on Wednesday in a game suspended due to racist chanting as Juventus beat Genoa 1-0 to break a club record for consecutive league wins in a single season.
Gonzalo Higuain scored his 23rd goal in 23 league games for Napoli this season when he finished from close range after fine work from Marek Hamsik in the 24th minute.
Jose Callejon added a second when he lobbed the advancing Federico Marchetti after Lorenzo Insigne’s exquisite long ball.
The match was halted for three minutes in the 68th minuteafter racist abuse aimed at visiting centre back Kalidou Koulibaly, but the referee opted to play on having consulted with players, coaches and officials and the game was completed.
Napoli moved on to 53 points, two clear of Juve and eightahead of third-placed Fiorentina who survived a late scare to beat struggling Carpi 2-1 with Mauro Zarate bagging a sensational 93rd-minute winner.
Fiorentina coach Paulo Sousa was sent off for the secondconsecutive match. Juve registered their 13th consecutive league win thanks toa moment of magic from Juan Cuadrado, who evaded Armando Izzo with a superb shimmy before his cross deflected past Mattia Perin in the 30th minute.
The champions stayed second on 51 points and Massimiliano Allegri’s side are only four wins away from equalling InterMilan’s record of 17 consecutive Serie A victories set in the 2006-07 season.
The win came at a cost, however, with Martin Caceres and Patrice Evra being replaced due to injury and Simone Zaza was sent off in stoppage time.
“Sunday’s 4-0 win at Chievo created a lot of euphoria, but
tonight our feet are back on the ground,” Allegri told Mediaset Premium. “This reminded us that there are no easy games.
“I’m not interested in the record,” he added. “There are 15 rounds to go and we need a certain number of victories, whether they are in a row or not is irrelevant.”
Inter halted a miserable run with a 1-0 home win overChievo, Mauro Icardi ending his recent scoring drought, while Carlos Bacca’s fifth goal in his last five games set AC Milan on their way to a 2-0 victory at Palermo.
Bottom club Verona won their first league game of theseason when they beat 10-man Atalanta 2-1.
Holders Juventus swept aside old rivals Inter Milan 3-0 with some flowing attacking football and a brace from Alvaro Morata in the first leg of their Coppa Italia semi-final on Wednesday.
Paulo Dybala continued his fine run of form by coming off the bench to score the third and Juan Cuadrado gave possibly his best performance since joining Juve at the start of the season as he repeatedly rampaged down the right flank.
Juventus created a flurry of early chances, Cuadrado firing narrowly wide of the post, and had a penalty appeal turned down when a Cuadrado free kick appeared to hit Gary Medel’s hand.
They went ahead with a penalty when Cuadrado was fouled by fellow Colombian Jeison Murillo and Morata fired home from the spot in the 36th minute, ending a goal drought stretching back to Oct. 4.
Morata struck again just after the hour, scoring from close range after Patrice Evra pulled the ball back into the goalmouth and Felipe Melo’s attempted clearance went straight to him.
Inter’s troubles continued when Murillo was given a second yellow card for barging into Cuadrado in the 72nd minute and they were left to play the rest of the match with 10 men.
Morata missed an excellent chance to complete his hat-trick when he was first to get to Paul Pogba’s inswinging cross, but he fired over from six metres.
It was left to Dybala to complete the scoring, the Argentine stylishly side-footing home Kwadwo Asamoah’s pass first-time from the edge of the area for his 15th goal in all competitions this season.
Roberto Mancini’s Inter were left to contemplate a derby against AC Milan in Serie A on Sunday and a five-week wait for the return at the San Siro on March 3.
New coach Luciano Spalletti failed to inspire AS Roma as they were held 1-1 at home by bottom club Verona on his debut on Sunday and Juventus notched their 10th Serie A win in a row by hammering Udinese 4-0 away.
Paulo Dybala scored twice for second-placed title holders Juventus, who are two points behind leaders Napoli, ruining 10-man Udinese’s day as the hosts officially inaugurated their rebuilt, state-of-the-art stadium.
AC Milan eased the pressure on coach Sinisa Mihajlovic with a 2-0 home win over fourth-placed Fiorentina with an early goal from Carlos Bacca and a late strike from Kevin-Prince Boateng, his first goal since returning for a second spell at the club.
Inter Milan, held 1-1 at Atalanta on Saturday, are third with 40 and Fiore are two more points behind after a fourth straight loss. Milan are now sixth on 32 points.
Roma lost patience with coach Rudi Garcia, firing him on Wednesday after a slump in form which included a 6-1 Champions League drubbing by Barcelona and Italian Cup elimination at home to second-tier Spezia.
But the return of Spalletti, previously in charge from 2005 to 2009, did not produce a victory against opponents who have still not won after 20 league games this season.
Roma, who briefly led the table in the autumn, went ahead in the 41st minute when Daniele De Rossi backheeled the ball to midfielder Radja Nainggolan, who scored from close range.
But Giampaolo Pazzini levelled with a penalty in the 61st minute after Leandro Castan fouled Pawel Wszolek, to leave Roma fifth in the table with 35 points.
Roma forward Edin Dzeko’s poor form continued when he fired over the crossbar from Miralem Pjanic’s pass and also missed the target with a free header in stoppage time.
Udinese unveiled their shiny new Dacia Arena, built on the site of the old Friuli stadium but more compact and atmospheric than the old ground.
But Juventus, who have flourished since opening their own stadium in 2011, quickly dampened the festivities as Dybala curled in a free kick after 15 minutes.
Sami Khedira turned in Dybala’s pass at the far post for the second, then Mario Mandzukic was upended by Danilo, who was sent off, and Dybala converted the penalty, all before the half hour.
Alex Sandro curled in the fourth before halftime to keep Juve, aiming for a fifth successive title, in second place with 42 points behind Napoli, who beat Sassuolo 3-1 on Saturday.
Lazio came from two goals behind to draw 2-2 at Bologna, who raced into the lead with strikes from Emanuele Giaccherini and Mattia Destro in the first 20 minutes.
The game turned when Adam Masina gave away a penalty and was sent off with Antonio Candreva reducing the arrears. Miroslav Klose then won possession to set up the equaliser for Senad Lulic in the 77th minute.
Leonardo Pavoletti scored twice as Genoa thumped Palermo 4-0 in a battle of two teams just outside the relegation zone with Guillermo Barros Schelotto, the Sicilians’ third coach of the season, watching from the stands.
Relegation-threatened Carpi shocked Sampdoria 2-1 while Chievo and Empoli shared the spoils in a 1-1 draw.
Manchester United right back Matteo Darmian has dismissed reports he is unsettled at Old Trafford and considering a loan move to Italian champions Juventus in January.
Darmian joined from Torino during the close season and got off to an impressive start but has struggled to maintain his early season form with British media reporting he was considering a move back to Italy.
“I am happy here with the team, the staff and the city. I am happy here so I just try to ignore the rumours. I want to continue on my way and that’s it,” the 26-year-old was quoted as saying by British media.
“I think the manager is happy with my progress and when I train I try to improve day by day. And when the manager gives me a chance I try to do my best and to help the team.”
Saturday’s last-gasp 1-0 FA Cup win over third tier side Sheffield United meant that United have won back-to-back games for the first time since November.
Darmian said he hoped United continue to rebuild their confidence when they travel to take on relegation-threatened Newcastle United in the Premier League on Tuesday.
“We have to continue in the way we have started the New Year. We have beaten Swansea and won in the FA Cup and now we must continue,” Darmian said.
“A win always help to increase our confidence. Now we have to prepare for the game with Newcastle. We have to recover and then focus on that game.”
Louis van Gaal’s men are fifth in the league, nine points behind leaders Arsenal after 20 games.