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Champions League

The former Manchester man spearheading Juve’s Champions League Dreams



The Juventus striker’s personality divides opinion, but his talent is unquestionable.

Two incidents in the same evening summed up Carlos Tevez’ career. The first was a superb performance in the Champions League semi final, his clubs biggest European game for a decade. The second, being caught allegedly travelling 50kph over the speed limit by French police just a couple of hours later.

These sorts of problems have dogged Tevez throughout his career. He has never been far from causing media controversy and always seems to attract unwanted attention even when the situation is not of his doing, the West Ham/Sheffield United relegation third party ownership debacle being a prime example. Throughout his career he has made eyes at a return to Boca Juniors, the club where he made his professional debut, aged just 16.

After leaving West Ham, he joined Manchester United, winning the Premier and Champions League’s during his time there. However he would cause more controversy by moving to rivals Manchester City when his contract with United expired.

It was during his time with City that Tevez caused one of his biggest controversies. His failure to warm up in a match against Bayern Munich is possibly still his most famous Champions League moment to date. According to then City boss Roberto Mancini, he asked Tevez to warm up, which he promptly refused to do.

The Argentinian claimed Mancini’s words were lost in translation and that if he had understood the instruction he would have warmed up without fuss. Other players on the bench that night refused to be involved, so as it is Mancini’s word against Tevez’, we may never know exactly what happened.

He was placed on gardening leave by the club and returned to Argentina whilst the club decided on the best course of action. When no transfer agreement could be made with any other teams, Tevez returned to Manchester and attempted to make up for his misdemeanours, playing his role in City winning the Premier League.

Despite all his off field baggage there have always been suitors for his services. If Juve decide to let him go this summer, or when his contract expires next season, it wont be just his beloved Boca in line for his signature.

Fans have always been drawn to the reckless abandon and break neck speed at which he approaches his football. There aren’t many top strikers in Europe, apart from fellow South American and Champions League rival Luis Suarez, who can match his work rate and tenacity. Whilst the team commitment shown by Juve’s semi final opponents Real Madrid was called into question, Tevez kept scurrying around the pitch, harassing every opponent, chasing down every lost cause. That is why he has always been considered a risk worth taking.

Should Juventus manage to topple Barcelona on the 6th June, it will no doubt be considered one of the biggest upsets of the Champions League era. Tevez has spearheaded the Old Lady’s quest for European glory and has scored seven goals in this seasons competition. He is also the Serie A top scorer having netted 20 times.

Anyone who grew up watching Italian football in the mid 90’s will remember the superstar-laden Juventus side that made it to three consecutive Champions League finals. A side that included players such as Zinedine Zidane, Christian Vieri, Alessandro Del Piero, Gianluca Vialli and Antonio Conte. They won the first final in 1996, beating holders Ajax on penalties, but would lose the next two as Borussia Dortmund and then Real Madrid stopped the Bianconeri cementing their place as one of the undisputed greats of the Champions League era.

Since then, allegations of doping and match fixing have dogged the club. The team physician, Riccardo Agricola, who looked after the team in the mid 90’s during those Champions League finals, was jailed in 2004 for supplying the banned substance EPO between 1994 and 1998. Juve were also demoted to Serie B and stripped of two Scudetto’s for their part in the ‘‘Calciopoli’’ match fixing scandal that reared its ugly head once again.

Things have improved however, and the club has won four Scudetto’s in a row, a sequence of trophy wins that shows no sign of stopping any time soon. They also beat Lazio 2-1 in extra time to secure the Coppa Italia for the first time since 1995 and the 10th in the clubs history. The cup win has set up the chance for an unprecedented treble, should they manage to topple Barcelona.

Just a month ago rumours began to once again ring around world football that the enigmatic Argentinian was unsettled in Italy, and looking for a switch to his homeland, with Boca Director Enzo Pagani urging Tevez to cancel his contract to force an early return. However instead of embellishing these rumours, Tevez and his agent have remained fairly quiet and dismissed the rumours, claiming the enigmatic Argentine would honour his remaining contract in Turin for the next year.

Despite these rumours surfacing, there has been less speculation surrounding his future of late. Perhaps he has matured or has found his European home, or maybe it is simply down to the reduced media coverage we receive of Italian football here in England. Either way Tevez is continuing to show his worth on the pitch, and will be remembered fondly by Juventus fans for his blockbuster performances long after he has left Turin.

The 6th of June could define his legacy. The Argentinian has the chance to emulate those 90’s superstars and fire Juve to Champions League glory and secure his place in the already lofty historical echelons of this famous club.

Manchester City fan and UWE mature student. Fortunate enough to have witnessed Georgi Kinkladze light up Maine Road and David Silva's magic at the Etihad.

Champions League

Tottenham Hotspur 1-2 Juventus: Three talking points from Wembley

Tottenham bowed out of Europe against an experienced Juventus side.

Rob Meech



Photo: Getty Images

Tottenham Hotspur crashed out of the Champions League after Juventus produced an inspired fightback to progress to the quarter-finals. The in-form Son Heung-min had put Spurs 3-2 ahead on aggregate shortly before the interval, but two goals in three second-half minutes changed the complexion of the tie.

First, Gonzalo Higuain stabbed home the equaliser before Paulo Dybala completed the comeback with a delicate finish. Harry Kane hit the post in the dying moments, but Spurs’ exit at the hands of last season’s runners-up was confirmed as they failed to score a second goal. Here are three talking points from Wembley Stadium..

Max Allegri outfoxes his Tottenham counterpart

So poor were Juventus in the first half that they were fortunate to be only one goal behind on the night and still in the tie. There was no indication of what was to come, as Max Allegri’s side transformed the match in the second period. At the final whistle, the Juve boss headed straight down the tunnel instead of venturing on to the pitch to celebrate with his players. But it was his tactical switch that paved the way for their victory.

With an hour on the clock, on came Kwadwo Asamoah and Stephan Lichtsteiner, who injected much-needed pace and guile. The visitors changed formation and suddenly they were getting in between the lines, with Dybala becoming much more effective. Within minutes, Juve were 2-1 ahead and in their element. Once in front, they managed the game brilliantly and didn’t look like conceding. Mauricio Pochettino, who could only stand and watch it all unfold, had been outwitted by the master.

Future looks bright despite heartbreaking exit

Disappointment may be the overriding emotion for all involved at Tottenham right now, but once the dust has settled they should look back at their Champions League adventure with pride. For this was the season they arrived as a major force on the European stage. Victories over Real Madrid and Borussia Dortmund in a group they topped were huge fillips and evidence of their continued progress under Pochettino.

Spurs were unlucky to be drawn against a club of Juventus’ pedigree in the last 16 and it was the Italians’ knowhow that paid dividends in the heat of the battle. The hosts looked a little naive, but the experience will benefit them in the future. Tottenham are odds-on to finish in the top four and thereby qualify for the Champions League again next season. Should Pochettino be given the funds to invest in his squad this summer, the club’s fans can look forward to more nights under the spotlight.

In-form Son strikes again for Spurs

The South Korean, who was given the nod ahead of Erik Lamela in the starting line-up, vindicated his selection with the opening goal at Wembley. Son had already gone close to breaking the deadlock and was causing Andrea Barzagli all sorts of problems with his marauding runs. There was more than a touch of fortune about the goal, which rebounded off his left leg and wrong-footed veteran keeper Gianluigi Buffon, but it was no less than the Spurs forward deserved.

Son came close to levelling the tie in the latter stages but, ultimately, it was to be neither his nor Tottenham’s night. With 16 goals in all competitions this season, the 25-year-old is making a big impression. He was the home side’s most potent attacking force, upstaging both Kane and Dele Alli at Wembley. Son has finally established himself in the starting XI and Spurs fans will hope he can continue to ease the goalscoring burden on Kane.

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Chelsea 1-1 Barcelona: Three talking points from Stamford Bridge

Rob Meech brings us three talking points as Chelsea held La Liga leaders Barcelona to a 1-1 draw at Stamford Bridge.

Rob Meech



Photo: Reuters

Lionel Messi finally broke his goalscoring duck against Chelsea to give Barcelona the edge after the first leg of their Champions League last-16 tie.

Messi had failed to score in eight previous attempts against the Blues, but he was not to be denied on this occasion as he cancelled out Willian’s 62nd-minute opener.

A Chelsea clean sheet would have been a massive boost ahead of a daunting trip to the Camp Nou next month.

However, Messi’s equaliser 15 minutes from time means Antonio Conte’s men face an uphill battle to qualify for the quarter-finals of Europe’s showpiece competition.

Here are three talking points from Stamford Bridge…

Conte’s tactical approach so nearly pays dividends

But for the fatal error that led to Messi’s leveller, Chelsea would be heading to Catalonia in three weeks’ time with a one-goal lead to protect.

That they came so close to victory is testament to Conte’s tactical nous, which stifled Barcelona while also allowing the home side to flourish.

As expected, the visitors dominated the ball throughout the encounter. However, they created precious few opportunities as Chelsea’s back line held firm.

Conte had resisted the temptation to start with an out-and-out striker, with Alvaro Morata and Olivier Giroud both named on the bench.

The fluid movement of Pedro, Eden Hazard and Willian caused more problems than Barcelona have been used to this season and the Blues’ second-half goal was a deserved one.

Heading into the second leg, Conte will need to devise another masterplan if Chelsea are to proceed to the last eight.

Third time lucky for impressive Willian

The tricky Brazilian has by no means been a regular for Chelsea this season.

But he was given the nod against Barcelona in a three-man attack that featured Hazard as a false number nine.

It’s a system Conte has favoured recently, but although it failed to get the best out of Hazard, the same could not be said about Willian.

He was Chelsea’s chief threat and, on another night, could have walked off with the match ball.

Willian twice hit the post in the first-half, showing great skill on each occasion to create space and leave Barca keeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen with no chance.

Despite his misfortune, Willian was unbowed and he broke the deadlock with a pinpoint finish that raised the roof at Stamford Bridge.

It was a fitting reward for a top-class performance that highlighted his natural ability.

Surely he can’t be far away from cementing a regular spot in Conte’s starting XI?

Messi ends Chelsea goal drought to have decisive say

It is not often that British football fans get to see the little magician at such close quarters, so each time he arrives on these shores it is to be cherished.

Chelsea had a game-plan to nullify his influence and in the first half this worked superbly.

Although there were the usual sublime touches that we have come to expect, Messi was largely shackled by a solid rearguard display from Chelsea’s three-man central defence.

However, it only takes a side to switch off for a moment for the Argentinian to flex his muscles.

A misplaced pass from Andreas Christensen was intercepted by Andres Iniesta, whose pull back enabled Messi to slide the ball past Thibaut Courtois.

Once the ball had arrived to him in the box, there was no doubting where it would nestle.

Messi’s exuberant celebrations underlined the importance of his equaliser in the context of the tie.

It could be the decisive moment.

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Champions League

Porto 0-5 Liverpool: Three talking points from Estádio do Dragão

Rob Meech brings us three talking points from Estádio do Dragão, as Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool dismantled Champions League opponents Porto.

Rob Meech



Photo: Reuters

Sadio Mane plundered a hat-trick as Liverpool produced a five-star performance to thrash Porto and virtually seal their place in the quarter-finals of the Champions League.

Mane opened the scoring on 25 minutes before adding two more in the second half which, coupled with goals from Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino, made it a hideously one-sided affair at the Estádio do Dragão.

Porto offered precious little resistance during the 90 minutes and were completely outclassed by a Liverpool side bursting with confidence.

The return leg at Anfield in three weeks’ time will be nothing more than a formality to confirm the Reds’ place in the last eight.

Here are three talking points, as Jurgen Klopp’s men sounded a warning to the European elite…

Mane emerges from the shadows of Salah and Firmino

Liverpool’s ‘Fab Four’ has been a member short since Philippe Coutinho’s big-money switch to Barcelona in January.

But there has been no sign that the Reds’ form is suffering as a result. If anything, they look stronger by the game.

By his own high standards, Mane has had a relatively quiet campaign thus far and been overshadowed somewhat by the exploits of Salah and Firmino, both of whom were also on the scoresheet against Porto.

But the Senegalese forward returned to his dazzling best on the European stage to help Liverpool take total control of this last 16 tie.

Although he had a helping hand from the Porto keeper for his first goal, which really should have been stopped, Mane took his next two with great precision to round off a sensational evening for the visitors.

Klopp will be delighted that the former Southampton man proved to be so influential in arguably their most important game of the season.

Free-scoring Liverpool will take some stopping

It is not just Liverpool’s performances in the Champions League that have drawn widespread praise, but the amount of goals they have scored in the process.

No club have netted more than the Reds, with the five they bagged in their first knockout fixture since 2009 leapfrogging them above French giants Paris Saint-Germain.

It is now 28 goals in total for Klopp’s free-scoring charges, whose attacking weaponry proved too hot to handle for their Portuguese opponents.

As they showed against Sevilla in the group stage, Liverpool’s defensive frailties can sometimes undermine them.

And when, as expected, they line-up in the quarter-finals, they are likely to face a side with much more to offer in attack than Porto did.

However, new signing Virgil van Dijk, who made his Champions League debut for the Reds, should bring stability and leadership to the back line.

On this evidence, they look like viable contenders for the main prize.

Klopp’s reign is delivering the goods

When Klopp joined Liverpool in the autumn of 2015, many Liverpool supporters believed he would bring them immediate success.

The gregarious German is still yet to win silverware at Anfield, but there is no denying the club are taking significant strides forward under his management this season.

Some of the money they received from Barcelona for Coutinho has already been reinvested into the squad and more high-profile arrivals are likely to follow in future transfer windows.

Liverpool remain prone to suffering off-days against lesser opposition, perhaps more so than any of their main domestic rivals, but they possess the armoury to blow away teams of the highest quality.

Even Manchester City, the runaway Premier League leaders, recently succumbed to the Reds’ attacking might.

As always, the proof will come at the end of the season.

But under Klopp, Liverpool are playing an attractive brand of football that is illuminating Europe.

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