UEFA Champions League updates: 29 February-6 March

The latest from the teams involved in the knockout stages

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29/02/2016
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Paris have described yesterday's 2-1 loss to Lyon – their first domestic defeat since 15 March 2015 – as a wake-up call, with nine days to go until their UEFA Champions League round of 16 decider against Chelsea. "I hope this will remind us that we're not the best team in the world," said coach Laurent Blanc. "We weren't up to the occasion, me included. We didn't have the necessary mindset in this game."

"Lyon were better than us and they deserved to win it," defender David Luiz said. "These things happen in football, but we've also won a couple of games. Now let's use that defeat to focus on what's ahead."

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Luis Suárez was not on target yesterday but he remains top of the ESM Golden Shoe standings, his 25 Barcelona goals equating to 50 points in the competition to determine the season's best scorer in Europe's domestic leagues. Robert Lewandowski made fourth place his own with a goal for Bayern on Saturday.

ESM Golden Shoe standings
1 Luis Suárez (Barcelona) 25 x 2 = 50
2 Gonzalo Higuaín (Napoli) 24 x 2 = 48
2 = Jonas (SL Benfica) 24 x 2 = 48
4 Robert Lewandowski (Bayern München) 23 x 2 = 46
5 = Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (Borussia Dortmund) 22 x 2 = 44
5 = Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid) 22 x 2 = 44
7 Eran Zahavi (Maccabi Tel-Aviv) 26 x 1,5 = 39
8 = Karim Benzema (Real Madrid) 19 x 2 = 38
8 = Jamie Vardy (Leicester City) 19 x 2 = 38
10 = Neymar (Barcelona) 18 x 2 = 36
10 = Islam Slimani (Sporting CP) 18 x 2 = 36

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Wolfsburg could be without centre-back Naldo for the rest of the campaign. The 33-year-old sustained a right shoulder injury in the 2-0 home loss to Bayern München on Saturday and, according to a club statement, will "need to undergo surgery in the coming weeks to correct the damage". Coach Dieter Hecking said: "Every injury is a bitter pill, but, until now, Naldo has been a fixed element at the heart of our defence. We hope that he makes a speedy recovery, but it is a possibility that he could miss out on the remainder of the season."

 

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André Villas-Boas has praised Yuri Zhirkov after the left-back made his first start for Zenit in their 1-0 victory over Kuban Krasnodar in the Russian Cup quarter-finals on Sunday, saying: "Zhirkov did a good job up front and at the back. I replaced him after the break in order to protect him from injury as he was very busy throughout." The tie was settled in extra time by a free-kick from another winter signing, Maurício. Igor Smolnikov, fit again after injury, came on for his first appearance in three months.

Karim Benzema is expected to miss Real Madrid’s round of 16 second leg against Roma because of a right hamstring problem. The forward sustained the injury during the first half of the Whites' 1-0 home defeat by Atlético Madrid on Saturday and was withdrawn at the break. His replacement, Borja Mayoral, is in line to deputise for the visit of the Giallorossi on 8 March.

Academy product Ruben Loftus-Cheek, 20, has made nine appearances for Chelsea in all competitions this season, scoring his first senior goal in the 2-0 FA Cup victory over Scunthorpe United on 10 January. The midfielder has signed a new five-year deal.

A positive sight on the Bayern training ground at Säbener strasse today, with Javi Martínez being put through his paces. The Spain defender has made just one appearance in 2016 because of a knee problem.

Benfica 2-0 União (Jonas 5 76)
The Eagles wasted no time in taking the initiative in a game postponed for 24 hours after adverse weather conditions in Madeira prevented their opponents from being able to travel. Jonas put them ahead inside five minutes and struck again midway through the second half – his 28th of the season in all competitions – to seal a win that helps Benfica close to within a point of Liga leaders Sporting CP, who were held elsewhere.

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Arsenal, who fell five points off the Premier League summit at the weekend, received more bad news this morning ...

Juventus will be eyeing their first final on Wednesday, when they take on Internazionale Milano in the second leg of the Coppa Italia semi-finals. The Bianconeri are 3-0 up from the opening instalment and also beat the Nerazzurri 2-0 in Serie A on Sunday.

"We must earn our place in the final on the pitch," said coach Massimiliano Allegri. "We want to win the game because a defeat is never a good result, even if you qualify. Several years ago, Inter overturned a 3-0 deficit in the Coppa Italia and they will certainly attack so a stern test is awaiting. We are in a good mood, but all our efforts will be in vain if we don't reach the final, qualify in the Champions League and go all the way in the championship."

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INJURY UPDATE: With Paris playing at St-Étienne on Wednesday in the French Cup quarter-finals, Laurent Blanc has given the latest on Marco Verratti (thigh) and Javier Pastore (hamstring).


Marco won't travel with us: he's making good progress toward fitness, but he's not ready yet as he has only trained indoor so far," Blanc explained. "Javier is very close to match fitness – he had a minor hamstring problem, but he'll be in the squad and you'll have to wait and see if he features.
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Juventus hope to have Giorgio Chiellini back for their second leg against Bayern after the defender was ruled out for ten days with the calf problem that forced him off during Sunday's 2-0 victory over Internazionale Milano.

The 31-year-old, who missed the first-leg draw at home to Bayern with another knock, will miss Wednesday's Coppa Italia rematch with Inter and Sunday's Serie A trip to Atalanta. But he should be back for the match in Munich on 16 March.

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Andriy Yarmolenko levelled on 72 minutes as Dynamo Kyiv earned a 1-1 draw in the first leg of their Ukrainian Cup quarter-final against Olexandriya. Olexandriya had agreed to play the nominal home leg of the tie in Kyiv. Forward Roman Yaremchuk, 20, and 23-year-old goalkeeper Artur Rudko made their senior debuts for Dynamo.

Central defender Jardel has signed a new deal with Benfica that will keep the 29-year-old with the Eagles until 2020. "I am very happy and grateful for the chance to wear this shirt," he said. "I feel the club values me." The Brazilian has played all 90 minutes of Benfica's seven UEFA Champions League matches this season, and a total of 32 games in all competitions, scoring once. He is in his sixth season with the current Portuguese champions, having joined from Olhanense midway through the 2010/11 campaign.

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It was quite a night for Wolfsburg's André Schürrle, who scored the second club hat-trick of his career two years to the day after registering his first - in Chelsea's 3-1 win at Fulham on 1 March 2014. The winger had scored only one league goal this season going into tonight's game at Hannover, but quadrupled that tally with strikes in the 36th, 59th and 62nd minutes. Julian Draxler's effort completed a comprehensive victory against the Bundesliga's bottom side.

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A 15th successive domestic game unbeaten - a 2-1 win at Norwich - took Chelsea into the top half of the English Premier League table for the first time this season. Burkina Faso winger Bertrand Traoré made his first senior start for Chelsea, but was swiftly upstaged by another 20-year-old as Kenedy took just 40 seconds to score his first Premier League goal for the club. Traoré played in Diego Costa to chip Norwich keeper John Ruddy and make it 2-0 just before the break – his eighth goal of 2016. Nathan Redmond replied for Norwich.

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Diego Simeone's side retained their firm hold on second place in Spain with a 3-0 defeat of mid-table Real Sociedad. Mexican defender Diego Reyes turned Koke's cross into his own net to set Atlético on their way inside ten minutes, and Saúl Ñíguez volleyed within seconds of the restart to make it 2-0. Antoine Griezmann's followed up his weekend derby winner against Real Madrid by converting a penalty to make it 3-0, as Atlético kept their fifth successive clean sheet in all competitions.

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Wolfsburg are still understandably chipper after Tuesday's dismantling of struggling Hannover, pointing out that they are now up to 19th in the all-time Bundesliga table. Given their recent success, it is easy to forget that 20 years ago they had never graced the German top flight.

Nemanja Matić admits that Chelsea have not given up hope of finishing in the Premier League's UEFA Champions League places after last night's victory at Norwich lifted them to a season high of eighth.

"It's very important to win games," Matić told Chelsea TV. "We're a big team and we have to do this if we want to be closer to the first four. It's very difficult to catch them, but we'll try our best to win every game."

Last season's champions are 12 games without defeat in the English top flight and are five points adrift of fifth-placed Manchester United and eight behind Manchester City in fourth.

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Zlatan Ibrahimović has been talking about Paris Saint-Germain's first league defeat of the season, Sunday's 2-1 loss at Lyon. "It doesn’t affect us," said the Swedish striker after a first Paris defeat in 37 league games.

Ibrahimović added: "[I'm] not worn out, or tired, I spoke about not feeling fresh. There is a big difference I am walking on clouds, that's how my body feels today."

Zlatan Ibrahimović has been talking about Paris Saint-Germain's first league defeat of the season, Sunday's 2-1 loss at Lyon. "It doesn’t affect us," said the Swedish striker after a first Paris defeat in 37 league games.

 

Ibrahimović added: "[I'm] not worn out, or tired, I spoke about not feeling fresh. There is a big difference I am walking on clouds, that's how my body feels today."

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Petr Čech picked up an injury at the end of Arsenal's 2-1 home defeat against Swansea, and is expected to miss Saturday's crucial north London derby at Tottenham.

It was a mixed night for the UEFA Champions League contenders, with league defeats for Bayern, Arsenal and Manchester City, while domestic cup holders Juventus and Paris Saint-Germain reached the final of the Coppa Italia and French Cup semi-finals respectively.


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His former Sporting Gijón and Barcelona team-mate Abelardo Fernández has branded Barcelona's Luis Enrique as the best coach in the world, telling UEFA.com: "Barça started a new era with Pep Guardiola, and I think Luis has maintained that momentum and even improved the team, and now has the chance to do something historic this season – winning a second consecutive treble."

However, winning the UEFA Champions League is not a given; Sporting Gijón boss Abelardo added: "Barça have the best attack in the world, Madrid have an extraordinary squad, and Atlético are a hyper-competitive team – they're incredible, and will be very difficult to beat over two legs. Bayern have a great coach and are running away with the Bundesliga, but the Champions League is another story – you have one bad game in a tie and you go home. You have to have a little slice of luck."

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Mainz coach Martin Schmidt can offer some hope for Juventus after his side beat Bayern 2-1 at home on Wednesday night. "A lot of things we had discussed before the game happened today," he said. "It's crucial to keep going and keep standing up to them. It feels good. We knew how we could win: with purposeful counterattacks and a strong defensive display. We launched four counter-attacks in the first half and two in the second. We needed this efficiency. That was decisive. The players did it today. Faith can move mountains."

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Barcelona made it a Spanish record 35 games unbeaten in all competitions as they defeated nine-man Rayo Vallecano 5-1 on Thursday, going eight points clear at the top of the Liga in the process. Last weekend Luis Enrique's side matched the undefeated run of Leo Beenhakker's 1989 Real Madrid team and tonight in the Spanish capital they set a new mark of their own.

Lionel Messi scored a hat-trick – taking his Liga tally for the season to 19 – while Luis Suárez had a penalty saved and Arda Turan opened his Blaugrana account. Barcelona's cause was made easier by the 42nd-minute dismissal of Diego Llorente, by which point they were leading 2-0. Manuel Iturra saw red midway through the second period for bringing down Sergio Busquets in the area. Ivan Rakitić had fired the visitors ahead, pouncing when goalkeeper Juan Carlos dropped a cross at his feet.

 

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Another spot kick failure for Barcelona last night. It is becoming a bit of a bad habit ...

*THAT penalty between Leo Messi and Luis Suárez against Celta Vigo is classed as a miss.

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On Saturday, Bayern face perhaps their biggest test this season. Three days after their surprising home defeat by Mainz, Josep Guardiola's team travel to second-placed Dortmund, currently five points adrift. "We are meeting one of the best teams in Europe," the coach said today. "After the day of a defeat, I always start thinking about the next match. You can always lose a match in football. We may even lose at Dortmund, but that won't change my life.

Guardiola denied claims that his team may be losing momentum, citing the recent 2-2 draw against Juventus as the kind of performance he is hoping for in Dortmund. "The game in Juventus was our best match since I have taken over as Bayern coach," he said. "This match against BVB will be a great promotion for German football. I hope we can deliver a spectacle.

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Paris will be without midfielders Blaise Matuidi and Marco Verratti for the Ligue 1 game against Montpellier on Saturday. Coach Laurent Blanc said: "Blaise is going through a muscular problem. He has undergone medical tests and we will keep an eye on the results but, to be honest, this is not a good sign."

There is better news on the injury front, though, regarding Ángel Di María. "He was injured against Reims but it was a muscle thing and he has recovered well since," said Blanc.

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Gent replaced Club Brugge at the Belgian summit despite being held to a 1-1 draw at home by lowly Leuven. Hein Vanhaezebrouck's men looked set for a shock defeat when Leandro Trossard gave the visitors a 52nd-minute lead but Mbark Boussoufa (68) rescued a point for the home side, who went into the match level on points with the previous pacesetters.

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Mohamed Salah scored twice as Roma made it seven straight Serie A victories by cruising past Fiorentina 4-1. The sides were level on points at the start of play but third-placed Roma proved a class apart as they raced into a three-goal lead after 38 minutes.

The first goal was arguably the pick of the bunch as an incisive through ball from Miralem Pjanić released Salah, who crossed for Stephan El Shaarawy (22) to fire in. Salah claimed the second from distance three minutes later despite a hefty deflection off Davide Astori and the result was all but secured when El Shaarawy teed up Diego Perotti to make it 3-0.

Josip Iličić pulled a goal back from the penalty spot on the stroke of half-time but Salah broke through a static Viola rearguard to slot in number four on 58 minutes. Roma are now five points behind leaders Juventus, who travel to Atalanta on Sunday.

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Tottenham 2-2 Arsenal (Alderweireld 60, Kane 62; Ramsey 39, Alexis Sánchez 76)
Ten-man Arsenal fought back in the north London derby to keep their title hopes alive and prevent Spurs from topping the Premier League table in the process. Aaron Ramsey had flicked in to give the third-placed Gunners a first-half lead. However, the visitors lost Francis Coquelin to a second booking after the break and conceded two in quick succession shortly after as Toby Alderweireld converted from close range before Harry Kane curled in a brilliant second. But Alexis Sánchez's strike 14 minutes from time leaves Arsène Wenger's side five points behind leaders Leicester and three short of their neighbours.

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Real Madrid 7-1 Celta (Pepe 41, Ronaldo 50 58 64 76, Jesé 77, Bale 81; Aspas 62)
Cristiano Ronaldo struck four goals to move into second spot on the list of the Spanish Liga's all-time leading scorers as Zinédine Zidane's charges moved to within a point of second-placed Atlético. Ronaldo claimed his fifth hat-trick of the season to take his total to 39 goals in all competitions. Gareth Bale, back after a calf injury, netted in his first outing since 17 January.

Josep Guardiola was content enough after Bundesliga leaders Bayern drew 0-0 with Dortmund to stay five points clear. “In the first 20 minutes we had problems with our offensive pressing, the second half was good," he said. "We had enough chances to win the game. Dortmund also had a few of course, it's almost impossible to allow no counterattacks here. The result is OK, the match was good."

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Benfica goalkeeper Júlio César picked up a thigh injury during training on Saturday and missed out on the Portuguese Liga game against Sporting CP. Reports suggest the Brazilian international will miss the round of 16 second leg against Zenit on Wednesday and that he could be out for six weeks in total.

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While Arsenal, Bayern and Paris were held, Benfica beat Sporting to go top in Portugal. UEFA.com rounds up the last-16 contenders in domestic action so far this weekend.

Atalanta 0-2 Juventus (Barzagli 24, Lemina 86)
The Bianconeri restored their three-point lead at the summit and extended their unbeaten run in Serie A to 18 games in the process. Andrea Barzagli struck for the first time this season before substitute Mario Lemina sealed the away triumph with a cool finish as Juventus equalled the league record of nine games without conceding goal.

Eibar 0-4 Barcelona (Munir El Haddadi 8, Messi 41 76pen, Suárez 84)
Barcelona made it a Spanish record 36 games unbeaten in all competitions as Luis Enrique's men went 11 points clear of second-placed Atlético, for a couple of hours at least. Lionel Messi scored twice to take his tally to 15 in the last ten matches, while Luis Suárez ended a three-game barren run in front of goal.

Valencia 1-3 Atlético (Cheryshev 28, Griezmann 24, Torres 72, Carrasco 85)
Fernando Torres came off the bench to score as Atlético proved too strong for hosts Valencia in the second half. Denis Cheryshev cancelled out Antoine Griezmann's 15th Liga effort this term, but Torres found the net nine minutes after coming on and Yannick Carrasco increased the lead towards the end, after Santos had seen red for Los Che.

This blog is now closing down, but our coverage of the UEFA Champions League will resume on Monday ahead of this week's round of 16 deciders.

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