Champions League

Hopes for an all-English final shattered

2018-03-18 06:03
Jurgen Klopp (AP)

Johannesburg - At the end of the Champions League’s group phase, the Premier League had a historic five teams advance to the knockout stage of the competition.

This prompted English fans to start dreaming of Ukrainian capital Kiev hosting an all-England final later in the year.

However, that dream received a serious setback in the return legs of the round of the last 16, as Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur both suffered home defeats and were knocked out. Also out were Chelsea, who failed to get the better of Barcelona.

Worse was to follow on Friday, when the two remaining English Premier League clubs - Manchester City and Liverpool - were drawn against each other in the quarter-finals.

Liverpool coach Jurgen Klopp told journalists: “I think it is an absolute dream draw, for all Manchester United fans. I really don’t mind.

“I knew it would be difficult and that is difficult. The good news is for Manchester City it will be difficult as well.

“I saw Txiki Begiristain’s (Manchester City director of football) face after the draw, and it didn’t look like it was Christmas and Easter on the same day,” the German said.

Germany’s sole representative - Bayern Munich - were mostly smiles as they avoided Spanish giants Barcelona and Real Madrid, instead facing Sevilla, arguably the weakest of the eight teams in the competition.

Bayern coach Jupp Heynckes, who spent several years coaching in Spain and won the Champions League with Real Madrid in 1998, did not share the euphoric reaction to the draw.

“I know Sevilla, I know Spanish football. It is certainly not an easy passage into the next round. They will be very difficult opponents.”

German international Thomas Müller, however, is already thinking beyond the next round. “We have a lot of confidence and want to play like that. We want to win that thing and have not been in a final for a long time, so we want to qualify,” he said.

Repeat of last year's final

The round of the last eight sees a repeat of last years’ final, as Juventus take on Madrid for a semi-final place.

The Champions League offers a last chance for Los Blancos who, last year, secured a comfortable 4-1 victory against La Vecchia Signora (The Old Lady) in the final, to save their season.

Having been knocked out of the domestic cup by mid-table Leganes and finding themselves 15 points behind Barcelona in third position in La Liga, it seems likely that Real coach Zinedine Zidane needs Champions League success to save his job.

For iconic Juventus goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon, the games against the defending champions could well be his last in the lucrative competition. He announced at the end of last season that he intends to retire. The only way to extend his career would be to win the Champions League.

Surprisingly, Real have yet to play a final against their fiercest rivals, Barcelona. However, both clubs are expected to remain on track as both face Italian opposition in the quarter-finals.

The in-form Lionel Messi and his Barca team-mates have to overcome Roma if they want to make it all the way to the final - where they last appeared in 2015.

Roma legend Francesco Totti said he was happy that the club was among the best eight in Europe.

“But we face this tie with serenity and tranquillity. We know Barcelona are one of the best teams in Europe, but we know that we can do well against them too.

“On paper, Sevilla and Liverpool were the affordable sides, but that’s not the case. It’s different on the pitch,” he said.

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Fixtures
Tuesday, 02 October 2018
Juventus v Young Boys, Allianz Stadium 18:55
Hoffenheim v Manchester City, Wirsol Rhein-Neckar-Arena 18:55
Bayern Munchen v Ajax, Allianz-Arena 21:00
Olympique Lyonnais v Shakhtar Donetsk, Groupama OL Academy Decines-Charpieu 21:00
Manchester United v Valencia, Old Trafford 21:00
AEK Athens v Benfica, Olympiako Stadio Spyros Louis 21:00
Roma v Viktoria Plzen, Stadio Olimpico 21:00
CSKA Moskva v Real Madrid, VEB Arena 21:00
Wednesday, 03 October 2018
PSG v Crvena Zvezda, Parc des Princes 18:55
Lokomotiv Moskva v Schalke 04, RZD Arena 18:55
Porto v Galatasaray, Estadio Do Dragao 21:00
Atletico Madrid v Club Brugge, Estadio Wanda Metropolitano 21:00
PSV v Internazionale, Philips Stadion 21:00
Borussia Dortmund v Monaco, Signal-Iduna-Park 21:00
Napoli v Liverpool, Stadio San Paolo 21:00
Tottenham Hotspur v Barcelona, Wembley Stadium 21:00
Tuesday, 23 October 2018
AEK Athens v Bayern Munchen, Olympiako Stadio Spyros Louis 18:55
Young Boys v Valencia, STADE DE SUISSE Wankdorf Bern 18:55
Real Madrid v Viktoria Plzen, Estadio Santiago Bernabeu 21:00
Ajax v Benfica, Johan Cruijff ArenA 21:00
Shakhtar Donetsk v Manchester City, Oblasny SportKomplex Metalist 21:00
Manchester United v Juventus, Old Trafford 21:00
Roma v CSKA Moskva, Stadio Olimpico 21:00
Hoffenheim v Olympique Lyonnais, Wirsol Rhein-Neckar-Arena 21:00
Wednesday, 24 October 2018
Club Brugge v Monaco, Jan Breydelstadion 18:55
PSV v Tottenham Hotspur, Philips Stadion 18:55
Liverpool v Crvena Zvezda, Anfield 21:00
Barcelona v Internazionale, Camp Nou 21:00
PSG v Napoli, Parc des Princes 21:00
Lokomotiv Moskva v Porto, RZD Arena 21:00
Borussia Dortmund v Atletico Madrid, Signal-Iduna-Park 21:00
Galatasaray v Schalke 04, Turk Telekom Stadyumu 21:00
Tuesday, 06 November 2018
Monaco v Club Brugge, Stade Louis II 19:55
Crvena Zvezda v Liverpool, Stadion Rajko Mitic 19:55
Porto v Lokomotiv Moskva, Estadio Do Dragao 22:00
Atletico Madrid v Borussia Dortmund, Estadio Wanda Metropolitano 22:00
Internazionale v Barcelona, Stadio Giuseppe Meazza 22:00
Napoli v PSG, Stadio San Paolo 22:00
Schalke 04 v Galatasaray, Veltins-Arena 22:00
Tottenham Hotspur v PSV, Wembley Stadium 22:00
Wednesday, 07 November 2018
Valencia v Young Boys, Estadio de Mestalla 19:55
CSKA Moskva v Roma, VEB Arena 19:55
Juventus v Manchester United, Allianz Stadium 22:00
Bayern Munchen v AEK Athens, Allianz-Arena 22:00
Viktoria Plzen v Real Madrid, Doosan Arena 22:00
Benfica v Ajax, Estadio do Sport Lisboa e Benfica (da Luz) 22:00
Manchester City v Shakhtar Donetsk, Etihad Stadium 22:00
Olympique Lyonnais v Hoffenheim, Groupama Stadium 22:00
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