What have we learned after the Champions League last-16 games?

Paris Saint-Germain's Edinson Cavani. (REUTERS)
Updated 22 February 2018
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What have we learned after the Champions League last-16 games?

Here’s five things Arab News learned after the first legs of the Champions League second round…

PARIS ST. GERMAIN ARE CHOKERS: You may have just read that and thought “that’s a bit harsh,” but if ever there was a time to make a statement of intent against one of the established European greats, it was against Real Madrid at the Bernabeu. Zinedine Zidane’s team have endured a torrid time in La Liga and during the first leg of the tie barely got out of second gear. But the fact is they did not need to put on a display of brilliance to grab the 3-1 advantage they take to the French capital. PSG have long had designs of joining European footballing aristocracy, but on this evidence they will remain arrivistes for some time yet.

TOTTENHAM ARE DARK HORSES: Considering they may still yet finish outside the top four of the Premier League, it seems strange to view Spurs as possible winners. But on the evidence of their 2-2 draw against Juventus that is exactly what they are. The Turin team were second best by some distance in the first leg and were fortunate they went two goals up so early on. With Harry Kane, Christian Eriksen and Dele Alli on form and as solid a defense as there is in Europe Mauricio Pochettino’s side is capable of going far in the competition.


DAVID DE GEA IS THE BEST KEEPER IN THE WORLD: If there is one thing most people can agree on, it is that this Manchester United side, packed full of exciting talent, is pretty dull to watch. The flip side of that, so the argument goes, is that Jose Mourinho sides tend to get the results they need — think Inter Milan against Barcelona in 2010. On Wednesday night United got a draw against a good Sevilla side in Spain. However, it was based less on a defensive masterclass and more on the heroics of de Gea. The keeper produced two great saves to keep out the hosts and not for the first time the Spaniard proved himself to be this bland, functional United side’s key man.


CHELSEA SHOULD DO EVERYTHING TO KEEP CONTE: Watching Chelsea stifle Barcelona on Tuesday night it was hard to fathom how the Blues were beaten 4-1 by Watford. No offense to Troy Deeney and Co. but Lionel Messi, Andres Inesta and Luis Suarez are in what is known politely as a different league and as formidable an attacking unit as you will find. But Antonio Conte set up the Blues perfectly, playing with Eden Hazard as a false No.9 when the temptation would have been to have Alvaro Morata or Olivier Giroud as a target man. Barcelona were restricted to just two clearcut chances all game and the hosts looked by far the more incisive side. That is all down to Conte and Chelsea would be mad to let him go, as appears likely, at the end of the season.


THE COMPETITION IS WIDE OPEN: With Real Madrid looking a pale imitation of their title-winning teams of the past two years, Barcelona looking far from their exciting, attacking best, Manchester City only having felt the nerves of a last four clash once and PSG seemingly on their way out, it is very hard to make a case for a clear standout favorite. Any side that makes it though to the last eight will fancy their chances and with good reason. It is not hard to make a case for any of the above or Bayern Munich, Liverpool, Spurs and Manchester United ultimately lifting the famous trophy in May, and that is why it is the most watched club knockout competition in the world.

 


Liverpool return to top of the table with 3-1 win over arch-rivals Manchester United

Updated 16 December 2018
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Liverpool return to top of the table with 3-1 win over arch-rivals Manchester United

  • Shaqiri braces gives Reds deserved win over United at Anfield.
  • Mourinho's men well beaten as Liverpool leapfrog Manchester City ti return to top of the table.

LIVERPOOL: Two deflected Xherdan Shaqiri strikes handed Liverpool victory over Manchester United in the Premier League for the first time in nine attempts as Jurgen Klopp’s men moved back to the top of the table with a 3-1 win at Anfield on Sunday.
United manager Jose Mourinho claimed ahead of the game that the league leaders have had luck on their side this season, but while there was fortune in substitute Shaqiri’s two goals in the final 17 minutes, the visitors did not deserve anything more than a fifth defeat of the season.
Liverpool leapfrogged Manchester City to finish the weekend where they started, a point clear at the top, and move a mammoth 19 clear of United, who remain in sixth and are now 11 points off the top four.
The contrasting form showed by both sides this season continued as United strained to keep a rampant Liverpool at bay and were only level for so long thanks to a huge error by home goalkeeper Alisson Becker.
Sadio Mane had given Liverpool the lead before Jesse Lingard levelled when Alisson dropped a routine cross at the feet of the England international.
United had the ball in the net first on a rare foray forward but Romelu Lukaku was flagged offside despite not getting a touch to Ashley Young’s free-kick.
But Liverpool then laid siege to the visitors’ goal with David de Gea stretching to keep out a low drive from Roberto Firmino, Young clearing off the line and Fabinho firing wide from the edge of the box.
Only Manchester City have kept Klopp’s side from scoring in the Premier League this season and a United defense that has kept just one clean sheet in the league since September never looked capable of holding out like they had in their two previous visits to Anfield.
Mourinho’s men were finally breached when Mane controlled Fabinho’s chipped ball into the box on his chest and volleyed past the onrushing De Gea.
However, Liverpool’s momentum was punctured by an Alisson gift 12 minutes before the break.
The Brazilian was Liverpool’s hero with an injury-time save to secure the Reds’ place in the last 16 of the Champions League against Napoli on Tuesday.
But he spilled Lukaku’s simple cross into the path of the grateful Lingard to bundle the ball into an unguarded net.
The second half followed a similar pattern with one-way traffic toward the Kop as Liverpool sought the goal to take them back to the top of the table.
De Gea scrambled low to his left to palm Firmino’s prodded effort to safety, while Dejan Lovren and Virgil van Dijk saw efforts deflected behind.
Jurgen Klopp turned to Shaqiri to unlock the United defense 20 minutes from time and the Swiss international needed just three to put Liverpool back in front.
De Gea did well to prevent Ander Herrera turning Mane’s cross into his own net, but the ball fell for Shaqiri and his effort cannoned off Young and in off the underside of the bar.
Seven minutes later, Shaqiri got lucky again when, this time on his favored left foot, his shot flicked off the diving Eric Bailly to leave De Gea helpless.