20 years on, Solskjaer hopes for another Camp Nou comeback

Solskjaer will be back in Barcelona’s stadium on Tuesday. (Reuters)
Updated 16 April 2019
0

20 years on, Solskjaer hopes for another Camp Nou comeback

  • Solskjaer said after the first-leg loss that getting past Barcelona would be a “greater achievement.”
  • Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde said the thing he “most fears is the spirit” of Solskjaer’s team

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer knows all about overturning Champions League deficits at the Camp Nou.
Twenty years after scoring a last-gasp winner there for Manchester United in the final against Bayern Munich, Solskjaer will be back in Barcelona’s stadium on Tuesday looking to mastermind an unlikely comeback for the English team from the touchline.
United arguably has the toughest task of the eight quarterfinalists heading into the second legs, having lost 1-0 to Lionel Messi’s Barcelona at Old Trafford last week.
Yet that was the score line facing United in 1999 after Mario Basler had put Bayern in front in the sixth minute in what proved to be one of the most dramatic soccer matches in a generation.
United engineered the turnaround with two goals in injury time — the first from Teddy Sheringham, and the second from Solskjaer.
During his four months as United manager, the former Norway striker has made a point of reminiscing about the old days at the club, when no deficit felt insurmountable. Comebacks and late goals were a regular thing under his then-manager and mentor, Alex Ferguson.
“The memories from Paris will help the players. It shows we can turn things around,” Solskjaer said on Monday before leading United’s training session at Camp Nou.
“People have said to me that it has to be our year because of 20 years ago, I used to play with the number 20, we are back in Camp Nou ... but to go through we have to deserve it. We can’t say we are just going to rely on faith.”
United has beaten Juventus and Paris Saint-Germain away this season, but Solskjaer said after the first-leg loss that getting past Barcelona would be a “greater achievement.”
Not helping United’s cause is the six-day turnaround between the two games. While Barcelona fielded a reserve side in the Spanish league on Saturday, Solskjaer couldn’t afford to rest too many of his first-team players for the match against West Ham in the Premier League the same day.
United is still fighting to finish in the top four, while Barcelona is close to wrapping up another Spanish title.
Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde said the thing he “most fears is the spirit” of Solskjaer’s team.
“United has something special in the final minutes,” Valverde said on Monday, while adding that past glories don’t dictate future outcomes.
“We all chose examples from our past that can give us a boost. That is experience. But at the end, I believe that you write your own destiny. It is not given to you. You have to seek it out. And tomorrow we will try to find ours.”
And there is one bizarre statistic that will be giving United fans hope as they make their way to Spain.
Messi, to many the greatest soccer player ever, hasn’t scored in his last 12 games at the quarterfinal stage — stretching back to 2013.

Juventus v Ajax (1-1 on aggregate)
Juventus had the luxury of resting most of its regular players at the weekend. Ajax didn’t, and may have paid a costly price.
For the 2-1 loss at Spal in Serie A on Saturday, Juventus had just two players in its starting lineup that began the 1-1 draw in Amsterdam. Cristiano Ronaldo wasn’t even on the bench.
Ahead of Tuesday’s game, Ajax had nine of its starting XI from the first leg in the 6-2 victory over Excelsior. One of them, star midfielder Frenkie de Jong, limped off with a hamstring problem in the first half.
Ronaldo was rested before the second leg of the round of 16. He then scored a hat trick against Atletico Madrid to see Juventus overturn a first-leg deficit.

Manchester City v Tottenham (0-1 on aggregate)
Is City’s underwhelming record in the Champions League going to continue?
One appearance in the semifinals is a poor return considering the huge investment from the club’s Abu Dhabi ownership since 2008, and City is desperate to get through.
Without an away goal from the first leg, City will be in trouble should Tottenham score in the second leg at Etihad Stadium on Wednesday. Tottenham is without the injured Harry Kane, but has still managed to achieve good results whenever the striker has been out in recent seasons.
City could be without holding midfielder Fernandinho, who missed the 3-1 win against Crystal Palace in the Premier League on Sunday through injury.
Tottenham has never reached the semifinals of the Champions League.

Porto v Liverpool (0-2 on aggregate)
Mohamed Salah looks back to his best after brilliant goals in successive weeks in the Premier League — against Southampton and then against Chelsea on Sunday — but he might count himself fortunate to be playing the second leg against Porto on Wednesday.
Match officials missed Salah’s studs-first lunge on Danilo near the end of the first leg at Anfield, which could easily have resulted in a red card and suspension.
Instead, Liverpool has its front three of Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane intact for the trip to Portugal. The last time the teams met in the Estadio do Dragao, Liverpool won 5-0 in the first leg of the round of 16, with that trio scoring all the goals.
Porto captain Hector Herrera is back from suspension, as is center back Pepe.


Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal into Monte Carlo last eight

Updated 18 April 2019
0

Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal into Monte Carlo last eight

  • Medvedev eliminates 6th seed Tsitsipas in three sets

MONTE CARLO: Top seed Novak Djokovic and 11-time champion Rafael Nadal showed no mercy in dominating wins to power into the Monte Carlo Masters quarterfinals on Thursday.

Djokovic extended his winning streak against US players with a 6-3, 6-0 defeat of Taylor Fritz.

The two-time tournament champion has now won nine in a row over Americans since losing at Wimbledon in 2016 to Sam Querrey.

“It was very challenging to play in these (windy) conditions,” Djokovic said. “Taylor just flattens the ball.

“We had five, six close games in the first set, I just managed to break his resistance midway through.

“After that, things went on my side and I felt more comfortable.

“This was one of these days where you just have to hang in there and try to put an extra ball back in the court — that was enough.”

Nadal repeated last year’s semifinal win over Grigor Dimitrov, beating the Bulgarian for the 12th time, 6-4, 6-1.

“I’m very, very happy, this is an important victory for me,” the second seed said after winning his 23rd consecutive set at the tournament.

“Grigor is a super talent and is very dangerous. It was a positive match for me.

“I had a good day, I can be happy with what I did on court.

“When you don’t play on clay for almost a year, every win is important for the confidence, especially as I’m coming back from injury.”

Spain’s 17-time Grand Slam champion started his clay season this week after missing a month with another knee problem and has title-holder points to defend here plus Barcelona, Rome and Roland Garros.

The king of clay is bidding for a 12th trophy in the principality. His record at the event is a staggering 70-4.

Nadal spent almost an hour in securing the first set but picked up the pace in the second as he ran out the winner.

He next faces Guido Pella, who defeated Italy’s Marco Cecchinato 6-4, 4-6, 6-4.

World No. 1 Djokovic will be playing his ninth quarterfinal here from 13 appearances at his home event.

Djokovic turned in a steady performance with a dozen winners and unforced errors, while his opponent committed nearly 30 unforced errors in 68 minutes.

Sixth seed Stefanos Tsitsipas earlier lost 6-2, 1-6, 6-4 as Daniil Medvedev continued his run of form.

The Russian will next line up against Djokovic after losing to him in January in the Australian Open fourth round.

Tsitsipas was caught on the back foot facing three match points as he trailed 0-40 on his serve late in the second set. After saving the first two, the Greek botched the third to seal his exit after an hour and three-quarters.

Medvedev increased his leading total of ATP season match wins to 20 as a result after he beat Tsitsipas for the fourth time in as many attempts.

“This was a great achievement for me,” Medvedev said. “Everything was perfect today.

“Some wind came up in the second set and I could not get used to it. But in the third, I just worked to put every ball in the court.

“I was pleased to fight back after going a break down in the third set.”

The player who stands a career-high 14th credits his rising form to a renewed dedication to the sport.

“I’ve been working hard for the past 18 months —  since before the start of 2018. I’ve dedicated my life to tennis, which I did not do before,” Medvedev said.

“I had my best season last year — hopefully this year will be better.”

The Russian reached his first quarterfinal at the Masters 1000 level after winning his second match against a Top 10 opponent.

Tsitsipas, runner-up last season to Nadal in Toronto, suffered his eighth defeat of the season against 18 wins and will try and lift his game next week on the clay of Barcelona. 

Italian qualifier Lorenzo Sonego defeated Britain’s Cameron Norrie 6-2, 7-5.