Teenager Erling Haaland scores hat-trick on Champions League debut

Salzburg striker Erling Haaland became only the eighth player to ever score three times on their Champions League debut.

Salzburg striker Erling Haaland enjoyed a Champions League debut to remember as he scored a hat-trick in the first half of their game against Genk.

The 19-year-old, son of ex-Manchester City and Leeds United defender Alf Inge Haaland, became only the eighth player to score three times on their debut in Europe’s elite competition.

He also became the first teenager to score more than once on his Champions League debut since Wayne Rooney’s hat-trick for Manchester United against Fenerbahce in September 2004.

 

Norway international Haaland, who had already scored 11 league goals this term heading into the match, took just two minutes to open his Champions League account before sealing his hat-trick just moments before half-time.

Rampant Salzburg ended the half 5-1 up on their Belgian opponents, with Hwang Hee-chan and Dominik Szoboszlai also on the scoresheet.

 

Borussia Dortmund 0-0 Barcelona: Marc-Andre Ter Stegen saves Valverde’s men as Lionel Messi returns

Marc-Andre ter Stegen saved a Marco Reus penalty as Barcelona just about did enough to draw 0-0 at Borussia Dortmund.

Lionel Messi’s second-half return from injury was not enough to inspire Barcelona to Champions League victory at Borussia Dortmund as Marc-Andre ter Stegen played a vital role in securing a 0-0 draw on Tuesday.

Talismanic forward Messi made his first appearance of the season after recovering from a calf injury, though he was a peripheral figure for Barca, who only secured a point thanks to Ter Stegen saving Marco Reus’ penalty.

Dortmund edged a first half that was cagier than many might have expected from a contest between two typically free-flowing sides, though proceedings were more stretched after the break.

Reus spurned a glorious chance to give the hosts the lead in the 57th minute when seeing his spot-kick kept out by Ter Stegen and then Julian Brandt hit the crossbar from long distance as Barca held on to a point.

 

Dortmund began the brighter of the two sides, but Barca crafted the first opening as Gerard Pique’s glancing header in the 13th minute flashed right across the face of goal.

They had to rely on Ter Stegen to remain level 12 minutes later, however, the German thwarting Reus from close range after he latched on to Thorgan Hazard’s incisive disguised pass.

Dortmund went close again six minutes before half-time, but Jadon Sancho fired just over from 20 yards after being teed up by Paco Alcacer at the end of well-worked counter.

Ter Stegen was Barca’s saviour once more just before the hour mark, producing a brilliant save down to his left to keep Reus’ penalty out after Nelson Semedo had trodden on Sancho’s foot.

Messi was introduced soon after for the quiet Ansu Fati, who became Barca’s youngest player in the Champions League.

Dortmund still looked livelier, as Alcacer and Reus shot over from close range, before Brandt’s 30-yard drive hit the bar, but Barca escaped unscathed.

 

What does it mean? Dortmund pay for lack of ruthlessness

Dortmund will not have many better opportunities to beat Barcelona, who were way short of their brilliant best.

With a penalty and several close-range chances, Dortmund will be left to reflect on having let their illustrious visitors off the hook.

Ter Stegen saves Barca

While he was not excessively busy, there is no doubt Ter Stegen was vital to Barca avoiding defeat. He made a wonderful block to deny Reus in the first half and then saved his penalty after the break.

 

Griezmann’s influence minimal

With Messi starting on the bench and Luis Suarez only just back from injury, Antoine Griezmann might have been expected to provide the spark for Barca in attack, but he was generally quiet, creating only one opportunity.

Key Opta Facts

– Borussia Dortmund have failed to score in five of their last six matches in the Champions League, having scored in 12 games in a row before this run.

– Barcelona are now unbeaten in their last 14 Champions League group stage matches against German sides (W11 D3), starting in October 2001 against Bayer Leverkusen.

– Marc-Andre ter Stegen, who kept out a Marco Reus penalty in the 57thminute, has now saved four of the six penalties he has faced in the Champions League.

– Ansu Fati (16years, 321days) became the first 16-year old to appear for Barcelona in Champions League history, overtaking Bojan (17y 22d) as their youngest player in the competition.

What’s next?

Dortmund have Bundesliga clashes with Eintracht Frankfurt and Werder Bremen before returning to European action at Slavia Prague on October 2. Barca host Inter on the same day in the Champions League, though they must face Granada, Villarreal and Getafe beforehand.

 

Ajax 3-0 Lille: Ten Hag’s men start Champions League campaign in style

Quincy Promes, Edson Alvarez and Nicolas Tagliafico were on target as Ajax thumped Lille 3-0 at the Johan Cruijff ArenA.

Last season’s beaten semi-finalists Ajax opened their 2019-20 Champions League campaign with a convincing 3-0 win over Lille on Tuesday.

Erik ten Hag’s side – who were denied a place in the final by Tottenham last term – were in dominant mood against their Ligue 1 opponents and looked well placed to claim all three points from the outset in Amsterdam.

Quincy Promes headed them into an 18th-minute lead before Edson Alvarez scored his first goal for the club five minutes after the interval.

Nicolas Tagliafico added a third with a thumping header after 62 minutes as the Dutch champions stormed into pole position in Group H.

Ajax started on the front foot and went agonisingly close to taking the lead in the 14th minute, Hakim Ziyech’s thunderous half-volley crashing back off Mike Maignan’s right-hand post.

They did not have to wait long to go ahead, though, as an unmarked Promes met Tagliafico’s deep cross with a powerful header just four minutes later.

Lille responded well to that early setback and should have pulled level moments before the interval. Jonathan Bamba picked out Jonathan Ikone after a surging run down the left but Andre Onana got down well to keep out his low effort, with Victor Osimhen hooking the rebound over the crossbar.

The hosts looked sharp at the start of the second period, Ziyech testing Maignan low down to his left with a fierce drive.

Their positive approach was rewarded in the 50th minute when David Neres slid Alvarez in down the right after a flowing team move and the Mexican superbly lifted a shot across the Lille goalkeeper from a tight angle to double their advantage.

 

Tagliafico ensured there would be no dramatic comeback from Lille when he made it 3-0 shortly after the hour mark, superbly heading home Ziyech’s outswinging corner.

Yusuf Yazici crashed an effort against the post late on as Lille tried in vain to restore some respectability to a scoreline that did not flatter the hosts.
What does it mean? Ajax move on from high-profile departures

They might have lost talented youngsters Matthijs de Ligt and Frenkie de Jong during the close season, but Ajax look well poised to enjoy another fruitful Champions League campaign. In Ziyech and Neres, they have two of the most exciting wide men in the tournament, who will surely give better defences that Lille’s trouble this season.

Ziyech continues to sparkle

Only Lionel Messi created more ‘big chances’ than Ziyech in last season’s competition and on this evidence, it is not hard to see why. The Moroccan was outstanding and can consider himself lucky not to have got on the scoresheet.

Osimhen’s misses haunt Lille

The French side were comfortably the inferior team but they might permit themselves to wonder what might have been had the Nigeria international taken either of the chances that fell to him. As it was, he squandered both and was duly punished by a ruthless Ajax side.

What’s next?

Ajax return to Eredivisie action on Sunday against rivals PSV with their next Champions League match against Valencia on October 2. Lille, meanwhile, face Rennes in Ligue 1 at the weekend before hosting Chelsea in matchweek two.

 

Tsonga back to winning ways in Metz, Donskoy sets up Medvedev date

After dropping down to the Challenger Tour for the second time this season, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga hit the ground running in Metz.

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga claimed his first ATP Tour win since July at the Moselle Open, while Evgeny Donskoy booked a date with US Open finalist Daniil Medvedev at the St Petersburg Open.

After first-round defeats at the Rogers Cup and US Open, Tsonga this month dropped down to the Challenger Tour and won the Cassis Open without dropping a set.

The former world number five, a three-time champion in Metz, came from a set down to defeat Pablo Andujar 3-6 6-1 6-2 and set up a second-round clash with Pierre-Hugues Herbert, who downed eighth seed Jan-Lennard Struff 7-6 (7-3) 6-4.

Pablo Carreno Busta made light work of Julian Lenz, triumphing 6-1 6-1 in just 57 minutes, and the Spaniard will face top seed David Goffin in round two.

There were also wins for Richard Gasquet, Lorenzo Sonego, Gregoire Barrere and Aljaz Bedene.

 

Donskoy overcame Matteo Viola 6-2 6-1 in St Petersburg but can expect a far sterner test against world number four and fellow Russian Medvedev in the second round.

Andrey Rublev rallied from a set down and then a break down in the third to triumph 4-6 6-0 6-4 against Ilya Ivashka. Ricardas Berankis awaits him after overcoming Dudi Sela 6-3 6-0 in 62 minutes.

Roberto Carballes Baena downed 2012 champion Martin Klizan 6-2 7-5, while Egor Gerasimov beat Lukas Rosol 7-5 6-2 and Janko Tipsarevic retired while 7-5 3-6 3-1 down to Damir Dzumhur.

 

Juventus must cope with ‘illogical phobia’ in Champions League – Maurizio Sarri

Juventus begin their Champions League bid at Atletico Madrid with Maurizio Sarri calling for them to handle the burden of expectation.

Maurizio Sarri has warned Juventus must escape the “illogical phobia” of previous Champions League campaigns if they are to prosper in it this season.

Juve travel to face another side Sarri believes can win the Champions League this season, Atletico Madrid, in Wednesday’s Group D opener.

The Italian giants have won eight Serie A titles in succession but have not triumphed in Europe’s elite competition since 1996.

They strengthened again in the close season, adding the likes of Matthijs de Ligt, Aaron Ramsey and Adrien Rabiot to an all-star squad already including Cristiano Ronaldo as they attempt to end that wait for Champions League glory.

“We don’t feel this pressure,” Sarri, who confirmed Miralem Pjanic is available, told a news conference.

 

“We are Juventus, every time we step on to the pitch, the objective is to win, but we also know full well there are 10-12 other teams who feel the same way and have the same resources as we do.

“At this moment, I don’t see Italian football as the favourites going into the Champions League, as over the last 20 years we’ve lost ground. The fault for that goes to everyone, from presidents to journalists, everything that surrounds the sport.

“I think we need to face this competition with exceptional determination, but also a relaxed mind. We’ve got to get back to enjoying our football, without this illogical phobia.

“Atletico Madrid are one of the teams who can win the Champions League. It’s difficult to fight against the Premier League sides, as they have so much money in the sport.

“Atletico lost an extraordinary player in Antoine Griezmann, but brought in one just as extraordinary in Joao Felix. Saul Niguez has made huge leaps forward and I consider him one of the best in Europe right now.

“Atleti have the players to beat anyone, but unfortunately at this level, you need mental strength, technique, tactics and a bit of luck.”

 

Man United players have faith in Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, says David De Gea

Fresh from signing a new deal with Manchester United, David de Gea has spoken glowingly of boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

David de Gea insists Manchester United’s players have complete faith in manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

The Red Devils have endured a mixed start to the 2019-20 campaign but returned to winning ways on Saturday with a slender 1-0 victory over Leicester City.

De Gea – who signed a new deal at Old Trafford until June 2023 on Monday – has dismissed suggestions some in the United camp are unhappy with Solskjaer, stating his belief the Norwegian is the right man for the job.

“From the moment he arrived here, he showed his faith in me, right from minute one,” the Spain international told the official Manchester United app. “I think he had a massive impact with the team. Everyone has faith in him, that’s the most important thing.

“The fans are behind him and he’s a manager who knows the club really well and the people who work here, and I reckon that is essential.

“He also shows a lot of confidence in the younger players, which is important for us, and so he’s a really great manager.”

While United have won just two of their opening five Premier League games, they do look more solid at the back following the arrivals of Harry Maguire and Aaron Wan-Bissaka.

 

They have conceded four goals in those games and De Gea is pleased with the enhancements in defence.

“I think we have improved a lot defensively,” he added. “We are conceding fewer goals than last season. I think that, last year, we were letting in too many goals, but we are defending better and, from there, the team is improving.

“Of course, when you defend well, the team is bound to improve. We have some great players up front and we just have to keep on improving.

“There are lots of things we can work on, so, little by little, we can try and build a very strong team, a team which can dominate games more and dictate the play and, with that, win games.”

 

Thomas Tuchel wants aggressive Paris Saint-Germain against Real Madrid

Thomas Tuchel wants to see an aggressive Paris Saint-Germain against Real Madrid in their opening Champions League group match.

Paris Saint-Germain coach Thomas Tuchel has told his players to show their aggressive streak against Real Madrid and banish the memories of their soft exit from last season’s Champions League

PSG were knocked out in the last 16 of the competition on away goals last season after a timid 3-1 home defeat to Manchester United having won the first leg of the tie 2-0 at Old Trafford.

Tuchel’s side kick off their 2019-2020 campaign with the German eager for his players to show they have learned from the pain of that exit.

“It was a very long and hard phase after the defeat,” Tuchel said. “We were not satisfied at all, but it is also necessary to forget and look forward.

“I do not want to be too passive. Real Madrid will have the ball too. They are very strong, brave, they have won many times in the Champions League.

“It’s a tough match, it’s also a great match. I want to be aggressive and play fast.

“We had a lot of changes, with new players. We have gained in personality and experience. We have a good team. It’s time to trust and look forward.

“This competition is very difficult and we will see tomorrow already if we are able to give all the energy needed to fight 90 minutes with our supporters at our side.”

 

 

 

Neymar returned to PSG’s side at the weekend and scored a dramatic late winner against Strasbourg despite being booed by swathes of home supporters at the Parc des Princes.

Tuchel claimed there were never any issues between himself and the player. The Brazil forward is banned for the game against Madrid, one of the clubs linked with him in the last transfer window.

“Between me and Ney, everything is clear,” Tuchel added. “He is our player. There has never been a problem between me and my player.”

Madrid are missing the experienced presence of defenders Sergio Ramos and Marcelo, who are suspended and injured respectively, at the back.

Los Blancos centre-back Raphael Varane believes whoever features for Zinedine Zidane’s side will be able to handle the pressure of a high-intensity occasion.

“Experience is always a plus, but it’s not everything,” Varane said. “We know the difficulty. We know how to approach it.

“We will try to be as serene as possible and show application in what we will do. We come with the ambition to win.

“You have to be efficient, kill matches when you have the opportunity. It is played on small details at the highest level. That’s why it’s so demanding. It requires concentration at all times.”

 

Juventus are more than just Cristiano Ronaldo, warns Jose Gimenez

Atletico Madrid must not focus solely on Cristiano Ronaldo during their Champions League opener against Juventus, says Jose Gimenez.

Cristiano Ronaldo is not the only threat Atletico Madrid will have to contend with against juventus, Jose Gimenez has warned ahead of Wednesday’s Champions League showdown.

Ronaldo scored a hat-trick in the last meeting between the two sides in March, securing a 3-2 aggregate win for Juve in Turin.

While that victory sent Juve into the quarter-finals – where they were beaten by Ajax – their reunion with Atletico comes in the opening fixture of Group D, which also includes Bayer Leverkusen and Lokomotiv Moscow.

Former Real Madrid star Ronaldo has a great record against Los Blancos’ rivals and is the record goalscorer in Madrid derbies.

But Gimenez does not believe Atletico will need to draw any extra motivation from Juve’s comeback, and urged them not to focus too much on Ronaldo.

“The motivation comes from us, the past is the past,” Gimenez said ahead of the match at Wanda Metropolitano.

“We want to play with the same desire we have in any game, in any competition.

“He’s a great striker, but Juve is not just Cristiano Ronaldo. We can’t think of the game that way. The important thing is to do a great group job.

“We are always motivated. But we know how important this game is, it is the first of the group. It’s another season, with other players, it’s all different.”

 

 

Coach Diego Simeone echoed Gimenez’s thoughts, though conceded Atletico may not be able to keep out Ronaldo if he is in the mood once more.

“It is difficult to prepare a game against him,” said Simeone.

“He is a goal animal, he is at a different level and with him in the area he needs attention, he is not easy to control, he has a change of pace and an ability to score that we have suffered as seen.”

Portugal’s next rising star is Joao Felix, who has scored one goal in four LaLiga appearances so far this season for Atletico following his €126million move from Benfica, but Simeone stressed the 19-year-old will need time to adapt to the intensity of the Champions League.

“Champions are talented players who can make you win games against any rival,” he said.

“We are trying to improve, to grow, to adapt to this type of competition, to make young players understand what it is. I think with Joao Felix, it will take time.”

 

Inter 1-1 Slavia Prague: Nicolo Barella rescues point for Conte

Antonio Conte’s first Champions League match in charge of Inter ended in a fortunate draw with Slavia Prague.

An injury-time equaliser from Nicolo Barella denied Slavia Prague a famous Champions League win over Inter at San Siro on Tuesday.

The champions of the Czech Republic were not expected to escape from a daunting Group F that also contains Borussia Dortmund and Barcelona but looked on course for a deserved victory in Milan through Peter Olayinka.

Slavia could have added to their tally and were punished in second-half stoppage time, as Barella’s shot bounced through a crowded box and into the left-hand corner to ensure the game finished 1-1.

Inter started slowly until Stefan de Vrij headed over when unmarked six yards out, before Lautaro Martinez fired narrowly wide.

Danilo D’Ambrosio’s header was denied by Ondrej Kolar, who was then lucky not to give away a goal as he made a mess of an attempted clearance but Inter were largely lifeless in the first half.

Kolar had to react smartly to stop Stefano Sensi’s cross creeping in and then keep out Martinez’s rebound, before Kwadwo Asamoah avoided a red card following a VAR review for a foul on Ibrahim Benjamin Traore, who had to be substituted.

It was his replacement, Jaroslav Zeleny, whose first-time shot was superbly saved by Samir Handanovic only for Olayinka to pounce and turn the ball high into the net to give Slavia their shock lead.

Buoyed by the breakthrough, Slavia continued pressing high and should have scored a second through Lukas Masopust, who blazed over the bar from the edge of the box.

It was substitute Barella who rescued a result for Antonio Conte’s side, his half-volley finding a way into the net after Sensi’s free-kick had crashed off the crossbar.

 

What does it mean? Conte’s Champions League return off to a bleak start

Conte could not match his domestic success in Europe with Juventus and this was an uninspiring start to Champions League life with Inter.

In a group containing Barca and Dortmund, a draw at home to the weakest of the four teams – on paper at least – has put the Nerazzurri at a disadvantage after only one matchday.

Slavia might just fancy one or two more shocks, though, given the nature of their performance here.

Soucek supreme

Slavia captain Tomas Soucek was efficient on the ball and proved a valuable screen to the back four, keeping Inter’s limp attack nullified.

Martinez a figure of frustration

Having missed two presentable opportunities, Martinez was booked for dissent after conceding a free-kick near his own penalty area, compounding an unhappy outing.

Key Opta Facts

– Inter have only managed to win one of their last five opening matches of a Champions League campaign (P5 W1 D3 L1).

– Despite avoiding defeat in three of their last four Champions League games (D3 L1), Slavia Prague are winless in their last six matches in the competition since they beat FCSB in their first ever Champions League encounter back in September 2007 (P6 W0 D3 L3).

– Peter Olayinka became just the fifth different Nigerian to score on their Champions League debut after Daniel Amokachi, Victor Ikpeba, Lucky Idahor and Yakubu.

– Nicolo Barella’s equaliser (91:47) is Inter’s latest Champions League goal since Giampaolo Pazzini netted against Marseille back in March 2012 (95:28).

What’s next?

Inter, who face AC Milan in the derby this weekend, head to Barcelona on Champions League matchday two on October 2. Slavia host Borussia Dortmund.

 

Lyon 1-1 Zenit: Depay penalty earns Group G draw

Sardar Azmoun scored the first goal of the 2019-20 Champions League, but his Zenit side had to settle for a draw against Lyon.

Memphis Depay’s penalty saw Lyon come from behind to draw 1-1 at home to Zenit in the opening round of Champions League fixtures.

Zenit scored the first goal of the group stage through Sardar Azmoun but Lyon hit back six minutes into the second half with a penalty earned and scored by Depay.

Both teams pushed for victory in Tuesday’s Group G game but were unable to find a late breakthrough.

Lyon started on top with Moussa Dembele curling a shot narrowly over the crossbar, although Branislav Ivanovic had wasted a free header at the other end.

Marcelo then nodded wide from a Depay corner as Lyon continued to press, but Zenit opened the scoring against the run of play in the 41st minute.

 

A clever one-two with Artem Dzyuba on the edge of Lyon’s box sent Azmoun through and he poked his finish past onrushing goalkeeper Anthony Lopes.

Lyon pulled level early in the second half, though, Depay coolly converting a penalty he won himself by drawing a foul from Magomed Ozdoev – who had only just come off the bench – in the area.

The equaliser boosted Lyon and Jeff Reine-Adelaide should have put them in front after Zenit were carved open, the former Arsenal youngster instead firing wide from the edge of the box.

That opportunity proved the clearest chance to score a winner for either side, with the spoils shared after Depay failed to make the most of being played in by Reine-Adelaide.

What does it mean? Group G looks wide open

The result will have pleased all four teams who landed in this group, which looks the most unpredictable of the eight sections. Each club, including Benfica and RB Leipzig, will fancy their chances of progressing with the top two spots completely up for grabs.

Depay leads Lyon recovery

Lyon were on top in the first half without creating a great deal, but after the break Depay stepped up. The Netherlands forward can be inconsistent but won the penalty with a moment of magic that was far too good for Ozdoev to deal with.

Of Lyon’s last five Champions League goals, Depay has been directly involved in four.

 

Zhirkov anonymous for Zenit

One of the most experienced players in the competition, 36-year-old Yuri Zhirkov did not offer enough creativity on the wing for the Russian champions. It was no surprise to see coach Sergei Semak replace him with Daler Kuzyaev midway through the second period.

Key Opta Facts

– Lyon are the first team in Champions League history to draw six consecutive home matches in the competition.

– This was Zenit’s first away Champions League draw since December 2011 against Porto, ending a run of 15 matches without a draw (W6 D0 L9).

– Lyon have lost only one of their last 15 home European matches (W7 D7 L1), a 3-2 defeat to CSKA Moscow in March 2018 in the Europa League.

– Lyon scored a penalty in a Champions League match for the first time since September 2010, with this their 35th Champions League game since then.

What’s next?

Zenit are at home to Rubin Kazan in the Russian Premier League on Saturday, the day before Lyon host Ligue 1 champions Paris Saint-Germain. Matchweek two of the Champions League, played early next month, sees Lyon go to Leipzig, while Zenit host Benfica.

 

Keeping Neymar is PSG’s most important ‘signing’, claims PSG team-mate Marco Verratti

Paris Saint-Germain managed to keep Neymar in the transfer window and Marco Verratti believes that was vital to the Ligue 1 champions.

Keeping Neymar amid interest from Barcelona was Paris Saint-Germain’s most important piece of business in the transfer window, according to his team-mate Marco Verratti.

Brazil star Neymar was strongly linked with a return to Barca, whom he left two years ago in a world-record €222million move.

The two clubs held meetings and Barca confirmed their interest in the forward, but their reported offer of €130m plus Ivan Rakitic, Jean-Clair Todibo and Ousmane Dembele – the latter apparently having been offered on loan – fell short when the former Borussia Dortmund winger rejected a proposed switch.

As such, many consider PSG’s Champions League chances to be greater, and although suspension rules him out of their first two games of the European campaign, Verratti believes retaining Neymar’s services was the best bit of recruitment work the club did in the transfer window.

“We need players like Neymar or Kylian [Mbappe], who are a bit above everyone else,” Verratti told reporters.

“Neymar had a difficult time with off-field moments that have somewhat destabilised him, but when he learned that he was staying, I saw him with a smile as always.

“He loves football, he is a player who will help us a lot. We are lucky to have him in Paris, we must enjoy him. I know the fans have not forgotten [what happened], but I hope Neymar will do everything [to forget the drama] and we will celebrate all this together at the end of the season.

“In football, there are always some nice moments and I hope that it will end well. Neymar will give 110 per cent.

“Neymar is perhaps the most important player we recruited. There are more favoured teams than us, but we will give everything.

“If we go out, it’ll because the opponents are better than us, but I do not want to go out and have regrets like last year [against Manchester United].”

 

Neymar, Kylian Mbappe and Edinson Cavani will all miss PSG’s Group A opener against Real Madrid on Wednesday, meaning Mauro Icardi could lead the line at the Parc des Princes.

The Argentina forward featured as a substitute in the 1-0 win over Strasbourg on Saturday and, although Verratti accepts he is still integrating, he is confident Icardi will prove his worth.

“It takes a little more time to get to know everyone, but it’s easy to play with him,” Verratti said of the on-loan Inter forward.

“He can score at any time. He can help us, he knows how to play with his team-mates and we are happy.

“We have to wait a bit to see the real Icardi. He has been out for a long time, but he is a magnificent player.”

 

Ansu Fati starts for Barcelona against Dortmund, Lionel Messi benched

Lionel Messi is only on the bench for Barcelona against Borussia Dortmund, but rising star Ansu Fati is in the starting XI.

Ansu Fati will become Barcelona’s youngest player to feature in the Champions League after being named in their team to face Borussia Dortmund, while Lionel Messi is on the bench.

Messi has yet to feature this term due to a calf injury but has been deemed fit enough to be included on the bench for Tuesday’s Group F game in Germany.

His absence has helped clear the path for Fati to come through and the 16-year-old, who has scored two LaLiga goals in three appearances, will get a chance to impress on Europe’s grandest stage.

Fati starts in a front three alongside the returning Luis Suarez and Antoine Griezmann, who makes his Champions League debut for Barca.

Griezmann’s fellow new signing Frenkie de Jong also starts.

 

Suarez, who came off the bench to score twice in a 5-2 defeat of Valencia last time out, replaces Carles Perez in Barca’s only change from that game.

Dortmund’s XI includes former Barca striker Paco Alcacer, with the Spain international having already hit five Bundesliga goals this season.

 

Eden Hazard ready to play from the start against PSG – Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane

Zinedine Zidane says he has no issues giving Eden Hazard his first Real Madrid start against Paris Saint-Germain on Wednesday.

Eden Hazard is ready to start Wednesday’s Champions League clash against Paris Saint-Germain, according to Real Madrid head coach Zinedine Zidane.

The Belgium international, who joined Madrid from Chelsea in June, has only recently returned to training following a thigh injury and made his debut in Saturday’s LaLiga victory over Levante as a second-half substitute.

The Spanish giants kick off their campaign to win a 14th Champions League title at PSG and Zidane is confident Hazard will feature from the start.

“You will see how we’re going to play tomorrow, but Hazard is ready to play and ready to start,” he told a media conference. “We’ve had some good training sessions recently and he’s ready.”

Zidane was quick to praise French striker Karim Benzema following PSG boss Thomas Tuchel’s assertion that he is “fantastic and undervalued”.

“It hasn’t been easy for him but he’s always showed the kind of player he is,” he added. “He’s a goalscorer but that’s not the most important thing in football.

 

 

“He’s a team player and that’s what I like the most. I think he’s fantastic, just like Tuchel said. I think the same way.”

James Rodriguez played the full 90 minutes of the weekend win over Levante, teeing up Benzema for Los Blancos’ second goal.

Zidane would not be drawn on whether he would start against the Ligue 1 champions, but he did praise the Colombia international’s versatility.

“We’ll see, because he can play everywhere, but it’s true that it is easier for him to play up front,” he said. “It’s important for him to be in good form and he is. His position on the field can change because he is a quality player.”

Madrid and PSG are red-hot favourites to progress from Group A, which also includes Club Brugge and Galatasaray, with Zidane suggesting the French champions have enough quality to go all the way.

“PSG is also a favourite in the Champions League because they are a great team,” he said. “They are always dangerous although sometimes they do not get the expected results.

“But it is a team that is dangerous, which they show every weekend. With [Edinson] Cavani, [Kylian] Mbappe and Neymar they are better, but they are a team that is at a very high level even without those three.”

 

Svitolina through in Guangzhou, Wang crashes out

Elina Svitolina in action

Wang Qiang succumbed to a first-round loss against Shuai Peng, but Elina Svitolina coasted through at the Guangzhou Open.

Elina Svitolina made up for a sluggish start by beating Dalila Jakupovic in straight sets at the Guangzhou Open but second seed Wang Qiang crashed out.

World number three Svitolina, who reached the semi-finals of the US Open, dropped her serve in the opening game of her first-round clash before reeling off five in succession en route to taking the set.

The top seeded Ukrainian fended off four break points to consolidate starting the second with a break, but she was unable to serve out the match at the first attempt.

Svitolina responded immediately, though, breaking to complete the 6-3 6-3 triumph in just 69 minutes and setting up a meeting with Marie Bouzkova.

Wang saved four match points against Shuai Peng but was unable to join Svitolina in the second round.

Although Wang moved ahead of Shuai with four breaks across the match, she got only 43 per cent of her first serves in and won just 54% of points behind it in a 7-5 6-2 loss.

Katarina Zavatska came from behind to defeat Fiona Ferro 5-7 7-6 (8-6) 6-4 in three hours and 27 minutes – the longest WTA Tour main-draw match of the year.

Sofia Kenin, Zhang Shuai, Katerina Siniakova and Zheng Saisai were the other seeds to advance.

At the Korea Open, Patricia Maria Tig made the most of top seed Maria Sakkari’s withdrawal due to a right wrist injury by defeating lucky loser Danka Kovinic 6-4 3-6 7-6 (7-3).

Jelena Ostapenko, the champion in 2017, fell 6-3 6-3 to Timea Babos, while sixth seed Polona Hercog went down 6-3 3-6 6-1 against Ana Bogdan.

There were also wins for Karolina Muchova and Ajla Tomljanovic, seeded third and fifth respectively.