Europa League round-up: Five-star Manchester United, Rangers lose in Europe for first time under Steven Gerrard

Amidst rumours of a possible suspension, the Europa League continued on Thursday – albeit with 2 games cancelled and only one match played with fans in the stadium. FOX Sports Asia rounds-up the key talking points from the competitions latest set of fixtures.

Five-star Manchester United now the favourites to win Europa League?

Manchester United came into their Europa League game expecting a tricky away fixture against LASK who is a not-so-well-known opponent. However, they were able to run riot against the Austrian Bundesliga leaders – as Odion Ighalo continued his United fairy-tale with a fantastic goal, while Daniel James, Juan Mata, Mason Greenwood and Andreas Pereira all joining in on the goal-fest.

The Red Devils had entered the round-of-16 virtue of a 6-1 aggregate victory against Belgium league leaders Club Brugge. With the Austrian league leaders also put to the sword and with the big guns from the Serie A and La Liga in jeopardy courtesy of the COVID-19 situation, Manchester United are surely the favourites for the title now?

Rangers lose in Europe at home for the first time under Gerrard

Rangers’s fixture against Bayer Leverkusen in Ibrox was the only Europa League game to go ahead with a packed stadium on Thursday, as other teams played under closed doors.

Instead of playing into the hand of Steven Gerrard’s team, however, it was the away side who played to entertain the crowd as they dominated the first-half and deservedly went 1-0 up via a Kai Havertz penalty. Charles Aranguiz then scored a stunner for them before Edmundson scored Rangers’ first and only goal.

Later, it was Leon Bailey who settled Bayer Leverkusen’s nerves with a beautiful curler to make it three for his team and give them a two-goal lead going into the second leg that will be played behind closed doors in Germany.

Reluctant-to-travel Wolves draw against 10-man Olympiacos

Wolverhampton Wanderers had officially requested the Europa League to postpone their game after it came to light that the Olympiacos owner had tested positive for COVID-19. The competition had however denied their request and the English side were forced to play out their fixture despite their reservations.

Olympiacos opened the scoring in the 54th minute in spite of being reduced to 10 men as early as the 28th minute, after Ruben Semedo was sent off. But Wolves did not lose their composure and pushed on to score an equalizer later on.

Neither of the teams could grab a winner however and will have a go at it again in the second leg in a week’s time.

First set of closed-door fixtures

The Europa League played out its first set of closed-door fixtures and they were clearly a rather curious experience for players and viewers alike. The subdued atmosphere was nowhere close to the intensity of a real game, with teams seeming a tad slower and less under-pressure as compared to open-door fixtures.

The viewers are of course used to the hustle and bustle of a packed stadium and hearing nothing but the calls of players and coaches for the entire 90 minutes, which in turn made for a rather unenjoyable viewing experience. There was also the matter of certain teams being robbed of their home advantage but as things stand, the situation is what it is.

Other results

Eintracht Frankfurt 0-3 FC Basel

Istanbul Basaksehir 1-0 FC Copenhagen

VfL Wolfsburg 1-2 Shakhtar Donetsk

Inter Milan – Getafe CF Postponed 

Sevilla – AS Roma Postponed

Liverpool 2-3 Atletico Madrid: 5 talking points as Atletico knock holders out of Champions League

Atletico Madrid turned the game on its head to knock holders Liverpool out of the UEFA Champions League in an intense clash at the Anfield on Wednesday. FOX Sports Asia takes a look at the key talking points from the encounter.

#1 Wijnaldum equalizer sets up classic 

Who else but him? It seemed like Liverpool’s first-half pressure would be in vain, until last season’s European hero Georginio Wijnaldum popped up with another crucial goal. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s ball for Wijnaldum left him with a lot to do, but the Dutchman’s header into the ground was near-perfect and beat Atletico goalkeeper Jan Oblak to make it 1-0 on the night and one-all on aggregate. The game was now set up perfectly for another European classic, which eventually it turned out to be.

#2 Oblak drags Atletico to extra-time 

He has been heralded as one of the world’s best time and again over the past couple of seasons and Jan Oblak showed Anfield his worth—dragging Atletico to extra-time single-handedly. The goalkeeper pulled off save after save as his team defended deep.

Oblak reminded Liverpool of the difference a top keeper can make on the night when the Reds needed their own first-choice custodian more than ever. As for Atletico, they had no right at all to force extra-time, but for their superhuman-like goalkeeper.

#3 Firminho wins it for Liverpool, not!

Roberto Firmino hadn’t scored a goal at Anfield all season but when it finally came, it almost seemed like he had been saving it up for a worthy occasion. Gini Wijnaldum’s dash-and-cross from near the half-line set up Firmino for a header which bounced back off the post onto his feet and he made no mistakes the second time around.

Liverpool wheeled off in celebration and Firminho’s first home goal of the season looked to have won it for his team. Anfield had weaved it’s magic once again. But a certain Marcos Llorente had other ideas.

#4 Adrian howler sends Liverpool packing 

Jurgen Klopp will no doubt believe Adrian’s howler that let Marcos Llorente score was the game’s one defining moment. Having already seen a Champions League trophy snatched away from his team courtesy of former goalkeeper Loris Karius, it’s almost cruel that Klopp’s team are victim to another such mistake.

Liverpool were seemingly cruising after Bobby Firminho’s goal in extra time before goalkeeper Adrian sent a routine pass straight to the feet of Atletico midfielder Llorente, who then rolled the ball into the bottom corner past the poorly-positioned goalkeeper. That wasn’t all as Llorente scored another one from outside of the box to put his side 3-2 up on aggregate, with Alvaro Morata then making it 4-2 with almost the last kick of the game.

#5 Liverpool’s season ends with a whimper 

When Klopp decided to prioritize the Premier League and the Champions League over domestic cup competitions, he knew the risk it posed and that is something his team must now face. The Premier League was done and dusted a couple of months back and prior to their knockout game against Atletico, Liverpool had already been eliminated from all domestic cups. Having now been knocked out of Europe however, Liverpool have nothing left to play for with over two months of the season left. For a team that is about to claim it’s first league title in 30 years, it is a rather curious predicament to be in!

 

PSG 2-0 Borussia Dortmund: 5 talking points as PSG secure quarterfinals berth behind closed-doors in Paris

A closed-doors fixture posed no problems for the French Ligue 1 giants Paris Saint Germain (PSG) as they scored two and kept a clean sheet to knock Borussia Dortmund out of the UEFA Champions League. FOX Sports Asia takes a look at the key talking points from the Parc des Princes.

#1 First-half PSG blitz seals game 

PSG’s first-leg performance in Germany brought back memories of their numerous early European exits in the past few seasons and they were under big pressure to deliver a result this time around. They did not disappoint and for the first time in a while, the team from Paris delivered a big European performance when it mattered most.

Neymar opened the scoring in the 22nd minute before Juan Bernat scored his first goal in 11 months to make it two,  a strike which eventually turned out to be the winner. Big result for the Parisians.

#2 Emre Can ill-discipline cost Dortmund the tie

Borussia Dortmund needed a goal to force extra-time but Emre Can did his team no favours with his ill-discipline. The midfielder had his name taken into the book in the 88th minute and had his marching orders less than 60 seconds later.

Neymar took exception to Can’s challenge on him and the German responded by pushing him to the ground, forcing referee Anthony Taylor to issue him a second yellow card moments after his first. Can’s red card epitomized how Dortmund had self-destructed on the night and it was game over for both, the team and the player.

#3 Haaland and Sancho go missing 

Dortmund’s stars from the first-leg, Erling Haaland and Jadon Sancho were nowhere to be seen when their team needed them the most. Under no real pressure and expectation, the youngsters delivered the goods in the first-leg, but the best players must be the first ones to show up when the chips are down as well.

While Halaand was mostly subdued after an early booking, Sancho made the wrong choices on a number of occasions, including once when he should have squared to the Norwegian instead of going for goal on his own at the keeper’s near post. Poor performance but an experience that will certainly do the duo a world of good.

#4 Thomas Tuchel hangs on to his job – for now 

PSG’s decision to stick with Thomas Tuchel after their Champions League debacle against Manchester United last season was a surprise but there was no doubt his job was on the line against Dortmund this time around as well. The league is always a certainty for the Parisians and it is no secret that the Champions League is their ‘holy grail’.

The German did well to inspire a big performance from his team on Wednesday but he knows any relief he has at the moment is only temporary. Tuchel’s job security depends on PSG winning the Champions League and he will surely be sweating again come their next two-legged knockout tie.

#5 PSG to go all the way in Europe? 

After ending their last-16 hoodoo, PSG will no doubt be looking to go all the way in Europe this time around. The draws in the last-16 this time around mean some of the big guns will be knocked out early-on and they must look to take advantage. While one can’t take anything for granted due to the nature of the Champions League, this is surely PSG’s best chance to win the trophy they have coveted for so long.

 

Valencia 3-4 Atalanta: 5 talking points as Atalanta secure maiden Champions League quarterfinals berth

Italian Serie A surprise package Atalanta have knocked Valencia out of the UEFA Champions League with an 8-4 aggregate score in the round-of-16 tie. FOX Sports Asia takes a look at the key talking points from the game. 

#1 Irresistible Ilicic scores four 

Josip Ilicic has been sensational for Atalanta in the league the past couple of seasons and the attacking midfielder is now proving his worth in Europe as well. The Slovenian put in a stunning individual display to win the game almost entirely by himself—scoring two goals either side of half-time.

Ilicic scored two penalties in the first half, followed by two fine strikes in the 71st and the 82nd minute to put the game to bed—bringing his Champions League goal-tally, which stood at one before the game, to a formidable five goals at full-time.

#2 Disastrous Diakhaby

If Ilicic’s performance was one of the pure class,  Mouctar Diakhaby’s display was a horror-show. Diakhaby started off in ominous fashion, giving away a penalty as early as the third minute, which Ilicic duly converted to put Atalanta 5-0 up on aggregate.

Kevin Gameiro’s equalizer at 1-1 gave Valencia hope before Diakhaby appeared once more to gift Valencia a second penalty, Ilicic doing the needful again to score his team’s second of the night. Any momentum his team had gathered, the centre-back destroyed with his lack of concentration and this will not be a game that he will look back on fondly.

#3 Dark horses Atalanta can start dreaming 

If there is one thing Gian Piero Gasperini’s Atalanta side do, it is to entertain. It is this very brand of free-flowing football that has led them into the quarterfinals of the UEFA Champions League. The Italian side can take heart from Tottenham Hotspur’s run to the finals last season as proof that anything is possible once you get to the last-eight.

Atalanta are fourth in the Serie A but have scored 70 goals, 10 more than Lazio who are second with 60 goals scored. Gasperini’s boys have the tools to take the game to the opposition, almost turning it into a punch-for-punch boxing match and will certainly believe they can outscore any team in a goal-fest.

#4 Closed-doors match fails to keep fans at home 

As a part of measures to prevent the spread of the coronavirus epidemic, Valencia’s second-leg tie at the Mestalla was played behind closed doors. However, even the dreaded virus failed to keep fans at bay as thousands gathered to greet the home team’s bus pre-match.

While the approach can certainly be termed as foolhardy, it also showcases the lengths fans are willing to go for the team they love. “Our hearts and souls are always in Mestalla”, read a banner put up over the stadium’s empty seats, perfectly illustrating the sentiments of the supporters for their club.

#5 Valencia can take heart from spirited display 

After their capitulation in the first-leg, Valencia’s display in the second-leg was thoroughly refreshing despite a defeat. The Spanish club folded meekly in Italy as Atalanta ran riot, but refused to surrender this time around, despite their opponents scoring just as many as they had in the first leg.

Kevin Gameiro equalized twice to make things level, and Valencia even led briefly at 3-2 after Ferran Torres’s sumptuous lob before another two goals by Ilicic sealed the game.

RB Leipzig 3-0 Tottenham Hotspur: 5 talking points as shambolic Spurs knocked out of Champions League

Tottenham Hotspur were knocked out of Europe by a fantastic RB Leipzig side that dominated from start to finish. FOX Sports Asia takes a look at the key talking points from the encounter.

#1 Quick-fire Sabitzer double ends Spurs hopes 

Tottenham Hotspur were looking to get off to a quick start in Germany and they almost did – before Marcel Sabitzer scored his first goal completely against the run of play in the 10th minute. Timo Werner’s set up was gladly tucked into the net by Sabitzer to open the scoring for Leipzig, despite Hugo Lloris getting a hand to his strike

Tottenham were clearly shaken and began to struggle as Leipzig tried to put the game beyond them with a second goal. It took only 11 more minutes for Sabitzer to virtually seal the game with his second of the night. Manchester City’s on-loan full-back Angelino’s whipped cross was directed into the net with a near-post header by the midfielder, with Lloris again getting a hand to it but failing to save. Game over for Spurs.

#2 Leipzig and Nagelsmann make history 

For the uninitiated, purely in terms of age, Julian Nagelsmann is more likely to be thought of as a top-level player coming to the end of his career than as a manager. Indeed, the Leipzig manager has set a new record by becoming the youngest manager to progress from a UEFA Champions League knockout tie.

Similarly, for his team, this is a historic occasion as well. RB Leipzig have qualified for the knockout phases of the Champions League for the first time in their entire history. Big, big moment for both the club and their young manager.

#3 Leaky Spurs defence Mourinho’s big worry 

Simply put, there hasn’t been a Jose Mourinho team that leaks goals the way Tottenham Hotspur are doing at the moment. After joining a new club, the first thing the Portuguese usually does is shut up shop, something which hasn’t happened at Spurs – only Aston Villa have conceded more goals amongst Premier League clubs than Tottenham since Mourinho’s appointment.

Even more uncharacteristic is the nature of Tottenham’s games. They play an unusually open brand of football for a Mourinho team, with most games being open, end-to-end affairs. Whatever the case may be, the manager is clearly struggling to get his message across to the team.

#4 Top-four the only priority for Spurs now 

Coping with multiple injuries has ultimately proved fatal for a Tottenham Hotspur side who have been knocked out of all the cup competitions this season. Leipzig have ended their European dream on Tuesday while Norwich knocked them out of the FA Cup just a week prior.

Despite patchy form in the league, the equally poor form of the teams around them has meant they are still in contention for a top-four spot. Seven points off Chelsea in fourth place, a top-four finish, should they secure it, will be the only saving grace in what has been a disastrous season.

#5 German teams showing their worth in Europe 

Of the three German teams left in the Champions League, none have been handed a straightforward last-16 draw – and none have disappointed with their performance so far.

Bayern Munich thrashed Chelsea 3-0 in the first-leg to more or less seal a quarter-finals berth, Borussia Dortmund dominated PSG for 90 minutes to put them on the brink of an exit and RB Leipzig are through to the quarter-finals with a 4-0 win on aggregate.

It’s becoming increasingly clear that teams from Germany are no longer the pushovers they used to be in Europe and are finally proving their worth.

 

Champions League preview: Tottenham need vintage Mourinho to turn round-of-16 tie around against RB Leipzig

Jose Mourinho is a renowned name in the football world after having won more than a dozen trophies over the course of the last two decades in four countries across Europe. One of the reasons for the Portuguese’s success is his ability to thrive when others did not give him a chance to succeed.

On Tuesday, Mourinho is facing one of those moments again as his Tottenham Hotspur team are travelling to Germany to face RB Leipzig in the second-leg of the UEFA Champions League round-of-16 clash.

The North London-based club were outplayed in the first-leg while playing at home against the German Bundesliga side who emerged 1-0 victorious, courtesy penalty striker from star striker Timo Werner.

But if a disappointing result in the first-leg was not enough, Spurs are facing a barrage of issues, both on and off the field.

Spurs’ injury crisis

Steven Bergwijn’s name is the latest to be added to the long injury list at the club which also includes the likes of star strikers Harry Kane and Son Heung-Min.

The newly-signed winger has been sidelined for sometime after suffering an ankle sprain which is another blow for the Premier League club.

In the midst of all this is Mourinho. The Portuguese’s recent press conferences have been edgier than ever, and he clearly looks frustrated with his team’s current situation.

Big-game pedigree

However, this is a man famed for being a master navigator of the Champions League. The ‘old Mourinho’, so to say, had a solution for every situation and every team.

From jumping into laundry baskets to circumnavigate a stadium ban to making handcuff gestures on the touchline, he has done it all.

Porto, Chelsea, Inter Milan and Real Madrid—all the classic Mourinho teams started off as underdogs whom he inspired to titles in the unlikeliest of circumstances—very similar to the situation Spurs face tonight.

But what exactly makes him the perfect candidate to mastermind such a turnaround?

Ever since his first big job at Porto where he led them to a treble, Mourinho’s name has been associated with the big games.

His touchline dash at Old Trafford after Porto scored a late winner to knock Manchester United out of the Champions League is the stuff of fairytales and there have been so many such moments since.

Serie A giants Inter knocking one of the best Barcelona teams ever out of the Champions League is another big result that stands out.

The reason one remembers his antics however is because the results he earns give him the right to ‘take the mickey’.
Statistically, Mourinho is joint-second in Champions League knockout wins (27), a position he shares with the likes of Carlo Ancelotti and Sir Alex Ferguson. Only Pep Guardiola is in front of the trio with 28 wins.

Ability to create a siege mentality

A recurrent theme of Mourinho’s reign in each of the teams he has been successful with is the siege mentality he fosters. This is a manager with special expertise in creating an us-versus-the-world feeling within the club which in turn creates an unbelievable feeling of togetherness, both on and off the pitch.

Snapping at journalists, sarcastically laughing at criticism-filled questions, blaming the referees – it is all to create a feeling of everything being against his team. Taking into account his recent press conferences, one can only assume he is doing the same at Spurs.

You get the feeling that Tottenham Hotspurs will definitely need this mentality if they are to succeed in turning the tie around—especially on a night like this when for once, it actually does feel like everything and everyone might well be against them.

Tactical prowess

Whether or not talks about his man-management being outdated hold credence, Mourinho certainly knows a thing or two about tactics.

Even when going through a relatively disappointing spell at United, he pulled off some ingenious tactical tweaks and even a game as recent as Tottenham’s 2-0 win over champions Manchester City gives a big insight into how good he is tactically—albeit some might disagree.

Inter vs Barcelona, Real vs Barcelona, Chelsea vs United, all of these games are there for everyone to see how tactically shrewd he can be in big matches.

The list of big games where his tactics outshone those of the opponents goes on and on.
Considering all the issues his team are facing—especially with the absence of some of their best players—Spurs need their manager to pull a tactical masterclass out of his hat now more than ever.

La Liga round-up: Barcelona go top after shock Real Madrid loss, Atletico fail to enter top-four

Real Madrid’s surprise loss at Real Betis which allowed Barcelona to regain top spot was the biggest La Liga headline of the week. FOX Sports Asia rounds up the top-of-the-table and more from the Spanish top-flight’s latest set of fixtures.

Barcelona go top after shock Madrid result

Real Madrid’s El Clasico win had supposedly got their campaign back on track. Ahead of their Champions League second-leg tie against Manchester City, it was thought as the win that would give them the confidence to go the extra mile not only domestically, but also in Europe. Who could have guessed it would be Real Betis who would undo all the hard work?

After Real Madrid fell behind, Karim Benzema’s penalty made it 1-1 and the game looked set to be heading for a draw. Only until former Barcelona striker Cristian Tello decided to do his old club a huge favour and scored an 82nd-minute winner. All the confidence generated by the El Clasico victory suddenly seems to have vanished and Barcelona’s late win over Real Sociedad ensured they finished the week on top of the standings.

Atletico Madrid miss chance to enter the top-four

Atletico Madrid’s 2-2 draw against Sevilla was big in terms of entertainment but also represented a missed opportunity. Alvaro Morata’s 32nd-minute penalty and a Joao Felix goal just four minutes after meant Atletico were in pole position to claim a victory after falling behind in the 19th minute.

After watching their Champions League first-leg heroics against Liverpool, one would reasonably have backed Atletico to hang on to a one-goal lead but Sevilla drew level two minutes before the break after being awarded a penalty via VAR. Diego Simeone’s side went all out for a winner but Sevilla keeper Tomas Vaclik had other plans as he made some key stops to ensure no further goals were scored. Atletico would have moved into third with a win but are now fifth with 45 points, while Sevilla are just two points ahead with 47.

Goalkeeper Diego Lopez sent off as Espanyol go from bad to worse

Espanyol’s season keeps getting worse and it was no different for them in the latest match-day. The team have won only 4 fixtures out of their 27 so far and are languishing at the bottom of the table – their latest loss coming against Osasuna.

Roberto Torres scored what turned out to be the winner from the penalty spot. The ultimate embarrassment for Espanyol came in the 83rd minute, however, when goalkeeper Diego Lopez was sent off for handling the ball outside the area. A mandatory three-match ban will follow, meaning Espanyol’s already difficult survival job just got a whole lot harder.

Real Sociedad’s free-kick wall goes viral

Lionel Messi has been the stand-out free-kick taker in world football over the past couple of seasons and Real Sociedad came up with a rather curious free-kick wall to defend against the Argentine in their latest encounter.

Sociedad used only a three-man wall, with player’s on either post and filled up the box with the rest of their players. Messi, as a result, was left with nowhere to shoot and the free-kick ended up being cleared by one of the opposition players. Despite Barcelona ultimately winning courtesy Messi’s penalty, Sociedad’s tactic went viral soon after the game as another example of the lengths opponents go to keep the Argentine at bay.

Manchester United 2-0 Manchester City: 5 talking points as United complete the league double over City

With Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s Manchester United side defeating Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City 2-0 to move within five points of Leicester City at third place in the Premier League, FOX Sports Asia takes a look at the key talking points from the encounter.

1. Bruno Fernandes the difference once again

Football is fine margins, as it has been repeated countless times  – and Bruno Fernandes’s arrival from Sporting Lisbon in January is a prime example of that.

Manchester United looked listless before the midfielder’s arrival in January and almost as if by magic, there seems to be a marked improvement in every single one of their players ever since he walked in through the door. Against Manchester City, the Portuguese midfielder was at it again – conjuring up a brilliant free-kick to assist Anthony Martial for the first goal.

Apart from the assist, Fernandes was a menace throughout, with his movement and passing causing City numerous problems. Although it’s still early days for him at Old Trafford, one has to go back to Zlatan Ibrahimovic and then Robin van Persie to find similar players who have had such an instantaneous impact on the Red Devils.

2. Ederson’s howlers

Just 24 hours ago, David de Gea’s gaffe against Everton was the talk of the town. Football fans are famous for their notoriously short memories, however, and it will be Manchester City goalkeeper Ederson who will dominate the headlines until the next match-day after two big errors against their derby rivals.

If the Brazilian’s first mistake was embarrassing – letting a relatively weak Anthony Martial strike in at his near post – his second was a catastrophe as he threw the ball straight to Scott McTominay’s feet in injury time, who then proceeded to strike the ball into an empty net from 30 yards out and complete Manchester City’s humiliation.

For a keeper who especially likes to take risks and play with his feet, Ederson’s howlers will certainly make sure he is in the spotlight for quite some time.

3. Solskjaer outwits Guardiola – for the third time

Stats reveal that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is now the first Manchester United manager since Sir Alex Ferguson to complete the double over Manchester City in the Premier League. However, as for United fans, it’s not the numbers that are most satisfying, but the performances.

For the first time in a long time, United looked like a side capable of competing with all of the league’s big boys on equal footing.

Solskjaer first out-thought Pep Guardiola in the reverse fixture at the Etihad when United scored only two but could have had as many as five goals in a devastating half-an-hour spell in the first half. Next, the United manager oversaw a gritty 1-0 win, once again at the Etihad, but his crowning glory will most certainly be their latest victory – dominating the game in terms of chances from start to finish and restricting City to very few clear cut opportunities themselves.

4. Martial finally onto the next level?

For Anthony Martial, this was a win or bust season at Manchester United and on the evidence of numbers, he seems to be doing just enough. The Frenchman has now equalled his best-ever league tally in terms of goals(11), a number which he had managed in his very first year at United.

At times this season, there has been a palpable sense of frustration among fans and pundits alike, regarding a player who has now been considered a ‘young-talent’ for far too long – but he has indeed banged in the goals this year. United have done the double over both Chelsea and City this term and Martial has scored the defining goals in all four of the fixtures.

Hopefully for Manchester United, he has finally stepped onto the next level.

5. Champions League or bust for Manchester City

Even after their loss to Manchester United, second position in the league seems all wrapped up and sealed for Pep Guardiola’s team. He has spoken of his desire to win the Champions League with Manchester City this term and seems to have put all his eggs in the European basket. It’s a case of claiming as many trophies as possible now for the Spaniard – having already taken the first step with their Carabao Cup win.

However, if City exit the Champions League against Real Madrid next week, their season is in real danger of dying out with a whimper. Madrid themselves are full of confidence after their El Clasico win and having seen United already win twice at the Etihad this term, they will believe they can do the same.

Manchester United vs Manchester City preview: Five best Manchester Derby clashes so far

With less than 16 hours left before the Manchester derby kicks-off, FOX Sports Asia takes a look at five historic clashes between Manchester United and Manchester City.

1. Manchester United 4-3 Manchester City (2009/10)

Described by Sir Alex Ferguson as ‘probably the best derby of all time’, Manchester United’s 4-3 win over Manchester City in 2009 stands out even among the pile of classics that this fixture has served us over time. Manchester City were just beginning to make waves under their new ownership and Carlos Tevez’s Old Trafford return was one of the highlights of the fixture.

Wayne Rooney opened the scoring as early as the second minute before some slack defending allowed Gareth Barry to equalize in the 16th minute. The game itself was reminiscent of a boxing match, Darren Fletcher’s brace cancelled out by Craig Bellamy’s brace to leave the match hanging at 3-3 in injury time. Enter Micheal Owen – the former Liverpool striker had come in as a substitute and wrote his name into Old Trafford folklore almost immediately, turning Ryan Giggs’s pass into the net to make it 4-3 in the 96th minute, a goal that ultimately won the game for United. Breathtaking, end-to-end football!

2. Manchester United 1-6 Manchester City (2011/12)

Just two years on from Manchester United’s 4-3 win at Old Trafford, Manchester City served up a lesson in football dominance to the reigning champions. The Cityzens were yet to win a Premier League title but showed their intent with a 6-1 win at the Theatre of Dreams.

Mario Balotelli opened the scoring with a perfectly-timed strike past David De Gea and unveiled his famous ‘Why always me?’ phrased undershirt as City went into the interval leading by a goal to nil. Balotelli added another after which it turned into a goal-fest as Sergio Aguero, Edin Dzeko and David Silva all got into the score-sheet following a Darren Fletcher consolation that had made it 3-1 and temporarily roused hopes of a comeback.

After a lull that lasted decades, the noisy neighbours were finally competing with Sir Alex Ferguson’s men.

3. Manchester City 2-3 Manchester United (2017/18)

Pep Guardiola’s second season in the English Premier League marked the beginning of Manchester City’s domestic dominance and by the time the second Manchester derby of the season came around, the title was confirmed but for the small matter of mathematics. City had the golden chance to wrap up the title against Manchester United at the Etihad in front of their own fans and few were ready to bet against them.

Jose Mourinho’s men, on the other hand, were a distant second but had a lot of pride at stake. News had emerged pre-match about Manchester City having already printed t-shirts in expectation of a win and it was almost as if they were ‘taking the mickey’. At the start of the game, City raced into a 2-0 lead and United seemed dead and buried at half-time. To everyone’s surprise, however, a completely different United emerged for the second half as Paul Pogba’s brace and Chris Smalling’s set-piece goal gave the Red Devils the unlikeliest of victories – delaying City’s title celebrations for a bit and salvaging some pride.

4. Manchester United 0-3 Manchester City (2013/14)

It was the game that confirmed Manchester City had overtaken Manchester United in English football’s pecking order. Coming off the back of a 3-0 defeat against Liverpool, United fans had little hope from this game and the performance of their team reflected the same attitude.

Edin Dzeko struck twice either side of half time and Yaya Toure added a third to give City a 3-0 win in a game where United couldn’t even touch, let alone match their derby rivals. David Moyes was clueless on the touchline and the disconnect between manager, players and fans was telling. Soon after, the Old Trafford hierarchy lost patience with the Scot and fired him – the start of a cycle of hiring-and-firing that has yet to end.

5. Manchester City 2-3 Manchester United (2012/13)

Sir Alex Ferguson’s final season in-charge gave Manchester United fans his classic brand of attacking football and December’s Manchester derby at the Etihad was when United took their first steps towards a 20th league title.

Wayne Rooney’s early double meant United had raced into a 2-0 lead before Manchester City struck back twice to make it 2-2. The match looked set to be heading for a stalemate when Robin Van Persie stepped up to take the game’s final free-kick from outside the area in injury time. The Dutchman had time and again bailed United out and it was no different this time around – his free-kick effort found a deflection off Samir Nasri and flew past Joe Hart into the net to ensure United came back home with all 3 points as well as a massive advantage in the title race.

FA Cup round-up: Liverpool’s debacle at Anfield, Jose Mourinho’s horror-run continues with Spurs

FA Cup: Fifth-round round-up

The FA Cup fifth-round brought with it some huge surprises in terms of results. FOX Sports Asia rounds up all the key talking points from the competition’s latest set of fixtures.

Liverpool’s Stamford Bridge debacle

Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool side have been brought crashing down to Earth in the space of a single week. A 3-0 defeat to Watford in the league crushed their ‘Invincible’ dream and a 2-0 defeat to Chelsea at Stamford Bridge and their subsequent exit from the FA Cup has buried their hopes of securing a treble this term.

Their performance against Watford was a disaster and while they did put up a much-improved showing against the Blues, it just wasn’t enough. Fabinho was given a lesson by Chelsea’s teenage sensation Billy Gilmour in midfield and the absence of Bobby Firminho to link play up was telling.

It could get even worse for the Merseysiders next week, with Diego Simeone’s Atletico team coming to Anfield for the second leg of their Champions League knockout tie. A defeat would surely mean a drab ending to what could potentially have been a historic campaign.

Mourinho running out of excuses at Spurs

Once a master at negotiating tricky situations – the likes of which he now finds himself in at Tottenham Hotspur, Jose Mourinho has adopted a new approach. While he used to champion the ‘us-against-the-world’ siege mentality back in his Chelsea days, billing himself and his team as the best at every opportunity – he now does not waste a single chance to downplay his side’s credentials.

The absence of Harry Kane and Son Heung-Min is definitely bad news but to bring it up as an excuse for every abject performance is bordering on the ridiculous. Spurs have more than enough in their arsenal to overcome a Norwich side placed at the bottom of the Premier League – something they couldn’t do and as it stands, Mourinho is fast running out of excuses at Spurs.

Arsenal breeze into quarters — Arteta under pressure to deliver FA Cup

The inconsistencies of the teams above them on the Premier League mean Arsenal’s chances of a top-four finish cannot be discounted. Realistically speaking though, only an FA Cup win can save their season.

Mikel Arteta’s high-pressing style won him some fans initially but failed to win the team many games and the Europa League debacle was probably the lowest point of their season. Their Champions League dreams are in tatters and having been freed of fixture congestion, Arteta is under serious pressure to deliver the FA Cup.

Sheffield United’s wonder season continues

At the start of the season, Sheffield United were the favourites to get relegated back into the Championship. How the tables have turned! Not only have Chris Wilder’s team been sensational in the league, but they are also putting up a strong run in the FA Cup.

The Blades dug deep to come up with a winner in extra-time against Reading and have been rewarded with a draw against Arsenal in the next round. On current form, they will surely fancy themselves against the Gunners and if they do manage to reach the semi-finals – fans will surely start dreaming. Big season for Sheffield United.

Odion Ighalo living the dream at Manchester United

Manchester United’s signing of Odion Ighalo on deadline day was scoffed at by most people – a sign of United’s lack of preparation in the market. Instead, the Nigerian striker has been a breath of fresh air for the fans!

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has often reiterated the need for a striker who will ‘break noses’ to score goals and Ighalo has been exactly that kind of signing. He starred in United’s 3-0 win over Derby County with a lethal brace, the first goal being the sort of scrappy finish that they have so often failed to find this season. He might have even had a hat-trick but for some wasteful finishing late on.

Whether or not his contract is extended in the summer, Odion Ighalo has already lived his lifelong Manchester United dream!

El Clasico: 5 classic battles between Real Madrid and Barcelona

With only two points separating Barcelona and Real Madrid at the top of La Liga standings, the stage seems set for a season-defining El Clasico. FOX Sports Asia takes a look at five classic battles between the two sides over the years ahead of Sunday night’s encounter. 

1. Real Madrid 2-3 Barcelona (April 2017, Santiago Bernabeu)

An El Clasico that will forever be remembered for Lionel Messi’s iconic celebration – holding his jersey up to the Real Madrid crowd after scoring with the final kick of the game. The game began in end-to-end fashion as Casemiro opened the scoring in the 28th minute before Messi equalized for Barcelona just five minutes later.

The encounter had finally burst into life but chances went begging for both sides. Ivan Rakitic then scored in the 73rd minute to make it 2-1 to Barcelona before James Rodriguez smashed it into the roof of the net five minutes before the end of normal time to level matters once again.

It seemed that the two teams would have to settle for a draw but Jordi Alba and Lionel Messi had other plans. The defender’s cut-back found Messi in space and the Barcelona captain scored with a trademark finish to put the game to bed once and for all.

2. Barcelona 1-2 Real Madrid (April 2012, Camp Nou)

Jose Mourinho had been brought in to end Barcelona’s stranglehold over the La Liga and the Portuguese delivered the goods in his second season as Real Madrid all but sealed the title with a 2-1 win over Barcelona at Camp Nou.

Sami Khedira put Real Madrid ahead with just 17 minutes on the clock. Alexis Sanchez then levelled in the 70th minute to bring Barcelona back into the game. Cristiano Ronaldo made sure there were no hiccups, however, scoring what turned out to be the winner just three minutes later to extend Madrid’s lead at the top to seven points and effectively crown them champions.

3. Real Madrid 2-6 Barcelona (May 2009, Santiago Bernabeu)

The game that signalled the start of a new era. Pep Guardiola’s Barcelona side cemented their standing as the best team in Spain with a 6-2 demolition of Real Madrid at the Santiago Bernabeu.

Lionel Messi and Thierry Henry scored a brace each, while Carles Puyol and Gerard Pique also got on the scoresheet for Barcelona. It was Real Madrid however, who started things off when Gonzalo Higuain opened the scoring inside the first quarter.

Barcelona went on a rampage to make it 3-1 before Sergio Ramos made it 3-2 to give Madrid a brief lifeline. Guardiola’s side then went on to score the next three to emphasize the extent of their dominance and end all hopes of a Madrid comeback.

4. Real Madrid 1-0 Barcelona (April 2011, Mestalla Stadium) 

Jose Mourinho’s first major trophy as Real Madrid manager was also the beginning of a change of guard in Spanish football. Barcelona had dominated for the best part of two years but Mourinho’s methods were beginning to get under their skin by the time the two sides met in the Copa Del Rey final at the Mestalla Stadium.

The game itself was an ill-tempered encounter, with eight yellow cards issued in total during the course of the entire 120 minutes. Barcelona dominated possession but were unable to find a breakthrough while Madrid spurned the few good chances that came their way.

The tie went into extra-time and it was then that Cristiano Ronaldo rose to the occasion, scoring with a bullet header from Angel Di Maria’s cross to claim Real Madrid’s first Copa Del Rey in 18 years.

5. Barcelona 5-0 Real Madrid (November 2010, Camp Nou)

A dazzling display of attacking football from Barcelona at home propelled them to the top of the La Liga, where they stayed for the rest of the season to claim their second La Liga title in a row.

Lionel Messi did not get on the scoresheet but played a part in all goals, his false nine position leaving the Real Madrid defence in splits. Xavi opened the scoring for Barcelona in the 10th minute and Pedro added another eight minutes later.

David Villa’s three-minute second-half brace ensured the goals kept flowing and Jeffren put the cherry on top to make it 5-0 in injury time.

El Clasico – Real Madrid vs Barcelona: 5 players to watch out for

Ahead of what could be a season-defining El Clasico on Sunday night, FOX Sports Asia takes a look at five players who could make a difference in the encounter between Real Madrid and Barcelona.

1. Lionel Messi

Following Cristiano Ronaldo’s departure, Lionel Messi has been head-and-shoulders above everyone else as the fixture’s main attraction and it will not be any different on Sunday night. Messi’s four-goal outing in a 5-0 win for the Blaugrana vs Eibar last Saturday was the latest in a career littered with dominant performances.

The Argentine will be even more motivated after Barcelona’s 1-1 draw against Napoli in the UEFA Champions League. A big game against Real Madrid might be the perfect platform to wash away their Champions League struggles. Who knows we might even get a repeat of his iconic jersey-to-the-crowd celebration!

2. Vinicius Junior 

At 19, Vinicius Junior looks miles ahead of most players his age, evident by the faith Zinedine Zidane puts in him in the absence of Eden Hazard. The Brazilian youngster set up Isco’s opener against Manchester City and came close to score himself before City’s late fightback.

Vinicius’s interview post-match was explosive, wherein he blamed the referee for Real Madrid’s collapse, also defiantly stating they would go to the Etihad and win the reverse leg. An angry Vinicius Junior is bad news for Barcelona and if Madrid do end up winning, expect him to play a starring role.

3. Sergio Ramos

Sergio Ramos celebrates scoring for Real Madrid

Sergio Ramos’s red card in the Champions League was the tipping point of what was a shocking Real Madrid loss in the first leg of round-of-16 UCL encounter against Manchester City. The Spaniard was sent off for the 26th time in his career.

While he will have to watch the second leg of the City tie from the stands, he can still contribute to his team’s domestic title charge via El Clasico. Ramos tends to be either the star or the villain in such encounters and fans can expect more of the same on Sunday night.

4. Antoine Griezmann

Antoine Griezmann hasn’t exactly taken the world by storm in his first season at Barcelona but there have been glimpses of what could be. In Luis Suarez’s absence, the team needs him to step up now more than ever.

Bailing out Barcelona with a goal against Napoli was the first step and should Griezmann star in a Barcelona win over Madrid, it will go a long way in pleasing the Camp Nou faithful.

A Barcelona win would open up a five-point gap at the summit of the table, which might just be enough to earn the Frenchman the league in his first season with Lionel Messi and co.

5. Federico Valverde 

Real Madrid midfielder Federico Valverde

Federico Valverde has stepped up for Real Madrid in spectacular fashion this season. The Uruguayan has completely justified Madrid’s decision not to sign Paul Pogba last summer and is one of the first names on Zidane’s team-sheet at the moment.

Barcelona fans will remember his performance in the reverse fixture last year, where Valverde not only dominated the game but also came close to scoring on a couple of occasions. The youngster is one of those players who never seem fazed and will have a key role to play for Madrid at the Camp Nou.

Manchester United 5-0 Club Brugge: 5 talking points as Red Devils cruise into Europa League last-16

Manchester United put five past Club Brugge at Old Trafford to enter the last-16 of the Europa League 2019-20 in some style. FOX Sports Asia takes a look at the key talking points from the encounter.

1. Brilliant United start leaves Brugge reeling 

After a slow opening quarter in the first-leg, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer would definitely have asked his team for a fast start and they did not disappoint. Manchester United started the game at breakneck speed and Club Brugge could not handle the intensity.

As early as 30 seconds, Juan Mata tried to send Ighalo through in the area but for a good interception by the Brugge defence. United’s intent was clear and Juan Mata forced Simon Mignolet into a fantastic stop next with a venomous first-time shot while Bruno Fernandes showed how just good his shooting is with a rasping drive from outside the area that struck the post.

Brugge just could not cope with all of it, and it was only a matter of time before United scored.

2. Simon Deli red card effectively ends the contest 

In spite of the five goals that Manchester United scored, Simon Deli’s red card will, in all probability, be the game’s biggest highlight. The Club Brugge defender handed United the initiative with a comical handball incident that left the referee with no choice but to send him off. Daniel James’s shot seemed destined for the top-corner but Deli decided to play goalkeeper, pulling off a fine stop with his left hand to deny the Manchester United winger.

Bruno Fernandes stepped up to take the penalty and had to wait a long time as the referee reviewed the incident on the pitch-side monitor, but was ice-cold in tucking home the spot-kick after the official confirmed Deli’s red card. United went on to score two more before the break as 10-man Brugge struggled to come to grips with the game.

3. Ighalo opens Manchester United account 

The deadline day signing of Odion Ighalo by Manchester United was seen as something of a gamble but the 30-year-old has shown there is still life left in him – scoring his first goal for his new club with a poacher’s finish to round-off a sumptuous passage of play. Bruno Fernandes was the architect, picking up Juan Mata with a beautiful pass and the Spaniard squared for Ighalo to tap into the gaping goal.

Apart from his goal, the Nigerian’s general hold up play was impressive as well, proving Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was more than right in claiming that Ighalo offers him a different option to strikers already at the club. There was also a touching tribute to his late sister when he revealed a shirt with her photograph on it post scoring and whether or not he extends his stay at Old Trafford, this will be a game he will remember for the rest of his life.

4. Bruno Fernandes the player Paul Pogba should have been

Just five games into his Manchester United career and Bruno Fernandes already looks like a big bargain. Sure, other signings have flattered to deceive after similarly sensational starts but Fernandes seems more and more like the real deal.

The Portuguese international has received rave reviews from stars such as Cristiano Ronaldo and it’s not hard to figure out why. Fernandes has been involved in all bar one United goal scored during his time on the pitch in the five games he has played in, something that seems even more impressive when you compare his impact with that of Paul Pogba. The Frenchman’s numbers are not all too impressive and he also lacks the silkiness Fernandes has shown when playing in tight spaces.

Against Club Brugge, Fernandes was the star once again – opening the scoring with a cool penalty before starting off the moves for two more goals with sumptuous passes that showed the class he possesses. Paul Pogba take note!

5. Martial injury the only worry for in-form United

After a five-goal performance, the only blot on Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s squeaky clean notebook will have been Anthony Martial’s injury. The Norwegian confirmed Martial felt something in training a day prior to the game and had to walk off. Odion Ighalo stepped up in Martial’s absence but his goals are crucial to United’s hopes of Champions League football.

The three goals in his last three games represent the Frenchman’s best spell in recent times and Manchester United fans will be praying he isn’t out for too long.

Olympique Lyonnais 1-0 Juventus: 5 talking points from Lyon’s historic win at the Groupama Stadium

French side Lyon recorded a historic win over Juventus at home in France in the Champions League round-of-16 first-leg game on Wednesday – FOX Sports Asia takes a look at the key talking points from the encounter. 

1. Tousart bundles in the winner 

Having signed for German side Hertha, Lucas Tousart was loaned back to Lyon to complete the season with his old club. Little could he have imagined that he would be scoring a winner against Juventus in his final six months with the French side. Matthijs de Ligt was getting treatment off the pitch because of which Juventus were briefly down to 10 men and Lyon took full advantage as Aouar’s cross into the box was bundled into the net by Tousart to make it 1-0 for his team.

2.Big calls from referee 

No doubt Lyon deserved their big win over the Italian champions, but that’s not to say they didn’t have their heart-in-mouth moments. The referee in charge of the game made some huge decisions which went in favour of the home side. The biggest amongst the calls was Paulo Dybala’s 89th-minute penalty shout when the Argentine had his jersey tugged at by Bruno Guimares, only for the official to wave play on. Replays indicated the contact was clear and Guimares was indeed lucky to get away with it. Cristiano Ronaldo had a similar shout turned down just four minutes prior and having two decisions go against them in such a small span hit Juventus hard.

3. Lyon’s record first-ever win over Juventus 

One of the biggest nights in their history and full credit goes to Lyon for making it happen. Prior to the game, the French side had never won a game against the Italians and expectations were understandably low. Lucas Tousart’s opening strike gave some hope, but they still had a mountain to climb, which they managed to do – recording their first win over Juventus in the process!

4. Lethargic Juve too dependent on Ronaldo

At 35, Cristiano Ronaldo is taking in the plaudits at Juventus week-in week-out. But have they really got the supporting cast to help him? On the back of a historic scoring record, Ronaldo was looking to inspire his side to the quarter-finals of the Champions League but the script went horribly wrong. The Portugese did have some chances, but Juventus’s reliance on him is all too obvious. Paulo Dybala and co struggled to fashion their own openings, instead waiting for Ronaldo to wave his magic wand, and when he couldn’t, Juventus simply fell apart.

5. Juventus season in danger of imploding

The reputation forged by Juventus – by recording 7 straight league titles and consistent performances in Europe – is in great danger and their entire season could hinge on the coming week. Their next game against Inter Milan in the Serie A could potentially be a title-decider, after which the Coppa Italia semi-final 2nd leg against AC Milan awaits.  Not to forget, if they don’t reverse the 1-0 deficit against Lyon in the second leg at Turin, it would represent a massive failure for a side which has done everything they can in the past few years to win the Champions League.