Liverpool will return to the scene of their 2019 Champions League triumph after they were drawn against Atletico Madrid in the last 16 of the competition on Monday.
The two-legged tie which includes one fixture at Atletico’s Wanda Metropolitano, where Jurgen Klopp’s men lifted the trophy in June, and another at Anfield will be one of the highlights of the opening knockout stage.
Another will be Real Madrid’s clash with reigning Premier League champions Manchester City, who are trying to win the European crown for the first time.
Neymar’s Paris Saint-Germain, who have fallen at the last 16 stage in the last three seasons, were pitted against Borussia Dortmund while Frank Lampard’s youthful Chelsea face European masters Bayern Munich.
Last season’s beaten finalists Tottenham, now led by Jose Mourinho, must beat German side Leipzig to reach the quarter-finals and Cristiano Ronaldo’s Juventus face France’s other representatives, Lyon.
Barcelona will play Napoli and surprise Italian qualifiers Atalanta were drawn against Valencia.
Real Madrid will face Manchester City in the Champions League round of 16 after the draw held at the UEFA headquarters in Nyon.
The first leg will be played at the Santiago Bernabéu stadium on 18, 19, 25 or 26 February and the return leg in Manchester on 10, 11, 17 or 18 March.
The two matches will be played at 9pm Central European Time.
Manchester City have successfully topped Group C, where they faced Atalanta, Shakhtar Donetsk and Dynamo Zagreb.
Undefeated in the competition, they have only drawn two games. With four goals conceded, they have one of the best defensive records in the Group Stage. Sterling (5) is the top scorer for a team that is third in the Premier League.
Neymar marked his first start in a Champions League game in a year by scoring one goal and setting up two more as Paris Saint-Germain cruised to a 5-0 win over Galatasaray on Wednesday.
Mauro Icardi and Pablo Sarabia netted in the first half at the Parc des Princes, with the world’s most expensive player getting his team’s third within two minutes of the restart.
Kylian Mbappe scored the fourth goal and substitute Edinson Cavani added a late penalty as PSG — who had already qualified for the last 16 as group winners – made it 16 points out of a possible 18 in Group A to finish five points ahead of Real Madrid.
However, it was Neymar who made the biggest impression, four days after starring in a 3-1 domestic victory at Montpellier and an injury-ravaged year to the day after his last start in Europe, against Red Star Belgrade.
“Neymar was already super important in a very difficult game at Montpellier. He was decisive in that game and he is improving,” said coach Thomas Tuchel.
“He is working hard off the ball, and going forward he is finding his form. It is easier now for him to accelerate, and he was really, really good.”
Despite PSG already being through and France being in the grip of a transport strike that has almost completely shut down the Paris metro system, the Parc des Princes was still largely full.
That included a sizeable travelling support, and there were incidents outside the stadium ahead of the match between rival fan groups, with police responding by firing tear gas before calm returned.
The game itself carried the air of a training exercise for the home side, with Tuchel resting stars such as Angel Di Maria, Thiago Silva, Marco Verratti and goalkeeper Keylor Navas.
There was a start in midfield for the 17-year-old Tanguy Kouassi, who made his senior debut last weekend and has still not signed full professional terms.
A year in the wilderness
The two biggest stars were on the pitch, though, and both Neymar and Mbappe proved too hot for the Turkish champions to handle.
Mbappe lifted the ball over advancing Galatasaray goalkeeper Fernando Muslera, leaving Icardi with an easy finish to make it 1-0 just after the half-hour mark.
It was Icardi’s 12th goal of the season and it was followed three minutes later by Sarabia controlling Neymar’s pass and firing low into the far corner.
After that Red Star game at the end of last season’s group phase, in which Neymar scored in a 4-1 win, he went on to miss both legs of the last-16 defeat against Manchester United due to injury.
He then sat out the first three games of this European campaign because of suspension, and was injured again for the following match, a 1-0 win over Club Brugge.
Neymar returned for the 2-2 draw at Real Madrid a fortnight ago, but only as a substitute.
The Brazilian collected Mbappe’s lay-off and fired low into the net to make it 3-0 in the 47th minute and then returned the favour, releasing the French World Cup winner to score his fifth Champions League goal of the season and make it 4-0 after the hour mark.
All that was left was for Cavani — the real PSG fans’ favourite currently relegated to the role of back-up — to convert a late penalty, making it 5-0 after Mbappe had been brought down, with Neymar happy for the Uruguay striker to take over penalty duties.
“We are in this together as a team and I hope him giving the penalty to ‘Edi’ is a symbol for the team this season,” added Tuchel.
Galatasaray finish with a paltry one goal and two points in the group and miss out on the consolation of a Europa League spot in the new year to Club Brugge.
The 41-year-old replaces a friend in Ancelotti, who coached Gattuso to two Champions Leagues and one Serie A title over eight years in charge of seven-time European champions Milan.
“Ancelotti is like a father to me,” he added. “He’s always been close to me and supported me. He’s won it all and I still have a lot to prove.”
Former Rangers midfielder Gattuso joins Napoli at a difficult time despite their arrival in Monday’s draw for the knockout stages of Europe’s top competition.
Last season’s Serie A runners-up sit 17 points behind league leaders Inter Milan.
More worryingly they are eight behind fourth-placed Cagliari, who hold the final spot for next season’s Champions League, and have been engulfed in a row between the players and owner Aurelio De Laurentiis.
De Laurentiis ordered the players into a week-long training camp after defeat by big rivals Roma early last month — a decision with which Ancelotti publicly disagreed — but they rebelled and were hit with a massive fine that incurred the wrath of Players’ union FIFPRO.
Media reports in the United Kingdom suggest both Arsenal and Everton are keen to hire Ancelotti, who has won three Champions Leagues as a coach, after sacking Unai Emery and Marco Silva respectively.
Carlo Ancelotti has been sacked by Napoli despite taking the Serie A side to the last 16 of the Champions League on Tuesday with a 4-0 win over Genk.
“Napoli has decided to relieve Carlo Ancelotti of his role as first team coach,” the Italian side said in a statement.
Tuesday’s win over Genk, which saw Napoli finish second in Group E, one point behind Liverpool, broke a nine-match winless run that came amid dressing room unrest and friction between the club, Ancelotti and the players.
Former AC Milan manager Gennaro Gattuso is the favourite to take over at Napoli, who finished second behind champions Juventus last season but are miles off the pace this year.
They sit seventh in the Italian top flight on 21 points, a whopping 17 points behind league leaders Inter Milan and more worryingly eight behind fourth-placed Cagliari, who hold the final spot for next season’s Champions League.
On Monday Ancelotti told reporters that “a coach’s suitcase is always ready” ahead of Tuesday’s match, and as speculation ramped up over the 60-year-old’s future at the southern club he ruled out stepping down after Tuesday’s win.
“Resignation? I have never resigned in my life and I never will,” he said. “My future? The team management will make its assessment.
The club has been in turmoil this season as club owner Aurelio De Laurentiis sank into a bitter row with his players following a series of disappointing results.
The squad refused to bow to De Laurentiis’ demand they be confined to a week-long training camp in November, reportedly receiving a collective deduction to their wages of 2.5 million euros ($2.7 million) for their disobedience.
Union FIFPro said they would back the players against “further abuse and intimidation”, calling De Laurentiis’ decision to fine his squad “unjustified”.
Ancelotti, who won three Champions League titles as a coach, twice with AC Milan and once with Real Madrid, replaced Maurizio Sarri in July 2018.
He guided the team to a runners-up finish in Serie A last season, when they missed out on the Champions League last 16 on goal difference to eventual winners Liverpool.
“I can’t pretend, the team doesn’t give what it could give,” Ancelotti said on Monday.
“In Europe, we have seen another Napoli, the one I would like to see in the league as well. I am looking for solutions to get out of this difficult period,” he added.
They are without a win in seven Serie A games since October 19 and next play Parma on Saturday.
Amazon confirmed Tuesday that they have acquired the rights to broadcast a selection of Champions League games in Germany from the 2021-22 season, as the company continues its offensive into the football TV rights market.
The company has secured a package which includes the top picks of the Tuesday night games in Europe’s biggest club competition, German media magazine DWDL.de revealed.
In a statement on Tuesday, Amazon confirmed that they had secured the rights for their streaming platform Prime Video.
“We are excited to bring UEFA Champions League to our customers in Germany,” said Alex Green, executive director of Prime Video Sport Europa.
The announcement comes just days after Amazon UK debuted their live coverage of the English Premier League.
The coverage was the first time Premier League games had been broadcast exclusively online in the UK, and was met with mixed reactions from viewers.
German football fans are more accustomed to watching football online, however.
Broadcasting rights for both the Champions League and the Bundesliga are currently shared between traditional broadcaster Sky Sports and London-based streaming service DAZN.
Germany is the biggest market outside the USA for Amazon, who entered the sports streaming market in 2017 and have since broadcast major events in both football and tennis.
Lionel Messi’s absence for already-qualified Barcelona will not make them less able to stop Inter Milan gaining their spot in the Champions League last 16, coach Ernesto Valverde insisted Monday.
Barcelona are already through to the knockout stages as Group F winners after Messi scored and set up two more in a convincing 3-1 win over Borussia Dortmund last time out, a victory which means Inter will ensure themselves a spot in the next round with a win over the La Liga leaders at the San Siro on Tuesday.
Six-time Ballon d’Or winner Messi broke yet another record by hitting his 35th La Liga hat-trick on Saturday as Barca maintained top spot in Spain with a 5-2 win over Mallorca.
“Messi needs to rest,” Valverde told reporters. “We’re coming off many consecutive games and we have other important ones to play, so I left him at home.
“He’s a decisive player, but our goal tomorrow does not change, we want to win against Inter.
“We know what he represents for the opponents, but last year he didn’t play in both games against Inter, and we still had a high level.
“We are already qualified but it remains a game of great value.”
Messi and midfielder Sergi Roberto have been left out of Barca’s 20-man squad along with the injured Ousmane Dembele, Jordi Alba, Nelson Semedo and Gerard Pique.
The Argentine’s absence means that they will be relying on Antoine Griezmann and Luis Suarez to supply the goals, while teenage prodigy Ansu Fati could be fit to play.
Inter are four points behind Barca in second, level on seven points with Borussia Dortmund. The Italians need to match or better Dortmund’s result at home to Slavia Prague to qualify as their superior head-to-head record will see them through should the two clubs finish on the same number of points.
‘Heads Held High’
“They have great players like (Romelu) Lukaku and Lautaro (Martinez) who score a lot,” Valverde said of Inter’s strike duo, who have scored 24 of the team’s 40 goals this season.
“Lautaro is a great player, fast and powerful, he’s having a great season.”
Inter coach Antonio Conte also has injury worries with Stefano Sensi, Nicolo Barella, Alexis Sanchez and Roberto Gagliardini all out.
“Barcelona are calm in first place and will play without pressure and can create problems,” said 50-year-old Conte.
“We have to give everything knowing that it might not be enough.”
Barcelona beat Inter 2-1 at Camp Nou last time out, but Conte believes his Serie A leaders have grown since then.
“We played very well at Barcelona, with great courage and personality, but the defeat came thanks to their great players,” he said.
“It’s been a while, we’ve grown in some respects. But we would be fools to think we won’t suffer when Barca are in possession.”
The former Chelsea and Juventus coach hopes the home crowd of 72,000 can pull the three-time European champions through with their “heads held high”.
“Our stadium can give us a lot of positive energy and I’m sure it will,” added the Italian.
“We all want to get to the last 16, it would be a prestigious achievement.”
Frank Lampard has challenged his young Chelsea players to “make a mark” ahead of their crucial Champions League match against Lille on Tuesday after a series of poor results took the shine off their season.
Chelsea must beat the French side at Stamford Bridge to ensure safe passage to the knockout stages, with manager Lampard expecting far sharper focus than his players showed during the 3-1 weekend defeat to Everton.
He admitted Chelsea’s recent poor form — just one win in five games — was his first big challenge as Blues boss, and wants his players to embrace the pressure of this week’s must-win clash.
“It is a test for us and it was always going to come,” Lampard said during his pre-match press conference on Monday.
“The way we are, the nature of the Premier League, this was never going to be a plain sailing, invincible season from our point of view. Teams need this test.
“Big games like this, they are crucial for the players. You can be defined as an individual and a group by success.”
Lampard, who won the Champions League with Chelsea in 2012, said he had been fortunate to have enjoyed many big nights as a player.
“So these are big opportunities now for the team, particularly the young boys when it’s quite new to them, to make a mark,” he said. “So I think it’s good, I like the pressure of this game being knockout.
“If we’re going to do anything good here, we’re going to have to have lots of these nights.”
Lampard said his side’s poor run had not yet altered his view on January recruitment plans after the club’s FIFA transfer ban had been lifted.
“I wouldn’t say my mind is set on anything to be changed,” said Lampard, whose side are fourth in the Premier League despite their wobble.
“But you do learn from your players in tough times, not just in terms of what they do on the pitch but how their personality is.
“That was the disappointing thing at Everton. It wasn’t just that we were slightly off — I didn’t like that there were individual contact moments across the game that we lost. Because that’s a personality thing as much as anything else.”
Antonio Rudiger is fit for just his second appearance of the season following groin trouble, with the Germany centre-back likely to step into the Blues’ defence.
Lampard believes Rudiger can make an instant impact, with the 26-year-old’s return proving timely as Fikayo Tomori misses out due to a minor hip issue.
“He’s a good defender, it’s good to have him back and he’s training really well,” said Lampard, of Rudiger.
“He has got a lot of his fitness work done since the injury’s healed.
“People maybe overlooked the fact that we were missing a number of big players at the start of the season. Rudi is just back, so let’s see what he can add to us now.”
Jurgen Klopp could hardly have asked for more as his Liverpool side eased their way to a comfortable 3-0 win at Bournemouth ahead of Tuesday’s decisive Champions League visit to RB Salzburg.
First-half goals from Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Naby Keita put the Reds in control before Mohamed Salah wrapped up the win early in the second half while a first clean sheet since September ensured there was no chance of a late scare.
Victory moved Klopp’s Premier League leaders 11 points clear of Leicester City, 24 hours before Brendan Rodgers’ team face Aston Villa, and added more pressure on Manchester City immediately before the Manchester derby.
It was the ideal preparation for the visit to Austria, where Liverpool need a point to guarantee their progress into the Champions League knockout stages.
Klopp made seven changes to the side that beat Everton 5-2 on Wednesday and the controlled manner of this victory meant his players were spared any unnecessary exertion before their European challenge.
And the manager could also draw satisfaction from the performance of Salah, who delivered the desired response after being withdrawn in the previous weekend’s unconvincing defeat of Brighton and rested for the Everton clash.
The forward provided an assist for Keita — impressive on his first Premier League start of the season — and tormented Bournemouth throughout.
The only flaw from Klopp’s point of view was that his side took time to get into their stride.
That all changed 10 minutes before the interval when the balance of the game shifted over the course of a minute, and ensured Liverpool could sign off their domestic duties in style.
– Bournemouth blow –
Nathan Ake, Bournemouth’s best defender up to that point, pulled up clutching his hamstring and it was clear the centre-back was unable to carry on.
The Dutch international was replaced by Jack Simpson, making his first Premier League appearance of the season, and with the Cherries yet to settle after being forced to reorganise, Liverpool forced the lead.
Jordan Henderson delivered a long ball from deep inside his own half into the path of Oxlade-Chamberlain, who had surged forward into the space between centre-back Chris Mepham and right-back Simon Francis, and the England international directed the ball past Aaron Ramsdale with a controlled volley.
Up until that point Bournemouth had appeared just as capable of taking the lead as Klopp’s league leaders.
But the double blow of losing Ake and falling behind sapped belief from Eddie Howe’s side who remain without a league win since the start of November.
And Liverpool took full advantage, adding the second a minute before the break after a clever exchange between Salah and Keita.
Keita played the ball into the Egypt international and continued his run forward to collect Salah’s backheeled return and finish easily past Ramsdale.
After an unconvincing start to the game, Klopp could be satisfied his side were perfectly placed to close out the game.
And their position was further strengthened when Keita repaid Salah’s earlier favour by setting up his team-mate for the 54th-minute third after collecting Simpson’s misplaced clearance.
Salah had threatened in the first half and this time he made no mistake, slipping the ball past Ramsdale.
There was little in the way of a response from the home side and Liverpool’s margin of victory would have been even greater but for the efforts of Ramsdale, who capped his afternoon with a fine save to deny Henderson’s free-kick in the final seconds.