Borussia Dortmund were dealt a blow on Wednesday after announcing that captain Marco Reus has picked up a muscle injury that should keep him out of the first leg of their Champions League last 16 tie against Paris Saint-Germain.
In a statement Dortmund said the 30-year-old should be out “for around four weeks” after picking up the injury late in Tuesday’s 3-2 German Cup defeat at Werder Bremen, ruling him out of the home leg of the PSG clash on February 18.
He should, however, be back for the return leg in Paris on March 11.
Germany forward will be a big miss for Dortmund, as he has scored 12 goals and set up seven more this season.
Teenage striking sensation Erling Braut Haaland scored his eighth goal in just four games for Dortmund at Bremen, but could not stop his new side crashing out of the cup.
Borussia Dortmund stars Marco Reus and Mats Hummels have jumped to the defence of under-fire coach Lucien Favre amid reports Saturday he is on the verge of being dismissed.
Germany’s top-selling daily Bild claims Wednesday’s Champions League match at Barcelona could decide Favre’s fate after senior club bosses discussed the situation late into Friday night following a woeful 3-3 draw with Paderborn.
“It can’t go on like this with Favre,” insisted German daily Welt.
Dortmund were 3-0 down at half-time at home to the Bundesliga’s bottom club and whistled off the pitch by their own fans after the first 45 minutes.
Only a fight-back, thanks to second-half goals by Jadon Sancho and Axel Witsel, spared the hosts’ blushes before Reus equalised deep into added time with a crucial header.
The draw puts Favre under pressure on the back of their 4-0 defeat at Bayern Munich a fortnight ago, but Reus and Hummels insist it is the players who are at fault, not their Swiss coach.
“Everyone has to take a good look at themselves, that’s what we have to talk about, not about our coach,” fumed Reus.
“The coach always prepares us really well. We are the ones who are responsible” for the poor recent displays.
Former Germany centre-back Hummels echoed Reus’ defence.
“It’s us on the pitch who make these mistakes. I want to make it very clear that it has nothing to do with the coach’s position if we give away the ball without any pressure,” insisted Hummels.
Dortmund have taken 20 points from 12 league games and are well off the pace in the title race, leaving fewer voices in support of Favre ahead of the club’s annual general meeting on Sunday.
Sports director Michael Zorc described Friday’s first-half display as “completely unacceptable” and said the club should “apologise to the spectators”.
Borussia Dortmund flew to Italy without captain Marco Reus and striker Paco Alcacer for Wednesday’s Champions League match at Inter Milan, but previously suspended England winger Jadon Sancho and injured goalkeeper Roman Burki were included.
The Bundesliga club said the 30-year-old playmaker Reus missed Tuesday’s flight because he is “still in poor health” after scoring the winner in Saturday’s 1-0 victory over Bundesliga leaders Moenchengladbach despite suffering with flu.
Alcacer, who like Reus has scored five league goals so far this season, is also out due to the persistent calf injury which has sidelined him since September 28.
However, Sancho, 19, has been included after being dropped for Saturday’s game after returning late from England duty.
Burki is also back after limping out of the second-half of the Gladbach win with a knee injury.
The Germans top Group F ahead of Barcelona on goal difference after holding the Spanish giants to a goalless draw in Dortmund in their opening game and then winning 2-0 at bottom side Slavia Prague.
Inter, third in the table, drew at home to Slavia and lost 2-1 to Barca a fortnight ago at the Camp Nou in their two previous games.
Captain Marco Reus played through pain to inspire Borussia Dortmund to a 4-0 win over Freiburg on Sunday and keep them on the heels of Bundesliga leaders Bayern Munich.
Reus took a knock to his knee in a heavy challenge from Freiburg’s Janik Haberer in the second half but fired Dortmund to victory with a goal and two assists to keep them a point behind Bayern.
After a heavy defeat to Bayern two weeks ago and a nervy win over Mainz last Sunday, Reus insisted the display showed that his team were back to their best and ready to take the fight to Bayern in the title race.
Marco Reus has called on Germany to win back the trust of their fans when they launch their Euro 2020 qualifying campaign against old rivals the Netherlands on Sunday.
Germany were booed by fans in Wolfsburg during their 1-1 friendly draw against Serbia last Wednesday, and Reus has said that it is up to the players to change the mood.
“We need patience from the fans, but it is our job to make sure the atmosphere improves,” he said on Friday.
Germany have not won a competitive game since they beat Sweden at the World Cup last summer. But they still crashed out of the World Cup in the group stage and were relegated from the top tier of the UEFA Nations League in the autumn.
Coach Joachim Loew declared the beginning of a “new era” last week, having brought in several young players and made the controversial call to drop three experienced stars in Thomas Mueller, Mats Hummels and Jerome Boateng.
Yet Reus warned that the new-look Germany would take time to reach their full potential.
“We are all ambitious enough to want to win every game, but it won’t just start working from one day to the next,” he said.
The change of personnel means that Reus, 29, is among the most senior players in the team.
“I am at an age where I have to take on leadership roles, both here and at my club,” said the Borussia Dortmund star.
“Everything will take time, we have a lot of young players who need to find their feet.”
Dangerous Van Dijk
Reus is expected to return to the starting line-up, along with Real Madrid midfielder Toni Kroos on Sunday in Amsterdam.
“Toni is indispensable for us,” said coach Joachim Loew on Saturday, and confirmed that both Leroy Sane and Serge Gnabry would also be fit to face the Netherlands.
Loew said his team were not thinking about defeat, despite the fact that the Dutch are in good form and have not lost to Germany since 2012.
“They are playing very well, they are highly motivated and the atmosphere here is extremely good,” said Loew.
The Dutch cruised to a 4-0 win over Belarus in their opening qualifier on Thursday.
Oranje captain Virgil van Dijk was on the score sheet with a header, and both Loew and defender Niklas Suele identified the Liverpool defender as a threat.
“He is fantastic in the air, not just because he is big, but because he gets so much power behind his headers,” said Loew of van Dijk.
“We can’t allow him space to run onto headers,” said Suele, who watched van Dijk do just that when Liverpool knocked Bayern out of the Champions League earlier this month.
Van Dijk has made a habit of scoring against German sides. He hit a late equalizer for the Netherlands against Germany when the two sides met in Gelsenkirchen last November.
He also scored in a 3-0 win over Germany a month earlier.
Those results have rekindled the old rivalry between the Dutch and the Germans. On Sunday, Germany will be hoping to get the fans back on side with a win over their neighbours.
“It is always a special game, partly because of how close we are geographically,” said Germany and Bayern Munich midfielder Leon Goretzka on Friday.
“As a boy, I used to go on holiday with my family in Holland, and I grew up with the rivalry.”
“We will be really motivated on Sunday. It’s going to be a fiery game.”
Marco Reus says Germany must ignore the pressure and play their brand of free-flowing football to win the make-or-break World Cup game against South Korea on Wednesday and reach the last 16 in Russia.
Joachim Loew’s team need to win by a two-goal margin in Kazan to be sure of advancing to the knockout rounds after recovering from a shock defeat to Mexico with a last-gasp 2-1 win against Sweden.
South Korea are bottom of Group F after losing their opening two games.
“South Korea have very fast, agile and versatile players who create a lot of problems for many teams,” said Reus, who expects the Asian team to copy Mexico’s tactics of counter-attacking through Germany’s midfield.
“We assume that they will also bet on counter-attacking and want to be defensive, tight and secure.
“However, I am quite convinced that if we play in a liberated way and with the same fluent style, quality and passion that we invested against Sweden, South Korea will have a hard time beating us.”
After Sweden took the lead in Sochi on Saturday, Reus sparked Germany’s fightback with a second-half equaliser before Toni Kroos hit the winner.
Borussia Dortmund winger Reus, 29, and RB Leipzig forward Timo Werner are among the few players in the under-performing German squad to have shone so far in Russia.
Werner, 22, admitted the Germans have seen little of South Korea, other than their defeats to group rivals Mexico and Sweden, but will do their homework.
The Germans know all about Tottenham Hotspur striker Son Heung-min, who used to play for Bayer Leverkusen in the Bundesliga.
“They have very fast and alert forwards, they are probably the opposite of Sweden, who have a strong and physical presence, whereas South Korea play with small, speedy and alert players,” said Werner.
“In Son Heung-min, they have an internationally well-known player. He has shown what he can do, so I think we really need to keep an eye on him.
“Having said that, we shouldn’t watch the opposition too closely – we need to focus on ourselves.”
Toni Kroos rescued Germany’s World Cup hopes in dramatic fashion on Saturday, curling in a stunning free-kick deep in injury time to seal a 2-1 win against Sweden.
The defending champions were in desperate trouble when Ola Toivonen put the Swedes ahead in the first half and even though Marco Reus equalised shortly after the interval, Joachim Loew’s men could not find the goal they craved as time ticked away.
Germany’s task was made more difficult when key defender Jerome Boateng was sent off in the 82nd minute for a second yellow card.
But Kroos stepped up in the 95th minute to curl a free-kick from the left edge of the penalty area into the top corner, beating the despairing dive of Robin Olsen, who had been outstanding in the Swedish goal.
The result in Sochi means Germany join Sweden on three points in Group F, with Mexico in the lead on six points after their earlier victory against South Korea, who have no points after two games.
The final games in the group on Wednesday pit South Korea against Germany and Mexico against Sweden.
Mexico showed that their shock defeat of Germany last weekend was no fluke with a 2-1 defeat of South Korea in Rostov-on-Don.
West Ham striker Javier Hernandez grabbed his 50th international goal while Los Angeles FC forward Carlos Vela was also on target from the penalty spot.
South Korea scored a late consolation strike from Tottenham’s Son Heung-min, but it was too little, too late for the Asian giants, who desperately needed a victory after losing to Sweden in their opening game.
“Sometimes against teams that have less of a footballing tradition than the biggest nations, you can tend to rest on your laurels and lose concentration,” said Mexico coach Juan Carlos Osorio.
“But it was a deserved victory. We are very happy and we share that with the whole of the country.”
Lukaku, Hazard strike
Earlier, Belgium powered towards the last 16, producing an imperious display to overwhelm Tunisia, with Premier League stars Romelu Lukaku and Eden Hazard scoring two apiece in a 5-2 rout at Moscow’s Spartak Stadium.
The one-sided victory cemented Belgium’s place at the top of Group G and all but guaranteed their place in the knockout rounds, with just one group game, against England, remaining.
Manchester United striker Lukaku took his goals tally to the tournament to four as the Red Devils carved open Tunisia’s defence with an impressive attacking display.
Chelsea playmaker Hazard fired Belgium into an early lead from the penalty spot before Lukaku found the net in the 16th minute, adding another on the stroke of half-time.
Hazard added another in the 51st minute before substitute Michy Batshuayi added the fifth in the 90th minute.
Dylan Bronn and captain Wahbi Khazri grabbed consolation goals for Tunisia, who now face almost certain elimination.
“We are a good team, we want to reach the final and we are stronger than four years ago,” said Hazard, the man-of-the-match.
“The match was easy because we scored after five minutes and knew Tunisia would leave spaces as they needed to win, making it easier for us.”
Belgium and England will qualify for the last 16 on Sunday if England defeat Panama in Nizhny Novgorod.
The fallout from Friday’s politically charged clash between Switzerland and Serbia rumbled on Saturday.
Switzerland snatched a dramatic 2-1 win over Serbia on Friday courtesy of goals from Granit Xhaka and Xherdan Shaqiri.
Both Xhaka and Shaqiri, who have roots in Kosovo, a former province of Serbia that has declared independence in a move not recognised by Belgrade, celebrated their goals by making a gesture representing the Albanian flag.
The Serbian press slammed the celebrations as “shameful provocation.”
Serbia coach Mladen Krstajic demanded German match referee Felix Brych be tried as a war criminal in The Hague after failing to award his team a penalty.
“We were robbed,” Mladen Krstajic told Serbian reporters on Saturday, when asked about Brych’s decision.
“I wouldn’t give him either a yellow or red card, I would send him to The Hague. Then they could put him on trial, like they did to us.”
The now-defunct Hague-based International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia was a UN body that prosecutes the perpetrators of war crimes committed during the wars in the former Yugoslavia.
Liverpool have qualified for the Europa League semi-finals with a dramatic fight back to defeat Borussia Dortmund 4-3 at Anfield.
Goals from Origi, Coutinho, Sakho and Lovren helped Klopp triumph in the dying minutes of the game against his former club on Thursday night.
Two quick goals by Henrikh Mkhitaryan in the fifth minute and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang in the ninth minute half had left Liverpool shocked and on the verge of exit without a fight.
Pressure mounted for the fans as the setback was followed by series of missed chances that left the Anfield faithful frustrated.
The second half started well for Liverpool and the early pressure paid off in the 48th minute through Origi but just when Liverpool thought they were launching a comeback, Marco Reus silenced the home fans with a lovely finish, which left Klopp visibly furious.
Two goals down and three away goals already for Dortmund with less than 30 minutes to play, Liverpool needed three goals without conceding any more goals to win on aggregate, having drawn the first leg 1-1 in Germany.
They made it 3-4 on aggregate in the 66th minute after James Milner played a one-two with Coutinho on the edge of the box, with the Brazilian star guiding home a great strike.
The Brazilian turned the provider of the equalizer in the 77th minutes as he whipped a corner in from the left-hand side with Sturridge managing to do enough to let the ball run past him at the near post!
Former PSG centre-back, Mamadou Sakho was quickest to react and turned home a close-range finish to make it 4-4 on aggregate.
Anfield went wild and they could only pray a complete miracle. One more goal and Liverpool would be in the semis. Both coaches made changes to make the best of the final minutes of the game.
There were four minutes of stoppage time and the pressure got to Schmelzer who picked up a yellow card for petulance, with Dortmund’s tempers flaring after a free-kick was awarded to Liverpool.
The Reds, however, maintained focus and the free-kick was taken short by Milner to Sturridge, with the latter then feeding the former to the right byline. He hung up a lovely cross, with Lovren rising highest at the back post to guide home a thumping header.
It was the 91st minutes and Liverpool had done the unthinkable; fighting back from being 1-3 down to defeat Dortmund 4-3 and qualifying for the semi-final 5-4 on aggregate.
This could go down as one of the greatest nights in Europa League history.
Thursday night ended in disappointment for two English teams, Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester United playing away in the Europa League.
Manchester United lost to Liverpool 2-0 at Anfield in their first meeting in Europe with goals from Daniel Sturridge and Roberto Firmino.
The hosts made the breakthrough in the first half when Daniel Sturridge beat David De Gea from the penalty spot after Nathaniel Clyne was brought down by Memphis Depay.
Liverpool midfielders Adam Lallana and Philippe Coutinho wasted great opportunities to double the home side’s lead before half-time.
However, Roberto Firmino handed the Reds a commanding 2-0 first-leg lead at Anfield after a close-range finish with 17 minutes remaining of the first leg.
Tottenham were shocked by in-form Borrusia Dortmund 3-0 in Germany.
Manchester United and Arsenal target Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang gave the Germans a first-half lead. Marco Reus hit two after the break to make the Germans the favourites to clinch a place in the quarter-finals in second leg.
In other Europa League round of 16 first leg matches played on Thursday night, Swiss Side Basel played a goalless draw with Spanish club Sevilla while Turkish giants Fenerbache beat Portugal’s Sporting Braga 1-0.
Ukrainian power house Shakhtar Donetsk beat Anderlecht of Belgium 3-1 and Athletic Bilbao beat Valencia 1-0 in an all-Spanish encounter,
Sparta Prague played a 1-1 draw with Ogenyi Onazi’s Lazio while Villareal beat Bayer Leverkusen 2-0 at the Estadio El Madrigal.
Nigeria Coach, Stephen Keshi has recalled Enugu Rangers striker, Ejike Uzoenyi, to the Super Eagles camp on Saturday afternoon for the 2014 World Cup after injury ruled out left back, Elderson Echiejile.
It was reported that Echiejile, who suffered a muscle tear in Nigeria’s tune up friendly against Greece, would be side-lined for at least two weeks and the technical crew were not willing to risk him with the tournament starting in few days.
Coach Stephen Keshi, had earlier said that he would seek better medical opinion before deciding whether Echiejile would make it to Brazil or not.
However, the defender’s absence from the team’s training on Friday further fuelled speculation that the AS Monaco player might miss the Mundial.
Uzoenyi, who wept in the team bus on the way back to the hotel in Philadelphia after being informed that he did not make the initial 23-man team, would now have a chance to prove his worth.
The Super Eagles will face the United States of America in Saturday’s international friendly, as part of preparations for the World Cup which begins on June 12.
The World Cup in the last few days had been rocked by injuries to star players like Franck Ribery of France, Germany’s Marco Reus, and Italy’s Riccardo Montolivo, who have been ruled out of the Mundial.
Ejike Uzoenyi was named to Nigeria’s squad for the 2014 African Nations Championship and was selected the Most Valuable Player of the tournament.