Courtois Ready For Penalties Against Liverpool: ‘It’s A Moment To Shine’

In this file photo, Real Madrid’s Belgian goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois warms up before the start of the Spanish league football match between Real Madrid CF and Cadiz CF, at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid on December 19, 2021. JAVIER SORIANO / AFP

 

Real Madrid goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois has said he will not be afraid to take a penalty if their Champions League final against Liverpool goes the distance on Saturday.

Courtois has an impressive record saving penalties this season, having stopped three of his five faced, including one from Lionel Messi against Paris Saint-Germain in the first leg of the last 16.

It proved a crucial moment as Madrid came back from 1-0 down in the second leg to win the tie 3-2.

The Belgian was also instrumental in Madrid’s most recent penalty shoot-out victory in 2020, as he dived to palm away Thomas Partey’s shot in the final of the Spanish Super Cup against Atletico Madrid. Real Madrid won their last Champions League final that went to penalties, also against Atletico in 2016.

Courtois said he will be doing his homework on Liverpool’s most likely takers while the 30-year-old said he is also ready to step up if required.

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“I remember in pre-season with Chelsea against PSG I scored one and in the Community Shield against Arsenal I missed one,” said Courtois. “(Antonio) Conte put me there because he knew I could shoot well, but obviously standing on the spot, in an important moment, is different.

“I wouldn’t be one of the first five (takers), for sure, but maybe after, if you need to shoot, you have to shoot. I don’t fear it. It’s a moment to shine.

“We won one (shoot-out) against Atletico Madrid in the Super Cup a few years ago when I saved one penalty. This season I have saved three.

“You study ahead. Against Chelsea we had two penalties and you study them, because you can see the similarities. Hopefully it will not come back to that but if it does, I will be ready.”

Mohamed Salah has already said he wants revenge for their loss to Real Madrid in the 2018 final, when two errors by Liverpool goalkeeper Loris Karius gifted Madrid the win.

Liverpool signed Alisson Becker a few weeks later for a world-record 75 million euros and the Brazilian has been a revelation ever since.

“He is a great goalkeeper,” said Courtois. “The times I have played against him in England and with Real, he is one of the best goalkeepers in the world.

“He has great quality and has saved Liverpool a lot of times. Nowadays you need a good defence and goalkeeper and at the other end you need strikers who score you goals, that is what takes you far.”

“If you go back 15 or 20 years it was really different,” Courtois added. “To be a goalkeeper now you have to be a playmaker from the back, you have to come out as a ‘libero’ to (meet) the ball in behind and run out and take it.

“They expect you to be calm on the ball and to make decisive passes but obviously you don’t have someone behind you that can save you because you are the last man.

“You know that sometimes there can be a mistake and I hope it is not coming for me. I don’t want to wish that on any goalkeeper.”

Real Madrid have shown their magic touch again in the Champions League this season, after staging three consecutive comebacks against PSG, Chelsea and then Manchester City to reach the final.

“You just have to see the games we played at home against Paris, Chelsea and City. The moment we equalise or score that goal, the reaction of the other team – you can see that they know what can happen,” Courtois said.

“You can see at 1-1 against City, the reaction of the players. That is what makes Madrid so special, that is why it is so amazing and people talk so much about the history of Real Madrid.”

Real Madrid will be going for a record-extending 14th European Cup while Liverpool will be chasing their seventh, to pull level with AC Milan as the second most successful club in the competition’s history.

Liverpool have already won the League Cup and FA Cup in England this season.

“We don’t have to go crazy because it’s a game that could go back and forth,” said Courtois. “We have to be clear about how we want to play and not play their game. We have to make them play our game, that’s the important thing.”

AFP

Liverpool Eye Revenge Against Real Madrid In Champions League Final Rematch

In this file photo, Real Madrid’s Brazilian forward Rodrygo (C) vies with Liverpool’s Brazilian midfielder Fabinho (L) and Liverpool’s Scottish defender Andrew Robertson during the UEFA Champions League quarter-final second leg football match between Liverpool and Real Madrid at Anfield in Liverpool, northwest England on April 14, 2021. (Photo by Paul ELLIS / AFP)

 

Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool are seeking to cap a remarkable season by avenging their 2018 defeat against Real Madrid when the sides meet again in the Champions League final in Paris on Saturday, but the Spanish giants have their sights on a 14th European Cup triumph.

It is Liverpool’s third Champions League final in five seasons after they followed their 3-1 loss to Real in Kyiv by beating Tottenham Hotspur in Madrid a year later, and they are widely seen as slight favourites at the Stade de France to become kings of Europe for a seventh time.

That would put them level with AC Milan, with only Saturday’s opponents having won the trophy more often, and it would allow the Anfield club to finish the campaign with a treble after they lifted the English League Cup and FA Cup.

“Winning trophies, there is no better feeling,” admitted Liverpool’s Andy Robertson this week.

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For a long time, an unprecedented quadruple was on, but Klopp’s side fell just short in the Premier League, finishing a point behind Manchester City.

“Without the Champions League, it would be a great season. With the Champions League it would be a fantastic season,” said Klopp.

It has already been a memorable few years for Klopp’s side following their loss in Kyiv, when Mohamed Salah was forced off injured in the first half, Lorius Karius endured a nightmare in goal, and Gareth Bale’s brilliance won the trophy for Real.

“I think it is revenge time,” Salah, scorer of 31 goals this season, admitted recently.

Liverpool appear well placed given how much they have strengthened since 2018, chiefly in goal with the arrival of Alisson, while Thiago Alcantara has been a standout in midfield.

Ancelotti Targets Number Four

The problem is that you could be forgiven for thinking that Real’s name is on the cup, as it has literally been so many times before.

While Liverpool saw off Inter Milan, Benfica and Villarreal in the knockout rounds, it is easy to forget now that Carlo Ancelotti’s Real side lost at home to Sheriff Tiraspol in the group stage, such has been their extraordinary run since.

They were 2-0 down on aggregate to Paris Saint-Germain in the last 16 before a Karim Benzema hat-trick in 17 second-half minutes in the second leg took them through.

Against Chelsea in the quarter-finals they scored late at home in the return leg to force extra time before Benzema got their winner.

The best was saved for the semi-final against Manchester City when they went into the 90th minute of the second leg needing two goals just to force extra time. They duly got them, and Benzema then struck the winner.

The 34-year-old Frenchman now leads Madrid into the final in his home country after a campaign in which he has scored 44 goals, with 15 in Europe and 27 on their run to the Spanish title.

Benzema will surely be nailed on to win the Ballon d’Or if his club triumphs in Paris, where victory would also help Real supporters get over Kylian Mbappe’s decision to snub them.

Madrid are chasing their fifth Champions League in nine seasons, a run that began when they beat Atletico Madrid in Lisbon in 2014.

Benzema was in that team, as was Luka Modric, while Ancelotti was the coach in his first spell in charge.

The veteran Italian can now become the first coach to win the Champions League four times, having also triumphed with AC Milan in 2003 and 2007.

Security Operation

The latter victory came against Liverpool and was revenge for the Anfield club’s win over Ancelotti’s Milan in Istanbul in 2005.

“Playing a final with them is something special. They have won six Champions Leagues, and if they reach seven they would go level with Milan, so I have extra motivation to win this final,” smiled Ancelotti, who had a spell as boss of Liverpool’s local rivals Everton before returning to Madrid.

This will be the third final between the clubs, who also met in Paris in 1981 — then the English side were victorious thanks to Alan Kennedy’s goal at the Parc des Princes.

This final was not supposed to be played here, but Paris stepped in after UEFA stripped Saint-Petersburg of the game following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

A crowd of 80,000 will fill the Stade de France, with 20,000 fans of each team officially in attendance.

Around 40,000 more Liverpool fans are expected to travel to Paris without tickets, however, and around seven thousand police will be on duty as part of a massive security operation.

AFP

Mbappe Snub Leaves Real Madrid Reeling As Reality Of New World Order Sets In

Paris Saint-Germain’s French forward Kylian Mbappe poses with a jersey after the announcement he staying at PSG until 2025 before the French L1 football match between Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) and Metz at the Parc des Princes stadium in Paris on May 21, 2022. Anne-Christine POUJOULAT / AFP

 

 

Real Madrid thought they had a signing to define an era and the heir to Cristiano Ronaldo. Instead, they got humiliation and a reminder of football’s new world order, after Kylian Mbappe decided to stay at Paris Saint-Germain.

The boy who plastered posters of Ronaldo onto his bedroom walls had been applauded by Real Madrid’s fans when PSG played at the Santiago Bernabeu in the Champions League in March.

There was even a degree of appreciation for his two goals, which left Madrid on the brink of defeat. This was at least a preview, they thought, of the player that would soon belong to them.

Those expectations have been swelling for years, the protracted nature of this saga creating a longing at Real Madrid and a fanfare in the media.

The hype made Mbappe joining Madrid feel both inevitable and, at the same time, absolutely essential.

The club have been obsessed by Mbappe. The pandemic restricted spending but there has also been a method in their restraint, a building up of funds for the biggest signing of all.

Last year, Sergio Ramos and Raphael Varane were let go to reduce the wage bill while in 2020, Real went without a single summer signing for the first time in 40 years.

More recently, they stepped back from the possibility of signing Erling Haaland from Borussia Dortmund, so convinced were they that Mbappe would come. They briefly thought they could buy both. Instead, they have ended up with neither.

In the short-term, Madrid will cope. They have won La Liga this season at a canter without Mbappe and they will win the Champions League without him too if they defeat a fatigued Liverpool in Paris next Saturday.

This season they have beaten Manchester City, Chelsea, PSG, Barcelona and Atletico Madrid.

And few would say Real’s weakness is their attack. Vinicius Junior has emerged as one of the world’s most frightening wingers and Karim Benzema established himself as the clear favourite for the Ballon d’Or.

With Mbappe in the team, would Vinicius and Benzema have shone so brightly?

But the longer-term is where Real Madrid will surely feel the loss. Mbappe could have been a catalyst for change, a focal point for a new era, the kind of signing that forces a squad to update and tactics to be modernised.

Madrid’s aura and history in the Champions League always makes them an opponent to be respected, but with Mbappe they would once again have been a team to be feared.

– Blow for La Liga –
President Florentino Perez will want to put things right quickly, to restore pride and prestige. Mohamed Salah, Harry Kane, Robert Lewandowski or a sensational return for Ronaldo could all quickly move to the top of his agenda.

If he wants to sting PSG, perhaps even Ousmane Dembele, reportedly destined for Paris from Barcelona, would appeal.

A more strategic approach might be to bolster other positions, like in midfield and at full-back, where Real actually need strengthening more.

For the current players, there could well be a galvanising effect.

The concern had been that an Mbappe announcement before the Champions League final might distract but a number of pointed, although well-disguised, social media posts on Saturday suggest Madrid’s players would enjoy lifting a 14th European Cup now in Paris even more.

It would be a statement for Spanish football but La Liga, whose own relations with Madrid are hardly warm, have been hit hard by the decisions of Mbappe and Haaland to play, not just elsewhere, but for PSG and Manchester City.

“On Kylian Mbappe’s possible announcement to stay at PSG, La Liga wishes to state that this type of agreement attacks the economic stability of European football,” the league wrote in a statement on Saturday.

Amid the rise of state-backed clubs and the soaring wealth of the Premier League, Mbappe might have been an important moment of resistance, a check on the unfettered ability of those clubs to financially bulldoze the market.

For a long time, it was Real Madrid who had that power, an institution with the money and status to poach the world’s best players, even from the world’s top clubs, and there is certainly an irony in the anger now about another club throwing their weight, and money, around.

But their hurt is grounded in the wider point about what Mbappe’s decision, coming so soon after Haaland’s, really means.

Politically and financially, Real Madrid and Barcelona were for so long the top dogs in European football. Now it is the state-run clubs that rule the roost.

‘No Words Can Help’ Ease Man City Euro Exit – Guardiola

Manchester City’s Spanish manager Pep Guardiola reacts during the UEFA Champions League semi-final second leg football match between Real Madrid CF and Manchester City at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid on May 4, 2022. (Photo by Paul ELLIS / AFP)

 

Pep Guardiola admits “no words can help” ease the pain of Manchester City’s elimination from the Champions League as he refocuses on his side’s Premier League title challenge.

City were just moments away from claiming a place in the final against Liverpool before Real Madrid staged a stunning fightback at the Bernabeu on Wednesday.

Real scored twice in the final seconds of normal time and eventually won the game 3-1 after extra-time, taking the semi-final tie 6-5 on aggregate.

Asked on Friday what he said to his players, Guardiola told reporters: “We didn’t speak. No words can help what we feel.

“It’s a question of time, try to sleep and think of the targets. Tomorrow we will talk.”

READ ALSO: Three Things We Learned From Real Madrid Vs Manchester City

Real Madrid players celebrate their victory at the end of the UEFA Champions League semi-final second leg football match between Real Madrid CF and Manchester City at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid on May 4, 2022. (Photo by JAVIER SORIANO / AFP)

 

The City boss must now pick his men up for the Premier League run-in.

City, who lead Liverpool by just one point with four games left, host mid-table Newcastle on Sunday, a day after Jurgen Klopp’s team play Tottenham.

“We’re not thinking about the title, we’re thinking about Newcastle,” said Guardiola.

“That’s enough to focus on. Then Wolves, then West Ham. It’s not necessary to listen to what people are saying we can achieve.”

Guardiola, speaking at his pre-match press conference, made a passionate defence of his side after their latest stumble on the European stage.

City have dominated English football over the past decade but have yet to be crowned European champions despite huge investment from their Abu Dhabi owners.

“If people say it’s a failure then I disagree,” said Guardiola, whose team lost last year’s Champions League final to Chelsea.

“The people in the squad know how difficult it is. But they accept it. I’m not going to make a debate.

“In the club the feeling we have is we try to do it again. We are sad, of course, because we were close.”

Guardiola, who won two Champions League titles when in charge of Barcelona, said Real deserved their victory but vowed City would not give up on their Champions League dream.

“The players wanted to play the final but for this club to compete against Real the way we did is a joy,” he said.

“I say congratulations to Liverpool and Madrid, they deserve it. Next season we try again and if it doesn’t work we try again.”

AFP

Three Things We Learned From Real Madrid Vs Manchester City

Real Madrid players celebrate their victory at the end of the UEFA Champions League semi-final second leg football match between Real Madrid CF and Manchester City at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid on May 4, 2022. (Photo by JAVIER SORIANO / AFP)

 

 

Real Madrid produced another barely believable Champions League fightback to beat Manchester City 3-1 after extra time on Wednesday and reach the final 6-5 on aggregate.

The Spanish champions will take on Liverpool in Paris on May 28 in a repeat of the 1981 and 2018 finals.

AFP Sport looks at three things we learned from a classic semi-final.

City’s Champions League pain goes onPep Guardiola’s reign in Manchester is four games away from delivering four Premier League titles in the past five years.

But the one trophy they really want remains elusive as another shot at the Champions League spectacularly blew up in their faces.

It is now 11 years since Guardiola last lifted Europe’s biggest prize as Barcelona boss.

 

Manchester City’s Spanish manager Pep Guardiola reacts during the UEFA Champions League semi-final second leg football match between Real Madrid CF and Manchester City at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid on May 4, 2022. – Real Madrid won the match 3-1. (Photo by Paul ELLIS / AFP)

 

The defensive frailties and fragile mentality of his early seasons at City in this competition seemed to have been washed away by a run to the club’s first ever final last season.

For 89 minutes, they looked like a side maturing under the intense spotlight the latter stages of the Champions League provides.

But that will only make this collapse hurt all the more.

City will look back on the chances wasted to kill off the Spanish giants in both legs as four times they let a two-goal advantage in the tie slip away.

Now they have to rouse themselves quickly to prevent that pain being compounded by also seeing Liverpool snatch away the Premier League title.

Madrid young guns lead the old guard of Karim Benzema and Luka Modric got most of the credit for Real’s revivals to beat Paris Saint-Germain and Chelsea just to make it to the last four.

 

Real Madrid players celebrate their victory at the end of the UEFA Champions League semi-final second leg football match between Real Madrid CF and Manchester City at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid on May 4, 2022. (Photo by GABRIEL BOUYS / AFP)

 

However, the introduction of Rodrygo and Eduardo Camavinga also helped swing those second legs at a bouncing Bernabeu in the home side’s favour.

Rodrygo had scored two goals all season until taking the Chelsea tie to extra time last month.

With City leading 1-0 on the night thanks to Riyad Mahrez’s strike and 5-3 on aggregate, the Brazilian transformed the tie by scoring twice in 88 seconds as the game entered stoppage time.

Camavinga’s powerful run beyond the tiring legs of the City midfield then set up the winner as Benzema lured Ruben Dias into a mistimed challenge in the box.

Carlo Ancelotti has consistently kept faith with his veterans all season.

But there are only so many times the Italian can be rescued by his young guns off the bench.

 

Real Madrid’s Brazilian defender Marcelo celebrates with teammates after the UEFA Champions League semi-final second leg football match between Real Madrid CF and Manchester City at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid on May 4, 2022. (Photo by GABRIEL BOUYS / AFP)

 

Camavinga and Rodrygo are entitled to believe they deserve to start against Liverpool.

Money can’t buy Madrid’s mentality

The tradition of the 13-time European champions has not stopped Madrid from being the biggest supporters of a breakaway Super League.

Behind their reasoning has been a fear that they can no longer compete financially for the world’s best players up against the state-backed wealth of PSG and City, or even billionaire-backed clubs like Chelsea have been under Roman Abramovich.

However, they have eliminated all three in a remarkable run to their 17th European Cup final.

 

Real Madrid’s French forward Karim Benzema celebrates at the end of the UEFA Champions League semi-final second leg football match between Real Madrid CF and Manchester City at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid on May 4, 2022. (Photo by PIERRE-PHILIPPE MARCOU / AFP)

 

“We are the kings of Europe” reverberated around the Bernabeu once Benzema slotted home the crucial penalty.

For all the billions thrown at this competition by PSG and City, they remain without a European Cup between them.

The Madrid tradition of success is something money can’t buy.

Real Madrid And Liverpool Set For Paris Rematch

Real Madrid’s Belgian goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois (R) clears the ball past Athletic Bilbao’s Spanish defender Inigo Martinez during the Spanish Copa del Rey (King’s Cup) quarter-final football match between Athletic Club Bilbao and Real Madrid CF at the San Mames stadium in Bilbao on February 3, 2022.
CESAR MANSO / AFP

 

A third all-English Champions League final in four years seemed to be on the cards but Real Madrid’s incredible late comeback against Manchester City on Wednesday has set up a rematch between the Spanish club and Liverpool in Paris on May 28.

Madrid’s epic European campaign hit new heights as they came back from the dead against Pep Guardiola’s City, trailing 1-0 on the night and 5-3 on aggregate before a Rodrygo brace in the 90th and 91st minutes forced extra time.

Karim Benzema then converted a penalty five minutes into the extra half-hour to make it 3-1 on the night and 6-5 on aggregate for Carlo Ancelotti’s side who then held on to secure their final spot, four days after reclaiming the Spanish title.

Their defeat of City came after they recovered from 2-0 down on aggregate to knock out Paris Saint-Germain in the last 16, and then also fought back to beat Chelsea in extra time in the quarter-finals.

Madrid’s extraordinary triumph on Wednesday followed 24 hours on from Liverpool’s 3-2 win away at Villarreal, in which they came back from two goals down on the night to win 5-3 on aggregate.

The final at the Stade de France will be a repeat of the 2018 showpiece, when Gareth Bale’s stunning double secured a 3-1 win for Real Madrid in Kiev and gave them their record-extending 13th European Cup.

Seven members of the Real team involved that night four years ago also featured against City on Wednesday, just as seven Liverpool players in 2018 played in the win at Villarreal.

“We have a score to settle,” wrote Mohamed Salah on Twitter as the Liverpool forward kicked off the hostilities early.

It will be Liverpool’s third final in five seasons after they went on to win their sixth European crown in 2019, defeating Tottenham Hotspur 2-0 in Madrid.

Another victory at the Stade de France will see them go level on seven European Cups with AC Milan, with only Madrid having won more.

Indeed Real have won all of their seven previous final appearances in the Champions League era, their last defeat at this stage coming in 1981 against Liverpool in Paris.

– Ancelotti’s personal history –

Fans of the Anfield club may try to see that as an omen, recalling Alan Kennedy’s late goal at the Parc des Princes that gave Bob Paisley’s side victory as Liverpool won the European Cup for the third time in five years.

By the time this season’s final comes around they may be seeking to complete a historic quadruple — having already won the League Cup, they trail a chastened Manchester City by just one point at the top of the Premier League and face Chelsea in the FA Cup final on May 14.

Real want history too, though, as does Ancelotti, who won the Champions League twice as a coach with Milan and led Madrid to victory in 2014 during his first spell in charge at the Santiago Bernabeu.

He was on the Milan bench when they lost on penalties to Liverpool in the 2005 final in Istanbul, the Italians throwing away a 3-0 half-time lead.

However, Ancelotti’s Milan gained revenge two years later when they beat the Reds 2-1 in Athens.

“I am really pleased to be in another final, once again against Liverpool. It will be my third final against them as a coach,” said Ancelotti, who was also formerly in charge of their Merseyside rivals Everton.

“I lived in Liverpool for two years so this is a derby for me.”

Ancelotti is level with Liverpool legend Paisley and ex-Madrid boss Zinedine Zidane on three European Cups as a coach, but victory on May 28 would see him become the first manager to win the trophy four times.

He last faced Liverpool during his 18-month spell in charge of Everton, in which time he was unbeaten against them in three Premier League meetings and notably oversaw a 2-0 win at Anfield.

Come Back Kings Real Madrid Beat Man City, Reach Champions League Final


Real Madrid’s French forward Karim Benzema (C) celebrates with Real Madrid’s Brazilian forward Vinicius Junior (L) and Real Madrid’s Brazilian defender Eder Militao after scoring his team’s third goal during the UEFA Champions League semi-final second leg football match between Real Madrid CF and Manchester City at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid on May 4, 2022.
JAVIER SORIANO / AFP

 

Karim Benzema scored an extra-time penalty as Real Madrid came from behind to beat Manchester City 3-1 in the second leg and set up a Champions League final against Liverpool.

City appeared to be heading to a second successive final when Riyad Mahrez put them two goals ahead in the tie with 17 minutes left, but Rodrygo struck twice in the 90th and 91st minutes to force extra time.

Benzema nervelessly slotted home his 15th goal of this season’s Champions League from the spot after he was fouled by Ruben Dias, sending the 13-time European champions through 6-5 on aggregate to the final in Paris on May 28.

AFP

Ancelotti Will ‘Probably’ Retire After Real Madrid Job

Real Madrid’s Italian coach Carlo Ancelotti gestures during the Spanish League football match between Real Madrid CF and RCD Espanyol at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid on April 30, 2022.
GABRIEL BOUYS / AFP

 

 

Real Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti has said that he will “probably” retire when he leaves the La Liga champions but is prepared to stay at the Santiago Bernabeu for several years.

The 62-year-old Italian became on Saturday the first coach in history to win all five of Europe’s top leagues this season with Real, who also face Manchester City on Wednesday in their Champions League semi-final second leg.

“After Real, yes, I probably stop,” Ancelotti told Prime Video in an interview partially broadcast on Tuesday.

“But if Real keep me here for 10 years, I’ll coach here for 10 years.”

The Italian is under contract with the Spanish giants until 2024, after rejoining the club for a second spell in charge last year from Everton.

Ancelotti said that he wants to spend more time with his family and travel, but did not rule out potentially leading a national team at the 2026 World Cup in the United States, Mexico and Canada.

“I would like to spend time with my grandchildren, go on holiday with my wife,” he added. “There are so many things that I have neglected and that I would like to do…

“Yes, there could be a national team but that’s premature for the moment.”

Ancelotti was Italy’s assistant coach during their run to the 1994 World Cup final in the USA, where they lost to Brazil on penalties.

He is bidding for a fourth Champions League title this season, after two triumphs with AC Milan in 2003 and 2007 and success during his first stint in Madrid in 2014.

Real will attempt to overturn a 4-3 first-leg deficit against Man City, with a place in the final against either Liverpool or Villarreal in Paris up for grabs.

Real Madrid Win 35th Spanish La Liga Title

Real Madrid’s French forward Karim Benzema celebrates after scoring a goal during the Spanish League football match between Real Madrid CF and RCD Espanyol at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid on April 30, 2022. (Photo by GABRIEL BOUYS / AFP)

 

 

Real Madrid secured a 35th La Liga title on Saturday with four games to spare after a 4-0 home win over Espanyol fuelled by two goals from Rodrygo.

Needing just one point to clinch the trophy, Madrid struck twice through the Brazilian in the first half at the Santiago Bernabeu before goals from Marco Asensio and Karim Benzema.

Madrid moved 17 points clear of second-placed Sevilla with four matches to play. Barcelona have a game in hand but are 18 points adrift.

Given they have been top since November, there was no surprise about Madrid winning a league they have dominated for months, but dips in form from Barcelona and Sevilla offered the chance for an earlier coronation than expected.

With La Liga wrapped up, Madrid can now turn their full attention to the second leg of their semi-final at home to Manchester City on Wednesday, when they will need to overturn a 4-3 loss from the opening game last week to advance to another European final.

 

Real Madrid’s French forward Karim Benzema celebrates with teammates after scoring a goal during the Spanish League football match between Real Madrid CF and RCD Espanyol at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid on April 30, 2022. (Photo by GABRIEL BOUYS / AFP)

 

Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti rested Benzema and Vinicius Junior from the start for the visit of Espanyol, and Rodrygo seized his chance with two goals late in the first half.

He combined with compatriot Marcelo to put Madrid ahead on 33 minutes as he steered into the far corner for only his second league goal this campaign.

Mariano Diaz, handed a rare start in attack, then won the ball back deep in Espanyol territory and Rodrygo rolled in a second with a clinical finish past goalkeeper Diego Lopez.

Eduardo Camavinga played in Asensio to slam in a third for Madrid on the counter on 55 minutes, with Luka Modric then making way for Toni Kroos and Benzema replacing Casemiro on the hour.

Benzema notched his 42nd goal in as many games this season across all competitions to seal a runaway triumph for Madrid, as Ancelotti became the first coach to win all five major European league titles.

Man City Beat Real Madrid In Seven-Goal Champions League Classic

Manchester City's Portuguese midfielder Bernardo Silva celebrates after scoring his team fourth goal during the UEFA Champions League semi-final first leg football match between Manchester City and Real Madrid, at the Etihad Stadium, in Manchester, on April 26, 2022. Oli SCARFF / AFP
Manchester City’s Portuguese midfielder Bernardo Silva celebrates after scoring his team fourth goal during the UEFA Champions League semi-final first leg football match between Manchester City and Real Madrid, at the Etihad Stadium, in Manchester, on April 26, 2022. Oli SCARFF / AFP

 

Manchester City have a slender lead to defend in the second leg of their Champions League semi-final against Real Madrid after winning a thrilling first leg 4-3 at the Etihad on Tuesday.

The English champions could live to regret not killing off the 13-time winners after taking a two-goal lead three times.

Kevin De Bruyne, Gabriel Jesus, Phil Foden and Bernardo Silva were on target for Pep Guardiola’s men, who should have scored many more.

READ ALSO: Rudiger Will Leave Chelsea At End Of Season – Tuchel

But Karim Benzema’s double and a brilliant individual effort from Vinicius Junior gave Madrid hope of another famous Champions League fightback at the Santiago Bernabeu on May 4.

Guardiola lamented letting Liverpool escape “alive” in the Premier League title race after a 2-2 draw at the Etihad nine days ago and will have similar regrets after a blistering opening that could have seen City go 4-0 up inside half an hour.

Madrid were playing in their 30th semi-final to City’s third, but the English giants lived up to their tag as pre-tie favourites early on.

Only 92 seconds had passed before the Madrid rearguard was breached by Riyad Mahrez’s quick feet and perfect cross for De Bruyne to stoop and head past Thibaut Courtois.

Guardiola has often been criticised for overthinking his team selection at the business end of the Champions League.

But his decision to break from the mould of the past two seasons and play Jesus as a central striker was inspired as the Brazilian ran the Real defence ragged.

Jesus pounced to make it 2-0 after just 10 minutes after David Alaba failed to deal with De Bruyne’s cross.

The Spanish champions-elect were without Casemiro and his absence showed as City cut through midfield on the counter-attack at will.

Guardiola was furious with Mahrez after he selfishly smashed into the side-netting with Foden awaiting the cross for a tap in.

Moments later it was Foden who was guilty of wasting a glorious chance when he dragged wide another pinpoint De Bruyne through ball.

Benzema rouses Madrid

Benzema dragged Madrid back from the dead to see off Paris Saint-Germain and Chelsea in the previous two rounds and again rose to his side’s rescue before half-time.

The Frenchman cushioned in his 40th goal of the season off the post from Ferland Mendy’s cross.

Yet, Madrid’s good work in steadying the ship towards the end of the first half was undone in another slow start after the break.

Mahrez hit the post when one-on-one with Courtois before Dani Carvajal blocked Foden’s follow-up on the line.

Fernandinho was forced to deputise at right-back after replacing the injured John Stones in the first half.

And the City captain had a major role to play in two goals in two minutes at either end.

Firstly, he picked out Foden to restore City’s two-goal lead.

But the 36-year-old showed his age as Vinicius sprinted clear of his Brazilian compatriot from the halfway line before slotting past Ederson.

City continued to create chances at an alarming rate for Carlo Ancelotti but it took something special when they did finally get a fourth.

Oleksandr Zinchenko was fouled on the edge of the area, but Romanian referee Istvan Kovacs played advantage and Silva thrashed into the top corner.

Again City failed to put the tie to bed as Mahrez was inches away from finding the far corner from the narrowest of angles.

But there was a final twist eight minutes from time when Aymeric Laporte handled inside the area.

Benzema was the coolest man in the stadium as he chipped the spot-kick down the middle to leave the tie on a knife-edge headed back to the Spanish capital.

Liverpool, Man City Face Defining Moment In FA Cup Clash

Manchester City’s English midfielder Phil Foden (L) crosses the ball during the English Premier League football match between Manchester City and Liverpool at the Etihad Stadium in Manchester, north west England, on April 10, 2022. Paul ELLIS / AFP

 

Liverpool will put their unprecedented quadruple bid on the line against treble-chasing Manchester City on Saturday in an FA Cup semi-final that will make or break one club’s dream of football immortality.

Jurgen Klopp’s men are in contention to become the first English team to win all four major trophies in one season.

They lifted the League Cup in February and advanced to the last four of the Champions League after surviving a late scare in their quarter-final second leg against Benfica on Wednesday.

With Liverpool expected to see off Spanish side Villarreal in the semi-finals of Europe’s elite club competition, it is Premier League leaders City who will provide the major obstacle to their ambitions.

READ ALSO: Benzema To The Rescue As Real Madrid Beat Chelsea On Aggregate To Reach Semi-Finals

City are just one point ahead of their title rivals in the Premier League with seven games left after last weekend’s 2-2 draw.

Pep Guardiola’s team are also in the hunt for the Champions League crown and could face Liverpool in the final if they beat Real Madrid in the semis.

City have a rare feat of their own to aim for as they seek to become only the second English side to win the prized treble of the Premier League, Champions League, and FA Cup.

The grand goals of both City and Liverpool mean the stakes could not be higher when they clash for the second time within a week, this time at Wembley for a place in the FA Cup final.

One team will leave the national stadium on a high, the other having to quickly refocus.

Having closed the gap to City from a 14-point margin in January, Liverpool are living up to Klopp’s desire to be as “annoying as possible” to the Premier League champions.

Their two league meetings this season both ended in 2-2 draws and it could take extra time and penalties to separate them this weekend.

“City were really strong last week, we were not at our best,” said Klopp. “I would like to see a game where we are at our best as well.”

He added: “The boys did a lot of good stuff in the game, but I really think in a couple of positions we are really able to perform on a completely different level.”

‘Many Difficult Games’ 

As Klopp concedes, Liverpool were slightly fortunate to escape the Etihad Stadium unscathed last Sunday but they could have a significant advantage for the rematch.

Klopp was able to start with Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Virgil van Dijk on the bench for Wednesday’s 3-3 draw against Benfica, keeping his three key players fresh for the latest City showdown.

In contrast, City were left battered and bruised after an ill-tempered 0-0 draw against Atletico Madrid in their Champions League quarter-final second leg.

Although City progressed to the last four, Guardiola said they are in “big trouble” after Kevin De Bruyne and Kyle Walker limped off injured and Phil Foden finished the game with a bandaged head.

City were planning to travel straight to London from Madrid to prepare for the Liverpool match but their Spanish midfielder Rodri admitted the hectic schedule was taking its toll.

“The calendar is crazy. We’ve had these two games against Atletico, the other day against Liverpool. You have to work 100 percent and now we have Liverpool again, too many difficult games at the same time but it is what it is,” he said.

“We have to refresh our minds, recover and give the best shape in the next game.”

In Sunday’s semi-final, Chelsea face Crystal Palace looking to show they have recovered from their painful Champions League exit against Real Madrid.

Chelsea overturned a 3-1 first-leg deficit to lead 4-3 on aggregate in the Bernabeu on Tuesday, only for Real to grab a late equaliser and dump the holders out with an extra-time winner.

AFP

Benzema To The Rescue As Real Madrid Beat Chelsea On Aggregate To Reach Semi-Finals

Real Madrid's French forward Karim Benzema celebrates after scoring a goal during the UEFA Champions League quarter final second leg football match between Real Madrid CF and Chelsea FC at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid on April 12, 2022. PIERRE-PHILIPPE MARCOU / AFP
Real Madrid’s French forward Karim Benzema celebrates after scoring a goal during the UEFA Champions League quarter final second leg football match between Real Madrid CF and Chelsea FC at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid on April 12, 2022. PIERRE-PHILIPPE MARCOU / AFP

 

Luka Modric turned the tie and Karim Benzema settled it as Real Madrid held off a sensational fightback from Chelsea on Tuesday to win an enthralling Champions League quarter-final 5-4 on aggregate.

Chelsea wiped out Madrid’s 3-1 lead from the first leg in stunning fashion at the Santiago Bernabeu as Mason Mount, Antonio Rudiger and Timo Werner put Europe’s reigning champions on the brink of a incredible victory.

But the 36-year-old Modric intervened with another moment of genius to add to the very best of his glittering career, a sumptuous pass with the outside of his right foot setting up Rodrygo to volley in and sending a nerve-shredding contest into extra time.

After scoring a hat-trick at Stamford Bridge, Benzema then stepped forward to claim the winner, the Frenchman capitalising on a Rudiger slip to head in, a 3-2 defeat enough to see Madrid into the semi-finals.

At the final whistle, Modric and Benzema dropped to the floor, their combined 70 years of age belying another two vintage contributions that have dragged Real Madrid in sight of a 14th European Cup.

They will face either Manchester City or rivals Atletico Madrid in the last four.

After being thrashed by Brentford and then outplayed by Madrid in the first leg last week, Chelsea came in rejuvenated after putting six past Southampton in the Premier League last weekend.

Thomas Tuchel said on Monday they would need a “fantastic script” to pull off this comeback and they certainly delivered that, their only failing an inability to prevent Modric and Benzema doing what they have done so many times before.

Mount’s goal in the 15th minute set the tone, Madrid immediately consumed by tension and Chelsea given early hope.

Mateo Kovacic had been key in the build-up but it was Ruben Loftus-Cheek’s quick pass into Werner that caught Madrid cold, the German steering the ball with his knee into the path of Mount, who advanced and fired past Courtois.

For 20 minutes, Chelsea were dictating, Madrid pegged back. Reece James was doing a fine job restricting Vinicius Junior, blocking Madrid’s escape route.

Chelsea take command

Benzema, Modric and Toni Kroos tried to wrestle back control but Chelsea’s authority was even more pronounced early in the second half and within minutes they had a second, Rudiger rising high at the back post to head in from a corner.

With their lead gone, Madrid briefly exerted, the crowd coming into the contest. But Chelsea were celebrating a third when Marcos Alonso pivoted round Dani Carvajal’s sliding tackle and slammed into the top corner.

Madrid looked beaten, the stadium dead, but the referee was waiting. VAR spotted Alonso had controlled with his hand and when the decision was reversed, the Bernabeu erupted.

With 28 minutes left, the tie was back in the balance. Madrid had renewed impetus and almost scored, Benzema’s looping header at the back post dropping onto the crossbar.

But it was brief, Chelsea coming again in the 73rd minute as Kovacic slid through Werner, who coolly slalomed past two sliding Madrid defenders and sent a deflected finish dribbling into the corner.

A disappointed Kroos was taken off before a wild contest turned again on the moment of magic from Modric. With the outside of his foot, Modric stroked a 30-yard pass over to the right of the penalty area where Rodrygo, on as a substitute, volleyed in.

Chelsea looked the more likely to nick a late winner and nearly did, Kai Havertz nodding across the six-yard box but Christian Pulisic shot over.

Into extra time and Madrid found another gear, Vinicius finally finding space to tear into. His floated cross might have been easily cleared by Rudiger but the defender slipped, giving Benzema just enough space to guide his header in.

Chelsea, so composed all night, suddenly looked ragged. Eduardo Camavinga fired over. Courtois Cruyff-turned around Havertz.

But they threw everything at Madrid in the final minutes, Courtois saving from Werner before Fede Valverde had to block a shot from Thiago Silva. Edouard Mendy went up for a final corner but it was cleared, Madrid holding on.

 

AFP