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Found 147 results

  1. Atletico Madrid forward Antoine Griezmann has remained tight-lipped over his future after their Europa League final win over Marseille. The France international scored two goals in Atletico's 3-0 victory to seal the Spanish club's third Europa League triumph since 2010 and Griezmann's first major trophy with the team. However, the 27-year-old now looks set to end his four-year stay at Atletico to move to La Liga champions Barcelona, who are reportedly close to activating Griezmann's £88m release clause this summer. "I think now is not the moment to talk about my future," Griezmann told Sky Sports. "I just want to enjoy myself after my performance, after winning a trophy and I want to celebrate with the fans. "Simeone has taught me a lot, he made me become a better player and I hope I can keep improving every year, in every game. I owe a lot to Simeone and my team-mates." Share your thoughts about this news story on Football Manics by signing up for FREE to the website, visiting the forum and joining the chat with fellow football fans.
  2. Atletico Madrid chief executive Miguel Angel Gil Marin has heavily criticised Barcelona over their pursuit of Antoine Griezmann. Marin issued his strongly-worded rebuke hours after a Spanish radio station reported that Barca were poised to pay the French international's 100 million euro release clause. The Atletico chief said the club's stance was very clear regarding Griezmann, who has been strongly linked with a move to the Liga champions summer. "We're fed up with Barcelona's attitude," said Marin on the Atletico website. "That a president, player and a board member speak the way they've done about the future of a player with an existing contract and just a few days before disputing a European final, is an absolute lack of respect towards Atlético Madrid and its fans." "Atlético de Madrid's stance is very clear and has been made public on numerous occasions. Not once have we negotiated for Griezmann nor do we have any intention to do so. "A few months ago, I personally expressed to Barcelona's president that our player isn't for sale nor are we going to sell him. At the same time, I let him know that his inappropriate conduct was against the integrity of the competition, especially since we've been competing for the league title throughout the season and Barcelona have been continuously pressuring one of the most relevant players from our squad. "I also told him in that moment, that in the chance the player exercised his right to nullify his contract due to their pressure throughout the season that Atlético de Madrid would demand Barcelona compensation for their inappropriate behavior. "Enough is enough. I hope this statement serves its purpose and that us Atlético fans can enjoy this moment and prepare ourselves for a final like we should." Share your thoughts about this news story on Football Manics by signing up for FREE to the website, visiting the forum and joining the chat with fellow football fans.
  3. Andres Iniesta has announced he will leave Barcelona at the end of the season. The Spain international came through the youth system with the club and turned professional in 2001. The 33-year-old's announcement came during a press conference at Barca's training ground on Friday, bringing an end to a glittering 22-year career at the Nou Camp. Iniesta, a World Cup winner with Spain, won eight La Liga titles, with a ninth set to be secured in the coming weeks, alongside four Champions League wins and six Copa del Rey crowns. "This is my last season here," he said on Friday. "I have thought my decision through for a long time. For me, Barca is the best club in the world - this club has given me everything. "I would like to thank my teammates and everyone who accompanied me every day, they made me be better. "It's been a dream come true, lots of titles, important moments throughout my career. I am very happy to have played for this club. I am proud." Regarding his future, Iniesta said: "There are still things to work out, different things. I said I would never play against Barca, so it's not going to be in Europe. We will know at the end of the season. "I'm almost 34, I've left everything out on the field, I've given everything to the club, and if I couldn't give everything up to now, I wouldn't be happy. I want to be happy, like I have been here." Iniesta is expected to move to Chinese Super League club Chongqing Dangdai Lifan, with their president Gong Daxing recently admitting they are in negotiations with the midfielder. Share your thoughts about this news story on Football Manics by signing up for FREE to the website, visiting the forum and joining the chat with fellow football fans.
  4. Lionel Messi has won a European Union court battle to register his surname as a trademark to sell sports equipment and clothing. The Barcelona and Argentina striker fought a seven-year fight to be able to use his name on sports goods. His original application was challenged by the Spanish cycling brand, Massi, which argued that the names were too similar and would cause confusion. However, EU's second-highest court ruled on Thursday that Messi is famous enough to overcome phonetic similarities with Massi. The case reached the EU General Court after the brand successfully complained to the EU Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO). The EUIPO said that Messi and Massi were almost identical visually and phonetically and some would find it difficult to tell the two apart, but the court disagreed. "Mr Messi is, in fact, a well-known public figure who can be seen on television and who is regularly discussed on television or on the radio," the court said. Massi can still appeal the decision at the EU Court of Justice. Share your thoughts about this news story on Football Manics by signing up for FREE to the website, visiting the forum and joining the chat with fellow football fans.
  5. The chairman of the sponsors for Chinese club Chongqing Dangdai Lifan has claimed that he is "positive" of the club signing Barcelona captain Andres Iniesta for next season. Iniesta, who has a special lifetime contract at Barca, is expected to leave Camp Nou at the end of the season and had been strongly linked with a move to China. Securing the services of the Champions League, La Liga, World Cup and European Championship winner would represent a major coup for Chongqing, one of the lesser-known clubs in the Chinese Super League. "I am positive on introducing Iniesta," Gong Daxing, chairman of the club's title sponsor SWM, told the state-run Xinhua news agency. "Iniesta's arrival would be beneficial for Chongqing and a great bonus for our brand." Share your thoughts about this news story on Football Manics by signing up for FREE to the website, visiting the forum and joining the chat with fellow football fans.
  6. There is no denying Pep Guardiola was a fantastic midfielder back in his playing days, being often lauded as one of the most talented players to ever come through the Barcelona youth team. But how does this midfield maestro rank in terms of a manager? Does he deserve to be known as Fraudiola or is he generally a world class coach? His trophy cabinet certainly speaks volumes, winning 22 trophies at three different clubs and looking set to add a Premier League title with runaway leaders Manchester City to bring his total to 23 trophies since his managerial career began in 2008. He was also known as the youngest ever manager to win the UEFA Champions League in his first season as Barcelona manager. In 2008, he succeeded Frank Rijkaard as manager of Barcelona spending 4 seasons at the Catalan Giants most notably winning 3 consecutive La Liga Titles in his first 3 seasons as manager. He also went on to win the Champions League, Copa Del Rey, UEFA Super Cup and FIFA Club World Cup twice. He was also a three-time winner of the Supercopa de Espana. However, he failed to deliver a fourth consecutive La Liga title in his final season as Barcelona manager and was also knocked out of the Champions League in the semi-final to eventual winners Chelsea. Following a year out of management he was unveiled as manager of Bayern Munich, who had just won the Champions League the season before and would go on to manage them for 3 seasons winning seven trophies during his time in Germany including three successive Bundesliga titles and two domestic doubles with the DFP-Pokal and the Bundesliga. However, he never won the Champions League with the German Giants ending their run of making it to the Champions League Final which they did the previous two seasons before being appointed as manager. In 2016, Pep Guardiola decided that it was time for a change of scenery and also a new challenge which he took in the form of Manchester City. His first season didn't go as he would have planned, failing to win a single trophy for the first time ever in his career, and also finishing third in the league, also a first in his career - failing to finish in the top two. His second season, on the other hand, seems to be going just a little bit better than his first having already won the EFL Cup and seemingly running away with the Premier League. During the middle of the season people were expecting Pep and City to deliver, they looked set to complete this and win the Quadruple. However, this was ended firstly by League One Wigan Athletic in a shock 1-0 defeat during their FA Cup tie but they still remained on course to complete a Treble until they were eliminated 5-1 on aggregate to Liverpool in the Champions League quarter final. In my opinion, he has had success handed to him taken over at already successful clubs in Barcelona and Bayern Munich. Now, at Manchester City, especially after the first season, he has found that he has a challenge on his hands to gain success nothing in which he has experienced as a manager of Barca and Bayern who are both dominant forces in the league respectively. Brian Clough, Sir Alex Ferguson and Jose Mourinho all experienced challenges but transformed those clubs from mediocre league team on to competing at the highest level within Europe’s elite. Mourinho with Porto, UEFA Cup & Champions League in successive seasons. Chelsea, successive Premier League titles with a record breaking 95 points in his first season. Fergie with Manchester United, breaking Liverpool’s most top-flight titles record by dominating the Premier League era. And Cloughie transforming Nottingham Forest from a Second Division outfit to Back to Back European Champions in 4 seasons. Can Pep Guardiola be mentioned alongside these World Class Managers or is the name "Fraudiola" justified? Share your thoughts about this feature article on Football Manics by signing up for FREE to the website, visiting the forum and joining the chat with fellow football fans.
  7. Although Liverpool's victory over Manchester City in the quarter-finals of the Champions League may have been deemed an underdog victory by some, the big story on Tuesday night was Roma producing a stunning comeback to knock Barcelona out of the competition. Barca were heavy favourites to progress after a 4-1 first-leg win at the Nou Camp, but fell apart to Roma's brilliant showing at the Stadio Olimpico as the Giallorossi levelled the tie to 4-4 with a 3-0 win and progressed on away goals. Edin Dzeko struck early to give Roma hope and Daniele de Rossi added a second-half penalty, before defender Kostas Manolas scored the crucial third goal, heading in at the near post with eight minutes remaining. Football Manics takes a look at some of the post-match reaction from a historic night in the Eternal City. Ernesto Valverde, Barcelona head coach "We had no response, everything went for them and for us we struggled to build our play. "I am responsible absolutely; I am the visible head of the team and it was down to me. With their pressure it forced us to knock balls long, we became disjointed and we were not able to win the second ball. "When you lose and the opposition are better then the analysis is often extreme. They were strong, physical and we had a lot of problems. Seasons are long and to win a competition is not easy, with only one winning. "We know how disappointing this will be for the fans and us, we wanted to play a semi final, this is football. Everyone is now affected by this but we need to bounce back because we have two competitions that we want to win." Josep Maria Bartomeu, Barcelona president "I'm really sorry. Roma were the better team on the pitch. Roma believed and showed that when you try hard, you can achieve your objectives. "Of course [this defeat] affects us, but we have some important games coming up and the players will recover. This team are always prepared to win on all fronts, be it with Ernesto Valverde or another coach. "We fight to win everything every season, but tonight it wasn't to be." Sergio Busquets, Barcelona midfielder "It's a very tough night, a sad night and one to forget. We need to apologise to the fans for how we have fallen. This is the toughest blow I've received in the whole time I've been at Barca because of how it happened. "I would be lying if I said we could use this as a learning experience because last year we went out in a similar way. Our results in Europe in the last two years have been very bad; we have to change things if we want to win the Champions League again." Andres Iniesta, Barcelona midfielder "That is a possibility (the game being his last in the Champions League) and for that reason it hurts even more. It's a very hurtful elimination because nobody expected it due to the lead we had. "When you do things badly, make lots of mistakes and don't adapt to the game, this is what happens. It's a big disappointment because of the season we were having. It's difficult to take this elimination because we had a lot of hope and it has escaped." Eusebio Di Francesco, Roma head coach "I take the blame for defeats and some ungrateful words on social media, so I may as well take the credit for a win. "The truth is that I made this choice to create more width, allow more counter-attacks and bring speed, but what really changed was the philosophy of the side and we have to continue like this now. "Although we have had very good performances in Serie A, we are only now reaping the rewards -- the just rewards -- for the hard work we have done." Daniele De Rossi, Roma captain “What a night. This is a great result for us and for our history. The important thing is that we continue like this. We haven’t accomplished anything yet as there are still many games to go. Even if we lost the first-leg game, we were confident with the way we had played and it showed tonight. “The difference for me was Di Francesco as he helped us play the right way. He changed a lot of things and he got it spot on. I am happy for the coaches and for my team-mates. We did great. This is also very important for me too as I am 34 years old. This win is one of the best I have ever experienced since joining Roma.” Alessandro Florenzi, Roma midfielder “To be honest, we never really felt it was at risk tonight, as Barcelona did nothing to cause us problems. We put in the perfect performance. “Tactically, we were a step above them. If Barcelona don’t get to play the ball to feet and pass it around comfortably, they really struggle.” Edin Dzeko, Roma striker "It wasn't easy, but I stayed here and am very happy to be here. I think the club is glad, too. Let's not talk about [the move]. Money doesn't matter. "This was the best, but even better may well be yet to come. It proved we can play against anyone, as Barcelona are such a strong side. We put three goals past them and could have had more. "I have never seen Barcelona struggle so much. We pressed them constantly from the first minute." Jurgen Klopp, Liverpool manager "I walked up the stairs and someone told me. I thought it was a joke. Not that I don't respect Roma, they are fantastic team. I just wasn't expecting it, but knew it was possible. "They lost Mo Salah and they are in the semis - it's a big thing! This competition is quite fair and I really think a normal final would have been Manchester City against Barcelona, and now they are both out. "But there will still be two other really strong teams in there plus Roma and us. We will see what happens but that's not the thing I have to think about right now." Share your thoughts about this preview feature article on Football Manics by signing up for FREE to the website, visiting the forum and joining the chat with fellow football fans.
  8. Paris Saint-Germain midfielder Marco Verratti has rubbished rumours linking him with a move to Barcelona. The Italy international has been linked with the Blaugrana numerous times over the last couple of years, with Manchester United also believed to be monitoring the 25-year-old. Verratti was reportedly considering his future in France following PSG's failure to progress in the Champions League, but the midfielder has insisted that he wants to stay in Paris. "I have read that Mino Raiola has offered me to Barcelona. It's false," Verratti told Italian newspaper Gazzetta dello Sport. "I spoke with my representatives and the club's directors and they know what I think, things are clear. "I decided to stay, I have the obsession of winning with PSG, who allowed me to grow even more as a person. "We share an ambitious project. I hope that my teammates think the same. One defeat cannot end the project." Share your thoughts about this news story on Football Manics by signing up for FREE to the website, visiting the forum and joining the chat with fellow football fans.
  9. Antoine Griezmann has stressed that he his future resolved before he travels with France to this summer's World Cup in Russia. The 27-year-old has been linked with a move away from Atletico Madrid for a number of years now. Manchester United were previously thought to be interested in the forward, who ended up staying put at the Spanish capital club due to their transfer ban. La Liga rivals Barcelona are now thought to be favourites to secure his services but reports in Spain claim Atleti will offer Griezmann a bumper new contract in a last-ditch attempt for him to stay put. Regardless of whether he stays or goes, Griezmann has stressed that he is keen to have his future decided to ensure he arrives in Russia with "peace of mind". "I want to travel to Russia without this concern," he told L'Equipe. "It's not about knowing where I'll play, but about having the peace of mind if I'm still in one place or another. "It may be boring, but I have told my sister that, whether I stay or not, this will have to be resolved beforehand. What bothers me the most is that everyone asks me about this issue." Share your thoughts about this news story on Football Manics by signing up for FREE to the website, visiting the forum and joining the chat with fellow football fans.
  10. Argentina star Lionel Messi has stressed that the upcoming World Cup in Russia is the last chance for the nation's current group of players to win the famed trophy. The Barcelona talisman has been irresistible at club level in terms of silverware, which in stark conntrast to his meagre trophy haul at international level. Messi and Argentina have suffered heartbreak in three consecutive major international finals: the 2014 World Cup and the 2015 and 2016 editions of the Copa America. The five-time Ballon d'Or winner turns 31 in June, and fellow key players Sergio Aguero, Gonzalo Higuain, Angel Di Maria, Nicolas Otamendi and Javier Mascherano will all be 30 or over when the World Cup kicks off. "I cried many times because of games like these, for lost finals, for what they mean and for not being able to achieve the dream of a country," Messi told Argentine television program "La Cornisa." "They [the three finals] were tough blows. It seems like having reached three finals doesn't help us at all. We depend on the results, unfortunately. We feel that if we are not champions ... we will not have another. "I want to tell people that I hope it's a great World Cup for us, that my wish is the same as all of you and that we can live something similar to 2014, which was an unforgettable experience, and that the result is similar but this time raising the cup is everyone's dream." Share your thoughts about this news story on Football Manics by signing up for FREE to the website, visiting the forum and joining the chat with fellow football fans.
  11. A huge tie takes place tonight in the Champions League as the mighty Barcelona take on Chelsea in a last-16 fixture laden with history and drama. How could this game pan out? Football Manics takes a closer look. How the tie stands The reigning Premier League champions drew 1-1 with Barca in the first encounter, with Lionel Messi's late strike - his first-ever against Chelsea at the ninth attempt - cancelling out Willian's effort at Stamford Bridge and giving the Blaugrana an away goal advantage heading into the second leg. Head to head Chelsea and Barcelona have met 16 times in competitive fixtures over the years, and all but three ties have come since the turn of the century. Three encounters took place between 27 April and 5 May 1966 in the Fairs Cup, with the Blues winning one and losing two. Since then, every meeting has been in the Champions League. Interestingly, Chelsea haven't lost to Barca in their last eight encounters, and games have generally been very tight in recent years. Of these eight, six ended as draws, and Chelsea's two wins have come about by a one-goal margin. The Blues have been shown four red cards in Champions League games against Barcelona, accounting for 33 per cent of their total red cards in the competition (4/12). Lionel Messi scored his first ever Champions League goal against Chelsea at the ninth time of asking in the first leg. Stats 68% of away sides to draw the first leg of a Champions League knockout tie 1-1 progress to the next round (23/34). Only two fixtures have been played more often than Chelsea vs. Barca (14) in the competition - Bayern vs. Real Madrid (18) and Barcelona vs. Milan (15). Six of the 13 previous meetings have ended in draws (46%) - of all fixtures to have been played at least 10 times, only Chelsea v Liverpool has ended level more often (50% - 5/10). Barcelona have lost only four of their 39 Champions League knockout games at home (W25 D10), with Liverpool the only English team to win there (2-1 in February 2007). Barcelona have won 23 Champions League games against English clubs, more than any other side in the competition. Lionel Messi has scored more goals against English clubs than any other player in the competition (18). Chelsea have already won at Atletico Madrid this season - they could become only the third team to win away at two Spanish clubs in the same Champions League campaign after AC Milan (vs. Barcelona and Deportivo in 2000-01) and Roma (vs. Real Madrid and Valencia in 2002-03). Standings and form The Barcelona juggernaut keeps on going, with the club still unbeaten in La Liga and eight points clear at the top of the table after dispatching of nearest challengers Atletico Madrid 1-0 earlier in March, as well as reaching the final of the Copa del Rey where they will be favourites against Sevilla. Chelsea, meanwhile, have failed to mount a decent challenge of their Premier League title, so emphatically won last season, and they now sit 25 points behind champions elect Manchester City. The Blues were however sitting comfortably in the top four heading into 2018, but a poor start to the year - including heavy losses to Watford and Bournemouth and back-to-back defeats to the Manchester clubs - has seen them slip out of the European places, leaving Antonio Conte as odds-on favourite to be out of the Stamford Bridge dugout come the summer. Team news Barcelona midfielder Andres Iniesta could return from a hamstring problem which will be assessed in the hours before kick-off. However, coach Ernesto Valverde says the Spain international will only be selected if fully fit, while both Nelson Semedo and Denis Suarez miss out with injury. Chelsea, meanwhile, will be without midfielder Ross Barkley and centre-back David Luiz due to injury, but Antonio Rudiger is expected to be back. Prediction Chelsea famously overcame Barca in 2012 en route to the Champions League trophy but they had the advantage going into that semi-final second leg, whereas this time they will be on the back foot due to the Spaniards' away goal, so they will be more comfortable and able to dictate proceedings. Add the fact that Barca have been nigh on unstoppable this season and are playing at home, with the Camp Nou crowd vociferously behind them, plus Lionel Messi having been rested at the weekend with this game in mind, and the omens do not look good for Chelsea. Score prediction: Barca 3-1 Chelsea Share your thoughts about this preview feature article on Football Manics by signing up for FREE to the website, visiting the forum and joining the chat with fellow football fans.
  12. Barcelona head coach Ernesto Valverde has confirmed that Andres Iniesta will only play against Chelsea if he is "100 per cent fit" and says it will be the player's decision. The Spain midfielder sustained a hamstring injury against Atletico Madrid on March 4 but the midfielder took part in a light training session on Monday ahead of the last-16 second leg at Camp Nou. "Well he played a big part of the training session yesterday without a problem," Valverde, who go into the match with the tie poised at 1-1, said on Tuesday. "We'll see how he feels today and decide according to how he feels. We know it's a very important game but of course it's down to the player. "I don't know exactly if he will play or not because it's a game you have to play if you are 100 per cent. "We will try to find a secret formula (to win the game). I don't think we have it, but just to keep working, keep pushing, keep trying. "(But) it's a double-edged sword. We cannot be on top of them for the whole match, because the last season they were the team with the best counter-attack in the Premier League." Share your thoughts about this news story on Football Manics by signing up for FREE to the website, visiting the forum and joining the chat with fellow football fans.
  13. Barcelona have agreed an option to buy Gremio midfielder Arthur in the summer. The Catalan giants have reached an agreement to secure first option on the 21-year-old, who will cost £26.6m plus £8m in add-ons should Barca choose to activate the deal in July. Arthur is set to become the third Brazilian in Ernesto Valverde's first-team squad, with Philippe Coutinho and Paulinho already at Camp Nou. Barcelona confirmed the deal in a statement on Sunday, which read: "FC Barcelona and the Brazilian club Gremio de Porto Alegre have reached an agreement on a purchase option for the player Arthur Henrique Ramos de Oliveira Melo, whereas FC Barcelona may exercise this right on the player's federative rights during July of 2018. "In the event that the Club finally exercises the option signed, the price of the transfer is set at €30m plus €9m in variable amounts." Share your thoughts about this news story on Football Manics by signing up for FREE to the website, visiting the forum and joining the chat with fellow football fans.
  14. Neymar's future at Paris Saint-Germain continues to be the subject of speculation as a report suggests that he has told his family and friends of his desire to leave the Parc des Princes. The Brazil international joined PSG from Barcelona last season in a world-record £198m move and has certainly delivered on the pitch, scoring 29 goals and registering 19 assists in just 30 games. However, ABC News has reported that Neymar, who is currently sidelined due to a foot injury, has taken the decision not to play for PSG again. "I won't go back to PSG, [the decision] is irreversible... if I come here, a league without tradition, and they whistle me, I don't want to continue for one minute more," the 26-year-old is reported to have told his loved ones. Although Real Madrid have been primarily linked with a move for Neymar, Spanish outlet Mundo Deportivo has suggested that, prior to PSG’s Champions League defeat to Real on Tuesday, the player informed Barca of his wish to rejoin them. Share your thoughts about this news story on Football Manics by signing up for FREE to the website, visiting the forum and joining the chat with fellow football fans.
  15. Barcelona have confirmed that Lionel Messi has been ruled out of Saturday night’s La Liga trip to Malaga for "personal reasons". Messi was rested for the Catalan Super Cup clash with Espanyol in midweek but was expected to play on Saturday after training with his teammates on Friday. Indeed, the Argentine was named in the Blaugrana squad on Friday but will now miss the game, with Yerry Mina taking his place in the travelling party. The club tweeted on Saturday morning: "[LAST MINUTE] Change to the squad. Messi is out for personal reasons and Yerry Mina takes his place." According to Spanish outlet AS, Messi's wife Antonella gave birth to their third child overnight. Messi has started every game for Barca in the league this season except for one, against Espanyol when he came on as a sub, and has five goals and two assists in his last five games. Share your thoughts about this news story on Football Manics by signing up for FREE to the website, visiting the forum and joining the chat with fellow football fans.
  16. We're back in Champions League action as Tuesday sees Chelsea face Barcelona at Stamford Bridge in their last-16 first leg. These two have precedent over the last few years, with a controversial tie in 2009 won by the Blaugrana and a tense semi-final encounter three years later where the Blues were under siege before killing the tie via Fernando Torres. How will this first encounter pan out? Football Manics takes a closer look. Standings Chelsea are out of the Premier League title race, sitting 19 points behind leaders Manchester City, and suffered two humbling defeats at the hands of Bournemouth and Watford, although they did get the better of West Bromwich Albion in the league and then Hull City in the FA Cup to alleviate the pressure on under-fire manager Antonio Conte. With just four wins from of their previous 12 matches in all competitions, however, the form isn't good. Barca have done superbly this season, confounding all expectations that Neymar's departure would signal the end of their time as one of world football's apex predators. A huge 12 points clear at the top of La Liga, in the final of the Copa del Rey, and well placed for a Champions League challenge, hoping to end Real Madrid's two-year hold on the trophy. They have only lost once all season, which says it all. Head to head Chelsea and Barcelona have met 15 times in competitive fixtures over the years, and all but three ties have come since the turn of the century. Three encounters took place between 27 April and 5 May 1966 in the Fairs Cup, with the Blues winning one and losing two. Since then, every meeting has been in the Champions League. Interestingly, Chelsea haven't lost to Barca in their last seven encounters, and games have generally been very tight in recent years. Of these seven, five ended as draws, and Chelsea's two wins have come about by a one-goal margin. Stats Chelsea and Barcelona are facing each other for the 13th time in the Champions League, the fifth-most played fixture in the competition. They hadn't played each other since April 2012 in a tie that the Blues won 3-2 on aggregate. Barca have won only one of their six away games against Chelsea in the Champions League, and have never kept a clean sheet at Stamford Bridge. Chelsea will attempt to reach the quarter-finals of the Champions League for the first time since 2013-14. However, the West Londoners are winless in their last six knockout games (D3 L3). Eden Hazard has scored three goals and registered two assists in his last five CL games. Lionel Messi has played 655 minutes against Chelsea in the Champions League but has yet to score. Team news David Luiz and Tiemoue Bakayoko are nursing injuries and are likely to miss the game, while Marcos Alonso is expected to return and Ross Barkley is also available. Alvaro Morata is in contention to start, though Olivier Giroud is also an option at centre-forward. Nelson Semedo is suspended for the clash at Stamford Bridge, while Philippe Coutinho is cup-tied, having represented Liverpool earlier in the season. Ernesto Valverde has favoured a 4-4-2 formation in recent games, with Lionel Messi just behind Luis Suarez. Ousmane Dembele could potentially start ahead of Paulinho or Ivan Rakitic in midfield, but Thomas Vermaelen is a doubt through injury despite travelling with the squad. Prediction Games between these two teams have been close in recent years, but Chelsea are a little tender at present, given their recent defeats to low-profile opposition and speculation regarding Conte's tenure at the club. Barca, meanwhile, are in superb form at the minute, with Valverde's 4-4-2 formation reaping dividends and the team being more balanced from the back to the front. So for me it's going to be a victory for Barca which will once again crank the pressure on Conte. Score prediction: 1-3 Share your thoughts about this preview feature article on Football Manics by signing up for FREE to the website, visiting the forum and joining the chat with fellow football fans.
  17. Watford have signed Barcelona winger Gerard Deulofeu on loan until the end of the season. The 23-year-old returns to the Premier League just seven months after Barca triggered their buy-back clause to sign him from Everton. Deulofeu previously played for the Toffees on loan during the 2013-14 season before making a permanent move to Goodison Park in 2015. He has struggled for game time over the last few months, playing just nine minutes since the end of November. Watford assistant coach Zigor Aranalde told reporters on Tuesday: "We know the qualities that he has got and he is a fantastic player coming from Barcelona. "He has not had minutes at Barcelona and he needs to play and this is a magnificent club to go forward. "We know what kind of player he is. He is a Spanish international, and a Barcelona player. I am sure he will help us to achieve the objective." Share your thoughts about this news story on Football Manics by signing up for FREE to the website, visiting the forum and joining the chat with fellow football fans.
  18. Barcelona head coach Ernesto Valverde has backed versatile midfielder Javier Mascherano to return to the club as a coach after the announcement of the 33-year-old’s move to Hebei China Fortune. Mascherano will join the Chinese Super League outfit on Friday for a reported €10million bringing an end to his seven-and-a-half-year stay at Camp Nou. "He is a role model for everyone here and outside as well," Valverde told reporters. "You can see how he thinks; he understands the game. He is almost like a coach himself during the game. "He is a player who is close to the end of the career. He has got that bug and he is surely going to try it, because if you do not try it you will always be wondering." Mascherano insists he is focused on the new challenge but may consider it in the future. "Maybe I will consider it in the future. I like the idea of being a coach but now is not the time. "I am grateful to the club directors who see me as a coach. They have always said that I would make a good coach." Mascherano joined Barcelona in 2010 making 203 appearances and scoring one goal. Share your thoughts about this news story on Football Manics by signing up for FREE to the website, visiting the forum and joining the chat with fellow football fans.
  19. Barcelona have confirmed that Javier Mascherano will be joining Chinese Super League club Hebei China Fortune on Friday. The La Liga giants had revealed on Tuesday that the Argentina international was leaving the club after seven-and-a-half years but did not initially say where he was going. On Wednesday, the day of his "official farewell", Barca announced Mascherano's impending move. The 33-year-old told the Blaugrana site: "I feel privileged. That the people you work with on a daily basis value you so is the best gift and motivation. "The dressing room has been the secret over the years. When I arrived I found a spectacular group of people." Mascherano played 334 times for Barcelona, scoring his only goal in April when team-mates urged him to take a penalty in a 7-1 rout of Osasuna. He is due to say farewell to the Barca fans in Thursday's Copa del Rey quarter-final second leg with Espanyol at Camp Nou. Share your thoughts about this news story on Football Manics by signing up for FREE to the website, visiting the forum and joining the chat with fellow football fans.
  20. Ronaldinho has retired from football, according to the player's brother and agent. The 37-year-old was part of the triumphant Brazil 2002 World Cup squad, won the Champions League in 2006 with Barcelona and won the Ballon d'Or in 2005. Roberto Assis told Brazilian outlets on Tuesday that his brother's career as a professional footballer "is over." Assis said that farewell matches for Ronaldinho are likely to be scheduled after the World Cup in Russia, which ends July 15. "He has stopped, it is ended," Assis said. "Let's do something pretty big and nice (for his farewell) after the Russia World Cup, probably in August. "We will do various events in Brazil, Europe and Asia and, of course, we are arranging something with the Brazilian team as well." Share your thoughts about this news story on Football Manics by signing up for FREE to the website, visiting the forum and joining the chat with fellow football fans.
  21. Lionel Messi’s Barcelona teammate Ivan Rakitic is upbeat about the chances of Croatia against Argentina and believes anything is possible at the World Cup. Rakitic and Messi are set to clash in the second Group D match on June 21 in Nizhny Novgorod later this year. The 29-year-old, who has played alongside Messi in the La Liga for the past 4 years, does not see Messi being worried at the prospect of meeting Croatia. "I do not think he gets nervous if I say 'watch Croatia!'", he told Marca. "It's the World Cup, you want to play against the best. And if it is against the best of all times, well better. That's what a World Cup is for. "I wish a lot. I think we've been the strongest group of all. Croatia has never had so many players in so many important teams, playing and setting the pace." Rakitic has been an integral part of the Croatian national team since making his debut, going on to win 88 caps and scoring 13 goals in the process. Share your thoughts about this news story on Football Manics by signing up for FREE to the website, visiting the forum and joining the chat with fellow football fans.
  22. Our favorite football league has almost reached its halfway point and it's time to look back and rate all teams based on their expectations and the current situation. From this point of view, it seems like Barcelona are comfortably walking away with the title, but beware, Real Madrid are at their best best when chasing impossible records and making history. Atletico Madrid and Valencia look like they could strengthen to become even a bigger threat in the fight for the top and Sevilla are lurking just behind. So, without further ado, let's jump into it. Creme de la creme Barcelona It looked like a total crash and burn for The Pride of Catalonia. Neymar wanted to go and make history in his own team, Messi just lost his successor and still hadn't renewed his contract; Iniesta 's contract was expiring too, the fans were furious at board for not finding proper replacements for the departures, and they made things even worse for themselves by bringing in a "Chinese-quality“ player in Paulinho. When everyone thought it couldn't get worse for Barca, Real came and crushed them in 5-1 in two legs of the Spanish Supercopa. The situation looked disastrous and the media took their laptops and pens and, for millionth time in last 5 season, started the story about the end of the golden Barca generation. And it seems like everyone forgot; Barca still had the best player in the world and that man realized it was upon him to take the club on his back and carry them trough the battlefield of bullets flying in out of all directions. He knew that if he didn't get 110% out of himself, it's over. In the background, working in silence and calming the spirits was Messi's biggest asset this season – Txingurri (ant) – Spanish nickname for Ernesto Valverde, a hard-working and level-headed person was exactly what Barca needed. Dembele joined in and rebirth of Barca could begin. They started the season strongly winning all of the La Liga matches. Dembele got injured, but that didn't bother the Blaugrana. Messi was man on a mission, and there was no stopping him. Put that along with Valverde's brilliant tactical solutions provided by the brave and pragmatic approach that got the best out of Iniesta and Busquets, and Alba showing up as one the world's premier left-backs fueled by the fact he has much more freedom now that Neymar isn't hogging the ball and stopping the play, Pique and Umtiti making the best defensive pairing in Europe, and ter Stegen providing miracolous saves all over the place, it all blended into polished machine where everyone knows their roles and duties leading to a triumphant position by the end of 2017. They were declared dead. They rose from the dead. They showed up at the Bernabeu and conquered great Real Madrid sending out the message all over the Europe – mes que un club. Now, after January transfer window, they look even scarier, bringing in high-jumping centre back Yerry Mina and world-class mdfielder in Philippe Coutinho, who will only be eligible to play in league and the cup, it looks as if there's no stopping them. Atletico Madrid Los Colchoneros came in galloping after a late start. Diego Simeone and his team opened the league fairly slow, inefficiently in offense, not their usual selves in defense, drawing 4 out of the 8 opening fixtures. However, lately, they look just how you imagine typical Atletico Madrid – rough on defense, just good enough on the offense to score one crucial goal as they were able to get quite a few close wins before capitalizing from Espanyol in heartbreaking 1-0 defeat taken from their own playbook. Right now, they are sitting at 2nd position with 39 points, 2 clear of Valencia, and 5 of their bitter rivals – Real Madrid. It's also worth nothing they managed to get away with a draw against both Barca and Real, an accolade they must be proud of. Antoine Griezmann isn't playing up to his standard, scoring just 5 goals, and they are expecting him to step it up and mark his last season at Atletico as a success. Also, Gameiro still has a problem of converting chances as he scored only 3 goals, a number no one in the capital should be pleased with. Valencia After starting the season brightly, Valencia have fallen off lately and were only able to get 3 points in their last 3 matches, adding 2 defeats to their stats sheet, and most probably ending any illusion of title race if there ever was one. Still, you cannot get by Valencia and not praise them for all they've done. Marcelino did amazing job in structuring the team and getting the best out of everyone. It's been rumored that Guedes could definitely be bought out from PSG which would be a huge step forward, as the young winger is looking as good as anyone in Europe this year, providing pace and skill on the ball you will rarely see anywhere else. Zaza and Parejo are also a big reason for Valencia's success as they both contributed; the Italian with his football IQ and scoring skill, and the captain with his cool presence in the midfield, really leading the team as a captain should do. Their main goal now is to stay in top 4, and it won't be easy with Sevilla and Villareal gunning for Champions League spots. We certainly hope Valencia can continue their current success, because La Liga needs a strong Valencia with all of its flavours and wonders. Real Madrid It's never boring in the Spanish capital. They've just won back-to-back Champions League titles and took the league in five years. Yet, something was wrong. Perez and Zidane were confident in the squad and decided not to replace Morata, rather providing the opportunities for fan-favorite Asensio and Lucas Vasquez. Mbappe decided to go PSG-route and it cost Real a lot. Ronaldo and Benzema combined for awful 6 goals in La Liga, defusing all the good work from the midfielders. To put it into perspective, Los Blancos created total of 236 chances; 51 more than Barcelona, yet Blaugrana scored 45 goals compared to Madrid's abysmall 30. Zidane still choose to trust Benzema and Ronaldo as an offensive pairing, and by the time he realizes it’s not working, it might be too late. Now, you can’t just tell Ronaldo to draw back, but something has to change. The Portuguese wasted 77 shots to get 4 goals, for a 6,4% conversion. In the back, Varane did a lot of work when healthy, but Ramos wasn’t up to his standard, showcasing his dark side more often than not, resulting in reds, big defensive mistakes and bad leadership overall. Still, tides can change easily, as Champions League contention is still on the cards, and maybe the El Clasico defeat is the right wake-up call for Los Blancos in order to get the spark that made them European and World champions. You can expect them to go rolling full steam ahead to prove everyone wrong. Find out how the teams in fifth to eighth place in La Liga got on with part 2 of Nedim Maric's 2017-18 half-season review. Share your thoughts about this review feature article on Football Manics by signing up for FREE to the website, visiting the forum and joining the chat with fellow football fans.
  23. Barcelona have announced the signing of Colombia international Yerry Mina from Brazilian club Palmeiras on a five-and-a-half year deal. The 23-year-old centre-back, who has scored three goals in nine appearances for his national side, joins Barca in a €11.8m (£10.45m).from the Brazilian club. Barcelona, who have not long signed Philippe Coutinho from Liverpool, confirmed the transfer in a statement on Thursday morning. The club wrote: "FC Barcelona and Palmeiras have reached an agreement for the transfer of the player Yerry Mina for the remainder of the season and five more until June 30, 2023. "The cost of the transfer is 11.8 million euros and the termination clause is 100 million." The statement added: "Yerry Mina now comes to Barca with the opportunity to continue developing as a footballer following his move to Europe. "Without a doubt the Colombian has the potential to make it." Share your thoughts about this news story on Football Manics by signing up for FREE to the website, visiting the forum and joining the chat with fellow football fans.
  24. New Barcelona signing Philippe Coutinho has revealed that Liverpool did everything in their power to keep him at Anfield. The Brazil international signed a five-and-a-half-year deal with Barca on Monday after completing his £146m move to the Nou Camp. "I just want to thank the club for its patience and its effort," Coutinho told reporters. "I'm very happy, this is a dream come true for me and I hope to live up to the expectations. "[Liverpool] understood that it was what I wanted. They did all they could to try to keep me, but in the end they understood that it was my dream, and the dream of my family, to come here. "I just would like to thank all the fans, all the staff and all the players for the years I lived there. "For sure, I gave everything I could. Unfortunately we could not win but I lived [in Liverpool] for five years and my family was very happy there. So I just would like to thank them and wish them all the best. "I won't be able to play some matches now [due to a thigh injury], but it's a five-year contract, so I'll have plenty of time to help the club in the future. Sometimes you don't get another opportunity like this, to join Barcelona, so I didn't think twice." Share your thoughts about this news story on Football Manics by signing up for FREE to the website, visiting the forum and joining the chat with fellow football fans.
  25. Jurgen Klopp has stressed that Liverpool did all they could to persuade Philippe Coutinho to stay at Anfield. The Brazil international will officially move to Barcelona in a deal understood to be worth £146m, which was agreed after several weeks of discussions. Coutinho was the subject of three failed bids from Barca in the summer, the largest of which was worth £113m, and he handed in a transfer request in an attempt to force a move but was unsuccessful. Despite his departure, Klopp insists his squad is strong enough to handle the departure of the 25-year-old. The German told the official Liverpool website: "It is no secret that Philippe has wanted this move to happen since July, when Barcelona first made their interest known. "Philippe was insistent with me, the owners and even his team-mates this was a move he was desperate to make happen. "Despite that, we managed to keep the player here beyond the summer window, hoping that we would be able to persuade him to stay and be part of what we are looking to do. "I can tell the Liverpool supporters that we, as a club, have done everything within our means to convince Philippe that remaining part of LFC was as attractive as moving to Spain, but he is 100 per cent certain his future - and that of his family - belongs at Barcelona. It is his dream and I am now convinced there is nothing left at our disposal to change his mind. "I have been here long enough now to know in the history of Liverpool, key players have left before - but the club always goes on. You cannot transfer the heart and soul of Liverpool Football Club, although I am sure there are many clubs who would like to buy it. "I have so much belief in the talent we have here already and even more faith, together with our owners, that we will make continued investment into the playing squad, which will allow more growth and more improvement." Share your thoughts about this news story on Football Manics by signing up for FREE to the website, visiting the forum and joining the chat with fellow football fans.

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