Chelsea on brink of Champions League elimination; are PSG the real deal?

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As Javier Pastore danced past two Chelsea players then slammed into the back of the net in stoppage time, Jose Mourinho’s men knew they were in big trouble.

Throwing their hands onto their heads and looking to the sky in despair, you sensed overturning a two goal deficit against this PSG side is something the Blues aren’t looking forward to.

With virtually the last kick of the game PSG have given themselves a huge chance of advancing to the semifinals of the UEFA Champions League for just the second-time in club history, with a 3-1 win coming in deserved fashion at a raucous Parc des Princes.

Chelsea now face a huge uphill battle to turn the tie around in the second leg at Stamford Bridge next Tuesday, as that late hammer blow from Pastore may have taken the tie beyond their reach.

Speaking to Sky Sports after the damaging defeat, Jose Mourinho lambasted his sides defending but insisted the Blues can still make the last four.

“The third goal was ridiculous, you and Gary [Cahill] say sloppy, I say ridiculous,” Mourinho said. “But we played against a great side full of great players, especially the attackers. It’s a difficult job now but not impossible, nothing is impossible in football. But they have players who out of nothing can score goals, we are not a team full of talent who can score lots of goals but you never know. We have to try and go with everything and let’s try.”

(MORE: Paris Saint-Germain crush Chelsea in absorbing Champions League clash)

Mourinho then pointed to the fact that he replaced lone forward Andre Schurrle — the German winger was playing in a false nine role — with Fernando Torres when the game was tied at 1-1 to try and give his team more attacking intent. In hindsight, the ‘Special One’ maybe should have stuck with Schurrle instead of chucking on his prized Spanish striker.

However that is not where this game was won and lost.

Chelsea, to their credit, dug deep to get themselves back in the match after Ezequiel Lavezzi’s stunning opener after four minutes, but Mourinho’s men looked uncharacteristically shaky at the back. What Mourinho alluded to was the plethora of star names PSG have available and even if Zlatan Ibrahimovic does miss next week’s second leg through injury, the reigning French champions still have many attacking delights to inflict pain on Chelsea.

(MORE: Zlatan Ibrahimovic injures hamstring, huge blow for PSG)

Zlatan struggled to impact the game before he limped off in the 67th minute, but Lavezzi scored the first and created the second with his free kick forcing David Luiz to put the ball in his own net. Then Pastore’s brilliance late on showed he’s full of class, as are Edinson Cavani, Lucas Moura and the entire stable of talented attackers PSG possess. That’s what billions of dollars and oil-rich Qatari owners get you, and that is why this PSG are looking more and more likely to go deep in this season’s UCL, and many more to come.

Defensively they looked solid, and in midfield they looked most impressive with Marco Verratti buzzing around and the lively Blaise Matuidi causing all kinds of problems. Laurent Blanc has assembled a hard-working team at PSG, and has molded superstars together to create a side capable of lifting the UCL crown in Lisbon on May 24.

Up until now, we didn’t know how good this Paris Saint-Germain were. After their clinical shellacking of Chelsea, Les Parisiens showed everyone they’re genuine contenders for the Champions League trophy.

Spanish police dismantle match-fixing scheme in 3rd, 4th tiers

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MADRID (AP) Spanish police have dismantled a match-fixing scheme involving players and clubs in the country’s lower divisions.

Authorities said more than 20 people have been detained as part of the police operation launched on Monday, including players, although no names were immediately disclosed.

The matches under suspicion were in the third and fourth divisions this season and last season.

The match-fixing scheme reportedly involved Chinese betting sites.

The Spanish league said the operation was based on information collected by its analysts about suspicious activities.

UCL preview: Chelsea host Barcelona; Bayern vs. Besiktas

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  • Chelsea vs. Barcelona, at Stamford Bridge
  • Bayern Munich vs. Besiktas, at Allianz Arena
  • Champions League round of 16 resumes on Tuesday

[ UCL: Spurs fight back to draw Juventus | Liverpool thrash Porto in leg 1 ]

Chelsea, mired in some of their worst form since the disastrous 2015-16 season, welcome a Barcelona side enjoying one of the best six-month runs of results in the famed club’s entire history. The Blues have won just four of their last 12 games across all competitions, while the Blaugrana have lost once in 38 games.

On the plus side, Chelsea enter Tuesday’s colossal clash as winners of their last two games — back-to-back wins for the first time in 2018 — having outscored the likes of West Bromwich Albion and Hull City by a combined 7-0. Star striker Alvaro Morata returned to action against Hull after five weeks out with a back injury, thus Antonio Conte has something of a selection dilemma on his hands with the Spaniard perhaps only partially fit, and Olivier Giroud racking up a goal and three assists in the last two games, his first starts for the club.

Barcelona, meanwhile, have conceded just two goals in their last nine games (all competitions) and even managed to overturn their lone defeat, to Espanyol, and advance to the Copa del Rey semifinals (and eventually final). Despite losing Neymar in the summer, Barca mostly cruised through their Champions League group, only dropping points in draws away to Juventus and Olympiacos. Lionel Messi has, strangely, never scored a goal in his eight career appearances against Chelsea, a record which has been spoken about at length in the build-up to Tuesday — similarly to the goal-less record which plagued him against Juve goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon, whom he finally bested back in September.

[ MORE: Man City win big away to Basel | Real Madrid 3-1 PSG ]

In the other round-of-16 first-leg matchup on Tuesday, five-time (soon-to-be six) defending Bundesliga champions Bayern Munich host surprise winners of Group G, Besiktas, ahead of the likes of Monaco, RB Leipzig and Porto.

Since taking over on an interim basis (through the end of the season), Bayern boss Jupp Heynckes has won 21 of 22 games of which he’s been in charge, including four of six games during the group stage en route to finish second behind Paris Saint-Germain, while also racing out to a 19-point lead back home in Germany.

Aguero involved in clash with Wigan fan after FA Cupset

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MANCHESTER, England (AP) Sergio Aguero was involved in a confrontation with a Wigan fan as ugly scenes marred the end of the third-division side’s shock FA Cup win over Manchester City on Monday.

[ MORE: Wigan shock Man City, the world and themselves ]

Fans spilled on to the pitch at DW Stadium as the host celebrated its 1-0 fifth-round win against the runaway English Premier League leader.

Supporters from both clubs were involved in disturbances, while television pictures appeared to show a home supporter and striker Aguero involved in a physical exchange.

Aguero appeared to hit the supporter after the fan said something to the player, and Aguero had to be held back by his City teammates.

[ MORE: Money from Wembley replay “will support Rochdale for 2 or 3 years” ]

Advertising hoardings were also ripped out and thrown as a pitch invasion by Wigan fans got out of hand while the defeated City players were being escorted off the pitch.

Footage also appeared to show objects, including an advertising board, being thrown at police officers by fans in the City end.

Wigan shock themselves: “Not sure how it feels, hasn’t sunk in yet”

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Wigan Athletic didn’t just shock Manchester City with their FA Cup fifth-round slaying of the runaway Premier League leaders; nor did they merely shock the rest of the footballing world; they also shocked themselves into disbelief, according to defender Dan Burn.

[ MORE: Goodbye, quadruple! Wigan bounce 10-man City from FA Cup ]

Speaking following Monday’s triumph over Pep Guardiola‘s quadruple-chasing side at the DW Stadium, Burn admitted he himself didn’t know what to make of the night that would undoubtedly highlight and change his own professional career — quotes from the BBC:

“Not sure how it feels, hasn’t sunk in yet. It was a really tough game. The belief was always there. We’ve got Will Grigg, who does what he keeps doing.

“We pride ourselves on our clean sheets. We had a couple bad results before, so we wanted to prove ourselves, so a clean sheet against the best team in England is great.

“Once we scored, the fans really got behind us, just knew we needed to hang on. It was the longest 10 minutes of my life.”

[ MORE: Money from Wembley replay “will support Rochdale for 2 or 3 years” ]

Manager Paul Cook was able to articulate his happiness and pride only slightly better — “It feels great” — but offered the highest of praises to his players, whom “had to ride [their] luck at times” during the game, and gave everything they had to the cause, because that’s the only way you beat a team like Man City:

“It feels great. It’s such a severe test. They’re such a strong side and move the ball so well. We had to ride our luck at times and the sending off is always a big incident.

“Our lads deserve credit for their work and some of the blocks they made were outstanding, and to beat Man City you have to do that.”