Champions League Preview: Can Madrid launch mighty comeback vs. Dortmund?

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There’s digging yourself a hole, then there’s doing what Real Madrid did last Wednesday.

The Spanish giants imploded in the second half at the Westfalenstadion last week, as they succumbed to a rampant attacking display from Borussia Dortmund and now need a miracle in the second leg to overturn a 4-1 deficit.

This afternoon Jose Mourinho’s Real side welcome Dortmund to the Santiago Bernabeu in what promises to be a blood and thunder affair. After Robert Lewandowski’s four goal virtuoso performance swept Madrid aside, Mourinho needs Cristiano Ronaldo and his talented support acts to carve open Dortmund’s defense with regularity on Tuesday afternoon. (2:45pm, Fox Soccer Channel)

What they’ve said…

Madrid

Sergio Ramos: “There is no bigger motivation than playing in a UEFA Champions League final. I’ve been here for eight years and never played in one. There is nothing better – we have to believe we can get back into it. We want revenge. We have negative memories from the first leg and we want to play. We know our fans will support us from the first minute but that won’t be of any use if we are not focused on the game. The result in Dortmund was fair – there is nothing left to say when you lose as we did last week. We just have to do our best.”

Jose Mourinho: “I feel this is the most important match in ten years for Real Madrid, but I also felt that in Dortmund and we played like [it was] a friendly. If I don’t win the Champions League nothing changes. There are many coaches who haven’t won it, so I have to thank God because I’ve done so twice. I have considered Borussia a candidate to win this competition since the beginning of the season. Sometimes football is not fair to one team, but it was in Dortmund and Borussia deserved to win. Anything is possible though.

Jurgen Klopp: “I’ve heard around 8,000 of our supporters are coming here. Back home, the supporters will also live the game intensely. We can fulfil the dream of many fans and so we must respond in the correct manner. The team needs to be disciplined and compact while also looking to be daring. We’ve had this idea of how to play for a long time, it is not mine, it belongs to the team. I didn’t invent the game. Theories are easy, it’s putting them into practice that counts.”

Key factors

Keeping Lewandowski quiet will be key to Madrid if they have any chance of recording the resounding victory required. The big man isn’t just a target player, he makes superb runs in behind the defense and his movement at set pieces is fantastic. The biggest issue for Madrid will be finding the balance between all out attack and steady possession, because Dortmund are set up in such a way that devastating counter-attacks are likely to follow if Real neglect their defensive duties.

Score early, stay patient. That should be Madrid’s mantra as they aim to come flying out of the traps. We have seen many times this season in La Liga how they’ve gone two or three goals ahead early in games, then sat back and toyed with the opposition for about 30-40 minutes, before finishing off with a flourish and racking up plenty of goals. That said, Dortmund are unbeaten against Real in three games this season, winning two. A huge task lies ahead for Los Blancos.

Prediction

3-1 to Real Madrid, which means Dortmund will win 5-4 on aggregate. My heart wants to say that Madrid will pull off one of, if not the, greatest comebacks in European history this afternoon. But I can see them coming up just short. That said if they score twice before half time, anything is possible. My biggest fear is that Real will flood forward and allow Dortmund to score the crucial away goal that will likely settle this tie and send them into the UEFA Champions League final at Wembley on May 25.

Erling Haaland injury: Manchester City assess star

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Manchester City star Erling Haaland left the Norway squad during the international break after suffering a groin injury.

Our partners in the UK at Sky Sports News say that Haaland missed team training on Thursday, less than 48 hours before the huge game against Liverpool this weekend.

Speaking ahead of that game, Pep Guardiola revealed City were waiting to see if Haaland could take part in training on Friday.

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Haaland, 22, joined up with Norway for their EURO 2024 qualifiers but has been sent back to Manchester City for treatment.

That meant he went to Marbella and then Barcelona in Spain for specialist treatment and he is now back in Manchester recovering from the groin injury he picked up against Burnley.

The Norwegian striker has been in stunning form in recent weeks, scoring nine goals in his last three games in all competitions for City (including five against RB Leipzig in the Champions League and a hat trick against Burnley in the FA Cup) before the break.

He has scored 42 (yes, forty two) goals in all competitions for Man City this season.

However, Pep Guardiola and Man City now face an anxious wait as an injury to Erling Haaland is the last thing they wanted before a pivotal final few months of the season as they chase the Premier League, FA Cup and Champions League treble.


What is the latest update?

Pep Guardiola have a fairly positive update on Haaland ahead of Liverpool’s visit to City but it seems unlikely he will be risked if there’s any doubt around his fitness.

“Erling is recovering. This afternoon (Friday) is the last training session then we’ll see how he feels. We will see today. Again, the doctors and especially the player will decide how does he feel,” Guardiola said.

“Yesterday I spoke with him and he feels good. But we will see. Life is risk in these stages. You have to take it. We score a lot of goals this season. He scored an incredible amount of goals. But in the past always we scored a lot of goals.”

Norway’s team doctor, Ola Sand, previously gave an update on Haaland’s injury.

“We hoped that this was just a familiarity that would carry over to Saturday, but after doing tests and examinations yesterday it became clear that he will not make it to the games against Spain and Georgia,” Sand said. “It is better that he receives medical follow-up at the club.”

Norway face Spain on Saturday and Georgia next Tuesday, so it seems like Haaland is in a race to be fit for Man City’s games after the international break.


Which games could he miss?

After the international break Man City are playing in the first game of the weekend as they host Liverpool on Saturday, Apr. 1 at the Etihad Stadium.

It seems like Haaland could be struggling to be fully fit for that game, and maybe even the trip to Southampton on Apr. 8, so Pep Guardiola may choose to rest him for their massive UEFA Champions League quarterfinal first leg against Bayern Munich on Apr. 11.

Given the form Haaland is in right now, it will be a blow for City if he does miss the next few games but the last thing they want is any long-term damage. Plus, it’s helpful to have the likes of World Cup winner Julian Alvarez in reserve to step in for Haaland.

Premier League table, 2022-23 season

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If it’s the 2022-23 Premier League table you’re after, you’ve come to the right place.

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After the break for the 2022 World Cup, the Premier League returned with a bang and the start to 2023 has delivered plenty of fun.

Now we are approaching the final few months of the campaign, it is so tight up and down the Premier League table.


Who’s looking like title contenders and/or favorites?

As we head into the final months of the 2022-23 season, Arsenal and Manchester City are looking head and shoulders above the rest and although Manchester United briefly surged into the picture, they look more likely to cement their spot as the third best team in the Premier League.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights

The Gunners will have their hands full for the duration of their title challenge, as Erling Haaland continues to take the Premier League by storm with an almost impossible goal-scoring record.


What about the top four and European places?

Uneven Tottenham are hanging in the top four battle and for the moment have hunted down Newcastle, while Liverpool is back in the Champions League picture after their return to form and Chelsea looks like a top six finish is their ceiling. For now.

Surprising Fulham, Brentford, and Brighton are all hanging around on the periphery with fine campaigns. Can one of them surprise and qualify for Europe?


Who are the candidates for relegation?

Southampton, West Ham, and Bournemouth currently occupy the relegation places but that keeps changing all the time and it is so tight at the bottom of the table.

Nottingham Forest, Leicester City, Wolves, Leeds, Everton and Crystal Palace all find themselves within a few points of the bottom three as the race to stay in the Premier League intensifies. This could be the craziest relegation scrap in Premier League history.

Below you will find the latest Premier League table.


Premier League table – March 19

Premier League standings

NBC Sports’ standings and scoreboard



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Arsenal vs Leeds: How to watch, live stream link, team news

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Arsenal can keep its Premier League title run going strong with a win over relegation-fighting Leeds United on Saturday at the Emirates Stadium (watch live, 10am ET on USA Network and online via NBCSports.com).

The Gunners enter Saturday with an 8-point title lead over Manchester City, who holds a match-in-hand and plays the 7:30am ET kickoff earlier Saturday vs Liverpool.

STREAM LIVE ARSENAL vs LEEDS

Leeds is coming off a feisty but fortunate 4-2 win over Wolves that it took it clear of the bottom three by two points.

If Leeds can manage a point here, it will be a heaping helping of unexpected and will say something about Javi Gracia’s project at Elland Road.

Here’s everything you need to know ahead of Arsenal vs Leeds.

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How to watch Arsenal vs Leeds live, stream link and start time

Kick off: 10am ET, Saturday
TV Channel: USA Network
Online: Stream via NBCSports.com


Key storylines & star players

For Arsenal, it’s going to continue to be a feast of talent in attacking positions as Bukayo Saka and Martin Odegaard are in the Premier League Player of the Year conversation and Gabriel Martinelli isn’t too far off. Perhaps Gabriel Jesus would be there, too, if he didn’t miss such a long stretch of time with injury but he’s fit and firing and Leeds has reason to worry about its back line. Leeds would love to see Maximillian Wober and Tyler Adams available but they are not and it will be incumbent about the attackers to make up for their absences. Weston McKennie and Marc Roca will be under the microscope today.


Arsenal team news, injuries, lineup options

QUESTIONABLE: Thomas Partey (other), Kieran Tierney (calf). OUT: William Saliba (lower back), Mohamed Elneny (knee), Eddie Nketiah (ankle), Takehiro Tomiyasu (knee)

Leeds team news, injuries, lineup options

OUT: Maximillian Wober (thigh), Stuart Dallas (thigh), Adam Forshaw (groin), Tyler Adams (hamstring), Wilfried Gnonto (ankle).

Arsenal title tracker – What do Gunners need to win the Premier League?

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Eight points clear at the top of the Premier League table with 10 games to go, what do Arsenal need to win their first Premier League title in 19 years?

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Mikel Arteta has his young side on the cusp of a pretty remarkable and very unexpected Premier League title win.

With a solid defensive unit, perfectly balanced midfield and the likes of Bukayo Saka, Gabriel Martinelli and Martin Odegaard having fine campaigns in the final third, there is so much to love about this Arsenal team.

[ MORE: Latest Premier League table for 2022-23 season ]

But how, and when, can Arsenal seal the Premier League title they crave? How many points do they need to gain? What are the scenarios based on their huge game against Manchester City in April?


How many points do Arsenal need to win the Premier League title?

With 10 games remaining, there are many different ways the Gunners can win the Premier League title.

In its simplest form: if Arsenal win nine of their final 10 games they will be crowned Premier League games.

The magic number for Arsenal to reach is 95 points. If they reach 95 points, Manchester City cannot catch them.

But if Man City beat Arsenal in their huge game at the Etihad on April 26 and win their game in-hand, Arsenal will need to win all nine of their other remaining game to be sure of the title. That would give them 96 points and Man City could only finish on 94.

If Arsenal drew against Man City then Man City could only finish on a maximum of 92 points. That means Arsenal would need eight wins from their remaining nine games to win the title as they would have 94 points.

If Arsenal win at Man City then Man City would only be able to reach 91 points. So, Arsenal would only have to win seven of their other nine remaining games to seal the title.

All of this proves just how massive the Manchester City vs Arsenal game on April 26 is in deciding the title winner.


When did Arsenal last win the Premier League?

They last won the Premier League title in the 2003-04 season, the famous ‘Invincibles’ campaign as they didn’t lose any of their 38 games that season.

Think Patrick Vieira, Dennis Bergkamp, Thierry Henry, Freddie Ljungberg, Sol Campbell and Robert Pires in full flow and Arsene Wenger with a huge smile on his face on the sidelines. Magnificent.


When did Arsenal last win a trophy?

The last trophy Arsenal won was the FA Cup in the 2019-20 season, they also won the FA Community Shield in 2020.

Both of those trophies were won by current boss Mikel Arteta.


Which trophies have Arsenal won?

Here are the list of trophies the Gunners have won in their history:

  • FA Cup (14 – Record)
  • Premier League/First Division titles (13)
  • League Cup (2)
  • FA Community Shield (16)
  • European Cup Winners’ Cup (1)
  • Inter-Cities Fairs Cup (1)