Three things we learned from Real Madrid vs. Juventus as Italians reach the final


Juventus went into the Santiago Bernabeu and did something nobody really expected them to do. Get past Real Madrid.

[ RECAP – Real 1-1 Juventus ]

Real has now failed to overturn a first leg deficit eight times in the knockout stages of the UCL and Carlo Ancelotti’s future at Los Blancos will be under intense scrutiny as they have relinquished their crown as European champions.

Cristiano Ronaldo’s early goal gave them hope but Real’s old-boy Alvaro Morata came back to haunt them with an equalizer as the game finished 1-1 on the night and Juve prevailed 3-2 on aggregate.

Here’s three things we learned from a tension filled night in a humid, and now disappointed, Madrid.


Alvaro Morata played in the UEFA Champions League final for Real Madrid last season as he helped his hometown team win the UCL crown. This season his goals in both legs of the semifinal kept Real from returning to the final as Morata latched on to Paul Pogba’s knockdown in the box in the 57th minute and rifled home to silence the fans who used to adore him. Morata, 22, was deemed surplus to requirements by Real’s manager Carlo Ancelotti this summer and was allowed to leave his boyhood club for $22 million. How Ancelotti may be regretting that move now.

Following both of his goals against Real (he opened the scoring in the first leg with a tap-in at the back post) the Spanish international striker declined to celebrate out of respect for his former employers. Bit of a strange one when that happens. Why not celebrate the biggest goal of your career to date? Anyway… It didn’t work out for Morata at Real and he has since spoken about the real reason for his move to Juventus last summer. His relationship with Ancelotti had broken down as his time at the Bernabeu came to a close.

“It was a bittersweet and strange sensation for me,” Morata said after Wednesday’s game in Madrid. “These two games have been difficult for me. I want to thank the Madrid fans, I wish I had scored against another team. My former team-mates want us to win and they wished me the best. Just like in Turin, it was hard for me at times tonight but I had to focus my head quickly. That’s what football is like.”

For the rest of time Ancelotti is unlikely to forget the name “Alvaro Morata” as an ex-Madridista came back to haunt his old team as his two goals over the two legs were the difference and denied Madrid from becoming the first team in the modern Champions League era to win back-to-back titles. The faint whistles from the home fans as an appreciate Morata, who applauded Madrid’s supporters, was substituted in the 84th minute told its own story. Madrid’s fans knew they had been thwarted by one of their own.


Once again, it just wasn’t Gareth Bale’s night in a Real shirt. Lambasted by his own fans for most of this season, we are now beginning to see exactly why they have pointed the blame at his door. Bale had been out with injury before the first leg in Turin last week and since then he has put in three sub-par performances for a player of his standards. Wednesday was actually his best performance of the past week as Bale forced Gianliugi Buffon into a magnificent sprawling save in the first half but that was to be as close as he got.

In the second half he had two glorious chances to give Real the crucial second goal they craved but in the 63rd minute he fluffed Marcelo’s cutback and somehow sent the ball wide of the near post from eight-yards. Granted he was under heavy pressure from Pirlo but the Bale of last season would have tucked that away. The in the 72nd minute a moment arrived which perhaps emphasized his drop in form from last season. Ronaldo clipped the ball to the back post and Bale rose high above Patrice Evra but somehow headed the ball over from close-range. It would have been an eerily similar goal to the one he scored for Real in last seasons UCL final and right now, he’s struggling to get anywhere near that high-point of his Real career.

However it is worth noting that if you look at the stat above, it shows that Ronaldo went missing in the second half of the semifinal as the onus was squarely on Bale to come up big and grab the goal which would have enhanced Real’s chances of making the final. It wasn’t to be but at least Bale didn’t shy away from the spotlight like his illustrious strike partner seemed to.

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Pogba oozed class as the UCL semifinal second leg wore on.


After weathering on early onslaught from Madrid, Juventus’ class shone through as the game wore on. The Italians held firm to reach their first UCL final since 2003 and it has been a long road to recovery from Juve after they were shamed and relegated to Serie B in 2006. Their ascendancy in Italy has been swift, four straight Serie A titles says as much, but many have questioned whether Italian teams could dominate Europe once again as their last UCL title came courtesy of Inter Milan in 2010. Juve has shown they can. And when they have a player like Pogba patrolling the midfield then its easy to see why. The Frenchman struggled at first to dictate the tempo but, like Juve, as the game wore on he grew into it.

The man they call “Il Polpo” in Italy started to get his tackles in and it was his header in the box which set up Morata for the crucial goal. A lung-bursting run in the final 10 minutes helped relieved pressure for Juve and, despite looking like he was struggling to move at times in the second half, in the 87th minute he popped up in the box and forced Iker Casillas into a fine save. Juve showed their poise as the second half wore on and the Italians had another great chance as Morata combined with Arturo Vidal to set up Claudio Marchisio but Casillas saved superbly. Back to Pogba, he has many suitors across Europe and if you believe the reports then Manchester City, Paris Saint-Germain and others are readying their check books for a huge bid in excess of $100 million this summer. Pogba proved on the biggest stage that he is capable of influencing the game and when fully-fit, it will take something special to stop the man they call “Il Polpo” in Turin.

With a UCL final to look forward to, plenty of attention will be on Pogba and how he can perform against Barcelona’s midfield of Iniesta, Busquets and Rakitic but there will also be plenty of other storylines to look out for. Luis Suarez vs. Patrice Evra. Luis Suarez vs. Giorgio Chiellini. The masters, Xavi and Pirlo, potentially doing battle one last time and a chance for Buffon to get his hands on European soccer’s greatest prize after sticking with Juve throughout the good and the bad times. Juventus vs. Barcelona in Berlin on June 6 promises to be an historic final as the Italian champions held their nerve to continue their incredible season and dreams of a treble.

Champions League score predictions: Round of 16

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The 2019-20 UEFA Champions League is finally back as the Round of 16 kicks off this week and two of the four Premier League clubs are in action.

[ LIVE: Champions League scores

Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur, the two finalists from last season, are first up and both will be happy enough with their draws in the last 16.

That said, Jurgen Klopp and Liverpool know that Diego Simeone’s Atleti are a very dangerous team to play as they will scrap and battle for every ball against the reigning European champions. As for Spurs and Jose Mourinho, the news that Heung-min Son has broken his arm and could be out for the rest of the season is a huge blow but they host an inconsistent RB Leipzig.

Borussia Dortmund host Paris Saint-Germain and Atalanta host Valencia in the other last 16 ties this week and both should be cracking encounters between two very evenly-matched teams.

[ MORE: Which Premier League team(s) will reach last eight? ]

Next week the other four last 16 first legs take place as Man City and Chelsea are in action against Real Madrid and Bayern Munich respectively. Out of the four Premier League teams still in the competition, Liverpool and Spurs will be the most confident of advancing.

Below we predict the scores for the UCL round of 16 games taking place over the next two days. Feel free to make your own predictions in the comments section below, too.

Atletico Madrid 1-2 Liverpool
Borussia Dortmund 3-2 PSG

Tottenham Hotspur 2-2 RB Leipzig
Atalanta 2-1 Valencia

Lampard issues Chelsea injury update; Pulisic remains out

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Chelsea boss Frank Lampard issued a lengthy injury update after their 2-0 defeat against Man United and USMNT fans will not be happy to hear that Christian Pulisic remains out.

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Ahead of Chelsea’s pivotal top four clash at home against bitter rivals Tottenham Hotspur on Saturday (Watch live, 7:30 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via, Lampard could be without as many as five key players.

Andreas Christensen broke his nose and came off at half time against United, while N’Golo Kante was subbed off early after yet another leg injury for the French superstar.

“Callum, no. Pulisic, no. N’Golo, no, from that today. Tammy is a maybe. It is not going our way with injuries at the moment but the players who come in they have to show that. That is what the squad is there for. It is frustrating,” Lampard told Chelsea TV when asked about availability for Saturday.

Lampard then gave an extra update on Kante, who walked through the mixed zone after the game looking okay and told the French journalists who were assembled that it wasn’t too bad.

“It is an adductor injury,” Lampard confirmed. “We will have to assess it and scan it. It doesn’t look great. It is on the same leg [as he injured before].”

With four wins in their last 14 Premier League games Chelsea are not in good form and are just one point ahead of fifth-place Tottenham ahead of their game this weekend.

They also have a nasty habit of dominating matches but are failing to put multiple chances away and with these injuries piling up it certainly makes Chelsea’s decision to not spend in the January window to strengthen their squad, especially in terms of strikers, very surprising.

With Bayern Munich coming up in the first leg of their UEFA Champions League last 16 tie next week, Lampard will hope Chelsea’s luck turns and plenty of players return from injury.

FC Cincinnati coach Jans resigns amid investigation over remarks

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CINCINNATI — FC Cincinnati coach Ron Jans resigned amid an investigation by Major League Soccer of his use of a racial slur in the locker room.

Jans resigned late Monday, FC Cincinnati President Jeff Berding said: “The club had suspended Jans pending the investigation, which was prompted by a complaint from the MLS Players Association.

“As Major League Soccer’s investigation unfolded and some themes emerged, Ron offered his resignation and we agreed that it was the best course of action for everyone involved with FC Cincinnati,” Berding said.

[ MORE: All of PST’s MLS coverage ]

The club designated Yoann Damet as interim head coach while the team conducts a search. Cincinnati is training in Florida for its second season in MLS.

Cincinnati has been through two head coaches during its brief stay in the league. It fired Alan Koch after its 11th first-tier match, which left the expansion club with two wins, seven losses and two draws.

Damet also was the interim head coach while the team conducted a search that resulted in Jans’ hiring last August.

Cincinnati finished with the worst record in MLS in its inaugural season, with six wins, six draws and 22 losses. It scored a league-low 31 goals in 34 matches.

Cincinnati gained entry into MLS after a successful debut under Koch, who led the team to the semifinals of the United Soccer League’s playoffs in both 2017 and 2018.

German fans turn on fellow supporter for racist abuse

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BERLIN — The fans of German soccer club Preußen Münster showed how racist abuse can be handled, shouting “Nazis out! Nazis out!” after one of their own fans targeted a visiting player with monkey chants.

The perpetrator was a 29-year-old man who was forced out of the stadium. And the player, Würzburger Kickers defender Leroy Kwadwo, thanked the opposing fans their “exemplary” reaction.

“I was racially abused by one single spectator. It just makes me sad,” Kwadwo wrote on Saturday, a day after the match. “I indeed have a different skin color, but I was born here in this wonderful land that has given my family and I so much and made so much possible. I am one of you. I live here and can live my calling as a professional with the Würzburger Kickers.

“Something like yesterday just makes me sad and angry because everyone has to know, racism does not belong in OUR world. We all have the opportunity to oppose it and stop it if it happens.”

The incident occurred during a third-division match in Münster.

On Monday, Münster said it would seek to ban the suspect from all German stadiums for three years, the toughest possible sanction permitted under current regulations.

“The least we an do is ensure that this person is no longer allowed in our stadium,” Münster president Christoph Strässer said. “We will not tolerate racism or any form of discrimination. The issue of integration is naturally important to us as a sports club, and Article 1 of the constitution applies primarily, namely: Human dignity is sacrosanct. That goes for everyone in this country.”

The perpetrator also faces legal consequences. Local police said the man would be charged with incitement, which can lead to financial penalties and a jail term of three months to five years if convicted.

Referee Katrin Rafalski stopped the 0-0 draw in the 88th minute after being informed of the racist abuse by Kwadwo. It was followed by a stadium announcement against the abuse and the “Nazis out!” chants from the fans.

The German soccer federation praised the fans’ reaction on Twitter on Saturday.

“So sad and shameful as the racist incident against Leroy Kwadwo was, so exemplary was the immediate reaction to it,” the federation said. “The third division stands together and says, no to racism and discrimination!”

The incident occurred only days after Bundesliga club Schalke was fined 50,000 euros ($54,600) after some of its fans subjected Hertha Berlin player Jordan Torunarigha to racist abuse during a German Cup game on Feb. 4.

Torunarigha, the son of former Nigerian player Ojokojo Torunarigha, was targeted with monkey chants and was eventually sent off in extra time when he picked up a second yellow card after appearing increasingly upset as the game went on. The 22-year-old German defender was consoled by Schalke’s Amine Harit.

Numerous other racist incidents have tarnished European soccer this season.

On Sunday in Portugal, Porto striker Moussa Marega was visibly angered by monkey noises targeting him after he scored his team’s second goal in a 2-1 win at Guimarães. Several Porto and opposition players attempted to dissuade him from walking off the field in the 71st minute, when he demanded to be substituted.