Mario Pasalic

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Live, UCL last 16: Spurs v. RB Leipzig, Atalanta v. Valencia

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One Premier League has already found life in the Champions League knockout stage tougher than anticipated. Now, another takes the field hoping to fare better.

Spurs take the field looking to earn a hard-fought result against Bundesliga title contenders RB Leipzig at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium at 3:00 p.m. ET. Jose Mourinho has spent much of the week reminding everyone how many obstacles the Spurs squad has faced after the news that Heung-Min Son could potentially miss the rest of the season with a broken arm, joining Harry Kane on the injured list.

[ LIVE: Champions League scores ] 

Mourinho’s men have won three Premier League matches in a row, in good form coming into this match. They take on an RB Leipzig squad that sits just a point back of Bayern Munich in the Bundesliga title race but has won just once in its last four league games, a 3-0 victory over Werder Bremen last time out. Striker Timo Werner, who is rumored to be of interest to Liverpool, has not scored since January 18, a five-match drought across all competitions. Leipzig is also struggling with missing players as Dayot Upamecano is suspended and both Ibrahima Konate and Willi Orban are injured, so Chelsea loanee Ethan Ampadu is selected.

Meanwhile, Atalanta makes its Champions League knockout stage debut as the Italian side “hosts” Spanish club Valencia. The Serie A side was not allowed to play in its home Stadio Atleti Azzurri d’Italia as it does not pass UEFA regulations, so they are playing all Champions League home games at the San Siro.

Chelsea loanee Mario Pasalic starts for Atalanta in midfield with rumors of a permanent move this summer to help fund the Hakim Ziyech deal. Since December 22, the Italian side has won five while losing just one in Serie A play, including a 2-1 win over Roma last time out that saw Pasalic score the winner.

Valencia counters with Uruguayan striker Maxi Gomez up front supported by Ferran Torres and Goncalo Guedes. The Spaniards are without Ezequiel Garay, Francis Coquelin, and Gabriel Paulista all through injury. Still, they managed a 2-2 draw with Atletico Madrid last time out in La Liga play on a 59th minute equalizer by Geoffrey Kondogbia’s first goal of the season.


Wednesday Champions League action

Tottenham Hotspur v. RB Leipzig
Atalanta v. Valencia

LINEUPS

Tottenham: Lloris, Aurier, Alderweireld, Sanchez, Davies, Winks, Fernandes, Lo Celso, Alli, Bergwijn, Lucas Moura.

RB Leipzig: Gulacsi, Mukiele, Klostermann, Halstenberg, Angelino, Laimer, Ampadu, Sabitzer, Nkunku, Schick, Werner.

Atalanta: Gollini; Toloi, Palomino, Djimsiti, Hateboer, de Roon, Freuler, Gosens, Pasalic, Ilicic, Gomez.

Valencia: Domenech; Wass, Diakhaby, Mangala, Gaya, Kondogbia, Parejo, Soler, Torres, Goncalo Guedes, Gomez.

Serie A roundup: Pasalic’s instant impact lifts Atalanta past Roma (video)

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Atalanta’s come-from-behind victory against AS Roma highlights Saturday’s Serie A action.

 [ MORE: Serie A scores, schedule ]

Atalanta 2-1 AS Roma

Mario Pasalic scored Atalanta’s winner seconds after taking the field as the home side rallied back against AS Roma 2-1 at Gewiss Stadium.

 

Gianpiero Gasperini consolidate their fourth-place standing in Serie A, going six points clear of Roma and moving eight points behind Lazio, who host top-of-the-table Inter Milan on Sunday.

“This is an important victory,” Atalanta coach Gasperini said. “Against a side like Roma this advantage is not definitive. They are a strong team, but in us there is the belief that we can finish in front.”

The victory proves to be a massive confidence booster for Atalanta ahead of their first Round of 16 Champions League bout in club’s history. La Dea host Valenica at the San Siro – not at their 21,300-seater home – midweek.

As the first 45 minutes came to an end, Edin Dzeko took advantage of Jose Luis Palomino’s blunder by rifling the ball past Pierluigi Golini. The Bosnian striker is the first Roma player to reach 10 goals this season.

Roma’s spirit-lifter would be nullified five minutes into the second half as Palomino made up for his error with a volley of his own to equal the scoreline.

Elsewhere in Serie A 

Lecce 2-1 SPAL

Bologna 0-3 Genoa

Serie A roundup: Atalanta hand Milan worst league loss in 21 years (video)

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AC Milan’s worst league loss in 21 years highlights Sunday’s Serie A action.

 [ MORE: Serie A scores, schedule ]

Atalanta 5-0 AC Milan

With a brace from Josip Ilicic and goals from Alejandro Gomez, Mario Pasalic and Luis Muriel, Atalanta ran all over AC Milan in Bergamo on Sunday.

It was the fourth time in the club’s 120-year history that the Rossoneri suffered a loss by more than five goal, with the last one occurring in May of 1998. Milan’s Chief Football Officer, Zvonimir Boban, labeled the seven-time European’s performance “embarrassing”.

Milan – lead by Stafano Piolo, who signed a two-year deal in October – are sitting eleventh on the table, only seven points clear of the drop zone. During the match, Atalanta fans taunted Milan fans with ‘Serie B, Serie B’ chants, predicting a possible relegation for one of Italy’s most important clubs.

Throughout the night, Milan registered a lone shot on target, 10 short of the amount that the home side registered.

“We have to work and improve. We entered the pitch with too little technical and tactical clarity. It’s a terribly insufficient performance,” acknowledged Milan coach Pioli.

That’s not the only hot topic Pioli touched on, however.

Conveniently enough, reporters pressed the 54-year-old about Zlatan Ibrahimovic‘s possible arrival and whether or not the former Milan striker can ameliorate their situation.

“These are questions for the club owners,” he told DAZN when asked about Ibrahimovic, who is a free agent and has been rumored to make a return to Italy.

“People have talked about Ibrahimovic for over a month now. I’ve already said he is a champion and would bring that determination and character to raise the intensity and focus even during training, more so than in games.”

With their next match not until January 6, the Rossoneri will have plenty of time to reflect on one of the darkest nights in club history. And maybe sign themselves an Ibrahimovic, too.

Elsewhere

Lecce 2-3 Bologna

Parma 1-1 Brescia

Sassuolo 1-2 Napoli

Jesus hat-trick downs Dinamo Zagreb, Atalanta qualifies for knockouts

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Manchester City looked sluggish again, but Gabriel Jesus made sure it didn’t matter.

The Brazilian cropped up at a critical juncture for Pep Guardiola, sending Manchester City through into the knockout stage on a winning note as his hat-trick sealed a 4-1 come-from-behind victory that knocked Dinamo Zagreb from European competition altogether.

[ LIVE: Champions League scores ]

The first half was especially lackluster for the English visitors to Stadion Maksimir in Zagreb, with lots of possession but little to show for it. The hosts went in front early on, punishing Man City on the counter on a fabulous volleyed finish from former Barcelona youth product Dani Olmo.

That was the best goal of the day, but Man City picked itself up and pulled back level before the break, with Jesus grabbing his first via a header as Dinamo Zagreb shut off, screaming for Man City to put the ball out with a Zagreb player down. The visitors rightly did not, and Dinamo was punished by the equalizer.

After halftime, Man City was much better, hammering the left flank to take a commanding lead. The second came on excellent work by Jesus in the box to shake a defender and finish with his right, while the third flew in minutes later on a pinpoint Benjamin Mendy cross that Jesus met with a flying karate kick. Pep Guardiola had one eye on the festive fixtures, withdrawing Jesus soon after the hour mark, replaced by Oleksandr Zinchenko who curiously took Jesus’s place at the striker position.

Phil Foden was the best Manchester City player throughout, and finished off the scoreline with seven minutes to go. An excellent buildup down the right saw Bernardo Silva sprung through, and he cut back to Foden at the top of the six-yard box who slid to meet the ball with pace and poke home the cherry on top.

Elsewhere, Atalanta topped Shakhtar Donetsk 3-0 in the Ukraine on goals by Timothy Castagne, Mario Pasalic, and Robin Gosens, meaning the Italians secured the second spot in Group A, qualifying for the knockout stage. The Ukranians were left dead in the water after right-back Dodo was sent off 13 minutes from time, leading to the second goal to seal things up. Atalanta’s advancement marks a stunning comeback given the Italian side failed to secure points in any of their first three group stage matches.

That left Shakhtar in third, dropping to the Europa League, while Dinamo Zagreb was left at the bottom of the group, on the outside looking in.

10-man Man City fails in bid to clinch Champions League group

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An injury and red card meant Manchester City defender Kyle Walker finished the day in goal for the 10-man visitors in a 1-1 UEFA Champions League draw with Atalanta at Atleti Azzurri d’Italia on Wednesday.

Raheem Sterling scored in the 7th minute of Wednesday’s match in Bergamo, the sort of dispiriting perfect team goal which can make an opposition close up shop.

[ MORE: Premier League Player Power Rankings ]

But Atalanta did not do that, drawing level through Chelsea loanee Mario Pasalic and having a huge opportunity to take all three points when Claudio Bravo, on the pitch because Ederson was injured, was sent off for a DOGSO foul.

City is still sitting pretty with a five-point lead on both Dinamo Zagreb and Shakhtar Donestk, but will rue not killing off both sides’ chances of winning the group.

Three things we learned

1. First mission accomplished of season delayed: A win in Atalanta would have clinched a seeded place in the knockout rounds, but City just didn’t have their A or B game in Bergamo. Give plenty of credit to Atalanta, who started the group stage 0-3 and was humiliated by City in Manchester, but Guardiola won’t be happy with the knowledge that a 3-3 draw between 10-man sides Dinamo Zagreb and Shakhtar Donetsk opened the door to the possibility of not needing to pay any attention to the final two group stage matches.

2. Kyle Walker can catch: Guardiola took off Ederson at halftime, and Man City almost immediately handed an equalizer to the hosts when Pasalic beat Bravo.

City was not good on the day, and their poor day was further dramatized when Ilkay Gundogan‘s bad giveaway allowed Ilicic 1v1 with Bravo. The referee had little choice but to give the Chilean a red card for a sliding challenge on Ilicic, and Walker entered the fray after a long delay.

Wearing a C. Bravo 1 jersey, Walker bobbled but saved the ensuing free kick and caught the only other shot put in his direction over the final few minutes.

3. Sterling continues Serie A mastery: Sterling played a role in all five of Manchester City’s goals when Atalanta visited the Etihad Stadium the last UEFA Champions League match day, so it’s no surprise he’s brought that form to Italy.

Man of the Match: The answer is Pasalic, who was very good, but you’re nuts if you think we’re not putting this award directly into the hands of Kyle “C. Bravo 1” Walker.


Coming on the heels of his 3-goal, 2-assist performance in Manchester against the Serie A side, Atalanta will be seeing ghosts after Sterling stayed patient with a run into the 18 to fire home.

Sterling knew Gabriel Jesus‘ clever back heel was coming after Bernardo Silva’s incisive pass into the 18, and City will have a commanding five-point lead atop the group is the day’s results hold firm.

And more importantly, a couple more early goals could allow Guardiola to pull Sterling and a few other stars ahead of Sunday’s big match at Liverpool.

That certainly did not happen. Man City’s Gabriel Jesus missed a penalty kick before halftime, and Atalanta tightened up and was probably unfortunate not to find a winner.

Full credit to City for dealing with Walker’s absence, keeping the ball in the corner for most of the final moments of the match.