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Neymar wants to be PSG’s “first warrior” in Manchester City battle

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Neymar wants to be PSG’s “first warrior” in Manchester City battle

… As Europa League final in Poland to be played before fans***

Neymar has issued a rallying call to Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) ahead of their 2020/2021 UEFA Champions League semi-final showdown with Manchester City.

The Brazilian claimed he was ready to “die on the pitch”.

PSG slipped to a 2-1 defeat in last week’s first leg at Parc des Princes, with Kevin De Bruyne and Riyad Mahrez overturning Marquinhos’ first-half opener.

An impressive opening to the contest from Mauricio Pochettino’s men subsided, with Manchester City exerting almost complete control on proceedings after the interval.

Neymar cut an increasingly isolated figure, while attacking partner Kylian Mbappe failed to attempt a single shot after starting a match for the first time in his Champions League career.

The world’s most expensive player is aware of the tall task that awaits at the Etihad Stadium.

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But he has not given up hope of last season’s beaten finalists returning to the showpiece.

“We have a very difficult match against Manchester City, but we have to believe, no matter what the stats or our percentage chance of winning is,” Neymar told PSG’s in-house channel.

“I think that every Parisian has to believe in us. I’ll be the first to do so.

“I’m on the front line and I’ll be the first warrior to go into battle for the team.

“I’m going to give the best of myself and I’ll do everything I can to qualify, whatever happens.”

With a chuckle, he added: “Even if I have to die on the pitch.”

The stats Neymar alludes to certainly do not make for comfortable reading for those of a PSG persuasion.

There have been 47 previous instances of English clubs winning the first leg of Champions League or European Cup tie away from home.

On each occasion, they have progressed.

Manchester City have won each of their past six UEFA Champions League matches and have 10 out of 11 victories this season.

A goalless draw at FC Porto was the only blemish.

A seventh win would edge Pep Guardiola’s men ahead of Manchester United (1965 and 1966), Leeds United (1969 and 1970) and Arsenal (2005).

It will make them the outright English record-holders for the longest winning run in Europe’s premier club tournament.

PSG have played Manchester City four times in European competitions and are yet to beat the Manchester side.

In the related development,  The final of the Europa League in Gdnansk later this month can take place with up to 9,500 fans, European football ruling body UEFA said on Monday.

UEFA said this followed agreement with Polish authorities.

The stadium can use up to 25 per cent of its capacity for the May 26 final.

But foreign fans will have to observe coronavirus rule for entry into Poland and restrictions when there.

Tickets went on sale on Monday and are available until Friday.

The semi-final second legs are this Thursday when Manchester United defend a 6-2 lead away to Roma and Arsenal attempt to overcome a 2-1 deficit at home to Villarreal.

 

 

-dpa

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Carabao Cup: Manchester United ease past Nottingham Forest into final

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Carabao Cup: Manchester United ease past Nottingham Forest into final

Second-half goals from Anthony Martial and Fred earned Manchester United a comfortable 2-0 win over Nottingham Forest on Wednesday to secure a 5-0 aggregate victory.

The feat helped them to clinch a place in the final of the 2022/2023 English League Cup, also known as the Carabao Cup.

January signing Wout Weghorst almost followed his goal in the first leg with another in an opening period of few clear-cut chances.

He headed a pinpoint Casemiro cross against the post at Old Trafford.

Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag sent top goalscorer Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Martial on in the second half to try to put the tie to bed.

The French forward scored the opener in the 73rd minute.

Brazilian Fred put the icing on the cake three minutes later, tapping in at the far post to book his team a final date with Newcastle United on Feb. 26.

Ten Hag’s side has now stretched their home winning streak to 12 games in all competitions.

“The first half wasn’t great, to be honest,” Ten Hag said. “I thought it was professional but too slow and we didn’t create too many chances.

“The second half was much better, more tempo and we made some good goals. We just want to improve every day.

“I think we have a good squad. So, we have to demand and control the high standards.”

To say the odds were stacked against Nottingham Forest coming into the match was an understatement.

This was because, prior to their trip to Manchester, no team has ever won the first leg of a League Cup semi-final by at least three goals and still be eliminated.

Away supporters’ hopes of a huge upset were further dashed when they saw the Manchester United starting line-up.

Ten Hag named a strong side, only resting goalkeeper David de Gea and Rashford.

It took Manchester United a while though to get going in spite of their impressive recent run, with Casemiro’s header well saved, before Brazilian forward Antony volleyed over from distance.

Then, Ten Hag’s substitutions proved too much for Nottingham Forest.

Martial converted after Rashford’s shot had fallen into his path before Rashford squared for Fred to add gloss to a comfortable win.

Manchester United have now reached the League Cup final for the 10th time, with only Liverpool playing in more, with the club chasing their first trophy since 2017.

“Congratulations to Manchester United and Newcastle United. Good luck to them in the final,” Nottingham Forest manager Steve Cooper said.

“Overall, we are disappointed, of course. But, in terms of getting to the final, the damage was done last week.”

– Reuters

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Real Madrid to face bitter rivals FC Barcelona in Cup semi-finals

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Real Madrid to face bitter rivals FC Barcelona in Cup semi-finals

Real Madrid will face bitter rivals FC Barcelona in the Copa del Rey semi-finals after the draw was made at the Spanish FA’s headquarters on Monday.

Osasuna will clash with Athletic Bilbao in the other semi-final fixture.

The matches take place on four different dates in February, March and April with the Spanish FA having a scheduling headache.

Real Madrid is playing in the FIFA Club World Cup which begins on Wednesday and ends on Feb. 11, and then two legs of the Champions League last 16.

Real Madrid and Barca meet in the first leg at Camp Nou on March 1 and will play the second leg at Santiago Bernabeu on April 4 or April 5.

Osasuna will play Athletic Bilbao on Feb. 8 and March 1.

The semi-final represents a chance for La Liga and European champions Real Madrid to get revenge for their 3-1 loss two weeks ago in the Spanish Super Cup against FC Barcelona.

Barca is currently the league leader after they moved on to 47 points with their 1-0 win at Girona on Saturday.

Real Madrid is second, five points behind.

– Reuters

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Djokovic reaches Australian Open semi-finals, Paul also through

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Djokovic reaches Australian Open semi-finals, Paul also through

Novak Djokovic equalled the record of former coach Andre Agassi with a 26th consecutive victory at the Australian Open on Wednesday to reach the semi-finals.

The nine-time champion was again in superb form, painting the lines consistently in a 6-1 6-2 6-4 victory over fifth seed Andrey Rublev on Rod Laver Arena.

It helped to set up a clash with unseeded American Tommy Paul.

Djokovic has not been beaten at Melbourne Park since 2018 —- part of a 39-match winning run in Australia.

This has now matched the sequence of victories of Agassi between 2000 and 2004.

Djokovic said: “I cannot be happier with my tennis. I’ve been playing very solid. I love playing in these conditions, on this court.

“Overall I think the scoreline in the first two sets doesn’t speak the truth of the match.

“Andrey is a great player. With all the important moments and the important shots, I found my best tennis. So, that’s what I’m most pleased about tonight.”

The fifth seed at times did again appear bothered by his left hamstring.

But it did not affect his ability to hare around the court, repelling everything big-hitting Russian Rublev threw at him.

He was more affected by a heckler who called out “Come on Andrey, send him home” during the first set.

It drew loud boos from the largely pro-Djokovic crowd and prompted the Serbian to complain to British umpire James Keothavong.

It was Rublev’s turn to appeal to Keothavong in the second set when he felt Djokovic should have received a time violation.

But the Russian, bidding to reach his first slam semi-final at the seventh attempt, was mostly frustrated by the man down the other end of the court.

Djokovic, who has never lost once he has reached the semi-finals at Melbourne Park, was virtually flawless in the big moments.

He saved all five break points he faced and wrapped up victory in two hours and three minutes.

Earlier, Paul got the better of fellow American Ben Shelton to reach his first grand slam semi-final.

The run of 20-year-old Shelton, in just his second grand slam and on his first trip outside the U.S., has been one of the stories of the tournament.

But Paul used his greater experience to secure a 7-6 (6) 6-3 5-7 6-4 victory.

The 25-year-old said: “I’m really excited. It wasn’t the prettiest match ever today but it was how I needed to play the match.

“He’s a great server. I had to just put in as many returns as I could.”

Paul, who will break into the top 20 for the first time after the tournament, becomes the first American man to reach the semi-finals here since Andy Roddick in 2009.

With Sebastian Korda also in the last eight, this was the best display by American men at a grand slam for nearly 20 years.

It appears to herald an exciting era for the country, which has been searching for a successor to Roddick for the last decade.

There is a lot of excitement about Shelton, who has not yet left college, and he might turn out to be the best of the lot, but this was Paul’s day.

Paul was cheered on by his mother, who hopped on a plane after his fourth-round win and arrived in Melbourne on Wednesday morning.

“It was awesome,” he said. “I was actually, when I first heard, pretty nervous because we’ve had a good thing going here and I didn’t really want to change anything.

“After a little bit of thinking, I was like, ‘Yeah, I’m in the quarter-finals of a slam. She’s sacrificed a ton to get me here. She deserves to be here and deserves to see me win big matches”.

“I was really excited to see her and have her here.”

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