'I'd have bet my house on that happening!' – Verratti not surprised to see Paredes and Ramos square off

By Sports Desk September 06, 2022

Marco Verratti was not surprised to see Leandro Paredes and Sergio Ramos square off in Paris Saint-Germain's clash with Juventus as "both players care so much".

Paredes was back at the Parc des Princes for Tuesday's Champions League group match, just six days after joining Juve from PSG on an initial loan basis.

The Argentina international was involved in a flashpoint during the first half of his new side's 2-1 loss when he got involved in a row with former team-mate Ramos.

As Paredes walked towards Ramos, the latter appeared to push away the midfielder by the throat, which the referee deemed worthy of a yellow card.

And speaking after the match, Verratti joked it was an incident that was always likely to happen between two passionate players.

"I'm good friends with [Paredes]. The odds on that happening were pretty good as I'd seen them go at it in training," he told Sky Sport Italia.

"I'd have bet my house on that happening. Both players care so much and put a lot of character into every challenge, but they always have a hug at the end."

Paredes managed 102 touches against his parent club – more than any other Juve player on their Champions League debut since Opta started recording such data in 2003-04.

Juve put up a strong second-half fight in Paris after Kylian Mbappe fired PSG into a commanding two-goal lead, though Weston McKennie's effort proved to be a consolation.

The Parisians have now won five successive home games in the Champions League for the first time since between November 2013 and November 2014 (a run of six wins).

"We were up against a strong opponent in Juve and knew we'd suffer to get the three points," Verratti said. "After a good first half we struggled a bit in the second.

"Juve relaxed a bit after their goal and started to believe. They are a great team but we worked together to bring home the result."

Mbappe's double took him on to 29 goals in the competition for PSG, one shy of Edinson Cavani's club record.

Lionel Messi and Neymar also performed well in attack, and Verratti praised head coach Christophe Galtier for getting the trio working as one.

"The coach is very intelligent. This is quite a tough team to coach," he said.

"But he made it clear to everyone that there is only one objective, which is to win, play together, enjoy our football and make it a team sport.

"To have a great season we need everyone, whether we have the ball or not, whether they are on the bench or on the field.

"Telling Messi what position to hold and where to pass is tricky, but he gave a sense of organisation and responsibility to everyone. 

"There are moments, as we saw today, where we all need to defend together. You can be as talented as you like, but it is all easier if we all work together."

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    Belgium coach Roberto Martinez conceded his team "lacked joy" in their play after succumbing to a miserable 2-0 defeat to Morocco on Sunday.

    The Red Devils went down to goals from Romain Saiss – adjudged to have got the slightest touch on a dangerous Abdelhamid Sabiri free-kick after 73 minutes – and Zakaria Aboukhlal in stoppage time.

    It left Belgium, third-place finishers in 2018, teetering on the brink of an early elimination and knowing they will likely have to get something against Croatia in their final Group F game on Thursday to stand any chance of going through.

    Belgium have looked disjointed so far in Qatar and Martinez feels they are perhaps struggling with the thought of a final shot at glory for the nation's 'golden generation'.

    He said: "I don't see us enjoying it, we have lacked that joy. It may be due to the weight we are carrying on our shoulders. In the last game, we have to play it to win it. We've played the last two like we have something to lose.

    "Now we have something to win. If we beat Croatia, we will qualify. The talent is there and the quality in front of goal is always there."

    Martinez claimed to be unaware of an interview given by Kevin De Bruyne in which the Manchester City midfielder suggested this Belgium team are weaker than the 2018 group, but he defended the 31-year-old after another subdued display.

    Asked why fans have yet to see the best De Bruyne at the World Cup, Martinez replied: "We haven't seen the best Belgium yet, we haven't been at our best.

    "Until the goal, the performance was a step forward from the Canada game, and we have never lost the desire to get results, but the team haven't been themselves, not just Kevin.

    "We've played with too much responsibility, we need to find that freedom. Football is a team sport but, if we do that, every individual can find a higher level."

    Morocco coach Walid Regragui was delighted with his side's display, although he wants them to finish the job and secure a place in the knockout phase. This result followed a draw against 2018 World Cup runners-up Croatia.

    "We have four points, that's extraordinary for Morocco," he said. "We played against one of the best teams in the world, with big players. We knew that if we didn't give 100 per cent it's impossible to win, but with these fans, these players, this spirit...

    "We are a very difficult team to beat. This is a good win, but we haven't qualified yet. We have four points, but I want more than that. It will be difficult if we get through to the knockout phase but so far we have matched two of the best teams in the world."

    Regragui reserved special praise for man of the match Hakim Ziyech.

    "He is incredible," he said of the Chelsea winger. "A lot of people talk about him, say he is a crazy guy, he is difficult to manage, he can't help the team. What I see is when you give him love and confidence, he will die for you. That's what I give him. He has my confidence and the confidence of the fans."

  • Davies suggests England would be weaker without Kane as Allen defends Bale and Ramsey Davies suggests England would be weaker without Kane as Allen defends Bale and Ramsey

    Ben Davies believes England would be weaker without Harry Kane ahead of Wales' crunch match with the Three Lions, while Joe Allen defended the performances of Gareth Bale and Aaron Ramsey.

    The Golden Boot winner in Russia four years ago, Kane is yet to register a shot on target across England's 6-2 win over Iran and goalless draw with the United States.

    With the Three Lions all but assured of a place in the knockout stage, Gareth Southgate may rest his captain for their final Group B match.

    Davies saluted his Tottenham team-mate but even with his potential absence, the defender is well aware of the Dragons' task.

    "Harry's a world-class player and one of the best in the world, so he's going to make any team better with him in there," he said.

    "That doesn't mean that England don't have very capable replacements to come in. Whoever we're up against, we're facing a team of world-class players.

    "They're a world-class side. It's going to be a very tough game, but we have to prep as well as we can, look for areas of weakness they have and try and capitalise on that.

    "We're under no illusions it's not going to be anything other than very difficult."

    Having collected a single point from their first two games, Rob Page's side must beat their rivals - while hoping Iran fail to beat USA - to stand any chance of extending their first finals appearance in 64 years.

    Davies has urged his team-mates to respond to their surprise 2-0 defeat by Iran last time out with 100 per cent effort at the Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium.

    "We've had that disappointment, and we've got no choice but to move on and give everything we can," the Tottenham defender added.

    "We're a team that's set high standards for ourselves and that's the reason why we've got to where we are now.

    "That's the reason why we've been critical of our last few results – it's only because of the bar we've set ourselves. We know we can play a lot better, and we hope to do that in the next game."

    Meanwhile, Joe Allen leapt to the defence of Bale and Ramsey. Between them, the pair have scored 61 goals for Wales, and were expected to play a key role in Qatar.

    But both came under scrutiny following a pair of below-par displays against the USA and Iran, with four-time Champions League winner Bale registering just one shot on goal against the latter. 

    "They're two incredible players, and they have been for our country," Allen said. "I don't think there's anyone else in the squad who's reached the heights they're capable of.

    "It's a huge game coming up, they're big-game players and always have been. Hopefully, if any criticism has come their way, then they'll be able to answer a few of those critics with a top performance."

  • 'Things I better not say' – Vertonghen critical of Belgium's shock loss to Morocco 'Things I better not say' – Vertonghen critical of Belgium's shock loss to Morocco

    Jan Vertonghen was critical of Belgium's performance following a surprise 2-0 defeat to Morocco, referencing things he "better not say".

    The Red Devils would have become the second side to clinch their spot in the round of 16 with victory, but they were well short of their best, failing to create opportunities before succumbing to two late goals.

    Regarded as the last chance for glory for Belgium's golden generation, Roberto Martinez's side have now lost seven of their last 19 matches across all competitions (W9, D3), as many defeats as they had suffered across their previous 74 games combined (W57, D10).

    While Vertonghen feels Belgium were strong for the majority of the clash, he did not shy away from expressing his frustration at the manner in which the opening goal was conceded.

    Abdelhamid Sabiri's free-kick to the near post eluded Thibaut Courtois in a carbon copy of a first-half set-piece where Belgium were saved by an offside flag against Romain Saiss.

    "We didn't create much. I think we were good overall, we didn't give much away, just an identical goal twice," he told Sporza.

    "Twice a resumption of play at the first post. That ball should never go in. The first time we are lucky, but the second time not any more.

    "There are a lot of things going through my head that I better not say, or at least not outside [the dressing] rooms.

    "It's very frustrating. The first game was not good, and we got away with it well. Not today. I don't think we created any chances."

    Defeat to Croatia in the final Group F match on Thursday would result in an early exit from the competition, but Vertonghen believes his side still have the strength in the squad to progress.

    "I had the feeling that we were in a good position. We didn't get into trouble. They have a lot of quality in the front. So did we, but with them it came out more," he added.

    "After the first match, we thought it could only get better. We were hoping to qualify for the next round today.

    "Now we have a difficult final game in which everything will be at stake. The quality in the group is certainly there."

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