Slavia Prague 1-3 Inter: Martinez and Lukaku boost Champions League knockout hopes

By Sports Desk November 27, 2019

Inter's Champions League fate is in their own hands after Lautaro Martinez and Romelu Lukaku inspired a 3-1 win at Slavia Prague on Wednesday.

Martinez's crisp finish put Inter ahead before they saw a second goal chalked off and Slavia instead awarded a penalty, which Tomas Soucek converted to tee up a draw that would do little for either side.

But late strikes from the outstanding Lukaku and Martinez secured the precious points for Inter as they bid to reach the knockout stage.

Antonio Conte's men are second in Group F on seven points, ahead of third-placed Borussia Dortmund on head-to-head.

Inter will qualify if they beat Barcelona in a mammoth San Siro showdown on matchday six, while Dortmund host bottom side Slavia and hope for a Nerazzurri slip-up.

 

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    Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp revealed he only recently considered the prospect of signing Thiago Alcantara after previously believing he would be "out of reach".

    The Premier League champions confirmed on Friday that they had captured the 29-year-old from Bayern Munich in a deal worth up to £25million (€27.5m).

    Thiago has arrived at Anfield on a four-year contract, with the Reds paying an initial £20m (€22m), plus an additional £5m (€5.5m) in potential bonuses.

    Klopp said has been a long-time admirer of the midfielder, but did not think the Spain international would be prepared to leave Champions League holders Bayern anytime soon. 

    "Thiago – settled that much at Bayern – is usually out of reach for pretty much everybody," Klopp told Liverpool's official website. "If the player doesn't want [to move] massively then you have no chance. 

    "You see that Bayern have long, long, long-term contracts with their main players and Thiago was a main player for Bayern over the years. 

    "I know all the people at Bayern wanted to keep him desperately; that's normal and understandable because he played an important role last season as well. 

    "He just was ready for a new challenge and he decided it was with us. But did I think about him earlier? I thought a lot about him but never as a potential transfer, to be honest."

    Thiago arrives at Anfield as a Champions League and Bundesliga winner but Klopp says his squad will not be in awe of him given their own European and Premier League success over the past two seasons. 

    "The players are happy," he added. "Since they knew about it they are really excited about it as well. And when they meet him, they will know he is a guy who doesn't need any special treatment. 

    "He won the Champions League this year but all the other guys won it last year. Yes, he became German champion this year; our guys became English champions. 

    "It's not that somebody is coming in and now we have to roll red carpets out or whatever; not at all. He wants to be part of the team, work hard and be as successful as possible."

    Klopp confirmed that Thiago will not be part of the squad for their top-flight clash with Chelsea on Sunday, meaning he could make his debut in the EFL Cup meeting with Lincoln City on Thursday.

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    Liverpool have completed the signing of Thiago Alcantara from Bayern Munich in a deal worth up to £25million (€27.5m).

    Thiago was rumoured to be a target of Jurgen Klopp's before the transfer window opened, with the Reds boss aiming to add more creativity to his midfield unit.

    The Premier League champions have now got their man, with the 29-year-old – whose deal at Bayern was due to expire in June 2021 – signing a four-year contract at Anfield.

    Stats Perform News understands Liverpool will pay an initial £20m (€22m), with an additional £5m (€5.5m) in bonuses.

    Liverpool's pursuit of Thiago developed into something of a saga, with the midfielder acknowledging his signing has felt "a long time" in the making, but he is now relishing further success on Merseyside, where he has been impressed by a feeling of unity.

    "I think it's an amazing feeling. I was waiting for this moment for a long time and I am very, very happy to be here," he told the club's website.

    "When the years are passing, you are trying to win as much as you can – and when you win, you want to win more. I think this club describes what I am as well; I want to achieve all of the goals, win as many trophies as possible.

    "It also [has] this kind of family [feeling] that I need because we [like to] have a very close relationship with the club and I think I will feel this, I will have this feeling, with this club as well.

    "[The supporters] are not more excited than I am, for sure not! It is not about saying words, it is about doing the things. I will give my heart on the field to my teammates, the club and also to the fans."

    Spain international Thiago has thrived since joining Bayern in 2013, having been brought to the Bundesliga giants by his former Barcelona boss Pep Guardiola.

    After coming through at Barca as an attacking midfielder, Thiago has dropped into a deeper role in recent seasons and was integral to Bayern's treble success in 2019-20.

    In total, Thiago made 235 appearances in all competitions across his seven seasons with Bayern, scoring 31 goals and providing 35 assists.

    Thiago, who will wear the number six shirt for Liverpool, helped Bayern to seven successive Bundesliga titles, four DFB-Pokal wins and one Champions League triumph.

    He becomes Liverpool's second signing of the transfer window following the arrival of left-back Kostas Tsimikas.

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    Pep Guardiola had no interest in signing Thiago Alcantara from Bayern Munich because he believes Manchester City are well enough stocked in central midfield.

    Thiago broke into Barcelona's first team during Guardiola's time in charge at Camp Nou and the Catalan tactician made him the flagship signing for his first season at Bayern in 2013-14.

    Nevertheless, the Spain playmaker is now on the brink of joining Liverpool and bolstering Jurgen Klopp's bid for back-to-back league titles at Anfield.

    Speaking ahead of City's season opener at Wolves on Monday, Guardiola told reporters that even the departure of club great David Silva at the end of last season - a man with similar qualities to Thiago when it comes to dictating the tempo of the play and operating shrewdly in tight spaces - did not make him feel the need for reinforcements.

    "We have in this position enough players and normally we have to move the players when we need someone in that position," said Guardiola, whose club were linked with a sensational swoop for Lionel Messi before the six-time Ballon d'Or winner announced he would remain at Barcelona. "We have enough players in this position."

    The likes of Phil Foden, Bernardo Silva and Ilkay Gundogan will be among those vying for places alongside Kevin De Bruyne in City's creative department, although Guardiola acknowledges Thiago is likely to thrive for their title rivals.

    "I'm happy to see him in England, England is going to enjoy a really good player," he said.

    The hope that City youth product Foden can make another significant step forward this season was compromised by the 20-year-old's widely discussed antics on international duty with England earlier this month.

    Foden and Manchester United teenager Mason Greenwood were banished from Gareth Southgate's squad, having broken coronavirus protocols by entertaining women at the team hotel in the aftermath of making their international debuts in a 1-0 win over Iceland.

    "In the time I saw him, these three or four days we were together, he's well" Guardiola said. "He knows he made a mistake and that's all."

    Foden excelled in the wide attacking positions for City after lockdown last season but Guardiola confirmed he will be considered as an option in a central role so familiar to the likes of Silva and Thiago.

    "He can play in that midfield position, or striker, or winger," the City boss added. "He can play up front without a problem."

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