Zone Blitz: Are Barcelona doing the right thing by trying to re-sign Neymar?

By George Davis, Mariah Ramharack&Lance Whittaker July 18, 2019

It's said you should never go back to your ex but Barcelona and Neymar could be a re-marriage made in heaven.

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  • Champions League knockout stage dominated by Europe's top-tier nations Champions League knockout stage dominated by Europe's top-tier nations

    Europe's top five leagues have monopolised the Champions League knockout stage for the first time in the competition's history.

    With Atalanta's 3-0 defeat of Shakhtar Donetsk, the Serie A side ensured only nations from Italy, England, France, Germany and Spain would complete the last-16 line up prior to the final group fixtures on Wednesday.

    Atalanta's win left only one place in the last 16 to be decided, with Atletico Madrid's 2-0 triumph over Lokomotiv Moscow – combined with a 2-0 loss for Bayer Leverkusen at home to Juventus – enough to send Diego Simeone's men through.

    It is the first time only teams from the top-tier nations in European football have been included in the draw for the knockout stage, which will take place on Monday.

    England – Premier League: Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City, Tottenham

    Chelsea and Liverpool had the biggest scares of the group stage when it came to the English sides, though both ultimately qualified.

    Current holders Liverpool put in a clinical second-half display to dispatch Salzburg 2-0 in their final Group E match, with Frank Lampard's side progressing from Group H thanks to a 2-1 win over Lille – last season's semi-finalists Ajax dropping into the Europa League despite amassing 10 points

    Tottenham were on the wrong end of a 7-2 hammering by Bayern Munich in October, but three successive victories sent them through prior to their second meeting with the German champions, while Manchester City qualified as Group C winners.

    France – Ligue 1: Lyon, Paris Saint-Germain

    Paris Saint-Germain look like they mean business this season and, after ensuring their place in the next round with a 2-2 comeback draw away at Real Madrid, capped off their Group A campaign in style with a 5-0 thrashing of lowly Galatasaray.

    Neymar starred on Wednesday, with Mauro Icardi, Kylian Mbappe and Edinson Cavani all scoring too – with their star-studded forward line in such form, Thomas Tuchel's side should be some force in the knockouts.

    Memphis Depay was the hero for Lyon, meanwhile, as his 82nd-minute equaliser against RB Leipzig sent Rudi Garcia's side from bottom up to second.

    Germany – Bundesliga: Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund, RB Leipzig

    Along with PSG, Bayern were the standout performers of the group stage – their haul of 18 points and a goal difference of +19 making them the best group winner in Champions League history.

    Leipzig made history when they secured their first participation in the knockout stage thanks to Emil Forsberg's double against Benfica on matchday five in Group G, though Borussia Dortmund had to see off Slavia Prague 2-1 in their final Group F game – and rely on Barcelona to defeat Inter.

    Italy – Serie A: Atalanta, Juventus, Napoli

    Atalanta seemed on the brink after three straight defeats to start their Group C campaign, yet Gian Piero Gasperini's side battled back – a draw with City and wins over Dinamo Zagreb and Shakhtar continuing their Champions League adventure, becoming the first side to go through after losing their opening three matches.

    Juventus' tally of 16 points in Group D saw them equal their own record – set in 1996-97 and matched in 2004-05 – while Napoli hammered Genk 4-0 on Tuesday to book their last-16 berth, though it was not enough to keep Carlo Ancelotti in his job.

    There will be no place in the last 16 for Serie A leaders Inter, though, with Antonio Conte's side dropping into the Europa League.

    Spain – LaLiga: Atletico Madrid, Barcelona, Real Madrid, Valencia

    LaLiga, like the Premier League, will have four representatives in the knockout stage. Barca were unconvincing at times in Group F, but had enough to seal their spot with a game to spare before ending Inter's hopes.

    Atleti needed to overcome Lokomotiv on matchday six, but did so easily enough thanks to Joao Felix and Felipe – though Kieran Trippier missed an early penalty – and their city rivals Real Madrid ultimately easily progressed from Group A despite a chastening defeat to PSG in their opening match.

    Valencia were involved in a mighty tussle with Chelsea and Ajax, who beat them 3-0 in their first home match, but eventually topped Group H thanks to a 1-0 win over the Eredivisie champions on Tuesday.

  • Rumour Has It: Haaland meets with Borussia Dortmund Rumour Has It: Haaland meets with Borussia Dortmund

    The race to sign Erling Haaland has taken another turn.

    According to reports, the in-demand striker flew to Germany on Wednesday to hold talks with Borussia Dortmund.

    Haaland has become one of Europe's hottest properties following a prolific run of form for Salzburg.

     

    TOP STORY – HAALAND MEETS WITH DORTMUND

    Could talented teenager Haaland be the next bright young forward to join Bundesliga side Dortmund?

    Local newspaper Ruhr Nachrichten and Radio 91.2 claim the Norwegian and his high-profile agent Mino Raiola arrived at Dortmund Airport and were met by a BVB official the day after Salzburg's Champions League loss to Liverpool.

    Haaland played 75 minutes against the holders but was unable to add to his impressive eight-goal haul in Europe this season.

    Manchester United, Juventus and Real Madrid are among the other heavyweights reportedly showing interest in the 19-year-old.

     

    ROUND-UP

    - Salzburg could be about to part with more than one highly-rated attacker. The Telegraph says Premier League outfit Wolves are preparing to make a move for Hwang Hee-chan, who could cost around £21million (€25m).

    - Roma will allow Alessandro Florenzi to leave for €25m in January, claims CalcioMercato. Inter are said to be his strongest suitors, with fellow Serie A sides Napoli and Fiorentina also in contention.

    - Bayern Munich midfielder Thiago Alcantara is unhappy with his reduced role under interim boss Hansi Flick and is thinking of returning to Spain, reports Bild.

    - Spain Under-21 international Carles Alena is set to join Real Betis on loan from LaLiga leaders Barcelona, according to Mundo Deportivo.

    - ESPN reporter Julien Laurens believes this season will be Thomas Tuchel's last in charge of Paris Saint-Germain. Tuchel has been heavily linked to Bundesliga champions Bayern.

  • Messi: Barcelona must 'start from scratch' after two painful Champions League exits Messi: Barcelona must 'start from scratch' after two painful Champions League exits

    Lionel Messi acknowledged Barcelona are still smarting from the manner of their past two Champions League exits but must "start from scratch" this season.

    Barca were eliminated on away goals in April 2018 after squandering a 4-1 aggregate lead over Roma, losing 3-0 in the second leg of their quarter-final tie at the Stadio Olimpico.

    Liverpool then overturned a three-goal deficit to the Blaugrana at the semi-final stage last season courtesy of a dramatic 4-0 victory at Anfield, with Messi admitting the pain of those galling eliminations remains strong.

    Having emerged top of the pile from a tricky Group F that included Borussia Dortmund, Inter and Slavia Prague this term, Messi is urging them to forget about what happened in the past when the knockout stages commence in February.

    "To be honest, it's always there," the six-time Ballon d'Or winner said of the painful Champions League eliminations at an Adidas event on Wednesday.

    "But we have to start from scratch. It's a new year, a new competition. Obviously we have to learn from mistakes, but to think of the present and the future.

    "We must forget what happened last year and the year before, it would be a mistake to think of that."

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