Manchester City and Liverpool will put their epic Premier League title race on hold for a few days, as they have the small matter of the Champions League semi-finals to think about.

City are hoping to go one better than last year after losing in the final to Chelsea. Standing in their way in the last four are Real Madrid, who eliminated the holders in the quarter-finals and boast a striker in Karim Benzema who has 12 goals in nine Champions League appearances this season.

Also facing LaLiga opposition are Liverpool, though Villarreal are unlikely to be a team they expected to meet at this stage of the competition.

Led by a knockout football specialist in Unai Emery, Villarreal cannot be taken lightly by the Reds, even with Emery's men historically struggling in games in England.

Ahead of the first legs, Stats Perform digs into some of the best Opta numbers around the two semi-final ties.

Manchester City v Real Madrid

Madrid might just be beginning to feel it is their year after progressing from remarkable knockout ties against Paris Saint-Germain and Chelsea.

However, the omens are against them ahead of their first leg with City. Los Blancos haven't won on any of their previous three trips to face Manchester City in European competition (two draws, one defeat), with the most recent two coming in the knockout stages of the Champions League – a 0-0 draw in the 2015-16 semi-final first leg and a 2-1 loss in the 2019-20 last-16 second leg.

Pep Guardiola won't need any additional motivation as he looks to finally end his wait for a Champions League triumph with City, and the Barcelona legend can complete a historic hat-trick by overseeing an elimination of Madrid.

Indeed, Guardiola has eliminated Madrid from the knockout stages of the Champions League on two previous occasions, beating them 3-1 on aggregate in the 2010-11 semi-finals with Barcelona and 4-2 on aggregate in the 2019-20 last-16 with City. He is looking to become the first manager to eliminate Madrid from the competition on three occasions.

Madrid won away from home in the first leg at Chelsea in the quarter-finals, their only victory in their last six away games against English teams in the Champions League. No team has ever beaten two different English sides away from home in the knockout stages in a single Champions League campaign.

Champions League history between the two managers, however, is with Madrid's Carlo Ancelotti. He and Guardiola have faced each other six times, with the City boss claiming four wins to Ancelotti's two.

However, all four of Guardiola's wins came with City against Ancelotti's Everton, while the Italian saw his Madrid side beat Guardiola's Bayern Munich in both legs of the 2013-14 Champions League semi-finals, claiming a 5-0 aggregate triumph. Such a one-sided tie is unlikely this time around.

Liverpool v Villarreal

Villarreal are arguably the story of the 2021-22 Champions League, having sensationally knocked out Juventus and Bayern Munich to reach this stage.

However, games in England have historically been a problem for the Yellow Submarine. Since a 2-1 victory over Everton back in August 2005, Villarreal haven't managed to win any of their last eight away games in England in all competitions (three draws, five defeats), tasting defeat to Manchester United at Old Trafford in the group stages earlier this season.

Despite Villarreal's well-organised defensive set-up, a high-scoring game could well be in the offing. During his managerial career, Villarreal boss Emery has faced Liverpool five times (once with Sevilla and four times with Arsenal), with those matches producing 26 goals (5.2 per game on average), and both teams netting in each.

Liverpool will be the clear favourites to do the majority of that goalscoring. Of the 12 sides to have reached the semi-finals of the European Cup/Champions League on at least five occasions, only Benfica (seven wins from eight) and Milan (10/12) have a higher ratio of progressing to the final than Liverpool (82%), who have managed to reach the final on nine of their previous 11 semi-final appearances.

Although Liverpool possess serious depth in attack with Diogo Jota and Luis Diaz playing significant roles, Mohamed Salah is still the obvious candidate to be their talisman.

Only in 2017-18 (10) has Salah scored more Champions League goals in a single campaign than the eight he has scored this season, moving his tally for the club onto 33. The Egyptian is just three behind both Didier Drogba (Chelsea) and Sergio Aguero (Man City) for the most goals netted in the competition for an English side (both 36).

Yet Emery's track record in Europe should have Liverpool fans nervous that he could be the man to dash their quadruple dreams.

The only European meeting between Emery and Liverpool was the 2016 Europa League final, in which Emery's Sevilla side beat Klopp's Reds 3-1. On top of that, since the start of the 2009-10 season, the year of the inaugural UEFA Europa League campaign, Emery has progressed from 84 per cent of his Europa League/Champions League knockout ties (31/37).

That is second-best ratio of any manager to have taken charge of at least 10 ties, after only Zinedine Zidane (14/16 – 88%).

Harry Kane insists Tottenham must win their five remaining Premier League games to qualify for the Champions League.

Antonio Conte's Spurs are embroiled in a fight for fourth with rivals Arsenal, who are two points ahead after defeating Manchester United 3-1 before Tottenham were held by Brentford later on Saturday.

That capped a damaging two-game spell for Conte's side, after losing to Brighton and Hove Albion at home last week.

Spurs also failed to register a single shot on target across the games against Brighton and Brentford, having previously scored in 14 consecutive halves of Premier League football.

The north London pair meet in a rearranged fixture in the penultimate week of the season, which could decide who finishes fourth, and Kane urged Tottenham to collect maximum points from their final five games.

Spurs face Leicester City and Liverpool before concluding their campaign against Burnley and Norwich City after the meeting with Mikel Arteta's Gunners on May 12.

"To only get one point from those two games [Brighton and Brentford] is disappointing," Kane told Standard Sport. "We're running out of games in terms of dropping points.

"There are five games left and we feel like we are pretty much going to have to win all of them to get that spot. We are more than capable of doing that, we believe in that and that is what we'll try and do.

"Is it still in our hands? Yeah. If we win the last five games we will be in the Champions League, so that is how we've got to look at it."

Kane – who is set to lead England at the World Cup later this year – also acknowledged the difficult task of facing quadruple-chasing Liverpool at Anfield, while Burnley are fighting relegation, although Norwich will likely be consigned to the Championship by the final day.

"We know those five games will be difficult, we go to Liverpool away as well which will be very tough," he added.

"As we've seen this season, we have dropped points against teams where we were probably expected to win and so have the others around us. It is by all means not done yet.

"We have to stay focused and keep working hard. We have a little gap now to prepare and work and hopefully, we can put in a good performance against Leicester [on Sunday].

"It has been a long season and we've definitely had ups and downs this season. I think we've done great to put ourselves in this position we're in now but it is about who can finish it off.

"That is the most important thing in football. Hopefully, it is us, we will work as hard as we can to make sure it is us and get that Champions League spot."

Virgil van Dijk insists Liverpool will not listen to suggestions they are favourites against Villarreal when the two sides meet in the Champions League semi-finals.

Jurgen Klopp's Liverpool defeated Benfica while Villarreal rallied past Bayern Munich to reach the final four and set up just the third meeting between the two teams in European competition.

The Reds will boast home advantage in the first leg on Wednesday, Villarreal having not managed victory in any of their past eight away games in England in all competitions since August 2005.

That last triumph on English soil was over fellow Merseysiders Everton, who Liverpool defeated 2-0 on Sunday to keep their Premier League title and quadruple hopes alive.

While Klopp's team have impressed on all fronts this season, winning the EFL Cup and reaching the FA Cup final as well, Van Dijk warned that Unai Emery's side will pose a threat.

"No, these are press debates that we prefer not to listen to," he told Spanish outlet EFE when asked if Liverpool were favourites. 

"We don't listen if they tell us that we're favourites or not. We will play on Wednesday as we try to play every game, that is, going out to try to win and, if we can, reach the final. 

"Villarreal are a great team, with great fans and a great coach. We really want these two games to start now.

"It will be very difficult because Villarreal is a very difficult team. Obviously, I have seen the games against Bayern Munich and they are a fantastic team defensively.

"The players work hard, have a lot of experience and, above all, play like a collective. In this round only the best remain. There is no easy rival in a semi-final.

"We are aware of the difficulty of these games and these rivals. The return there in Spain is going to be very hard and we expect it to be very intense."

Gerard Moreno has registered four assists in the Champions League this term, with only three players managing more. Indeed, since 2003-04, this is the joint-most by a Spanish player in their debut campaign in the competition, along with Gabi (2013-14) and Isaac Cuenca (2011-12).

Meanwhile, only Karim Benzema (15) has created more secondary chances – the pass played before the ball that sets up a shot or goal – than Dani Parejo (14), highlighting his influence in building Villarreal's attacks, and Van Dijk pinpointed the dangerous pair.

"[Their] central defenders are incredible. Raul Albiol and Pau Torres. They are very experienced and fantastic," the Netherlands international added. 

"Then in the centre of the pitch they have the calm and the touch of Parejo and up top Gerard Moreno [if he is fit] is very fast and can surprise you. 

"We already know a lot about [Arnaut] Danjuma from his time at Bournemouth. It's going to be a very complicated match-up, but this is the Champions League semi-final. We knew it wasn't going to be easy."

Along with the talent on the pitch, Klopp will also face off against Emery, who has progressed from 84 per cent of his Europa League and Champions League knockout ties (31/37) since the start of the 2009-10 season.

Only former Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane (14/16 – 88 per cent) boasts a better win rate in that period among managers to take charge of at least 10 games, and Klopp will be looking to make amends after Emery’s Sevilla beat Klopp’s Liverpool 3-1 in the 2016 Europa League final.

Real Madrid should be worried by the prospect of facing Manchester City in the Champions League semi-finals, according to former Etihad Stadium hero Carlos Tevez.

City beat Atletico Madrid 1-0 on aggregate to tee up the last-four meeting with Carlo Ancelotti's men, who edged past Chelsea to move one step away from the final.

Madrid visit Manchester on Tuesday for the first-leg clash, having failed to win on any of their previous three trips to face City in European competition (D2 L1).

The most recent two clashes came in the Champions League knockout stages, with Madrid drawing 0-0 in the 2015-16 semi-final first leg and losing 2-1 in the 2019-20 last-16 second leg, and Tevez believes Pep Guardiola's side are in a strong position.

Madrid have won the Champions League/European Cup on 13 occasions, while City are chasing their first such title, but the Premier League side cannot be considered underdogs given their current strength.

"Nowadays it is completely different. Today, Real Madrid are the one that have to be concerned about facing City," former Argentina international Tevez told City's official website.

"This is the advantage that City now have. Today, the opponents have to look at what City are capable to do.

"With the players we have now and the infrastructure City have been building during the years we can fight as equals against any team in Europe."

Tevez scored 58 times in 113 outings for City between 2009 and 2013 after swapping Manchester United for the blue side of the city, and he is delighted to see his old team competing at the highest level in Europe.

"It's a 50/50 tie," he said of the clash with Madrid. "I'm very happy to see City in this position, fighting against the greatest teams in Europe.

"It has not been possible to win the Champions League yet, but I think the most important thing is that after 10 years City are playing as equals against teams like Real Madrid and as it did on the last tie against Atletico."

Tevez said such progress was "very gratifying".

"We have gone from fighting in the middle of the league table to doing on an equal footing with the biggest [in Europe]," he said. "It is an achievement that we all must feel proud."

Guardiola will be aiming to become the first manager to eliminate Madrid from the Champions League on three occasions, having previously done so with Barcelona in the 2010-11 semi-finals and at City in 2019-20.

The excitement around Paris Saint-Germain ahead of the 2021-22 season was palpable.

In scenes reminiscent of the 'Galactico' era at Real Madrid, PSG appeared to be attempting to build their very own version of the Harlem Globetrotters.

The signing of right-back Achraf Hakimi from Inter early in the transfer window not only filled a problem position, but also brought in one the world's leading young defenders.

Nuno Mendes, albeit on loan, followed to fill the left-back slot later in the window, but between those signings, PSG made three sensational free transfers.

Gianluigi Donnarumma, Sergio Ramos and, to top it all off, Lionel Messi joined. Their joint presentation at the Parc des Princes was the main event ahead of a match against Strasbourg in August.

Funnily enough, Kylian Mbappe's name was booed as it was read out ahead of that match, amid speculation he could be joining Real Madrid.

That might well have been the case, but PSG turned down multiple Madrid advances. For all the glitter and glamour of their new signings, Mbappe was still seen as the key to their dream: the Champions League.

But that dream of conquering all in Europe was dashed in March. Ironically enough, by Madrid. It was Mbappe who put PSG 2-0 up in the tie before a Karim Benzema-inspired comeback sent Los Blancos into the quarter-finals.

Since then, PSG's monotonous stroll to another Ligue 1 title – albeit their first since 2020 – has continued and, inevitably, they claimed it on Saturday when they drew 1-1 with Lens.

Their fearsome front three has produced some special moments, yet last week's 2-1 Classique victory over Marseille, their nearest rivals – for lack of a better term – for the title, was played in front of a crowd lacking its most vociferous supporters, who had chosen to boycott the match in order to protest against the way the club has been run.

And though an eighth league title in 11 years of Qatar Sports Investment (QSI) ownership cannot be scoffed at, it is the least PSG should expect given the grandiose nature of their expensively assembled squad of superstars.

So, what next?

Mbappe Madrid-bound?

Mbappe is the first player to score more than 20 goals in the competition in three separate seasons before his 24th birthday since Herve Revelli, who managed it on four occasions between 1967 and 1970.

Before the Lens game, Mbappe's tally of 33 goals in all competitions was bettered by only Karim Benzema and Robert Lewandowski among players across Europe's top five leagues, with the France star having also outperformed his expected goals (29.5).

If this is to be his PSG swansong, then Mbappe is going out in style, if not on the biggest stage. From being jeered by his own supporters back in August, the tables turned when Mbappe was applauded in the wake of PSG's Champions League exit, with the boos reserved for Messi and Neymar instead.

PSG seem intent on trying to keep their talisman, but it really does appear to be to little avail, and it looks certain Mbappe will be lighting up LaLiga next season.

Messi to move on?

Yes, you did read that right. Messi – arguably the greatest player of all time – was booed by PSG supporters. Such is the fickle nature of football fandom, they were cheering his name by the time the next game came around, but at 34, does the Barcelona great really need to risk any damage to his reputation?

The goals have not come freely for Messi at PSG, managing only nine so far. However, he has contributed creatively with 13 assists, even if his expected assists (xA) of 9.86 suggests he has benefited from some above-standard finishing (which may be expected when you're supplying Mbappe, and Neymar too).

One has to wonder if he'll be sticking around to help the bid for an 11th league title in PSG's history next season.

 

Time up for Poch?

It is not just the future of star players up for debate. Mauricio Pochettino replaced Thomas Tuchel because the latter had failed to win the Champions League, only for Tuchel to go and win the tournament with Chelsea. Pochettino, meanwhile, saw his team lose in the semi-finals to Manchester City last season and then go down to Madrid in the last 16 this time around.

His record in Ligue 1 shows 39 wins from 55 matches, with the Argentine coach having overseen eight defeats and eight draws to register a win percentage of 70.9. Pochettino's team have scored 123 goals and conceded way less than half that amount (49).

Pochettino's 2.27 points per game ranks below his three predecessors, however; Tuchel took 2.37, as did Unai Emery, and Laurent Blanc recorded 2.35. Carlo Ancelotti (2.14) was the last PSG coach to have taken fewer points per game.

The former Tottenham boss might have been expecting a call from Manchester United, yet they have chosen Ajax's Erik ten Hag. Given the Champions League is the be-all and end-all for PSG, will Pochettino get another shot?

More, more, more?

Regardless of what happens with Mbappe, Pochettino or Messi, one thing is certain: PSG will be linked with the biggest stars on the market again.

Should Mbappe decide to pledge more of his career to PSG, will they go out and look to further bolster their chances of Champions League glory? If he leaves, how do they replace his goals?

Backing Messi and Neymar to come up with the difference should not be out of the question, yet it seems unlikely QSI would want a star player to leave and not replace him.

Paul Pogba is set to be available on a free, and it is not difficult to imagine the France star strutting his stuff in the blue of PSG. Georginio Wijnaldum's move has not been a success and the Dutchman's former club Newcastle United – now cash-rich of course – have been linked.

What of Keylor Navas? Donnarumma, despite some rash mistakes, seems to be the number one pick as goalkeeper now. Surely the Costa Rican will want to be a first choice elsewhere? Ramos has hardly been able to keep fit and PSG do lack a world-class partner for Marquinhos.

PSG may have to take a step back to finally move forward and become a dominant force in Europe, not just France. Perhaps sticking with Pochettino is the correct route, and they should forget about star signings for now and let the coach build something as he did in north London, using younger players and adding in the stardust with the talent that he already has at his disposal.

Based on the last decade, however, that does not seem likely.

Manchester United interim manager Ralf Rangnick conceded his team's hopes of Champions League qualification are over after Saturday's 3-1 loss to Arsenal.

A top-four finish already looked unlikely for the Red Devils after their 4-0 humiliation by Liverpool at Anfield in midweek, but their trip to the Emirates Stadium saw them go up against a direct rival.

While United's performance was undoubtedly an improvement on their horror show on Merseyside, Rangnick's men fell 2-0 behind in the first half thanks to an early Nuno Tavares goal and Bukayo Saka's penalty.

Cristiano Ronaldo pulled one back with his 100th Premier League goal before Bruno Fernandes hit the post from the spot – that was one of three occasions United were denied by the frame of the goal, as Diogo Dalot hit both the upright and crossbar.

Arsenal finished United off slightly against the run of play when Granit Xhaka blasted home from distance with 20 minutes to go.

Victory leaves the fourth-placed Gunners six points ahead of United, while the former also have a game in hand, and Rangnick was frank in his assessment of the situation.

Asked if the top four was out of reach for United, Rangnick told BT Sport: "Pretty sure. For me, even before the game it wasn't likely, but after today's result, the top four is gone, yes."

This was United's first game since Erik ten Hag was confirmed as the club's next permanent manager, news that dominated the build-up to the match from the Red Devils' perspective.

The consensus has been that Ten Hag faces a massive rebuild at Old Trafford, with Rangnick previously suggesting United might need to sign as many as 10 new players.

But Rangnick did not feel United's performance on Saturday highlighted any new issues, while the German – who has been extremely critical of his players at times lately – even praised the team's attitude.

"There is a lot of work for sure [for Ten Hag], we knew before the game," Rangnick continued.

"But we also showed what kind of football we can play, and although we had to deal with the two early goals, we still showed the attitudes.

"So there is nothing about the attitude of the players that we should fault today."

Nevertheless, Rangnick was frustrated by United's feeble defending once again, though he tempered that by questioning the validity of some VAR decisions.

Among them, Xhaka's strike was allowed to stand despite replays suggesting Eddie Nketiah was in David de Gea's line of sight and an offside position, while United were denied a first-half penalty despite Cedric Soares clearly blocking the ball with his hand while crawling.

"The only weak side of the performance was we didn't defend well in and around the box," he said. "The same happened when we conceded the second and third goals, but for me there were three very unlucky, let's put it that way, VAR decisions.

"For me the third goal of Arsenal was clearly offside, you can see it in slow-mo. David said to me he couldn't see the ball.

"The second goal of Cristiano was definitely not offside and there was another handball decision in the first half, so we were not very happy with those VAR decisions in the end. It was an improved performance but disappointing result."

Manchester United should not be expected to win trophies under Erik ten Hag immediately, says Gary Neville, warning it is a long job for the Dutchman with a mentally shot squad at Old Trafford.

The Ajax boss will take the reins from interim manager Ralf Rangnick at the end of the season, with the Red Devils arguably facing their lowest point in the post-Alex Ferguson era.

Questions over whether a squad low on confidence can challenge for Champions League football remains in the air, and several key players look destined for the door.

Hopes are high that Ten Hag can facilitate a fast turnaround - but speaking after his appointment, former defender Neville has warned there will be no quick fix at the Theatre of Dreams.

"What we're seeing at this current moment is unacceptable," Neville told Sky Sports News. "Ten Hag has got a big job to get the club back up to those minimum standards.

"They need to achieve [...] attitude, work ethic, belief, confidence and then hopefully you start to think about winning trophies.

"But honestly, I wouldn't be putting too much pressure on Ten Hag in the first one or two years to win a trophy at the club. It would be great if he did and he'd be overachieving, in my opinion.

"It will be: get into the top four, re-establish Man Utd in the Champions League, attract the players into the club who can play in the way he wants to play, and then get a system of belief.

"It took Jurgen Klopp four or five years to win a Premier League title. I wouldn't be putting pressure on Ten Hag to win a Premier League title. They're a million miles away from that.

"At the end of last season, I thought they were getting closer. But it's all collapsed and fallen to pieces. I don't know why that's happened. Ten Hag gets to pick up the pieces."

It has been a dramatic fall from grace for United, after their much-vaunted rebuild under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer looked on the cusp of paying dividends last term.

But since their Europa League final defeat at the end of the 2021-22 campaign, they have delivered few statement performances, and Neville believes the losing feeling will be hard to shake.

"The players have completely lost their confidence and belief," he added. "They don't want to play football for Manchester United at this moment in time.

"That's not they don't want to play football for the club - they don't want to play football. They want the season to finish. You can see it in their eyes. They just want these games over.

"But the problem is there is no hiding place at this club. All the eyes are still going to be on them and they're going to have to try to turn up. They've got to find something from somewhere.

"I want to be careful in saying there's long-lasting damage but the mental impact of what's happening, that's going to have [a] long-lasting impact on some of those lads."

Ten Hag will succeed Rangnick, with the German expected to remain at the club on a consultancy basis - and Neville feels that it will be the latter who helps the Dutchman dictate transfer policy.

"Recruitment is the most important job in a football club," he said. "If you get the players wrong, you're struggling.

"Rangnick has had four or five months to assess that dressing room. I'm pretty certain they'll be having pretty direct conversations about who he needs to get rid of.

"It's on the tip of Rangnick's tongue in every single interview he does and you feel like he's going to go rogue at some point and start calling players out.

"He's doing it in groups, but there's no doubt Rangnick will be passing on that very specific information about who Ten Hag needs to get rid of - and I'm sure Ten Hag will listen and buy into that."

Real Madrid, Barcelona and Juventus could now face sanctions from UEFA after precautionary measures against such punishments were lifted by a Madrid court.

Madrid, Barca and Juve are the three clubs still committed to the European Super League project, which was launched last year and sought to break away from UEFA's Champions League.

Nine other clubs, including six from the Premier League, backed out of the competition soon after it was announced amid fan pressure.

UEFA was initially prevented from sanctioning those involved, but these measures have now been lifted by judge Sofia Gil Garcia of Madrid's Mercantile Court No. 17.

"It is up to these disciplinary bodies and to the independent arbitrators of the CAS to decide on the possible sanctions against the clubs," the court said via a statement reported in French publication L'Equipe.

A UEFA spokesperson said: "UEFA has today received the order of the Madrid court, lifting the precautionary measures in their entirety.

"UEFA welcomes this decision and is considering its implications. UEFA will not be making any further comment for the time being."

UEFA has backed the 'Win It On the Pitch' campaign organised by Football Supporters Europe over regulation of the game by the European Union.

Key powerbrokers from the sport's continental governing body met with representatives from FSE, the democratic voice of European football fans, on Thursday.

The latter is calling for the EU to protect the principles of the European sports model against American-style franchising, a year on from the failed European Super League.

The Win it On the Pitch campaign aims to safeguard the sport against potential ring-fencing and future breakaway attempts.

"Football belongs to its fans and they played a critical role in stopping last year’s shameless attempt by a few wealthy clubs to take it away," UEFA general secretary Theodore Theodoridis said.

"We applaud FSE for this European Citizens’ Initiative, which we fully encourage and support.

"The European sport model is based on popular principles such as sporting merit, promotion and relegation, and financial solidarity.

"Its principles must be protected at EU-level to ensure the sustainability of clubs, leagues, competitions, and communities."

FSE executive director Ronan Evain echoed Theodoridis' words, and thanked UEFA for their support with the campaign.

"The Super League plot may have failed, but the fight is far from over," he added.

"Win It On The Pitch is a simple way for ordinary citizens to demand the EU take action to secure the future of our most popular and played sport.

"It is more important than ever for all stakeholders to come together to protect clubs and competitions across the continent, as well as the principles on which our game should be based."

Barcelona coach Xavi was left seething after his side missed a "golden opportunity" to move clear in second place in LaLiga.

Having been eliminated from the Europa League on home soil by Eintracht Frankfurt last Thursday, Barca lost consecutive games at Camp Nou for the first time since April 2003 as lowly Cadiz condemned them to a 1-0 defeat.

Lucas Perez's second-half winner marked the 32nd goal Barca have conceded in 31 league games this season, their worst tally at this stage of a season since the 2012-13 campaign (33).

Barca's 15-match unbeaten run in the league had seen them harbour hopes of a title challenge, but they now have just seven games left to catch Real Madrid, who are 15 points clear.

Indeed, Barca's main focus will now realistically be on the teams below them. Atletico Madrid and Sevilla sit on 60 points, like the Blaugrana, but Real Betis (57) and Real Sociedad (55) are not far behind.

"We're p***** off," Xavi told reporters. "We have lost a golden opportunity to distance ourselves from the fight for the Champions League and to continue in the fight for the title. We have almost said goodbye to LaLiga. 

"We are Barca and we must do more. The team should have shown more desire and enthusiasm. It's not about attitude because the players want it, but we need a competitive character.

"They [Cadiz] defended the play as if it were the last, and we have to match that.

"We have to be humble and think that we haven't done anything. To be in the Champions League next year, we have to play with more faith, determination and drive. We have to grit our teeth because we've got a lot at stake."

Despite overseeing a dramatic upturn in fortunes since taking charge, Xavi said the defeat showed there was much work required for Barca to return to the level of his playing days.

"When you win 4-0 at the Bernabeu it's logical that you say 'we're back', but now we're also making mistakes," he added.

"We must be self-critical, and we must react to ensure the goal of Champions League [qualification]. 

"We have to work for the great Barca to come back. We beat Madrid and Sevilla with two great games with the same team and the same staff. If we've done it [before], we can do it again."

The game was played in a muted atmosphere after a prominent group of Blaugrana fans boycotted in protest at the club's handling of last week's loss to Frankfurt, where an estimated 30,000 away fans got tickets to the match.

"We need the people," Xavi said. "The other day it affected us a lot, the fans have been extraordinary. 

"Hopefully the next game they will be with us. Barcelona must be united and at least go to the Champions League next year. It's a shame they didn't come. We need everyone. It's important that in the next game at home the three points stay here."

The joined actions of some of the most powerful figures in modern football unwittingly created an ever mightier alliance on April 18, 2021.

The announcement of a new European Super League united Manchester, with fans and players of United and City joining those invested in the fortunes of Liverpool and the three London giants of Arsenal, Chelsea and Tottenham in opposition.

Although the reaction in Italy and Spain may not have been quite as damning, the protests that followed over the course of an extraordinary few days were enough to derail the plans.

A year on, Stats Perform looks back on one of the most controversial proposals in the sport's history and where it stands now.

What is/was the European Super League?

The past week has shown exactly what makes the Champions League great, whether Villarreal's upset of Bayern Munich, Real Madrid withstanding Chelsea's fightback, a thriller between Liverpool and Benfica in a tie widely considered over or the blood and thunder of Manchester City's defeat of Atletico Madrid.

But Arsenal and Tottenham did not qualify for the Champions League this season, while Barcelona and Milan failed to make it beyond the group stage.

In another season, another superpower – the clubs whose names and riches have made the Champions League what it is – might miss out on these great games.

That was the fear of a dozen leading sides, anyway. Barca had a prominent role, along with Real Madrid and Juventus, as the European Super League was launched.

The competition was to be backed by United States-based investment bank JP Morgan and managed by the owners of the founding clubs, who would be guaranteed entry to the competition.

Three clubs were hoped to join the initial 12, followed by five others qualifying each year to form a 20-team tournament, which would be split into two 10-team leagues prior to a knockout stage.

The idea was for the Super League to replace the lucrative Champions League, rather than domestic leagues – hence its inception on the eve of Champions League reforms. The interested parties even claimed the money raised would benefit "the wider football pyramid".

But the reception was widely critical, while there were notable absentees in the form of Paris Saint-Germain and Bayern Munich, the previous campaign's Champions League finalists.

PSG had spent too much time – and, of course, money – establishing themselves among European football's elite to risk it all in the breakaway.

Meanwhile, Bayern, like most German clubs, are partly fan-owned. And it would soon become clear football fans in general were not enthused by the prospect of seeing Europe's best teams slog it out in a closed-shop tournament.

Then what?

The 12 clubs must have imagined some sort of response, but what followed appeared to stun those involved.

Their own players and coaches announced opposition, with many frustrated these plans had provided such a distraction at a key stage in the season. Notably, Jurgen Klopp fumed when Leeds United, Liverpool's next opponents, told the six-time European champions to "earn it" if they wanted to play in the Champions League.

The rest of football appeared united against those who had sought to cut loose, as former Manchester United captain Gary Neville called for the Old Trafford club to be relegated along with Liverpool and Arsenal.

Unsurprisingly, UEFA, FIFA and even the UK government railed against the Super League, too.

But most importantly, the fans – particularly in England – made clear they would not stand for this apparent betrayal of the sport and its roots.

Chelsea were the first team to back out of the European Super League while Petr Cech attempted to negotiate with furious supporters blocking the team's entrance to Stamford Bridge prior to a drab goalless draw against Brighton and Hove Albion.

With protests following at stadiums up and down the country, the Premier League clubs soon quit the breakaway competition, and they were joined by Inter, Milan and Atletico Madrid, as the Super League was declared dead mere hours after its birth.

Football had won, it was widely acknowledged.

And they all lived happily ever after?

Well, not quite. Barcelona, Real Madrid and Juventus have continued to pursue the European Super League, their owners refusing to relent.

The huge debts racked up during the coronavirus pandemic contributed to their desperation to land this lucrative deal, with Barca since forced to let club legend Lionel Messi leave on a free transfer due to their inability to afford a new contract for the 34-year-old.

Those who backed out of the controversial plans have at least returned to the European Club Association, in which PSG were huge beneficiaries of their reluctance to follow their elite rivals. Nasser Al-Khelaifi, the PSG president, now leads the ECA in a role that previously belonged to Juve chief Andrea Agnelli.

But even Barca, Madrid and Juve have been able to continue playing in UEFA competitions – those they have qualified for, anyway. Madrid have made the Champions League semi-finals as they bid for a record-extending 14th European crown.

And sceptics could be forgiven for wondering if the new Champions League format sounds a little 'European Super Leaguey'.

As of 2024-25, the group stages will be no more, replaced by – yes – a league. And although the competition is increasing in size to 36 teams, two of the additional four slots are reserved for clubs who have the highest UEFA coefficients but have qualified only for one of the organisation's lesser competitions.

Barca, who toiled in the early stages of this season, or Juve, facing a fight for a top-four finish in Serie A, would have to slump significantly not to be assured of a seat at the time.

The Super League is dead... but long live the Super League?

Rodrygo led a Real Madrid fightback for the second time in a matter of days before declaring only the LaLiga leaders were capable of such turnarounds.

Madrid capped a stunning week by beating title rivals Sevilla 3-2 at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan to move 15 points clear at the top of the table – albeit with Barcelona still to play on Monday.

Los Blancos had been two goals down at the break before Rodrygo responded five minutes after the restart, then late goals from Nacho and Karim Benzema completed a sensational comeback.

That result followed a 3-2 defeat to Chelsea, which was enough to secure Champions League progress.

Madrid were heading out when they trailed 3-0 to the reigning European champions but similarly rallied, again through a Rodrygo goal that set up extra time and a decisive Benzema header in a 5-4 aggregate success.

Rodrygo has scored in consecutive matches for the first time in his Madrid career and could hardly have done it at a better time.

The half-time substitute, who also assisted Benzema's winner in Sevilla, said: "We head away with an incredible feeling, we always fight until the end.

"We knew this would be a very difficult game, but I'm thrilled to have got on in the second half, scored a goal and provide an assist to help my team.

"We should really value these three points because nobody else has won here, but we've managed it. It's three points that edge us closer to our goal, which is to win LaLiga.

"The coach told us to play a bit more because we struggled in the first half and they were better than us.

"These are things only Real Madrid are capable of doing. I'm incredibly proud to be part of this team and to be involved in these comebacks."

This was the first time Madrid had won in LaLiga after trailing by two goals since another 3-2 victory over Villarreal in February 2017, but they have repeatedly recovered results this season, earning a league-high 17 points from losing positions.

Sevilla came into the match unbeaten at home in the league this season, while this was the first time they had lost at home in the competition after leading at half-time since a 4-2 reverse at the hands of Barcelona in February 2019.

In fact, they had not lost anywhere having led at half-time since a 2-1 loss to Athletic Bilbao in October 2020.

Not since September 2019 against Eibar, another 3-2 defeat, had Sevilla let slip a two-goal advantage in the top flight.

Paris Saint-Germain's Achraf Hakimi hailed team-mate Kylian Mbappe as "one of the best in the world" and hopes the forward will stay at the club.

However, the Morocco international said he will support Mbappe in whatever decision he makes at the end of the season, with the striker's contract set to expire in June.

Across all competitions, Mbappe has recorded 31 goals and 18 assists – both club-highs – in 39 appearances this season as PSG close on the Ligue 1 title.

The club suffered a disappointing Champions League exit to Real Madrid last month, however, furthering speculation that Mbappe could swap Paris for Los Blancos when his deal expires.

Hakimi is desperate to see Mbappe extend his five-year stay in the French capital.

"Mbappe is one of the best in the world and he is my friend," Hakimi told Telefoot. 

"I want him to stay here, he knows. He will decide what he thinks is best for his career, and I will support him."

Holding a 12-point lead at the top of Ligue 1, PSG can take a huge step towards claiming an eighth league title in 10 years when they face second-placed Marseille in Sunday's Classique, and Hakimi highlighted the importance of winning that clash to appease the club's disgruntled fans.

Indeed, despite PSG's last 11 Ligue 1 goals being scored by the brilliant attacking trio of Mbappe, Lionel Messi, and Neymar, the latter duo have faced jeers from their own supporters since the Parisians' 3-2 aggregate defeat to Madrid.

"I know there is a particular expectation and a lot of rivalry [between PSG and Marseille]," Hakimi added. "I experienced it the first time at the Velodrome [a 0-0 draw in October]. It is a game that can decide the fate of the championship. 

"Our fans deserve this victory and this tenth league title [in the club's history]. We have had a very bad few weeks. 

"It's hard when your fans don't support you. Winning against Marseille is the best we can do to keep them cheering us on until the end of the season."

Over a month has passed since the team's Champions League collapse at the Santiago Bernabeu, where a Karim Benzema hat-trick eliminated PSG after Mbappe had netted once in either leg, but Hakimi says he still cannot explain their European exit.

"It is difficult to realise that we are out of the Champions League," he added. "We had the mechanisms to get ahead. The truth is that I cannot explain it. Even today, when I think about it, I don't understand it. I understand that the fans are sad, so are we. 

"At this level, small details make the difference, we have to correct them next year. That's what will make us champions."

PSG enter Sunday's crucial clash with Marseille having lost just one of their last 19 Ligue 1 meetings with their rivals, recording 14 wins during that run and keeping clean sheets in five of the previous seven.

Jurgen Klopp was overjoyed after seeing Liverpool beat Manchester City 3-2 to reach the FA Cup final in their pursuit of an unprecedented quadruple, convinced they beat the world's best team.

Liverpool secured their spot in the English football showpiece for the first time since 2012 with a thrilling victory at Wembley on Saturday, though for a while it looked set to be far more comfortable than it ultimately proved.

The Reds were 3-0 up at half-time thanks to an Ibrahima Konate header and Sadio Mane's double – his first punished a Zack Steffen lapse, before then lashing in an excellent volley for his second.

City pulled one back through Jack Grealish and forced a tense finish when Bernardo Silva made it 3-2 in stoppage time, but Liverpool held on to leave Klopp jubilant.

"Oh absolutely proud, it's incredible," he told BBC Sport. "I think the first half was one of the best we've ever played.

"We did all the right stuff, scored at the right moments, we played an incredible game in the first half, I have to say. I loved every second of it.

"The second half started with the City goal and then it opens up. The quality of City is insane and you could see it was a much more open game.

"We had our situations. [TV pundit] Micah Richards said it was all City situations, but we had our counter-attacks and we could have closed the game there, but we respect the quality of City so much.

"It's so difficult to win against them, but because of these boys in my dressing room, we have a chance. It's enough for me to give it a try."

The victory means Liverpool remain on course for the quadruple. They have already won the EFL Cup, are into the Champions League semi-finals and continue to push City in the Premier League title race.

Klopp stressed that prolonging their season makes winning the quadruple tougher even if it is the only way to secure a clean sweep, but he appeared to be relishing the challenge after defeating the team that he believes sets the bar for everyone else in world football.

"Quadruple talk… I can't believe it," he continued. "With this game now, I'm not sure we have another full week before the last matchday, so it's all difficult.

"But who cares, we came here wanting to go to the final, we knew about the problems, but the quadruple – qualifying for this kind of final makes it even more difficult.

"It's the only way to do it but makes it more difficult too, so it's a strange situation. But all good, we are over the moon. We beat the best team in the world and that's a pretty special moment."

Liverpool will find out their opponents for next month's final on Sunday, when Crystal Palace and Chelsea tussle at Wembley.

Cristiano Ronaldo reached the remarkable landmark of 50 hat-tricks at club level as he propelled Manchester United to victory over Norwich City.

Ronaldo, who has managed 60 trebles when his goals for Portugal are added to the count, remains an arch predator at the age of 37, and his display at Old Trafford rescued an off-key United team in Saturday's encounter with the Premier League's bottom side.

After reaching 49 club trebles by hitting three against Tottenham last month, Ronaldo brought up a half-century with a close-range strike, a header from a corner and a 25-yard free-kick.

It was his third United treble (one in 2008, two in 2022). He hit three hat-tricks with Juventus and an incredible 44 during a stellar nine-year spell at Real Madrid.

Ronaldo moved to 21 goals for the season in all competitions, going through the 20 barrier for a 16th consecutive campaign, and he now has 99 Premier League goals in his career.

His goals can be broken down further, with all three of his hat-tricks for United coming in the Premier League, while with Juventus he hit two trebles in Serie A and one in the Champions League.

During his time at Madrid, spanning 2009 to 2018, Ronaldo hit 34 hat-tricks in LaLiga, seven in the Champions League, two in the Copa del Rey and one in the FIFA Club World Cup.

He managed five goals in a LaLiga game twice for Madrid, against Granada in April 2015 and against Espanyol in September of the same year, and also plundered five four-goals hauls in the same competition.

Ronaldo also hit four for Madrid in a Champions League game against Malmo in December 2015.

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