‘Messi back to his blistering best’

Lionel Messi is “back to his blistering best” after another record-breaking night for Barcelona, says La Liga TV presenter Semra Hunter.

Messi wrote his name into the history books once again on the weekend – surpassing Xavi’s record for the most individual appearances for Barcelona in the club’s history – as he marked his 768th game in Sunday’s 6-1 win over Real Sociedad with two goals.

Messi, linked with a move to Manchester City and out of contact this summer, has now scored 663 times for Barca, the most ever by a player for one club after he passed Brazil legend Pele’s record of 643 for Santos earlier this season.

He is comfortably La Liga’s record goalscorer with 467 and is also second all-time in the Champions League, with 120 to his great rival Cristiano Ronaldo’s 134.

Messi has won Spain’s Pichichi trophy, for the league’s top scorer, on seven occasions and top-scored in the Champions League six times, including 2014-15 when he shared the honour with Ronaldo and Neymar.



Barcelona's Lionel Messi reacts after a missed a penalty




0:38

Joan Laporta pledges to do everything within his power to keepMessi at Barcelona after being sworn in as the club’s new president

Asked if people were becoming desensitised to Messi’s greatness, La Liga expert Hunter told Sky Sports News: “No, I should think not! We are enjoying every moment of it. He is back to his blistering best once again.

“It is another day in the extraordinary life of the Argentine. He has had such an incredible run of form since the start of 2021. He has scored or assisted in every single league game.

“You just never tire of seeing it, apart from that huge smile and the way he celebrates with his team. It wasn’t one landmark he reached last night – it was several.

“He’s now scored 467 goals – the most in a single European league. It’s been lovely to see. Barcelona are playing their best football in a long time.”



Lionel Messi




1:19

Spanish football expert Alvaro Montero explains the significance of Messi voting in Barcelona’s presidential election

Messi’s 2011-12 season, when he scored 73 times in 60 games for Barca in all competitions, remains an astonishing high watermark. He has passed 50 on five other occasions, with four more campaigns in the 40s and over 30 in every completed season since 2008-09 – a mark he is on the verge of repeating, with 29 in all competitions so far this term.

Messi has won 33 major trophies with Barca, when including domestic and European super cups and the Club World Cup in that definition.

They have won La Liga in 10 of the 17 seasons since he broke into the first team, with six Copa del Rey triumphs and four domestic doubles along the way.

Seven Supercopa wins boost Messi’s total to 23 honours in Spain – Barca have won eight in that time, but he did not play in the two-leg 2005 win over Real Betis.

He has added another 10 continental or inter-continental successes, with Barca winning the Champions League in 2006, 2009, 2011 and 2015 and adding both the UEFA Super Cup and Club World Cup after the latter three of those.

Messi has also won the Ballon d’Or, awarded to the world’s best player, on six occasions including four in succession from 2009 but his domestic successes are in stark contrast to his barren trophy cabinet with Argentina, which contains just an Olympic gold medal from 2008.

Messi has scored 48 hat-tricks for Barca, including 36 in La Liga, with another six for Argentina taking him through the half-century mark for his career as a whole.

He has scored four goals on six separate occasions – in league games with Valencia, Espanyol, Osasuna and twice against Eibar, plus a Champions League win over Arsenal in 2010. He also recorded one five-goal haul in Europe, against Bayer Leverkusen in the last 16 second leg in 2012 as Barca won 7-1 and 10-2 on aggregate.

Valencia have been on the receiving end of four of Messi’s hat-tricks, with three each against Atletico Madrid, Sevilla, Osasuna, Espanyol and Deportivo La Coruna.

He has also scored twice in a game on an additional 133 occasions with a record 95 of those coming in LaLiga, following his efforts over the last week.

Let’

Laporta vows to work to keep Messi at Barcelona

Joan Laporta has pledged to do everything within his power to keep Lionel Messi at Barcelona after being sworn in as the club’s new president, and has also told coach Ronald Koeman he has the club’s backing.

Laporta, who was previously Barca president between 2003 and 2010, was voted in by club members last weekend but had to secure a €125m bank guarantee before being inaugurated.

Now in office, one of his first tasks is convincing Messi, who turns 34 in June, to extend his contract, which expires the same month, beyond the end of the season.

Messi, who wanted to leave last summer, voted in last Sunday’s election and was seated in front of Laporta as he made his speech at Camp Nou on Wednesday in front of around 300 invitees.

Joan Laporta (AP)
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Laporta has been elected Barcelona president for a second time

“I take the opportunity to say again that I will try to convince Leo (Messi) to stay with us. That is a must-do task, I will do all I can. He knows it.

“Whatever he does will be OK but we will try to make him stay because he is the best player in the history of football.

“And my apologies Leo, for saying this right here and right now, but you know of my love for you, Barca loves you a lot and if this stadium would be full when you play the next game I am sure you wouldn’t be able to leave.”

Laporta faces a daunting challenge, not only to keep Messi, but also to reverse the club’s financial difficulties.

Lionel Messi - AP
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Messi’s future at Barcelona remains unresolved

“It is true that the economic situation of the club is the source of pre-occupation for all Barca associates and us as well and that is our priority,” Laporta added.

“To turn Barca economically viable again, that is why we have a shock plan we will implement. We know how to do it, it will mean making an effort and working a lot.

“Now that we have the power to make decisions we will try to generate new sources of income. We will try to make the right decisions to reverse the current situation.”

Let’

Messi scores double on landmark Barca appearance

Lionel Messi scored two goals on his record-equalling 767th appearance for Barcelona in a comprehensive 4-1 La Liga victory over Huesca.

The 33-year-old scored his side’s first and fourth goals as Barca climbed into second place in the table to move within four points of league leaders Atletico Madrid.

Messi matched Xavi’s all-time appearance record in the Barcelona shirt, a career which includes winning 34 trophies and now scoring 661 goals since he made his debut in 2004, with 27 so far this season.

In typical fashion of the Argentine forward, Messi put Barcelona ahead in the 13th minute.

He took a touch before unleashing a curled shot from 20 yards, which hit the underside of the crossbar before going past goalkeeper Alvaro Fernandez.

Lionel Messi (Getty)
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Messi inspired Barcelona to a victory which moves them to within four points of La Liga leaders Atletico Madrid

Barcelona doubled their lead in the 34th minute with Antoine Griezmann scoring in almost identical fashion to Messi’s opener, a curled finish into the top corner.

In the final moments of the first half, Huesca were awarded a penalty on VAR review for a foul on Rafa Mir, who also dispatched the spot-kick into the corner to halve the home side’s advantage.

Messi then turned provider for Barcelona’s third, crossing from the left to Oscar Mingueza who headed the ball into the net from close range for his maiden club goal.

Huesca almost pulled another goal back when Mir found himself in the six-yard box as the ball came across the face of goal, but he mistimed his jump and the ball rebounded off his chest and over the top.

Messi completed his double at the death as he cut inside before sending another strike from outside the box into the back of the net to cap his record-levelling appearance with two goals and one assist, as Huesca remain bottom of the table and four points from safety.

Oscar Mingueza (getty)
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Oscar Mingueza netted his first Barcelona goal in the win over Huesca

What the managers said…

Barcelona manager Ronald Koeman: “I cannot say more about Leo. The level he has for many years, many games…he has equalled Xavi and on Sunday in principle, he will surpass him. He is the most important man in the history of Barca. Luckily, he is still with us.

“I’ve always said there was a lot of La Liga [matches this year]. It is difficult for any team to win matches throughout the year. The points we lost for a few weeks [were many]. We have reacted well.

“The team is confident. We cannot lose more points because we have already lost quite a few.”

Huesca manager Pacheta: “We are conceding a lot of goals. Today there are three goals, two for the squad, another that touches a defence.

“We will have to shake hands. We have played a very worthy game even though the result is disappointing. I am proud of the team.

“We have done many things that are good. We have had goal situations. We have been involved in the game. Now our fight begins. I don’t like to talk about finals but now we have to get four points more than three teams.”

Let’

Is Messi still the world’s best player?

Ninety per cent of climbers reach Everest base camp. Only the strong and the skilled make it to the summit of the world’s highest mountain. But even Everest base camp is almost as high as Mount Kilimanjaro. It is a four-day descent from there. Context matters.

Lionel Messi is on the descent himself. At 33, his very best years are behind him. That lightning turn of pace is gone and while his ball manipulation remains unsurpassed, time is one opponent he can never beat. Another Champions League season has now slipped by.

Just for a moment in Paris on Wednesday evening, there was a flicker of hope that the old magician might conjure up one more remontada for the road. A fierce shot from distance pulled one goal back. A penalty award soon after offered the chance of a second.

But that spot-kick was saved and with three goals still needed to have any hope of keeping Barcelona in a competition that Messi has won four times, they could not score one. Kylian Mbappe goes through. Messi joins Cristiano Ronaldo on the outside looking in.

It feels like a neat transfer of power on a night when Mbappe broke Messi’s record as the youngest player to score 25 Champions League goals. Erling Haaland had become the fastest to reach 20 of them as Ronaldo’s exited with Juventus. Power shift confirmed.

There is little point arguing that either are what they were. But how right is it to rush to crown new kings when the old ones are still alive and kicking the ball like Messi did here?

Even aside from his wonderful goal, he was the game’s outstanding player against Paris Saint-Germain, having the most shots on target, making the most passes in the opposition half, creating the most chances, completing the most crosses and the most dribbles.

Lionel Messi's passing for Barcelona in the Champions League this season

There was the delightful moment when he left two markers on the deck with the merest hint of a dropped shoulder. Moments later he was nudging the ball in behind the PSG defence only for Ousmane Dembele to waste yet another opportunity to score.

Barcelona were better than they have been for some time but the team’s limitations were obvious. Messi can no longer count on Xavi, Andres Iniesta and Dani Alves for company. The club is in transition on and off the pitch and their captain is suffering as a result.

Messi’s game has changed too. The scamp who pressed with a passion, Pep Guardiola’s best defender, is gone. Energy conservation is the theme now, a man who appears to have reasoned that 60 games a year played at his pace is better than far fewer at full tilt.

But while Mbappe and Haaland deserve their praise and are worth being excited about, there is a danger that in acknowledging Messi’s decline, we risk judging him not against those who have come to claim his crown but against the player he once was.

Nobody, not even Messi, can compete with that.

There will be no repeat of 2012, when he scored a freakish 91 goals for club and country in the calendar year. But consider that while Mbappe has 10 so far in 2021 and Haaland is ahead of him on 14, Messi, the fading force, has found the net on 15 occasions himself.

These bald statistics matter because they reveal a picture free from the narrative of a man usurped. Put simply, if anyone else were producing the numbers that Messi is currently producing there would be little talk of decline, only that this player might be – objectively – the outstanding performer in European football.

Lionel Messi's stats for Barcelona in La Liga this season

He is not only the top scorer in La Liga this season, he has created the most big chances for others too. Only the poor finishing of his team-mates stops him topping the assist charts – and there were plenty of examples of that for Barca in Paris – but he is still fourth.

This is what still sets Messi apart in the numbers. While Mbappe and Haaland are scoring slightly more goals per 90 minutes this season, there is more to his game. They are not creating as many chances combined or completing as many dribbles combined as he does.

The dribbles are not as eye-catching as before but there have still been 105 of them in La Liga, far more than anyone else. Messi is top for touches, passes, crosses and through-balls.

In the Champions League, the numbers are similar. Messi has scored five goals in the competition this season but also ranks second for chances created and second for dribbles completed. He continues to be three players rolled into one – scorer, creator, dribbler.

He is at his own personal summit no longer. But the level is still lofty.

It is natural to view Messi’s current level through the prism of what came before. The great soprano Maria Callas spent the second half of her career with fans lamenting her lost octave. Paul McCartney has sold 100 million records since the end of The Beatles.

There is a tale about Peter Cook, once voted by his fellow comedians as the greatest comic mind of them all, that illustrates the danger of comparison with one’s own earlier standards. It happened when he agreed to work with Chris Morris, the standout satirist of his day.

Morris “held out no great hope that he wouldn’t be a boozy old sack of lard with hair falling out and scarcely able to get a sentence out” – such was the reputation that preceded the ageing Cook. Amid hushed tones, folk spoke of lost talent, a gift long since squandered.

Instead, Cook “proceeded to skip about mentally with the agility of a grasshopper” as he improvised a series of “ridiculous scenes flipping back on themselves” to leave Morris stunned. “It was amazing,” said the much younger man. “Really quite extraordinary.”

Cook was not what he was. But he was still better than the rest.

Where is Messi on his own journey down from the top? Somewhere near Everest base camp, one suspects. Mount Kilimanjaro levels. In football terms, that four-day hike to the bottom could be many years away yet. Be sure to enjoy the player he still is until then.

Let’

PSG 1-1 Barcelona (Agg: 5-2) commentary

Full Time
After Extra Time
This is a live match.
Extra Time
Half Time

Paris Saint-Germain
vs Barcelona. UEFA Champions League First Knockout Round.

Parc des Princes.

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PSG survive early scare to dump out Barca

PSG survived a first-half onslaught from Barcelona, where Lionel Messi scored but missed a penalty, to draw 1-1 and progress 5-2 on aggregate in the Champions League.

Ronald Koeman’s side needed to score four goals for the tie to swing in their favour in Paris and started like a team capable of producing them with Ousmane Dembele wasting some glorious early chances.

It was to be PSG who opened the scoring when referee Antony Taylor awarded a penalty via the use of the pitchside monitor to deem that Mauro Icardi had been fouled off the ball by Clement Lenglet. The penalty was dispatched by Kylian Mbappe as he became the youngest player in Champions League history to reach 25 goals in the competition, taking the mantle from Messi.

Despite falling behind, Barcelona remained positive and Messi thrashed home a fabulous strike to inspire some hope but that hope faded away when his penalty was saved by Keylor Navas just before half-time.

The Spanish giants needed three second-half goals to force extra-time but PSG were much better organised after the break and restricted Messi’s influence on the game.

Player Ratings

PSG: Navas (8), Florenzi (6), Marquinhos (7), Kimpembe (6), Kurzawa (4), Gueye (5), Paredes (6), Draxler (6), Verratti (6), Mbappe (7), Icardi (6)

Subs: Diallo (7), Danilo (7), Di Maria (6), Dagba (6)

Barcelona: Ter Stegen (7), Mingueza (7), Lenglet (7), De Jong (7), Dest (7), Busquets (8), Pedri (7), Jordi Alba (7), Messi (7), Griezmann (7), Dembele (5)

Subs: Pjanic (6), Braithwaite (6), Junior (7), Trincao (6)

Man of the match: Keylor Navas

This will be the first Champions League season without a Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo side in the quarter-finals since 2004/05.

PSG will find out their opponents in the last eight on Friday, March 19 when the draw is made.

How PSG got the job done…

Barcelona flew out of the traps. They could and should have been ahead if not for some very wasteful play from Dembele in terms of his sloppy final ball passing and poor finishing.

At the same stage of the competition four years ago, Barcelona lost 4-0 in Paris only to win 6-1 at Camp Nou in one of the greatest comebacks in Champions League history – a similar comeback looked plausible judging by the tempo Barcelona were playing at.

However, PSG moved four goals clear when Mbappe, who scored a hat trick at Camp Nou, netted from the spot. It was a controversial decision to award the penalty as Icardi was accidentally tripped by Lenglet when having no chance of reaching Mbappe’s cross. The incident was spotted by VAR and they instructed Taylor to head to the screen and he surprisingly overturned his original call of no penalty.

That goal was firmly against the run of play and, after Barca had squandered more chances, Messi equalised with a powerful shot from 25 yards that tore into the top left corner.

But Messi then had a penalty saved by goalkeeper Navas on the stroke of half-time, his first miss from the spot in the Champions League since 2015.

Barca kept probing in the second half, and Messi had a chance from close range but hesitated a split-second before shooting and allowed defender Marquinhos to block his shot with the goal gaping.

Lionel Messi
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Messi couldn’t spark his Barcelona team in the second half

That was good as it got for Barcelona in the second half as PSG were far better organised in defence.

The visitors’ hopes gradually fizzled out as PSG booked their spot in the last eight.

Man of the match: Keylor Navas

Once again, this match showed why every top team needs a world-class goalkeeper within their ranks. Navas was on hand to make nine saves – eight of those coming in a first half where PSG were seriously outplayed by a team that looked like the Barcelona of old. Such was the form of the goalkeeper, he even managed to keep arguably the greatest footballer of all-time from scoring from 12 yards. Not many manage that.

What the manager said

Barcelona boss Ronald Koeman: “We are out, which is what counts in this sport, but we leave with good sensations.

“We had opportunities to make things very complicated for our rival. We were the superior team in the first half, taking big risks at the back with man-to-man marking.

“Really, we deserved more for that effort. It should at least have been 2-1 to us at half-time. If we’d led at the break, the second half would have been a whole different affair.”

Koeman, on Lionel Messi: “Leo has seen for quite some time that the team is improving thanks to all the changes we’ve made.

“Particularly, we have young players of great quality. We’ve got a great future ahead.

“Leo can’t have any doubts about what the future holds for this team.”

Opta stats

  • After a run of three consecutive last 16 eliminations from 2016-17 to 2018-19, Paris Saint-Germain have reached the quarter-finals and beyond in consecutive campaigns.
  • Barcelona have failed to reach the UEFA Champions League quarter-finals for the first time since 2006-07 when they were eliminated by Liverpool in the last 16; they were on a run of 13 consecutive quarter-final appearances, the longest such run in the competition’s history.
  • There were 21 shots in the first half of this match, the most in the first half of a UEFA Champions League match since November 2019 (Real Madrid vs Paris Saint-Germain, 22); the second half featured only seven shots this evening.
  • Barcelona had 10 shots on target in this match, their most in a UEFA Champions League game they failed to win since March 2010 against Arsenal (also 10).
  • Messi failed to convert a penalty in the UEFA Champions League for the fourth time, and the first time since February 2015 against Manchester City (saved by Joe Hart).

Let’

CL last 16: Will Juve, Barca complete second-leg comebacks?

The Champions League last-16 second legs get under way this week with Liverpool, Barcelona and PSG in action, but who will make it to the quarter-finals?

Borussia Dortmund vs Sevilla (agg 3-2), Tuesday, 8pm

17 February 2021, Spain, Sevilla: Football: Champions League, knockout round, round of 16, first leg Sevilla FC - Borussia Dortmund at Estadio Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan. Dortmund's Erling Haaland (r) celebrates after scoring the goal to make it 1:2. Photo by: Daniel Gonzalez Acuna/picture-alliance/dpa/AP Images)
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Erling Haaland scored twice in the first leg and has netted four times since

Team news

Borussia Dortmund’s Giovanni Reyna and Raphael Guerreiro are out, but leading striker Erling Haaland will be fit, coach Edin Terzic said on Monday. However, Jadon Sancho remains sidelined for several weeks.

Sevilla to be confirmed…

What happened last time?

In a thrilling first-leg tie, Sevilla took the lead early through Suso Fernandez but Dortmund rallied with a goal by Mahmoud Dahoud and a Haaland double before half-time at the Ramon Sanchez-Pizjuan Stadium. Luuk de Jong scored Sevilla’s late second goal to improve the Spanish team’s chances in the return leg on Tuesday.

The win ended Sevilla’s strong run and put Dortmund back on track after a series of poor results that had left coach Edin Terzic under pressure.

What’s happened since?

Sevilla players celebrate after Suso scored his side's opening goal during the Champions League, round of 16, first leg soccer match between Sevilla and Borussia Dortmund at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan stadium in Seville, Spain, Wednesday, Feb. 17, 2021. (AP Photo/Angel Fernandez)
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Sevilla will need to find more goals if they are to knock Borussia Dortmund out of the Champions League

The defeat has sent Sevilla on a downward spiral, winning just once since against Osasuna in La Liga. They have lost successive games against Barcelona – one knocking them out of the Copa del Rey – before defeat to Elche on Saturday.

In comparison, Dortmund have won three games since their victory in Spain, but were beaten 4-2 by Bayern Munich in Der Klassiker at the weekend. Sevilla will also be concerned that Haaland has scored four more goals since the first leg.

The key stats

  • Borussia Dortmund’s only previous home match against Sevilla was in the 2010-11 Europa League group stage, losing 1-0.
  • Sevilla have lost three of their last four Champions League matches against German sides, since a 3-0 victory over Borussia Monchengladbach in September 2015.
  • Sevilla have never gone through in a European Cup/UEFA Champions League knockout tie after losing the first leg, going out against Real Madrid in 1957-58, Fenerbahce in 2007-08 and Bayern Munich in 2017-18.

Juventus vs Porto (agg 1-2), Tuesday, 8pm

Juventus' Cristiano Ronaldo gestures during the Champions League round of 16, first leg, soccer match between FC Porto and Juventus at the Dragao stadium in Porto, Portugal, Wednesday, Feb. 17, 2021. (AP Photo/Luis Vieira)
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Juventus’ Cristiano Ronaldo did not have an impact in the first leg

Team news

Juventus captain Giorgio Chiellini and Paulo Dybala will miss Tuesday’s match through injury, while Matthijs de Ligt’s participation is also in doubt. Rodrigo Bentancur tested positive for COVID-19 late last week and will likely miss out while Danilo is suspended.

Porto are expected to be without Chancel Mbemba, while Ivan Marcano is also an injury doubt.

What happened last time?

Mehdi Taremi gave Porto the lead after just 63 seconds when a defensive mix-up from Juventus gifted him an easy finish. Moussa Marega then netted 19 seconds into the second half.

But Federico Chiesa scored what could prove to be a vital away goal for Juventus in the 82nd minute, with Cristiano Ronaldo failing to make an impact. Tuesday’s hosts will need him firing on all cylinders if they are to reach the Champions League quarter-finals for a fourth time in five seasons.

What’s happened since?

Porto's Moussa Marega, right, celebrates after scoring his side's second goal during the Champions League round of 16, first leg, soccer match between FC Porto and Juventus at the Dragao stadium in Porto, Portugal, Wednesday, Feb. 17, 2021. (AP Photo/Luis Vieira)
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Moussa Marega scored against Juventus in the first leg

Juventus are unbeaten in their four games since the first leg. Furthermore, they are also unbeaten in their last 11 games in all competitions at Juventus Stadium, winning 10 of those fixtures. Juventus have scored nine goals combined in their last three home matches, all have which have come since defeat to Porto.

But Porto have proved hard to beat in recent away matches, losing just one of their last 15 games on the road. They have won both away games since the first leg, but have drawn and lost two at home, including a Portuguese Cup exit to Braga.

The key stats

  • Juventus have won their two home Champions League matches against Porto, winning 3-1 in October 2001 and 1-0 in March 2017, the latter being the second leg of the last 16 of the 2016-17 tournament.
  • FC Porto’s 2-1 victory over Juventus in the first leg was their first ever win over them in European competition in the sixth attempt (D1 L4). Porto have lost their last five away Champions League games in Italy, since a 3-2 win over AC Milan in 1996.
  • Juventus have been eliminated from five of their last six UEFA Champions League knockout ties when losing the first leg, with the exception being the 2018-19 last-16 tie against Atletico Madrid (0-2 first leg, 3-0 second leg).
  • FC Porto have been eliminated in each of their last three UEFA Champions League knockout ties after winning the first leg, going out versus Arsenal in 2009-10, Málaga in 2012-13 and Bayern Munich in 2014-15.

Liverpool vs RB Leipzig (agg 2-0), Wednesday, 8pm

Liverpool played RB Leipzig in Budapest last week in the Champions League
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Liverpool halted a run of three defeats with a win against RB Leipzig in the first leg

Team news

To be confirmed…

What happened last time?

Liverpool broke a run of three straight defeats with their designated away victory at Budapest, where Wednesday’s tie again takes place.

Jurgen Klopp’s side hit their opponents with a quickfire double after half-time with Mohamed Salah (53) and Sadio Mane (58) punishing some inexplicable defending from the Bundesliga side.

The good news for Liverpool is that they have never been eliminated from a European Cup/Champions League knockout tie after winning away from home in the first leg. In addition, the last time they won both legs in the Round of 16 was back in 2008/09 against Real Madrid.

Liverpool's Roberto Firminho takes on RB Leipzig's Nordi Mukiele in Tuesday's last 16 tie
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Liverpool lead 2-0 in the Champions League last-16 tie

What’s happened since?

RB Leipzig could not have timed their Champions League round of 16 return leg any better. Leipzig’s 3-0 win at Freiburg at the weekend was their sixth straight league victory, while Liverpool slumped to a club-record extending sixth consecutive home league defeat on Sunday, losing 1-0 to Fulham.

Liverpool have only beaten Premier League basement boys Sheffield United since their first-leg win, losing their three other games, with their two goals against the Blades the only match in which they have managed to score.

The key stats



LIVERPOOL 0-1 FULHAM




2:54

FREE TO WATCH: Highlights from Fulham’s win over Liverpool in the Premier League
  • Since his Borussia Dortmund side were beaten by Bayern Munich in the 2012-13 Champions League final, Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp is unbeaten in his three games against German opponents in the competition (W2 D1), with all three of those fixtures coming in the Round of 16.
  • Liverpool will be the third English opponent RB Leipzig have faced away from home in the Champions League since the start of last season (also Spurs and Man Utd), while they suffered their heaviest defeat in European competition against Man Utd at Old Trafford back in October (0-5).
  • This will be the 21st time Liverpool have hosted German opposition across all European competitions, while they are unbeaten in the previous 20 (W16 D4), scoring 52 goals and conceding just nine in return.

PSG vs Barcelona (agg 4-1), Wednesday, 8pm

PSG's Kylian Mbappe celebrates after scoring his side's second goal against Barcelona
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PSG’s Kylian Mbappe scored a hat-trick against Barcelona in the first leg

Team news

To be confirmed…

What happened last time?

In an incredible first-leg encounter, Kylian Mbappe’s hat-trick inspired last season’s Champions League finalists PSG to an emphatic victory.

Lionel Messi gave Barca the lead from the penalty spot after Frenkie de Jong had his heels clipped by Layvin Kurzawa before Mbappe responded five minutes later for the visitors. After the break, Mbappe completed his hat-trick with Moise Kean netting PSG’s third goal in between his team-mate’s second-half strikes.

Lionel Messi celebrates after scoring for Barcelona against PSG
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Lionel Messi was also on the scoresheet at the Nou Camp

It leaves Barca requiring another considerable comeback heading into the second leg on Wednesday, four years on from the sides’ memorable last-16 clash in which the La Liga outfit recovered from a 4-0 first-leg loss in France by winning the second 6-1 at the Nou Camp.

Barcelona are yet to concede a goal away from home in the Champions League this season (three games), but following defeats against Juventus and PSG in their last two games in the competition, face the prospect of losing three in a row in the European Cup/Champions League for the first time in the club’s history.

What’s happened since?

Barcelona are unbeaten since their defeat at the Nou Camp. It was followed by a disappointing draw against Cadiz in La Liga, but they have won all four games since. This run also included a comeback in the Copa del Rey, eventually knocking out Sevilla.

PSG followed their superb Champions League victory with a 2-0 defeat to Monaco in Ligue 1, but have won and kept clean sheets in their last three games, scoring eight goals.

The key stats

Moise Kean nodded home PSG's third Champions League goal
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Moise Kean nodded home PSG’s third Champions League goal
  • PSG have won two of their last three games against Barcelona in the Champions League (L1), as many victories as they managed against the Catalan side in their first eight meetings in the competition (W2 D3 L3).
  • In the history of the European Cup/UEFA Champions League, no team has ever progressed from a knockout tie over two legs after losing the first leg at home by a margin of three goals.
  • This will be the first UEFA Champions League meeting between PSG and Barcelona at the Parc des Princes since February 2017, when the home side recorded a 4-0 victory. This remains PSG’s biggest margin of victory in a home knockout game in the UEFA Champions League, while it’s also Barcelona’s joint-heaviest defeat in a knockout game away from home in the competition (also 0-4 v Liverpool in May 2019 and v Bayern in April 2013).
  • Barcelona have only won one of their last nine away games in the knockout stages of the Champions League (D3 L5), beating Manchester United 1-0 in April 2019. They have scored just three goals in total across these nine games, while failing to score at all in six of them.

Pitch to Post Review: Man City Quadruple a step too far? Bale’s Spurs future and Liverpool’s crisis assessed

Jasper Taylor is joined by Ben Ransom and Dharmesh Sheth to discuss the latest round of Premier League fixtures as Manchester United ended Manchester City’s 21-game unbeaten run on Super Sunday. After a third straight win at the Etihad, what is it about this fixture that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer loves? And what are City’s chances of an unprecedented Quadruple?

After a sixth straight home defeat for Liverpool, beaten by Fulham on Sunday, we ask: could their form do irreparable damage? And there’s praise for a huge statement victory for Scott Parker’s side.

In part three, Sky Sports News’ Paul Gilmour talks all things Spurs in the Regional Review- is Gareth Bale playing for his future at the club? And is Harry Kane the best striker in the world? And in part four, we get Dharmesh and Ben’s performances of the week, including some praise for Luke Shaw.

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Laporta wins Barcelona presidential election

Joan Laporta has won the Barcelona presidential election by a landslide.

The 58-year-old beat rivals Victor Font and Toni Freixa with more than 54 per cent of the vote. Font gained just short of 30 per cent while Freixa earned just over eight per cent.

Laporta was previously president during one of the club’s most successful periods; earning 12 trophies between 2003 and 2010 including a famous treble under Pep Guardiola and with Lionel Messi as talisman.

Keeping the Argentina star will be his biggest, immediate priority. Messi was pictured casting his vote earlier in the day along with team-mates such as Sergio Busquets and Jordi Alba.

Messi – a target for Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain – has publicly discussed his uncertainty over the club’s direction, and hopes the next president of Barcelona has a clear plan to return them to former glory



GETTY - Lionel Messi arrived with his son as he cast his vote in the Barcelona presidential election




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Lionel Messi arrived with his son as he cast his vote in the Barcelona presidential election (Pictures: Barca TV)

Former president Josep Maria Bartomeu, who was was among four ex-Barcelona officials arrested in a corruption probe by Catalan police last weekend, also cast his vote at the Nou Camp.

Bartomeu spent the night at a Catalan police station after being detained along with current chief executive Oscar Grau, director of legal services Gomez Ponti, and advisor to the president Jaume Masferrer.

Lionel Messi casts his vote at the 2021 Barcelona presidential elections (Image c/o FC Barcelona)
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Lionel Messi casts his vote at the 2021 Barcelona presidential elections (Image c/o FC Barcelona)

Despite the scandal, Barca were looking to make the vote a positive occasion, hoping the next president can lay out a path back to domestic and European dominance; and one that will include their talisman Messi.

By the opening of in-person voting at 9am on Sunday, more than 20,000 of the 110,290 members had cast theirs by postal ballot. The initial vote was supposed to take place on January 24 but was postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Sergio Busquets (Image c/o FC Barcelona)
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Sergio Busquets was one of several Barcelona first-team players to cast an early vote in the election (Image c/o FC Barcelona)

The club set up six locations for voting in order to manage safe social distancing measures; at the Nou Camp, in Girona, Lleida, Tarragona, Tortosa and Andorra.

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Messi votes in Barcelona presidential election

Lionel Messi has cast his vote in Barcelona’s presidential elections.

Former president Joan Laporta, Victor Font and Toni Freixa – the three candidates to become the club’s 42nd president – have also voted, with the result expected to be announced late on Sunday night.

The winner, who will take up the helm until 2026, will have implications for the future of Messi, who will decide at the end of the season whether he will sign another contract or leave his boyhood club on a free transfer.

Messi – a target for Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain – has publicly discussed his uncertainty over the club’s direction, and hopes the next president of Barcelona has a clear plan to return them to former glory



GETTY - Lionel Messi arrived with his son as he cast his vote in the Barcelona presidential election




0:55

Lionel Messi arrived with his son as he cast his vote in the Barcelona presidential election (Pictures: Barca TV)

Former president Josep Maria Bartomeu, who was was among four ex-Barcelona officials arrested in a corruption probe by Catalan police last weekend, has also cast his vote at the Nou Camp.

Bartomeu spent the night at a Catalan police station after being detained along with current chief executive Oscar Grau, director of legal services Gomez Ponti, and advisor to the president Jaume Masferrer.

Joan Laporta (Image c/o FC Barcelona)

Despite the scandal, Barca were looking to make the vote a positive occasion, hoping the next president can lay out a path back to domestic and European dominance; and one that will include their talisman Messi.

By the opening of in-person voting at 9am on Sunday, more than 20,000 of the 110,290 members had cast theirs by postal ballot. The initial vote was supposed to take place on January 24 but was postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Sergio Busquets (Image c/o FC Barcelona)
Image:
Sergio Busquets was one of several Barcelona first-team players to cast an early vote in the election (Image c/o FC Barcelona)

The club have set up six locations for voting in order to manage safe social distancing measures; at the Nou Camp, in Girona, Lleida, Tarragona, Tortosa and Andorra.

Current first-team players Jordi Albia, Sergio Busquets and Sergi Roberto have also cast their votes, as well as ex-defender Carlos Puyol and manager Carlos Unzue, with almost a third of members having voted by the mid-evening of Sunday.

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