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Alexia Putellas makes long-awaited return as Barcelona seal Liga F title

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Barcelona captain Alexia Putellas made her long-awaited return from an ACL injury during the club’s 3-0 win over Huelva on Sunday, which also secured a fourth consecutive Liga F title.

Putellas had been out of action since suffering the devastating injury in a Spain training session on the eve of Euro 2022 last summer. But she had been making progress in her recovery for months.

The 29-year-old travelled with the Barcelona squad to London for the first leg of the Champions League semi-final against Chelsea last month and was then an unused substitute for the return game at Camp Nou, not risked in the tense closing stages.

But Sunday’s game against Huelva provided an opportunity for Putellas to get her first competitive minutes since the end of May 2022 – a fraction over 11 months ago.

Barcelona were already 2-0 up in the contest after goals from Laia Codina and Jana Fernandez either side of half-time. With Putellas on the pitch for the final 17 minutes plus stoppage time, Asisat Oshoala then added a third Barça goal late on to make it 3-0.

With Real Madrid 10 points behind and only able to achieve nine more, the result was enough to mathematically guarantee Barcelona another Spanish title. As well as their fourth in a row, it is their eighth in the last 12 seasons since the start of the 2011/12 campaign.

Barcelona have won all 26 Liga F games they have played so far this season, on top of all 30 they played in 2021/22. They haven’t failed to take maximum points in a domestic league game since a defeat to Atletico Madrid in June 2021 and have won 89 of the last 90.

Read the latest Women’s World Cup news here

Despite potentially being one of the best national teams in the world, Spain face going to the 2023 Women’s World Cup without many of their best players.

A group of 15 sent an email to the Spanish football federation (RFEF) last September that made clear their refusal to be selected for international duty over concerns of the management and methods used by head coach Jorge Vilda, and the impact on their mental health and wellbeing.

That group included the likes of Barcelona stars Aitana Bonmati, Patri Guijarro and Mariona Caldentey, as well Manchester United pair Ona Batlle and Lucia Garcia, plus Manchester City’s Laia Aleixandri, Leila Ouahabi and others. No Real Madrid players were involved.

Putellas was not among the 15 due to being injured and, at that time, being ruled out of action for the foreseeable future anyway. She did support the protest, however, as did fellow national team veterans Jenni Hermoso and Irene Paredes.

None of the 15 have played for Spain since, but Hermoso and Paredes have. Spain will be keen to have Putellas spearhead their charge for international silverware this summer. Whether she is prepared to be part of it if the environment hasn’t improved is another matter. But this is her only chance to play at a World Cup at her peak, which has already yielded multiple Ballon d’Or wins.

There will need to be talks between the various parties and time is running out with the tournament beginning in less than three months’ time and squads named much sooner than that.



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Strasbourg 1-1 PSG: Player ratings as Les Parisiens clinch Ligue 1 title

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Paris Saint-Germain won a record 11th Ligue 1 title after drawing 1-1 at Strasbourg on Saturday night.

Les Parisiens now have an unassailable four-point lead over Lens – who have now secured qualification to the group stages of the Champions League – heading into the final matchday of the season next week.

The visitors looked to beat their hosts with balls over the top for Kylian Mbappe early on but they nearly fell behind when Habibou Diallo managed to beautifully bring a high ball down and dance past Danilo Pereira, only to be denied by a smart save from Gianluigi Donnarumma.

Mbappe’s first actual chance saw him skip and prance away from a slieu of Strasbourg defenders, only to be denied a near-certain goal by a challenge from Ismael Doukoure.

From the resulting corner, Lionel Messi pulled the ball back for Renato Sanches to volley, with Matz Sels coming up with an instinctive save.

PSG were struggling to deal with Strasbourg’s bombardment, with Diallo thundering a shot against the post via a hand from Donnarumma after Mouhamadou Diarra beat Sergio Ramos in an aerial duel.

But the visitors took the lead on the hour mark. Danilo’s long ball over the top was expertly brought under control by Mbappe, and he teed up Lionel Messi to fire home.

Mbappe should have doubled PSG’s lead when Messi returned the favour minutes later, but he somehow fired wide from a few yards out.

With ten minutes to go, the Ligue 1 leaders were pegged back by a familiar face. Morgan Sanson’s strike was palmed away by Donnarumma, and Kevin Gameiro nipped in front of Danilo to tap into an empty net.

Once more, Mbappe was released on goal by Messi but this time was denied by Sels as the game entered the closing stages.

With Strasbourg’s safety secured with a point, both sides were happy to play out for the draw in two minutes of stoppage time, with PSG’s title confirmed at the final whistle.

GK: Matz Sels (6); CB: Ismael Doukoure (6), CB: Gerzino Nyamsi (6), CB: Lucas Perrin (5); RM: Colin Dagba (5), CM: Ibrahima Sissoko (6), CM: Morgan Sanson (5), LM: Frederic Guilbert (5); RF: Mouhamadou Diarra (6), LF: Jean-Richer Bellegarde (5), CF: Habibou Diallo (6)

SUBS: Dimitri Lienard (5), Kevin Gameiro (7)

FBL-FRA-LIGUE1-STRASBOURG-PSG

Strasbourg failed to deal with Messi / PATRICK HERTZOG/GettyImages

GK: Gianluigi Donnarumma – 7/10 – Kept PSG in the game with some stunning stops in the first half.

CB: Danilo Pereira – 5/10 – Looked a little ropey throughout, though his pinpoint pass led to Messi’s opener.

CB: Sergio Ramos – 5/10 – Thrown around by Diarra and Diallo in physical duels.

CB: El Chadaille Bitshiabu – 6/10 – Up for the fight physically but Gameiro was able to ghost in on his side to score the equaliser.

RM: Warren Zaire-Emery – 7/10 – Played with a maturity and fearlessness beyond his 17 years of age.

CM: Vitinha – 5/10 – Did not stand out in the midfield battle, again.

CM: Marco Verratti – 6/10 – Played at a lower intensity than usual but given the circumstances that was understandable.

CM: Renato Sanches – 6/10 – Made more inroads than compatriot Vitinha, but that wasn’t a particularly high bar to clear.

LM: Juan Bernat – 6/10 – Stretched play but like many of his teammates wasn’t outstanding in his efforts.

CF: Lionel Messi – 9/10 – Picked apart Strasbourg at will. Now the all-time record scorer in Europe’s top five leagues and he overtook Cristiano Ronaldo in style.

CF: Kylian Mbappe – 8/10 – Twisted and contorted himself to flee trailing Strasbourg’s legs. Major criticism is his finishing was a tad off but it didn’t really prove crucial.

Substitutes

Carlos Soler (84′ for Vitinha) – N/A

Manager

Christophe Galtier – 6/10 – PSG didn’t really need to win and they didn’t spare any effort that was otherwise needed.

Player of the match – Lionel Messi (PSG)



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Messi breaks Ronaldo’s record for most goals scored in Europe’s top five leagues

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Lionel Messi has smashed the record for most goals scored in Europe’s top five leagues after he scored in PSG’s Ligue 1 clash with Strasbourg on Saturday.

Les Parisiens all but secured the French title thanks to Messi’s 496th league goal of his career, overtaking the number put up by Cristiano Ronaldo.

A lofty through ball from Danilo Pereira was taken in stride by Kylian Mbappe, who picked out the run of Messi and he fired past Matz Sels to take home his newest accolade.

The Argentine managed to equal Ronaldo’s record when he scored against title rivals Lens last month, but he’s had to wait a while to move in front of his Portuguese rival in part due to serving a club suspension for travelling to Saudi Arabia on a training day.

Messi was back to his best this weekend though and he ends it as a two-time champion of France and the greatest scorer this continent has seen.

Stat in Europe’s top five leagues

Lionel Messi

Cristiano Ronaldo

Games

575

626

Minutes

47,039

51,069

Goals

496

495

Assists

247

151

When competing directly with Ronaldo for the record back in 2020, Messi stated: “I think less and less about scoring goals.

“Obviously I like scoring, and If have a chance I’ll take it, but every time I go on to the pitch I’m less focused on scoring goals and more focused on the game. I’ve never been obsessed with goals.”

Messi is likely to return to Barcelona this summer, though he does have a lucrative offer to reunite with Ronaldo in the Saudi Pro League.

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Mohamed Salah’s record in the Europa League

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Though Liverpool have become accustomed to the Champions League, their star man Mohamed Salah is no stranger to Europe’s second-tier competition, the Europa League.

Jurgen Klopp’s outfit now have time to reflect and recuperate after finishing 5th in the Premier League and out of the Champions League spots for the first time since the 2014/15 campaign.

Unai Emery – now in charge of high-flying Aston Villa – put the sword to Liverpool in the final of the 2015/16 Europa League final, with Coke’s second-half double proving crucial for Sevilla that day.

As they exchange their Tuesday and Wednesday nights for Thursday’s, Klopp, who had pledged to make the Europa League “our competition” will look to Salah in particular to prevent a repeat of that torrid night in Basel seven years ago.

Mohamed Salah, Frank Lampard

Mohamed Salah battling it out with Chelsea captain Frank Lampard / Michael Regan/GettyImages

FC Basel plummeted out of the Champions League after failing to meet their aim of reaching the group stage in 2012/13.

The Egyptian King, in the infant years of his career, made more appearances from the bench than he did as a nailed-on starter in Basel’s Europa League campaign but he was a star nonetheless.

Salah scored his first of eventually many goals on the European stage in the quarter-finals as Basel edged past Tottenham on penalties after drawing 4-4 on aggregate scoring.

His scoring exploits did not halt there as his future employers Chelsea were at the hands of a Salah double in west London. Although the Egypt international crashed out of the competition thanks to the Blues, his Europa League showings earned him a rightful move to the English giants a few months later.

Salah helped Basel to their best-ever finish in the competition, performing when it mattered the most and often being the difference-maker.

Mohamed Salah

Mohamed Salah celebrating his goal in Fiorentina’s 2-0 win at home against Tottenham / Gabriele Maltinti/GettyImages

Wedged in between his other two Europa League campaigns came his least successful one, with just a goal and assist apiece.

12 days after scoring his first goal for the club against Sassuolo, Salah added one to his European CV against, once again, Tottenham. Spurs had become a familiar sight for the tricky winger and a match-up that he flourished in.

Bearing in mind his spell in Fiorentina was merely a loan, Salah enjoyed positivity for the majority of the season and spurred his side into the semi-finals of the Europa League. His influence – goals aside – was undeniable, though his game time was limited on the centre stage.

A theme begins to reoccur with Salah and the Europa League as he helped Fiorentina – very much a surprise package of the 2014/15 Europa League season – reach the semi-finals of the competition for only the third time in the entirety of the club’s history.

Mohamed Salah

Mohamed Salah celebrating his goal in the first leg of Roma’s round of 16 tie against Lyon / Jean Catuffe/GettyImages

Salah’s most recent Europa League campaign came just before his high-profile move to Liverpool, featuring in six games for Roma in 2016/17.

The Italian side endured a torrid campaign in Europe, preventing Salah from showing the footballing world his undeniable talent. Domestically, Roma finished in second place and secured themselves a spot at Europe’s top table for the following campaign, but cracked under pressure when vying for European silverware in the same season.

Neither goal amounted for anything in this term, either. Roma’s four-goal thumping over West Ham’s conquerors in Astra Giurgiu was already wrapped up before Salah’s effort came, and he managed to grab his second of the competition in a last 16 defeat to Lyon.



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