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Champions League

How can Man Utd qualify for the Champions League?

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Manchester United had been aided by a rather tame post-Christmas schedule to extend their unbeaten run in all competitions to eight games ahead of the Manchester Derby.

Pep Guardiola’s Cityzens came to town in a bit of a slump, but Jack Grealish’s second-half opener put them in a great position to stroll out of Old Trafford with three points and bragging rights. Then, in the space of four unforgettable and controversial minutes, the Red Devils turned the tide. A 1-0 deficit swiftly morphed into a 2-1 advantage. The Theatre of Dreams was alive and kicking.

United’s victory over their noisy neighbours solidified their legitmacy under Erik ten Hag. While a title charge may be out of their reach, they’re in an excellent position to return to the Champions League via a top-four Premier League finish.

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Man Utd have two avenues into the Champions League next season. As it stands, a top-four finish appears more likely than a Europa League triumph given their opponents in the first knockout round.

Ten Hag’s couldn’t have asked for a trickier tie as they were paired against Barcelona in the play-offs. The victor will advance into the round of 16, where the likes of Arsenal, Real Betis and Real Sociedad await. They could also be joined by Juventus, Ajax, AS Roma, and Sporting CP should each of these teams win their respective play-off ties.

Thus, while United are one of the favourites to win the Europa League, the competition is a strong one.

In the Premier League, the Red Devils currently boast a healthy advantage over some of their projected rivals. While Newcastle have equalled their points tally having played a game more, United are comfortably ahead of Tottenham (five points), Liverpool, and Chelsea (both ten points) in the standings. Fulham, Brighton and Brentford are all European hopefuls, but none of these teams are expected to compete for a top-four berth.

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So, while there is a long way to go, United are in a very strong position to qualify for the Champions League by securing a top-four finish.

Man Utd remaining Premier League fixtures (4th; Played 18, 38pts)

Newcastle remaining Premier League fixtures (3rd; Played 19, 38pts)

Tottenham remaining Premier League fixtures (5th; Played 19, 33pts)

Liverpool remaining Premier League fixtures (9th; Played 18, 28pts)

Chelsea remaining Premier League fixtures (10th; Played 19, 28pts)



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Champions League

Liverpool’s best Champions League moments

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Liverpool are one of the true heavyweights of European football, and they’ve proved that with consistently brilliant performances in the continent’s elite competition.

The Reds were kings of Europe in the 1970s and 1980s, winning the European Cup on a whopping four occasions and, since the tournament has been renamed the UEFA Champions League, they’ve followed up that success with two triumphs in 2004/05 and 2018/19.

To celebrate their incredible history in the competition, we’ve decided to rank Liverpool’s best moments in the UEFA Champions League since its rebrand in the early 90s.

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A UEFA Champions League semi-final against Premier League rivals Chelsea at Anfield?

It doesn’t get much better than that.

Chelsea and Liverpool have had many battles down the years, but the 2005 semi-final clash was probably their most memorable and possibly their most controversial too.

The game would be decided by a sole Luis Garcia ‘ghost goal’ – aptly named
as such because William Gallas cleared the ball just before it crossed the line.

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With no goal line technology to rely on the goal was given and Anfield erupted.

From one magic night at Anfield, to another.

Heading into their final group stage game of their 2004/05 Champions League campaign Liverpool were in need of a minor miracle to qualify for the knockout rounds – and they got it.

After going behind in the first half, the Reds needed three goals to edge into the round of 16 at Olympiakos expense. The first two would come from Florent Sinama Pongolle and Neil Mellor, before captain fantastic Steven Gerrard latched onto a knock down header to slam home one of the best goals ever seen at Anfield.

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Cue Andy Gray screaming ‘WHAT A HIT SON! WHAT A HIT!’ and cue one of the most remarkable Champions League runs in the competition’s storied history.

Anfield has been the venue for an astonishing number of memorable Champions League moments, but this is perhaps the pick of the bunch.

Up against the greatest footballer of all time (Lionel Messi) and three goals down after a thumping defeat at Camp Nou a week prior, it’s fair to say that Liverpool’s chances of reaching the 2018/19 final were slim at best.

And yet, they pulled it off.

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An early goal from Divock Origi was followed up by a second half brace from Gini Wijnaldum, before Origi popped up again from a quickly-taken corner to seal a 4-0 win and the Reds’ place in yet another Champions League final.

Liverpool would face off against surprise finalists Tottenham Hotspur at the Metropolitano Stadium in Madrid after knocking out Barca in the semi-finals.

Any early nerves were calmed in the opening two minutes when Mohamed Salah converted a penalty, and then in the second half the club’s sixth European triumph was sealed by Origi.

Of course Istanbul is number one.

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It’s the quintessential UEFA Champions League game.

It’s the most famous win in Liverpool’s long trophy-laden history.

Down 3-0 at half-time to a quite astonishingly good AC Milan team – which included Andrea Pirlo, Kaka and Paolo Maldini to name a few – the Reds looked set to go back to Anfield empty handed.

In the second half, however, Liverpool were able to miraculously turn the game on its head. Three goals in six minutes from Steven Gerrard, Vladimir Smicer and Xabi Alonso shellshocked Milan and made it 3-3, before penalty heroics from Jerzy Dudek sealed the win for Liverpool.

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Follow the Reds wherever they may go with Expedia® Live and book your travel to the game. Nothing beats being there.



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Champions League

The Champions League Semi-Final Decided by the ‘Ghost’ Goal |

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​One we all remember, this. 

An all-English Champions League semi final at Anfield in 2005 was decided by a goal that, in this day and age, definitely wouldn’t have stood. Had VAR been in place, we wouldn’t be able to probably comprehend the phrase ‘ghost goal’. 

On the evening of 3 May 2005, Luis Garcia’s goal sent Liverpool to their first Champions League final in 20 years. 

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The first leg at Stamford Bridge a week before had been a cagey affair and finished 0-0, meaning it was all to play for on Merseyside, and what followed was one of the most controversial openings to a match in recent history.

In the third minute, John Arne Riise cut in from the left and found Steven Gerrard, who played a first-time pass with the inside of his right boot. The pass fell perfectly for Milan Baroš, who knocked it over the onrushing Petr Cech and went down under the challenge from his international team-mate. Garcia was then left to add the decisive touch, despite William Gallas’ attempts to clear off the line.

Chelsea’s players and boss Jose Mourinho were absolutely convinced the ball had not crossed the line but with replays inconclusive and goal line technology not yet a thing, there was no definitive answer other than to trust the word of the officials. 

Referee Ľuboš Michel took the advice of his linesman and awarded Liverpool the goal. In any case, the foul by Cech on Baroš probably merited a penalty, so Chelsea may have found themselves a man down and facing a spot-kick anyway. But nevertheless, it turned the tie into a feisty and scrappy affair.

Chelsea pushed for the away goal which would send them through, with Frank Lampard and Eidur Guðjohnsen both missing chances from outside the box. Later in the second half, Chelsea kicked into gear and Jerzy Dudek saved well from Lampard and the excellent Jamie Carragher blocked substitute Arjen Robben’s shot to keep the Blues at bay.

Guðjohnsen then missed the easiest of chances in the final minute of stoppage time and Liverpool sneaked into the Champions League final. 

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Key Talking Point

Revenge and redemption. Liverpool had waited 20 years for a chance to lift European football’s biggest prize and dumping out a rival that had the better of them for much of that season made it feel all the more special.

Chelsea, who were Premier League champions-elect, had beaten them in three of their previous meetings that season, including a dramatic 3-2 win in the League Cup final at the Millennium Stadium in February.

This felt like a significant dent in Jose Mourinho’s first season at the Bridge and was a tactical two-leg masterclass from Benitez. By riding out and, at times, totally nullifying Chelsea’s attacking counter threat in the first leg at the Bridge, Liverpool were well placed to control much of the ball on their home turf match and it paid off with a fast start which led to Chelsea’s lapse at the back and Garcia’s ‘ghost goal.’

Starting XI: Dudek (7), Finnan (7), Hyypiä (7), Carragher (9)Traoré (8), Gerrard (6), Hamann (6), Riise (7), Bišćan (6), Garcia (7), Baroš (6).

Substitutes: Cissé (6), Kewell (6), Núñez (6) 

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Carragher produced another vintage display at the back for Liverpool as they remained resolute against a strong Chelsea attack. The local lad threw his body in front of everything; shots, opposition players, the ball – you name it, Carra was there.

Oh and he also man-marked Didier Drogba out of the game.

With midfield stalwart Xabi Alonso suspended for this leg, Liverpool needed someone to step up from defence to support the ageing Didi Hamann and skipper Gerrard in midfield, and Carra did just that with one of the best performances of his career. 

Key Talking Point

Too much, too soon perhaps? Chelsea had been the dominant force in domestic football all season, losing just one league match across the whole campaign (to that point) and recording a record number of clean sheets (25). ​

But their incredible run came to a screeching halt at Anfield. Mourinho played a very similar team for the majority of the season and the usual reliable players like Carvalho, Joe Cole and even Frank Lampard looked well below par and frankly fatigued. 

In the end, it came down to one early lapse of judgement at the back, where Chelsea had been so strong all year; and a lack of penetration upfront against a defence that was up for the fight. Knockout football is a cruel mistress. 

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Starting XI: Cech (6), Geremi (6), Carvalho (5), Terry (6), Gallas (6), Tiago (6), Makélélé (6), Lampard (6), J Cole (5), Guðjohnsen (7), Drogba (5)

Substitutes: Kežman (5), Robben (6), Huth (5) 

Guðjohnsen was rare bright spark that night at Anfield. His movement was excellent and he had the most clear cut chances to get the crucial goal for the away side, including a last minute shot that whistled past the post. 

That goal. 

The more you watch it, the more you think there’s no way you can know whether it has gone in or not. 

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Thankfully the introduction of goal line technology has meant that we have had very few instances like this in recent years. Liverpool will say they should have had a penalty anyway, but who knows how the tie might have turned out had it still been 0-0 after five minutes instead. 

Drogba. Plain and simple.

In his early days at Chelsea and particularly after this fixture, he was partially written off as a little inconsistent, stroppy and a bit of a drama queen. But boy did he develop his game over the coming seasons and become a truly world class forward.

His record against Liverpool also improved, ending up with 11 goals in 14 meetings with the Reds. 

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Alongside the outstanding European players who played in this tie, there’s also a catalogue of players who you may forget even played for these two teams. 

Liverpool had Igor Bišćan putting a solid defensive shift in, in the middle of the park as well as the likes of Vladimír Šmicer and young local midfielder John Welsh (who now plays for Atherton Collieries in the eighth tier of English football) on the bench. 

Chelsea’s subs had the likes of Mikael Forssell and Nuno Morais as well as slightly better known Premier League journeymen Glen Johnson and of course Robert Huth, who certainly peaked later in his career (dilly ding, dilly dong). 

Liverpool went on to the final in Istanbul where they faced a rather exceptional AC Milan side.
​Milan went 3-0 up in the first half, thanks to two goals from future Chelsea striker Hernan Crespo.

Liverpool then staged one of the greatest comebacks in football history as goals from Gerrard, Šmicer (!) and Alonso levelled the tie. It eventually went to penalties, which Liverpool won in incredible fashion and the trophy was theirs. 

Chelsea did the domestic double by winning both the Premier League and League Cup and would go on to defend their league title the following season securing their spot among Europe’s top clubs. European glory wouldn’t come for another six years however. 

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Champions League

How can Newcastle qualify for the Champions League?

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The footballing landscape in England looks fairly different to how it did around a year ago.

Manchester City and particularly Liverpool look far from untouchable powerhouses, Manchester United and particularly Arsenal mean business and don’t appear to be flattering to deceive, and Newcastle look like a different team completely.

The Magpies’ progression under Eddie Howe has been nothing short of jaw-dropping. Combining a staunch solidity at the back with exciting and powerful football going forward, Newcastle are dynamic, dangerous and quite simply delicious.

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Indeed, from battling relegation upon Howe’s appointment, the club are now gunning for European footballing elite. Fans might dream of a Premier League title, but Champions League qualification for the first time in nearly two decades is becoming less and less of a fantasy at St. James’ Park.

Here’s what the journey to the big time holds in store.

Boasting the English top flight’s best defence and just one defeat in the first half of the 2022/23 campaign, Howe’s Magpies are flying high. The club currently sits third in the table after 19 matches, so are in a good position to push on for a top-four finish.

There is a long way to go, though, and, with trips to Manchester City and Chelsea as well as home ties against Liverpool, Manchester United, Tottenham and Arsenal to come, a lot can change by the time May rolls around.

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Having lost just once against the ‘big six’ so far this term, however, even the most pessimistic of Newcastle fans might be feeling an unmanageable urge to feel hopeful.

The Magpies boast a record of two points per game thus far, with a total tally of 76 to come should they continue in the same vein – that would have seen them achieve a top-four finish in the previous eight seasons.

Of course, Newcastle are yet to play 19 games of their Premier League campaign, but their so far impeccably consistent form and the current five-point cushion they hold from fifth-placed Spurs come as good signs.



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