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Champions League

Player ratings as spoils shared in Champions League

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Chelsea and Real Madrid left their Champions League group finely poised after a 1-1 draw at the Alfredo Di Stéfano Stadium on Thursday evening.

Guro Reiten’s second half penalty cancelled out Caroline Weir’s first half opener in a tightly fought contest, and means that Chelsea, Real Madrid and PSG are all still mathematically able to qualify for the quarter finals as group winners heading into the final two group stage matches.

Chelsea started in the ascendency, Sam Kerr cracking the bar from close range inside two minutes after an Erin Cuthbert corner had triggered a goal mouth scramble.

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But just as they had done at Kingsmeadow a fortnight ago, Real grew into the game. The lively Olga Carmona saw an effort from range fly narrowly wide as the Spanish outfit started to enjoy more possession in the Blues half.

It was a scrappy first 45, characterised by multiple turnovers and transitions. Chelsea almost capitalised on a misplaced pass deep into the Real half on the half hour mark, as Lauren James picked up the loose ball and slipped in Kerr. The Chelsea was again denied by the woodwork, this time smacking the post.

The visitors were made to pay for their missed opportunities as Real took the lead six minutes later. Ann-Katrin Berger’s poor attempted pass into midfield was cut out by Weir, who diligently stroked the ball into the back of the net from the edge of the area – her second goal in three appearances against WSL opposition since departing the league in the summer.

Chelsea were gifted a golden opportunity to draw level 14 minutes into the second half after Guro Reiten was clumsily tripped by Ivana Andrés. Reiten’s subsequent spot kick clattered the post, but rebounded in off the head of the unfortunate Misa Rodriguez.

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The game became more stretched and open in the final 15 minutes, with Berger redeeming herself following her first half error with a superb save to keep out Carmona from point blank range.

It was Misa’s turn to pull off a superb stop as the clock ticked down as another chance for Kerr went begging. The Real keeper stretched magnificently to keep out the Chelsea forward, who had been superbly found by Reiten, to preserve a point for her side.

Kathellen Sousa, Sam Kerr

Kathellen Sousa started in the heart of the Real backline / Angel Martinez/GettyImages

GK: Misa Rodríguez – 7/10 – Unfortunate to see Reiten’s penalty go in off the back of her head after diving the correct way. Made a terrific, stretching save in the latter stages to keep out Kerr and preserve a point for her side.

RB: Ivana Andrés – 5/10 – Lost her bearings as Reiten got in behind and clumsily brought her down for the Chelsea equaliser.

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CB: Rocío Gálvez – 7/10 – Steady and dependable, hardly put a foot wrong.

CB: Kathellen – 6/10 – Produced a big block to keep out James in the first half. Lost track of Kerr on a couple of occasions and was fortunate to not be punished, but otherwise largely solid.

LB: Olga Carmona – 8/10 – Really livley and attacking, getting forward at every possibility. Fired narrowly wide from range in the first half, and denied by an excellent Berger stop in the second.

CM: Claudia Zornoza – 5/10 – Struggled to get her foot on the ball and string a series of passes together in a transitional game. Replaced with 15 remaining.

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CM: Sandie Toletti – 7/10 – Tidy in possession and drove Real forward from midfield.

CM: Caroline Weir – 7/10 – Great anticipation to open the scoring, intercepting a poor pass with her first touch and passing the ball into an empty net from the edge of the area with her second. Oozed class throughout.

RW: Athenea Del Castillo – 6/10 – Had a real battle with Eriksson, drawing a couple of cheap fouls and really frustrating the Chelsea full-back. Had less joy against Charles in the second half.

ST: Esther – 5/10 – Well marshalled by Bright and Buchanan and didn’t really have a sniff. Replaced just after the hour.

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LW: Naomie Feller – 5/10 – Outshone on the left flank by Carmona behind her. Largely kept quiet.

SUB: Sofie Svava (62′ for Esther) – 6/10

SUB: Maite Oroz (76′ for Zornoza) – 5/10

SUB: Nahikari García (89′ for Feller) – N/A

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Lauren James, Olga Carmona, Claudia Zornoza

Lauren James was back in the starting XI for Chelsea / Quality Sport Images/GettyImages

GK: Ann-Katrin Berger – 5/10 – Had a mare for the Real goal, dangerously attempting to play into midfield and seeing her pass cut out by Wier on the edge of the area. Atoned for her error with a huge save to keep Carmona out in the second half.

RB: Jess Carter – 6/10 – Had a really tenacious battle with the impressive Carmona – the Real full-back got the better of her a couple of times in the second half, but it was otherwise a very even contest between the pair.

CB: Millie Bright – 7/10 – Made a number of important interceptions and did a good job keeping Esther under wraps alongside Buchanan.

CB: Kadeisha Buchanan – 7/10 – Popped up with a big block to keep out Weir in the first half and won plenty in the air.

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LB: Magdalena Eriksson – 5/10 – Had a real scrap with Del Castillo, getting increasingly frustrated in the first half at the ease at which the Real winger hit the deck. Didn’t venture forward a great deal, and replaced by the more attack minded Charles at the break.

CM: Sophie Ingle – 7/10 – Got Reiten in behind with a fabulous lofted pass in the build up to Chelsea’s equaliser. One of the coolest heads in a sometimes erratic encounter.

CM: Erin Cuthbert – 6/10 – Struggled to stamp her authority on the game in the first half as possession constantly changed hands. An improved second half display, impressing with her ability to get the ball into the front three.

CM: Jessie Fleming – 4/10 – Struggled to get hold of the ball at times and make her mark on proceedings. Largely starved of service and on the fringes of the game, before being replaced at half time.

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RW: Lauren James – 7/10 – Played Kerr in with an impeccably weighted pass in the first half, from which Chelsea should have scored. Flashes of quality with her superb feet, strength and intelligence.

ST: Sam Kerr – 5/10 – Cracked the bar inside two minutes from close range, hit the post when one v one on the half hour mark and denied by a Misa save in the dying stages – opportunities she would usually bury.

LW: Guro Reiten – 7/10 – Won the penalty from which Chelsea equalised. Cracked the post with her effort, which still went in via the head of Misa. Her delivery was on point as ever; played a superb teasing, looping ball across the face of goal, begging to be buried and picked out Kerr with a magnificent through ball in the latter stages.

SUB: Niamh Charles (46′ for Eriksson) – 7/10 – Made a real impact from the bench with her pace, athleticism and determination.

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SUB: Fran Kirby (46′ for Fleming) – 6/10

SUB: Johanna Rytting Kaneryd (77′ for James) – 5/10

Player of the match: Olga Carmona (Real Madrid)



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Champions League

Kylian Mbappe ruled out of Bayern Munich first leg through injury

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Paris Saint-Germain have confirmed that Kylian Mbappe is expected to miss three weeks with the thigh injury he picked up against Montpellier on Wednesday.

The superstar forward had a day to forget as he missed a penalty, then failed to convert a re-take, before limping off the pitch after just 21 minutes.

After the game, manager Christophe Galtier suggested he did not believe Mbappe’s injury was ‘anything to worry about’, but the club have now confirmed just how long they expect to be without the forward.

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“After examinations, Kylian Mbappé suffers from a lesion of the left thigh at the level of the femoral biceps,” a statement read. “His duration of unavailability is estimated at three weeks.”

For PSG, it means they will have to cope without Mbappe for a number of high-profile games, including the first leg of their Champions League round of 16 clash with Bayern Munich on February 14 at the Parc des Princes.

Ligue 1 games against Toulouse, Monaco and Lille will also come too soon for Mbappe, who may be eyeing Le Classique against Marseille on February 26 for his return.

Before then, however, Mbappe will also miss a Coupe de France meeting with fierce rivals Marseille on February 8.

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Elsewhere, Neymar also missed the Montpellier game with muscle fatigue, but Galtier will expect to have the Brazilian available for the big games coming up in the coming weeks.



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Will Kylian Mbappe be fit to face Bayern Munich after injury scare?

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There are three players at Paris Saint-Germain that the fans never want to see get injured.

They are of course, Neymar Jr, Lionel Messi, and Kylian Mbappe. One of the latter two is probably at the top of the list, depending on who you ask.

Unfortunately for PSG, it is Mbappe that has picked up an injury at a crucial juncture in the season, after limping out of the 3-1 win over Montpellier in Ligue 1.

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It has led to a mild panic among PSG’s supporters over his chances of facing Bayern Munich in the Champions League round of 16 – so will Mbappe be fit?

The good news is that PSG coach Christophe Galtier has played down the severity of the injury, which means it is not going to be months out for Mbappe. That being said, they have got a very busy few weeks coming up.

“Kylian took a blow behind the knee and on the muscle,” Galtier explained. “Is it a contusion or a hematoma? We do not know yet. Regardless, it does not seem very serious. With the sequences of matches, we preferred not to take any risks. There’s not too much to worry about.”

As is to be expected, PSG are top of Ligue 1, but their lead over Marseille is only five points after 21 games. They are also facing Marseille in the Coupe de France, and also have a trip to Monaco in the league ahead of the first Champions League round of 16 leg against Bayern Munich.

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Even if Mbappe was to be fit enough to return against Bayern, he would still miss the following fixtures:

That question can’t be answered definitively at this stage, but Mbappe has 13 days to recover from the injury before taking on Bayern on Valentine’s Day (February 14).

If the injury proves to be more serious than expected, with Mbappe ruled out, PSG follow the first leg against Bayern with Ligue 1 matches against Lille, Marseille and Nantes.

As you would expect, Mbappe has been prolific this season. Amongst all the transfer talk and rumours of fallouts with the club, it can be easy to forget just how many goals he scores.

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He has netted 13 times in Ligue 1 this season, along with two assists. His Champions League form was great too, scoring seven times in the group stages and getting three assists too. In between all of that, he scored five times at the 2022 World Cup, netting a hat-trick in a final that ended in defeat against Argentina.



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Why Man City fans boo the Champions League anthem

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Manchester City have been regulars in the Champions League for many years now following their 2008 takeover and they even reached the final in 2021, which was lost to Chelsea.

Despite this, they have an odd relationship with the tournament.

They have never won it, despite it so blatantly being the missing jewel in their crown. As well as that, their fans always boo the UEFA Champions League anthem when it is played before their matches.

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They are not the only club in Europe too have done this, but they are the most prolific with it.

The booing stems back to the 2011/12 season. City were playing against Porto and Mario Balotelli was racially abused by the fans. Porto were fined €20,000. A month later though, City were playing against Sporting CP and were fined €30,000 for being 30 seconds late onto the pitch.

The relationship soured further when City were set to play CSKA Moscow away from home, but the Russian club were ordered to play behind closed doors following racial abuse by fans. That means City fans could not go either even though thousands had flights, tickets and accommodation already paid for. Some CSKA fans were also then allowed into the stadium.

The next incident was in 2017 when City were set to play Dynamo Kyiv in Ukraine. The game was ordered to be played behind closed doors so City fans did not make arrangements, and then just weeks before the fixture, the decision was reversed, at which point it was too late for fans to go.

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Alongside all of this was the fact that City have been regularly investigated and once found guilty of breaking UEFA Financial Fair Play (FFP) rules. They were fined £49m in 2014 and made to name a smaller Champions League squad than usual as punishment.

They were found guilty of another breach in 2020 and were banned from the tournament for two years, which was then overturned on appeal.

Overall, many City fans feel they have been targeted by UEFA for their newfound wealth which comes from outside of Europe.

City had just one campaign in the old European Cup back in 1968/69, in which they were knocked out in the first round. That was it until the investment from Abu Dhabi arrived and they qualified for the Champions League in 2011. Despite going on to win the Premier League title in 2011/12, they were knocked out in the group stage that year and also the following year.

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They have made the group stage every single season since. In 2013/14 and 2014/15, it ended at the Round of 16, whilst 2015/16 was a run to the semi-finals. The next four seasons did not go beyond the quarter-final stage before reaching the final for the first time in 2020/21.

That felt like a major opportunity for City to finally realise their European dream, despite UEFA’s perceived adversity towards them. But Kai Havertz’s goal was enough to secure the win for Chelsea

Last season, they were knocked out in the semi-finals by Real Madrid after chucking away a commanding lead in dramatic late fashion.



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