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Champions League

Real Madrid possible lineup against Celtic

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Real Madrid begin their defence of the Champions League title they won last season with a trip to Scotland to face Celtic on Tuesday.

Carlo Ancelotti’s side beat Liverpool in the final in Paris earlier this year and have made a great start to their La Liga campaign, winning each of their opening four games.

Here’s the starting Real XI Ancelotti may deploy against Celtic.

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GK: Thibaut Courtois – Was pipped to the men’s Uefa Player of the Year award by teammate Benzema. His nomination spoke volumes to his progression to being one of the world’s top goalkeepers.

RB: Dani Carvajal – Is the most comfortable right-back option available to Ancelotti, though the Italian could rotate and bring in Lucas Vazquez.

CB: Eder Militao – When asked in the summer whether his partnership with Alaba was the best in the world, the Brazilian replied: “Yes, because of everything we have won.”

CB: David Alaba – Could be moved out wide to accommodate Antonio Rudiger, but more likely to continue his centre-back partnership with Militao.

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LB: Ferland Mendy – Seen as a safe and steady option at left back, Mendy has benefitted greatly by Alaba playing centrally.

CM: Luka Modric – Recently celebrated the tenth anniversary since his move from Tottenham to the Bernabeu. He has since become one of the most decorated players ever and is still performing at 36 years of age.

CM: Aurelien Tchouameni – Delivered another starring performance in his side’s 2-1 victory over Real Betis. Broke up play and intercepted passes all afternoon in a dominating midfield display.

CM: Toni Kroos – Rested at the weekend and expected to come back into the starting XI. Ancelotti recently revealed managing Kroos and Modric has been “the easiest thing I’ve ever had in my career.”

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RW: Federico Valverde – Rodrgyo scored and hit the woodwork at the weekend, but the more defensive Valverde may be deployed out wide to keep Real tight.

ST: Karim Benzema – It’s shockingly been hinted that Benzema could be rested on Tuesday. Hopefully that’s not the case, given his incredible form over the past two seasons.

LW: Vinicius Junior – Benzema’s partner in attack has hit a rich vein of form, contributing three goals and an assist in his last three La Liga games.



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Champions League

Lionel Messi breaks two Champions League records against Maccabi Haifa

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Lionel Messi’s goal against Maccabi Haifa saw him set two new Champions League records.

It wasn’t an easy night in Israel for Messi and PSG by any means, with the home side taking a shock lead 24 minutes in courtesy of Tjaronn Chery.

However, they couldn’t stay in front for long with Messi getting his team an equaliser just 13 minutes later.

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He spread the ball out wide to Kylian Mbappe who got to the byline and played it back, giving the Argentinian an easy finish from well inside the box. The goal proved to be the start of PSG’s comeback, with the French side going on to win 3-1, and that wasn’t the only reason it was significant.

With his goal, Messi scored against his 39th different club in the Champions League, setting a new record in the process.

Before that, he and long-term Cristiano Ronaldo were level on 38, and with Ronaldo not playing in the Champions League this season, the record is now set to be Messi’s for quite some time.

That wasn’t the only record the 35-year-old secured on Wednesday as Messi has now scored in 18 consecutive Champions League campaigns – every year since 2005/06 – accomplishing a feat never seen before.

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Perhaps the biggest record – most Champions League goals – still eludes him, with Ronaldo scoring 14 more, and it seems unlikely he’ll be able to make up such a margin before he retires, but it would take a brave man to put it past him.



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Champions League

Borussia Dortmund couldn’t stop me

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Erling Haaland has praised Borussia Dortmund for how they defended against Manchester City, but was keen to point out that they still couldn’t find a way to stop him.

Man City struggled to break the Bundesliga side down in what was an eventual 2-1 Champions League win on Wednesday, not having a single shot on target until John Stones’ 80th minute effort.

That shot on target was also their first goal, and their second one was the winner, with Haaland volleying his team to victory.

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The Norwegian praised the way his former team played and defended but issued a reminder that it wasn’t enough to stop him.

When told by an interview on BT Sport that BVB ‘clearly know how to stop you’, Haaland replied: “They didn’t stop me, I scored!

“But yeah, they played well and they were good, and I was quite sure I was going to be followed all game because they know me very well.

“Dortmund were really good today, and in the end, the three points is what matters.”

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Haaland’s goal was one of the best he’s scored, with the striker lifting his leg extremely high to turn in a stunning cross from Joao Cancelo.

The team’s first one wasn’t bad either, with Stones firing in from outside the box, but Haaland joked that his was the better of the two.

“Yeah, two wonderful goals today. I think mine was a bit better, honestly,” he added.

The 22-year-old now has just one goal less than Luis Suarez in the Champions League and only four fewer than Wayne Rooney.

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Pep Guardiola lauds ‘exceptional’ Jude Bellingham after stellar Champions League outing

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Pep Guardiola was full of praise for the “exceptional” Jude Bellingham after he impressed in Borussia Dortmund’s 2-1 defeat to Manchester City in the Champions League.

The 19-year-old had put Dortmund on course for a surprise win at the Etihad Stadium when he headed home Marco Reus’ centre just before the hour mark, but the Bundesliga giants were unable to hold on as late goals from John Stones and Erling Haaland turned the tide in City’s favour.

Nevertheless, Dortmund were impressive in their defensive shape throughout the 90 minutes, as well as causing problems on the counter, and Bellingham was one of the more impressive performers on the night.

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Mixing finesse on the ball with wonderful vision and instinctive reading of the game, Bellingham out-duelled the likes of Kevin De Bruyne and Ilkay Gundogan for large periods, and showed why he’s one of the most highly-rated teenagers in world football.

Liverpool are long-term admirers of Bellingham, but judging by Guardiola’s comments after the game, there’s every chance City may look to sign the England international when the time comes for him to leave Dortmund.

“I was impressed two seasons ago when he was 17. Now he’s 19… he was good at 17, imagine now at 19,” Guardiola said of Bellingham. “He’s able to follow [Ilkay] Gundogan, Kevin [De Bruyne], win the duels, transitions are fast, to have the sense in the box for the goal he scored.

“So yes, an exceptional player. I think everybody knows it, not because the manager of Manchester City says it, everybody knows it.”

Bellingham’s manager at Dortmund, Edin Terzic, was equally full of praise for his display on the night, telling the assembled media: “Jude, like all the other players, gave a great performance in offensive and defensive terms. 

“He blocked so any passes and crosses and also got forward… once again, he was very good against Manchester City.”

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