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Champions League

Xavi reveals what’s changed at Barcelona since last Bayern clash

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Xavi has said that Barcelona’s ‘mentality’ improvements have been the key changes since La Blaugrana faced off against Bayern Munich last season.

FC Hollywood ran out comfortable 3-0 victors home and away in last season’s UEFA Champions League group stages, and thumped Barca 8-2 a few seasons prior to boot.

Since those defeats Barcelona have undergone somewhat of a facelift, signing a number of new players including star striker Robert Lewandowski from Bayern in the summer transfer window. Speaking to the press ahead of the clash between the two European giants, Xavi discussed the changes that have come about at Camp Nou since their last meeting:

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“A lot of things but I think the mentality. That day we talked a lot after that game and I said we are Barca and that here we needed to run and show our personality, our character and give it our all out on the pitch. I think the first 20 minutes went well, but yes our mentality has changed.

“You can lose a game, but we want to impose our style of play, because we are Barca. So I think we have changed in our personality and mentality. Of course the transfers have helped, and the wins that give us more confidence, but the mentality of the players has changed a lot.”

Xavi also took the time to discuss Lewandowski’s first game against his former club, insisting that he’ll be ‘motivated’ to make a difference in the game:

“Robert’s great. He’s calm, relaxed, he’s confident. He’s a natural leader for us. It’ll be a special game for him and he’ll be motivated. I rested him the other day so he’s fresh.

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“We have Robert with us and he’s very important but we have other players too. Robert also applies the high press well, has a good understanding, his timing and speed gives us a lot, he understands how to find the free man. He understands the game very well. Not just Robert, also our wingers and midfielders. We have a lot of weapons in attack.

“Given our recent results we come here with all the humility in the world but we suffered a lot last season here so tomorrow we want to compete very well. That’s what will leave me happy, if the players show our true potential which is different from the one we had last season, and leave behind the past results. I think we have a possibility to win tomorrow.”



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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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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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