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  1. Allegri: Juventus must score at Dortmund
    Massimiliano Allegri

    The coach insists his side cannot afford to play for a draw at Signal Iduna Park as they look to secure a place in the Champions League last eight.

    Massimiliano Allegri insists Juventus cannot play for a draw when they take on Borussia Dortmund in Wednesday's Champions League last-16 second leg.

    The Italian side have a 2-1 lead from their first-leg win in Turin and travel to Germany to take on Jurgen Klopp's men to conclude the tie.

    And Allegri maintains his side cannot set out to merely contain their rivals and is hoping to get another win to send them through to the quarter finals.

    "We have a 2-1 advantage from the first leg and are aware of the difficulties posed by the game, as are Dortmund," he told reporters. "It will be a great game and I honestly can't see it ending 0-0.

    "I think we'll need to score at least once to go through. In the first leg we didn't allow them a shot on goal, Dortmund only scored from our mistake. They have plenty of pace in their squad and we must put in a good technical performance and strike their weak areas.

    "I still have some doubts over tomorrow's team and need to decide whether we play three or four at the back."

    The Turin side are top of Serie A and are still in the fight for the Coppa Italia as well as the European competition and Allegri feels his side are in a strong position as they look to secure a treble.

    "We're now in the final straight. We want to get through to the next round and we have the league to wrap up. There's also the Coppa Italia, where we'll be aiming to overturn the first leg defeat when we play Fiorentina.

    "Claudio Marchisio is enjoying a great season and is one of the best midfielders in Europe. Andrea Barzagli's in great shape. He played very well in Palermo and I'm happy to welcome back a player we have missed."

     

     

     

  2. Bilic looks to end visitors´ unbeaten record
    Slaven Bilic

    Club Brugge travel to Besiktas in the UEFA Europa League on Thursday knowing that another game without defeat in this season's competition will see them into the quarter-finals.

    Michel Preud'homme's men maintained their unbeaten run in the tournament with a 2-1 first-leg win at the Jan Breydelstadion last week, Tom De Sutter and Lior Rafaelov cancelling out Gokhan Tore's opener.

    It leaves Besiktas needing to achieve what no side has managed in the Europa League this term, although their unbeaten home record in European competition this season will instil confidence of gaining the win required.

    The Turkish Super Lig leaders face Istanbul rivals Fenerbahce on Sunday and warmed up for Thursday's clash in style, hammering Kayseri Erciyespor 5-1 at the weekend.

    "Despite a tiresome Europa League match we played on Thursday, my players were energetic and lively," Bilic explained.

    "This shows how much they've wanted to be at the top of the Super Lig table. We controlled the game from the start and deserved the victory.

    "Now, we must get ready for our upcoming matches against Club Brugge and Fenerbahce."

    The former Croatia coach has fitness doubts over Cenk Tosun and Tolga Zengin, while Sander Coopman (thigh), Bjorn Engels (knee) and Victor Vazquez (ankle) are set to miss out for Preud'homme's side.

    Brugge will hope to prove party poopers during the clash, which takes place on Besiktas' 112th anniversary, although they too face an important domestic test in the immediate aftermath.

    A Beker van Belgie final date against Anderlecht waits on Sunday at the Stade Roi Baudouin, but Preud'homme is maintaining his focus on Thursday's clash.

    "I have more hope than I did for the first leg," he told.

    "In front of a home crowd Besiktas will be more motivated, it may be hell there. Last week we found a good solution. If we can repeat that, why not?

    "Besiktas have problems with set pieces. Corners and free-kicks can be our weapon. Even with battles and long balls, the defenders of Besiktas had problems."

    While Brugge are already in unchartered territory, having failed to reach the last 16 since the creation of group stages in the competition, Besiktas are looking to emulate their efforts of 2002-03.

    In the UEFA Cup, the Turkish club reached the quarter-finals that year before losing to Lazio on away goals.

    Progression for Thursday's hosts would see Bilic edge a step closer to ensuring his first piece of Besiktas silverware this season, with the club still on course for a double.

     

     

     

  3. Veltman confident of overturning first-leg deficit
    Joel Veltman

    Joel Veltman has warned Dnipro that Ajax are confident of overturning a first-leg deficit in Thursday's UEFA Europa League last-16 tie after routing Heerenveen on Sunday.

    The Dutch champions return to Amsterdam trailing 1-0 from last week's first encounter in Kiev, Roman Zozulya's 30th-minute strike proving decisive.

    Ajax responded in superb fashion, though, with a 4-1 victory at Heerenveen in the Eredivisie - a result that left them eight points clear of third-placed Feyenoord.

    Centre-back Veltman - who scored an own goal before making it 3-1 in that encounter - is aware that Ajax have made life difficult for themselves by failing to score in Ukraine, but believes the team have enough about them to make the quarter-finals.

    "We could have made things so much easier if we had scored there," Veltman said.

    "But we have not done that. It is very difficult now, but we still have a chance. The match against Heerenveen gave us confidence.

    "Dnipro can come to us and play without attacking intentions. It is up to us to keep a clean sheet and score at least twice."

    Ajax have been handed a further boost by the return of striker Kolbeinn Sigthorsson.

    The Iceland international has been sidelined for almost two months by a knee injury, but he made a comeback in a reserve game on Monday and hopes to feature on Thursday.

    "I wanted to come back as soon as possible," he added. "But it took longer than expected. The important thing is that now I can play again and it went well.

    "I look forward to the next games. Hopefully on Thursday I am with the selection."

    Dnipro followed up their win over Ajax by beating Metalurh Zaporizhya 1-0 in the Ukrainian Premier League.

    However, head coach Myron Markevych must contend with three suspensions in Amsterdam - Zozulya, Ruslan Rotan and Artem Fedetskyi all picking up yellow cards in the first contest that will keep them sidelined.

    Markevych opted to shuffle his pack in the victory over Metalurh with only Rotan of the suspended trio featuring during the match - a decision he admits was motivated by the fact he wanted to check his alternatives for the Ajax match.

    "We have deliberately taken this step," he said. "Unfortunately, in the Europa League, we have only four defenders and one of them misses the match. So I took the opportunity to play other players.

    "I could have used them [suspended players], but I had to see who can play in Amsterdam, who will be able to replace them."

     

     

     

  4. Pellegrini: Failure to qualify no disaster
    Manuel Pellegrini

    Manchester City swap Burnley for Barcelona on Wednesday needing to overturn a 2-1 first-leg deficit to book their place in the UEFA Champions League quarter-finals.

    Manuel Pellegrini's men were beaten 1-0 at Turf Moor in the Premier League on Saturday - their third defeat in four matches in all competitions.

    That run started with the home loss against Barca in this competition and, with a turnaround at Camp Nou unlikely, Pellegrini appeared to be getting his excuses in early.

    "Manchester United in all of that great era under [Alex] Ferguson only won two Champions Leagues," he said. "Real Madrid went 32 years without winning the European Cup.

    "It is important to be there in the later rounds but you can't think that not being there is a disaster." 

    After falling behind to two goals from Luis Suarez at the Etihad Stadium, City pulled one back through Sergio Aguero in the 69th minute.

    However, Gael Clichy was sent off five minutes later and the hosts had a lucky escape when Lionel Messi saw a stoppage-time penalty saved by Joe Hart.

    "You can talk about tactics and technique but if you go a man down against Barcelona, you're put in a terrible position," he added. "It is not a disgrace to get knocked out by them.

    "Their squad, if it is not the best in the world, it is the second best. No other team can put together Leo Messi, Neymar and Luis Suarez but I want to play them with 11 and if they knock us out then let that be because they were better than us."

    Barcelona, meanwhile, face a pivotal week in their season, with the visit of Clasico rivals Real Madrid to look forward to just four days after hosting City.

    But speaking earlier this week, coach Luis Enrique said: "This will be a very nice week with two games in front of our fans, but it is not the most important.

    "We're going into the Clasico as leaders and in perfect form. But first we have to focus on City because qualification is at stake. Then we'll see what happens at the weekend."

    City lost 2-0 at Camp Nou as they fell to a 4-1 aggregate defeat at the same stage last season, and have never made it to the quarter-finals of the Champions League.

    Barcelona's Martin Montoya sustained a fractured cheekbone in a 2-0 win at Eibar on Saturday, while Sergio Busquets (ankle) missed training this week.

    City have Clichy suspended, but welcome former Barca midfielder Yaya Toure back from a three-match ban.

     

     

     

  5. Swansea vs Liverpool: Premier League preview
    Garry Monk

    Liverpool head to South Wales to face Swansea City in a game they must win in order to continue breathing down the necks of the sides occupying places in the top four.

    The home team had won two in succession to take them over the 40-point mark before they travelled to Tottenham last time out, where only three superb goals and a brilliant last minute save from Hugo Lloris denied them from taking a creditable share of the points, although the night was overshadowed by the sight of Bafetimbi Gomis fainting on the halfway line.

    Thankfully he is alright and could line up here along with Jonjo Shelvey, who always seems to have a part to play when coming up against his former club. He was involved in all four goals in the 2-2 at the Liberty Stadium last season, was on target at Anfield in March 2014, and put through his own net there in December.

    Despite lacking punch in attack in the FA Cup against Blackburn Rovers, recent form suggests that this could be the time for Liverpool to win for the first time at this stadium, and after seeing rivals Arsenal and Manchester United win at the weekend they must add to their run of Premier League wins here.

    Captain Steven Gerrard could return to the team for this one, but it has been his deputy that has caught the eye of late, as Jordan Henderson continues to show the potential that suggests he could be worthy successor to the 34-year-old. The scorer of spectacular strikes in each of the last two games, he leads by example, just like Gerrard.

    With Gomis passed fit, Swansea’s only absentee is defender Kyle Bartley, so Garry Monk could go with the same XI that lost at Spurs.

    Joe Allen is doubtful for Liverpool, who are still without Jose Enrique and Lucas Leiva. Martin Skrtel is fit despite being carried off against Blackburn.

     

     

     

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