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  1. Schalke looking to take advantage of Leverkusen heartbreak
    Matip-Kiessling

    Schalke host Bayer Leverkusen in a crucial Bundesliga meeting, hoping to capitalise on their visitors' UEFA Champions League heartbreak.

    Bayer Leverkusen travel to Schalke on Saturday hoping to banish the painful memories of their UEFA Champions League elimination in midweek.

    In their last-16 tie with Atletico Madrid, Roger Schmidt's men bowed out in the most agonising fashion, losing 3-2 on penalties after a 1-0 defeat had levelled the tie on aggregate.

    Hakan Calhanoglu and Omer Toprak both missed from the spot before Stefan Kiessling skied the last kick prior to sudden death to see Atletico through to the quarter-finals.

    Leverkusen must now regroup, as they bid to return to European football's premier club competition via their league position.

    Schmidt's men occupy the fourth and final qualification spot, one place and three points better off than their opponents on Saturday.

    "Now we must try to sort out our heads in the next two days and regenerate," the Leverkusen coach said. "This is obviously a difficult task at the weekend, when you played here 120 minutes, and then play at Schalke. 

    "But we become aware of the questions and give everything."

    Schalke defender Joel Matip told: "All the teams above us won their games at the weekend and therefore took more points than us.

    "Ultimately you do lots of maths, but for us the most important thing is to focus on ourselves and collect points. On Saturday we host a direct competitor, Bayer Leverkusen, so we are desperate to win and strengthen our situation."

    Leverkusen are in strong form domestically, having won three matches on the spin, while Schalke have been inconsistent of late, with just one win in five in the league.

     

     

     

     

  2. PSG banged up heading into Lorient clash
    PSG banged up heading into Lorient clash

    The jubilation of Paris Saint-Germain's Champions League victory over Chelsea was quickly forgotten when Laurent Blanc's side were beaten by Girondins de Bordeaux on Sunday afternoon.

    Laurent Blanc's side saw a 15-match unbeaten run in all competitions come to an end in dramatic fashion last Sunday when they went down 3-2 at the Stade Chaban-Delmas, conceding a decisive late goal to Diego Rolán after Zlatan Ibrahimovic had twice drawn the defending champions level.

    It was another missed opportunity for PSG to leapfrog Olympique Lyonnais into first place, and OL are currently two points clear at the summit coming into the final round of games before the clocks go forward and before Paris travel to Marseille at the start of next month.

    However, with Lyon not in action until Saturday, Paris have another chance to climb provisionally above their main title rivals into pole position as they bid to extend their unbeaten record at home this season. PSG have not lost any of 21 home games in all competitions since the beginning of the campaign, although they must cope with a host of selection problems against the Bretons.

    David Luiz, who came off against Bordeaux with a thigh problem, is suspended, while his fellow Brazilians Marquinhos and Lucas are carrying injuries too. Yohan Cabaye is out after he also came off last weekend with a knee injury and Serge Aurier has not played since tearing a hamstring in last month's draw at home to Caen.

    "We are in a final race for the finish with two or three clubs who can believe they can win the title. The objective is to take all three points and get back to winning ways in the league at home, especially after losing at Bordeaux," said Blanc, although the former France international defender dismissed claims that there was now a greater urgency to win games.

    "Personally I am not worried. There is always an urgency to take points because we are second, two points behind Lyon. My team are at home to Lorient, and with all respect towards them, we have to take all three points."

     Lorient have won five times in 10 previous visits to the Parc des Princes in Ligue 1 and Sylvain Ripoll's side travel to the capital with the pressure off after last week's come-from-behind 2-1 win at home to Caen eased their relegation fears. Raphaël Guerreiro's seventh goal of the season and an eighth of the campaign for Jordan Ayew handed the Bretons a welcome victory that moved them five points clear of the drop zone.

    "It was one of these games that will count come the end of the season as we had lost our previous two games, including one against a direct rival in the relegation battle in Evian. But we have played well at home since the start of 2015. The win allowed us to catch Caen and move five points clear of Toulouse, so it was job done," said defender Lamine Koné, who is now looking forward to making his 100th Ligue 1 appearance against the club he supported as a boy growing up in the capital.

    "When I was younger they were the team I supported. And I still do support them. But now we can go to Paris without any pressure. We are going to play this match to win it. It is always a pleasure to play at the Parc des Princes so we have to make the most of it.

    "We have to try to give them something to worry about, get the ball down and play the way we know how. If we can do that, we will have a chance of beating them."

    Ripoll can welcome Gabonese midfielder Didier Ndong back after suspension but Guerreiro - such a threat on the left wing - has been ruled out of the game because of a thigh injury suffered in training. Mathieu Coutadeur (adductor), Mathias Autret (hernia) and Valentin Lavigne (hip) are all out, while Raffidine Abdullah has been struggling with a hamstring problem.

     

     

  3. Strugglers head to south coast buoyed by City win
    Sean Dyche

    Burnley travel to Southampton in the Premier League this Saturday on a high following last weekend's shock 1-0 home win over Manchester City.

    Sean Dyche's side sprung one of the surprises of the season at Turf Moor, as George Boyd's sweetly struck half-volley earned them all three points against the defending champions.

    That victory leaves Burnley 18th in the table, just one point from safety ahead of the trip to St Mary's Stadium, and Dyche knows there is plenty of work still do if his side are to avoid the drop.

    "We are aware of the league but we don't stare at it," he said. "Our learning curve has to come to fruition and it has to come to fruition in the last nine games.

    "We've got nine big games coming up and we keep working hard. The basics have to be instilled in the team and delivered.

    "The one thing I've learned is that there is no guarantee where you get your next result. It was a good performance against City, and we're going to have to do that again.

    "Southampton are a good side and have had a good season. They've had many players perform this season. It will be a big challenge for us."

    Defender Michael Duff was recalled to the line-up against City in place of Michael Keane, and the former Northern Ireland international says the victory has given everyone at the club an extra bit of belief.

    "The result last weekend gives everyone a big lift, especially with the performance as it was, but it's only three points," he said

    "I think we have surprised a few people along the way and it's just having that belief now."

    Southampton come into the clash in sixth place, buoyed by a much-needed win over Crystal Palace and Sunday's 1-1 draw at league leaders Chelsea, which followed back-to-back defeats to Liverpool and West Brom.

    Ronald Koeman's men are one of just five teams to lose to Burnley this season - Dusan Tadic's penalty miss proving crucial as Ashley Barnes went on to the net the only goal at Turf Moor back in December.

    "It's a different game, a different system that they play, more direct, and it will be difficult," Koeman said.

    "They beat us but it was not a very good game on that day. We missed a penalty and we got a stupid goal against us.

    "What we do realise is that it's a different one [match]. Burnley are doing well the last few weeks, they had some great results against Chelsea and Man City last week and they will make it very difficult."

    Koeman welcomes Eljero Elia back into contention after he missed the draw at Chelsea with an ankle problem, while Burnley have no new injury worries, with Matt Taylor (Achilles) still not quite ready for a first-team return.

     

     

     

  4. 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."

     

     

     

  5. 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.

     

     

     

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