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Tuchel discusses PSG’s Champions League issues

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PSG’s Champions League struggles have been well-documented, though Thomas Tuchel feels they are exaggerated.

Thomas Tuchel feels Paris Saint-Germain’s Champions League struggles have been exaggerated to a similar extent to Roger Federer’s perceived dominance in tennis.

Ever since Qatar Sports Investments (QSI) became PSG’s owners in 2011, the club have been obsessed with Champions League success, spending vast amounts of money in their quest to become Europe’s greatest team.

But in that time, the furthest they have gone in Europe’s elite competition is the quarter-finals, suffering gutting collapses against Barcelona and Manchester United along the way.

However, with Kylian Mbappe, Mauro Icardi and Neymar impressing this season, there is a belief PSG have a front three capable of setting the standard in Europe.

Borussia Dortmund await PSG in the last 16 of this season’s Champions League – with the first leg set for February 18 – and Tuchel is remaining relaxed despite the external pressure, highlighting that, although Federer has won more grand slams than anyone else, he does not win them all.

“If I tell you not to think about a pink elephant, you will think about it,” Tuchel told reporters ahead of Wednesday’s Coupe de France clash with Dijon.

“You have to accept the context. I said after [being eliminated by] Manchester United, ‘guys, we will try again next year’.

“The group stage, the last 16, that’s how it is. It’s the same for tennis. Everyone thinks that Roger Federer has always won, but it’s not like that.

“We are confident, we have improved. We have a good group. I am grateful for this chance. The first game was never a problem, everyone will talk about the second game. It is sport and it must remain sport.

“We can also say that it is our fault, with the matches against Barcelona and Man United. We lost these matches there and we cannot wait for everyone to be super positive.

“For me, that does not change. We are here every day with the team, we are very happy to be in the last 16. It’s a dream for everyone to play in the Champions League with a club like PSG.

“We always remain positive, you can only influence the context by giving everything you have. It’s up to us, we don’t let ourselves be influenced from the outside.

“The context doesn’t make things easier, but it’s sport, that’s how it is. Try, try again and never give up.”

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Champions league

Zidane issues update on Eden Hazard’s injury ahead of Manchester City clash

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With only a few hours left before Real Madrid take on Manchester City in the first leg of the 2019-20 UEFA Champions League round-of-16, Zinedine Zidane has issued a worrying update on Eden Hazard’s injury.

Speaking in the pre-match press conference ahead of the Manchester City game, Zidane said that he is unsure if Hazard will play for Real Madrid again this season.

The former Chelsea star is set for a second injury lay-off this season, after fracturing his ankle during Real Madrid’s defeat to Levante in the La Liga last weekend.

The Levante game was only his second appearance for Los Blancos since November 2019, after he recovered from another injury to the same ankle.

Hazard’s injury and his subsequent lay-off is definitely a big blow for Zidane and co, as they gear up for a crucial week in both the UCL and the La Liga.

“He [Hazard] loves playing football and while I can’t tell you what is in his eyes, I can see he is not happy,” the Real Madrid boss said.

“It’s important he stays positive but, of course, it’s difficult. It’s a bad moment, it won’t be easy and he will feel like that for a while. I do not know if he will have to go through an operation. It is not my area and I don’t know if his season is over, but I hope not,” he went on.

“I am not the right person to say what should have been done or shouldn’t have.”

“We are not happy about his injury, it comes at a bad moment. He wanted to play and help us but now he is out again, which is sad of course,” the Frenchman added further, before concluding:

“I hope when he’s back again he is completely fit. That’s what everyone wants and that’s it.”

Quotes via Mirror.

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Dries Mertens suffers bruised ankle after equalling Napoli record

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Dries Mertens suffered a bruised ankle in the Champions League draw against Barcelona after equalling Marek Hamsik’s goalscoring record for Napoli.

Mertens scored his 121st goal for Napoli in all competitions on Tuesday as the Italian side drew 1-1 with LaLiga champions Barca in the first leg of their last-16 tie.

The 32-year-old forward matched the record with a stunning 30th-minute opener at Stadio San Paolo, where Barca salvaged a draw thanks to Antoine Griezmann approaching the hour.

Mertens, who leapfrogged Diego Maradona (115) into second place on the all-time list in October, was substituted in the 54th minute at home to Lionel Messi’s Barcelona.

 

Afterwards, Napoli released a statement which read: “Dries Mertens sustained bruising to his right ankle during a collision which forced him to leave the pitch early in the second half of tonight’s match against Barcelona.”

Mertens joined Serie A side Napoli from PSV in 2013 and the Belgium international has flourished.

Of Mertens’ 121 goals, 90 have come in Serie A, with another 26 via European competition.

This term, Mertens – who is out of contract at the end of the season amid links to the likes of Inter and Chelsea – has scored 12 goals across all competitions for Napoli.

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Karl-Heinz Rummenigge’s birthday gift to Hansi Flick hints at Bayern Munich stay

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Karl-Heinz Rummenigge delivered a birthday present to Hansi Flick which suggested he will stay long-term as Bayern Munich coach.

Hansi Flick appears to have a long-term future as Bayern Munich head coach after a not-so-cryptic clue from CEO Karl-Heinze Rummenigge.

Bayern appointed Flick as interim boss following the dismissal of Niko Kovac in November and a month later announced he would stay in charge until the end of the season.

Under Flick, Bayern have returned to the top of the Bundesliga and a comprehensive 3-0 defeat of Chelsea in Tuesday’s Champions League last-16 first-leg tie at Stamford Bridge means they have one foot firmly in the quarter-finals.

Flick celebrated his 55th birthday a day before Bayern’s fixture in west London and received a gift at a banquet after the game from Rummenigge, who hinted it was a sign of an extended stay.

“Our coach turned 55 yesterday [Monday],” Rummenigge said.

“This is a good age. We’ll give you a pen in this red packet. Sometimes you sign papers with pens.”

 

He added: “Stay how you are. We are very, very happy with how the team is playing, as well as with the results and the football they are playing.”

Bayern have lost just twice in the Bundesliga under Flick and sit one point clear of RB Leipzig after 23 matches.

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