Euro round-up: Mane suffers WC scare | Pique sent off in final game

Sadio Mane suffered an injury scare less than two weeks before the start of the World Cup after being forced off during Bayern Munich’s 6-1 demolition of Werder Bremen.

Mane limped off with a leg injury after just 20 minutes of the game, with only 13 days to go before Senegal’s opening match of the tournament against the Netherlands.

But champions Bayern put that blow behind them to thrash Werder and open up a four-point lead at the top of the Bundesliga.

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Highlights of the Bundesliga match between Bayern Munich and Werder Bremen

Bayern’s goalscoring began in the sixth minute when in-form Germany international Jamal Musiala showed outstanding composure to pick up the ball in the box, sidestep an opponent and slot home with his left foot.

The visitors struck against the run of play only four minutes later, with Anthony Jung wrongfooting goalkeeper Manuel Neuer with a low shot, but Bayern’s pressure was relentless and they went on to score three times in six dizzying minutes to kill off the game.

Gnabry curled in a superb shot in the 22nd minute before fellow Germany international Leon Goretzka added another four minutes later. Gnabry then tapped in his second goal of the evening in the 28th minute from a perfect Leroy Sane assist as Werder were unable to stop Bayern’s runs through the centre.

Gnabry then bagged his hat-trick in the 82nd minute after weaving past four Werder players before France youth international Mathys Tel made it half a dozen goals for Bayern with a solo effort two minutes later.

There was joy for Bayern earlier in the evening when rivals Borussia Dortmund suffered a 2-0 defeat at Wolfsburg, who stretched their unbeaten run to seven matches.

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Highlights of the Bundesliga match between Wolfsburg and Borussia Dortmund

The hosts shot out of the blocks, forcing a good save from Gregor Kobel in the third minute before Micky van de Ven nodded in at the far post from a corner three minutes later.

Wolfsburg, who had managed just one point against Dortmund in their last 14 league matches prior to Tuesday, sealed their first win over Dortmund in seven years with a Lukas Nmecha tap-in in stoppage time.

The results leaves Dortmund fourth in the Bundesliga – six points behind leaders Bayern – while Wolfsburg are eighth, one place below Werder Bremen.

Lukas Nmecha and Wolfburg team-mates celebrate
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Lukas Nmecha (centre) and Wolfburg team-mates celebrate his late goal

Barca fight back after Pique and Lewandowski reds

Barcelona fought back to win 2-1 at Osasuna despite Robert Lewandowski and Gerard Pique – in his final match before retirement – receiving red cards.

Second-half goals from Pedri and Raphinha rescued Xavi’s side after David Garcia had headed Osasuna into the lead from a corner in the sixth minute.

Lewandowski saw red following a second booking in the 31st minute, after which Pique – who was on the bench – was also dismissed after complaining to the referee at half-time.

Yet Pedri equalised from a rebound right after the break and Raphinha came off the bench to score Barca’s winner five minutes from time with a brilliant dipping header from outside the box that looped into the net.

The result means Barcelona go into the World Cup break top of La Liga, five points ahead of second-placed Real Madrid, who host second-bottom Cadiz on Thursday. Osasuna are sixth.

Napoli extend lead after Milan stumble

Napoli's Hirving Lozano celebrates with teammates after scoring the first goal of the game during the Italian Serie A soccer match between Napoli and Empoli at the Diego Armando Maradona stadium in Naples, Italy, Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2022. (Alessandro Garofalo/LaPresse via AP)
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Hirving Lozano (second right) celebrates with team-mates after scoring Napoli’s first

Serie A leaders Napoli extended their winning streak to 10 games and their lead at the top of Serie A to eight points when they beat visitors Empoli 2-0 thanks to a goal and an assist from substitute Hirving Lozano.

The sides were locked at 0-0 at half-time despite the hosts dominating the first 45 minutes, while Empoli never came close to any real chances.

Napoli finally broke the deadlock when Lozano converted a penalty in the 70th minute after Razvan Marin tripped Victor Osimhen inside the box.

Empoli’s luck had clearly run out when Sebastiano Luperto was sent off after picking up a second yellow card for tripping Lozano in the 74th minute.

Lozano then crossed for Piotr Zielinski, who found the net with one touch in the 88th minute.

Meanwhile, second-placed AC Milan were held to a 0-0 draw at Cremonese as Stefano Pioli’s men wasted several clear-cut chances.

Milan's Junior Messias, left, and Cremonese's Emanuele Valeri battle for the ball during the Italian Serie A soccer match between Cremonese and AC Milan at the Zini Stadium in Cremona, Italy, Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2022. (Spada/LaPresse via AP)
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Junior Messias and co were unable to help Milan to a win

Brahim Diaz, Ante Rebic and Divock Origi all missed opportunities for the champions, while Cremonese could have snatched victory four minutes into stoppage time when Cristian Buonaiuto shot straight at Ciprian Tatarusanu.

Milan lie second in the standings, eight adrift of leaders Napoli, while Empoli are 14th and Cremonese are 18th, two points from safety.

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Man Utd face Barcelona in EL play-off | Xavi: A massive task

Manchester United will face Barcelona in their Europa League play-off in February, while Jose Mourinho’s Roma will take on RB Salzburg.

Xavi’s side dropped into the competition after finishing third in their Champions League group, while Man Utd lost out on top spot to Real Sociedad.

Reacting to the draw, Barcelona manager Xavi said: “We will have to compete, going to Manchester against a really top rival and a historic side which has grown a lot with the arrival of (Erik) Ten Hag.

“[They have] great individual players and it is the toughest rival once again in the Europa League.

“We will have time to analyse it, they are a strong team in both defence and attack, not just for Cristiano Ronaldo, but other players [too]. Manchester United are a historic club and they also need to win. Two big teams and it’s going to be a massive task.”

The two sides have faced each other 13 times in European competition, although Man Utd have only won three of these meetings. The last came in April 2008 with Man Utd winning 1-0 on aggregate in the Champions League semi-finals.

After a goalless draw at the Nou Camp, Paul Scholes’ 14th-minute winner at Old Trafford knocked Barcelona out. Man Utd would go on to win the competition that year, beating Chelsea on penalties in the final.

But Barcelona have won each of the last four meetings, including two Champions League finals. They were 2-0 winners at the Stadio Olimpico in May 2009 and beat Man Utd 3-1 at Wembley two years later.

Their last European match-up was in the 2018/19 quarter-finals with Barcelona winning 4-0 on aggregate.

It is also a chance for Cristiano Ronaldo to face off against his former El Clasico rival. The ex-Real Madrid player has scored 20 goals in 34 career appearances against Barcelona, although has never managed to do so for Man Utd.

Man United’s busy February schedule

  • February 11/12: Leeds vs Man Utd
  • February 16: Barcelona vs Man Utd
  • February 19/20: Man Utd vs Leicester
  • February 23: Man Utd vs Barcelona
  • February 26/27: Man Utd vs Brentford

The Europa League play-off comes in the middle of a busy February for Man Utd, who also face Leeds, Leicester and Brentford in the Premier League.

Elsewhere, Jose Mourinho’s Roma will face RB Salzburg with the possibility of being drawn against his former Man Utd side if both teams qualify for the last 16.

Fellow Serie A side Juventus will take on Nantes, Sevilla – six-time winners of the Europa League – will face PSV Eindhoven and Ten Hag’s former team Ajax will take on Bundesliga side Union Berlin.

Europa League play-off fixtures in full

  • Barcelona vs Man Utd
  • Juventus vs Nantes
  • Sporting Lisbon vs FC Midtjylland
  • Shakhtar Donetsk vs Rennes
  • Ajax vs Union Berlin
  • Bayer Leverkusen vs Monaco
  • Sevilla vs PSV Eindhoven
  • RB Salzburg vs Roma

‘This is not Barcelona of old’

Stephen Warnock on Sky Sports News:

“It’s what we want to see as neutrals. You want to see the best teams going up against each other. They are great spectacles.

“Man Utd will fancy their chances. This isn’t a Barcelona of old.

“They are still struggling and haven’t got the quality and personnel that you would think would challenge for the top honours.”

‘Lewandowski a big challenge for Man Utd’

Barcelona thrashed Valladolid 4-0 with Robert Lewandowski on target again
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Robert Lewandowski will pose an issue for Man Utd, says Sue Smith

Sue Smith on Sky Sports News:

“Robert Lewandowski will certainly fancy his chances against Man Utd’s defence.

“It’s a big challenge for Man Utd and a big challenge for their defenders coming up against a player in Lewandowski who we know is absolutely brilliant in front of goal.”

When will the games be played?

The first legs of the last play-off round will be played on February 16, 2023, before the return legs a week later.

When will Arsenal learn last-16 opponents?

Arsenal’s automatic progression to the last 16 of this season’s Europa League means they will have to wait for the conclusion of the play-off round before learning who they will face next in the competition.

The draw for the last 16 of the Europa League will take place on February 24, 2023, a day after the play-off second legs, with the last-16 ties held on March 9 and March 16 respectively.

Europa League key dates

  • Play-off ties: February 16 and February 23
  • Last-16 draw: February 24
  • Last-16 ties: March 9 and March 16
  • Quarter-final and semi-final draw: March 17
  • Quarter-final ties: April 13 and April 20
  • Semi-final ties: May 11 and May 18
  • Final: May 31 at the Puskas Arena in Budapest, Hungary

Europa Conference League – Lazio face Cluj as Fiorentina take on Braga

In the Europa Conference League play-off draw, Lazio were drawn against Cluj while fellow Serie A side Fiorentina will face Braga.

Anderlecht – formerly managed by Burnley boss Vincent Kompany – will face Ludogorets while Basel take on Trabzonspor for a place in the last-16.

The Premier League’s only representative – West Ham – won their group and are automatically into the round of 16 draw, which will take place in February.

Europa Conference League play-off fixtures in full

  • Qarabag vs Gent
  • Trabzonspor vs Basel
  • Lazio vs Cluj
  • Bodo/Glimt vs Lech Poznan
  • Braga vs Fiorentina
  • AEK Larnaca vs Dnipro-1
  • Sheriff Tiraspol vs FK Partizan
  • Ludogorets vs Anderlecht

When will the games be played?

The first legs of the last play-off round will be played on February 16, 2023, before the return legs a week later.

When will West Ham learn last-16 opponents?

West Ham will be in the Europa Conference League
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West Ham went straight into the Europa Conference League last 16 as group winners

West Ham’s automatic progression to the last 16 of this season’s Europa Conference League means they will have to wait for the conclusion of the play-off round before learning who they will face next in the competition.

The draw for the last 16 of the Europa Conference League will take place on February 24, 2023, a day after the play-off second legs, with the last-16 ties held on March 9 and March 16 respectively.

Europa Conference League key dates

  • Play-off ties: February 16 and February 23
  • Last-16 draw: February 24
  • Last-16 ties: March 9 and March 16
  • Quarter-final and semi-final draw: March 17
  • Quarter-final ties: April 13 and April 20
  • Semi-final ties: May 11 and May 18
  • Final: June 7 at the Eden Arena in Prague, Czech Republic

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Pique to retire after final Barcelona game at weekend

Gerard Pique has announced his retirement from professional football and says his final game will be Barcelona’s match against Almeria at the Nou Camp on Saturday.

The 35-year-old, a three-time Champions League and eight-time La Liga winner with boyhood club Barcelona, revealed the news in a video message posted on his social media.

“Football has given me everything,” he said. “Barcelona has given me everything. You, culers (Barcelona fans), have given me everything.

“And now that [this] kid’s dreams have come true, I want to tell you that I’ve decided that now is the time to bring this journey to its end.”

Pique, who won 102 caps for Spain and helped them to victory in the 2010 World Cup, has become a peripheral figure for Barcelona this season, making only five starts.

However, the former Manchester United defender wants his boyhood club to be his last, saying: “I’ve always said that there would not be any other team after Barca and that’s how it will be.”

Pique finished his statement by hinting at a future return to the club in a non-playing capacity.

“This Saturday’s game will be my last at Camp Nou,” he said. “I will become a regular fan. I will support the team. I will pass my love for Barcelona to my children.

“And you know me – sooner or later, I’ll be back.”

Gerard Pique’s major trophies

  • English League Cup – 2006
  • Premier League – 2008
  • Champions League – 2008 (Man Utd), 2009, 2011, 2015 (Barcelona)
  • La Liga – 2009, 2010, 2011, 2013, 2015, 2016, 2018, 2019
  • Copa del Rey – 2009, 2012, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2021
  • European Super Cup – 2009, 2011, 2015
  • Club World Cup – 2009, 2011, 2015
  • World Cup – 2010
  • European Championship – 2012

‘A Barca member since birth’

Following his decision to bring his playing career to an end, Barcelona described Pique – who was born in the city and whose grandfather was on the club’s board – as a “member since birth”.

He came through the famed La Masia academy but made his debut for United in 2004 after moving to Old Trafford as a 17-year-old earlier that year.

Pique won the League Cup, Premier League and Champions League under Sir Alex Ferguson but made only 23 appearances during his four-year spell in England and eventually returned to Barcelona under the newly-appointed Pep Guardiola.

Spain's Gerard Pique kiss the trophy at the end of the Euro 2012 soccer championship final between Spain and Italy in Kiev, Ukraine, Sunday, July 1, 2012. Spain won 4-0. (AP Photo/Antonio Calanni)
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Gerard Pique celebrates winning Euro 2012 with Spain

Under the former Barca midfielder, Pique became a key player for the club he supports, helping them to three La Liga titles and two Copa del Reys, plus two Champions League titles, two European Super Cup wins and victory in two Club World Cups.

Pique remained a vital member of the Barcelona side following Guardiola’s exit, winning another 13 major trophies in the 11 years since the manager left the club.

The 35-year-old was also central to Spain’s success and played every minute of the 2010 World Cup final win over the Netherlands and the 2012 Euros victory against Italy, before ending his international career after the 2018 World Cup.

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‘Complete failure’ on ‘night of terror’ for Barcelona

Barcelona crashed out of the Champions League in humiliating fashion on Wednesday, losing 3-0 at home to Bayern Munich after Inter Milan’s 4-0 victory over Viktoria Plzen had sealed their fate.

The 3-0 loss at Camp Nou left Xavi’s side with just four points from five games in Group C, six points behind second-placed Inter, ensuring they will drop into the Europa League.

It is the second season in a row in which five-time winners Barcelona have failed to make the Champions League last-16 having previously done it for 17 successive seasons.

This time, though, it could prove even more damaging. Barcelona spent upwards of £130m on new signings in the summer, including the £40m Robert Lewandowski, and their budget for the season factored in a run to the Champions League quarter-finals.

‘The dream has vanished’ – Spanish papers react

Barcelona’s meek exit from the competition prompted an angry reaction from Spain’s sports newspapers, with Catalan daily Sport labelling it a “complete failure”.

Their front page describes the 3-0 loss to Bayern Munich, in which Barcelona didn’t even register a shot on target, as “the saddest game”. The prospect of winning the Europa League “is absolutely no consolation to anybody,” writes journalist Sergi Capdevila.

Mundo Deportivo is similarly downbeat, carrying the words ‘ciao’ and ‘kaput’ on its front page above an image of Sergio Busquets kneeling on the pitch with his head bowed, and describing Barcelona as “victims of their own ineffectiveness”.

“For now,” writes Joan Poqui in his match report from Camp Nou, “Barcelona’s return to European greatness is a dream.” Columnist Santi Nolla, meanwhile, writes: “It is simply a failure.”

Joan Laporta, the club’s returning president, “needed to succeed quickly”, adds Nolla.

“He used the sale of assets to form a squad that could get through the group stage. He was not asked to win the Champions League, but certainly to reach the next phase.

“They can still win La Liga, the Copa del Rey and the Europa League, but the great dream has vanished. Barcelona is not ready to compete with the big teams in Europe.”

Elsewhere, L’Esportiu uses the word “penance” on its front page, describing Barcelona as “impotent and incapable of competing with Europe’s elite”.

The Madrid based AS, meanwhile, describes the evening’s events as a “night of terror”, referencing Barcelona’s exit jointly with that of their La Liga counterparts Atletico Madrid, who also crashed out with a 2-2 draw against Bayer Leverkusen in which they missed a penalty deep in stoppage time.

“A nightmare with no end,” writes journalist Santi Gimenez, describing Barcelona’s exit as a “total failure” which ranks as the club’s worst “for a quarter of a century”.

Xavi: Barcelona exit ‘cruel’ | Pedri: It’s a failure

Head coach Xavi described Barcelona’s exit as “cruel”, saying after the game: “We were not at Bayern’s level today. They were better. In Munich we were ourselves, but today they were better, intense.

“The elimination before the game affected us psychologically. Now we train again tomorrow and think about La Liga.

“There were a lot of expectations, but we got a tough group. All sorts has happened to us in the group stage. It has been cruel on us, but we did not compete well today.

“I have said that we have to be united, tackle the situation head on. We have been knocked out of the Champions League but the season does not end in October. There are other competitions.”

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Porto were in jubilant mood after Atletico Madrid’s late penalty miss ensured they reached the knockout stages of the Champions League yet again

Midfielder Pedri added: “Of course, it’s a failure. Barca have to get out of the group and we haven’t because we didn’t deserve to continue in the Champions League.

“We are a very young team, with a lot of room for improvement, we have made great signings, but it has not been enough for us enough to compete in the Champions League and it’s a great disappointment.

“We lack many things, but we have to be self-critical. It is true that in Munich we deserved more, in Milan there were a couple of circumstances… but after seeing what happened today it is clear that we are not prepared to compete in the Champions League.”

Sharma: Wage bill is Barca’s big issue

Barcelona’s huge wage bill is a bigger financial threat to the club than exiting the Champions League at the group stage, according to Spanish football journalist Rik Sharma.

“Almost surprisingly, being knocked out now rather than in the quarter-finals is only around 20 million euros worth of difference for Barcelona in terms of prize money, plus a little bit extra in terms of television revenue and potential sell-out crowds,” Sharma said on Sky Sports News.

“So, if they can get to the Europa League final, it won’t end up being too different. That doesn’t mean that the club aren’t still in big financial trouble. They very much are.

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Spanish football correspondent Rik Sharma says Barcelona need to offload some players on big wages, including the likes of Sergio Busquets and Gerard Pique

“But the Champions League elimination isn’t really the key factor in that, it’s the massive wage bill they’ve got.

“The big issue for Barcelona, financially, is getting rid of players like Jordi Alba, Sergio Busquets, Gerard Pique, even Frenkie de Jong, who they tried to move on in the summer.

“They all have really big contracts that are worth more than the difference of not making it to the quarter-finals of the Champions League.

“That said, it’s not helpful to not get that extra income. But the 20 million-or-so euros isn’t the thing that’s going to ruin Barcelona. They are in much deeper trouble than that already.”

What now for Barca? Man Utd play-off possible

Barcelona will have to contest a Europa League round of 32 play-off in order to qualify for the last 16, facing one of the teams who finish the Europa League group stage as runners-up.

The play-off will be played over two legs on February 16 and February 23, with the draw taking place prior to the start of the World Cup on November 7.

Barcelona cannot be drawn against another Spanish team in that round, and their possible opponents will change depending on what happens in the remaining two rounds of Europa League group stage games.

Robert Lewandowski joined Barcelona for £40m in the summer
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Robert Lewandowski joined Barcelona for £40m in the summer

But as things stand, the sides currently sitting second in their groups are PSV Eindhoven, Rennes, Ludogorets, Braga, Manchester United, Midtyjylland, Qarabag and Trabzonspor.

Other sides who may yet finish second in their groups include Arsenal, Fenerbahce, Roma, Lazio and Monaco.

Barcelona would be ineligible to face Spanish rivals Real Betis or Real Sociedad, who currently top groups C and E respectively.

Other giants dropping into Europa League

Barcelona are not the only European giant who could drop into the Europa League.

Juventus sit third in Champions League Group H having only taken three points from five games, needing to secure a better result against group leaders Paris Saint-Germain than Maccabi Haifa manage against Benfica in the final round of games in order to avoid dropping out of Europe altogether.

Juventus suffered a 4-3 loss to Benfica on Tuesday
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Juventus suffered a 4-3 loss to Benfica on Tuesday

Atletico Madrid are in a similar position to Juventus in Group B, albeit a point ahead of bottom-side Leverkusen, who face surprise leaders Club Brugge in the final game while Diego Simeone’s men take on second-placed Porto.

Ajax and Sevilla, currently sitting third in groups A and G respectively, are also set to drop into the Europa League, while the play-off draw may yet contain Tottenham who sit top of Group D but with only two points separating them from bottom side Marseille ahead of the final round of games.

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