Fantasy Football: Hat-trick hero Messi leads Goal Champions League Team of the Week

Lionel Messi certainly started the 2018-19 Champions League with a bang! He scored the first goal of the competition this season and followed it up with two more for his eighth European hat-trick, taking the lead over one Cristiano Ronaldo. That performance obviously earned the Barcelona man a spot in our Goal Fantasy Team of the Week, where he is joined by the following players.


GK: Wojciech Szczesny – Juventus – 1 Game, 5 Saves (1 Penalty Save), 1 Clean Sheet = 14 Points

DEF: Nicolas Tagliaico – Ajax – 1 Game, 2 Goals, 1 Clean Sheet = 21 Points

Tagliafico had an incredible day, but it actually could have even better as he had a header denied by a fantastic reflex save from Vasilios Barkas. Add in the clean sheet kept by Ajax, and the defender grabs our first Player of the Week award for this Champions League season.

He has never scored more than a single goal in any competition he’s played in so no need to rush out and buy him, but it will be interesting to see how he performs against the big boys in his group.

DEF: Luke Shaw – Manchester United – 1 Game, 1 Assist, 1 Clean Sheet = 10 Points

Luke Shaw Manchester United 2018-19

DEF: Leonardo Bonucci – Juventus – 1 Game, 1 Assist, 1 Clean Sheet = 10 Points

MID: Paul Pogba – Manchester United – 1 Game, 2 Goals, 1 Assist = 17 Points

It’s hard to be more efficient than Pogba was on Wednesday as he shot twice and scored twice against Young Boys. He is also now tied for first in assists after round one. Admittedly it’s a 31-way tie, but it’s still nice to see Frenchman flash some creativity.

It will be interesting to see if United can put up this kind of performance against a tougher opponent in Valencia but, it’s tremendously unlikely that any Pogba owner will ship him out after this effort.

MID: Miralem Pjanic – Juventus – 1 Game, 2 Goals = 14 Points

Miralem Pjanic Valencia Juventus Champions League

MID: Nabil Fekir – Lyon – 1 Game, 1 Goal, 1 Assist = 11 Points

Not many people backed Lyon to get a result today which may explain why none of their players were owned in more than 6% of the Goal game. Those that gambled on Fekir were certainly rewarded with his goal and assist that helped the French side claim all three points.

The underlying stats from round one don’t really back Fekir to be able to keep this up, but that may just be a reflection of City’s defence. Next up he’ll face a Shakhtar defence who allowed the fourth most shots this week.

MID: Emre Akbaba – Galatasaray – 1 Game, 3 Assists = 11 Points

Emre Akbaba Vedran Corluka Galatasaray Lokomotiv Moscow 9182018 UCL

FOR: Lionel Messi – Barcelona – 1 Game, 3 Goals = 17 Points

We mentioned in the Expert’s XI that Messi was coming into this competition with far more momentum than Ronaldo and, hopefully, you listened.

The hat-trick was the Argentinan’s eighth in the Champions League which is the most in European history. Forget stats or matchups, Messi is, in every sense of the phrase, a must-own every match in the Goal game.

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FOR: Michael Krmencik – Viktoria Plzen – 1 Game, 2 Goals = 12 Points

FOR: Ousmane Dembele – Barcelona – 1 Game, 1 Goal, 1 Assist = 10 Points



Ronaldo red card ‘absurd’, says Pjanic

Miralem Pjanic labelled Cristiano Ronaldo’s red card “absurd” after the Juventus star was sent off in his team’s Champions League win over Valencia.

Ronaldo was dismissed before the half-hour mark at the Mestalla on Wednesday after a coming together with defender Jeison Murillo.

In his first European appearance for the Serie A giants, Ronaldo saw red, but Pjanic netted two penalties – and Dani Parejo missed one for Valencia – to see Juve to their win.

The Bosnia-Herzegovina midfielder felt his side were dominant early and he was shocked by Ronaldo’s red card.

“Football is a strange game. We could have been 4-0 up after the opening period, then came that absurd sending off,” Pjanic said, via the club’s website.

“It was like the Lyon game [in 2016]. We dug deep and found the spirit we needed to take us all the way to the final.

“That’s what we need to do again.”

Pjanic isn’t the only one to speak out regarding Ronaldo’s dismissal, as fellow Juventus star Leonardo Bonucci said the Portuguese star was left “angry” by his dismissal while the former Real Madrid winger’s sister came out in his defense as well. 

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Valencia boss Marcelino also revealed that a tearful Ronaldo insisted he did nothing wrong.

Ronaldo will be suspended for Juventus’ next Champions League match against Young Boys following Wednesday’s dismissal.

Juve and Manchester United, who cruised past Young Boys, are both on three points in Group H.


‘Ronaldo will do what he always does’ – Pjanic backing Portuguese to come good for Juventus

Cristiano Ronaldo will offer Juventus “what he’s always given at other clubs”, says Miralem Pjanic, with the Portuguese being backed to remain a prolific source of goals.

The Bianconeri stunned the football world over the summer when piecing together a €112 million (£101m/$130m) transfer package which lured a five-time Ballon d’Or winner away from Real Madrid.

Even at 33 years of age, the capture of Ronaldo was considered to be quite a coup for the Serie A champions.

He is yet to make the impact expected of him in Turin, with blanks drawn in two competitive outings to date, but Pjanic believes a man with over 600 career goals to his name will come good.

The Bosnian midfielder told reporters: “Cristiano’s added something to Juve.

“I must admit that he’s very good at shooting! He’ll give us so much and we’re very happy to have him with us.

“He’s showed himself to be the best in the world for the last few years. Having him with us is very important and we can only benefit from what he’ll give us.

“I hope he feels comfortable with us, but from what he’s said to us, he’s very happy to be here, so we hope that in the future, like he’s always done, he gives us what he’s always given at other clubs.”

While Ronaldo is yet to open his account for Juve, Massimiliano Allegri’s side have made a faultless start to their 2018-19 campaign.

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Back-to-back victories have been secured over Chievo and Lazio, with the Bianconeri once again displaying their battling qualities.

Their next outing is set to take them to Parma on Saturday, with that contest offering Ronaldo another opportunity to break his duck.

By the time they take to the field in that contest, Juve will also be aware of their opponents for the group stage of this season’s Champions League – with the draw set to be held in Monaco on Thursday.


Pjanic signs five-year contract extension at Juventus

Juventus have confirmed that midfield lynchpin Miralem Pjanic has signed a new deal that will keep the midfielder in Turin until June 2023.

The Bosnia and Herzegovina international had been linked with a move away from the Allianz Stadium but has instead penned a new deal that will keep him with the Serie A champions for another five years.

The 28-year-old joined from rivals Roma in 2016 and is a two-time winner of the Scudetto and the Coppa Italia during his tenure in Turin.

He made 44 appearances last season as Juventus reached the quarter-finals of the Champions League, scoring seven goals.

Having begun his career at Ligue 1 outfit Metz, Pjanic transferred to fellow French top-flight club Lyon where he made featured for them 121 times.

He moved to Roma in August 2011 where he established himself as a key player, topping the assist chart two seasons in a row, in the 2014-15 and 2015-16 campaigns.

Those performances brought him to the attention of Juve, whom he joined for the fee of €32 million (£29m/$37m), taking the number five shirt.

His impressive performances, both home and abroad, had seen him capture the interest of various European clubs, with Paris Saint-Germain, Manchester City, Barcelona and Chelsea all linked to his signature.

However, his new five-year deal will keep him locked in at Juve for the foreseeable future, as the club pursue an eighth consecutive league title.

In the international arena, Pjanic initially represented Luxembourg at U17 and U19 level, after he spent his childhood there following the outbreak of the Bosnian war.

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However, after receiving a Bosnian passport in 2008, he switched allegiances to Bosnia and Herzegovina, for whom he has won 79 caps, ranking fifth on the team’s all-time appearance chart.

He was a member of their squad for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, their only major tournament to date, and scored in their only win of the competition, a 3-1 victory against Iran.

Juventus kicked off their title defence with a 3-2 win over Chievo and next face Lazio at home on August 25.


No Pjanic buys for Guardiola as Man City boss hints at end to additions

Pep Guardiola has ruled out Manchester City making a move for Juventus midfielder Miralem Pjanic and suggested that his summer spending could already be at an end.

The reigning Premier League champions required no major restructuring on the back of a record-breaking campaign and it may be that only minor tweaks are made.

Riyad Mahrez has been acquired from Leicester for a club-record £60 million ($79m), but that could be the only movement in the arrivals lounge at the Etihad Stadium.

Pjanic certainly will not be making his way to England, as previously revealed by Goal, with Guardiola quick to quash those rumours as he weighs up his options.

He told reporters: “No, Pjanic is a player of Juventus in Turin.

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“We are not interested in Pjanic. Saying that, he is a top player but we are not interested.

“We’ll see, we still have a few weeks to decide [if we want to bring players in].

“Maybe one will come, maybe not, we’ll see, but at the moment we have a good enough squad. We can handle players in different positions and we’ll see in the last days – we’ll decide to buy one player or wait till next season.

“The scouting department are always looking for players in all positions. In the holding midfield position we don’t have less players because Fernandinho is still there one more year, [Ilkay] Gundogan can play there, Fabian Delph can play there. Oleksander Zinchenko, if he stays, can play there, we have players can play that position.”

City are currently on International Champions Cup duty and Guardiola believes that whatever they achieve across all competitions this season, they will struggle to replicate their efforts from 2017-18.

He added: “We are not going to break any more records in the Premier League, it is impossible… it is almost impossible.

“I have to see the faces of my players in the next two weeks when they are together because we are here without 15 players. When we come back we have four or five days to prepare for [the Community Shield] against Chelsea and we are going to see their faces.

“The target is win the next game and how to prepare to win the game, that is the target. The records we took last season was a consequence of what we’ve done every single day. That is the point.

“If we are going to compare November, December, January, comparing the position, we are going to lose all the comparisons with what we have done last season.”

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City are set to face domestic rivals Liverpool in ICC competition on Thursday, with Guardiola expecting the Reds to post a serious threat to his Premier League crown after a big summer spend.

He said: “The contenders to win the title? We are one of them and there are many.

“Always, Liverpool is a contender. With the beautiful history they have they will always be a contender to win the Premier League.”