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Championship fixtures 2019-20: Middlesbrough visit Luton Town on opening night


Marcelo Bielsa’s Leeds United visit Bristol City in their opening Championship game on Sunday, 4 August

Jonathan Woodgate’s Middlesbrough will play Championship new boys Luton Town in the opening match of the 2019-20 English Football League season.

Boro, who appointed Woodgate as head coach last week, visit Kenilworth Road on Friday, 2 August (19:45 BST).

Slaven Bilic’s first game as West Brom boss is against Nottingham Forest in Saturday’s 17:30 kick-off, while Bristol City host Leeds on the Sunday.

Huddersfield visit play-off final losers Derby on Monday, 5 August.

But it is not yet certain whether Frank Lampard, whose side were beaten by Aston Villa at Wembley, will still be in charge of the Rams for that opening game.

The former Chelsea midfielder is the favourite to replace Maurizio Sarri as Blues boss after the Italian left Stamford Bridge to take charge of Juventus.

Chelsea have yet to approach Derby, with the Championship side opening talks with Lampard over a new contract.

Relegated Premier League clubs Cardiff City and Fulham, who appointed Scott Parker as manager on a full-time basis in May, face opening-day trips to Wigan Athletic and Barnsley respectively.

Birmingham City, who sacked boss Garry Monk on Tuesday, travel to Brentford, with League One side Coventry City groundsharing at St Andrew’s next season.

Opening Championship fixtures

Friday, 2 August

  • Luton Town v Middlesbrough (19:45 BST)

Saturday, 3 August, 15:00 BST kick-off unless stated

  • Barnsley v Fulham
  • Blackburn Rovers v Charlton Athletic
  • Brentford v Birmingham City
  • Millwall v Preston North End
  • Reading v Sheffield Wednesday
  • Stoke City v Queens Park Rangers
  • Swansea City v Hull City
  • Wigan Athletic v Cardiff City
  • Nottingham Forest v West Bromwich Albion (17:30 BST)

Sunday, 4 August

  • Bristol City v Leeds United (16:30 BST)

Monday, 5 August

  • Huddersfield Town v Derby County (19:45 BST)

A blockbuster opening weekend

The first weekend of the EFL season always throws up numerous eye-catching stories and sub-plots – and the 2019-20 season will be no different.

Eight Championship sides will be led out by new managers, including Woodgate at Middlesbrough and Graeme Jones at Luton Town on the opening night of the campaign.

Mark Warburton’s first game as Queens Park Rangers boss is at Stoke City, while Steve Cooper takes charge of Swansea City for the first time against Hull City, who have yet to appoint a successor to Nigel Adkins.

Lee Bowyer signed a new contract with Charlton earlier this week – but only after it appeared as though he was set to leave the League One play-off winners

Charlton Athletic, who travel to Blackburn Rovers, had looked likely to join the band of second-tier clubs with new managers earlier this week.

The newly promoted Addicks announced on Monday that contract talks with Lee Bowyer had stalled, only for a dramatic turnaround when the former Leeds midfielder signed a new contract the following day.

One of the other standout fixtures of the opening weekend will be at Ashton Gate, where Marcelo Bielsa’s beaten play-off semi-finalists Leeds meet fellow promotion hopefuls Bristol City, whose head coach Lee Johnson has promised a “bold” summer transfer window.

Renewed rivalries

The south Wales derby will make a return in 2019-20, with Cardiff set to face Swansea for the first time in five years when they play at the Liberty Stadium on 26 October.

On the same day, QPR host Brentford in one of several London derbies, a game stoked by the fact former Bees boss Warburton is now in charge of Rangers.

Stoke manager Nathan Jones will come up against his former side Luton for the first time on 10 December, with the Welshman’s first trip back to Kenilworth Road set for 29 February.

Leeds and Derby, who famously clashed over the ‘Spygate’ saga before then meeting in the play-offs, face one another on 21 September.

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Spurs advance in classic European night as Man City


MANCHESTER, England –It was Pep Guardiola’s Jose Mourinho moment. A late, dramatic winner in a Champions League tie, followed by the victorious manager sprinting down the touchline to celebrate wildly with his players.

But then, in the flash of a video screen, it wasn’t.

The Etihad Stadium went from raucous noise to mournful silence as Raheem Sterling’s 93rd-minute hat-trick goal, Manchester City’s fifth on the night, was ruled out — correctly — following a VAR review that ruled that Sergio Aguero had been offside at the beginning of the move for the goal. It was a tight call, but it was the right one, and Guardiola was forced to sheepishly retreat back to his bench, knowing that his team had just two more minutes to score again to claim the crucial goal required to eliminate Tottenham and reach the semifinals.

Back in 2004, there was no such pin-pricking of Mourinho’s balloon as he celebrated Porto’s late winner at Manchester United — a goal that propelled the Portuguese club to Champions League glory that season. But on this occasion, it was like Guardiola had been abruptly woken from a dream to find himself in a living nightmare. City could not score again and Spurs went through on away goals, with the score tied 4-4 on aggregate.

“It is cruel,” Guardiola said. “But it is what it is and we have to accept it.”

Once again, City had fallen short in the Champions League. Once again, Guardiola had failed to take his team to the final, having now not done so since guiding Barcelona to victory against Manchester United in the 2011 final at Wembley.

But such was the drama of this quarterfinal second leg in Manchester that the events in stoppage time were only a small element of the story of the tie.

Manchester United Foundation Participant Poppy To Be Mascot For United V Liverpool
Tottenham eked past Man City and into the Champions League semifinals in an instant classic at the Etihad.

The damage was done to City in the first leg, when Spurs won 1-0 after Aguero had missed a penalty — awarded by VAR — inside the first 10 minutes. It was also a night that saw Harry Kane suffer the ankle injury that threatens to rule him out for the rest of the season and, potentially, the Champions League final.

Yet what happened in the first leg was only a taster of what was to come at the Etihad on a night of football madness: a pulsating encounter that will go down as a Champions League classic.

City went ahead inside four minutes, levelling the tie on aggregate, when Sterling curled past goalkeeper Hugo Lloris from 12 yards. The Etihad erupted, but within five minutes, the home side were 2-1 down with Son Heung-Min — scorer of the only goal in the first leg — netting twice on the counterattack.

City now needed to score three more times without response to stay in the Champions League and keep their Quadruple dream alive. Bernardo Silva pulled one backone within two minutes of Son’s second to make it 2-2, and it was then 3-2 on 21 minutes after Sterling converted Kevin De Bruyne’s cross at the far post.

Just let that sink in: 3-2 after 21 minutes. This was video-game football, attack versus defence, with attack winning every time. Sterling and Son were running riot, terrorising their direct opponents whenever they had the ball, while De Bruyne was also producing his best performance of the season.

But at 3-2, City needed one more goal to go through, and nobody scores more late goals than Manchester City. And the loss of injured Spurs midfielder Moussa Sissoko on 41 minutes, which forced Mauricio Pochettino to change his formation by introducing Fernando Llorente as a lonea striker, appeared to play into City’s hands.

Spurs were now light in midfield and had lost their biggest strength — pace on the counter — and they began to ship water as the second half progressed. City pushed them deeper and deeper towards their own goal, and the pressure told when Aguero scored from De Bruyne’s pass on 59 minutes to put Guardiola’s team ahead for the first time in the tie.

Rather than sit back and play the game out, City went for the kill. One more goal would surely finish Spurs off.

But it didn’t come, and then came the first crucial VAR intervention, when Llorente deflected in Kieran Trippier’s corner before Turkish referee Cuneyt Cakir was called to review it on the video screen by VAR. Cakir took an age, reviewing numerous angles before shrugging his shoulders and awarding the goal, judging that the ball went in off Llorente’s hip rather than his hand. It was the right call.

But City still had 17 minutes plus stoppage time to tilt the pendulum back in their favour, and they pushed once again, pouring forward and targeting the byline. The clock ticked on, into stoppage time, until Christian Eriksen’s loss of possession gifted the ball to Aguero, who laid it off for Sterling to score.

Guardiola sprinted to celebrate and the Etihad went wild, but VAR had one more card to play. Bernardo Silva’s outstretched leg had diverted the ball towards Aguero and the cold, emotionless VAR once again called a big decision correctly: Aguero was offside and the goal would not count.

City would not win and the Quadruple dream was over, for another year at least. The Champions League, the biggest prize of all, continues to elude City’s owner, Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed al Nahyan.

It is Spurs who march on, with a semifinal looming against Ajax — a tie they will expect to win, even without Kane and Son, the latter will miss the first leg through suspension. Pochettino is eyeing Champions League glory, not Guardiola, but the Spurs coach insisted it was all down to his players.

“My players are heroes, making the semifinal, making history,” he said. “I am so proud of them. This team has such strong mentality that all is possible.

“But to reach a semifinal in the Champions League, you need fate, good spirit, lots of preparation in preseason. It is a long time ago that we started to build this achievement.”

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He had a magical night: Messi hails Ronaldo’s Champions League hat-trick

Lionel Messi saluted Cristiano Ronaldo’s efforts from the previous night after producing a superb display of his own in Barcelona’s thrashing of Lyon on Wednesday.

Messi scored two goals and set up two more at the Nou Camp as Barca triumphed 5-1 against the French side in their Champions League last-16 second leg, three weeks on from leg one ending goalless.

On Tuesday, his old rival Ronaldo’s hat-trick secured Juventus a 3-0 win over Atletico Madrid for a 3-2 victory on aggregate.

Messi was quoted by Marca as saying after the Lyon game: “What Cristiano Ronaldo and Juventus did was impressive.

“I thought Atletico Madrid would be tougher. Ronaldo had a magical night with three goals.”

Regarding Friday’s draw for the quarter and semi-finals, Messi added: “All of the opponents are complicated.

“Ajax (who beat Real Madrid in the last 16), for example, showed that they’re an amazing team of youngsters and they don’t fear anyone.

“It’ll be difficult no matter who we face. We have to prepare ourselves for a tough challenge.”

QUARTERFINAL POLL: Who do you want to face in the next round?👇👇👇https://t.co/0UlA3NsdEApic.twitter.com/bGAhdwyW30

— FC Barcelona (@FCBarcelona)March 13, 2019

Barcelona boss Ernesto Valverde was quoted as saying in his post-match press conference: “We’re all very focused on this competition and Messi is too. He played an incredible match.”

Valverde also echoed Messi’s sentiments with regard to the draw.

“It’s impossible to look at just one team,” he said. “We’ve all done well to get through. We’ll see who we will play, but any opponent will be complicated.”

Messi opened the scoring with a 17th-minute Panenka-style penalty, and Philippe Coutinho then made it 2-0 just after the half-hour mark.

Lucas Tousart pulled a goal back for Lyon in the 58th minute, before Messi added his second in the 78th and then teed up Gerard Pique and substitute Ousmane Dembele.

Your 2018/19#UCLquarter-finalists 🙌


Who are you backing to lift the 🏆?pic.twitter.com/dLLjJCEGq8

— UEFA Champions League (@ChampionsLeague)March 13, 2019

Luis Suarez won the penalty when he went down in the area when challenged by Jason Denayer. Referee Szymon Marciniak pointed to the spot and Messi then coolly converted after the incident was checked by VAR.

Marca reported that Suarez said in an interview with Movistar Plus: “I think I accidentally stepped on him (Denayer) and I think that unbalanced me a little. The referee can decide to give it or not.”

Meanwhile, Lyon boss Bruno Genesio described Messi as a “genius.”

Manchester United v Juventus – UEFA Champions League – Group H – Old Trafford
Juventus’ Cristiano Ronaldo scored three times against Atletico Madrid (Martin Rickett/PA)

Genesio said in quotes on his club’s official website: “I saw a first period where we suffered a lot. Barca put enormous pressure on us, which we did not know how to answer.

“In the second half, we had a better time. We were able to recover the ball higher, posed problems and reduced the score.

“Unfortunately, Barca scored their third goal at that moment. It hurt us a lot and it boosted Barca’s spirits.

“When Messi is at such a level, he is almost unstoppable. He is one of the best players of all time, a genius.”

Lyon goalkeeper Anthony Lopes was hurt in a collision with Coutinho while the score was 1-0 and received lengthy treatment before continuing, only to then be substituted for Mathieu Gorgelin shortly after the Brazilian made it 2-0.

Genesio said: “Antho (Lopes) had lost consciousness at the time but did not want to go out. Finally, the doctor asked me to take him out so as not to take any chances.”

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Messi hails Ronaldo’s ‘magical’ night for Juventus after Barcelona win

Manchester United Foundation Participant Poppy To Be Mascot For United V Liverpool
Craig Burley refuses to name Barcelona Champions League favourites after their big win over Lyon, due to their defensive inconsistency.

Lionel Messi praised Cristiano Ronaldo‘s “magical” performance for Juventus against Atletico Madrid on Tuesday after helping Barcelona join the Italians in the Champions League quarterfinals.

Ronaldo scored a hat trick as Juve overturned a first leg loss in Madrid to beat Atletico 3-2 on aggregate and book their place in the last eight.

Messi responded by scoring twice and adding two assists on Wednesday as Barca hammered Lyon 5-1 after drawing the first leg 0-0 in France last month.

“What Cristiano and Juventus did on Tuesday was impressive,” Messi told Catalunya Radio. “It was a big surprise. I thought Atletico would be a lot stronger, but Juve were all over them and Cristiano had a magical night.”

Messi’s Barca could potentially face Ronaldo’s Juve in the last eight if the two sides are paired together in Friday’s draw for the next round, but the Argentine would not be drawn on who they would prefer to face in the quarterfinals.

“We don’t want to choose one [side] because they’re all really tough,” Messi said. “[Manchester] City, Juventus, Ajax, who have a great team of kids and don’t fear anything, Liverpool, who’ve shown they pack a punch…

“We’re relaxed and what we have to prepare for is the toughest test possible, which is what’s coming now in the final stage of the season.”

Messi opened the scoring against Lyon from the penalty spot before Philippe Coutinho doubled the home side’s lead at Camp Nou before the break.

Lucas Tousart‘s effort pulled Lyon back into the tie briefly and Messi, who scored Barca’s third and then created goals for Gerard Pique and Ousmane Dembele, admitted the Catalans almost let things get away from them.

“We suffered a little bit at 2-1 and, to be honest, it wasn’t necessary,” he said. “We complicated things for ourselves at a set play because they hadn’t done anything [until then].

“Luckily we then got the third goal. There was a moment of suspense before [the ball crossed the line] and I thought it wasn’t going to go in. But it did and that calmed us down.”

Meanwhile, Coutinho, who joined from Liverpool for €160 million last January, has been linked with a return to England after seeing his place in Barca’s side taken by Ousmane Dembele.

The Brazilian brushed off talk of a summer exit for now, though, saying his focus is on Sunday’s game against Real Betis as Barca continue to compete on three fronts.

– When is the Champions League quarterfinal draw?

“I live for the moment,” he added. “Now it’s about the next game. You never know what the future holds. I am [just] happy with my performance today.”

It was old hat for both managers when they were asked about the exploits of Messi, who both had nothing but massive praise for Barca’s No. 10.

“We are all psyched up for the Champions League and so is Leo. He produced an outstanding performance tonight, he was incredible,” Barca coach Ernesto Valverde said.

Lyon coach Bruno Genesio added: “Tonight Messi was in Champions League mode. He’s a genius and can do things that nobody else can. Sometimes he is just unstoppable.”

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