Little over a month after producing the greatest comeback in Champions League history, Barcelona need another special turnaround as they face Juventus in the second leg of their quarter-final on Wednesday.
Luis Enrique’s side were taken apart in the first leg in Turin, losing 3-0 to a Juve team inspired by Paulo Dybala, who scored twice.
In the last 16 they became the first team ever to overturn a 4-0 deficit when they beat Paris Saint-Germain 6-1 in the return at the Camp Nou, so fans are hoping for a similar “remuntada” this time.
“We are going to take as many risks as we need to the point that we could go out with eight strikers, as we have nothing to lose,” said Luis Enrique after Saturday’s 3-2 defeat of Real Sociedad.
The Barcelona coach also called for supporters “to have faith in these players who have won everything. This is a squad of champions.”
But he added: “The thing is that we are used to always eating beluga caviar. That can’t go on forever.”
Barca welcome back midfielder Sergio Busquets from suspension, while Juve are hopeful Dybala will be ready after he came off in the 2-0 weekend win at Pescara with a sprained ankle.
“We have four days and we need to be optimistic,” declared coach Massimiliano Allegri.
In contrast to their fierce rivals, Real Madrid are very much on course for a semi-final berth after their 2-1 win away to Bayern Munich last week.
The sides clash at the Santiago Bernabeu in Tuesday’s second leg with the Germans looking to become just the third side to overturn a first-leg home defeat to win a Champions League tie.
Bayern coach Carlo Ancelotti has fitness concerns with leading scorer Robert Lewandowski hopeful of returning from a shoulder injury.
Defenders Mats Hummels and Jerome Boateng are also fighting to be fit, while Javi Martinez is suspended.
“We go to Madrid well aware of the fact that nothing is impossible,” Thomas Mueller told Bundesliga.com.
“We’re annoyed any time we don’t win, but we have our own way of playing. No matter what problems or injuries we have to deal with, we’re always able to put a strong team out there on the pitch.”
Gareth Bale is struggling to shake off a calf problem for Real.
Borussia Dortmund go to Monaco still shaken by the events of last week, when the first leg between the clubs was postponed by 24 hours following the bomb attack on the German team’s bus en route to the game.
Dortmund went on to lose 3-2 to the French league leaders but morale was lifted as they got back to winning ways in the Bundesliga at the weekend, beating Eintracht Frankfurt 3-1.
After that game, the Dortmund players paid tribute to defender Marc Bartra by holding his number five shirt aloft as they celebrated in front of their fans.
Spanish international Bartra had earlier been released from hospital after having surgery on a broken wrist suffered in the attack, reports supersport.com.
“This gesture shows how important the things off the field are to us at this moment, and that Marc gets better soon and that we are all still here,” said Dortmund captain Marcel Schmelzer.
Monaco, looking to become the first French side in the Champions League semi-finals since Lyon seven years ago, are missing the banned Fabinho as well as Djibril Sidibe, who is recovering from appendicitis.
Leicester City have defensive concerns as they look to turn around a 1-0 deficit when they host last season’s runners-up Atletico Madrid.
Robert Huth is suspended and the Foxes are hoping Wes Morgan can return from a back injury as the English champions look to extend their run in Europe. Atletico have French striker Kevin Gameiro back from a groin injury.
Gold Coast 2018: Omidiran protests exclusion of female athletes
A member of the House Committee on Sports, Honourable Ayo Omidiran, has promised to carry placards in Abuja later this week protesting the exclusion of female table tennis players from the next edition of the Commonwealth Games, slated for the Gold Coast, Australia from April 4 to 15, 2018.
Honourable Omidiran, added her voice to that of five times Nigerian Olympian, Funke Oshonaike and multiple Olympian, Offiong Edem, who were members of the female team excluded from the Team Nigeria Table Tennis squad to the Games. The Sports Ministry had said that, the girls were dropped because of the comparative advantage of the male players to win medals.
The Sports Ministry advised the Nigeria Table Tennis Federation to drop the four women team members that should have been registered for the Games out of the nine slots available to Team Nigeria for the sport. From the Games regulations, Nigeria’s nine slots will be made up of five male and four female players. But as it is, they have been told to forget about the dream of competing at the Gold Coast 2018, as there is no guarantee they were going to win medals for the country.
A visibly miffed Omidiran, stated that, if the Sports Ministry does not rescind the decision to exclude the female table tennis players from the Games, she will be forced to carry placards in Abuja during the week to press home the displeasure of Nigerian women on the visibly marginalization of female athletes from the Commonwealth Games after doing so well to qualify for the Games.
Chelsea coach warns defenders over Iheanacho
Ahead of today’s FA Cup quarter final match between Chelsea FC and Leicester FC, Chelsea boss, Antonio Conte, has warned his defenders to be fully alert while marking Nigeria international striker, Kelechi Iheanacho, as the coach classified the former Golden Eaglets World cup winner as the main Leceister City’s danger man.
The Italian coach stated that his players would have to keep an eye on the Nigerian star that will be combining upfront with other Leicester top strikers Jamie Vardy, and Shinji Okazaki at the King Power Stadium.
Conte said: ”We have special plans to try to defend well. For sure we all know the characteristics about Vardy. He’s a very clever player,” Conte told reporters.
”He’s very good to attack the space, to find the right time to attack the space. Also we have to pay attention if Leicester play Iheanacho or Okazaki in the front.”
Iheanacho has been prolific in this season’s FA Cup having scored four goals in five matches.
Yaya Toure set for surprise Ivory Coast return
Ivory Coast’s Manchester City midfielder, Yaya Toure, who turns 35 in May, will return to international football more than three years since his last game for his country after being named in the squad for friendlies in France next week.
Toure has shunned internationals since leading the Ivorians to the African Nations Cup title in early 2015 but made a surprise announcement in December that he wanted to return despite the country failure to reach this year’s World Cup.
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