Barcelona president Joan Laporta has called for patience and trust from the fanbase as he attempts to "solve" the Catalan giants' on and off the field problems.

Years of financial mismanagement caught up with Barca last month as they lost Lionel Messi to Paris Saint-Germain on a free transfer.

Antoine Griezmann was also sent back to title rivals Atletico Madrid on an initial loan amid a flurry of late activity in an attempt to help balance the books.

Barca's solid, if not spectacular. start to the LaLiga campaign, in which they have picked up seven points from a possible nine, helped lift the mood around Camp Nou somewhat.

But a crushing 3-0 loss to Bayern Munich on Tuesday – the first time Barca have lost their opening Champions League game in 23 seasons – has changed all that.

Sergi Roberto was booed by a section of his own supporters when being substituted off during the game, which captain Gerard Pique admitted left him feeling "hurt".

With supporter unrest growing during a tough period for the LaLiga heavyweights, Laporta issued a video statement on his social media channels on Wednesday.

"Hello Cules. I am as disappointed and upset as all of you are," he said. "I need to tell you what is happening. This is one of the situations that we expected. 

"I ask you all for your patience, and that you continue supporting our team. I also ask you to trust us, the people who are managing the club. 

"We need your trust and time. Do not doubt that we will solve the situation."

Bayern's prolific striker Robert Lewandowski helped himself to a double after Thomas Muller had opened the scoring in the first half of Tuesday's Group E clash.

Barca have lost three successive home games in European competition for the first time in their history, having also lost to Juventus and Paris Saint-Germain at Camp Nou last season.

In their first European game since Messi's exit, the Catalans failed to register a shot on target in a Champions League match for the first time since Opta started recording such data in 2003-04.

Barcelona's injury problems have deepened as midfielder Pedri and left-back Jordi Alba have been ruled out with muscular injuries sustained in the 3-0 defeat to Bayern Munich.

Alba was taken off in the 74th minute of Tuesday's Champions League contest with a hamstring issue, while Pedri played a full part on his return to action following a three-week rest.

Barca announced on their official website on Wednesday that Pedri is suffering with a thigh problem and has joined Alba in the treatment room ahead of Monday's LaLiga clash with Granada.

No timeline has been given for both players' return to action.

"The first team player Pedri has a quadriceps muscle injury in his left thigh," Barca revealed. "The player is unavailable for selection and his recovery will dictate his return.

"Tests carried out on Wednesday morning on the first team player Jordi Alba show that he has a hamstring injury in his right thigh. 

"The player is unavailable for selection and his recovery will dictate his return."

Barca's injury issues are piling up ahead of a busy spell of five games in a fortnight, including a huge clash with LaLiga champions Atletico Madrid early next month.

Martin Braithwaite is expected to miss the rest of 2021 after undergoing knee surgery, while fellow attackers Sergio Aguero, Ousmane Dembele and Ansu Fati are also out of action.

According to Spanish outlet Marca, Barca boss Ronald Koeman feels the club's medical department are partly to blame for the growing list of absentees.

The loss of Alba will leave a big void to be filled in the troublesome area of left-back, with academy product Alejandro Balde coming on for his senior debut in the heavy defeat to Bayern.

Pedri has also been a regular under Koeman over the past 13 months, making 55 appearances in all competitions since the start of last season – only Youssef En-Nesyri (57) and Manu Trigueros (59) have been used more often among LaLiga clubs.

Manchester City had a "considerable chance" of signing Cristiano Ronaldo before he re-joined Manchester United, according to Fernandinho.

Premier League champions City were strongly linked with Ronaldo last month after it emerged he had asked to leave Juventus, where he had spent the previous three seasons.

However, United pulled of a stunning coup by agreeing a deal worth up to £19.67million (€23m) for the five-time Ballon d'Or winner, 12 years after he had departed for Real Madrid.

Ronaldo has made a fine start to his second spell at United with three goals in two games, but Fernandinho has suggested the Portugal captain could well have been a City player.

Asked how close his side came to signing the superstar forward, Fernandinho told ESPN Brasil: "I think they had a good, considerable chance. 

"I think his agent [Jorge Mendes] was here at the club renewing the contracts of Ederson, Ruben Dias, seeing the situation of Bernardo Silva and Joao Cancelo. 

"Obviously, if you're there at the table, you can talk about everything and every possible player."

Shortly after putting pen to paper on an initial two-year deal with United, Ronaldo revealed the part former boss Alex Ferguson had on his decision to opt for a return to Old Trafford.

And given the media attention surrounding the prospect of Ronaldo agreeing to join City, Fernandinho believes other factors played a part in the 36-year-old's decision.

"I think that a lot of expectations were also raised with the possibility of him coming here," the Brazilian said. "No doubt this ends up affecting not only the fans, but also the people inside the club. 

"But in the end, things didn't work out, he didn't close the deal, and ended up going to the red side of town. Life goes on."

After scoring twice on his second Old Trafford debut in last weekend's 4-1 win against Newcastle United, Ronaldo was again on target in the Red Devils' surprise 2-1 Champions League loss to Young Boys on Tuesday.

Ronaldo's 13th-minute opener made Young Boys the 36th different side he has scored against in the Champions League, a record the Portuguese now shares with Lionel Messi.

He also equalled another record in Switzerland on what was his 177th Champions League appearance, matching the number of games player by legendary Real Madrid goalkeeper Iker Casillas.

LaLiga president Javier Tebas has defended Real Madrid's attempts to sign Kylian Mbappe despite football's wider economic struggles, adamant their conduct pales in comparison to that of Paris Saint-Germain.

Madrid president Florentino Perez was at the forefront of the European Super League scandal earlier this year, as a group of elite clubs attempted to form a closed breakaway competition.

Perez said their intention was to "save" football, convinced the sport was financially unsustainable in its current form, but plans quickly unravelled when the English clubs involved pulled out.

Yet, despite talk of football's doom, Madrid lodged bids for Mbappe in the most recent transfer window, with their offers thought to have started at €160million – only the Frenchman himself (€180m) and PSG team-mate Neymar (€222m) have ever cost more.

Nevertheless, Madrid have raised significant capital through sales over the past four years, turning a profit in transfer fees in three of the five seasons dating back to the start of 2017-18.

As such, Tebas sees little cause for concern over the financial state of Madrid, but he cannot see them having a transfer window like that of PSG, who brought in Lionel Messi, Gianluigi Donnarumma, Georginio Wijnaldum, Achraf Hakimi, Sergio Ramos and Nuno Mendes.

Speaking at a sponsorship news conference, Tebas told reporters: "I said that Spanish football is not ruined, neither Madrid nor Barcelona.

"There are at least 80 per cent of clubs in Europe that have it much worse. Regarding Real Madrid, I think they have been the club that's been better managed through the pandemic, with enormous rigor in their salary spending. Real Madrid has the capacity to do what they want.

"They can never be PSG, because PSG cheats. They have a salary expense close to €600m, which is impossible. Madrid are not a state club either, so they can't."

Talk of Spanish football's demise intensified following Barcelona's latest comprehensive Champions League defeat on Tuesday, losing 3-0 to Bayern Munich at Camp Nou, while Sevilla stuttered to a 1-1 draw at home to Salzburg.

For Barca, it was the first time since Opta records began (2003-04) that they had failed to get a shot on target in a Champions League game, and Bayern's superiority condemned Ronald Koeman's men to three successive home defeats in the competition for the first time.

Prior to 2020-21, Barca had only ever lost two Champions League home games by three or more goals but that has occurred three times since – with Messi no longer there, many would expect their standard to plummeting further.

But Tebas insists the odd Champions League result does not necessarily mean anything, pointing out the Premier League arguably enjoyed its greatest period of growth during a European trophy drought.

"There is still a lot of the Champions League to go," he continued. "Last year it was the same and then everyone went through to the knockout phase.

"The level of LaLiga does not depend on a few Champions League games. When the Premier League grew the most, it was in a phase of six years without winning the main elite competition."

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp paid tribute to Simon Kjaer ahead of Wednesday's clash with Milan, saluting the defender for his composure and humanity in response to Christian Eriksen collapsing at Euro 2020.

Eriksen collapsed during Denmark's European Championship opener against Finland in June, with Kjaer the first on the scene to place his team-mate in the recovery position before leading the rest of the team in the formation of a protective shield around the Inter man as he received treatment.

The 29-year-old midfielder was subsequently taken to hospital and it was later confirmed he had suffered a cardiac arrest on the pitch, but medics were able to resuscitate him.

Eriksen was fitted with a pacemaker before returning home, though it remains unclear if he will ever play again.

Kjaer received widespread praise for his quick-thinking at such a crucial juncture, with he and the eight medics involved hailed the "true heroes of Euro 2020" and presented with the 2021 UEFA President's Award by UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin last month.

Kjaer is expected to be in the Milan team that will play the club's first Champions League match in seven-and-a-half years at Anfield, and Klopp hopes Liverpool fans recognise the defender's exploits.

"I am usually more keen to focus on my own players rather than an opponent, but tonight I must make an exception," Klopp wrote in his programme notes.

"This evening it is possible that Simon Kjaer will line up against us and this is a person who I think has the respect of the entire football and sporting world.

"You recognise true leadership in a crisis. I think the world acknowledges this now more than ever with everything that goes on around us.

"Like millions of others, I was rocked by the scenes that unfolded at the European Championship in the summer when Christian Eriksen fell ill during Denmark's opening group game.

"There were many heroes that night, not least of all the remarkable medical professionals for the Danish national team, in the stadium and subsequently at the hospital. But Simon shone that traumatic day for his own conduct.

"The image of the Danish players shielding their team-mate as he was cared for will, in my opinion, forever be one of the most iconic in sporting history. It showed the best of humanity. Compassion, care and love for their friend.

"Honestly, I have no idea how he managed to not only keep his own composure in that situation, but to have the clarity of mind to make the decisions he did in that moment. His conduct humbles us all.

"I'm told that Simon's dad is an LFC fan – and if that is the case, he must be bursting with pride that his boy is now recognised worldwide as the epitome of our anthem, 'You'll Never Walk Alone'.

"I know our supporters are knowledgeable and generous of spirit and therefore I am sure Simon will feel the gratitude of the home crowd tonight, but for the 90-plus minutes of the game he is again the opponent."

Wednesday's contest will be Liverpool's first Champions League match in front of a home crowd since March 11, 2020, when the Reds lost 3-2 to Atletico Madrid after extra-time and were dumped out of the competition at the last-16 stage.

Klopp feels Liverpool were always lacking something in the absence of supporters through the peak of the coronavirus pandemic, but in his opinion that was always exemplified during Champions League games.

"It will be so cool just before kick-off to hear that Champions League anthem and see the players lined up in front of a full Anfield," he continued. "We missed supporters for every second of every game during the pandemic, but I must admit it was most acute on the European nights.

"Let's have all the noise, all the colour, all the positive energy and all the passion and intensity that is our trademark. Let's give this fixture the stage it deserves. I honestly cannot wait."

Wednesday's match will be the first meeting between the two historic clubs that is not a European final, with their only prior clashes being in the Champions League deciders in 2005 and 2007, winning once each.

Lionel Messi's departure to Paris Saint-Germain "ripped out" the soul of Barcelona, former Bayern Munich CEO Karl-Heinz Rummenigge said after the Blaugrana's heavy Champions League defeat to the Bundesliga champions.

Barca may have avoided another demolition job at the hands of Bayern, who defeated them 8-2 in the Champions League quarter-finals 13 months ago, but Tuesday's 3-0 loss was a damning indictment of the gulf between them and the teams likely to challenge for European club football's biggest prize this term.

It was the first time since Opta records began (2003-04) that Barca have failed to get a shot on target in a Champions League game, and Bayern's superiority condemned Ronald Koeman's men to three successive home defeats in the competition for the first time.

Barcelona's crippling financial state – which has seen their debts approach €1.4billion – has contributed to a situation where such heavy losses to Europe's elite are no longer a surprise.

Prior to 2020-21, Barca had only ever lost two Champions League home games by three or more goals but that has occurred three times since – with Messi no longer there, many would expect their standard to continue plummeting.

Barca were unable to keep Messi due to salary cap restrictions and Rummenigge sees a hollow shell of a club left without him.

Speaking to Bild TV, Rummenigge – who left his role as Bayern CEO earlier this year – said: "When you looked at the team and how they performed tactically… with Messi [leaving], their souls were ripped out. They are facing difficult times.

"They had to let him leave, but LaLiga scored an own goal with it [his departure]."

Rummenigge was asked if bringing Messi to Bayern was ever a possibility, but he pointed to the Barca's financial mismanagement around the six-time Ballon d'Or winner that made signing him impossible.

"That couldn't be, that was not a subject [considered]," he continued. "You can't think about that.

"His salary is at such dizzying heights, and don't forget, this has a knock-on effect. Then the others want more too.

"That has resulted in Barcelona having staggering debts."

But while Barca are left tending to an institutional crisis, their bitter rivals Real Madrid appear to be in a far less dire situation.

Although club president Florentino Perez stressed Madrid football was running out of money earlier this year when he fronted up the attempted formation of a European Super League, Los Blancos were comfortable enough to lodge bids of at least €160m for PSG's Kylian Mbappe.

PSG did not entertain any offers but the Frenchman will become a free agent next year and Rummenigge believes there is a strong change both he and Erling Haaland could end up in Madrid in 2022, rather than the Norwegian going to Bayern.

"[Robert] Lewandowski is the best centre-forward in the world. Haaland is the second best," he said. "I think Bayern is interested in Robert staying after his contract expires in 2023. Haaland is an investment.

"I don't think he's going to Liverpool. I know the owner very well and he is not known for splashing out.

"With Haaland, I wouldn't rule Real Madrid out. Maybe they'll open the chequebook a little more in the summer and possibly get Haaland and Kylian Mbappe."

Lionel Messi is in line to make his 150th Champions League appearance and his first with Paris Saint-Germain on Wednesday.

Mauricio Pochettino's men travel to Club Brugge and Messi is about to partake in his first European campaign without Barcelona, while Manchester City host RB Leipzig.

Liverpool and Milan renew rivalries in the competition for just the second time since the 2004-05 final between the pair but the Serie A side have a woeful record against English teams.

Inter have a similarly poor record against Spanish teams and they face Real Madrid, with Karim Benzema edging towards another goalscoring landmark.

Here, Stats Perform takes a look at the key Opta data ahead of Wednesday's fixtures.

Inter v Real Madrid: Benzema looks to edge past former Galactico Raul 

Inter have lost four of their last five against Real Madrid but Los Blancos have only won one of their previous eight away games against Wednesday's opponents as they prepare for a replay of last year's group stage outing.

However, Inter have not won against a Spanish team in Europe's premier competition since 2010 and Madrid have been victorious in 12 of their last 13 against Serie A outfits.

Carlo Ancelotti has Karim Benzema among his ranks and the forward will appear in his 17th consecutive campaign as he looks for his 72nd goal to move ahead of Raul (71) into fourth in the all-time scoring list.

 

Manchester City v RB Leipzig: Guardiola's group stage dominance

Manchester City are unbeaten in their last 17 group-stage ties and, since Pep Guardiola was appointed, they have lost just three of 30 at this stage of the competition.

The hosts are eyeing their 50th win in their 91st game as they look to become the second fastest to the half-century, while RB Leipzig have lost three of their last four against English opposition.

City's attacking riches could thrive at Etihad Stadium, too, Ferran Torres has scored four in his last six appearances in Europe - a goal every 90 minutes - and Riyad Mahrez has been involved in 22 goals in 28 starts for Leicester City and his current side in the Champions League.

 

Liverpool v Milan: Istanbul replay ends Rossoneri's seven-year wait

Milan will appear in their first Champions League since 2014, their first fixture a replay of the memorable 2004-05 final that saw Liverpool triumph.

Stefano Pioli's men have won just one of their last 13 against English opponents in European competition, while the Reds have lost just one of their last 12 group-stage games at Anfield in Europe under Jurgen Klopp.

Mohamed Salah (25) is one of two Liverpool players – along with Steven Gerrard (21) – to score 20+ times in the competition but Sadio Mane (19) could join them with a goal on Wednesday to become the fourth African to the 20-goal mark.

 

Club Brugge v Paris Saint-Germain: Pochettino's attacking riches

Paris Saint-Germain have netted 21 goals across six games against Belgian opposition – winning five and drawing once – while Club Brugge have only won one of their six opening games.

Lionel Messi – the second all-time leading scorer in the competition – could make his first PSG continental appearance, having scored 120 goals and provided 35 assists in 149 games for Barcelona against teams from 17 nations.

The visitors also boast half of the six players to be involved in 30+ goals in the competition in the last four seasons, with Kylian Mbappe (37), Messi (36) and Neymar (31) all doing so.

Other fixtures:

Atletico Madrid v Porto:

41 – Diego Simeone has won 41 of the 79 Champions League fixtures he has managed since 2013-14, with only Pep Guardiola (56) picking up more wins in this period.

4 – Porto have won four of their last five away games in the competition, their only loss coming against eventual runners-up Manchester City last term.

Besiktas v Borussia Dortmund:

1 – Besiktas have only collected one win in their last 10 home games in the Champions League and two of four defeats in that run have come against Bundesliga sides.

100 – Borussia Dortmund have a 100 per cent record against Turkish opposition in the Champions League, though all four wins have come against Galatasaray.

Sheriff Tiraspol v Shakhtar Donetsk:

1 – Sheriff Tiraspol are the first ever Moldovan team to feature in the Champions League proper. They are unbeaten in their last nine in European competition.

3 – Shakhtar Donetsk have only been beaten three times in their last 11 games as they went unbeaten against Real Madrid and Inter in the group stages last season.

Sporting CP v Ajax:

36 – Aged just 36, Ruben Amorim becomes the second youngest Portuguese manager in the competition's history, after former Chelsea manager Andre Villas-Boas (33) in 2011.

2 – Ajax have only lost two of 10 games against Portuguese opponents since the inaugural European Cup. However, just two of these games have taken place this century.

Buster Posey's 18th home run of the season helped the San Francisco Giants to their ninth consecutive win in MLB, a 6-1 rout of the San Diego Padres.

Posey starred for the Giants after homering in the opening inning before scoring the go-ahead run in the third on Tuesday.

Anthony DeSclafani tossed 6.2 innings of one-run ball for the Giants in San Francisco.

The National League (NL) West-leading Giants are enjoying their longest winning streak since a 10-game run in 2004, while they have scored at least six runs in each game over the nine-game stretch – a San Francisco-era record.

Opponents have not scored six runs once amid the winning streak. The Giants are the first team to score six-plus runs while allowing fewer than six in nine straight games since the New York Yankees in 1939, per Stats Perform.

 

Dodgers playoff-bound again

World Series champions the Los Angeles Dodgers clinched a postseason berth for the ninth successive year – their longest streak in franchise history – after beating the Arizona Diamondbacks 8-4.

The Tampa Bay Rays became the first American League (AL) team to reach 90 victories by trumping the red-hot Toronto Blue Jays 2-0. Brandon Lowe and Ji-Man Choi homered to stop the Blue Jays, who had won 15 of their previous 17 games while scoring 128 runs during that stretch.

The Detroit Tigers were 1-0 walk-off winners against the Milwaukee Brewers. Detroit also walked off against the Rays in their last game. According to Stats Perform, the Tigers are the first team in MLB history to have back-to-back walk-off victories against two different teams 30-plus games over .500.

Aaron Judge fuelled a five-homer onslaught as the Yankees crushed the Baltimore Orioles 7-2. Giancarlo Stanton, Luke Voit, Joey Gallo and DJ LeMahieu also hit home runs.

 

Greinke's return doesn't go according to plan

Zack Greinke was roughed up in his return from COVID-19. The Houston Astros ace allowed eight runs on five hits and three walks in five innings as the AL West leaders were swept aside 8-1 by the Texas Rangers.

The Cincinnati Reds lost for the sixth time in eight games with a 6-5 defeat against the Pittsburgh Pirates.

 

Perez adds to homer tally

Salvador Perez tied Javy Lopez for the second-most home runs (43) by a catcher in a season. Perez led the Kansas City Royals past the Oakland Athletics 10-7.

 

Tuesday's results 

San Francisco Giants 6-1 San Diego Padres
Los Angeles Dodgers 8-4 Arizona Diamondbacks
Boston Red Sox 8-4 Seattle Mariners
Cleveland Indians 3-1 Minnesota Twins
Cleveland Indians 6-3 Minnesota Twins
Pittsburgh Pirates 6-5 Cincinnati Reds
Detroit Tigers 1-0 Milwaukee Brewers
Chicago Cubs 6-3 Philadelphia Phillies
Washington Nationals 8-2 Miami Marlins
New York Yankees 7-2 Baltimore Orioles
Tampa Bay Rays 2-0 Toronto Blue Jays
St Louis Cardinals 7-6 New York Mets
Colorado Rockies 5-4 Atlanta Braves
Texas Rangers 8-1 Houston Astros
Chicago White Sox 9-3 Los Angeles Angels
Kansas City Royals 10-7 Oakland Athletics

 

Padres at Giants

The Giants (95-50) will put their winning streak on the line when they look to clinch their series with the Padres (74-70) on Wednesday.

Christian Makoun converted an injury-time penalty as David Beckham's in-form Inter Miami edged 10-man Toronto 1-0 in MLS.

With Tuesday's contest seemingly heading for a draw, Inter Miami's Makoun stepped up and scored a spot-kick in the 95th minute.

Unbeaten in six matches, Inter Miami – co-owned by former Manchester United, Real Madrid and England star Beckham – have won three consecutive matches for the first time in their history as they moved into the Eastern Conference play-off positions.

Toronto had just 15 points through 23 matches entering the matchup. Only five teams in MLS history have had fewer points at this stage of a season, most recently DC United in 2013 (13).

Kemar Lawrence was sent off in the 37th minute but Toronto thought they had snatched a winner with two minutes of regulation remaining when the hosts believed Jacob Shaffelburg's rebound crossed the line.

Inter Miami went up the other end and claimed all three points in the fifth minute of stoppage time – Makoun fouled by Chris Mavinga before tucking away the last-gasp penalty.

Following four consecutive clean sheets – a club first, Inter Miami are fifth in the east with 32 points from 23 rounds, while Toronto sit bottom after six straight defeats and nine games without a win.

Elsewhere, New York City and Dallas played out an entertaining 3-3 draw.

New York – fourth in the Eastern Conference – led 2-1 and 3-2 but had to settle for a point in a see-sawing contest at Red Bull Arena.

As for MLS champions Columbus Crew, they overcame New York Red Bulls 2-1 thanks to an 88th-minute goal via substitute Miguel Berry.

Paris Saint-Germain sporting director Leonardo does not anticipate Kylian Mbappe leaving the Ligue 1 giants at the end of the season as he criticised the behaviour of Real Madrid.

PSG reportedly rejected three bids – the last one said to be worth up to €200million – from Madrid for Mbappe, whose contract expires at the end of the current campaign.

Mbappe is yet to re-sign in Paris, where PSG are determined to retain the World Cup-winning 22-year-old star.

LaLiga powerhouse Madrid are believed to be readying a move for Mbappe on a free transfer, but Leonardo made it clear PSG do not see their future without the France international.

"We were not happy with the behaviour of Real Madrid," Leonardo told Canal+. "Starting negotiations for one of the best players in the world in the last week of the transfer market generated a situation that we did not like.

"We were clear about our position with the offer. It was not enough, it was smaller than what we paid. The last offer they talked about never came. You can't organise a transfer market for two, three or four months and change your plans like that.

"I don't see Mbappe leaving at the end of this season. Nobody is thinking about the future of Paris Saint-Germain without Kylian.

"Kylian sort of represents the difference between the superficial and the deep. Kylian's relationship with Paris Saint-Germain is deep. That's why we don't think about anything else.

"Kylian represents many things. Not only because he is French or one of the best players in the world. He has a way of being that we like and one that everyone likes."

PSG are preparing to open their Champions League campaign at Club Brugge on Wednesday.

Since the start of the 2017-18 season, only Robert Lewandowski (41) has been directly involved in more goals in the Champions League than Mbappe (37 – 21 goals, 16 assists).

Across the last four Champions League campaigns (since 2017-18), only six players have been directly involved in 30-plus goals in the competition. Half of these currently play for PSG, with Mbappe (37), Lionel Messi (36) and Neymar (31) all doing so.

Chelsea head coach Thomas Tuchel lauded "world class" Romelu Lukaku and praised the star's off-field impact after leading the Champions League holders past Zenit 1-0.

Lukaku was the difference on Tuesday, scoring his first Champions League goal for Chelsea, who opened their title defence with a hard-fought victory at Stamford Bridge.

After scoring a brace against Aston Villa in the Premier League on Saturday, club-record signing Lukaku backed that up with a towering 69th-minute header against the Russian champions in Group H.

Lukaku has scored four goals since arriving from Serie A champions Inter and Tuchel hailed the in-form Belgium international.

"The performance of Romelu was not easy. We didn't create many chances for him, we did not create many deliveries. But he's the type of guy who doesn't lose confidence and belief. And that is why he is here and makes him a world-class striker," Tuchel said during his post-match news conference.

"You don't find many strikers of that quality and the guys who are there to score regularly for their teams are so, so important. There are not many goals in football and goals change the momentum of the match. It gives the whole team a lot of belief that maybe one half chance, one chance is enough for him to score.

"It's not the only talent he brings, he brings belief, he himself has the belief and he takes the pressure off the shoulders of other guys around him. He has the personality not to be impatient or lose confidence. He does what he does at a very high level and we are very happy he’s with us. There are a lot of reasons we are maybe not at our top level at the moment. But right now with pre-season, new guys coming in, international breaks, and so on, I am happy with how we play and find us very competitive. We know how to handle difficulties during matches and today I liked what I have seen on the sideline because I felt the energy and the effort.

" They are a strong opponent and we have accepted and respect that. It was a tough [Aston] Villa team at the weekend and a tough Zenit team today. They changed their line-ups, their mentality when they arrived when they played us, we need to adapt and find solutions. This is what we do at the moment."

Only Bayern Munich's Robert Lewandowski (22), Borussia Dortmund sensation Erling Haaland (20) and Manchester United attacker Bruno Fernandes (17) have scored more goals than Lukaku (14) in major European competition since the start of 2019-20.

Lukaku's 14 Champions League goals have come in his last 14 appearances.

Tuchel added: "He was the type of guy we were missing in our team, the profile, but not only for the talent but also for his personality. The guy is a super humble guy, loves football, loves to train, is such a good communicator in the dressing room, and is open to everybody. That creates a certain atmosphere and energy around him within the team that we are proud of and what we want to have because we believe in it.

"The atmosphere and the spirit last year took us very far and it's important we have it again. We have it with Romelu because he loves Chelsea, he knows Chelsea, he knows what this club is all about. As I said, he is not shy to speak out loud that he’s here and to help with his goals. If we miss him for one game, or hopefully not more games, we will try to find different solutions, maybe the style will be different in how we create chances.

"But now we have him and we are very pleased that he can show these things because he gives us belief and everybody around him a lot of confidence. It is the best start for strikers to score, to be decisive. There is no talk, no video of any coach in the world that can have the same impact."

"It feels really good," Lukaku told BT Sport. "I'm really happy with the win. We kept the game under control. We have to keep growing. I think today was a better performance than on the weekend. I'm really happy with the win and really happy with the goal."

The Milwaukee Brewers' all-time home-run leader Ryan Braun has called time on his MLB career.

Braun announced his retirement from baseball on Tuesday – the 37-year-old left fielder had not played since becoming a free agent when the Brewers declined a mutual option in his contract at the end of last season.

The six-time All-Star and the 2011 National League (ML) MVP, who spent his entire career in Milwaukee, holds the Brewers record for most home runs with 352.

Braun is fourth in franchise history with 1,766 games played and second to Robin Yount in doubles (408) and RBIs (1,154).

Among players who have logged at least 2,500 Brewers plate appearances, Braun is second to Prince Fielder with a .532 slugging percentage and an .891 OPS.

"I have decided to officially retire as an active player," Braun said in a video released by the Brewers.

"I have weighed this decision for many months. While I still love this game very much, the time is right for me to retire from my playing days.

"It's difficult to describe my emotions today, but it starts with overwhelming gratitude to those who have shared this experience with me while offering their unconditional support at every turn. ... I will forever appreciate the best fans in the game and the countless people who came out to the ballpark night after night, making Milwaukee the greatest city to play the game."

Braun made his MLB debut with the Brewers in 2007 and he was part of the Milwaukee teams that won the NL Central division titles in 2011 and 2018.

The NL home run leader in 2012, Braun – Rookie of the Year in 2007 – also earned five Silver Slugger Awards.

"Ryan brought us many unforgettable moments on the field; from playoff-clinching dramatic home runs to nearly 2,000 career hits, he is unquestionably one of the greatest players in Brewers history," Brewers principal owner Mark Attanasio said.

"Moreover, Ryan has become a good friend to our family, and his commitment of countless service hours and more than $1million to community causes over the years has impacted many lives.

"Ryan was the first player drafted after I took ownership of the Brewers, and I remember that day very well. Today, we reflect on the impact that Ryan had during his 14 seasons wearing the Brewers uniform. Ryan is our all-time franchise home run leader and one of the great clutch hitters in the game.

"We were fortunate to have a front-row seat for many of these moments that defined some of the organisation's greatest achievements to date. We wish Ryan, his wife, Larisa, and their family the very best, and look forward to continuing our friendship as they move into the next chapter of their lives."

LeBron James and the possibility of the Los Angeles Lakers superstar becoming the NBA's all-time scoring leader excites current recordholder Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

Abdul-Jabbar sits atop the throne for most points in the NBA with 38,387 following a Hall of Fame career that featured six championships, six MVP awards and 19 All-Star selections among other honours during his time with the Milwaukee Bucks and Lakers.

James (35,367) is third on the all-time list entering his 19th season, behind Karl Malone (36,928) and Abdul-Jabbar – the four-time champion and four-time MVP still needs 3,020 points to break the record.

Abdul-Jabbar, who spent 14 years with the Lakers from 1975 to 1989 before returning as an assistant coach between 2005 and 2011, was asked about James' pursuit of history.

"I'm excited to see it happen," Abdul-Jabbar, 74, told Marc Stein in his substack newsletter. "I don't see records as personal accomplishments, but more as human achievements.

"If one person can do something that's never been done, that means we all have a shot at doing it. It's a source of hope and inspiration.

"Roger Bannister broke the four-minute mile back in 1954. Since then, not only have 1,400 runners beaten that time, but the new record is 17 seconds less.

"We all win when a record is broken and if LeBron breaks mine, I will be right there to cheer him on."

James and the Lakers were unable to defend their NBA title in 2020-21 as they crashed out in the first round of the playoffs.

The 36-year-old James averaged 25.0 points, 7.7 rebounds and 7.8 assists per game last season.

James' field-goal (51.3) and three-point (36.5) percentages were his best since 2017-18.

Cristiano Ronaldo bemoaned Manchester United's late collapse at Young Boys in the Champions League but the superstar is eyeing a quick response from the Red Devils.

Ronaldo made it three goals in two games since returning to United, however, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's 10 men still suffered a 2-1 loss after Jordan Siebatcheu pounced on Jesse Lingard's misjudged backpass in the 95th minute.

Having equalled former Real Madrid team-mate Iker Casillas' record with his 177th Champions League appearance on Tuesday, Ronaldo opened the scoring in the 13th minute in the Group F opener.

The goal made Young Boys the 36th different side Ronaldo has scored against in the Champions League, a record he now shares with Lionel Messi.

But United paid the price after full-back Aaron Wan-Bissaka was sent off 10 minutes before half-time – Nicolas Moumi Ngamaleu's 66th-minute strike restoring parity for Young Boys, who went on to stun the visitors with the last kick of the game.

Ronaldo, whose United travel to West Ham on Sunday as they aim to maintain their unbeaten start to the Premier League campaign, wrote via social media: "Wasn't the result we wanted, but now it's time to recover well and focus on the next game!"

The 36-year-old's strike for United came 12 years and 132 days since his previous Champions League goal for the Premier League club, breaking the record for the gap between goals for the same team in the competition previously held by Javier Zanetti for Inter (11y 315d, 1998-2010).

It was a difficult night for United, who managed just two shots against Young Boys – the fewest Opta have on record in any of their 138 Champions League matches since 2003-04. Their second and final shot of the match came in the 25th minute via Ronaldo.

United lost their first match in a Champions League campaign for only the second time, also doing so in 2015-16 under Louis van Gaal, a 2-1 defeat to PSV.

"It was a tough game, a tough surface. Away from home, we found ourselves going down to 10 men, [but] we looked comfortable in the game," United captain Harry Maguire told MUTV, with the club also due to meet Villarreal and Atalanta in the group.

"We conceded a scruffy goal which was really unlucky. Although we weren't playing our greatest football and we weren't the biggest threat at the other end of the pitch, we looked really solid, didn't concede many chances and then, obviously, they go away with the victory. 

"It's the first game in the group, we've got many games to bounce back, so we must do."

Robert Lewandowski described Bayern Munich's trip to Camp Nou as the "perfect day" after the red-hot striker scored twice in a 3-0 Champions League win over Barcelona.

Bayern kicked off their 2021-22 Champions League campaign with a comprehensive victory at Barca thanks to Lewandowski's brace and Thomas Muller's opener on Tuesday.

Lewandowski has scored in his last 18 appearances for Bayern, netting 29 goals in a run that stretches back to February in all competitions.

In the last three seasons since the start of the 2019-20 season, Lewandowski has scored 113 goals in 93 appearances for Bayern – 36 more than any other player in Europe's big five leagues in that time (Kylian Mbappe and Cristiano Ronaldo on 76 goals each).

"It's always nice to be on the pitch and hear the UCL anthem with the crowd. That's a great feeling," Lewandowski said post-match.

"Sure, the stadium wasn't quite full, but hopefully everything will be back to normal soon."

Barcelona offered little going forward and failed to get a shot on target, the first time they have posed such a meek threat in a Champions League game since at least 2003-04, according to Opta.

Bundesliga titleholders Bayern have won their opening match in each of the 18 Champions League seasons by an aggregate score of 45-2.

"We can be satisfied with our performance. It was good. We showed from the very first minute that we wanted to win," Lewandowski added.

"We were in control of the game, that was important. Barca rarely threatened our goal. It was a perfect day."

 

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