Manchester City scored their 100th goal of 2020-21 on Tuesday – maintaining Pep Guardiola's record of his top-flight teams having reached a century of goals in every season of his coaching career.

Kevin De Bruyne thundered home a venomous left-footed strike via Yann Sommer's crossbar to give City a 1-0 lead in the second leg of their Champions League last-16 tie against Borussia Monchengladbach.

Ilkay Gundogan doubled the lead on the night form Phil Foden's pass, easing City into a 4-0 aggregate advantage.

Just as in his four seasons at Barcelona, three campaigns at Bayern Munich and four previous years at the Etihad Stadium, Guardiola has seen his side reach three figures with plenty of the campaign left to run.

City still have some way to go if they are to better their previous best under the Catalan, when the 2018-19 domestic treble-winning campaign yielded 169 goals.

The most prolific campaign of Guardiola's career came in 2011-12, when a Lionel Messi-inspired Barcelona scored an astonishing 190 goals – even though they could only manage a second-place finish behind Real Madrid in LaLiga.

A century is similarly nothing new for City.

The Premier League leaders have now scored 100 goals in each of the past eight seasons, with only Manchester United boasting a longer run of consecutive 100+ seasons among English top-flight teams, having done so in each of the final nine years of Alex Ferguson's reign.

Guardiola's centuries

2008-09 – Barcelona 158
2009-10 – Barcelona 138
2010-11 – Barcelona 152
2011-12 – Barcelona 190

2013-14 – Bayern Munich 150
2014-15 – Bayern Munich 123
2015-16 – Bayern Munich 123

2016-17 – Manchester City 122
2017-18 – Manchester City 143
2018-19 – Manchester City 169
2019-20 – Manchester City 149
2020-21 – Manchester City 101

Timo Werner can transform his season by firing Thomas Tuchel's Chelsea into the final stages of the Champions League.

That is how Antonio Rudiger sees the opportunity for his fellow German, who has struggled to carry over his Bundesliga goalscoring form into English football.

On Wednesday, Werner looks set to face Atletico Madrid in the second leg of Chelsea's last-16 European tie, with the Blues holding a 1-0 advantage from the first game.

The former RB Leipzig striker, a big-money acquisition last June, has just 10 goals in 38 games of a season when he has repeatedly misfired.

Among players from Europe's top five leagues with 10 goals or more in all competitions, Werner ranks 93rd out of 96 in terms of the most proficient in converting 'big chances', with a 27.59 per cent success rate. He has scored just eight of 29 such chances, defined by Opta as 'where a player should reasonably be expected to score'.

"Of course we have conversations, but it's more conversations to keep him going, to help him," Rudiger said in Tuesday's pre-game news conference.

"It's his first year away from Germany and things are not going maybe the way he wants it, obviously, because he's a scorer. He wants to bag goals and things aren't going in his way at the moment.

"For me it's important to let him know someone's there for him to support him and I'm very, very sure going into this game tomorrow, sometimes small moments like this in a game like that can turn over everything for a striker and give him a real boost.

"Sometimes in life, if things aren't going your way, you have to fight through it, which he is doing in my opinion. He's working a lot and running a lot and I'm very sure things will come his way.

"He needs to be calm and work in silence and, whenever you have the chance on the pitch, to have that hunger to score goals and turn around the situation, but not to make himself crazy, he just has to be calm."

Defender Rudiger is relishing another chance to take on Luis Suarez, whose conversion of 'big chances' has been exceptional this season for Atletico.

The former Barcelona and Liverpool frontman has a 63.64 per cent hit rate (scoring 14 of 22 big chances) from such goal opportunities.

That ranks him second among players from the elite leagues with more than 15 goals of any type this season, beaten only by Manchester United's Bruno Fernandes (16 of 23 big chances for a 69.57 per cent rate).

The first-leg encounter between Rudiger and Suarez was spicy and a reunion could be pivotal to how the tie plays out.

"He is a world-class player, he's showed it at every club he's been at in Europe," Rudiger said.

"He's a very, very good player and has a lot of fight in him and he's a tough opponent but he just defends his badge by trying to fight for his team and I do the same."

Suarez pinched Rudiger on the thigh in a bizarre first-leg incident, which the Chelsea defender put down to "emotions", and said he "didn't really feel it that much".

"Everyone plays a little differently, so it's OK," Rudiger said.

Rudiger also opened up about how close he came to leaving Chelsea last September, when it appeared Tuchel's predecessor Frank Lampard was planning without him.

Paris Saint-Germain - then coached by Tuchel - and Tottenham were heavily linked with him at the time, and Rudiger confirmed both were keen.

"There were two teams - mainly one team - that I was considering. That was PSG, and there was also [Tottenham boss Jose] Mourinho, but this is something that didn't happen," he said.

Rudiger said he was "a bit upset" when neither move came off, but thankful at the same time he was not being pushed out of Chelsea.

"Now things are going well for me, I'm very happy about it, but I always felt well in the club," he said. "No one told me you should leave, the board or Frank Lampard. The loans that I wanted didn't happen but nobody told me at the club I should leave."

Atletico Madrid star Joao Felix has denied there are problems between him and head coach Diego Simeone.

The Portugal star has struggled for consistency at the Wanda Metropolitano and Simeone appeared to question his work-rate last week, although he later claimed his comments had been misinterpreted.

The €126million attacker is set to start on Wednesday at Stamford Bridge, where Atleti will attempt to overturn a 1-0 deficit to Chelsea in the Champions League last 16.

The 21-year-old, who has vowed to make sure he maximises his talent during his career, now hopes to prove there is a strong working relationship at the club.

"I'm happy here, my family are too. There are good and not-so-good phases everywhere," he told reporters on Tuesday.

"I had to defend for Benfica and the national team, too. I'll do what I have to do here.

"Without will, talent doesn't come through. Many talented players could not reach the top due to not having will and I don't want that to happen to me.

"The moment for me has to be all the time. We're strong because we're a very strong group. And that will be the case tomorrow."

Joao Felix caused a stir with a pointed celebration after scoring against Villarreal, in which he made a 'shushing' gesture, something that delighted Simeone.

The player himself says the incident was simply part of a joke with team-mate Renan Lodi, which was blown out of proportion.

"I already said on Instagram that it was a joke with Lodi. The press likes to talk about things they don't know about," he said.

"My relationship with Cholo is very good. He always tries to help me. We're here to help each other."

Atleti are unbeaten under Simeone in two previous Champions League trips to Stamford Bridge and have progressed from four of the eight two-legged ties in the competition in which they have lost the first leg.

However, a run of two wins in 10 away games in the knockouts does not bode well against a side who are unbeaten in 12 matches under Thomas Tuchel and have conceded only twice in that run.

Simeone hopes to turn that good form into a negative for Chelsea, who have had to cope with only minimal setbacks since Tuchel replaced Frank Lampard.

"I believe today Chelsea don't have a weakness," he said. "The only thing is they don't know what can happen from a negative point of view. 

"They have not had a negative result yet and that will be a question until it happens.

"We are facing a team that has done quite well since their coach has come, they have never lost. They feel strong at home and are playing quite well. 

"They have had games like us around the Champions League matches that have been close and tough. We have to take the match where we want so we can win with a goal. The single idea is to win."

Simeone is backing Luis Suarez to make the difference and end his barren Champions League run, the Uruguay striker having not scored in the competition this season.

Suarez's away run in the competition is of greater concern, the 34-year-old having failed to score in his previous 25 such games for Atleti and Barcelona since netting in a 1-1 draw with Roma at Stadio Olimpico in September 2015.

"I believe Suarez is very important for us," Simeone said. "Probably tomorrow is the right day for Luis Suarez to end the streak. Why not? Tomorrow could be a beautiful day."

A resurgent Leroy Sane has his sights set on achieving his "huge" career goal of experiencing the Champions League glory his Bayern Munich team-mates enjoyed last season.

The winger joined Bayern from Manchester City after they had tasted European success by defeating Paris Saint-Germain in the final.

Sane had a mixed start at Bayern, in and out the line up as he worked his way back from a long-term injury that restricted him to two appearances in his final season at City.

The 25-year-old has looked like his old self of late, registering either a goal or assist in four of his last five matches, including a strike in Bayern's emphatic 4-1 away win in the last-16 first leg away to Lazio.

Bayern were four goals up after 47 minutes of that game, but ahead of Wednesday's home second leg against Lazio, Sane wants his team-mates to take nothing for granted, which would jeopardise his Champions League dream.

"[Winning the Champions League is] a huge goal of mine," said Sane.

"That is why I place so much value on delivering a good match on Wednesday and for the rest of the season.

"When we have Champions League matches, we need to always be well prepared and up for it. 

"All of us know that a lot can still happen. Just because we scored a few goals in the first leg doesn't mean that we are through. 

"Lazio have a strong team and things could backfire if we don't take it seriously.

"I'm feeling better and better, and have had time to get to know the team and how we play. We get along very well off the pitch as well. Everyone is prepared to work hard, which benefits us all.

"At first, you need to get to know the workings of a team. For me it was even harder, because I didn't have a rhythm after a long injury. 

"So I needed to find my own rhythm back at first. Now I feel a lot better and I have got to know the team better. That is one of the reasons why things have gone uphill for me lately."

Bayern are hosting Lazio for the first time in European competition.

None of the last 21 sides facing them away from home for the first time in the European Cup or Champions League have won (W20 D1) since Bordeaux triumphed 2-0 back in November 2009.

Head coach Hansi Flick hopes to have fitness doubts Manuel Neuer and Kingsley Coman available.

"Manu has a slight cold, and Kingsley is dealing with some muscle issues," he said. "We will have to wait and see, but we are hoping that both will be able to feature on Wednesday.

"We want to win this game [the second leg] as well. We're in the midst of a good run and want to continue it.

"Especially since we're at home, we really want to win to further build our self-confidence.

"We've delivered strong performances in the Champions League, as well as in the Bundesliga. Our current aim is to continue on in this manner."

Flick was not keen to discuss the Germany job, which will become vacant when Joachim Low leaves after Euro 2020, any further.

"I have said everything about this topic, but nothing has changed for me," he said. "I do not comment on the topic."

Since Flick took charge of the club, Bayern have won their six home games in the Champions League by an aggregate score of 18-3. 

However, only one of the previous six have come in the knockout stages of the competition – beating Chelsea 4-1 in the second leg of last season’s round of 16.

Lazio, meanwhile, have only won one of their last 15 away games in the Champions League (D5 L9).

The Serie A side are winless in the last eight matches of that run (D4 L4) and have not one away in the competition was back in September 2003.

Atalanta will hope to keep Italy's Champions League interest alive in Tuesday's last-16 second legs.

Gian Piero Gasperini's men have the simple tasking of overturning a 1-0 deficit away to Real Madrid, the most successful club in the competition's history and winners of four of the past seven tournaments.

Zinedine Zidane's men have struggled for consistency in 2020-21 but the Champions League traditionally brings out their best, while Atalanta's visit could also be one to celebrate for Toni Kroos.

Madrid may be confident in their chances, but Manchester City are in an even more enviable position, having won 2-0 away to Borussia Monchengladbach in their first leg.

Gladbach have struggled badly since the announcement that Marco Rose will be leaving for Borussia Dortmund ahead of next season, losing six games in a row in all competitions, and they could represent good opposition for Sergio Aguero, who is chasing a milestone goal.

 

Real Madrid (1) v Atalanta (0): Can Gasperini's men restore national pride in Spain?

Atalanta enjoyed their only previous visit to Spain in European competition, winning 4-3 at Valencia at this stage of last season's competition to secure a sensational 8-4 aggregate victory, with Josip Ilicic scoring all four goals.

However, history is not on their side this time. Italian teams have lost 11 of their previous 12 games against Madrid and conceded at least twice in 10 of those matches. You have to go back to Juventus in November 2008 to find an Italian side who stopped Los Blancos scoring.

Madrid have progressed from eight of the past nine Champions League knockout ties in which they have won the first leg, the exception being two years ago, when Ajax caused a shock with a 4-1 win at the Santiago Bernabeu. However, more recent form may give them reason for concern.

Madrid have gone four home knockout games without a win, while Atalanta have not conceded an away Champions League goal this season and are enjoying a five-game winning run on their travels, the best such sequence of any side in the competition.

Toni Kroos could be in for a milestone match. The midfielder could become only the second German outfield player to start 100 Champions League matches, after Bayern Munich great Philipp Lahm, who finished on 110.

With Eden Hazard injured once more, Zidane could do with Marco Asensio ending his goal drought. The Spain international has attempted 14 shots in six games, the most of any player left in the competition who has failed to score a goal.

Manchester City (2) v Borussia Monchengladbach (0): Bundesliga side hoping for miracle

Gladbach's last visit to City ended in a 4-0 loss, their joint-heaviest away defeat in the competition. In fact, City are unbeaten in five meetings with Tuesday's opponents and have scored at least twice in each of their four victories.

Pep Guardiola's first Champions League game in charge was a 4-0 home win over Gladbach, with City having won more games (16) and scored more goals (59) in home matches than any other English side in the competition in that time. They are on a run of 10 wins in 11 European games at the Etihad Stadium, in which they have averaged 3.5 goals per match.

Gladbach enjoyed a superb group stage but, since consecutive 6-0 and 4-0 wins over Shakhtar Donetsk, they have lost three games in a row and failed to score in their previous two. It is hard to look beyond a comfortable City victory.

Aguero will hope for another start, and should the Argentinian score, he will reach 20 goals in 29 Champions League games under Guardiola. That would draw him level with Thomas Muller and leave him behind only Lionel Messi (43) for the most goals scored in the competition under the former Barcelona boss.

Zinedine Zidane is open to the idea of Cristiano Ronaldo returning to Real Madrid.

Speculation has been rife following Juventus' Champions League elimination by Porto, suggesting Ronaldo wants to head back to the Santiago Bernabeu.

Despite reports only surfacing in the past week, Spanish publication AS claims Ronaldo and Madrid have been in talks for several months and a transfer for the end of the season is being mooted, with Erling Haaland and Kylian Mbappe seemingly out of reach this year.

Ronaldo left Madrid for Juve in 2018, a move seen as a major statement in the Bianconeri's bid to end their Champions League drought, which stretches back to 1995-96.

But they have not been beyond the quarter-finals since, losing to Ajax, Lyon and most recently Porto in successive years.

Ronaldo is already Madrid's record scorer with 450 goals and won Europe's elite competition four times with Los Blancos, and Zidane acknowledges another link-up is not impossible.

Asked by Sky Sport Italia if there was truth in the rumours linking Ronaldo to Madrid, Zidane said: "Maybe. We know Cristiano, the person he is and what he did here.

"But he is a Juventus player. I did what I had to do with him, now we will see what happens in the future. I was lucky enough to train him because he is really impressive."

Zidane was speaking ahead of Madrid's Champions League last-16 second leg against Atalanta, having beaten Juve's Serie A rivals 1-0 in Bergamo in their previous meeting.

Remo Freuler was sent off after just 17 minutes for the home side, with Zidane's men then finally breaking the deadlock through Ferland Mendy four minutes from time.

Madrid are in the driving seat in the tie but Zidane insists he is not relaxed heading into Tuesday's game. While he realises Atalanta have to come out and go for goals, he is also well aware that is their main strength.

"I'm not calm, in football that doesn't exist," Zidane added. "You must have a great performance to get through the round, you can't go to 95 per cent because they will come here to win.

"We will need the best Real Madrid. I don't expect anything different from Atalanta. They always play in the same way: they attack and score, a lot. It's a great team.

"It's true that everything changed early on in the first leg, but many things were said to each other and they are rightly angry about the sending off, which was harsh. But we also prefer to play against 11 men, because then our game was also different."

Pep Guardiola has rejected talk of a rift with Raheem Sterling after the Manchester City star was left out of their win over Fulham.

The runaway Premier League leaders breezed to a 3-0 victory against the relegation-threatened Cottagers on Saturday despite Sterling's omission from the squad.

Sterling was quick to dismiss speculation of disharmony between him and Guardiola in a post on Twitter.

He wrote: "Some crazy rumours on socials today... That's absolutely FALSE. Looking forward to a big week with the team."

And Guardiola indicated all is well in their relationship, insisting it is normal for players to be dissatisfied at not being involved.

"He travels with the team for tomorrow of course. All the squad travel to Budapest," the City boss said ahead of their Champions League last-16 second-leg clash with Borussia Monchengladbach. 

"Raheem and all the players always train and react very well. I don't expect the guys who are not selected are happy. It is normal.

"It has happened since football was created. Raheem in this case has been so important and is so important

"He [Sterling] doesn't need to do it [dismiss the rumours]. Nothing happened, he was not selected, that's all.

"Sometimes during the season when we travel to Stamford Bridge, we had 14 players and the rest from academy, that's easy to do the selection.

"When you have 30 players, top-class players, incredible success in the past, recent past, present, always it will be hard for most of them.

"That is the point. I have 20 players, I trust them, I love them, they are the main reason we are in the position we are in the Premier League, Champions League, final for the Carabao Cup, FA Cup.

"They're the reason why, I understand completely, that game he was not selected, another game with other players, it's no more than that."

Karim Benzema has no issue with talk of Erling Haaland joining Real Madrid as he has become accustomed to speculation linking the club with other strikers. 

Haaland's future remains a subject of great interest in the media, with the Norway international continuing to be prolific for Borussia Dortmund. 

The 20-year-old, who already has 31 goals in all competitions this season, has been linked with a move to Madrid, along with another highly talented young forward in Kylian Mbappe. 

Ahead of the second leg of Los Blancos' last-16 Champions League tie with Atalanta on Tuesday, Benzema spoke about the possibility of Haaland heading to the Spanish capital at some stage in the future. 

"He's not at the club," the Frenchman, whose double against Elche at the weekend moved him to 20 goals for the season, told the media. 

"I've spent many years here and every month they talk about strikers and people who can get a lot of goals. 

"He's young and he does a lot for his team. He has to work more for his team and if one day he has the opportunity, and he comes here, then so be it."

Benzema was also asked in the pre-match news conference about Cristiano Ronaldo, the club's all-time leading scorer who has been linked with a sensational return. 

Ronaldo left in July 2018, moving to Juventus. "The time has come to open a new stage in my life," he said at the time of the stunning transfer. 

However, Juve's exit from the Champions League to Porto means they have failed to make it any further than the quarter-final stage during the Portugal forward's three years at the club, with reports in Spain suggesting the player is keen to head back to Madrid. 

"I did a lot with him here, a lot of goals and assists. It's already been three years [without him]," Benzema said about Ronaldo, who scored a hat-trick for Juve against Cagliari on Sunday. 

"He's at another team. I'm neither the president nor the coach. I don't know if he's happy or not at Juventus. 

"I played with him in another time... we always got on well together. And we always scored goals."

As for his own future, Benzema remains relaxed about the situation but is willing to open talks about extending his stay at "the best club in the world". 

"I go day by day. I enjoy every training session, every match," he explained. "I have a contract until 2022 but my door is open if the president wants me to renew. It's the best club in the world." 

Zinedine Zidane has described the latest injury to Eden Hazard as "inexplicable" as frustrations build over the Real Madrid star's fitness.

The Belgium international returned from a six-game absence in LaLiga as a second-half substitute in Madrid's 2-1 win over Elche on Saturday.

It had been hoped the 30-year-old would be ready for more game time on Tuesday, when Madrid host Atalanta in the Champions League last-16 second leg.

However, Hazard had to miss training on Monday due to a damaged hip flexor, and head coach Zidane confirmed he would not be in the squad for the visit of the Serie A side.

"He's not going to be fit. We're going to put something out shortly [on the injury]; I can't say any more," Zidane said.

"Something is going on. These are things I can't explain. I want to be positive and think it's going to be something small.

"They [the fans] have to wait. We know what sort of player he is. They want to see him, of course, just like everyone else here. But now, they can't."

Hazard has played just 14 times this season as injuries continue to blight his time in the Spanish capital.

The €100million signing from Chelsea has only started 29 matches in all competitions since joining two years ago and has not completed 90 minutes in a single game since November 2019.

"There are four questions on Hazard – I can't say any more," Zidane replied when pressed about the player's problems.

"We want to help him. I don't know if it will be with me or someone else, because he has a long contract, but I want with all my strength for him to be seen as the player he is. Sooner or later, he'll arrive."

Hazard is one of a number of fitness concerns Madrid have had this term but Zidane refused to pin any blame on the club's medical department.

"I don't think there's a problem [with the department]. We have very competent people here who are on top of the players," he said.

"We're going to find out what is happening, but at the moment, it's inexplicable. We've talked about pre-season, the accumulation of matches, also in the head.

"We're going to try to recover [the injured players]. Now, we have fewer injuries. Enough of them have returned."

Striker Karim Benzema, meanwhile, was left saddened by Hazard's latest setback, saying: "He hasn't had much luck since he came here.

"I'm sad because he's a top player. He's sad because he wants to show that he's a world star. We need him."

Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta said the Gunners are still eyeing a top-four finish in pursuit of Champions League football following their Premier League win over rivals Tottenham in the north London derby.

Alexandre Lacazette's second-half penalty helped Arsenal beat Tottenham 2-1 on Sunday as Arteta celebrated his first Premier League win over Spurs since taking charge.

Erik Lamela's stunning rabona goal put Tottenham ahead just past the half-hour mark before Martin Odegaard equalised on the stroke of half-time.

Tottenham midfielder Lamela went from hero to villain – sent off in the 76th minute after Lacazette completed the turnaround 12 minutes earlier.

Arsenal are 10th in the Premier League standings – 10 points adrift of the top four with 10 rounds remaining – but Arteta is not giving up on Champions League qualification.

"Up until mathematically it's impossible we're going to believe and we're going to give it a go that is for sure," Arteta, who replaced Unai Emery in December 2019, said in his post-match news conference.

"We know that we're going to have to be extremely consistent, to have any chance in the last two or three matches to be close to that.

"But we're going to give it a go and we're going to keep trying, going game-by-game."

Arsenal have not featured in the Champions League since 2016-17 – the Gunners consigned to the Europa League for the past four seasons.

The Gunners are unbeaten in their last 10 Premier League home games against Spurs (W6 D4), while Arteta is the third consecutive Arsenal boss to win his first home league meeting with Tottenham following Arsene Wenger and Emery.

Since losing his first London derby at Emirates Stadium in the Premier League (2-1 against Chelsea in December 2019), Arteta is unbeaten in his last five such games, picking up four victories (D1).

Mauricio Pochettino said he is searching for answers to Paris Saint-Germain's post-Champions League struggles after the Ligue 1 holders were stunned by lowly Nantes on Sunday.

PSG missed the chance to go top of the Ligue 1 table following a shock 2-1 home defeat against relegation-threatened Nantes.

Pochettino's side looked on track to claim maximum points thanks to Julian Draxler's 42nd-minute opener, but two unanswered goals in the second half lifted Nantes to their first win away to PSG in Ligue 1 since 2002.

PSG have now lost their last three Ligue 1 fixtures immediately after Champions League clashes – the French giants fell to Lyon 1-0 following their 5-1 rout of Istanbul Basaksehir on December 9 and suffered a 2-0 defeat against Monaco after crushing Barcelona 4-1 at Camp Nou on February 16.

Now, after being shocked in Paris on the back of their 1-1 draw with Barca in the second leg of the last-16 tie on Wednesday, head coach Pochettino told reporters: "Surely there must be some connection, which we have to find.

"After the match in Barcelona, we played with practically the same players and you could think that we lacked energy. But today we brought in new players.

"It's clear that the energetic and stressful demands of the Champions League are hard for the team, especially when the matches are as physical as tonight's.

"In the first half we absolutely dominated the match. In the second half, when we conceded the goal, it cost us a lot and that's when it affects us to have played a match as important as the one we played here on Wednesday."

It was a forgettable outing for Pochettino and last season's Champions League finalists PSG, who are second and three points behind leaders Lille through 29 Ligue 1 rounds.

PSG have lost two consecutive home games in Ligue 1 for the first time since November 2012.

Pochettino is the first PSG coach to lose three of his first 12 Ligue 1 games since Antoine Kombouare in 2009 (four).

Meanwhile, Angel Di Maria and an as of yet unnamed PSG team-mate had their houses broken into during the Nantes showdown.

Di Maria was taken off midway through the second half at Parc des Princes, after a curious discussion between officials – including sporting director Leonardo, who appeared visibly angry – in the stands, and the coaching staff on the touchline over the phone.

The substitution caused confusion - not only off the pitch, but also on it. PSG conceded just before Di Maria went off, and then again nine minutes later to throw away their lead and ultimately lose.

On the Di Maria case, Pochettino added: "There are situations outside football that we should be aware of.

"The footballers are the first to know the disappointment of losing the three points but there are other situations, beyond football, that the footballers and we should be concerned about, I think you already know that."

Cristiano Ronaldo is one of football's all-time greats and cannot be blamed for Juventus' early Champions League exit, according to international team-mate Bruno Fernandes.

Juve were eliminated from Europe's elite club competition by Porto at the last-16 stage on Tuesday, crashing out 4-4 on away goals after extra time at the Allianz Stadium.

Sergio Oliveira scored the decisive goal late on from a free-kick that went straight through the Juve wall, with Ronaldo sheepishly turning his back on the effort.

Former Bianconeri boss Fabio Capello singled out Ronaldo on the back of the two-legged defeat, in which the five-time Ballon d'Or winner failed to find the back of the net.

Ex-president Giovanni Cobolli Gigli went as far to suggest Juve should never have spent €100million to sign the forward in 2018, meanwhile, but Fernandes has defended his compatriot.

"Cristiano is one of the greats in football history. His mentality inspires those who practice this sport," Fernandes told La Gazzetta dello Sport. "He has won a lot, but no one can win alone. 

"I understand that his presence at Juve had created enormous expectations for the Champions League, but when a team lose, the whole squad lose, not one single player.

"I'm not surprised [by the result]. Porto have a winning mentality. They play aggressive football and I expected them to create problems for Juventus."

While Ronaldo and Juve are enduring a difficult campaign, Fernandes is going from strength to strength at Manchester United.

The former Sporting CP star has scored 16 goals and assisted 10 more in the Premier League this campaign, which is the highest direct goal involvement of any midfielder in Europe's top five leagues.

Fernandes spent five years in Italian football with Novara, Udinese and Sampdoria, though it was not until joining Sporting in 2017 that his career truly took off.

"I had to complete my physical growth," Fernandes said of his time in Italy. "I was moving from one country to another.

"I didn't fully establish myself because the role of the attacking midfielder isn't easy in [Italian] football."

Fernandes cited the example of Juve attacker Paulo Dybala, who has often struggled for consistency, before explaining the differences between Italian and English football.

"The story of Dybala seems enlightening to me," he said. "Everyone expects something special from him, but we are always strict towards him.

"Udinese was, also for the years spent with the Friuli, the most important stage, but the change of coach didn't help me.

"It was too bad, because I had found a real teacher in Francesco Guidolin. If I had spent more time with him, it might have been different.

"Anyway, I can only thank Italy for what it has given me. I was happy, I lived an experience of growth, I measured myself with a country where the football is of the highest level."

He added: "There's a lot of intensity in the Premier League. The pace is high.

"The smaller sides have quality and they make you suffer. In Italy, the tactics are like a university of sport."

Fernandes is expected to start United's Europa League last-16 first leg with Milan at Old Trafford on Thursday in a battle between two historically successful European heavyweights.

Milan have not competed in the Champions League since 2013-14, while United have only made it to the quarter-finals of the competition once since the same season.

However, both teams are second in their domestic leagues and are among the favourites to go all the way in the Europa League.

"In some respects, [United] and Milan are the same," he said. "Two clubs with a prestigious past, with 10 Champions League trophies in the cabinet, both have gone through a phase of transition, but are returning to the top.

"At the beginning of the season, no one thought that Milan could fight for the Scudetto. We are in March and they are second. 

"They play well, have interesting young players and the added value of [Zlatan] Ibrahimovic's strength."

Thursday's game will mark the 11th time Milan and United have met in European competition, with all 10 previous encounters coming in the European Cup or Champions League.

United have been eliminated from four of their five knockout ties with Milan, with no side knocking out the Red Devils more often in European competition – Real Madrid having also managed it four times. 

Thiago Alcantara admits Liverpool could not imagine in their "worst nightmares" how bad this season would pan out, but the midfielder is hopeful his side are in the process of turning things around after advancing to the Champions League quarter-finals.

Liverpool have sent a number of unwanted records tumbling this season, including a run of six successive top-flight defeats at Anfield for the first time in their history.

The reigning Premier League champions have long been out of title contention and find themselves eighth with 10 games to play, seven points adrift of fourth-placed Chelsea.

However, Jurgen Klopp's side put their domestic woes to one side on Wednesday by seeing off  RB Leipzig 2-0 in Budapest to complete a 4-0 aggregate victory in their last-16 tie.

And Thiago, who joined from Bayern Munich in September for a reported £20million upfront fee, believes the victory can be a catalyst for the Reds to kickstart their Premier League campaign.

"It's a boost to our morale," he told LFCTV. "We deserve to celebrate and be happy with something and from now on have this feeling we have right now. With that we can win all the games we have left.

"It's been a tough period for all of us because we didn't in our worst nightmares expect we are now in this position in the Premier League.

"But we are trying to perform the best that we can and get better in every training session, and I think this performance is a positive for all of us."

Thiago returned to the line-up against Leipzig and impressed during his 72 minutes on the field, with no Liverpool player managing more tackles (six) and only Trent Alexander-Arnold (41) playing more passes in the opposition half than the Spaniard's 30.

The 29-year-old has struggled for consistency during his first six months on Merseyside, not helped by injury and illness lay-offs, and he accepts that performances have not been good enough so far.

"I don't read a word about what people talk about me," he told TNT Sports Brasil. "I know that I receive some criticism about my performances, but I'm not happy with my performance since I came here.

"It's a new club, a strange situation [after contracting coronavirus], a bad injury, so get to into the rhythm it was hard, but it's not an excuse."

Thiago started on the right of a midfield three alongside Fabinho and Georginio Wijnaldum against Leipzig in what was one of his finest performances in a Liverpool shirt.

The Spain international has been singled out for criticism this term, with club icon John Barnes suggesting he slows the game down too much, but Klopp has hit back at those comments.

"I assume when you all look at Liverpool from Germany, people say [our problems are] to do with Thiago or whatever – that's rubbish," he said.

"Thiago was good, they were all good. For the players who were new, they always needed time to get used to our game plan, but Thiago doesn't have that.

"Still, he improves week on week. It's not a short-term project, it's a long-term project and it was good."

Liverpool's win over Leipzig means they are now unbeaten in their last 12 meetings with German opponents in all European competitions since a 4-2 loss to Bayer Leverkusen in April 2002.

It is the first time they have won both legs of a Champions League knockout tie while also keeping a clean sheet in each leg since their last-16 triumph against Real Madrid in 2008-09.

Barcelona midfielder Pedri conceded Lionel Messi's saved penalty was a "big blow" in their Champions League last-16 exit, but blamed wasting numerous chances.

The Catalans prematurely exited the Champions League 5-2 on aggregate to Paris Saint-Germain after a second-leg 1-1 draw in the French capital.

Pedri admitted Barca's 4-1 first-leg defeat left them with plenty to do in Paris but argued they had the better chances.

Messi cancelled out Kylian Mbappe's penalty opener before the Argentinian had a spot-kick saved by Keylor Navas on the stroke of half-time which could have given Barca the momentum to kick on in the second half.

Messi's miss was his first failed penalty attempt in the Champions League since February 2015, having scored his previous eight spot-kicks.

"We knew it'd be vital to take our chances," Pedri said post-game. "We produced a really good game but we missed big chances.

"We believed we could produce another big fightback and qualify but the penalty just before half-time was a big blow to miss.

"We kept on fighting and you can't define a result or a game looking just at a missed penalty. We had many chances and didn't take them."

Barcelona had 21 shots compared to PSG's seven, including 10 on target, while they had 73 per cent possession.

Forward Antoine Griezmann agreed that profligacy in front of goal cost the Catalans.

"It's a real shame, I'd say there were four clear-cut opportunities plus the penalty," Griezmann said.

"If you don't put them away, it's harder later in the game. Nevertheless, it was a completely different contest to the first leg."

Barca's failure to reach the Champions League quarter-finals was their first since 2006-07; having been on the longest-run in the competition's history of 13 consecutive last-eight appearances.

France international Griezmann vowed they would return in 2021-22 to challenge for the European crown.

"It's time to keep our heads up and feel confidence because of how we played," he said.

"We need to keep improving for the season to come. We are hacked off because we were desperate to go through. I don't think we deserved to go out this early but next year we'll try to win this competition."

Paris Saint-Germain goalkeeper Keylor Navas has dedicated his penalty save from Lionel Messi's spot-kick to absent team-mate Sergio Rico.

Navas denied Messi from the penalty spot in first-half additional time and helped PSG complete a 5-2 aggregate victory over Barcelona in the Champions League last-16 on Wednesday.

The match finished 1-1 with Kylian Mbappe opening the scoring on the half-hour mark before Messi levelled with a long-range rifle in the 37th minute.

Navas made his penalty save on the stroke of half-time, dedicating it to Rico post-game with his team-mate absent due to personal reasons.

"It's always difficult, especially against Messi who shoots very well," Navas told RMC Sport post-game.

"It gives a lot of joy to everyone. This penalty is for Sergio Rico who is going through difficult times with his family, it is for him."

Navas and Messi are long-time adversaries from the Costa Rican's time at Real Madrid, with his low save with his knee representing a major win.

The save, one of several from Navas, played a major part in PSG thwarting any potential Barcelona response as they rallied following their 4-1 first-leg defeat in Spain.

"It was a very great match for Barca, they pushed to the maximum," Navas said.

"We are very motivated to continue in this competition, with this state of mind. We must be united for this competition.

"The group has clear objectives in mind. This is what helps us to progress to go far in this competition."

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