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SOCCER UPDATESS – Zaragoza midfielder Apono has shrugged off a muscle strain and could make his return to action against Barcelona on Sunday.

Helder Postiga and Stefan Babovic should be available despite carrying knocks, but Ivan Obradovic, Franco Zuculini and Javi Alamo are all injured and Abraham is suspended.

Barcelona forward Lionel Messi is set to be left out of the squad as he continues to manage a hamstring problem.

Defender Adriano suffered an injury in Wednesday’s 1-1 draw with Paris Saint-Germain and will not feature but goalkeeper Victor Valdes is available after completing a four-match ban.

DID YOU KNOW ?

  • Zaragoza are on a 14-match winless run in all competitions (D6, L8).
  • The Aragonese outfit have not won a Liga match at La Romareda since a 5-3 success over Deportivo La Coruna in November.
  • Zaragoza have lost their last nine Liga encounters with Barcelona.
  • Barcelona are on a four-match winless run away from home across all competitions.
  • The Blaugrana will face German champions Bayern Munich in the Champions League semi-final on April 23 and May 1.
  • Xavi completed all of his 96 attempted passes against Paris Saint-Germain on Wednesday, setting a new Champions League record for most passes completed with a perfect success rate.
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SOCCER UPDATESS – Interim Chelsea manager Rafa Benitez is likely to make several changes from the side that travelled to Moscow to face Rubin Kazan last time out, with the likes of Juan Mata, Eden Hazard and Branislav Ivanovic set for a return to the Blues starting XI.

The Spanish boss should be able to call on Demba Ba (ankle), with the Senegal striker progressing well after picking up a knock in Sunday’s win over Sunderland at Stamford Bridge, while Ryan Bertrand (illness) will be hoping to shake off the virus that forced him to miss the club’s trip to Russia.

Ashley Cole (hamstring) and Gary Cahill (knee) are close to first team return, but this game may come too soon for the defensive pair. Midfielder Oriol Romeu (knee) will miss the rest of the season.

Manchester City boss Roberto Mancini will be sweating over the fitness of key midfield schemer David Silva (hamstring), after the Spain attacker limped off during the 2-1 win at rivals Manchester United on Monday.

Defender Micah Richards (knee) has returned to fuill training, but this game may come to soon for a first team return, whilst Jack Rodwell (hamstring) and Maicon (knee) are both likely to be missing.

DID YOU KNOW ?

  • Chelsea have contested four of the last six FA Cup finals (winning them all). They are the current holders of the trophy.
  • The Blues have won the competition seven times in all: only Manchester United (11), Arsenal (10) and Tottenham (8) have won it more often.
  • Rafa Benitez won the FA Cup in 2006 when his Liverpool team defeated West Ham in the last final at the Millennium Stadium.
  • Manchester City have lost just once in domestic competitions this season after scoring first (against Aston Villa in the Capital One Cup).  They have drawn two and won 18 of the Premier League games they have led.
  • Carlos Tevez has scored five goals in this season’s competition – making him the second-highest goalscorer. Aldershot forward Danny Hylton (8) leads the goalscoring charts.
  • City have won six of their last seven games in all competitions.
  • These two sides met in this season’s Community Shield, with City running out 3-2 winners at Villa Park. Roberto Mancini’s men have also shaded the two Premier League encounters between the two, winning 2-0 at the Etihad Stadium, and earning a goalless draw at Stamford Bridge.

LINE UP :

MANCHESTER CITY : Pantilimon, Zabaleta, Clichy, Kompany, Nastasic, Barry, Millner, Yaya Toure, Nasri, Aguero, Tevez.

CHELSEA FC                 : Cech, Azpillicueta, Ivanovic, Luiz, Bertrand, Ramires, Mikel, Hazard, Mata, Oscar, Ba.

SOCCER UPDATESS – Vladimir Dyadyun will compete for a place up front with Salomon Rondon for the hosts, who have no injury concerns to speak of.

Cesar Navas, Ivan Marcano and Roman Sharonov will fight for two places in the centre of defence, while Oleg Kuzmin may replace Gokdeniz Karadeniz on the right-hand side of midfield.

Chelsea face a potential dilemma at left-back, with the injured Ashley Cole’s (hamstring) usual deputy Ryan Bertrand (virus) unfit to travel. Nathan Ake is the club’s only other natural left-back, while Paulo Ferreira could fill in from his preferred right-back position.

Gary Cahill is still a couple of weeks away from returning after undergoing minor arthroscopic surgery to shave the meniscus on the knee he damaged in last month’s win against West Ham.

With Demba Ba cup-tied, Fernando Torres will continue up front, having scored twice in the first leg at Stamford Bridge.

David Luiz, Ramires and Juan Mata are likely to be rested after playing three games in less than a week, so John Terry, Frank Lampard and Victor Moses should come into the starting line-up.

DID YOU KNOW ?

  • Chelsea have won all five of their previous games against Russian sides, conceding just twice in the process.
  • The Blues beat Spartak Moscow 2-0 on their last visit to the Luzhniki Stadium, in the 2010-11 Champions League group stage.
  • John Terry will make his 100th European appearance if he plays in Moscow.
  • Rubin‘s only previous home game against English opponents resulted in a 1-0 win over Tottenham in last season’s Europa League.
  • However, the Russians’ only three defeats in their last 22 European ‘home’ games have come when hosting their matches in Moscow, as opposed to their Tsentralnyi Stadion in Kazan.
  • Having already eliminated Europa League winners Atletico Madrid in the round of 32, Rubin could complete an unlikely double of knocking out the holders of both of last season’s European trophies if they overcome Champions League holders Chelsea.

SOCCER UPDATESS – With the tie so delicately balanced from the first leg, such a conservative approach to the early stages from both teams was somewhat predictable.

As the minutes ticked by the hosts became more adventurous and in the 16th minute Lewandowski got his first chance to shoot at goal. He elected for an audacious 25-yard chip from Mario Gotze’s pass but his overcooked attempt floated over the stranded Willy Caballero’s goal.

Los Boquerones had struggled to string a meaningful attack together but in the 25th minute when they silenced the Signal Iduna Park.

Julio Baptista pounced on a poor clearance from Felipe Santana and his pass foundJoaquin. After a tight give-and-go with Isco, the 31-year-old cut inside onto his left foot and sent a low shot past Roman Weidenfeller to net a huge away goal.

Apprehension and frustration began to spread around the stadium but their worries were eased five minutes before half time. Reus flicked Gotze’s pass beautifully into the path ofLewandowski who rounded Willy and slotted the ball into the empty net to finish off a superb team move.

Joaquin was gifted a free header in the last action of the first half which Weidenfeller comfortably held and the start of the second half offered similarly enticing opportunities for both sides.

Lewandowski was unable to guide his shot past Willy after some more quick, crisp interplay with Gotze and minutes later the Weidenfeller managed to get a strong hand to the ball to keep Joaquin’s header.

Malaga continued to squeeze the play and force the Bundesliga side into sending the long ball up from the back. However, when Sergio Sanchez failed to deal with one such pass Gotze could not find the from a glorious position in the 53rd minute.

The organisation of Pellegrini’s defence was exemplary and after Dortmund had a goal ruled out correctly for offside, Duda’s thunderous effort almost added to the disappointment of the home fans.

The heroics of Malaga goalkeeper Willy were a huge reason that the first leg ended goalless and the Argentine was at it again in the closing stages, denying both Reus and Gotze from close range

The home fans’ misery looked to have been compounded in the 82nd minute as a swift break from the visitors ended with second-half substitute Eliseu sweeping home from close range.

Yet there was still time for one of the most dramatic comebacks in Champions League history, which Reus began as he slotted home following a long ball in the 91st minute.

Two minutes later the turnaround was complete and the stadium went from despair to unbridled jubilation.
Following a cross from the left a scramble in the area was put to an end when Santanaswept the ball into the net from one yard out.

Somehow Dortmund, who will be joined in the semi-finals by Real Madrid, managed to keep their unbeaten home record in the tournament intact as their victory ended Malaga’s fairytale run.

Barcelona took the 1-1 draw against PSG in Camp Nou, but they were through to the semifinals of the UCL

Barcelona took the 1-1 draw against PSG in Camp Nou, but they were through to the semifinals of the UCL

SOCCER UPDATESS – With Lionel Messi at less than full fitness and consigned to the bench for over an hour, the Catalans appeared blunt up front, and were run ragged at the back by the ferocity of PSG’s counterattacking approach.

And it was one such sequence that saw the Ligue 1 side break the deadlock minutes into the second-half, as Javier Pastore cleverly finished from Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s through pass to round off a magnificent break.

But Messi’s arrival in the latter stages of the second half swung the tie on its head, and with 71 minutes on the clock, a driving run from the Argentine was critical in setting up Pedro for a superbly-taken equaliser.

The Blaugrana would hold on in the remaining minutes to ensure their progression, joining Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund and eternal rivals Real Madrid in the hat for the last four draw.

Cesc Fabregas was the man chosen to replace Messi in the home side’s front three, while for the visitors, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Thiago Motta and Maxwell all started against their former club, with David Beckham benched.

Xavi could have got the ball rolling as early as the third minute when his 20-yard free-kick was curled agonisingly wide of the top corner, with Salvatore Sirigu beaten.

The pace of the match seemed to be picking up where the first leg’s emphatic finish left off, and Gerard Pique had to be alert to harry Ezequiel Lavezzi off the ball from a dangerous run through on goal.

Lavezzi was proving himself to be a menace on the break, but his finishing let him down more than once. The Argentine drilled over the bar after wriggling free at the top of the box, before firing straight at Victor Valdes with the goal at his mercy.

Pedro forced Sirigu into a safety-first parry at the near post, missing the rebound to boot, but by far, the better chances belonged to PSG who, at times, had Barca on the ropes.

With half an hour gone, Ibrahimovic did excellently to stand a cross up at the far post, where Lucas connected with a header, but Valdes was there to tip over, and the keeper also stood tall to thwart Alex from the resulting corner.

But the tempo of the game would settle as half-time approached, as Barca began to regain some semblance of solidarity at the back, though their efforts in the final third remained nullified.

However, with one scintillating counterattack five minutes into the second half, PSG carved the Catalans completely apart. Lucas and Ibrahimovic were both involved, with the latter slipping in Pastore for a delicate finish.

Pastore could have had another just before the hour mark when he strode into the area to meet Ibrahimovic’s low cross, but this time, he scuffed his shot.

Messi had already been put through his paces since the opening goal, and with 28 minutes remaining, he made his appearance off the bench, replacing the disappointing Fabregas.

And the Argentine was barely on the pitch for 10 minutes before making his presence felt, accelerating straight through the midfield and finding David Villa, who teed up Pedro to rifle home an exquisite equaliser from 18 yards.

Iniesta came close to putting the finishing touches on the tie with a mazy run through the defence with minutes remaining, but he could not place his angled finish anywhere but the side netting.

But despite a few nervy moments for Barca in the closing stages from set-pieces, time was simply not on PSG’s side, and the Catalans held on to triumph.

SOCCER UPDATESS – The newly-crowned German champions triumphed 2-0 in Turin on Wednesday night to seal a 4-0 aggregate win over their Italian counterparts.

The Bavarians soaked up what little the Bianconeri could throw at them during the early exchanges of both halves before eventually putting the outcome of the tie beyond all doubt when Mario Mandzukic converted from close range just after the hour-mark.

Juventus tried to rally but there was to be no way back for Antonio Conte’s game but limited side, who were opened up again in the dying seconds when substitute Claudio Pizarro fired home.

While the Bianconeri had to make do without suspended duo Arturo Vidal and Stephan Lichtsteiner, they were at least buoyed by Mirko Vucinic’s return to full fitness, with the Montenegrin having been restricted to the role of substitute in Munich.

Unsurprisingly, a fired-up Vucinic was particularly prominent early on, curling a tame strike into the arms of Manuel Neuer before then lofting the ball into the path of Claudio Marchisio, who drove forward with menace only to then blaze high and wide as the Bayern goal came into range.

Die Roten, though, weathered what was a very early and brief storm, and it took an expertly executed sliding challenge from Simone Padoin to prevent Mandzukic from finishing off a terrific move down the right-hand side involving Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery.

Andrea Pirlo lifted the home fans with a stinging free kick from the edge of the area that Neuer did well to fist over the bar, while Paul Pogba flashed a ball across the face of the six-yard box that criminally went unconverted.

However, for all the Bianconeris bluster, and the loss of Daniel van Buyten to injury 35 minutes in, Bayern looked reasonably comfortable and they arguably finished the half the stronger, with Gianluigi Buffon having to produce a flying save to keep out a well-struck drive from David Alaba.

Vucinic, though, put Juve back on the front foot with a barnstorming run right at the heart of the Bayern back-line immediately after the interval and, just moments later, strike partner Fabio Quagliarella flashed a shot just wide of Neuer’s right post.

However, the increasingly desperate hosts unsurprisingly began to leave holes at the back and one brilliant Bayern breakaway on 57 minutes really should have resulted in the opening goal, Mandzukic deftly laying the ball off into the path of Robben, who took a touch before striking the post with a sublime curling effort from 20 yards out.

The Bavarians’ disappointment did not last long, though, with Mandzukic on hand to convert the rebound after Buffon had done brilliantly to keep out Javi Martinez’s point-blank range volley from a Bastian Schweinsteiger free kick.

The visitors should have doubled their advantage moments later but Thomas Muller blazed over after being put through by Robben. However, Bayern would get the second goal their dominance deserved when Pizarro slotted home after slipped he was in by Schweinsteiger to put the seal on another statement of intent from a side clearly driven by their desire to atone for last season’s final defeat by Chelsea.

SOCCER UPDATESS – The Spanish side looked set to cruise through when Cristiano Ronaldo opened up a four-goal aggregate lead in the opening minutes, but a timid response by the visitors encouraged the Turkish giants to chase the impossible, which they almost achieved as Emmanuel Eboue, Wesley Sneijder and Didier Drogba hit in the second half. Ronaldo finally ended their hopes with a late goal that sealed victory.

Virtually assured of a place in the Champions League semi-finals thanks to a dominant 3-0 win in the Santiago Bernabeu, Real Madrid nevertheless began the second leg in belligerent fashion, pushing forward immediately in search of a goal.

Angel Di Maria was almost the man to provide it in the first minute of play, picking up a loose ball after Fernando Muslera’s rushed clearance outside the area. The Argentine went for the net, but with Galatasaray defenders scampering back he saw the effort fall just the wrong side of the post.

Away fans, however, did not have to wait long, as after just seven minutes of play the Merengue got the strike that would surely put the tie beyond the faintest of doubts. An overlapping Sami Khedira streaked past on the right-hand side, and put a teasing ball into the middle. As the Turkish backline failed to react, Cristiano Ronaldo was on hand to tap home, recording his 49th Champions League goal and drawing level with the legendary Alfredo Di Stefano in the historical charts.

Despite that early blow, Galatasaray held their heads high, dominating possession against Jose Mourinho’s men and attempting to match their rivals. Didier Drogba was the target of much of the Turks‘ attacking play, but was let down by poor service and his own fading reflexes, and struggled to make an impact. Madrid sat back and were content to allow their opponents to do the running, while on the counter-attack they remained a frightening force.

This potency on the break was demonstrated when Di Maria went within a hair’s breadth of adding a second. The midfielder latched to a wonderful flick from Ronaldo to break free on the left, and looked destined to put his name on the board. He did not count on the heroics of Muslera, however. The goalkeeper pulled off a breathtaking fingertip save to keep Angel out, and ensure that the gap would not widen as the two sides went in for the break.

The Turkish side continued their unlikely pursuit in the second half, and were rewarded with their first goal of the tie 57 minutes in – and it was one worth waiting for. A speculative ball across the Madrid area was not picked up by anyone, which allowed Emmanuel Eboue to meet it just on the edge of the area. The right-back had been disappointing during the opening hour, but atoned with a stunning power shot which left Lopez no chance to save, and put Galatasaray on the board.

The hosts were now buoyant, and could have reduced the deficit to ‘just’ three goals if Sneijder had converted a golden chance. The Netherlands star found himself in the right place at the back post after a low cross was deflected into his path but, gloriously unmarked, he fluffed a left-footed shot to save Madrid from falling behind on the night. The midfielder was not done, however, cutting inside his marker from deep, Sneijder went to to release a bullet of a shot that put his side ahead, at least for the second leg.

The Turkish crowd, from a position of despair, could not believe their eyes. Drogba set up an unthinkable last 20 minutes with a wonderful backheel into the net, putting Galatasaray 3-1 up and leaving just two goals for the comeback.

And Drogba thought he had levelled the tie before being pulled back for an offside and Madrid lived to breathe another day, Ronaldo confirming their passage with a strong finish in the final minute. The Merengue join Borussia Dortmund in the penultimate stage of the competition with Bayern Munich and Barcelona

SOCCER UPDATESS – Juventus will be without Stephan Lichtsteiner and Arturo Vidal for the second leg clash in Turin following their first-leg bookings, as the Bianconeri look to overturn a 2-0 deficit against newly-crowned German champions Bayern Munich.

The bulk of the Old Lady’s starting XI were rested at the weekend which means there could be up to seven changes to the side that beat Pescara 2-1. Gianluigi Buffon should return, while Andrea Barzagli and Giorgio Chiellini are welcomed back from their domestic suspensions, meaning the back four that has served Juve so well this season will be unchanged.

Federico Peluso is likely to start ahead of Ghanaian Kwadwo Asamoah, who has suffered indifferent form since returning from the Africa Cup of Nations. Simone Padoin could fill the right wing-back slot while Paul Pogba is in contention to start in place of the suspended Vidal.

Mirko Vucinic has fully recovered from illness but Sebastian Giovinco will miss the match after being stretchered off on Saturday, leaving Fabio Quagliarella and Alessandro Matri to battle it out for the remaining place upfront.

Javi Martinez is available again for Bayern after being suspended for the first leg, but Toni Kroos injured his adductor in Munich which means there is likely to be a reshuffle in attack, with Arjen Robben wide on the right, Thomas Muller drifting inside to occupy the No.10 role and Franck Ribery wide left.

Mario Mandzukic was rested against Frankfurt at the weekend but he is likely to start again against Antonio Conte’s men.

FUN FACTS :

  • Juventus’ 2-0 loss to Bayern Munich in the first leg encounter ensured their 18-game undefeated sequence came to an end in the Champions League.
  • The Bianconeri have not lost in their last five games at Juventus Stadium and Emmanuel Cascione’s strike at the weekend for Pescara ended Juve’s 465-minute run without conceding at home.
  • Juventus managed a 2-0 comeback earlier in the group stages when they came from behind to salvage a 2-2 draw against Chelsea. Fabio Quagliarella got the equaliser 10 minutes from time.
  • Bayern Munich wrapped up their 22nd Bundesliga (23rd title) with a record six matches to spare thanks to their 1-0 win over Frankfurt on Saturday.
  • Die Roten have won 13 of 14 away games in their domestic league this season, conceding only twice and their only away defeat in the Champions League was a 3-1 loss to BATE Borisov.
  • Bayern have won 14 of their 15 games in 2013, with the defeat to Arsenal in the second-leg of their last 16 clash their only loss so far this year.
Tomorrow evening, Barca will play against PSG at Camp Nou in the 2nd leg of Champions League

Tomorrow evening, Barca will play against PSG at Camp Nou in the 2nd leg of Champions League

SOCCER UPDATESS – Barcelona forward Lionel Messi is racing to recover from a hamstring strain in time for the crunch encounter against Paris SaintGermain at Camp Nou.

Cesc Fabregas is likely to be preferred in attack if Messi fails to return, while Pedro is also in contention for a starting berth after recovering from a calf injury.

Blaugrana boss Tito Vilanova may deploy either Sergio Busquets or Alex Song in central defence in place of the inexperienced Marc Bartra to counter the attacking threat of the visitors.

PSG captain Thiago Silva is expected to play despite missing the weekend win at Rennes with a bruised knee.

Thiago Motta (groin) and Alex (thigh) should also be fit, but Blaise Matuidi is suspended after picking up his third booking of the competition in the first leg.

DID YOU KNOW ? 

  • Barcelona are on a 20-match unbeaten run at Camp Nou in the Champions League, winning 16, since a 2-1 defeat against Rubin Kazan in October 2009.
  • The Blaugrana‘s overall home record against French opposition is W5, D1, L1, with their most recent encounter against a Ligue 1 club ending in a 5-2 second-leg victory over Olympique Lyonnais in the 2008-09 Champions League round of 16.
  • Barcelona have gone on to win 18 of 23 European ties in which they have drawn the first leg away from home.
  • Paris Saint-Germain have won three of their four away matches in the Champions League this season.
  • The Ligue 1 leaders have never lost a two-legged European tie to Spanish opponents before. Their overall away record against clubs from Spain is W4, D1, L3.
  • Zlatan Ibrahimovic is the only player to have scored for six different clubs in the Champions League: AC Milan, Ajax, Barcelona, Inter, Juventus and PSG.

 

P.S. : Lionel Messi’s injury will be announced tomorrow from the UEFA, whether he could go or not to play against PSG.

SOCCER UPDATESS – City took the lead through James Milner, whose powerful shot wormed its way past David de Gea, before a Vincent Kompany own goal restored equilibrium just minutes later.

But it was the away side who struck the decisive, final blow through substitute Sergio Aguero, whose vicious near-post effort rocketed into the top corner to earn Roberto Mancini’s side victory.

Wayne Rooney returned in attack for the Red Devils, partnering Robin van Persie up front, while Phil Jones was picked in defence. Veteran Ryan Giggs was selected to appear in his 37th Manchester derby.

ExRed Devil Carlos Tevez spearheaded City’s attack, with Aguero only fit enough for a place on the bench, while captain Kompany lined up in the centre of defence.

The game started at a frenetic pace, with both sides hurtling forwards and City especially eager to reclaim local pride and spoil the Old Trafford party. The away side’s right flank was particularly dangerous, with Milner fizzing crosses into the box.

But after the frantic early exchanges, the game settled into a calmer, more measured pace. City came closest to opening the scoring, with David Silva collecting Kompany’s crossfield pass, but the Spaniard’s pull-back was thumped clear by Jones.

In a half of few chances, it was adventurous full-back Rafael who had the home side’s best effort. The Brazilian latched onto Van Persie’s flick-on, but his looping, poked finish hit the outside of Joe Hart’s near post – though the England keeper looked to have it covered.

United began the second half well, with Ferguson geeing up the crowd with a fist-pump, but it was City who struck first, lighting the blue touch paper.

Gareth Barry robbed Giggs in midfield and burst up the left flank before squaring the ball to Samir Nasri on the edge of the box. The Frenchman then teed up Milner, whose powerful effort flicked off Jones and flew into the net to give City a 51st-minute lead.

But the advantage lasted just eight minutes before United equalised. Van Persie, in the midst of a goal drought, turned provider to send in an inch-perfect cross towards Jones, with the defender heading the ball against Kompany and into the back of the net.

The play dulled somewhat after that goal rush, until substitute Aguero produced a moment of magic. With few options and being pushed further and further away from goal, the Argentine finally unleashed a ferocious shot that thundered into the roof of the net.

United tried to mount a response, with Sir Alex introducing super-sub Chicharito and Patrice Evra heading straight at Hart, but it was in vain as City clung on to claim a morale-boosting win which delays the Red Devils’ wait for a 20th championship crown.