No excuses for Romelu Lukaku and other Man United talking points from Basel defeat

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Manchester United dominated the first half away to FC Basel but the hosts rallied in the second and deservedly edged a 1-0 win to keep them in the hunt for a spot in the Champions League round of 16.

The visitors were guilty of not taking their chances in the opening period while Marouane Fellaini and Marcos Rojo both rattled the woodwork and were punished by Michael Lang’s 89th minute winner.

The defeat still leaves United in prime position to win Group A or at the very least qualify unless they suffer a heavy six-goal defeat to CSKA Moscow while and Basel beat Benfica in the final round.

Here are three things learned from the encounter in Switzerland.

POGBA RETURN LEAVES LUKAKU WITH NO EXCUSE

It’s no coincidence that Paul Pogba’s first game back from injury saw Romelu Lukaku end his seven-match drought for United. The Frenchman creates chances for the striker whether directly or just by making the rest of the team tick.

Against Basel as well, there was the chance in the first half, when Pogba played Lukaku clean through only for the Belgian to force a save from the keeper when he really should’ve scored.

Early in the second half as well, Pogba crossed for the striker who couldn’t direct his header on target. Lukaku is the kind of player who needs service to thrive and you could say that has been absent while Pogba was sidelined but not anymore

If United’s summer signing wants to establish himself among the elite centre forwards in Europe, he needs to be more clinical and assume the role as the team’s match-winner.

Paul Pogba

Paul Pogba

THE END OF THE ROAD FOR SHAW?

Pogba returns to fitness and goes straight back into the team, Zlatan Ibrahimovic returns and makes two appearances off the bench, Marcos Rojo gets a start against Basel but Luke Shaw still can’t get a game from Jose Mourinho.

It appears that the Portuguese has completely lost faith in the young left-back, choosing to start Daley Blind instead. The Dutchman lack of mobility regularly exposes him when he plays as a full-back and looked out of his depth again on Wednesday night.

Blind was beaten for pace on a few occasions and couldn’t offer much going forward either, visibly struggling to keep up with Anthony Martial. Somehow, Shaw was still left on the bench even with United searching for a winner.

For the goal as well, Blind looked over and saw Lang over his should twice before the cross came in but didn’t act quickly, was sluggish and failed to intervene.

Luke Shaw

Luke Shaw

ROJO BOOSTS MOURINHO’S OPTIONS

One of the positives of the game in Basel for United will be the return of Rojo.

The centre-back put in a solid performance in his first game back. He was excellent on the ball and even managed a shot from over 35 yards out that took a slight deflection and rattled the cross bar.

The Argentine made two interceptions on the night to go with his three clearances and two tackles while his one block was a crucial one to deny Dimitri Oberlin.

He also had the most passes in the game (92), six more than Ander Herrera. With Phil Jones and Eric Bailly recovering from injuries and the left-back role perpetually up for grabs, Rojo’s return could prove to be a timely one for Mourinho heading into the busy fixture period.

Marcos Rojo (R)

Marcos Rojo (R)

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Morata-Hazard link adds extra quality and other talking points ahead of Chelsea's visit to Qarabag

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Morata and Hazard are starting to show their understanding.

Premier League holders Chelsea play Qarabag in Baku, Azerbaijan on Wednesday night seeking to progress from Champions League Group C.

Here, Press Association Sport looks at some of the talking points ahead of the contest.

Taking care of business

Win and Chelsea will be in the knockout stages. Even a draw will be enough if Atletico Madrid drop points against Roma, who enter the fifth round of matches one point better off than Chelsea.

Chelsea beat Qarabag 6-0 in September, but the Azerbaijan side have since pushed Roma close and twice drew with Atletico. Chelsea, meanwhile, claimed one point from two games with Roma.

Securing a place in the last 16 with one game to spare, even if first can still be contested, will ease Blues’ minds.

Chelsea can book their spot in the next round despite the loss against Roma.

Chelsea can book their spot in the next round despite the loss against Roma.

Consistency required

Since losing 3-0 at Roma, Chelsea have beaten Manchester United 1-0 and West Brom 4-0.

The Blues have four straight Premier League wins since the defeat to previously pointless Crystal Palace.

Antonio Conte’s side have veered from the sublime (at Atletico Madrid) to the spineless (at Palace) this season and must show greater consistency, no matter the occasion or opposition.

With losses to the likes of Palce, Chelsea need a consistent run.

With losses to the likes of Palace, Chelsea need a consistent run.

Luiz to get a chance?

David Luiz was an integral figure in Chelsea’s title triumph in Conte’s first season, but his star has fallen this term.

Necessity saw the Brazil defender moved forwards into midfield in October’s 3-3 draw with Roma, but Conte admitted the experiment saw Chelsea’s approach change, for the worse. And after the 3-0 loss in Rome, with Luiz in a crumbling defence, the Brazilian has been a spectator.

Not even on the bench against United, he was an unused substitute at West Brom, but he may get his chance in Baku, not least to give the impressive Andreas Christensen a breather.

Luiz has not featured since the 3-0 loss to Roma.

Luiz has not featured since the 3-0 loss to Roma.

Baker’s dozen of games

Qarabag is the first of 12 games before the end of the calendar year and 13 (a Baker’s dozen) if you include the January 3 clash at Arsenal.

The congested schedule makes rotation necessary and Saturday’s trip to Liverpool may be on Conte’s mind when it comes to team selection in Baku. He must get the balance right, though, as Chelsea must maintain momentum.

Conte often references that he used just 13 or 14 players when Chelsea had just a domestic focus last season. Now his more peripheral men must show they too can perform.

Conte will have to make full use of his bench strength in the coming days.

Conte will have to make full use of his bench strength in the coming days.

Morata and Eden are Hazard-ous

At Atletico and again at West Brom, striker Alvaro Morata and forward Eden Hazard showed their understanding.

The pair can become a devastating partnership to rival any in the European game – but they must keep producing.

With Cesc Fabregas’ artistry and N’Golo Kante’s industry, Chelsea have players the envy of many of their rivals. It is about their team-mates rising to the occasion, like they did last season.

Morata and Hazard have the potential to develop an exciting partnership.

Morata and Hazard have the potential to develop an exciting partnership.

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Sevilla boss Eduardo Berizzo diagnosed with prostate cancer

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The magic of 'that' half-time team talk: Eduardo Berizzo (c)

​Sevilla’s Argentine coach Eduardo Berizzo has been diagnosed with prostate cancer, the club confirmed on Wednesday, just hours after his side staged a remarkable comeback against Liverpool in the Champions League.

“The medical services of Sevilla FC can inform that the coach of the first team, Eduardo Berizzo, has been diagnosed with an adenocarcinoma of the prostate,” the club said in a statement.

“Further tests will determine which steps to follow regarding his treatment. Sevilla FC wants to show their full support to the coach right now and wishes him a speedy recovery.”

Berizzo, 48, made no statement on his health when speaking to media after the Spanish side came from 3-0 down at half-time to draw 3-3 against the five-time European champions.

A former centre-back for River Plate, Marseille and Celta Vigo among others, Berizzo is in his first season as Sevilla boss after three successful years in charge of Celta.

Several Sevilla players had hailed Berizzo’s powers of motivation to orchestrate their second-half fightback.

“We had to come out with a different attitude for the fans and for the boss, he made us play like that,” said Argentine international Ever Banega. “He turned the situation around in the second half.”

Spanish football has rallied round Berizzo with numerous clubs, including his former side Celta sending their support.

“All our strength and support for Berizzo,” the Galicians posted on Twitter.

“Be strong boss, you are in the best place in the world to not give in because there they never give up,” said Sevilla’s legendary former sporting director Monchi, who joined Roma earlier this year.

Sevilla sit fifth in La Liga and need just a point from their final Champions League group game away at Maribor to secure their place in the last 16.

It remains to be seen whether Berizzo will need to take time away from his duties as coach to concentrate on his recuperation.

In the 2012/13 season, then Barcelona coach Tito Vilanova stood aside for several months as he underwent treatment for throat cancer in New York.

Vilanova returned for the final two months of the season as Barca won the league with a club record 100 points, but resigned shortly afterwards and passed away in April 2014 at just 45.

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