Juventus boss Maurizio Sarri ‘absolutely determined’ to secure victory over Atletico Madrid

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Juventus manager Maurizio Sarri knows his side must show “absolute determination” if they are to start their Champions League campaign with a positive result at Atletico Madrid.

The two side go head-to-head at the Wanda Metropolitano on Wednesday, with Atletico out to make amends for last season’s elimination at the last-16 stage by the Serie A giants.

Sarri opened his first season in charge with two wins before the international break, but saw Juventus held to a goalless draw at Fiorentina on Saturday.

The Bianconeri have been hit by more injury setbacks concerning Douglas Costa and defender Danilo, although midfielder Miralem Pjanic is expected to be involved.

Whatever side former Chelsea boss Sarri is able to send out, he expects the players to produce the required performance.

“We are Juventus and our objective is always to win. We have to face this game with absolute determination, but also with calm as we have to be able to express ourselves,” Sarri said at a press conference.

“We have many weapons with different characteristics.”

Sarri added: “Atletico are one of the teams who can win the Champions League. With their characteristics, they can take on anyone.”

With captain Giorgio Chiellini out for around six months after knee surgery, defender Leonardo Bonucci maintains everyone is pulling together.

“It’s not in the DNA of Juventus to think about drawing a match even before playing it. We want to show that we are on the right path and bring home the result,” he said.

“Tomorrow will be a battle. We will look to play a great game from the first minute. We’re coming here very fired up and full of energy.”

Atletico are second in the LaLiga table, but lost 2-0 at Real Sociedad on Saturday.

Diego Simeone’s men will be looking to lay down a marker of their own in Group D – and keeping a certain Cristiano Ronaldo quiet.

“Juve are always a very competitive squad, with players of great potential,” Atletico manager Simeone said.

“Tomorrow, it will be difficult to take ideas from last year’s matches because Sarri’s game is different.”

Simeone added: “It is difficult to prepare for a game against Cristiano Ronaldo. He is an animal in front of goal.”

Provided by Press Association Sport

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Lionel Messi back in business and other key talking points from Barcelona's draw against Borussia Dortmund

Andy West 18/09/2019
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Barcelona stumbled to an unconvincing goalless draw at Borussia Dortmund on Tuesday night, with Marc-Andre ter Stegen taking the starring role with some excellent goalkeeping.

The outcome was far better than the performance as Barca claimed a point from arguably their toughest game of the group stage, but manager Ernesto Valverde will know his team needs to improve significantly all over the pitch.

Here are the key takeaways from this Champions League opener.

Ter Stegen to the rescue

This was a far from convincing performance from Barcelona, who created no major chances of note and were indebted to a combination of poor finishing, a touch of fortune when Julian Brandt’s thunderbolt shot crashed onto the crossbar and, above all, some excellent goalkeeping from Marc-Andre ter Stegen.

Back in his native Germany, the keeper produced several super stops highlighted by a magnificent diving effort full stretch to his left to palm away Marco Reus’s penalty midway through the second half (although, it must be acknowledged, the penalty really should have been retaken because ter Stegen had advanced halfway to Moenchengladbach before it was taken).

The outstanding display felt like something of a statement from ter Stegen, who has attracted big headlines in Germany over several months for national team coach Joachim Low’s refusal to promote him ahead of Manuel Neuer as Germany’s first choice.

Overhauling a legend and team captain like Neuer is no easy task, especially when he carries so much support within Germany as a star player for the country’s most popular club Bayern Munich, but ter Stegen cannot have done any more to state his case. Now all he can do is wait until next month’s internationals, and keep his fingers crossed.

Away woes continue

Aside from ter Stegen, there were very few bright spots to Barcelona’s performance. They were continually vulnerable at the back, with Nelson Semedo suffering a torrid night against Jadon Sancho and the centre back duo of Clement Lenglet and Gerard Pique regularly getting caught on their heels.

The midfield trio of Sergio Busquets, Arthur Melo and Frenkie de Jong kept the ball well at times without offering any penetration, and were regularly exposed by Dortmund’s swift breaks from defence – although that was less evident after de Jong moved to the pivot position in place of Busquets.

Up front, Antoine Griezmann worked hard up and down the left wing but rarely threatened goal, while Luis Suarez was starved of service and teenager Ansu Fati was handed a dose of reality after the magic of his previous performance against Valencia.

It all added up to a pretty mediocre showing which continues the team’s troubles away from home, leaving Ernesto Valverde’s men with just one win from their last eight road trips. If they don’t find a way of delivering more effective performances on their travels soon – starting at Granada on Saturday – they will struggle to claim any meaningful silverware this season.

Messi back in business

Aside from ter Stegen, the only real positive on the night for Barca was the return to action of Lionel Messi, who made his first appearance of the season after recovering from a calf strain by replacing Fati after an hour.

Although there were a few shimmies and feints to send a reminder of Messi’s brilliance, in truth he wasn’t able to exert a big influence on the action as Dortmund pushed harder for a winner, and his only sight of goal was swiftly snuffed out by a solid block as he latched onto a deep cross with the last touch of the game.

But expecting Messi – or any other player – to be performing at their peak after not playing any competitive football for more than two months and only completing two full training sessions would be wholly unrealistic, and Barca fans should just be grateful to see their icon back on the pitch rather than worrying too much about how he played.

The next decision to be made by Messi and Valverde – presumably after discussion together – is whether he will start at Granada on Saturday or wait until next Tuesday night’s home meeting with Villarreal.

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I want to win the Ballon d’Or more times than Lionel Messi, says Cristiano Ronaldo

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Cristiano Ronaldo is determined to end his career with at least one more Ballon d’Or than great rival Lionel Messi as he attempts to establish himself as the greatest player of all time.

The Portugal skipper and his Barcelona and Argentina rival have each claimed the prestigious award on five occasions, but 34-year-old Ronaldo is not satisfied with that.

Speaking on ITV’s Cristiano Ronaldo Meets Piers Morgan, the 34-year-old Juventus superstar said: “I would love it, and I think I deserve it.

“Messi is a fantastic guy, a fantastic player. He’s in the history of football – but I think I have to have six or seven or eight to be above him.

“My relationship with him is, we are not friends, but we have shared this stage for 15 years. I have a good relationship with him and I know that he has pushed me to be a better player and I have pushed him to be a better player as well.”

Serial winner Ronaldo, who agreed that Messi is the best he has played against, hopes to be remembered as one of the best – if not the best – footballers the game has ever seen.

He said: “I’m sure I’m in the history of football for what I have done and what I’m continuing to do, but one of the best players in history.

“For me, the number one in history, but for some fans, if the number one is another one and I’m second, it doesn’t matter.

“I know I’m in the history of football as one of the greatest ever.”

The former Manchester United and Real Madrid player has five Champions League titles to his name and has led Portugal to Euro 2016 and Nations League glory, and the 145 individual records he has amassed along the way continue to fuel his quest for more honours.

He said: “It’s part of my sacrifice, my obsession to win, to have success. When I say success, I have worked for that. Talent is not enough, I dedicate so much that this is part of me, records are part of me.

“I don’t follow the records, the records follow me. I’m addicted to the success, and I don’t think it’s something bad, I think it’s good. It motivates me. If you’re not motivated, it’s better to stop.”

The Madeira-born striker was moved to tears when shown footage of his late father Jose Dinis Aveiro, who died of liver failure as he was making his way in the game, and he revealed his gratitude to his mother Dolores for her support throughout his life to date.

He said: “My mum was the pillar of the family. What I have today, it’s in big part from her.”

Ronaldo, who has four children, found himself thrust into the limelight for the wrong reasons last year when he was accused of rape and although no charges were ever brought, that had an impact on him, his girlfriend Georgina Rodriguez and their family – in particular his mother.

He said: “I’m not going to forget that 2018 probably was the most difficult year of my life in terms of outside football.

“My mum sometimes was very nervous and I said, ‘Mum, relax. You know the son that you have at home, relax, nothing is going to happen. Trust me’.

“But she was nervous, she is old. She is nervous at games – imagine the personal stuff of her son, thinking about jail, rape, this kind of stuff. It’s hard for an old person.

“But at the end of the day, it was good. The law did the job it should do and I’m happy, of course.”

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