Breakfast Briefing: Messi and Ibra star in UCL action
Martin Demichelis' red card proved pivotal as Barcelona beat Man City 2-0 at Etihad Stadium to take control of their UEFA Champions League last-16 tie. The visitors had the better of the early going as City soaked up pressure well, but Demichelis' second-half foul on Lionel Messi allowed the Argentine to stroke home the first goal from the penalty spot. Barcelona made the most of their numerical advantage thereafter, as Daniel Alves added a second in the closing stages.
Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini was livid after the game, slamming referee Jonas Eriksson and questioning his impartiality. Barcelona head coach Gerardo Martino preferred to concentrate on his team, insisting that they would not relax as they look to refocus on the league after their two-goal win.
Cash-rich Paris Saint-Germain were the other big winners on the night, recording a resounding 4-0 victory away to Bayer Leverkusen. Star striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic was the inspiration, as his two goals led the way at the BayArena. Blaise Matuidi opened the scoring for the Parisian giants three minutes in, while Yohan Cabaye's first goal for the club was the icing on the cake in the dying stages.
French coach Laurent Blanc was delighted with the emphatic display from his team, praising PSG's mentality after the 4-0 demolition and claiming that he felt his players had been raring to go before the game. A shellshocked Sami Hyypia was left denying that it had all gone wrong for Bayer Leverkusen, instead choosing to praise his opponents and their performance on the night.
In other Champions League news, Bayern Munich coach Pep Guardiola feels it would be 'impossible' to face Arsenal without inspirational captain Philipp Lahm in his squad. Guardiola admits that Bayern are favourites in tonight's tie, but claims it is difficult to dominate the Gunners for 90 minutes.
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger on the other hand is quietly confident, revealing that his side are more mentally prepared to beat Bayern than this time 12 months ago. Last season's encounter had seen the Bavarian giants advance on the away goals rule, but Wenger believes the Gunners are in a better mental shape this time round after their excellent league form.
Clarence Seedorf believes high-flying Atletico Madrid has weaknesses that his AC Milan side can exploit in their last-16 UEFA Champions League clash on Wednesday. The Italian outfit are enduring a difficult league campaign so far, but newly-appointed Seedorf is confident his 'keen and motivated' side can trouble Atletico.
Fulham have finally confirmed the departure of coaching trio Rene Meulensteen, Alan Curbishley and Ray Wilkins. The future of the trio had been in doubt since the sudden appointment of Felix Magath as first-team manager last Friday and it appears that all three have now left the club. Coaches Jonathan Hill and Mick Priest have also left Craven Cottage, with Magath eager to get his own backroom staff into the club.
Michael Laudrup is back in the news again as he admits being left 'confused' by the events that led to his departure from Liberty Stadium. The former Swansea City manager was dramatically relieved of his duties earlier this month and replaced with defender Garry Monk, but claims he waited nine days before receiving written notification from the club.
Meanwhile, Manchester United's record signing Juan Mata is still harboring hopes of a top-four placing despite the club's disappointing campaign of late. The defending champions are currently 11 points adrift of fourth-placed Liverpool, but Mata is still hopeful that the Red Devils can claw back the deficit and qualify for next season's Champions League.
Real Madrid full-back Dani Carvajal has praised the work of coach Carlo Ancelotti, vowing to do everything he can to stay in the Italian's plans. Carvajal is currently battling with Alvaro Arbeloa for the right-back slot at Real, but is determined to win his place on merit.