Willian, Higuain or Fred? Vote for the UEFA Champions League Goal of the Week, presented by Nissan!

Willian’s stunning strike versus Barcelona has been nominated for the UEFA Champions League Goal of the Week, presented by Nissan!

The Chelsea man’s low, curling drive came in his side’s 1-1 draw with the Catalans at Stamford Bridge.

But the Brazilian will have to overcome some stiff competition to claim the prize after the first knockout round produced a whole host of top-quality strikes.

Juventus striker Gonzalo Higuain will fancy his chances after a sensational over-the-shoulder volley in the Old Lady’s 2-2 draw with Tottenham Hotspur.

And so too will Shakhtar Donetsk midfielder Fred, who gave the Ukrainians a 2-1 victory over Roma on Thursday with a fabulous, dipping free-kick that went in off the underside of the crossbar.

Liverpool’s Sadio Mane is also in contention after a flashing a long-range effort into the corner of the Porto net during his side’s 5-0 demolition of the Portuguese.

Manchester City’s Ilkay Gundogan rounds off the nominations with his own shot from distance that curled beyond Tomas Vaclik as the Premier League side claimed a comfortable 4-0 win at Basel.

Click here to watch the contenders and vote for the UEFA Champions League Goal of the Week, presented by Nissan!


Allegri allays Higuain injury fears ahead of key fixtures

Juventus star Gonzalo Higuain was substituted just 15 minutes into a 1-0 win over Torino on Sunday, but did not suffer a serious injury, according to coach Massimiliano Allegri.

Higuain was replaced by Federico Bernardeschi early in the Derby della Mole at Stadio Olimpico Grande Torino, an apparent ankle problem prompting fears over the future availability of the Argentina striker.

Bernardeschi was also withdrawn in injury time, but Allegri does not expect either player to spend a significant period of time on the sidelines. 

“Higuain received a bruise and we’ll evaluate him,” he said.

“Bernardeschi left in the final stretch but there shouldn’t be any problems. 

Article continues below

[embedded content]

“Starting Wednesday we’ll regroup with everyone available, but in any event the team is feeling well and they showed it today.”

Juve host Atalanta in successive Serie A and Coppa Italia matches before visiting Lazio in the league, as they build towards the second leg of their Champions League round-of-16 tie against Tottenham on 7 March.

Spurs rallied from falling 2-0 down within nine minutes at Juventus Stadium on Tuesday to earn a 2-2 draw, leaving the Scudetto holders with a tough task to progress to the quarter-finals when they visit Wembley next month.


Allegri convinced Juve can get past Spurs

Massimiliano Allegri insisted Juventus can still get past Tottenham in the Champions League after they responded to a 2-2 draw with Spurs by winning the Derby della Mole 1-0 at Torino on Sunday.

The Scudetto holders gave up an early 2-0 lead and missed a penalty at home to Mauricio Pochettino’s team in the round of 16 on Tuesday, and the Premier League side will have the advantage of two away goals in the return fixture at Wembley next month.

Disappointment at the result did not prevent Juve from keeping the pressure on Napoli in Serie A, though, Alex Sandro’s 33rd-minute goal sealing all three points against their cross-city rivals at Stadio Olimpico Grande Torino.

“[We] made too many technical errors after going 2-0 up against Tottenham and they had more chances than we did, but we go to London convinced we can do it,” Allegri told Mediaset Premium after the derby.

“Juve are a strong side with extraordinary players, so I am happy to train them. We’re challenging on all three fronts, only got it wrong in four games and I don’t consider the 2-2 with Tottenham to be a failure, nor a tragedy.

Article continues below

[embedded content]

“I am proud of the lads and today we saw a good reaction, as we enjoyed ourselves even during difficult moments.”

Paulo Dybala made his return from a hamstring injury off the bench in the second half against Torino, replacing Douglas Costa in the 66th minute, having not featured since a 1-0 win at Cagliari on January 6.

“Dybala did well for 30 minutes. Obviously he’s lacking match fitness, but that will come,” Allegri said.


Torino 0 Juventus 1: Champions win derby but lose Higuain

Juventus lost Gonzalo Higuain to injury as they claimed a 1-0 derby win over Torino on Sunday to move top of Serie A, temporarily at least.

Alex Sandro scored the only goal of the game in the first half at the Olimpico Grande Torino to make it just one defeat in 24 league meetings for Juve with their city rivals.

However, the loss of Higuain after quarter of an hour will be a cause of concern for Massimiliano Allegri, even though Paulo Dybala was able to make his return from a hamstring injury.

Torino, who had won three and drawn one of their previous four home matches without conceding a goal, were the better of the two teams in the opening exchanges before Higuain went off after failing to run off a knock.

Juve, who started with Wojciech Szczesny in goal as one of four changes to the team that drew 2-2 with Tottenham in the Champions League, looked short of their best but struck the decisive blow through Alex Sandro in the 33rd minute.

It proved to be a fairly comfortable last hour for the champions, who move a point above Napoli at the top ahead of their clash with SPAL later on Sunday, but Higuain’s injury will have soured the celebrations.

Higuain’s match came to an end 15 minutes in, the striker deciding he was not able to continue having apparently hurt his ankle after hurdling goalkeeper Salvatore Sirigu.

Juve seemed unsettled by the loss of the Argentine and their frustrations grew when Cristian Ansaldi escaped punishment for a crude lunge on Miralem Pjanic.

Torino created the better of the early chances, too, with Andrea Belotti firing into the side-netting and Szczesny claiming Lorenzo De Silvestri’s header, but the visitors struck the first blow 33 minutes in.

Federico Bernardeschi, on for Higuain, drove past Cristian Molinaro into the box and fired towards the far post, giving Alex Sandro a simple finish on the goal line.

With their lead intact, Juve appeared happy to soak up any Torino pressure early in the second half, before Dybala was introduced just past the hour mark for his first Serie A appearance since January 6.

It was the Argentine forward who had the first real chance to add to Juve’s lead, racing onto Bernardeschi’s pass into the area but just failing to steer the ball on target with his right foot.

Dybala’s touch seemed to be deserting him on his return, as he sliced another good chance over the bar after Alex Sandro teed him up 15 yards out, and scuffed a shot straight at Sirigu after a promising run.

They did not prove costly misses, though, as Juve saw out a ninth-straight win in the top flight ahead of a crucial run of matches, which includes league and Coppa Italia meetings with Atalanta, a trip to Lazio and the return clash with Spurs at Wembley.


Ronaldo, Neuer & Di Maria – Former Bayern & Real Madrid star Altintop spoilt for choice in team-mates XI

Hamit Altintop has found space for the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and Manuel Neuer in an XI of top team-mates, but struggled to whittle down his choices.

The former Turkey international currently finds himself without a club having parted company with Darmstadt in January.

He is now 35 years of age, but is able to reflect on a memorable career which has seen him grace the books at Schalke, Bayern Munich, Real Madrid and Galatasaray.

Over the course of those spells, the experienced midfielder has worked alongside some iconic figures of the modern era.

Charged with the task of skimming the cream from the top, Altintop admitted to Goal that selecting just 11 names would not be easy, given the depth of the talent pool available to him.

[embedded content]

He said: “How can I build a team right now? I have Neuer, [Iker] Casillas and [Oliver] Kahn for the goalkeeper position.

“Luca Toni, Cristiano Ronaldo, [Miroslav] Klose, [Karim] Benzema, [Gonzalo] Higuain as strikers…”

Eventually, Altintop was able to narrow down his selection and piece together a star-studded side.

He said of his choices: “Neuer, [Philipp] Lahm, Lucio, [Sergio] Ramos, Marcelo, Xabi Alonso, Ze Roberto.

“Left wing [Franck] Ribery, right wing [Angel] Di Maria, in front of them Higuain.

“Even though I like Benzema I will select Higuain, and finally at the end Cristiano Ronaldo.”

Hamit Altintop team-mate XI

Altintop was not pressed on a choice of manager, but current Bayern boss Jupp Heynckes is a coach he holds in the highest regard having previously worked with him at Schalke.

He said of a man still operating on a short-term deal at the Allianz Arena: “We worked together back in 2003, in Schalke.

“He bonds Spanish and German styles of football, that is his main characteristic. He is very responsive, fatherly and has great relationships with people around him.

“His treble of the Champions League, Bundesliga and German Cup made it more difficult to replace him.

“Pep Guardiola achieved incredible things with Bayern, developed the team, completed a three-peat in the Bundesliga, but couldn’t win the Champions League trophy.

“[Carlo] Ancelotti also has a remarkable career, but he couldn’t fit in the German culture. With Heynckes back, Bayern has that atmosphere again.”

Leon Goretzka Germany

Altintop believes a promising German coach, such as Hoffenheim’s Julian Nagelsmann or Schalke’s Domenico Tedesco will ultimately succeed Heynckes, with another change in the Bayern dugout expected at the end of the season.

Article continues below

Whoever is at the helm for 2018-19 will have a talented group at their disposal, with the reigning Bundesliga champions already planning for the future after putting a deal in place for highly-rated midfielder Leon Goretzka.

Altintop added on a man following a similar career path to himself: “I think Leon’s style is similar to mine. I too played over 100 Bundesliga matches with Schalke and moved to Bayern without a fee.

“He is very talented and physically strong. He might struggle in his early days at Bayern but we can say he has a bright future.”