Kovac: Bayern can’t afford defensive mistake against Liverpool

Bayern Munich coach Niko Kovac warned his team they would find themselves under heavy pressure against Liverpool unless they improved defensively.

The Bundesliga giants came from behind twice before claiming a 3-2 victory over Augsburg on Friday.

But Bayern’s defending concerned Kovac ahead of the first leg of their Champions League last-16 tie against Liverpool at Anfield on Tuesday, with his side having now failed to keep a clean sheet in six games in 2019.

“This [defensive mistakes] cannot happen to us at Liverpool,” the Croatian told a news conference.

“When my players at Liverpool start letting people go, especially with the front three there [Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino], then we will find ourselves in a very dangerous situation every minute.

“That’s why it’s important to have the ball to take responsibility and act in a disciplined way.

“Then you can defend something, but if you let the opponents run, then every team in the Bundesliga has the quality to score.”

Kingsley Coman scored a brace for Bayern and set up David Alaba’s winner, before coming off with an ankle injury.

The 22-year-old twice drew his team level after a Leon Goretzka own goal and Ji Dong-won strike for Augsburg.

Kovac, who is hopeful over Coman’s availability for the trip to Anfield, said Bayern were still not where he wanted them to be when out of possession.

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“I think it felt like three shots from Augsburg and two of them scored. That’s what basically haunts us throughout the season – every shot is a goal,” he said.

“And if we don’t have the ball, we don’t act as I imagine. We know that our individual mistakes mostly result in goals.”

Bayern’s win moved them to within two points of Bundesliga leaders Borussia Dortmund, who visit Nurnberg on Monday.


Koulibaly ‘pleased’ with mounting transfer interest but wants to prove his value with Napoli

Napoli defender Kalidou Koulibaly is pleased to be attracting interest from elsewhere, but says he is happy to continue his growth with the Serie A club. 

Koulibaly, 27, is consistently linked with a move away from Napoli, where he arrived from Genk in 2014. 

Manchester United are among a host of clubs to have been linked with the defender in recent weeks as the centre-back continues to impress in Serie A.  

And while the Senegal international said he appreciated the interest from other clubs, he claims to still have a high level of motivation to prove himself at Napoli. 

“My future? I don’t know if I’m one of the strongest defenders. I always try to give my best,” Koulibaly told Rai Sport on Friday. 

“Since I’m here, I always try to grow with Napoli. I have a lot of motivation to go on and I want to keep doing this.” 

While the defender says he’s happy to go on at Napoli, he may have also offered a hint at wanting something bigger in the future.  

“I am pleased that many teams follow me, but I want to demonstrate on the field that I am at the level of the greatest and I want to show it in the future,” he said.  

Koulibaly has made 30 appearances in all competitions for Napoli this season, with the club currently sitting second in the league table.  

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Friday’s win for Juventus leaves Napoli 14 points back of the league leaders, though they can close that gap when they take on Torino on Sunday.  

The club are also alive and well in the Europa League, where they claimed a 3-1 win over Zurich in the first leg of their round of 32 clash on Thursday.  

Napoli will be hoping to hold onto their star centre-back, especially with the club having recently lost long-time hero Marek Hamsik to Chinese outfit Dalian Yifang.


Juventus boss Allegri refuses to be drawn in on Icardi speculation

/en/news/8/main/2019/02/15/51627042/icardi-posts-cryptic-message-following-inter-captaincy-snubMassimiliano Allegri refused to be drawn in on links between Juventus and Mauro Icardi.  

The Argentine was stripped of the Nerazzurri captaincy ahead of the Europa League tie with Rapid Vienna on Thursday, with the role instead handed to Samir Handanovic. 

The decision was described as “painful” by both coach Luciano Spalletti and sporting director Piero Ausilio.  

Icardi then pulled out of the squad for the Europa League clash and appeared to hint at an injury on social media – with Spalletti claiming it was the striker’s decision. 

Following a 1-0 Inter away win, Lautaro Martinez’s penalty having been enough to win it for the Italian side, Icardi again took to Instagram with a cryptic message in which he refused to speak on recent developments.  

Quoting the famed American writer Mark Twain, Icardi wrote: “It’s better to keep your mouth shut and appear stupid than open it and remove all doubt.” 

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Confúndelos con tu silencio, Sorpréndelos con tus acciones. 🤫😉 #MI9 . . #lion @arturholykoi #tattoo #ink 💉

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He followed up that post with another on Friday reading: “Confuse them with your silence, surprise them with your actions.” 

The tumultuous week has left rumours swirling about the forward’s future, but Juve boss Allegri was not interested in talking about the transfer market or Icardi ahead of a crucial stretch of the season for his club.  

“I don’t know anything about the market. I prefer to go to the beach in the summer! The club takes care of the players and makes them available,” he said. 

“Icardi is a forward who can score goals, but I leave the assessments to [Inter boss Luciano] Spalletti, who coaches him and knows him better.” 

Wanda Nara, his wife and agent, has so far failed to agree on a new deal, keeping speculation around the forward active.  

She is reported to have angered some at Inter by suggesting Icardi is not getting enough protection from the negative views of him in the media. 

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Despite that, Ausilio insists the club are not interested in offloading the Argentina international.  

Icardi has netted nine times in Serie A so far this season, adding two assists.  

Inter sit third in the league table, nine points back of second-placed Napoli and 23 points back of Allegri’s Juventus outfit.


‘You can’t do that’ – Neuer annoyed with Bayern Munich’s defensive ‘madness’

Manuel Neuer acknowledged that Bayern Munich must improve in defence if they are to stand a chance of progressing past Liverpool in the Champions League.

Neuer returned to Bayern’s team on Friday, following a three-game absence due to a thumb injury, but conceded after just 13 seconds in the 3-2 Bundesliga win over Augsburg when Leon Goretzka deflected into his own net.

It was the fastest own goal in Bundesliga history, leaving the club with an early hill to climb. 

Kingsley Coman – who went off injured late on – restored parity and the France winger again levelled when Augsburg went back ahead courtesy of Ji Dong-won.

David Alaba’s second-half goal proved the winner for the German giants, who closed the gap on league leaders Dortmund to just two points, though their rivals will hold a game in hand until they take the pitch on Monday against Nuremberg​. 

But Neuer was not pleased with how his club played at the back and says Bayern must cut out on the “madness”, especially if they are to come away with anything from the first leg of their Champions League last-16 clash with Jurgen Klopp’s side at Anfield on Tuesday.

“The game was all great, but conceding the goals was, of course, madness,” Neuer told reporters. “You cannot do that.

“We wanted to keep a clean sheet again, the good thing was that we still had time after the 1-0.

“Liverpool will have more chances to score. We were caught cold twice on the wings, we need to stand better, occupy the box better and organise ourselves very well, especially with passes over the side so we can prevent that.”

While Neuer was annoyed, manager  Niko Kovac​ floated the belief that his side might have been overlooking their opponent on the day with a clash against the Premier League side looming. 

The injury to Coman will also come as a blow as the club enter a busy time, with matches against top half clubs Hertha, Borussia Monchengladbach and Wolfsburg all on tap between the first leg against Liverpool on Tuesday and the return leg on March 13. 


‘Life is for warriors’ – Neymar defiant on social media as injury recovery continues

Neymar has used social media to share a defiant message as he continues his recovery from a metatarsal injury.

Paris Saint-Germain’s star man has been out of action since sustaining the injury in a Coupe de France win over Strasbourg last month.

The 27-year-old missed PSG’s 2-0 win over Manchester United on Tuesday, but revealed he is hopeful of returning in time to feature in the Champions League quarter-finals should Thomas Tuchel’s side avoid an embarrassing turnaround in the second leg of their clash with the Red Devils.

“It’s getting better,” the attacker told YouTube show  Fui Clear .

“We have already done several treatments, some procedures in order to improve it as quickly as possible and we are happy with the progress and with how things are going.

“I can’t wait to do what I love to do the most in my life which is to play football. It’s eight to 10 weeks [recovery period] – that’s what we imagine, so I think 10 weeks at most. We have worked to accelerate the process.

And Neymar, who also released a video of himself wildly celebrating PSG’s goals in the victory at Old Trafford, followed that news up by taking to his personal Instagram account.


Porque a vida é para os guerreiros, nada me enfraquece! @gilcebola

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“Because life is for warriors, nothing weakens me!” a caption stated, with Neymar pictured in front of a private jet holding both crutches across his chest, although Tuchel may not be best pleased that his key player is so willing to take such a risk if he is indeed serious about making a swift comeback.

PSG are back in action Sunday with a league clash against Saint-Etienne and will face four other matches, including a French Cup quarterfinal against Dijon, before hosting the second leg against Manchester United on March 6. 

Even without Neymar in recent days the club sit 10 points clear at the top of Ligue 1, having lost just one match over the course of what has been a stellar league campaign.