Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : April 21st 2017 Contents Barcelona fans, players, coach stay positive after CL exit
Friday, April 21, 2017 guardian.co.tt
Momentum with Spurs for
FA Cup semis vs Chelsea
can't keep a clean sheet. Their
striker has stopped scoring.
Their opponents have worked
out how to stifle them.
The Chelsea juggernaut might
just be starting to slow, just when
English soccer's major trophies are
about to be decided.
Chelsea and Tottenham park their
battle for the Premier League title
for one weekend when they meet at
Wembley Stadium on Saturday for
the first of two blockbuster semifi-
nals in the FA Cup.
There's no doubt which of the two
teams has the momentum.
In the white corner, there's Spurs,
the form team in the country with
eight straight wins in all competi-
tions, during which they've scored
28 goals. They have the meanest
defense around and arguably the
hottest striker in Harry Kane.
Chelsea, meanwhile, is still the
Premier League leader---by four
points over Tottenham---and could
yet finish the season with the do-
mestic double. But cracks are start-
ing to show.
Antonio Conte's side last kept
a clean sheet in the league on Jan.
22, 11 games ago. Top scorer Diego
Costa hasn't scored in his last six
matches. Chelsea has lost two of its
last four games, to Crystal Palace
and Manchester United.
In those games, Palace and Unit-
ed played two up front to pressur-
ize Chelsea's three-man backline.
Tottenham did the same in beating
Chelsea 2-0 at White Hart Lane in
the league in January. Tottenham
and United also played wing backs
in those matches to negate the threat
of Chelsea's wide players.
There looks to be a formula to
stop Chelsea, provided opponents
have the personnel to achieve it, and
Spurs clearly do.
"It won't be easy," Conte said,
looking ahead to the semifinal,
"because Tottenham now is the
best team. They are in good form
and they have a lot of enthusiasm.
They are feeling the possibility to
write the history."
Spurs last lifted the FA Cup in 1991
and haven't won the league since
1961. But they look the real deal
under Mauricio Pochettino, and just
need a piece of silverware to mark
their ascent toward the summit of
the English game.
Still, Pochettino is discounting
form and making Chelsea the fa-
"If there is one favorite, it's more
Chelsea because they are on the top
of the table in the Premier League
and (with) the experienced players
they have, and the manager that they
have," Pochettino said on Thursday.
"We are talking of the team that
maybe in the last five years has
won European competitions ... a
manager that won the league with
Juventus in Italy.
"It's a more experienced team
than us. But we're in a good mo-
ment, too, a hungry team. To chal-
lenge now this type of club, of team,
is a very important thing for Tot-
The domination of Chelsea and
Tottenham in English soccer this
season was highlighted on Thursday
when the Professional Footballers'
Association team of the year was
announced. Both clubs had four
representatives --- Gary Cahill, David
Luiz, N'Golo Kante and Eden Haz-
ard for Chelsea, and Kyle Walker,
Danny Rose, Dele Alli and Kane for
Here's what else to look out for
The second semifinal looks just as
compelling and features two more of
England's heavyweight teams whose
managers want to win a trophy for
City manager Pep Guardiola is
looking for something tangible to
mark his first season in England,
although an FA Cup title will not
make up for his team's last-16 exit
in the Champions League and fail-
ing to mount a Premier League title
As for Arsene Wenger, this could
be his last season in charge of Ar-
senal, with his contract up in June.
Winning the FA Cup in 2014, for his
first trophy in nine years, might have
persuaded him to stay on as manager
and history could be repeated three
With their top-six rivals Premier
League playing in the FA Cup, Man-
chester United and Liverpool can get
a jump in the race for a finish in the
Champions League qualification
United will close to within a point
of fourth-place Manchester City by
beating Burnley on Sunday. The
Manchester derby takes place on
April 27 at City's Etihad Stadium.
Third-place Liverpool hosts Pal-
ace seeking a win to move five points
clear of City, although Liverpool will
have played two more games. (AP)
MADRID---There were no boos
or jeers at the Camp Nou after
Barcelona's elimination to Ju-
ventus in the quarterfinals of
the Champions League.
Instead, the crowd of more than
96,000 chanted loudly in apprecia-
tion for the team's effort in trying to
overturn a 3-0 first-leg loss.
Players and coach Luis Enrique
also had more praise than criti-
cism after Wednesday's 0-0 draw
kept Barcelona from reaching the
"We leave disappointed with the
result but I have very little to criti-
cize," Luis Enrique said. "We fought
until the end. We gave everything
Luis Enrique blamed the team's
elimination on the lackluster per-
formance in the first half of the
match in Italy, when Barcelona was
outplayed and conceded two goals
that left Juventus in control.
"We had a very poor first half in
Turin and that was very costly," Luis
Enrique said. "I'll keep remember-
ing that first half at Juventus Stadi-
um. That kept us from continuing
in the Champions League."
Juventus added another goal in
the second half in Italy to leave
Barcelona in what proved to be an
But fans were still hopeful of a
comeback after they saw Barcelona
overturn a 4-0 first-leg loss to Paris
Saint-Germain in the Round of 16,
winning 6-1 at the Camp Nou with
three goals after the 87th minute.
The crowd of 96,290 that packed
the Camp Nou was behind the team
from the start and didn't stop even
after the final whistle.
"Very few times I've seen the
Camp Nou like this after a loss," de-
fender Gerard Pique said. "It makes
me proud. It was a tough defeat but
it needs to be noted that the fans fin-
ished the game chanting like that."
Barcelona couldn't produce an-
other historic comeback, thanks to
Juventus' stout defense and the poor
finishing of its attacking trio of Li-
onel Messi, Neymar and Luis Suarez.
"We created a lot of chances but
couldn't get the shots on target,"
said Luis Enrique, who made his
final Champions League appearance
with Barcelona before leaving the
club at the end of the season. "It
would have been fair if we had won
tonight (Wednesday), but Juventus
deserved to advance."
Barcelona had defeated the Italian
champion in the 2015 final to win its
fifth European title.
The Catalan club is still fighting
for the title in the Spanish league
and in the Copa del Rey this season.
It has a decisive league game
against Real Madrid at the Santiago
Bernabeu Stadium on Sunday, when
it can erase the rival's three-point
lead entering the final rounds. It will
play the Copa final against Alaves
"It's a difficult moment but we
have to stand up and keep working,"
Barcelona will be without the
suspended Neymar against Madrid
at the Bernabeu, where it has won
two of the last three games against
Madrid, including 4-0 last season.
Neymar, who led Barcelona with
two goals and two assists in the
comeback against PSG, was in tears
after the game against Juventus. He
was consoled by former teammate
and fellow Brazilian Dani Alves, who
now plays for Juventus.
"I have some mixed feelings," said
Alves, who played for Barcelona
from 2008-16. "It's an odd sensa-
tion to see my friends sad like that.
It hurts, but it's part of the profes-
Barcelona's head coach Luis Enrique and Juventus head coach Massimiliano
Allegri, left, stand on the sideline during the Champions League quarterfinal
second leg soccer match between Barcelona and Juventus at Camp Nou
stadium in Barcelona, Spain on Wednesday.
Manchester United teammates celebrate after scoring during the English
Premier League soccer match between Manchester United and Chelsea at
Old Trafford stadium in Manchester, Sunday. AP PHOTOS
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