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UEFA Champions League

Champions League: Man United travels to Bayern; Real Madrid without Carvajal against Berlin

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A look at what’s happening in European soccer on Wednesday:

Bayern Munich vs. Manchester United (Group A)

Manchester United will be without injured defenders Harry Maguire and Aaron Wan-Bissaka as they face the daunting trip to Munich.

The season has not started as planned for Erik ten Hag’s team after opening the Premier League with three losses in their first five games.

Bayern, which have won the last 11 Bundesliga titles in a row, will measure their success this season on how far they progresses in the Champions League.

The Bavarian powerhouse are as yet unbeaten this season, though did drop their first points in a 2-2 draw at home to Bayer Leverkusen on Saturday.

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Galatasaray host Copenhagen in the other group game.

Arsenal vs. PSV Eindhoven (Group B)

After qualifying for the Champions League for 19 straight years under Arsene Wenger, Arsenal have had to wait six years to get back into the competition.

And it’s clear the team have been looking forward to this moment. The Champions League theme tune was blaring from the speakers in the gym at the club’s training center this week, striker Gabriel Jesus said.

Jesus could make his first start of the season following a knee injury, while manager Mikel Arteta will have to decide how many other players to rotate ahead of a crucial north London derby against Tottenham on Sunday.

PSV have won all four of their league games so far and cannot be taken lightly, having scored 13 goals while conceding just one in that stretch.

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Sevilla host Lens in the other group game.

Real Madrid vs. Union Berlin (Group C)

Real Madrid will be without right back Dani Carvajal against newcomer Union Berlin at the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium. Carvajal was injured in training on Tuesday.

Coach Carlo Ancelotti said Lucas Vazquez will be Carvajal’s replacement. Forward Vinicius Junior had already been ruled out because of an injury.

The record 14-time European champions are making their 27th consecutive appearance in the competition’s group stage, while Union Berlin are making their tournament debut.

Madrid started the season with five straight wins in the Spanish league.

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Braga vs. Napoli (Group C)

Napoli blew their opponents apart in last year’s group stage – winning five of their six matches and scoring 20 goals.

That was part of a fantastic season for the Italian club, which saw they end a 33-year wait for the Serie A title.

However, they changed coach in the offseason with Rudi Garcia coming in for Luciano Spalletti – who left the club saying he needed a break before replacing Roberto Mancini as Italy coach following the latter’s sudden resignation.

Napoli won their first two matches under Garcia before losing to Lazio and having to fight back from two goals down to rescue a 2-2 draw at Genoa last weekend.

Braga lost at the weekend but had opened the Portuguese season with a draw and a win.

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Their last Champions League appearance was in 2012 when they won just one of their group stage matches.

Real Sociedad vs. Inter Milan (Group D)

Last season’s runner-up Inter Milan head into their Champions League opener at Real Sociedad coming off a 5-1 win over city rival AC Milan in the derby on Saturday to maintain their perfect start to the season – the only team in Serie A to have won all their four matches.

That goal was the only one Inter have conceded so far this campaign. New signing Marcus Thuram has particularly impressed.

Inter will be without one of their key players, however, as midfielder Hakan Calhanoglu has been ruled out of the trip to Spain with a thigh strain.

Sociedad lost at Real Madrid at the weekend.

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They drew their first three matches before beating Granada in the previous round. This is Sociedad’s first season in the Champions League in 10 years. The last time it made it out of the group stage was in the 2003-04 season.

Benfica vs. Salzburg (Group D)

The Portuguese champion host the Austrian champion in a meeting between two teams with an eye on getting out of the group at Sociedad or Inter’s expense.

Benfica was a Champions League quarterfinalist in each of the last two seasons and Salzburg reached the last 16 in 2021-22.

-AP

 

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Kunle Solaja is the author of landmark books on sports and journalism as well as being a multiple award-winning journalist and editor of long standing. He is easily Nigeria’s foremost soccer diarist and Africa's most capped FIFA World Cup journalist, having attended all FIFA World Cup finals from Italia ’90 to Qatar 2022. He was honoured at the Qatar 2022 World Cup by FIFA and AIPS.

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UEFA Champions League

How Heineken Made UEFA Champions League History in Nigeria

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Cheers to Hard Core fans of Real Madrid with consumers enjoying the best moment put together by Heineken

Nigerian football fans enjoyed the magic of the Champions League final first-hand thanks to Heineken’s unforgettable Viewing Experience across the country over the weekend. 

Heineken transformed viewing centres into vibrant celebrations as Real Madrid secured their historic 15th title with a 2-0 victory over Borussia Dortmund at Wembley Stadium.

“Heineken is all about celebrating the beautiful game with true fans,” said Maria Shadeko, Portfolio Manager of Premium Drinks at Nigerian Breweries Plc. “We wanted to recreate the electric atmosphere of Wembley right here in Nigeria, and judging by the incredible energy at our Watch Parties, we achieved that!”

Unbeatable fun across Lagos 

From Lagos to Port Harcourt, Abuja to Enugu, the night was alive with the spirit of football. Fans at the Jewel Aeida on Lekki, Lagos, were treated to captivating performances by music stars like Mia, Dotun, Crowd Kontroller, Big N, and the electrifying finale by Adekunle Gold. 

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While the Muri Okunola Park in Victoria Island pulsed with the energy of the female DJ duo, Wanni x Handi, the passionate crowd at the Lagos Terraform mirrored the energy at the Green House on Oba Adeyinka Oyinkan Ave, Ikoyi, and Stalad Gardens in Abule Egba where fans revelled in the action on giant screens while enjoying Heineken’s refreshing brews

Heineken ensured every fan experienced the best viewing experience possible, all laced with unbeatable entertainment.

Party after party across the Nation

The electrifying atmosphere wasn’t limited to Lagos.  Port Harcourt witnessed a phenomenal performance by music sensation Oxlade at Oak Park and Gardens.

Abuja residents also enjoyed an unforgettable night at Papiee’s Metropolis on Ahmadu Bello Way, where Alternate Sound kept the excitement levels soaring with their dynamic performance. 

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Fans in luxurious comfort at the Transcorp Hilton on Aguyi Ironsi Street also revelled in the night’s festivities.

The magic of Heineken’s Watch Parties extended beyond major cities. Fans in Ibadan, Benin City, Enugu, and Owerri all shared in the unforgettable experience, uniting in their support for their favourite teams and celebrating Real Madrid’s monumental victory.

Heineken’s Watch Parties successfully recreated the Wembley atmosphere, proving that the beautiful game can unite and ignite joy across Nigeria. 

As Maria Shadeko states, “We are thrilled to have played a part in this historic night for football fans. Here’s to many more celebrations together!”

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UEFA Champions League

Real Madrid come full circle with second great European dynasty

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Champions League - Final - Borussia Dortmund v Real Madrid - Wembley Stadium, London, Britain - June 1, 2024 Real Madrid's Aurelien Tchouameni lifts the trophy as he celebrates with teammates after winning the Champions League REUTERS/Hannah Mckay 

Real Madrid added another chapter to their already astonishing love affair with European soccer’s elite club trophy by claiming a 2-0 win against Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League final on Saturday as they were crowned for the 15th time.

The story of the season they finished at Wembley was about two generations of players who met, bonded as a group and connected on the pitch like a well-oiled machine to establish the second great dynasty Real spent half a century looking for.

It all started at the dawn of the competition when, during the Alfredo Di Stefano years, the Madrid side won the first five editions of the European Cup from 1956 and another in 1966.

The current crop of youngsters and seasoned veterans have matched that with a sixth title in 11 seasons, although Dani Carvajal, who scored the opener, is the only surviving starter from the side that won ‘The 10th’ a decade ago.

Vinicius Jr, hero of their 14th title triumph in Paris two years ago, on Saturday became the first Brazilian to score in two Champions League finals and is the symbol of Real’s young guns who keep proving they can prolong the club’s success.

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“Why not think about ‘The Seventh’? We don’t reset, we always want more and more and more,” Carvajal said.

The defender, who matched Real great Paco Gento’s record six European Cup titles along with Toni Kroos, Luka Modric and defender Nacho, was a long-time reserve who stepped up this season and ended it by lifting the trophy as team captain.

“I have never lost a final. I hope the streak continues,” he said. “To get our 15th and my sixth is a wonderful thing. As we keep winning … we end up making it harder for any other team to come close to what this club have accomplished over the history. It is something remarkable.”

REAL’S MOMENTUM

In March, Carlo Ancelotti gave a three-minute insight on managing suffering and happiness inside a changing room to explain the complexity of handling the personalities at a club constantly under pressure and held to such high standards.

He has expertly managed to keep Real’s momentum going after Cristiano Ronaldo, Sergio Ramos, Marcelo, Karim Benzema and Casemiro had all long gone and with Modric, 38, becoming a rotational player in a young squad brimming with talent.

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Next year Ancelotti will face another challenge by having to replace Kroos, who has just had a retirement send-off from the fans at the Bernabeu and will stop playing after the Euros.

The Germany midfielder said farewell after delivering the corner for Carvajal to score with a glancing header on Saturday.

But Ancelotti, who as a manager holds the record of most Champions League finals played (six) and won (five), did not seem too worried about the challenge.

“We will have to adapt ourselves to the players we have and try to maximize their qualities like we have always done,” he told a press conference.

“This season we’ve had a lot of problems, we’ve lost quality players. We have solved this with collective sacrifice.

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“We didn’t always play at our best, but we never gave up.

“We lose a very important player for us in Kroos, but we will replace him, in a different way. We will think about how.”

-Reuters

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UEFA Champions League

Real Madrid strike late to win 15th European Cup

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Real Madrid were crowned kings of Europe for a record-extending 15th time with a 2-0 victory over Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League final at Wembley on Saturday.

Huge favourites going in to the game, the Spanish side were outplayed for long periods but broke Dortmund’s resistance with late goals from Dani Carvajal and Vinicius Jr.

Veteran right back Carvajal glanced in a header from a Toni Kroos corner in the 74th minute and from that moment Carlo Ancelotti’s side sparked into life.

Vinicius slid home Real’s second in the 83rd minute to silence the yellow-clad Dortmund fans who had created a wall of noise throughout the final.

It was hard on the German side who missed several good first-half chances, the best of which saw Niclas Fuellkrug hit the post from close range.

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-Reuters

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