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CL: Roma stage stunning comeback to knock-out Barca

Roma pulled off a sensational second-leg comeback to beat Barcelona 3-0 and reach the Champions League semi-finals on away goals.

Barca were heavy favourites to progress after a 4-1 first-leg win, but fell apart to Roma's brilliant showing.

Defender Kostas Manolas scored the crucial third goal, heading in at the near post with seven minutes remaining.

Edin Dzeko struck early to give Roma hope and Daniele de Rossi added a second-half penalty.

The crowd at the Stadio Olimpico erupted at the final whistle as the Roma substitutes and coaching staff piled on to the pitch to celebrate with the players.

There were tears in the stands from those watching, not quite believing what they had witnessed.

Roma deserve superb win

Roma became only the third team in Champions League history to overturn a first-leg defeat of three goals or more - Deportivo La Coruna against AC Milan in 2003 and Barcelona against Paris St-Germain last season.

On this occasion, runaway Spanish league leaders Barcelona were on the receiving end of an unthinkable result.

They were looking at a treble of trophies, having equalled the La Liga record of 38 unbeaten games at the weekend and reaching the Copa del Rey final.

But they had no answer to Roma's high-tempo, energetic performance which brought a richly deserved victory.

Ex-Manchester City striker Dzeko, whose former team were knocked out by Liverpool in Tuesday's other quarter-final, set Roma on their way by poking in from close range.

The Bosnia striker also had a header tipped over and Czech forward Patrik Schick nodded wide from a promising position.

Roma, fourth in Serie A, kept up the pressure in the second period and were awarded a penalty just before the hour mark when Gerard Pique bundled Dzeko over in the box and De Rossi despatched the spot-kick.

With time running out, Cengiz Under whipped in a cross towards the front post which Greece defender Manolas rose highest to meet and covert to spark jubilant scenes.

More to follow.

Written by Gideon Sarpong

Gerard Pique reveals 'inside information' of WhatsApp group with Real Madrid players

Barcelona needed to make a statement this season after losing out to Real Madrid in La Liga and the Champions League last campaign - and they've done exactly that.

With nine games remaining of 2017/18, the Blaugrana are 11 points clear at the top of La Liga, unbeaten and 15 points ahead of their rivals.

Ernesto Valverde's side are also through to the Champions League quarter-finals after cruising past Chelsea and face Sevilla in the Copa del Rey final next month.

Real, meanwhile, have struggled in La Liga, losing five of their 29 games thus far and putting up a poor defence of their title.

A third-successive Champions League triumph could yet be on the horizon, but nothing is guaranteed at this early stage.

Bragging rights belong to Barca at the moment, then, and according to Gerard Pique, he hasn't let Real's Spanish players forget who's top of the table.

In an interview with The Players' Tribune, the Spaniard revealed "inside information" about the WhatsApp group he has with the likes of Sergio Ramos, Isco and Dani Carvajal.


And the contents of the conversation is as you would expect: Pique taking the p*** out of his international teammates about how dominant Barcelona have been this season.

"I'm going to let you in on a little inside information," said Pique. "Everybody knows that footballers have text groups on WhatsApp.

"I have one just for my friends from home, and I have another just for my Barca teammates. But my favourite one might surprise you.

"Earlier this season, when we were already eight or nine points clear of Real Madrid in the league, I started a special group for some of the guys on the Spanish national team who play for Real Madrid and Barcelona.

"All we do in that group is talk s*** to one another about Barca and Real. It's the best. We're just like little kids.

"And the truth is, it's especially hilarious for me right now, because now we're up 15 points on Real in the league. So I'm getting very creative in my responses.

"Last season, when the Real guys were winning everything, they were feeling pretty good. They were talking s*** constantly whenever I saw them at national team training.

"Man, every time they won a match last season, they were posting shirtless photos on Instagram from the locker room. Remember that?

"They were smiling and flexing their muscles like The Rock and saying #HalaMadrid and posting little trophy emojis.

"This season, though, it's a different vibe. All their Instagram photos are looking very somber. 'Three points today. We must keep working harder!'

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"So I'm texting them in the WhatsApp group, 'Come on guys, why so serious?!' Then I put a little crying emoji, and a laughing emoji."

To read Spain and Barcelona defender Gerard Pique's inaugural post on The Players' Tribune, 'A Long Story', in full, please click here.

Written by Gideon Sarpong

Messi misses penalty as Barcelona lose cup derby

Lionel Messi missed a penalty as Barcelona suffered a first defeat since August in their Copa del Rey quarter-final first leg against Espanyol.

Messi was denied by goalkeeper Diego Lopez in the 62nd minute after a foul on Sergi Roberto.

Espanyol's Oscar Melendo then slotted home with two minutes left after racing onto Marc Navarro's cross.

The second leg takes place at the Nou Camp on Thursday, 25 January.

In the other quarter-final ties, Diego Costa scored his third goal in four games during Atletico Madrid's 2-1 defeat at home by Sevilla.

Costa put Atletico ahead in the 73rd minute only for goalkeeper Miguel Angel Moya to inexplicably push a speculative cross that deflected off defender Lucas Hernandez into his own net.

New Sevilla coach Vincenzo Montella then sealed his third win since arriving in Spain as Joaquin Correa raced on to Wissam Ben Yedder's pass before finishing with two minutes remaining.

Goncalo Guedes and Rodrigo scored in the second half as Valencia came from behind to record a 2-1 win over La Liga strugglers Alaves.

Written by Gideon Sarpong

Coutinho unveiled as Barcelona player

Philippe Coutinho's £142m move to Barcelona was officially confirmed on Monday as the playmaker was unveiled to fans at the Nou Camp.

The 25-year-old Brazilian signed a contract alongside Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu, before performing keepy-uppies in front of supporters.

A deal for Coutinho to join Barcelona from Liverpool was agreed on Saturday.

"I want to thank the president and everyone who has made it possible," said Coutinho.

"I am very happy, it's a dream come true and I hope to be up to the job on the field."

Bartomeu added: "All the Barca fans are excited to have Coutinho here.

"It hasn't been easy but his effort in coming, along with his strength and patience, have been key."

Coutinho passed his medical, but it did show he has a right thigh injury - which kept him out of Liverpool's 2-1 win at Burnley on New Year's Day.

Barcelona said the midfielder was likely to be out for around three weeks, meaning the earliest he could realistically make his debut is the Catalan derby against Espanyol on 4 February.

Written by Gideon Sarpong

Barcelona agree £142m deal for Coutinho

Liverpool have agreed a £142m deal with Barcelona for midfielder Philippe Coutinho in what will be one of the most expensive transfers of all time.

The Reds are expected to receive £105m up front - a British record - for the 25-year-old Brazil international, with the rest in realistic add-ons.

The final deal will be eclipsed only by the £200m Paris St-Germain paid Barcelona for Neymar last summer, and the £165.7m Kylian Mbappe will cost PSG at the end of his initial loan spell from Monaco.

Coutinho joined Liverpool from Inter Milan for £8.5m in January 2013.

He stayed behind on Merseyside while final negotiations were concluded as his Liverpool team-mates flew to Dubai for a mid-season break.

The formalities of the deal are now expected to be concluded in Spain within the next 24 hours as Coutinho finally secures the switch he has craved since the Spanish giants made their first move for him in the summer.

Liverpool rejected three Barca bids and a transfer request from the player during the summer transfer window.

The last of Barcelona's three bids was £118m - which included add-ons totalling in excess of £30m based on Coutinho winning the Ballon d'Or and other built-in clauses.

Coutinho only signed a new five-year deal, which did not include a release clause, with the Anfield club in January, having joined the Reds from Inter Milan in January 2013.

He has a minor thigh injury and missed the club's past two games, including Friday's FA Cup third-round win against Everton.

Coutinho will not be eligible to play for Barcelona in the Champions League in their last-16 tie against Juventus, having already played a key role in Liverpool's qualification for the knockout phase,

Written by Gideon Sarpong