The UEFA Champions League quarterfinal and semi-final draws took place on Friday with some huge ties being served up by Hamit Altintop in Nyon, Switzerland.
The pick of the quarterfinals is arguably the rematch between last season’s finalists Bayern Munich and Paris Saint-Germain, but competition is fierce with Manchester City up against Borussia Dortmund and Real Madrid paired with Liverpool.
Chelsea will probably feel happy with their draw against FC Porto, but there are no easy ties at this point with a number of strong sides having already fallen by the wayside.
All eyes will be on Erling Haaland as he returns to England and the club where his father Alf-Inge played for three years while PSG go up against Hansi Flick’s champions with a new head coach in Mauricio Pochettino.
Real and Liverpool is a meeting of two historical giants who have not had it easy this season while Thomas Tuchel will be plotting a return to the final with Chelsea after leading PSG there last summer.
In the semi-finals, Bayern or PSG will meet the winner of City against Dortmund and Real or Liverpool will come up against Porto or Chelsea to decided the finalists with Bayern, PSG, City or Dortmund destined to be the home team in the ultimate Istanbul final.
Champions League quarterfinal draw
Manchester City vs. Borussia Dortmund (April 6 and April 14)
FC Porto vs. Chelsea (April 7 and April 13)
Bayern Munich vs. Paris Saint-Germain (April 7 and April 13)
Real Madrid vs. Liverpool (April 6 and April 14)
Champions League semifinal draw
Bayern Munich or Paris Saint-Germain vs. Manchester City or Borussia Dortmund
Real Madrid or Liverpool vs. FC Porto or Chelsea
The drama was not limited to the Champions League either, with the Europa League quarterfinals delivering some big names too — AFC Ajax against AS Roma arguably the pick of the ties there.
Underdogs Granada got Manchester United at home for the first leg while Slavia Prague drew Arsenal away and Dinamo Zagreb’s reward for dumping out Tottenham Hotspur was Europa League specialist Unai Emery’s Villarreal.
The winner of Granada against United could face Ajax or Roma while Dinamo or Villarreal will come up against Arsenal or Slavia on the side of the draw that will ultimately produce the home team for the final.
Europa League quarterfinal draw
Granada CF vs. Manchester United (April 8 and April 15)
Arsenal vs. Slavia Prague (April 8 and April 15)
AFC Ajax vs. AS Roma (April 8 and April 15)
Dinamo Zagreb vs. Villarreal CF (April 8 and April 15)
Europa League semifinal draw
Granada CF or Manchester United vs. AFC Ajax or AS Roma
Dinamo Zagreb or Villarreal CF vs. Arsenal or Slavia Prague
Will Salah avenge Ramos hard tackle
Everyone remembers the final of the 2017/18 Champions League final, where Loris Karius’ goalkeeping errors handed a third successive continental success to Real Madrid.
However, there was a degree of controversy in the first-half, with a physical tussle between Sergio Ramos and Mohamed Salah ending in the Egyptian suffering a shoulder injury which forced him out of the final, and put his 2018 World Cup preparations in difficulty.
Liverpool supporters have since held a grudge against the Los Blancos captain, and many feel it is an interesting subplot for the two teams to be drawn against each other again.
England overtake Spain
The disappointing showing from Spain’s European representatives this campaign, with Real Madrid the only remaining competitor in the Champions League and Granada in the Europa League, has seen England overtake them in UEFA’s coefficient ranking.
England’s rise to the top of the pile is down to their strong representation in the latter stages of European competition, with Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester City still in the Champions League. And in the Europa League, Arsenal and Manchester United are still involved.
FG redeems 28-year pledge to Westerhof
The Federal Government has redeemed its pledge to one of the 1994 Super Eagles Team members 28 years after by handing over the keys of a 3-bedroom bungalow to Mr Clemence Westerhof, former Coach of the team.
The Minister of Works and Housing, Mr Babatunde Fashola handed over the keys to Westerhof at the prototype housing estate along Gwagwalada-Kuje road, on Wednesday in Abuja.
He was represented by Mr Solomon Labafilo, Director, Department of Public Buildings and Housing.
Fashola said that the government came up with the scheme called prototype housing scheme in Lagos, Abuja, Port-harcourt and other parts of the country.
“The programme was started in 2014 and we have phases I and II while the total houses completed and occupied are 206.
“The phase II is where the allocations for the two coaches were made, Jo Bonfrere has house 1A and Clemens Westehof has unit 1B,” Fashola said.
Fashola said government was committed to rewardiing citizens who made sacrifices to project the good image of the country.
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“It will interest you to know that government’s pledge to the 1994 Super Eagles was not fulfilled until when President Muhammadu Buhari approved that all the members be handed over their houses.
“Westehof was allocated his in the prototype housing scheme here in Gwagwalada and other beneficiaries were allocated their homes in the respective states of their choice in the National Housing Programme estates across the country.
“We handed over keys and Certificate of Occupancy today to former coach of the Nigeria Super Eagles who led the 1994 Team, Clemens Westehof.
“This is to show government’s resolve to ensure that Nigerians, irrespective of time, who made sacrifices to project the good image of the country are recognised and encouraged to keep working for the corporate benefit of all.
“We have entered a season of completion and handover of keys to beneficiaries in 35 states and the FCT to Nigerians who have successfully subscribed for houses built under the National Housing Programme (NHP) through the ministry’s website: Https:nhp.worksand housing.gov.ng.
Fashola said the web-portal was launched on Nov. 12, 2021, adding that over 13,000 applications had been received from Nigerians who have created personal account profiles on the website.
The minister, therefore, called on all Nigerians to avail themselves with the opportunity of owning a house in the 35 states and FCT that have been completed except for Lagos State.
Also speaking, the Permanent Secretary, Mr Bashir Alkali, represented by Mrs Lucy Uzodimma, said the ministry was able to fulfill the pledge by the government with the completion of the National Housing Programme estates in 35 states and the FCT.
Alkali said: “Nigerians should be aware that other members who had collected their houses did so in the National Housing Programme sites across the country.
“The philosophy behind the NHP is the provision of pilot scheme that is affordable, accessible and acceptable as contained in the National Housing Policy.
“The approach to the design and use of materials take cognisance of the cultural and climatic peculiarities of the region’s while responding also to the tenets of Building Energy and Efficiency Code (BEEC).”
Westehof, represented by Mrs Charity Biwet commended the Federal Government for fulfilling its promise after so many years, adding, ”it was something noteworthy.
“I stand in here with great joy to receive these keys to this beautiful edifice, I love the building and am sure the owner will love it.
“It is a promise kept and it is really encouraging to see that efforts are being recognised and rewarded. We appreciate this and I will convey the goodwill of the president and the minister to Mr Westehof.”
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the other beneficiaries who had since collected their keys and title documents to their homes were: Alloy Agu, Uche Okafor, Emmanuel Amunike and Thompson Oliha.
Others were: Peter Rufai, Efan Ekoku, Isaac Semitojo and Austin Eguavoen, among others.
Ronaldo denies Saudi Arabia transfer deal, rejects new offer from Australia
Cristiano Ronaldo has denied reports linking him with a potential move to Saudi Arabian outfit Al-Nassr on a lucrative offer worth £173million-a-year.
The Portuguese star, who came off the bench in Portugal’s 6-1 thumping of Switzerland, said after the match that the report is untrue.
Ronaldo is a free agent after reaching a mutual agreement with Manchester United to terminate his contract following his explosive interview with journalist, Piers Morgan.
This has intensified interest from clubs with reports rife in the media recently of a deal reached with Al-Nassr that would see the 37-year-old forward ply his trade in the Middle East.
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“No, that is not true – not true,” Ronaldo said.
The five-time Ballon d’Or has also rejected a move to join a club in Australia (A-League).
A-League chief Danny Townsend disclosed the plans to lure Ronaldo to Australia shortly after the 37-year-old’s Manchester United exit but has now confirmed that the Portugal captain has knocked back their offer.
“We had interesting discussions, and there was genuine interest, but it’s clear he has other priorities at this stage,” Townsend told the Sydney Morning Herald.
Ramos bags hat-trick as Portugal reach W’Cup quarter-finals
Goncalo Ramos justified the shock decision to drop Cristiano Ronaldo by scoring a hat-trick on his full debut as Portugal demolished Switzerland 6-1 on Tuesday to power into the World Cup quarter-finals.
The 21-year-old Ramos, who started instead of Ronaldo, became the youngest player to strike three times in a World Cup knockout match since Pele in 1958.
Pepe, Raphael Guerreiro and Rafael Leao were also on target for a rampant Portugal, who booked a showdown with Morocco on Saturday for a place in the last four in Qatar.
Ronaldo, 37 and now without a club after his departure from Manchester United, has hogged the headlines during the tournament while looking a shadow of his former self.
The only man to score at five World Cups, Ronaldo was left out by coach Fernando Santos against the Swiss following his angry response to being substituted in the last group game.
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It was a bold call to omit a player with a record 118 international goals in favour of giving a full debut to Ramos, the Benfica striker who had played just 33 minutes across three previous appearances.
But it took just 17 minutes for Ramos to reward Santos’ faith, and to achieve something Ronaldo has never done — score in a World Cup knockout game.
Joao Felix clipped delicately into the feet of Ramos, who quickly swivelled past Fabian Schaer and rifled into the roof of the net past a stunned Yann Sommer.
Otavio, who returned to the Portugal midfield after injury in their opening match, shot straight at Sommer before Ramos did likewise moments later.
Xherdan Shaqiri drew a fingertip stop from Diogo Costa with a dipping free-kick from distance, but Portugal soon had their second.
Bruno Fernandes whipped in a corner and the 39-year-old Pepe towered above the Swiss defence to powerfully head home.
Diogo Dalot hacked Remo Freuler’s header off the line after Diogo Costa failed to properly deal with a cross, but the Swiss simply had no answers against an irresistible Portugal.
Ramos turned in his second from close range six minutes into the second half from Dalot’s cross down the right.
He then turned provider by playing in Guerreiro to lash in another just four minutes later as the Swiss defence was ruthlessly ripped apart.
It was also Ramos who inadvertently glanced a corner towards Manuel Akanji at the far post as the Manchester City centre-back pulled one back for Switzerland.
Ramos completed his treble after more outstanding work from Felix, nonchalantly dinking over Sommer with one of his final touches before making way for Ronaldo.
The five-time Ballon d’Or winner’s introduction elicited the biggest roar of the night. Ronaldo did have the ball in the back of the net but it was ruled out for a clear offside.
Leao capped off a sensational Portugal performance with a terrific curling strike in stoppage time.
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