Champions League: Borussia Dortmund’s first-place finish thrills Achraf Hakimi

Achraf Hakimi is delighted by Borussia Dortmund’s 2-0 victory over Monaco that saw them progress to the Champions League knockout round as group winners.

Raphael Guerreiro’s goals in each half of Tuesday’s encounter at Stade Louis II guided Lucien Favre’s men to a comfortable win over their hosts.

The result moved the German giants levelled on points with Atletico Madrid – 13 points after six matches – but they progressed as Group A leaders on goal difference.

And Hakimi who was in action for entire duration is glad that they scaled the first round hurdles successfully with four wins and just a defeat in six matches.

Good win to finish the first round as group leaders and going into Champions League last 16,” Hakimi tweeted

The Real Madrid loanee has been impressive for the Black and Yellows in the elite European tournament this term. According to stats, he has offered much in helping to keep Dortmund’s defence stingy [only two goals conceded], just as much as he contributes to the attack.

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Brighton’s Chris Hughton counts on Leon Balogun’s experience for Chelsea clash

Brighton and Hove Albion boss Chris Hughton is confident that Leon Balogun’s qualities and experience will help the team when they host Chelsea on Sunday.

Since his arrival in the summer, the 30-year-old has found game time limited and only made his fifth league appearance as they bowed to a 1-0 loss to Burnley last Saturday.

And ahead of the Blues’ visit to Amex Stadium this weekend, Hughton is counting on the Nigeria international to help neutralise threats from Maurizio Sarri’s men who are fourth highest scoring club in English top-flight with 35 goals this season.

“It helps you are bringing in somebody that is an experienced player. The only thing he hasn’t done is play games,” Hughton told the Argus.

“He trains very well and you have got to be ready, particularly in that position.”

Balogun’s second Premier League start ended in defeat to Burnley but the 60-year-old is pleased with the performances of the Nigerian and his partner Lewis Dunk at the Turf Moor.

“It’s a hard day playing against which ever two they[Burnley] have up front,” he added.

“They have a direct style, they will get the ball up front, and they have two very physical centre-forwards.

“So it was a hard day for us but I thought both of them did really well.”

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Medhi Benatia to miss Juventus vs. Young Boys clash

Medhi Benatia will sit out Juventus’ clash against Young Boys on Wednesday as he continues recovery from a knee injury, the Italian club confirmed.

The centre-back who has not played a game for the Bianconeri since November [vs. AC Milan] suffered an inflammation in his right knee during a training session on Monday.

As a result, the Morocco international did not travel with the rest of the squad to Switzerland and also missed the chance to make his second appearance in the Champions League this season.

Benatia has managed just 90 minutes of action in the tournament this term, his only appearance against the same opposition.

“Juve already began training for the fixture [vs. Young Boys], and this morning they worked on the tactical and technical aspects of the match,” read the club statement.

“During the session, Medhi Benatia stopped because of an inflammation in his right knee.”

Having qualified to the knockout round, Massimiliano Allegri’s men, currently top of Group H, with two points above Manchester United need to avoid defeat at the Stade de Suisse to maintain their spot as group leaders.

Benatia has played six games in all competitions this season – a situation that has made him worried about his future at the Allianz Stadium with Barcelona and Marseille reportedly interested in his signing.

He was an unused substitute as Juventus extended their dominance at the summit of the Serie A log with a 1-0 victory over Inter Milan on Friday.

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Icardi: Inter deserved to qualify ahead of Tottenham

Mauro Icardi believes Inter were worthy of a place in the knockout stages of the Champions League despite their dramatic elimination on Tuesday.

Argentina striker Icardi scored his fourth goal of the round robin stage as Luciano Spalletti’s side came back to claim a 1-1 draw against PSV at San Siro.

That result looked like being enough to send Inter through until Lucas Moura’s goal five minutes from time at Camp Nou saw Tottenham match their result in Barcelona.

PSV defender Nick Viergever was still required to make a last-ditch tackle on Icardi in stoppage time but the Nerazzuri must now drop down into the Europa League.

“We had to win, we took a goal in the first half and then we arrived many times in the opposing area and we could not make two goals,” he told Sky.

“We deserved to qualify because we have shown that we can compete with everyone.”

Inter and Spurs ended with identical records in the Champions League, with the Italian side beating Mauricio Pochettino’s men at San Siro, while they were defeated at Wembley.

Inter host Udinese on Saturday, having slipped 14 points behind leaders Juventus following last weekend’s 1-0 defeat in the Derby d’Italia.

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Van Dijk determined to win Champions League: It’s a great time to be a Liverpool player!

Virgil van Dijk is determined to win the Champions League this season after Liverpool qualified for the knockout stages of the tournament.

Jurgen Klopp’s men beat Napoli 1-0 on Tuesday, thanks to a superb Mohamed Salah goal and a brilliant injury-time Alisson save, to seal their progression to the last 16.

Liverpool finished second in Group C, behind French giants PSG, meaning they are guaranteed to play a group winner in the next round.

Van Dijk, though, is undeterred and hopes that his side can go one step further than 2017-18, when they were beaten by Real Madrid in the final.

Asked about challenging domestically and in Europe, Van Dijk said: “It’s something that we all want, it’s something that we are going to give everything for,” he told reporters after their victory.

“We want to play on the highest level and the Champions League, other than the Premier League for us, is the highest level. We want to reach the maximum and hopefully do better than we did last year in the Champions League.

“You need to have dreams, you need to go for it, otherwise why would you be a footballer?”

Van Dijk says he is even willing to castigate his team-mates in a bid to improve the team as a whole, with the Dutchman seen to be barking at Andy Robertson during Tuesday’s victory over Napoli.

“You have to, you need to be hard with each other,” he insisted. “When things aren’t going right you need to tell each other, otherwise it’s going to be too easy.

Jurgen Klopp Mohamed Salah Liverpool 2018-19

“I think that’s a sign of a good team. When people are shouting at me I take it because they want to make me better and their mistake they take it as well if I shout to them.

“That’s how it is, we’re all grown-ups, we take it and after the game if you’re not happy with it then you discuss it. It is what it is.”

And in qualifying for the last 16, Van Dijk feels his side showed their quality in the home matches and feels they could have scored more against the side currently second in Serie A.

“I think it was a bit of a classic performance. In the Champions League, in the home games we played, we showed our class.

“Big chances, a lot of pressure, a lot of great moments, and today as well. Like I said, they needed one goal so it could fall [apart], but in the end we did well and we got the job done.

“I understand [nerves in the crowd] because if they score one goal we need to score another two. We had big chances and you’re going to be frustrated when you miss those chances, including myself.

“We could have made it a lot easier, we could have scored another two/three, we didn’t, and then it was [important] for us to win our battles and keep it tight and we did.

Liverpool’s week shows no sign of slowing down, with a clash with Manchester United looming at the weekend.

Van Dijk, though, is confident that they have what it takes to pick up yet another victory when Jose Mourinho’s side roll into Anfield.

“It’s a great time to be a Liverpool fan or player,” he said.

“It’s tough but enjoy it and embrace it – these are the days you want to experience as a footballer and we are.”

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