Sport Soccer

Thursday 23 March 2017

Inter put feet up while Barca face long haul

Pete Jenson

DANI ALVES boarded the Barcelona team bus yesterday at 3pm with his own personal pillow and he should arrive in Milan around the same time this afternoon.

The defender -- who was sent off as Barcelona slipped up in the 0-0 draw with city rivals Espanyol on Saturday -- was forced along with his team-mates to make the marathon journey to Milan by coach after Uefa ruled out postponing this week's Champions League semi-finals.

A draining local derby and a 10-hour road trip to avoid a giant cloud of volcanic ash are not the best ways to prepare for a Champions League semi-final but coach Pep Guardiola last night warned there were 'no excuses' for returning to Barcelona without a good result.

The 620-mile slog will perhaps test Barcelona's players' famous fondness for Coldplay and The Killers and give Jose Mourinho's Internazionale, who have had a relaxation period since Friday night's win over Juventus, a slight advantage.

Barca were made to scrap with 10 men for a point by local rivals Espanyol and then set off for Milan yesterday instead of the planned departure at 11am this morning. The team stopped overnight in Cannes before continuing their journey to the San Siro. "It's not ideal in terms of recovery,'' said Guardiola, "but there are a lot of teams in the lower divisions who have to travel 16 or 17 hours by coach every week.''

Midfielder Sergi Busquets added: "It will not affect us because our ambition and desire to win is bigger than any obstacle that can be put before us.''

The only player unavailable to Guardiola is Spain midfielder Andres Iniesta, who is set to be absent until mid-May with a hamstring tear.

Real Madrid kept up the pressure on Barcelona with a a 2-0 win over third-placed Valencia at the Bernabeu which reduces the gap at the top to one point.

Real's title challenge appeared to be disappearing when they lost 2-0 to Barca last weekend but the champions' result on Saturday left the door ajar and Real grabbed the opportunity.

Gonzalo Higuain opened the scoring in the first half as Real overwhelmed the visitors but it needed a second from Cristiano Ronaldo in the 77th minute to make sure of the win, as Valencia belatedly threatened to get back into the game with David Silva smashing a shot off the crossbar.

Real's nightmare goes on as Robben keeps on rocking

Real Madrid's worst nightmare is not only that Barcelona get to play in the Champions League final on May 22 at the Bernabeu but that a certain Arjen Robben is also on the pitch.

They sold the Dutchman to Bayern Munich last summer and his hat-trick at the weekend helped Bayern to a 7-0 win over Hannover.

As Madrid debate trying to sign a new left winger, 14-goal Robben continues to shine for the Bundesliga champions in waiting.

Bayern face a Lyon side on Wednesday that drew with Bordeaux at the weekend leaving both sides trailing Ligue 1 leaders Marseilles by five points.

Milan's title hopes hang by thread after Sampdoria loss

AC Milan's hopes of a first scudetto in six years are virtually over after they lost 2-1 in dramatic fashion at Sampdoria yesterday.

The Rossoneri led 1-0 through a Marco Borriello's header before they were reduced to 10 men by Daniele Bonera's dismissal. Antonio Cassano equalised with a penalty and in second-half injury-time Giampaolo Pazzini headed the winner.

Elsewhere, two goals from Mirko Vucinic saw Roma leapfrog Inter Milan into top spot in Serie A as Claudio Ranieri's men won yesterday's bitter Rome derby 2-1.

Tommaso Rocchi opened the scoring for Lazio after 15 minutes but two second-half strikes from the Montegrian forward propelled Roma back to the summit with four games remaining in the season.

Irish Independent

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