Kessie scores in added time as Barcelona beat Real Madrid in El Clasico

Barcelona took a major step towards winning their first LaLiga title since 2019 after coming from behind to beat Real Madrid 2-1 in El Clasico.

Franck Kessie scored in stoppage time to secure Barcelona victory and a 12-point lead over second-placed Real with 12 matches to go.

Barcelona’s players huddled and celebrated on the field after the final whistle at Camp Nou.

The Catalan club was saved by the VAR for the second consecutive game, as Marco Asensio’s effort was ruled out in the 81st minute for offside.

Last week, they edged Athletic Bilbao when an 87th-minute equaliser by Athletic forward Inaki s was disallowed by video review.

Barcelona were in control for much of the match against Real, creating most of the significant chances.

But the visitors opened the scoring in the ninth minute with a fortunate own-goal by Barcelona defender Ronald Araujo, who redirected the ball into the net with a header after a cross by Madrid forward Vinicius Junior from the left side of the area.

Sergi Roberto equalised after picking up a loose ball inside the area in the 45th minute, and Kessie netted the winner from the middle of the box after a late breakaway as Real made a final push for the victory.

It was the second match between the rivals in less than three weeks. Barcelona won 1-0 at the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium on March 3 in the first leg of the Copa del Rey semi-finals. The return leg at Camp Nou is on April 5.

What’s next?

Barcelona’s next match sees them travel to Elche in La Liga on the evening of April 1.

Real Madrid play the following day, hosting Real Valladolid in a league encounter.

Who will win the race for £100m Bellingham?

The question was simple, rhetorical, and delivered with a blend of arrogance and authority: “Does Jude Bellingham want to win the Ballon d’Or?”.

When you note which club has homed the most recipients of the accolade, the recruitment executive’s choice of opening gambit sings.

Real Madrid will position their offer to Bellingham – the most coveted young midfielder in Europe – as his opportunity to become the best player in the world at the place that breeds champions.

And those tasked with helping the 19-year-old make the smartest decision on his future state there is no better sales pitch: he does not care about where he could bank the biggest pay cheque, but where he’ll be challenged to become the optimum version of himself.

Manchester City's Phil Foden, left, fights for the ball with Dortmund's Jude Bellingham
Man City are one of the teams who could move for Bellingham

Bellingham has not concealed this from potential suitors privately and publicly. “I want to win way more, and I want to continue to push the boundaries of my own potential and talent,” he said in 2022.

Bellingham’s strength of character and clarity of what he expects from his career was central to him plumping for Borussia Dortmund when he joined from Birmingham City in the summer of 2020.

Manchester United had offered more lucrative terms, gave him a tour of Carrington, and an audience with Sir Alex Ferguson. BVB distilled their push into a blueprint of how they’d aid his development and make him a full international within two years.

He’d be armed with European experience and a haul of minutes that many senior players around the continent would be envious of.

Bellingham spent months studying both clubs, as well the others that had made an approach to his dad Mark, from a purely football perspective. How did they use the ball, how did they react when losing it, where could he slot in, how would his gifts be maximised, and weaknesses eroded?

Bellingham will undergo the same process now on a different scale owing to the fee – in excess of £100m – his talent now commands.

Real’s charm offensive has already begun and there is great seduction in becoming core to, as the club executive calls it, “the next all-star midfield.” Casemiro is gone, Luka Modric is 37, and Toni Kroos wants to retire at the Bernabeu even though he’s aware he is part of the present and past but not the future.

Eduardo Camavinga, Aurelian Tchouameni and Federico Valverde will carry Real forward, with the hierarchy of Florentino Perez, Juni Calafat and Jose Angel Sanchez wanting Bellingham to be the golden thread.

They have the European royalty angle and haven’t been shy of pointing to Kylian Mbappe’s misery this season following his decision to snub them and agree to an eye-watering extension at Paris Saint-Germain coated with an insane level of influence.

Real Madrid need to freshen up their ageing all-star midfield
Real Madrid need to freshen up their ageing all-star midfield

The France international was also told he would be front and centre for the Ballon d’Or if he joined Real, and would know how it felt to ‘own the Champions League.’

Mbappe, the Spaniards say, opted for power and a swollen bank balance over “the sporting project” and it should serve as a lesson.

PSG do count a Ballon d’Or winner in Lionel Messi, but that is merely by virtue of him being registered at the club during the 2021 edition, which recognised his exploits with Argentina, and on a lesser level, Barcelona.

The only player to lift the prize outside of operating for LaLiga’s behemoths was Manchester United’s Cristiano Ronaldo in 2008.

Real Madrid and Man City are likely to compete for Bellingham
Real Madrid and Man City are likely to compete for Bellingham

Erling Haaland could alter that statistic at their neighbours Manchester City, and it is Pep Guardiola’s side that Real perceive as the most serious threat to them securing Bellingham.

Perez’s fears over the might of state-funded clubs is well documented but it is not the monetary element that is concerning in this regard. City are incredibly smart, well structured, and have a degree of stability across the operation not necessarily associated with Real.

Guardiola is a long-term admirer of Bellingham, already assessing two years ago: “He’s so good for 17, he’s a fantastic player. There was one moment when he didn’t get the ball from central defenders, how he shouts and demands that ball to him at 17 means a lot.

“I spoke with his manager, Edin Terzic, and he told me what you see in these two games is like every training session.”

City are plotting a midfield refresh as Ilkay Gundogan’s contract is up at the end of the season, Kevin De Bruyne is 31, and Bernardo Silva has explored options to exit the Etihad in recent campaigns. Guardiola has stressed the importance of evolution in keeping his team as the benchmark.

Bellingham scored for Dortmund against Man City earlier this season
Bellingham scored for Dortmund against Man City earlier this season

Bellingham already has phenomenal chemistry with Haaland on and off the pitch, while it is impossible to argue he wouldn’t “win way more” and “push the boundaries of my own potential and talent” at City.

Liverpool’s dossier on the England international stretches back to his time in Birmingham’s academy and they are the top club most desperate for midfield surgery.

The Merseysiders are also viewed as the side who have put in the heaviest work over a long period behind the scenes to pierce the player’s decision-making process.

Jürgen Klopp had admitted in the summer there was only one issue in trying to sign Bellingham: “He’s not on the market, so that’s the first problem with that player. Well, the only problem with that player!”

Jurgen Klopp
Jurgen Klopp has also confessed he is a fan of Bellingham’s

When the manager committed his future to the club until 2026, Liverpool believed it offered an extra layer of certainty and continuity to their recruitment ambitions and ability to lure prized targets.

Their lack of on-pitch identity this season and worries over whether they will finish in the top four could be problematic and undercut that – especially considering the financial outlay required to snare him. Even if Liverpool are able to remedy their form, can they afford to spend the amount being spoken about on one player given the other nips and tucks the squad needs?

In terms of whether a few months of poor play will make a massive difference, ‘Team Bellingham’ is known to wade through years of research on a club to get a panorama on methodology rather than make snap decisions based on either overperformance or underperformance.

Manchester United’s priority this summer is enhancing their attack. They need to secure Champions League football and to sell very well in order not to fall foul of FFP.

United are unlikely to get into a bidding war for Bellingham even though they were the first big English club to believe he was going to be a standout midfielder.

A family of Bellingham friend told Sky Sports, “the way to win Jude’s heart is selling the football plan to his head.”

He also flagged that none of the fuss over Bellingham’s future has been flamed by the Stourbridge native nor his camp. It has stemmed purely from his displays, which not only surpass those of a similar age but of the game’s premier players.

Jude Bellingham Borussia Dortmund

Deeper than the data and the evidence of our eyes is the fact, as Guardiola touched on, that he is already a leader and craves responsibility.

Sam Manoochehri oversaw Bellingham’s progress for four years as an ex-youth development coach at Birmingham City.

“I have never seen a mentality more elite than his,” he assessed. “When I worked with him, when something was tough, he loved it. I can remember games when he wanted to play himself at centre-half to test himself.

“Jude would actively go and seek the challenge without having to be pushed from the coaching staff.”

Jude Bellingham
Bellingham is one of the most sought-after players in 2023

Michael Dodds, the academy manager at Birmingham, would add: “He always wanted better sessions, more feedback, greater challenges. Nothing was enough, because there needed to constantly be a test for him.”

Across the England set-up, there is a hankering to have Bellingham at a Premier League club. There is confidence he can develop into the national team’s captain and Real know the pull of returning home might trump the glory they can offer.

Bellingham is extremely relaxed about his future. Why wouldn’t he be when there is no shortage of quality destinations and clubs have to convince him why they are the strongest option to help him soar.

Potter’s Chelsea to face Real Madrid, Pep’s City drawn with Bayern

Graham Potter’s Chelsea have been paired with Champions League holders Real Madrid in the quarter-finals, while Pep Guardiola faces a reunion with former club Bayern Munich for Manchester City.

Both Premier League sides will meet each other in the semi-final, should both Chelsea and City advance through their last-eight ties.

Meanwhile, there will be an all-Italian derby in the quarter-finals as Serie A champions AC Milan face current leaders Napoli, while Inter Milan will take on Benfica.

Champions League quarter-final draw in full:

First legs on April 11 or April 12, second legs April 18 or April 19

Real Madrid vs Chelsea

Benfica vs Inter Milan

Manchester City vs Bayern Munich

AC Milan vs Napoli

Champions League semi-final draw in full:

First legs on May 9 or May 10, second legs May 16 or May 17

AC Milan or Napoli vs Benfica or Inter Milan

Real Madrid or Chelsea vs Manchester City or Bayern Munich

Chelsea played Real Madrid in the Champions League last season
Chelsea played Real Madrid in the Champions League last season

The first legs of the quarter-finals will take place on April 11 and 12, with the return fixtures on April 18 and 19.

Meanwhile, the semi-final first-legs are due to happen on May 9 and May 10, with the return legs on May 16 and May 17.

Chelsea beat Borussia Dortmund 2-1 on aggregate in their last-16 tie, but now face a major task to reach the last four against holders Real.

The Blues exited last season’s Champions League to Real at the same stage – losing the first-leg 3-1 at Stamford Bridge before putting in a valiant outing at the Santiago Bernabeu,

Chelsea, then managed by Thomas Tuchel, went 3-0 up to lead the tie but goals from Rodrygo and Karim Benzema – the latter strike coming in extra-time – saw the Blues crash out 5-4 on aggregate.

Meanwhile, Man City manager Guardiola will face a familiar foe in former side Bayern – the club he won seven major titles with between 2013 and 2016, including three Bundesliga titles.

City and Bayern also have a connection through Joao Cancelo, who will be able to play against his parent club after moving on loan to the German side, with an option to make the deal permanent for around £60m.

Medhi Benatia (left) clashes with Pep Guardiola during Bayern Munich's Bundesliga match against Borussia Dortmund on March 5, 2016
Pep Guardiola managed Bayern Munich between 2013 and 2016

Should Chelsea and City go on to meet each other in the Champions League last four, it will lead to six meetings between the two clubs in this season alone.

Both Premier League clubs were paired against each other in the third rounds of the FA Cup and Carabao Cup earlier this season.

Potter excited by Madrid test but focused on Everton

Chelsea boss Graham Potter is excited by the prospect of facing reigning champions Real Madrid in the last eight but insists his focus is firmly on this weekend’s Premier League clash with Everton.

The Blues were drawn against the reigning champions in Friday’s draw, with the winners facing Manchester City or Bayern Munich in the semis.

It follows footage of Potter earlier this week drawing cheers from Chelsea supporters at a fan event by saying they would try to “win the ******* Champions League”.

“Well, I said we would try to win the Champions League and that’s the same I’m sure for the other seven clubs as well,” he said at his press conference.

“The other clubs will say you can lose in the quarter-final, because that’s the nature of the Champions League.

“We’ll focus on Real Madrid when we get there but at the moment it’s Everton.

“The feeling is excited but as I said, I’d rather speak about Everton because that game is tomorrow and the other stuff is a long way away.”

Can Cancelo face Man City?

Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola (left) and Joao Cancelo, who has played down suggestions a rift with Guardiola prompted his surprise deadline-day loan move to Bayern Munich.
Joao Cancelo left Guardiola’s Man City to join Bayern Munich on loan in Janua

Manchester City have confirmed that Cancelo is eligible to face them.

Cancelo joined Bayern Munich on loan in January after becoming dissatisfied with his number of minutes at City.

Since moving to the Allianz Arena, the Portuguese international has started four out of Bayern’s six Bundesliga matches – but only played 49 minutes of their two-legged victory against Paris Saint-Germain in the last-16.

Opta stats on Chelsea and Man City draws

  • Chelsea have only lost one of their seven games against Real Madrid in European competition – indeed, they have the lowest percentage of losses against Real Madrid (14%) of any side to have played them 5+ times in Europe.
  • Chelsea’s only defeat in seven matches against Real Madrid in Europe came in their most recent one at Stamford Bridge, losing 1-3 in the 2021-22 quarter-final first leg.
  • Real Madrid have won their last four UEFA Champions League ties against English sides, beating Chelsea in last season’s quarter-final, Manchester City in last season’s semi-finals and Liverpool in last season’s final and this season’s round of 16.
  • All six previous meetings between Man City and Bayern Munich came in the UEFA Champions League group stages (2011-12, 2013-14, 2014-15), with each side winning three times.
  • This will be Pep Guardiola’s first meeting with Bayern Munich since leaving the club. His only managerial games against them came in the 2008-09 Champions League quarter-finals, knocking them out with Barcelona en route to lifting the trophy.
  • Man City have progressed from all four of their previous UEFA Champions League knockout ties against German clubs, including one quarter-final (2020-21 v Borussia Dortmund).

Who will Man City and Chelsea face in Friday’s CL quarter-final and semi-final draws?

With Man City and Chelsea through to the Champions League quarter-finals, find out when the draw for the last eight and the semi-finals will take place, who will be involved, and who the Premier league sides could face…

Manchester City and Chelsea are the English sides through to the quarter-finals after overcoming Borussia Dortmund 2-1 on aggregate and RB Leipzig 8-1 on aggregate respectively in the last-16.

Chelsea's Raheem Sterling, left, shoots to score his sides first goal during the Champions League round of 16 second leg soccer match between Chelsea FC and Borussia Dortmund at Stamford Bridge, London, Tuesday March 7, 2023. (AP Photo/Alastair Grant)
Chelsea defeated Borussia Dortmund in the last 16

However, Liverpool and Tottenham will not be involved in the draw after round of 16 defeats to Real Madrid and AC Milan.

Brahim Diaz of AC Milan celebrates with team-mate Theo Hernandez (R) after scoring vs Spurs
AC Milan knocked out Tottenham to reach the quarter-finals

Bayern Munich and Benfica are also through, with Inter Milan and Napoli joining them in the last eight.

Here’s all you need to know ahead of the quarter-final and semi-final draws…

When are the quarter-final and semi-final draws?

The draws take place at 11am UK time on Friday March 17 in Nyon, Switzerland at UEFA’s headquarters.

You can follow the draw with Sky Sports’ live blog, so you can keep across everything right here.

How do the draws work?

The Champions League quarter-final and semi-final draws take place on Friday at 11am

The eight last-16 winners are involved in an open quarter-final and semi-final draw.

There are no seedings and no country protection, so clubs can face opposition from the same country. They can also draw teams they previously played in the group stage.

A final draw will also take place to determine the ‘home’ side for administrative reasons for the showpiece event in Istanbul, Turkey on June 10.

Who will be in the quarter-final and semi-final draws?

  • AC Milan
  • Bayern Munich
  • Benfica
  • Chelsea
  • Manchester City
  • Inter Milan
  • Napoli
  • Real Madrid

When are the quarter-finals?

The first legs of the quarter-finals will be played Tuesday April 11 and Wednesday April 12.

The second legs will be played Tuesday April 18 and Wednesday April 19.

When are the semi-finals?

The first legs of the semi-finals will be held on May 9 and 10, and the second legs on May 16 and 17.

When is the final?

The final takes place on June 10 at the Ataturk Olympic Stadium in Istanbul, Turkey.

Liverpool exit CL as Benzema strike seals Real Madrid triumph

Liverpool exited the Champions League with a 6-2 aggregate defeat to Real Madrid as Karim Benzema’s late strike condemned the Reds to a 1-0 loss in the second leg.

Liverpool’s capitulation at Anfield had left them needing another miraculous European comeback to reach the last eight but it did not materialise at the Bernabeu, the reigning champions ramming home their advantage with Benzema’s close-range strike (78).

Darwin Nunez went closest for Jurgen Klopp’s side in an entertaining first half when he was twice denied by Thibaut Courtois, but Liverpool were indebted to their own goalkeeper, Alisson, for keeping Madrid at bay with a series of saves before their goal.

Madrid, winners over Liverpool by the same scoreline in last year’s final, will now aim to go on and lift the trophy for the 15th time, leaving Klopp’s men with a top-four finish in the Premier League as their sole remaining target in a bitterly disappointing season.

Player ratings

Real Madrid: Courtois (8), Carvajal (7), Militao (7), Rudiger (7), Nacho (7), Kroos (8), Modric (8), Valverde (6), Camavinga (7), Vinicius (8), Benzema (8).

Subs: Ceballos (6), Rodrygo (6), Asensio (6), Tchouameni (6), Lucas (6).

Liverpool: Alisson (8), Alexander-Arnold (6), Van Dijk (7), Konate (7), Robertson (6), Milner (7), Fabinho (6), Gakpo (6), Salah (6), Jota (5), Nunez (7).

Subs: Firmino (6), Elliot (6), Oxlade-Chamberlain (6), Tsimikas (n/a), Carvalho (n/a).

Player of the match: Karim Benzema

How Liverpool’s defeat unfolded

Klopp threw caution to the wind with his starting line-up, including an additional forward in Diogo Jota, so it was hardly surprising that, at the other end, Real Madrid found space to attack early on.

Team news

  • Diogo Jota started in place of Harvey Elliot as Jurgen Klopp opted for an attack-minded XI, while James Milner replaced Stefan Bajcetic in midfield.
  • Karim Benzema returned to the Real Madrid team having missed their game at the weekend, while Antonio Rudiger also started.

The first chance fell to Liverpool, with Courtois denying Nunez after Mohamed Salah had got the better of Antonio Rudiger, but a succession of Madrid opportunities followed.

Benzema and Vinicius Junior, the pair that so terrorised Liverpool in the first leg, threatened an opener when the latter’s cut-back just eluded his team-mate, and the visitors needed their goalkeeper to save them soon after that.

Real Madrid's Vinicius Junior, centre, tries to beat Liverpool's goalkeeper Alisson during the Champions League, round of 16 second leg soccer match between Real Madrid and Liverpool at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Wednesday, March 15, 2023. (AP Photo/Manu Fernandez)
Alisson Becker made a string of saves to deny Real Madrid

Alisson’s point-blank stop from Vinicius was outstanding, and he rescued Liverpool again when he acrobatically tipped a long-range effort from Eduardo Camavinga onto the crossbar.

Luka Modric sent another powerful strike from distance narrowly over but Liverpool soon started to grow into the game, with Nunez and Cody Gakpo spurning headed opportunities before the former drew a fine one-handed save from Courtois with a curling effort.

Vinicius remained a threat up against Trent Alexander-Arnold but Liverpool went close again when Gakpo’s stinging shot from the right-hand corner of the box had to be pushed around the post by Courtois.

Madrid’s experience told in the second half, however, as the wily hosts negated Liverpool’s attacking threat and controlled the game, with the evergreen Luka Modric at the heart of things.

Real Madrid's Karim Benzema, right, celebrates with Real Madrid's Vinicius Junior after scoring his sides first goal during the Champions League, round of 16, second leg soccer match between Real Madrid and Liverpool at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid, Spain, Wednesday, March 15, 2023. (AP Photo/Bernat Armangue)
Real Madrid’s Karim Benzema celebrates with Vinicius Junior

Federico Valverde was denied by Alisson in a one-on-one soon after half-time and more Madrid chances followed, with Valverde again going close when he headed a Modric cross over, and Benzema blasting a shot into the stands from a Vinicius centre.

It appeared Liverpool might at least claim a draw after that uncharacteristic miss from Benzema, but the Frenchman made no mistake when Vinicius failed to connect with his shot following a ball over the top, instead sticking out a leg to set up his team-mate.

There was a lengthy VAR check for a Madrid penalty in stoppage time, prolonging a disappointing evening for the visitors, but the referee decided not to penalise substitute Kostas Tsimikas for handball after consulting the pitchside monitor.

After full-time, there was a sympathetic gesture for those who had travelled from Merseyside, with You’ll Never Walk Alone played out over the stadium speakers at the Bernabeu. It made for a poignant end to Liverpool’s European campaign.

Klopp: We couldn’t put in a special performance

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp passes on instructions during their Champions League defeat to Real Madrid
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp passes on instructions during their Champions League defeat to Real Madrid

Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp to BT Sport: “Being 5-2 down is obviously not a great result and if you want to go through, you need to have a really special performance, and we couldn’t put a special performance on the pitch tonight.

“It was an open game but Madrid had better chances. Alli (Alisson) had to make two sensational saves. In the end, the goal is a scrappy one but that’s obviously not decisive anymore.

“The right team went through that’s what we have to admit. Madrid controlled the game, we gave them the opportunity to control it. Knock-out stages are like this, there’s probably 500,000 different ways to go out, this was ours tonight. It’s not what we wanted but it’s what we got. Now we have to carry on.

“You need moments. If we were to score in the first half it could give the extra spark but that is hypothetical, we will not know. Madrid were the better team and won the game. In three halves of the games they were the better team, that’s how you go through to the next round.

“If you draw at home and play the game we played tonight then we go out probably as well. We can’t come here and hope you get something. We prepared for a special performance but we were not able to put it on the pitch tonight. It was obvious the best side went through.”

Madrid haunt Reds again – Opta stats

  • Real Madrid have now eliminated Liverpool from the Champions League in each of the last three seasons (2020-21 quarter-final, 2021-22 final, 2022-23 last-16). It’s just the second time that a side has been eliminated in three consecutive seasons all by the same opponent, after Atletico Madrid, also by Real Madrid (run of four from 2013-14 to 2016-17).
  • Real Madrid have qualified for their 19th Champions League quarter-final, with only Bayern Munich (21, including 2022-23) reaching more. Real Madrid have now moved one ahead of Spanish rivals Barcelona (18).
  • Liverpool’s 6-2 aggregate loss to Real Madrid is their heaviest margin of defeat over two legs of a Champions League tie.
  • Under Jürgen Klopp, all six of Liverpool’s eliminations from major European competitions have come against Spanish clubs (Sevilla x1, Atletico Madrid x1, Real Madrid x4).
  • Real Madrid’s Karim Benzema has scored seven Champions League goals against Liverpool, the most of any player. Indeed, only Lionel Messi (27) has more goals against English clubs overall in the competition than the Frenchman (19).

What’s next for Liverpool?

Liverpool’s next game is not until after the international break, on Saturday April 1, when they face Manchester City in the Premier League, kicking off at 12.30pm.

Their scheduled meeting with Fulham this weekend was postponed due to the Cottagers’ participation in the FA Cup.

When is the draw?

The draws for the Champions League quarter-finals and semi-finals take place at 11am UK time on Friday, March 17 in Nyon, Switzerland at UEFA’s headquarters.

The eight last-16 winners are involved in an open quarter-final and semi-final draw.

The quarter-finalists

  • Benfica
  • Chelsea
  • Bayern Munich
  • AC Milan
  • Inter Milan
  • Manchester City
  • Napoli
  • Real Madrid

There are no seedings and no country protection, so clubs can face opposition from the same country. They can also draw teams they previously played in the group stage.

A final draw will also take place to determine the ‘home’ side for administrative reasons for the showpiece event in Istanbul, Turkey on June 10.

You can follow the draw with Sky Sports’ live blog, so you can keep across everything right here.